The Hospital

I was hospitalized three times since Tyler died. The first time was three months after his death. I spent the day at a casino, drinking and gambling away all my money. I drove, drunk, toward home but stopped my car at a dead-end road behind a bank and one by one swallowed a handful of benzos for which I had a prescription. I just wanted to be with him.

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Eventually, I put the car in drive and drove home. How I got there, I’ll never know. My husband, Terry, was angry with me and was asleep when I came home. He had no idea about the pills and was justifiably upset. After collapsing in the bathroom, I fell asleep and, in the morning, I was surprised to find myself alive. I didn’t take enough.
The next day I confessed to my husband and we both knew I needed some professional intervention. I still wanted to die.

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I was to spend that day with my boss, so I got dressed and met him at the assigned place. I was honest, and he prayed with me. I was to go on short term disability and check myself in- somewhere.

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We found a hospital in a neighboring town. The Lindner Center of Hope. One of the top wellness hospitals in the country. At intake they explained that once I checked in, I could not leave without a doctor releasing me. It was a locked ward. I said yes, even though my anxiety was screaming at me. I had to do it or I would die, which still sounded pretty good to me. Luckily my husband knew my mindset now and supported me. The hospital was close, he would come every day after work, the girls, my two daughters, could visit.

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The first thing I did was strip so a nurse could take full body shots of any bruises or cuts (I had none, except for a bruise on my hip from falling in the bathroom the previous night.) They went through my bag and sent all the prohibited stuff home with Terry. EVERYTHING was prohibited; pencils, pens, belts, rings, bracelets, necklaces, shoes with laces, make-up, and I was left with 2 pair of pants, some socks and a sweatshirt.

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My room was private with a single bed, mattress two inches thick on a smooth plastic platform, no metal, no screws, no nails. There was a desk but since all writing materials were prohibited, there was no use for it. When I first arrived I found a jigsaw puzzle in the common area and brought it back to the desk in my room. Within minutes, a nurse rushed in and took it away, explaining that all these items must be done in the common area under the careful watch of the nurses. I guess I could have eaten the pieces?

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I soon found out about very creative ways that patients use to hurt themselves. Nothing with batteries allowed- patients swallow them. I couldn’t get used to no clock in my room. When I would wake in the night I would have to walk down the hallway into the common area to see the time. And the mattress was killing my arthritic hip. They could get me a special foam piece, they said, but I would need doctor to prescribe it for me. Plus, only one Aleve! “The dosage is one,” I was told, when I was used to taking three.

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We colored in our free time. We were able to use coloring pencils and crayons in the common area. We had to ask for the pencils and when we returned them we were checked off a list. Same with silverware. When you were finished eating you were required to turn in your flatware directly to the nurse. Everything was counted.

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The staff was wonderful. Due to my grief, I was connected with the Spiritual Counselor who gave me a copy of Jesus Always, my first introduction to Sarah Young, which would become a lifelong study.

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Every day we had a schedule of group meetings. The staff taught us the basic principles of CBT (Cognitive Behavior Therapy) along with how to care for ourselves and keep a positive outlook. There was Recreational Therapy which consisted of a game or craft. There were patients who were so sick that they were unable to communicate or attend group. They would be in there a lot longer than I.

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The center also performed ECT (Electroconvulsive Therapy). Two women in my ward were going through this therapy. One, who I’ll call Jane, was an Academic. She was a scientist but when she spoke, which was rarely, she could barely be heard. She mumbled and often stared into space. I wondered who she used to be-before. The other, who I’ll call Susan, was so depressed that she could barely smile. One day, when Susan returned from her ECT session, I saw her eyes clear and her face bright. I told her what a difference I could see in her and she smiled at me and thanked me with emotion!

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We were woken at 7 every morning to eat breakfast, line up for our medicines and then start groups at 8:30. We would be called out of group individually to see doctors and therapists and nurses. I would be in this wing of the hospital twice. The second time was on the second anniversary of Tyler’s death

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After a week, I was released into a Partial Hospitalization Program at Lindner Center. I went every day from nine to four for DBT classes. I was able to stay at home and sleep in my own bed. I was able to eat what I liked and was under the watchful eye of my family. This was a two-week program and I was interested and excited about DBT. The program though, was too much in too little time, 4 to 5 worksheets a day. I was unable to keep the coping strategies straight and was unable to keep up with it on my own at home.

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On the anniversary of Tyler’s death, my daughter and I went to see a medium. I was desperate- grasping at straws and this was a way that I figured I could get in touch with Tyler. I was disappointed. I didn’t think the medium was “real.” I thought she took too much of what my daughter told her and then spun it for my reading.

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So once again I took pills. But this time I took the whole bottle, I was determined to see Tyler one way or another and since the medium didn’t work, well… My husband was awake this time when I collapsed, and he took me to the hospital. After I was stabilized they took me in an ambulance back to the Lindner Center where I began another round of treatment in the same ward as last time, same routine, new people.

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They taught us the basics of Cognitive Behavior Therapy. Setting goals, understanding that depression is a chemical reaction in your brain. I thought of it as “tricking” your brain to stop thinking of something bad and trying to replace it with something good. And basic things like taking a shower and eating right. “Who needs help taking a shower?” I thought, unbeknownst to me that in the not so near future, I would need to be reminded of just that.

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My final hospitalization was voluntarily. No more suicide attempts, but I wasn’t getting better. I had switched on and off with several different therapists and psychiatrists, but nothing was working. I had al but forgotten the DBT and CBT I had learned.

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According to Dr. David Brent, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, the children of people who attempted suicide, “regardless of whether they have a mood disorder themselves, have a four- to five-fold increased risk of trying to take their own lives, according to a new study.”

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This information was a deterrent for me, because one of my daughters has bi-polar and I was very worried that she would look at me as an example and try to take her own life.
The Linder Center had a setting in the woods next to it’s main building. It was called Sibcy House and it did not take insurance. The program was meant to define a diagnosis and focus heavily on DBT, addiction counseling and CBT therapies. It was decided that I should go.

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My husband and I took a loan from my 401K and I was able to get in one July. This was a different type of program. I was still in a locked house, but we were given passes to go outside on their walking path between classes. We had yoga, mindfulness and pet therapy. There were field trips on the weekends.

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The rooms in Sibcy House were like hotel rooms. We were able to have pens and pencils and clocks, and the beds were good ones, with real mattresses on frames. There were extensive tests that I took and daily therapist and psychiatrist visits. I still see one of these psychologists who specializes in DBT on a weekly outpatient basis.

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My goals upon entering Sibcy House were to determine an accurate diagnosis, medication evaluation (I was on eleven medications!), learn new skills to help me deal with my problems/symptoms and address grief issues. I needed to be there because my anxiety was overwhelming me. It was hard to think of words while talking- what is this? Anxiety? Age ? Meds? And I was constantly moving my legs and arms. It was embarrassing.

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And although I no longer wanted to end my life, I truly didn’t care if I died from some natural cause or accident. At the time, I didn’t know that I had leukemia. It was like, “I’m ready,” to go see my son and be with God. So, you can see the kind of distorted thinking I was presenting.

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There at Sibcy House, I learned that I have major depressive disorder, recurrent, severe, with anxious features (no surprise), PTSD, Complicated Bereavement, moderate alcohol use disorder and Panic Disorder.

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But by completing the testing I also learned that I had not lost my ability to reason, think clearly, or plan. I just needed to focus my mind and filter out all the scrambling going on in there. The scrambling reminds me of the old days of cable television. If you went to a channel that you hadn’t purchased you could hear the voices and sounds of the movie, but the screen would be scrambled up with diagonal lines and blotches so you couldn’t see the picture. Nowadays, you just get a blue screen that says to subscribe to the channel call a number.

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Well, my mind was acting like the old cable stations and I would hear the sounds but not be able to discern the full picture. I needed to learn to focus my mind again, and mindfulness was instrumental in that.

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The staff at Sibcy House was extensive: Psychiatrists, master’s level social workers, doctorate level therapists, expressive therapists, nutritionists, internists, and neurologists. I thank God for that 401K that allowed us to afford this level of care. I pray for those who are not able, that God would lead them to really good experts to lead them through their grief.

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Daily, in between doctor visits, we had a curriculum that we followed. I went to every class. There were patients there who didn’t go to many of them. It was hard for me to understand paying that kind of money and not participating, but that was me judging; I know now that mental illness manifests itself in many different and unusual ways. They were doing the best they could do.

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Even though I brought workout clothes, I didn’t attend the physical recreation- or “gym” as we called it in elementary school, and I ate about three of the best ice cream sandwiches I’ve ever tasted every night! You see it: weight gain! But I was more concerned about my brain than about my appearance.

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At home, I had loads of self-help books. I had been really trying to “fix myself” but I had no direction- no guidance. I was hoping my time at Sibcy House could offer me a path. At the time, I didn’t even think about God providing the path for me. I believed in God, loved God, knew my deceased family was with God, but I viewed myself as tainted- not doing the right things to help myself, unaware of the countless Bible verses in which God declares that He will provide the path. That came later, in God’s time..

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I loved the psychological and intelligence testing! (Most of the time.) I have always been competitive. But I was less enthused on some days when my mind was foggy, and I had trouble doing something as easy as naming ten animals! This was the depression, which clouds your mind. I learned that this is linked to the loss of energy and motivation that comes with depression, and how depression can affect your brain in a way that causes the fog.

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I was very fearful of going back to work. My job was filled with grief triggers. I think it’s impossible to figure out why certain things trigger us after a close death. It seemed like I was being ambushed all the time at work. This was my PTSD. And the sad thing is that people seem to have an “expiration date” on grief- a time when after so many months or years, you should “Be Over It.” So, although my co-workers were nice human beings, they were getting tired of my outbursts. This was super scary to me!

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How would I ever go back to work in this minefield? I wanted to return to my life- to my work. That is the real reason why I focused on DBT so much throughout this time period. I needed some real coping skills to go back to work.

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Well, I didn’t go back to work, and I believe that this is the path God wants me to be on. I am reminded of a passage in “Jesus Lives” by Sarah Young:
“I want you to make your life a glorious adventure, but you must stop striving for a lifestyle that feels safe…People settle for mediocrity because it feels more comfortable. Meanwhile they continue to battle fear… A predictable lifestyle may feel safer, but it can shield you from what you need most of all-Me! … I will be with you each step of the way. As we venture out together cling tightly to my hand.”

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I eventually realized how true this is. God needed me to venture out, to have faith that when I ventured out that He would be with me every step of the way and He led me to a weekly DBT meeting which I attended for a year after leaving Sibcy House.

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There is a story in the Bible that I love. The Gospels tell about the disciples in a boat on a stormy sea right after they sat with Jesus and fed a multitude from a couple fish and some loaves of bread. They had just witnessed this miracle of the Jesus multiplying the food until all of the thousands of people were filled.

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So, they go out into this boat while Jesus was off by himself dealing with the loss of his beloved friend and cousin, John the Baptist. As Jesus came to the shore, he saw the disciples struggling in the choppy water to keep the boat upright. The storm really ramped up and it looked like they were going to capsize. They were so afraid that they didn’t even recognize Jesus as He calmly walked across the water to help them.

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I think about how many times I have not recognized Jesus when He has been trying to help me. When I don’t believe it’s His hand that is putting things into place for me. What strikes me most about this Bible story is that they had just been astounded by the miracle of the loaves and fishes, just that day! Why would they not see and believe that their Lord was walking to them? Over the water?

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In my life, I know of countless times I have been the beneficiary of His blessings, of His wise counsel, of His true love, yet, I still doubt that He is involved in my life to such a degree that He will NOT allow me to take on more than I can bear.

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Now, my favorite part of the story is when Peter calls out and asks Jesus to prove that He is who He is by allowing Peter to walk on the water too. Jesus doesn’t get offended by this but does exactly as Peter asks. Peter takes about two steps and then is filled with terror and starts to sink.

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How many times have I been given a God opportunity and did not follow through to receive the whole blessing? How many times have I doubted myself instead of trusting that God would do immeasurably more than all [I] ask or imagine?
How many times have I not ventured out of my normalcy– Or because of my mental illness, my ab-normalcy?

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The last hospital stay was well worth the time and money because it provided an expert path for me with DBT and through DBT, prayer and Bible devotions, I found myself much closer to God and ready to let Him take the reins.

In Memorium

He was a funny guy, always cracking jokes. He liked to hunt, my son did, and fish. He liked the Vikings and the Wild, two Minnesota sports teams. “In Memorium” is something a mother shouldn’t have to write about her child.
One day I came home and found my computer torn apart; It had stopped working and Tyler was trying to fix it. At the time he died, years later, he was building a computer from parts he bought on the internet.
It was four years ago, yesterday, that he died in a single car crash. At the funeral the pastor didn’t have a lot of information about Tyler so he kept repeating the stuff he did know, father, husband, sportsman. I wanted to get up and say something, but I was inconsolable. That is a regret I have, couldn’t I have pulled myself together enough to tell everyone about the real Tyler?
He loved to work on cars. He had a mustang in his garage that he was rebuilding. He worked at a junk yard, which he loved, and he was making a life for himself and his wife and kids.
Yesterday I had a bed day. Knowing my girls had chosen to stay busy with their friends made it easier for me to stay in bed. I slept most of the day. My husband stayed home from work to be with me. The goal was to get through the day-period.
When Tyler was little he was a wild child. I remember he almost bit off my thumb when I brought him to kindergarten. Authority had never been his thing. He wasn’t a bad kid, he just wanted to do things his way. He eventually got used to school and I met with his teachers regularly, so I could keep up on what he should be doing.
In first grade the kids got together and wrote down the answer to “What is a Mother?” The list of their answers came home for Mother’s Day. While most kids wrote endearing things like “She reads to me.” And “She gets me toys.” Tyler took a different route and got technical, “She has bones in her back to hold her head up.” I remember laughing so hard I cried! Always the technical thinker!
Once when he was grounded for sneaking out we took away his cable connection. Tyler found a way to go deep into the crawl space and splinter off our cord. Ta-da! Cable again. It must have been hard for him when I divorced his father and then again when I re-married. My first husband was a strict disciplinarian and Tyler had grown up under this mighty control. Suddenly, the control wasn’t there, and he tried to get away with a lot of stuff.
He had to figure out how to navigate in this new world, and it wasn’t easy for him. A short stint living with his father didn’t work out. How I wish I would have lived closer so I could help him find his way, we had moved to Ohio and Tyler stayed with his aunt. But he found his way, making a life for himself, having two children and marrying his wife. He had a house and all of his hobbies. He had a good job and provided well for them.
Tyler was good with his hands. At one point he helped build an addition onto my sister’s house, working side by side with his uncle.

His cousin Brody was one of his best friends. He would be happy to know that Brody is married with a family now. Once when he and Brody were little, they went across the road to a cemetery and decided to push down tombstones, which in itself is bad, but Brody got caught underneath one and my sister had to go rescue him.
These are the funny things I remember-and most of all I loved him so much! He went to church with me and we prayed for each other. Occasionally a song would tear my heart and I would cry. “Why are you crying, Mommy?” The little voice would ask with his hand on my arm.
Would he ask that now? Why I am crying? He knows how much I miss him and love him. I could barely move away from his body during the visitation. I wanted one last chance for him to know this.

Willfulness

Willfulness is refusing to make changes or doing the opposite of what works. It’s giving up. When I am willful I have “Bed Days”. These are days that I take my nighttime medicine in broad daylight and watch TV until I fall asleep. My whole goal with Bed Days is to sleep the day away.

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I am still groggy when my husband comes home from work and try to hide it. I don’t want him to know about my bed days. I am acting willful on these days because I know there are coping skills that could help me but I refuse to use them.

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DBT explains willfulness as:
 Refusing to tolerate the moment and make changes that are needed
 Doing the opposite of what of what works
 Insisting on being in control
 Trying to fix every situation
 Attachment to “me, me, me” and what I want.
 Giving up

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My bed days are a form of giving up. You might experience willfulness by not letting something go, an argument perhaps, or not being able to see a better idea than yours. Regardless of what type of manifest of willfulness you may have experienced, it is all about you, you, you.

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I find this to be the most powerful part of my depression and I combat it every day. When you are willing you listen to your Wise Mind. When you are willful you shut Wise Mind out. That means you shut out God. Surely, if you pray, God could lessen the despair, but you don’t want to listen, you would rather wallow in it. I want to shut off everything and hope tomorrow is a better day.

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DBT tells us to turn our mind towards willingness, toward acceptance that I am acting willful. When willfulness is immovable ask yourself, “What’s the threat?”

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When I think about the threat of living through another empty day, I can sometimes turn my mind before I choose to take a bed day. Maybe a short nap where I can think through some priorities of mine. I admit to myself that I am avoiding living. I go through the options in my mind and look for something I might want to do besides sleep. I come upon something that I can make a commitment to doing like take a shower. Lately baking and listening to music have been good alternatives to bed day. Writing is usually farthest from my mind. How can I write when all I want to do is get over this?

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“The righteous may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all.” Psalm 34:19

Being willful with God is not taking or asking for His help. God tells us to lean on Him, to accept His grace. Being willful is thinking you can do it all on your own, ignoring God’s Word. The Holy Spirit works to renew our minds. Being willful is ignoring that or not allowing it to happen because we are so caught up in this world of depression.
God can restore us- He knows the pressures that are upon us and understands what we are going through. When we are Willful we do not feel God’s closeness. Open yourself to Him.

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“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” Romans 12:2

Smudge Pots

When I was little we used to go to my Auntie Mabel’s house in Sunrise, Minnesota. She and my Uncle Elmer lived on a farm and we towed our sleep-in trailer there a couple weekends of every month. It was glorious. I can still smell the baking rye bread in my mind.

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When we got there my Auntie would have little bags for each of us kids filled with pennies nickels and dimes along with a brightly colored rubber ball. I loved that place! There were flowers everywhere and around the side was a small waterfall. And kittens- oh my goodness! So many kittens roaming the yard. My Auntie would bring out pans of milk and call “Kitty, Kitty” and they would come running.

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At night we would like to sit outside but the mosquitos were in the billions. Maybe you know that Minnesotans call the Mosquito their “state bird.” My Uncle Elmer would set up smudge pots which would smoke around us and keep the mosquitos at bay.

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I have an aromatic diffuser in my office. When a few drops of calming oil is placed in a bit of water a wonderful steamy aroma sprays out. The result is that the aromatics give me a sense of feeling. Their names are “Om”, “Bliss”, “Solace”. This reminded me of the smudge pots, but instead of keeping mosquitos away, the diffuser enhances good mood and therefore chases away bad ones.

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The “smudge pot” in my office helps me when I am trying to be more mindful because I imagine the steam carrying away the emotions that sometimes end up swirling around my brain when I am trying to be closer to Jesus.

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I am trying to build my mastery of mindfulness. In DBT “Building Mastery” is described as planning to do one thing everyday to build a sense of accomplishment. To me that is getting out of ruminating and stepping away from my lack of self-worth. Doing something difficult but not impossible such as a mindfulness exercise. Even if I escape my emotions for a few minutes I consider this a success.

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DBT asks us to gradually increase the difficulty over time and look for a challenge. The most challenging thing for me is to replace my thoughts of unworthiness with thoughts that describe me as Jesus sees me. I am a soul at His disposal open to Him to fill me with my destiny, my purpose.

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He helps me see what values are important to me and in mindfulness I am able to identify that value and set some goals to work on related to this value. The value I am working through is taking care of myself. I have not been eating well, either no eating at all or eating junk foods and what I would call nutritionally void foods. I might use alcohol to change my mood instead of exercising my mindfulness muscles. Invariably the alcohol leads to further depression. I can’t escape my thoughts of “What am I here for?”

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When people are depressed they sometimes let go of doing the things they know will keep them healthy- even as simple as eating. The DBT practice of “PLEASE” is taking care of yourself, doing the things that keep your body going even as your mind is ruminating.
“PL”: Treat Physical Illness- See a doctor when needed. Take your medicine and take care of your body.
“E”: Balance eating – Stay away from food that make you overly emotional. Don’t over or under eat, eat mindfully.
“A”: Avoid Mood Altering Substances- Use alcohol in moderation and stay off illicit drugs.
“S”: Balance Sleep- Keep a consistent sleep schedule and aim to 7-9 hours of sleep a night.
“E”: Exercise- Do some form of activity everyday and build up to 20 minutes per day.

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These things may seem so basic, but it’s important to take care of your mind by taking care of your body. People with Depression or other mental illnesses sometimes don’t feel like showering or walking or eating. It’s important to be on schedule with these things.

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Aromatics is one way of being kind to myself. Some small enjoyment. Oftentimes I am stuck in my head and I don’t have then energy to take care of myself. I don’t want to shower, I don’t want to eat, but then I power up my smudge pot and something changes.

Peace

I long for peace against me anxiety. I long for the comfort of Purpose. Many times, I go through my day wondering what purpose I have, what to do that has meaning. What can I possibly give this world of myself?

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Times like these I breathe in and out and consult Wise Mind (God.) Mindfulness is about living in the now-not the future-not the past-not the wonders of purpose, more, the wonders of “being.” I imagine myself surrounded by God’s love. I feel the power as I breathe. I let my mind wander acknowledging the feelings and thoughts as they pass. I am enveloped in love.

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“..The Lord’s unfailing love surrounds the man who trusts in Him.” Psalm 31:10

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We all long for peace, no one wants heartache and worry. Though we may have many trials, we can take a moment and evoke peace through Mindfulness of God. Rumi said, “The wound is where the light enters you.” This remind me of Jesus’ wounds. He gave Himself so that we may have light and, in my mindfulness, I feel that light shining through my wounds.

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In my mindfulness I feel the peace seeping through the scars. Jesus left us with peace. The first thing He said to his disciples after His resurrection was, “Peace be with you.” How many times do we hurry along our day frazzled and tense without evoking this peace?

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It takes focus to be mindful. Do your thoughts wander when you pray? It may be Wise Mind (God) showing you what to pray. Pray about whatever your mind in telling you but be aware that God might just be telling you to stop your mind from wandering and focus! You can watch the thoughts go by and maintain your focus, or you can pray about the thoughts. Nothing is too small for God to hear.

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It all depends on what you are trying to do. Are you emptying your mind so you can accept God’s peace or are you praying in order to be close to God and release your anxious thoughts unto Him?

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If you are emptying your mind, you may want to close your eyes and focus on your breath. Watch the thoughts pass but don’t linger on them and re-focus on your breath. Invite God’s peace into your heart, staying there with it as long as you like. Each time a thought comes into your head, watch it pass. I heard it once described like a train of thoughts. The train goes by but it doesn’t have to stop at a boxcar of thought. You don’t need o board the train- you are just watching it and re-focusing on peace.

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If you are praying to release anxious thoughts, then pray about each thought that comes into your mind. Consider why these thoughts are coming up and pray to be let go of the stress. You must guard your thoughts and not let negative thoughts take root and put limitations on what God wants you to be. Allow Him to water the seeds He’s planted and ignore the seeds your negative thoughts have sown.

Pretend

“Your worst battle is between what you know and what you feel.” I read that on Twitter: Amazing Facts @factsoup. Ain’t it the truth! I’m always battling what I feel. I have a good life but I’m anxious. I watch the beauty of my backyard from my porch but I’m depressed.

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I’m always fighting to be the “ideal.” Smart, funny, honest, well-spoken, in charge, respected, but in reality, I say the wrong things; I’m not always smart and I’m not sure that anyone would respect my handling of this jumbled up life that became mine. I’ve begun to think of that jumble as a patchwork quilt. Some patches have tears, some have smiles, some are black with depression and some have a cartoon bubble of laughs, “Ha ha ha!”

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In DBT we look to change the emotions we do not want. There are skills to look at emotions as just emotions, passing by. We make a choice to be mindful of current emotions, act on them and problem solve or do not act on the emotion urge and consider opposite action.

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I read a novel called “Pretending to Dance” by Diane Chamberlain. In it the father is a psychiatrist that practices “Pretend Therapy” in which you pretend you are happy or that you love something that you hate or are afraid of. Although this is a fiction novel, the premise of pretending seemed like a smart idea to me.

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It’s kind of like my “Be a Word” strategy where I pick a word that encompasses what I want to be and then all day I try to become that word. It’s practicing opposite action where you do the opposite of what you’re feeling like doing when what you feel like doing might be harmful or not the best choice. This is easier said than done and like all DBT skills it takes practice, a practice I have not yet beat.

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But that doesn’t stop me from trying to beat it. It doesn’t stop me from looking at the true facts of my life instead of the feelings. From separating my feelings from me. They do not define me!

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It’s getting a grip on reality by making a choice to put aside those debilitating emotions and embrace the day. Staying happy and enjoying being with God is a choice. God created us with an enormous capacity to enjoy Him. Don’t let things that people say or do rob you of your happiness.

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Start to pretend to see the beauty of something and mindfully allow emotions to come and go. In some of my Mindfulness exercises I take a Bible verse and play it out in my mind, inserting myself into the story. That’s a form of pretending. But it can be so meaningful as you imagine yourself sitting with Jesus or walking on water.

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You may think that true facts and pretending are opposite things, but when your emotions don’t fit the facts of the situation, pretending you feel as the true facts deem you should feel is really embracing reality and fending off those lying thoughts.

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Does your mind always go to the worst conclusion? That’s a negative form of pretending. You are pretending you know the outcome and expecting the worst. Isn’t it easier and more calming to let Jesus take on worrying about your future? We don’t have to pretend that He already knows what’s in store for us because we know He does. His word tells us not to worry about the future. His word tells us that we can be calm in His presence. No need to pretend at that!

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Emotions don’t always fit the facts. The facts are what’s going on right now-not what might happen in the future. My sister Sherri is going through the worst surgery of her life. She has an aggressive tumor and needs to have her jaw removed. She will be in ICU, she will have to have a feeding tube, she will need to learn to swallow and talk all over again. A million things could go wrong, but Sherri is determined to beat the odds. She will beat the timeframe of the feeding tube. She will beat the amount of time she stays in the hospital. She will beat the goals to swallow and talk. She says she is “above average.”

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I guess you could say she is pretending that she will overcome the odds. Pretending can lead to action which leads to reality. Faith is a big part of her life. Sure, she could be wallowing in self-pity and thinking the worst, but the facts are that the worst hasn’t happened and may never happen. With her positive mindset and her faith, the odds are with her.

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“Have faith in God. I tell you the truth, you can say to this mountain, ‘May you be lifted up and thrown into the sea,’ and it will happen. But you must really believe it will happen and have no doubt in your heart.” Mark, 11:22-23

Mindfully Living This Day

Quiet sharing with God can be a delightful mindfulness experience. Slow down. Quiet your motions. Bask in His glory. What would you become today if you let God control your actions? Would you be more helpful to people? Would opportunities arise beyond your wildest dreams?

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Ask God to show you His true peace as you go about your daily activities slower, contemplating Him. As you mindfully run your errands, bless people along the way. Take time to talk and really listen to those you come in contact with. Pray for them.
Be mindful as you work, opening up your thoughts and actions to the Lord. Always looking for God in your life can open your senses, slow your heart rate and observe your life in a different way. Fully participate in what you are doing.

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DBT goals for Mindfulness are to Reduce suffering and increase happiness; Increase control of your mind; and Experience reality as it is. What would life be like if you had less strain and tension? By trusting God, you give that strain over to Him. Stop letting your mind be in control of you. God tells us to not worry- to not live in the future but live in the present with Him. He tells us to learn from our mistakes but don’t let the past control us.

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Live with your eyes wide open, don’t just go through the motions, live the life God wants you to live, in communion with Him. Experience the reality of your connection to Him, to His essential goodness. Validate your life, take each moment as it comes and feel the blessings in it.

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Mindfulness is living with intention, being aware in the present moment. Accept the simple grace of each event that occurs in your life. Wake up from the rote behaviors that become life. Participate and be present in every moment. And don’t judge! Let go of evaluating everything that you say and do. Instead of suppressing a moment, ask God to help you discern the consequences and make wise choices.

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All you need to do is pay attention to the moment. It can be done anywhere and anytime. Embrace your life with all its ups and downs. Acknowledge the difficulties and don’t avoid them.

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“Join me, everyone! Trust only in God every moment! Tell Him all your troubles and pour out you heart-longings to Him. Believe me when I tell you-He will help you!” Psalm 62:8

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Let the power of continuous prayer help you throughout your day. Allow yourself to experience His constant presence. Engage in spiritual mindfulness practice with a centering prayer, “Lord guide me.” “Stay with me Lord, throughout it all.” “Lord, bless this person.”

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While meditation can also be mindfulness, to really experience your life is the true meaning of the word. Describe the moments to God and implore Him to help you. That is truly living in communion with Him. When worries abound, learn what is real and what is not real by asking God (Wise Mind) to help you acknowledge the worry but give it up to Him.

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Wouldn’t it be wonderful to live each moment as it is without worry about the future or regrets of the past? I am reminded of the story from Jewish history when the Israelites were in the desert and God supplied them with Manna for substance. Just enough Manna was given each day with a whole new batch each morning. We should take our Manna of the moment and trust God to give us just enough to make it through each moment, with no worries of the future and no regrets about the past.

Sensory Awareness in Crisis

An excellent DBT exercise when you need to calm down.

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Make a recording of your voice talking through this Sensory Awareness Step by Step. (Allow about 5 seconds between each step) Sensory awareness step by step

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1. Can you feel your hair touching your head?
2. Can you feel your belly rising and falling as you breathe?
3. Can you feel the space between your eyes?
4. Can you feel the distance between your ears?
5. Can you feel your breath touching the back of your eyes while you inhale?
6. Can you picture something far away?
7. Can you notice your arms touching your body?
8. Can you feel the bottoms of your feet?
9. Can you imagine a beautiful day at the beach?
10. Can you notice the space within your mouth?
11. Can you notice the position of your tongue in your mouth?
12. Can you feel a breeze against your cheek?
13. Can you feel how one arm is heavier than the other?
14. Can you feel a tingling or numbness in one hand?
15. Can you feel how one arm is more relaxed than the other?
16. Can you feel a change in the temperature in the air around you?
17. Can you feel how your left arm is warmer than the right?
18. Can you imagine how it would feel to be a rag doll?
19. Can you notice any tightness in your left forearm?
20. Can you imagine something very pleasant?
21. Can you imagine what it would feel like to float on a cloud?
22. Can you imagine what it would feel like to be stuck in molasses?
23. Can you picture something far away?
24. Can you feel a heaviness in your legs?
25. Can you imagine floating in warm water?
26. Can you notice your body hanging on your bones?
27. Can you allow yourself to drift lazily?
28. Can you feel your face getting soft?
29. Can you imagine a beautiful flower?
30. Can you feel how one arm and one leg are heavier than the other?

Crisis Survival

You are in crises when the situation is highly stressful, and you feel like you must act on or resolve the crises right now. It’s an intense feeling, one you can’t shake unless you do something this moment.

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It may be intense anger. You want to lash out at someone-something immediately, so you can feel better. It may be desolation. You want to end the feeling by using drugs or alcohol- anything that will make you feel better.

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It’s really hard to stop yourself. This is crises and one thing to keep in mind (if you can) is it’s usually short term. DBT states that crises survival skills (known as Distress Tolerance) should be used when:
1. You have intense pain that cannot be helped quickly
2. You want to act on your emotions, but it will only make things worse.
3. Emotion mind threatens to overwhelm you and you need to stay “skillful.”
4. You are overwhelmed yet demands must be met.
5. Arousal is extreme, but problems can’t be solved immediately.

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A really effective skill to use is called STOP. I’ve used it in times of anger when I wanted to lash out at my job. I wasn’t being treated right. I wanted to get angry at everyone. I wanted to say things I would regret. I just wanted to feel better- to justify myself.
The STOP skill works like this:
Stop. Do not react. Freeze and don’t move a muscle. Stay in control. Your emotions are telling you to act, but before you do, just STOP.
Take a step back. Take a break, a deep breath, take yourself out of the situation. Even for just a moment, do not act impulsively.
Observe. This one can be hard, but you have to notice what you are thinking and feeling as if you are watching it like a movie. What is the situation? What are your feelings about it? What are others saying or doing?
Proceed Mindfully. Act with awareness. Which actions will make it better and which actions will make it worse?

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Once we left for vacation on the anniversary of my son’s death. We thought it would be good to get away during that time especially since I didn’t handle the previous anniversaries so well. In the car I had a panic attack. The STOP skill helped me to take a step back and observe what was happening to my body. I took deep breaths and the attack seemed to end quicker than normal. I didn’t cope by using anything and I waited it out. I know in my Wise Mind that it would end. It always does.

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Distress Tolerance skills are especially helpful when we are out of control. Once I was so distraught during a therapy session that I was crying uncontrollably. My therapist chose to use a skill called TIP. Which is controlling through temperature, intense exercise or paced breathing with paired muscle relaxation.

We chose the temperature route and she got a pitcher of ice which I placed on my forehead with a paper towel. This calmed me down fast as the change of temperature changed my body chemistry. Fifteen to thirty seconds should be enough time for this “dive reflex” to set in. Some members of my DBT group have also used ice on their wrists or they held their breath and submerged their faces in cold water. As you do this, your blood flow is redirected to your heart and brain. This is for use when you are having a very strong, distressing emotion.

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Intense exercise can be used in the same way. Do some jumping jacks even if it’s for a short amount of time. Or run down the street and back. Expend your energy on something physical. People who run regularly often say that it makes them feel good, gets the endorphins going. This is the same principle.

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Paced breathing is slowing down your breath. Breathe deeply and breathe out more slowly than you breathe in. Pair this with muscle relaxation. As you breathe in tense your muscles. Notice where the tension is and say “Relax” in your mind as you breathe out. Let go of the tension and notice the difference in your body. Do a body scan while using this skill by starting with tensing your hands, then your lower and upper arms etc.

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It’s good to have these skills in your toolkit so when you are in distress you can try them and use whatever works.

Distorted Thinking

Being depressed means I have a distorted way of thinking sometimes. My worries are multiplied, my thoughts tend to go to the negative. Research shows that this way of thinking can trigger or worsen the experience of depression.

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I have unrealistic ways of looking at a situation, even pessimistic, which can exaggerate the negative and de-emphasize the positive or promising aspects of an event. I often think negative thoughts about myself and judge myself unfairly. I am critical of myself.
I know now that it is the depression talking to me and not really me. Even when things are going well my mind searches for something wrong. It’s hard-wired probably from my days as a manager when my job was to compare things to a standard. The standard I place on myself is too high.

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Even through all this, I have hope. Hope lifts my perspective a little and opens up my soul to Jesus, who has promised to hold my hand every minute of every day. Things may seem hopeless, but I am holding His hand and I can see a shift in the clouds of depression.

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“As for me, I will always have hope; I will praise you more and more.” Psalm 71:14

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I know that my depression is a chemical imbalance, certain neurochemicals in my brain are less active, and I have medication to offset it. This too came from God as He led me to my doctors for their knowledge.

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God doesn’t want me to just endure life- and that is how I sometimes feel, as if I am getting through the day-enduring. My distorted thoughts are unrealistic and negative about the future which, of course, is not hope. If I can just get a flicker of hope each day I know I will be on the path to betterment.

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God said to Job: “You’ll forget your troubles; They’ll be like old, faded photographs. Your world will be washed in sunshine, every shadow dispersed by dayspring. Full of hope, you’ll relax, confident again; you’ll look around, sit back, and take it easy.” Job 11:6-18

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I will wait for that day, never giving up hope. I will fight back when everyday problems are overcome by the depression. I will make plans and goals to bring joy back in my life. Solving problems takes energy and I will get my energy-my hope- from God’s Word.

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I will talk back to my distorted thoughts, challenging them when needed. I will not cling to those thoughts but use my DBT skills to turn my mind and think more realistically. I will not succumb to the lies I tell myself but will listen to my Wise Mind (God) and believe only truths.

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I will be mindful of my emotions and determine how I want to act-effectively. I will accumulate positive emotions and increase joy throughout my day. Reading the Bible props up my hope and leads me to more positive thoughts.