Quote of the Week

"Hope is grief’s best music." — Anonymous

Saturday Stats

"Suicide is the eighth most common cause of death in America. There are 55,000 documented suicides annually, but the true incidence is more like 100,000. One out of every 200 people will eventually commit suicide." – Dr. Richard O’Connor, Undoing Depression

Quote of the Week

"For hope is but the dream of those that wake." — Matthew Prior

Saturday Stats

"Estimates are that when people are treated promptly [for depression], 90 percent of them will recover. …The bad news is that only one sufferer in three seeks treatment." – Dr. Richard O'Connor, Undoing Depression

Quote of the Week

"Just as despair can come to one only from other human beings, hope, too, can be given to one only by other human beings." — Elie Wiesel

Saturday Stats

"Seventy percent of patients who take medication for depression report feeling better." – Dr. Richard O’Connor, Undoing Depression

Responsibilities and concerns: Defining boundaries

“I do believe / That not everything is gonna be the way you think it oughta be / It seems like every time I try to make it right it all comes down on me / Please say honestly you won’t give up on me / And I shall believe.” ~ Sheryl Crow, “I Shall Believe”

Responsibilities & ConcernsIn “be myself,” I defined “what is me and what is not me.” Defining those things helps me to define my boundaries — what are my responsibilities and what are my concerns.

Responsibilities and concerns are not the same thing. Responsibilities are things that I can control. Concerns are things I cannot control.

Defining responsibilities and concerns can get tricky because what may seem like a responsibility might actually be a concern.

For example, I have a responsibility to be punctual at work and to complete my tasks. (Those are things within the realm of my control. However, if I have a co-worker who gets annoyed at how slow I complete my tasks (that won’t contribute to missing deadlines), that may be a concern. (My co-worker’s reaction is out of my control; it is only a concern if I care about their reaction. If not, then it is not a concern.)

There are trickier things to define. Is a spouse’s emotional well-being a concern or a responsibility? If an adult child has a terminal illness and refuses treatment, is abiding by his or her decision a concern or a responsibility?

Clarifying ResponsibilityA marked Christian way of looking at this would be that when there are responsibilities, a Christian must obey any duties he or she has been given; when there are concerns, a Christian must trust that God will handle anything he or she is faced with. Hence, responsibilities are within our control and concerns are out of our control.

Delineating responsibilities and concerns lightens the load of depression and anxiety a bit. Knowing that I am not responsible for everything eases my burdens — and alleviates many of my concerns.

Second "be" attitude

“I am not afraid / I am not alone / For my hope is held in this / My God is in control” ~ Crystal Lewis, “Fearless”

beachBe less fearful. Or rather, should I say “be fearless”?

I suffer from an inordinate amount of fright. I had a mental health examination the other day and the evaluator asked me about all my fears. I listed a few of them as follows:

  • Heights
  • Dark, closed spaces
  • Tight spaces (a closed water slide would scare me)
  • Bodies of water (i.e. swimming, boating, capsizing)
  • Excessive crowding (more than 10 people each within a foot of my body)
  • Bugs bigger than a speck of dust
  • Pregnancies/Childbirth
  • Newborns/Infants (they’re simply too fragile for me to hold)
  • Getting fired
  • Not doing my job correctly
  • Not knowing what I’m doing – ever
  • Having too much confidence (paradoxically, I never have enough)
  • Other people (their emotions: anger, sadness, disappointment, etc.)

And that’s just a short list, I’m sure.

Worry is the same thing as fear; both cause anxiety over that which I have no control over. So how am I to conquer fear? I have no choice but to trust – have faith – in God.

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” – Paul in Philippians 4:6-7

This is easier said than done. The verse essentially tells me not to worry about anything but to submit my requests to God with praise. Replacing worry with prayer and praise will give me “the peace of God” — a sense of calm in my life, knowing that things are in control. This “peace” cannot be understood logically or practically — it “surpasses all understanding” — BUT it will protect my heart (emotions) and mind (keeps me from going crazy) through the atoning work that Christ did on the cross.

Fear can also be conquered with love.

“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love.” – I John 4:18

God’s love can help me conquer fear. Trusting that He has my best interests at heart will help me to face things that I wouldn’t want to face alone.

But my faith (does it even exist?) wavers back and forth during dark times and I become the “agnostic” Christian: “Yeah, God, I know you exist but I can’t see you, hear you or feel you so you probably don’t exist.” It’s the greatest spiritual paradox. Ed Welch in Depression: A Stubborn Darkness — Light for the Path calls this phenomenon the “atheistic believer.”

It’s difficult to be fearless when you’re too afraid to trust and too scared to love. No easy solutions, but many hard questions.

Suicide

carI’m tempted to go crash my car.

Again, the boy cried wolf.

Except I’m a girl.

EDIT: Nothing happened. I became more concerned about my front struts and an odd noise from my front right tire than with my killing myself behind the wheel. Oh well, maybe another day.

Suicide as weakness

The Trouble With Spikol is a Philly blog (local for me) about mental illness that I follow. A reader discussion began on suicide and I bit my tongue. But July says everything I could have ever wanted to say and more. See below:

"i don’t think the question is an issue of strong or weak. the time when i was perhaps closest to suicide, i felt the most in control. i was taking back choice of what happened to my life. i had choice. i could decide; i would decide. my illness was not making all the decisions for me. i was stronger. for the most part, though, suicide doesn’t seem an issue of bravery or fragility. it’s like jumping from a burning building. suicide’s what you turn to when there are no other options left.

it is easy to see the weakness – you’re suicidal when the pain of life is too much to bear any longer. it’s not considered cowardly (usually) for someone who is terminally ill to kill themselves. in that case, you’re shortening the period of suffering. it’s not a question of ‘toughing out’ a hard patch until you can get back on track.

yet with depression, there is no period of light coming on the horizon. sure, everyone says you’ll be better, you’ve gotten better before. but the things, your mind knows you can’t. you know that this is all there is, that there’s nothing left in life and nothing left you can give to life. you know that your family and friends are better without you, because you are only a burden, filled with nothing but pain. with death you can spare everyone. isn’t it stronger to sacrifice yourself for the good of all?

but then, that’s the cage of depression. the trick is getting out. and we still don’t know how. there’s no way to think yourself out of it, to ‘will’ yourself out, because you don’t even know you’re there. only in retrospect, when somehow, for some reason, something has passed, the storms have lifted, that you can even discern the outline of the bonds that held you.

yet as we all know, that period when the depression first begins to lift is often thought of as the most dangerous — when the misery still overwhelms you at every turn, yet you have enough energy to act on your desires. is suicide then an act of strength – being able to seize the moment and act before things become worse again?

ultimately, i have no idea. i know i often view suicide as an act of weakness: one that nonetheless can take great strength to complete. but it’s more a question of having no choice, yet having that strength for the final moments when you pull the trigger or twist the knife. and there are day when i take strength from knowing that i posses the fortitude (or fragility, or whatever you may call it), to take that path into my own hands if and when i most need to."

First "be" attitude

“It’s not easy being me” ~ Unknown

Be myself.

Real Simple magazineThis is the hardest “be” attitude I could have possibly set for myself. Being myself would require that I meet everyone’s expectations, never disappoint, never get burned out, always say yes and be willing to help.

I need a new definition of being myself, then. I need to define the things that are me.
I like:

  • a few sports (football and baseball namely)
  • writing (anything)
  • singing (anything)
  • acting (anything, even charades)
  • reading (magazines, self-help, thrillers and teen books)
  • exercising on the elliptical trainer
  • walking from the train station to work
  • karaoke
  • board and card games
  • listening to music
  • dancing
  • socializing
  • organizing
  • coming up with ideas
  • being in my comfort zone
  • feeling in control
  • sleeping
  • attention from people I’m not close to
  • exotic/rare vacations
  • time to myself

I don’t like:

  • weight training
  • watching more than one movie per day (unless I really like the 2nd movie)
  • drinking soda (anymore)
  • implementing ideas
  • having to socialize with people I don’t know
  • being taken OUT of my comfort zone
  • feeling like I’m at a disadvantage
  • having to watch my weight
  • having to control my eating portions
  • learning how to swim
  • flying
  • outdoorsy stuff except for the beach

Inspired by a journal entry from Livejournal, I realize that what the author says is very true of me as well:

“As I’m trying to FIX myself, I’m having a difficult time finding ME…. I can’t be addicted to healthy eating/exercise… And I’m not just saying I can’t, I’m saying that is not who I am. All this time, I thought I was a failure because I could not accomplish these goals… I could not become these things that I thought I was supposed to be. Now I see, it isn’t about failure. It’s about finding who I am.” — myownrendition

Now, as I learn to “be myself,” I have to remain true to the things I’ve identified. I’m usually open to new things but sometimes I’ll pretend to be interested in something just to make a new friend or I’ll pretend to have general knowledge so I don’t look stupid. Being true to myself means admitting that I don’t know everything and that I don’t like everything.

Quote of the Week

"Trials give you strength, sorrows give understanding and wisdom." — Chuck T. Falcon

Saturday Stats

"Depression accounts for 20 percent of the caseload in most community mental health clinics." – Dr. Richard O’Connor, Undoing Depression

Understanding Depression, Pt. 2

depressedI have a mental illness.

To say that is not easy to admit. Admitting mental illness, especially for me, carries a stigma of “crazy,” “psychotic” or “schizophrenic.” Admitting mental illness carries with it the weight of thinking of my father starving himself, obsessively reading the Bible, acting erratic and claiming that people had bugged our house, our car and were watching our home to kidnap me.

Below are my thoughts on common depression myths from “Understanding Depression, Pt. 1.”

  • Depression is not a sign of weakness. My experience is that depression has always made me weak. It has inhibited me from accomplishing goals and kept me from achieving my full potential. I have to disagree with this statement in some fashion; depression IS a sign of weakness. It’s a sign that the person is too weak to do things alone – he or she needs help.
  • Depression is not a lack of character or courage. This is extremely true. Being able to get up every day while struggling with depression is absolute courage; it’s harder to face life than face death.
  • Being depressed is not abnormal. I think I get what the statement is trying to say “most people experience depression” but depression IS abnormal. Depression is not a normal feeling and no one should have to “live” with it.
  • Depressed people are not crazy. Are depressed people psychotic? No. Can psychotic people be depressed? Yes. But they’re not one and the same.
  • Mental depression is not the same as “feeling blue.” “Feeling blue” is a temporary state of mind that goes away. “Feeling blue” is not severe. It is possible to “feel blue” after a loss, failure or unexpected event. Mental depression is chronic; its state is not temporary, lasts much longer and requires treatment. “Feeling blue” goes away on its own or with minimal professional help.
  • Depression is not hopeless; feelings of hopelessness are a symptom of depression. Hopelessness and despair mean that a person is at the end of his or her rope and is ready to do something drastic. This can be a result of depression but it’s also a warning signal that help is not sought, it could turn into something much more drastic.

Does mental illness jive with anything Biblical? I think so. There are instances of mental illness, many forms in fact, but a particular person who suffered from chronic depression was King David of Israel. All throughout the Psalms, he writes about his constant lows, but continues to keep his focus on God. A common example of someone suffering from depression (that was eventually overcome) was the prophet Elijah in I Kings 19. Elijah’s example, however, is not chronic. He was depressed for a period of time because of his circumstances, but it appears that his battle with depression wasn’t lifelong as it was with David. Elijah and David, however, serve as models as to how Christians should deal with depression.

Understanding Depression, Pt. 1

depressionI found an “Understanding Depression” worksheet (PDF) at www.cdc.gov, which outlines a few important things about depression.

Common depression myths

  • Depression is not a sign of weakness
  • Depression is not a lack of character or courage.
  • Being depressed is not abnormal.
  • Depressed people are not crazy.
  • Mental depression is not the same as “feeling blue.” (quotes mine)
  • Depression is not hopeless; feelings of hopelessness are a symptom of depression.

Signs of depression

  • Sad appearance, slow motions, unkempt look
  • Sad feelings, hopelessness, unhappy or down
  • Negative thoughts
  • Reduced activity, seen as laziness
  • Reduced focus
  • Hesitation to interact with others
  • Low self-esteem/guilt
  • Lack of or too much sleep
  • Excessive weight gain or loss
  • Low sexual interest
  • Constant headaches or migraines
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Self-inflicted marks or cuts on the skin

Questions for depression people:

  • Do I really want to change?
  • What benefits do I get from being depressed?
  • What does it do for me?
  • What payoffs would I get if I let go of my depression?
  • If I were not depressed, what would I be doing?

Seek professional help if:

  • There are suicidal thoughts
  • Severe mood swings are experienced
  • Talking things out with someone would help
  • Things seems out of control and can’t be handled alone

Compliance

I’m reading the book Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend, I’m learning a lot about myself, what troubles me, what ails me and what I’m doing wrong.

There are four kinds of boundary-problem types Cloud and Townsend identify: The Compliant, The Controller, The Nonresponsive and The Avoidant.

The Compliant: Feels guilty and/or controlled by others; can’t set boundaries
The Controller: Aggressively or manipulatively violates the boundaries of others
The Avoidant: Sets boundaries against receiving the care of others
The Nonresponsive: Sets boundaries against responsibility to love

What am I? Total compliant, hands-down. I don’t do some of the compliant things, i.e. pretend to like the same things as others just to get along — well, not always. I tend to do that with people I don’t know to be agreeable. For the most part, namely with people whom I know, I have my own mind.

The significant compliant problem is the inability to say "no." Reasons that Cloud and Townsend provide:

  • Fear of hurting the other person’s feelings
  • Fear of abandonment and separateness
  • Fear of punishment
  • Fear of being shamed
  • Fear of being seen as bad or selfish
  • Fear of being unspiritual
  • Fear of a person’s overstrict, critical conscience (experienced as guilt)
  • A wish to be totally dependent on another

"Compliants take on too many responsibilities and set too few boundaries, not by choice, but because they are afraid." – Cloud and Townsend, Boundaries

I’m still trying to figure out what’s me being "compliant" and me doing what I really want to do — i.e. managing organizations, freelance writing, living where I currently live, etc. My compliant personality doesn’t need to be with a dominating personality, although I tend to feel worse with those kinds of people.

Example: Paying my mother’s $1,000 eye doctor bill when really, it’s not my responsibility at all. Talk about compliant: I took on the task of paying down the student loan she took out for me even though I’m not legally responsible. But it wasn’t getting paid, I felt bad and decided it was my education she invested in me so I took her financial responsibility on me. All $8,000 of it.

Another recent example: I felt pressure from a job recruiter and my mother-in-law to take a job I was iffy about but the calls were scarce and patience and money were running low so I said, "yes." Now I’m a bit unhappy — for a number of reasons, but now I realize I didn’t really want the job — I just said "yes" because other people wanted me to.

Now, don’t get me wrong — I’m not trying to pass the buck — I take FULL responsibility for my decisions, influenced by others’ opinions or not. Admitting compliance no longer means shifting blame; it’s learning that my inability to say "no" is really my problem and that I brought some of these problems on myself. Knowing that I’ve got a compliant personality is the first step to overcoming it.

Fired Up

"I fear / I have nothing to give / I have so much to lose" – Sarah McLachlan, "Fear"

I'm totally paranoid about getting fired. The lateness and all. Not only that but it's taking me forever to try and grasp these things at work. I've learned that… well, this job just isn't for me. My husband's trying to encourage me to leave and go to my other job offer from a few months ago (it was a personalized offer), but I doubt things would be any better. I wonder if God has doors closed on purpose. Probably.

I'm dealing with an immense amount of fear. Fear of the future, fear of losing my job – I'm really trying as hard as I can – I'm not sure what I could do better.

It's nice to have a desk and cubicle all to myself. It's nice to have $1200 of my transportation per year covered. And the cheap benefits are also nice. And I'm afraid to lose them. I'm afraid to take a risk. I guess I'm building my world around paying my bills and not waiting for the right job.

Compliance is my problem. I felt pressured by my mother-in-law, my recruiter and most of all — myself.

I need benefits; I'm not a healthy person. Health and dental insurance are vital for me. I'm tired of switching jobs. I want to be in a comfortable position for a while. Will that ever happen? Will I ever be satisfied?

I wonder if I'd be partially relieved to get fired — it'd free me up a bit to do what I want. At the same time, I'd be scared as heck — how will I pay my bills? Argh!

Christian viewpoint

CrossI’ve been doing some thinking about this particular blog and I think I’m going to focus on a Christian perspective on depression. While I know this may alienate potential readers in the future, the blog’s primary purpose is to aid me in my recovery of (and discovery of overcoming) depression. Its secondary purpose to aid those who can learn from my struggle and experiences. In reading, Richard O’Connor’s Undoing Depression, I appreciated his practical approach theories and arguments but hated the philosophies (i.e. Freud, Jung). While Freud and Jung both put forward interesting suppositions, I disagreed with most of their thinking.

As a Christian, my first and foremost textbook on depression is the Bible. That’s the way it should have been from the beginning and that’s the way it will begin to be.

I won’t stop reading purely secular books but at the same time, my thinking will take on a more Biblical approach. This means:
– Bible verses and quotes interspersed in text
– Analyzing and discussing secular books, thoughts and theory from a Christian/Biblical viewpoint
– Analysis of examples of depression in the Bible

I understand that there will be people who may stumble upon this site and vehemently disagree with my thoughts and point of view. I welcome discussion on certain propositions but my faith is not up for debate; I will not change my mind. Improper commenters will have their IPs banned. Banning is subject to my discretion.

Just Say "NO"

“Come on, let’s rewrite this tragedy / One line at a time / Hold on, we’ll change the scenery / It’s OK, we’ll be fine” – Sara Groves, “Rewrite This Tragedy”

Cash“I wish I’d never taken this job.” – Is that true? I can honestly now say that I’ll never look back with regret and wonder what it would have been like: 35-hour workweek, $1200 of my yearly transportation costs covered, a good salary, less stressful working environment…

But for some reason, I’m crumbling under the pressure of it all:
– Needing MY income to live, pay bills
– Not enjoying what I do – it’s necessary for the bigger picture, but it’s constant administrative tasks that I could care less for.
– Worrying that my depression will prevent me from longevity at a job.

I need to be able to see lights at the end of the tunnel. Sometimes, I do. When I’m down and completely unhappy, I don’t. I’m counting down the days until I decide to start looking for something else. I want to establish a year here. I want to prove to myself that I CAN do this — I can stick it out.

And I think about my true passions in life: writing, editing, singing… And I wonder if I’m too old to go chasing after my dreams.

I’m miserable in my head – and really, will singing make it all better? No. I can already see myself beating myself up in the recording studio because of a line I just can’t grasp. Miss Perfectionist.

I need to learn to follow my dreams unabashedly and not worry about what others think. I should look for another position, use my maiden name and really go after what I love in Philly. Without reservation. Almost a year and a half out of college and I might be asking for too much money – but I can’t let that stop me. I can’t. I’ve got to follow my heart and my dreams. Acting brings me great satisfaction, losing weight brings even more! And I’m probably too self-conscious about my singing.

The saying is so true but I really feel like the only thing holding me back from success is… me. But I can’t afford singing AND guitar lessons. I love music but I feel like God’s semi-handicapped me in that area for a reason. Why do I have such an intense desire – passion – for it if I’m never meant to be decent with it?

And I’d hate to leave my co-worker all alone with these things but I feel like I’m not getting it – I’m not getting anything. And it frustrates me.

Hindsight is 20/20. Why didn’t I think this through? Why am I so easily pressured? And really, why can’t I just say, “No”?

Two little letters that carry so much weight. It all comes back to “No.”