Tuesday, May 29, 2007

play therapy

Yesterday we had a fun family Memorial Day picnic supper at the park near our house. After we ate the children had a good time playing. Shawna (about 16 months old) came up to me. She can't really talk yet, except for a few words, but I could tell she wanted to be with me. That feels so good. She held her distance for quite a few months but then realized that my wife and I were OK.

Later she brought me a ball. I would throw it and she would go get it and bring it back. She hasn't yet learned how to throw a ball, I guess.

After awhile folks were eating some dessert. I was asked if I wanted a rich pecan cookie (something like a brownie). I did, but I was sitting on the ground 20 feet from the picnic table. So I asked if someone could give my cookie to Shawna and tell her, "Take this cookie to Grandpa." She understood. She brought it all the way to me, turned around, sat in my lap, and ate the cookie! Her mother, our daughter, brought me another one.

I also got to pitch the ball for the four boy cousins ages 3-7. I think they all got hits. I asked our son to be catcher and I pitched. Good fun!

Ah, the stuff good memories are made of. I never knew being a grandpa and getting to experience a safe childhood with my grandchildren would be so sweet. This must be a kind of play therapy. I felt peace, content, relaxed, and safe. It is therapeutic to experience childhood again, this time safely, as I relate to our grandchildren. I love them so much. I want to help keep them safe. I want to protect them from any kind of abuse.

When I shared the preceding with one of my good friends, he responded:
Thanks for the descriptions of your good Memorial day gathering. Yes, trust is a wonderful thing, and it warms our souls to experience it. The Lord is giving you back some of the years that the locust ate. How sweet it is, richer than pecan cookies, and warmer than the sun's rays on a spring day. Oh what a foretaste of glory divine!
So true!

Friday, May 25, 2007

Boot Hill

I told them not to climb the hill, really a bluff, high and steep, but an inviting challenge for my friends. I told them my father did not allow us to climb the bluff. He said it was too dangerous. We might fall. And we might get lost when we got to the top where the alders grew so thickly. I told them we would all get in trouble if they climbed the hill.

But they climbed it anyway. Their father was a different kind of man. He allowed for accidents and other things in life that went wrong. They didn't understand the really bad position they were putting me in by climbing the hill on our grounds.

And they did get stuck up there, at least one of them did. Or maybe he got lost. I can't remember that detail right now. But I must have had to walk back down the beach to our cabin to tell our fathers that one of them hadn't come back down the hill and we didn't know where he was.

And it happened as I had said. My father erupted. I started running from him, knowing that it would hurt when he erupted. One of my hip boots came off as I ran. He picked it up. He caught me. And he flailed at me with my own boot. It hurt.

It hurt. I was not to blame.

It was my Boot Hill.

Saturday, May 12, 2007


Gray (composed 1993)

Darkness descends,
surrounds, smothers.
Prisoner longs for light.
Day dawns,
but uninvited ugly
night and light
mixed in mind
produces persistent pain
of groggy gray.
My meds have kept my depression pretty well in check lately. But there has been an underlying anxiety which has affected my sleep. Most days I don't wake up as refreshed as I need to be to work well and be safe when driving.

I'm not sure what is beneath the surface. I'm discussed it with a friend who asks good questions. Maybe some of it has to do with how long my wife has been struggling with a debilitating disease. Some of it feels like earlier years when life was not safe--and yet, my life is the safest now that it ever has been. I no longer have work tension. I experience joy, with my wife, and going for walks with her after supper, and visiting our children and grandchildren. It's a beautiful Spring where we live. But underneath it all, I'm still afraid of my father or dread seeing him on our next visit (for their 60th wedding anniversary). Maybe I'm in so much healthier an environment now and am healthier myself that the lifelong anxiety keeps hanging around, like a fog. I'm able to function. And I'm not binging as I so often have on frenetic activity, especially work.

It's not easy to recover. Does it really take a lifetime?

Monday, May 07, 2007

managing depression

In my last post I wrote about the insight I got from others, including some therapists, that we can "honor" depression. Comments to that post as well as further thinking on my own helped me realize that there has to be balance in all of this. There are different kinds of depressions, some life-threatening. Some depression can be managed with medication. Others can be helped with therapy, healthy self-talk, and positive changes in one's life style, attitudes, and diet. Some of the greatest authors and poets were severely depressed. Some of us can write fairly profound material during depression. Others can hardly get out of bed, let alone think about writing anything.

I manage my depression with medication which I have taken for 15 years. If I decrease my medication or try to go off it cold-turkey, the depression worsens. I am not able to think clearly. Thoughts of worthlessness get so bad that it is painful for me and I am hardly able to function. I am able to do very little work. I simply feel terrible and feel like I am a worthless person.

I have also been helped by good sessions with therapists and by reading books about depression. All my life I have tried to keep the "bad" feelings away by doing things which crowd them out. I am an adrenaline junkie, in the words of one of my friends. I binge on work and hobby projects that keep the "happy" feelings going for a good amount of time. But then when my body tires and I must stop my binging, the bad feelings return even worse than if I had not been binging. Adrenaline crashes are unpleasant.

So I have been trying to live on a more even keel, avoiding the ups of adrenaline highs and depression avoidance. I am pacing myself better in my work. The anger management work I did with my therapist last fall continues to help me.

I am learning to take more pleasure in the ordinary things of life, discovering that what may seem ordinary really is often extra-ordinary if I relax and spend some time with it, such as enjoying a flower, or a piece of music, or playing with my grandchildren.

Is my depression all gone because of my consistency in taking my medication and living with new behavior pattens and attitudes? No. But it is manageable. It doesn't overpower me as it would have in the past. Life is almost normal for me, or at least as normal as it can be when we can longterm underlying depression. And I can enjoy much of life, I can smile and have fun. others.

Your experience may be different. My hope for each of us who suffer from depression is that we can find some joys in life which can balance out the uncomfortable or overwhelming feelings that come from depression.