Are You Depressed?

Sometimes depression sneaks up on us. It slips in the unguarded back door of our psyche like a thief. Depression seeks to rob us of having good stable mental health. Don’t fight this enemy on your own. Seek professional help if you are struggling with depression.

How do you know if you’re struggling with depression? To an observant close family member or friend the answer seems self-evident. But the sufferer is often the last one to recognize or admit that she or he is struggling with depression.

My realization that I was struggling with dysthymic depression came about by my going to a community mental health clinic (mhc) in my small town. I was assigned a peer specialist.

My Peer Specialist had worked as “floor staff” in mental health institutions for more than twenty years. Through our weekly talks he had pin-pointed the type of depression I’ve had since my teen years. Even though he was limited to what type of therapy he could offer, he still recognized what I was experiencing, and gave it a name. And him doing that was the “key” that opened the door for me to receive the right kind of mental-emotional wellness therapy.

He suggested I attend some of the group therapy programs that the mhc offered. That sounded good to me so I started with WRAP (Wellness Recovery Action Plan). From there I went on to attend their other classes. My going there lasted about ten months. That was in 2007-2008. I felt great and had made several changes that I needed to make that came out of the one-on-one I was receiving and the weekly group therapy as well.

I’ve since gone back to therapy. Currently I’m seeing a licensed therapist. She uses Cognitive Therapy techniques, which have been very effective for me.

There are different types of depression, though. These are listed in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5). That’s the “Bible” for finding out about personality disorders. This is a thick reference book that gets updated when new research information becomes available. Most of us don’t own a DSM-5, but any reputable website on mood disorders would reference this book along with experts in the field of cognitive development.

The DSM-5 does list depression as a mood disorder. The different types of depression are: Major, dysthymia (melancholy) depression, dysphoric (which includes PMS), and Seasonal Affected Disorder (SAD). These are the most common ones, at least.

If you think you might be suffering from long term sadness, then get a thorough checkup by your physician. Include a blood test. That test will reveal if you are low in Vitamin D or other essential vitamins. Also, a blood test will reveal any health problem or blood related diseases such as Hepatitis C. Fortunately, most of my adult life I’ve had a yearly physical.

Let your doctor know that you’re struggling with “dark moods.”  He or she might suggest a certain medication, such as an SSRI (Selective Serotonin Reuptake) to help lift your moods. There are multiple new ones available to help people overcome depression that are less or not addictive than the old meds.

I’ve found that “Talk Therapy”  (Cognitive Therapy) is best for me. So, I’ve been able to avoid taking medication for depression. But I do take certain supplements every day that help lift my moods. I’ll discuss supplements later. I’ll only say that supplements can get expensive. And you’ve got to know which ones work best for you. By all means, start by talking with your primary care physician.

Please consider going to a Behavioral Health Center like I did. They offer mental health counseling that includes the family if needed. Ask to see the therapist on staff there. Let him/her know that you’re feeling depressed even if it’s just some of the time.

The cost of going to these Mental Health Centers (aka: MHC) is often free. They have group counseling classes that are designed to inform and guide you into making wise choices. Also, like me, you’ll get to have a “peer support specialists” that will talk one-on-one with you.

If you need to detox from illegal drugs or over medicating then most of these mental health counseling centers are connected to a detox unit. If you can’t control your intake of alcoholic beverages on a regular basis, then please check into a detox unit. Most problems are fixable. It just takes you being a part of your solution, not a part of the problem.

Finally, be honest with yourself. Have you had thoughts about self-harm and/or had suicidal inclinations?

If you’re feeling suicidal or need to talk to someone immediately, then please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. Don’t put your loved ones through the agony of you making a tragic decision.

There are often reasonable and successful solutions to our emotional health problems. It just takes us seeking those solutions in the right places.

Living The American Dream

Living The American Dream is a “rags-to-riches” story about my parents and how they became millionaires. It all started in about 1963 as we were traveling to my grandparents’ house in Murphy NC.

We (my parents with their five children) lived about 60 miles east of Murphy. So to get to their house for a day of fun and good eating, we had to pass through the Eastern Band of The Cherokee Indian Reservation. We rarely stopped in Cherokee, but in the summer of 1963 we did. It was a brief stop but a life-turning decision was made during that stop-over.

My dad wanted my mom to talk with one of the gift shop owners about how could they operate a gift shop also. I remember being told not to get out of the car for any reason. I was about 11 yrs old at the time and I and my siblings obeyed our parents.

By the next year we had moved to the outskirts of then “Old Cherokee” and opened up a gift shop. It was located on US19, across the river from Frontier Land. By 1967 dad realized that the “big money” he was hoping for was in whole-selling souvenirs. So my parents switched from running two retail businesses to strictly selling wholesale.

There wasn’t much to risk in them switching to becoming “middle man” sales people. My two oldest siblings had graduated high school and had left home. And all that my parents owned at the time was a single-wide trailer and two very used cars.

If you would like to know “the rest of the story” then please buy my book here. I’ll be glad to sign a copy of my parents rags-to-riches story for you. Reading this might inspire you to reach what seems like an impossible goal to reach, as well.

I’m asking $10.00 plus $3.00 shipping =$13.00 per book.

 

Overcoming Depression

I am doing some limited talks on how I have managed chronic depression. I would like to Skype as well as do some public speaking on this subject. I’m willing to speak at most any venue, but I am a believer in Christ Jesus. I wouldn’t want to not be able to speak freely about how my faith has helped me in tremendous ways. You can get in touch with me through my WordPress site or at my email: myjouneyintohealing@gmail.com

Some Problems Require a Miracle

“You are the God who performs miracles;

You display your power among the people.” Psalms 77:14 NIV

We can’t always solve our problems, and often not all on our own. Some of our problems are not solvable, some are solved through time, and some we can solve on our own. Some of our problems are so overwhelming that they require a miracle.

Most of us, well, all of us need some type of support network that we can count on. Especially, when it comes to needing prayer over an issue you or I are facing. We may not know all of who is praying for us in this day of posting our prayer concerns on social media. I often add my concerns to our church prayer list. The important thing, though is to get prayer warriors praying when we need them the most.

Sometimes God just moves on people’s hearts in mysterious ways and our problems get solved through a miracle. The story below describes how I received a miracle when I needed one the most:

Decades ago, I was single and living in a small town in south GA. I had taken a photographer’s assistant job there but lived there less than a year. I was very homesick and lonely. That town is about 200 miles from where I grew up and where my large extended family still lives in, which is WNC.

So while I lived there I had a weird accident on my bicycle, on my way to my apartment. After the accident I was in intense pain but didn’t know what was wrong. I knew that I had injured myself badly, though. I had made it inside the door, but laid on the floor bleeding. My sister Carol called not long after I got into the apartment. She said she felt the need to call me and check on how I was doing. I told her about the accident and that I was bleeding badly. We hung up and she called my employer to let him know that I needed immediate help.

I still remember some guys putting me into an ambulance. I was heavily sedated thereafter. But by the next morning I awoke to see my parents and my oldest sister, Carol standing next to my bed. That whole event was nothing short of a miracle.  

What had happened when I was riding my bike, I had to brake hard and come to a sudden stop. I had avoided colliding with the car. But, in doing so my body slammed up against the support bar (female style bike). That action resulted in me bursting my vulva.

Once I got healed, I moved back to WNC and in a year or so I joined the US Air Force. I went to Germany where I met my husband, Jeff. We have been married over forty years and have three grown daughters and four grandchildren.

Having told you about that long-ago incident or accident, I want to conclude this post with saying that not all problems require miracles to happen in order to solve them. But you and I are better off when we:  

  “Cast all your anxiety on Him because He cares for you.” 1 Peter 5:7 (NIV).

I want to talk about HOPE over the next several posts that I put up. I, like everyone else is busy, though. So my post might seem sporadic. Plus, I need to organize my thoughts on exactly what I want to say, which takes a lot of black coffee and not too many distractions. I made need some luck to avoid the distractions.

I do hope to get some good feedback on my posts on HOPE and how we always need a healthy supply of it.

Are You Going Through Trials and Tribulations?

“These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation but take courage; I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

Do your problems seem unsolvable?

And you can’t see a way out?

Yours and my problems are solvable if we seek God’s help.

Even in the middle of our battles,

God will hear our prayers. (1 Chron 5:20)

His Spirit continually intercedes for us. (Romans 8:26)

Angels bring messages to us from God’s throne. (Dan 9:23)

Reminding us that we are fighting a spiritual battle

“…against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.” (Eph 6:12)

“Therefore, let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrew 4:16)

Leaving A Comfortable Prison

A few years ago, I had a clear and unforgettable vision. It probably lasted about thirty seconds. I know that because I was driving a familiar stretch of road near my home at the time of my vision.

In the vision:

I saw myself being let out of a jail cell that was at the end of a long hallway. As I walked up the hallway, I saw that in each cell there was a person in anguish.

There were no cell doors, though. When I got to the exit, I paused and asked the jailer, “When did you remove the cell doors?”

 “There never were cell doors. Any of you could’ve left anytime you wanted to.” He said.

With that I walked out into the beautiful brightness of a warm sunny day.

Explanation of My Vision

In the fullness of the vision I realized that our emotional wellness is up ourselves. Seeking professional help needs to be a part of our healing.

But, instead of receiving counseling, we substitute with other activities making our cells of unneedful mental anguish as comfortable as possible. We include our addictions, our self-medicating habits, our overindulgences. We include people who are emotionally harmful to us into our lives.

Or we just exist and don’t seek emotional healing at all. Like me you’ve probably tried a few of the above ideas. Some of us almost are experts on “what not to do.”

Therapy is one of the best ways we have in leaving a lifestyle where we’ve been emotionally disconnected, maligned, misdiagnosed, and/or self-medicated. A lifestyle that can cause our ruin.  

Leave your unraveling/mending/unraveling mental health issues behind, today. Step out into God’s bright warm sunlight and start searching for positive mental wellness. It’s what I’ve done, and it’s helped me in achieving my mental-wellness goal.

Life can have its places of stark wilderness that we’ll all travel through at various times in our lives. Your efforts toward your own mental wellness is going to be up to you. I hope that I’ve helped in some small or great way in you achieving your mental-emotional-wellness.

Having Attention Deficit Disorder and Managing Time

Not everyone is a good time manager. When one of my three children started elementary school, she was unfocused and couldn’t complete her tasks. Her kindergarten teacher pointed this out but didn’t offer a solution to our child’s problem.

This was in 1990. Hopefully, understanding the different learning traits of children have improved a bit since then. But, children are still slipping through the “learning cracks.”

Poor time management kept our daughter from doing well also in first grade. We were getting frustrated, not only with our child, but more so with her teachers. Neither her K-Garten nor her first grade teacher seemed to have a solution or any good advice, but both were quick to point out the problem.

I didn’t want to take my anger out on our six-year-old. Just a few months earlier she had surgery to correct her “Lazy Eye.” We were all joyful over her improved vision. Everything seemed hopeful until she started school.

 I shared our daughter’s learning problem with friends at church. Finally, about midway through that year a teacher from our church called me and suggested I have her checked for Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) by a pediatrician. I’d never heard of it.

Still though, I made the appointment and scooped up an ample supply of her unfinished desk work to take with us to the appt. The pediatrician was well qualified and had been practicing for at least twenty years. I felt I could trust his judgement. I knew something needed to change but didn’t know what. And, in the end, his advice made sense to me.

He believed my daughter would be more focused by taking a low dose of Ritalin.  I immediately started her on one pill in the morning and the difference was night and day. She was more engaged and became a better task-oriented student.

I kept her on Ritalin all through to about the ninth grade. That was when she became less and less of a “happy camper” about taking the prescription. So, after that year, I pretty much let it go. It was too much of a struggle. She went on to participate in high school band and played several instruments. And graduated on time with her friends. We were ecstatic over what she (and we) had accomplished during her twelve years of school. And we were glad to bring that part of it to a close.

Recognizing A Problem and Fixing It

If I had to do it over again, I still would take the same path I took in listening to a seasoned pediatrician. And take his or her advice. Recognizing that my child had a learning issue and yet doing nothing about solving it was and still is unacceptable to me.

 A lot of people don’t like putting their child on Ritalin. Perhaps because of fear there might be long term affects. I’ve asked two different neurologists at different times if there are any effects of Ritalin or similar medication. Both told me that there are no long-term side effects of taking this type of medication. The pill “flushes” out of the child’s system within a few hours and leaves no residue. It’s good for about two hours or so. Then that’s it.

A prescribed dosage of a proven medication for ADD/ADHD is far better than letting your child start their school day with cola loaded with caffeine and sugar. When the sugar “high” wears off your child will “crash” in the middle of an important test or some other class time. And besides that, just how much caffeine and / or sugar does a child need in the morning anyway?

I believe a child only has a few years to get settled into a positive school routine, whether it’s in a regular classroom or at home. If a child becomes overwhelmed with frustration during those early years it may preset them to become school dropouts during their teen years.

At least that’s what I saw take place with my oldest brother Gene. He may have had ADD. All during his early schooling he was often called lazy or worse by teachers that then influenced our parents to think negatively about him as well. Gene was always behind in his schoolwork.

In Gene’s teen years he said he wasn’t going back to school. In fact, he said this multiple time. Finally, my strong-willed petite mother stood up to his 5’11’’ frame and told him, “Go to school or get a job!” Since he had no car, he got on the school bus the next day.

My oldest sister Carol often did his homework for him. They were a year apart but spent most of their school years being in the same grade. Both Gene and Carol graduated high school in 1965. So, this was way before learning disabilities were discussed at parent-teacher conferences.

After graduating high school Gene wanted to attend our local technical school and study TV repair. No one thought he would understand it, but he attended anyway.

Gene made the Honor Roll that year and went on to Greenville, SC Technical School for the second year of TV repair. After graduation he worked in that career field until circuit boards were used in TV’s. From there he became a tool-and-die maker.

He had a great mind, but he only wanted to learn what interested him. He was self-taught on playing his guitar, played his trumpet in band all through high school.

Later when our parents built their 5,000 sq. ft warehouse, they wisely hired Gene. In the building phase of it he designed the warehouse floor plan by adding multiple rows of metal shelving separated by wide aisles and designed where the best place to add a loading dock would be. They went with his plan. And it was never changed.

 Gene had learned basic carpentry skills in our high school shop class. He was good at “rough carpentry” to. And, his carpentry skills were utilized in the warehouse often. And he also fixed basic electrical problems there also.

Gene was also a master small-scale wood carver. I have one of his special wood carvings sitting on display in my living room. It’s a mountain man killing a bear with a knife. It’s about 8” X 8” and all carved from one piece of cherry.

I’ve also struggled with focusing issues, though not as bad as Gene’s were. That is probably what’s behind my lifetime caffeine addiction. I was in my teens when I had coffee for the first time. I thought then it must be a drink from “the gods.” And I still think of coffee that same way.

When I went to college in my mid-forties, I took Ginkgo tablets to stay alert during night school. I had seen ginkgo advertised for mental alertness. So, I decided to try it. Plus, I was weary of drinking vending machine coffee at 6:00 pm. Ginkgo does work for mental alertness. I still take it on and off.  But I wouldn’t give it to a child. After all, how much should a developing child take?  

The important thing is to recognize that you or your child has a learning problem. Then go about fixing it in a logical and proven way. Start by seeking medical advice.

Fill Your Life With Joy

“Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice!” Philippians 4:4 (NLT)

A preacher and teacher of The Gospel named Paul wrote the above verse for our encouragement. He wrote the small book of Philippians while being in prison. But Paul did not let his circumstances determine his level of joy. His source of joy went deeper than his surroundings. His joy came from his belief in Jesus Christ.

During his imprisonment faithful friends were coming and going from Paul’s cell tending to his needs. He shared his abundant joy with them. The small group joined Paul in reading from the Old Testament and singing Psalms.

Paul’s life had not been easy even when he was free. Less so during his imprisonment. Philippians was written about 60 A.D. during his first imprisonment. You can read the entire account of the Apostle Paul in Acts 13-28. 

Even despite his bleak surroundings, not knowing whether he would be set free or not; Paul spent his time writing letters of encouragement. His trusted friends risked their lives carrying his prison letters to churches in Greece and in Asia Minor.  They did this because of their commitment to help Paul. And, in doing that they also had joy overflowing.

Not much if any has changed since Paul’s day. We all still need a continuous flow of joy in our daily lives. Also, we need both to encourage and be encouraged. I want to encourage you to read the small book of Philippians and be prepared to be filled with joy.

Find joy in what you do as well. As important as parenting, jobs and/or our other responsibilities are, the attitude that we have in doing what we do is equally important. 

When we allow ourselves to have a joyful attitude, our hope increases.

Closure is Elusive, Seek Healing Instead

At best, I’ve found that closure is often elusive. It may come for some, but I think it’s best not to count on it. Bad decisions made that involved you, doesn’t mean that you had any control over the situation. Don’t let other’s bad behavior control you and the way you feel. And don’t retaliate. That’s just more of them controlling you. Forgive, and find peace and contentment in healthy ways.

Perhaps you have made some bad decisions. Seek an inner healing from your past experiences. Better to cleanse your mind and soul from bad memories. Don’t let anger, bitterness, or an unforgiving attitude control you. Live for what God has planned for you in the future.

Why seek to reconcile with those who have rejected you? Seeking an apology and reconciliation with someone that has emotionally wounded you or me almost never happens. And if it ever does happen it won’t be on yours or my terms. The sooner we accept that the better off we are.

“Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” Ephesians 4:32



Better Not Bitter

Below is a story of how my maternal grandfather became better, instead of bitter. He was born illegitimately and unwanted. But he grew up to become a caring and responsible husband, and father. He went from being a “Crop Sharer” to owning 15 acres of farmland. And it’s how he accomplished much more than all of that.  He left a legacy that’s lasted well into four generations by now.

I live within fifty miles of where my grandparents were born and raised. And so do many of my relatives. Therefore, I’ve left names out so as not to be in unnecessary conflict with my large extended family members.

My maternal grandfather was born in a very rural part of Western North Carolina, on April 5, 1898. His mother was sixteen and not married.  

After his birth, grandpa was handed over to be raised by other family members on both sides. That may have been the best decision since his mother had few resources to count on. His birth may not have even been welcomed news on her side of the family, because she was a middle child of fourteen children.

The 1900 Census shows his mother as a seventeen-year-old living over in Georgia with relatives. No baby or toddler was mentioned as living with her. (Census is collected the year before it’s published).

His dad had rejected his son, also.  But, apparently not everyone on his father’s side shared those feelings. My grandpa is listed in the 1910 Census as living with his paternal Grandmother in the community he was born in. Grandpa always went by his father’s surname

There must’ve been strong physical similarities between father and son. I’ve seen pictures of my grandfather’s half-brother and both share similar physical features.

Since his dad owned the only store in that community no doubt my grandpa crossed paths countless times in his early childhood with him. Human nature being what it is, I’m sure grandpa being rejected by his father was a difficult emotion for a young boy to bear.

His dad must’ve been a little hard to live with. I’ve found that he was married and divorced twice during his adult life. His head stone shows that he died in his fifties. And is buried in a single grave. No wife is listed on the headstone.  

In my childhood I remembered my grandpa as being stoic in nature.  Even so, he did seem to enjoy our family gatherings at his and granny’s farm. I’m sure us kids got on his nerves, constantly running in and out of their house, but he rarely showed it. He enjoyed sitting alone on his porch swing regardless of the weather. And did so when things got to be too much for him inside the house.

During grandpa’s early teenage years he was sent to live with an uncle just over the state line in GA. He owned a large apple orchard and needed his nephew’s help.

Grandpa didn’t stay long there, though. Within the year he was sent to Berry Boys Industrial School (the forerunner of Berry College). Their records have him listed as being taught carpentry. A skill he would use later in life.  He left Berry around a year later, never having graduated. His name and attendance record were found in their archives.

From there Grandpa joined the Navy and sailed to France. The year was 1917 and America was fighting WW1 on Europe’s Western Front. He’s listed as having served as a machinist on a frigate on his discharge papers.

After the war ended in 1918, my Grandpa found his way back to his birthplace. But why go back there? Grandpa had always been rejected by his father. I know this because I was told when his dad died in 1932, he left nothing but his last name to his illegitimate son.

About 1919, grandpa moved ten miles over to Murphy, NC. By then he was twenty-one, and looking to settle down. And Murphy proved to be just the right place to do that. This is where he met and married my granny. During the twenties, they had their four children. My mother was one of the two middle children.

During the Great Depression my grandparents became crop-sharers. Once, they got established than they became very frugal about all things.  Even so, it took years of “penny pinching,” for them to buy fifteen acres of farmland that included a small house.

In time Grandpa was able to add on to it and included indoor bathroom as well. It became a comfortable spacious one level home. They lived there for the rest of their lives.  

Life was hard for my grandparents. But I never knew them to be bitter about things, though. Instead they grew better about how life had turned out for them.

They never owned a vehicle of any type because grandpa had seizures. He never drove nor had a license. He did do house painting and carpentry when a ride was provided for him, though. Granny worked in mills or babysat children. Those jobs were their only income until they could collect Social Security. Plus, they farmed, raised chickens, and “bartered” whenever they could.

They were blessed in many ways all through their lives. I have many good memories of being at my grandparents’ house. Every family gathering at their house always included cousins, aunts and uncles, and lots of good farm fresh food. In the heat of summer afternoons, all of us kids would gather under a huge Weeping Willow tree at the edge of their yard. That’s where Grandpa would cut each of us a slice of cold juicy watermelon.

Grandpa and Granny were members of a small local church that they walked to on Sundays. They were the “salt of the Earth” kind of folks. They helped their large extended families however they could. All my childhood they seemed contented with what they had accomplished and how life had turned out for them.  

“Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.” Ephesians 4:32