Beginning Adventures in Cross Stitching

So re-reading the Little House books and spending a week with my sister-in-law, who cross stitches all the time, has inspired me. I used to cross stitch a bit and I want to start doing it again. It’s a crafty sort of thing that I feel like I can actually do. I’m not very creative in looking at random things and upcycling them or sewing or things like that, but I can do cross stitching. Here’s my first project:

Cross stitch project

 

I bought this kit over a year ago when I thought that maybe starting a new hobby would help with my depression. It obviously didn’t work at the time, but now I have this fun new thing to do. We’ll see how it goes!

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Presentation on Depression: an LDS perspective part 2

This is part two on my reporting on a presentation the women’s group in my church had last week on depression, anxiety, and spirituality. Part one can be found here.

As part of the presentation, we received booklets that listed the steps that the presenter suggested as a way to spiritually deal with depression and anxiety and deal with/repair the spiritual damage those illness can do. I’ll list each suggestion he gave with a few thoughts of my own.

Seek the Spirit and greater light and truth

Essentially this suggestion is to return to the basics of the gospel and make sure we’re doing the basic things that will bring the Spirit into our lives: attending our church meetings, praying, studying the scriptures, attending the temple, etc. As we do this, we open ourselves up to the influence of the Spirit, even if our mental illness makes it difficult to feel that influence. It also allows God to bless us because of our obedience.

I know for me, this made an enormous difference in dealing with my depression. Even when I hit a point when I honestly wasn’t sure why I was still going to church, I continued to go, as well as reading my scriptures and praying. The prayer especially made all the difference as I poured out my soul to God and asked for and received strength to keep going. I knew that no matter how I felt, I had a Father who loved me and wanted the best for me.

Believe you have the power to change

As Elder David A. Bednar said, “The enabling power of the Atonement of Christ strengthens us to do things we could never do on our own.” If we don’t believe we have the power to change and to overcome and deal with our illness, then we won’t. Nothing will happen. And part of dealing with a mental illness is recognizing what patterns of thought and behaviors contribute to it. But until we have that hope that we can change, that things can become better, we are lost in despair and things will only become worse.

Overcoming perfectionism

We aren’t going to be perfect in this life. Period. End of story. We can come closer to achieving that through the Atonement of Christ, but on our own we are never going to be perfect. I know this is something that I struggle with. I feel like I should have my life perfectly in order and together right now and when it’s not or I slip up and slip back into patterns I had when I was in the midst of my depression I feel like a failure. I start to think I should just give up, because I’m always going to fail anyway, so why try? But that’s not the point of this life. It’s to keep trying, keep improving, even if it’s only by the tiniest bit. It’s not to beat ourselves up over every little failure.

Don’t believe the lies

Depression lies to us. Satan lies to us. We can’t believe those lies or they will destroy us. Here are some of the lies the presenter listed:

  • Depression and anxiety come from sin
  • I am unworthy and worthless
  • I’m not as righteous, spiritual, attractive, or talented as others, and I’ll never be able to measure up.
  • God does not love me, or has given up on me
  • The principles of the gospel are true, they just don’t work for me
  • I’m broken, damaged, and I can’t be fixed

The truth is, God loves you. We won’t be able to measure up to others because that’s not the measuring stick we’re supposed to use in this life. We can be healed through Christ. We have challenges in this life to test us and help us become more like our Savior that have nothing to do with our righteousness or lack thereof. The principles of the gospel work for everyone, even if we can’t see the immediate results. There is hope, and there is help. No matter how worthless or unworthy we may feel, we have infinite worth in the eyes of God.

Note: There are four more suggestions, but this post is becoming a bit long so I’m going to continue this in a third post.

Laura Ingalls Wilder and Television

While visiting my grandparents a couple weeks back, I had the chance to visit Laura Ingalls Wilder’s home in Mansfield. My sister-in-law is a huge Little House fan and had never been, so we visited the home. While taking the tour of the home, the tour guide said something that stuck with me. She mentioned that Laura and Almanzo had never had a television, and that Laura once said that they didn’t have one because she didn’t think they’d have time to watch it.

Let me repeat that: she didn’t think they’d have time to watch television. This would have been in the late 1940s, early 1950s. Thinking about life today, how many people could say that? How many people instead don’t have time for other things because they’re watching television? Now granted, I don’t watch much TV myself, but I do spend a lot of time on the computer playing games or surfing the web.

It’s gotten me thinking about what Laura must have done instead of watching TV. They did have a radio. She probably read a lot and had chores and cooking to do. She may have knitted or sewed. She and Almanzo probably talked a lot. She wrote 9 books and countless letters. What could I do if I cut back on my computer use to the point where I was so busy with other, probably far more productive and useful things that I didn’t have time to play computer games or dink around Pinterest or whatever else for hours? The answer is quite a lot. I could practice the piano more and regain my proficiency. I could do as she did and write my novels. I could write friends and family. I could become the crafty person I’ve secretly always wished I could be. I could actually do the cleaning and organizing that I want to do. I could read more, study my scriptures more, go on walks and enjoy nature, exercise… the list goes on and on and on.

I think I want to work for this. Not that I want to cut out the games and internet completely, because I do enjoy them. But there is so much more I could be doing with my life. And starting now, I want to do it.

Presentation on Depression: an LDS perspective, part 1

I went to a women’s meeting of my church a couple of nights ago. (In my church, the women’s group is called Relief Society. Find out more about it here.) It was on anxiety and depression and while I was excited (mental illness is something that needs to be talked about more, in my opinion) I was slightly worried. Sometimes in a religious setting, it often seems the suggestions for dealing with mental illness is to trust in God and He will heal you. Now I’m not saying that He won’t. I know He can. However, when you’re trying to do so and the problem doesn’t go away, it’s discouraging and having someone tell you that is all you need to do makes it worse.

I needn’t have worried. The presenter had anxiety and depression and was very upfront and honest about his struggles and how it caused him to doubt God and even hate Him. He began the presentation by using a visual to describe what’s it’s like to have depression. He had a member of the audience wear sunglasses smeared with Vaseline to show how depression distorts your worldview. They wore a backpack filled with rocks showing how depression weighs you down and wears you out. They wore headphones that represented how depression feeds you false and negative views about the world and yourself. Then they wore gloves to represent how depression can cut you off from the very human touch and love you need. I thought it was a powerful way to show what depression can do to you. Throughout the entire presentation I kept nodding my head— yep, I’ve felt that. That’s right on. Exactly!

He went on to discuss the different types of anxiety and what it’s like to have that. Then he went into the application section— if you have either of these, what should you do? Who should you talk to?

I was so appreciative of one of the bishops (a volunteer lay minister who leads a congregation) who said, “Talk to your doctor.” The presenter agreed whole-heartedly. I shared something that had helped me when I was considering going on medication for my depression: you wouldn’t look down on someone for taking insulin for diabetes. You would in fact encourage them to. Medication for mental illness is the same way. It’s an illness and you need to treat it. The presenter expanded on what I’d said for another five minutes or more. I really appreciated that. As I said earlier, too often getting treatment and help for mental illness is pushed aside when talking about mental illness in a religious setting or is lightly touched on. I hope it helped others in the audience remove a little of the stigma of mental illness or being on meds for it.

The rest of the presentation was more focused on the spiritual side of things. He presented it as mental illness not only damages you physically, emotionally, and mentally, but also spiritually, so here are things you can do to repair your relationship with God and your spirituality. It will also help you as you heal from your mental illness. Not in the idea that you will never have to deal with them again, but that you’ll be able to function again and God will heal the damage done to you by your illness. His suggestions were excellent, and deserve a post of their own.

All in all, it was a wonderful evening. It was nice to hear from someone else of my faith talk about their experiences in dealing with depression. Sometimes I feel like I’m the only one dealing with this, so it’s wonderful to hear from someone else and know I’m not alone and to hear it from a spiritual side instead of just the medical or worldly side of things. My relationship with God is incredibly important to me and a large part of why I never even flirted with considering suicide. I have no doubt that without my faith in God; I would have been much, much closer at times to considering that. It scares me to think about where I would be (or possibly NOT be) without my Savior in my life.

Next week I’ll do a post on his suggestions for spiritual healing and repair.

Returning to planning

Yesterday evening I did something that I haven’t done in a couple of months. I sat down with my planner and actually planned out the most important things I wanted to get done today. It used to be I did that every night before going to bed, but somewhere along the way I lost the habit.

In the past, I would make enormous lists and rarely ever accomplished everything I’d set for myself to do. This time, I chose the three most important things I wanted to get done: laundry, a large planning session for my life, and this blog post.

I had forgotten how wonderful it was to get up in the morning and know what I was going to do today beyond just when I needed to be at work. I actually had a plan today!

My planning session this morning was even better. A couple of weeks ago I made a list of my highest priorities (or what I wanted them to be). Today I decided to group them into four categories: physical, mental, social, and spiritual. This was easy to remember and helped me limit my focus, as I decided each month I would set a goal in each of those four areas. For example, I decided that my desire to become more organized would fit under physical, as it often involved my physical space and time. (It made sense to me!) For this month, I decided my goal would be to use my planner by planning every night and completing my top three to do items each day. I have a sneaking suspicion that doing so will help a lot of other things fall into place in my life!

Beyond identifying my priorities and setting goals, I also made a to do list of things that I needed to get done this week. I can pull my top three to dos each day from that list now.

Honestly, doing this has been such a relief. And limiting myself to a top three things that absolutely have to get done in a day is also a relief, because when they’re done, even if I didn’t get anything else done today, I know I accomplished the most important things to me. And three items is actually do able. Sometimes in the past I would have 5 or more, especially if I had a lot of homework due. When I couldn’t finish them all, I felt like a failure. Thanks to my depression, I can feel like that without any sort of cause, so no need to set myself up for failure in planning and time management!

As the saying goes, “He who fails to plan plans to fail.” How has planning helped you?

Baking galore!

So Friday night, I was in a mood to do some baking….

Baking

Baking 2

The first picture was before I had to run into town to get peppermint extract for the frosting for the cupcakes. I put the cookies away so they wouldn’t get hard. I made Baked Lemon Doughnuts (here), Peanut Butter Cookies (here), and Chocolate Mayonnaise Cupcakes with Mint Frosting (an recipe from my great great grandmother that I may share some day. I’m just not sure I have permission from the family to do so!). I know, mayo in cake sounds a bit weird but it makes the moistest cake! All of these turned out so well and it was a lot of fun. Hurray for baking yummy goodies! 🙂

Depression as an illness

Several days ago I stumbled across this conversation on Twitter:

Depression

 

The last comment was the one that particularly struck me. As I mentioned a few days ago, I feel like parts of my life are a bit off track and that I have a hard time sticking with some of the plans I come up with to change that. It frustrates me immensely! Why can’t I just pull myself together and live the life I want to live? Why do I keep being so tired and having days with no energy and on and on and on.

But that last comment reminds me why. I’m tired and have low energy sometimes because I have insomnia which makes it hard to sleep, even with medication. I have days with no energy because even with my medication, depression can do that to you. If I had chronic pain or some sort of physical illness I would be understanding with myself and my limitations. But because depression is, quite literally, all in my brain, the very thing I’m using to try to change myself is the thing that is ill and holding me back.

That isn’t to say I can change to be the person I want to be and I can’t still live the life I want to live because I have depression. It means that I need to have patience and understanding with myself. I’m being treated for an illness. I have an illness. That illness comes with certain limitations and restrictions some days.

It’s a paradigm shift that I still haven’t completed yet. I haven’t yet made the shift from “I have a mental illness so I take medication to fix it and fix me” to “I have a mental illness so I take medication to help me function but it isn’t a miracle pill and I still have to live and deal with the effects of the illness just like someone with diabetes or chronic pain would.” It’s a hard shift to make because as a society, we’re still very much in the mindset that mental illness is something you can “get over” and “get better” from. That isn’t to say that people don’t, but they’re often people who have periods of depression or anxiety and then whatever is triggering it ends and they move on. When you have chronic depression, as I do, it’s exactly that: chronic. It may lessen, but it doesn’t completely go away. There is no miracle fix that makes it all better. It’s something that is managed, not cured.

And so that’s something I need to keep in mind as I’m going about my life. My depression won’t hold me back, but it may mean I need to take a slightly different route to get where I want to go in life. And when it sidelines me, I need to be as patient and understanding with myself as I would if it were any other illness, not get frustrated and wonder why I can’t just pull myself together and get over it. I need to love myself enough to do that.

Scattered brain and random thoughts

Apologies for the lack of a post on Monday. I had just gotten back from vacation with a cold and it completely slipped my mind.

I feel like my brain is running in about 12 different directions today. I’m still recovering from the cold, so that may be part of it. I have several different blog posts I want to write but am having trouble focusing on writing them.

I’ve also been thinking a lot lately about my life and what I’m doing with it. Overall, I feel like I’m heading in the right direction but a lot of my day-to-day actions don’t match up with what I view as my priorities. For example, I consider myself a writer and feel that’s important to me, but I’m not writing anything other than this blog. I need to make some changes so what I’m doing matches up with who I want to become, but I need some more time to think about it and make a plan.

And then there’s a part of my brain that whispers, “Why make a plan? You do that all the time and then never follow through.” I’m trying to ignore that voice, but it’s not easy.

Sorry, this seems a bit down, but it’s what I’m thinking about right now. Overall, life is wonderful. I just got back from a week spent with family and enjoyed it immensely. I have a home, food to eat, money in the bank, a job, and I’m working towards getting a second degree. The big picture is lovely; I just want to clean up and adjust some of the details.

Nature Walk in the Ozarks

While visiting my grandparents we went for a walk around their neighborhood. They live in a beautiful little subdivision in the Ozarks of Missouri and I couldn’t resist taking some pictures of the scenery and things I found along the way. Being from the deserts of Southern Utah, all of this green and wildlife is different for me!

Turtle 1

A turtle. My grandpa said that the mud on the back of the shell meant it had been laying eggs.

Turtle 2

 Hello, turtle!

Greenery

 So much green! And so many different shades!

View by the lake

 A view of the lake near their house.

Two trees

If you look closely, this is actually two trees growing together. You can see the two different types of leaves, one on the right and one on the left.

Turtle nest

 Where my grandpa thinks the turtle laid her eggs

Tree by lake

A cool tree by the lake and blue skies.

Baby pinecones

Baby pinecones! I’ve always loved baby pinecones. I think they’re so cute.

Caterpiller

A caterpillar we found on the road along the way.

This walk reminded me of why I should get outside more. I tend to just stay inside, but there is something renewing and wonderful about being out in nature and feeling the wind and listening the birds sing. And if nothing else, it’s fun to take pictures of!

Summer Project

Novel

See this enormous pile of pages? This is one of my projects for this summer: editing my novel. I’d written this novel quite some time ago and when my depression hit so badly it was one of the things that fell in the cracks. After abandoning it for over a year, I’ve come up with a way to fix a problem in it and am finally excited about working on it again. Wish me luck as I try to work on editing and rewriting over 240 pages! I’ll keep you updated every so often on how it’s going.

Apologies for the shorter posts this week. I’m currently on vacation visiting my grandparents and so am keeping these shorter so I can spend time visiting with them!