Saturday, November 28, 2009

Staying balanced

I've been doing ok over the past couple of days. In fact, yesterday was wonderful. Living Room turned out so great, it left me feeling hugely blessed and at peace. I felt so good I didn't feel like going to bed till late Just wanted to continue experiencing the good feelings.

And tomorrow, the Into the Light conference. Every time I think of it I get butterflies. It will be such a big deal and I feel like such a very small person. But I don't feel the gross anxiety I did a while ago. I've come to terms and I'm now hoping to meet lots of people, people who might be interested to hear about Living Room.

Sunday morning will start with a 7:30 breakfast for consumers taking part in a consultation meeting with the Mental Health Commission of Canada. I've already met some of the people who will be there through email. Another person who I know will be there is someone who left a beautiful comment on one of my articles. It will be neat to meet her in person.

Can you believe, one of my biggest sources of anxiety - though it will sound to you like a small thing - is getting my three 24" x 36" posters up on the board. They're so curled and I think it might be a struggle. If I had someone with me to help it wouldn't be so bad, but I'll be on my own. I'll have to look for a friendly face and ask for help. One way to meet people, eh?

One person who would be amazingly wonderful to talk to if I only could, would be the Honourable Michael Kirby, the chair of the Commission, a huge fighter for the reduction of stigma. He will be there throughout. Might that be possible? Probably not, but I can dream; I can hope. One thing I know: I need to let as many people know about Living Room as I can. I need to highlight the importance of spirituality to mental health and what that means in the Christian realm.

I sound ok, don't I? Pretty solidly balanced, eh? Thank God.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Walking a tightrope

My moods continue to go up and down. And when I feel ok, it's as though I'm walking a tightrope, trying to maintain my balance so I don't fall one way or another.

Amazing how many symptoms there are to watch out for. And each time one of those symptoms shows itself, I have to put a different coping mechanism into place, read a different psalm, pray a different prayer.

There are the lonely feelings, the poor eating, overwhelmed feelings where I can't see how I can possibly manage doing the many things I need to do, unable to organize a list. Little things seem like big things. I've even had moments thinking I couldn't go on. Thank God those moments have been brief ones.

Not having my husband home makes all this more difficult. I'm not into a good routine, eat at odd times or don't eat at all. Eat weird stuff, not the kind of meals I'd have if he were home.

Being alone for such long periods makes it easy to sit for long uninterrupted periods in thought, unaware that I'm doing it. This thinking has often signalled problems for me. When it happens I need to remember Rudyard Kipling's line in his poem If. "If you can think but don't make thoughts your aim." When that line comes to mind I make the effort to "do" something. So important to stay active. The more I sit in thought, the more likely I'm going to get drawn down into depression. I wouldn't call myself depressed right now, but I am doing battle with many ways. The Psalms are a good companion right now. Psalm 18, 91, and 40 have been very meaningful to me in the past while.

I'm preparing for Living Room on Friday. Also preparing for the Into the Light: Transforming Mental Health in Canada conference coming up this Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. Living Room will have a poster presentation to make there. I'll have an opportunity to interact with conference attendees and tell them about it.

I will have to walk my tightrope well. Do all the right things. Stay well.

Sunday, November 22, 2009


I'm feeling remarkably better. And I know it's mostly due to the prayer I started praying a couple of days ago. I realized I had been trying to rid myself of my depression by my own power. Totally forgot that I couldn't do it on my own. I needed God's help.

Now I know it could easily come back. And maybe this is just one good day I'm having. And time I'll know what to ask God for, if I'll only remember to trust Him. I need to stay close to God daily.

Please don't think though that this means you can do away with the meds your doctor prescribed. Don't think it means you don't have to do all the other good stuff you need to do to keep you well, like exercising, getting plenty of rest, eating well, staying active, spending time with friends. You'll need ALL those things. We need to treat our whole selves: the physical, mental, spiritual.

And about that prayer: I wrote it in my last post but I have to say I'm embarrassed about it now. I've rewritten it and prepared copies with the picture of the sunflower for my Living Room crew. A cute little presentation. I rewrite it here, hoping that it will help you too, next time you're feeling dark and unable to free yourself from it.


I love you, Lord – you make me strong.
You are bedrock under my feet.
I know you are with me.
I know you can free me from the dark that keeps me captive.
Help me to let it go.
Help me to trust in your ability to loosen the chains.

I trust you and place myself in your hands.
Thank you for your love.
Thank you for making me strong.

Yeah, I'm strong!
Through you, I'm strong.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Bedrock beneath my feet

I'm getting along not too badly. Hard to stay active though. I prefer to sit and think. To meditate. Or would you call this ruminating?

Yesterday I emailed a friend telling her how I see things piling up around me that need to be done. And it makes me feel butterfly anxious, knowing I don't have the motivation to do very much about it. I felt like I was enslaved, in chains, struggling to free myself. And when I wrote that, I realized that this was a big part of the problem. I'm trying to do free myself when I should be trusting that God can help me do that. It's wrong to think I can do this on my own.

I turned to Psalm 18 which has encouraged me to lean on God in the past. My favourite version of the first two verses comes from the Message:
I love you, God-you make me strong. God is bedrock under my feet.

And I prayed:
Thank you, Lord. I know you are with me. I know you can free me from this depression. Please help me to let it go-to trust in your ability to loosen the chains.
I trust you and place myself in your hands.

Thank you for your love and thank you for making me strong.
Yeah, I'm strong! Through you I'm strong.

Today I had a fine breakfast with a favourite friend. Now I'm getting the house into shape. And I'm writing to you, my blogger pals, and that is good. Tomorrow I'll pick up a friend who has been in hospital for awhile to accompany her on a six hour pass. Church will be part of it. It will be a fine day.

Things are looking up. And I know God is with me, making me strong. He is bedrock beneath my feet.

(Originally I wrote this post without the photograph. But I added it because to me it suggests prayer - an intimacy with God.)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

When we see things dimly

I've been reading Wayne Cordeiro's book, Leading on Empty: Refilling your tank and renewing your passion, and am finding it very helpful for what I'm going through right now.

Cordeiro says, "When we see things dimly, we invite depression, which can be defined as a perceived inability to reconstruct your future." When we're hit with depression we need to remind ourselves of what God called us to do in the first place. If we can focus on that, we can start rebuilding.

But what comes first: the depression and anxiety or the lack of focus? Or do the two come about simultaneously? Hard to say.

I do know that what triggered my present battle was a number of things, all of them causing anxious thoughts which led to depression. I have been seeing the work God gave me to do "dimly." Having a hard time focusing. I'm trying very hard to re-focus though, spending much time in prayer.

It's all about remembering what God gave me to do and why I'm doing it, isn't it? It's all about believing in it. I've made a list of my priorities and am meditating on them often. And I think my prayers are starting to help. Focussing on my calling is helping with the depression. It's helping me think more positively.

Cordeiro talks about Paul's trials with storms and snakebites. Yet he never forgot his divine commission to witness in Rome, as he had witnessed in Jerusalem. This gave him the confidence to withstand anything. I want to be like Paul.

Monday, November 16, 2009

The Psalms as support

I'm not feeling very good at all. In a downward spiral again, though I have level times as well. But being alone, my husband away, doesn't help. A friend suggested I find some Scripture to help me. I turned to the Psalms. Had a bit of trouble finding something I could really latch onto that I found helpful, but eventually did find Psalm 6.

Peer support is such a blessing. To hear people talk about their struggles with depressed thoughts and feeling and to realize you're not the only person to feel that way gives comfort. That must be why the Psalms are such a comfort during hard times. To read King David's words expressing his emotional pain is as good as an antidepressant, especially when he ends with praises to God. He helps me remember that God hears me and that He loves me.

O Lord, do not rebuke me in anger
or discipline me in your wrath.
Be merciful to me, Lord, for I am faint;
O Lord, heal me, for my bones are in agony.
My soul is in anguish. How long, O Lord, how long?
Turn, O Lord, and deliver me;
save me because of your unfailing love.

and then:

The Lord has heard my cry for mercy;
the Lord accepts my prayer.

Psalm 6:1-4 and 9.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

In defence of complaining

A couple of days ago a friend sent me photographs comparing how good most of us have it with how bad things are for some people. There was a picture of a plump, well-fed baby next to a picture of a starving baby, all skin and bones. Another picture showed a pair of Adidas shoes next to a pair of feet wearing sandles made from recycled plastic bottles. Yet another showed a child in a warm, cozy bed with lots of covers next to a picture of a child sleeping on a mat on the floor without even clothes to cover his body.

The purpose was to show how little we really have to complain about. We shouldn't be complaining.

It made me think of my friends living with depression, and how their complaints are often disapproved of. It made me think of the complaining I do when I'm in emotional distress. Should I be feeling bad about myself for expressing my pain?

It made me think of a friend who is right now in hospital because she found it so hard to live in the world, having to put on a face, having to act as though well, though she was suffering so much inside. I wish she'd feel that when she's with me she doesn't need to act. I wish she'd feel that she can be real with me. I wish she'd feel she can complain, to share what she's feeling if it would make her feel better.

Feelings and emotions run deep. We don't know how to show a person's emotional anguish in photographs. If we could, then perhaps we would compare this anguish with a healthy, happy mind, and see how huge the gulf in between is....and we would be moved to compassion by such an image in the same way we are moved to compassion when we see an image of a starving child. Because deep depression is extremely painful, painful enough to cause death (by suicide), as starvation can cause death.
Trouble is, emotional pain is a pain we can't see or imagine if we haven't been there. So then people slough it off as complaining over nothing. "Look at all you have" or "look how fortunate you are" doesn't cut it with a person in emotional crisis.
People with emotional pain "need to" share it with the friends who love them. They need our understanding and compassion. People in crisis find relief by sharing with someone who has understanding and compassion. They need to have a chance to talk, to let it all out. If they don't, the feelings will fester within and grow worse.

I guess that's what makes Living Room so valuable. It's a place where we have a chance to talk. A chance to "complain" where we will be understood and accepted.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Anxiety, depression, and prayer

My second post of the day. But I thought I needed to pass this along because it's important.

My friend asked me this morning whether I've prayed over my anxieties, all the stuff that seems to be triggering the threat of depression right now. And I realized that I hadn't prayed. Hadn't even thought of praying. Pretty bad.

She pointed out Psalm 37: 3-5 in particular, especially good in the Amplified version:
"Trust (lean on, rely on, and be confident) in the Lord and do good; so shall you dwell in the land and feed surely on His faithfulness, and truly you shall be fed.
Delight yourself also in the Lord, and He will give you the desires and the secret petitions of your heart.
Commit your way to the Lord [roll and repose each care of your load on Him]: trust (lean on, rely on, and be confident) also in Him and He will bring it to pass."
Reading that did me a lot of good. And yes, I need to take that to heart. I need to pray.

This morning I used the SAD lamp. It left me a bit "light" headed. So bright! Don't know which helped more, the lamp or the Bible verses and prayer. Methinks I should use both. In any case, I feel better today.

And, thank God, just heard this minute from another person, second within a week, wanting to start a Living Room group. Praise God!!

And that's what my work is all about, isn't it? Helping people receive faith-based support for their problems with mood disorder. Why worry about petty things? I have God on my side and He will care for my needs.


I'm starting to wonder whether I might not be having trouble with seasonal affective disorder. My depressions over the last few years have always started in October or November, the beginning of the dark winter season. And over the last little while, with the dark wet days here in Vancouver, I've felt myself dipping again. I've had to struggle to stay up.

Yes, there have been some triggers. My husband off on a trip this Friday, planning to be gone 21/2 weeks. Uncertainties surrounding the funding for the conference, wondering if I'm going to have to go alone, with no one to be there as support. Hearing that the friend I talk to almost daily will be going away for three months, starting in February.

But, somehow, when I imagine how it would be to be able to sit in my muskoka chair in the warm bright sun, I tend to think that I wouldn't be affected in this way. I think I'd be able to better withstand these triggers. I think I'll start using the SAD lamp we have. See if that will help me.

My counselor told me that the trip we're planning for May is not soon enough for a holiday for me. When I told my husband that, he thought that perhaps we could afford a week's holiday somewhere warm and sunny in January. Wow! Just the thought of it makes me feel better. I can imagine myself sitting on a beach or by a pool with a good book. How good that would be!

Yes, I'll try the lamp.

Friday, November 06, 2009

Living room at conference

An exciting thing is happening for Living Room at the end of the month. We have been accepted to present a 4'x8' poster at the Into the Light: Transforming Mental Health in Canada conference at the Hotel Vancouver. This is a national conference put on by the Mental Health Commission of Canada, Vancouver Coastal Health, and Simon Fraser University.

This is exciting because it will be our first opportunity to showcase what we do in a mainstream national conference. An opportunity to highlight the importance of faith to mental well-being. An important opportunity to show what churches have it in their power to do, if they only would.

At certain times during the event I will be expected to be at the poster to interact with the attendees. I will, of course, have brochures with me to hand out, as well as manuals available for sale to those who are interested.

Over the last little while I've been designing three 24"x36" poster which will hang on the board. It has been a fun process. In doing it I had to learn to use Microsoft Publisher. Neat to see what I have the "power" to do using this program.

This creative work has helped me escape the dip in my mood that was threatening after the excitement of the open house was all over. Creative projects always do that for me. Good medicine.

I've posted the three posters here for you to have a look at, though I may still fine-tune them a bit. But I can't wait to share.

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Help needed

A couple of days ago I received an email from someone with a problem that is so common. It hurt me to read it:
"I am a Christian, but I feel so very alone in my battles and struggles. I know I shouldn't, but I feel ashamed and embarrassed to ask for prayer related to my disorder. I guess I still don't want to "admit" I have it (bipolar disorder). In addition, I feel like a failure with regards to my career outside the home. Heck, I feel like a failure with being a stay-at-home mom and wife much of the time! I could go on and on, but what I really want to ask is what resources or support groups might be available to me that take into account that I have bipolar but I am also a follower of Christ? I need His strength, but I also yearn for the support of those who hold the same worldview/belief system."

So many Christians have this need. A need for support from fellow believers, yet afraid to tell them about their struggles with a mental disorder. Afraid that they're going to be thought of as a bad Christian. Afraid of being judged and rejected.

My heart goes out to this lady. If only there could be more Living Room groups for people like her. We need Living Room groups everywhere. And I pray to God that word of it will spread and that many more groups will be established. And I pray that the stigma within the church will be reduced. Please, God, help this happen.

If you live in or near Minneapolis, have a faith in Jesus Christ, and have bipolar disorder could you let me know? Or if you know of a faith-based support group in that area, please let me know so I can pass the information on to this lady. Please email me at It would be so good to get such support for her.

If you want to read more about Living Room check this article which was published recently about faith-based mood disorder support. Does this inspire you? Is God calling you to get involved too?