Wednesday, March 13, 2013

I. Have. Issues.

I may have written about the craziness that ensues in the parking lot of my son's school at drop off. It looks a bit like a pit stop at the Daytona 500. Stop. Drop child off. Rev engine. Fly out of the parking lot with increasing speed, maneuvering around other cars and narrowly missing teachers and children, innocently walking into the building.

A few years ago, a particularly hurried parent almost ran over my son. While she may have been rushing to a super important event, it was not more important than my son's life. Since that day, I pull up right in front of the door so he can walk straight in the doors. Even though he is almost 13, most days I wait until he is in the doors.

It must have been my waiting that irritated the woman behind me today, as she squealed around me to drive out of the dark, slippery parking lot, at about 55 mph. The slippery, dark parking lot filled with teachers and children walking into school.

That. Makes. Me. Crazy.

In our She's Got Issues small group, we recently talked about ANGER. I have some issues with anger. I yell more than I should, which is not at all. Sometimes I throw things. Occasionally, I slam doors. That is a particularly unsatisfying habit in my house where the doors just do not slam. However, in the old, drafty house where I grew up, the solid wooden doors shook a city block when you slammed them. That was satisfying.

Sorry, sidetracked. We talked about anger being from God. Anger motivates us to act, and when we act righteously, that anger has produced a good result. For instance, if reading about a child being bullied infuriates you so much that you form an anti-bullying organization at your own child's school, your anger has triggered a positive response. But if your husband leaves the recycling on the counter instead of putting it in the bin for the fourth day in a row, and in your irritation, you swipe it off onto the floor... Well, you've just made a big mess for yourself to clean up, and you haven't really taught him anything. And by you, I mean me, because I just did that about a week ago.

Unfortunately, our anger is often provoked by selfish motives rather than just cause. Even more often our reactions are misguided attempts at validating our own "rightness" rather than making a valuable contribution to the world. I am working really hard on that issues.

So, to the woman who screeched around me in the parking lot today: At 7:25 this morning, I had some really angry feelings toward you. Part of me wanted to yank you out of your car at the stop sign. That part of me is from Warren and may or may not have a CCL (that's a concealed carry license, and I really don't, but you didn't know that until I just told you).

Instead, I will say: I understand you are in a hurry. I worked full-time for 10 years while my older kids were in school. For three of those years, I commuted to Cleveland. Mornings are busy and hectic, and we are often rushing. I promise you that the two or three seconds you might save by speeding through the school parking lot will never be worth the lifetime of pain a family will endure if you run their child over. Please slow down and be cautious.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Trouble in this World

The weeks surrounding my 40th birthday are memories I will cherish forever. I received the most wonderful, thoughtful gifts and sentiments from my family and friends, a surprise trip to Florida that became a surprise trip to the Keys, and massive and overwhelming amounts of love. In fact, I've never felt so loved.

When things started to return to normal, I remained enamored with a magic new age that held so much promise and basked in the afterglow of all the love. Last week, I crashed. Although, I've never used cocaine, I've heard you experience a super elated feeling and when the drug wears off, that feeling is replaced by intense despondency.

Well, I was high on love and adoration, and when things went back to normal, I let my guard down, the anniversary of my dad's death crept up on me, and before I could grab a lifeline, depression had me in its unrelenting grip. Granted, I've dealt with bipolar-ish disorder for most of my life, I self-diagnosed it in grad school, and then a doctor confirmed a few years ago. I say, bipolar-ish because I have depressive episodes and manic episodes but they are not usually long enough to meet the diagnostic criteria.

One time I actually had to be medicated out of it. Technically that was too close to my dad's death to be a major depressive episode. Since it doesn't happen that often, I mostly just deal with it.

I explained, again, to my darling husband that depression is different than sadness or the blues. He has witnessed these episodes many times over 22 years and encourages and hugs and walks on eggshells around me reminding me to pray and count my blessings. For me, it's as if someone throws a wet, black, blanket over my head, which I can't lift no matter how hard I try. So, I quit struggling and just give in to the darkness. I pray so much. I am overwhelmingly grateful for my blessings. No amount of prayer and blessing counting changes it.

Last week brought a really discouraging realization. I honestly felt that as I drew nearer to God, as I made myself smaller so that He could be bigger, as I focused on using the gifts He gave me for His purpose and His good, I never questioned that I would suffer, but I didn't think it would be from depression.

I was blindsided. Why is this happening again? Am I not following You? Am I not doing Your will? Have I not fasted and prayed and sacrificed as You wanted? I didn't feel as if God had left me, but I did feel confused. In the past I viewed my depression as caused by emptiness, and I thought that once I was filled with God's love, filled with the Holy Spirit, I wouldn't suffer from it anymore. I was wrong. I thought my depression was situational. I was wrong about that too.

It just happens. Sometimes bad things happen, and we can't understand why. God wasn't punishing me or using this to show me that I was on the wrong path, I fully believe that now.  In John 16:33, Jesus reminds us, "I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

Fortunately, I don't have to have to figure out or overcome this world because Jesus all ready did. Fortunately, I am surrounded by amazing people--many of them mental health professionals, go figure that. Fortunately, I recognize the symptoms and the onset even though I am powerless to control them. Fortunately, this time, it lasted only days rather than months. Fortunately, I was rewarded with a day of manic cleaning energy to make up for the days that I wandered around in a stupor managing only to work and nothing else.

I am not a mental health professional just someone who has dealt with this for many years. If you suffer or have suffered from depression: You aren't alone. You aren't crazy. You aren't being punished. If people tell you to cheer up and get over it, they might be trying to help, but they aren't the right people to help. Find a doctor, counselor, friend, pastor or someone with knowledge about depression. Don't suffer alone.