I’m okay (at least today) with the fact that I’m not always okay

A few weeks ago I shared with my friend, Stacy, a new perspective I’d recently come to about myself and my life:

I’m mentally ill and not going to be “fixed,” even with therapy.

Ouch, right?

No.  Surprisingly, the idea that I am mentally ill brought me relief.  “If I’m mentally ill, I shouldn’t expect more from myself than is reasonable.  If I am mentally ill, that means I don’t have to keep up the unending, self-incriminating attempts to discover and solve the underlying causes (behaviors? thoughts?) which have brought about my years of depression. I just need to work through the symptoms of my depression (and creative mania) as they show up.  Take one day at a time.  Give myself a break. Be grateful for the good days, amazed at the occasional accomplishment, and kind/gentle with myself on the days I am having a hard time.”

Ironic though it may seem, I experienced tremendous relief, sustainable self-compassion, and renewed commitment to my wellbeing when I concluded that I’m not fixable.  I now expect (rather than lament) that there will be days of depression, and when they come, I take note; talk with my hubby about what I’m experiencing; decide what I want to do during the depressive episode (go to bed? take a hike? talk things out? make a planning list?); and trust that it will pass before long.

Not sure if I am officially mentally ill, but at least today I’m okay with that hypothesis.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

The Challenge

I learned recently that two of my acquaintances, a mother and daughter, have the misfortune of suffering from frequent insomnia. Mentioning this news to my children on our drive to school this morning, I added, “The next time you go to bed and find it very easy to fall asleep, be grateful you don’t have insomnia!”

Did that sound too callous—not to mention impossible (noticing that you’d fallen asleep easily)?–

Be glad you don’t have what they have?

Not liking the sound of that, I thought of a way of expressing the idea in slightly more positive terms:

We all have our challenges–being human, as we are. But there are always positive things in our lives to be noticed and enjoyed, if we pay attention.

I went on. “For example, since Monica* and Cathleen* don’t have the blessing in their lives of being able to fall asleep easily, the challenge for them is to notice frequently the blessings they do have—such as a husband/daddy who loves and supports them. What a blessing!

“Unfortunately, there are people who don’t have a spouse or daddy to love and support them. Their challenge is to notice the blessings which they do have in their life, such as cool co-workers who make going to work more fun than drudgery for them. What a blessing!

“But there are plenty of people who hate their jobs, finding them absolutely tedious and unfulfilling, and who have no cool co-workers to make work bearable. What is the challenge for them?”

“To look for what is going right in their lives!” my kids answered. (Clever kids!)

“Right! Maybe for those job-haters, the challenge for them is to realize what a blessing it is for them to have music in their lives—and functioning ears to hear it! Maybe they go home after work and play their guitar for hours, singing along. What a blessing!”

I liked this on-going story we were creating–a fun challenge coming up with less-obvious blessings. Reminds me of Betsy ten Boom in The Hiding Place. To her grateful mind, even fleas were considered a blessing—since they kept the cruel German guards out of the barracks. When parts of our lives are undesirable, Yes, we can work toward positive change. Yes, we can seek solutions. But in the meantime, we can smell the roses. Noticing and enjoying what we’ve been given, especially during the valleys of lifes’ poignant challenges–perhaps that is The Challenge.

*Names have been changed to protect privacy.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Happiness in a charged up marriage

Some of you may know that Erik’s and my marriage got a major reboot five years ago. I’d like to write a book about that sometime, but in the meantime (today) it’ll suffice to just say that I went from taking Erik for granted to caring deeply about his happiness—especially my part in it.

I remember having the thought–after the reboot had happened and we’d taken a second honeymoon and ordered a new wedding ring set and were having a grand old time in bed every day,

Who would have thought that my happiness was to be found in my marriage?!

I had suffered so much depression, stewed over all the possible causes and all the potential solutions for years, and yet “enjoy and pamper your spouse” had not even entered my mental radar as a means to lasting happiness. What a shock, then, what a revelation when I found myself in 2006 delightfully happy by being delightedly grateful for and passionately re-in-love with my spouse!

Beautiful story, but, unfortunately, not “end of the story.”

Things were great for months, but after a while I started returning to some of my old mental habits. Fortunately, Erik and I have remained close and emotionally intimate–spending most evenings talking together, as best friends—but that hasn’t prevented my depression from rearing its ugly head.

So, I was remembering yesterday that thought from five years ago—that my happiness could be found in my marriage—and realized it’s about time I started enjoying my marriage the way I did at that time. I want to throw away my worries with hopeless abandon and get seriously in love again! So I’m going to start applying some sexy thought filters throughout the day:

  • “How can I feel more connected to Erik right now while I’m doing _____?”
  • “What could I do for him today to make his life lighter and happier?”
  • “What romantic comedy could we watch tonight?”
  • “What memory of Erik do I want to hold in my heart today?”
  • “Erik loves me, wants me, and thinks of me throughout the day . . .”
  • “Erik’s such a stud. I love his . . .”

Sounds fun. Being in love is fun!  Charging up one’s marriage is a great way to get happy.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment