Thursday, November 27, 2008

At peace

Yesterday a wise person pointed me to some scripture that is helping me through this time. Reading it is helping me feel at peace - filled up. One thing she suggested I read often is from Psalm 37. I'll quote it here from the Amplified Bible:

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 secret petitions of you heart. Commit your way to the Lord [roll and repose each care of your load on Him]; trust (lean on, rely on, and be confidentalso in Him and He will bring it to pass....Be still and rest in the Lord; wait for Him and patiently lean yourself upon Him. (verses 3-5 & 7a)

I am learning to lean more on God and less on people. Things had gotten so I was reaching out to my friends so much, hoping they would fix me. But - and I should know this by now - only God can give me true rest and comfort.

The last couple of days have been better. Perhaps I am turning around?

Monday, November 24, 2008

Something's got to give

Today I decided to let someone else lead Living Room for awhile, as I give myself a chance to recover from this down period. It's for times such as this that I have a partner and co-facilitators. Janice, a faithfilled and enthusiastic person who will be starting her own group in Vancouver in January, will lead the meeting this Friday. If you know how much leading Living Room means to me, you will realize how difficult this decision was to make. But I believe it was the most responsible thing to do. I'm just not in good enough shape.

I seem to be having alternating bad and not-so-bad days. The bad days are really bad. On the better days I'm doing well when I can accomplish two or three things and eat a good meal. These better days are also when I visit my mom.

This afternoon I was feeling lonely and called a new friend from church. I am only getting to know her but know that she wants to learn about mood disorders and she wants to be supportive. She invited me over for a coffee and we had a good visit. After I left I felt refreshed, lifted up. Was able to go home and get into doing some laundry. How good it is to just talk to someone for awhile! Even when I'm depressed I need to be with people on a regular basis. With my husband away, I definitely need to make sure I don't isolate.

I'll just have to be careful I don't drag my friends down or just talk about myself all the time. Depression can make you so self-centered! Sometimes I feel downright sorry for myself. When I give into that I'm so ashamed when I realize what I'm doing. My depression deepens.

Tomorrow I'm having lunch with an old friend. On Wednesday I see my counselor, something I seldom do. Thursday I have my writer's workshop. Friday I have Living Room. Looks like I'll be well set for socializing this week. A good thing.

Now to make sure I get out to Curves and cook for myself, something I'm finding very hard to do. (Yesterday I had a bowl of cereal and a bowl of soup. And that was it. That was a BAD day.)

Saturday, November 22, 2008

A window of hope

My depression is dragging on, but in a roller coaster fashion - some days really bad, some not so bad. What occurs to me is that I'm actually in a position to learn a lot right now. I've been wanting to write about how a person can best support friends with depression. This is a mystery to so many. Yet to be able to give good support can be such a blessing for those of us who need it. I'm trying to keep track of what is helping me right now. This is the silver lining of depression. You can use what you learn from it to help others.

Yesterday was a bad day. How I wished someone would call me and toss me a lifesaver, an indication that they cared. With my husband off on a holiday I felt quite alone. I suppose I could have done the reaching out and called a friend, but I would have felt like I was being a bother. What could I say except to complain about how badly I felt? I did write a couple of emails letting friends know what I was going through. If I didn't do that I would truly have felt like I was sinking. We do need to stay in touch with people if we're to stay on the surface, don't we? That's how it is for me anyway.

I was relieved in the evening to receive a call from each of my sisters. They were compassionate. They know very well what it means to be depressed and they're aware that this was triggered by our mom's problems. I know they will stay in touch, tossing me a lifesaver when I need it.

What I was really thankful about was a call from a close friend who knew how I felt because I had emailed her. She spent some time talking with me, truly helping me with my pain. She did not advise me or try to fix me - just showed compassion. Neat thing she did: she suggested that one day, when we're both feeling better (this is the friend who is physically not well), we will get together and do some Christmas baking. That idea so appealed to me. If she had suggested we do it right then and there, I would not have been able - I would have felt pressured and turned off by the thought of it. But to think of doing this in the future appealed to me. It offered me a window of hope, something to look forward to.

Today was good. I went to Curves and had lunch with my mom at the home, something I need to do more often. I'll try to use the light I'm receiving from my friend's window of hope to bake some fudge brownies tonight. They're a cinch to make and she loves chocolate. How good I would feel if I could give her some! Hope she will like them because she badly needs to put on some weight.

Maybe this window of hope will lead to others. I know I do feel like I have a lot to write about right now....Perhaps an article on support?...Perhaps a workbook to help others through their depression?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

A wonderful phenomenon

Just a quick little post before I get the day rolling - as roll it must. I have lots I need to do.

I woke up this morning in true depressed form, feeling awash with negative thoughts and bad feelings. Can't help it, can you, when you're in the midst of depression? And how you become turned inward, even self-centered, forgetting the good things - focussing instead on the "poor me!"

But I have a friend who is going through great physical health problems right now. A couple of days ago, when I realized that, I saw how I needed to support her and help her. I had been looking for support from her for "poor me." I had failed to see her great needs, so focussed was I on "poor me."

Awful how depression can make you so self-centered. Though it's the nature of depression and I can't truly help it, it makes me feel ashamed too.

I've decided to support this friend by making some meals for her, helping her get some good food into her. People with physical health problems need our support and care every bit as much as those with mental health difficulties. They need to feel God's love in the same way. Perhaps the love and care I show her will encourage her appetite, encourage her to become better nourished. I hope and pray so.

And, you know, the wonderful phenomenon of thinking about my friend's needs is that I'm thinking less about my own needs and am feeling more positive about the day. The bad feelings leave me when I think of how I want to cook a nice meal for her today and bake some fudge brownies.

I know the depression is still with me, because I made this decision to help her a couple of days ago, but still wake up awash in bad feelings. Still have trouble tending to the big messes in my life and paying the bills. I've been on a roller coaster ride for over a month now and have decided to see my psychiatrist. Have an appointment for Thursday. Maybe I need a med change.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Love and depression

"The Lord your God is with you,...he will quiet you with his love."
Zephaniah 3:17

Knowing that God loves us and that others love us is so important, and when we're depressed it becomes even more important. Love comforts us and heals us.

I can so identify with that little girl in this picture. I feel like I need to be comforted in the way this girl is being comforted. I'm such a child. Is it just me? Or do we all, at times in our lives, not need that kind of comfort?

Last night a friend told me she loved me. How good it was to be told that! And I told her I loved her too. And how good it was to be able to tell her that! We connected. And God was in that. God was with us in that. Through her I felt God's love.

This morning, though I'm still fragile, I feel God's love and comfort. What really helps is knowing I have people who care about me, people who support me. I'm very grateful for them - very grateful for God's love, expressed through them.

Today I'll be getting together with my son and going to Mom's old place to do some more cleaning up. Fill the car up once more with boxes. After today, we'll maybe need one more time out there. It will be so good to get all that done. Of course, now I have a huge collection of boxes at my house that will need to be sorted through. We're giving a lot away, yet there are family things that need to be kept. I need to find a place for them. Lots of work! And - if you're familiar with my blog - you'll know how poor I am about cleaning things up.

Being with my son today will be good. I don't get the chance very often. Perhaps we'll have time at the end of the day to visit Mom together. It has been a couple of days since I saw her and I long to visit again.

I hope you are all doing well and pray that you too will sense God's love for you today.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

A source of holy joy

I've been struggling. Struggling with a mild but painful depression that has been bothering me off and on for the past while. I know it's mainly the result of life stresses - my mom sick and then going into a nursing home and then emptying her apartment and looking for a doctor who'll look after her (seemingly an impossibility right now). That sentence kind of ran on, didn't it? Befitting the way I feel about this endless list of problems and things to be done.

Yet I am grateful too. Mom is in a good home within fifteen minutes of where I live. What a difference from her being 45 minutes away as she was. I'll now be able to visit her often, and without the stressful drive.

In this struggle of depression I've also struggled with a need for support, a feeling bad about burdening my friends with my sadness. I need my friends at times like this, yet something someone said in a comment on my last post particularly made me feel that perhaps I should not be bothering them. And the question I repeatedly find myself asking is: "Shouldn't God be enough for me?" What helped was something forwarded by a friend a few days ago, pointing out that the verse at the very centre of the Bible is Psalm 118:8: "It is better to take refuge in the Lord than to trust man." Reading that helps me to lean a little more on God and a little less on my friends.

We who suffer from depression long for compassion. Within depression there is a yearning for God to fill us up with His love - to find refuge in His love. Yet often that love can be expressed through a caring friend. How we need that support from caring friends! To know they care. To know they are remembering us in their prayers.

When I think of friends of mine who have gone through depression, I want to be there for them. It would hurt me to know they're going through a hard time not letting me know. And when I do spend time listening to them, I feel the presence of God in a special way. And when I pray with someone who is deeply depressed, I feel God very close and my prayer is one I'm not praying on my own. It's through the Holy Spirit that I ask God to show this friend His love - to help this person truly feel His love.

So maybe it's not so bad to go to friends after all? To ask for prayer? To lean a bit?

My pastor Don Dyck and I talked about this. He thinks we sense God's presence more when we're there for people in depression because God is always present with the oppressed. "And when we are with them in Jesus' name and with his love and compassion we also become the presence of God to them. It follows then that as we do that we would experience the presence of God in a deeper more significant way."

Don concludes that it would be good if church were a safe place for people to come and give expression to their oppression, a place where they would be welcomed with open arms. Church should be a place where we are open to God's presence and what He wants to do among us and through us - where we simply respond in obedience to people's needs. "That's what it means to be a community of the Spirit...a community of faith...a community of God's people."

Living Room is a place like that. And I think that's what gives me the wonderful feeling I have after meetings. We talk about our troubles, yet we share in love and with compassion, in God's presence. When I go home I experience what I have come to refer to as "holy joy." It's the kind of peace and joy that can only come from God.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Unconditional acceptance

I'm reading a wonderful book, In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction, by Gabor Mate, a doctor who works in the slums of Vancouver on the Downtown Eastside. If you want to learn more about what it is to live with addiction and how to have compassion for those who do, this is a great book to read. Mate speaks honestly and humbly about his own struggles accepting and his own struggles with addictions of different sorts. In his words, " the core of all addictions there lies a spiritual void." (That's probably why twelve step programs are so effective.)

Because of my work with people at Living Room, what he has to say about unconditional acceptance really resonated with me. I believe unconditional acceptance is what really makes this faith-based support group work. This kind of non-judgmental approach is all too often lacking in today's churches. Thus the stigma.

Mate says, "Unconditional acceptance of each other is one of the greatest challenges we humans face." Lack of it is one of the greatest challenges we with mental disorders have to deal with.

As a leader and facilitator who often counsels people in trouble I liked what he had to say about reaching people. "...They must first sense our commitment to accepting them for who they are. That is the essence of harm reduction, but it's also the essence of any healing or nurturing relationship. In his book On Becoming a Person, the great American psychologist Carl Rogers described a warm, caring attitude, which he called 'unconditional positive regard' because 'it has no conditions of worth attached to it.' This is a caring, wrote Rogers, '[that] demands no personal gratification. It is an atmosphere [that] simply demonstrates I care; not I care for you if you behave thus and so.'"

Accepting and loving people for who they are, no matter where they are emotionally or spiritually, is at the core of Living Room. Living Room is a place where people can feel safe to be open about what they are dealing with. That's what makes it so effective.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

The email that unstuck me

I don't know if all this is going to sound silly to you, but my final escape from my last depression came so clearly and so dramatically after I sent an email to over forty Living Room members last Sunday morning. Such power there was in that!

I want to share this email with you. But you must read it as though you are a Living Room member, perhaps suffering from some depression yourself.

Dear Living Room friends,
At our last meeting, after I asked for a show of hands, half - or maybe more - of you indicated you were feeling low, including me. And today I just feel that I want to share with you. I want to share with you some of the things I've been thinking about. Depression is something that seems to cling to you, isn't it? And it's so hard to get unstuck. Yet unstuck we want to be and unstuck we must try to be.
I've been praying for a way to get unstuck and today I pray for you to get unstuck as well.
This morning what occurred to me is that the greatest and purest source of joy is love - the love we can be assured God has for us and the love our friends and family share with us. It's also the love we at Living Room share with each other when we meet, a love that I know comes from God. It's a love we're able to feel because at Living Room we know we're accepted and loved no matter what - free to speak honestly what's in our hearts. Such a beauty there is in that!
And if we could only cling to the knowledge of that love and find freedom in it, eh? Freedom from oppressive depression. I'm praying that you will feel that love and the joy it brings. Because God loves you more than anything you can imagine. You realize that, don't you? And I know that if we ask God to fill us with that love and to help us share that love with others, joy will come again.
So, this Sunday morning let us pray together, for each other, pray that we will get stuck in this joy. That our hearts will find freedom.
And you know, in sharing this with you in love, I'm finding joy. And I thank you for being there, my friends. People who understand. People who share freely with me and with each other.
I look forward to seeing you in a couple of weeks on November 14th.

As I said in the letter, I found joy in the writing of this email - in the sharing in prayer with the others. I hope those who read it found as much healing as I did in the writing. And I pray that maybe you, my blogging pals, will also find healing here.

Ah! The power of prayer, eh? The power of love.

Friday, November 07, 2008


As some of you know, I've been rather depressed for the past few weeks. I'm happy to say, though, that last Sunday I came unstuck from this down period - free - motivated once more. I did something that clearly got me there, but I'm not sure I should tell you about that yet. Don't know if you'd believe that the little email I sent to a bunch of people could lift me up so dramatically.

I recently read something about indicators of depression that can be there, even though you might not feel sad or down. Did you know that not opening mail, not paying bills, not shopping for groceries can be a sign of depression? And how very long that has been a problem for me! I've probably been depressed for a lot longer than I realized.

When I'm well and on top of things, I plan menus for several days at a time, make a grocery list, and go shopping. Instead I've lately not thought about what to make for dinner until dinner time is upon us and I find nothing in the house to make. I've been relying a lot on ready-made Costco items: quesadillas, chicken pot pies, pasta with ready-made sauce. Not like me at all. When I shop it's for only a few items at a time. I was unable to plan ahead.

I believe that one of the many things that brought on my depression was having my life spin virtually out of my control: Mom sick and in need of a nursing home; trying to promote a book; Living Room and the establishment Living Rooms elsewhere. Sometimes I feel like I should have an office. Living Room is beginning to be an organization. I also concern myself a fair amount with the needs of individuals. It's all part of being a Living Room facilitator - a shepherd of sorts. And I do very much love that work. That work has not suffered. It has been hard to keep the household going, though.

Though I'm now feeling motivated and no longer depressed, life is still out of control. But today I realized that what I really need to do is to start making some lists. I've been far too relaxed about that. When I think of all the things I need to do that I'm not getting down to: UGHH!!! I've even been forgetting that I need to have all the stuff moved out of Mom's apartment within the next couple of weeks. UGGH! And there is writing I've promised to do and been forgetting about. Bunches of emails flagged that I need to tend to and am forgetting about. UGHH! Then there's my blogging. I feel very bad that I haven't visited my bloggin pals for such a long time and that I'm not posting more. (I've been emailing friends instead.)

Thankfully, Mom is now in a good nursing home, but she still needs some care from me to make sure she settles in well. I think that's another thing that has helped me get undepressed. I feel at peace, knowing she's now only fifteen minutes away - nice and close. I can make frequent visits yet not have it take up a lot of time.

However, if I'm not careful and get things under control, I'll be headed for another depression. I need to take control. I need to make lists - a list of everything that needs doing and lists of things to do each day. I shouldn't go to bed without knowing what I'll try to do the next day. These are coping techniques I've always advocated and look at me now - I've totally dropped my good habits - relaxing too too much. Tonight I will make a good long list of every item that needs doing. I will prioritize and make plans when to accomplish the most important work.

Wonderful thing is, now that I've escaped the depression I feel motivated, more able to make those lists, more able to take control of my life. Thank God!!

Tomorrow or the day after, I'll tell you about the email I sent to all my Living Room friends, an email that gave me joy and gave me that final lift out of depression. And a very dramatic lift out it was! Stay tuned.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Please pray

I feel heavily burdened today for a friend, a Living Room member, who is in hospital. Her psychiatrist certified her and she is not allowed her clothes. On top of that, he and her therapist have turned her over to a new psychiatrist, withdrawing from her case.

This friend has bipolar disorder and has been depressed almost constantly for a very long time now. She has made multiple suicide attempts. Living on her own, she hasn't had much support - no one to help her with her day-to-day living.

She called me from hospital last night, very distraught, feeling abandonned. I can imagine how she must feel like she has been given up on and thrown away. It pains me to think of what it must be like to be her right now.

And I wonder if there isn't more that I can do, rather than giving her one-on-one support. I want to gather people around her to pray for her, to help her realize that someone still cares about what happens to her. Perhaps a Living Room meeting at the hospital - surrounding her?

So, if you pray, could you please pray for Marja's friend?