A to Z Challenge: Letter D for Depression

I can’t believe I made it through the first week of the challenge! I can’t believe I made it through three weeks of coronavirus sheltering in place! I’m thinking by now we all know a little more about what it feels like to be depressed…

Depression is one of the hallmarks of chronic conditions of any kind, and of long term caretaking. What an awful combination it can be when both of you – client and caretaker – are both depressed. Believe me, it happens.

I don’t know what your experience with depression is, but I’ve seen enough of it that I know not to discount anyone’s experience. I’m not genetically given to long term depression but I’ve had moments, maybe days, where I’ve been unable to help myself. Unable to find motivation to do anything. I can’t do anything but wait for something to change.

Depression is sometimes hard to recognize in myself, and hard to admit. It doesn’t present the kind of image I like to have of myself. Because I’m aware of how I’ve felt, I kind of know what to look for in others. Chronic disappointment, chronic pain, unrelenting fear/stress, and other critical situations can trigger depression -when we can’t be sure change will ever come, when we can’t find a resting place, or a safe person. Sometimes it’s not apparent what the cause might be.

If you are a caretaker, you need to know that failure to practice self care can lead to depression. It is okay for you to practice self-care. If you don’t you will eventually be unable to care for others.

You also need to know the symptoms of depression for those under your care. Parents (you are caretakers!!!) recognize the changes that signal depression in a child. Healthcare workers, make emotional health of your patients part of your observation and concern. Those caring for family members, where there is more likelihood of long-term disability should be particularly aware of the silence, the apathy, the resignation and behavior changes that suggest depression.

I can’t give you the sure-fire cure for depression. For some medication helps, and it seems to be one of the easiest attempts to solve the problem. Exercise, sunshine, music, distraction, the passage of time can all help, even if that help is only temporary.

There is one remedy that you as a caretaker can apply that will never hurt, and often is one of the best aides. You can be genuinely caring and show it by your willingness to listen, your words that express your concern, your notice of suffering, and your faithfulness to difficult situations.

The perfect message – hanging on the wall in one of the halls of our small hospital.

Being in Poverty: An Amazing Night

By God’s design, I am pretty sure, three young homeless men have come to live in our house. I don’t know why, but I am learning. 

It was an amazing happening, there in the dining room around the table. I never would have imagined it.

One of the young men had come in after a day of work very depressed and anxious. He had driven Uber until 3:30 am that morning,  had fallen asleep and nearly missed his wake up alarm for his day job. He was mentally depleted and close to having an asthma attack. I tried to get him to calm down and eat something, go to bed. He kept talking and rehearsing his dilemma.

The two other guys arrived about that time and heard what was going on. They jumped in with their own brand of cheerleading/encouragement. Words, stories, lots of “bro this” and “bro that”, and finally A, who hadn’t really told me much about his feelings about God or faith, said to D, “Bro, do you want to pray about it?”

“Yes, I pray” D said. He wasn’t expecting it to happen right at that moment, but A walked over, sat down and took his hand. J took another side of the table. There was one side left so I sat down and joined them. J started praying, talking to God very sincerely for a good five minutes. Tears were coming down D’s cheeks when the prayer was done.

They talked some more, to the point where there was something to laugh about. I could tell D was feeling better. They were all having something to eat. J was pointing out that all three of them had hard things in their stories, but they were still there in spite of those things and that they were being given another chance. Why not take it? They all had children to live for and people who would be devastated if they gave up.

I felt so included in their story, and so a part of their camaraderie. I said to them, “We are all adults here, and even though I am much older than you, I don’t mind if you call me Shirley instead of Miss Shirley.” There were looks of disbelief on three faces.

“But that’s a sign of respect, and if my Mama knew I called you anything but Miss Shirley I’d be in trouble no matter what my age!” one of them said. The consensus was that they were going to call me what they were used to calling me and it was going to be Miss Shirley.

That got them talking about how they each had not wanted to stay with us in our home – just because it had seemed so uncomfortable at first. But the misery of living in their cars had been great enough to drive them to accept. I realized how uncommon it is to move into a stranger’s house, and especially a stranger from another racial background. This is not something that very many of us ever do.

What a gift I was given, to listen to their unguarded conversation about their life, their culture, and their feelings. I don’t get this kind of experience very often and I’m giving God the credit for it. It was pretty amazing, just sayin’…

What Anxiety Feels Like to Me

Anxiety is real – be it mild and transitory or crippling and pervasive. I can no longer count the many sources of anxiety and depression in the world. They will touch everyone.

Nervous animated emoticon

It makes me feel frail. It’s as if my body knows some terrible thing that my mind doesn’t. My heartbeat feels irregular and fragile.  My gut is very tied to my emotions and hurts, cramps, rumbles. I don’t know whether I’m hungry or sick but I’m tempted to eat to fill the gnawing in my stomach. Often eating makes it feel worse. I’m restless and on the lookout for some kind of relief even though I don’t know if it should be physical, mental or spiritual.

It’s not knowing what to do. It’s having too many choices with no idea which is most important, or having only one choice but having to wait to do it. It’s the waiting. How can I make waiting tolerable? Indecision is exhausting. I default to easy, time wasting activity thinking that it will calm me and help me feel more control over life. In reality, I end up feeling powerless.  I accomplish nothing.

I become aware of my aloneness. No one knows I am feeling this way and I would not necessarily feel better telling of it. My situation is singular, and complex. I could not expect another person, with their different, singular and complex circumstances to understand mine. They are all busy.

If only I didn’t have to feel my heart pumping,  physically moving my body with each pulse. It goes on a rampage with a string of fast, strong jerks. I’m a nurse. I know they are PVC’s, but they are nothing new to me. I want to close my eyes and feel sick for a while. Just let me feel sick. And then I realize that the faint nausea is the beginning of an uncontrollable heat that spreads through my body like a hormonal wildfire. That is not new to me either, but I have been unable to learn to like it.  I endure it, thankful that it will pass.

What Helps Me Feel Better – Keeping Perspective

Sometimes I know the source of my anxiety. It’s a task that I just can’t seem to finish. I know I need to see it in a new way. Tackle it from a different direction. Or maybe just stop procrastinating. I pray for the clarity needed to deal with the troublesome matter. I pray for the strength needed to start working. Sometimes I decide to not “own” that task any longer. I decide it’s not worth it.

I often ask for some small reassurance that I am not alone. I review who I am, whose I am and that I do not have to have control over anything to be at peace. I remind myself that my body and mind will work together to care for themselves if I do what I can to not interfere with them. Whatever the root of my anxiety, I consider the “worst case scenario” and whether the outcome will matter in the long run. Often, when I have no choice in outcome, I have a choice in my own response to it. I can think about how to be consistent with my faith and my core principles.

Today I remembered exercise. It’s often the last, hardest thing I want to do, but the memory of feeling better afterwards draws me. When my body is moving, my mind orders itself more efficiently. Having a physical reason for being tired helps me relax. There is not as much pressure to decide what to do next. I’ve changed the mix of hormones and burned off some of the anxious feelings.

I practice gratitude.  I thank God for relative safety, food, shelter, clothing. I thank him for letting me know that this world and everything in it is a temporary environment. Everything changes, sooner or later. My circumstances change. My feelings change. That too is God’s doing, so I thank him for the passage of time.

It helps me understand myself  better to know that God made me able to feel anxiety, and he knew it would be my experience. That’s why he said that there is a way to “cast it” on him. The more I learn about him, the easier that becomes. (I Peter 5:7, the Holy Bible)





A Dark and Rainy Day

It’s one of those days when even though nothing specific is terribly wrong, everything in general seems terribly wrong and overwhelming.  Had one like that? It doesn’t help that our house, which has poor lighting and is usually dark inside, is even darker today with the cloud cover and rain outside.

Even as I try to get in touch with the joy I know is somewhere inside me, I can’t stop looking at the disorder, mess, and accumulation of things in my house that put me into a near catatonic state. Who would think that remodeling one small space in the house could affect the whole?  I wander from room to room looking for something that I can make a decision about.  Do I need it?  Can I part with it? Where will I put it if I keep it?  How do I get ride of it? Should I sell it or just put it out by the road to be picked up? How can an innocent jar of paper clips that I don’t need immobilize me? (Paper clips are good and these are the cute colored ones! I was given a donation of office items and I know someone needs them, but who?)

Please, please forgive me for cutting you down just when you had gotten beautiful.
Please, please forgive me for cutting you down just when you had gotten beautiful.

I went outside this morning thinking it would clear my mind and give me a better perspective.  I ended up pruning a beautiful bush that had finally gotten full size and was bearing beautiful yellow flowers.  Unfortunately it is planted right next to our AC unit and is a constant frustration to the men who service it.  A beautiful plant in the wrong place, along with countless others in the overgrown acre I call home.  That didn’t help my perspective much.

And even as the husband and I prayed over our day, I let him do most of the talking.  Today I am just not in touch with the part of my brain that houses joy.  It keeps me from being relational with God and with others.  I kind of shut down. I’m not proud of it.  I’m just tired and ruined and feeling my humanness, if that’s a word. My own superficial problems, the problems of those I love, the disease and fighting in the world, the homeless children, the anger, the injustice – I can’t keep up with it all.

Time is moving fast, and it really is a gift from God that things change.  I know I will feel different if I wait long enough, especially if I ask God for help in understanding where I fit in.  There is a reason, a purpose for my being here in this place, at this time.  Even as uncomfortable as it is to be revealing my gloomy self in a post, there is probably something behind the urge I felt to write this way. Even in this state of mind I know these things.

There is a God, there is a Jesus and nothing anyone says or thinks adequately explains them away.

There is real evidence that what I need to know about him is given to me in scripture.

Scripture tells me and my experience bears it out, that he is good and powerful and loves me.

I am safer with him, no matter what circumstances look like, than anywhere else.

And for now, on this dark, rainy day, I will keep those things in mind as I search for some meaningful activity to dispel the gloom.  My precious daughter in Seattle turns to housecleaning when she feels oppressed, so I will too and there’s no shortage of things to clean around here… just sayin’.


Today I am haunted by a feeling of despair, uselessness, and disappointment with myself. It started with a valid point, a realization that I had fallen short of my own expectations in an important area of my life. And then it grew. Gained momentum. I say it haunts me because I continue to walk about looking somewhat normal but I’m aware of the feeling and I talk less, retreat more, have less energy and confidence, feel sad. It’s like a shadow that I can’t shake off.

I’m writing about it as self defense. I imagine myself walking down a dark street and hearing footsteps following me. I begin to worry and want to run but I know that I’ll probably be caught. So the best defense is to turn around, face the stalker and scare the living daylights out of HIM. At least I’ll see him face to face and he’ll know he’s been identified.

I know it’s not healthy to allow (yes, allow) a negative message to take up residence and repeat itself over and over in my mind. And even though the original thought was mine I think there is a spiritual force that just loves to seize an opportunity when it sees one. It may be thought of as superstitious and backward to believe in a devil but hey, there is a glaring amount of evidence that something loves to work from within to destroy people’s lives. It is expert at destruction and extremely covert. I don’t care what your name is. I’ve turned around to look and I see you. And more importantly, you can see that I’m not alone – like you thought I was.