Shawna Atteberry

Writer, Teacher, Baker

Depression Hurts: Only when it doesn't

We’ve all seen the commercials for that one anti-depressant (whose name I can’t remember): Depression hurts. And it does: there can be aches and pains to go with all the emotional pain. But depression doesn’t always hurt. Sometimes it becomes a big, numb void. This is where I’ve been the last three weeks. You get to the point where you just don’t care. And you don’t care that you don’t care. I’ve written about acedia before. Acedia is the absence of care. It’s better known as sloth, one of the seven deadly sins.

This is where I’ve been, and it’s been really bad the last couple of weeks. The thought of doing anything overwhelmed me. Even putting in a load of laundry. Or checking the mail. I have sat on the couch and web-surfed and mindlessly watched TV. I didn’t care if my house was a mess. I didn’t care if I wasn’t working although I am teaching a workshop next Saturday that I still need to get going on. I haven’t even showered everyday. Kathleen Norris recognizes that the ceasing of repetition is one acedia’s first symptoms:

One of the first symptoms of both acedia and depression is the inability to address the body’s basic daily needs. It is also a refusal of repetition. Showering, shampooing, brushing the teeth, taking a multivitamin, going for a daily walk, as unremarkable as they seem, are acts of self-respect.

Moving seems so hard let alone taking a walk. In a week I left home twice. I don’t care if I’m isolated or lonely. I don’t care that nothing is getting done or that I’m not praying or writing. It’s all too much.

Earlier this week I did decide to take charge and do one thing: call my psychiatrist. I saw him yesterday and we talked. Nothing triggered this bout of depression. Everything is going fine. It’s been a good summer. I couldn’t figure out why I was feeling the way I’m feeling. My doctor said sometimes that happens. You have a dip in brain chemistry and need a little help. We decided to increase the dosage of an anti-depressant I’m on to see if that helps. I also have to push myself to get out and to exercise. Because depressed people just like to sit. I got out today. I got my haircut (love it!) and went grocery shopping. I’ve actually gotten out of the house two days in a row. Woot! As Bob used to say, “Baby steps.”

Baby steps. Because I have to start somewhere.

Want a Side of Guilt with that?

I feel guilty all the time. About everything. This realization came to me last week when I started going through Jen Louden’s The Life Organizer: A Woman’s Guide to a Mindful Year. It’s what I want to let go of: feeling guilty all the time. About everything. Some of things I feel guilty about right now are (and these are just some of the things):

  • Career Women of the Bible book proposal still isn’t done.
  • My workshop for teaching the women of the Bible is nowhere where it needs to be. And I’ve been procrastinating all day.
  • My house is a wreck.
  • I didn’t make it to Trader Joes or the farmers market today.
  • The reason I didn’t make it shopping was I stayed up until after 2:00 a.m. Stayed up too late (or is that too early?)
  • Got up too late.
  • Wasted too much time on Facebook and Twitter.
  • I don’t keep up enough on Twitter.
  • I’m not evangelical anymore. Wonder what my evangelical friends think?
  • I’m not ordained anymore. Wonder what my college and seminary profs and friends think? Or the people I used to pastor.
  • I haven’t exercised.
  • I haven’t done yoga.
  • I shouldn’t worry so much about what other people think (But I do).
  • I don’t write enough.
  • I’m abysmal at keeping up this blog.

And this is just a smattering at what I’m feeling guilty about at any given moment. I don’t remember a time when I didn’t feel guilty about something. I was even a guilt-ridden kid. So I’m wondering how do I go about not feeling guilty all the time, when it’s been a default as long as I can remember? Have you decided to let go of default thought patterns? Where did you start?

Great Article on Depression

Lissa Rankin of Owning Pink has a very informative article up on depression: The Difference between Depression and Losing Your Mojo. She gives you the symptoms of depression, and where to begin if you think you have it. Go check it out. A friend I have known since junior high just lost her son. He committed suicide earlier this week; he was 17. Go educate yourself on the symptoms of depression and how to recognize them, not just in your life, but in the lives of your loved ones too.

Lissa thannk you for writing about these very hard subjects.

(Disclaimer: Lissa linked to my article Depression and Spiritual Direction in this article.)

Lent: Journeying thru the Hollows and Empty Spaces

This has been a time of reflection for me. Normally by this time in Lent, I am just ready for Easter to get here and be done and over with it. But not this year. This year I am not minding staying in the self-examination of Lent. I’ve journeyed through this Lent with Jan Richardson’s Garden of Hollows: Entering the Mysteries of Lent and Easter. It’s been a journey of acknowledging my hollows, my empty spaces, and the wounds that need healing. A Year of Loss and New Beginnings came out of this reflection. I needed to write about what happened last year. I needed to tell my side of the story. It was necessary for that wound to heal.

I have lived with hollows of depression, fear, anxiety, weakness, and procrastination. And it’s been okay. I haven’t gotten lost in them. They aren’t big canyons that I can never crawl out of. They are hollows, but there is an ascending side as well as descending. I have experienced a great deal of peace this month. It’s okay to admit to my problems and weaknesses. It’s okay to live with them and just let them be. It has been a time of letting go. Letting go of the demons that drive me that shouldn’t.

Not that the demons have gone any where. But their voices are not as loud. I’m not procrastinating as much. Fear is not freezing me as often. I’m having more ideas, and I am writing more. I’m exploring. I’m going to be taking some risks. It feels good.

This last week of Lent will be spent quietly. I plan on continuing daily prayer and centering prayer, letting myself breath, and allowing my hollows just to be. I plan on writing and posting, cooking and laundry, community time and solitude. And I’ll see where me and my hollows are on Easter.

Depression's Last Winter Fling

The last week has been rough. The depression I suffer from has decided to rear its ugly head, and it’s trying to turn me into a lazy slug (not that it’s getting much resistance). To a large extent, it has succeeded. I don’t move much. I sit and read and stare off into space. I’ve fallen behind on writing, laundry, groceries. And I need to get out of the house more. I didn’t think the depression was that bad, until today.

Last week was a grey, cloudy, dark week. I couldn’t wait to see the sun. Today was a beautiful day in Chicago. It was sunny, the sky was blue, and the temperatures were up in the 60s, and yet I sat on my couch all day pretending to work (hey I have to network, you know?). I had been dying to see the sun, to go outside without various and sundry layers, and did I do it? No.

I also need to go grocery shopping. I love to cook, and I love having my larders full of stuff I can make several meals from on a whim. I could have enjoyed the walk in the beautiful weather going to the grocery store, but did I? No. It seemed like too much work.

And that’s when it hits me. Those voices in my head are telling me it’s too hard. It’s too hard to keep up. Why bother. Hello my old friend sloth. Or are you going by acedia this time around? The voices that say nothing will change why bother? You’ll only need to make it again. You’ll only need to buy it again. Lulling me into that sloth state of sitting on the couch surfing the net and twittering. But not accomplishing anything.

Now in this wonderful stillness, I see that I have to get up and move. I must continue to pray the Daily Office and practice centering prayer. Tomorrow the sheets on our bed have to be changed. Tomorrow I have to go grocery shopping. Tomorrow I have to move: walk and practice yoga. Above all tomorrow I have to work. Not pretend to work by mindless activity, but work: WRITE. The sloth has been caught in the early stages. And the sunny days give me hope that spring is on her way; this is the winter’s depression last grand stand. I must stand firm and do the things I need to do that make life important. Do the things that say my life and my being are important enough to take care of us and our surroundings.

Gray Winter Days and Gray Winter Thoughts

I really can’t think of anything to write tonight. It was an odd sort of day. I woke up late after having some really crazy dreams. It took me awhile to wake up. It’s been gray, abysmal and snowing here for the last few days. I’ve really just slogged through the gray day, in which it took me awhile to wake up. I’ve done a lot of reading today, but this is the first writing. At least I’m writing now.

The feeling that the winter is going on too long, and I just don’t want to get out of bed and do anything veil is falling around me. Acedia is setting in. Sloth is getting comfortable. But I am keeping up with some of my routines and rituals: prayer, centering prayer, making the bed, cooking, and doing a load of laundry. Although I need to think about eating regularly more. Daily life is full of routines and ritual that make daily living sacred. Acedia wants says, “It’s not worth it. You’re not worth it. You’ll have to do it all tomorrow? Why bother?” But we have to bother because we are important. Our bodies are important. Our homes are important. Our souls are important. And these facets of life must be attended to. They must be given attention and kept every day.

This is why I need to write. Writing is important to me. It always has been. That is why I must break out of this acedic funk that says “Why bother? Who’s going to read it?” I bother because it is a part of who I am. It is important because it’s one of the ways I feed myself, take care of myself, cherish myself. It doesn’t matter if it’s not read. That’s not what makes the ritual of writing important. It’s important for the simple reason I like doing it.

Related Post

Battling Sloth and Depression: Routine and Ritual

Short hops: The seasonal blues and winter hibernation

Many of us suffer from the winter blues, and I’ve read two posts this week that are excellent on that subject:

How the Seasonal Blues Work by Chris Brogan

It’s nothing external, really. It’s a set of thoughts that trigger some kind of experience inside, that triggers some kind of overall feeling that I associate with this time of year. It just happens. I deal with it. And then the next year is here. Truth is, I need this feeling, every bit as much as I need other feelings.

Why? Because it makes me work harder. It makes me think deeper. It makes me try to be a better person. Everything about this time of year is as important to the person you think I am as the smiles and the good will and all the power and passion I bring to things.

Winter Hibernation by Amber Naslund

I’ve always been incredibly atuned to nature. Outdoors is a very spiritual place to me, in all it’s facets. And winter especially brings on a set of emotions and reflections that are perfectly suited to the waning of daylight, the settling of snow on the branches, and the quiet air that hangs puffy and soft after a snowfall. We leave behind the remnants of a year, blanketing them in wet and white and cold.

I can’t also help but take stock this time of year of all the things I have and others don’t. How feeble and minor my issues are compared to some. How simple and exhilarating small things can be. It’s a time where I tuck into my own thoughts. Like kneading out knots in a well worn muscle, it’s painful sometimes, but always delivers a release and renewed determination to work again.

Go read both their articles, and let them know you stopped by. How do you deal with your seasonal ups and downs?

What Are You Saying to Yourself?

Over the last couple of months I realized how negative my self-talk is. If someone else said the things to me I was saying to me, I’d deck him or her. Or at least walk away. But for months I let my personal demons and critics beat me up over and over again. No wonder I never felt good and always thought I was sick. I was running myself into the ground and wearing myself out.

All I did was tell myself I couldn’t do whatever it was I was working on. The book proposal was never going to be finished, let alone a book written and published. My sermons sucked: all of them. Who did I think I was to plant a church? Regularly posting to my blog and drawing attention to it? A pipe dream. It’s no wonder I was depressed and had no energy. My inner critic was wearing me out.

I am slowly changing how I talk to myself. For the last couple of months, I’ve started to pay attention to what bounces around in my head. It wasn’t good. I am slowly stopping the negative thoughts in their tracks and replacing all of that negative chatter with positive affirmations:

  • I am a good writer.
  • I’ve already written a book: my graduate thesis. (The book proposal I’m working on is rewriting my thesis for the general public. That’s how Career Women of the Bible was born.)
  • I can write another book. And another book. And another….
  • I am a good pastor.
  • I am a good preacher.
  • If my sermons sucked, my PK Hubby would have said something.

When I’m working on Career Women of the Bible and I think, “This will never happen, I cut off the critic. Then I say (if I’m alone out loud): “I am a good writer, and I am going to finish this book proposal.” I’ve also set up a little group to be accountable to daily, so I do write instead of psyching myself out.

Self-talk is very important. How we talk to ourselves makes all the difference. If we don’t believe we’ll succeed, then we don’t try very hard, if at all. At one point, I’m not sure I could have seen that due to the depression. But now that is under control with antidepressants, I am able to stop, look at what I’m saying to myself, and say, “No. That’s not right. That is not who I am. This is who I am.”

What have you been saying to yourself? Is it good? Positive? Or are you running yourself into the ground? How do you deal with negative self talk? What do you say to build yourself up and live into your potential?

Click here for more posts on depression.

A Break in the Gloom

Living in Chicago in January with Seasonal Affective Disorder is not such a good thing. Most of last week was gray, gloomy, and cold. I can take all the vitamin D and fish oil I want along with staying active. But nothing does a S. A. D.er better than a sunny day in the upper 30s. I went for a walk through Grant Park down to the lake yesterday and soaked up all the sunshine I could. Here are some pictures.

Now back to gray and gloomy, although it’s in the 50s today, so not cold, but very, very windy. Tomorrow afternoon we’re supposed to have blizzard-like conditions. I will be working from home tomorrow, so I will only be watching the blizzard-like conditions (unlike Tracy who will probably be coming  home in those conditions). I like watching the snow (and rain) go up because of the updraft between buildings here. Then we’re back in the freezer. I am very glad that I got out yesterday and enjoyed the sunshine while I could. Now back to vitiamin D, fish oil, and activity, which is much easier said than done when you’re tired all the time from the aforementioned S. A. D. But spring is on its way.

Another Journey with Depression

The last six weeks or so have been very up and down. Of course there have been many things happening. Tracy’s infection, waiting to hear back from Beacon Hill on my book proposal, working on the novel and the Career Woman proposal, and the new ministry I want to start here. Tracy is in D. C. again for a check-up. He will be there a couple of days because they have decided to change one of the antibiotics he’s on. So I am alone again. But for the last six weeks, anxiety has ruled my life until depression steps in and then I collapse. About every other week I have a two to three day bout of having no energy. I mean none. I can hardly move or think. All I want to do is sleep. That’s all I have energy for.

Through meditation and journaling I am coming to realize how negative I am. Particularly toward myself. It’s no wonder I’m always anxious and worried with the negative tapes I let run through my head. I am tired of running in circles, so I made an appointment and saw my psychaitrist yesterday. We talked about the anxiety and depression. We also talked about stopping the negative thoughts when they start and not letting them trip around in my head and cause havoc. He also added another medication to my anti-depressant to help with the anxiety. We also talked about relaxing when I start feeling stressed. When I start feeling anxious, stopping what I’m doing, and practicing a relaxation technique to relax and redirect my mind to think about something else.

Like everything else in life, clinical depression is a journey. I am writing out affirmations to replace the negative thoughts. I have done a good job today of catching negative thinking and not letting it run amok. I think it’s only one day. But that is how I have to live: one day at a time. Today I did the things I needed to do get out of this cycle of anxiety-depression-collapsing. I prayed and meditated, practiced yoga, was nice to myself, worked, and ate well. And that is good.

My goal for most of this year has been to learn how to be nice to myself, to take care of myself, and to nurture myself. And to be okay with it–not feel selfish or that I’m wasting time. It is amazing how hard it is. It should not be this hard to simply take care of one’s self, to like one’s self, to love one’s self. The second command is to love your neighbor as yourself. Growing up I learned a lot about loving my neighbor, but no one taught me how to love and take care of myself. Now I am learning. Now I know how important it is to love me. But it so hard. Why is it so hard?

Although I fell pretty useless when I’m like this, I am trying to remember what I wrote just a couple of weeks ago. I say I’m in a fog when I’m depressed and not doing well. But when it is foggy outside, I love what it does to light. The light is not clear: it’s shimmery and ethereal. It looks otherworldly, and I wonder if those ghostly lights could lead to other worlds. I am enshrouded in fog, but my light is still shining. Does it shimmer in ethereal beauty like lights in fog? Can me and my light possible lead people to other worlds, other realities even in this fog?

Something inside of me says yes. I think that someone is the Holy Spirit letting me know God is with me. God is walking with me through all of this. God will give me the healing, strength, and grace I need to walk this path and still obey. It just may be different than I think it should be. I may not get as much done in a day as I want because I’m going to have to make time to take care of me: to pray and meditate, exercise, relax through the day, write and say affirmations to fight negativity. And there is nothing wrong with it. I cannot love people and pastor them if I do not love and take care of myself.

Related Links:
Fogs of Depression
Depression and Spiritual Direction
The Last Couple of Weeks