DON’T HARSH MY MELLOW

By Lisa Huddleston

And … the journey continues. A couple of weeks ago, I wrote that I was beginning a trial with my 5th antidepressant and since that time the 6th. I am currently on a self-imposed fast of all medications (with my doctor’s tentative approval and an upcoming appointment). I want to give my brain a chance to settle and see who is the real me. I know that giving up on meds is a common occurrence for many (most?) mental health patients, but I promise that I am not giving up altogether. I will see my doctor in a few days, a counselor soon after that, and then we all will decide where to go next.

In the meanwhile, I want to share some wonderful encouragement I received. You know how people always say God will never give you more than you can handle? Well, I think that may be wrong. I think He gives us more than we can handle all the time so that we are forced to (allowed to) see what He can handle when we get our little selves out of the way.

For example, last Tuesday. This has been the summer of dental appointments, and I once again had a very sore tooth. I was also suffering difficult side effects from med #6—insomnia, crazy dreams, anxiety, and so on. Therefore I was up very early and FINALLY decided to turn to some scripture reading. I read from several different passages, but took the time to write down the words I read in Joshua: “Be strong and very courageous!” That was it. Hours of reading, and that was all I took away.child-dentistry5-200x300

By the time office hours arrived, I moved one doctor’s appointment so that I could get in to see my dentist, and I left a message at my psychiatrist’s office that I needed to speak with him about the side effects of #6. I was on a steady roll. But when I sat in the exam room at my dental office and my big, burly dentist all dressed in black (can you believe it?) said, “Root canal,” I was not prepared. “Now?” “Yes, now.”

 

He left the room, and I bolted from the chair. Not to escape but to grab a tissue. I was scared to death! I fought tears (so embarrassing), tried to breathe my way into peace, but it just wasn’t happening. I was as stiff as a Barbie doll in a plastic chair. But literally seconds into the procedure, I noticed a tiny, white cloud begin to materialize in the high windows. Just a tip at first, then its pillowy body following. And I don’t know why, but that cloud brought the words I had read that morning: “Be strong and very courageous!” Yes! Better than breathing. I repeated those words in my shaky brain, and I actually felt the muscles in my entire body just melt. From hard plastic to pliable peace. It was stunning and incredibly faith inspiring.il_340x270.775647355_rq64

When we took a break about an hour into the procedure, I was still mellow. I sat up and asked the dentist to talk me through what we’d done so far, and then (totally unlike my normally uptight self) I TOLD HIM ALL ABOUT WHAT I’D READ IN JOSHUA AND HOW THE WORDS OF SCRIPTURE HAD COMFORTED ME.

Okay—awkward silence from him. But WOW! I had faced a huge fear and God had seen me halfway through. I had zero doubt about Him bringing me the rest of the way. Yes. I, Lisa Huddleston, had zero doubt! And I even testified! Take that, Fear!

I survived, thrived, and came out alive. I talked to my psychiatrist that afternoon with novacaine-deadened lips and asked for a breather on the anti-depressants and once again felt the victory of Peace overcome my fear.

And now I wait. I don’t know for sure what my next step will be, but I just wanted to share the last couple with you, because I know that someone else could use the same encouragement I have received. Don’t give up. Not even when you have more than you can handle. It’s not too much for Him.

mellow-out

Peace out, peeps. Don’t harsh my mellow–I hope you find yours.

 

(P.S. This does not mean that I oppose the use of medications for depression. They most likely have helped to save my life.)

UPDATE (October 12, 2016): I did move on to antidepressant number 7, and it has been very successful thus far. Thankful for prayers, loving friends, and patient health professionals!

CABIN FEVER

By Lisa Huddleston

12540912_10208337832550140_5286633030389461415_nHey peeps. It’s 11:30 p.m., and I’m sitting in front of a blazing fire with my dog, Dottie Pigbody, while watching a 24-hour binge of House. I admit it–I’m not feeling fabulous. The snow is beautiful, but it’s very disruptive. This week I missed a day of volunteering at the Adult Learning Center, an evening gathering of my church home group, an appointment with my counselor, and tomorrow morning I will sorely miss worship at my church.

Frankly I feel myself slipping a little. I know that things will turn around soon–snow doesn’t last long in the south–but it makes me a little scared. Who knows what triggers depressive episodes? Not I.

So let’s just call it “cabin fever” and hang tight. I know things will be better soon, and until then I will strive to do the things I’ve learned. I will exercise. I will create. I will read and write. And as soon as possible, I will spend some time with friends.

And like the snow, this too shall pass.

ALL IS CALM, ALL IS BRIGHT

By Lisa Huddleston

12375960_10208124649220690_5675405771665034409_nChristmas Day was special for me this year. In fact, the whole holiday season has been. Truly, nothing extraordinary happened–unless you want to count that in spite of hosting Thanksgiving for 28, having our younger son’s wedding and Christmas less than a week apart, and having lots of company in our home, I have kept a calm spirit and a happy heart throughout. Oh, how extraordinary that is!

I’m a little hesitant to write about depression again when we are only one day from Christmas, but as my past experiences have taught, many of you are likely to be coming undone just about now. You may regret arguments you had with family or feel as though your dreams of a perfect holiday were not realized or just be completely exhausted by smiling through the stress. And because I remember many years just like that, I want to encourage you to keep seeking the help you need. There is another way to live–you don’t have to keep beating yourself up!

1617126_10208140611339733_6942468301860626981_oThis year, I let a lot of “musts” go. I did not decorate Christmas cookies. I did not buy many presents. I did not set out all the Santas and past photos with said Jolly Elf. I didn’t even cook Christmas dinner.

I did fill stockings with lots of hand-picked little items. I did take a yummy ham to brunch at my in-law’s. I did enjoy conversations with nieces and nephews and my children and their spouses and brothers and sisters and all varieties of extended and ever-growing family. And I didn’t have to be perfect. And that is shocking.

10298043_10208141109232180_4662432374080879601_oOf course, I wonder which reality is really real–this peace I feel or the past stress and anxiety? But then I have to ask if that even matters? I definitely prefer peace–even though I still struggle some with the fact that it probably has to be attributed to my medications and the mental health help I have received. Why does that bother me? Because I am a prideful old thang. But I am learning that help is good, that reality is what I am present for, and that peace really is possible.

And that is my message for you today. What you believe is the most important thing. You are not alone. It’s okay to need help and even to ask for it. And you do not have to be perfect–in fact, that’s the most unrealistic expectation you could ever have.

So I sit here a thankful, hopefully more realistic woman. I am thankful for the blessings of the past few weeks, months, and year. I am grateful for the help I have received, I am thankful for the hope I have, and my friends, family and Savior, and I’d love to pass it all on to you. Just don’t give up!

Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me … 

PROMISES TO KEEP AND MILES TO GO BEFORE I SLEEP

By Lisa Huddleston

vanderbilt-football-610x406Incredibly, it’s already September and football season is here AGAIN. Last night began the next few months of angst and woe over all the plays that should have gone one way but sadly went another. It’s hard to be a Vandy fan—and a Titans fan and even a Bears fan. My poor husband suffers, and in empathy with him, so do I. But in some ways, it just seems to be a part of the cycling seasons of the year. A routine that we’ve grown accustomed to. (Although I really wish we could win once in a while so the poor guy could celebrate a little!)

And with the arrival of football also comes—soon and very soon—the exhilarating weather and colors of fall. Oh, how I am looking forward to that! Beauty galore!

Then come the holiday season and winter and gray skies and my inevitable, predictable downward spiral in mood which unaccountably lasted far into summer this year … oy.

As a part of sharing my journey through the dark woods of depression, I realized this week that it would not be fair nor right to leave you with the impression that once you find a good therapist, a good psychopharmacologist, and the right mixture of medication and lifestyle adjustments that all will be roses and honey from then on. What reminded me to remind you that depression can be a chronic illness was a sudden crash in energy on Tuesday afternoon. I was working at my volunteer tutoring job (a job I love) when with about 45 minutes to go, I realized that I was sinking fast. Gladly I was able to stick it out—hate to be a bad example—but when I arrived home, I immediately crawled under a blanket and slept for two hours only waking then because I had a Spanish class to attend.

Nap time!

Nap time!

And therein lies yet another danger of life with chronic depression. When you begin to feel better it is so tempting to dive headlong into the hyper-activity that is common to our culture. And even when you begin to feel the undertow, to fight against it in order to show that you are not weak or lazy or defective. This desire is counterproductive to recovery, but the temptation is very hard to resist.

It was in my counseling session this week that I recognized what I have been doing and how it is working against me. I realized that it is important for me most of all, but also for the people around me, to know and acknowledge that I am still in recovery and that skirmishes in my battle with depression can arise at anytime. I have to give myself permission to rest when I need to, to schedule my days with my sketchy energy level in mind, and to expect understanding from those who love me. After all they really do love me.

And that is really all I have to say this morning. Remember that life with depression needs to be managed—just as life with diabetes or cancer or arthritis must be managed. It’s not a one time fix and then back into the race.

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My plans for today are to mow the grass (a two-hour job) and to begin a new weaving project on my recently purchased loom. If need be, I will give myself permission to nap. It’s been a full week, and it’s likely I will need it.

TGIF!

 

 

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.

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.