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Friday, April 23, 2021

Why I Blog

If it isn't clear, my blog is a journal. Not of every dark secret but basically a written account of the travails of the Turtle. When I started blogging all those years ago, I couldn't write enough. I had three blogs I wrote daily and sometimes more than one post per day. I was young, happy, and excited about life's possibilities.

Yeah, that's over. 

I stopped blogging mainly because I had said everything I wanted to say and started repeating myself. Depression is the same script, after all, and writing that script doesn't help in the slightest. I get tired of my own depression, so I'm sure y'all are completely sick of it. Depression is dull. 

I resumed blogging for two reasons. One, I needed to write about recovery. I needed to do something different and different is admitting the problem openly. Most of the time, writing helps me get a handle on my circumstances. It has helped me do that.  

Two, I was curious if I could still do it. Thanks to FB, my writing life had narrowed to sentences posted to my feed. Easier, yes, but not necessarily better. Since leaving FB and TV, I've resumed reading, resumed crafting of various kinds, and resumed blogging. I don't know that there's a direct correlation but not being reminded of the griefs of my past or the stupidity of the present is good for now. I need real people who are in my physical sphere of influence to focus on. One reason to return to church. I have a chance to do good for those folks. 

Blogging doesn't fit my schedule as easily as it once did. I replaced gaming and vegging with reading and hugelkulturing. My weekends are focused more on seeing family than staying home with the ipad or dvds. As always, I'm seeking balance with alone time - of which I need a lot - and not-alone time, which has proven benefits. 

And, this week, I've resumed writing one of my books. I know I am taking my emotional life in my hands with this action. The last three times I have tried to do this, Satan has hit me so hard with trauma/drama I've folded into depression and panic attacks without a prayer. 

TT: Proof? I resumed writing in 2016 and four animals died in nineteen days. I resumed writing in 2017 and a feral cat and five kittens showed up and tumbled me into chaos and depression for three years. I resumed writing in February 2021 and a stray cat showed up within two weeks and nearly killed me with anxiety until I found a home for her. 

The garage is closed for business. I have plans in place for stray cats now. I have made what peace I can with my guys dying, although they currently appear healthy and obnoxious as ever. 

We'll see. I have no expectations other than trying something new. Something new would be to keep going. 

Keep the faith. 

Tuesday, April 20, 2021


Something fun, not depressing...

Three years ago (?), Elder Brother dug some burial plots in his yard. Not really, but close enough. Six foot by three (?) foot high mounds of dirt over logs. It's a permaculture thing, basically creating a raised bed with logs on the inside that holds its own water. I have watched and waited on the results. His yard's water holding capacity has increased dramatically, and he was barely touched by the flood we all experienced last year. Alrighty, then. 

And, seriously, why wouldn't I want burial mounds in The Swamp? It's been trying to kill me for twenty years. 

The steady takeover by Bermuda grass once Grandma Maple fell has driven me out of The Swamp for the most part. I cannot fight a thing designed by God to feed a million two-ton animals on a daily basis. Because I won't play a game I have no chance of winning, The Swamp - once the joy of my heart - has become a daily reminder of how much I hate life and how much life hates me. 

Last year, in an attempt to be hopeful, I planted a sunset maple, two golden raintrees and a crabapple. I also let four redbuds grow. Shade is the only thing that slows Bermuda grass and I intend to shade the Hell out of my yard. 

TT: In case you didn't know, Satan's lawn is Bermuda grass and his groundskeepers trim it with dull-bladed hand mowers that only cut them, not the grass. 

So, this spring I am building hugels

I don't know if that's the real name or just what I'm calling them. I mean kulture sure seems like the German for culture, right, as in horticulture? So hugel would be the dirt-covered pile of logs and kulture would be the practice of dirt-covered piles of logs. Whatever. I'm a Kansan. I don't want to know German. 

I want to play in the dirt. I want my Swamp back. I want to be flood-ready. Mostly I want to be able to tell the city code enforcement officer, "Hey, these piles of dirt-covered branches have their own websites. You can't cite me for being green and cleaning up the neighborhood. I'm may be a conservative, but I can sure look like a liberal when it comes to saving the planet." 

Keep the faith. 

Monday, April 19, 2021

I Garden So I Don't Choke People

Depression sucks the energy out of me. Makes it hard to move, hard to care, hard to think of anything but the same tired scripts that suck the energy out. 

I learned in 2019 that moving helps. When Miss Kitty was dying, I couldn't eat, but I could move. I kept moving - and accidentally started ketosis and lost 15 pounds before I realized what was happening and forced myself to eat a chocolate chip cookie. That was two months after her burial. 

I knew weekends playing Farmville for 18 hours a day made the depression worse, one of the reasons I quit Farmville. I knew spending any kind of time in The Swamp pulling weeds, watering something, moving a brick or two, helped my mood, which is why I have forced myself to go outside. It is so helpful that on good mental days I lay out my garden pants so I'm ready to change as soon as I come home. Like exercise. Don't think. Just do. 

I didn't do that last week. I over-extended on the weekend, and stayed in Monday and Tuesday instead of going outside. By Wednesday, I was an emotional wreck. 

The anxiety is gone for the moment but the anger and hopeless are building. Mostly anger as society gets dumber by the hour, it seems, but hopelessness is quick to follow when I remember God wants me to love these stupid people and be kind to the morons. How exactly do I do that, Lord, when I just want to bitch-slap all of them? 

Paul Asay runs marathons to avoid the down-sucking of depression, but the trifecta of thick glasses, bad knees and motion sickness rule that option out for me. Plus, I hate running. 

I like outside chores. I've started two hugelkulture beds because they allow me to gather branches, chop wood and dig holes - all things I can do despite Bermuda grass. I'm clearing out the storm drains in the neighborhood for organic material and stealing sticks from neighbors' lawns for the wood. Doing this helps me. I like to think it helps everyone. 

I must keep moving. Lives depend on it. Mine most of all. 

Keep the faith. 

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Back To Church

Blogger distracted me with the news my email feature is going away in June. Then Feedburner provided abysmal directions on how to export my email list, a task which will apparently require hours of deciphering "intuative" tech speak instead of giving me a clearly marked button to push. 

I hate young people. 

But on to my chosen topic of why I'm back at church and trying to love people, young and old. 

I was not a pew baby. To the best of my recollection, my family began regularly attending church when I was 10 (?). By 15, we were at church at least five times a week. By 19, I was off to college, my church split, and when I returned home six years later, I had no home church to return to. 

I attended a church with a puppet group for about a decade, until the group disbanded and I realized the leadership didn't actually believe in supernatural events, like the virgin birth or the feeding of the 5000. My next church agreed with my opinion that the Bible is the inerrant word of God, and a being capable of creating everything is certainly capable of creating some bread. I attended faithfully until a depressive episode hit. I went back after a number of years, maybe 8?, and then another depressive episode hit. About the time I thought about going back, covid showed up. 

I resumed in-person attendance this January, and with demonic timing, my most recent trigger appeared. If past is prologue, I should have stopped going out at all and stayed at home nursing my depression like the squalling brat it is. 

This time, however, I will not to be dissuaded. This time, I will do what God tells me to do and not forsake the assembling of ourselves together all the more as I see the day (of destruction) approaching. I now attend one service, one small group and one mid-week prayer group. I have volunteered to bring someone without a ride every other week. I will obey God and Christ's example by mingling with fellow Christ followers. 

Depression separates. From people, from activities, from life. I will not choose to be separate any more. If I want a different result, I have to do different things. This is different, and I will do it. 

Keep the faith. 

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Look Up, Not Down

Another Beauty in the Browns suggestion. 

Depression lowers the head, the heart, the stomach, energy levels. Everything goes down. It's hard to look up, but you must. 

You must look up. 

Yesterday, I stumbled. Met a fact I didn't want to face. That fact could have swallowed me. 

Instead, I looked up. I looked at the sun. I looked at a world I so desperately want to leave, and decided I envy those who get to leave it. I will not mourn them. They rest in God's hands, no more worries, no more cares. Just loved by the Being of Light. 

I'll be there someday. Not today, alas. Someday. When God finally allows me to die. I can wait. 

I can look up. 

Keep the faith. 

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Why People Are Important in Depression

People are not my favorite. Ask me. Ask anyone who actually knows me (there aren't many). 

I find people exhausting. Needy. Ridiculous. Often useless. On good days, I can translate this to Mr. Bennett's "Well, well, what is life for, if not to make sport of our neighbors, and provide sport for them in our turn?" On bad days, I have learned to clench my jaw, avoid conversation, and speak in a very, very soft voice when absolutely necessary. 

However, I have learned, and Paul Asay of Beauty in the Browns, concurs, that people are important in treating and avoiding depressive episodes. What people and how many probably vary, but the key is to look outside myself for ways to help other humans. 

Depression is quite selfish. The more I look inward at how awful I am, and life is, and people are, the worse the depression gets. In fact, the better my outward life actually is, the more depressed I tend to become, often because I have no reason to feel depressed, and that is completely depressing. 

Helping another human (and it has to be a human. I have been good to enough animals to know it isn't the same or I would be the happiest camper in the universe) helps me feel better. To be selfless, to be kind, to go out of my way, even for a phone conversation, can give life a scrap of meaning. Piece enough scraps, and you've got a quilt of meaning to pad the day. 

It sounds a bit too easy, doesn't it? It's not a cure-all. I lost my quilt pattern this last time, and I'm having a hard time getting back in the scrap box, but I will keep trying. It's also easy to go too far, extend too much and get buried under exhaustion and stress. I did that once. It was not fun. I'm looking for balance. 

I learned last year that a day where I went out of my way to help another human was a better day than one where I didn't. One personal goal is now to say yes to helping opportunities instead of my knee-jerk no. I don't think I'm trying to earn anything. I think I'm trying to practice not withholding good when it is in my power to do it. But I'm a selfish creature so it is sometimes hard to understand my motives. 

I try not to dwell on them. It depresses me. 

Keep the faith. 

Monday, April 12, 2021

Christians Are Part of the Problem, Too

I don't usually talk about these depressive thoughts. For two reasons. 

I don't want to bad-mouth God publicly. That sounds funny considering what I've already confessed but it's true. I believe in God. I believe the evidence for intelligent design far outweighs the evidence against it. I have studied apologetics for 40 years in one form or another. I am not able to abandon what my reason says is true. I don't want my depressive experiences to become an argument against God. 

I don't want to give bad thoughts to people who've never had them. There are so many things in my head I wish weren't there. I don't want to spread the disease if I can avoid it. No one should have to think these things if they aren't already there. 

However, I am coming to realize that my silence is part of the problem, especially for me as a Christian. In the last 9 years, I've avoided the church because, in general, Christians don't understand what I'm going through. They don't want to be around my grief, my hopelessness and my anger. They don't know what to do with it, how to respond to it, and most importantly, how to not make it worse. As a naturally solitary creature, I don't want to expose myself to further injury by well-intentioned but often condescending comments from the peanut gallery. It is not helpful. 

The depressives out there are hearing me loud and clear. Just like those who've suffered soul-wounding grief, abuse, addiction and any other life issue that doesn't fit neatly into a worship song or have a tidy, miraculous, instant cure. We hurt, and we don't need or want platitudes. We don't need you to fix our problem (although sometimes there are solutions). We aren't looking for advice (although sometimes we are). I can't figure out what's going on, I certainly don't believe you can figure it out (although sometimes an outside perspective is quite helpful). 

What I need from my fellow believers is prayer. They can say whatever they want about me to God. At least I'm being lifted up. I need a kind ear. I need a cup of tea. I need someone to say, "You know, I don't always get God, either." 

We the hurting are just talking about real things that really trouble us. The only thing I want is for God to show up. I don't even need an answer. I just want to see Him, like Job saw him. But I'm not Job. 

Keep the faith. 

Friday, April 9, 2021

When God is Part of the Problem

The hardest thing about my recent bout of depression, the one that I began recovering from 12.16.2019, was how much God was part of the problem. 

I am a Christ-follower. Not a good one, as I've already established - a Pharisaical one. I make up God-rules to follow because I don't want to do some of the things He clearly tells me to do. Obedience to God is worship of God. I'm a terrible worshipper. 

During my depressive states, I talk to God a lot. Hourly. I don't watch TV. I read my Bible and listen to sermon podcasts from David Jeremiah and Paul Sheppard and recently Craig something from Life.Church. I talk to God honestly, like David, who I'm pretty sure was bipolar. I yell a lot, accuse a lot, demand a lot, cry a lot. I am that dripping rain wife Proverbs talks about. Never satisfied, ever-wanting, continuously nagging. Why is this happening? Why can't I overcome this? Why don't you heal me? How can I tell people about your incredible love when you won't show me any? 

As far as I can tell empirically, God ignores me. I don't come to an understanding of the greatness of God, like David seems to. Although, I have no idea how long it took him to write those psalms so maybe his answers came later. I don't glory in the greatness of my creator. 

I don't feel loved. I don't feel heard. I don't feel the peace that passes understanding. I feel ignored. Shunned, even. God has already said everything He has to say and He's done. A new promise, just for me? I have the whole Bible and its promises. Trust those, even if they don't exactly fit my specific circumstances. Besides, I'm not doing what He's already told me to do, so until I cowboy up, He's got nothing to say. 

My source of help will not help. Isn't He supposed to help? Isn't the entire point of the Bible that I can't do this by myself? Sure feels like that's what I'm doing. 

Paul Asay also has trouble experiencing God the way some people do. It's why I listened to him and bought his book, Beauty in the Browns. He has been able to find a way to trust what he knows when the feelings aren't there. C.S. Lewis says the same thing in a quote about trusting what his reason knows when his mood doesn't fit his mind. 

That's all great, except my experiences as I age have become time after time when God let me down. Didn't show up in a visible way. Didn't answer a prayer in a visible way that undeniably points to His hand in the business. Didn't offer comfort in a tangible way. I want to believe He was doing something behind the scenes, and His ways are not my ways, and His timing is not my timing, but is it really so much to ask for one clear sign that He is listening? Gideon got that twice. 

Sure, maybe I'm doing it wrong. It has to be my fault, right? I'm the human. God can't possibly be to blame. I should just trust more, think good thoughts, wait until I die 50 years from now to find out it was all worth it. Those platitudes mean exactly nothing when I'm drowning in sand. 

How is it possible to have a real relationship with an invisible, intangible, unexperience-able being? At some point, a friend shows up and offers a hug, makes some tea, hands over a tissue. If people are the hands and feet of God, and He doesn't do anything Himself, how do I know He's even there? 

I am not driven by feelings, but when all my feelings are hopeless grief, bitter despair, and absolute aloneness, it would be nice if the God I serve would provide a little balance instead of a lot of silence. 

Keep the faith. 

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Bill Making Stuff

Something funny, not depressing...

Studson Studio has garnered a lot of internet attention. Guy's been posting about a year, has over 100K subscribers. Pastor Paul Sheppard has been preaching for 40 years, has 8K subscribers. Go figure. 

Anyway, this English guy named Bill commented on one of Studson's posts, challenging him to a make-off in that snarky Douglas Adams kind of Britishness that this American can't get enough of, so I clicked over there to find a somewhat morose fellow looking down on me from his carved-out workshop space and I haven't stopped tuning in since. 

Again, the videography, editing and style are top-notch. If Bill has another life, maybe he works in production. The sound effects are Monty Python cheers, boos and farts. Haven't officially identified coconuts yet, but wouldn't surprise me if they come. 

I have zero interest in the rusty, post-apocalyptic robots slash vehicles he creates, but I can't stop watching him make them. He made this hermit crab thing that was pretty cool, and a "giant" robot overlord that was so cute. Not sure Bill was going for cute, but I wanted to take it home and give it a can of oil and some bolts to snack on. 

Anyway, if you're up for some low-key UK sarcasm with bits of junk, lots of super glue and more rust than you could ever want, hop over to Bill Making Stuff and enjoy. 


Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Killing Myself Daily

 I don't remember exactly when I started asking to die, but I'm guessing it was at least 2016. I never expected to live past 30. That I continue to live past 30 is annoying in the extreme. 

These have never been actively suicidal thoughts. In the beginning, they were "I wish I was dead." Ultimately, it became "Anytime, Lord. Kill me anytime. Anywhere. Anyway. I'm ready to go." Then, "Did I seriously survive another day? You're really falling down on the prayer answering thing, God. I can't be clearer." 

I was looking for terminal cancer, embolism, aneurism, stray bus - anything that would take me out without another human having to feel too bad about it. God has stubbornly kept me here despite my nagging. 

After 12.16,2019, my recovery start day, I continued to ask for death daily, often hourly as I tried to give up the horrors my life had become and let God do His thing. I even kept a 3x5 card on my desk that said Cheer up! You could die today! It occurred to me finally that I could kill myself by not giving in to the incredibly selfish, mean, bitter, angry, vicious, snarling beast-thing I had become and instead work to live the life of a Christ-follower presented in the New Testament by Paul, Peter, James, et al. Be kind, humble, patient, gracious to all, generous, not speaking evil, encouraging, doing good, being hospitable. Run from evil, cling to what is good. Focus on pure, noble, good, trustworthy, true things. Of course, this was far harder than being dead, but what is life if not ever-growing hardship? Why do you think I'm so keen to get out? 

Every morning I listened to or read and wrote from the New Testament what a real person should be like. Every day I focused on being that person. It was hard, but what did that matter? It was hard the other way, too, and I was full-up sick of that bitch. This way, Jesus' way, I was tired but I'd tried. And I started to succeed. I started to feel better inside. I started to feel compassion for the people around me, for the people on the phone I had so recently despised. It was better. It was good. 

Then I fell off the wagon. This February-March, I suffered a setback that has apparently reset me back to 12.16.2019. All the old, worldly feelings of anger and contempt are back with a vengeance, and my frustration is greater because I think I should be better than this. I mean, I've practiced for a year, right? I should have this by now. But as any drunk knows, day one starts when you put the most recent drink down and leave it there. 

Ah, well. What is life if not falling down and getting up and falling down and getting up and falling down and getting up all the way to Heaven? 

Which is why I'm still OK with God killing me anytime. But I'm not asking as much. 

Keep the faith. 

Thursday, April 1, 2021

Studson Studio

Something funny, not depressing... 

When I was happy a few months ago, I discovered Studson Studio on YouTube. He wasn't a destination, just one of those suggested paths the unwary can follow in YouTubeland like Alice in the looking glass. 

I was working on my dollhouse because I felt happy and had some energy to spare for having fun. It was really nice while it lasted. 

Google keyed off my miniature searches and YouTube began suggesting miniature building videos. Cue Studson. 

He's a born director, videographer, cinematographer, editor, gaffer and foley artist. One of his videos includes a video remake, shot as a child, of the first Jurassic Park, starring siblings and friends the summer it came out. It's the video where he recreates his childhood home as a building from Jurassic Park

He is funny. Down in the belly funny in the stream-of-consciousness, video-laden-cultural-references, self-effacing way some Millennials have that makes me think of him as the son I never knew I wanted. 

Add his use of trash and recycled materials to build 28mm scale miniatures for tabletop gaming, and I can spend hours watching him without regret. 

He hasn't been posting for long, a year, perhaps, but he has over 100K subscribers. I know they all think he's funny, too. 

So, if you need a little pick me up after a hard day, check out Studson Studio. 

Keep the faith.