HOW I SPENT MY SUMMER
How I spent my summer seems to be an appropriate topic for this time of year! Kids, of all ages, are returning to school in many areas of the country. This summer was unusual for me. Circumstances afforded me more free time to not only deal with life issues, but also to spend time on the healing path.
I love to read. Books, websites, blogs, and newspapers were all chosen by me. There were days when I found myself reading three books at one time as well as times when no books were in my hands. In this post, I will share some of my favorites as well as a bit of my life during these months.
Here are titles of several books which I recommend.
“Same Time, Next Week: True Stories of Working Through Mental Illness” — Lee Gutkind (The title is self-explanatory. The strength, courage, and the realities of the situations woven throughout the stories make the book worth reading.)
“The Broken Girls” – Simone St. James (pure entertainment of a suspense novel with a tad of historical fiction)
“The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World” – Dalai Lama XIV and Desmond Tutu with Douglas Abrams (spiritual with humor and joy mixed in)
“Journey Through Trauma: A Trial Guide to the 5-Phase Cycle of Healing Repeated Trauma” – Gretchen L. Schmelzer, PhD (I admit I have not finished this book yet; but, I wanted to include it in this post. Gretchen Schmelzer writes in a manner that is down to earth. The topic of repeated trauma is one that resonates with me on many levels. Instead of my comments, I will just highly recommend this book and leave it to you to discover what gems in it speak to you personally.)
A & E provided a television series called, “Cults and Extreme Beliefs”. This series was concerning current organized cults in our world. I found it quite informative. Some might find it triggering. Please take care of yourself.
On a lighter note, I unexpectedly was given an opportunity to discover Netflix. Many of you most likely are familiar with Netflix and what it offers. Watching shows on demand is definitely convenient! One series that I enjoyed is called “The Forest”. It is a crime/drama show which kept my interest.
Crosswords puzzles in the local newspaper are great, inexpensive entertainment (at least for me)! It had been years since I sat and escaped into the world of word clues and solutions. I’ve even texted a person here and there asking if they knew the answer. It is amazing how certain people respond with lightness and willingness to join in such a simple activity.
Colin Fleming encourages us to share our lives and problems with others. His Wall Street Journal commentary on August 10, 2018, is titled, “Don’t Clam Up When Life Brings You Down: Risk some candor. You’ll find a relief, and others will respect you for it.” (https://www.wsj.com/articles/dont-clam-up-when-life-brings-you-down-1533936166)
How else have I spent my summer?
In the spirit of sharing my life, this year has been one of dealing with the somewhat usual symptoms of chronic complex post traumatic stress disorder (C-PTSD) that ebbs and flows as well as dealing with a major depressive episode.
Nature Plays a Nurturing Role
Water is healing to me. I found myself often walking by the water in my town. It is just a creek – not a big lake or a huge ocean. It is water just the same. Walking by the water can easily become a prayer-meditation session!
Leisurely strolls in my neighborhood in the evening have become my new norm. Walking is often an antidote to anxiety and panic. What an amazing array of animals I encounter. A mama deer chose our area to give birth to two fawns. How precious to see those baby deer soon after they were born. The neighbors gathered and protected the animals. What beauty for us all! Joy erupts when I see the deer loping through the quiet streets, just standing, or grazing on people’s plants.
Bunnies are plentiful! Almost every lawn has one if not more. It is a pleasure to stand and watch the rabbits interact.
Hummingbirds! They always surprise and delight me. I do not glimpse hummingbirds very often. When I do, the bird flies very close to my body and then to the flower or tree. It is as though the creature is communicating its presence to me. Look! Here I am! I do look. I watch. A smile appears on my face. Hummingbirds symbolize insight, wisdom, the enjoyment of life, and good luck in some cultures.
The sun disappears behind the mountains in the town where I reside. It makes day time seems shorter to me. I am more accustomed to living where the sun falls below the flat horizon. Both settings contain beauty and are unique.
There is gratitude in my heart for the free time and the ability to be in nature. I am able to notice nature’s beauty and be engaged.
Major depression has taken its toll.
It also has given me the gift of having to slow down. In this slowness of my life, I am able to witness and embrace life in ways I could not when I was busy rushing to survive. This health-driven sabbatical of sorts is a blessing.
Life changes. Health problems appear. Finances vary. A person reacts and/or acts to these issues. Wisdom comes. Wisdom goes? Wisdom returns.
Life changes many of us. Maybe some of us become more of who we are. It is a mystery to me!!
Along this road, this summer, there are people who are walking along with me and others who are on the sidelines cheering me to continue. All are appreciated. It amazes me that sometimes I can sense or intuit that a person is praying for me or thinking of me. Other times, the love of a person is more concrete. I smile, even in the midst of the darkness of depression, when I receive a text from a friend saying “I’m thinking about you.”
The friends and loved ones who still share their problems, deep thoughts, joys, and woes with me present me with precious gifts. In the throes of my deep sadness and times of hopelessness, these people give me the opportunity to be there for them. I am worthy as a friend and confidante in spite of my depression. In my heart, I know that.
It is interesting though to notice which friends dropped out of sight. Major depression, like cancer, is an illness. Some individuals can relate to me only when I am strong and not so vulnerable. It can be difficult to be with an individual who is suffering especially when you are used to her being so strong, resilient, and not tearful.
People who are in pain as they deal with illness and suffering can often still give. Their giving may look different as it takes a different form. The giving could even just be in the forms of quiet prayer and sending love.
Recently I went to a bookstore with the sole purpose of reading a certain magazine. Lo and behold, my eye caught sight of a different publication. I ended up reading The Psychotherapy Networker magazine from July/August, 2018. It has three very interesting articles on depression which I highly recommend. Each one focuses on a different aspect. ( All three articles can be find at this link: https://www.psychotherapynetworker.org/magazine/current)
Martha Manning’s article titled, “A Journey Through Fire: Surviving When Your Self Is In Ashes” resonated deeper with me than the others for various reasons. Martha Manning talks about her depression, about her sister’s journey dealing with breast cancer, about suicide, Job, healing, etc. Manning writes, “Several years ago, my sister Leah and I were kicked in the teeth by life-threatning illnesses. The difference in our reactions was that Leah desperately wanted to live, and I desperately wanted to die.”
Henry Emmons shares his viewpoint as a psychiatrist in his article titled, “The New Psychiatry: The Rise of Natural Mental Health.” Emmons highlights his journey from mainly treating depression via medication to using a more holistic approach.
“In The Shadow of Depression: How Can We Manage to Stay Well?” is written by Marian Sandmaier. She shares her experiences of depression. Sandmaier also focuses on recurrent depression and how to stay well.
Both Manning and Sandmaier impressed me with their honesty and their vulnerability. Major depression can show itself in various ways in different individuals. The darkness of major depression is not an illusion. As Sandmaier writes, “For a while, therapy could do no more than help me stay on the planet — a profound contribution, but one I could barely appreciate at the time.”
Fortunately the darkness eventually lifts for many of us. My heart goes out to those who are suffering from major depression now, those who have succumbed to the darkness by committing suicide, and those who have returned to alcohol/drug addictions. I also feel deep compassion for family members and friends. If you are suffering from major depression, please seek the help you need. You are worth it!
I do not believe it was coincidence that I discovered the Psychotherapy Magazine that day. In fact, I do not ever remember reading that publication. My eyes found what I needed to read that day. I hope that sharing this will help you and/or your loved ones.
Gratitude has been a foundation for me this summer. I have leaned on gratitude as I would lean on a dear friend. My gratitude list of the moment follows this paragraph. As usual, there is no specific order to the gratitude items nor is it all inclusive.
I am grateful for:
Megan, my daughter
Time to gently traverse the road of my life this summer
That things are not worse!
Time spent in coffee/tea shops alone and with friends
Ability to research
Gifts and love from friends and loved ones – material, visceral and spiritual gifts
People who pray for me
My Higher Power
The rushing water of the creek. I love the sound!
How have you spent the summer of 2018? What will stay in your memory? Summer will fade away. Fall appears. Some leaves are turning yellow here and falling off the trees. Fall is a beautiful season in many locations. The leaves change color. Nature prepares for winter.
What will change for you this autumn? What will remain the same (or appear to do so)? Life continues.