I'm a dreamer at heart and often I like to fly by the seat of my pants.

I suffer from depression and have for most of my life. I am no longer willing to stay silent about it. My hope is to share with others about this disease so they might understand it a bit better.

"I dare to believe!"

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Meet My Brother

Meet My Brother

Some of you may wonder who is this “brother” that Berta is talking about? Why is she so excited about his visit? Please allow me to take a few minutes of your time and share what is on my heart.

Some basics: {The rough population in Lusaka Zambia is 5 million people, where only 5% of the people are employed. Many orphans live in the streets and have no one to take care of them. There is little food, little shelter and poor water.  They bury approximately 200 people a day due to Malaria, Aids, Starvation and other diseases.}

Bishop Naison Nyonyo lives in Lusaka Zambia with his wife and family (he has 5 children of 7 still living at home).  He is a pastor and district over seer in Lusaka and surrounding areas where he supervises some 98 churches.  This is all done via city transit (which means a glorified mini-van that holds perhaps 18 people PACKED side by side).

At his local church he has approximately 500 people in attendance each Sunday.
They sit on rough made benches and pack as many in as will fit, be that standing or sitting (it is not a large building).

There are 125 orphans that his church feeds daily. Their once a day meal consists mainly of "n'shima” which is made from mealie-meal (mealie-meal is similar to corn meal) this is boiled until it reaches a thick, pasty consistency. “N’shima” is their main food source of nourishment. Sometimes they may also serve “kapenta” which are small whole fish, caught locally (about the size of minnows). Some days they serve “rape” (much like collard greens) along with “n’shima”.  They accomplish this with approximately $50 a month.  Some months the money is short and the children do not eat.

The majority of children have no place to call “home”, nowhere to sleep, no blankets to keep them warm and no shoes on their feet.  Believe it or not it does get cold in Zambia Africa.  Their winter months are during our (USA) summer months.  The temperatures drop into the 40s and stay cold enough during the day to need jackets.

The Zambian government does not offer help as we do in the USA.  They have to pay for their children to go to school, books, uniforms, supplies and PTA (Parent Teacher Association) fees.  If ANY of these are not paid, the child cannot go to school.

MANY young Zambian girls of ages 10 – 12 are sent out by their families to the streets to become prostitutes to bring money home to feed their families.  Often times these girls do not live long due to violence etc.  Soon they mature into young women, get pregnant, contract AIDS, pass the AIDS to their babies and the vicious cycle repeats.

I realize in the BIG picture this is just one place in a 3rd world country… but it happens to be the place that my heart aches for.  In Bishop Nyonyo’s case he one man trying to make a difference in his community.  Educating and feeding 125 orphans. He is not a rich man, he only has what is given to him.  His children have education only because someone helps to send them to school, he only has food on the table for his family because someone cares to share their blessings with him.  There are times when his family does not eat… he has been blessed to be able to feed his family on a regular basis of at least one meal a day now.  But he has seen years of only feeding his family once a week…yes, I said once a WEEK.

Yes, we have many issues in the USA… we have slums, hungry families, families without jobs, families without homes… we in America should be ashamed of what we have allowed our country to become.  WE have the ability to take care of our own… we have the knowledge, we have the technology and yet in our own country we find similar situations as they do in 3rd world countries.  We CAN change it.

So this is my brother, no we do not share the same physical gene line, but he is still my brother. He is a humble man, he does not draw attention to himself, he does not seek appreciation, or the clapping of our hands… we just share a common heart… this IS my brother and I’m proud to be his sister! 

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Growing Old Gracefully (True Confessions)

Growing Old Gracefully (True Confessions)

Why is it a lot of time we don’t know what we have when we have it, until we lose it?  When I was younger I thought of myself as a “Plain Jane”, a “Wall Flower”.  I was not among the most “popular” girls in high school.  As I proceeded into my 20s, I found myself a mom and wife, it was my “life’s dream”.
Even after children I still had that great figure (but was not conscious of it at the time). I continued to think of myself as “below average” in the looks department.  Always sizing myself up, comparing myself to others, thinking I’m still that “wall flower”.  This way of thinking continued through my 30s.

I hit 40 and life was changing, a divorce, children grown, and a new phase in life for sure. However my self-image continued to be unchanged. Until one day I was sharing with a friend my feelings of my poor self image.  They spoke to me with words of encouragement and suggested having some fun with a photo session. Can I just say “WOW”, to my amazement the woman who was in the pictures surely could not have been me, could it? She was beautiful! Finally after 40 yrs of a bad self image, I began to see myself in a “different light”. All those years I spent downing on myself, not pretty, too this, too that etc etc… and now my eyes were open. Not only was I beginning to see the beauty inside, but also the beauty outside.

Now I find myself in my 50s, and oh boy times have changed.  Unfortunately my poor self-image has returned.  With my aging process has come; aches, pains, and adult asthma, all of which has caused a bit of slowing down, add to that grey hair and I’ve also discovered way too many extra pounds on this small framed body (something I have NEVER struggled with before). 

In today’s society we have the “thin, young, flawless” women thrown in our faces every time we turn on the TV, look in magazines or see bill boards as we drive down the road.  Where are the “real women”?  

I KNOW I’m not the only woman out there that deals with this problem.  I ask myself: “how do I grow old gracefully”?  I know it has to come from within me, within my heart and mind, to look at what God has to say about it. However I have not be able to “grab hold” of that solution and apply it. I need to see myself in that “different light” again, this time accepting with grace, the gift God has given me, and that is the gift of life, be that life, young or old.

Psalm 139: 14 I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; 
   your works are wonderful, I know that full well. 

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Let's Think About Thoughts

Let’s Think About Thoughts!

Our mind is a very complex and amazing organ… it can be what makes us or breaks us.  It is a very difficult thing to control (if that’s possible).
I want to talk today about thoughts and how they can affect us.

I don’t know about you but I struggle every day with thoughts that are probably not that good for me.  Because I suffer from depression (which is managed with medication) this can be especially difficult.  I find myself often comparing myself to others, finding faults with my own inabilities or abnormalities.  I want to be the ideal weight, height, size, and look gorgeous darling (add a little snicker laughter here)… or at least on the “purdy” side. Setting all of that aside, the point here is my thought process and trying to develop a healthier menu.

So the question here is: “How do I change unhealthy thought patterns”? 
A dear friend recently pointed out that our mind can only focus on one thought at a time.  Of course knowing myself as I do, I had to challenge this declaration within my own self.  I immediately began putting it to the test. HA!!! Guess what?  He was RIGHT!!! As I sit here and laugh at myself.

So what do we do when the unhealthy thoughts pop up or try to inundate our minds?  We have to purposely change those thoughts. This takes work and practice on our part; we have to actively make a choice and change the thought process.  Some days this course of action seems to be easier than others.

Think about it… our thoughts can and does literally shape our life.  Some ways of influencing our thought process is what we feed our mind.  What we read, what we watch on TV, what we listen to on the radio and who we hang out with.  I believe every sense of our being influence our thoughts.  Sight, sound, touch, smell and taste.  You can set yourself back in time (in your mind) with any of the above.  Our thoughts can also be so strong they can disturb our physical being also.  We can literally make ourselves physically sick via our thought process.

So what do we do?  We consciously make a effort to change the unwanted thoughts when they come up, by replacing them with a thought that we like and accept as a good replacement.  Yeah… yeah, I can hear you now “easy for you to say”… actually it is easy to say, however choosing to make that change is not so easy at times especially when you are depressed or constantly in pain etc.  I’m not saying it’s a cure all or it makes everything all better, what I am saying is, it can and does help IF we choose to apply it. 

So the next time thoughts that are negative, displeasing, hurtful, hateful, disturbing, offensive, upsetting, unsettling, tormenting, sad, stressful, difficult, painful, inappropriate, improper, unacceptable begin to invade your thoughts… attack back with thoughts that are good for you, and good to you.

I’ve been learning to ask myself “why am I still holding on to this thought”?  Turn it loose and replace it with a better one.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Depression: "One to Ten and Then Some"

Depression: "One to Ten and Then Some"

What are some of the things someone who is depressed can do that might be helpful?

Scale 1–10 system
Begin to become aware of your ‘daily levels’.  Create a scale from 1 to 10.
One (1) would be the low end level of how depressed you are feeling; for instance, you’re really good, barely aware of any feelings of depression etc.  Ten would be the top end level of how depressed you are feeling; extreme feelings of depression, complete hopelessness, feelings or thoughts of suicide.  The numbers in between one and ten would represent the various levels of depression.

This process really takes some monitoring are your part.  Being aware of your feelings; taking inventory or keeping a record (which I will cover shortly).  It won’t be long before you will recognize your levels and be able to rate it on the scale from 1 – 10 with very little effort. This will not only help you but also it can become a good tool for you to use when trying to communicate with someone how your depression level is going.

Begin journaling, this is a process of writing down (either by hand or typing it on your computer, recording it on a tape player if you are unable to use your hands well) of what you are feeling on a daily basis. This will also help you to learn to identify and relate those feelings to the scale 1-10 system I mentioned above. You can also review your previous day, week etc progress.  You may also begin to notice a pattern of depression according to your physical health or even the weather (some people suffer from SAD, Seasonal Depression Disorder, the sun light or rather lack thereof can affect your moods). You will also discover you will have the ability to share those feelings with your counselor or with the person you have agreed to become accountable to more easily.  This will also prove to be a great tool of recollection to see your progress as you move forward.

Setting Goals
Set reasonable goals for each day; write them down so you can see your progress.  Please remember keep it simple.  Try not to procrastinate; this only causes you to feel like you can’t “measure up”, which gives you feelings of failure… remember keep it simple!!!

If you are extremely depressed you first goal of the day, may be just getting out of bed and getting dressed.  So some of you reading this might say: “are you for real?”,  trust me on this one, those who deal with severe depression, just getting out of bed in the morning and getting dressed may be a major step.

Make some commitments
Ok so I KNOW this one is a huge step for some and I have been there more times that I would like to admit.
Some ideas of commitment to get you up and out might be:
Your job would be an obvious reason to get out of bed and out of the house. Perhaps help someone with a special project. Check with the local schools to volunteer a couple days out of the week.  Look into assisting elders to and from their doctor visits. Read to the elderly or the blind.  Maybe start a ‘morning coffee group’, just get together with friends several mornings a week to meet for coffee.  This could be at your home or at a local diner.  There are many other opportunities to reach out to others and lend a hand.  Get out and walk, run, exercise… but get out of the house even if it’s just sitting in the sun for a little while at first.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Depression: "Nurture or Torture?"

Depression: "Nurture or Torture?"

Where do we find nurture? 
Our families should be on the forefront of this list, yes I said SHOULD be.  Unfortunately not everyone has a close knit family who is understanding and supportive of someone who suffers from depression. Sometimes even your spouse is of no support.  That alone can be devastating. If you have a spouse who suffers from depression and you are not supportive, I say YOU are the one with the bigger problem and shame, shame on you!!! (This disgusts me and that puts it mildly!!!)

A trusted friend can be vitally important during times of depression, someone who is willing just to be there to lend a shoulder or give a hug. They are not there to try and “fix” you, there are simply there to encourage you and lend an ear.

Your church should also be on the list of those who will nurture and support you.
Yes, I know… we have just discussed in an earlier blog about the so called “Christian” support or comments given.  I have “been there done that, got the T-shirt”.  HOWEVER, hopefully as a church family becomes educated on depression and truly seeks guidance from our Lord Jesus Christ, they can and will become a means of support and love for those who suffer from depression.
IF you are in a church that the people do not nurture, support or encourage (for any reason)… I personally would speak with the pastor privately… and IF for some strange reason the pastor is the same… I would say, “shake the dust from your shoes” and find a church that does.

See a counselor.  There is absolutely NOTHING wrong with speaking to a counselor.  I would highly recommend a reputable Christian counselor. There are times when your family, spouse, friends and church have done what they can to the best of their ability, and it is best for your own sake for you to seek a counselor.  There are many advantages to speaking with a counselor.  They are unbiased, they are private, and you won’t hurt their feelings if you get angry and really “spill your guts”.  They are highly trained in dealing with issues of depression. 

Last and certainly not least… I recommend God… seek comfort in a relationship with God… I am speaking from my own experiences… if it were not for my faith in God, my trust in Him, His grace and for His care on my life, I would not be alive today to share these insight with you.

NOTE: please know, there are situations in life that go beyond what an individual(s) can handle. We are also not here to be taking advantage of. We are not here to be misused or abused, whether it is physically or emotionally. Do NOT allow anyone to misuse or abuse you, no matter how much you love them. Your own personal safety comes first. You are not doing them or yourself a favor. They need to seek professional help.

To be continue:

Monday, September 6, 2010

Depression: "Say What??"

Depression: "Say What??"

I’m here to ask, how do we as Christians treat others who may suffer with depression, and especially if the one who suffers with depression is a Christian?  Oh yes, I’ve heard a lot of things come out of so called well meaning “Christians” and here are just a few of the things they have said:

“I’ll be praying for you honey”  (said with a tone in their voice as if you just announce you have the plague, and ready to move on away from you).

The ever over used southern constant: “well bless your heart”

The holier than thou: “if you had enough faith in God you wouldn’t be depressed”,

The health fanatic who can cure anything: “if you ate the right foods, you wouldn’t be depressed”,  or “if you exercised more, the depression would go away”

The Bible scholar: “Poor thing just doesn’t understand the word of God and how to apply it to his / her life”

And those who have NO earthly idea what they are talking about:
“Well just snap out of it”,
“Pick yourself up and brush yourself off”,
“There’s no need to keep crying over a cup of spilled milk”,
“The past is the past darlin’, it’s time to move on” ,

and the list goes on and on and on.

Don’t take what I’m saying wrong, I totally believe God can and does heal. He not only heals physically, but emotionally, physiologically and spiritually.  But that is not always what happens.  Sometimes healing/relief comes in the form of medication to help ‘control’ your depression.

Do we (as Christians) ever stop to listen to what they (those who suffer with depression) are truly saying to you, or do you put a “mark” on them once you’ve heard the word depression come out of their mouth?  I’m here to tell you, people who suffer from depression need our love, support and understanding just as much as someone who suffers from a more “acceptable” disease such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer or any other debilitating disease. 

Let me give you a little insight to the issue:
One of the most difficult things to do when you are depressed is to actually
reach out and ask for help or to actually share the fact that they suffer from depression.

Often times people that suffer from depression, are great performers in front of others in public. They do this often as a means of survival, because of the labels that people put on them when they find out they suffer from depression.

People who suffer from depression often feel a sense of inadequacy or shame. 
There is a left over feeling in our society today of days gone by that you are considered to be ‘crazy’.  So when someone with depression finally is able to bring themselves to a point to reach out and say to you “I suffer from depression”, try to understand how much courage it took them to actually admit that out loud to you. Think before you speak…

To be continued:

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Depression: "Depression Sucks!"

First and foremost let me clearly state: “I am not a doctor or a physiologist, I speak from my own experiences and research. If you or someone you know is severely depressed or suicidal please call 911, seek professional help. Their life may depend on it".

Depression Sucks!

How else could I describe it?  Well perhaps that would not be a good question to ask someone especially if they are in the midst of this dark time, unless you are prepared to listen without judgment. I actually did try to think of a ‘proper’ title for this entry, but to be honest, that fits well, no candy coating here.

I suppose I should begin with sharing a bit about myself and my experience with depression.  

I am 53 years old now, I remember as a child and early adulthood, thinking to myself “why do I cry every day?” and “will there ever be a time when I don’t cry every day?”  Eventually that day did come, however that is yet another story to explore.

The constant feelings of sadness always lingered in the background; I thought this was a ‘normal’ thing in life because I never knew anything else.  Sure I would appear happy and chipper to others and I would even experience times of joy and happiness in my life; however the ever looming feeling of sadness deep within me never really left completely.

It wasn’t until I was about 38 years old that I began my journey into understanding depression and dealing with it in a way that would be healthy for me. That meant professional Christian counseling and medication. (Let me add notes here, not ALL so called “Christian Counselors” are truly bible believing Christian counselors. Do you homework or have someone do the homework for you before you go talk w/ them).

“Depression” may show itself in a variety of ways, and may originate from several areas in our life. Sometimes it may originate from the following causes (to name a few):
stressful life events,
Fluctuating hormone levels (Sometimes women who are menopausal will suffer from depression due to the imbalance of hormones during this time of their lives.)
alcohol and drug abuse or misuse,
Other chronic physical conditions. 

Some of the causes listed above last for just a “period” of time, when the circumstances improve the will depression improve. Other causes of depression are more of a “life time” existence. But this does not mean there is no hope!!! There is always hope! 

In my case, the depression I have is due to a chemical imbalance, one that I have had all of my life. It’s probable that I have inherited it through the gene structure of my parents. 

Listed below are some of the signs or symptoms of depression. Please keep in mind not everyone has the same symptoms.  You may have some, but not others.  Each person varies to some degree.
·       Persistent feelings of being sad or anxious
·       Feelings of “emptiness”
·       Feelings of hopelessness
·       Feelings of unjustified guilt, worthlessness, helplessness
·       Decreased energy, consistent fatigue,  
·       Difficulty concentrating, remembering, making decisions  (please keep in mind that becoming overly stressed can also cause these symptoms)
·       Insomnia, or sleeping too much
·       Appetite changes: overeating or weight loss
·       Restlessness, irritability
·       Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities that were once enjoyed, including sex
·       Persistent physical symptoms that do not respond to treatment, like headaches, digestive disorders, or chronic pain
·       Thoughts of death or suicide; suicide attempts (PLEASE call 911 if you or someone you know is experiencing this symptom).

In future blogs we will talk more about this "Silent Killer".

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Grudges and Judges

Ok I know... it's been a LONG time since I've posted anything... well to be honest... I've been pondering what to talk about... something that would be meaningful, helpful etc... I wrote this quite some time back but I think I will post it now... soon to come I will begin posting issues surrounding "depression", I will be sharing some of my experience and also facts about this subject.  If you know of someone that would be interested in learning more about this silent disease, please point them in this direction and perhaps they will learn a bit more about these issues.

Grudges (resentment) and Judges (forming a negative opinion about someone)

This issue has been on my mind for a very long time now.  I have both friends and family that just can’t get past issues or differences they have. What a waste of energy and life.  Grudges or resentment eats away at the person who is holding it. You sit there and stew about it over and over. Each time the issue comes up, you begin all the negative thoughts, the negative feelings the judging. Sometimes you even work yourself up so much you get headaches or other physical feelings etc.. Do you honestly think this is affecting the person you hold a grudge against?  They are off living their life as usual, sipping their coffee, going to work, going shopping, fixing dinner, enjoying their friends and so on.
It is you that continues to pay, both emotionally and physically.

So what do we do, how should we handle the hurts, offenses and downright nastiness of those who have betrayed our trust, slandered our name, set their self high on a pedestal thinking themselves better than anyone else? That’s the hard part isn’t it?

Well we could become just as vindictive as they are… setting them up for failure, spreading the word about how nasty or mean they are, spending our lives trying to figure out how to get back at them. Sure… that would work as we slowly lower ourselves to a standard that everyone just loves to befriend or be around…and die a lonely crotchety person full of negativity…. NOT!

I know you are probably thinking “oh sure right, just be nice to them, forgive them yada yada… after what they’ve said and done to me or someone I care about, I DON’T think that’s gonna happen, they need to PAY for what they did!!!” 

I hear where you are coming from, been there done that got the T-shirt.  I didn’t say it was or is easy. In fact it’s very difficult and there are times I still deal with it as it raises its ugly head, reminding me how deeply it hurt me, what it cost me and the old feelings come flooding back. But it’s at that point I have to make a decision ONCE AGAIN to let it go, because I refuse to become another victim of someone else’s doing.

I’m the type of person who feels if there has been a wrong doing then they should sit down as adults and discus the issue. Depending on how deep the wounds, a third party should be involved (someone who will not take sides and knows how to handle these types of situations such as a pastor or counselor).  Keep in mind screaming, hollering, cussing each other out will not bring a pleasant outcome.  Sometimes the person who has offended you does not even realize they have done so and quietly talking about the issue with that person can really help mend your hard feelings.