Exercise, Depression and my Inner Hulk

I went to a therapist this week. The first session was more of a “meet and greet” than anything else, but I can already tell that she means business. I know from past experience I need a therapist who means business. At the next session, she says we are going to talk about the 5 big things that help with depression. So, of course, I have been Googling “5 things that help with depression” on a regular basis to try to figure out what she might say. Patience isn’t exactly my strong suit.

As you might have guessed, there’s one thing that’s on EVERY “Top 5” list – Exercise. This makes me want to turn into the Hulk. Obviously, I don’t mean I want to go to the gym so I can get muscles like the Hulk. That would actually be a productive reaction. No, I literally picture myself screaming in agony and transforming into the Hulk. Of course, since I am depressed, my frustration does not come out in any real way. I just switch my Google searches to alternative ways to deal with anger that don’t involve so much physical energy.

In all seriousness, I see the writing on the wall. I get it. Exercise is like, super important and necessary when it comes to depression. Somehow, I’ve got to figure out a way to incorporate it into my life.

Before I do though, let me just spend ONE more millisecond being sarcastic and snarly. I apologize in advance to the well-intentioned bloggers out there who published Top 5 lists of remedies for depression. It’s really not you. It’s me. And to the particularly ambitious blogger who had a daily “brisk 15-30 minute walk” in your Top 5, thank you for giving me that kind of credit. The truth is, right now, I’m not capable of physically doing anything that even comes close to being near the realm of 30 minutes a day.

It seems like a grand idea to take a 15-30 minute walk every day doesn’t it? I mean, obviously I HAVE 15-30 minutes in the middle of the day. Otherwise, how could I write this blog post?

Well, it’s not quite that simple. One activity can’t so easily be substituted for another. A blog post can be written in bed. It does not require the individual to brush her teeth. Or take a shower. These things, which are non-negotiable morning routines for most people, typically happen 15 minutes before I have to leave my house to pick up my kids. Now, you might be thinking that I should just start brushing my teeth and taking a shower earlier in the day. Isn’t that a simple change?

Again, it’s not quite that simple. Just thinking about exercise makes me want to turn into the Hulk. Now you’re asking me to somehow motivate myself to shower and brush my teeth earlier in the day too? I have been around this block enough times to know that only something external, like having to go pick up kids or go to work, will motivate me to do these basic necessities. If you throw on top of this whole exercise thing that I must also internally motivate myself to get ready in any way, shape or form, I promise, I will give up before I’ve even started.

Another flaw with the “brisk 15-30 minute walk” idea is that it requires me to actually go out IN MY NEIGHBORHOOD by myself. I have no desire to do anything alone right now where I will also be in full view of others. I don’t really know how else to explain this particular issue (ahem, excuse), but I just felt like it deserved mention.

And yes, I realize how ridiculous all of my excuses are. But I am not quite ready to let go of them just yet. What I AM willing to do (praise God) is give this dreaded exercise concept a chance. But it will be on my own terms and with my own “Top 5” list, thank you very much. I even made my Top 5 an acrostic poem so it would be extra special and fun. And if you think that is a cool thing, then I am being totally serious and sincere with the whole acronym thing. If you are rolling your eyes like I would be, then I am being totally cheesy on purpose in a super cool rebellious and sarcastic way.

Without further ado, to actually start to exercise, I am making exercise the ultimate SELFY.

S = Simple
E = Every Day
L = Little
F = Fun
Y = You Do You

First, I am keeping it so unbelievably SIMPLE there is no way I can find an excuse not to do it. Going to the gym … way too complicated. Going outside … way too complicated. Putting on exercise shoes … way too complicated. Believe it or not, I do not own a pair of exercise shoes. I do, however, own tap shoes.

Second, I am striving to do it EVERY DAY, or at least every day of the work week. Otherwise, I know I will just procrastinate until later in the week and set myself up to fail. If I just take it one day at a time, like with everything else, I think I will have better success.

Third, I am starting LITTLE. (Yes, I realize it would sound better to say I am starting “small” but little works better with the acronym, alright?) 30 minutes a day just isn’t realistic for me. Who am I kidding? 15 minutes a day isn’t realistic for me. I am starting with 5 MINUTES every day. 5 minutes is a long time. I will be so super proud if I exercise for 5 minutes a day. I will throw myself a party if I exercise for 5 minutes a day for a week. I don’t care that most of my friends work out for an hour or more at a time. 5 MINUTES is my definition of success right now, and I am not ashamed.

Fourth, I am doing something that I think is FUN. Every time I try to exercise, I do something I have never done before or that I don’t enjoy. I don’t enjoy running so I’m not going to do it. I don’t want to go to Zumba class at the gym. My butt will never move the way the instructor’s does, and I’m okay with that. I don’t want to look at myself in the mirror trying to shake it like she does for an hour. My body will never bend the way yoga-lovers’ bodies do. I’m okay with that. I don’t have to do yoga. I am really good at and really like tap dancing. And did I mention that I have tap shoes?

Finally, my mantra will be YOU DO YOU! As if tap dancing in my own home for 5 minutes a day isn’t uniquely ME enough, I am going to do this as only I can. I am going to blog about it just because I know it will help ME. I am going to try to be funny and self-deprecating about it just because I think that is who I am supposed to be and it makes ME feel good. I am going to give it to God and try to use it to help others in any way I can, because that is ME being ME.

Alright, well, there you have it, that is my “Top 5” list. It has already motivated me to exercise 2 days in a row. If anyone else is coming to this exercise table kicking and screaming because of depression, I’d love to hear how you have motivated yourself. Thanks for reading!

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When the Fog is Thicker than Normal

I have a history of depression.

Lately it’s been more of a current event.

Some people wonder what it means to have depression. How is it different from just a “normal” bad mood? Doesn’t everyone go through low points? Is it really a medical diagnosis? Sometimes I even ask myself these questions, even though I should know better. My brain knows how to internalize even the slightest hint of disapproval or questioning in another person’s eyes or tone of voice. Sometimes everything seems to point to the fact that “depression” is obviously just a fancy word that someone came up with to shut those of us up who can’t accept that we are really just melodramatic, overly sensitive and lazy.

When my sanity returns, I remember that I don’t have to win a philosophical argument on psychiatry or defend the vocabulary of mental illness to speak about my personal experience. And speaking up is important, not only for my own mental health, but because there are so many others out there who think they are alone and need to hear a word of encouragement and hope from a fellow sufferer.

Depression is a hard thing for me to open up about. I’ve been burned before for revealing too much. I’ve realized the hard way that some things are better shared with more private audiences than on a public forum. Even in a safe, private setting, I often struggle to summon the humility to discuss where I’m at openly and honestly. It all feels like something I should be over by now. It certainly wasn’t on my life roadmap to call the doctor complaining about fatigue and other symptoms I thought must be hormonal and have HIM be the one to suggest that perhaps we should switch my antidepressant. I mean, for years now, any adjustment to medication has been at MY suggestion, not the doctor’s. I thought I was the expert on this thing, but somehow, this time, I missed the key signs.

For me, the biggest clue should have been the apathy. Nothing is really that important when I get depressed. Lots of things start to slip because, you know, who cares. And then, all of a sudden, my normally manageable tendency to procrastinate turns into a self-fulfilling prophecy of never being good enough. I try to tell myself that I AM good enough even though a lot of my behavior is not really my best. Or that I’m not good enough, but it’s okay. I mean, that’s why we need Jesus, right? It’s okay to be perfectly imperfect, right?

These affirmations fall flat, because at the end of the day, things are not okay when you’re depressed. And coming out of depression requires you to admit that first.

Yes, I need Jesus. We all do. No, I’m not perfect, and I don’t have to be. But depression isn’t about making good or bad choices. Depression removes your power to choose and clouds your judgment. It becomes a fog that is impossible to see through without help.

Help for depression involves doctors and therapists, because mental illnesses really are medical conditions. I’m not sure there really is a “normal,” but I do know depression is more than just a bad mood. And while everyone may go through low points, and everyone certainly has her own burden in life, not everyone’s lows qualify as depression and not everyone’s burden is mental illness. Sometimes I wish it wasn’t mine, but it is.

Even though it can still creep up on me when I’m least expecting it, today I know I don’t have to walk through depression alone. God is with me always, even in my lowest points. Even when I doubt Him, He is there. I just have to keep trying to seek and strive for God in honest and real ways. Sometimes that means turning my prayers upside down.

Instead of asking to be filled with the knowledge that everything’s okay, sometimes I need to cry out to God that everything is NOT okay. This admission of powerlessness and acceptance is often exactly what I need to start to see God again through the fog. Sometimes I see Him through the people He puts in my life exactly when I need them. Other times, it’s through moments of clarity He gives me deep inside my soul. It is in those moments that I have come to realize that none of us are ever truly alone.

If you’re struggling with depression, know that there is a healthy way out. You are not alone. Things might not be okay right now, but you can still just put one foot in front of the other and do the next right thing, no matter how hard that is. And trust me, I’m not going to suggest that the next right thing for you to do is to exercise! Even though that seems to be a popular recommendation for depression, for me, it usually has to start much, much smaller!

Like, with getting out of bed.

Sometimes it’s just getting one FOOT out of the bed. Maybe even just one TOE!! It might be brushing your teeth. Or taking a shower. Or making an appointment. Or reaching out and texting a friend. Or a million other baby steps that feel like they might as well be giant leaps between two mountains. Things might not be okay right now, but if you just keep trudging along, reaching out and looking up, things will be okay.

I have a history of depression. And lately it’s been more of a current event. But having depression also means I have a history of incredible spiritual awakening and renewal, and I’ve learned to be grateful for that. My depression can create a pretty thick fog in my little corner of the universe, but when I do see the light shining through, it is all the brighter in contrast to the darkness. No matter what, by God’s grace, the future looks bright.

Love Lives Here

Worthless. That’s the only way I can think to describe the way I feel right now.

I know I’m not worthless. And that even if on some level, I AM worthless, it’s okay, because Jesus’s death and resurrection is the only thing that gives me worth anyway.

That knowledge is not helping me right now.

I know it’s okay to feel this way sometimes. I am taking my own advice to write about where these feelings are coming from to help battle them!

Feelings of worthlessness are always tied to fear in my experience. Fear that I’m not good enough. That other people are going to be angry at me. That I have made horrible mistakes from which I cannot possibly recover. That I am unlovable and unlikeable and everything in between.

I keep reaching. And seeking. And striving. And praying.

I try to remember just how many times I’ve been here before. And how it always turned out okay. Not just okay, but better than I ever could have imagined. Why would it be any different this time?

Well, let’s see. For starters, I dove head first into planning an event based on ZERO knowledge or experience as an event organizer. I have never taken a marketing class, am totally uncomfortable pushing people to come to things, and did no market research to see how similar events fared in the area.

Nope, I just dove in.

I wasn’t alone, but I feel alone. I was the initiator. None of this would have happened if it weren’t for me. I brought it up. I suggested that we have this event in Plano. Sure, others dove in after me, but they wouldn’t have even though to dive in if I hadn’t done it first.

We rented an entire building and planned for thousands of women to show up to our event. We spent thousands of dollars. We got incredible workshop leaders, speakers and other talent to come perform. We printed and distributed thousands of flyers and post cards. We created a Facebook event and posted like crazy in it. When we noticed we weren’t getting the response we had hoped for, we doubled down and spent even more money to advertise on the radio.

As of right now, we have sold exactly 50 tickets to the event. 50.

I’ve talked through a new layout for the building given the low numbers. We are closing off the biggest room in the building, so we don’t look quite so foolish. But I still feel so foolish. Especially after I asked the event coordinator if she’d ever seen anyone in our situation, and she just point blank said no. Nice.

We’re trying to figure out how best to let the vendors know that we are not going to be anywhere close to the 1,000 women we had projected in our vendor information sheet. We don’t have too many vendors, so I guess that makes it a little better. A week ago, not having a lot of vendors was a major concern; now, it’s a bit of a bright spot. Hopefully the few we have won’t kill us.

As I stew in my self-pity over what a total idiot I am, it’s not helping that since the beginning of the year, we have had one mini-crisis after another. Both my husband’s and my work computers, and our home computer have completely crashed. Everyone has been sick, at least once. We’ve had a flat tire, major health issues with people close to us, and now, both our cars, our roof and our fence have major hail damage. I’m sure I’m forgetting a few things.

You might think these things should not contribute to my feelings of inadequacy, but when I’m in the mood I’m in right now, I can find a reason why I’m responsible for just about everything. I hadn’t kept the virus software up-to-date on the home computer, which is why it failed. I obviously don’t make my kids wash their hands enough. Why else would they get sick so much? If our garage wasn’t such a disaster, we could have put both cars in the garage and avoided hail damage. Since I am without doubt, the biggest slob in our family, of course that is my fault. Today, the Monday of the week of the event, my car, which was totaled from hail damage but was at least drive-able, decided not to start.  Obviously, I shouldn’t have let it go past the inspection due date.

It’s all so very selfish when you think about it! As if it’s all about me!

I keep telling myself it’s NOT about ME, but the truth is if I am really going to be able to surrender my ego in all of this, I have to share where I am with others. Especially with other women. So if you are reading this, thank you for being part of my solution today. I need you. We need each other.

At the event I’m planning, I’m also speaking. I’m talking about how it’s okay to just be REAL and live a life that is completely exposed. I’m speaking about how we walk around hiding our vulnerabilities and fears from each other, but they end up coming out anyway, in ways we never intended. There’s a better way. And it starts with being real. And honest. And vulnerable. And authentic. 2 Corinthians 12:9 says “His grace is sufficient. His power is made perfect in weakness.” We cannot be afraid of showing our weakness, because His power is made PERFECT in weakness.

If I’m going to speak authentically at this event, I have to lay my current weakness out on the table now so I’m not a hypocrite.  While I’m still hopeful that in the next two days, we will sell hundreds of tickets, realistically, I have to accept that we may very well have only 60-100 women. And I have to share that an hour ago, when I started writing this, that prospect made me feel worthless. I knew I wasn’t worthless. And that even if on some level, I WAS, it was okay, because Jesus’s death and resurrection is the only thing that gives me worth anyway. But that knowledge wasn’t helping.

What has helped is writing about my feelings and thinking about sharing them with you. I imagine what you will say and how you will encourage me. That you might tell me of a similar situation you were in and how it turned out better than you expected. That you might remind me that it’s not over yet. After all, since I’ve been writing this, a reporter called and said she was going to publish a story about the event on Thursday! God has worked bigger miracles than this before. I wouldn’t put it past Him to do a last-second surge just so we’d always know it was HIM and not US.

Maybe you will reassure me that it doesn’t matter who comes, or how many come, it’s about the women who are there. In the Old Testament, there is a story where God is willing to save an entire city if there is just one person worthy. And because of Jesus, we are all somehow worthy. That means he wouldn’t hesitate to spend thousands of dollars even if it was just to save one person. If He wouldn’t consider that wasteful or worthless, how preposterous that I would somehow think I know better!

I am now so excited about this event. I see now that it is going to be amazing no matter how many women show up. How foolish I have been! But not because I dove in too quickly. No, that was just being human. How foolish I have been to worry so much about how I look.

To be so afraid that I’m not good enough. That other people are going to be angry at me. That I have made horrible mistakes from which I cannot possibly recover. That I am unlovable and unlikeable and everything in between.

I am glad I kept reaching. And seeking. And striving. And praying. And sharing.

I’ve been here many times before. And it has always turned out okay. Not just okay, but better than I ever could have imagined. I know it won’t be any different this time.