LIGHT THROUGH THE TREES

By Lisa Huddleston

I know that no one cares to hear my daily complaints about my struggles with medications or lack of sleep or general sense of anxiety; however, I do think that at least a few of you would like to hear how my journey through the dark woods is going.

I am happy to report that my doctor and I feel that I may finally be on the right track regarding my medications–few side effects and a slowly improving appreciation for life. It has taken many months of starts and restarts, but we are hopeful.

BOOKS!

BOOKS!

And in what may be an even clearer assessment of my improvement, I am happy to report a recent desire to return to some of my former loves. I purchased four new books that I look forward to diving into–in fact the smallest one was consumed last night. I haven’t been able to read due to my lack of concentration so this is a wonderful sign.

Loom room.

Loom room.

Also, I have ordered a new 7-foot adjustable tri-loom and rearranged our former music room to serve as my “loom room.” I am glad to sense the urge to create catching steam and look forward to starting on a new project.

Hallelujah!

Hallelujah!

And, finally–and most surprising to me–I truly experienced some moments of worship in Sunday’s service. I have grown so weary of going through the motions that I was genuinely surprised to feel my hand lift in union with my voice as my heart cried, “Hallelujah!” I was reminded that the joy of the Lord is my strength and that its return represents a true healing of my soul.

No–the journey is not over. Monday was not good as I fought tears and anxiety and felt covered by the dark cloud of death. But Monday is not every day, and new books, new projects, and a new taste of joy give me a hope I have not had for some time.

Therefore, the take-away I seek to give you is that if you are still in the dark, please, do not give up. The odds are in your favor–as is our God. Keep doing what you know to do: see a good psychiatrist and follow his or her advice, continue to talk with a good therapist, exercise if you can, give yourself freedom to rest and to heal, and never give up.

The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,

But I have promises to keep.

And miles to go before I sleep,

And miles to go before I sleep.

WHITE WATER

By Lisa Huddleston

6a00e55031d3a38834013487aefb3b970cTonight as I lay in bed

I fell

Out of a raft

Into white water.

Pick your feet up and float.

I remembered:

Don’t fight it;

Trying to stand

Will only catch your feet

In the rocks.

4709679_origGive up,

Let go, and

Float.

american_whitewater_overboard-600x400

The current will carry you

To stiller waters

Where surely you can

Climb in or be lifted up

Into the raft.

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And gentler waves will lull you back to sleep.

OLD FRIENDS, GOLD FRIENDS

By Lisa Huddleston

When I was in Girl Scouts, we sang a little song:

Make new friends, but keep the old.

One is silver and the other is gold.

Well, my dear friend, Suzanne, is gold for sure. We met when both our husbands were in their respective residency trainings, and we were young wives. We were each other’s family away from family—sisters in every sense but blood. We talked daily in a time before cell phones. We were pregnant with our first children at the same time, and our babies played together. And when residency ended, we moved apart. Bob, Suzanne, and babies eventually went home to New Jersey, while Chuck and I and our little ones returned to Tennessee. It broke my heart; she said it broke hers, too. But it was unavoidable—sadly nothing lasts forever.

Together again!

Together again!

I know I am too easily attached to things, to shampoos, to television shows, to times, and to people. I try to stay aloof, apart, but I simply can’t. I’m not made that way. I feel too much too strongly and that makes me worry and dread the days that will come when the store stops carrying my favorite product, the TV series ends, the times change, and people must go. I even worry that both my counselor and doctor are slightly older than I and I know they won’t practice forever and what will I do when they retire or, God forbid, die?! After all, good people are hard to find and … pant, pant, pant. See? Too easily attached.

"Pair o' docs"

“Pair o’ docs”

Last night Chuck and I returned from a long weekend spent with Bob and Suzanne. They drove a little over 7 hours and we drove a little over 8 and we met in the middle and we talked like we used to talk and we hugged and we cried and we shared stories of our five grown children and our parents and our work and our plans for when we retire from work and the state of the nation and the states of our health and golf and hockey and good times and bad and then the time was over and each couple drove away in opposite directions once again. And now my heart hurts all over again.

But I am thankful for old friends and golden days and generous memories that forget the arrogance of youth and see old friends through the eyes of authentic love.

One is silver, and the other is gold!

 

MY IDOL, MY SELF

By Lisa Huddleston

 

We study through books of the Bible at The Village Chapel, and some Sundays those books speak to me in a separate sermon that is just in my head, and I write it in my journal while the pastor speaks: his sermon for us all and my sermon just for me. And then, on some certain Sundays, I feel as though maybe both sermons were for more than just me, and I take some time to share them here. Today is a certain Sunday kind of day.

The passage we studied today was Acts 19:20-41; “The Riot in Ephesus” is the heading my Bible gives it. You know, this is the passage where Paul threatens the big money-making business of those who crafted and sold statues of Artemis and her temple. Demetrius, one of these artisans, quotes Paul saying, “that gods made by hand are not gods!” Gasp! Really? I mean, did Demetrius even hear himself? Of course, a god made by our own hands can’t be a real god. Anyone could see that—especially the ones who crafted these “gods.”

And while Pastor Jim talked I wrote; is Self our modern-day idol? We don’t make our actual physical bodies, but don’t we definitely try to make our “selves”? Certainly I have made and remade myself many, many times. I have been a student, an editor, a teacher, a writer, a homeschooling mom, anddo-it-urself a tutor to name just a few of my former selves. And right now, a major struggle I face is in trying to answer the question of who I am as an aging, graying, wrinkling, less-than-relevant, and obviously less sharp, 54-year-old mortal woman. I mean there is no longer any way to ignore it. I am getting old, and then I am going to die. Who does that make me today? And does it even matter anymore?

The culture around me screams, “NO!” No to aging, no to losing relevance, and definitely no to death. Like Demetrius and his fellow artisans, we somehow fool even ourselves into believing that what we craft is real. Surely this anti-aging cream will preserve our youth. If not, well, there is always this hair dye or this flawless makeup or finally even the surgeon’s scalpel. We know that it will do the trick—it must. And we end up putting our faith in immovable masks of unfeeling flesh that cannot save us or even absolutely disguise the truth we can’t help seeing in our mirrors that we are mortal. Like those rioters in the city of Ephesus, we get caught up in the irrationality of the mob and rage against reason. Surely, we will never die! Not us! No, not us.

But the truth is that we will. And our idols, power, money, beauty, intelligence, relevance and so on, can never ever save us. Our identity is found in Christ alone, our Redeemer, not in our DIY desires to save ourselves.

This truth is a great and terrifying threat. We who have achieved more than any preceding generation. We like they are truly powerless, and only God—the real and true God—has the power to do whatever He desires. We fear that truth so we keep making our gods with our own hands until the sweetness of the Gospel finally (hopefully, eventually) breaks though our hand-made physical walls to set our feet on the spacious ground of the spiritual kingdom of God.

By letting go of lies, we are set free. Free from our ugliness in the face of the god of Beauty. Free from our stupidity as we bow in the temple of Intellect, our poverty in the exhausting pursuit of Riches, and our irrelevance in our unquenchable need for Importance.

Christ breaks our chains. Hallowed be His name.

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

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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

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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.