Marriage

I wish for other people to have what I have, specifically when it comes to marriage.

I have a husband who helps around the house. He’ll throw in a load of laundry if he needs something washed. And he’ll include my dirties, too!

He loves to cook, so all I have to do is buy the ingredients for the meal. He wants me to come up with the menus and buy the stuff, but he’ll do the cooking. I usually do the cleanup, but he’s done the dishes countless times.

He listens. He often perceives when something is bugging me or bringing me down, and he’ll ask if I’m ok. Then he listens, without trying to fix it or even offering advice. He simply listens, which is often all I need to feel better.

He expresses affection. He used to make a big deal of kissing me in front of the kids as they were growing up (their response? “Ew! Gross!”). He’ll go out of his way to give me a hug. Or he’ll wrap his arms around me if I tell him I need one.

He supports my passions, like facilitating Fresh Hope and volunteering. He wants me to have hobbies. And girl friends. He wants me to be fulfilled and happy.

Things weren’t always this way. After 32 years of marriage, we’ve grown into this. I’ve learned to not assume, and to ask for what I need. He’s learned my moods and body language, and how to respond to them. We’ve both learned to listen more and argue less.

We’re still learning to express ourselves to the other with respect and without angry words. We’re learning to speak in terms of “I feel…” instead of “You make me feel…,” keeping it personal and in first-person. We’re learning to navigate the proper timing for discussions – not after a business trip nor right before bed. We’re learning to laugh together again, like we did when we were dating, before all the stresses of family and life. We’re still learning to talk about the hard things – money, the kids, mental illness.

I don’t write this to make anyone jealous. I write because I see other marriages that are one-sided or lacking love or respect of the other spouse, and it makes me sad. I want them to have more.

I’m left wanting for my friends who don’t have this. I wish everyone could have someone who is a kind, thoughtful, responsive, and supportive spouse, like I do.

My husband loves me as Christ loves the church – sacrificially, generously.

Sure, he has his faults. In all of the above examples, there are times when he doesn’t do. When he assumes I’ll do the laundry, or won’t ask about my mood. Ours is not a perfect marriage; none is. But he tries, and “hits it out of the park” most days.

I feel treasured and valued. I long for that for others.

I hope that we can model what a Christ-centered marriage looks like. I hope we can improve our communication, and our relationship – as a couple – with the Lord. I want even more for our marriage, and am willing to work so it will continue to mature and improve as we grow old together.

And I’ll keep praying for my friends and their marriages, that God will transform them into all they can be.

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!

The role of therapists in my life.

from my therapist’s office

My first therapist was Bill, and I saw him a few times when I was in college. I distinctly remember visiting him before I graduated from school. I was moving back home for some surgery, and wanted his help in learning how to navigate old communication patterns. The tools he gave me were very useful as I adjusted from independence to needing help. I was grateful for the techniques I learned, and I think it made my stay at home a smooth one in an otherwise difficult time.

Ted was my next therapist, about 20 years later. I first started with Ted in April 2008. His practice was recommended to me by someone at the church office. I dialed three times and hung up before I finally let the call go through and scheduled the intake appointment.

I remember “clicking” with him almost immediately. Good thing, because I was in desperate need of someone to help me with my jumbled emotions. I was in my mid-40s, we had just moved back to town, and I had expected to pick right up with old friendships and circumstances. But instead, I was feeling incredibly sad and couldn’t shake it. I tried, but was unable to explain to my husband what was wrong. I could only cry. We both agreed that I needed to talk to someone.

So Ted has been with me from the beginning of my depression, which started that summer, and for all the years since. He was with me through the very worst. When I was at my lowest. When I didn’t think I could go on living. Through my hospitalization. He helped me through the trauma and drama of deep depression, during the days when it was overwhelming and suffocating. He helped me navigate through the darkness and slowly back into the light. And he did this several times as I repeated my depression over seven years.

Ted knows me so.well. Maybe even better than I know myself. He can take the words I say and make them make sense. He finds the thread between my random thoughts, puts order to them and gives them back to me. And he’s done this for me for years.

Ted has served as my coach, as my educator, as my mentor, and as my confidant. I didn’t share with him in place of sharing with my husband, but he helped me to formulate my thoughts in a way that my husband could receive them. So that I could say what I wanted my husband to hear, instead of getting lost in my emotions or randomness. He always pointed me back to my husband.

Ted’s a Christian, and he prays for me at our appointments. He helped me sift through the spiritual battle versus the mental illness, and reminded me regularly that Christ is with me in my depression. He was the first one to really help me see Jesus standing alongside me as I struggled to fight for my mental health.

Ted helped me navigate some difficult memories. He worked with me on abandonment fears. He let me sound off about things that made me angry and helped me learn to express anger in a healthy way, instead of squelching it like I used to. He pointed out my faulty thinking, and gave me a different story than the one I was telling myself. He challenged my all-or-nothing thinking. He showed me that I speak to myself in questions, and I “should” on myself a lot.

I remember one time in particular when he really pissed me off. It’s when he pretended to be me. He told me everything I was thinking, including the things I hadn’t said out loud. I was so angry! Or maybe I was just afraid, because I had been vulnerable enough for him to see through me, to know the way I think and how I form my opinions and thoughts, and he nailed it!

I don’t worship him, nor would he ever let me. But I do have a really hard time finding a therapist, because everyone gets held up to the measuring stick of Ted. And they often fall short. It’s not a fair comparison, I know, because they don’t have the years with me like he does. So of course they don’t know me like he knows me, which puts them at a huge disadvantage when I start comparing.

I found a Christian therapist when we moved to Florida, and she was kind and gentle and accepting. I drove 40 miles one way to see her, and it was worth it. She helped me through the grieving process of relocating, and together we navigated a depressive episode with faith in Christ as my healer.

I’ve tried three therapists here – one was a hit for a little over a year. We just “broke up,” as she is moving to her private practice and I’m looking for a Christian counselor.

But I know that I’ll always have Ted. He’s promised me many times that he’ll always “be there” for me, and he always has been. I haven’t needed him as much as I used to – I’ve found these other therapists over the years who have been helpful. But I suspect I will always reach out to Ted in my depressed moments, for just a word of understanding from him to ease me through the darkness again. And he’ll point me back to my husband, and remind me that Christ is with me.

Now that’s a good therapist!

Again?

Yesterday, I took the PHQ-9, which is the short questionnaire that doctors and psych docs give to determine if depression is present. I scored a 6, which means mild.

I’ve felt it for a little over a week. The downward pull towards feeling flat. So far, it’s just been moments each day, not all day every day. It’s actually depression if the symptoms are over the course of two weeks. So maybe I overestimated and my score is less than 6. But even 4 indicates mild depression. And the fact that I took the quiz in the first place is a red flag to me that I’m concerned about my mental health. I’m noticing that something is “off.”

In church this morning, I was wondering “Why?” I’m doing all the right things. I’ve been replacing negative thoughts with God’s truth. I know I’m deeply loved. I’m using my blue-light lamp. I’m writing daily in my gratitude journal. I’m in God’s Word every morning. I’m trying to make healthy food choices, mostly. So what caused this change? Why would it come back?

Maybe it’s that time of year – mid-winter. Even in VA, with warmer weather and more sunshine than in the Midwest, it’s still clearly winter, with all the naked trees and cold winds.

I just read an article that says that January 24th is the hardest day of the year. That’s right around the time I admitted to my husband and best friend that I was struggling.

My first psych doc told me that February is a very hard mental health month. Maybe I’m anticipating that. February has traditionally been a tough month for me. So maybe it’s “mental muscle memory.”

But for whatever reason, I’m fighting depression again. It’s not bad, not yet anyway. I promise not to wait too long, to call my psych doc if it continues. But he’ll just up one of my meds, which I don’t want to do!

I see a new therapist in two days, a Christian counselor. Maybe he’ll be able to help.

In the meantime, I’ll be honest with my husband about how I’m feeling. I’ll keep doing what I’m supposed to be doing to fight it off. I’ll work up the courage to ask others to pray for me, combatting my own feelings of stigma and failure that I didn’t keep it away. I’ll remind myself that I didn’t fail – it’s just something I have to deal with, my cross to bear.

“This, too, shall pass.”

My Blog Goals

It’s time to assess my blog, and it’s an assignment for my latest blogging course. I’ve had this blog since January and am close to 100 posts – now is a good time to evaluate. Is my blog doing what I want it to do? More importantly, am I doing what God wants me to do with my blog?

I want to share my story of depression, and God’s faithfulness through it. I want people to find comfort here – maybe they relate to my experiences or can try one of the tools that helped me.  When I’ve struggled with depression, it’s helped me to know that I’m not alone – maybe this blog is doing that for someone like others have done for me.

When I first started blogging, I had a long list of topics to “discuss,” things that I had talked about in support groups. I still have that list, but so far, I’ve specifically focused my writings here on my story, not research or others’ stories. But the information that I’ve gathered was helpful to me, so I suppose that makes it part of my story after all.

I’m setting some goals for my blog for the next couple of months.

    1. I will post 1 time per week through January.
    2. I will post another 1 time per week, sharing from my list of topics and research.
    3. Weekly, I will search for, read, and comment on other blogs written about or by Christians  with depression.

Please help me meet my new goals by answering the following.  Thanks for your help.