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!

Early morning ponderings

I woke up at 1:30 a.m. and got up at 2:00 a.m. Not for any particular reason, like I couldn’t sleep. More like I just wanted to be up. Weird, huh?

I was thinking about a good friend in my old workplace who recently got a new job – I found out yesterday that she had changed employers. It made me excited for her. She’s the kind of person who would be great in a variety of positions, so I’m eager to chat with her and see how she’s liking it.

I thought about all the staff at my old job, how much I love our friendship even across the years and miles, how often and fondly I think of them, and how busy and tired they’re going to be as they install a new traveling exhibit this week. It’s a heavy one! I prayed for safety for them as they carry those large pieces into place. I wished I could be there for the chaos, and the satisfaction of a job well done, the smiles and giggles when the guests play with it all.

I began thinking about my sister and her family – we chatted earlier this week. But I forgot to ask if the clothes and books I gave for Christmas were a good “fit.” I sure wish we lived closer so we could grab lunch together and talk longer.

I thought about my girlfriend who lives far away and anticipated our weekly phone conversation tomorrow. I always look forward to our talks!

I was thinking about my friend Carol, who blogged yesterday about her day. I chuckled as I drank my mid-night tea (read her blog to understand why). Her husband has just started a new job, and I’m happy for the change of pace they will get to enjoy as a family.

Funny, three of these folks have seniors in high school. I thought about all those similar deadlines and events swirling through their heads each day as they plan and dream. Both the kids and the parents!

I’m enjoying the quiet of this early morning time. I think I’ll have another cup of tea and read on my Kindle.

Slumber on, world!

Thinking about writing

(Thank you to K at Walking After Midnight for the prompt.)

Thinking about writing and actually writing are not the same thing. I’ve been thinking about writing for several weeks, but I haven’t blogged for several months. And the longer I wait to write, the harder it is to write. After this long of a delay, do I even have anything to say that anyone would want to read?

I have a friend (https://theapplesinmyorchard.wordpress.com) who started blogging in the past several months, and she is doing a fantastic job of writing every day, something I long for but haven’t figured out how to do. She is a prolific writer, and I urge you to check out her blog – she’s got all kinds of fascinating topics, from education to home life and everything in between!

Can I write about things that don’t tie to my tagline? “I am not my depression.” Even though I have lots of subject ideas on living with depression, what it was like going through depressive episodes, the impact of depression on family life and work.  How to-s on living with it, living after it, etc. I have a whole file folder of topics I could address. I still think I want this to be my focus.

Then there’s just stuff from my day-to-day life. Granted, my days are pretty quiet. But as I’m learning to be content and appreciative of what is around me, I could write about those things. My backyard birds, the spotted fawns by the brook, the recent hikes I’ve taken. The peaceful days. The joy of sleeping in. Daily-ness.

I can write about special people in my life. My daughter who just graduated from college, and our fantastic weekend of family celebrating her. My adventurous son who took off for Europe for 14 days, then promptly moved west for his summer internship – where did he get such courage to take on these adventures?! My amazing husband could be part of lots of my stories – he’s in the center of my days.  My relationship with Jesus, and how our connection ebbs and flows with my effort. He is faithful – I tend to vary; so I could write about my journey with the Lord. Or searching for a church home. Finding friends. Settling into my job.

All topics of interest to… me. Anybody else?

Then again, why do I write? The question that every author must answer. Who is my audience? Do I write for myself, for clarification and release, or do I write to be heard or to start a dialogue? Maybe the answer is all of the above – something for everyone, anyone, or someone.

In which case, someone may read and identify with what I write. So I’ll write again. And I’ll start right now. Thanks for reading.

Being Motivated to Stay Motivated

I’ve recently written about steps I can take to keep myself emotionally healthy, and my goals for doing what is necessary. But I’m finding it hard to be self-disciplined, hard to do the things I’m supposed to be doing for good mental health. When I’m not accountable to anyone but myself, where is the motivation to do what I should? In keeping with recent posts, am I putting the pieces in place to stay healthy, the tools that will keep depression away? If I’m not, why not?

I’m thinking about this because I had a blood draw today, and a followup appointment to discuss results next Friday. I’m nervous about the results – the numbers were headed in the right direction last time, but it’s important that motion has continued, and I have no idea what to expect. I need better cholesterol numbers, while keeping my blood pressure and sugars where they were 3 months ago, or even improved. My weight has gone up and down during the time passed, and I believe that changes in my medication may have had an impact – I’ll know next week.

But I can’t blame my meds when I’m not being as proactive as I should. I have reduced my sugar intake, but it’s only recently that I’m really paying attention to food labels. I’m still not exercising, hardly even a little. This is ridiculous, since I live in a beautiful paradise where I can take a walk in the sunshine nearly every day. I could walk to the workout room or pool, or drive to the beach and take a long walk in the waves.

My writing would benefit from some self-discipline. Perhaps a schedule – for daily practice, for blogging, even for my personal journaling. Certainly some discipline of regular writing if I want to be working on a book!

My efforts to reach out to others is good but could improve.  I’ve wondered if I should have said “yes” to that job all those months ago. The answer of “no” was still the right decision, but at least a job would have put me in other people’s lives regularly. Instead, I can stay at home if I want to – don’t have to leave the house if I don’t feel like it. So I’m trying to build in regular commitments:  lunch dates with friends, a Tuesday Bible Study group, a weekly school prayer group that I rarely miss. The neighborhood friendship and prayer group restarted – I’ve attended two out of three times.

And I’m contributing at home, which is easy to do since we’ve become empty nesters and only have one pet. This was much more difficult with two kids, two cats and a dog! I keep house, take care of errands and make the space a respite for my husband and me at the end of his work days.

I’m building my own personal growth by reading about writing and knitting a blanket for the living room (the largest yarn project I’ve ever undertaken). I’m finding both of these things fun and fulfilling, and they stretch me a little.

But some days, on days I chose to not go anywhere, I wonder if I’m doing enough. I know women who do way more than I do in a day, certainly in a week. Working moms especially! It’s easy to write blogs about what I should be doing, harder to follow through in real life. Am I just lazy? I don’t like to think so – I think it’s part of my mental health need to keep “space” in my life, to not do too much. Still I judge myself.

God’s Word says that Jesus has given us everything we need to live a life that pleases God by getting to know Jesus in increasing measure (2 Peter 1:3). Am I living in a way that pleases God? When I have my daily quiet time, when I start by focusing on who He is and when I commit my day to Him, I can trust that I am doing what He has called me to, and perhaps I don’t need to question these things.

It’s always about priorities and obedience – letting God put order to my hours and then doing what He wants me to each day. He wants me to take good care of my body, to get exercise, to reach out to others and share Him, to care for my family. I can remember to ask Him for motivation and self-discipline, and then obey Him when I see He’s given me the time to do it.

Day after Thanksgiving Gratitude

Thanksgiving Day 2015 was the first major holiday in 23+ years where the celebration was just me and my hubby. And it was a wonderful day.

Of course, I missed my kids and my extended family. And I am grateful beyond words for safe travels for my children as they drove to spend the day with a wonderful friend – she just took them in and added them to her holiday chaos and family and fun.  It was good to Facetime with the kiddos, but it will be better to see them in person in just a few weeks!

Yesterday morning I woke to the kitten’s antics – as always. Even when she has food, she seems to think that I only need 7 hours of sleep, so she starts our morning warm-up with nuzzles and purring and climbing on me and kneading her little claws into the back of my leg. I want to let my husband sleep in, so ok, I’m up!

I spent some quiet time with God, read through emails and blog posts and Facebook, had coffee, journaled a little. Our morning was pretty lazy – I read, blogged, knitted. We went to the pool and hung out for a bit. After having the pool area closed all summer, it’s so nice to have it open again, and to be able to relax in this place. I can’t believe this is in my neighborhood and not at some secluded spa!

lap and spa pool
lap and spa pools

I don’t write this to brag – it’s just that I love living in Florida – the warm weather and sunny skies bring me such pleasure! I get in the pool, the sun warming me, and lay back and look at fluffy clouds and palm trees in my periphery. Ahh! I feel so peaceful and content.

When we got hungry, we came back home and made a non-traditional Thanksgiving meal. Surf and Turf with Key Lime Pie for dessert – couldn’t get less typical for us.

Surf and Turf Thanksgiving 2015

    Surf and Turf Thanksgiving 2015

We’ll save the ham and sweet potatoes and green bean casserole and pumpkin and apple pies for Christmas – it will be good to share family tradition with the kids again.  Maybe they’ll let us add the key lime pie to our holiday dinner routine!

We enjoyed the rest of the day outside on the lanai (back screened patio) and watched a TV series until bedtime. Overall, a very nice day.

I thank God for family. For my husband. For my children. For friends far (most of them) and near (a few new ones). For good food. For sunny and warm skies. For my physical and mental health. For mental health help – my therapists, my psychiatrists. For writing and blogging and for blogging friends. For freedom to worship God without fear of persecution. For devotionals and journals and nice pens. For my computer. For my kitten. For beach towels and pool noodles. For my home. For life.