Monthly Archives: January 2014

That Thing Called Fear

That thing called fear is something we all experience.  We all have different fears.

Some are afraid of being alone.  Some are afraid of death.  Some are afraid of change.

If you ask anyone what their number one fear is they will have an answer for you.

Fear is deep within all of us.  It’s what makes your heart beat faster, your stomach do flip flops, your lips quiver and your hands shake.

I’m not afraid of being alone.  I am not afraid of death.  I am not afraid of change.

But I do have one deep fear.  It tightens in my chest and makes me lose my breath.  It turns my stomach upside down.  Even as I write this my heart is beating faster and faster, and my hands are tingling.

My greatest fear.

My greatest fear is passing on my depression.

It’s why I am not sure if I want to have children.  I don’t think I could forgive myself if I passed my depression on to my child.  I couldn’t bear to see my child suffer the same horror that I have experienced.

And this fear has also made me question if I ever want to get married.  It’s why I have been single for 5 years.  Do I have the right to bring someone else into my suffering?

I have made peace with my depression over the last few years.  I know I can’t control it, and I know I am going to have to deal with it for my entire life.  I’m ok with that.

But I am not ok with bringing someone else into that knowing the effects it can have on a loved one.  I have seen what my depression does to those around me.  I see how much they worry, and how scared they get.  I see the tension it can cause, and the feelings of helplessness.

I have a beautiful family who will never abandon me, who stick with me through all of the good and all of the bad.  And I cherish them for it, and I am so grateful.  But I see the pain it causes them.

So do I have the right to bring someone into that suffering by getting married?

It’s a question I have battled for years.

And I often change my mind on it.

Today I believe I do have the right to have a relationship and possibly get married one day.  I am open about my struggles and it will be up to whoever I am with to decide if they can handle my depression or not.  And if someone decides to walk away because it is too much, then that’s ok.  It will hurt.  It will break my heart.  But I understand.

But having children?

My child won’t have a choice of whether or not to deal with it.  I’ll either pass it on or I won’t.  And even if my child doesn’t suffer from depression, he will still have to grow up with a mom who has depression.  He will have a mom who sometimes can’t get out of bed.  Is that fair?

I ask these questions over and over again.

We all have fears.  And we all have a choice.

To overcome our fears, or let them control our lives.

I will always be afraid of passing on my depression.  But I also have faith.  God has a plan.  He has never abandoned me and I know He never will.  He has brought me through my struggles and made me stronger.  He has carried me when I can’t walk.  He has been my strength, my support and my shelter.

God is taking care of me.  And He is taking care of my future.

I choose not to give my fear control of my life.

I choose to trust God.

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Winter Blues

This past Monday was ‘Blue Monday’, unofficially recognized as the saddest day of the year.  It is the middle of winter, skies are grey, sun is minimal and moods are down.

Winter weather can be hard for anyone, let alone those who deal with depression.  Many are affected by SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), which can cause depression in people who don’t normally have mental illness concerns.

So if winter can make those without mental illness face depression, imagine what it does to those of us who battle mental illness regularly.

When it’s cold outside and you haven’t seen a glimpse of the sun for days, it’s easy to pull the covers over your head and snuggle in for the day.  For many, it’s no big deal to stay warm and in bed for one day.  For those who deal with depression, it can be dangerous.  For us, one day in bed can easily turn into two, three, etc, and all of a sudden we’re experiencing full blown depression instead of just a cozy day in bed.

The grey skies and continuously falling snow work against us to beat down our mental well being.  This weather causes headaches, colds and the flu which all render us weak and unable to perform daily tasks.

So how do we counter the winter blues?  We face them every year and will continue to do so as long as we live in a country with seasons.  What steps can we take to ensure the dark days don’t overcome us?

Find the positive.

We have to look harder in this weather to find the positive than we do in the summer sunshine, but there is beauty out there waiting to be discovered.

Instead of complaining about another snowstorm, we can marvel at the beauty of our snow covered streets and cities, and the peaceful look of the white blanket.

When the roads are too bad to go out, we can be disappointed about missing events or social outings, or we can spend time inside with our family, watching a movie, baking cookies or playing a game.

Have you ever watched a dog in the snow?  How they jump and dive and run and catch snowballs?  It’s pure joy for them.

Have you ever watched kids build a snowman or go sledding?  Listen to their laughter.  Notice the fun they are having.

My niece went tobogganing for the first time a few weeks ago.  I wasn’t there but I saw the pictures afterward.  She was smiling and laughing, whereas I probably would have complained about the cold and getting snow in my face.  But she loved the rush of sliding down the hill.

I keep hearing people say this is the worst winter they’ve seen in years.  There is so much snow and it is so cold.  People get restless indoors and frustrated at the poor driving conditions.

Moods spiral downward.  People get depressed.

My advice?

Next time the winter blues are getting to you, go outside and make a snow angel.

You won’t be able to stop yourself from smiling.

When the sunshine isn’t making an appearance, create it.

Create sunshine by laughing, joking, treating people kindly and appreciating the feel of a warm fire on a cold winter’s day.

And on the days that are rough, and getting out of bed is more challenging than climbing a mountain, reach for help.  Don’t be alone with your depression.

Call a friend or a family member.  They can be your sunshine for the day.

And maybe tomorrow will be a better day.

Remember that when you are down, you can only go up.

Day by Day

I have come a long way since I was first diagnosed with depression at 16.  I have learned how to deal with my illness, and the best ways to overcome it.  I have accepted it as part of my life.  I am no longer ashamed of it, and I no longer try to hide it.  I have been breaking the chains of my depression and knocking down the walls I built to guard myself against judgement.

I have learned to love myself and find the joy in life.  My faith is strong and I follow my Lord with my heart wide open.  I have found peace.

But it doesn’t mean things are perfect.  As much as I wish it would, my depression has not vanished.  It still creeps up on me and I am faced with the choice: do battle or give in.

I can usually feel it when my depression is about to make an appearance.  There are little signs that indicate it is coming.  This is not always that case, but when it is I can put on my armour before it fully hits me and start the fight.

Sometimes I am able to fight it off before it has taken over me.  Sometimes I can’t.

On Friday I began to notice I was a bit off.  I was exhausted and didn’t have much of an appetite.

On Saturday I was almost late for work because I didn’t want to get out of bed.  And all day I was restless and fidgety.  I was having trouble concentrating and couldn’t keep still.

Today I ignored my alarm.  I turned it off and reset it 3 times.  Each time I reset it I returned to my bed.  I wanted to stay in bed all day.  I had no strength or desire to get up.

With these signs over the last few days, I knew.  

I knew my depression was circling inside me, getting ready to bust out.

Every part of me wanted to give in to it.  Especially this morning.  I had resigned myself to staying in bed.

But I didn’t.

At 11:30am, half an hour before I was supposed to be at my sister’s, I shot myself out of bed.  I did it quickly and purposefully because I knew if I hesitated I wouldn’t put my feet on the floor.

We had tickets for the Windsor Spitfires (hockey) game this afternoon.  My parents, my sister, my niece, my nephew and I were supposed to go.

At one point this morning I had my phone ready to text my sister and tell her I wasn’t going to be there.

But then I remembered that this was the first real hockey game my niece and nephew had ever been to.  I remembered their excitement about going to the game with us.

So I got out of bed for them.

And it was the best thing I could do for myself, and my looming depression.

As I write this I am feeling 100% better than I did this morning.  An afternoon with my family, eating junk food and cheering for the Spits, gave me the strength I needed to fight off my depression.

It is not always this simple.  But I know that the worst thing for me when I’m feeling down is to isolate myself.  Even though all I want is to be alone under my covers in bed, it is the most damaging thing when I am facing my depression.

Anyone who has dealt with depression knows how hard it is to fight it.  You want to give in to it because the sadness and pain is so overwhelming that it is easier to give up.  The depression zaps your energy and nothing seems worth getting out of bed for.

What got me out of bed this morning was the thought that I’d disappoint my niece and nephew by not being there.  The thought of letting them down was more painful than getting out of bed.

I was lucky today because I wasn’t depressed yet, just down.  If I had stayed in bed and missed the hockey game, I’m sure I’d be depressed right now.  But because I forced myself out of bed at 11:30, I am now feeling better and stronger.

There will be [and have been] days when I can’t force myself out of bed no matter how hard I try.  There are days when the depression overpowers me and I can’t do anything.

I can’t control those days.

But on days like today, when I am down, but not out, I try to find one reason to get out of bed.  

Sometimes getting out of bed for myself is not enough to make it happen.  So I focus on getting out of bed for someone else.  Today it was for my niece and nephew.  Tomorrow it will be to volunteer at the Humane Society.

When you are going through a rough patch I encourage you to take it day by day.  If you put too much pressure on yourself or look too far ahead, life becomes overwhelming.

But if you focus on one day at a time, and find a reason each day to get out of bed, you will find that it won’t be long until you feel like yourself again.

It won’t be long until you don’t need a reason to get out of bed.

Take it day by day.

 

Truth and Time

This morning I had coffee with two of my most favourite people.  I was in Toronto for the last few days reconnecting with friends and enjoying time with some of the amazing people I have in my life.  There was great conversation and laughter that filled the last 3 days.

But my time with my two friends this morning has stuck with me throughout the day.  I spent the majority of the 4 hour drive home reflecting on their words and my own.

There are many reasons I love these two people dearly.  They have impacted my life in so many beautiful ways.  One thing about them I admire so much is that they speak truth.  So many people today walk in circles around truth, so the honesty and openness of my two friends is so refreshing.  I constantly walk away from time spent with them feeling challenged, encouraged and uplifted.

Throughout our 2 hour conversation topics that came up included loss & opportunity (mourning what was and embracing what is), how short life is, and our unbelievable ability to waste time.

Take a moment and think about how you have wasted time.

Wasted time on lies.

Wasted time listening to people’s judgements.

Wasted time allowing others to treat you poorly.

Wasted time working too hard.

Wasted time focusing on the things that don’t really matter.

Have dreams and opportunities come and gone because of wasted time?

Then there is the time that is taken away from us.

I think of the time my depression has taken from me.  The days in bed, the events missed, the relationships soured.

The fear my depression created that often kept me from moving forward.

It’s hard not to feel angry because of the time my depression has stolen from me.

But anger just wastes more time.  Anger can cause me to miss out on more opportunities.  Anger can ruin relationships.  If I allow the anger to overcome me, then my depression has taken even more time from me.

So I choose to look at what it has given me.  It has given me truth.  The truth is that life is messy.  It is full of struggles and pain.  It is complicated and overwhelming.

The truth is that even in my messiness I am beautiful.  Even in my struggles and pain, I am valuable.  Overcoming complication has helped me learn and grow.  Being overwhelmed has taught me to prioritize what is important.

Yes, my depression has taken time from me.  But it has also opened my eyes.

God can take anything bad and create something good out of it.

My depression is bad, but God is using me and my struggles for good.

And I cherish time so much more now after having lost so much.  I don’t want to waste anymore time on fear, lies and anger.  I want to embrace the good and the truth.

Because the truth is, there is a lot of good.

I encourage you to focus your time on what matters.  Friends, family and helping others.

Because life is short and we only get one shot at it.

Don’t waste it.

You have gifts to share, talent to explore and people who love you.

Embrace it.

Suicide is NOT an option

I was 14 the first time I decided I wanted to die.  The pain was too much.  I couldn’t take it anymore.

I went in search of Tylenol.  I figured swallowing a bottle of pills would be the most painless way to go.  But there weren’t any in the house.

I told my mom I had a headache and needed some pain relievers.  She and my sister were heading out, so she said she would pick some up for me.

I grew impatient waiting for them to come home.  I grabbed a knife from the kitchen, my cross necklace and went into the upstairs bathroom.  I sat on the floor sobbing and shaking.  I desperately wanted to plunge the knife into my chest, but could not seem to do it.  My hands ached from squeezing my cross so hard.

All of a sudden the bathroom door flew open and my sister stood there staring at me.  Then she screamed ‘Mom, she’s got a knife!’

I thought about ending my life many times over the next 10 years.  I dreamed about getting hit by bus.  I thought about how I would kill myself and how much better the world would be without me.  I assumed my loved ones would miss me at first, but then forget about me and move on.

I honestly believed that their lives would be better if I weren’t around.

There were a few more times I came close to suicide.  But each time, I could never follow through and I didn’t know why.  I wanted to die.  I was begging to die.  But every time I got close, something stopped me.

God.

He stopped me.  He protected me from myself.  In my worst times, when I didn’t even realize He was there, He had His arms wrapped tightly around me.

When I look back over the years and how much harm I did to my body and my soul, at the emptiness I felt, I am amazed I am not beneath a tombstone.  And He is the only reason I am not.

God never gave up on me.

When I could no longer walk, He carried me.

Now I see that I am supposed to be here today.  God has a plan for me and that’s why He couldn’t let me die.  There is a purpose for me.  

I truly believe that the reason I am still here is to help those who suffer as I have suffered.  It’s the reason I started this blog.  Depression is horrible.  But I believe it can be beaten.  It will not defeat me.

There are many people in my life who love me and would be devastated if I killed myself.  So even in my darkest times I know that I will not do it.  I couldn’t do that to them.  

For those of you who may have considered suicide as an option, please know it is not one.  You are here for a purpose and you are loved and needed.

I know the thoughts in your head.  I’ve had them too.  You think the world would be better off without you.  You think you are a burden.  You think no one would miss you.  You think people would be happy you’re gone.

These are NOT true.

You are valuable.

You are precious.

You are beautiful, even in your brokenness.

If those lies won’t leave your head, talk to someone.  Talk to a friend, family member, your pastor, or a counsellor.

Your life is worth saving.  Your life is worth living.

I know that all you want is for the pain to end.  I’ve been there.  And I promise you it will end.  You will discover strength within yourself that you never knew was there.

Find a reason to live.  If you can’t find one for yourself, find it for someone who loves you.  

Life is hard.  Our world is broken and full of pain.  Depression causes unimaginable pain and suffering, but it is not forever.  You can overcome it, and you will come out stronger than ever.  Do not give up.

Fight for your life. 

You are worth it.  You are made by God, and He doesn’t make mistakes.

On the worst of days, find the good and hold on tight.

Because suicide is NOT an option.

Speak Love

As I was driving today I was listening to my new Hawk Nelson CD (amazing band if you’ve never heard of them), and the song that first drew me to their music began to play.  It is called ‘Words’ and it is a beautifully written song about how words can hurt, and how they can bring joy.

The chorus has been repeating in my head throughout the day:

“Words can build you up; Words can break you down; Start a fire in your heart or put it out” 

This is so true.

Words can tear you apart and they can break your heart.  They can also be uplifting and bring joy.

I think of words said to me during my times of struggling with my depression, and words that caused my depression to surface.  Those who called me “crazy”, “unstable”, and “insane”.

The kids in elementary school who told me I was ugly every day because I looked different than them.  That word has caused lasting damage and still affects me 20 years later.  For so long, every time I looked in the mirror all I saw was an ugly girl staring back at me.

I remember being told in my teens that I would have no friends because no one wanted to be around someone so sad and negative.

There was a boy I liked in my early twenties who said I was ‘dark’ and ‘crazy’.

There was the woman who crushed a dream of mine when she said I wouldn’t make a good pastor because of my emotional issues.

These are words that cut deep.  They were plunged into my heart, and some of the wounds are still healing.  The words broke me down.  They shattered me to pieces.

Then there are the words that lifted me up.

The friends who said to call anytime I needed them.

The parents who constantly tell me they are proud of me and they support me.

Those who thank me for sharing my struggles, and tell me I am helping them with my words.

The Pastor and his wife who said they believe in me and my gifts of leadership within the church.

The many times family, friends and mentors have said they love me unconditionally, and that I am valuable.

On bad days I try to focus on these positive words.

And I focus on the words of my Heavenly Father, who loved me so much that He sent His son to die for me.

I am a beautiful, precious daughter of His, and His are the only words that matter.

Jesus told us to love our neighbour as ourselves.  He said to love our enemies. He said not to judge one another.

What if we only spoke uplifting words to each other?  Imagine how that could change the world.

Kindness instead of cruelty.

Encouragement instead of criticism.

Compassion instead of superiority.

Let’s do this together. Be kind, compassionate and encouraging.

Let us speak love.

A Year in Review

Happy New Year friends!

2013 was quite the year for me- a roller coaster ride of ups and downs and many unexpected and life-changing happenings.

I started off 2013 struggling to recover from a deep depression that had begun in November 2012.  I had taken a few weeks off work before the new year, but I went back by Christmas, too soon, before I was healed and healthy.

My fear of losing my job drove me back to work before I was ready.  I was afraid that if I was gone too long it would be realized that I wasn’t needed and I wouldn’t have a job to go back to.

At the time I felt undervalued and underappreciated.  The stress of the job had driven me into my depression, but the fear of losing that same job had me back in the office when I was still sick.

I put what I thought was my dream job ahead of my health.

Big mistake.

Not only did I get worse instead of better, I ended up losing my job a few months later anyway when my position was cut.

I risked my health and sanity for a job I thought I couldn’t live without, and then it was gone anyway.

The funny thing looking back on everything is that I was desperate to hang on to a job that I didn’t even enjoy anymore.  It had become unhealthy for me, and it was no longer the right role for me.

Why did I want to keep it so badly?

Two reasons:

1. I loved the people I worked with, specifically the team I managed, and the thought of not seeing them every day was devastating to me.

2. If I wasn’t doing that job, I had no idea what I would do.

I wasn’t brave enough to step away from where I was comfortable without knowing what I would do next.  But then I was forced to.  And it turned out to be a wonderful thing.

I miss the people I worked with.  But losing that job forced me to take the time to look within myself and start listening to the voice that had been nagging me for months.  It made me think about what I really wanted to do and what I felt like God was leading me to do.

So, at 30 years old, I packed up all of my stuff, let the GTA and moved back in with parents in Windsor, a place I swore I’d never move back to.

I struggled for a while as I tried to figure out what I was going to do with my life.  I applied to school for different programs, both of which I ended up declining.  

I was lost.

But as I was hiding under the covers, God was working on the plans He had for me.  He brought amazing new friendships into my life.  He opened my eyes to how wonderful it is to live close to my family again.

He gave me a solid support system of loved ones who were patient with me, loved me, encouraged me and allowed me to find my way, while always standing behind me.

I went back to my true passion, something I had abandoned long ago – being a writer.

My confidence rose.  I found and am still finding joy.  

I started taking an online writing program.

I got a great part-time job working for a couple who are Christians and understand my values.  

I met and got to know an amazing pastor and his wife who welcomed me as a part of their family.  They have encouraged me and believed in me, and urged me to use my gifts and passion for Christ.

2013 started off as a year of pain, loss, anger and confusion, but it ended with pure joy.  It started with depression and ended with me feeling stronger and healthier than ever.

So be encouraged.

Things that seem terrible as they happen can turn into things of beauty.  You can always find good in any negative situation if you look hard enough.

I am grateful for 2013 and the growth I experienced.

And I look forward to 2014 and the journey in front of me.

My depression cannot defeat me.

Judgement will not hold me down.

Negative can become positive.

With Him, all things are possible.