Inspired

I have been inspired to share my journey so I will start from the beginning on my other website. Please follow me if you want to learn about my story: one of hope, healing and my daily journey with depression and anxiety. My hope is to give the best way I know how-through writing. Through my writing, I hope to connect with others who are or know someone like me and to remind you all (and myself) that we are not alone.

Blog-tember Challenge: Mood Board

Instead of a mood board I decided to share my Vision Board that I created as part of my work through this book:

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For the past 1-2 years, I have been dealing with another bout of depression which I am sure was fueled by the stress of so many changes in my life this past year. This past summer my goal was to get healthy and one of the things in my functional medicine doctor’s plan was to read this book. The author’s point was to become a Visionary not a Critic (pp. 24-26): “While the critic whispers incessantly to you about your shortcomings, all that is wrong, and how hard you must work to change, …the visionary knows who you really are, identifies with your basic goodness, and has specific longings just for you.”  The book said to create a Vision Board by first reflecting on what hopes you have in going through this workbook. Then, by cutting out pictures from magazines that speak to these hopes and your vitality. As a former artsy crafty person, it was fun to be creative and take the time to do this for myself. So this is what I came up with.

img_0004The book asks, “What does your vision board tell you about your deepest longings and intentions for yourself on this journey to resilience?”

My deepest longing is to be free from self-sabotage brought about by my incessant self-judgements. When I strip away all this negative judgement I am left with the person I really am, even if I don’t feel like I am her. That’s why I included affirmations such as “I am free from fear; I am full of peace” and “I have the courage to change.”  They feel so very far from true-like it’s almost wrong to say them. But by not saying them, I am not true to myself and I continue along the sad road of self-sabotage. Along with the Scripture verses, “I am precious and honored” and “I am chosen, holy and Christ’s heir”-they don’t feel real, but I must fight to believe them.

I also included comforting and serene pictures to remind me that I am someone who longs for peace, rest and comfort. And it’s okay to have these things. Because when I experience them, I can then give them to others.

I included pictures and quotes about healing because true healing is not the absence of pain or disease; that’s just a cure. True healing is a mental state that shows I am resilient and have the ability to find joy in tough times.

I also included a picture of a snowman because it reminds me of the innocence of childhood and brings me back to my memories of childhood.  This is a reminder that it’s okay to be nostalgic, to receive soothing comfort from the past. While I find joy in my memories, I also desire to be creating new memories by experiencing beauty in the present moment. Because by remaining focused on the past or future, I am contributing to my old patterns of stuckness and self-sabotage. This reminds me that life is about a balance.

The book finally asks to come up with an intention statement for yourself as you go through this book. My intention as I continue along the road of healing is:

I allow myself to become who I truly am by letting go of the fear of change and of becoming this new person. I allow myself to let go of the things that overall don’t matter but instead embrace all of the beauty in my self, others and Creation.

Preston

Preston came into my life the summer of 1998, the summer I turned fourteen. I was kind of caught between childhood and adulthood at that point. I couldn’t decided what I wanted more, to stay young or join the ranks of my friends who seemed to embrace young adulthood carelessly. So I had a foot in both doors. I was about to get a job at Culver’s, I began thinking about college and boys. I worked rigidly, diligently, at my academics and music. I was perpetually unhappy. But I believed, as long I was doing what teenagers did, I would be okay.

What made me really happy was forgetting all the demands and “shoulds”. Reading a good book, taking a bath, coloring, playing with my baby cousins or little neighbors, doing a jigsaw puzzle. Cuddling next to my mom in her bed and talking. Holding my dad’s hand. Or climbing the tree in my backyard just to see what I could see. Those were the happy times. When I could just be a little kid. But, of course, I rarely felt happy for long doing those things because I was fourteen and teenagers just didn’t do those things.

We were sitting in the minivan waiting for Mom and Dad. Greg, Tim and me. Nate decided he wasn’t coming to Illinois with us for our mini “family reunion.” He was trying to save money for college, so he decided to stay back and work. Mom and Dad left the house, chatting playfully. My mom, especially, had eyes full of wonder and a carefree expression on her face as she climbed in next to Dad.

Seeing Mom like that right before a road trip was not typical. But I didn’t analyze it too much, just enjoyed her strange but pleasant mood. I was looking forward to seeing my extended family, especially playing with my little cousins. Summers were great. I was away from the pressures of school friends and living up to all the “shoulds” I placed on myself.

When we pulled into my grandparents’ long windy black driveway after the three-hour drive, I noticed my elegant grandmother wandering around the yard with a little black dot hopping up and down wildly behind her. Everywhere she went the little dot followed. As we got closer to the scene, the dot turned into a small puppy. My heart rate quickened. It all made sense. Mom wanted to surprise us because her parents had gotten a puppy and she knew how much I loved dogs! Her good mood made sense now! I don’t remember what my brothers said, but I blurted out, “You didn’t tell us Grammy and Papa got a dog!” It barely registered when my mom, trying to suppress a smile, stated matter-of-factly, “That’s your dog.” We were climbing out of the car then, running toward the puppy. Before long, I was holding the little three-pound Yorkshire terrier as he nipped at my nose and licked my cheek. It felt like heaven.

I still didn’t understand. There’s no way Dad would let us take this little guy home, I thought. He was the reason I still didn’t have my puppy, my mom would always say. She and I would dream together, sometimes, scouring the newspaper ads for puppies for sale. We would talk about the different type of dogs we’d want to have and come up with names for our “dream dogs.” Mom would often tell me about her childhood dog, a Sheltie named Corky. I could tell she longed for a puppy as much as I did.

As the day went on, I discovered more and more details and things started falling into place. The puppy was bred by mom’s brother Uncle Bud’s two yorkies. My parents had been in touch with Uncle Bud for several months. That explained the frequent phone calls back and forth between Dad and Uncle Bud over the last several months. My parents had told Uncle Bud to pick out the runt to be theirs and to call him “Preston.” Preston was the name of the small town in Washington State where the four of us kids were born, a town dear to my parents’ heart. It turned out that the runt outgrew another puppy, Uncle Bud named “Hercules.” Uncle Bud got mixed up and began calling Hercules “Preston.” He discovered his mistake and told my parents. They decided it didn’t really matter, so the new runt became “Preston Hercules Bettger,” our dog.

When we walked into our house back in Wisconsin later that day, I still felt like I was living in a cloud. I carried little Preston up the stairs (he was too little and uncoordinated to climb them) and set him down on the carpet where he immediately began scouring his new territory. Entering the kitchen, I now saw why my parents had been late getting in the car that morning, exiting the house with masked grins and jovial moods. On the kitchen table lay a dog bowl, treats, a few colorful toys, and a books on how to train Yorkie puppies. On the floor sat a bag of puppy food, a comfortable looking dog bed and a tiny kennel. I imagined my mom, in her creative, fun nature, laying everything out, the way a chef might lay out a creative, colorful gourmet meal. The reality that I had a dog was beginning to set in.

I don’t remember much, except for pure joy. I must have hugged my parents again and again and thanked them profusely. My mom said, “It was your dad. He finally gave in.” To this day, I don’t really know how my mom talked him into it.

Life with Preston was like adding a never-before-seen color to my life. I didn’t realize how much fun and adventure a four-legged creature could bring to my life. I had always wanted a dog, but it seemed like a far off dream the older I got. I was head over heals in love with our puppy. My parents and brothers loved him too, but I began to think Preston and I shared a special bond. I found myself thinking about him all the time when I was at work or at some church event. I couldn’t wait to see his little wiggly body and feel his soft kisses on my nose. When school started in the fall, Preston was what I looked forward to most throughout the day.

Preston was my link to home and childhood, to silliness, to playfulness. To not wanting the world to change. He helped me stay sane because, with this little creature, I could tune out all my worries. I could focus on his cuteness, his beady eyes, the silky hair that fell over one ear and eye, the other ear perked up, how his little back half moved with excitement when you walked in the door. The look and feel of his impossibly silky metallic and mahogany fur. How it felt to have him jump up and try to lick/bite my nose. How his warm four-pound body felt cuddled on my lap. How it felt to take him on a walk and have strangers or neighbors comment on his cuteness.preston n me college1preston n me in HS

An Adventure Starts Today

I am about to embark on a new adventure. I have always challenged myself to do things that scare me. That’s one good thing about me. I don’t let my incessant fears and worries keep from doing (too many) things. Today I am “killing three birds with one stone.” As I’ve told people when explaining why this trip is exctiing and a big step for me.

The three  “stones” are

1) It is a writing retreat. A goal of mine has been to go on a writing retrreat of some sort.

2) We are going to the Apostle Islands. I’ve always wanted to visit there. I’ve heard it’s beautiful! I love traveling in general, but when it has to do with water and sunshine (hopefully), I am even more interested!

3) We are going sailing! Doing something I’ve never done before is a goal I have for each summer (and winter)! For about a year now,  I have thought sailing sounded fun. I feel safe knowing we are going with a trained Skipper.

Besides, my three goals I am fulfilling, I am also excited to get to know the “crew” better. They are members of my writing group I wrote about before. There are six of us going ranging in age from 29 (me) to 72!  I am excited to be challenged by them (I am always challenged by being in groups) and learning from their wisdom. Plus, we are all writers, musicians, artists, so have so many things in common. Finally, I am looking forward to growing personally in my faith in Christ and his power (especially through creation), through my writing and through my time of fellowship in an exotic environment.

I’m finally learning that God wants me to have joy and to enjoy my time on Earth. It’s been a slow realization but one I’ve started opening up to especially these last few years, since He helped kick depression out of my life. So here I go! I’ll let you know what I’ve learned. I have a feeling that something amazing will happen and I may not realize it for many weeks, months, years?? afterwards. God is such an awesome God and continues to work in every little (and big) moment in my life, whether I realize it or not. The great thing is that lately, I have been more in tune to Him and how he is working and how He has always been a steady presence in my life.

Grip of the Past

I am sitting here breathing deeply, reflecting on all the riches around me. Sorrow has left, even physical discomfort. The frogs are croaking; I hear their call come in on a breeze that touches my ankles, refreshes my warm arms, cheeks. The robins’ warbles are distant, mixed with their friends’ chirps and teeters. The sun is hidden behind warmth, grayness. The world feels calm and nourishes me…and still I feel out of my element.

This peace, deep-seated calm, an awareness of chaos but the underlying joy and trust that this world is not my own…it’s out of my grasp, this surrender, it’s still so new. It’s who I am. But my mind wander to who I was.

I want to tast the tantalizing drink of the past, the highs, the rushes, the fire in my blood, the dark blues and brooding blacks of my pits, my friends called Emptiness and Agony, the delectable emotions that kept me breathing, the pounding head, the swollen sinuses, a body wracked with an intolerable grief, that unendingly flowed, a grief I savored; it was me and I reveled in it, no matter how much I hated it and every day wanted it to leave. Still I loved being “me.”

And my brain and body try to go back. To recreate the me I was. I try to feel the intensities again, that connection to my self and to God, toe evil and to good. The power I knew I had: life and death in my hands, the power to turn a head. My sickness told me: this power was the key to me enlightenment, my freedom. Even while I saw no future for myself, I raged on living from one cliff-hanging moment to the next. Sucking everything in and plowing over everyone in my path.

Now I can only see what I really loved about those times. Or what I thought I loved. I easily forget about the monster: an illness that had its icy fingers wrapped around each thought and action. The evil I almost let win.

This old self is so real; we’re supposed to kill our old selves. But my grip on the past is unbreakable. Who am I without my past? So grateful, yet so conflicted. How can the pain, regret, tears, the evil seem so much like friends? They brought me experiences I will never get back. They seemed so right. How can I incorporate these times into my current self, instead of being sucked in, trying to recreate a self that has died?

Restless

Something is pulling me
Grabbing at my will
I can’t seem to be okay
I can’t sit
My mind spins
Thinking: what could I do?
Should I do?
What will satisfy me?
Looking inside I know You’re there
but why isn’t that enough?
I’m not up, I’m not down
I’m treading in the middle
missing my old rollercoaster life
Unaccustomed to the stillness

The moments where nothing seems to be happening.
When I can’t put a finger on a feeling
I’m burning
In this deadness
I feel like a fish out of water
this is so strange to me
When life is not about to end
And when running to my journal
And my tears is no longer necessary
to survive…

but still there’s an ache
I wish I could be full blown depressed (sometimes)
But is seems that chapter has closed
Now I have to survive
In a new world
When I’m thirsting for the old one
Who am I when I’m longing
Longing to have my identity back
My sense of worth
I feel better when I’m sad (I think)

But I hate it when I don’t have reason to be
And my brain and my heart both agree for once
I’m unsure and unsteady
As always, looking for answers
Inside and outside
instead of upwards…
i don’t know when reality will set in:
that I can’t, WON’T go back!
No matter how hard I try!

i have to live with one foot here
And one step there-for NOW
Brain-thoughts flitting
Nothing can fill me
Things that were once drugs to me
No longer allure me

And I miss that.

coffee and sugar and crying
Writing and analyzing my self
Weeping and sobbing
Friends and love ones who gave their all
to listen to my ramblings and woes
The Psalms and New Testament and Isaiah and Jeremiah and Job
Jesus…

Books, characters whose lives I longed to have
characters who were my only friends
Real people who I loved as my flesh and blood
People who I’d think about night and day
Authors who I felt knew me through and through

and the words I wrote down
Spurred on by my passions and melancholy
Beautiful, sad words…

Now I don’t see these things as necessary
Because…I’m different
But I miss the highs they gave
The lows that led to the highs
The roads I walked
The barriers I dodge
The waves I climbed

Even Jesus. Christ are you necessary?
I know you are but it’s new.
You are my life in this NEW place
I need you in a new way but i’m not sure
what it is yet
Please teach me!
Help me to know how to ease this uneasiness
And just rest.

 

Where wholeness can be found

I have been so intrigued by this book, I can barely put it down. It has inspired me to write my own stories. There are so many of them-too many to count, thousands a day. Sometimes I think they are too ordinary to share. I haven’t had anything miraculous or crazy happen to me. That is, nothing miraculous the way the world defines it, but I do indeed see miracles every day. And like this author, I am aching to write about them.

Probably one of the best quotes so far is in her section on “Freedom.” She writes,

We usually look outside of ourselves for heroes and teachers. It has not occurred to most people that they may already be the role model they seek. The wholeness they are looking for may be trapped within themselves by beliefs, attitudes, and self-doubt. But our wholeness exists in us now. Trapped though it may be, it can be called upon for guidance, direction, and most fundamentally, comfort. It can be remembered. Eventually we may come to live by it.

This spoke to me fiercely. I am always looking for outside help, ideas, support  and clarity. Most often, I hear the critical voice saying, “You’re stupid. You don’t know anything.” “You’re incompetent, how could you think you’d make it?” “You’re going to have break down.” and other absurd lies. But I do believe them most days. The author later, through a story, talks about how we become the real “us” and surprise ourselves. I do that a lot. I look at a lot of the things I have accomplished with God’s (and others’ at times) help and I stand back in awe. The ugly person I sometimes think I am could never have done these things: studying in Guatemala for a semester in college despite challenging physical/emotional problems, returning to college after having left for a semester due to severe depression, graduating from college, teaching inner city for 2 years with very difficult students and an unsupportive principal, radically changing my diet and lifestyle, advocating for my health in unknown situations, staying on top of loans and bills, working odd jobs to make my way (after losing my job), starting a 3rd new teaching job while also tackling grad school, supporting friends going through hard times, my commitment to my church groups, and my most recent feat of getting off of anti-depressants (after 9 years). For all these and many more things, I am so in awe and grateful. I just need to remember those things.

On the hard days, I tell myself, “I have been through worse.” And it’s true. I have gone through so much and I will no doubt go through worse things later. But the truth of the matter is, I need to use the God-given resources I have inside me already rather than searching for a solution in all the books I read or in a person I think is smarter than I. What a good reminder… hopefully you can be reminded of this too in your own life! And I highly recommend this book!