Thursday, April 30, 2009

Time for something new

For all my adult life, throughout my more than forty years of struggling with bipolar disorder, I've responded to certain kinds of depression by starting a new creative project. I'm longing to do that now. I long to leave behind some of the things that have been stressing me out and start a small, colourful project. Changing gears and doing something new and exciting is very therapeutic. Doing so has helped me through many hard times.

I've been tossing around two ideas for a long time now. Things that I definitely want to do sometime. Things that would be useful to a lot of people.

One thing I'd like to do is create an attractive booklet about how people can support their friends who have depression. This is such a mystery to a lot of people. Yet it's so important that friends be there for those who are depressed.

The other thing I've been longing to do is to produce a booklet of simple, colourful recipes for people who are sick - especially those with depression. I published a booklet like this many years ago and I keep it handy for when I'm going through rough times. I'd like to do up a new edition with some of the best recipes from the old one, but also new recipes. It would be fun to play around with recipes. Such a change that would be from mental health work! ...and yet it would help people with depression.

Right now - this moment - tonight I'm opting for the recipe booklet. Hope I stick with this now. I've been waffling back and forth so much over this.

Here's one recipe that would be in the booklet:


10 oz pkg frozen mixed vegetables, defrosted
4 eggs, beaten
2 cups (200g) grated mozzarella cheese
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp dried basil or oregano
9 inch frozen piecrust

Place piecrust on cookie sheet and allow to defrost for 10 minutes.
In bowl, combine the rest of the ingredients.
Pour into piecrust and bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes.

Would you like to help me? Do you have any very simple recipes that are tasty and healthy? If you do, please share.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009


Someone sent me a quote awhile ago by Patricia Deegan that I really like and that is really speaking to me now: "For those of us who have struggled for years...recovery is not about going back to who we were. It is a process of becoming new. It is a process of discovering our limits but also a process of discovering how these limits open upon new possibilities. Transformation rather than restoration becomes our path."

Today I wonder if I'm trying to reach beyond my limits - beyond what I can or should be doing.

I have a terrible time with tremors, caused by one of the meds I'm on. My pdoc is working on getting me off this medication. However, my moods have been very unstable lately. If you've been reading my blog you'll know that I've been on a roller coaster. Fine one day and depressed the next. Maybe I should just live with the tremors and opt for the stability and happiness this drug has offered me in the past.

Today I chaired an important meeting and, although I felt confident, I was shaking like crazy. Not everyone at this meeting knew me, so they must have had their doubts about me and my abilities. It does not look good for a leader to have tremors. It does not help people have confidence in you. And when I'm aware of them myself, I feel self-conscious which isn't good either.

And I wonder if all the stress that goes along with meetings like these, especially when I'm so emotionally unstable, is a good thing for my health. Maybe I should just dig in and quietly do my work at home, writing. Spread the news about Living Room that way. Or am I this moment thinking negatively once more? Am I once more dipping downward? I think I may be.

If I could only be stronger instead of having emotions that are constantly teetering on the verge of something.

I know one thing. I could never have brought Living Room to where it is without God's help. Living Room is God's work and I've just been a foot soldier, going where he told me to go. I need to continue putting myself in his hands and hear his voice and have him guide me. I need to relax and let go a bit. And I need to pray.

Maybe I've reached the limit and God wants to open new paths for me to follow. I'll have to see and be open to his leading.

Would I ever like to be stable and strong again!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Wishing for other-centeredness

Too often lately my mood has come down and I haven't know what to do with myself. I reach out to friends but haven't found anyone who can alleviate my emotional pain. Over the past few days I've decided that at times like that I really need to pray more - to reach out to God in the way I reach out to my friends. God can help in a way no human can. My relationship with God needs a haul-over I think. So over the past couple of days I've journalled more. I've written "Dear God" letters.

Today as I once more tried to get myself over a hump I wrote to God and in the writing came to a discovery (a message from God I'm sure) that I've been awfully self-centered lately. It's when I think of the things that bother me, turning inward, that I feel the worst. I've been thinking very little about what's happening in my friends' lives.

I don't think I'm truly depressed. Just bothered by a few situational problems that have arisen. If I could only think of others more and not turn my thoughts inward so much, one would think I'd be able to avoid total depression. I'm hoping so.

Although turning inward is a natural part of depression, I feel kind of ashamed for letting myself fall into it. Don't get me wrong. I don't blame those who are truly in the midst of depression for not being able to be other-centered. When you're in pain it's pretty hard not to turn inward. Yet when I'm on the verge and I focus on others, getting my mind off myself, I should be able to avoid full depression.

Don't you think?

Friday, April 24, 2009

Not a finalist

I didn't make it as a finalist to the Canadian Living Me to We awards. I must say, though, it was exciting - a thrill and honour - to have been nominated and I'm grateful to the person who nominated me for thinking of me.

This is a Living Room day. So looking forward to it.

Hope you ALL have a great day.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Will you vote if...?

I've been keeping a secret because I don't quite know how to talk about it. It's hard to talk about without sounding like I'm tooting my own horn.

Several weeks ago someone nominated me for the Canadian Living "Me to We" awards. It was because of my Living Room work, the church sponsored support ministry for people with mood disorders. There are now eight groups in Canada with interest being shown elsewhere.

I'm excited about this because it could mean a lot to Living Room. The winner of the award will receive $5000 for his/her favourite charity (Living Room, of course) and an article in Canadian Living Magazine. This would very much help more people get to know about it, perhaps encouraging more groups and encouraging churches to better support people with mental illness. It would help de-stigmatize mental illness. This is what the main purpose of my life has been for so long. This is what I live for.

Finalists will be announced tomorrow - April 24th - and voting will then start. If I'm a finalist, will you vote for me (and for Living Room)? To vote, go to

Of course, I might not end up a finalist. Yet it was an honour to be nominated.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

God loves loving us

I've got to share something with you here, something that came as a revelation to me and it might to you too.

I have a good friend who is a troubled person, having suffered a lot of abuse as a child and later as the wife of an abusive husband. She suffers recurring emotional pain because of this, yet I admire her for the courage she has had to survive. I love her dearly and tell her this often.

Yesterday I told my counselor what it meant to me to tell my friend how very much I love her and how I love to hug her. It gives me a wonderful feeling to do that. She's the sponge and I'm the water, pouring my love into her.

My counselor said something that had never occurred to me before. If I love showing my love to this friend so much, imagine how God must feel when he loves us as much as he does. We can't "...grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ." (Ephesians 3:18) Imagine how good God must feel when he pours his love into us - such broken people - and when we accept that love like a sponge soaking up water.

Do you get it? Do you understand? All of us are broken people - needy people - thirsty for God's love. Yet it can be so hard to truly own that love.

When we express our love to others, we can think of God and his love, and let that love flow through us to our friends. And in the process we experience God's love.

Understanding this was very comforting.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Imagine...a weekly living room

My Living Room group is considering having weekly lunch meetings. Currently we meet only twice a month for our regular meeting and lunch. We were having Bible study for the other Fridays, but they met later and did not include lunch.

We're hoping that having weekly lunches, alternating between regular meetings and Bible study, will encourage better participation and just a friendlier atmosphere. There's a wonderful German word, "gemutlichkeit," which describes the feeling you get from friendly, cozy get-togethers with people you get along well with. This is how Living Room is. This is how our Bible study time could be as well.

Lunch with people you can relate to every Friday. Gemutlichkeit every Friday. Weekly support. How neat that would be!

I've presented the possibility to my group. Now I only have to wait to hear the response and see if the idea will fly.

Friday, April 17, 2009

A few days away

Just want to let you know that my husband and I are going away with the motorhome till Monday to have a change of scenery and relax a bit.

I've enjoyed the extra bit of blogging I've been doing this week. Hope I'll be able to keep it up, because I do enjoy sharing my thoughts here.

Hope you all keep well and enjoy the weekend.

Love and its power to transform

If you'd known me forty years ago when I first got sick;
then twenty years later when I decided to rely on God's help for survival of depression and psychosis;
then five or six years ago when I received the support and inspiration of people in the church I now attend;
to the time just under three years ago when I started my Living Room group, you will see how I have, step by step, been dramatically changed.
And I continue to change.

I've been thinking about what it is that transformed me and continues transforming me. And I have to say it's my relationship with God, knowing that he loves me. It's love. It's God's love revealed to me by the people in my life. And it's God revealing himself to me when I show my love for others. Yes, when I express my love for others I find joy and I find God.

The Bible says, "No one has ever seen God, but if we love one another, God lives in us and his love is made complete in us." (1John 4:12) It also says, "Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God." (1John 4:7b)

We experience God's presence when we love others unconditionally. And this gives great joy and will change us.

I think that's why we feel God's presence so well at Living Room meetings. We share his love with each other - fully accepting each other. That's why I feel such joy when I go home after meetings. It's a very true but mysterious phenomenon.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

With the comfort we have received

The need for support when we have bipolar disorder is proving to be an important topic of discussion. Yet there seems to be no definitive answer. The answer seems to be different for everyone.

Over the last couple of days I've felt okay - especially after some prayer with a friend. I've been steady. Yet right this minute I'm a bit fragile - truly a bipolar thing, eh? Don't worry please, though. Though I've appreciated all your comments and support, things are not that bad at all.

We need to be more concerned about people like Brenda who has lived in blackness for some time now. I've known that kind of blackness and feel for her. She needs a lot more support than I do. I do hope you'll visit her and get to know her.

And I'm so grateful for Susan's support, online and off. She has been a great friend. She too knows thoroughly what depression is like, though I think you're more worried about me than you need to be, Susan:) For more discussion on the topic of support I hope you'll visit her site.

But maybe I'm feeling as well as I do right now precisely because I've had such good support.

I believe that the comfort and support that we receive from others is God-given. 2 Corinthians 1:3-5 is so applicable to all this. Through the comfort we receive from others, we can turn around and comfort others.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.

Thank you all for being there. Let us continue to be there for each other.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Finding support

It's common knowledge how important it is to have a support system in place when you have a mood disorder. Actually, everyone alive needs some kind of support system. I spoke in my last post about how hard it can be to find people who will listen to us and support us when we're going through a depression. But we need people of all kinds - for all phases of our lives - if we're going to stay well.

What kind of support do I need? These are the ones I've come up with, though there may be more. They're not in any particular order.

1. I have a full life and a mind that overflows with ideas. I need people who will listen to me as I debrief. I am close to these people and call or email them often.
2. I need people who will listen to me when I'm in deep trouble - people who will comfort me and pray with me.
3. I need my husband, a partner who eats, works, and plays with me.
4. I need friends who have the same disorder as I do - people who understand me fully.
5. I need people to support, because that takes me out of the victim role and helps me feel good and strong. In the giving I receive.
6. I need friends who share my writing and photography interests.
7. I need friends to just have fun with - to have over for a barbecue or go out with.
8. I need family to do family things with.
9. I need a pastor and a counselor in whom I can confide.
10. I need a psychiatrist who respects me and looks after my medical needs, considerate of my opinion and desires.
11. I need woman friends to have discussions with about life - to give encouragement to and receive encouragement from.
12. I need fellow Living Room facilitators to discuss problems with.
13. I need to have a close relationship with God.
14. I need online friends who will read my blog and make comments.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Where can you turn when...

My roller coaster ride will not stop. I don't feel so depressed that I don't want to do anything. Just feel an overwhelming sense of sadness.

Trouble with me is that I feel a need to reach out - to draw comfort from others. Yet that kind of comfort is hard to come by. No one wants to hear another's complaints. What can they possibly do? My husband has compassion and that's so good. I thank God for him.

What puzzles me is this: When a person feels so down that they become suicidal (not me at this moment) they are told that they should reach out. They're told they should let others know how they're feeling. Yet how many people really want to be told how crummy a person feels? How many people truly know how to feel compassion? Depression is a lonely state to be in for sure. It's hard to find support that satisfies.

Right now I find most strength in carrying on with my Living Room work. I draw comfort from knowing I'm doing things that will help others. In being sensitive to the needs of others I forget myself for awhile.

My prayer is that I will not focus on my own needs so much that I become self-centered. My prayer is that I will be other-centered - to love as I wish to be loved. There's comfort in love - whether we give or receive. Let us love one another.

And I mustn't forget. God is always ready to listen and to comfort if I will with open arms receive him. I need to pray more. I need to not forget to pray and to spend time with God.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Activity is the answer

Seems I'm not in a serious enough way that I can't get myself doing things. And when I get into an activity I quickly start feeling better. Thank God!

My husband and I have continued our spring cleaning. We're - actually he is more than me - really into it. This house was truly a huge mess. We've felt for such a long time that we need to work on tidying it up. What if we died? My poor son would have quite a time of it. That's something we do need to consider, isn't it?

Today I finished cleaning up the counter in the darkroom and emailed a couple of people who want to buy darkroom equipment. I'm sure I won't be using it anymore since I print everything digitally now.

So...I've found out I need to putter at activities - yet not so much that I wear myself out too much. I'm so fragile right now. But putter I will. We've rented some movies and I look forward to watching "Doubt" tonight. Heard that it's good. Now I will make some cinnamon rolls from a kit I got at Costco. That will make my hard-working husband happy. Another good coping skill: Do something for others - be other-centered.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Roller coaster

Life has been a roller coaster ride of moods for me lately. I don't know what's going on. The tiniest thing will make me feel depressed. And then I don't know what to do with myself. Things very quickly start feeling hopeless.

Guess I shouldn't be surprised. That's what bipolar disorder is supposed to deal out to you. That's what I have to live with.

I wonder if it has been worse lately because my pdoc has changed my meds for something "better." Something that won't cause so many tremors. He's concerned about the tremors. I am, after all, a photographer. But I'd rather not photograph and live with the tremors, I think. These moods are painful.

Several days ago I considered the unthinkable. I don't want to spell it out, but I think you'll know what I mean. Then on Monday the sun came out and I worked in the yard and sat and read in my muskoka chair. Everything was okay again.

Then, yesterday, something bothered me terribly. The situation was later resolved and I felt better again. Today the Good Friday service really got to me and down I went again.

I'm glad I've got this blog where I can talk about it. My friends would tire of my complaints. I don't want to bother them anymore. Though it would be nice to have them pray for me during this unstable time.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Jesus' subversive spirituality

I'm reading The End of Religion by Bruxy Cavey, the pastor of The Meeting House, "a church for people who aren't into church." I've been reading quite a few books about Jesus' radical nature and find them exciting.

The Christian church has gotten hung up on so many rules and traditions, most of them having nothing much to do with what Jesus was all about. Established religion was exactly what Jesus was so against when he lived amongst us. Remember what he thought about the Pharisees and the Saducees? Jesus challenged the status quo of the day. I believe he would challenge how some of our religions have turned out as well.

So many Christians have forgotten what Jesus stood for. They've forgotten who they're supposed to be following. Too many think of their churches as holy ground where we should dress up and follow established ways of worshipping. Yet Jesus came to replace the Temple with only himself as the place where we encounter God.

Says Cavey:
"Jesus taught his followers to expect his own continuing presence to dwell, not within special buildings called churches, but within their relationships. He said that wherever two or three people gather together in his name he would be there with them. (Matthew 18:20) If you want to get close to me, says Jesus, get close to the people I love (see Matthew 25:31-46). Jesus seems to be saying that God's presence is best experienced in the sacred space that exists between people when love is offered and received rather than in special buildings or pious places."

I'm not so much against religion, per se, or different styles of worshipping. It's just that people too often forget to act out the meat of Christ's message: To love our neighbour and to love God. It's all about love, isn't it? Let us not forget to love each other.

Monday, April 06, 2009

Thank you for the encouragement

This morning I received a wonderfully encouraging comment from Wendalyn - something I very much needed to hear. God's answer for some of what I've been going through, I believe. Wendalyn wrote: "Your words serve a purpose that you may never even know about. I believe that as we speak from our hearts about how we are experiencing life, others can be so easily touched by God without our even being aware of it.
Keep speaking from your heart!"

Lately I've felt hesitant to speak from the heart. I feel I have a reputation to uphold and am afraid to write with all honesty. I am, after all, a leader and should come across strong - at least that's how I think. As a result, I've posted very little. Yet I need the support of fellow bloggers like Wendalyn and I've missed my blogging community's support. (All my fault, I know.)

Blogging has always helped me deal with my mood swings. In an effort to help others, I've managed to find the good in the bad. That can at times be difficult to do though and then it's just easier not to post. I try to talk to friends instead. But it's not fair to go to friends too often. They soon feel stifled. Yet I feel the need to talk so much. My thoughts are like a river that has to go somewhere. Does anyone else have that problem?

I have to be very careful not to lose friends, because that can happen, can't it? We talked about this at Living Room on Friday. Everyone had experience with friends rejecting them or abandoning them. What a painful meeting we had! It was so heavy.

My purpose for talking about this was to highlight Jesus' experience at Gethsemane. He was abandoned by his friends too - at a time when he most needed them. Isn't that what happens to many of us? But I also sought to comfort participants by reminding them how well Jesus understands our pain, because he has experienced it himself. When we hurt, Jesus hurts too. We're not alone with the pain.

My message of hope and comfort was over-shadowed, though, by the bad memories the devotional brought to the surface for people. And I feel bad about that. I feel responsible.

I hope to email a more positive message to the people who were there. I hope to send a happy Easter message. But first I need to start feeling happier myself.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Twitter escapades

Well, I signed up for Twitter tonight. And what a time I'm having trying to find my way around - figuring out the how and what of the thing. I'm such a klutz when it comes to the internet and to learn new things on the computer. Maybe my age? But I still "feel" young.

After a week of feeling rather down, I'm now back to my energetic self. I got a lot done yesterday and today.

I'll probably be doing a presentation at a major bookstore and a signing at another bookstore during Mental Health Week, May 4 - 10. Now I'm trying to put together a press release that will do a good job of getting the word out to the media. The writing is not easy for me right now. I've done so little lately, my writing muscles are stiff and not moving very well. Yet writing is such an important part of my work.

What I would like to talk about is how the church can be supportive of people with mood disorders - especially by sponsoring support groups like Living Room.

Yesterday I heard about someone with bipolar disorder taking his life - someone I worked with on Living Room. Such a shock that was. With 15% of bipolar people dying by suicide the importance of good support is of utmost importance. I was deeply saddened by the news, but determined more than ever to do what I can to raise awareness.