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A Little Higher

A Little Higher

A year and a few months ago I wrote about my major depressive disorder and my attempts to begin to run again after a two-year hiatus. I also wrote, a few weeks later, about major knee pain, a visit to an orthopedic and the diagnosis that running wasn’t in my future. I tried again earlier this year and knee pain came back.

For those with depressions and anxiety, the BIG 3 in treating them are medicine therapy, talk therapy, and exercise. There are a lot of other things as well but these three are the foundation to successfully living with the disease. Without running I’ve spent the last few months trying to find another effective and somewhat enjoyable way to work out. I’ve found a few cross training videos that seem to hit the intersection.

One of the instructors on a video says the following; “Watch your posture. Imagine two balloons tied to your ears lifting you high, keeping your body straight as you do this workout.” I’ve watched the video and heard this instructor say it so often I know when it’s coming and I’m already checking my body’s alignment.

I’ve also thought about the advice in other parts of my life. Too many times I’m looking down, hunched over, not seeing the light and feeling the heat of the sun because my face is looking at the ground. Depression has this type of impact on a person. However, if I would, even on my darkest days, put those balloons on I might be surprised how looking up can help when I’m feeling down.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

Home

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Home

My brain feels like mush today. The last several days I have been in South Carolina where I had the privilege to present a message on fatherhood to a group of people trying to save the world, at least their part of it. The conference was also near my mom and dad who gave Beth and me lodging as well as hospitality, and food. We left early last Saturday and arrived back home last night near midnight. Now the readjusting begins.

As a person with a severe anxiety disorder rhythm and normalcy are important. When traveling I become over stimulated with all the extra noise, sights, interactions, and this drains me. After coming back home it takes me a few days to reorient myself and for my anxiety to dissipate. It helps if I begin to do the normal, rhythmic, everyday things again even if they feel foreign, which they always do following a trip away from home. However, the more I do them the more still my body and mind become. I let home wash over me I feel the anxiety settle, the pit in my stomach becomes more of a pothole and I can breathe.

For home, stillness, and silence, I am thankful.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

Fly Away

Fly Away

This morning I watched numerous birds flying around, landing on anything solid only to fly away again, seemingly without a care in the world. Birds are masters at looking as if there is nothing which tethers them to the ground, nothing that so burdens their minds they forget how to fly.

A depressive disorder has many symptoms but one of the most annoying and energy-consuming is; “ruminating.” Ruminating is thinking about something over and over. Turning it over in your mind. Looking at it from each and every possible angle and then doing the same thing again incessantly. It’s not being able to let a thought go whether it be a person, a situation (past, present, future) a fear or a source of anger. It is being tethered to and unable to allow the thought to fly away.

The quote (pictured) is a great reminder that we may be unable to stop a thought from landing in our minds but we can develop the discipline to let it go.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

Safe

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It has begun!

Several weeks ago my wife and I hired someone to remodel our bathroom. Today, they started. I work at home and it wasn’t easy to focus on anything with the bathroom being demolished a few feet away.

A safe space is important for someone like me who’s battling a major depressive disorder and a severe anxiety disorder or another who deals with any mental health issues. We need a quiet, mostly uninterrupted space where we can collect our thoughts, process the day that was and prepare for the next day.  This week I don’t have that and it has me concerned.

In times and seasons when our rhythm is disrupted, our safe space invaded, what we use to cope is taken away, we need to remember that all outward places we look for protection are not always available. The safest space is in the arms of grace, a deep abiding peace which travels with you wherever you go.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

Carry Us in their Hearts

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Carry Us in their Hearts

“What everyone needs to know is
that someone carries us in their hearts.”

This was a line from a lecture I heard today. The subject was people who have and those who do not have a sense of being worthy and loved. It was an interesting webinar and after it was over the words above found a place in my spirit. Each of us long to be loved by someone. We want to know we’re cared for, not because someone “has to” but because someone wants to.

In my battle with a major depressive disorder, the lie the disease tells me which hurts the most is that I am unlovable. It doesn’t whisper to me that no one loves me for I know that is not true but its propaganda is far more sinister. It plants the untruth in my spirit that I am not worthy of another’s love, that people only love me because they don’t see the darkness within. If they knew the struggle to return their love, the doubts, the fears, the impulses, they would find someone more worthy of their affection and devotion.

Even those who do not grapple with an illness such as depression need to know the tenderness and intimacy of another. We all desire to “know that we are carried in the heart of others.”

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabsaint.com

Enough?

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Enough?

Today is my birthday. I celebrated by getting up early this morning and going to therapy. The specialist I see is about 45 minutes from our house heading into Nashville. Depending on the amount of traffic it can take twice as long on a bad day. My gas gauge was sitting on about a quarter of a tank when I pulled out of the driveway and, running a little late, I didn’t stop to get gas. I figured it was enough to at least get me there. Then about half way through my trip on a stretch of interstate, I spied brake lights and all of a sudden I was at a full stop and stuck in traffic. That’s when the panic set in. “How long will I sit here? Will I have enough gas to make it when moving slowly or not at all?” It ended up fine and I made it to my appointment on time and put some gas in the truck before heading home.

Driving home I reflected on my therapy session and some of the issues addressed. Being my birthday I also thought about another year gone. As a person with a Major Depressive Disorder and a Severe Anxiety Disorder birthdays is a mixed bag. There is the blessing of getting through another year with the realization you have another year to get through. I am thankful for specialists and therapists, friends who encourage and understand, a family who does their best to stay beside me as I battle a disease that is incredibly difficult to understand and a wife who loves me, unconditionally and without whom I’d be lost deep in the darkest of places.

One more year on the path and enough fuel to keep going. On this birthday, I couldn’t ask for more.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

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Cleaning

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Cleaning

Today was a wasted day or a restful day depending on how you look at it. It was cloudy, cool, started raining a few hours ago and hasn’t stopped. As someone who struggles with Major Depressive Disorder, a day when not much gets done is also a day filled with battling thoughts of worthlessness and not living life to the fullest. There is the worry that a depressive episode is around the next corner which is why you didn’t get anything done which causes my anxiety disorder to kick in which is exhausting and overwhelming. These days are when I’m at the greatest risk of spiraling into the black hole of depression.

All that to say I felt something had to be accomplished today so I vacuumed, folded clothes, washed dishes, got rid of the trash while Beth was grocery shopping. It’ll help her out but it was for me more than her.

One of the most difficult things to do, when you suffer from a mental illness, is keeping your thoughts free of the dark and dirty ones which lead to no place good. It’s not easy to always stay busy or struggle with your self-worth when things don’t get accomplished. There is a middle ground, a place of balance and order but some days it’s harder to find than others.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

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Safe Place

Safe Place

claus·tro·pho·bi·a ˌklôstrəˈfōbēə/noun, an extreme or irrational fear of confined places

When most people think of claustrophobia, they think of a person trapped in a tiny space, with no way of escape and mentally, emotionally and physically being unable to handle it. While this is part of being claustrophobic it is not all of it.
As a person diagnosed with claustrophobia, small rooms make me uncomfortable, elevators are avoided, along with any place where I do not have immediate access to an exit.

Another lesser known cause of a claustrophobic attack is being in a crowd of people and feeling like the crowd has surrounded you and is keeping you from leaving a room. I also struggle with sitting in the middle of a row of people. Again, not being able to exit immediately, if needed, is a trigger. This is why I sit at the end of a row of chairs, at the corners of tables, and remain standing if these aren’t available.

This morning we were late for church and when we arrived the place was packed! Good for the church, not so much for me. We looked for a place where I’d be comfortable but no place was found. Finally, we decided to sit near the end of a row but a few seats in. As soon as I sat down my claustrophobia and panic kicked in. I thought about getting up but Beth, seeing I was struggling, immediately put her arm around me, rubbed my shoulders and back, pulled herself close to me. The struggle was still hard but someone was there for me, helping me, bringing comfort and a sense of safety.

All of us face different struggles, some seen and others unseen. However, what we battle in our lives will never be as important as having people who stand and fight our demons with us. Folks who tell us; “I will always be with you. No matter where you go, where the path leads, you’ll always have me as a safe place.”

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com
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The Mask

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The Mask

One of the most difficult truths about mental illnesses is knowing you have no control over when and where your’s will show itself. This morning mine decided to visit just before going to church. I felt; “edgy” and distracted thoughts swirled around in my head. When I got to church the mask of; “everything is OK, nothing to see here, pleasantries for everyone” was put on before I walked in the doors and stayed before, during and after service. Like a duck on a pond, smiles and easiness on top, churning and just trying to stay afloat beneath the surface.

Having a severe anxiety disorder and clinical, chronic depression often means wearing masks. You know what’s socially acceptable, what won’t make other people uneasy, what keeps everyone balanced. You understand that when someone asks; “How are you?” You can’t unload on the unexpecting. It’s not fair to them.

So, the mask goes on, you say; “Hi.”, shake a hand, exchange a few banal words which don’t require follow-up conversation, and move on. About 3/4 through the service I noticed my arms, legs were crossed and I was hunched over a little. I thought to myself; “You’re trying to become as small as possible to avoid being seen, judged, called on, noticed.” Not that any of these things were going to happen but your emotions in the midst of an anxiety episode can be a powerful motivator. I was this way the rest of the service and when it was over I exited, wishing for invisibility.

This isn’t an isolated incident. Severe anxiety is one of many mental illnesses people live with, some more successful than others. It’s part of our lives similar to anyone with a chronic disease. You do your best to enjoy the better days, endure the hard ones and hope the meds, therapy, hobbies and other treatments prescribed mean that one day the mask is no longer wanted or needed.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

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Need Help

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Need Help

When Beth and I made an offer on our little farm-house one of the provisos we placed in the contract was that an old, red, riding lawn mower be included in the purchase. Since the previous owner was going to be living in a camper in Florida he had no problem with this stipulation. I used it all last summer but during the fall problems began to plague the mower and late last year it died. It was going to cost almost as much to fix it as buying a new one. I had a relatively new push mower and when spring arrived I decided to use it to mow the grass. It wasn’t easy. We have almost 2 acres and the back yard has a good slope to it.

I would split the chore into two days. The front part of the yard took over 2 hours and the back, with the incline, was closer to 3. For almost two months I used the push mower but as temps began to climb and the humidity level rose I noticed by the end of the second day I was so tired I couldn’t do anything else. I was whooped, spent, done. It took almost everything I had to do this one thing. I could do it but nothing else. Finally, the Mrs. and I decided to buy a new lawn tractor. A couple of weeks ago I used it for the first time and it was a relief to have help, to not rely solely on my strength to do a relatively simple chore. I could now mow everything in one afternoon, do the weed eating with strength left over to work on other projects.

Last weekend, while using the new lawn mower, I reflected on my journey with severe depression and anxiety (https://thewannabesaint.com/2016/04/27/my-depression-and-anxiety-story/). I thought about the struggle to make it on my own, not ask for help. Trying to carry the burden of depression and anxiety took everything I had just to get through each day and the truth is that I was losing the battle. As hard as it was to admit I needed help. Finally going to see a specialist, talking about what these diseases were doing to me, agreeing to take meds, wasn’t easy, still isn’t, but it’s what needed to be done.

Understanding we can’t do it alone, asking for help, depending upon and trusting others to walk beside us, maybe carry us until we can walk again doesn’t make us weak but instead allows us to be strong again.

blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

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More than Enough

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A while ago my wife read me a list of food and drink items which can help contribute to anxiety. As someone who struggles with the Big A it was an article she thought I needed to hear. I listened as she continued to read and then paused when she mentioned; “caffeinated coffee.”

Coffee has long been a staple of my morning routine but I decided to cut my Java intake in half and try to gauge the impact, if any, on my battle with anxiety. So far I haven’t noticed much of a difference in my stress level but I have noticed that I’m still filling up the coffee pot with water to the level I used to drink before I cut back. It’s a habit and a waste so I’m trying to remember I don’t need as much as I used to.

Life goes best when lived simply and lightly. As we travel our path we begin to drop, let go of the things we don’t need. Wisdom teaches us that our lives become full when we’ve learned to limit our desires and empty ourselves of things no longer needed.

Blessings,
@BrianLoging (Twitter)
thewannabesaint.com

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Between Thankfulness and Grace 

The other day I heard someone tell a group they were an anxious person. They then spoke of a recent meeting with a friend who prayed for them stating; “their anxiety wasn’t from God, to believe His word (Bible) and replace the anxious thoughts with ‘God’s truth.'” The person telling the story then declared she was thrilled with this revelatory prayer and her belief in the power of God and His word.

I was thankful for the woman’s relief from anxiousness and a friend who cared enough to listen, empathize and pray for her. I also thought about people I know who suffer from anxiety disorders, clinical depression, post traumatic disorder and other mental health issues. They pray, believe, hope, trust in the promises of their faith and scripture but permanent relief seems elusive.

For those who carry the burden of persistent mental health issues, stories of quick, permanent healing can be discouraging. Others who speak to them of; “having more faith, claiming the victory, believing God’s Word, praying until healing comes, be stronger, don’t let yourself be a victim of the devil/satan,” may be trying to help but often this type of advice does the opposite.

People with long term mental health issues often struggle with feelings of loneliness, doubt, self worth and long to be free of the struggle of dealing with basic existence. They may wonder; “Why have others received release and not me? Am I doing something wrong, being punished? Does God hear or care?

Some of the hardest places and groups for people to share their struggle with mental illness can be churches, other faith communities, or with believing friends. Whether it’s a fear of being judged as weak willed or lacking faith, a misunderstanding of the reasons and causes of mental illness, or the stigma mental health issues sometimes engender in people, it’s a risky move to share such a deep, intimate issue.

Finding the balance of rejoicing with those who’ve experienced healing and relief while being mindful of those who continue to struggle is the middle way of grace and thankfulness.

Blessings,
@BrianLoging
http://www.thewannabesaint.com

Identifying with Others

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This morning I read about a Dad who had a tattoo of his daughter’s cochlear implant imprinted upon his head. Now whether you’re a tat person or not that’s pretty cool.

I was talking with my neighbor last night about a schizophrenic man in Nashville who was killed this week by police after he tried to shoot with a gun and maim with a hatchet a group of people in a movie theater. Fortunately no one else was seriously injured.

It’s hard to understand why a person would do such a thing!” He said to me. I knew this wasn’t the time to go into mental illness and it’s effect on individuals and families but I did tell him that often it’s the people who inflict the greatest amount of pain on others who are suffering the most themselves.

We may not comprehend the hurt and actions of others. We aren’t able to climb inside their minds and spirits to sort out motivations and intentions. However, what we can do is not judge, not dismiss, not shake our heads with condemnation and contempt.

Too often the struggles and difficulties of another separate us, especially when we can’t identify with the particular hell they’re going through. However, using our ignorance as an excuse eliminates our ability to hear their cry, help with their need, bring healing to their wounds.

blessings,
@BrianLoging
http://www.thewannabesaint.com

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How are you?


Part of my work with fathers involves leading a group of dads dealing with the disease of addiction. During these sessions I help them focus in part on assessing their mental health and understanding its importance. We begin with each member of the group answering the question; “On a scale of 1-5, how is your mental health?” Usually this goes smoothly but this past week an unusual thing happened. One of the men, in the middle of our session, yelled at me; “AND HOW ARE YOU DOING MENTALLY?!?!” Startled, I took a breath, smiled and spoke softly to him; “It depends on the day. Today, I’m probably a 3.” He smiled and we went on with the group.

The next day another longtime friend asked me; “How are you?” The question was repeated again later that same day by another person dear to me. I began to wonder and reflect on my original answer given to the group of dads. I told Beth about the multiple inquires and my response. We also talked about the stress and busyness of the last few weeks and the importance of keeping myself honestly aware of my emotional and physical health.

Too often we dismiss needed queries, tune out discussions, give flippant replies regarding our state of being. Wisdom tells us to listen to what’s being asked for in the question we may find our answer.

blessings,
@BrianLoging
http://www.thewannabesaint.com

A Sudden Stop 

My grass mowing yesterday came to a sudden and painful stop!
A few weeks ago I had tried to remove some unsightly bushes and was able to dig up almost all of them but a stubborn, rather large stump, refused to go. I sawed off as much as I could and hoped to get back to it at another time. I made a mental note to mow around it but had managed to erase it from my mind.

Lost in thought…”WHAM!” the deck of the lawn tractor hit the stump and I lurched forward, banging my knee, stomach and wrenching my neck. At first I had no idea what happened but then I realized that concealed under the grass was that unseen roadblock. OW! After making sure there were no broken bones I put the mower in reverse, navigated around it and began mowing again.

While shaking off the sudden stop I reflected upon those whose lives are affected by depression, anxiety, panic attacks, bipolar, other mental health illnesses, and how quickly their personal journeys can be brought to a stop. They are moving along when an unforseen obstacle in their path brings their lives to a painful and confusing impasse. Most times, for those with hidden struggles, there is no warning and the downward spiral is debilitating and disheartening.

People who live with these illnesses, and the ones who love them, it’s important they remember that the way forward may be impeded, the world may come to a sudden stop but support, understanding and acceptance will never cease from those who care and love them most.

blessings,
@BrianLoging
http://www.thewannabesaint.com

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