Faith vs Fear

Faith vs Fear

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

First Day of Fall

Happy first full day of Fall!
Fall is my favorite season of the year. I know some people really struggle with the changing seasons, including David. He usually has a bad bout of the blues about this time of year, and that can put a damper on it, but I enjoy it for several reasons:

1. Utah has beautiful falls with warm, sunny days and cool nights.

2. The red color of the scrub oak and gold of the aspens make the mountains come alive with color. We went to our favorite fishing spot on Sunday, and while the leaves haven't fully changed, there was a hint of things to come.

Lost Creek Reservoir, near Ogden, Utah

3. The start of the new school year, even though I'm not going this year, makes me feel energetic and eager to work on projects around the house. I'm not terribly domestic, so I try to take advantage of the mood while it lasts.

4. It's my birthday season, and I like taking some time to ponder over the events of the past year, and make new goals. It's my version of New Year's resolutions.

Some of my goals are to write more regularly here, and work on family history stories and research. My brother helpfully reminded me of that today.

I am also looking forward to working on household projects that have been long neglected. I plan on painting several rooms that desperately need it.

David and I talked this morning about how our summer went. He cheerfully recalled several activities and achievements he's had during the summer months. This summer hasn't been without its challenges, but he's been much more active and healthy than he has been in at least two years. That's a good feeling.

I came home this evening, and found him in the depths of deep despair. It's hard to know how to help him when he gets in these moods. I've found that about all I can do is sit with him quietly, and pray for the darkness to lift. Rob Thomas's song, "Her Diamonds" describes how I feel when he's so down. As hard as it is to watch him suffer, I know I have to keep going and not get sucked into his mood.


Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Soloist

David and I watched the movie "The Soloist" last night. It's the story of a LA Times journalist befriending a homeless street musician struggling with schizophrenia. Robert Downey Jr. and Jamie Foxx do an outstanding job playing the leads, and the music is an added bonus. I thought it was a moving and compassionate story of mental illness and homelessness. The DVD has some additional features that are well worth watching. One of the directors of an agency in LA dedicated to helping those who are mentally ill and homeless makes the point that all of them are someone's brother, sister, father, mother, son, daughter. She also mentions that the cost of helping them is less than the cost of having them in the legal system. She gave some helpful hints about how to help this neglected part of the population and the joy that comes from serving them. The directors insisted on filming the actual location and used some of the homeless people there as extras in the movie. They learned that they don't have to fear those with mental illness and shooting the movie was a life-changing experience for them.

David struggled with it in parts because it hit too close to home. I offered to turn it off, but he said, no, he wanted to face his demons. He thought it was an accurate description of how mental illness feels. I worried about it affecting his mood, but he got up this morning willing and ready to keep fighting his disorder. His illness is far milder than that of the musician, Nathaniel Ayers, but he asked me why it is that he has a home and a loving family while so many others with his condition don't. I don't have a good answer for that, but we feel grateful that he does. He says the movie gave him additional motivation to staying on top of his disorder.

I was intrigued by the story, so I read a little more about it online, and ordered the book from Amazon. Steve Lopez is the journalist who took an interest in the homeless population of Los Angeles, and found his life enriched by the experience. I saw a clip from 60 Minutes about the story, and thought I share. I'm glad to see an accurate, compassionate, respectful treatment of mental health issues in a movie. I hope more will be produced that will help ease the stigma.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Camping and Hiking Report

Happy 09-09-09!

Our August was a month full of activities: the end of school, my stepmother's funeral, work, and home improvement projects. We also managed to fit in a camping trip with our son Jonathan, his wife, Tawnya, 2 granddaughters, Jenna (8) and Gabby (7), and our 2 dogs, Sunny and Lucy, our 8-month old lab-pointer mix pup.

The plan was to camp near a reservoir that David remembered going to with his grandparents when he was young. Memory must have enlarged the lake in his mind because there wasn't much there now. We set off to find another place to camp. David and I both like exploring little traveled roads, and most of the time we have a good experience. This time, however, we saw a promising camp area, and went down a road that was little more than a cattle trail with a grass-covered stream beside it. Unfortunately, we didn't see the stream until it was too late.

Four hours, 2 jacks, a bunch of rocks that Tawnya collected while I entertained the girls, and several choice words later, we were back on solid ground. It was a pretty area, though.

We eventually found a better camping spot, and spent the rest of the weekend relaxing, visiting, playing with the girls and the dogs, reading (I brought a James Thurber book; it was great), fishing, and some more exploring of the countryside (without further mishap). David also found a horse pasturing. He brought the horse back to camp, made a bridle, and after exploring for a while, found its home. He enjoyed being on horseback again, even though he was sore afterward. It was all worth the effort of packing up and going.

A few weeks later we went on a day hike to see a waterfall with our daughter Brittany and her family. The day was perfect for hiking: not to hot, with an occasional rain shower to keep us cool. Her husband, Wes, and son Dylan had been there before and were our guides. Part of the trail was steep and rocky, but Wes and David were good to help me over the roughest parts. Sunny was also there by my side; we decided he would have pushed me up over the hard parts if he could have. The view at the end of the hike was worth all of the effort to get there.

So it is with life. We go farther with help and encouragement from friends and families. Especially when we get to steep, rocky parts and we don't know what lies ahead. And when we put forth effort and faith to keep going, we are rewarded by strengthened friendships and spectacular views that we couldn't see when we were struggling up the path.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Post partum Depression

I read the August 2009 Ensign on Sunday, and came across an excellent article about Postpartum Depression. I'm glad the subject is finally out in the open and being addressed.

I still remember the excruciating emotional pain and bad, bad memories associated with postpartum depression twenty-nine years after I suffered from it. At the time I had no idea what was wrong with me. All I knew was that I had blinding headaches (caused, as it turned out, by an undiagnosed case of whiplash from a car accident the week before my daughter was born), crying spells, and little energy to take care of my 3 young children, a small married-student apartment and a demanding student-husband. I had been a happy-go-lucky person before, and it was confusing to me as to why the world suddenly seemed dark and hopeless. It would have been good to know what was happening, and may have helped my then-husband be more compassionate. I didn't have a name for what I had gone through until ten years later when I was expecting Katie, and the Dr. gave me a pamphlet on the subject. The lights went on, and I was finally able to start letting go of that part of the past.

There were a few things that I did to help myself during those dark days, including dragging myself and 3 babies to church every Sunday (the friendships and messages there were very comforting and helped me get through the week), listening to uplifting music and sermons, relying on prayer, thanks to the encouragement of my home teachers who came by at a critical moment to give me some desperately needed emotional support and a prayer, and reading scriptures and the Ensign.

A few years later I found myself working at the Ensign, and spent 25 years there doing typesetting and production work. It was a real joy and a great blessing to be associated with the magazine and the people who produce it. Over the years they have printed some fine articles about social and emotional health issues from a religious, spiritual viewpoint. I thought I'd include links to some of them, hoping that they might be of help:

* "Bipolar Disorder: My Lessons in Love, Hope, and Peace" January 2009.

* "Myths about Mental Illness," October 2005.

* "When Your Child is Depressed," August 2004.

* "Easing the Burdens of Mental Illness," October 2001.

* "Suicide: Some Things We Know, and Some We Do Not," October 1987.

Last year the LDS Church launched a site dedicated to helping family members, leaders and teachers reach out to those who have several different types of health challenges, including mental and emotional challenges. The site is still in the early stages, with more upgrades being planned, but the response has been overwhelmingly positive. The section about mental illness has basic, general information on the subject, along with some tips on how to help those who struggle, and additional links to other websites and articles. I especially appreciate the teaching ideas because David struggles with attending church on Sunday. The site is still new, but I expect that as the word about it spreads, it will be a help and comfort to those who come across it.

When I was working on my final paper, I was happy to find a newspaper story about a group of social work students at BYU who saw a need for clergy members to find answers when dealing with the mental health concerns of their congregations. They founded Clergy Bridge in an effort to help. All of these efforts and many others like them are important steps to reducing the stigma associated with mental health issues.

David has been struggling with his moods again, but he works hard to keep them under control. It helped that Sunday our home teacher and friend came by and spent an hour patiently listening to David talk about some of his concerns. We went on a walk afterward, and when he saw a friend's swamp cooler still covered, he asked them if they needed help with it. He says he decided that instead of complaining about what happened with our roofing episode, he was going to make the effort to reach out to others more. I am thrilled with the change of attitude.