I’m All Inside Out

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October eleventh. A tiny crumble trickled down into the abyss of memory loss. Just a tiny crumb. The islands of my personality went from full color animation to unsaturated stillness. Joy, Fear, Sadness, Disgust, and Anger went into full panic, fighting over the control board.

“Find the happiness. Find the silver lining,” Joy instructed.

“What will happen now? How can we even live? Quick! Build up walls!” Fear paniced.

“Life is meaningless. Just pull the plug on it all,” moaned Sadness.

“The very thought of him with them. Bleh. Just puke. Right now,” spat Disgust.

“What the BLEEPEDITY BLEEP!?!? How dare he! He’s goin’ DOWN!” yelled Anger.

Over and over and back and forth. Fear pushed Sadness away from the controls. Anger shoved Fear aside. Disgust slinked in front of Anger. Joy tried desperately to calm everyone down.

After several days of this, Joy realized she had to take action. She began to bring up core memories… the important and joy filled memories that shaped the last 12 years of my life. She played them across the screen of my mind. But as they played, Sadness crept up to them and placed her cold blue fingers on each.

I began to see the memories through the hindsight eyes of reality and, one by one, the islands of personality have crumbled completely into the abyss of memory loss. Family Island… crash. Trust Island… crash. Friendship Island… crash. Goof-ball Island… crash. Introvert Island… crash. Parenting Island… Trickle, trickle, crumble, crash. Even Music and Writing Islands’ grayed edges began to collapse a little. Faith Island, while staying full color, quakes from time to time.

I’ve been left to look at the world void of much personality. I have no human reality on which to base my interactions in this world. I’m left empty and vulnerable and confused.

But a beautiful thing is happening. Bright orange construction signs are dotting the landscape of my mind. Islands are being built. Slowly, new personality islands are taking the place of the old. It’s a tedious process that has only just begun, but it’s light at the end of the tunnel.

Sadness has sidled up next to me, wrapped her arms around my heart and offered genuine empathy. She is teaching me the value of sadness… the depth that it brings to life… the lessons that it teaches… the growth that comes from it.

I noticed an “Opening Soon” sign on one of the new islands a couple days ago. Bold letters across the top read, EMPATHY ISLAND. As I look at the world around me, I see walking hurts. I want to reach out and hug them. I want to say, “I don’t know you, and I may not know the exact pain you’re feeling right now, but I know pain and I just want you to know you are loved.”

I’m not sure yet what’s coming soon to the other islands under construction, but I look forward to finding out. I look forward to getting to know this new defined me. There’s been a shift in the universe, and I am the epicenter.

When You’re Broken, and You Know It

brokenBroken. It’s a word that’s been running circles in my head for several days now.

Broken. It’s more than just admitting my childhood/early adulthood has adversely affected me. It’s more than just realizing I have issues, just like every other person in the world has issues.

It’s a personal admittance. I’m broken.

Sometimes I even whisper the words out loud… just to let the truth sink in. There are parts of my subconscious that are in dire need of repair before it completely takes over my entire being in a fit of selfish, angry rage.

And  you know what? It makes me feel weak and vulnerable. And I just want to go back to pretending I’m completely whole and happy, where even those who are closest to me have no idea what’s going on inside.

But I can’t. I’ve seen what happens when brokenness isn’t fixed. I’ve been on the receiving end of brokenness tearing out of someone’s soul and attacking my own. I don’t want that miserable life, and I certainly don’t want to spread that sloppy mess on my family and friends.

They need me. They need a whole-as-can-be me.

I need fixing, and I can’t do it alone. I need help. Because I’m broken, and I know it.

Two Powerful Stories of Freedom

freedom from the church and depressionEvery once in a while, I come across an article or story that just sticks with me, and I just can’t get it out of my head. I find myself pondering on it as I go through my day. Here are a couple of that I can’t help but share.

 

I can across this personal story by Maren Stephenson over a year ago, and I haven’t forgotten it since…. A story of a religious Mormon couple who dared to question their faith… a story of their journey out of a pointless religion.

“I don’t believe in God,” my husband whispered in the darkness of our bedroom.

Before I could process what I was saying, forbidden words slipped off my tongue. “You are more important to me than the Church,” I said.

I wondered what my pioneer ancestors would say if they could hear me…. (Read More)

I hope that one day they ask the question, “What if the church is a fraud, but God is not?” I hope they begin a journey to finding out who God really is and who they are because of Him. But for now, I’m glad they found their way, and I am proud of their courage to defy religion.

 

I came across this brave story this weekend. You’ve probably heard of Ruth’s blog Living Well, Spending Less, but you may not have known her background. She is not your “ho-hum, always had a perfect life” blogger. Her story is one of tremendous trials and black, black days. But with the help of her earthly father and her Heavenly Father, she made it through. She tells her story on her blog.

Eleven and a half years ago, I woke up in a panic, unable to breathe, with  some unknown object blocking my airway.  The only thing that mattered was  getting it out as quickly as possible.

I soon found out—as the alarms began sounding and my ICU hospital room  instantly filled with a half-dozen stunned doctors–that the thing I had just  pulled out of my throat was the ventilator keeping me alive…. (Read More)

What a story of the sweet amazing grace of an all-sovereign God!

 

*photo credits: temple, prescription

10 Ways to Beat the Depression Spiral

depressedDepression can swallow you up before you realize it. Here are ten ways you can nip it in the bud or pry your soul from its grip.

1. Recognize patterns. Does depression rear its ugly head at certain times of the month or year? Do certain people or memory triggers bring it on? Knowing the things and times in your life that make you more prone to depression gives you the advantage. There’s no surprise, and you can fortify yourself.

2. Avoid depression triggers when possible. If you know that driving past the theater triggers painful memories and sends you spiraling into dark sadness, do not drive past it. Obviously, if its gloomy weather that trips you up, its a little hard to avoid those cloudy days, but you can turn on as many lights as possible to try to counter the darkness.

3. Take your vitamins. Your body actually needs nutrients to be happy. Your emotions are physical triggers that need vitamins D and B to keep you smiling. If you’re feeling continually sad and fatigued, it’s a good sign you may need some happy pills. A good multivitamin should give you what you need if your levels are normal. But you may need to visit your doctor and get some blood work done. He will be able to tell you if you need an extra vitamin D boost.

4. Fall in love with sunshine. Sunshine is the happiest medicine in the world. It’s bright and cheery and full of vitamin D. Spend at least 20 minutes in it every day that it’s not hiding from you. Hang up photos of sunshine streaming through the trees or playfully sparkling across a stream in your home or office for those cloudy days.

5. Get dressed. I mean like really dressed. Hide the sweatpants and baggy sweatshirts. Save them for camping. Put on your cute jeans, a nice (but practical) shirt, and some cute shoes. Put on some masacara and cute earrings. When you look in the mirror or catch a glimpse of your sleeves, pant legs, or shoes, you send electric pulses to your brain… “See me. I’m cute today. I feel good.”

6. Put your earbuds in. Music is pure medicine. Well, so long as it’s cheery music that strengthens your heart. “Lost my truck, lost my dog, lost my wife” music doesn’t count. Nor does break-up music. Listen to music that makes you feel happy and that inspires you to hold on to hope. For me, it’s contemporary Christian music, but it may be different for you.

7. Use your imagination. Our imaginations are powerful, powerful things. Think of the saddest thing you’ve ever heard of or experienced. Does it make you nearly tear up? That’s the magic. But we need to use it in reverse. Think happy thoughts. I’m not talking positive thinking here. I’m talking about not letting your mind wallow in the sad. Think of the things that make you happy. If you’re having a hard time thinking of any, make up happy stories. Watch happy movies in your own head. Read inspiring, happy books. Whatever you do, don’t let your brain wallow in the darkness. Do not watch depressing movies or read depressing news or stories. You don’t need to carry the weight of the world’s depression. Your own is enough.

8. Surround yourself with liberating words. Scripture or inspiring quotes trigger a psychological response. It sends the brain to the happy place and signals the emotions to follow. They inspire us to action and give us a resolve to reach beyond the blackness. Scribble them on post it notes and stick them everywhere. Scrawl them across the windows and mirrors with dry erase markers. Put them where you will see them frequently. Let them inspire you.

9. Talk. Find a friend or counselor that you can meet with on a regular basis. Let them hold your hand through this long, hard trek. Talk about the things that bother you. Talk about your resolve to move past the pain and sadness. Talk about your progress and your failures. Keep your appointments with them. Do not play hermit. This is not the time to wallow in loneliness.

10. Smile. Sounds simple and yet incredibly impossible. When you’re fighting depression, the last thing you want to do is smile. But sometimes our actions need to lead our emotions. Smile at strangers, at your co-workers, your family, your friends… at every human in the world. Smile at yourself in the mirror. Soon the forced smile on your lips will find its way into your eyes as smiling releases endorphins, natural pain killers, and serotonin.

 

*photo credit

My Love Hate Relationship With Fall

Leaves6Fall… the very word conjures up visions of cloudy days, chilly fingers, and a depressing gloom.

Everything bad happens in the fall. For real. My cat died in the fall (on my birthday). Bill Clinton became president in the fall (also on my birthday). I witnessed a near murder in my own family in the fall. My marriage was tested with torturous flames in the fall. You see where I’m going with this? Fall = Bad!

Oh, and also Fall signifies the start of winter which lasts far too loooooooong in Indiana.

In my teen years and early adult years, fall was a time of depression for my mother, usually resulting in thick tension. Depression slithered through the house threatening to swallow all of us into its stinky belly. During these times, I took on the role of mother for my younger siblings and the role of counselor for my mother. Two roles a daughter should not take on. It’s not her place.

I’d known nothing but depression during the fall when I married my love. It took me four years to finally get to a place where fall did not send me down into a spiral of darkness. I finally felt like maybe fall could be my friend. I reached out my hand in a peace offering to fall. It bit me. Fiercely.

Just a few short weeks into the fall of ’08, our marriage hit a painful hurdle. It was confusing hard. And once again, fall swallowed me up in depression. It didn’t help that I gave birth just a few short days before. Post partum hormones do not mix well with sorrow and pain.

Last year, toward the end of September, I packed up my kids and my camera and went out to find something to love about fall. I was determined to beat fall at this game of darkness. Where he loomed in shadows, I found light and beauty. I’m not sure that I really felt happy right away, but I forced it in an effort to trick myself into being happy. I chose to fight the gloom.

And I won. For the first time in all my life (that I can remember), I enjoyed fall. Before I knew it, Christmas had arrived and fall slithered away.

It’s mid-September. Fall is sneaking up again. The days are more often gloomy and chilly. I want to stand up to it… not let it win. But it’s so easy to just let it grab my foot and pull me back down. It almost sounds snuggy to be in the sorry-for-myself-in-my-sweatpants mode.

I think maybe now I know why it was so darn hard for my mom in the fall. It was habit to fall into depression. And habit is easy and safe. It takes bravery and strength to resist the comfort of gloom.

For the sake of my kids and my husband, I will choose to stand and fight. I will choose to wear clothing that makes me feel dressed for the day. I will choose to wear makeup and jewelry to make me feel pretty. I will choose to smile when I’d rather cry. I will choose to use gentle words when I’d rather snap.

Fall, you cannot have my soul. You just canNOT.

Muddled Trust

trustTrust. The word itself conjures up mixed emotions. We feel grateful for those we can trust through thick and thin. We feel anger and hurt when we think of those who’ve taken advantage of our trust. We feel proud for the positions in life that our own trustworthiness has bought us. And we feel guilt and sorrow for the relationship mistakes that have cost us trust. We all find ourselves at various levels of trust in each of our relationships.

I wish trust were easy. Like you either trust them or you don’t. You’re either trusted or you’re not. But it’s not that easy.

Somewhere in the middle of trust and no trust is the muddled up trust. The place where one day your heart is so full of trust and the next day it’s overflowing with doubt and suspicion. That place where you think you’ve finally won their trust only to realize they still accuse you of imagined offense.

And this muddled stage of trust rips at the heart. We want to trust; we really do. We humans are hard wired to live life based on trust. But it’s just that sometimes the defense mechanisms in our mind refuse to let our heart rest in trust. And the war of the mind is a tricky one. It’s hard to know which thoughts are the good guys and which are the bad guys.

We can’t keep the suspicions from popping up. And once they’re there, it’s like playing private investigator to determine whether it’s a suspicion to act upon or to reject. It’s the uncertainty that eats at the heart.

If the suspicion is true, you realize you’re once again naive and taken advantage of. You feel like an idiot. The pain goes deeper than it did the first time. You’re ready to curl up in a corner and cry your heart out while simultaneously forming a battle plan so the person can never hurt you again.

But if the suspicion is unfounded, you feel guilty. After all the hard work of the other person to gain back your trust, you pay them back with doubt. You stab them over and over again with the reminder of their offense.

Some relationships are distant enough that you can just leave it in this state and just not see the person anymore. Some relationships will just always be in the “I can never trust them” state. But sometimes it’s family. You see them day in and day out and you love them with all your being and you just want to trust them and be trusted.

And that’s where trust gets tough.

 

*photo credit