Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows.
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
Friday, April 23, 2010
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
Monday, April 19, 2010
The black-on-white image shows how I have experienced my self for most of my life. The boundary between me and everyone else was permanent and easy for me to see. A task like listing 10 words to describe myself seemed simple. Among people who believe or see things differently than I did, I might have remained quiet but identified points of disagreement and felt easy about living with them.
Saturday, April 17, 2010
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
At the seminary, I recall a very conscientious effort to help wives of students develop a sense of community and mutual support. It seemed like a good idea, since we were all in the same oddly-shaped boat. It didn’t work out too well for me, though. I felt always on the outside – not German enough, not pious enough, not sweet enough, not “Lutheran” enough – to fit in. I grew up in another denomination and would still be there, I suppose, except that I love a Lutheran man whom God has called to be a pastor. During those first few years I struggled just to understand and accept the Lutheran interpretation of baptism and communion and to figure out how to use the hymnal.
As the years go on, it is a happy surprise for me that the core of Lutheran doctrine is so liberating, so clear about the nature of my relationship to God in Christ. The more I understand the freer I feel to depend on and grow in relationship with Him.
I still feel like I’m on the outside. The Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod seems to have a particular culture and I do not feel like a part of it. When I wind up in groups where everyone else has two degrees of separation from every Lutheran who ever lived, I am lost. My uncle didn’t teach your cousin religion in high school; my grandpa wasn’t the pastor who officiated at your husband’s sister’s wedding.
I am stranded on a bridge: too Lutheran to be anything else, and too uncomfortable with the Lutheran cultural identity I’ve encountered to feel I belong inside of it.
Generally speaking, all of this is ok. Depressive episodes of self-doubt notwithstanding, I like myself. I do not, however, assume that other people will like my particular amalgamation of orthodox and non-traditional, reverent and irreverent, conservative and liberal.
The spiritually wise choice is to let this conflict nudge me deeper in God’s Word and an identity that rests solely on Christ. That sounds simple but it isn’t.
Sunday, April 11, 2010
Thursday, April 8, 2010
Waking in the early morning hours and not being able to go back to sleep; insomnia
Excess sleep, fatigue
Sleep disruptions of both sorts have bothered me, though I’ve had more trouble with fatigue than insomnia. For the last many months I’ve discovered that when I feel apprehensive, or obliged to do something that seems overwhelmingly difficult, I get sleepy. I suppose it’s a practical defense mechanism. Understanding the connection between fatigue and anxiety is new for me. A few days ago I had counseling appointment and knew it would be helpful but dreaded it. I really wanted to stay home in bed. Understanding the fatigue is helping me fight it. Having an idea of why I feel so tired sometimes helps motivate me to fight the urge.
Periodically I’ve had trouble with waking at night and not being able to get back to sleep. For a while when I was obsessively anxious about the conflict at church I’d wake keep rehearsing the series of offenses and trying to find ways to solve them. This wasn’t ordinary lying-awake-to-solve-problems stuff. It was pointless and I felt I could not stop it.
I still wake sometimes at night fall into unhelpful patterns of thought while I lie in the quiet darkness.
Maybe I’ve done something horribly wrong.
Maybe I don’t belong in the Lutheran church.
God, am I totally missing something?
I’m swimming in an ocean of misery, mistakes, pointlessness and I can’t see the shore.
I’m just starting to learn how to deal with this. I have to open my eyes and shake my head to get out of it. I realized I also need something else to think about. At first I tried praying, but my mind wanders easily from prayer back to self-doubt. Then I tried rehearsing scripture. A phrase from Ephesians 3 came to mind, “I pray that you ... grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ.” I started to think of God’s love as the ocean, wider, longer, higher, and deeper than I could ever understand. I was swimming in an ocean of his love, an absolutely safe place to be. That’s a good thing to ponder in the middle of the night.
Tuesday, April 6, 2010
Significant weight loss or gain
First it was weight loss, then gain. “Loss of interest in most things” included food. Even when I was hungry I didn’t care enough to eat.
Predictably, perhaps, that phase was short-lived compared to the overeating phase. I have a long history of eating for reasons that have nothing to do with hunger, but have generally balanced it with episodes of attention to eating and exercise so that I don’t actually gain too much. Now I am at risk of not fitting into any of my clothes.
The hardest part about this has been that I feel lowest at night, after dark, when I tend to be in the house with little distraction and unlimited access to food. Some nights I have been just trying to stay awake until a reasonable bedtime. I didn’t want to sleep ten hours every night.
Along with a lot of the other symptoms, this seems to be getting better lately. I’ve had more motivation in the evening and am more often able to do something. Read, clean the kitchen, talk to my husband. It takes a lot of energy and self-talk to get started, but doing almost anything generally lifts my mood.
To read all the posts in the depression symptoms series, go here.
Sunday, April 4, 2010
Thursday, April 1, 2010
Loss of interest and enjoyment in most things
One of my favorite things about my life right now is that I can walk my kids to school. The school is just a few blocks from our house and when the weather is nice it seems like such a picturesque life: happy little kids running and laughing on the way to school.
Last spring I’d be on this walk and realize I didn’t care. It was good that my kids were happy, but I didn’t have any feeling about it.
Other things that had reliably lifted my mood in the past became completely uninteresting - sunshine, being with friends, planning short trips to visit family. I seemed incapable of happy anticipation.
Everything became a matter of routine and discipline. I ate because I was feeding the kids and knew I should eat, too. I went outside because it made the kids happy. I spent time with other people because that seemed to be a good thing to do.
Losing interest in everything meant losing all intrinsic motivation. Everything I did was for some external reason. I noticed that Therapist was sometimes very expressive on my behalf, as though to show me how I would feel were I to have feelings. I’d describe some small event that seemed good and her face would light up and she’d bounce up in her seat as she talked. It is strange to need someone else to express feelings for you.
Since my husband and I have both been dealing with depression, we have not been able to provide this helpful emotional feedback for each other. Emotional blandness seems to be even more persistent for him than for me, so we are only occasionally able to cheerlead each other through low patches.
This spring is noticeably different. Sunshine lifts my mood; my children’s happiness is contagious. The church I attend now is a happy place for me and the smiles and handshakes I’m offered buoy me. It’s like I’m waking up. I’m still drowsy, but I am confident that God will open my eyes and get my heart rate back to normal after a while.
To read all the posts in the depression symptoms series, go here.