Mood & Depression: False Emotions

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The past few weeks have been just plain weird. My mind has been something like a rainforest – pouring rain one minute, sunny the next, then pouring again without warning. It is confusing when you’re not quite sure if what you are feeling is connected to who you are at the soul level and it is very difficult to identify those false emotions. For this season of depression, I’ve found an extra need to identify who I am as separate from feelings of depression.

Mark & I have this book that has helped thousands of people. We recommend it to quite a few of our friends. It’s called The Mood Cure by Julia Ross, and it basically uses nutritional therapy in the form of basic amino acids to help restore the mood, come out of mind fog, and such. You can buy it here or on Amazon. I found it again the other day at the back of our bookshelf, so I started reading. The first three pages basically answered all the questions that had been rolling around in my mind.

So, I thought I’d share them right here:

Chapter One: Are Your Emotions True or False?

              If you’re often feeling depressed, anxious, or stressed, you’re not alone. We’re in a bad-mood epidemic, a hundred times more likely to have significant mood problems than people born a hundred years ago. And these problems are on the rise. Adult rates of depression and anxiety have tripled since 1990, and over 80 percent of those who consult medical doctors today complain of excessive stress. Even our children are in trouble, with at least one in ten suffering from significant mood disorders. Our mood problems are increasing so fast that, by 2020, they will outrank AIDS, accidents, and violence as the primary causes of early death and disability.

It’s clear that our moods are deteriorating at unprecedented rates. What isn’t so clear is why. What is this tidal wave of emotional malaise all about? Are our lives so much more unhappy than they were one hundred years ago, or even ten years ago? It’s true that we’re facing some unprecedented adversity in the twenty-first century. But even if it is the high pressure, or the absence of family support, or the terrorist threat, for example, why are we now so unresponsive to traditionally reliable remedies like long vacations, psychotherapy, and spiritual counsel? Why are we forced to turn more and more to medication for solace?

In this book, I’m proposing that much of our increasing emotional distress stems from easily correctable malfunctions in our brain and body chemistry – malfunctions that are primarily the result of critical, unmet nutritional needs. More important, I am proposing a complete yet easy-to-implement nutritional repair plan that can actually start to eliminate what I call our “false moods” in twenty-four hours.

 

True Emotions VS. False Moods

              Some negative feelings are unavoidable and even beneficial. They’re what I call “true emotions.” These true, genuine responses to the real difficulties we encounter in life can be hard to take. They can even be unbearable at times, depending on the kinds of ordeals we face. But they can also be vitally important. True grief moves us through our losses, true fear warns us of danger, true anger can defend us from abuse, and true shame can teach us to grow and change. These true emotions typically pass, or diminish naturally, and even when they get repressed or misdirected, they can usually be relieved through counseling. But when we suffer for no justifiable reason; when the pain of a broken heart doesn’t mend like a broken bone; when rest, psychotherapy, prayer, and meditation can make little impact – then we must suspect the emotional impostor, the meaningless biochemical error – the “false mood.”

Figuring out the difference between false moods and true emotions is the first step in your Mood Cure. Once you’ve mastered that, you can move on to eliminate the fraudulent feelings of depression, anxiety, sadness, and irritability that are interfering with your natural capacity to enjoy life.

…You shouldn’t have to live with these kinds of distorted moods on a regular basis. It’s like having an engine that sputters, preventing you from having a smooth emotional ride. When your brain’s emotional equipment needs a tune-up, you get clues: you don’t sleep well, you worry too much, you start feeling overwhelmed, you lose your enthusiasm or your ability to concentrate. You might also start depending on chocolate, wine, or marijuana to get some relief. If you experience these minds of symptoms frequently, you may have just come to accept them, assuming them simply to be unfortunate features of your basic personality. But chances are you’re wrong. Now you have an opportunity to discover your true emotional nature.

 

The Primary Cause of Your False Moods

          s-1    Your brain is responsible for most of your feelings, both true and false. In concert with some surprisingly brainlike areas of your heart and guy, it transmits your feelings through four highly specialized and potent kinds of mood molecules. If it has plenty of all four, it keeps you as happy as you can possibly be, given your particular life circumstances. But if your brain runs low on these mood transmitters – whether because of a minor genetic miscue, because it’s used them up coping with too much stress, or because you aren’t eating the specific foods it needs – it stops producing normal emotions on a consistent basis. Instead, it starts hitting false emotional notes, like a piano out of tune.

After more than thirty years of intensive, worldwide investigation, most of the false moods and their causes have been identified by one of the fastest-growing fields of science – neuroscience, the field that studies the workings and effects of the brain. Drug companies have been using this information to create products that give our emotional equipment a quick charge. But that’s not the same thing as a real repair job. Fortunately, the emotional tune-up that we need so badly now is readily available. In fact, the repair tools we need for this crucial effort are shockingly simple. They’re specific foods and nutrient supplements that are so exactly what the brain needs that they can begin to correct emotion malfunction in just twenty-four hours…

I hope that this first section of the book help you. The amino acids she talks about in the book have made a difference for everyone I know that has tried them, and no one is paying me to say so. She says you can feel better in twenty-four hours, but honestly, it’s a matter of seconds sometimes for me.

Anyway, it is good to know that some of the negative feelings we allow to speak into our hearts aren’t who we are. They do not define us. Sometimes, it is just our brain not functioning as it can, and this is something that can change.

The Skin You’re In: Body Type, Image, & Ideal

We come in many different shapes and sizes. You’ve heard of some of them. For men, there are the ectomorph, mesomorph, and endomorph body types. For women, apple, pear, hourglass, and rectangle/straight. I even found a website that had eight body types for women: straight, pair, spoon, hourglass, top hourglass, inverted triangle, oval, and diamond. That’s pretty extensive.

When I was twelve years old, my family went to Europe to see my cousins in Portugal. We got to spend a week in Paris as well. We saw what my brother termed at the age of 10 “the famous naked lady” (a.k.a. the Venus de Milo) in the Louvre. We saw beautiful paintings, both men and women, both clothed and unclothed, both rich and poor. Even at the age of twelve, I loved how the women portrayed looked so natural. They were different from the women I saw in magazines in the grocery store line, different from the women I saw on television. I didn’t quite know what the difference was then, but I admired the women in those paintings. My idols were not those in the magazines, but the ones painted by Monet, Manet, and Degas’ round-faced, fully formed ballerinas. Thus, I never really wanted to look like Jennifer Aniston or Kiera Knightley. They are beautiful, yes. But, I wanted to be more like the statues lining the great hall of the Musee d’Orsay – natural, comfortable in their own skin, not caring how they sat or lay or stood because their form was being shown as it was rather than how it should be.

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Kids can see beauty in a different way than adults. It’s the innocence. And I don’t want to lose that. I know now that I what I saw in those sculptures and paintings was important, and I’m glad that our parents took us there because it gave me a healthy view of the human body. The human form is beauty no matter its shape and size. A magazine photo editor seems to take away the passion, the texture, the light and soul of the model. But the impressionists, the classicists, and even the moderns show what we would now call imperfection – that passion and soul – the layers of the person inside and out. There was no Photoshop, no airbrushing during the Renaissance and the human body was portrayed as the very essence of beauty.

Even with what I believe to be a healthy view of the human body starting out, the years have worn and weathered my subconscious views of beauty and the way that I look at myself. There have been days when I have, rightly, looked in the mirror and seen a piece of art – a piece of the Renaissance standing before me and inside of me. Even at the age of 16, I wondered why any girl would struggle with self-esteem issues, eating disorders, self-harm, depression, and the like. All women were beautiful and I truly believed that. I’ve never seen an ugly woman in my life. It’s not that I was what the world would call “pretty” – I was just a short girl with curly hair that I didn’t really know how to fix. But, I was content with who I was – happy.

The world is unkind, though. I began to feel invisible, like many teens do, that year. And at the age of 17, I began my journey through clinical depression and anxiety. When you feel invisible to the opposite sex, even for a day, you begin to think differently. I still didn’t feel ugly, but I didn’t feel good, and I started down a road that I’m not sure I could have helped not going down.

I don’t think I really, truly felt ugly until I was halfway through college. I got back from a summer in Nepal having gained a few pounds because I couldn’t jog there and the people fed us so much. A guy friend of mine was talking to me about my summer there, and I showed him how we had to eat with our hands. I thought it was funny and interesting, but he had such a disgusted look on his face and I won’t forget that feeling of inciting disgust on the face of someone who had been interested in me for quite a while. He began to sit at a different table from me during meals, with other girls. Sometimes at night when that disgust in his face made its way into me, I’d leave the apartment and just try to run – more to hurt myself than anything, really. I’d run as hard as I could and then get frustrated that I couldn’t run that hard for very long and then find a corner to cry in. I felt hatred toward myself, toward my body and I wanted to punish it. I remember the first time I went to Wal-Mart after midnight because I couldn’t take it anymore, buying diet pills with the little money I had, looking through them all, reading their promises, wanting them to work quickly. I’d skip breakfast and feel like I was helping myself lost weight, but then I’d crave carbs and eat as much, binge-eating, as I could because I was a tired, sleep-deprived, stressed college student.

There have many different times in my life when I have gone through this similar cycle. A sudden hatred of myself that carried on into a hatred of how I look – watching movies where the female protagonist is both strong and skinny. And so my beauty idols all became bony, tight-faced actresses who have enough money to have trainers and make-up artists and yoga instructors and nutritionists at their disposal 24/7, not to mental people toning, contouring, and editing their bodies both on screen and off screen.

But, I still prefer the female bodies of the Renaissance to the female bodies in the ads. Sometimes I wonder if it’s because I can relate to their body type. But, I know from my introduction to them at the age of twelve that this is just not true. I relate to them because they are real. They have genuine bodies, beautiful and healthy. And that’s what I want.

I do have days when I look in the mirror and see a masterpiece. I see the brushstrokes across my face, intricate and detailed and lovely. I see the shape of my body and think back to the Musee d’Orsay. And that is how it should be.

We need to, as men and women, to remember what true form is – and true form happens to be the form with which you were born. True form is who you are – a true, genuine you. Apple, pear, banana-morph, whatever. Each person is a work of art – unique in size, colour, and spirit.

The shape of you and the shape of me is a masterpiece. I am strong inside, but you will never see my bones through my skin. You will probably never even see muscles when I flex. But, the skin I’m in is a skin I want to be in. And I will continue to strive toward that ideal, whether it is the ideal the world has or not.

Depression & Loneliness: The ‘Tug-of-War’

“Loneliness reflects how you feel about your relationships. Depression reflects how you feel, period.”

– John Cacioppo, author of Loneliness

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As you know, we have had many conversations about loneliness since this blog began. We’ve talked about how important it is to get to know yourself and be able to be alone and be content at the same time (finding the inner person); we’ve discussed being in tune with others and ways to get out there (finding the other person); and, we have tossed out the idea that spirituality can help us climb out of loneliness (finding the upper person). But we have only barely begun to touch on the subject of depression. How does depression relate to loneliness? Does loneliness have anything to do with depression? Are they one and the same?

Before we can even begin, we need to know some basics about depression. Like loneliness, it carries an indescribable weight along with it – one that a simple word cannot communicate. The depression we are talking about here is clinical depression. Doctors define clinical depression as having some/all of these symptoms:

 

–          Ongoing sadness; crying frequently

–          Sudden weight loss or weight gain

–          Change in appetite

–          Feelings of emptiness

–          Feelings of worthlessness or helplessness

–          Feelings of guilt

–          Anxiety or feelings of restlessness

–          Difficulty remembering, focusing, or making decisions

–          Fatigue, low energy

–          Apathy toward what you once found exciting

–          Aches/Pains

–          Insomnia, or trouble sleeping

–          Suicidal thoughts

Some of these symptoms, as you can probably see, are also symptoms of loneliness. Ongoing sadness, crying, worthlessness, guilt, restlessness.

We’re quick to find one-word labels for our problems, but truthfully, we are more complex than that. We are whole people, and our mind, body, and spirit are separate but all a part of us. So sometimes loneliness becomes a symptom rather than the problem. And sometimes depression becomes a symptom rather than the root problem. Psychiatrists have known for a while that loneliness often accompanies other conditions. But a study by Segrin showed that the “most common pairing was intense manifestations of both loneliness and depression” (Cacioppo 83).

Loneliness is bad enough on its own.

Depression is definitely bad enough on its own. I think it’s one of the very worst possible maladies one could ever contract.

Their relationship is stormy. They are a paradox – a yin and yang – both separate and whole. They feed each other. They feed off of each other. They pull each other & push each other. They fight each other, and they fight as a team against you.

Loneliness with Depression

Loneliness is a common “feeling” – one to which any human can relate. So, when we feel lonely and wanting companionship and deeper friendships, we can get to a point where our loneliness actually leads us into depression. Many physical illnesses unrelated to depression eventually lead to depression just because the sick person begins to feel loneliness. As the person continues to feel isolated in their illness or in their disability, they begin to feel lonely. Other factors lead them on a path that continues on into deep depression through stress factors and physical trials.

Depression with Loneliness

Depression is also common, but not so widely felt as loneliness. Though many people struggle with clinical depression, not everyone can relate to a chronic, constant state of sadness and apathy. Though loneliness can be immensely difficult, depression can be debilitating.

When we experience depression, it is because we are deficient in serotonin. This, then, causes feelings of being alone. The voice in our head tells us that we are alone. Alone-ness becomes a state of being, not a feeling. We cannot feel happy emotions. We, ironically, feel apathy. We feel the lack of feeling, and we experience that apathy deeply. Our ability to reach for others is stunted. We can become passive, and in so doing, we can become dangerously lonely.

The Tug-Of-War: ‘D’ versus ‘L’

Untitled design (2)In one corner of the ring, we have Depression. Down-and-Out ‘D’, trying to prepare to battle it out. He grabs one end of the rope and sighs. His odds don’t look promising.

In the opposite corner, Loneliness gives a shy smile. Left-Out ‘L’, bends down and holds the other end of the rope with one hand. Will he even try? Will he succeed?

They stand off. Down-and-Out ‘D’ against Left-Out ‘L’. The crowd sits back and wonders. Many of them leave. It’s not going to be an exciting match. These opponents are opposites, but they look like twins. They could join each other and fight against you easily.

Even though they are similar, Cacioppo the “loneliness expert” says this: “Loneliness, like hunger, is a warning to do something to alter an uncomfortable and possibly dangerous condition. Depression makes us apathetic. Whereas loneliness urges us to move forward, depression holds us back” (Cacioppo 83). Because they are linked in this way, loneliness seems to pull depression, and depression seems to push loneliness. It is a tug-of-war, a link that can be broken. But the lack of ability to control thinking and decision making makes it difficult for both to stop pushing and pulling.

Answers

On both sides of the tug-of-war, depression and loneliness are stuck. An outside influence is needed to break the chain. This can come in the form of an outside helper, an inside helper, and/or an upper helper – like we talked about. Medication may be needed for depression, even a little spark of desire to get better can come from within, and a look at the big picture or a spiritual identity can help you from beyond yourself or anyone else.

The thing is that we need to fight back. We need to catch depression at the onset and seek help. We need to notice loneliness and take action. If there is a long road ahead, we need to learn how to cope during the healing process – in the in-between no matter how long that may be.

We need to help others with these. We need to fight for each other. You may be the outside force for someone else. You may save a life.

Loneliness and depression are intertwined – both friends and enemies. Both hard to get rid of. I battle both often, and I’ve learned to let others help me. I’ve learned to help myself. And I’ve learned to look up. My hope for you is that you can get through these tough days and find hope. My hope is that you find joy – that you find meaning in the darkness.

Right now, I am filled with joy and I feel content. I pushed through yesterday and have found today. It’s possible. You and I don’t know what tomorrow looks like. But today can be joy. Hold on to that hope. It’s a weapon you can use to fight back.

 

Friday’s Lies: I can’t control my emotions.

Lie: I can’t control my emotions.

Truth: I have the power to change my thinking; therefore, I am in control of my emotions.

I’ve been digging around trying to find something, ANYTHING, that tells me that I have little (or even no) I'm Too ___. (1)control over my emotions! I like having that excuse – that it’s not my fault when I burst into tears and yell sometimes. But, I just can’t find that article, journal, blog, book, or anything. There is absolutely no research suggesting that men and women (with a fully functioning brain) can’t control their emotions.

Thus, we present to you this lie: “I can’t control my emotions”.

I didn’t even know it was a lie until today. I was going to tell you about the exceptions, but it seems that there are none for the average person. Many factors contribute to making it difficult, and even seemingly impossible, for us to overcome emotions. These can include brain-related trauma and illness, mood disorders, autism, depression, anxiety, substance abuse, deep-rooted anger issues, hormones and the like. But, the answer to coping with and controlling our emotions, across the board, is simple:

We train and retrain our mind to think differently. We think positively and logically. We stop and capture our thoughts. We get in control.

Our thoughts and emotions “aren’t fixed facts; they’re flexible” (Sherman). In his article in Psychology Today, Jeremy E. Sherman, Ph.D.  tells us that in every scenario, you can, essentially, be your own author. You just need to “tell a different story” in order to “automatically generate a different emotionally response”. Imagine that your sibling has been poking you and you’ve been asking him/her to, pretty please, stop poking me for the past ten minutes. Your frustration is boiling. You are getting anxious and stressed. Your face is turning red and you are getting hot with the type of anger that can’t be described. You’re annoyed. Your story is that you have had a bad day already and your sibling is making it worse. You don’t need this kind of crap.

Change your story. Your sibling is poking you because they love you. This is the only time of day that you get to spend with them. They just want your attention for a minute. After all, you love them as well. Remember when they were born and you felt on top of the world? You take a deep breath and decide that instead of screaming at them, you will poke them back and play with them for the next ten minutes, then tell your mom that you really need to do your homework. Would they please occupy your brother/sister while you work on it?

There is a choice.

Here is an excerpt from a study conducted over a full year and a half, recorded in Neuro Image:

“Aversive feelings such as anger, sadness, and anxiety often disrupt individuals’ attempts at self-control, resulting in impulsive behaviors and decisions. It remains uncertain how this happens. Common sense suggests that people who act rashly when they are upset fail to successfully inhibit their impulses because they are unmotivated or unable to do so. Yet just the opposite may be true: people may fail at self-control while they experience negative emotions because they excessively recruit inhibitory processes” (Chester).

Maybe we simply don’t want to change our emotions so we hide behind them. Our friend did something wrong and we believe we have the right to hold that against them. We inhibit ourselves, not allowing our brain to respond in a better way. The Chester study goes on to show that the more we practice positive emotions and positive thinking, the better we get at it. But, it can seem impossible if we have a habit of inhibiting our positive responders. All in all, “our beliefs and expectations about a person or event or situation directly influence …our feelings (Grohol). Other people may contribute to them, but they don’t cause our feelings. We get that responsible.

Even at the worst of my anxiety disorder, I learned that if I took control and told myself that I was going to be okay on the onset of a panic attack, it was less overwhelming. I could function afterward. And the more that I engaged in this positive self-talk, this self-encouragement, the more I was in control of my anxiety. It didn’t go away for a while, but the more and more I practiced this, the more it went away. It gave me my life back. Why don’t I apply this idea to my other emotions?

My friend and I were just talking about how women are defined by the stereotype that we can’t control ourselves – that we are crazy human beings that can go off at any moment. And all women are, at some point, viewed this way. I know that I am and, I see now, that taking on that stereotype is my own fault. I’m reminded of when I was in high school and all the girls were talking about how their hormones controlled them and there was nothing they could do about how they acted toward others. I remember thinking, I don’t have the urge to treat other people badly just because I’m PMS-ing. And I’m ashamed that I forgot that. Our hormones don’t control our thoughts. Our thoughts are what control our hormones.

We don’t have to yell at our spouses or our families, our roommates or our computer – we don’t have to act annoyed at them – every time we don’t feel well. We CAN control our emotions, so we CAN control how we treat others. It’s something to remember. Something true.

And now that we know the truth, we can be open to a whole new range of possible responses to others and to ourselves (Sherman). And I think that is rather exciting! We can get our lives back – our friendships, our marriages, our relationships with our siblings, with our kids, with our parents. It’s a positive thought, and I for one, think I might hold on to it. 🙂 Let’s write a different story and live better lives.

 

Resources

Sherman, Jeremy E., Ph.D. “Total Control vs. No Control Theory of Emotions: Can You Control Your Emotions or Not?” Psychology Today. N.p., 13 June 2010. Web. 10 Aug. 2016.

 

Chester, David S. “How Do Negative Emotions Impair Self-control? A Neural Model of Negative Urgency.” NeuroImage 132 (2016): 43-50. Science Direct. Web. 11 Aug. 2016

 

Grohol, John M., Psy.D. “We Are Responsible for Our Own Feelings | World of Psychology.” World of Psychology. Psych Central, 30 Aug. 2008. Web. 10 Aug. 2016.

11 Confessions: Living with Chronic Invisible Illness

Someone needs to write this. I wish someone had written it for me. I wish someone had written it for the people I love to help them understand. I wish they had written about chronic invisible illness years ago. Maybe they did and I just couldn’t find it.

Creating (1)Today, I am suffering. So, it seems like a good day to write some confessions. I, like hundreds of thousands of people in the world, live with chronic invisible illnesses. I’m talking chronic fatigue syndrome (myalgic encephalomyelitis), adrenal fatigue, fibromyalgia, depression, anxiety, food sensitivities, irritable bowel syndrome, and recurring gastritis and UTIs, and many other illnesses that no one sees when they look at you. It’s not pretty to talk about. It’s not comfortable to talk about. It’s not nice to write that I am sick.

For others, it may be different chronic illnesses, things that people on the outside may not be able to see – arthritis, anemia, chronic headaches, or even cancer. These invisible illnesses affect your life like it affects mine.

I get sick a lot, and it’s not easy to always be sick, or to always wonder if I will feel well from one day to the next. Those that don’t know me well probably find it hard to figure out why I’m not always at church events or having to cancel coffee dates. Those that do know me best often get upset that I play it off in front of others. I don’t let on how hard it is. When someone asks me what I did last week, I try and brush it off and say, “Oh, I just sat around like a bum.” I want them to know that I don’t want to be like a bum. The verb “do” is a tricky one, and it’s hard to say what I “do” because everything I want or need to do, I do one day at a time.

More and more of us westernized, stress-driven men and women are being faced with a new sort of illness. It comes in many different and unique forms. It is general and consistent ill health. And it is often invisible.

When I first came to New Zealand (on January 1 of 2011), I was fairly healthy. I lived with a family and looked after two beautiful little girls as their au pair. A few months in, I started having these insane gastrointestinal pains and feelings of severe weakness and dizziness. After the stress of an unexpected conflict, I became almost immobile. By November, I was no longer able to work or drive. I could not function. There was a nice family, and then a house full of people my age who let me stay with them until I had strength enough to fly home to Texas.

After months going from doctor to doctor (from general practitioners to neurologists to gynecologists to gastroenterologists and many in between), they found a few things, but never anything that made me feel better.

I stopped eating sugar, dairy, and gluten for a time and got well enough to teach English for two years. But, I’m back in bed now at least 2 to 3 days each week. I want to be honest about what it’s like to live with chronic ill health because it’s hard for most of us to be honest about.

I hope that, in reading all of this – and these confessions that I give you – you can either find strength in relating to someone else like you, or that you can find mercy and understanding for those who suffer.

What is it like

So, what is it like to live with chronic health problems? I give you my confessions.

11 CONFESSIONS OF LIVING WITH CHRONIC INVISIBLE ILLNESS

1)      I always feel guilty.

The “invisible ills” always feel like we’re letting people down. Lately, I feel guilty for not being able to cook or to do the laundry. Mark has enough to do without taking care of me. I’m truly lucky that he doesn’t mind. But, when I was first sick, the guilt that I had from not being able to look after those two beautiful girls that I was nannying was unbearable. I still feel that guilt. Realizing that it’s out of my hands is hard. The same goes for having to say “no” when I want to do things with friends or family. The guilt comes, and it never seems to go away.

2)      I feel like I am alone.

We feel like outcasts because we just can’t “do” everything that others can do. If I go out for one fun day, it wears on me, and I spend the next day (or two or three) recovering. Those days recovering are lonely days – days that we want to be with people. But they are also days that we don’t want others to see us. We want people to understand, but most people don’t. This makes us even more lonely.

3)      My chronic illness means I often have anxiety and depression.

My depression and anxiety came with chronic fatigue syndrome. Many times, they go hand-in-hand. When we can’t live normal lives, it’s hard to cope in other ways. I can be soooo happy one day, and sooo low the next.

4)      I am almost always in pain.

Whether it’s depression or anxiety, CFS or fibromyalgia, there is pain. There is emotional pain, and there is physical pain. Both are invisible. I am in pain most of the time. Some days I am okay, and on those days, I am so very thankful. But if we seem grumpy or irritable one day, it might just be that we’re hiding something.

5)      Every healthy day is a gift.

My students used to ask me why I was so happy. Part of the reason was simply that I could get out of bed in the mornings and come to work. When I wake up and feel like a normal human being, there is just this immense thankfulness inside of me. Health can easily be taken for granted.

6)      I don’t always look sick.

It may sound obvious as a confession of “invisible” illness, but I want to confess it here. Sometimes when we tell people that we are sick a lot, they look at us puzzled. Sometimes they even say, “But you don’t look sick.” That is true. We don’t look sick. But we feel sick. Even bloodwork doesn’t always show that we are sick. They don’t know what causes chronic fatigue syndrome or fibromyalgia. But it is real. Sometimes I wish people could see how I felt. But, they can’t.

7)      It’s sometimes impossible to get out of bed.

Have you ever had the flu? A high fever? That’s how I feel when I am sick. I tried to get out of bed today – and even drove to where Mark was working. This invisible illness hit me, and he had to leave his car there and drive me home. Yesterday, I was probably out of bed for maybe an hour (and that includes going to the bathroom throughout the day). I have had days when I’ve had to be led to the bathroom. I have had days when Mark had to spoon feed me himself. When these days happen, none of us enjoys them. We want to get out of bed. We want to be normal. But, it just doesn’t happen.

8)      I am afraid. To work, to make plans, to have a life.Creating

Fear can easily control the lives of those with invisible illnesses. For the person with anxiety, they can feel completely debilitated in a crowd. They can be afraid to go out for fear of having a panic attack. It’s hard to explain to people that I am afraid to work right now. It’s a difficult confession to make. What if I can’t do it? What if I get sick and let people down? These invisible illnesses often put our life on hold. It’s just not fair.

9)      Exercise doesn’t always make me feel better.

Just today, I was reading that a primary symptom of chronic fatigue syndrome is flu-like symptoms following over-exertion. When I do too much, I am bedridden. The key is to exercise slowly. Very slowly. If we go out for a run to help ourselves feel better, as is often suggested by friends and family, we can put ourselves back for a few days.

10)   Not all doctors understand.

I went to two doctors in New Zealand before coming home, not including a trip to the Emergency Room. One of them told me I just wasn’t breathing correctly. In Texas, I went to at least seven different doctors. I left half of those crying because there was nothing done to help me. My mom and dad (whoever went with me that day) and I would tell them everything, and after a couple minutes, they would start fidgeting. Many people with “invisible” illnesses sometimes feel that we’re wasting a doctor’s time with all of our problems. To this day, I feel guilty when I sit with a doctor. I know that they are busy, and I feel bad. Of course they can’t fix my problem in ten minutes. This means I have a hard time telling them everything I need to tell them.

11)   I feel useless. Almost daily.

Another difficult confession to make. When I feel most sick, I have an almost continuous feeling of uselessness. I feel like I can’t do anything – can’t do anything right – can’t do simple tasks – can’t feed myself – can’t take my medicine – can’t remember to message or text someone back. Without the ability to work or cook or clean or, sometimes, to type, what is there to be useful at?

Those are my confessions – and, I believe – the confessions of many that suffer from illnesses that no one can see. Our conditions, diseases, and illnesses may be invisible. But we are not. Show someone compassion this week. You do not know what is underneath their skin.

Loneliness: It’s All of Us

10 daysversuslonely ness

 My husband is from New Zealand, but I am from Texas. We got married at my grandparents’ house last Thanksgiving, and now we have been living in Auckland for a few months. I cannot work because we don’t have immigration consent as I am writing this post, so I have had little to do while my husband is in his last semester of nursing study.

Loneliness.

I feel like I say that word a lot lately. Yet, somehow, even the word doesn’t carry the weight of the emotions conjoined into those three simple syllables.

We all feel lonely. And that is part of why this site exists – so that we know that we are never really alone. Thanks for that.

Part of my coping with this new time of my life – starting off in a new country with new people and foods and ways of joking and teasing – is by writing. Writing this blog, for example.

But in the last few weeks, loneliness has integrated itself into worthlessness and a lack of purpose. I had purpose when I was teaching English literature to teenagers. I had purpose when I was helping youth at my church community back home. I had purpose when I was planning a wedding. I had purpose when it was only me and I could dream of travelling and wandering and going wherever I wanted – whenever I wanted.

I’m learning something new. Life changes and sometimes purpose changes with it.

So how do I cope with this?

How do I get back to a life of purpose in the middle of so much change?

Through life, I have learned that when negativity floods in – whether it’s self-doubt, being fired from an easy job, or just someone looking at you the wrong way – immediate action is required. If not dealt with and changed to a positive, the negative thought or feeling seems to compound itself and leads to other negative thoughts and feelings.

EUGENE (1)My theory in working through loneliness is, at the present, largely based on the same skills we learn in counseling to combat depression. Both loneliness and depression can be debilitating, and one can lead into the other if the dice lands a certain way on the table of brain chemistry.

As someone who believes in Jesus, I have the ever-present peace of knowing that my faith is giving me purpose. That is more helpful than anything. I daily thank my God for the purpose and plans that he has for all of his children. That is my number one.

And so, here, I write my list of what I do (or try to do) to refocus and balance:

  • Be in the light – both physically and spiritually.
    • The sun not only gives us Vitamin D, it boosts serotonin, increasing mood. On cloudy days, my husband whips out this handy “lightbox” and turns it on right in front of my face. It helps me.
    • The son of God is the light of the world. Without this source of light going into the deepest parts of my soul, I am empty. He fills voids created by loneliness. And I’m not even just saying that.
  • Draw. Or Colour.
    • Get an adult colouring book. Or a kid’s one. Create your own. Colours can be oddly therapeutic. So is colouring.
    • Sometimes, I draw myself how I want to be – happy, peaceful, thinking good thoughts.
  • Go to school. Any school. (Today, I’m sitting in a university library. I don’t attend here. 😉 )
    • This may not be useful for many people, but I freakin’ love to learn. So I sit and I learn whatever I want to learn.
    • Research your interests. I’m very interested in the subject and science of “loneliness” right now, as you can see. So I spent three months finding everything I could on the subject. I’ve also been studying pet therapy… because I want a dog. 🙂
  • Teach.
    • This is something I enjoy, partly because I learn so much myself through teaching.. So I’ve created a blog where I can do something like teaching while I’m unemployed!
  • Socialize. Find the “Other” Person.
    • Join a club, a church group, a gym. Be with other people. I joined a gym, and even though I don’t talk to anyone there, it’s nice just to be with people. The same goes for the library or a café!
    • Our landlord has an 18 year old deaf cat at our house. I pet it when my husband is studying or at his clinicals. It’s just an animal, but being with something else that is alive and breathing is comforting. If you have an animal, cuddle it. If not, hamsters are cheap in the States. 🙂
    • Be with your family, if you can. I can skype my parents. I can go to my in-laws’ house. I, personally, always “leave” feeling better.
    • Tell your best friend, your husband, your wife, your kid – whoever – that you want to spend time with them. Make a plan, set a day, and enjoy every moment. One day when I was at my loneliest, Mark stayed home with me and took me to the wharf. A week later, I was still looking back to that day, feeling the good feelings over and over. Count the blessings of those days as hope during the bad days.
  • Write.
    • Writing has always been my favourite thing to do, even though I’ve been shy and embarrassed to do it as much as I like. It’s therapeutic to write in a journal. It feels good to write a card to people I am thankful for.

What is your list? How do you deal with your lonely times? If you can’t think of anything, try to concentrate on what has always made you happy. Most of the things on my list fit into everything I wanted to be when I was a child: an author, an artist, and an adventurer. Look back at your childhood self. Where do you find joy? We all find joy in being with people on some level. How can that help you in your loneliness?

If you don’t have an answer, yet, then I hope and pray that by the end of this series, you will have one. Or two. Or many.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be posting a series of, what I believe, will be useful articles on the problem of loneliness, solutions to help you through the loneliest times, and the hope that you can have within yourself to make it. Stay tuned for:

 

24 June       Loneliness: It’s All of Us

 

27 June       Loneliness: The Problem, the Paradoxical Virus, and a Cure

19 June       Loneliness: Finding the “Inner” Person

1 July          Loneliness: Finding the “Other” Person

 

4 July         Loneliness: Finding Meaning in What you Do

6 July         Loneliness: For the In-Between

8 July         Loneliness: Understanding Loneliness in All People

 

11 July        Loneliness: Helping Others, Helping Yourself

13 July       Loneliness: Finding the “Upper” Person

15 July       Final Thoughts on an Un-Final Topic

Loneliness is not something you alone feel. Everyone feels lonely. Many people feel chronically lonely. You are not alone in the fight to be with others and feel whole. It’s not just you. It’s all of us. Let’s take it head on – together.