Battling the Blues

If you are Rocking around the Christmas Tree and having a Holly Jolly Christmas then please….carry on…this post is not for you!

This one goes out to those who, when the holidays roll around, struggle with the blues.

Maybe the holidays bring back painful memories of an event that, by a cruel twist of fate, happened during “the most wonderful time of the year,” or maybe you just cycle in and out of funks and the added pressures and demands of the season trigger an episode that makes it difficult to fully enjoy the festivities.

I’ve been there and I’d like to walk alongside you.

comfort

I both love Christmas and the holiday season AND I struggle through Christmas and the holiday season. I battle seasonal depression and it always creeps in this time of the year. It rolls in just before Halloween and lingers throughout the end of the year. Some years are milder than others. Every year, I hope and pray that I will escape it but for the past 10 years the pattern has persisted.

In years gone by, I have worn myself out fighting it but now I’ve learned to live with it, never giving up hope that one year, it will disappear forever.

In the meantime I have a few coping mechanisms that help to keep the blues at bay and allow me to resist the gravitational pull that makes me want to stay in bed with the covers pulled over my head. Maybe they will help you too.

Be gentle with yourself.

Unfortunately, I can’t control when the dark clouds descend but I can control how I treat myself. I have stopped beating myself up for not being able to “snap out of it.” I allow myself to move a little slower if need be and cut back on activities that sap my precious and limited energy. I’ve learned to let those close to me know that I’m struggling when I need to. It makes it easier to not have to pretend. Pretending is exhausting.

Schedule something for yourself.

The season can easily get filled up with things you have to do; make sure you make time for some things that you love to do. This year I scheduled a “Tea with Santa” at one of my favorite places, with my sisters, nieces and granddaughter. Part of the experience is looking forward to it! Maybe it’s just a walk on the beach to watch the sunset but do something that brings you joy. *Moms – this is especially important for us since we are typically making sure that everyone else is taken care of!

Get outside of yourself.

This is a game changer. There are plenty of opportunities to give this time of year. In my struggles over the years I’ve learned the principle of healing through giving.

Isaiah 58:10-11 says:

…if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry

and satisfy the needs of the oppressed,

then your light will rise in the darkness,

and your night will become like the noonday.

The Lord will guide you always;

he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land

and will strengthen your frame.

You will be like a well-watered garden,

like a spring whose waters never fail.

Earlier in the chapter it says that if we clothe the naked and don’t turn away from those who need us — THEN our healing will quickly appear. Nothing helps us rise above our own problems or issues like serving those less fortunate then ourselves. And it doesn’t have to be monetary. Give of your time by serving and I promise you, it will lift your spirits.

passion-led-us-here

Next Tuesday, I’ll be serving at Metropolitan Ministries in their Holiday Tent with a group of ladies from For the Girls International. (You can join us if you’d like – sign up ends today – click HERE and choose Dec 20th!) Let your passion lead you to someone in need. God set it up so that when we give, we also receive! I love that! Look for opportunities to serve.

One of my all time favorite verses is one my Dad wrote in my Bible when I was baptized at 14 years old. This is the message version of Matthew 5:16:

You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world.

berries

Even if you feel like your flame is merely a flicker, I assure you it can still brighten someone’s day and bring color to their world.

The other day I was feeling a little low, wandering through the mall by myself and I determined that I would try to be extra kind to the salespeople as the mall was packed with impatient shoppers some of whom were being less than kind! After waiting an inordinate amount of time to be served, the saleswoman greeted me apologetically and appeared to be resigned to receive backlash from me for the wait. I told her I was not in a rush and it was no problem. She thanked me profusely for my patience and began to share how angry people had been that day and how she had been mistreated. She went on to tell me that she had lost her husband, her mother and her sister all this past year and that she couldn’t understand why people had to be so rude when life was so short and unpredictable. She wondered aloud why people could not find it in their hearts to be kind. We had a nice little chat and I went on my way. My spirits were lifted just knowing that I had made a tiny difference in her day.

Allow your sensitivity to pick up on the sensitivity of others. There are a whole lot of people struggling this time of year. You are not alone. Depression can feel so isolating. So, I’ll say it again…you are not alone!

Lastly,

Remember The Reason for the Season

I know, I know, that’s a totally overused expression from the 80’s but focusing on the Christmas story helps keep things in perspective and makes all the hoopla fade into the background. For me, music helps me focus. Some of the beautiful Christmas Carols are life-giving if you listen closely.

O holy night! The stars are brightly shining
It is the night of the dear Savior’s birth!
Long lay the world in sin and error pining
Till he appeared and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary soul rejoices
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn!

Hold onto HOPE. Allow your soul to feel its worth. Weeping endures for the night but JOY comes in the morning. Your funk or blues or depression or whatever you want to call it, will eventually pass. I pray for those who struggle, so if that is you, know that you are being covered. Feel free to drop a comment with any additional tips or share your coping skills. I’d love to hear from you!

Wishing you JOY and PEACE,

Tracey xo

A recipe for PEACE.

We interrupt the continuous process of you replaying over and over again in your head, the same scenario or problem that is causing you anxiety, with this urgent message:

interruption

You can stop anxiety dead in it’s tracks when you start focusing on the only person who can actually do something about it and promise you peace in the meantime.

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.  And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. ~ Philipians 4:6-7 

Here’s the recipe:

Ingredients
Anything.
Everything.
and lots of Thanksgiving.

Steps:

1.Bring anything and everything to Him in prayer.
2.Add thanksgiving.
3.Let it simmer for as long as necessary until desired consistency.

And BAM! Peace!

Thanksgiving is not just a day with turkey and all the trimmings…it’s an attitude that will change the direction of your life and bring you peace that goes beyond your own understanding.

I’ve recently found myself obsessing over things that I don’t have the power to change. When I do that I lose my joy and my peace (and have heart palpitations!) So, I write this blog to remind myself and hopefully someone else who needs reminding.

thankful

We must take the time to practice this verse and really focus on being grateful for the good in our lives to help redirect our thoughts. And the bad…well we can be grateful for that too, knowing that God is working on our behalf behind the scenes brings us peace that the situation does not naturally provide. Jotting it down on paper or in a journal can be a great reminder.

The holidays can be stressful. Peace can be hard to come by for a variety of reasons. Take time to practice gratitude and watch your anxiety transform into peace!

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

 

A time to dance!

Just like the writer of Ecclesiastes said, there is a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance.

I am familiar with these seasons of life.  I’m sure you are too.  There are times when things are going along smoothly and there is laughter and joy and there are times when the proverbial rug is pulled out from underneath us and we can’t find our footing.

Hard times often come without warning and it is important in these times to remember these things…

1. The darkest hour is always before the dawn.

This truth has helped me to find my center on days when I have had a hard time seeing clearly. No matter how dark it is in your world right now there is light on the horizon. Don’t faint, don’t give up…just hold on until daybreak.  It’s coming!

2. Endurance leads to maturity

My experience has been that only once I have come through a major trial, can I see the areas in which I needed sharpening and maturing.  If I am being totally honest, given the choice I may have chosen to stay immature and a little rough around the edges rather than endure some of the darkness.  But now, having come through some rough waters I have gathered tools for the journey and maybe more importantly have gained a passion to deliver hope to those coming along behind me who may still be in darkness.

James says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

I don’t know if I was ever able or will ever be able to consider depression “pure joy” James, but I think I get it now. I want to be complete.  I understand what it means to be “lacking nothing.”  I have confidence now that whatever life throws at me I have all that I need to endure. I am lacking nothing. God is with me and never leaves me. Ever.

3. There will be dancing!

There IS a time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance. Unfortunately they are not always on our timetable. A year and a half ago I went through the darkest time of depression and soul searching I have ever experienced. I was mourning my mother’s death and dealing with past hurts and stuffed down pain that wreaked havoc on my body, soul and spirit. It took over a year to process through prayer and counseling. I would have liked for it to be faster.  I would have liked a fast forward button.  But healing takes time. It takes work. But once it comes…there is laughter, there is joy…and there is dancing!

I just returned from a 3 week trip to Europe with my husband and my daughter.  It was the most relaxing and joy-filled time I have had in a long while.  My spirit was free. My heart was refreshed and I was reminded of the truth that there is indeed a time to dance!

dance with balloons

Time to heal, depression

Unconditional love.

On Tuesday, I wrote a short blog on my Positively Depressed microblog that hit a nerve with some folks so I thought I’d give a little backstory here. It all started with this picture.
littleyou

I used to roll my eyes when I’d hear people talk about healing their inner child.  I was of the school of thought that the past is in the past and needs to stay there.  I didn’t think there was any point in going back and revisiting it.

I told my counselor as much the first time I met with her.  I told her, “I am not interested in rehashing the past.  I am ready to move on.” I told her, in the words of Carly Simon, “I haven’t got time for the pain.” She patiently nodded her head.  We began with what was going on with me in the present. Much to my dismay, within minutes we were revisiting pain from my childhood and young adult life. UUGH!

The problem with pain is unless you process it and get healing from it, it doesn’t miraculously go away. The great news is once you do, even though you will still remember it, you will not be held captive by it and it won’t hold you back from blossoming into the fragrant, most beautiful version of yourself.  Of course, there is always more work to be done but digging up bitter roots that cause damage is an absolute necessity.

After a recent session – I sent my counselor the above picture.  I thought she’d enjoy it since it went along with some of the things we had just talked about.  I didn’t expect her to ask me to actually write out how I would nurture my little self! Yikes. It took me a good long while to be able to articulate some of the things I needed to hear. This is a summary of what I wrote.

I would tell her:

That I love her just for being her spacey, disorganized self.

That I love her –  imperfections and all.

That she doesn’t have to try to fix everything.

That when she makes mistakes, I will be there to help her work through them.

That it’s ok to not feel strong sometimes and when she feels weak, I’ll be there to pick her up.

That she doesn’t have to push down her emotions but she can allow herself to feel them in order to process them.

I would tell her how proud I am of her

– just the way she is.

I realized, after reading it back to myself, this is precisely what God says to us in so many words… Knowing it is one thing, but speaking it over yourself and getting it to move from your head to your heart is quite another.

Humans do not always speak the truth our heart desperately needs to hear and if we rely on them to, we will be disappointed over and over. For those truths we need to listen to the One who created us. He loved us first, loves us still and always will.

Unconditionally.

Just like Little You needed to hear reassuring words of encouragement and love…Big You does too.

If you take the time to write out what your heart needs to hear – I’m willing to bet God has said them all to you.

I’d love to hear your feedback…♥

Time to heal, depression

 

Last Monday I had a hangover.

vulnerability

I thought that might get your attention!

But, it’s not what you are thinking. What I had was a vulnerability hangover.

Let me explain.

On Sunday, I had the opportunity to speak at my church. It was a message of encouragement but within the message I told the entire congregation about the fact that my depression had gotten so bad last year that I decided to treat it with medication. It was pertinent to the conversation because I was talking about shame – something I felt a great deal of and had to fight off. I felt good about sharing because even though I knew it would be uncomfortable, I believed it would help someone.

It went well and many people thanked me for my transparency. On Sunday night, I felt like I had accomplished what I set out to do.

Then Monday came.

I woke up and thought, “I can’t believe I shared such personal details with 3 services worth of people not to mention those who may watch the video.” I was experiencing a vulnerability hangover. I didn’t make that up. It is a term coined by Brené Brown, researcher of such topics as courage, vulnerability, authenticity, empathy and shame. Brené explains that a vulnerability hangover is “the feeling that sweeps over us after we feel the need to connect… and we share something deeply meaningful. Minutes, hours, or days later, we begin to feel regret sweep over us like a warm wave of nausea.”

I’m happy to say that because I have been sharing bits and pieces of my story for a while now, my hangover was not too bad. I was able to shake it off pretty quickly having learned these 3 things.

#1  It’s worth it.

The discomfort of vulnerability is worth it when you weigh it against the value of connection.  Connection, true connection is what people who are in need are looking for.  It doesn’t help them to see someone who acts like they have it all together all the time – it only adds to their shame and impedes their ability to open up and share themselves. When true connection is made, we share. When we share we heal.

#2  It’s not the critic who counts. (thank you, Theodore Roosevelt!)

At the heart of the vulnerability hangover is the fear of being judged.  Since depression is classified as a mental illness I battle the fear of being defined by my struggle. There are people who will disagree with how I choose to handle and overcome depression but in the end it is not those people who I necessarily feel drawn to connect with.  I have come to terms with the reality that there will be those who may not understand or have a different opinion than I do. I have resolved that I answer only to the One who has called me to share my story in order to help others.

#3  It’s not about me.

We live in a me-driven world. As a Christian and follower of Jesus, I want to live as He lived.  He lived His life entirely for others.  Notice I said I WANT to live as He lived. That doesn’t mean I always do, by any means. But when I am feeling exposed and vulnerable I remember that in order to live the way I claim to want to live, it requires dying to myself and living for a greater cause.  Ironically, it ends up being the best thing for ME. It is where I derive true joy and peace – so in the end it sort of is about me.  But that’s how God works.  The more we pour ourselves out on behalf of others the more he pours joy and peace into us. It’s a pretty good deal.

Final thought on vulnerability, again from Brené Brown. (can you tell I love her and her work?)

Vulnerability sounds like truth and feels like courage. Truth and courage aren’t always comfortable, but they’re never weakness. 

Amen.

Have you ever experienced a vulnerability hangover after taking a courageous step to share a part of yourself?  I’d love to hear about it ~ please leave a comment!

My Story.

This has been my year to be brave.

In the beginning of the year, actually at the end of 2012 ~ this verse leapt off the page to me and I didn’t really know just how much I would need to draw upon it until now.

Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or discouraged; the Lord your God is with you wherever you go ~ Joshua 1:9

For five years I’ve been sharing bits and pieces of my story and my struggle with depression but never in as much detail as this past Sunday.

A few months back my Pastor asked me if I would share my story as the wrap-up of a series called UNMASKED.  It was timely request.  After 7 years now of cycling in and out of rough bouts with depression I finally feel like I have a handle on how to cope with it.

Every time I make it through a rough patch I believe that I am done with it forever although I know that is not probable.  The difference now is that I feel like I have all the tools I need to fight. Until this past year I always felt like I was missing something. Now that I know how to combat the shame associated with depression I believe that I will never suffer as badly as I have in the past.

You can hear my story here. The message begins about 21 mins into the video.

Screen Shot 2013-10-30 at 8.47.23 AM

 

 

 

 

 

 

Shame affects every one of us without exception so regardless of whether you suffer from depression or not I believe this message will encourage you.  At least that is my hope and the reason that I have chosen to be brave and share.  As always I welcome your feedback and comments…

Beauty for Ashes

beauty for ashes, mourning, joy, garment of praise, prisoners, Isaiah 61A few years back I was praying for direction for FTGI.  I was hoping God would direct me to something in the Bible to steer me.  One thought led to another and I ended up in Isaiah chapter 61. It is a beautiful poetic chapter charging us as Christians to (among other things):

  • proclaim good news to the poor
  • bind up the brokenhearted
  • to proclaim freedom for the captives
  • release from darkness the prisoners
  • to comfort all who mourn
  • to provide for those who grieve

I love the way it describes the way that we are to bring hope ~~ bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair!

Whew! Like bringing oxygen to someone gasping for breath. What a privilege to be charged to bring such hope to those who are hurting!  Everywhere you turn in this life whether they look like it or not there are people with deep hurts and need for hope.

Here I am send me, prisoners, Isaiah 61

This week I have the privilege of bringing good news to some prisoners.  I have been invited to bring a message of hope to the women residing in a Pinellas county jail. I’m sure the platform won’t be fancy.  I’m sure the facility will not be particularly comfortable. I won’t receive a speaking fee.  I haven’t even given a thought to what I will wear. And yet this may be the most literal interpretation of what God has called me to do.

I find myself overwhelmed with the responsibility and yet I know that all I need to do is show up and allow God to speak his life and redemption through me.

There will be approximately 100 women attending.  I am looking for 100 women to partner with me to pray this week over these prisoners for their hearts to be open to the redeeming love of Jesus that I hope to bring to them. If 100 women pray for one nameless but specific prisoner we will have each one of them covered.

Will you partner with me? Leave a comment to let me know.

Praying that at the blessing comes back around to you!!