Common Thread –
Yesterday I told my therapist three distinct experiences that have happened to me since our last appointment. I do my best to remember or jot down events or emotional moments I encounter and relay them to her. I talk about how I felt, why I think I felt it, why I did something, what I thought would be the outcome, what happened to me and the result. I tell her these things because many times I’m not able to see the big picture because I’m so close to the events and experiences.
When I finished telling her my three stories she then asked a series of questions that gave me the ability to look at each one from a different point of view. I thought they were three separate, non-related moments but she was able to see a common thread and we discussed how and why I reacted in a certain way and the possible reasons they imprinted on me. It was an; “Aha!” moment that I was unable to see without the benefit of a pair of unbiased, professionally trained, eyes.
I don’t love therapy. I tolerate it. I know it’s an invaluable part of my treatment plan for chronic severe depression and a severe anxiety disorder. There are times I walk out wondering what was accomplished and there are; “Aha!” days. I don’t always like what I am shown or discover but I hope that every; “Aha!” helps my journey on this path called; “my life” be easier and worth the struggle.
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Digging Around –
This week I had to take three days of classes to qualify as a Certified car seat Technician. Part of the assessments required the students to install, uninstall, spot problems with seats installed by others and know which need to be replaced. It was three long days full of information and statistics.
One of the difficult tasks is sticking your fingers in places you can’t see when you’re searching for tethers, anchors and seat belt clips jammed in between the seats. Not every car is as clean as one would like and you never know what you might find when you’re digging around.
Last week, during therapy, my “talk doctor” told me we’d begin digging deeper in the coming months. We had reached a plateau and now it was time to turn over some fresh dirt. I agreed with her that it was time and needed. I’m not necessarily looking forward to the mental, emotional and spiritual energy required but I also know if you don’t look closer, feel around, poke harder, dig deeper there’s a chance you won’t find what you’re looking for.
Putting Feet to Your Faith –
This morning, in worship service, when one of the staff members went up on stage and gave the announcements she talked about a missions class. She said; “This class will help you put feet to your faith!” To my knowledge, this is the first time I heard this phrase or at least the first time it resonated with me. I liked the idea of beliefs and action coexisting, what I think, say and do being in sync.
Later I reacted to a post from someone on Facebook who’s having a rough couple of weeks. There has been progressing in the recent past but for some reason, the last month or so battles thought won were being fought again. I replied to her post; “I understand and live these “honest and ugly” truths. It’s tough, feeling like you have to start over, but I’m reminded by wisdom and therapy that we’ve grown, have learned/are learning, experienced a new normal and the starting line has been moved. We may not be where we want to be but thankfully are not where we started.”
Even when it seems like our journey is two steps forward and three, maybe five, steps back we are making progress. We ask, no plead, for the faith to keep walking, to put feet to our faith.
Touching Life –
I watched a video today about a woman, who is afraid of spiders, try to get past her fear by being in the same room, sitting close to one, and eventually touching one and allowing it to touch her. It was an interesting study of fear, facing what frightens us and hopefully overcoming it.
Being fearful keeps us from participating in all life has to offer. As someone with an anxiety disorder, I am acutely acquainted with fear, in fact, its one of my worst friends. I don’t know the source of my fear. One of the reasons I go to therapy is to hopefully one day discover it. Perhaps its as simple as a chemical imbalance and the right combination of medicines will mostly alleviate the ball of worry and stress which sits on my stomach most days. Maybe its memories or experiences which I’ve buried and one-day uncovering them will set me on the path to a more lasting peace.
Whatever the path I travel I want it to be toward knowing joy, not fear, connecting not being disconnected, living not simply existing.
How Do You Feel?
Yesterday was my three-month check-up with the doctor in charge of the medicinal portion of my mental health plan. As someone with Chronic Severe Depression and a Severe Anxiety Disorder, the psychology group I go to has doctors who specialize in medical therapy and others who specialize in talk therapy. Together with the patient a plan is developed and intended to help them as much as possible.
Yesterday’s appointment was; “Meh, okay.” The therapist asked standard questions; “Are you taking your meds? How do you feel? Have you noticed any changes in mood or behavior? Any major life changes?” I answered all of them and told her I was following my plan except for one suggestion she’s made many times. We don’t agree and I don’t think it’s a big deal. She, the professional, thinks otherwise. I told her; “Yes, I am still…” she simply replied; “You know how I feel about that!” and we kept going with the conversation. I found it humorous that’s all she has to say and it’s enough. I either have to trust her and do it or not. She’s told me the benefits and even though I don’t see them I choose to fully follow the mental health plan or not. Sigh.
We’ve all been there with people we love and care for. We give them advice about life and after a point, we decide not to tell them again and again. We let them choose and deal with the results. I’ve done this with many of the people I work with but it’s interesting, and a little uncomfortable, to be on the other side.
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.
Holding On –
The grass crunched underneath my feet as I opened the workshop doors to back the riding mower out. The weeds, bent over and wilted in the yard, were sparse but tall enough to need mowing. I turned on the blades and dust arose. This has been a long, hot, dry summer. What began in April and early May with plenty or rain and fast growing grass, beautiful blooms quickly retreated as the rain quit falling and the temperatures steadily climbed. The leaves are already dropping to the ground as trees can’t get enough of water to keep them healthy. There likely won’t be a colorful fall because the leaves will be dying or dead before the changing of the seasons.
I listened to someone talk today about depression. They described it as; “The want of nothing, the will to do nothing.” An apt description of my own struggle with chronic, severe depression. The speaker has dealt with this disease most of his life and accepts it may be a part of the journey until his death.
Depression’s impact is like the drought’s upon the trees. The life giving sources of joy, purpose and the will to live, is lacking. What was once beautiful and growing is now dull and lifeless. Like the trees which cannot draw enough water to it’s leaves, to give them the strength to hang on, helplessly watches them let go and blow away.
The speaker commented; “the key to holding on is to possess a sliver of hope.” It can be hope in a myriad of things but hope reminds us that it gets better. Friends, family members, work, treatment, medication, therapy, community, relationships, hobbies, prayer, all can give us hope that who we are, what we do, matters. “As long as we see hope, we see a reason to keep going.”