RESTLESS IS TOO CLOSE TO RECKLESS

By Lisa Huddleston

road-sign-mountain-road-along-sea-35093993“The opposite of depression is not happiness, but vitality, and it was vitality that seemed to seep away from me in that moment,” (Andrew Solomon, “Depression, the Secret We Share,” TED Talk.)

“Only let us live up to what we have already attained,” (Philippians 3:16).

As I have begun to share more of my life journey with depression, I have received many kind and encouraging words from close friends and family as well as from those whom I barely know or even people I have never met. I appreciate the heartfelt support more than I can say. However, it is obvious within just a few sentences whether or not the person reaching out to me has had personal experience with clinical depression. And if you have not, rejoice that depression is not your burden—I know we all have our own to carry, and I am sure I don’t “get” all of your struggles either. No judgment.

I guess the understanding I hope to share today is that depression is not the same thing as being sad—or at least not the kind of depression I experience. For me, being depressed feels more like being exhausted. I don’t want to do anything at all, and that is probably a good thing because when depression is at its worst, I truly can’t do anything but sleep. And for a while, sleeping is exactly the best thing for me to do.

But as I have been slowly recovering from this episode, a familiar and much more difficult sensation has reappeared; I still don’t want to do anything in particular, but I am so restless that I can’t sleep the day away. I am so antsy! And again, for me, restless is way too close to reckless. At this stage, it would be very easy for me to make decisions that could be rash or possibly even dangerous. And because I have traveled this road before, I know the importance of caution and awareness right now.

Happily just about an hour or so ago, I make a good choice to go down to my yoga mat in the basement and do a 30 minute workout with a dvd yogi. I had been working out 3 to 4 times a week before my recent dive, but I have not exercised for this whole month! I knew I was not going to be where I was before—and I could tell that I have lost some ground—but at least I wasn’t where I was before I began practicing yoga. I still had some ground left on the positive side of my low point. And for that ground, however small it may be, I am grateful.

And so, I am still trending in the right direction. The two steps forward are still making some headway, and that is a truth I need to hold onto. As my vitality returns in starts and spurts, I must be mindful not to let restless become reckless. I need to see with clear eyes that all is not lost and in fact some things have even been gained.

And I hope this increase in wisdom can be shared. As I repeat many parts of my journey, I am learning (I hope) to recognize the warning signs of each leg and beginning to negotiate the rocky road a little better, to see the danger before I drive off the cliff. That is very good.

For those of you on a similar path, I hope my words give hope and that you, too, will be mindful of the better directions you can go when restlessness hits. And for those of you who love us but just don’t really “get it”, I hope you will understand some of these stages just a little better. And that, too, is very good.

So–to my fellow travelers along the winding depression road (and to myself), “You better check yourself before you wreck yourself!” Only half the day left to go…. I’m praying for mindfulness and truth to rule the hours.

Amen.

A ONE-STEP-BACK-KIND-OF-DAY

By Lisa Huddleston

Unknown

I’m sure once you read this post you will think I may be delusional—and it won’t be the first time I’ve been called that in the last couple of weeks—but I am certain that this day or the devil or fate or at least some dark, evil entity who lives in my own mind is conspiring against my determination to break free from this episode of depression.

It is a dark, gray, dreary day with light rain coming and going. I have nothing much on my agenda. I am alone for the whole day. This month’s edition of my favorite magazine is all about dying and death. My doctor has strongly suggested I cut back on caffeine. And I just received a kind word from someone about whom I feel overwhelming guilt for how I utterly failed her when she was in need.

Yes. I guess this is that one-step-back-kind-of-day the doctor was talking about.

So how do I handle it? I sense anxiety in the middle of my chest and kind of hovering with slight nausea over my stomach. It feels a little like hunger pains so I could try eating. However, I know that nothing I can eat or drink will really help it so I haven’t bothered with either (except for my two measly cups of coffee.) No, snacking my way through the day won’t help a bit and will backfire into making me feel even worse.

I could call a friend, text someone, initiate contact, but I don’t feel energetic enough for all that talking. And besides, I know what kinds of things they’ll say. Sweet, encouraging, somewhat frustrated words they have shared many times before. I know I am letting them down by not “cheering up” or by “tearing myself down.” But I am delusional here, remember? What do you expect?

I could and should read the book I must finish before next week’s book club which I am actually hosting and need to figure out a way to get excited over. What refreshments will I serve? What discussion questions can I find or write? I know I loved this book once, but right now I can’t even concentrate on reading it. Oh well—they love me; they’ll understand. (Not a delusion.)

I could try to weave something—I’ve had a vague desire to bring out that strange triangle loom to work on. That may be simplistic and Zen enough for today. It would fill my time and keep my hands busy and even engage my cloudy mind a bit. Good qualities for this one-step-back-kind-of-day.

And, of course, first of all I will write and share my personal intimate thoughts with all of my millions of readers! (Now I am just joking—not that delusional!)

Sounds like a plan, and God knows it would be good to have one today. Idle hands (and minds) really are the devil’s workshop—especially when one is delusional enough to think that all this sharing may be helpful to someone else as much as it is to me.

Got a plan for your one-step-back days? Love to hear your ideas. And remember, the next two steps should be/could be/hopefully will be forward!

 

THANKFUL FOR TWO STEPS FORWARD

By Lisa Huddleston

6a00d83452b15969e20176168da4c1970c-800wi_zpsd1cf0eae

I have just spent the last hour or so cleaning up my messy office, filing papers and magazines and other junk that has been lying all over my desk for the past few months, putting away pencils and pens (finding my “lost” scissors!), and generally tidying up around my workspace. This and other recent actions demonstrating an interest in my surroundings cause me tentatively to feel hope regarding my mental state. I think I am beginning to feel more like me again. Just maybe the cloud is lifting.

Friday evening I attended a Creative Arts Potluck at church and thoroughly enjoyed the discussion at my table, the music performed by the singer/songwriter, and the “talk” given by the visual artist. I even felt a tiny tingling urge to create again. Although it is a little scary because I am not at all sure of myself, just wanting to create is a sign of returning health. As is the fact that I am writing this post.

Frankly, even my previous post expressing huge frustration over how long it has taken to get the help I need was a good sign of me becoming me. I was at least writing something.

So … breathe in, breathe out. And wait to see if the trend continues. I just talked to my doctor, and he too sounded hopeful; although he reminded me that it will probably be two steps forward, one step back for a while.

And why am I writing this post today? Do I really need to share my personal medical situation with random readers?

Yeah–I think I do. I want to encourage anyone who may be feeling like I have been to begin the process toward recovery today. As I wrote last week, it may be a long road before you find the help you need. The sooner you start taking steps in the right direction the better.

First step: talk to people you trust to get references for the name of a trustworthy counselor. That may seem obvious, but it can take a while and could be harder than you think. I reached out to three friends who I know have experienced depression, but I did not actually see a counselor for several weeks because of the time taken writing emails back and forth, scheduling conflicts, and so on.

Second step: ask your counselor for the name of a good psychiatrist who can manage your medications if any are needed. I have gone the route of getting antidepressants from a general practitioner’s office in previous depressive episodes and felt very much as though I was acting as my own psychiatrist–I asked for what I wanted, and they gave it to me. Seeing a psychiatrist was a very scary step for me, but a necessary one. I need to have someone who is a better psychopharmacologist than I am choosing and managing my medications. It has been a great help being able to ask any questions I have and receiving well-considered, educated, and experienced answers that I can trust in response. Hugely helpful!

Third step: stick with it. There have been many times over the past few months when I have wanted to give up trying and just sleep. But this morning I am thankful to have hung in there in the strength I had–through the anxiety, the nausea, the self-loathing, the doubt, the shame, the humbling step of asking others for help, and so on. I have hope again. And hope means the world to me.

I have learned a lot in both my research and experience. Depression like mine is likely to return–but treating it quickly and in the best possible ways can help to lessen both its frequency and severity. I am thankful for those who are willing to speak out despite the stigma, because their experiences have helped me to get moving in the right direction–even if it is still two steps forward and one step back. And that is why I am writing to share my experience today. I hope it makes a difference for someone else (maybe you?). Hope truly means the world to us all.

I recommend Andrew Solomon’s work, The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression, if you are interested in learning more about this illness and its treatment.

Special thanks to all of you who contacted me saying you were praying for me when I couldn’t pray for myself. God is faithful.

SILENT PRAYER AND PERSEVERANCE

1277243_10201893710251110_1529264531_o

By Lisa Huddleston

It was February when we decided it was time for me to seek help again. My energy was waning; my interests were fading away. For a while obsessive reading hid how bad things really were, but eventually that passion also dulled and became a chore.

It is now July–five months later–and the struggle continues. Despite a wonderful counselor and a well-respected physician, even my faith has begun to pale. I can barely pray, and I hardly ever attempt to write–my truest form of prayer. For a while my cry was, “Lord, hang on to me!” And so, I suppose, that is what He is doing now in the absence of my supplications.

As words have failed, only signs and symbols remain burned into my flesh like words once burned in my heart. To communicate that I am not well. To imitate the stripes by which we all are healed. To echo the Spirit’s moans and groans. To punish and to pray.

I fear a wasted life, but I ardently love my family and so hatred and love twist and twine to braid the rope that ties me to this place. Like God holds me here, their love is a tether for my soul. To wait for restoration. For five months or six or however long it will take.

Amen.

RECONCILIATION

By Lisa Huddleston

I know it’s very late to be posting a Father’s Day poem; but it came to me in the middle of the night, and I wrote it down on my phone. Maybe it’s something someone needs to read.

 

Peace.

Peace.

Forgiven but too late to be reconciled

Sharp wit dulled by disease

Old love dulled by distance

Even the ability to speak erased

No awkward card to buy this year

A sad relief

But a father-less Father’s Day for real this time was a shock

No hope of maybe next year

Maybe one more visit

Maybe one more chance to hear or to say the words

But maybe this year

I am sorry enough for us both

I LOVE WORDS!

19423_10206576787165106_1520447760895515137_nBy Lisa Huddleston

I have not been writing at all. It distresses me more than a little, but as I’ve considered it I realize that I have not been spending my time in vain and have been devoting a large percentage of it to my first love—words. (You know what I mean, dear husband. Not as much as I love you!)

As I write those words, I laugh remembering a time when I blurted out around a Wednesday night church supper table that “I love words!” First there was silence. Then odd, smirky smiles. Then a chuckle and an “I’ve never heard that one before.” Ah, I know you loved me, but I’m a hard one to understand apparently.

But back to the words. No, I haven’t been writing, but I have been reading with an unquenchable thirst. Fiction, nonfiction, trashy (in a clean sense) and classic. Philosophy. Psychology. Theology. Just about whatever comes my way. I cannot seem to get enough words.

Rabbit trail warning: On the flipside of that, I am morosely tired of negative words. (Is that even a possible condition?) You know the kind I mean. Stupid words. Hate-filled social media crap. (Insert smiling pile of poo emoji. I love that one!) Really, people? Please, think before you post. Didn’t anyone teach you that if you can’t say anything nice about someone then you shouldn’t say anything at all? Ugh.

So anyway … I know it is bad for a blog to lie still for so long, but my stillness is not an unproductive one. It is a time for refilling, recharging, and rethinking—even some difficult relearning.

Here’s my recent reading list in no particular order. Don’t judge. I’ve enjoyed it all in different ways!

11265026_10206585692147725_8078798616832399983_nFor lighter reading (not a denigrating assignation at all–just an easier read):

  • The novels of Liane Moriarity—I think I’ve consumed nearly all in the last few months. Girl stuff that makes me laugh out loud as I see myself and my friends in every story.
  • The Miss Peregrin’s Peculiar Children series by Ransom Riggs. Odd, quirky, and delightful reading—can’t wait for the next installment.
  • The Alchemist by Paolo Coelho is celebrating its 25th anniversary edition, and I just got around to reading it. I think I would have liked it more 25 years ago, but it was still a good read for an older chick like me. “To realize one’s destiny is a person’s only obligation”—hmm, well maybe?

And for the heavier I-really-love-words stuff:

  • I finally met Wallace Stegner and have greatly enjoyed both Crossing to Safety and Angle of Repose. How did I not know about this author and these novels? They both grabbed me right in the heart, squeezed tightly, and let go with a deep-felt sigh.
  • I read My Sunshine Away, by M.O. Walsh for the little book club I’m in and love that although it deals with a disturbing incident of childhood rape, it oddly managed to make me feel more positive about real life and ordinariness.
  • The Gifts of Imperfection, by Brene Brown literally is a gift. I first heard her thoughts in a TEDtalk and immediately identified and fell in love with her unassuming way of looking at shame (cringe) and imperfection. Great, great stuff for an imperfect perfectionist like me!
  • Ann Patchett is another author I had not read until fairly recently—a Nashville girl and another voice I recognize deep in my heart. Bel Canto and State of Wonder are thought-provoking and caused me to consider who I would be if I were not comfortably perched in my safe and familiar nest.
  • Finally, The Noonday Demon: An Atlas of Depression by Andrew Solomon. Whew!

What’s next? Well, I have a couple of possibilities waiting in the wings and will be getting a new book club assignment on Monday (yay!). The Analytic Theist by Alvin Plantinga is one I have nibbled on and will be eating in small bites throughout the next few months, and The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt will probably be the next novel I read—maybe this weekend or next week.

So, come on now–spill. What’s on your reading list for the summer? If my appetite continues as is, I will need to know! Because, yes, I LOVE WORDS!

 

 

AT THE TABLE

By Lisa Huddleston

imagesToday I stayed at the table in our classroom at the Adult Learning Center during the break time. Many had left the room, and those of us who remained were a diverse group: a young woman from Mexico, a middle-aged man from Egypt, an African American woman in her forties, and me—a mid-50’s white woman. Two of the four of us were hoping to become American citizens, and two of us were born with that privilege.

Sadly I listened as my friends shared stories of delay and prejudice and discouragement. One told a story of a young son crying when he came home from school and asking his parents why he had to have brown skin. Another told a story about a random encounter in a McDonald’s playground in which a complete stranger declared in front of the children that she “did not like Mexicans.” And still another talked with frustration about waiting for over 16 years and still not being accepted as a citizen of this country. And I literally wept.

I wept because people don’t take the time to get to know each other. I wept because until I began working as a volunteer at the center, I frankly didn’t care enough about the issues of immigration. I wept, because I also unbelievably still heard prejudice being voiced by one who sat at the table with us. And I still feel like weeping for that one who has not yet received ears to hear the stories of the rest.

When I got home I decided to unwind with some general time-wasting on Facebook, and I wept again as I saw ignorant posts pointing fingers at the people of Baltimore whom they do not know and assigning blame to those whose stories they have not taken the time to hear. And, oh God, it makes me sad. It should not be “us against them.” Some of them are more like us than some of us are. (Read it carefully—it does make sense whether you think you are an “us” or a “them.”) I find much more in common with the hearts and motivations and stories of those with whom I shared my break today than I do with a group simply segregated by the colors of our skin.

The recent protest cry in the face of this country’s racial unrest is “Black Lives Matter!” I agree, and I know that I am not alone in voicing this truth. Black lives do matter—as do brown lives and white lives and Muslim lives and Christian lives and every life God has placed upon this planet. How I wish we could sit around the table and learn each other’s names and listen to each other’s stories and find the compassion to weep over the hurts we each one have suffered. For indeed, we all are precious in His sight.

I am thankful for work that has helped me to see with new eyes—Ukrainian, Chinese, Panamanian, Mexican, and American. Brown eyes and blue eyes and green eyes. Round eyes and almond eyes. Eyes with thick black lashes and eyes with a fringe of strawberry blonde. All eyes that weep when we or our families suffer unjustly through a lack of understanding and through hate.

I am thankful for a seat at the table. Won’t you, please, pull up a chair?