Monday, April 7, 2014

My Ramblings on Refinement Through the Pain [Depression]

My emotions have been all over the board lately. I've mentioned that I've been struggling with anxiety, and I've now returned to seeing my counselor who helped me through my anxiety in the past.

The counselor, and a book he gave me to read (Anxiety Gone by Stanley Hibbs) have really helped to alleviate my anxiety issues. I've found that my heart is calmer, my mind more clear. It's such a relief.

However, now that the anxiety is decreasing, I've found something ugly hiding underneath, jumping to the surface now that there's room.

Depression.

There isn't an easy way to describe depression to someone who hasn't experienced it. It's a weight, a heaviness, an ache, a complete lack of joy. The things that normally bring happiness to your heart - your children, your spouse, funny jokes, coffee, sunshine, music, exercise, friends - they all seem bland. As if you are looking at them through a dirty, filmy window - the brightness is gone, you are seeing and shallowly experiencing them, but you're not engaged and can't get engaged because you're stuck behind the filthy window and can't get through.

And then I feel guilty when I feel this way. Not necessarily ashamed or embarrassed; I've been openly discussing anxiety and depression for years now and don't feel that it's something to hide out of shame. Rather, I feel guilty because I don't want to bring down the joy of those around me. I want to be happy Kara. I want to be happy Wife, happy Mom. I want to show others God's love, show them that there is a reason to be joyful no matter what is going on in your life.

But how do I do that when I'm not feeling it myself?

Some people seem to think that one should be able to think him- or herself out of depression. That it's simply a result of poor mental habits, a product of looking at the glass half empty instead of half full. I tend to think that these are the people who haven't experienced the true weight of depression. Because I can guarantee you, when you are experiencing the weight and heaviness of depression, you are trying everything you can to get it to go away, including all the mental tricks in the book. You tell yourself, "Be happy! Look at the smile on your child, it should make your heart swell! Feel that warm sunshine! What a gift from God!" You tell yourself these things, and you know them to be true, but your heart won't cooperate and the emotion behind them that you once felt is now gone. You try so hard to trick yourself into feeling the joy you once did, but it is out of reach. You know it exists, but you can't find it. It's lost, or you are lost.

I have gone in circles over the last few weeks trying to decide what to do about these depressed feelings I'm having. They came and went a couple days at a time for several weeks, never severe, but just enough that I wasn't enjoying my days. Then this past weekend, the feelings were heavy. Very, very heavy. I walked around feeling like I weighed 500 lbs. I had no energy, no motivation for anything, and I just wanted to sleep. I didn't want to spend time with anyone, but made myself in an attempt to feel normal again. There was nothing wrong, nothing making me sad, but I wanted to cry and crawl under my covers and avoid my life and everything in it. I was starting to catch glimpses of how I felt during my postpartum depression.

I had tried everything on Saturday to alleviate the pain - family, friends, exercise, sunshine, coffee, shopping, quiet time - and nothing was working. I started wondering if I needed medicine again. What was wrong with me? How could I get rid of this ache?? And then suddenly I realized the one thing I hadn't done.

I hadn't prayed.

The moment I realized it, I immediately lifted my heart up to God. I silently called out to Him in desperation, and begged that He would take some of the pain away.

And you know what?

He did.

Immediately. Just like that.

Literally, within three seconds, the pain was gone.

I stood there shocked. I looked at my kids, and they seemed bright and beautiful again. I looked outside, and the sunshine felt like a glorious gift from God. I felt motivated to take care of my house. I felt happy at the prospect of seeing people.

God is amazing, people. AMAZING.

Now, the pain didn't disappear for good. It began to return again maybe 30 minutes later. But do you know what I did when it returned? I prayed. And then I prayed 30 minutes after that. And 30 minutes after that. And continued to do so through the rest of the day and the next day whenever I felt that ugly ache start to creep up.

I don't know the reason for these depressive issues, but I do know that God is using them to grow me. He's teaching me to be dependent on Him, to turn to Him FIRST (which is what I should have done!), to trust Him to give me what I need to get through the day.

And right along these lines, I read a Lent devotion this morning which specifically talked about God growing us through our pain. I've actually read a lot about this topic recently, but I enjoyed the devotion I read today because it followed up right behind my own revelation on the subject. I truly believe that God is refining me through these struggles. Do I believe He caused them? No, but that's a discussion for another day. All I need to focus on right now is growing closer to God, and learning to lean into Him as I know He wants me to.

If you'd like to read the devotion, it's below.

http://gs4nj.org/giving-up-quick-fix/

I pray that any of you who are experiencing pain are running to God and letting Him carry you through.

God bless.

{For a video that helps to explain the symptoms of depression, I recommend watching the video "I Had a Black Dog", linked in my previous post here: http://www.just1step.com/2014/01/andthe-anxiety-is-back-and-i-had-black.html.}

Friday, March 28, 2014

Greyden - 20 months!

20 months! Time for an update!

Greyden Roy,

Oh how we love you, little boy! You are keeping us on our toes, but you bring so much joy to our home.


You are a very perky little boy, eager to look around and meet people and learn. You seem to be getting over your stranger anxiety, and now instead of crying you’ll somewhat cautiously but completely willingly walk into your Sunday school room at church. You frequently chat with strangers when we’re out and about (you’ll say “hi!” and then respond to any questions they ask, and even sometimes jabber at them), and you talk, talk, talk, all the time now at home. You blow my mind with your vocabulary and how well you communicate...you just seem too young in my eyes to be able to say the things you do. Sometimes I wonder if you walked so late because you were focusing so hard on learning other things (such as speaking). Who knows. You are now putting three words together, such as “Mommy up please.” My favorite of your three-word phrases are “I got it!”, “I did it!”, “there you go,” and “I love you.”


You are going through a phase where you respond to everything with a very bratty-sounding “NO!”. When we ask if this is your favorite word, you reply “Uh huh.” We’re working on reeling in your behaviors. In the last month you have tried to run from me in several public places, you’ve yelled “No!” at me and hit me with both hands at the same time, you’ve taken things from your brother quite a few times and yelled “No!” at him when he asks for them back, along with many other similar situations. You also love to whine to get out of the store carts, run in and out of the clothing racks, and rearrange store shelves. So far, a tight squeeze on your arm or hand and a stern, “NO, we do NOT do that,” has worked for the most part for most behaviors. I’ll also say things such as, “If you do not come here, you have to ride in the stroller,” threaten to put you in your crib if we’re at home, etc. I try to stay firm with discipline until I see your face drop a bit, showing that you understand that your behavior is not acceptable. I also make you apologize if your behavior was directed toward another person. I have to use such different tactics with you than I did (and do) with your older brother, because you are a lot more outwardly defiant than he was. Oh, he threw his fits and still does, but they’ve always tended to occur at home where he feels secure. You, on the other hand, have no issues with showing your true colors in public, and so I’m working to build my box of tricks for public discipline.


Your motor skills are coming right along considering how late you started walking, and you’re even starting to run (which is super cute!). You still love to climb, and so we have to watch you carefully whenever there’s something climbable nearby.

You love to do everything your big brother does and tend to follow him around the house. Just in the last week or so, he has finally started to see you as somewhat of a peer and is beginning to let you join in on his activities, or at least watch. I cannot tell you how excited this makes my mommy heart. I want so badly for you two to play together and at least be acquaintances if not friends.



Your favorite time to wake up over the last couple of weeks is whenever I wake up. Apparently you prefer to supervise my morning quiet time. I pile food on your high chair tray and hope you’ll give me a few moments of silence, but most days you just jabber, jabber, jabber.



You are still a ridiculously picky eater. It is a daily battle to decide whether to let you starve or to just feed you what you want (bread, cheese, mac n cheese, fruit packs, and bananas are your preferences). You still won’t eat many veggies, but you will inhale a can of green beans. You’ve seen your older brother eat a lot of raw broccoli (he loves it raw, not cooked, so weird), and so now you’ll request some too. I’ll put it on your tray and you’ll exclaim, “BOCKIE!!” and you’ll put the little florets in your mouth. Then you’ll scrunch up your nose and spit them out. Then you’ll see Krew eating them and once again exclaim, “BOCKIE!!” and you’ll put the florets in your mouth again. Followed by nose scrunch and spit. You’re trying, you really are, but you just don’t like them. I really feel it’s this way with many other foods, too.


Your daddy and I were getting slightly worried about your obsession with electronics, so we’ve pretty much eliminated them from your life for the time-being. This includes iPad, iPhone, and TV. You get maybe five minutes per day, if that. I am relieved to say that within a couple days you stopped requesting them 24/7. You still find them and request them, but you no longer fall apart when the answer is “no” (which it usually is), and you’re now doing much better at playing by yourself with your toys. Thank goodness.


Along those lines, you have always enjoyed books, but since we took away the electronics, books are your new big thing. You bring us books all day long. And expect us to read them to you. If we set you down with one and tell you we need to do something, please read to yourself, you fall to pieces. You’ve decided that you must have us read them to you or it’s just no good. All day we hear, “Mommy READ!” “Daddy READ!” “BOOK!” “AGAIN!” (And yes, most words are said very loudly with extreme enthusiasm. That’s your way of speaking about most things.)


You still want to be held when we want you to walk, and you want to walk when we want to carry you. You make the cutest facial expressions that crack us both up. And you love the dogs, telling them what to do, and giving them treats. We often find you sneaking into the dog cabinet, trying to pull out some food for them.

You go to bed very easily most nights. We do pajamas, brush teeth, turn on the sound maker and the night light, turn off the overhead light, sing a song, pray, and you go down. Maybe a ten minute ordeal if that. It’s wonderful.


Your hair is still stick straight and fine, very difficult to cut but I’m doing my best. It’s a darker blonde now due to wintertime and lack of sun, and some days I’d question if I could call it light brown. We’ll see what happens this spring and summer when the sun rays hit it again.

Your little birth mark on the ridge of your nose continues to fade, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s close to gone by the time you turn 2. Your top incisors have broken through, but we’re still waiting on the bottom ones, so you now have 14 teeth. You are wearing size 18-24 month shirts, 18 month bottoms, we’re squeezing you into size 3 diapers but you should probably be in size 4, and you wear larger size 4 and smaller size 5 shoes. You seem to have a longer torso than Krew did and so we’ve had to go up in shirt sizes just to keep your little belly hidden, even though everything but the length in 12-18 month shirts fits you great.


Alright well you’re hanging by my side, begging me to read you books right now, so I better end this. Happy 20 months little man. :)

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Krewson Lee: 4-year-old interview

On Monday I did a 4-year-old interview with Krew. I had seen others do this, and I thought it was such a neat idea, so I opened up another blog I found with some questions for 4-year-olds and went to town.

The interview didn't go quite as I anticipated. A few notes:

1. I tell Krew that pepperoni pizza is not a fruit, it's a food. I want to assure you that I fully realize that fruit is a food too, and that pepperoni pizza falls into other categories besides "food." However, on the spot, that's what came out of my mouth.

2. I have no idea what banana peas are.

3. I was not expecting Krew to ask ME questions.

4. At one point he says, "Blahsh**," which I believe is a word he made up and not an attempt at cursing. I decided to let it slide rather than discuss the use of appropriate language in the middle of his 4-year-old interview.

5. I was not expecting Rogan (one of our dogs) to whine and grumble through the whole interview. Please excuse my "Rogan, NO!"s.

6. A "rollover" is Krew's word for a "roll-up" which is a tortilla filled with deli meat and cheese.

7. I am fully aware that "What's your favorite clothes to wear?" is not proper English.

8. Although I may seem calm when he refuses to answer questions and won't stop singing, you can't see my face, and believe me, I was losing my patience at many points. Watching this video made me realize that he really didn't delay that long and that I do need to work on my overreactiveness.

9. His left foot is apparently his best friend.

10. If you make it far enough into the video, Grey will make a guest appearance. Yay!

Enjoy. :)

Monday, March 17, 2014

The day the life guard rescued my son during swim lessons. (yes. for real.)

Two weeks ago, Krew was terrified to put his face in the water. This obviously made swimming in pools difficult, and jumping into pools pretty much impossible. Which really put a damper on going to the pool in the summer.

Knowing that we were going to Florida the end of March, Dave and I decided to put Krew in swim lessons twice a week for the month leading up to our trip. We were hoping it would help prep him for a little more fun in the water.

The first two lessons, Krew made a little progress, but was still freaking out if he had to put his face under water. The swim instructor told all the parents to get their children swim goggles, so we followed his instructions. We had no idea what a difference it would make. We put Krew in the bathtub that night and showed him how to put his face underwater with the goggles, and the change in his attitude was amazing. All of a sudden he realized how awesome being underwater was, and he did a complete 180. In fact, he became OBSESSED. He wanted to stay in the bathtub for forever that night, taking a deep breath and throwing his his head into the water, over and over and over. Then he began requesting to take a bath at least twice a day after that.


Since then, he has done AWESOME at swim lessons. The change really was mind-boggling. At the next lesson after buying the goggles, the instructor chuckled quite a bit and informed us that we had created a "monster." Krew now jumps off the side of the pool, can float on his back, and can swim probably 8 ft on his front with his face underwater. Today he even rolled (with the instructor's help) from his front to his back while floating and then swam for a short bit doing the front crawl with his arms. When it isn't his turn to do something during lessons, he's constantly underwater, looking around and practicing floating, only coming up to take a breath and go back down. Last night, he even started putting his head under water in the bathtub WITHOUT his goggles, opening his eyes! Dave and I are completely baffled. The kid has gotten so brave.

Apparently a little too brave.


Today at swim lessons, I was chatting with another woman, glancing up once in a while to see if it was Krew's turn to do something. One particular time when I looked up, I didn't see Krew in his normal place on the steps. The instructor was busy with another child, closer to me. I stood up and still couldn't see Krew. My heart started to race. I dropped Greyden, who was in my lap, at the feet of the woman next to me and quickly jogged the few feet forward to the edge of the pool, my eyes darting everywhere looking for my child.

Then I saw Krew, on the other side of the instructor, blocked from my view by the instructor's body, and completely out of the instructor's eye shot. All but the top of his head was under water, and he was rapidly kicking with his legs, hands in front of him clasped to the end of his floating kick board. He was facing the side of the pool, away from the steps where I knew he could touch the bottom. A quick assessment told me he was fine for the moment, but I didn't think he had the strength or ability to hold his breath long enough to get back to the steps. I didn't want to make a huge scene, especially for Krew's sake, but he was out of my arm's reach, on the other side of the instructor, so I said loudly to the instructor, crouched next to him at the side of the pool, "Can you please get him??", and pointed my finger at Krew. The instructor didn't respond, deeply focused on working with other the child in front of him and oblivious to my voice due to the loudness in the room. I saw Krew change directions to face the steps, so I knew he was consciously swimming toward the steps, but I knew my little guy couldn't hold his breath so long. "Please GET HIM," I said, my panic starting to rise, poking the instructor and jutting my finger at my underwater son. The instructor still didn't respond immediately, and at once I had a million possibilities running through my head, from screaming at the instructor to full on jumping over him into the pool myself. The instructor finally looked up at me, and what was happening must have registered based on my face, and as he twisted to see Krew, we were both thrown back by a huge SPLASH as the life guard jumped into the water and scooped Krew into her arms.

As Krew came above water in the life guard's arms, he seemed unfazed and wasn't choking on water or anything (such a relief). She placed him on the safe steps and climbed out of the water, her clothes drenched. My heart had fallen through my stomach and I was shaking. The instructor apologized to the life guard, and immediately turned to Krew and assessed what had happened. Krew's kick board had apparently floated away, and Krew, being so sure in his swimming abilities, had decided to go after it. The instructor talked with him about how we need to make sure we follow the rules and don't go past the line on the bottom step. Krew was completely calm up until the point that he realized he had disappointed the instructor. Then he looked at me, and I saw his face register the tears that had unavoidably started streaming down my face in the aftermath of my panic. It only took a split second for his face to fall and I knew that he was crying inside his goggles.

The instructor sympathetically smiled at me and asked if I was ok. I nodded yes, and he apologized, and said next time please just yell at him. I fumbled out a few words but I was too shaken up to say much. He assured me that I was much more traumatized than Krew was, and I knew he was right. Krew hadn't seemed scared at all.

Krew sat on the steps, crying, just staring at me, brokenhearted. I went over to him and pulled his goggles off his eyes, and he sobbed to me, "I broke the rules!!!" I reassured him it was ok, rubbing my hands up and down his little wet arms, telling him that we all make mistakes, that no one was upset with him, but he just cried and cried. I finally put his goggles back over his eyes and told him to get back in and swim. The instructor called him at that moment, told him it was his turn, and the kid must really love swimming because he stopped crying long enough to take his turn. But as soon as his turn was over, he sat on the steps and looked at me and began crying again. The last five minutes of the lesson went this way, with him pulling himself together emotionally just long enough to take his turn swimming and then falling apart into tears again as soon as his turn was over.

We talked in the locker room afterward, and I asked if he had been scared. He said no. I asked if he had just been swimming, and he nodded. I told him that we had all thought he couldn't breathe, and so we all got scared. Based on his blank stare, I could tell that no thought of being unable to breathe had ever crossed his mind. Sweet boy. He then cried nearly the whole way home, so disappointed in himself. This kid sure takes things hard.


Now that I'm home, I can't help but have the scenario run through my head over and over. Even though it all came out fine, I keep wondering, did I do my part as a parent? Should I have reacted more strongly initially, based on the fact that the life guard jumped in after him? Or was I correct in assuming that he was fine at that moment, based on the fact that he hadn't swallowed any water and didn't seem scared at all afterward?

It's one of those moments that really makes you step back and assess yourself as a parent. Did I react the way I should have in an emergency, if it even was an emergency? There's no way to practice for these scenarios...the moment your child is at swimming lessons and under water next to the unaware instructor and you have to decide if he's ok or not...and so what are we as parents supposed to do??

So there you have it. The story of my typically overly cautious water-loving child nearly drowning himself at swim lessons because he decided to be brave and take a risk.

Let me tell you, parenting is not for the faint of heart.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Lent: What I'm Giving Up (uh....Nothing.)

It's the season of Lent, the time when many people give up something in their life from Ash Wednesday through Easter.

I've never been one to really give up anything during this time of year. First - it wasn't required by the Christian tradition in which I was raised (United Methodist). Second - I can never decide what to give up.

Oh, I've had thoughts. Chocolate (I would struggle), coffee (I would flat out die), sleeping in (already recently gave that up on most mornings). I could pick something up - exercise, reading my Bible more, etc. - but none of these trigger a "yes, that's the thing" feeling inside of me.  When I think of any of them, to give them up particularly for this season feels like something I would be forcing upon myself, not as a devotion to God but rather as an action I feel like I SHOULD be doing regardless of whether my heart is in it. (Similar to my feelings on believer's baptism.)

So honestly, I just don't do it.

Our church even had a sweet, simple Ash Wednesday service where our pastor suggested looking deep inside ourselves for things we struggle with and need to turn over to God.  We were to write a prayer to give those things to Him.

Ridiculous me, I couldn't think of anything.  I know I'm a sinner, I know I have ten million things wrong with me, I know there are a bagillion ways I could improve, but yet my little card in my hand remained blank.  What is wrong with me??

Does anyone else struggle like this during this season?

In any case, I am at least reading two Lent devotionals every day.

The first is the devotion our teaching pastor, Steve, is writing.  You can find it here: thebrightsadness.com

The second is a devotion that a friend in my women's quiet time accountability group suggested.  You can find it here: http://gs4nj.org/news/enews-devotion/40-things-for-lent/

Any other recommendations?  What are you giving up, if anything?