Wrapping up the month of November

Monday, November 28

The pain I’ve been dealing with is coming from the sciatic nerve. I’m going through physical therapy now and hope to be back to normal activities soon.

Tuesday, November 29

This morning started out with a sluggish weight and depression setting in. I’m not used to being home with nothing to do all day except think. I’m actually going this morning to talk to my mental health counselor and get a handle on my mood before it sinks into a full depressive episode.

I’m waiting to hear from both my doctor and my boss to see what the next few weeks will bring. I worked 4 days total in November, so this is going on a second month of sitting at home in pain and thinking too much.

Tuesday, November 29, later in the day:

My counselor was able to help me get back on track with a few statements we’ve talked about before. A) acknowledge that I am thinking negatively about myself; B) believe what is true about myself and God; and C) change the default. A) yes, I am in pain and am missing time from work; B) it isn’t easy, but God has never let me down and will help me through this challenge; and C) to try to stop the negative thoughts from taking root. Changing the way I think takes time and practice. I’ve done pretty well over the past few months but I needed some reminders. Thankfully I didn’t slide back into that pit of depression. God is awesome and His Word is true and powerful.

Wednesday, November 30

One of the steps to gaining back my mood balance is to “Change the Default.” That is something my counselor came up one day when something she was printing went to the default printer, and not to the one in her office. She told me that is like what I go through. Every time I struggle, I default my thoughts to blaming myself, self-judging, worrying about what people think about me. She said I needed to change the default thinking.

As I began to grasp that understanding, this is something I wrote down. A prayer of sorts, to read to myself when I need to remember that I am okay just the way I am.

I wrote this several years ago but it’s always good to refresh my way of thinking. 

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Feed the Light

It’s been a rough week.

I wish sometimes life would be good all the time, but that is not the case. Not for anyone. The tide ebbs and flows. The sun rises and the sun sets. Seasons change. We grow from helpless infants and travel through life only to find most of us helpless as we reach our final breath. The darkness comes at night, only to become light again as the sun rises.

“Feed the Light.”

Those were the words whispered in my ear last night.

As I said, it’s been a rough week. After some tests to find out what is causing abdominal pain, a doctor I saw in a walk-in clinic took time to talk to me about it and find out what was going on. She ordered an MRI so she can look at the big picture. I hope to find out what is causing the pain, yet if it is something serious, I don’t know if I want to know. People deal with pain all the time, but sometimes there are serious conditions causing that pain. Since I haven’t received a call to schedule the MRI yet, then there is nothing I can do but wait.

And pray.

And trust in God’s faithfulness.

I also may be facing laser surgery to correct glaucoma. It is a scary thought to me, to be so vulnerable to eye surgery. But without it, I could lose my eyesight. I have an appointment scheduled to see the specialist in December.

Again, there is nothing to do but wait.

And pray.

And trust in God’s faithfulness.

Our God is a good God, but not everything that happens in life is good.

We live in a fallen world full of darkness. God is our source of Light and Strength.

I wasn’t myself yesterday. I think the pain, the missed time from work, the fear of the unknown, all weighed heavy on my mind.

Late yesterday afternoon I found myself hurtled towards the darkness of the pit of depression.

“Feed the Light.”

Those words came to me.

I got out my phone and fired up my Spotify playlist.

This is the song that I played: “Rattle” by Elevation Worship. (Link to YouTube video below)

I couldn’t help but find the source of my strength and hope as I played the song.

This morning, I still don’t have answers. I still have pain. Yet I have found my hope.

I have avoided the dark pit of depression once again.

God is good. And faithful. He has promised to never leave me nor forsake me.

He is my Light.

The Lord is my light and my salvation—whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the stronghold of my life—of whom shall I be afraid? Psalm 27:1

Good Monday Morning: Sept. 26

This is the last Monday in September. This month went by so fast.

Summer is over and fall is here. That turning of the season was a difficult time for me when my kids were in school. It was as hard for me to shift from lazy summer mornings to bustling everyone out the door in time to catch the bus or drive to school. In fact, many years during this change of season, I suffered from increased anxiety.

It feels like I still experience the aftershock of those hectic days when this time of year rolls around. My mood shifted a few days ago. A little bit of depression is creeping in, stealing my motivation and my joy. That affects my mindset and my thoughts turn inward. I self-reflect and pick out the negatives instead of focusing on the positive.

It’s time for another appointment with my counselor. I can get through this, but I need a little help to sort through my emotions.

Three years ago I was on top of my game. I was in great health and my first novella was about to be released.

Two years ago, I had good lab results and felt physically stronger than I ever had, but I struggled to find a job. Finances became a hardship. I learned how to cook dry beans and make up my own soups, as well as portion out the meat that I ate so that it stretched farther.

Last year, I’d already started to let down my guard, not paying attention to what I ate and not exercising regularly. I had some disappointments that I couldn’t seem to get over.

In November last year, I began working with children’s church. Like I often do, I came up with my own ideas for curriculum. For the next few months, I focused on preparing lessons weekly with Bible stories, games and crafts. It didn’t matter to me that we only had 1-3 kids most Sundays. It was a lot of fun for me to get back into the area of children’s ministry that I enjoyed when my kids were little.

I decided that last year, in 2021, I chased after things that weren’t important. I decided that in 2022, I would focus on what God had planned for me.

I spend a lot of time working on curriculum to use in our local church and in preparation for future publishing.

Although I have several ideas for Christian fiction, I haven’t written anything this year. I keep thinking I want to get something going, but I don’t have the drive.

I can’t tell if it’s because the church curriculum consumes all of my creative energy or if it’s wrter’s block that’s lasted for several months.

Maybe a little bit of both?

As any of you who follow my blog can tell, I’ve been lax this summer in writing new posts. One thing I have continued is the Pet Tails Series. I’ve requested photos and stories of pets who are available for adoption from our local animal rescue coalition. The last one named Hash brown almost tempted me to seek adoption.

My “baby,” my Black Lab named Rosie, turns thirteen next month and is slowing down. I think she may have a tumor and plan to call the vet this week and get her an appointment. I don’t really want another dog to replace her, but after my husband died, she was the only reason I went outside the house. She’s been a good companion in spite of her stubbornness and occasional digging into the trash. I don’t know when but we will be saying goodbye to her sooner rather than later.

I don’t think I will get another dog, however. We have several cats. Adding a puppy or even an older dog to the household will be more work for me. I’d like to do some traveling in a couple of years and I don’t want the responsibility of a dog that I’d have to ask someone else to take care of while I’m gone.

Then there is the expense: Vet visits, spaying or neutering, shots, as well as food. My kids have been paying for all of that over this past year as I have struggled financially. I can’t afford another dog until my finances get sqared away. I’m working on budgeting but there isn’t much left over after bills to budget.

I have to believe that will all change one day, hopefully sooner rather than later. I made some poor decisions in the past that have put me in this situation. I am unable to work full time due to mental health issues. But I’ve missed a lot of part time hours this summer due to illness or said issues.

The Passport Journey curriculum has gone amazingly well and is still a fun project for me. I’m also working on a series called Hall of Faith, based on Hebrews 11 and am making trading cards to go along with the stories. I’m also working on New Testament stories that we can begin in January if God directs us to.

So there are some positive things in my life, I just have to look a little harder for them right now. I’m also making the commitment to eating healthier and exercising more often, but we all know how hard it is to stick with those good habits.

I hope you all have a good week and I’ll see you back here soon!

Oh, and I’ve lined up some author interviews and book features for the next few months so I can introduce you to some great Christian fiction.

From the Archives: Get Up and Try Again

Week 4 of my Journey out of the Pit

During the process of healing from my depression, I found that maintaining change was hard work. After just a few weeks of counseling sessions, I was already failing in my attempts to get out of the pit.

I felt like I was in a downward cycle. I felt overwhelmed. I couldn’t maintain the house or remind myself of the truths I’d memorized.

I couldn’t find my way back out of the pit.

My counselor shared with me these Bible verses from Job:

Job 23:8-10

“But if I go to the east, he is not there;
    if I go to the west, I do not find him.
When he is at work in the north, I do not see him;
    when he turns to the south, I catch no glimpse of him.
10 But he knows the way that I take;
    when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold.

My counselor said that even though I couldn’t find God in my life, He knew where I was.

He was with me in the pit even though I couldn’t see Him.

My feelings were all over the place. My counselor reminded me that feelings are not facts. That’s why I needed to latch onto the truths I had learned.

She also said that it’s okay to slip and fall. But I had to make a choice: I could lie in the pit, or I could apply the tools I’d learned and continue to move forward.

It’s okay to pray, “No, I really can’t do this, but God, if You help me, I’ll try.”

In those low moments, we need go back to these verses in Job. God knows where we are. He is with us, even when we don’t feel His presence or see Him.

And we don’t give up hope.

We get back up, and we try again.

It’s now been several years since I began the process of healing from depression. I wish I could say that it’s easy, but it has ups and downs. I slid back into the pit a couple of times, but never as low as I was before I started counseling.

These days, I live above the pit. By the Grace of God, applying what I’ve learned through counseling, and with support of family and friends, I can fight the darkness that drags me to the edge.

I stand strong most of the time, but sometimes a person says things that hit me wrong, I make a mistake that I perceive as dumb, or a circumstance that I can’t avoid happens. (Like when a new job didn’t work out–more than once).

Then my feelings start to get in the way of the truths I have learned about myself. I falter in my steps and slide a little closer to the pit.

When that happens, I do these things:

I attend counseling sessions so my counselor can help me get back on track.

I also read my Bible often, and pray for myself and for others.

I listen to music. With a music app, I can set up a playlist for every mood.

I take care of myself physically through regular exercise, healthy eating choices and getting enough sleep. (Not always, but often enough to make a difference in how I feel).

I do a lot of journaling, as well as other forms of writing.

I have friends and family who offer emotional support.

My counselor said I remind her of the Energizer bunny. Remember those commercials? I slip, I fall sometimes, but I always get back up and try again to move forward.

Proverbs 24:16 says:

” for though the righteous fall seven times, they rise again”

It’s by the grace of God and all of the above-mentioned efforts that I am able to keep out of the pit.

Still, one year later and 8.5 years after my first counseling appointment, I need to reset my mind and thoughts often. I don’t handle change very well, and my social anxiety is sometimes off the charts. But the only way to move is forward.

Psalm 46:1 says it all:

God is our refuge and strength,
    an ever-present help in trouble.

From the Archive: Tools to Change

Week 3 of my Journey out of the Pit

I’ve shared in previous posts that 1) the rungs to help us climb out of the pit are the truths about ourselves; and 2) our feelings are not facts.

After the first two sessions, I was still integrating the new thought patterns into my life. One night, I was feeling down and negative about myself. I was in physical pain.

I looked back at my counseling notes and remembered:

One day at a time…THIS is the day that the Lord has made…

I remembered a pastor’s message to “make a joyful noise.”

I started to sing (I don’t remember what song). After a few wobbly notes, I was singing praise songs.

I spent time in my room, with Itunes playing on my laptop, and relaxed for half an hour. Physical pain subsided as I quieted my thoughts.

The next time I met with my counselor, she reminded me of these Bible verses:

James 4:7-8

Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. 8(a) Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you.

She encouraged me to resist the negative thoughts that had dragged me into depression and to turn and embrace God, who is powerful.

When we say, “Help me,” His Spirit comes in and rescues us.

The journey out of depression is like taking baby steps.

My counselor gave me some tools to help me in my battle with depression:

Get out in the sunlight.
Do something to move. Get my body in motion.
Deep breathing
Muscle relaxing
Picturing a quiet place (which for me was our friend’s cabin on the river)
Thinking of a hymn or song
Remembering helpful Scripture verses

Change is uncomfortable, but without it, we can’t grow. Change isn’t going to happen by accident, but by applying the tools I’ve learned and working on myself.

I thought of myself as damaged goods, but Jesus paid the price for my sins because to God I am worthwhile. I have value.

Therefore, I need to take care of myself.