Tag Archive | validation

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.

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.

The REALLY Fat Girl

A few weeks back I had to go to the clinic to have an MRI on my back. I came early per my standard operating procedure. It was a Friday and the Radiology Department was next to the Lab which was having an exceptionally busy morning.

That meant there were few isolated seats available. As in none. Everyone sat with a chair or open space one either side of them. I was going to have to choose a spot to sit that would hone in one someone’s bubble.

I chose a heavy woman. I sat next to her and instead of reading my book, we began to talk. The woman was about 40o lbs, had intense back pain and other serious health issues. Insurance was giving her trouble with the various procedures she needed to have done. It was a catch 22 for her. They couldn’t do surgery on her back until she lost weight, but she couldn’t lose weight because of her various health issues. She said she used to try to swim at the local YMCA but people would make rude comments to her. Out loud. In her presence.

I have to admit if people insulted me every time I was trying to work out . . . I would quit too. Let’s face it, when one is overweight, no matter how much, a swimming suit is never going to be flattering. For her to have gone to do the only exercise she could and then have to stop because of the abuse she suffered? Well, it made me sad. I was ashamed that these were fellow human beings and I expect none of them were Sports Illustrated Swim models either. I wish she had the courage to complain to the staff at the YMCA. Bullying in any form should never be tolerated, even there. Especially there.

I told her that I was glad I came to sit by her, that I had learned a lot and enjoyed her company. She went to get her blood work done and I was called in for my appointment and I didn’t get to see her again. I hope that maybe, somehow, a friendly, affirming, conversation, validated her worth as a human being created in the image of God.

When I hear people make fun of someone who is overweight it grieves me. Partly because of my own weight struggle. Partly because I think we overlook the fact that seeing a person at one static moment in time, does not inform us of their journey or challenges. This woman could have lost 50 pounds before I met her and I would have still seen her as overweight. She was and she knew it. But her weight does not diminish her value in the eyes of  God. Nor should it in mine.

So why do I share this story? Because over the next month many of us will be interacting more and more with strangers as we shop, attend concerts or parties and go about our business. Maybe we can set aside the lenses we often use to judge someone and instead see the heart of the person underneath. Someone who is desperate to be seen, treated with respect and honor and even to be heard.

I listened to this woman’s pain. Her loneliness. Her battles on every side. When someone weighs 400 lbs, losing weight is harder than ever. A loss of a pound, even in a week, which would be considered stellar by most, would be like nothing for her in the balance of all she had yet to lose and I still wouldn’t have known. I’ve been heavier than I am now and I’ve been thinner. I would prefer thinner. The funny thing is those insults given by strangers or even worse, by people close to us, wound deeply.

It is hard to give myself the same courtesy I gave that woman because I’ve suffered similar insults. Yes, there is a disparity in the amount of weight we have to lose, but the struggle and the emotions are the same. Frustration. Exhaustion. Defeat. Despair.

So when you go to the YMCA and see someone working out – be the person who says a good word and encourages them. Make eye contact or smile. And let us strive to be more kind. We all struggle with something after all. How would you want to be treated?

Living Large (Part II)

BMI Monitor & tape measure

BMI Monitor & tape measure

Another beef I have against those who so blithely condemn people who are not thin, is this:

Do you know their story?

I’m guilty too of looking at people and making rash and inappropriate judgements. I had a meeting with a woman who I had never met before and she was quite large. We started talking and I found out she had LOST 60 lbs. Seriously. Wow. Now this is a woman to affirm and applaud, not put down because she’s not at some ideal spot on a scale. It was a good lesson to me.

I’ve known people (including myself) that have gained weight due to medications or hypothyroidism. See, not everyone who is overweight is a glutton.  It used to be a cop-out to say that someone had a “glandular issue” but the fact is, it is probably one of the most under-diagnosed medical problems out there. I couldn’t put on weight that fast not matter HOW much I ate as when medication messed with my metabolism and I packed on unwanted pounds.

It’s depressing and frustrating to have to deal with. It is humiliating to have to go to the store (even Goodwill) to purchase clothing in a larger size.

Yes. I have often made unhealthy eating choices, but honestly, I don’t think I could eat myself into a 40 lb weight gain in one month. Medication did that for me though. Funny how easily it goes on and how torturous it is to get it off.

This is all to say that we need to look at others through eyes of grace and know that we have not walked their path. Part of my most recent weight gain was due to multiple factors: a malfunctioning pituitary gland (manages metabolism), some thyroid problems, inactivity due to surgery and illness (both me and my kids) and then back pain, and then yes, some comfort food sought when struggling with the pain.

What is interesting is that I will condemn myself for all of it – even the stuff that was beyond my control. Of course there are people out there who assist in that by advising me on how to lose it. What is also interesting is that my medical doctor, physical therapist, physiatrist and chiropractor have not faulted me for the weight issue. They have been gracious and understanding and state I’m doing everything RIGHT. (okay, maybe Cheetos and Pepsi are not on any healthy eating plan, but still . . .). There is compassion and understanding of teh struggle I have faced.

I have also been blessed with sweet friends who compliment me when they see me – on how I look and dress. They don’t tell me I look fat in that outfit (I am fat and will look that way no matter what I wear anyway). I try to be that kind of person to others too. Yeah, we are to be more  than about physical beauty and appearance, but face it, we are visual people and often that’s where some of us have had our deepest wounds and struggle.

All this is to say, be careful who you judge for their weight. I knew a little old lady at one point (she’s long gone now from this world) who would look at an overweight person and say “There goes fatty boom-boom.” How sad, really. As if that woman needed that kind of label.

On the flip side – when I did lose weight I was told by my family that I was anorexic and my doctor at the time never even noticed. Hello! Celebrate the success but don’t condemn the person struggling, because chances are, they are doing enough of that themselves even if the cause of their weight is not totally under their control.

Let’s live with large hearts of love, affirmation and validation for the positive qualities we see in EVERYONE around us instead of looking for the flaws.