Monday, January 26, 2015

After Depression Part 2: The Work

In many ways, what I needed when I was pregnant and depressed is also what I need for healing. Because we now live in a village, those needs just looked different. The following describes several tools that are helping on my healing journey.

Before we left our last vacation, we bought an expensive exercise machine just like the one I had used at the gym early on in our marriage. I felt HORRIBLE spending so much of our meager savings on something that seemed so frivolous. But my guilt didn't hold a candle to my resolve to heal. I knew I would never walk for exercise or run in our village where even walking from house to house is a rarely done. I had tried the privacy and convenience of exercise videos before, but power supply and a house on stilts prevented that from being an option. You would not believe how much a house can shake and creak at 5AM even when you are just doing stretches! No. I needed that machine and have been grateful for it every day since. Regular exercise in the deal breaker for me in how well my day goes. Having a feeling of choice with depressive thoughts is worth any amount of money spent.

Next, we knew we needed support to deal with the actual areas of healing we both faced: my depression and Chris's recovery from the weight and stress of caring for me while trying to be a missionary. We stepped out on faith knowing we did not have money for more counseling. God, however, provided us each with a person that loves and encourages us for the price of their cup of coffee. While my husband and I are the closest of friends and enjoy the deepest of relationships, we were weighing each other down trying to hold each other up. The support for our two counselors helps us focus on what is most important in our life and marriage and work through tricky areas of miscommunication and emotion.

We also started trying hard to be better friends. With the depression, we became takers. We had nothing left to give those we loved. I feel like I have been dead for the past six years. I cannot remember events, details within friendships, even my friends' children's names. I have not been supportive when friends needed me, not called, not visited. Yet, because these dear people are God's loving children, they are still around, still loving, still calling, still visiting. I am so enjoying getting to know these people for what really feels like the first time.

Hardest of all and one aspect of healing I still feel like is moving s-l-o-w-l-y ahead is what I call numbing. I, despite my natural bent, have become incredibly adept at not feeling. But feeling is vitally important to healing. When intrusive and/or depressive thoughts come my way, I run to the nearest movie or brownie. Not enough power for the computer or being out of cocoa could mean an hour-long drive to the city. As I have started to heal from overwhelming depression, emotional and spiritual struggles overshadowed by the more urgent depression have surfaced. The feelings associated with those struggles can feel unbelievably unbearable. My adrenaline starts rushing, and I have the strongest urge to flee. I have to chose, usually with Chris' help, to feel and process those feelings no matter how much I don't want to. Chris and I have squared away an hour a day to talk and chosen to read aloud to each other each night instead of watching TV. I have started Weight Watchers again and built in times throughout the week, month, and year for spiritual retreats, refreshment, and  encouragement. Having these tools in place takes away the power of numbing and nudges me toward dealing with all that has happened the past six years.

Routine, second only to exercise, helps me have peace of mind and space enough in my mind to focus on healing.  As you can imagine, routine in a village in Cambodia is difficult to come by. Just this morning, homeschooling was interrupted by a crazy chicken and chicks that needed saving from our dog while one of our smaller kids quietly dumped an entire container  of spice in the soup I was making for lunch. The recipe did not call for oregano... Grandmothers come over for a chat, kids crawl under fences to pick fruit, water runs out and needs to be pumped. No matter how much I want it, routine is going to be somewhat elusive. However, we are learning to chose the routine over the exciting interruption, the plan over the what-sounds-like-a-better-plan at the time, the day off relaxing versus the day off running errands. These choices, like all the others, leave space in my brain for me to fight off depressive thoughts and make more good choices.

Maybe I'm a typical woman, but I am always hoping my husband will guess what I am thinking. We now BOTH have a full disclosure policy, and what a joy and relief it has been to be open.  When we tell the good, the bad, and the ugly, we are such much more able to empathize and support each other. Fear of what the other person in thinking fades right along with all those assumptions you have of what horrible things that person is thinking of you, and you find yourself in a gentle, loving embrace. Getting those words out is so very hard, but the reward is worth it.

Lastly, I am weekly trying to implement systems of living that free up brain space. A system, however small, can create exponential potential to move ahead in life.  I wrote on my fridge where to put each and every grocery item. I have the same meal plan each week (for now). I have a chart for which child does which homeschool activity each day. I know creating systems is a basic life skill, but, for me, it fell to the wayside with the depressions. Now, this life skill is a rope pulling me out of the chaos system by system.

Each of these tools has been a blessing to me. I'd love to hear what has helped you!

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