Discipline

Discipline – not a word that I like; I suspect many people don’t. But I’m finding that I need more of it in my life. I need discipline if I’m going to stay mentally and physically healthy, and reach my personal goals. I need good habits.

I’ve become more consistent lately at having my time alone with God in the mornings. The Lectio Divina Journal has helped with that immensely, as do the daily devotional emails I receive and read each morning over my cup of coffee.

I’ve started Morning Pages (The Artist’s Way by Julie Cameron), which is three pages of stream-of-consciousness thinking put on paper.  It’s supposed to clear my mind to make way for creativity to shine through.  I’ve only been at it a few days – even for a writer, it’s harder than it sounds! But this is another discipline to my morning routine.

Now I need to schedule my writing – for my book as well as this blog. I’m hoping I can be consistent with writing each morning for at least an hour. We’ll see how this goes, since I tend to blog at night; that’s when my blogging thoughts come together. But even that seems a bit haphazard – as the mood strikes – so I want to plan for it with more intention.

I also need to set aside time for activity. I hate to say it – exercise. I need to put it on the calendar, and walk every day, at least around the block. Slip on my tennis shoes and put on my headphones and head out the door. How else am I going to get my 10,000 steps?! Besides, all research points to the many benefits of regular exercise, for both physical and mental well-being. Indeed, many studies have shown that regular exercise is as effective as a mild antidepressant medication. So why don’t I do it? Lack of discipline.

I want to be more thoughtful about eating, particularly in the evening. As I mentioned previously, I’m using Noom to help me with my calorie intake. Unfortunately, I’m consistently blowing it every night, with after-dinner munchies.  Now to replace that glass of wine with a cup of tea, and the crackers with low-cal popcorn. And one piece of dark chocolate – not four!

I want these areas in my life where I need discipline to become habits, not chores. That’s going to require consistency and effort on my part. But the benefits will be worth it.

“No discipline is enjoyable while it is happening—it’s painful! But afterward there will be a peaceful harvest of right living for those who are trained in this way.” Hebrews 12:11, NLT

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!

What makes an expert?

I’ve been pondering the word “expert.” What makes someone an expert in an area? Could I be one? Do I need initials after my name to be considered particularly knowledgeable?

Merriam-Webster defines expert as: “having, involving, or displaying special skill or knowledge derived from training or experience.”

If experience is enough, then maybe I’m an expert in depression. I’ve lived with it for 10+ years. I’ve blogged about it for several years; indeed, the focus of my blog is being a Christ-follower who has depression. And I’ve read a lot about the subject, from textbooks to memoirs. I’ve started writing down my own story in a book draft.

Probably because this is an area of struggle for me, I find the topic of depression intriguing. I’m slowly building my personal library of books on the subject. My list of authors on my Book Buddy app who I’ve yet to read is 20+ titles. I regularly read several mental health blogs.

At my most recent appointment, my therapist asked me why I wasn’t a counselor. Funny thing… I’ve thought a lot about that. Way back in my early college years, I thought I wanted to be a psychologist. Then as I got tired of school, I decided getting a PhD was too much work, so I nixed the idea. But I’ve come back around, and am intrigued by her suggestion. I’ve spent the last couple of days researching online Master’s counseling programs.

I want to help people through mental health challenges. I love my role as a facilitator in the Fresh Hope support group. Tuesday night is the highlight of my week, as we meet and talk about what it means to live with a mental illness. I love navigating the discussions and leading the group. As I’ve said before, I feel like this support group is a way for me to give back, from all the help and encouragement I’ve received as I’ve journeyed with depression. It’s an answer to prayer, from when I begged God to not waste my experience in the darkness.

I love families, and family dynamics. I find them fascinating. I’d like to help people build healthy family and marriage relationships.

I’d also like to be an expert in the field of counseling. Of mental health. To have those initials behind my name. So that when I write my book, I’ll be taken seriously.

But returning to the dictionary’s definition, I don’t need those letters. My experience, my research and reading, may be enough.

Maybe I do know what I’m talking about.

On the mend

I met with my psych doc this morning – a follow-up to last month’s med increase. I scored a 4 on the PHQ-9, which is still mild depression, but better than last time I saw him.

I told him that I could tell I was on the up-swing. I’m not feeling hopelessness anymore. My husband and I are dealing with a major life event, and it didn’t send me plummeting; I’m handling this stressful situation without succumbing to great distress.

I’m able to track a whole Netflix show – that’s improvement. I’m reaching out to relationships again instead of wanting to isolate – I joined a women’s Bible Study. I haven’t gone back to volunteering, but I hope to soon. I’m sleeping through the night again, instead of the 2-hour-middle-of-the-night insomnia.

I’m still struggling to concentrate when reading. I’m trying to follow Noom, but can’t seem to stay in my calorie allowance, so I’m a bit discouraged at my lack of self-discipline. That’s an improvement, though; before, I didn’t care.

I’ve mentioned my new therapist and our difficulties in timeliness. But I’ve decided that I really like talking to her, so I’m just going to build in some extra time around our appointments, knowing there will probably be some delays. It feels good to have that decided.

My husband and I have some major changes coming up in our near future, and I need to manage those with gentleness. I’ve asked friends to pray, and we’re following God’s direction for our next steps. I know that if I’m seeking His will, He will direct our path. Today’s blog post from Fresh Hope was very timely – about managing a mental health diagnosis in the midst of change. Just what I needed to hear. Thank You, Lord, for those reminders.

First Impressions Aren’t Always Accurate

Today I met with a new therapist. And I really like her. So my second impression is great!

My first impression wasn’t so good. My appointment was at 9:15am. I got there at 9:00am in case there was additional paperwork. Though the hours listed on the door said the office opened at 9:00am, no one arrived until 9:05am, and it was another therapist. She commented that it looked like everyone was running late. There was no receptionist, so I held on to my intake forms.

I entered the waiting room with another client, after signing in on the clipboard. My phone rang – a “No Caller ID,” so I didn’t answer. I’ve been getting lots of robocalls, so I tend to let them go to voicemail, if they even bother to leave a message. I then turned on Do Not Disturb, so my ringer didn’t go off during my appointment.

The therapist who had unlocked the doors came and took her client – the other woman in the waiting room – back to her office.

I checked my phone, and the caller had left a message so I clicked voicemail. It was the therapist, telling me that she was running 15 minutes late, and that the receptionist was out this morning. Good to know – at least I was assured that she was on her way.

I dropped my Starbucks cup into the bathroom’s garbage can. There were scraps of paper towel on the floor, and the can was overflowing, though I pushed it all down.

As I sat back down in the waiting room, I noticed a wear mark on the opposite wall where a chair had apparently worn through the paint. There was a small table with crayons and paper, and toys nearby. I looked at the artwork on the walls, which was a hodgepodge of pictures. There was no pattern to them, but each picture was pretty and relaxing. Maybe that was the theme – calm!

My therapist arrived at about 9:35am, and took me back to her large overflowing office. I think she is the owner of the practice – her name is first on the letterhead. She’s a very busy woman – owner of this practice plus another office in a nearby town plus teaching at a local college. Given her many commitments, I was impressed with the time and attention she gave me.

She asked great questions – there’s lots to share as we get to know each other. She was open with me about her personal faith in Jesus, which is really important to me in a therapist. She was friendly, kind, genuine, and has a wonderful smile which reaches her eyes. Her schedule is very full, but she found a slot in which to schedule me next week.

I’m excited to see her again. I won’t let those first impressions darken my judgement. My best friend reminded me of my “lateness factor in our relationship” and she “loves me still.” So I’m extending that same grace to this new therapist’s office. And now that I realize how busy she is, I’m all the more grateful that she’ll take me as her client!