Monday, May 31, 2010

The Spirit of Anger

O My Soul:

Here is a excerpt from St. John Cassian, The Institutes.

"Book VIII. Of the Spirit of Anger.

Chapter I.

How our fourth conflict is against the sin of anger, and how manyevils this passion produces. In our fourth combat the deadly poison of anger has to be utterly rooted out from the inmost comers of our soul. For as long as this remains in our hearts, and blinds with its hurtful darkness the eyeof the soul, we can neither acquire right judgment and discretion,nor gain the insight which springs from an honest gaze, or ripeness of counsel, nor can we be partakers of life, or retentive of righteousness, or even have the capacity for spiritual and truelight: "for," says one, mine eye is disturbed by reason of anger."1 Nor can we become partakers of wisdom, even though we are considered wise by universal consent, for "anger rests in the bosom of fools."2 Nor can we even attain immortal life, although we are accounted prudent in the opinion of everybody, for "anger destroys even the prudent."3 Nor shall we be able with clear judgment of heart to secure the controlling power of righteousness, even though we arereckoned perfect and holy in the estimation of all men, for "thewrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God."4 Nor can we by any possibility acquire that esteem and honour which is so frequently seen even in worldlings, even though we are thought noble and honourable through the privileges of birth, because "an angry man is dishonoured."5 Nor again can we secure any ripeness of counsel, even though we appear to be weighty, and endowed with the utmostknowledge; because "an angry man acts without counsel."6 Nor can webe free from dangerous disturbances, nor be without sin, even though no sort of disturbances be brought upon us by others; because "apassionate man engenders quarrels, but an angry man digs up sins."7

Chapter II.

Of those who say that anger is not injurious, if we are angry withthose who do wrong, since God Himself is said to be angry. We have heard some people trying to excuse this most pernicious disease of the soul, in such a way as to endeavour to extenuate it by a rather shocking way of interpreting Scripture: as they say that it is not injurious if we are angry with the brethren who do wrong, since, say they, God Himself is said to rage and to be angry with those who either will not know Him, or, knowing Him, spurn Him, ashere "And the anger of the Lord was kindled against His people;"8 orwhere the prophet prays and says, "O Lord, rebuke me not in thine anger, neither chasten me in thy displeasure;"9 not understanding that, while they want to open to men an excuse for a most pestilent sin, they are ascribing to the Divine Infinity and Fountain of allpurity a taint of human passion.

Chapter III.

Of those things which are spoken of God anthropomorphically. For if when these things are said of God they are to be understood literally in a material gross signification, then also He sleeps, asit is said, "Arise, wherefore sleepest thou, O Lord?"10 though it is elsewhere said of Him: "Behold he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep."11 And He stands and sits, since He says, "Heaven is my seat, and earth the footstool for my feet:"12 though He "measure out the heaven with his hand, and holdeth the earth in his fist."13 And He is "drunken with wine" as it is said, "The Lord awoke like a sleeper, a mighty man, drunken with wine;"14 He "who only hath immortality and dwelleth in the light which no man canapproach unto:"15 not to say anything of the "ignorance"and "forgetfulness," of which we often find mention in Holy Scripture: nor lastly of the outline of His limbs, which are spokenof as arranged and ordered like a man's; e.g., the hair, head,nostrils, eyes, face, hands, arms, fingers, belly, and feet: if weare willing to take all of which according to the bare literal sense,we must think of God as in fashion with the outline of limbs, and abodily form; which indeed is shocking even to speak of, and must befar from our thoughts.

Chapter IV.

In what sense we should understand the passions and human arts which are ascribed to the unchanging and incorporeal God.And so as without horrible profanity these things cannot beunderstood literally of Him who is declared by the authority of HolyScripture to be invisible, ineffable, incomprehensible, inestimable,simple, and uncompounded, so neither can the passion of anger andwrath be attributed to that unchangeable nature without fearfulblasphemy. For we ought to see that the limbs signify the divinepowers and boundless operations of God, which can only be representedto us by the familiar expression of limbs: by the mouth we should understand that His utterances are meant, which are of His mercycontinually poured into the secret senses of the soul, or which Hespoke among our fathers and the prophets: by the eyes we canunderstand the boundless character of His sight with which He seesand looks through all things, and so nothing is hidden from Him ofwhat is done or can be done by us, or even thought. By theexpression "hands," we understand His providence and work, by whichHe is the creator and author of all things; the arms are the emblemsof His might and government, with which He upholds, rules andcontrols all things. And not to speak of other things, what else doesthe hoary hair of His head signify but the eternity and perpetuity of Deity, through which He is without any beginning, and before alltimes, and excels all creatures? So then also when we read of the anger or fury of the Lord, we should take it not... according to an unworthy meaning of human passion,16 but in a sense worthy of God, who is free from all passion; so that by this weshould understand that He is the judge and avenger of all the unjustthings which are done in this world; and by reason of these terms andtheir meaning we should dread Him as the terrible rewarder of ourdeeds, and fear to do anything against His will. For human nature iswont to fear those whom it knows to be indignant, and is afraid ofoffending: as in the case of some most just judges, avenging wrath isusually feared by those who are tormented by some accusation of theirconscience; not indeed that this passion exists in the minds of thosewho are going to judge with perfect equity, but that, while they sofear, the disposition of the judge towards them is that which is theprecursor of a just and impartial execution of the law. And this,with whatever kindness and gentleness it may be conducted, is deemedby those who are justly to be punished to be the most savage wrathand vehement anger. It would be tedious and outside the scope of thepresent work were we to explain all the things which are spokenmetaphorically of God in Holy Scripture, with human figures. Let itbe enough for our present purpose, which is aimed against the sin ofwrath, to have said this that no one may through ignorance draw downupon himself a cause of this evil and of eternal death, out of thoseScriptures in which he should seek for saintliness and immortality asthe remedies to bring life and salvation."

end of excerpt.

Hope in Christ &
God bless you.


Friday, May 28, 2010

Things Learned from Childhood Depression

O My Soul:

I have mentioned a few things about my childhood here, here, and here which impacted this. So what of it. Can those soul shaping events be called good in any sense of the word good?

Here are a few things I have learned in hindsight:

1. There is nothing new under the sun. For as bad as domestic violence and abortion are, they are not an uncommon experiences. I know Christian parents who are violent, sometimes physically but more often verbally. I teach their children and I pain in there eyes. I've heard parents justify themselves in many and various ways. I've heard parents weep over children they aborted.

2. Mental illness is one kind of illness between being conceived in sin and death. Sin sickness is the root of both physical and mental illness. The kind of sickness we experience vary, but no one is spared. We all die.

3. Some sin is thrust upon us by others and some sin is my very own. I did hurt as a result of my parents physical and verbal sins. However, I eventually sinned against others.

4. Time does not heal sin but absolution does and that's OK. I am thankful to my pastors who have listened and opened my ears to again hear my Savior speak to me and deliver His gifts to me. The Office of the Keys is given to the church on earth to forgive the sins of the repentant and withhold forgiveness from the unrepentant. My pastors, over the years, have listened and absolved and that is O.K. (Office of the Keys)

5. The memory of sin is not forgotten. I live with the various crosses that God in His goodness has seen good to give me. I can always remember real sins that make me a lifetime member among sinners. I am also baptized and living the baptized life of being preached to, absolved, and communed as an antidote to my sin against the true God whom I've offended.

6. I am dependent on Christ. I may have a Dependent Personality Disorder, but it helps me rely on Christ, His gifts, and remain in His community to be cared for.

7. Mental and Physical illness is not Christian suffering. All people have that kind of suffering. Christian suffering is remaining in the faith. Faith is impossible but given as a gift. Christian suffering then is the struggle to respond to the sins of others in mercy (not punishing them the way they deserve) and grace (give them good gifts even though they don't deserve anything good, such as praying for them and serving them according to their needs). And even more importantly, receiving the grace and mercy of God the way He gives it even in the midst of my sins (Word and Sacrament).

So, these are a few lessons in hindsight.

Hope in Christ &
God bless you.


Friday, May 21, 2010

Creation (not machine)

O My Soul:

In hindsight, I have tended to think of myself as a machine rather than a creature of God. I see it taking various forms at various times and seasons of my life but its always there.

I told my body to lift weights and play sports during my teenage years. My body responded well. I became stronger, faster, and a better athlete for the effort. I loved it and enjoyed the experience sports and the competition.

I told my mind to think during my college years. My mind responded well. I learned so much and loved that part of the college experience.

I told myself to work hard well into my adulthood and the paychecks have always been appreciated. As the work become more involved, I enjoyed the challenge.

Emotions have always been a different animal. If I felt like I was in control of a machine, then why did I so often feel so bad. Emotions just don't fit well with machines.

Mind you, I'm a Christian (a pastor to boot). I never actively viewed myself as a machine. This view was just the background to my whole way of life. I confessed the faith while practicing that faith from the point of view of material atheism.

For many reasons, I'm thankful that I am one of God's creation. He made me and knows me. He delights in me because I am His. I can cast all my anxieties upon Him because He is taking care of me.

One of the lingering effects of clinical depression is that I'm no longer the person I once was. I can no longer always push myself physically or emotionally and achieve what I hope. Big goals seem a little farther out of my grasp. I tire more easily also. I need to be cared for by others a little more.

This is hard but not overwhelming.

God has given me a doctor who just last week recommended I lower my SSRI dosage. I'm a little nervous about that but the summer is a lower stress time of the year for me.

God has given me (through my medical doctor) a short list of clinical psychologists specializing in the cognitive behavioral school of psychology. I only need to talk to them and see which one I relate to best (trust) and work on improving some of my coping skills.

God has also given me another Father-confessor. I miss my old one but I'm the one who moved away. He is still my friend. This new Father-confessor has many of the same traits as the old. I think it will go well.

For these gifts I am thankful. It also takes the burden off my wife who tries so hard to take care of me only to find I'm a moving target and dealing with things she doesn't understand. This way she can be my wife rather than doctor, counselor, and pastor.

I believe God made me and all creatures; that He has given me my body and soul, eyes, ears, and all my members, my reason and all my senses, and still takes care of them.

He also gives me clothing and shoes, food and drink, house and home, wife and children, land, animals, and all I have. He richly and daily provides me with all that I need to support this body and life.

He defends me against all danger and guards and protects me from all evil. All this He does only out of fatherly, divine goodness and mercy, without any merit or worthiness in me. For all this it is my duty to thank and praise, serve and obey Him.

This is most certainly true.

(Here is a the musical setting for Luther's hymn version of the Apostles' Creed: We all believe in one true God.)

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Top Ten List to Fight Depression: Updated

O My Soul:

Here is an update on my Top Ten List from last July:

Top Ten helpful hints for your journey to healing and cure from major/clinical depression:


10. Read aloud from the Psalms and/or the Gospel of St. John.

update: I'm leading public Matins at church Monday through Thursday & a psalm upon waking most mornings.

9. Take your doctor prescribed anti-depressant medication.

update: I don't often forget.

8. Run three miles.

update: good idea but hasn't happened much since early December.


7. Give 10 minutes per day focused attention on each of your three children.

update: going well. When attention isn't given, in a few days they are fighting with each other much more than usual.

6. Do the homework assigned by your therapist.

update: so, so.


5. Stretch lightly for up to 20 minutes.

update: never happened. Not even once. And no plans to start.

4. Debrief with your wife and then together with God about any pain you have experienced going about your God given vocations as His child, husband, father, pastor, son, citizen, etc.

update: not yet, but it is still something that we may work toward.

3. Give thanks to God for the family, friends, and congregation He has given to you.

update: often. The more I give thanks to God and say thank you to others, the more I feel thankful for all that has been given to me.


2. Take two days off per week from anything at the church (Monday and Friday).

update: I am regularly taking off both Friday and Saturday. One day for rest and household chores. One day for family. This is a blessing. I am beginning to nip my workaholism in the bud. I'm rested and enjoy my work when I return to it.

And Finally:

1. Chill out! It will be ok. Your heavenly Father gave you this cross and He is near to you while taking care of you in the midst of these dark days.

update: doing well. I have my moments, but issues and events don't consume my thoughts. My anxiety is lower. My depression is not as severe. My outbursts of anger are reduced to short, snippy comments rather than breaking things in a rage and reducing the people around me to tears. So, yeah, I'm doing well. Thanks for asking;)

And remember:
Hope in Christ.

God bless you,

Illness Close to Glenn’s heart

O My Soul:

May is Mental Illness Awareness month.

One of the most well known public advocates at this time is actress Glenn Close. You can see a Public Service Announcement she did with her sister in this video and also in a previous post here along with an interview.

But here is an article update from the Boston Herald you might be interested to read:

Illness Close to Glenn’s heart

What About the OMS Family?

O My Soul:

This post is on the lighter side as I continue to think about Dependent Personality Disorder and how it effects me and my family. I have noticed that as the depression and anxiety lessens something else emerges. I notice a need for others in a possibly unhealthy way.

This first video is a movie trailer from the movie, "What about Bob?" It sets up the second video which is a portrayal of a Dependent Personality Disorder acted out by funnyman Bill Murray. His explanation of symptoms, his relationship to his counselor and his counselor's family is humorus but enlightening. I sort fell that as I journey towards health - I'm making my poor wife a little crazy. I'm becoming the fun one with the kids. They love the new dad, mom is just mom. Just the other day I was playing with the kids when the youngest (pre-school) yells from the bathroom, "Hey MOM! I need a wipe in here."

If that is not enough, here is Bill Murray in the trailer for What About Bob? And then a case study of Bob as suffering from Dependent Personality Disorder. Enjoy.

Oh. And pray for the whole OMS family. We would appreciate it.


Case Study:

And remember:
Hope in Christ &
God bless you.


Monday, May 17, 2010

Doxology: The Lutheran Center for Spiritual Care

O My Soul:

I attended the three part program offered by Doxology: The Lutheran Center for Spiritual Care. I commend to you this video along with my recommendation to pastors and their congregations to attend. I also provided a link to some of their work in the sidebar under Lutheran Resources.


Sunday, May 16, 2010

Weight Loss and the Soul

O My Soul:

I have never thought myself in need of weight loss. I don't really care for the hit show Biggest Loser as much as my family does. Just the title is a pun on depressive self talk. But my doctor recommended I get my cholesterol numbers in a healthier range or ten years down the road I'll be meeting with him a lot.

He gave that advice a few years ago. My new doctor said the same thing. Cholesterol medication helps. Running also helps but I haven't run since last fall. I have been walking and am now looking at running again. All these activities help lower my 300+ cholesterol which is good since I have a family history of heart disease to contend with.

However, nothing helps like a little weight loss. I noticed the impact it had on my cholesterol a few years ago. 10 pounds is about a 50 point cholesterol reduction. So I joined Weight Watchers in February.

Last Thursday, on week thirteen, I met the 10% milestone. I've lost 10% of my bodyweight. This week I'll also have blood draw and meet with my doctor next week.

If you looked at a before and after picture you would see no significant difference.

And yet my wife calls me her biggest loser. I'll let her get away with it.

Do I feel any different? No.

Will I keep at it? Yes.

Do I recommend Weight Watchers? Yes.

Why? because it works. Weight Watchers is not a diet but information and encouragement to change behaviors. That's why it works. Week after week, slowly but surely the information and changes result in weight loss.

When I hit my 30 pound weight loss target, I hope to remain in Weight Watchers for one year to reinforce all the changes. And the changes have not been that hard.

Hope in Christ &
God bless you.


Saturday, May 15, 2010

Dependent Personality Disorder

O My Soul:

I've mentioned two overshadowing events in my life here and here that have shaped my soul to this day. I am coming to learn that I may now be dealing with symptoms of Dependent Personality Disorder in adulthood.

Here are the diagnostic criteria for Dependent Personality Disorder used by psychologists:

A pervasive and excessive need to be taken care of that leads to submissive and clinging behavior and fears of separation, beginning by early adulthood and present in a variety of contexts, as indicated by five (or more) of the following:

(1) has difficulty making everyday decisions without an excessive amount of advice and reassurance from others

(2) needs others to assume responsibility for most major areas of his or her life

(3) has difficulty expressing disagreement with others because of fear of loss of support or approval. Note: Do not include realistic fears of retribution.

(4) has difficulty initiating projects or doing things on his or her own (because of a lack of self-confidence in judgment or abilities rather than a lack of motivation or energy)

(5) goes to excessive lengths to obtain nurturance and support from others, to the point of volunteering to do things that are unpleasant

(6) feels uncomfortable or helpless when alone because of exaggerated fears of being unable to care for himself or herself

(7) urgently seeks another relationship as a source of care and support when a close relationship ends

(8) is unrealistically preoccupied with fears of being left to take care of himself or herself

Are you, like me, unfamiliar with what a personality disorder is? This video may be helpful to give a general description of a personality disorder and the different kinds that exist.

I'm still processing this so more later. Until then,

Hope in Christ &
God bless you.


Friday, May 14, 2010

The Ascension is Given to Us

O My Soul:

The Ascension of Jesus Christ is so comforting to me. The angles told the disciples all of us that Jesus is not where we think He should be, but where He Himself has promised to be. So why are you looking into the heavens when your Savior is at those places where He puts His name.

I am baptized. His name is on me so I may be bold to pray and bold to go to His table to receive His body and blood into my mouth for the forgiveness of my sins.

I point you to an Issues Etc. radio broadcast of a gentle pastor and friend who is also theologian emeritus with Concordia Seminary in St. Louis.

This is the first time I have heard the Rev. Dr. Norman Nagel's voice since his stroke about two years ago. He was interviewed earlier this week from his nursing home.

Thank you Dr. Nagel.

Hope in the Ascended Christ &
God bless you.


Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Emotional Quotient and Compassion Fatigue

O My Soul:

I continue to work on my Emotional Intelligence (also called Emotional Quotient). Lately, I've been working on increasing my awareness concerning how I make others feel but also how others are making me feel. This emotional dialog does play a factor in communication for better or for worse.

For example, I have been increasing awareness of my physical gestures as I listen and talk with others. However, I'm also trying to be aware of how others are making me feel and how those feelings (more than my thoughts and good intentions) affect others.

Lately, I feel tired. I am wondering why I feel so tired. I have been sleeping well, eating well, and taking my medications. My wife and I are getting along very well. We are settled into our new home. I like the congregation a lot.

Maybe I like the new congregation too much. I'm thinking I on the beginning descent into Compassion Fatigue. I think I might be trying to play God instead of pastor. Just look at my past week:

Physical illness: One person's detached retina turned into heart attack then kidney failure but she's doing better. Another person had a kidney removed due to a mass growing on it. A school girl had surgery on her ankle to remove an extra bone? the other ankle will be operated on in a few months.

Mental Illness: Discussion about depression and alcoholism in one family and making a plan to assist them. A shut-ins sorrow three months after the death of her husband. One person I have no idea what to think.

Spiritual Illness: Elderly man talked about how he was sodomized against his will as a teenager but with his consent for a time in middle age; very repentant. A couple resigned to divorce, but not repentant.

Congregational Governance: The congregational by-laws do not reflect how the congregation makes congregational decisions, which greatly upsets a few people. recommendation to be presented by a task for to Voters' Assembly.

And that is just the last week.

These situation keep turning over in my mind. Morning Matins is great. I debrief with God in prayer at night which is great. I am able to sleep but I feel myself getting tired.

The beginning of compassion fatigue is trying to please all people. Trying to be God instead of pastor. I can visit, speak from the psalms and scripture, pray, bless, and in all point to Christ but I can't solve the problems or give a quick fix to the people. Sometimes I need to speak things I would rather avoid (law) and good things (gospel) to people I don't really like. It all ups the stress.

So far so good. I am more aware of this because of the Emotional Quotient skills I'm developing, but there is room for improvement.

Hope in Christ &
God bless you.


Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Contentment is a Gift

O My Soul:

I had a great time with fellow pastors this morning. Once per month we meet for what is called our Circuit Meeting. We are all on the same page when it comes to issues of God's Word and how that is practiced within the congregations at which we serve.

We began with a Matin Service and Scripture study in the morning with lunch (Chinese buffet - yum) and practical concerns in the afternoon.

I'm content. And contentment is a gift from God.

Content with my wife, children, friends, congregation, and colleagues. All blessings from God. And today I give thanks to God for them all.

Hope in Christ &
God bless you.


Sunday, May 9, 2010

Blessed Mother's Day

O My Soul:

Why is Mother's Day written in the singular possessive? If it was a day for all mothers it should be plural possessive, ie. Mothers' Day. The church fathers spoke of the church as the mother of all believers. If there is only one mother it is the church, the community of saints.

I am calling my mom and step mom today. I'm also arranging the living room to make room for the present to my wife (matching lazy boys chairs - ok I am celebrating Father's Day, too). But to mother church, for whom Christ died, I give thanks as well.

Here is a beautiful hymn about mother church triumphant from Bernard of Cluny (12th century) entitled Jerusalem the Golden.

Hope in Christ &
God bless you


Friday, May 7, 2010

Precious Child

O My Soul:

It happened in High School study hall.

She leaned over and whispered, "guess what?"

Without missing a beat, I answered, "your pregnant." And you know what? I was right! I know! I was so hoping to be wrong but I had had this awful feeling in my gut for a few weeks not to mention that she was my girlfriend so I knew this was all in the realm of possibility.

I drove her home from school and we talked a bit. Then I went home.

My Roman Catholic mom had just tied a ribbon around the front yard maple tree. It was in remembrance of all the abortions since the Roe v Wade supreme court decision. She was also helping the Right to Life in our county by manning their crisis hot-line on Friday nights. (my girlfriend called that night but she didn't know she was talking to my mom and my mom didn't know it was my girlfriend.)

The abortion was my brilliant idea. I was scared to my core. It was the same kind of fear I wrote about in My Childhood Introduction to PTSD Part 2 post, but this was much worse. My dad didn't do it. My mom didn't do. My little brother did cause this mess. This pain was all me. Not only did I want to deny my 6th commandment sin like King David did, but I was also fully aware that I committing the 5th commandment sin of murder in the eyes of God. David's account is recorded in 2 Samuel 11.

My parents, at their worst behavior, never even hinted at my physical harm.

I was scared. I had many reasons to do what I did but at the core of it I was scared like I was never scared before. When I was younger I was easily excitable. But was magnitudes beyond an excitable personality. I can now see I had a bad case of depression that lasted throughout most of college. I had a low view of myself. No zest for learning. I excused any poor grades. My sin morphed into mental illness (self-diagnosed some twenty years later). However, toward the end of college I was doing much, much better. I was becoming excited about life for the first time in a long time.

I was catechized into the Lutheran church with Martin Luther's Small Catechism and read the Augsburg Confession. Sweet, sweet Gospel.

I was fine for quite awhile until around my 10 year High School reunion. Many memories returned. The pain. The fear. I was recently married but this was not cold feet, this was the deep accusation of murder and that I didn't deserve a family. I had also learned, about that time, that women will experience something like Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome about 7 years after an abortion. I was experiencing something similar and yet different. I was the aggressor in the abortion. I did not pray for the child or for his mother either.

So, I met with my pastor and received counsel from him about the abortion. I received private confession. He led me through a service ... a funeral service. He was fully vested. I wore a suit. I cried for the first time.

I also went to my High School reunion and had a good talk with and reconciled with my old girlfriend. She was happily married and had two children.

Why did I write this post now? I have been thinking a lot about my childhood lately. Especially the soul shaping events (and yes mostly the bad ones - but I have many good ones as well). But my reason has more to do with the calendar.

The abortion took place on May 8, 1985. My child would be about 24 years old. This is the time of year when I grieve.

Shortly after the abortion, I wrote a poem. I never wrote it down and I have forgotten most of it except this line:

Precious child, do not cry, your life was not of dreams.

Twenty five years later I still remember you. The pain seems to increase over the years. The pain reminds me of my need for a Savior. For that I'm thankful.

Thanks be to God that He sent Christ to atone for my sins. He is a gracious and merciful Savior at that. Sometimes the darkness is great but He who is the Light of the world is greater. I am forgiven in the midst of this burden. Again, thanks be to God.

Most recently, I read this blog post from Pastor Matt Harrison entitled Comfort to Women Who Have Had a Miscarriage. I entrust it to you for your reading.

And to you gentle readers:

I urge you to hope in Christ &
God bless you always.


Thursday, May 6, 2010

Anti-Anxiety Behavior

O My Soul:

As you know, last weekend I became afraid I was falling into a major bout of anxiety and then depression. Read about it here and here if you haven't.

I am becoming more aware that I'm not aware of my emotions. I live in my head. It is how I cope. I think through the problem at hand, but I can easily get stuck at the implementation of a solution. So I continue to think about the problem. I over analyze and under act. Wha-la: I get stuck in my head. My counselor told me this awhile ago and has repeated it but it is only now starting to sink in - to my head.

So here are a few things I'm learning about feelings and how to become more aware of my feelings:

1. Feelings, unlike thoughts, involve a total body reaction. Feelings can increase heart rate, respiration, perspiration, and even shaking or trembling.

2. Feelings give energy. If I can express my feelings, I'll feel more energetic. If I'm unable to give expression to my emotional state, I may feel lethargic, numb, tired, or depressed. Blocked or withheld feelings can lead to anxiety.

3. Feelings are often contagious. Hang around a sad person and I may become sad. Hang around a happy person and I may become happy.

What I have noticed is that I will express my emotions --- if I know what I'm feeling. The problem is that I'm a bit like a frog in a pot of water coming to a slow boil. The frog will stay in the water until he is boiled to death. I, too, go from calm to panic/anger without realizing all the emotions I experience up to that point.

What can I do? I'm going to start with body awareness. So:

1. Physically relax.

2. Ask myself, "What am I feeling right now?"

3. Be aware of my heart and gut which is often the seat of emotional sensations.

4. Wait and listen as an observer while not trying to judge what I'm feeling. Simply wait until something emerges.

5. If I draw a blank or am still stuck in my head, go back to step one and start over.

6. Once I obtain a sense of what I'm feeling, it may help to make it more concrete by answering the following questions:

a. Where in my body is this feeling?
b. What is the shape of this feeling?
c. What is the size of this feeling?
d. If this feeling had a color, what would it be?

More on all this later. But please remember, this is way outside my comfort zone. My coping mechanism are all in my head and my head has helped me to survive a lot of bad stuff. But it's only a survival technique that obviously hasn't been working very well for a long time. I need new skills and the above may help.

In the meantime:

Hope in Christ &
God bless you


Monday, May 3, 2010

I Was Exhausted

O My Soul:

I wrote about my fear of an oncoming bout of anxiety and depression in Saturday's post entitled May Day and the Battle Within.

Well, I followed my own advice. I ate well, slept a lot, and paced myself through yesterday's activities.

Yesterday's sermon was ok. The Bible study ok with a good discussion. I kept my three scheduled afternoon visits but spent the evening with my family and went to bed early.

No anxiety attack.

No crippling depression.

I was just physically exhausted and needed some rest.

Today, I'm tired but on Saturday I was simply exhausted.

What amazes me is that I cannot read myself. I push myself like a machine only to be confused when I get tired and then exhausted and then, continuing to push, I get sick.

The good news is that I have not had a cold in over a year. Maybe I'm learning to rest more than I give myself credit.

Today, I feel tired (not exhausted) but am excited for what today may bring. I am certain that my energy will continue to increase.

Hope in Christ &
God bless you


Saturday, May 1, 2010

May Day & The Battle Within

O My Soul:

This year, my May Day experience has more to do with a distress signal than a spring festival. I just don't feel right.

The American mythological icon, Spiderman, has the ability to sense danger before it happens. When he has that sense, he says that his spider senses are tingling.

Today, my equivalent of those spider senses are tingling. I feel like my anxiety is on the rise and will be followed by a bout of depression.

Why? I don't know. It's just a hunch. It could be a culmination of the following:

1. A Voters' Assembly last Monday. Things went well, but it was emotional.

2. Last day of Confirmation on Wednesday. Confirmation Day was Palm Sunday but my Wednesday schedule was spent planning a pizza party and Bible bowl.

3. Thursday I felt like I was catching a cold. Maybe I still am.

4. Gained weight at my Weight Watchers weigh-in. (totally ok with me but my body is not doing well even though I've been treating it well.)

5. Writing about my childhood. (Click here for that story.)

What will I do to help prevent or at least lessen the depth of what I think is happening?

1. I'm going to bed early. Like 8:30pm after prayer.

2. Arrive at church by 5:30am maybe 6 to slowly and quietly pray and then review the 9:00 service and 10:30 Bible study.

3. Keep the three schedule pastoral visits short and to the point.

4. Eat well.

5. Go to bed early again tomorrow night.

I'll let you know how things went. Until then,

Hope in Christ &
God bless you