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

Writing in the Glory

Assignment from Writing in the Glory workbook by Jennifer A. Miskov:

Depression is like a heavy, wet, gray wool blanket, carelessly thrown over my shoulders. It weighs me down, bends me to a hunched posture. And it stinks!

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Depression brings companions of anxiety, hopelessness, fear, apathy, and the desire to isolate. Nothing sounds good. Nothing tastes good. Nothing is all I want to do. To sit alone and stare into space with “nothing thoughts.” Or worse – spiraling thoughts, like a tornado swirling, repeating the condemning and negative self-talk: I’m a failure; I’m all alone; I’m miserable.

Medicine “un-muddles” my thoughts; it clears my foggy brain and reduces the accusing ruminations so that I can think more clearly. That’s when the work starts: to“take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:5 NIV), and to replace it with God’s truth of who I am and how He sees me. This puts perspective back in order, and puts God back on the throne of my life.

Some days, the work is relentless. Every thought is off-base, and must be replaced. At those times, it would be easier to just rest in the familiarity of depression. I know the comfort of sinking down in my miserable-ness. It’s hard to reach for health.

But I don’t have to stay down – God will pick me up. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand.” (Psalm‬ ‭40:2‬ NIV‭)

Thank you, Lord, that you do not leave me in depression. You are faithful to me, and You are always with me. I am not a failure – I am Your child. I am not alone – You are always with me. I do not need to feel miserable – You love me. You are good, God. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

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!

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.

“Year 2 ! It’s a tradition!”

I met my only cousin on my dad’s side last night for an event and dinner. It’s the second time in two years. Before that, it had probably been 10 years since we’d seen each other.

We didn’t grow up together with lots of cousin visits. I have a few pictures of us as kids – she’s a little older than me, and her family lived far away, so we just didn’t see each other much.

We reconnected via WordPress University – a blogging class that WordPress offered several years ago. We both blog – she about her family genealogies, and me about depression as a Christ follower. We were excited to share comments back and forth as we read each other’s blogs. She has done quite a bit of research on our grandfather, and it’s been so fun to read about our grandparents and their families.

A year ago, she told me she was coming to the area for the Virginia Festival of the Book. So I found a presentation on mental health books, and we met there. We enjoyed the panel, but had even more fun at dinner and a wine bar. I spent the night in her hotel room – she showed me love letters from our Papa Joe to his wife Kitty. We really had a great time reconnecting.

This year’s Festival of the Book rolled around, and we met for a panel last night, then went to a local pub. It was fun again to connect and catch up. And we made plans for June when my folks visit, to take a trip to Washington D.C. and see places of our dads’ and grandparents history! She’ll be the guide, as she knows the places. But we’re expecting “the trip down memory lane” to spark some stories from my dad. I’m excited!

And I’m so happy to have renewed a relationship. The older I get, the more important family is to me. So I’m thrilled that “cuz” and I have a new tradition. Two years and counting!