Am I Supposed To Write A Book?

In my last post, I mentioned writing a book. And I decided that I don’t need initials after my name to be an expert – particularly since it’s my story. Who knows it better than me, besides God? (“You saw me before I was born. Every day of my life was recorded in your book. Every moment was laid out before a single day had passed.” Psalms‬ ‭139:16‬ ‭NLT‬‬)

Ted first suggested it, many years ago. He said it during several of our therapy sessions. He thinks “I have a book in me.”

While living in Florida, my then-therapist Elizabeth told me that she, too, thinks I should write a book. She said it almost every time she saw me – that I should write it all down. And she’d buy it!

Carol and Anne and Stacy have been encouraging. So has Jane. Even Dad a little. I have support from several friends who think I could do it.

From where will I get my story? I began journaling consistently in March 2008 – right at the beginning of my depression journey. And I wrote lots! Some days I wrote several times throughout the hours, especially when I was in the depths of the darkness. How do I even begin to sort through them? I’ve developed a color-coding system with 3M sticky arrows, to highlight different entries I wrote that might be significant to outlining the book. Now to read through all 17 journals and flag them appropriately!

I also began to write email summaries of my appointments with Ted, often with questions for clarification, and I kept a copy of most of them. I wrote in Docs at work when I didn’t have my journal, so I have those notes. And finally, I joined WordPress to try blogging. Maybe I should print out these things and flag them as well.

I can add to this what I learned when I facilitated the depression support group at my old church. My friend advised when I shared with the attendees, I should simply start with my current situation. “Start with where you are.”

So, is that what I do if I want to write a book? Start with where I am now? Or start with the beginning of the journey? How will it be different from blogging? How do I know to whom I’m writing – who is my audience?

I’d like to write a memoir or devotional of the time of my life when I first experienced depression, up to present-day struggles. To explain to Christian women with depression (there’s my audience) that it’s possible to have hope in Christ in spite of having a mental illness. That I am not my depression – I’m a beloved daughter of the King, and so are they. I want to offer them this hope, as I found it in my journey through the desert of depression.

There are many tools and organizations available to me to help me write this book. A friend of mine just recently published his first book, and he recommended a writing program. Perhaps I’ll use one of those to keep me organized and on-task, and to give me regular feedback in the process. I took a one day writing workshop a few months ago – I need to get the workbook out and finish those exercises. They’ll help me be disciplined, too. Perhaps these tools can give me an idea of the order in which I tell my story.

No matter what, I think I know what my next adventure is. Let the writing begin!

Mid-night waking

It’s 2:27am on Friday morning as I start to write this. This is the third out of four nights I’ve been awake in the wee hours of the morning. And it happened a couple of nights/mornings last week, too.

It’s starting to feel like a pattern.

I wake up some time between 1-2am, and can be awake for 2-3 hours. Last night, I laid in bed for the whole time. Tonight, I tried to sleep for an hour before just getting up and having tea.

I remember having trouble with sleep when I was fighting off depression last time. I seem to fall asleep pretty quickly, but when I wake up in the middle of the night, I can’t get back to sleep. I know I’m not the only one in my family with this pattern, so perhaps it’s partly genetics. Maybe partly age – I hear insomnia is common in menopause. We could form a club and have 3am meetings! What’s on the agenda this morning, girls?!

When I’m lying in bed and trying to sleep, my body falls into the groove of the gel foam bed topper. A couple of times, I’ve gotten up because I can’t get comfortable – the gel won’t adapt quickly enough; I’m too hot (the ceiling fan is on); my back hurts. Or, I’m just awake. This morning, I think a bowl of Cheerios might ease my tummy growls.

I’m not feeling tired right now – I’m awake and alert. I’ve scrolled through my emails, read a devotional, added to my to-do list, and printed a journal. I like blogging in the quiet of the morning hours – this is often when I write.

I have a book to read for next week’s book club – I could start that. Or I could quietly watch Netflix. Or knit. I’m not quite sure what to do with myself in these very early hours of the day!

The cats aren’t sure what to make of me being up, either. Last night, I think they knew I was awake even though I was still in bed, and I could hear them running through the hallway and wrestling in the bedroom. They even pounced on me a couple of times, without waking my husband. This morning, they both blinked at me as I disturbed their quiet. At first, they moved around me slowly, like they weren’t sure that they wanted to be up. But as our early minutes have turned into an hour, they’ve played in the cardboard cat house and grabbed a quick bite of kibble. The kitten is searching for a toy to chase across the floor while the lady is following me from room to room. It seems they’re accepting my mid-night roaming around the house.

I’m starting to feel a little sleepy, so maybe I’ll go back to bed. The problem is that the sheets are now cold. I could just curl up here on the couch under the cozy new throw blanket.

It always surprises my husband when he finds me in the living room in the morning. When his alarm goes off, he gets up very quietly so as not to wake me, not even noticing that I’m not in the bed! Then he comes out for breakfast and flips on the lights, and I’m awake again. Sometimes, I crawl back into bed and other times I stay on the couch and listen to him rustle around the kitchen, making toast or eggs. Sometimes, if I’ve slept well on the couch, I get up and eat breakfast and start my day, too. But not usually. I’m typically still tired from the middle-of-the-night hours of being awake, and sleep calls to me as the rest of the day awakens.

Explaining myself

A writer should always ask, “Who is my audience? For whom am I writing?”

Some bloggers say they’re writing for themselves, and they don’t care if anyone reads their stuff or not. To which I wonder, “Then why blog? Why not just journal?” I’m not questioning their motives so much as I’m trying to understand.

When I write, I have an audience in mind. Maybe it’s just one person, or maybe it’s a crowd. But I can picture a Christ-follower, usually a woman, who struggles with depression, anxiety, or another mental illness. Who wonders if she’ll ever be well. Who thinks she’s the only one in the world with these feelings. She’s me, or who I used to be, or who I could be again.

I know I have family and friends who read my blog posts, and that delights me. I like expressing myself in this way to them, hopefully giving them a little insight into thoughts that I might not express outwardly. But they’re my friends – they care about me – and I want them to know how I feel.

I’m also grateful for followers and readers of my blog who I don’t know personally. How awesome that they would take the time to read my words, to consider my experiences.

In both cases – with both groups of readers – I hope that I express the struggles of depression in a Christ-follower. I hope by writing about it, I help to diminish its stigma, especially within the Christian community.

I try to write honestly, from a place of transparency and authenticity. I might write about my current situation, or I might be recalling a time in the past. I try to make that distinction clear as I put my words on the page. Occasionally, I’ll write about the future, and I want those posts to be hopeful and not full of dread.

But the reality is that I have some anxieties when I look to the future. I wonder about relapsing into depression. I think it’s always in the back of my mind that it could happen. So I don’t look ahead too often; I’m trying to live in the moment, and write from this place.

For a long time in my dark depression, I anticipated and feared the future, the changes that I was inevitably going to face because of my maturing family. I wasted two years worrying about things that I couldn’t clearly foresee, and I certainly couldn’t control. I “pre-grieved.” I anticipated change and mourned it before it even happened.

All that did was drive me deeper into depression and anxiety, and rob me of the joys of the moment. Such are the beasts of these mental illnesses. A focus away from the present.

So I write what I’m thinking today, what I’m feeling at this time, or what I’m recalling as my emotional status in the past.

And I’m writing to explain my thoughts, emotions, moods and experiences with depression. What it’s like to live with it, when being battered by it, or when it’s in remission, like it is right now.

And I always feel better when I’ve written my thoughts down. So maybe I am my own audience, after all.

Thanks for reading!

Trapped with Insomnia

For many weeks now, I’ve had occasional bouts of insomnia. I’m not alone in this, by any means. Many women I know are awake for some hours during the night. Comes with age, I suspect, or hormones changing. Maybe that’s the same thing!

Anyway, it’s usually no big deal. I quietly put on my bathrobe and slippers, and the cats and I leave the bedroom, gently closing the door behind me, and head to the kitchen, where I make a cup of chamomile tea and fill their food bowls if necessary. Then we all perch in our places in the living room – the little boy on the couch with me, the female cat often on the pet climber where she can survey the room. I grab the throw blanket and put it on my lap – it’s very snuggly. Then, I sip my tea as it cools, and I read or write or sometimes knit. I often find myself blogging at this hour – seems like a typical time for me to write. The tea makes me a little sleepy, so I’m usually only awake for one or two hours. I’m very cozy and sometimes I fall asleep on the couch instead of going back through the cold house to the bedroom.

For the next few days, I’m trapped. We’re staying in an AirBnB, and there’s someone sleeping on the couch in the living room. So tonight I’m awake with no place to go! It’s too noisy to make a cup of tea in the kitchen. And the light there will shine brightly into the living room. Plus, where will I sit?

So I’m trapped, awake, in our bedroom. I have my phone screen on nighttime mode, and pointed away from my husband in bed, so as not to wake him, if possible. It seems like writing my blog on my phone is an option! Should I try to read my Kindle on my iPad – can I adjust that intensity to nighttime lumens? But what do I do with myself without my chamomile? I really want that cup of soothing tea and my cozy blanket!

It’s uncomfortable to just lay here. I might try sitting up in bed, but there aren’t really enough pillows to prop me up and support my back like a chair would. The room is tight, with space to get around the bed but none additional – no room to bring in a chair.

I guess I’ll stay in bed and read until I get sleepy again. Maybe I’ll have tea for breakfast!

My “Why”

Watch this first (it’s short):

Michael Jr. Comedy – Know Your Why

My “why” – to reduce the stigma of depression, especially in Christian circles.

My “what” – to lead a support group for Christians struggling with depression; to blog about depression within and for the Christian community; who knows what other “whats” I have!

Lord God, let me follow your leading in my pursuit of this passion.

(Thank you, http://www.freshhope.us, for the link to this significant video.)