Tag Archive | depression

Stuffing is Fine for Turkeys, Not Humans

I haven’t posted anything for some time because, well, to be honest, life has been crazy. I’ve made some changes in my life and God has given me amazing peace as He has led me on this path. I’m blessed beyond what I could adequately express.

But here’s the rub. I have Major Depressive Disorder. Most people wouldn’t guess that because I can be bubbly, energetic in communication and smile often. (An INFJ conundrum or chameleon?)

It was a lesson I learned as a child. I cried a lot in school and was made fun of for that. “Crybaby,” they would call me in my parochial school. I cried at home. No one really cared. I was just hyper-sensitive. Around fifth grade, I finally learned how to bury my hurt anger and not cry. When I was older  I told my parents I wanted to see someone, that I thought I was depressed and needed help. I was told I was just seeking attention.

Wow. I buried those feelings deeper. Eventually, I learned to pour those emotions into fiction.

 

I’ve been on a good path recently: eating better, taking around four long walks outdoors every week (sunshine and exercise), and sleeping well. But then last week it popped up again. I opened myself up to people I thought I could trust and told them how something scared me and made me anxious to the point of even having a nightmare about it. My feelings were discounted and minimized. I went home and cried. I won’t go into the issues, but it was as if confessing my fears, they had to bury their own with platitudes. I didn’t feel cared for, loved, or a valued part of the community on that team.

It’s been bothering me for days. I’ve taken walks. Taken naps. Worked. Emailed a friend. Today I had to serve at church with this team and you know what? I shed my tears over Scripture and my journal in the morning before stuffing it all down as I left the house. It was a task-oriented job so not the time for emotional discussions anyway. I tried to encourage and thank others but my heart and my hurt stayed locked away. Why would I share it again when no one cared enough about it the first time? It all bubbled back to the surface the minute I was alone in my car. The sky poured rain that mirrored the tears flowing down my face.

Stuffing is great for turkeys…not so good for humans.

I came home, ate lunch and took a nap. I try not to let my depression leak on to my kids. I take medication so I can be functional and dependable. My middle son wrote on a paper at school a few years ago stating that his mom is always happy. I had to sit him down and say, “No, I’m not. I cry. I just don’t do it in front of you because they are my adult problems and struggles, not burdens for you to carry.” When they were much younger, I used to let it spill out in frustration and when my young son drew a picture of an angry mom, I knew I had to once again get help and back on medication. At the time I also had a serious auto-immune disease complicating things and making the depression an even bigger struggle.

Let me brag on my kids for a minute. Now that they are older, when I have those days where I’m feeling on the edge…like I could snap…I warn them. “Kids, I’m really cranky today. Not sure why, but please, just be nice to me okay?” And they do. They don’t step on my last nerve to watch me explode. My youngest will give me a hug and tell me she loves me.

Yes. I have God. He is always faithful and provides for my needs and sometimes my wants. He has shown Himself to me in so many unexpected ways. I can be as grateful as possible for all of that and for the support of people around me–but gratitude doesn’t cure depression. It isn’t fixable with platitudes, a good meal, or even sometimes a hug and a shoulder to cry on (although that can be helpful and appreciated).

So if you see me in person or call me on the phone and ask how I am, I’ll likely tell you I’m fine. No offense, I’ve just learned that not everyone cares about how I’m REALLY doing. Depression and chronic illness, whether physical or emotional, is something that society as a whole, and even the Christian community, do not excel at ministering to. We get all concerned about suicides and suicide prevention – but the reality is – the problems are there long before the individual ever contemplates such drastic action.

I’m not writing this to get attention… but to ask you to open your eyes to people around you… we can get so self-absorbed (I’m an expert navel-gazer too), that we don’t often take the time to look beneath the surface to see what’s really going on in someone’s life. I want to raise awareness. I’m sure in time I’ll be doing better. Depression ebbs and flows for me and after a few more journal entries,  tears, walks and maybe even a visit to my therapist, I might wake up some morning feeling better. It will take time but it is a lonely journey. So for those of you who struggle as well, my heart and prayers go out to you. You are loved and valuable and your feelings DO matter. Hang in there. I pray someone will come along and be Jesus with skin on for you in your darkest hours so that you can make it through. That’s my prayer for myself too.

Maybe this video will show just how hard it is to always see on the surface when someone is depressed.

Spatzle Speaks: Root Beer & Roadblocks (Book Review)

My mom (Susan M. Baganz) writes books. In this one, she had a little boy and I love little kids so Root Beer & Roadblocks is a story I enjoyed. Johnny Marshall is a favorite character, but I was sad that at the end of Feta & Freeways, Johnny’s cancer had returned. I knew then that she would write Johnny’s story and make it a great one.

Johnny had a rough time because he endured a bout of cancer in his past and discovered the truth at the same time his wife served him divorce papers. He’d had his chance at fame as a musician and lost any chance to fulfill his dream of having children.

He sold his home and had moved in with his cousin. Partly because he didn’t see any point in keeping it when he figured he’d likely not survive this cancer battle. He wasn’t even sure he wanted to bother with pursuing treatment because he knew it would be brutal with no guarantee of a cure. He serves at church teaching little kids in Sunday school since he can’t have any of his own.

When he saves a little boy from being hit by a car after church, he gets injured instead. The crash reunites him with an old flame from high school. The one woman, Katie, he never really got over and she holds a secret, one that might give him the will to live.

Johnny is not a victim in this story although he suffers terribly. Matter of fact, in spite of his challenges he often emerges the unwitting hero. His journey and struggle seems hopeless at times, defeated by depression, illness, and cancer, he also finds that because of his struggles there are amazing blessings to be had on the other side as God opens the floodgates to fill his heart (and arms) with more than he could have hoped and dreamed for.

Johnny is still a musician and singer with Specific Gravity although they don’t tour in this book as they make time to allow Johnny the opportunity to fight this battle with his family, friends, and Orchard Hill church by his side. If you enjoyed Feta & Freeways you’ll enjoy the continuation of the relationship between Niko and his cousin Johnny in this story. While both books are connected they can be read as stand-alone novels.

Spatzle Baganz, book reviewer for the silygoos blog because that’s how we roll.

I would suggest that Johnny and Katie get a dog, but given the end of this story, I suspect they’ll need a bigger home and some time to adjust to all their blessings. I’d offer to join them but I love my mommy too much and she needs me. They don’t call me a rescue dog for nothing. I give this book five bones, because I don’t have thumbs and don’t do stars. And I’ll give my mom lots of kisses as long as she keeps rubbing my tummy.

When Joy Takes Over

I’ve meBird in cagentioned on this blog before that I struggle with depression. I learned early on to put a good face on my inner darkness because I was told that to tell anyone I was depressed was manipulative and a lie.

Way to validate my reality, huh?

And I fought the first therapist who insisted this was my struggle. So I charted my emotions, and I was shocked at what I saw. I really was depressed.  Since then I’ve taken medications on and off over the years and have one that works well for me now. I tried the natural methods to no avail. I defeated Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis (an autoimmune disease of the thyroid for which depression is a side effect). Having been educated and worked in the mental health field I’m very aware of my symptomatology and the kinds of things I need to do to stop myself from sinking further into the pit of despair.

That’s why sometimes when joy breaks through it is a remarkable thing for me to take note of, to savor and to hold on to-because it’s rare.

Some of my circumstances do limit my expression of the good in my life because not everyone in my world appreciates all the aspects of who God created me to be. Not everyone supports or cheers me on in my writing and publishing pursuits. Because of this I’ve had to develop a more extended circle of support. So my cheerleaders are not physically close but they are there when I need them.

Flying Dog

But joy. It breaks through like a dog let off his leash, gate open and free to run in wide open spaces, ears flapping and tail wagging. Unhindered by expectations. Free to be fully who he is.

The filters come off, the darkness slips away and bright light shines from inside as I let loose to live more fully who God created me to be. That’s a high energy thing though and can’t be sustained for long. It happens in places were my gifts and calling are validated and my wacky weird personality is appreciated and not condemned.

A place where I can set aside any thoughts of how overweight I am or be self-conscious about my appearance.

It’s a place where people around me appreciate and love me for being – me. Imperfections and all.

That sometimes happens at church and I’m blessed to have people there who love me like that. But there are still some barriers because there have been those who have condemned me for my high spirits and effusive personality when it’s been expressed. Not everyone likes the bubbly, silly, sassy, “high-spirited” side of Susan.  Or maybe it threatens them. Joy at fully living one’s purpose can make others jealous.

Dee Dee and Lori laughingA few weeks ago I had several moments of uninhibited joy. I was in the beautiful Rocky Mountains at a YMCA at Estes Park for the Colorado Christian Writer’s Conference where I served as faculty. I enjoyed my entire time there. It was work. I taught classes which I enjoy and encouraged writers. I willingly poured out love and encouragement to others and was glad to be able to do so.

Dee Dee and I met last year and a friendship was born. The picture above is of Dee Dee and another new friend, Lori at dinner in town. I love the expression on their faces and only wish I could have caught Megan in there too as she sat next to me. A dinner filled with deep conversation, belly laughs and love.

A writer’s conference is about writing, but more than that, it is about relationships and that night at that restaurant is a treasured memory of joy. It was later that Dee Dee and I sat and talked in the lobby and our relationship grew deeper. Dee Dee hasn’t led a perfectly wonderful life and has suffered her own share of struggles too. But together we laughed and cried and out of that is born joy.

Why? Because Dee Dee accepts and loves me just as I am. Wild, silly, weird, authentic, wounded and seeking to follow God imperfectly in my own circumstances. And I love her that way too. There will be many wonderful reasons to return to Colorado – but Dee Dee would top the list. And I’m grateful that with computers and phones the distance doesn’t have to be a barrier to our friendship.

Today as I write this, it’s raining and gloomy. Even as I type, tears roll down my cheeks, not out of sadness, but gratitude for those brief moments when the sun shines through the cloud and God has given me the opportunity to live more fully as “me”and be loved and accepted for that.

Praying you find safe places for joy to break through too.

Mistakes

I have a tendency to be a klutz. I do weird things but not on purpose. They just happen. Words come out wrong. I might get confused and do something silly or stupid. Sometimes I am unaware of this.

Apparently this is quite funny to most people.

Sometimes I can laugh too.

But one part of depression involves mood and the other part involves thoughts. 

And sometimes the thoughts can beat me up pretty bad. I’m never quite sure what mistake is going to come to haunt me and my brain will ruminate on it. Yeah, obsessive thoughts can be part of depression as much as anxiety and physical pain. Lovely illness isn’t it?

And there can be a nice way to make fun of something . . . and then there can be a way to subtly humiliate and demean while making the joke. The first I handle pretty well. The second is adding salt to the wound.

Sure, even a paper cut can be brutal when you add that to it. Or maybe some lemon juice. Yeah. Ouch.

So maybe a mistake is small but the pain cuts deep.

And then there are the grace-givers. Those who can laugh at my mistake but say “You know, once I did this . . .” and make me feel normal again. Like I’m not the only human being on earth who does clumsy things. Or friends who are willing to speak truth and say, “Hey, Susan, that was pretty minor, but you sure are beating yourself up over that.”

So I’m grateful to the grace-givers. I’m thankful for those who know how to laugh with me instead of at me and at the same time let me know that as a fellow wanderer on this planet, I’m okay. Not perfect, but good enough because of who God made me to be.

Sometimes I wonder if God allows these instances to keep me humble. I don’t think he accepts the disrespect of some, but he keeps track so I really don’t have to. Still, it can hurt when little things become opportunities even a week later to rip a scab open for the purpose of making themselves feel better.

I’ve been a victim of verbal abuse in my past and now strive so hard to be the opposite. To be an encourager. But as my pastor told me, enouragers are sometimes those that are in desperate need of the most encouragement themselves. But in reality, like many other spiritual gifts (giving, mercy, faith, helps . . .) there is a level to which we are commanded to live out these characteristics in our faith. Gift or not.

But not everyone else is there yet and I suppose that’s where I need to be the grace-giver to those who pour salt on my failures. Sometimes I just don’t have the energy to do it so I avoid them. Sometimes letting my wounds heal is better than letting someone else pick at them for their own entertainment.

So if you are a grace-giver.  Thank you. Your words give life and healing that I for one, am grateful for.

Not Good Enough

 

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I’m not good enough. Is that a common fear or something only I struggle with? I had a negative interaction and at first was thinking, “why can’t this person just get along with me?” I felt disrespected.

Then it hit me. Maybe the issue isn’t him. Maybe it’s me. In spite of thinking I’m respectful, competent and have a right to be heard on an issue, what if instead I’m coming across as arrogant and I’ve frustrated and hurt this person instead?

Ouch.

How does one not take failure personally?

Respect is a huge issue for me. 

Once I confronted someone for the lack of respect they were showing me. They had been saying negative things about me behind my back and I caught wind of it. It had happened before so I addressed the issue. Her response? She laughed at me.

Ouch.

Another time I told a person how I had felt I had been disrespected by her. Specific instances that were clear. She looked at me and nodded and said, “Yes, I did all those things. But it’s your fault.”

Ouch.

Let’s get this clear. Both of these instances were verbally/emotionally abusive. The responses these women gave were intended to demean me and strip me of any belief that I deserved respect.

And to be honest, I’ve had way too much of that in my life. And it hurts. And even though I forgive, the pain lingers.

unsafe

In my mind people like this have a stamp on their forehead that says: “Unsafe.” Yeah, really. I can almost see it.

I have had many more conversations though that didn’t end so badly. I disagreed with a leader and I told him why and how I felt about his decision and he listened and apologized for not taking into consideration my feelings. I let it go. He had my full support through however his decision ended up. I have great respect for him years later and in relationship to him, I’m good enough.

Another person I sat down face to face with and said, “You apologized and I forgive you but I want you to understand how your actions affected me.” When I’m working with him I know, that even though I make mistakes, I’m good enough.

So why am I on this today? I think the enemy likes to dredge up those hurts, some that continue daily in my life, and tell me that they are the truth.

I’m fighting to believe it’s a lie. Scripture says I’m good enough to do the work God has called me to do. Will I do it perfectly? No. I’m okay with being human (most of the time). I’m okay with apologizing when I screw up.

I struggle with depression. I’m also an author and sometimes the pain of my characters is my own and writing about that scrapes wounds raw as I explore them more deeply. To not be good enough to be wanted or loved. Isn’t that a deep fear for everyone?

Thankfully God doesn’t look at me like that. I’m good enough because of Jesus. And I’m becoming better as I lean on Him and let Him continue to lead and guide me, even when the outcomes hurt. The pain of art. The pain of life.

I’m good enough and I am blessed that for every “unsafe” person there are many more who are-especially Jesus.

The Difference between Being a Writer and a Schizophrenic

Non-writers probably cannot relate to the obsession to write that overtakes an author. Some writers plot and plan everything. For me an idea, a character, or a first scene starts me off. Slowly the characters share with me their back story and as the story progresses I have no idea what will happen next.

Image courtesy of anat_tikker / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of anat_tikker / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

It’s a wild roller-coaster ride, but I hold on tight. I can’t avoid it as the characters will taunt me until I set my fingers to the keyboard and write.

My characters pretty much hijack my life. They hold me hostage at gunpoint with an urgency to get their story on paper (or computer). There’s a desperation that underlies the tale.

So I write. Frantically. I leave gaps and highlight spots to go back to. I think about my characters first thing in the morning and I dream about them at night.

When life calls me to leave the house to do other things–serve at church, grocery shop, mow the lawn, editing work on other author’s stories–my characters are always there.

How is being a writer different from schizophrenia? Schizophrenia is a mental disorder where the sufferer often hears voices that are not there. They might see things that are not there. Feeling and smelling things is rarer. Sometimes those voices are mean and insulting. Sometimes they deceive and taunt the sufferer. The difference between a writer though and someone with this type of mental illness is multiple:

  • I can shut up my characters by writing what they tell me. When I get a story down on paper and it’s done, they leave me alone. I’m free to move on with my life. Voices for those struggling with mental illness are constant and rarely change. They don’t even have a story to tell. They are just there and serve no helpful purpose.
  • My character’s voices are generally nice. Since I write happily ever after stories, while they might suffer and struggle to get there, I love my characters and enjoy the time I spend with them. The become dear friends, but my time in their company is short. Schizophrenics can sense friendliness at times from their imaginary friends, but most often they are not. And they never really go away.
  • People generally want to know about my characters. They want to hear about the stories and hopefully will read them. Most people with schizophrenia are afraid to share their voices, and because the voices don’t tell a nice story, there’s nothing fun to share with others that anyone would really want to hear.
  • My characters never force me to do anything worse than write their stories. Sometimes people with mental illness are led to actions that are harmful to themselves or others. Usually those are isolated incidents and minimized with the help of medication. The terror that many live with though never really goes away. It’s only managed. Medication doesn’t help a writer but might actually make the voices louder. Probably why many great writers throughout history had substance abuse issues. They found those things helped them access the creativity and write in a more uninhibited way. (I am not advocating that!)
  • The one similarity though may be a tendency to be more moody. I deeply experience whatever my characters are going through. Depression is not uncommon among writers. Schizophrenics as well can become quite depressed as they experience emotions related to unreal events.

It is sometimes said that writing is the only acceptable form of schizophrenia. That’s really not true. For one, they are not the same and secondly, schizophrenics are acceptable human beings too. They just suffer from a terrible illness that can make relationships difficult to maintain. Trust is a challenge and reality is scary.

Hopefully my books do the opposite for those that read them, in spite of the wild ride I take to get that rough draft written.

 

It’s a Wonderful Life Even When It Isn’t

A depressed George Bailey.

A depressed George Bailey.

Depression sucks.

So I referenced It’s A Wonderful Life in my title. Here’s why. I dislike that movie. Ironically when it first came out it did poorly at the box office. It didn’t even break even financially. In the film world, it was a dud.

I hate a movie that became a Christmas classic. The reason is that poor George had dreams and he gave them up. He had waited and saved and held a carrot out in front of him and it was snatched ruthlessly from his grip when he was on the cusp of reaching his dream.

This man’s suicide attempt didn’t just happen when money was lost and he was going to be arrested for a fraud he never committed. No. It came when he gave up his dreams.

Yes, he was noble and responsible and he sacrificed it all at the altar of everyone else’s dreams and needs and then ended up getting screwed in the end anyway. (Yes, I know it ends happily but come on, he got the raw end of a deal from Mr. Potter). So he did what he was supposed to do. All the right things. And it still left him empty.

Grab a tissue.

Maybe I relate too closely to George Bailey. Maybe the reason the movie is now a classic is that at some level, we all relate.

Who among us gets everything we dreamed of

and longed for out of this life?

Making a difference in the lives of others is the silver lining in this tale. Was George the richest man in town though because his friends came through for him? I mean, sure, he avoids prison, but does it really fill that hole deep inside?

At the heart of depression is a feeling of worthlessness. Even more than that is a sense of helplessness. George Bailey had, in many ways, let life make choices for him. Sometimes, when depressed, a person can’t even see the choices that might be out there. Yes, George made some good choices and impacted the lives of many. In the alternate universe only the negative was highlighted though. Does one person’s life really make that much of a difference?

A depressed person can’t see that their life makes a difference. No matter what anyone tells them, the message is blocked by the words and lies of others planted early on that say otherwise. After all, shouldn’t those people closest to us and have known us the best speak truth when they tell us no one will ever love us? Or that we aren’t pretty enough? Or smart enough? Or important enough?

“In 900 years of time and space

I’ve never met anyone who wasn’t important.”

Doctor Who

Yeah, I’m quoting a fictional character. Get over it. The fact of the matter is, even the shyest among us wants to be considered important. That’s why we want to the object of someone’s love. Or have a BFF. Or be the best at whatever it is we do. Because somehow that means our existence is validated.

Andy Andrews wrote a book called The Butterfly Effect that illustrates the importance of one life and the millions of lives one person can impact over generations.

It’s hard to see with that kind of vision when one is in a deep pit smothered in a thick woolen blanket. And the world around is farting in your face.

The real tightrope is our identity in Christ. I am his favorite child. The favorite of all the people He created like me . . . because there is only one me. But He has other favorites too. You are His favorite you. With a unique fingerprint, DNA, gifts, personality and life experiences, no one else is like you.

And God didn’t put us here to wander. He’s given us a purpose and a unique identity in Him. So I am the best. Whether the world around me wants to acknowledge that or not. I am the best me there is. I’m not perfect, but I’m growing and changing and sometimes that is painful.

But even if the world around me cannot convince me of my worth, this should: Jesus died so I could have a relationship with Him. He is my best friend and the only one who can really validate my existence. I may not see the impact or have a Clarence to show me, but I can trust the keeper of the stars to let me know when the time is right, that my life, even the low points, were still used by Him for His glory.