July 8, 2010
Way back when, about 10 years ago now, I was in talk therapy for depression. It was an amazing time of growth and self-discovery, and also discovering God’s grace as it applied to me for the first time. An exercise that my therapist prescribed for me to monitor my depression and pay attention to myself was jotting down each day a spectrum. I was to draw a horizontal line in my journal, and plot on it the highs and lows and mediums of my day. She encouraged me to pay attention to what gave me joy and pleasure, and also to pay attention to what drained me and made me sad or anxious. These were not to be used as a punishment device, like “you shouldn’t feel sad about that” or “this should give you great joy,” it was simply an observation, so I could learn to know myself, and accept where I was at each day, and realize that day to day, things change. If ever there was a day where not much made it onto the “good” side of the spectrum, that was a little signal for me to slow down and nurture myself in an extra tender way, or ask for help from people that I loved and trusted to help contain my sadness.
I’ve been thinking of starting this practice up again.
It’s been a funky summer for me, mood-wise. I’ve been a little gloomy feeling. My first instinct is to beat myself up for this sense, but history and common sense now tell me that that won’t be helpful at all. Instead I will respect my feelings, let them inform me as to what my course of action should be, and “live in the wisdom of accepted tenderness” as Brennan Manning urges.
So, I don’t know how to insert an actual spectrum line into a blog post. Therefore, I will list the highs and lows of yesterday:
On the “blah” side of the spectrum:
1. The weather. It’s been cold and gloomy, and it really affects my outlook on life. We have a Dr. Suess book called My Many Colored Days which is an awesome, artistic rendering of the various moods we experience as humans. I keep thinking about the page where it says, “Grey Day. Everything is grey. I watch, but nothing moves today.” That sums up my experience of this gloomy summer weather.
2. Feeling discouraged about a parenting issue. Without sharing too much, I can simply say that there are things that are reality about my children that I find hard to accept. I’m having to grieve the loss of the children I wish I had so that I am free to love and accept the ones I do have.
I just sat for a full three minutes trying to think of a #3 and I don’t think there is one. Hmm. Two things on the low end of the spectrum… not too bad.
On the “give me joy” side of the spectrum:
1. Curling up on the couch reading my book (a re-read of Lilith) while my children happily play upstairs with their cousins. Oh, was this a relaxing and lovely time! Even Bridget – who has typically had a hard time keeping up with her older sisters and cousins – must be growing up, because she was right in the thick of it.
2. A sweet “pillow talk” conversation with my dear husband. He is so wise and understanding at times. We totally connected on an issue I’ve been struggling with and it felt like such a relief to have someone contain some of my concern.
3. Another “connecting” one: a friend that I love but sometimes have a hard time communicating with shared some things with me and I felt like I had the grace to just listen instead of nervously jumping in with my opinions. That felt good and satisfying.
Well, that sums up my spectrum for yesterday. I plan to continue to pray for God’s grace and tenderness to be obvious in my day today.