In which I have a bad dream

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When Andy gets up at 4.30 to catch the early train I wake enough to know he’s leaving.  I’m on my own now and it will soon be time to get everyone up. This is when the troubled dreams begins.

One hour later I wake with a start and I’m sitting up in the centre of our empty bed and the room is black. My heart is racing; it’s so dark in here. As I register the detail of the scenario just played out on the cinema screen of my sleep I start to cry, which is ridiculous because I already know it was just a dream.

A nightmare is a vivid and realistic dream that causes significant disturbance to the person who dreams it. Common nightmare themes include not being able to run fast enough from trouble or falling from a great height. It is usual for individuals who have suffered from traumatic events to relive the events of their trauma in their dreams.  Not surprisingly, people who suffer from depression often report nightmares as one of their symptoms. Many sufferers of depression regularly wake exhausted form sleep and lacking energy to face that first part of their day because of sleep disturbance and scary dreams.

Psychologists think that depressed individuals have a tendency to ‘over dream’ because they have a tendency to over ruminate. Rumination is a pattern of anxious thoughts that focus on the causes and consequences of distress rather than on the solutions. Rumination can be a particularly difficult  habit to break and leads to significant anxiety and other negative emotional states. It could be that a depressed person dreams more because their mind is trying to flush out the negative effects of rumination so it is free to cope with the new day ahead. It could also be the case that this quickly becomes too much work for the weary brain and the depressed individual is locked in a cycle of bad dreams, sleepless nights, troubling states of emotional activity, introspection and more rumination. Anything that slows the ruination will help.

By the time I pick up my phone to call Andy I’m feeling a little calmer but thinking fearfully on past phases of vicious insomnia and recurring dreams: dreams that were so scary they stayed with me all of the day, more real than any of the events in my day time life. A significant feature of my own emotional landscape over many years.

I pick up my Bible and I read.

Psalm One is trees planted by living waters fresh leaved and full of fruit. Psalm Two has the raging nations stilled by the rule of God. But Psalm Three? I can’t remember, so I take up the book,

I lie down and sleep;

    I wake again, because the Lord sustains me.

 I will not fear though tens of thousands

    assail me on every side.

Psalm 3.5-6

Whilst I was counting bad dreams in, God was counting them out. Enemies that assailed me now fallen at our side.

Lord, are a shield around me,

    my glory, the One who lifts my head high.

 I call out to the Lord,

    and he answers me from his holy mountain.

Psalm 3.3-4

My head is lifted a little higher now and I’m watching the morning grow light in my bedroom window. That familiar pattern of huge sky against red brick and the green grey branch of a neighbours ornamental spruce. Small birds sing loud and the voice of God, just as loud. I am stunned, in a jaw dropping blessed kind of way.

God speaks to me straight from the page in the inked marks of English language.

A scared girl had a bad dream.

From the Lord comes deliverance.

    May your blessing be on your people.

Readers may also like,

When we won’t talk about depression

Why we won’t talk about depression

Why we won’t talk about depression (Part 2)

At Martin Mere

Psalm 3.8

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Five Minute Friday: Paint

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It is no secret to those of you who know me: I have suffered from depression.

At is worst, it has been a condition characterised by an inability to receive comfort or love from anything or anyone.

At times the only relief I could find was to sleep.

But as I recovered I began to find that in an art gallery, I could for a few short hours, experience a freedom from the inside of my own head and enough hope of healing to keep me sane for a little more time. In a gallery I found some pieces that were missing from my cold black life. I found colour, form, perspective, shades, compositions that held in balance conflicting views and most of all I found beauty.

I found hope and beauty in paint.

Paint: brushed and stroked, marked and manipulated, smoothed and textured, in dots and dashes, in broad sweeps and layers.

One small window painted in colours on a solid black wall. It loosed my tongue, swelled my soul and made me reach beyond the flat colour palette into the beauty of the beating heart of the God who lay somewhere on the other side of the paint.

STOP

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This week several friends have submitted posts based on the prompt word PAINT. I was interested to watch two main themes emerging: finding the confidence to develop our own creativity and the positive impact of visiting a gallery.

Su has written about her own art and painting journey,

Debbie has started her own blog, At Home on the Rolling Sea and has posted a poem there

Steph has a post about her own art and trip to a gallery

Carolyn has written about her own creative work which is a significant part of her personal story.

And finally *STOP PRESS* a contribution from Karen,

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Paint is something that is a big thing in my life at the moment.  To paint or not to paint on a weekly basis?  Moving home and needing to freshen up is a chore to me.  I had time off work recently and paint is what I did along with some very good friends who came to give me a hand.  Painting with friends is so much more fun and so much less a chore.  Now one friend is trying to convince me to veer away from the safety of magnolia.  I am not yet totally persuaded, but may be converted soon.  Then the decision is what colour to paint?  There are so many colours and shades and variations on a theme, but  what I do like about paint is the persuasive art of naming it to conjure up an image like azure blue makes me thing of a Caribbean sea and waving palm trees, pillar box red or lime green the choice is endless.  If you want to discover my choice once I’ve done the deed, call in and have a coffee sometime.

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And some wonderful quotes from David,

 

“Such is my relationship with God: on my gigantic canvass of life, I am the one throwing all of the brightly-coloured paints, creating genuine splatters, authentic whirlpools of colour, beautiful patterns, wonderful streaks and stains and wild accents; God is the one with the paintbrush who stands beside my canvass filling all the intricate and amazing details in between the whirlpools and the streaks! We’re happy together!”
C. JoyBell C.
“Once, Turner had himself lashed to the mast of a ship for several hours, during a furious storm, so that he could later paint the storm. Obviously, it was not the storm itself that Turner intended to paint. What he intended to paint was a representation of the storm. One’s language is frequently imprecise in that manner, I have discovered.”
David Markson

 

There is still time to join us. you don’t have to be an experienced writer and you don’t even need your own blog. Our writing collaboration is demonstrating that we all have something to say and no one is excluded. So why not add your voice by following the simple instructions below?

 

  • Write for 5 minutes using the prompt PAINT, anything you like (free-fall) !
  • Email the piece to me and I will post it on my blog or you can post it on your own blog and send me the link
  • If you post on your own blog you can also use the linky tool at the bottom of Lisa Jo Baker’s post and share your piece there
  • If you share on lisajobaker.com you should check her guidelines and comment on the post that appear immediately before your own

5minutefriday

Why we won’t talk about depression (Part 2)

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In my second post on ‘Why we won’t talk’ I continue to look at the obstacles to sharing the pain of depression with others. It is increasingly plain to me as I write that this kind of sharing is a risky and difficult thing. I think those of us who manage it are extremely brave and the courage we are learning is just the thing we need to live life more fully and more humanely. We are privileged to find people we can share our stories with and they are privileged  to listen, kind souls and companions, making sure we don’t have to do our recovering alone.

So, here are some more reasons why we find it hard to talk.

1. I will be labelled a bad parent/Christian/person

I‘d like to write a reassurance that no-one will think that you are a bad parent or a bad person when you tell them how life has become but unfortunately I can’t do that. Some people will instantly fire up on red alert mode, about the terrible impact this will have on your kids and your marriage and your career. These people have no room for personal weakness and they desperately need you to deal with the anomaly so they can go back to their safe and secure views of how things should be. If you don’t deal with your anomaly immediately they have no other option but to label you as wrong.

But remember, your own healing and recovery is much more important than the views of such people and you will find many human souls who listen and support without judging. Every time we refuse to be part of the demonisation of mental illness we show ourselves a kindness and create an opportunity for others to come clean and talk about what they really feel. It takes courage to act in the face of other people’s negative opinions of you but if you can it will become a significant part of your recovery. It’s worth deciding early on that you will listen to the voices that affirm rather than the ones that tear you down. My own view is that the process of depression has made me a better mother, a better wife, a better friend and a better human.

2. There’s no room for this in the worldview that we share

A worldview is the the pattern of thinking and understanding that we use to navigate life. A world view encompasses our entire belief system including how to behave, how to feel, how to be a good person and what makes life worth living.

Once you have your world view you can use it to navigate life: to make sense of the situations you find yourself in and to make decisions about how to respond to situations that occur. Most of us will join up with other people who share our world view to create a ‘tribe’ ; these are our people and we learn to show a certain loyalty to them and expect a certain loyalty back from them.

However, sometimes events occur in life that challenge the world view we hold. These can be acute crises or problems that emerge over time but either way we find that they can not adequately be accommodated in our existing worldview. We may feel that our task is to squeeze our new experience into the old worldview or we may feel we need to do the hard work of adjusting our worldview to accommodate our changing lives. This calls for a certain type of flexibility that we may not be familiar with. It will probably demands a painful change in the way we see ourselves or a change in our relationship with others in our ‘tribe’. Either way such change is at the best unsettling and at the worst extremely disturbing. It often puts us in a place of extreme internal conflict.

Some of us inherited a very strong and particular worldview when we became Christians. We may over time have had experiences that don’t fit well in the Christian worldview we inherited but that doesn’t mean that Christian faith is faulty or inadequate. It doesn’t mean that we don’t belong there any more or that we are in ‘sin’. It could be that we have adopted a deficient or warped view by accident and that we need to re-address our ideas about who God is and His relationship with us. This isn’t apostate or heretical, it is part of the process of growing into maturity.

It can be difficult talking to people from your ‘tribe’ if you feel you are challenging views you previously had in common. It can also be difficult speaking to people outside of your ‘tribe’ because of a sense of disloyalty or betrayal. The disadvantages of sharing your pain with someone from your ‘tribe’ could be that they do not have a place in their thinking to lodge your experience. The advantage is that you give them an opportunity to work with you to adjust ways of living and thinking to a more healthy reality together. I am constantly surprised by how open people are to listen to what I am saying even when it seems to be completely outside of their ways of living life. This makes the risk worthwhile.

3. I poured out my heart and someone let me down

You should certainly take care who you share with, but that understood, sharing will always involve a degree of risk. To manage that risk there are a few sensible checks you can activate in the conversations you have.

Firstly, do not share your depression with someone who affirms your shame. If you are telling someone how guilty and embarrassed you feel and they say, “That’s terrible, how embarrassing, no wonder you feels so bad!” you’re talking to the wrong person. Secondly, avoid the person whose only response is “Poor you!”. Don’t share heart with someone who feels sorry for you and beyond that has nothing else to offer. A person who only feels sorry for you is not giving full dignity to the precious things you are telling them and they are not empowering you to use the conversation to get well and move on. Thirdly, don’t share heart with someone who diminishes your pain. This is the person who seems to be saying, “Surely it wasn’t that bad, we all feel a bit glum sometimes.” This person is probably about to tell you to snap out of it and that is not a conversation you need to have. Finally, this kind of sharing should not be a competition. Avoid the person who engages in a kind of one up man-ship, identifying with what you say then producing a much more severe problem that they themselves are going through, “You think that’s bad you should hear what happened to me …”

Every time you share something that really matters to you there is a chance that your pearls will end up before swine. Tread carefully and at the point where you feel it isn’t going well, just stop. Find someone else to share your story with. Even if you have been disappointed and let down in the past, keep hope and work towards finding some people who you can share with in  safety and work towards being the kind of person that others are comfortable talking to.

You can read the first part of this blog post ‘Why we won’t talk about depression’ here and a previous post ‘When we won’t talk about depression’ here.

The advice in point three, ‘I poured my heart out and someone let me down’ is from Brene Brown. She writes on the delicate subjects of vulnerability, courage, authenticity, empathy and shame and aims to help people find the courage they need to live their lives more fully.

You can read her blog at brenebrown.com or I especially recommend her TED talk and interviews with Oprah.

Why we won’t talk about depression

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Following my recent post on depression, “When we won’t talk about depression”, I wanted to write about some of the reasons why we won’t talk about depression, with a view to encouraging myself and everyone else to open up a little more or be a good listener to a friend in need.

So, here are so suggestion as to why we won’t talk about depression,

1. I didn’t know I was depressed

You weren’t sure whether you were depressed and it sounded like a rather dramatic and confident self-diagnosis. The line between miserable kill joy and person with a recognisable mental health condition was a thin line and you were unsure which side of the line you were standing on, which is good enough reason to stay mum. In addition to this many depressive are very successful at masking their symptoms, to themselves as well as the outside world. All smiles, with a very regular looking ‘get up and get on’ attitude to life, it’s perfectly possible to live for years as if there is very little wrong at all. When all the voices around you are urging you to cheer up, snap out of it and find something to keep your mind off yourself, it isn’t always easy to call out depression for what it is. I was significantly helped by a pastor’s wife friend who listened to my story and suggested I could be depressed and encouraged me to see the doctor. This is how I found out I had depression and realised I’d probably suffered with it on and off since my mid teens.

2. I’m too ashamed

Shame is a destructive emotion that gets down into the soul. It interferes with our sense of self and our will to change. Shame imposes upon us an ideal person we should be and at the same time tells us that we can never be that person. Shame reminds us over and over again, I am not the strong and beautiful person I thought I was and sets us up for the most dramatic fail. There is undoubtedly a good amount of shame surrounding our individual and societal perceptions of mental health. It takes a brave soul to speak up above that. But shame dies the minute we share our story with a person who listens to us properly without judging. It is hard to talk to someone about your worst fears and vulnerabilities, but with the right person you realise you are just taking to another individual with fears and vulnerabilities of their own. Talking openly and honestly is a great equaliser. We instantly know we are not alone and the weight of negative judgements and condemnations fade as we find the better things about ourselves and others mirrored in the soul of another human being.

3. I’m too depressed to talk about it

Clearly this one is a vicious circle for anyone caught in it, but it is true that the more depressed an individual becomes the more they shut down their communications and responses to the outside world. There was a point where I was able to name and identify the complete inability to receive comfort as a chief characteristic of my own peculiar brand of depression. My inability to receive comfort extended to my very supportive husband, my children, my closest friends and even God. A miserable place to be. Talking seemed pointless when I already knew there was nothing anyone could say to make me feel better. Sometimes I avoided conversation to protect myself from the disappointment I felt when a friend failed to give me hope. Sometimes I wanted to protect my friend from the disappointment they would feel when I rejected their loving care and well meant advice.

4. The people I most want to talk to are the people who most need me strong

“Not you! You’re always so strong!” How many times have newly confessing depressives met with this response as they try to tell their friends and family about their problems? This is why so many individuals choose not to put their nearest and dearest through the trauma and suffer the depression alone. But maybe part of growing up is giving others the opportunity to help and support us through our troubles, rather than forever clinging onto an identity that rests in our roles as providers, problems solvers or authority figures. After all we are not behove to live out our lives according to the images others have made for us, especially when those images no longer fit well and make us ill. On the other side of more realistic images of ourselves are stronger more authentic relationships that are probably worth the struggles it takes to get there. We all need to recognise and appreciate that no one can be strong all the time and showing some weakness and human failure is, in itself, a strength.

So, four excellent reasons for keeping your pain a secret, all demonstrating that we are all completely justified in our reluctance to share the pain of depression. Sharing the heart-ache and making oneself vulnerable is a risky business that demands the types of courage we tend to lack when we are depressed. But finding someone to talk to about your situation and feelings could be the best thing you ever did soI hope you find a very human soul to share your story with and a little bit of bravery as a result of your reading here.

Let me know about your own stories of sharing mental health issues with others or your own views on what makes it so difficult for us to talk about depression. If you are suffering from depression remember that you should not hesitate to see your doctor and after that find a trusted friend to share your story with.

Finally I leave you with another story of hope and healing beyond postpartum depression and sincerely thanks to Jennifer Dukes Lee for sharing this online.

What I am reading

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I escaped the crowds at Animal Magic, Martinmere yesterday for a quiet half hour alone in the hide. And it was quiet: I was the only person there for most of the time: me, my binoculars, a coffee and a notebook (bliss).

Apparently the first whooper swans were spotted circling the mere on Friday, but I haven’t seen any yet. I studied the geese grazing, alongside lapwings and starlings. A buzzard watched from a far off fence post.

I plan to take a photo of the mere from the same spot, every week, all through the winter and into the spring, to show the changing patterns of life: how the birds arrive and then they leave.

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For now I am sharing a little Sunday evening reading from around the blog-sphere, a couple of sermons and some Autumn crafting.

Why you’re never ever really a failure by Ann Voskamp at A Holy Experience

Man finds calling at age 80 by Stephen Altrogge at The Blazing Centre

The most important interview I’ve ever done by Rick Warren, Senior Pastor of Saddleback Church, California

Walking out of pain by Kris Vallotton, Senior associate leader of Bethel Church, Redding, California

Why does God allow pain and suffering? by Jen Hatmaker

For my sons: On Depression by Addie Zierman at Deeper Story

If you desperately fear you have nothing to offer by Emily Freeman at Chatting at the Sky

In which I am electrocuted and break my toe by Sarah Bessey

… and finally a little homemade Autumn activity from The Crafty Crow and an Autumn chalkboard printable.

Hopeful depression

One day I would like to write about depression.

Its one of the things I’m building up to here.

For now Katharine Welby is saying it just about as well as I’ve ever heard it said.

Be encouraged if you suffer from depression.

Read Katharine’s blog post here.