Thursday, November 26, 2009

A New Year

As of November 19th, I was officially off work for one year. One whole year! I can barely believe it. That time seems like a blur now. If I think too much about it, I will be discouraged. A whole year out of my life, and what did I accomplish? It seems as though I am still beset by the same struggles. I am still unorganized. My guest bedroom/study/storage room is still in a mess. I still have to pry myself out of bed every morning, and fight with fatigue during the day. Exercise is something that I haven't yet made a consistant part of my day. Instead of getting my weight down, I have managed to gain another ten pounds. I still am not disciplined in my writing. Depression is still after me, and I fight with it all the time. So, I don't think too much about it.
On the other hand, I have learned a lot; about myself, and about God's faithfulness. I have met new friends in Blogland, and read their stories. There are many people out there who have suffered much. But in telling their stories, the overriding factor and focus is the grace of God. And that tells me something. It reminds me that it's not all about me. Depression's focus is the self, and all that is wrong with the self. Depression's voice tells lies much of the time. Its voice tries to drown out the truth of who God is, and who I am in Him. The truth of His beauty, mercy, love, holiness and justice. The truth that He is working all things together for good. I read the stories that others write, and I see this proven, that He does work all things together for good,over and over again. So then I apply it to my own situation, and I am encouraged.
I wasn't sure where I was going with this post. But I think I will end with a big thank you. To everyone whose story I read and was touched by. May God continue to go with you in your journey. And an especially big thank you to our God, Father Son and Holy Spirit. It is because of His great mercies that we are not consumed. Great is His faithfulness.
Now, on to another year........................

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Heading Home

"Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory"

(Psalm 73:25)

Reading this verse this morning, I was struck with the thought of how simple life would be if we could just focus on these two things:

  • that God, as we allow Him, leads and guides us every moment of every day

  • that He will eventually bring us home to Himself

Just thinking of these things brings a quiet, peaceful joy to my soul. To think that Almighty God, creator and sustainer of the universe, is watching over me and carefully guiding my footsteps! That He is working in me, through me, and around me, for His good pleasure and will! And then, when He has decided the right time, He will lift me home, to be with Him in glory!

We all have days when even the simple routines of life seem overwhelming. It can all get so complicated! Relationships, finances, health issues at times bring unwanted stress into our day. Some days, it seems it is one thing after another!

I get easily overwhelmed with the details of life, and it doesn't take much to make my head spin and my body feel at the end of its endurance. Thoughts fly around in my brain like a whirlwind, and I can't seem to hold on to any of them long enough to follow through on a task.I sometimes want everyone and everything to go away, just disappear, till I can pull myself together. It's at those times that I am best to take myself away, if I can, to a quiet spot. I focus my thoughts, and put them in order. I tell myself "just one thing at a time. Focus only on the next thing." If I don't do this, I will waste hours just going around in circles- in my thinking, and in my activities.

I don't know about you, but I think the verse above would be a good reminder, when we are having those times of stress, being over busy with life. It would put it all in perspective, reminding us that when we are His child, God is there with us, willing to help us in our day, if we would only ask Him. It would boil it all down to the basics, the glorious, overriding truth that no matter what kind of dilemmas we face in the moment, we are moving toward an eternity of blissful joy, at home with our Father in Heaven.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Still Here

I'm still here, learning to sometimes-fight, sometimes-manage, this thing called depression. I have learned a lot about this condition; it's symptoms, causes, and treatments. God has given me people who are supportive, which is such a huge blessing, and I am grateful to Him. There are others who are not so supportive, and I am learning to accept that. In going through the journey of seeking answers, I have learned to trust God more and more; for my health, my future, my finances, and my "reputation". He has shown me areas in my life that I need to change, and brought me to a place of sweet surrender to His will. It seems I have no choice!

These last 9 months have brought many times of despair, much worry, doubt, and confusion. But there have been blessings as well. My husband, who has been needing work for some time, is now working with one of the men from my home church group. That group has expanded, and we are experiencing the joy of following the Lord's lead, one baby step at a time. Not being able to return to my job has allowed me to consider other options, ones that I would have thought would never be possible to look at before. Now, as I see God's faithfulness in so many areas, I am believing Him more and more for the "impossible."

I watched a documentary yesterday about the resistance movement inside the Nazi regime. There was an organized group within and without Hitler's highest officials that plotted to end his life. Many attempts were made, but none successful. In all of these, it seemed as though God was simply not allowing him to be assassinated. Of course, we wonder why He would prevent this, since removing the leader would end much evil and suffering, halting his tyrannical and mesmerizing hold over so many people. Yet, he was allowed to continue until the appointed time, when defeat was at his door.

Sometimes we can look at illness like that. We wonder why God allows it, when we know that He can prevent it and heal it so easily. I have to believe that in all these things, He has a higher purpose. His ways are not our ways. Whether in the case of world history, including all the evil that Hitler instigated, or in our own, small lives, He is working out His plans and purposes. Faith is the anchor that He gives to us, to hold us steady in any storm.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

A Grateful Heart

One of the things that I absolutely
hate about depression is the way it dulls my appreciation of so many things in life. On a "good" day, I can look at flowers, like these pretty yellow ones, and marvel at every aspect of them, reflecting on their beauty and the amazing fact that God designed them to grow, look and smell just the way they do. He planned the shape, color and size of them, and intended that they would glorify Him, and bless us. On those days, my heart can fill to bursting with thankfulness and praise to Him, simply because of some flowers.

But on a bad day, it seems I can find nothing to be thankful for. My perception of the world is darkened and dreary. A sunny day is just another reminder of how low I am feeling, because I would just as soon stay in bed as be outdoors enjoying the warmth and brightness of it. My thoughts are so inward, so self centred and dismal. Add to that the guilt that comes from knowing that I should be outside, I should be enjoying and appreciating the beautiful weather that God has blessed us with. It's a no win situation all around, a spiral of self pity and helplessness that puts a strangle hold on my emotions that I cannot overcome.

Thankfully the bad days are getting fewer and farther between. Today is a good day. I met with friends this morning, and we shared with each other our amazement at just how much God cares for us. We talked about how He is concerned with the tiniest details in our lives, even to knowing the number of hairs on our heads. On a day like today, a good day, I wonder how I could ever not have a heart that is always full of thanks and praise to God. I wonder how I could let "depression" overshadow the truth of God's love for me. But it does. And it is likely to do so again.

Here is a thought that I hope I can remember on my next bad day. That God's care for me, His joy in me, His plans for me, will not change because I don't feel the way I should. If I stay in bed with the covers over my head for a week, He will continue to love me, and be involved in my life, and work in my heart. Because the beautiful thing is, it doesn't depend on how I am feeling. His attitude toward me is because of Who He is, not because of who I am. And He never changes!

If you are prone to the ups and downs of depression, I hope that on your next "down" day you will cling to this thought as well. If you are His child, His love for you will carry on, never lessening, even if you haven't a warm or tender thought toward Him. His faithfulness is everlasting. Alleluia!

Friday, January 16, 2009

A "Worry" List??

Recently I have had the opportunity to hear some presentations on clinical depression. There was a lot of helpful information given, and some not so helpful. The presentations were from a purely clinical perspective, with no "Christian" influence.

One aspect of depression that was discussed was the anxiety that often accompanies it. For some people, their levels of anxiety can keep them from sleeping at night, and make their daytime hours miserable. I can be a worrier, and I know what it is like to lay awake mulling over problems and "what if's". Silly waste of time. But we all do it, at one time or another.

Anyway, the solution that was presented to this distracting "worrying" that we can all succumb to was to make a "Worry List." You were to keep a list of all the things that were causing you distress or apprehension. Then once a day, for a time that you had set aside for that purpose, you were to worry over the items on the list. Kind of like getting it out of your system. Supposedly this would somehow take care of the problem, and you could carry on, worry free, with your day and your night.

I had to smile to myself as the presenter explained the details of this strategy against angst. "How bizarre," I said to myself. "Instead of a prayer list, I am to make a list of things to worry about." Of course the scripture that came to mind right away was Philippians 4:6:

"Be anxious for nothing, but in everything, by prayer and supplication, let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."

In hindsight, I should have stood up and offered that verse as an alternate method to combat anxiety. I did, however, question why prayer hadn't been mentioned. The presentor quickly agreed that prayer was indeed another way to relieve one's anxiety. "Especially," I interjected, " if the one praying knows that there actually is Someone listening that can take care of the problem for them." (I hate it when I read all those stats about how "prayer" is good for stress. Apparantly it doesn't matter who or what you pray to. Could be a tree or your long dead granny. Just so long as you "put out there" what is on your mind. Sad, really, when there is a God Who will hear our prayers if we would but acknowledge Him for Who He really is.)

I tried to imagine how effective it would be for me to make a Worry List, and then ruminate over all the potential catastrophes that I might list there. Most likely I would drive myself to further anxiety. Or perhaps I would realize how silly it was to worry about those things and just tear the list up. Either way, I am glad that we know a God Who invites us to cast all of our cares upon Him, because He cares for us.

I don't know what it is like to have the type of anxiety that some people suffer with, even to the point of having panic attacks. For that I am thankful. Those conditions can be very debilitating and difficult. When those nasty "what ifs" creep up on me (I call them the 'nay saying gnats'), I sometimes start to dwell on them. The best thing to do in that case is to bring it to my Father. And not just in a perfunctionary way. When I am truly burdened, I pray back to God Who He says He is in His Word. Not that I need to remind Him, but I do need to remind myself. Those things that I worry about tend to shrink in size as I list all of His attributes, and the promises He has made to be our high tower, rock of refuge, defender and shepherd. I think this little verse makes a beautiful promise, and one that we need to remember in those times of anxiety:

"Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee: because he trusteth in Thee." (Isaiah 26:3)

Sometimes we are faced with real dilemmas, and life or death situations. It is not sinful to be afraid. That is a natural response. It's at those times especially that we realize our weakness, our inability to control many of life's outcomes. And it is at those times that our Father in Heaven proves His love and faithfulness, in bringing us peace in the midst of fear, because we know and trust Him.

Friday, January 9, 2009

Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

I have a dear friend whose mother has in the past few months come out of a major depression of several years. Interestingly, her symptoms all began immediately after emergency surgery on her bowel. She is a dear lady, and it was heartbreaking for her family and friends to see her joy and vitality slip away. Thankfully, she has “come back to life”. Many were praying for her during this time. My friend and I prayed continually that God would direct the doctors and therapists to find the proper treatment for her. We most of all beseeched Him to restore to her the joy of her salvation in Christ. I praise Him for how He has answered those prayers, and for how He has most likely used that whole situation in ways that we will not realize until we are in heaven.

Depression is not always a straight forward illness. I learned, after this dear lady became ill, that it can sometimes occur after a physically traumatic event, such as the emergency surgery she had to have. Its symptoms can show up as part of a variety of conditions. Here are a few that I found on the ‘net:

Physical diseases leading to depressive symptoms:
Chronic illness - Various types of chronic illness can lead to general body slowdown, heart or lung problems, and overall down feelings.
Post-viral syndrome
Chronic fatigue syndrome
Fibromyalgia - The general down feelings combined with muscle and joint aches are similar to depression in some cases.
Heart disease
Heart failure
Respiratory insufficiency
Parkinson's disease - A drooping face and lack of smile from PD makes people look depressed leading to a misdiagnosis of depression.
Brucellosis - the acute phase may be misdiagnosed as depression.
Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) - PMDD was misdiagnosed as depression in the past but is better known now.
Thyroid disorders
Hashimoto's thyroiditis - a form of hypothyroidism.
Post-polio syndrome
Hypersensitivity pneumonitis - Also called "farmer's lung"; a chronic lung condition that is sometimes similar to depression.
Adrenal disorders
Adrenal Insufficiency
Addison's disease
Celiac disease
Pancreatic cancer
Early Menopause (see Menopause) - misdiagnosed as depression in younger women when menopause is not expected.
Alcoholism - For example, late-onset alcoholism is a cause of depressive symptoms that is often overlooked in seniors and the elderly.

I am not a person to first go to medication for physical ailments. I believe in a more holistic approach, and will first investigate diet, nutritional supplements, and lifestyle changes as ways to treat whatever is going “awry” in my body before I run to a doctor for a prescription. Many times in the past I have seen a Doctor of Naturopathy, and I visit a Chiropractor for regular adjustments. When I found myself in depression again this fall, I bought a lamp that provides light to make up for the lack of sunlight during the winter months. I do not get a ‘flu shot, and I would not be a supporter of the widespread use of many of the new vaccinations that are popping up nowadays. You can have too much of a good thing; I believe that we are an over-immunized and prescriptioned society, and do ourselves more harm than good with the overuse of some of these preventative measures and cures.

It seems that there may be a trend in Health Care, at least here in Canada, towards an approach that integrates different models of therapy and treatment. My doctor is part of a “Family Health Team”, which includes a Social Worker, Nurse Practitioner, and Nutritionist. I am thankful for these other “Health Care Practitioners”, as they can often give information, and “prescribe” treatments that do not include the use of pharmaceuticals, where in the case of many doctors, their first impulse seems to be to reach for the prescription pad.

That’s not to say, however, that they don’t have their place in health care. I’m sure we can all think of times when we were grateful to have a good doctor to diagnose and treat ourselves or someone close to us. Doctors save lives, and help others to know a better quality of life than they would have had without proper medical care. Thank God for the many advances that have been made in medicine. Thank God that we don't use "blood letting" as a treatment for just about anything from a headache to pneumonia anymore. Thank God that surgeons started to sterilize their instruments, instead of simply wiping them off on their bloodied aprons before they started surgery on their next patient. We've come a long way, and no doubt we will go further in finding better treatment options as knowledge increases, and as God wills.

Today I talked to a pharmacist, at the suggestion of my Nurse Practitioner, about having a saliva test done to determine whether or not my depression symptoms were hormone-related. I am at that hormonally challenged time of life, and so it made sense to me to check out this type of test.

The pharmacist was a lovely young lady, very friendly and knowledgeable. She explained how the whole thing works. As I read the list of “symptoms” that a need for hormone therapy would indicate, I wasn’t surprised that most of them could be found on the many lists of “symptoms of depression” that I have read. We had a great discussion about thyroid function, adrenal function, and how progesterone and cortisol levels can affect both of these. It was very enlightening, and I am going to have the test done.

As I continue to investigate and learn more about what is going on in my body, mind and emotions, I am more and more impressed with what incredibly complex, and frighteningly fragile, systems we house in these mortal tents. I am amazed at the mind, body, spirit functions that are taking place every moment of our lives. Our hearts continue to beat, our lungs expand and contract, our brains are always active, either consciously or subconsciously, all of our organs carry on their duties, our digestive, cardiovascular, and lymphatic systems are always at work. It is amazing to think of the synchronizations and intricacies that are built into these systems, allowing us to function every day, barely giving a thought to what is going on inside us.

When we are “sick”, in any way, we do look to medicine, doctors, dentists, chiropractors, home remedies, etc. We want to be well. Our health is a great gift. It is more precious than all the wealth we could ever want. I am grateful for all the resources and helps that God has provided us, enabling us to take responsibility for our own health, and to seek out those more skilled and knowledgeable than ourselves when the need arises. We have a gracious God and Father. He is the One Who ultimately does the healing. Just as He ultimately gives life at conception, and takes life away at death. It is all in His hands.

"For you formed my inward parts;
You wove me in my mother's womb.
I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
Wonderful are Your works,
And my soul knows it very well."

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Our Best Rest

O LORD, my heart is not proud, nor my eyes haughty;
Nor do I involve myself in great matters,
Or in things too difficult for me.
Surely I have composed and quieted my soul
Like a weaned child rests against his mother,
My soul is like a weaned child within me.
O Israel, hope in the LORD,
From this time forth and forever.”
(Psalm 131)

I read this Psalm this morning. It is one of my (many) favorites. Today in particular I felt I could relate. In depression, one is reduced to doing the simplest, most necessary things, and even they can be a challenge. All the things that I used to do without thinking; multi-tasking, making decisions, planning things, making phone calls, ordering my day, are suddenly beyond my capabilities. I have to set all those now “great matters” aside for a while, and accept the fact that I can only do one thing at a time, even just think of one thing at a time, or else I will be overwhelmed. It is a humbling experience, for sure.

The picture of a weaned child resting against his mother as a description of the Psalmist’s soul has always attracted me. I think about the attitude of a child that has been weaned from his mother’s breast. They no longer seek out that particular way of nourishment, although they will often be leaning right against it. They are content to be fed by other means, and trust that their mother will continue to supply them with the food that they need. They know that being weaned does not mean they are any less secure; they continue to trust, with not a worry or a fear. Contentment and trust. There is a precious naïveté in that picture that is worthy of our desiring.

So that is what I seek. To shed any worry or fear that because I’m not currently “pulling my weight” that disasters will take place. To be content to simply lean against Jesus, knowing He will supply me with all that I need, to do all that I need to do, for now.

There’s a good lesson in this Psalm I think. The Psalmist composed and quieted his own soul, so that he was able to rest in the LORD. I think we can do that too, as we consider the loving God that we serve. Our Shepherd will be there to be that resting place, and our safe haven.