Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Getting busy

Although I'm not hypomanic, I have gotten myself into an awful lot of projects and work lately. I wonder why I always do that? Even when my mood is normal I like to take on a lot of stuff. Last week I suggested a fundraiser cookbook for my church. We badly need to replace the roof and it's a lot of money for a small congregation like ours to raise. So I had the wonderful idea to produce a community cookbook: Recipes from Many Nations. This won't be your run-of-the-mill church cookbook. This will involve the whole community.

This is exciting. But, what with tying up the loose ends of my book, finding a publisher, facilitating the support group, looking after mom and mom-in-law, and my household, it is a lot of stuff. This cookbook will be a responsibility. And I'm not one to do things half-heartedly. I'm perfectly able to handle everything now, but am worried what would happen if I were to go into a depression. I'm trying to find a right-hand person to work with me so the project will be safe, even if I do flounder.

This is one of the most frustrating thing about living with bipolar. You never know where your mood is going to be. You never know if you can count on yourself. I'm a responsible person. I've accomplished a lot. I get things done. When I'm stable I see no reason not to trust myself. Yet you never know...

But today I'm well and strong, doing one thing at a time and I'm grateful for that. Each morning I will pray, asking God to continue giving me strength and courage to do all he has led me to do. I will trust in him and take one day at a time.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Weekend extra on depression

Continuing on with my news about the publicity I got in the Vancouver Sun newspaper:

This is an absolutely fantastic job the paper is doing in their three-part report on depression - and not just because they featured me. There is big front page attention plus a two page spread in each paper. This is truly a wonderful stigma buster!

I've photographed the two pages with my pictures from the Friday edition and will post them here. The inside shot of me makes me look awful - depressed, though I wasn't. But I guess it gets the point across. The other picture I'm sharing here is from the Saturday paper, featuring Greater Vancouver's Roman Catholic archbishop and the story of his depression.

Sorry, I didn't know how to compose the pictures on the page so they look better.

Friday, February 23, 2007

I hit the front page!

This morning I couldn't believe it when I opened the paper I saw that my photo ended up on the front page - big! Inside are two full pages with information about depression...and another photo of me - rather unflattering, but I guess a good description of what depression feels like.

What I said in the interview was interspersed with info and other people's quotes in a big article. This is a huge stigma buster. Very informative. I am - as you can well imagine - excited and happy. This should get my book into a lot more people's hands.

Here's the link: http://www.canada.com/vancouversun/index.html

It's not working as a link. Perhaps if you type it in it will. The front page can be accessed at the bottom left of the page.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Gotta talk to someone

My husband calls me insecure, and maybe I am. I get into states where I've simply got to talk to my friends. It's so hard not to, even though I've bothered them enough. Calling every day gets a bit much, don't you think?

But I've been having brief periods of down-ness. And when I'm down I don't want to withdraw, I just need to talk. My river has to flow.

So here I am again, needing my friends. I'm glad for this blog: a place to connect with people without bothering anyone who I shouldn't bother.

I'll be glad when today is over and I can sleep and wake to a new day. Tomorrow will be a busy one: Living Room day. I'm looking forward to it. Our discussion will be about the value of suffering. My pastor calls pain the gift no one wants, but one that is a gift nevertheless. Pain does so much to strengthen character. People who have suffered know a lot more about life than those who have it easy. I've never had it easy, yet I'm pretty sure that is the case.

Suffering is one of my favorite topics to read about. So much has been written about it and there's so much evidence that those who suffer and overcome have much to offer. Much has been written in the Bible about suffering. The Bible talks about knowing Christ and "the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings." I'm learning to share my pain with Christ. I'm learning to see my pain as his pain and his pain as my pain. I'm together with Jesus in my pain. I meet him in a very special way.

Interesting how so many Christians still think that good Christians should not suffer. They think that a Christian who suffers must have sinned or something. So many form their own ideas without reading the Bible with an open heart and mind. They overlook so much of scripture. They see only what they want to see.

Tomorrow may be an exciting day. It may be the day my article will be in the paper. I'm so curious to read what the columnist has said about me. Just hope it's positive, because I'm a pretty positive person and believe in hope. But the interview went so fast, I would have liked more time to express what I'm really all about. But he had fixed questions he wanted me to answer - didn't let me have my way with him the way I would have liked, though I tried....We'll see.

I could sit and talk on and on to you, because I am lonely with my thoughts. But I don't want this post to be so long that you won't want to read it, so I will close.

Thank you all for being out there my friends.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Roller coaster excitement

Thank you to all who responded to my last post, joining with me in my excitement. Yesterday was another great day. The Vancouver Sun photographer came to take my picture. To my surprise, he wanted more than a head and shoulder shot. He decided to take me to the rollercoaster nearby and photographed me at the base of it. (For a while I wondered if he wanted me to take a ride on it, which would have scared me silly, but thank goodness it doesn't run this time of year.)

So he took dozens of shots with me holding my Riding the Roller Coaster book. Now that was really exciting. That book has been out for almost eight years, and now it's getting fresh attention. How lucky can an author get!

I called my publisher and told him. He was excited as well and will probably get the marketing department to try and get copies on the store shelves again. Very neat!

This article will be for a weekend special on depression so should be quite prominent in the paper. So good for getting the word out there about depression! So good as a stigma buster! Don't you find mental illness is being talked about more than it used to be?

The Vancouver Sun is the biggest newspaper in British Columbia and a lot of it is online. I imagine this story will be too. I will publish a link to the article to share it with you when it comes out.

In the evening I tried to come down off the mountaintop by listening to music and ironing. We have a lot more clothes we can wear now.

An altogether neat day.

Friday, February 16, 2007

An interview

Yesterday I got a call from the Mood Disorder Association asking if I would do an interview with a columnist from the Vancouver Sun. Would I ever! Of course, I agreed. An author will accept any opportunity to have her name made public and I love every opportunity to raise awareness about mental health issues.

Within an hour I was on the phone with the columnist. He is doing a three-part series on depression. I don't think he was prepared to be talking about bipolar disorder. He seemed to have only planned to talk about depression. So he asked what I feel like when I'm depressed. I told him a few of the feelings I get, like not being able to see the brilliance of a colorful garden. But then I also told him a few things he wasn't asking about, like the highs and what they do to me. I told him how, the higher my mood goes, the deeper I drop.

The interview went very fast, though we did get a lot talked about. But I would have liked to tell him a lot more. I would have liked to make sure he has lots of good stuff to draw from. So now I wonder what kind of a story he's going to come up with. That's always the danger. It's so easy to be misunderstood by a journalist and have him paint the wrong picture.

Next thing, perhaps, will be to have my picture taken. They may or may not need it.

This was an opportunity I relished and one I hope will repeat itself, especially once my new book comes out.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

To feed and to be fed

My last post and the neat discussion it led to has led me to this one: If we are to give, if we are to feed others, we ourselves need to be fed. If we are to listen to others, we also need to have someone listen to us. If we are to give bread, we have to have bread to give.

Many good givers exhaust themselves of resources by not letting others give to them. They're good at what they do, but there are times when they need to allow themselves to receive as well. And it's best for them to receive, not feeling that they're a burden, but with a spirit of gratitude. This is often hard to do, especially for the big givers.

I am a writer. But I can't write well without opening my mind to what others are saying and writing. Reading (feeding myself) is important to me if I am to write (feed others).

I like to help others. I want to love others, as Jesus commanded us to do. But if I am to do that well, I need to feed on God's love. I need to ask God to fill me with his love and then I'm better able to share that love with others. I need to help others; I also need people to help me.

As Dream Writer has alluded to in some of the comments she made on my last post, it takes two kinds of people to make our circle of friendships complete: the ones who we can support and the ones who will replenish us by supporting us. We need to do both: to feed and be fed.

(I hear Dream Writer is going to be writing a book on this topic.:-)

Friday, February 09, 2007

Battles against self-centeredness

At Living Room today we had some very interesting discussion. One thing that had the most impact on me was when someone said how she feels best during depression when she can get away from thinking about herself. When she tries to reach out and show an interest in other people's lives, it's easier to forget her own misery. There is something powerful in the act of giving - and that does not only mean giving things, but giving our attention to other people and their stories.

When we're depressed it's natural to be self-consumed with the misery we feel. In fact people who suffer from almost any illness are in danger of becoming self-absorbed. It's natural for that to happen.

Interestingly, it's not only a depressed mood that will make us self-absorbed. The same holds true for high moods. I know when I'm high and I'm with friends, I'll talk their heads off about all the "wonderful" projects I'm engaged in. I totally forget that they have lives too. I forget to ask how they are doing. I'm so full of myself.

But, when I consciously try, and succeed, in asking my friends about themselves: how they're feeling and what they're doing, something happens that makes me feel better about myself. I've come to appreciate having people trust me enough to tell me their troubles. I like the sense of connection it gives us. It feels good to forget about myself.

It's hard, but I must try constantly, to be more other-centered. The payoff is huge. I feel stronger when I reach out. I feel more well. I don't feel so much a consumer or victim; I'm then a contributor and supporter.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Lying down in a green pasture or?

I have always had trouble with Psalm 23. I can seldom relate to the part where David says that "He makes me lie down in green pastures". It just isn't me. I'm more likely to be one of those sheep that keeps chomping on the green grass, rather than allowing God to make me lie down in it. There's too much to do, too many interesting things I want to accomplish. It's not like me to do nothing - unless I'm depressed. And when I'm depressed those pastures are not very green. They're more like brown, dead grass. Not very pleasant.

But this morning was different. I woke at my usual 6:30 but didn't feel like getting up. I felt tired. I have been deep into my editing work, concentrating hard, doing little else. I was now paying for it.

Eventually I did get up, got my coffee, and went to my usual quiet time place, my big leather chair. There I sat doing nothing for a very long time, just sitting. Usually I read or pray or write. This time I just sat, dozing a bit now and then. And it felt so good. God had made me lie down in a green pasture.

I was somewhat worried though. This kind of sitting and mulling often signal the beginning of a depression, especially if I've been high for a while, which I might have been.

But in this relaxed time something neat happened. God floated down ideas to me for two things I've been having difficulty with: what to talk about at Living Room on Friday, and what to write for my final wrap-up of the book. These were both things that had been bothering me considerably. I started writing. And everything came together. That down time really paid off. What gifts!

So the rest of the day, though I still felt somewhat tired, I've been on a bit of a high - not a low at all. So where am I going now? Will the tiredness pull me down to the pasture with the dead grasses? Or will I be able to stay on the green? Is it in my hands at all to determine which way I will go? Can I avoid depression by doing the right things? If I have indeed been high (which I might very well have been) can I somehow arrange my activities so I will stay in that green pasture?

All I can do, I guess, is to live each day as it comes, trusting in God, letting him lead me. He is my shepherd.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Out of the mud

I was meditating tonight, thinking of the blogging friends I've made who are going through hard times right now. I want to share something. I want to pass along some hope, hope I know is there for you on the other side of the dark. I'll try to do this without giving a sermon.

It was not until I was 42 when I first believed in God. Before that I had tried to survive my illness using my own willpower, not trusting anyone but myself. Many times I had to hang on for dear life, my sanity threatened. The time eventually came that I knew I needed to explore what God was all about. I yearned for someone I could trust, someone greater than me, someone who would catch me if I fell.

But didn't I tell this story only a few posts ago?

Anyway, you need to know about David, the psalmist. I like to tell my Living Room support group that, if David were living today, he might want to be a member of our group. David had very strong moods. In fact - though some Christians would faint at me saying this - I believe he might very well have been bipolar. He was a poet, a musician, a great leader. He was one of us!

David wrote a psalm that is very close to my heart. It describes so perfectly what has happened to me. I recently found out that U2 have a song based on this psalm:

I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry.
He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire;
he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.
He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. (Psalm 40)

So all you guys who're in that slimy pit right now! Try to be hopeful and patient. God can and will lift you out. You'll have a new song to sing. I'm praying for you.