Christine Duncan

Precepts & Life Preservers

Tag: Depression Awareness (page 1 of 2)

Your Struggle, His Instrument

 

Do you wonder what good is ever going to come of the trials you're in? He may choose to use it...

God’s been speaking to me a lot lately about how He can use my struggles with depression as an instrument of His voice.

Immediately, two things happened.

My brain did a complete inventory of all the things I could bring to the table that were way shinier and better than my ongoing battle with chronic D.

You know, in case He didn’t already know.

And second, I quickly and lamely replied, “Lord? My struggle hasn’t concluded yet. No healing to show for. No mind-bending progress. In fact, I’m still pretty broken some days.”

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Make Awe A Real Thing

Chronic Depression can be tricky.

If you’re not careful, it’s easy to almost WAIT for it to arrive. After all, it seeps into your days more often than not… you can see it coming, for the most part, and so it’s easy to give up before you even get started. It’s easy to just hang out and wait for what you’re sure might happen.
Maybe you’re anxious about it showing up. And the more you direct your thoughts to when it might happen, the more your thoughts will simply obey.

I gotta speak to both your heart and mine today because it doesn’t have to be that way.

Sometimes we need help to snap out of it… not the depression, no, that’s a giant myth that still lingers. But sometimes we need to snap out of our waiting for it to arrive. Our waiting will rob us of decent moments, and glorious ones. Our over-thinking will cause us to simply slip into more depressed thinking… one feeds the other if we keep thinking too much.

I could get into cognitive thought therapy, and changing the root behavior of our tendencies and attitudes, but sometimes that’s too much for our swamped brains to take in.

Sometimes we need to STOP all the thinking, period. Which sounds counter-productive to working on our mental health, but it’s actually where a relatively unused tool comes into play, wiping our thought patterns out completely, and resetting our “happiness” levels in a more natural way.


When was the last time you felt in AWE?


So much in awe, that you are swept away from your own natural inner musings and doubts, and simply are in a moment without anticipating the worst.

So in awe, you forget that you could be depressed right then.

No? Hasn’t happened in a while? Then we need to make Awe a real thing.

A tool for managing the thing that keeps crashing your mental, spiritual, emotional, or physical party.

I’ll give you some examples, but what makes me stand in awe of something won’t necessarily be what works for you. It’ll be up to each of us to decide what that is… but whatever it is needs to thoroughly take you out of your element. It needs to engage you so thoroughly that your brain has to stop thinking, and readjust. Scramble to catch up so to speak.

My best example? It’s always worked with new environments for me. I visited London, England a few years back for a photography job for some sweet friends of mine… and being thrust into a completely different geographic, different bustle, different vibe… made me feel renewed. It was one of the healthiest weeks I’d had in a long time. Why? I was in awe! The architecture, the landscapes, the countryside, the people, the food, the job… they removed me from anything familiar and allowed me to be distracted from my poorer thought patterns.

The same with a more recent trip to Newfoundland. In awe of nature, or the people, of long missed friends, of time on the ocean… depression? What depression? And it isn’t that you’re tricked into thinking you’re better suddenly, elsewhere. And it isn’t that you’ve run away. It’s that your brain can’t help but reset when you inadvertently boost your neurotransmitters in charge of dopamine, serotonin, and anything else that suddenly enhances your mood.

Awe does that unlike anything else.

I realize we can’t just pack a bag and whisk ourselves off to some exotic locale every time we want to feel something positive. But there are other examples and they do the same thing.

Huge theatrical productions with lights and colours and swelling music.
Music, performed live, or just so beautiful or worshipful that you can’t help but turn the volume up till your house wants to burst at the seams.
Inspirational true stories on the big screen work for me. I’m removed from my worry and obsessing and pulled into something awesome.
Something culturally different, where you experience something so new you’re blown away.
Museums!
Volunteer holding newborns!
Swim with manta rays!
Giving of your time to a new charity or volunteering for an organization. When you see how hopeless someone else’s situation seems and then you experience firsthand their gratitude and watch their transformation, are involved in how a life is changed, you receive a gift too… a mental one.

Awe creates new ground for more powerful moods that you thought were dormant, never to be felt again, forgotten in your constant dogging of all those low moods you’re too familiar with.

Sometimes we have to work at awe. I won’t lie. But when your attitude is like that of a child’s, delighting in things, finding the magic in things, being fascinated by something, then our moods get a much-needed boost.

I easily stand in awe of the Creator. Out on my back deck, looking up at the sky, knowing how incredibly complex our galaxy within other galaxies can be. How complex moons, and stars and black holes are. What gravity does, keeping us safe and connected within our little pocket of the universe. That fact I can’t see the roaming breeze itself, and can’t see the atoms that connect everything either…
I spend a great deal of time outside, it connects me to the Almighty, and in turn, I’m driven to stand in awe, which in turn banishes my chemical prison for long enough that I rest and reset.


The Awe we need isn’t about denial or pretending.


It’s a real tool, the thing that reminds us that there’s something bigger, and more grand, and that new things will come if we’re patient. If we try a different kind of waiting. If we embrace the boost to our souls. A hope-filled reset.

Awe is tricky too.

It requires us to put down our negativity, our pessimism, and our hang-ups. We have to put away our disbelief, and doubt, and fear, and cynicism. There has to be room for awe.

I can only ask you to try it. To occupy your brain and your heart with something magnificent. Ask God to do that for you! When we dwell on the very amazing things of God and of His Word, the scripture says we renew our minds. Our poor tired, frazzled, incapacitated minds will be given a make-over. Respite!
I want that.

Respite from the depression or moods that have a chronic grip on us. Yes. Available with just a simple tool.

We need to make Awe a real thing again.

image by christine duncan

image by christine duncan

The Balancing Act

I have a view of the street from my home office.

It’s nice. There’s a tree right outside the window, there’s the blue sky over the park just beyond the houses, there’s a guy up on a ladder…

It’s true. To my immediate left is a guy, on a huge ladder.

Seems he’s replacing trim and adding trim, and installing trim… all up on this ladder. And he works away up there, looking like it’s nothing to be up on a ladder, balanced on the last rung, hands free while he uses them to hold, measure, cut, glue…. he leans one way, then the other, sometimes slightly away from the house. I cringe.

Ex-Cirque Du Soleil performer, disenchanted with circus life, tired of being someone’s clown, fed up with being tossed in the ring, looking for meaningful work that doesn’t require a dramatic Celine Dion soundtrack?

No idea, but he has GREAT balance. Probably comes from years of doing what he does, day in, day out.

And don’t our lives all need a little balancing.

But more often than not, we seem doomed to suffer from extremes. And when that happens, we lose our balance.

This is important for everyone, not just people with chronic depression or mood disorders. Balance often requires us to acknowledge that something in our life might be off. Might be consuming us. Might be taking up spiritual, mental, emotional, or physical space.

And I’m not just talking about the chemical kind of imbalance my brain has, although that’s a serious enough imbalance to begin with. But I’m also talking about the things we try to keep up in the air, that we try to control, that we try to embrace.

Extremes are all those things that make it hard to get back to routine. They don’t just take up space, but they put you into difficult positions. They’re hard to recover from when they gain momentum. They take control and now you’re only playing catch up. With the life you’ve been blessed with. With the life you’ve been called to. With the life that should be alive!

Stop for a second and think about what those things could be right now. What’s off kilter for you? What consumes your thoughts or your time to the extent that it has this unhealthy and very obvious hold on you and leaves little room for something simpler, or better, more exciting, or more important.

And is it because it ran you down before you realized it was coming at you, or is it because you’ve encouraged it?

It’s easy to allow something to overtake you when your defense mechanisms aren’t what they should be.

For someone like me, with some of the symptoms I experience, this can truly be the case.  Hard to juggle all of life’s demands, hard to get a better perspective, hard to regain your balance when your brain and your body decide things for you. How much sleep you’ll be allowed. How long you can focus for. How long you can drum up a response instead of cave in, run and hide, decide none of this struggle is worth it.

I found myself saying this, “I’ll figure this all out when I’m better.”

There’s just one problem.

Getting better, for me, is a constant process. Life is a constant process. And when I don’t “get to the end” of better, instead of reasoning that I’m a work in progress, I become despondent, I become frustrated, I feel like better might never come.

Know the feeling?

We have a couple of options instead of wobbling on the top rung of life, our arms doing that “windmill” technique like in any good 80’s cartoon. (Scooby Doo, I’m talking to you here.) So exhausting and precarious.

Our first option. To get off the ladder. To decide to surrender. Today just isn’t the day you have any balance, and so you’re done before you get started. Which sometimes we’re compelled to do, once in a while, forced back down by circumstances we have no control over…. but if you never get back up that ladder to your life, you’ll never really live either.

I decided a while ago that THAT was no option for the long-term. I decided that waiting till I was better was a useless decision unless I worked AT getting better. Otherwise, I could be waiting forever!

So we come to the second option. Go one rung at a time. Test it out, go slow, find all the ways you can reach and stretch and lean and extend from that first rung, and then the next.
Pacing yourself, conditioning yourself, becoming stronger and more agile, every step trusting the “Life Trainer” to catch you if you fall. If you lose that sense of balance. Because we are spiritual beings, we need the Creator to infuse our growth with His perspective, with His good things filling you up, with His patience and grace and strength.
Don’t believe you can just do it on your own. That’s a lie. The best performers have the best balancing abilities way up high because they had the best of the best coaching and guiding them.

Constant work, taking care of their health, listening and learning from the One who goes before them, and then taking one rung at a time.

I hope you heard what I said.

“From the One who goes before you.”

You’re not the only one doing this. If you decide to, you can have your safety lines attached to the One who will never fail. He is the ultimate security. 

What does this mean for me, living and managing Dysthymia, an unpredictable condition most days?

It means I trust in the Life Preserver. Because sometimes things become overwhelming, exhausting, and out of my own control. But I have a huge promise. A promise that He’ll never make me do all the heavy lifting. All the grunt work. All the battling.

The promise?

Isaiah 41:10
Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.

Joshua 1:9
Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

Deuteronomy 1:30
The LORD your God is going ahead of you. He will fight for you, just as you saw him do in Egypt.

He goes before me! I have a safety line linked to the Good Shepherd and Jehovah. When I can’t anticipate what’s coming at me, He can. He goes BEFORE me. He sees it way before I feel it. The Life Preserver holds on and regardless of how things might “feel” I can know I am SAFE. When I dwell there, with Him, I don’t need to see everything coming to try to knock me off my balance. Sometimes He just leans in and shelters me till we can continue the climb.

Like Moses, like the Israelites, like Joshua, like Esther, like David, we can have an ultimate life line cinched tightly to the One who can deliver us.

If you don’t trust your trainer, you’ll never gain your balance.

And I’d hate to have you stranded half way up by lesser securities. With no where to go.

Where do you need guidance? Where do you need the ultimate Coach? Where are you lacking balance?

Time to put a new perspective on this. You’ll have a way more rewarding view than the guy out my window, that’s for sure.

Trust the Trainer.

Keep your eyes heavenward, and regain your balance!

image by christine duncan

image by christine duncan

 

 

Word Power

Words. They’re tricky little suckers, aren’t they?

I don’t need to tell you that words have the power to build someone up, or tear someone down. That they can bring out the positive, or the negative. They can comfort and heal, and they can hurt and damage.

Poor choice of words can happen without any warning. The worst feeling in the world is knowing you had the best of intentions but you tripped and stumbled and your words ended up having the opposite effect you were going for. Open mouth, insert foot, wish the floor would swallow you up… gosh, how many times have I done that? Too many to count.

So trust me when I say, I’m posting today with a heart of true understanding. I’m posting today knowing that sometimes we just aren’t aware of the magnitude of a situation. I’m posting today as one of the millions who have shoved a foot in their mouth so many times I could take my act on the road as Christine The Contortionist Extraordinaire.

And with this humble heart, I ask you to consider a few words and phrases you should steer clear of when conversing with someone who’s depressed, and being open about it in conversation.

Deep breath. Here we go….

  1. Oh, I get that ALL the time!”  Well, that may be true if you are ALSO a fellow sufferer, with a diagnosis, and living under treatment… but in general, we sufferers don’t even say this to one another. That “oh” as a sentence starter implies to the listener that what you’re living with is nothing really, that everyone “gets it” sometimes, and that it’s really this irritating little thing that you need to get past.
    Yes, well, when it renders you unable to leave the house for days, causes you to stare at a ringing phone like it was a nuclear bomb about to go off, and you panic so hard just thinking of being in public that you curl up in a ball for hours and cry… I think we CAN safely say that it’s a little more serious than that. My struggle doesn’t look anything like your average irritation at having to run out for milk in the rain, or realizing you have to wear yesterdays pants cause the laundry is still in the washer… they are not the same. So let’s collectively agree NOT to say this anymore, no matter WHO we’re talking to? Wonderful!
  2. Well you know what you need to do….?”  Ah, this one’s a doozy, and this comes from the most well-intentioned people on the planet, it really does. I’ve done it, you’ve done it. They often do have your best interest at heart, with a small portion who just simply love to give out random advice on everything from how to painlessly remove nasal hair to how to market those tiny sweaters you could be knitting out of all those dust bunnies lying around under the couch… which, by the way,  could be cleaned WAY more effectively if you use soap that only comes from that special plant from Bora Bora like they do. Um… let’s just let the professional hand out the advice, hmmm? And on top of that, usually you’re giving said advice without fully realizing the implication that even if they COULD do what you say, it would mean they’d need to feel better already, just to do it! I have two words for you.
    Vicious circle, friends, vicious circle.
  3. So this is fun, let’s do another! How about the ol’ “So? How are you feeling, todaaaaaaaay?
    This comes from someone who really is aware you suffer from some form of disorder or depression, or really any complex and difficult circumstance, and really and truly, they’re just not sure how to ask you how you are! They actually don’t want to offend, and they actually don’t want to bring attention to “it” so this either gets asked in hushed tones, or spoken like the listener suddenly doesn’t speak the language. Todaaaaaay implies that they really want to know, is this a good time to be around you, or should they tiptoe away while the getting’s good. This one kind of makes me chuckle. If it was a bad day, a really bad day, you wouldn’t even see me in order to ask me, so…..

I could go on and on. Maybe I’ll do a part two next week. And I don’t say all this to be heartless or cruel. Some folks honestly don’t know to avoid these phrases. And some days, this could actually cause them bodily harm if said to the wrong person at the wrong time, TRUST me. So let’s change what we say, and when we say it.
Let me give you the three examples above, only in words we gladly welcome.

Instead of “Oh, I get that all the time!” try saying, “I’m really sorry my friend, I can’t imagine what that must feel like most days! You know if you ever need me, I’m here.” Simple, easy, implies you want to understand and that this is a huge deal. It really means a lot when someone lets down their guard and is real with me in a conversation. Makes my day better.

Instead of “Well, you know what you need to do…” you can try saying, “If ever you need someone to listen, I’m around. And one day, when you feel up to it, I’m pretty sure I know someone else who’s struggled with this. They’d love to meet you. They definitely know where you’re coming from.” And if you don’t know someone else, refrain from smothering them with “helpful” information. Again, it’s only helpful if the sufferer can wrap their heads around even implementing  it at all. And everyone’s disorder, or issue, or circumstance is unique. It’s not like putting a band-aid on a cut. What gets me, is that these people usually only pop up for a short time cause they’re dying to give their miracle cures, and then you rarely see them again, especially when it counts. Please, don’t be that person!
And if you see someone exhibiting signs of depression, do NOT take it on yourself to “fix” them… doctors, therapists, nutritionists, organizations, they’re all accessible and ready to help.

Lastly, instead of “How are we “feeling” today…..? you are free to simply ask, “How are ya?” As in, the normal start of a normal conversation “how are ya?” Sufferers don’t want to keep re-evaluating if they’re still okay. If they are showing up to things, if they’re talking with people, if they’re showered, if their body language seems at ease (this is a big indication folks) and they don’t look like they can’t wait to leave, then 9 times out of 10, they really are fine for the moment. Let them enjoy that feeling. This means paying attention to when you suddenly can’t find them… anywhere… for any reason. When they’re missing from social media for days, when emails aren’t being replied to and they normally would, when phones aren’t being answered. When they miss a huge special occasion. When they’re “too busy” but no one has seen them personally… then you need to find out how they’re doing. Please.

Again, I say all this because I’ve done this in other situations, and was mortified later to find out that I hadn’t chosen the best words. And usually, the listener was very gracious and simply went with the flow. If that was you, I owe you an apology…

And one of those tiny dust bunny sweaters I’ve just finished knitting.

Words. So much power.

408 J

 

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