Friday, March 17, 2017

Thoughts on the Color of Depression

Depression is an illness.  It is not an easy thing to describe because it is different for everyone who is afflicted with it [think 500 shades of black].  Its' onset is bedeviling.  It can happen to anyone, anytime, anywhere.  See that very slap-happy person over there?  Chances are he or she is actually a person suffering from depression.  See the extremely successful professional?  Chances are there are deep down fears that propel them to seek success continually, and it's  not about's about how deeply they are depressed.

Depression doesn't disappear overnight.  Catchy pep talk-like "Buck up!  It'll be a great day!" have no effect on depression, other than to make it worse in the individual suffering from it, and such sayings have no true positive value.  It is the kind of reaction people have when they can't "fix" depression.  They don't want to "catch it" either, when they see it in someone else.

Those of us who suffer from chronic depression don't have the smart answer to "What is wrong with you?" or "What are you upset about?".  I honestly believe people want to help us out of the "darkness".  But what is it we are "in"?   Darkness, it seems, isn't always black or a state of blindness and floundering.  This "darkness" is without color or hue.  It exists where no one else can see it but the person afflicted with chronic depression.  It blankets the interior of the mind, clouding cognitive ability, as well as creating an immobilizing effect on the person it covers.   We want to do things, productively, creatively, socially.  Yet, we are paralyzed, stuck and unable to take action.  We often don't sleep well, have flashbacks, anxiety attacks, and forget to eat.  We sit in dark rooms, staring out of windows, and we are numbed by it as if by anesthesia.

We don't want to be this way but it seems there is no way out from under "the blanket".  Medications, psychotherapy, groups, journaling are a few of the ways depression can be treated.  And there are times none of these treatments work.  That's when the patient suffering from depression needs to call a friend or minister, or a help line network to stop the feeling of being on a runaway train, out of control and down a steep mountainside, thinking that an even deeper darkness can make the train stop, when the darkness becomes too, too much and the person ends up in a black tunnel of self-loathing with apparently no escape.

So what do we do about it?  For the person afflicted with depression, it is a constant pushing against the bubble from inside out, trying to break through.  It is a tremendous effort to lift "the blanket" that weighs so heavily upon us as we struggle to take a step forward.  We expose ourselves to as much daylight as possible, as we have been told it will help lessen the sadness.  And sometimes, it helps.  But then the next day comes, and the Greek myth plays itself out again.  Sisyphus trying to roll the great stone uphill only for it to fall back down to the base of the mountain.  Trudging back down, we keep trying, and trying, and trying.

We engage in real practises to help get us jump started the next day.  These practises can be physical:  walking, running, yoga, martial arts.  These practises can also be spiritual:  meditation, contemplation, prayer. Usually morning is my window of opportunity, and if I miss it, well, the rest of the day is a wasteland.  So far I have highly unsuccessful at restarting my walking regimen begun in 2009, and in 2012 I was running again.  I had lost 100 pounds and felt at the top of my game and in the best health...probably ever.  Depression overcame me though and in 2013 I almost stopped walking completely and gained back 30 of those hard-fought for pounds.  Add some fiscal issues, health issues, and personal issues and you have the ingredients that call Depression's name and here it comes a-runnin' to do its duty.  It's like being in quicksand or a sticky mud bog.

It hits when you are down most the time.  The sneak attacks when you are at your peak of joy or success.  Bam.  Add 45 more pounds in 2014-15 and well, part of you thinks, "Whats the elf-ing point?".

So are we hopeless cases that have no chance at a life free from Depression?  Yes and no, sometimes and sometimes not.  There are new and improved medications, the therapy of kindness, patience and love that some friends have and others need to learn. Learning how to take the air out of seemingly overwhelming circumstances can be done, with the right support and perspective. Somehow I have managed to learn a few techniques for de-stressing, seeing a thing and confronting it in such a way as to have the upper hand but a gentle one toward the thing and myself.

Learning to understand that being alone is not loneliness, that being solitary is not a prerequisite to isolation; one can be social to the degree one is comfortable and know that you can politely retreat from social settings without feeling weird about it, or that someone will judge you on it [and if they do, that's their problem, not yours].

Physical activity is helpful but don't think it has to be all about "exercise".  That is an automatic turn off for most people with Depression. If you are a neat freak, then Spring clean as needed [and no, you don't have to wait until actual Spring arrives]. Gardening, yard work, hedge trimming, painting the house, basic house maintenance.  Beading, knitting, sewing, coloring [as in an actual coloring book--they are all the rage now], and other forms of expression are good too, as is screaming into a pillow, writing a letter but not sending it, and so on. I have found that moving furniture around every week or so is also a form of exercise.  Puzzles, taking an engine apart and putting it back together is a puzzle for most of us, walking your dog, cat or other animal or reptile is good too.  You get the idea.

So this post was begun a few years ago but never published. I decided to finish it out and post it today.  I think there are depressed folks out there, and more likely than not it is about the outcome of our 2016 general election.  A new Fear is present.  The fear of a new American Nazi culture and country looms over us.  Resistance is NOT futile.  This is also a good therapy and exercise for the depressed if we can muster ourselves and realize there are more people out there like us now and if we can find a way to talk and communicate, we can slowly, carefully, find a way to manage Depression in our life's journey.

Disclaimer: though I suffer from Depression, I don't claim to know everything about it or all the various ways of how to go about dealing with it.  I am not Everywoman, and I am certainly not All-Knowing...I just know what I know and what works or has worked for me, and what might yet work for me in the future.  Thanks.

March 17, 2017

My dear readers and friends:

I love that this blog is still being read though I have been remiss over recent years to post anything new.  Thank you, Brenda Stevens, for commenting on the Living Flame of Love but St John of the Cross.  It got me to writing this post.  Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Much has happened over the last five years, well, since 2010 when I was in a car accident.  TBI or Traumatic Brain Injury can indeed change one's life.  And it can sometimes be a challenge and lengthy duration before one can truly begin a New Normal.

Rounding up and corralling one's thoughts and making them coherent can be a new challenge, at least for someone like me and others, to a point that they make sense again.  Attention span can add to that challenge as well.  When you find yourself flitting from one task to another, it makes is so hard to accomplish or finish anything. At first, you feel as if in a maelstrom of thoughts, feelings, fears, anxiety, speech issues and attention deficit, that you wonder if there is anything resembling your previous self left to work with.  Over time with the treatment, some of those tumultuous thoughts fall into place and things are bit less confusing. Eventually you are able to clearly think again and you know this because your thoughts are once again mostly coherent, easier to round up and herd and get them to do your bidding.

These days it is much easier than those years ago when all I could do was sit in a chair and stare at the world.  Thankfully, there was that part of me that remained for the most part calm and sort of talked me through the fear...that was probably more God than me talking quietly to my bruised brain, spiritual heart and pummeled body.

I have been plagued by one kind of sickness after  the other, as if my immune system was as casualty too. Every recovery is a joy and every turn of illness a guerrilla war, mind over body.  I have one all the skirmishes so far and continue to get a bit stronger with each incursion.  God is still very good to me, though all the twists and turns of life since 2010.  And I am ever so thankful to those who gave me their support in a myriad of ways.

So am still and Episcopalian [TbtG], still a chaplain [TbtG] and still single [I was in a relationship for two of my missing blogger years but those years are past].  I am still a writer [though mostly in my head] and a poet [which occasionally I can write down a few lines before rocketing the ball of paper to the trash can].  I still love life and a peace I have found which does pass all understanding.

I hope to be writing more here in the future.  So thank you everyone who has continued to read and comment on my posts from 2006 forward.  I will endeavor to forge ahead in this medium I so loved and still work at here, in this space.

Grace and peace to you all,


Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Media Release

The Episcopal Church 
Office of Public Affairs

Letter to the Episcopal Church From Presiding Bishop, President of House of Deputies

Letter to the Episcopal Church
From Presiding Bishop, President of House of Deputies
Jesus tells us to love God and love our neighbor as ourselves
[June 28, 2016] Episcopal Church Presiding Bishop and Primate Michael Curry and President of the House of Deputies the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings have written the following letter to the Episcopal Church.
June 28, 2016
Dear People of God in the Episcopal Church:
We all know that some things in holy Scripture can be confusing, hard to understand, or open to various ways of understanding. But some essential teachings are clear and incontrovertible. Jesus tells us to love God and love our neighbor as ourselves, and he tells us over and over again not to be afraid (Matthew 10:31, Mark 5:36, Luke 8:50, John 14:27).
There’s no confusion about what Jesus is telling us, but it often requires courage to embody it in the real world. Again and again, we become afraid, and mired in that fear, we turn against Jesus and one another.
This age-old cycle of fear and hatred plays out again and again in our broken world, in sickening and shocking events like the massacre targeting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people in Orlando, but also in the rules we make and the laws we pass. Most recently, we’ve seen fear at work in North Carolina, a state dear to both of our hearts, where a law called the “Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act” has decimated the civil rights and God-given dignity of transgender people and, by extension, drastically curtailed protections against discrimination for women, people of color, and many others. We are thankful for the prayerful and pastoral public leadership of the North Carolina bishops on this law, which is known as House Bill 2.
North Carolina is not the only place where fear has gotten the better of us. Lawmakers in other jurisdictions have also threatened to introduce legislation that would have us believe that protecting the rights of transgender people—even a right as basic as going to the bathroom—somehow puts the rest of us at risk.
This is not the first time that the segregation of bathrooms and public facilities has been used to discriminate unjustly against minority groups. And just as in our painful racial past, it is even being claimed that the “bathroom bills,” as they are sometimes called, ensure the safety of women and children—the same reason so often given to justify Jim Crow racial segregation.
But we believe that, as the New Testament says, “perfect love casts out fear.” On June 10, the Executive Council of the Episcopal Church stood against fear and for God’s love by passing a resolution that reaffirms the Episcopal Church’s support of local, state and federal laws that prevent discrimination based on gender identity or gender expression and voices our opposition to all legislation that seeks to deny the God-given dignity, the legal equality, and the civil rights of transgender people.
The need is urgent, because laws like the one in North Carolina prey on some of the most vulnerable people in our communities—some of the very same people who were targeted in the Orlando attack. In a 2011 survey,78 percent of transgender people said that they had been bullied or harassed in childhood; 41 percent said they had attempted suicide; 35 percent had been assaulted, and 12 percent had suffered a sexual assault. Almost half of transgender people who responded to the survey said they had suffered job discrimination, and almost a fifth had lost housing or been denied health care due to their gender identity or expression.
In keeping with Executive Council’s resolution, we are sending a letter to the governor and members of the North Carolina General Assembly calling on them to repeal the “Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act.” When legislation that discriminates against transgender people arises in other places, we will also voice our opposition and ask Episcopalians to join us. We will also support legislation, like a bill recently passed in the Massachusetts state legislature, that prevents discrimination of all kinds based on gender identity or gender expression.
As Christians, we bear a particular responsibility to speak out in these situations, because attempts to deny transgender people their dignity and humanity as children of God are too often being made in the name of God. This way of fear is not the way of Jesus Christ, and at these times, we have the opportunity to demonstrate our belief that Christianity is not a way of judgment, but a way of following Jesus in casting out fear.
In the face of the violence and injustice we see all around us, what can we do? We can start by choosing to get to know one another. TransEpiscopal, an organization of transgender Episcopalians and their allies, has posted on their website a video called “Voices of Witness: Out of the Box” that can help you get to know some transgender Episcopalians and hear their stories. Integrity USA, which produced the video, and the Chicago Consultation are two other organizations working for the full inclusion of LGBT people in the church. Their websites also have online materials that you can use to learn more about the stories of transgender Christians and our church’s long journey to understand that they are children of God and created in God’s image.
When we are born anew through baptism, we promise to respect the dignity of every human being. Today, transgender people and, indeed, the entire LGBT community, need us to keep that promise. By doing so, we can bear witness to the world that Jesus has shown us another way—the way of love.
The Most Rev. Michael B. Curry             The Rev. Gay Clark Jennings
Presiding Bishop and Primate                President, House of Deputies

On the web:

Monday, September 15, 2014

"White Owl..." by Mary Oliver

I make no pretense about how I feel about Snowy Owls.  I had previously posted this to Facebook but since not all my peeps "do" social media, it simply made my heart happy to repost it to my blog which is in reawakening-mode.   To whit...

Mary Oliver, “White Owl Flies Into and Out of the Field"

Coming down out of the freezing sky
with its depths of light,
like an angel, or a Buddha with wings,
it was beautiful, and accurate,
striking the snow and whatever was there
with a force that left the imprint
of the tips of its wings — five feet apart —
and the grabbing thrust of its feet,
and the indentation of what had been running
through the white valleys of the snow —
and then it rose, gracefully,
and flew back to the frozen marshes
to lurk there, like a little lighthouse,
in the blue shadows —
so I thought:
maybe death isn’t darkness, after all,
but so much light wrapping itself around us —
as soft as feathers —
that we are instantly weary of looking, and looking,
and shut our eyes, not without amazement,
and let ourselves be carried,
as through the translucence of mica,
to the river that is without the least dapple or shadow,
that is nothing but light — scalding, aortal light —
in which we are washed and washed
out of our bones.

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Evening of the Senses

My office/library is a calming green.  It's 10:30pm and the neighborhood is quiet.  Sometime in the evening, a neighbor hung a plastic shopping bag with Cherokee Purple tomatoes on the door knob.  No wonder the security light came on...showed them the way...

The night air is cool and fragrant.  Honeysuckle vines are long past blooming, sending their intoxicating perfume across the street from the alley and right into the yard...I remember it well in June and July.  Sometimes it is a melding of the sunshine heat rising off of the pavers in the late evening with the ever-present light pinesome blanket of cypress essence mixing with that coolness that creates a kind of air I wish I could inhale all night without exhaling it ever.

The windows are open.  The moon-tinged air moves back and forth in the room on the gentlest of breezes.  It is very quiet now...the street is empty, asleep, except for the silent traffic of mice, cats and the slightly heard swoosh of an owl or the squeak of the little bats around the street lights.

Under the old English laurel hedge, knurled old root stock and weighted, thick branches, are layer upon layer of old, dried leaves...and there is life there, where all appears dead in the daylight.  I sit here, and hear the delicate rustle and rearrangement of this leaf or that twig, as life moves beneath.

Owls live in this neighborhood.  I've posted about them on social media.  They are fearless little hunters, and have no fear of humans--apparently.  I have become quite enamored of them.  I admire them for their intense gaze, their ear tufts and the startling way they become part of the hedge trunks. Oh, and the scrub jays, how they complain!  But even they move on, leaving the owl to its' nap...

The sun sets in summer are long in the Rogue Valley...and the blue gold light that rises over the western mountains, spreads under the cerulean sky like water, an ocean all its' own, over our heads.  And it is as if God needed a flashlight, and turned this sun set on to see....The sides of the valley covered in the darkest of green trees, yet we can see the hue and count the crowns.

I shall miss this summer in ways that can't be explained with was a much better one than last year...clear, fresh skies of pure azure.  White puffy clouds ever elegantly twisting and turning in their dance.  I could watch clouds all day.  I could stare into the infinite blue that becomes black with  pinpricks of various sizes dotting the darkness...but mercifully, we are special, in that we are in a kind of heaven on earth, full of conflict, cruelty, greed, is all we have right now...and it is abounding in mercy, compassion, goodness, sharing, and love, too.

This year has been particularly full of war and invasion, and the news has been terrible and deeply troubling.  Prayers for peace and end to suffering and conflict abound.  The hope endures.

There are crickets now...the hummingbirds and little songbirds are all tucked into the hedge for the  night.  There is a calm about it, the quiet night, where there is --at last -- a kind of peace.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

I knew Kay Atwood at Trinity Episcopal Church less than four years and only saw her once a month when we, as members of a team, prepared the altar and church for our monthly Contemplative Eucharist Service.  

Kay was soft-spoken and funny, modest about herself but always on the ball with her part in preparing our Danish Modern sanctuary and chancel with her assignment.  Whether candles, or icons, a reading or sitting quietly by the table in the vestibule ready to greet those who attended with lighted candles, programs and accepting love offerings, she accomplished these things with grace and gentleness, yet with a strength right under the surface, shining the Love of God toward everyone, all the time.

Kay is a well-known local author and authority on the history of the southern Oregon area.  

Among her titles are Illahe:  The Story of the Settlement of the Rogue River Canyon,   Mill Creek Journal:  Ashland Oregon 1850-1860,    Ashland Community Hospital:  A Century of Caring,   Jackson County Conversations,   Chaining Oregon: Surveying the Public Lands of the Pacific Northwest, 1851-1855.  

No doubt I have left some titles out but Kay was prolific in her writing and we are the richer for it.  As a professional researcher, she often mentored others in the art of researching and digging for the minutae of a particular subject's fine points.

Kay will be missed for all she did quietly in the community, for friendships made, wisdom shared and her love and dedication to family, including her church family.  I am thankful for getting to know her as much as I did and for the way she graced all of our lives with her presence, and consequently, the world was richer for her being in the world, and for that I give deep thanks.  Blessings to you Kay on your new adventure.  We know where to find you...on the other side of the veil.

 ~ Catherine ~

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Long time, no see

Life is time-consuming, hence the big blank between July of last year until now. Life still goes on but how does anyone find time to blog? Oy! I'm working on that as you can see…it's not much but it is a start….I'm working on a few topics so be patient a bit longer!