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!

New Carpet, and Books

We’re getting new carpeting today. In the master bedroom and sitting room.

The previous owner must have kept her dog in the master, because there’s pet “damage.” You can smell a whiff of it when it’s humid outside, but most of the time it’s not a problem. Still, no amount of cleaning has gotten rid of it, so even though we really like the carpeting in there, it’s gotta go.

The other room – the sitting room – we call it the Beach Room because we’ve decorated it with our shells and pictures from our time in Florida – used to be our second guest bedroom. But when we got a new couch for the living room last year, we sold the bedroom furniture and put the old couch in the room. We sit in there and listen to music and read. It’s cozy, comfortable. But the carpet is cheetah.

Yep. Cheetah carpeting. Which doesn’t go with any of our beach decor! So it’s gotta go.

Cheetah 🐆 carpet!

This same cheetah carpet is in our massive master bedroom closet, along with a chandelier. In there, it’s so tacky that it’s adorable, and we love it!

So it stays in the closet but is replaced in the sitting room.

Yesterday, I removed all my books from the bookshelves so the carpet layers can move the furniture. It was a good way to pull out books to donate, and organize the ones I want to keep.

I’ve got a little library of sorts – books on depression, grief, and prayer seem to be the main topics. I want to build this collection – particularly the depression-themed books, as topics for my writings.

I also moved all my journals – I have almost 20 completed notebooks! I began faithfully writing – almost daily, sometimes several times per day – when depression started in 2008. I’m trying to figure out how to organize the content of them, so I can use them as resources in my writing.

Once the carpet is laid and the furniture moved back, I’ve decided to arrange the bookshelves a little differently. I have many books that I own and want to read. I need to quit downloading to my Kindle and read what I already own! I plan to put all those “to-be-read” books on one shelf and work my way through them. Or sort and donate, which might be a better way to go.

The carpet layers just called – they’ll be here soon!

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Bye-bye cheetah! Finished product:

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!