Grief – Resurrection – Mission: Life as Mom in Grad School

27 03 2017

It is my Spring Break – alas, I have a bit of energy to blast a blog post.

I just read an article from the Presbyterian Outlook magazine regarding the first words Jesus spoke to his grieving  disciples in the first moments they meet him after resurrection. The author emphasized Jesus’ first words to be words of peace and then encouragement to send them back into action with the good news that he is alive, has conquered death, and is God incarnate (God/human) whose mission is to point people back to a genuine life of loving God and loving one another. Having just come out of a very emotionally and physically intense seminary quarter of study this past Tuesday (I was granted an extension on a final paper) and getting ready to start back into studies on Wednesday my soul somehow resonates at a perhaps lesser level in experiencing this cycle of working hard, falling into grief, surprise at resurrection, peace and then having to get myself back on task. Actually I feel this almost every quarter.

It doesn’t seem to be a very healthy cycle, but I’m almost certain it is normal for most graduate school students to have a similar experience we have ten weeks on the quarter system to open ourselves up to a fire hose of information with a requirement to filter what we can to produce deep theological and even new and surprising work. At the start, this doesn’t seem too daunting, but by the end it feels like one of those survivor type reality shows where you’re exhausted trying to get to the end and yet working as a team to hold one another up to accomplish the task together. We all have some type of obstacles trying to take us out through the quarter – finances, family, friendships, negative interactions with professors or struggles to complete the workload, work outside of school, health concerns, and more.

My obstacles this past Winter quarter have been a combination of timing of events:

  • Working through the beginnings of a major transition with our church that began the same week as winter quarter and added hours and emotional strain on church members and myself;
  • My husband’s structural engineering workload going overtime because the weather is getting warmer and people can build;
  • Deadlines or major events occurring at the same time for our daughter’s activities – normally it isn’t an issue to take them to a band/orchestra rehearsal, or an every other week girl scout troop meeting, or a sports practice. The difficulty was that all the concerts, cookie sales, basketball games, softball startup events, gearing up for martial arts testing and things requiring extra effort happened throughout the same three weekend/two week stretch of time – including my school finals week(s).
  • Also, ADHD – predominantly inattentive, is something I’m still learning to identify how my life is affected by this and trying out new strategies of which are and some are not effective and from there working to create new habits. However, it is not an easy feat to re-work forty years of very ingrained coping mechanisms to help my habits become a bit more healthy not only for myself, but my family, those I work with and serve, and those with whom I study.

All of this throws me into a frenzy at the end of each quarter and a type of exhausted grief and panic wondering if I will pass, am I worthy of continuing on for a Master of Divinity, and am I an imposter just thinking I can do this? Then by grace and with encouragement of God, professors, co-workers, family, and others I get the work done and anxiously await my grades and sleep – or stare at a wall – a lot. My grades come through and I pass – sometimes with ‘As’ sometimes with a C – but in my mind, a pass is a pass. I am overwhelmed with relief and peace. A few days later I begin receiving emails from Spring quarter professors with a list of books to quickly acquire and assignments to begin working on and have completed for the first day of class. Break and vacation are flexible terms in the life of a graduate student – we are quickly back on mission an ready to start the cycle all over again. Somehow we make it through. I am a part-time student (approx. 8 credits/quarter towards 120 credits total), in my third year, and still have two or three years of this mission left to go — Wheeeee!


Depression is…

25 01 2016

I wrote the follow “Depression is…” list almost two months ago, one day after my birthday, and kept it private. That was also the day I decided to re-fill a prescription after a few years to continue a medication to help me manage my depression. My depression is mild, but it hits me hard come stress and the dark days of winter.

Also this past summer, in July I decided to return to a counselor/therapist who helped me a lot and diagnosed my PMDD a few years ago. I returned because within one year’s time I had transitioned from being asked to go from full-time ministry to part-time ministry (40 hr/wk to 15 hrs/wk with children and youth and decided that also starting graduate school part-time would be a good thing. It was a good thing but it was A LOT of overwhelming transitions for myself and my family financially and schedule-wise. I’m glad I returned to see my therapist because she has been helping me get back to the core of who I am (who God made me to be) and helping me to develop skills for organizing my life as a wife, mother, minister, student, friend, daughter, and more.

So, I’m writing this now and making in public in case it might be helpful to someone in the doldrums of depression who may not realize it, and perhaps for myself in another year when I might need to read it. I hope to bring hope and peace.

Depression is… Ordering a sandwich you’ve been craving a long time via a smartphone app and holding back tears others would probably find silly when you show up and they say they are out of the ingredients.

Depression is … When you have a lot on your plate and you’re too overwhelmed by your perfectionism and paralyzed in even doing what is expected and needed because  you want to know you’ll do it right before you even begin.

Depression is … Listening to your child or a loved one through their concerns and sadness or getting up tin the middle of the night or early morning to selflessly help them even though you just want to sleep and sleep and sleep.

Depression is … Wishing you had the energy to want to do things with others and either declining because you don’t think you’re wanted (when you are) or pushing yourself extra hard to attend something.

Depression is … Not believing in your personal self worth when others have strong confidence in you.

Depression is … Thankfulness for those who wish you happy birthday and while maybe a party would be nice it is too much energy to organize. And with every person who wishes you happy birthday you smile and say thanks all the while wanting to cry and you don’t really know why – maybe because someone cares more about you than you do right now. Or you’re just tired and feel like crying, but still are thankful.

Depression is … Recognizing you are glad the form is sadness because in past years it has been In the form of anger displayed inwardly and outwardly. I would much rather have my children experience me as sad than as angry.

Depression is … turning things in late – yet again – and wondering why you can’t get out of this cycle of being a failure.

Depression is … re-reading this list a month and a half later and seeing how you’ve made it through those rough patches. Knowing that God works through therapists, medications, and a new year to show you can persevere through things even when life has you down, again.

Depression and PMDD

3 06 2013

Depression is a weird phenomena. I have been spiraling into a season of depression – yes I live in Washington state where we have some of the highest rates of SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), but it often seems to hit me in the Spring rather than the winter. I’m not sure why. I admit it isn’t as bad as last year or even two years ago. Last spring, my depression was more anger concentrated. I really felt very angry a lot of the time. I wanted to rip off the heads of my children (and any of their friends who annoyed me), cried because I couldn’t do anything right as a mother or a minister, a lot of performance anxiety as far as getting my job done as a mother, minister, and wife. Now it is more of a lack-of-motivation, lack-of-confidence-in-myself, insecurity-of-who-I-am, low self-worth, and always wanting to sleep and slip away from everyone else type of depression.

The hardest part about depression is coming out of the fog admitting it and then having to pick up all the pieces that have fallen apart and figuring out how to glue them back together and catch up with life. Having depression makes you feel worthless and then having to put life back together means you have to admit you’ve been slacking (somewhat on purpose – even though you didn’t realize it was happening). You have to apologize, but its not your fault. You have to work to get better, even though it is likely a condition you’ll always have. You want to get better and yet you feel so held back by all the hurdles in front of you. And even with a lot of support and encouragement from those surrounding you (which is helpful!), it is still hard to get going again because you’re afraid to let those you love and careful down – again.

A little over a year ago I was diagnosed with PMDD – PreMenstrual Dysphoric Disorder. Now, the new DSM-V does not acknowlege PMS as a disorder but is does acknowledge PMDD.  (Not to be confused with PPD, PostPartum Depression – or PTSD, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). It is a hormonal imbalance disorder that I have been gifted by my genes – I’ve discovered via conversations with my mother and observation of women in my family line.

I’m still figuring out how to live with PMDD, it might go away some day, it might stay with me forever. I have medication (flouxetine) and I believe that has helped me to manage a great deal of anger and anxiety. The next step is tackling the depression that I’m certain is both a product of and contributor to having PMDD.

I think I’m blogging about this to share with others why I may seem so “out of it” or non-committal to many things. I’m wanting to continue on with life, just needing naps to stave off fatigue and achy muscles and it sucks my motivation to get even the smallest tasks accomplished on time. I’m not intentionally lazy or whatever else one might label my actions. I do wish I could change it all over night and just make this bad dream go away.

Another thing about depression – living with it you still feel like your ‘illness’ is nothing compared to cancer (of whom I know so many are fighting), diabetes, and so many other physical ailments. It seems like it is something so easy to shake. All the research, articles, and blogs tell you it can be just as debilitating but you can’t bring yourself to believe it and you feel so ashamed of your lack of accomplishments.

Praying for my healing and praying for healing for others dealing with PMDD and depression and similar hidden illnesses today.

Depression Sucks

14 11 2011

I have depression – anyone else? It is risky for me to put this blog post out there, but I’m convincing myself that maybe it will help someone else or at least give me something to fall back on and hopefully see progress.

Depression is actually nothing new to my life. Except that it hasn’t been an ‘always’ underlying depression and it hasn’t been something to cure with medications. It happens with life transitions and sneaks up on me… very slowly seeps into my life and takes over my life before I even realize it is there. It always takes some good hard work but eventually I can push it out. Until it comes back again an I have to figure out how to keep going with life while kicking depression out. Below is a post I started several months ago. Somedays I feel better and other days I feel worse.

Fall/Winter is definitely settling in on us in Seattle. Dark before or by 5pm…the depression makes me want to go to bed so much earlier and yet being a mom and a wife doesn’t necessarily allow for that option. I’m realizing I’m going to have to work double time and not let it get the best of me in these dark days. Dear God, be with me in this and keep me strong.

begun on 6/9/11 
I have depression and it sucks. Literally. It sucks the live out of me and I hate it.

I recently began working with a therapist who it seems will be able to help me get my life back on track.

Things I could accomplish and look forward to accomplishing without depression holding me back:

* Not yelling at my children for every little thing. My poor kiddos some days, and of course they yell at each other, because that is what I do to them. Especially as we are going out the door to school and right before dinner and when they won’t get to bed. I know those are normal times to be frustrated with your children, but I know it is possible to be calmer and less perfectionistic in those situations than I am.

* Not annoyed at my husband and his work schedule vs my work schedule. I am the one with ‘flexible’ hours but I get so incredibly jealous that he gets to stay and meet his deadlines while I have to jet off at 2:30 p.m. almost every school day to pick up E and bring her to some activity. Of course after the activity is dinner, homework, bath, getting kiddos to bed, and then maybe clean the house or try to get some work done. Usually I just want to sleep though.

* Have a cleaner home. I wouldn’t just go straight to bed or stare at the internet or sit and wallow if I wasn’t depressed. I’d have the motivation and energy to get this pig stye cleaned up and organized. I did wash dishes tonight… because I can’t sleep. Doug and I always joke about (in a serious manner) how I would make an awful housewife. I rarely get anything done when I have a lot of time at home.

* Be happier… cry less about nothing. I sit and wallow and am hardly motivated. I have friends that right now in real time are dealing with breast cancer treatment, cleaning up a home swallowed in a mudslide, fundraising immediately for friends in need, have more kiddos than I do, are in major pain and taking care of younger kiddos on a regular basis, pregnant, have a newborn baby, etc. I’m constantly in awe of their simple daily accomplishments and wonder WTH is wrong that I can’t be motivated to enjoy life. I would have less negative tweets on Twitter and posts on FB. (edit-I’m actually updating and tweeting less on my depressed days because I’ve recognized this pattern. So if you wonder where I’ve gone either I’m fighting negativity or or perhaps I’m hopping from one thing to the next being productive. I’d prefer the latter.).

* Better able to do my ministry work – coordinating events and communicating with volunteers in a timely manner, supervising interns and leading a planning team more successfully and not so on the fly. Confident, rather than intimidated and paralyzed by fear, when what others will think of my ideas and propositions, and decisions.

* Communicate positively, let alone – on time or in a timely manner.

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