Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Doing rather than thinking

I woke up feeling crummy again this morning. And I realize how I need to shorten my quiet time in the morning and get moving earlier - like the writing here I'm doing now. Too much time sitting is not a good thing.

I have a lot of little things on my to-do list for today. Just little - all manageable - things. And I look forward to ticking them off. Such a good feeling that is! Just thinking about it makes me feel better.

One bigger thing I need to work on is my devotional for Friday's Living Room meeting. We will talk about how Christmas was, why it was that way, and looking to the future - the new year. Leaving the old behind.

Yesterday went well. My Curves workout did me such a lot of good. And I enjoyed my visit with Mom. I'm so happy with how she's doing. She's not lonely at the home anymore. Has made some good friends. Is happy. She's responding so well to the care she's receiving now.

Life is good. God is good.

Please, God, help me remember that.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Fund raising for mental health

The Globe and Mail newspaper had a wonderful article about how Michael Kirby, the first chair of the Mental Health Commission of Canada, would like to start an organization for mental health similar to the Canadian Cancer Society. Volunteers would raise moneys for research in the same way they do for cancer. There could be mental health walks. This would not only raise money, it would raise awareness.

I'm so happy about this. It's exciting. I've felt something like this has been needed for a long time. We are fortunate to have someone of Michael Kirby's calibre take an interest in mental health issues.

There was a time - not so long ago - that there was a stigma surrounding cancer as well. People avoided talking about it. Those who had cancer tended to keep it a secret, suffering in silence. I'm sure we will be able to reduce the stigma attached to mental illnesses as well. We might not be able to remove it, but there is huge room for better attitudes to those of us who suffer from it.

My church is an example of a place that is learning to accept those with mental illness. As I've been going through my recent trials, I've had much support. People don't avoid me. They ask how I'm doing. I get hugs. If only this could happen in all churches!

I felt crummy waking up this morning. But I took my shower early and I have a list of things to do today - all little things. I know that working on those and ticking them off as I accomplish them I will start feeling better. One of the first things I'll do is go to Curves for a much needed workout.

Hope you're all well and looking forward to the day.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Antidepressant skills

Two local psychologists, Dan Bilsker and Randy Paterson, have put together an Antidepressant Skills Handbook which is available to download online free of charge. It is available here. The book gives strategies for people with depression to employ, some of it based on the cognitive therapy approach. Individuals can work their way through it with the coaching of a friend or family member. It is also suitable for use by support groups.

I downloaded the 67-page workbook a couple of months ago, intending to make copies to use with a small group of Living Room members. Yesterday I decided it would be a good time for me to try the workbook myself. What better way to familiarize myself with it? I'm sure I'll be able to benefit from it right now.

One section that will be very good for me right now is the one on depressive thinking. That's probably my worst problem right now. The book helps you learn to identify and recognize depressive thoughts, seeing how they trigger your low mood. You learn to challenge these depressive thoughts and replace them with fair and realistic ones. You learn to practice more balanced, realistic thinking.

I don't usually have a lot of problems with negative thinking. I tend to be a very positive person. Yet when I'm into a period of depression as I have been lately, I tend to latch onto negative thoughts about myself. That's when my mood really dips.

I had a good day today. No negative thoughts at all. Finally tackled a huge mess in my bedroom. I followed a friend's advice and put on some good music as I worked. There's still lots to do, but it's already looking much better. It will be so good to come home from the cruise to a tidy house. What I did today is truly a huge accomplishment. I feel encouraged.

Saturday, December 27, 2008


Regrets and shame have brought me down lately. I'm good one day, and then something triggers me to turn to those negative emotions and thoughts and I go deeply dark.

But, if I were able to get things into better perspective, the way I should and the way it's healthy, I would see that those negative things are really very small when you place them next to all the good things in my life. I have so much to be thankful for. And the Bible does remind us to think of the good and not to be anxious. And God knows what is good for us and we need to listen.

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:6-7)

In between the dark times, I have felt this peace, only to return to the dark again days later. A very troubling thing. Can I hang onto this peace, can I hang onto the good, those things for which I am thankful? With God's help and with supportive friends beside me, I know I can. But I have to make the decision to strive for this and cling to feelings of thankfulness.

It's not hard to think of things I'm thankful for. I'm really a very fortunate person (except for this darn bipolar disorder). I thank God for:
  • a husband who loves me and has endless patience with me
  • friends who love me and are supportive. I love them so very much.
  • plenty to eat, a warm comfortable home, all the clothes I need.
  • a cruise planned for January 7th. I know, you're all saying "How can she possibly not be jubilant about that?"
  • a talent for photographing children, work which gives me great joy, work which I will soon resume after a long hiatus.
  • the work God has given me to do. It's wonderful to have a purpose so worthwhile - a purpose I feel God designed me for. Thank you, God, for leading me to that.
  • a healthy body
  • an enjoyment of books and learning.
  • Sudoku puzzles that keep my mind occupied and off the negative.
  • playing Ticket to Ride with my husband. Thank you, God, for the challenge. I seldom win anymore, but it's so much fun trying.
  • a smart husband who enjoys the work he does. Thank you, God, that he's able to do it at home, close to me.
  • a pastor who is down to earth and wants to understand mental disorders. Thank you, God, for how he supports me and my work.
  • a God who loves me, no matter what - even when I get more negative than he wants me to.

Pressing on

It has been a very long time since I wrote here. Not much has changed since my last post. Guess that's why I haven't written. When I write I like to have words that will encourage and inspire and I've been having a hard time finding those words lately. Safer to just not say anything, eh?

I have good times when I function normally, alternating with times when I'm deep, clinging to negative thoughts. At times I lose hope. After all, this has been going on for three months now.

A series of stressful situations started this, Christmas - as usual - being one of them. But you would think it would let up after all the sources of stress have been resolved. It hasn't happened so far, but I am praying that it will happen soon. Thing is, I have to live my life and think positively, try not to dwell on the negative.

In past years I've always tried to learn from my moods - things that I could pass on to others. By encouraging others, I found I was encouraging myself. I remember sitting on my bed in the psych ward years ago working on Riding the Roller Coaster. I found satisfaction drawing from what I was going through, finding the good in the bad, and sharing it with the many others who I knew would be able to relate. Inspirational writing helped me cope with my own difficulties. That's one reason I've done as well as I have.

Today I don't have a book to work on, but I have this blog. I will try to write more often. I will try to use my writing to find the good in the bad and to share that good with you.

When I talk to my friend, expressing my feeling of shame over the way I've felt and behaved lately, she keeps telling me I need to move on. And I guess she's right. I certainly can't stay stuck here. There are things I've built my life on that require me to be strong. And I want to do those things. I want to help others who struggle with mood disorders. I want to help new Living Room groups form. I want to find the joy again - the holy joy I always feel after my Living Room meetings. I don't want to be a victim; I want to give.

I need to make Philippians 3:12b mine over the next while: "...I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me." And in verse 13: "Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead."

I need to think of tomorrow. What can I do tomorrow to bring forward the purpose God gave me to live for - to help erase stigma - to help people with mood disorders?

What good can I find in what I am going through to share with you, my blogging pals? I want you to be blessed by what I have to say and it is my prayer that I will - with the help of God - do so.

I will write more - maybe even today - as I work towards this. I will find the good in the bad. I know God will help me do so. He always has and He will again.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Living Room Christmas party day

In spite of the snow that kept a lot of people from attending our party, we had sixteen people. It was a wonderful, intimate time. Good food and good visiting. We finished all of Janice's turkey and almost all the stuffing. It was so good. One of our new members told her story about how her relationship with God started and how good He has been to her, in spite of her depression and MS. We sang all the six Christmas carols I had photocopied - really got into it, in spite of not having a piano to accompany us. Such a great time!

My motivation is pretty good right now, though I'm still struggling with depression symptoms. Negative thinking was a serious problem last night and then I woke up with it as well. That led to some truly depressed feelings. But through an email to my friend, I managed to talk - to reason - my way out of it.

I guess everyone has things they could be sad and negative about. Thing is, you don't need to dwell on it. I've learned that doing instead of thinking builds positive feelings. And thinking of how you can build into other people's lives takes the focus away from yourself. You then have a purpose that you can live for. And that's where true joy comes from. At least that's the way it is for me most of the time. In the email to my friend I sorted through these things, reminding myself of what I've know for so long. But how easily you can forget, eh?

Today's Christmas party was a good place for me to get out of my negative thinking. I love my friends there and it was just very good to be together. To do instead of think.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

One day at a time

I had such a wonderful day yesterday. I started the day off baking my first batch of cookies. That energized me. Smelling the Christmassy spices emanating from my oven motivated me to do other things. My husband helped me wash all the dishes that had been collecting. It felt so good to feel well enough to do that. I carried on later in the day tidying the messy dining area, something I had previously felt powerless to tackle.

I felt so happy, so freed from the prison-like state I have been in for so long. Got lots of things done. Felt like Christmas could now really begin for me.

In the afternoon I called my good friend who has been such wonderful support for me. I was all excited and happy about how my mood had turned around. But I was disappointed that she did not share in my happiness in the way I had hoped. She warned me to take one day at a time, realizing that these breaks from the depression have happened before, only to have the depression return again.

These last couple of months have been like that. Periods of non-motivation, even getting to the point at times of not wanting to go on. Then I escape and am able to function normally again, only to dip down again a few days later. A real roller coaster ride this has been.

I've learned though, that I need to have a manageable focus in place. One important thing to work towards at a time, not worrying about the rest. This week it's the Living Room Christmas party. One of our members offered to cook us a turkey. The rest of the dinner will be supplied by the others. I think it will be a good time.

I've also remembered to make a list of things to do for each day, setting manageable goals. This is something I've always advocated yet have somehow forgotten to do lately. Yesterday I managed to achieve all my goals. Truly a wonderful feeling to have done that.

I awoke this morning not feeling quite as wonderful as I did yesterday. But I have set my goals for today and will work on those, doing instead of thinking. (It's the ruminating - the thinking without doing - that gets me into a lot of trouble.)

And I will remember to live, knowing that God is my stronghold. With Him everything is possible, including the ability to prepare well for Christmas - to be happy - to smile - to love.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

A roller coaster ride

It has been such a very long time since I wrote here. I feel bad about it, because this blog has always been important to me.

I've been on a roller coaster for about two months now - times when I've been okay and other times when I've felt very down, not knowing how I can continue, wishing I could get off the ride.

I've heard some people with bipolar say how they think they are well and will always be well. They've learned to handle life and their illness in such a way that it will never pose a problem for them again.

The truth is that once you have the disorder, you can never be sure of your wellness. The depression will always return. Meds need to be changed and the downturn will have to run its course. It can be very discouraging. You wonder if you can ever be counted on again.

I've been fortunate. I've had a lot of support - good friends and an understanding husband.

My pastor Don talked on Sunday about Bill Hybels' book, Holy Discontent. How we all have something in the world that we're not happy about. When this becomes a passion and we know that we want to do something about it we will know it's God's calling for us. I have that holy discontent. I want very much to make a difference in the lives of people with mental health problems. I feel called to help and erase the stigma that exists. I would like to help society - and especially the church - accept people like us better. I want to educate Christians so that they will treat people like us with compassion - so that they will know how to support us.

Yes, I have a holy discontent. Unfortunately my work has had to be put on hold while I try to just cope with my day to day home life...and with Christmas. How I long to be well enough - strong enough - to pick it up again. I'm working hard to get to that point.

As a result of the depression, it has been hard to motivate myself to do even the basics. But I do have good days when I can do some catching up. Yesterday was good. I was encouraged. In the evening, after a full day, I sat down and made a list of all the things I will need to do before Christmas.

Christmas will be toned down a lot at our house this year. My dear husband has even told me we don't have to have Christmas at our house this year. We don't have to buy a lot of gifts, we don't have to send out cards, I don't have to bake. That was a very good thing to tell me. It relieved the pressure I felt. As a result I'm now doing what I want to do, not what I have to do. And I want to celebrate as well as I can. I want to do some baking. I want to clean house and decorate it. I want to have a tree. I want this to be a holy time for us.

My friend Helen has helped me by pointing me to the Psalms to give me support and encouragement. And I read how "The Lord is the stronghold of my life." (Ps 27:1) I cling to words like those and find peace reading them. God will hold me up and give me the strength to do the things I need to do. And I know He loves me.

A couple of days ago I played with a baby. Loving that baby broke out good feelings in me. And I could see how I need to live my life out of love - love for my husband, my friends and family, and for God. I need to try and stay engaged with them. Feel their love. Return their love.

And I will live one day at a time, doing what is most important. Maybe this is the day I will turn around.