“Bloom”

I took a 7-question survey to determine my Word for the New Year. My word is “Bloom.” In fact, I didn’t like that word, so I took the survey again, answering the questions slightly differently, and I got the word “Abide.” Now curious to see if I could discover other key words, I took the survey two more times, slightly different answers again each time, and got “Bloom” again, and “Gather.”

 

I guess my word is “Bloom.”

I’m not particularly thrilled with that word. It makes me think of the quote “Bloom where you are planted,” which I’m not especially fond of. So I discussed it with my husband.

To me, that phrase refers to now- ness, accepting where I am without longing for someplace I was previously, or something more that I want, and instead accepting my current situation and thriving here. Not all bad, right? Except to me, there’s an element of settling, giving in, surrendering, capitulating. It has a mild negative connotation.

Upon further discussion, maybe it means being “all in,” or being mindful in the current moment. My husband said the word reminds him of roots that grow, of springtime and newness. He’s picturing a new plant; I’m visualizing an established flower. I think I like his interpretation better.

“Bloom where you are planted.” Give life your best in your current circumstances.

If I take that idiom apart a little bit, I can see that where I am is where God has me right now. It’s a place on the journey we’re traveling together, where He’s leading me and this is one of the stops along the way.

Maybe it refers to this season of my life. How can I bloom – or how should I abide – here and now? What can I do to bring Him glory in my current situation?

All the words the survey revealed – Bloom (2x), Abide, Gather – could all be applied to flowers. Flowers have to abide – stay deep in the soil – to gather the nutrients they need to bloom. And blooms are often gathered to make a bouquet, full of bright colors and fragrant aromas.

So maybe I’m a flower. I’m to abide – stay close to Christ – so I can bloom and produce a fragrant offering to Him. And I can be gathered with other flowers – other people in my life – to manifest His beauty from our lives. Our lives of blooming where we’re planted. Right here. Right now.

 

I am not my depression

This is the subtitle to my blog.

It’s also a concept I’m grappling with right now.

Years ago, toward the beginning of my therapy, when I was healing from the blackest, deepest place of my depression, my therapist taught me to consider depression as separate from me, like it is its own entity. Like something else in the room.

Not “my depression.” Not “I’m depressed.”

Instead, more like “me struggling with depression.” “I’m battling depression.”

This seems like just semantics, but words are very powerful – especially the words I use with myself and to myself.

The first set of phrases makes me the owner of the depression, or certainly the victim of it. The second group places depression apart from me, not on nor within me. I’m not a victim – I’m a warrior.

The second set of phrases is more empowering. Stronger. More hopeful.

I’ve noticed that in the past several weeks, I’ve gone back to referring to depression in the first person – those first phrases. And I’m not sure why.

It could be a subconscious reaction to the biographies I’ve read recently – folks who wrote about their personal battles with “the black dog” of depression. Some people call those biographies written by “depressives.” That wording is really self-defeating!

It could be the ongoing (4 weeks and counting) of back and leg pain that is plaguing me. The diagnosis is lumbar stenosis – a narrowing of the openings where the nerves of the spinal column come through the spine itself, causing pressure on those nerves and then the nerves responding with inflammation. So far, neither stretching nor ibuprofen nor massage nor chiropractic are helping. (Next steps: yoga and stronger meds.)

It could be because I’ve been thinking about my journey through depression a lot lately: in writing, in therapy, in my Fresh Hope workbook. It’s been on my mind.

Whatever the cause, today is the first day I really caught myself speaking of depression in first person – “my depression.” I need to change that. I need to change the words, change my thinking, put distance between me and the illness.

“…but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think…” Romans 12:2b, NLT

Not much to say

“They” say that women use 30,000 words in a day, while men use only 10,000. This sets up quite a difference of communication patterns between the sexes!

I used to talk a lot. It was an ongoing joke that the moment my husband shut off the lamp for sleep, I’d want to talk, tell him about my day, ask deep philosophical questions. Sometimes, he’d even turn the light back on in hopes I’d wind down!

But since my experiences with depression, I am much more quiet. I’m content to listen to conversations going on around me, and don’t feel the need to chime in at every opportunity. I’m happy to observe – I don’t need to contribute every thought I have.

It’s been a noticeable change. Several friends – especially those I don’t see regularly – will ask me if I’m ok. They’ve commented that I seem so quiet. Even my husband will ask me if everything is alright if I don’t say anything for a while.

I think the change is due to several factors:

Firstly, I think I’m a better listener than I used to be. I’m content to hear about others’ successes and troubles. I’m much quicker to pick up on subtext – those behind-the-scene  feelings. My therapist once told me that I’d find myself able to spot depression in others, since I’ve been through it myself. I think this is true – I sense a person’s unspoken sadness or struggle. So I find myself listening instead of talking.

Secondly, I simply have less to say. There’s just not much going on in my day-to-day to share. My hours are pretty quiet, and often silent. If I have lots of thoughts, I try to write them in my journal, so I don’t seem to have the need to verbally share like I used to.

Lastly, I’m more content with silence. That’s a benefit I gained from depression – being still. I pray, I journal, I don’t need noise to fill every moment. In fact, I usually look forward to my down-time, the peace that comes with silence.

On the Myers-Briggs test, I used to be an extreme Extrovert, which means I get my batteries charged from being around other people as opposed to being alone. But since depression, I’ve moved from the far extreme to closer to the Introvert, where my energy comes from my personal down-time. On the continuum, I’m still an E, but much closer to an I than before. I still need people, connection and community, to recharge my energy, but I’m more content being alone than I used to be.

This past week really tested that observation. My Tuesday small group was cancelled due to weather. I had to cancel my therapy appointment – where I talk most of the hour – due to illness. So my week was much quieter than normal. I still had my students/work, but that’s not socializing or even real conversation. By Friday, I was feeling the silence as loneliness, and I was crying because of it. I felt so alone – way past enjoying the silence. Instead, I was craving that connection and community I mentioned earlier. I journaled pages about feeling lonely. I cried out to God, and reminded myself that He was with me – I wasn’t completely alone. Still, it took me several hours to adjust to a week’s worth of quiet.

Then my husband got home from his business trip, and let me “talk his ear off.” And I felt so much better!