The Fourth Step

This is where people bail, I thought as my sponsor and I read through the section about resentment inventory in the chapter “How It Works” of the Big Book of AA. I’ve heard of numerous others reaching this step and running for the door.

I may not have elaborated in previous posts, but I’ve been working through the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, not for alcoholism or drug addiction, but for depression. My sponsor was well chosen. We have found many things we relate to in each other’s lives, including depression. She’s a new bright spot in my life.

That said, I’ve been working on the Fourth Step of the 12 with her, and I’ve mainly been depressed while working through it. When we read about resentment inventory, like I said, I discovered that this is the abandon-ship-moment for many. I’m someone who tries to be as honest, open, and brave as I can, and if I was scared when we talked about it, before even making resentment inventory, then I know so many have been scared away.

For those who have never worked the Steps, the Fourth Step involves writing out a resentment inventory. In the first column, you write the person, thing, idea, or institution you resent. In the second column, you write why you resent. And in the third, you write what it affects; i.e., personal relationships, security (financial, living, etc.), sex relations, and so on. My first entry was Dad, then Mom, then my financial situation, then myself. By the time I reached resentments of myself, I was feeling crummy. Thankfully, the idea of writing affirmations such as, “I am a beautiful spirit” came to my thoughts, and the feelings stopped falling.

I’ve opened the journal to write more inventory, but I haven’t written anything. I want to continue, but I fear emotions will darken again. I told my sponsor that I may not be doing it correctly, and she responded that we’ll work through it the next time we meet. I trust her. I think I need to trust the process. I think I’ll pray the Serenity Prayer several more times before again picking up the pen.

We Are Not Alone: Stories of Depression to Relate

http://www.buzzfeed.com/michaelblackmon/stories-of-depression-and-suicide-that-will-inspire-you-t?bffb#.leNVorLnK0

Why I’m Still Here

I woke up for the rest of the day. Nope, not happy about it. Nor was I happy to get up initially, then wake up again. And again. And again. I finally rose from the La-Z-Boy to care for some laundry.

While folding socks, I asked myself, “Why am I even here?”

The answer came to me, as sure as it came before: Love.

I am here to love. To learn it, live it, and even feel it, its pain and joy.

It’s why I’m still here. It’s the grace, the compassion, the peace of Love that kept me here, and keeps me here still. I’m here to learn, and Love knows that.

Cat Wake-Up Call

This morning, I was awake around 8 a.m. I continued to doze on and off until around 10 or 11 a.m., giving me around ten to eleven hours of sleep. I didn’t want to leave the blankets, to leave my dreams, which covered me from the real world. The sporadic dozing was a product of emotional discomfort starting the night before. Perhaps it was my mind expecting unrealistic attention and creating unfair assumptions from and about my partner, Ray. I presently conclude this to be the source of emotional downturn. That has passed for now, and I give the hugest thanks to my Higher Power for the intervention.

It wasn’t a flash of light or inspirational line from a book, but a cat. Buddy. He’s Ray’s old, obese, ginger cat, who wobbles and struggles up and down the stairs, and who’s mostly deaf.

I lie in my frozenness when I hear a few thuds on the stairwell. Then, the door flies open with a boom against the wall, and Buddy topples in with the loudest, deaf cat meow I’ve heard. He continues to meow, though more softly, and I stand from the bed. While I speak thanks to him and my Creator, I yank up the covers, making the bed, then begin my descent downstairs, to the world. And Buddy is rocking his tired body down the stairs with me, and I know that I am loved.

Introvert Seeks Extroverted Lifestyle (?)

Possibly…maybe…yes?

Throughout the past several months, I’ve felt disjointed from society and friends. Most of my close friends are more than half-an-hour away. My job situation has been so irregular that scheduling social activities can be frustrating, and because I can get overly engrossed by the job search and struggle, I forget that I’m not meeting my social needs.

In a recent Facebook status, I asked for suggestions to reconnect. The first few comments from one of my friends was helpful. She suggested volunteering for things that are fun and interesting to me, and not to sweat it because I know what I like. Do I? I do like the combination of service and self-interest. I did some brief research for the first couple things that came to mind, which were volunteering to help in the parks, where I could be teaching children and others about nature, and volunteering for a local semi-professional chorus, because I love to and am able to sing. I sent emails to both organizations, and hope I receive return messages soon, to get rolling with them. Hopefully, I don’t get discouraged waiting. I’m still waiting to be scheduled to sing at the mission for the new year.

As an introvert, I seem too easily to fall into periods of isolation. The results: oversleeping, reading some, oversleeping, eating poorly, oversleeping, loneliness, and lowered self-esteem. And more oversleeping. Thankfully, yoga has become more of my routine, albeit, a routine exercised alone. I need balance between me-time and social time, a balance I have yet to reach proficiency. When I attended college, this was slightly easier. While I was swamped with school work, and so were other friends, we could meet at the Union for a brief meal and catch up before one of us had to rush off. Many of my friends were concentrated in one area, not spread across the nation and world. That ease of socialization and friend-making is definitely one thing I miss about college. My introverted isolation periods were easier to overcome.

Now, with no college enrollment and a sporadic job situation, I’m seeking socialization beyond the home sphere, which mainly includes cats and Facebook. I thank my Higher Power for my Ray. We need and love each other. We also need time with others, to serve and love them. He has a social system in which to love and serve established, a place where he can socialize. I try to join him there, but the bonding with the others is slow. I’ll continue to join him, but seek other places for me.

So, as an introvert, I am praying for bravery, to step out of my comfort zone, which is not really comforting for long. I am praying for clarity and strength, to focus and do what I do best, with others. I am praying for balance, to be who I am as an introvert, along with savoring the extroversion that keeps me from isolation, which so often presses me deeper into depression.

Opening My Four Walls

“I am in the room I built myself. Four straight walls, one floor, one ceiling. And day after day I wake up feeling, feeling, feeling…”

Perhaps I should be busier. Then, my thoughts may not race and collide into each other, leaving a tangled, hurried mess, but instead, mesh and mould creatively into one of the novels I’ve been wanting to write. Then, would I even have the time to write all those creative, cohesive, comprehensible words? I would be less likely to sleep ten hours a day if I were busier, but what would be the expense of my busyness? Spiritual deprivation? Social disrepair? More inner bondage?

Perhaps, instead of living a more busy life, I can focus on living a more full life. I’m looking toward the new year to choose activities that inspire me, and stick. with. them. When I was a child, I started dance classes, gymnastics, Girl Scouts, 4-H, piano lessons, guitar lessons, baseball, softball, soccer, track, co-ed Boy Scouts, and probably more I can’t recall at the moment. Many of these I initially really wanted to do. But I quit them, usually within the first few months. Some of the memories and skills from these activities are carried with me into adulthood, but I regret that I would so often quit in the middle of them, before I could really grow. My parents told me I shouldn’t quit, but I wish they had pushed me to stay with the ones I really liked. I didn’t understand then, when my decision-making was poor and flighty, that quitting an activity when it became difficult is practice for self-defeat. Practice for my depression. This year, I’d like to choose and plan activities I will enjoy and those that will help me grow, such as yoga, archery, and tons more writing. I want to explore more of my spiritual life and its possibilities. I want to learn. I want to be open to new ideas, places, and people. I want to be open to a life in which the chains of depression lie on the floor, empty of me. I want to fly from the four walls of the room I’ve built myself. I want to be open and full.

Nothing can change my past choices, and my parents can’t be blamed for my flakiness; they did the best they could, and…so did I. I want to say that I’m trying the best I can now, but I grimace, because I don’t think that’s true. I’ve been praying more and more to my Higher Power, when I wake up in my comfy bed and drift back to sleep because I think it’s not worth getting up until I must be somewhere. I confess to my Higher Power that I cannot do this alone. I will not survive depression and live life to the fullest without this Presence and Power.

“I am down the road and up the hill. I wait for you still, wires ’round my fingers. Potentially lovely. Perpetually human. Suspended and open. Open. Open.” ~ Regina Spektor, “Open”

Chernobyl

Almost constantly and consistently I forget that writing is, for me, a place of solace. It brings, for me, some sense of identity, passion, and self-worth. No, I don’t think I should place my entire image of self-worth on what I do (or don’t do). Setting your entire sense of self-worth upon a pedestal of success will inevitably lead to self-defeat. Worth is innate. It cannot be taken or given, only reassured by yourself and by others. When others to not reassure me, I’ve discovered, I must reassure myself. And when I cannot reassure myself, I beg my Higher Power for help.

I’ve recently begged Him/Her/my Higher Someone for help, and here I am, writing. I doubt it’s a coincidence. I’m thinking I should beg my Higher Someone for help more frequently. Perfect example in which to beg: Right now, as my brain begs to switch tabs to Facebook, distracting me from this therapeutic writing. Ugh. The brain. I am beginning to see how deeply the mind can inhibit the spirit. However, it cannot, I believe, wound the spirit. Perhaps the spirit is impenetrable, and our minds become the wounded ones, allowing poisonous thoughts to radiate and rot, words twisting and writhing and racing. Beneath our festering minds are our spirits, blocked from us by the radiation of thought, waiting for our minds to catch up with the peace and knowledge of love our spirits and the Great Spirit wish to impart. The whole spiritual world awaits. Even for me.

So I write. I write, even if for this moment, to press on and discover what my spirit and all the spirits around me hold, waiting to give. Writing helps me to clear my mind somehow. Or maybe writing allows me to be aware, like a Geiger counter warning me how hot and deadly the radioactive thoughts are. Some places are safer, a low threat, while other places are imminent danger. And like Chernobyl, the thoughts cannot simply be swept away; they can sit for years, untouched, but soaking the soil, lethal.

Stronger than this wasteland is the spirit, however. I believe it prevails. Energy is neither created nor destroyed, though it can create, same as my Higher Power. I believe my Higher Power can create anew, even my radioactive mind, minefield though it may be sometimes.

When We Think Our Struggles Are Exterior Problems…

“For the most part, all our trials and disturbances come from our not understanding ourselves” (Interior Castle, IV, 1, 9).

~St. Teresa of Ávila

The Locked Music Box

The Locked Music Box

My Gammy is not dead yet. But she has already left me part of my inheritance to discover, all contained in a plastic storage tote she calls, “Sarah’s Treasure Chest”. The container could be less alluring, I suppose, despite its lid cracked in one corner and its generic organizer label written upon in my grandmother’s cursive. I could be a weathered, mildew-stained cardboard box. But the contents and their recipient are far more important to her. Contained, I found oversized Life magazine issues from the 50s and 60s, documenting the lunar landing and whatnot. These were of mild interest to me, and are less so after finding a silverfish in its folds. Also found were Easter bunny figurines and collector’s plates, which I moved to the Goodwill box, and other assorted decor she must have thought I would enjoy in my own, adult home (yet to be seen). I stored away the teacups, each different with their various flowers, away for that later life. I deposited the collector’s state quarters, which are regular quarters anyway, into my adoption money vase. And I found a music box she had never showed me or told me about, that I remember. 

Immediately, I noticed the design, which seemed Italian. Definitely interested, I cranked the knob, hearing the gears, but no music followed. I tried opening the lid, realizing it was jammed or locked. Did she really give me a music box I couldn’t open, one in which I couldn’t hear the music? It’s been sitting on my desk for weeks, looking pretty, and occasionally pestered for a moment by my hand. 

Meanwhile, I’ve been listening to Jeff VanVonderen’s talk, “Wounded by Shame, Healed by Grace”, lent CD by CD to me from Ray. CD six was my guide today. Within the tracks, Jeff VanSchmillichvichen (or whatever pseudo-German name Ray and I think of in the moment) explained some theology I had heard numerous times, but had never heard in his words, which I summarize: we can do nothing to be filled with the Spirit. We can block being filled by some part of the ego, but we cannot make ourselves filled. His words affirmed that I just need “to be”. I can block my connection with “the Source” (the Holy Spirit) by relying on “resources” (relationships, people, material things, ideas, etc.) provided by “the Source” by making those “resources” my Source; in other words, making something else my god, my source of peace, love, joy, etc. will leave me empty. 

Realizing this, by the end of the disc, I was full. Just be. Anxiety and depression itself can so often be my “Source”. I can allow it to preside over my being, allowing it to be my excuse for the way I feel. Instead, it should be a resource I use to bring me back to “the Source”. Feelings are neither good nor bad. Instead, how we feel can give us insight into how we can live our lives.  My feelings of anxiety and depression can give me insight into how I can live joyously, with love, with freedom. If I can recognize the feelings and remember what they do to me, I can fight them. 

However. When I’m feeling low and hopeless, I most often don’t have enough fight in me. I may survive the attack, but I’m left wounded, and I don’t allow time and presence with my Creator to heal me. More thoughts swarm in the near space ahead like bees in a desert sand storm, and quickly my wounds open again, filling with sand and stings of the past and anxiety for the future. The wounds begin to close, as our bodies and spirits are trying constantly to heal, but another swarm lies ahead. 

Jeff VonderVanMichten helped me open the box. By listening to his words, my spirit has begun to open up to the music locked away inside of me. Within my spirit is the fight I need. It’s the Source of my hope, and it will heal if I only allow.

That was revealed this afternoon, and now a refreshing view is before me, the hopeful feeling still lingering like incense in a temple just rebuilt.  

I sat down to compose some sort of post for you here. I touched the top of the box, an upraised diamond shape catching my fingers. I pulled it toward me and it slid over with a wooden click. And the box was opened. The music plays with the rough vibrations of its contents: a cotton swab liner, some safety pins, sewing pins, a button, a dime, a newspaper clipping, a purple and yellow flowered handkerchief that smells like the wood-working in Gammy’s former house, and a note: 

 

Dear Sarah, 

This music box was brought to me from Europe in about 1958. I lived and taught school in Mentor, Ohio and lived with two other (teachers) girls. One of which made a trip to Europe that summer (1958). The tune is “The Isle of Capri”, which was a popular song back in my day! 

Inside you’ll find a handkerchief that belonged to your great grandmother, Ruby Thompson (Papa Thompson’s mother). Her obituary will tell you all about her – you are one of the 17 great-grandchildren listed there. 

 

The music slows to a scratching, softly clattering halt. Discoveries are always to be had, even when we think every treasure box is locked, and the music continues, our spirit song plays, even when we are out of turns. 

Truly an Indicator that Depression is Disease

Yesterday, one of America’s comedic icons died, presumably from depression. I’m sure you’ve all heard of it by now. Not only about Robin Williams’ death, but about depression itself. If reports are correct, this true and tragic disease has murdered someone who made us laugh and cry with his life’s work. He seemed so happy in his ways of manic humor,  so devoted to his craft, so lively.

But many of us know that depression allows you to smile, if only to cover the sick turmoil its creating within. It may be asked why such a successful man, beloved by millions, would take his life. Some would say, “It goes to show that fame and fortune can’t satisfy anyone for long.” But Robin Williams was talented, and seemed to truly love his talent and used it as much as he could. I don’t think he was an actor or comedian for the money, but because he knew what he was good at, and he went for it. That’s an honorable and brave thing, especially for someone with depression.

I don’t know the inside details of Williams’ life, and no one will ever know the extent of his heart, and what thoughts littered his mind. I do know that if depression was the cause of his death, its likely that even if he could have seen the result of mourning millions, the gigantic waves of adoring comments across social media and the celebrity world, they wouldn’t have changed his mind. Perhaps they would have touched him, caused him to debate internally. However, depression is a disease that blinds our everything from reason, reality, and the deep sensations of love. He may have thought that no one really loved him, that all the fan responses were lies.

He really is no different from us. He and we are human, and humans face disease. He had a disease. We all have a disease of some sort. And we all need love to help our spirits survive the physical.

You are loved unconditionally, not by all, but by some, and that is enough. Take that love and give it to yourself. Love yourself. If you think you can’t, don’t surrender to the disease, even if surrender makes more sense.