Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Floating On My Back

Well, dear friends, I'm still afloat. I feel a lot like I did when I almost drowned off the coast of Gulfport, Mississippi. A Seabee friend and I had gotten the bright idea of swimming to a little island about 1/2 mile out from the beach. I should have put bright in quotation marks. Actually, this adventure was probably one of the most idiotic ideas I ever had.

We had to cross a busy water channel to get to this island. My friend and I hadn't even considered that this waterway would be filled with boats, none of which would be able to see two little heads bobbing along. It's a wonder that we didn't have a propeller part our hair.

About halfway across, I got horrible cramps in both legs and started going down. I've always been a good swimmer and it never occurred to me that I would have any problems. I don't remember how many times that I went under, but I finally thought that maybe I could float on my back and catch my breath. That's not easy to do in choppy water. Obviously, I succeeded. After awhile my cramps went away and I was able to swim on to the island.

When we landed on the beach, we had quite a surprise. There were small dead stingrays everywhere. We looked at each other and both had the same thought. "Do we really want to swim back?" Since we had no choice, and after putting it off for as long as we could, we headed home. I know that every time something (or an imagined something) touched me, I cried out thinking that I had been stung.

Here's the lesson. There's a time to swim and a time to float. King Solomon said, "There is a time for everything...(Ecclesiastes 3:1)." The problem is that we don't always have the ability to pick the time. A depressive disorder can play havoc with your timeing. You may feel that you are adrift in choppy waters and at the mercy of forces beyond your control. It's a helpless feeling to realize that you will not be able to control your illness or the impact that it has on your life and of those who love you.

That's why I have given up control to He who is able to control all things. God has never failed me. I have never gone down "for the third time." With his help, I can make it. Without His presence in my life, I would soon be "food for the fish."

I may not be swimming, but I am still afloat.

["I'm so low I could do a ten minute free-fall off the edge of a dime."]

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Hanging On

Sometimes that's all you can do. Hang on. Sometimes you can't. Then begins the long slide down that dark tunnel. Well, I'm working. I get up tired and I go to bed tired. It seems that even as I learn to perform my job with greater speed and skill, I still fall behind.

In fact, my wife is now helping me part of the time, just so I can survive. That's the name of the depression game. Survival. I want to do well and I want to keep my new job. It just seems that it is SO hard. If my boss were not a Christian, I would never make it. He's kind, understanding and patient. He really wants me to succeed. He's the kind of boss everyone would like to have. But I'm sure that even he has his limits. I know that I wouldn't have the flexibility to do what I do and how I do it under any other circumstances.

I feel a little bit guilty (not too much) that I've been unable to keep up with my blog and my personal emails. I'm just unable to do much right now. I will try to keep you posted.

For you "outsiders," this is my world.

Keep the faith.

Sunday, January 14, 2007


I just finished my first solo week at my new job. The first day (Monday) was horrendous. I thought that I couldn't make it. I seriously doubted my ability to do the job. Fortunately, my boss was committed to seeing me succeed. I was surprised that I didn't get fired the first day. The second day was better. I was only awful. By the third day, I was feeling a little more comfortable with my duties and actually left work with a smile on my face. Thursday and Friday was met with soaring confidence. I actually believed that I could succeed and perform my job even in times of depression. That remains to be seen.

What had concerned me from the beginning was the stress level. Certain kinds of stress (it's different for each individual) are toxic to people with Bipolar Disorder. Almost three years ago, I was ordered by my psychiatrist to avoid any job that had a moderate to high level of stress. I was also advised to only work part-time. So, it was with some misgiving that I started this fulltime job. We'll see how well I can do.

I have learned, as someone who has BPD, that I am only able to do one thing at a time. Multi-tasking is beyond my abilities. Now, I am working a fulltime job, a part-time job, trying to blog, keeping up with emails and pursuing my photography interests (I sold another photo this last week). Oh, I almost forgot about church. I will probably have to cut back, so don't be surprised at the decreasing frequency of my blogs. It is what it is.

I did something this week that many women wish they could do. I actually forgot my birthday. It's not until Tuesday, but when a friend wished me a Happy Birthday, I was confused for a moment and I asked him, "Is today my birthday?" I told Teresa that I would probably have gone a long time before I realized that an important point in history had passed.

At 58, I sure hope that I'm way past middle age. Since I'm a Christian, I don't really have any desire to stay any longer in this world than I have to. Please understand. I am not suicidal, but I agree with what the apostle Paul said. "Therefore we are always confident and know that as long as we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord. We live by faith, not by sight. We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So we make it our goal to please Him, whether we are at home in the body or away from it (2 Corinthians 5:6-9)."

Do YOU believe it???

["I'm so low I could do a ten minute free-fall off the edge of a dime."]

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Blue Day Worries

I've been training for my new job, so I haven't had a lot of time to write. The training had been going pretty well until Friday. On the last day that my teacher was to be with me, I just could not think clearly at all. I had to ask her to instruct me again how to do things that we had already gone over. It felt like my brain had turned into mud. Today, I'm feeling really down, and I don't want to do anything. I'm concerned that I might not be able to perform the functions of the job. That makes me anxious.

I hate depression. It takes all of the color out of the world. You just feel so empty, and there's nothing to fill the void. I've been putting off writing until this weekend, but now I don't feel motivated. A cave is beginning to sound good to me. Someplace to retreat and lick my mental wounds.

Well, I'm sorry, but this is all that I have the energy for. Those of you who struggle with depressive disorders will understand.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Fear of Failure

If you've not been afraid at some time in your life, you've not been breathing. There are all kinds of fears. Fear of snakes, bullies, spiders, your girl-friend's parents, heights, etc. In fact, there are a lot of books written just to help people rid themselves of their fears. Some therapists specialize in phobias. And yet, people still have fears.

When I was a young man, a suggestion by anyone that I would one day have to come to grips with fear would have only made me laugh. I thought that I was invincible and unbeatable and unconquered. I was wrong.

A man once said to me, "Stormy, the reason so many people want to take a punch at you, is that you are so cocky." I became even cockier. In my mind, there wasn't a horse I couldn't ride, a fight I couldn't win, a problem I couldn't solve or a girl I couldn't kiss. Not even a fear that I couldn't conquer.

Notice that I said "in my mind." That is trademark Type I Bipolar Disorder thinking. It is an expression of an inflated ego. Over-confident. Over-bold. Cocky. That kind of thinking doesn't reflect reality. It's a skewed view of ones abilities. It is bipolar mania.

That's the upside. The downside is characterized by failure and the fear of failure. Failure is defined by Webster as "a falling short, a lack of success, an inability to perform a normal function. Sometimes we think we fail when we really do not. Sometimes "success" is defined differently by different people. But if we define failure as the inability to perform a normal function, such as working at an occupation or going to school, then we begin to grasp in concrete terms what that feels like to someone who has chronic depression.

I'm not sure that I want you to know this much about me. Just to contemplate transparency is painful. My privacy is important to me. But when I started this blog, I committed to throwing the windows open, propping back the doors and raising the blinds. I feel that I can only help others by allowing you to see into the dark corners of my mind and my life. It's a scary effort, though.

I'm not "retired" from ministry because I want to be. It's because I have to be. If I was healthy, I would become a preacher overnight. It's my talent. It's what I'm skilled at doing. I have more experience as a minister than at anything else. My education has all pointed toward this role. But every time I've tried, I've eventually failed because of depression. That is, I've failed in the sense of not being able to "perform the normal function" of a preacher.

So, I find myself without confidence, without boldness, and anything but cocky. My ego is about as flat as a homeless man's wallet. My wife thinks that I'm getting to the point where I don't try to do things, just because I'm afraid that I will fail.

Two weeks ago, I was offered a new job. It would be the first full-time employment I've had in three years. Even though I would be working for a Christian friend (and maybe because of), I began to feel "performance" anxiety. I was concerned that I might not be able to function well enough to do the job. I was concerned that I might disappoint him and my wife.

On the morning of the day before I began my new job, I was in bed thinking about this opportunity. That's when I realized for the first time that I was afraid. I don't know when the fear of failure became my companion, but I was undeniably afraid. My mind was filled with remembrances of all the times I attempted to do things that I shoud have been lable to perform, and they all ended without success. Some of you may know how frustrating and disappointing that can be. It's a little like being a powerful 8 cylinder engine that only hits on 2 cylinders. You just can't tap into the power. In fact, the power is impotent.

I have no wisdom for those of you who have the same fears. I'm only now coming to grips with my own personal revelation. Maybe the first step to " success " is to acknowledge that the fear exists. Perhaps we can gather strength from an awareness that "We have nothing to fear, but fear its self." Our best defense is to keep the enemy in front of us. That will protect us from sneak attacks. Robert F. Kennedy once said, "Only those who dare to fail greatly will ever achieve greatly." Well...I've got the first part right.

To the healthy: Please be kind, be available, be humble and be thankful.

["I'm so low I could do a ten minute free-fall off the edge of a dime."]