Showing posts with label Coping with bipolar. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Coping with bipolar. Show all posts

Friday, June 13, 2008

Lack of Motivation : How to motivate myself when going through depression

How do you motivate yourself when you go through depression? Or how do you cope with a lack of motivation to do things?

With bipolar disorder (manic-depressive illness), whenever I am well or hypomanic, I enjoy my family, church, work, photography, briskwalkings, making homemade bookmarks and other crafts and gifts, writing, blogging, etc.

But when I go through a relapse of clinical depression, all my motivation to do things seemed to disappear! Do you experience this too?

I felt extremely tired and easily tired. I have no heart nor energy to do anything. Waking up each morning seemed to be most difficult. I dread to wake up to face another day. I don't think I have the energy to face another day.

When severely depressed, it takes a lot to effort to even attend to basic general hygiene. I remembered days when I go without bathing or washing my face!

Eating takes too much effort as I don't have appetite. Exercise became extremely difficult because I was too tired.

Actually during clinical depression, it was due to the chemical imbalance in my brain that I am not able to enjoy anything in general.

But when I am not doing very much, I began to believe that I am useless, ineffective, inadequate, helpless and incapable of achieving anything. These negative thoughts make me feel more discouraged and in turn reduced my ability to do things. It becomes harder and harder to wake up each morning and to attend to my usual activities. This become a visual cycle and it has been called the lethargic circuit.

How to break this lethargic circuit and derive motivation to face each day?

For me, praying to God and reading the Bible daily, is my first weapon to break this lethargic circuit. I realized that unless God gives me the grace and strength to cope, I will not have the energy nor the desire to face another day.

Thank God for His faithfulness in helping me to cope. God sent me many kind friends who prayed and encouraged me. God also led me to read useful books and articles on how to manage clinical depression.

I am learning and doing the following which is helping me to break the lethargic circuit and derive motivation to face each day and to do things:

1) I am learning to wake up at the same time each day though I dread waking up. I realized that once I am up, I am able to do some things after all. I also try to sleep at the same time every night so that I get enough sleep. Insufficient sleep or rest can worsen depression.

2) I am learning to eat my meals regularly and as nutritiously as possible. Though I don't have much appetite and eating seems to be such an effort, I realized that I need all the energy and nutrition to fight this depression and therefore I must eat! I try to eat more vegetable and fruits to gain more vitamins and nutrition.

3) I am learning to exercise regularly. Exercise seemed so difficult at first as I am so tired daily. But I am learning that exercise is important to build up my strength and stamina. So I learn to start slowly and daily. I find that as the days go by, I began able to exercise longer. My body and mind becomes stronger. Exercise release good chemicals to help us fight depression.

I enjoy briskwalking. I go for briskwalks whenever I can. Sometimes I exercise by walking on my brother's treadmill or stationery bike.

4) I am learning to create a routine. I realized that without a routine, I tend to avoid doing things as I no longer enjoy anything. This will only caused me to remain in the lethargic circuit. To break this lethargic circuit, I learn to plan my days. I schedule regular exercise and some activities that I enjoy for each day. I found that with every task that I managed to complete, I began to feel motivated to do more. I began to experience a sense of accomplishment.

5) Break tasks into smaller portions. When going through depression, every tasks seemed so difficult. It's hard to began to do anything. Procastination sets in. To avoid this, I am learning to break my tasks into smaller and more manageable portions. I try to do only a portion each day and I found that I was able to get things done slowly. This again gives me a sense of accomplishment and the motivation to do more.

6) I am learning to be patient and not to be too hard with myself. I try to remember that I am unwell now and it takes time to rebuild my body and mind. So when I failed to accomplish what I planned for the day, I learn to tell myself, it's okay. I will try harder tomorrow. Or I break the task into even smaller portions.

7) I am learning not to let my negative thoughts or feelings prevent me from daily activities. I am learning that my feelings during depression are not necessarily valid. They often have little bearing on the truth. My feelings of being too depressed to cope do not mean that I will not be able to cope when I am actually in a situation. So I am learning to ask God for strength to cope with daily challenges despite my depression.

I am thankful to God for His mercies and faithfulness in helping me to cope each day. This relapse of clinical depression is yet another learning experience for me to learn to manage my bipolar disorder better. It is also another opportunity for me to experience God's love, goodness and mercies in many wonderful ways. God's Words and His presence with me is my daily encouragement and strength.

I am also thankful to my family, my church and my friends for prayers and support. I am thankful to all of you, my dear blogging friends and visitors, for your prayers, encouragements and support in this difficult time. Thanks for all your suggestions on how to manage depression and for sharing your life and experiences with me. I have so much to learn!

How about you? How do you motivate yourself to do things when you go through depression?

Thanks for stopping by! Hope you have a blessed day.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Overcoming Discouragements

Whenever I go through an episode of clinical depression, I feel as if I am wearing dark-glasses. Everything around me looks gloomy. The sun seems to have eclipsed behind the dark cloud. It is too easy to forget that behind those dark cloud the sun is still shining. And after darkness, will be the light. After the night, morning will come.

When I realized recently that I have once again slipped into clinical depression despite medications and efforts to cope, I was quite discouraged. I realized afresh that my battle with bipolar disorder is still an ongoing one. My hypomanic episodes will alternates with my clinical depression. I realized afresh the importance of managing hypomanic and stress better so that I minimize the tendency to overstrain myself and from burn out and clinical depression.

That morning when I was most discouraged, I poured out my heart to God in prayers. I asked God to strengthen my heart and give me the strength and grace to cope, and to live for Him.

God in His mercies spoke Words of comfort and uplifted my soul to Himself. I read the following encouraging devotional by CH Spurgeon.

God reminded me afresh that in life, we will face various ups and downs. After the morning, evening will come. And after evening, morning will come. Both mornings and evenings have their usefulness. God is with me through the mornings and evenings of my life.

I realized that my experiences with clinical depression is once again being used of God to draw me closer to Himself. I am cast entirely upon God. I know that unless God gives me the strength and grace to cope, I shall plunged deeper into depression when negative thoughts and doubts overwhelmed me.

I am learning to challenge my negative and faulty thoughts, recognizing that they are the effect of chemical imbalance in my brain. While waiting for the chemical in my brain to be restored, I am looking to God and actively seeking to identify faulty thoughts and reverse these thoughts and do that which is right in the sight of God. I read the Bible and speak to my own soul, counselling myself with God's Words to think aright and not believe my faulty thoughts.

If you are struggling with depression, everything will look very gloomy and negative. Know that it is not true. It is the chemical imbalance in your brain that takes away your ability to think and feel aright. Learn to identify these negative and faulty thoughts and to challenge them with more rational and biblical view. These will help you to see things in a more balance view and it can prevent further spiral down into deeper depression. Do read Dr David P Murray's message on Depression - The Condition and The Cure.

I realized that experiencing clinical depression once again is helping me to understand afresh the pain, agonies and discouragement that those who are going through clinical depression will experience every day. I sincerely believe that God is using this experience to enable me once again to be able to feel for others in their sufferings. When I am well, I will be able to be more effective in supporting and helping others who undergoes discouragements due to clinical depression.

So it is my prayers that this experience will not be wasted but that God will draw me nearer to Himself to depend upon His love and sufficiency, and God will make me more useful in His kingdom in helping others who struggles with clinical depression or other discouragements and sufferings.

Thanks once again for all of you, my dear friends, for stopping by and for praying for me and encouraging me. Thank God for all of you!

Thank God for His mercies and faithfulness in strengthening me day by day. I will continue to look to God and seek to serve Him in small ways during this time, and wait for Him for restoration.

Thanks again for stopping by! Hope the devotional from Spurgeon will bring some encouragements to you too.

“The evening and the morning were the first day.” Genesis 1:5

Was it so even in the beginning?

Did light and darkness divide the realm of time in the first day?

Then little wonder is it if I have also changes in my circumstances from the sunshine of prosperity to the midnight of adversity.

It will not always be the blaze of noon even in my soul concerns, I must expect at seasons to mourn the absence of my former joys, and seek my Beloved in the night.

Nor am I alone in this, for all the Lord’s beloved ones have had to sing the mingled song of judgment and of mercy, of trial and deliverance, of mourning and of delight.

It is one of the arrangements of Divine providence that day and night shall not cease either in the spiritual or natural creation till we reach the land of which it is written, “there is no night there.” What our heavenly Father ordains is wise and good.

What, then, my soul, is it best for thee to do?

Learn first to be content with this divine order, and be willing, with Job, to receive evil from the hand of the Lord as well as good.

Study next, to make the outgoings of the morning and the evening to rejoice. Praise the Lord for the sun of joy when it rises, and for the gloom of evening as it falls. There is beauty both in sunrise and sunset, sing of it, and glorify the Lord. Like the nightingale, pour forth thy notes at all hours.

Believe that the night is as useful as the day. The dews of grace fall heavily in the night of sorrow. The stars of promise shine forth gloriously amid the darkness of grief.

Continue thy service under all changes. If in the day thy watchword be labour, at night exchange it for watch.

Every hour has its duty, do thou continue in thy calling as the Lord’s servant until he shall suddenly appear in his glory.

My soul, thine evening of old age and death is drawing near, dread it not, for it is part of the day; and the Lord has said, “I will cover him all the day long.”

(Taken from CH Spurgeon's Morning and Evening, 1 June, Morning)

Friday, May 30, 2008

I am with you always

Dear Friends,

Thank you very much for stopping by! Thanks for all your prayers and encouragements.

Just a short update on my current condition.

With bipolar disorder, whenever I am well, I am usually kind of hypomanic. Writing and reading is a breeze. My thoughts flow naturally and I can write a lot. I also tend to talk a lot. You can see from my past postings on this blog that I tend to post very long posts and almost every day.

But now I am rather slowed down. My thoughts are dis-jointed. My concentration level is low. Reading and writing takes much effort. Even talking is difficult. When I am a little better, I will tend to want to read, write and talk. But I will be terribly exhausted after that.

So I am coping by cutting down on activities that tire me out.

I learn to lower my expectations of self by not expecting myself to do too much during this period of time.

It is hard as I have perfectionism character trait and begin to feel a sense of uselessness.

But I try to remind myself that I am just taking a break. I can still be useful and contribute when I am better.

I try to exercise more regularly as my body has become so easily tired and lethargic.

I read the Bible and pray daily and am finding much comfort in God's Words.

I re-read this encouraging devotional from CH Spurgeon, that reminds me once again God is with me and will never leave me nor forsake me.
“I am with you alway.”
Matthew 28:20

It is well there is One who is ever the same, and who is ever with us.

It is well there is one stable rock amidst the billows of the sea of life.

O my soul, set not thine affections upon rusting, moth-eaten, decaying treasures, but set thine heart upon him who abides for ever faithful to thee.

Build not thine house upon the moving quicksands of a deceitful world, but found thy hopes upon this rock, which, amid descending rain and roaring floods, shall stand immovably secure.

My soul, I charge thee, lay up thy treasure in the only secure cabinet; store thy jewels where thou canst never lose them.

Put thine all in Christ; set all thine affections on his person, all thy hope in his merit, all thy trust in his efficacious blood, all thy joy in his presence, and so thou mayest laugh at loss, and defy destruction.

Remember that all the flowers in the world’s garden fade by turns, and the day cometh when nothing will be left but the black, cold earth.

Death’s black extinguisher must soon put out thy candle. Oh! how sweet to have sunlight when the candle is gone!

The dark flood must soon roll between thee and all thou hast; then wed thine heart to him who will never leave thee; trust thyself with him who will go with thee through the black and surging current of death’s stream, and who will land thee safely on the celestial shore, and make thee sit with him in heavenly places for ever.

Go, sorrowing son of affliction, tell thy secrets to the Friend who sticketh closer than a brother.

Trust all thy concerns with him who never can be taken from thee, who will never leave thee, and who will never let thee leave him, even “Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, and to-day, and for ever.”

“Lo, I am with you alway,” is enough for my soul to live upon, let who will forsake me.

(Taken from CH Spurgeon's Morning and Evening, 11 May, Morning)

Thanks again for stopping by!

Take care. Hope you have a blessed weekends.

I will post every now and then to let you know of my condition.


Thursday, May 22, 2008

Therapeutic Walks at the Beach - Another Wellness Activity

I am thankful to God that this week I am able to take a break from work. This is a much needed break and I really cherish it.

At the moment, I can't take a holiday to go out of Singapore, as I am caring for my mother. She has many medical conditions and I need to watch over her daily.

But I am thankful to God for more opportunities to go for walks this week. Walking is very therapeutic to me. Walking has become one of my most important Wellness Activity now.

I love to walk at the parks near my home or go to the beach. Walking really helps me to unwind and relax. As I walk and enjoy nature, fresh air and sunshine, I feel so much better.

As I walk, I will talk to the Lord. I am thankful that God is with me and I can enjoy this quiet walking time with Him. Walking in the parks and beach always remind me that God is all powerful and He is caring for me. I can cast all my cares and difficulties upon Him.

I am thankful to God that on Tuesday I was able to go to East Coast Beach with my good friend, BH. BH is a very sweet and gentle lady. BH knows that walks are good for me in managing my condition and she kindly offered to take me out on Tuesday. Although she has never experienced depression or bipolar before, she is very sympathetic to listen to me. She has other friends who have other form of mental illness, and I can see that BH is not judgemental. She does not condemn me for my experiences with bipolar or depression. She accepts that it is a medical condition, an illness that I need to live with and I can learn to cope by God's grace. BH prays for me whenever I am not well. I am thankful for such a friend.

Here's a video of what I saw at the Beach on Tuesday. Oh, how I love the sea! Watching the waves somehow has such a calming effect on me.

Luther said "The sea of God's mercies ought to swallow up our particular afflictions."

No matter what difficulties I am going through, it is only one drop of water in the ocean. God's mercies will swallow them up! How thankful I am that I can rest in God's love and faithfulness through all the changing scenes in life.

Thanks for stopping by!

Do you enjoy walks? Do you go for walks regularly? Have you found it therapeutic or helpful in some ways?

Hope you have a blessed day!

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Cultivating Nearness to God in coping with difficulties in life

When we go through difficult times in our life sometimes we wonder why we have to go through them and can any good come out of it.

I live a very checkered life. My life is filled with ups and downs. I love the Lord because He has saved me from my sins and He is my God and Saviour. But even then, my life is not exempted from difficulties, sickness, failures, disappointments, stress, etc etc. I experience them just like everyone else.

As you know, these few weeks have been very challenging for me. I am still learning to manage my bipolar mood swing. I am learning to cope with stressful situations at work and other areas of my life. I have many ups and downs recently.

I often will pray and ask God to help me understand what He is teaching me through them and how best I can grow through these difficult experiences.

I also desire to glorify God through my experiences by doing that which is right in His sight and according to His Words.

Mr John J Murray in his little booklet "Behind a Frowning Providence" which I am still reading, said:
Far more important than any explanation for our suffering is nearness to God in our experience. This is the only way to get things into perspective.
One of the ways that God is helping me to cope with my difficult struggles with bipolar disorder, stress and other difficulties in these recent days, is cultivating a nearness to Himself.

I found that when I bring my difficulties and afflictions to God in prayers and seek to understand His will in them, God draws me nearer to Himself as I sense His presence with me and the good that He is working out of them.

In my weakness, I have experienced His strength, strengthening me and keeping me.

When I feel that I just can't take it anymore, and I go to God in prayers, I found that He in His faithfulness will either work a way out for me or sustains me in very marvelous ways.

Sometimes I can see Him developing certain graces in my life :

Through painful experiences, I see God making me a more tender and compassionate person.

Through very trying and prolonged trials, I found that God is teaching me to be more patient.

Through painful struggles with severe and prolonged depression, our Lord is teaching me to understand a little of His great love when He suffered so much and gave His life for me and how He felt forsaken by His Heavenly Father while He was on the cross.

Through difficult relationships in my life, God taught me the value of forgiveness.

In time of failure and disappointment, God taught me to let go and trust in Him.

Sometimes I see how He is using my experiences to help other people. When others see the way God is strengthening me or delivering me, they are encouraged and strengthened in their walk with Him.

Sometimes God deepens my friendship with family and friends when they share my burden, pray and encourage me.

I am thankful to God for drawing me nearer to Himself and for working many good out of my experiences. Though at times these experiences can be very difficult and painful, but God has been the strength of my heart whenever my flesh or my heart fails.

I thank God for the way He is strengthening my friendship with you and my other friends as you share my burden, pray and encourage me. Thank God for all of you!

Take care. May you have a blessed day!

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Coping with false guilt during depression

There is still such a terrible stigma associated with mental illness and depression even among Christian. There is the common belief that depression is due to a weakness in character or lack of faith in God. The truth is depression is a complex condition and there are many factors that led to it as well as caused it. There is no easy answer to the treatment or recovery either.

If you or your loved ones are suffering from prolonged and severe depression, I highly recommend that you read the series of studies done by Dr David P Murray on "Depression and the Christian" as he explored in very biblical and balanced manner on the causes of depression, the condition, restoration and how family or friends can help.

Dr David P Murray mentioned in his first message "Depression and the Christian: The Crisis":
“Being depressed is bad enough in itself, but being a depressed Christian is worse. And being a depressed Christian in a church full of people who do not understand depression is like a little taste of hell.”[3]

As we all know there is a terrible stigma attached to mental illness. This is the result of widespread misunderstanding about its causes, its symptoms, and the “cures” available. Some of the misunderstanding is understandable. Unlike cancer or heart disease or arthritis, there is no scan or test which can visibly demonstrate the existence of depression/anxiety. It is a largely “invisible” disease. We want to be able to point to something and say, “There’s the problem!” When we can’t, we often wrongly conclude, “There is no problem!” Or, if we are Christians, we may, usually wrongly, conclude, “My spiritual life is the problem!”
It is normal to feel ups and downs at different time in our life. We all experience different moods throughout the day. But when depression is chronic, lasting every day for more than 2 weeks and affected one's life and ability to function, it is clinical depression and it is a medical condition that needs to be treated.

Sometimes depression could be due to a mood disorder such as bipolar disorder (manic-depressive illness) in which the biological changes in our brain and body brings about depression. Different things may triggered off an episode or sometimes it happened for no apparent reason.

Clinical Depression is a serious condition that needs to be treated. Without treatment it can last for months and the sufferer can be severely impaired. Even though clinical depression may not be due to something wrong in the spiritual life of the sufferer, it can have adverse spiritual consequences in terms of the believer not able to enjoy God and various means of grace until he gets better.

If you are a Christian and suffering from severe depression daily for more than 2 weeks and you can hardly function, do seek medical help as soon as you can. It is the depression that took away your ability to enjoy anything in life, including God and His Words, worship and His people, your family, friends, work, hobbies, recreation, etc etc. You will notice that you don't enjoy anything generally. Your thoughts and feelings are either negative or flat. You need medical help or alternative medicine help. Depending on the level of your depression, you probably will benefit from a combination of help such as counselling, regular exercise, regular sleep and meals, etc etc. But if however you tried you can't benefit from the later, then you need medical help to restore the chemical imbalance in your brain first before you can benefit from the later. Once the chemical in your brain is restored you will be able to enjoy these things again.

One common experience Christian who loves God dearly, will experience during severe clinical depression, is the inability to enjoy God and His Words, worship or fellowship. With this come the additional pain of false guilt.

Dr David P Murray mentioned in his first message on "Depression and the Christian: The Crisis":
We might say that there are three main elements in our make-up that affect our overall well-being: our body, our soul, and our mind (our thoughts). These are not three watertight and disconnected entities. There is considerable overlap and connectivity. When our body breaks down, it affects our spiritual life and our thinking processes. When our spiritual life is in poor condition, our thoughts are affected, and often our bodily health and functions also. It is therefore no surprise that when our mental health is poor, when our thinking processes go awry, that there are detrimental physical and spiritual consequences.

The depressed believer cannot concentrate to read or pray. He doesn’t want to meet people and so may avoid church and fellowships. He often feels God has abandoned him.

Moreover, it is often the case that faith, instead of being a help, can actually cause extra problems in dealing with depression. There is, for instance, the false guilt associated with the false conclusion, “Real Christians don’t get depressed.” There is also the usually mistaken tendency to locate the cause of mental illness in our spiritual life, our relationship with God, which also increases false guilt and feelings of worthlessness.
Dr David P Murray emphasized the importance of studying depression. He said :
One great benefit of having some knowledge about depression is that it will prevent the dangerous and damaging misunderstanding which often leads people, especially Christians, to view medication as a rejection of God and His grace, rather than a provision of God and His grace.
How should a Christian cope with the false guilt and spiritual consequences of depression? Dr David P Murray suggested:
We have tried to emphasise that for Christians their depression is usually not caused by spiritual factors. However, there are spiritual consequences in all depressions. There are a number of steps a depressed Christian can take to help reverse at least some of the spiritual consequences. You may find Martyn Lloyd-Jones’ book Spiritual Depression to be helpful in this regard – although he can be a bit sweeping and dogmatic in his generalisations. Here are some practical things you can do to help address the spiritual consequences of depression.

(i) Accept that being depressed is not a sin and indeed is compatible with Christianity. Many Bible characters and many of the greatest Christians passed through times of depression.

(ii) Try to understand that your loss of spiritual feelings is not the cause of your depression, but rather the depression has caused a general loss of feeling in all parts of your life, your spiritual life included.

(iii) Patiently wait for the corrections in your lifestyle, thinking, or brain chemistry to have an effect on your feelings as a whole and your spiritual life will pick up at the same time also.

(iv) Have a set time for reading your Bible and praying. Depressed Christians may either give up reading and praying, or they may try to read and pray “excessively” in order to try and bring back their spiritual feelings. Both approaches are unhelpful. Instead, set aside a regular time each day to read and pray. If concentration is a problem, keep things short (5-10 minutes) until you feel better. Depression will only be deepened by setting unrealistic spiritual goals.

(v) Bring objective truth to mind (e.g.: the doctrine of justification, or the atonement), especially “positive” verses which set forth God’s love, mercy and grace for sinners (e.g.: Rom.8:1; 8:38-39; 1 Jn.4:9-10; 1 Jn.1:9). You may want to write out a verse and carry it around with you. When negative thoughts overwhelm you, bring out the verse and meditate upon it.

(vi) When you pray, tell God exactly how you feel. Be totally honest. Ask God to help you with your doubts and fears and to restore to you the joy of salvation. Thank Him for loving you and being with you even though you do not feel His love or presence. Praying for others who suffer can also help to turn your thoughts away from yourself for a time.

(vii) Keep going to church and seek out the fellowship of one or two sympathetic Christians you can confide in, and ask them to pray with you and for you. Be careful about who you talk to. Sadly, some Christians cannot keep confidences, and others will have little understanding of or sympathy for your condition.

(viii) Remember God loves you as you are, not as you would like to be.

The pain and anguish of going through depression is awful beyond words. For those of us who go through severe clinical depression that robbed us of all ability to enjoy anything including God and left us almost crippled and unfunctional, we know just how hard it was to get up of bed every morning.

It is difficult sometimes to understand why we have to go through so much sufferings. We may not always get the answer on this side of heaven. But our greatest comfort is that God loves us and He is in control. He sovereignly allows us to go through these painful sufferings for His sovereign purposes. Sufferings are part of life in this fallen world. One benefit we can derived from our sufferings, whether it be due to depression or other trials or afflictions, is that we are drawn closer to God as we find our refuge and strength in Him. We began to know God as Who He is when we experienced His unconditional love and faithfulness in sustaining and delivering us from such great sufferings. Sometimes we feel forsaken by God but in reality God has never forsaken us. He is with us and He sustains and deliver us. Perhaps through our pain of depression we can understand a little better what the Lord felt when He was on the cross to pay the penalty of our sins and experienced the pain and agony of being forsaken by His Heavenly Father. Oh, how precious is the Lord to us when we have experienced such pain and suffering.

I like what Edward T Welch said towards the end of the video "Depression - A Stubborn Darkness" which I posted yesterday. Do watch this video if you have not seen it. He said:

"The people I know who struggle with depression and have persevered with me and with other people in the body of Christ and with the Lord, those are my heroes. Those are people, they struggled, every day is hard but they get up out of bed every day simply out of this weak obedience to Christ. And I find that to be so incredibly heroic"

I read of another author too who said that he felt the true heroes are those who persevered in life despite a broken mind.

So that makes you and I some kind of a heroes, doesn't it, when we persevered daily despite the pains and brokenness of our mind :-)

Let us cling onto God during depression and pray and seek to do that which is necessary to restore the chemical imbalance in our brain, correct our thoughts and lifestyle, and wait patiently for God's deliverance in His time. May God draw us nearer to Himself and enable us to know His enduring and unfailing love during such time.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Blogging - Another therapeutic activity for me to cope with depression and bipolar mood swings

Dear Reader,

Do you enjoy blogging? What makes you start your blog? Or if you are a visitor without a blog, what makes you return to read someone's blog? What makes you come back to read my blog?

I thankful to God for enabling me to start this blog around February this year ie. February 2008. I have found blogging to be very therapeutic to me in my coping with my depression and my bipolar mood swings. And thank God this blog also benefits other readers as well.

I write quite regularly, as you can see. Partly because I love writing and it helps me to cope with my depression or manic due to bipolar disorder. Partly also because I desire to share with others my life experiences and God's goodness to me, as well as resources that I have found useful to manage depression and bipolar disorder or Bible verses/sermons/books/other articles I have read and found useful.

Blogging enables me to share my thoughts and feelings and to kind of release them. Sometimes by doing so, I can see things from a different perspective. When others visit my blog and left their comments, they also helped me in many ways. Comments usually bring cheers. Sometimes a short comment left by someone can really make my day :-)

I used to write long emails or letters to friends before I started blogging. Yes, I write letters :-) I am one of those old-fashioned, rare specifies. I know few people in the modern world today write letters. But I do. And I love doing so.

But one complain I often get when I write letters or emails to people and I suspect even when I post on my blog ;-) is that I write too long. I am too long-winded, they said :-) Hmm... I don't quite know how to handle this. I always feel I have so much to say and writing short messages can't quite express how I feel. There was one incident in the past, when I got scolded by a friend for writing long emails to her. She said she is too busy and have no time to read my emails :-( Now I hardly write to my friends as most of them do not reply. I am not sure whether they got the mails, whether they read them or they find them burdensome. Just waiting for a reply from them can sometimes almost drive me crazy! Now I am corresponding only with a handful of friends who haven't got tired of my writings yet :-)

Most of the time, I am sharing my thoughts and feelings and resources on this blog almost daily. And I also visit my blogging friends as often as I can. In the blogging world, I feel accepted and appreciated. Besides this blog which is my personal online diary, I have another blog which is dedicated solely to Resources I have found useful on the internet on managing depression, bipolar plus some personal growth articles. I also have some other hobbies blogs where I share my passion on making bookmarks, homemade crafts and gifts, photography, Christian articles/books and my freelance work. I am active mainly on this blog as I use it as an online journal or diary and almost daily I record my thoughts and feelings here.

Actually, I didn't know what is a blog or what is blogging until quite recently. You might laugh. But when I first started this blog, I still didn't know much about blogging. I just wanted to share my story and useful resources with others. A brother-in-Christ suggested this idea to me. I have a website but hardly anyone seems to be visiting and so I decided to try blogging instead as it is free.

When I first started this blog, I wasn't quite sure what I can or cannot put on my blog. I also wasn't sure what I can or cannot write on others' blog comment. I was a little fearful of "breaking the rules" of blogging.

One of my brothers, Daniel, has been blogging since a few years back and I visited his blog on and off. He is in Malaysia and he shares his life and activities on his blog. He is quite a funny person and so he posts all kinds of things on his blog and I always laughed when I visited his blog. So I read his blog on and off but I have no idea what blogging is really all about.

Recently, when Daniel visited me, he finally gave me the definition for a blog! He said a short and sweet definition for a blog is "An Online Diary". Daniel said my blog is my online diary and I can blog about anything I want. I can write anything that I want to write and share with the public. He reminded me that what I write on my blog is on a public domain. So he said, don't post anything that you don't want others to know ;-)

Daniel also said there is no hard and fast rule on posting comments on others' blogs. The owner of the blogs have every right not to publish any comments if they prefer not to. Same thing for me. I can choose not to publish any comments that I don't wish to.

I thank God for the wonderful experience I have had since I started blogging in February. I have enjoyed sharing my life experiences, God's goodness to me, and the resources I found helpful to me or the Bible verses/books I read with others.

One the greatest blessing I derived from blogging is that I have been able to "meet" many friends through the world of blogging. I have never expected this at all! I am learning new things daily from my blogging friends. I love to read and write. And in some sense, I have found "like-minded" people. My blogging friends are from different parts of the world and they blog about any topics under the sun :-)

I am thankful too for a few Penpals I have "met" through blogging! This is wonderful. I used to have penpals when I was a teenager. And now having penpals again when I am forty++ is really nice :-) Thanks for writing to me, dear Penpals :-)

Here's a big "THANK YOU" to you, dear Reader, who are reading my blog. Thank you for stopping by. I hope what you are reading here on this blog are helping you in some ways.

And a big "THANK YOU" too to all of you, my dear Blogging Friends, for visiting me whenever you can and leaving me kind comments to share your thoughts and feelings with me after you read my posts, or just to let me know you have visited. Thanks to all of you!

And a big "THANK YOU" also to all of you, my dear Penpals, for writing to me and choosing me as you Penpal :-)

One thing I found that is helpful in blogging is to try and remember to leave a comment whenever possible. It seems to bring some encouragement to fellow bloggers to know that what they have posted has helped others or to hear opinions others have. Or maybe just to know someone cares and have visited them. So I hope you don't mind me leaving my comments all over your blogs when I visit your blogs :-)

Oops, here I go again. I think I am getting too long-winded again :-)

Today, I thank God for all of you and for the way He is making my life more colourful through blogging.

Thanks for stopping by. Do leave me a comment, if you can, to share your thoughts and feelings with me! It makes my day :-)

This is meant to make you laugh :P

Hope you have a blessed day!

Take care.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Behind the Frowning Providence: Part 1 There are Dark Providences

I was re-reading portion of a small but very encouraging booklet entitled "Behind a Frowning Providence" by Mr John J Murray a retired minister and thought I will share some encouraging portions with you over the next few posts.

For you and I who suffer great pains and misery due to our depression or bipolar or other infirmities, it is sometimes hard to reconcile our understanding of what a blessed Christian life should be like with the sufferings that we have to go through or that of our loved ones. It is sometimes difficult to understand why a loving God will allow His children to go through such pains and sufferings. Other Christians may accuse us of a lack of faith and trust in God. We sometimes wonder whether we are truly a Christian and if we are, why are we going through so much troubles and pains and sufferings.

The truth is our sufferings or pains does not contradict what the Scriptures tell us of who God is, the fallen nature we have inherited through Adam's sins in the garden of Eden, what our Lord Jesus Christ has done on the cross to redeem us from, and the rich and blessed life we have in Christ when we trusted in Him as our Saviour despite the pains, suffering or dark providences we are going through even after we have become a Christian. These are paradoxes.

How can we justify the ways of God with us? As hard as it may be for us to understand some of these things, a careful study of Scriptures and understanding of the wonderful work of God in providence will unfold a new light in our darkness and a new perspective in our checkered life.

Mr Murray noted that one of the best known hymns is William Cowper's "God moves is a mysterious way, His wonder to perform". Cowper was subject to melancholy (depression) and knew more about the darker side of Christian experience than the brighter. It was out of heart-felt experience that he composed his hymn and presented in it so many precious gems of truth such as the oft-quoted lines,

Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.

What is meant by a "frowning providence"? Is this something that we are to expect in the Christian life? If so, how do we cope with it?

Mr Murray said when adversity comes into our lives we tend to react in one of two ways. We may say that it happens beyond God's control and God has no power to stop it; or we may say it is an evidence of God's anger against us. Either way we are guilty of casting aspersions on the character of our Father and consequently of perverting our attitude of Him.

Thomas Boston, a minister who went through severe trials in his ministry and domestic life, due to a mentally-ill wife said:

"A just (right) view of afflicting incidents is altogether necessary to a Christian deportment (demeanor) under them. That view is to be obtained only by faith, not by sense; for it is the light of the Word alone that represents them justly, discerning in them the work of God, and consequently designs becoming the Divine perfections."

The Christian, although he is justified, remains a sinner in the midst of a fallen world. He is subject to "all the ills that flesh is heir to" (my note: I think this includes clinical depression, bipolar, asthma, diabetes, other sicknesses, disappointments, etc etc and death). Some of the consequences of his past sins affect his life. He is the subject of the discipline of His Heavenly Father. Satan concentrates his attack on him. His sufferings are compounded because he is a Christian. "In the world", our Lord warns His disciples, "you will have tribulation." (John 16:33)

The Bible leaves us with no doubt that suffering is a normal part of the true Christian life. Hebrews chapter 11 portrays the suffering witnesses of the Old Testament. The New Testament presents us with our great Example (our Lord Jesus Christ) who was "made perfect through sufferings" (Hebrews 2:10), and also with the many followers who "became partakers" in His sufferings (1 Peter 4:13). The whole emphasis in the teaching of the early church was on "rejoicing in the midst of sufferings." It is "through much tribulation" that we enter the kingdom (Acts 14:22).

Sadly, this understanding of the possibilities of Christian sufferings is far removed from the outlook that prevails in large parts of the Church today. The impression is given that the purpose of the Christian life is enjoyment. Everything that stands in the way of that is to be eliminated. People are looking for a problem-free Christianity. The health, wealth and success gospel is having a field today. Purveyors of such a gospel look the part. Unfortunately, the hollowness of such views became apparent when suffering, sorrow or disappointment comes. Then it becomes clear that we need a faith that is grounded in God's Word.

Over the next few posts I hope to share with you excerpts from Mr Murray's messages on Behind the Frowning Providences under the following headings:

2. God's Work in us through Depression, Bipolar and other Disabilities or Sufferings (God's Designs in Dark Providences)

3. Our Comfort in Dark Providences.

Personally, for me, understanding that all things are under God's controls including my depressions and bipolar, and that God is working my pains and sufferings for His glory, my good and that of His people, brings me great comfort. My bipolar, depression or any other sufferings or trials, are not an end in themselves. God can certainly heal and deliver me. But if He doesn't do it, He has good purposes in them. I may not fully understand or see things as clearly as He does. But understanding a little better why He allows Frowning Providences in my life, enable me to look beyond my pains and sufferings to the higher purposes that God has allowed them in my life. Then these become means to eternal spiritual benefits for me and other fellow Christians.

Understanding that my depression or manic are due to bipolar disorder (manic-depressive illness) and it is a medical condition that can be treated brings comfort and prevents unnecessary guilts. Others who do not understand may accuse me of lack of faith in God or my being weak or emotional. But I know that God in His sovereignty has allowed me to have this medical condition for my eternal good. Through this condition, I have been brought to a closer walk with God and I have been able to serve God by comforting others who are suffering.

God's love and His Words give me great strength and comfort as I travel this checkered road to the celestial city with many ups and downs due to depression, bipolar and other challenges. God has never promised me a life without thorns or difficulties but He has promised me unchanging love (Jeremiah 31:3), sufficient grace (2 Corinthians 12:9) and eternal life (John 3:16). He promised that He is working all things for my good even when I don't understand it (Romans 8:28). I have found God to be faithful and I can look back at how He has and is working all things for my good and for His glory. These brings me great consolations and give me courage to face each day.

If you are a Christian and you are suffering from depression now, and you are not able to feel God's presence with you nor find comfort from God's Words, do know that it is because of the chemical imbalance in your brain that is causing you not to be able to think or feel aright. Clinical depression and bipolar depression are medical condition that needs to be treated with medical and other helps. Once the chemical imbalance in your brain is restored, you will be able to enjoy God's presence with you and find comfort from His Words again. I highly recommend 6 very encouraging sermons by Dr David P Murray on "Depression and the Christian" as it will help to dispel some of the myths regarding depression and the Christian and give you a more biblical view on your current sufferings due to depression. Especially, it will prevent the dangerous and damaging misunderstanding which often leads people, especially Christians, to view medication as a rejection of God and His grace, rather than a provision of God and His grace. I hope you will seek medical and other appropriate help, so that you can be more functional and able to enjoy God, His Words, your family, your church, work, etc etc.

God's love and sovereignty is a Christian's greatest comfort admist the ups and downs through all the changing scenes of life. We may not always understand why God allows us to go through certain things, but we have no doubt at all of His love and care upon us. He Who gave His Son to die on the cross for us, will do so much more to keep us.

Thanks for stopping by. Do drop me a note, if you can, to let me know how the above excerpts has helped you. Or how has God's Words bring comfort to you in your sufferings? How has the knowledge, that God loves you and He is sovereign, strengthen you in your darkest moments?

Hope you have a blessed day!

God moves in a mysterious way
by William Cowper

God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea
And rides upon the storm.

Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never failing skill
He treasures up His bright designs
And works His sovereign will.

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break
In blessings on your head.

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.

His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flower.

Blind unbelief is sure to err
And scan His work in vain;
God is His own interpreter,
And He will make it plain.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Planning for more Down Time

Okay, I need a BREAK!

I have over-strained myself physically and mentally again :-(

I was unwell yesterday and I rested. I do feel better today but realized that I REALLY REALLY need to SLOW DOWN :0

Thanks all for stopping by, for praying and all your encouragements :-)

Sorry that I need to take a break now. I will not be posting as often as I did previously. But I will still try and visit your blogs whenever I can. I am going to plan for more DOWN TIME :-) Not sure how to do that, but I will try ;-)

For several weeks I have been working from home on some freelance work. I am thankful to God for providing these works for me so that I can provide for my mum and myself. Freelance really works well for me because it allows me to work from home. But the problem with me is I am some kind of a perfectionist and workaholic. I tend to take on more projects than I can manage and I tend to overstrain myself physically and mentally. And even when I don't have too many freelance projects, I am still occupied daily with so many things. I spent quite a lot of time blogging. I love to write as you probably notice :P. I will visit my blogging friends almost every day. I am making bookmarks, writing to friends, corresponding with penpals who has found me through my blog, etc etc.

These recent weeks I am beginning to feel the physical and mental strain. Thank God for sustaining me day by day. But I realized that I am getting more stressed up easily, more tired easily and sometimes I get panic attacks or anxieties attack. My mind seems to be working overtime. I can't stop thinking. So many things go through my mind daily. Do you have such experiences?

Being so unwell yesterday is a warning sign from God! God made our bodies in such a way that when we are over-straining physically or mentally, our bodies sent forth signs. We are forced to slow down and rest.

I am becoming more aware nowadays of my mood swings and I do notice that I have been experiencing a mixture of manic and a little depression. In the past, I went through these without awareness and after some weeks or months, I will plunged into severe depression that will last for months and I will not be able to function much. Now I am learning to be more aware.

Recently, a brother-in-Christ asked me how I am coping. I told him I am trying to slow down. He said, Good, try harder! Okay, so I am going to try harder ;-)

Maybe I will take breaks in between my freelance work and go out for briskwalkings. I need more of the sun and fresh air. Maybe I will bring my mum out sometimes or visit church friends or have tea with some friends. Maybe even go to the library. And I hope to have opportunities to take some photos of nature, of trees, plants, beach, etc. I missed the beach :-)

I am going to spend more time to read the Bible, to pray and read some books. Maybe I will also try to memorise some Bible verses. And possibly catch up with my cross-stitch.

Opps! I thought I am planning more Down Time! Am I overloading myself again ;-)

Okay. That's all for now.

I wish you a wonderful and blessed week. And I am going to leave you with this sweet portion which my brother-in-Christ, George, just emailed me:


Look back and "Thank" God.
Look forward and "Trust" God.
Look around and "Serve" God.
Look within and "Find" God!"

I asked God, 'How do I get the best out of life?' God said, 'Face your past without regrets. Handle your present with confidence. Prepare for the future without fear!'"

"Without God, our week is:
Mournday, Tearsday, Wasteday, Thirstday, Fightday, Shatterday and Sinday. So, allow Him to be with you every day!"

"Life is short, so forgive quickly. Believe slowly. Love truly. Laugh uncontrollably. Never regret anything that makes you happy. And have a wonderful journey!!

God Bless.

Have a blessed week! And take care. See you soon, God willing :-)

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Resting On God

One of my friends and sister-in-Christ, Joyce L., gave me this lovely gift. She put the pieces of jigsaw puzzles together and frame it up. She told me to remember to rest and sleep whenever I feel very tired, physically or mentally. She knows that whenever I am well or better, I am slightly manic and tend to do a lot of things, and tends to be very tired after that. She realized that if I do not get enough rest for a period of time and face much stress daily, I will eventually plunged into severe depression. Thank God for her love and kindness.

One of the thing I found really helpful recently when I felt overly strained and stressed, is to break away from whatever I was doing and just go for some rest, sleep or break. A tired and stretched brain doesn't function very well and thoughts can be distorted, which in turned can affect my feelings and behaviours. A tired and overly strained body can't function very well either.

As my freelance projects involved a lot of concentration and mental strength, I do feel more easily tired mentally. Thank God that working freelance allows me to work around my schedule and health whenever my deadlines are manageable. So I can break away from my work and just go to seek the Lord in prayers or read God's Words. I also can go and rest when I am too tired or stressed up. I normally don't need to take a nap but recently I have been needing to do that. And the rest is indeed helpful. A short nap can rejuvenate me to continue with my tasks later on.

Whenever I am manic, I have difficulty keeping to my sleeping hours as I have many racing thoughts and projects in my mind. There are 101 things that I wanted to do. But shorter sleeping hours are both a trigger as well as a symptom of manic. Sometimes I forget about this. Too many nights of sleeping lesser hours and not enough rest will caused my body to be very very tired and eventually may even plunged me into depression. Overly stretched brain and body cause the chemical in my brain to go topsy turvy. Recognizing this pattern is still not easy but I am learning by and by.

I suspect I am feeling the extreme tiredness now because of the effect of manic recently. Though I have attempted to slow down, I am still pretty occupied. I am praying for God's grace now to take short breaks throughout the day. I also try my best to exercise daily. And now I make it a point to rest when I feel very tired. And if necessary, I take a day off from my routine. On Tuesday, it was good because in the morning I went out with a friend for a short freelance project. Then in the afternoon my sister and her family came and we had a great time together. My nephew and nieces played some simple games with me and we had a great time.

A frequent reaction to daily stresses is insomnia. Thank God that my medications ie Lamictal, a mood stabiliser and Seroquel, an anti-psychotic, do help with my sleep and I take them just before I sleep. So far I don't have insomnia. So I am keeping to my sleeping hours as much as I can as I realize that it is important in managing bipolar as well as stress.

Thank God that He gives us physical rest and sleep, and strengthen and refresh our body, soul and mind, to walk anew with Him each day. Every night, I shall lay down and sleep, I commit myself and all things into His loving hands, and I will awake the next day with the joy of the Lord, because the LORD sustained me!

Thank God that He gives us spiritual rest in Him too, and refresh our soul as we rest in Him.

Thank God that I am feeling so much better now. Though physically still rather tired but I have much peace and joy in the Lord once again. The heaviness of heart and weight of cares in the recent weeks, seemed to have been lifted up by our Lord. My circumstances didn't change very much but my thoughts and feelings have changed. Thank God that He is working in my heart to strengthen me and enable me to rest in Him.

Thank you for your prayers and encouragements, my dear friends and blogging friends. May we find rest in God daily, physically, mentally and spiritually, and be refreshed each day to continue to know Him, love Him and serve Him wherever He places us. To God be the glory!


The thought of thine infinite serenity cheers me,
For I am toiling and moiling, troubled and distressed,
but thou art for ever at perfect peace.
Thy designs cause thee no fear or care of unfulfilment,
they stand fast as the eternal hills.
Thy power knows no bond,
thy greatness no stint.
Thou bringest order out of confusion,
and my defeats are thy victories:
The Lord God omnipotent reigneth.
I come to thee as a sinner with cares and sorrow,
to leave every concern entirely to thee,
every sin calling for Christ's precious blood;
Revive deep spirituality in my heart;
Let me live near to the great shepherd,
hear his voice, know its tones, follow its calls.
Keep me from deception by causing me to abide in the truth,
from harm by helping me to walk in the power of the Spirit.
Give me intenser faith in the eternal verities,
burning into me by experience the things I know;
Let me never be ashamed of the truth of the gospel,
that I may bear its reproach,
vindicate it,
see Jesus as its essence,
know in it the power of the Spirit.
Lord, help me, for I am often lukewarm and chill;
unbelief mars my confidence,
sin makes me forget thee.
Let the weeds that grow in my soul be cut at their roots;
Grant me to know that I truly live only when I live to thee,
that all else is trifling.
Thy presence alone can make me holy, devout, strong and happy.
Abide in me, gracious God.

(Taken from "The Valley of Vision", A Collection of Puritan Prayers & Devotions, Edited by Arthur Bennett, Published by The Banner of Truth Trust, 1997, Page 129.)

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Learning to cope with stress and mood swings of bipolar (manic and depression)

Recently, I have been feeling very very tired and easily stressed. I believe this is partly due to effect of being rather manic for some weeks prior to this and also partly because I have taken on some freelance assignments which are mentally taxing and with rather tight deadlines. I am also having to manage some other personal and family matters. These can be rather overwhelming. I just realized that I have been having more on my plates than I can managed!

I was feeling rather down for a few days as I was very very tired. I prayed daily for God's grace and strength. Thank God for His mercies and faithfulness. I am learning to cope through the following ways:

1) I look to God daily in prayers and reading of the Bible. When I feel overwhelmed and sad, I pour out my heart to the Lord in prayers. I told him of how tired I felt and how discouraged at times. Sometimes I felt a sense of uselessness and a dread to face the challenges ahead of me. I felt so weak and without strength to carry on. I am beginning to realize that these are signs that I am overly stressed and strain, and may lead to an episode of severe depression soon if not manage carefully.

I fear relapse of severe depression as they zapped me of all my energy and I can't enjoy God, the Bible, worship, my family, my church, my friends, my work, my hobbies, etc etc. Thank God that He bids us to come unto Him when we are weary and heavy laden and He will give us rest. I told the Lord my fear and pray that He may preserve me and help me to cope. I found encouragement in the singing of Psalm 130 that reminds me that I can cry unto the Lord from out of the depths I am in and He will hear and answer my prayers, and deliver me in His time. The song "Because He Lives" also brings great comfort and assurance to me. Because our Lord Jesus Christ suffered, died and arose again, and He is living and in control, and He loves me, I can face tomorrow in His strength and grace. Thank God that He can still any storm in my life! Thank God for giving me peace as I learn to cast my cares upon Him. My flesh and my heart fails, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion for ever.

2) I am learning to recognize early symptoms of being overly stressed and dangerous mood swings which may either escalate into manic or spiral down into depression. I am learning to realize the importance of not overlooking these but at the same time not to be too discouraged by these. I am learning to accept that these are part and parcel of bipolar which needs to be carefully managed. I can learn to manage it by looking to God and prayerfully using whatever helps and means available. I can still live a meaningful and useful life.

Everyone experience mood swings every now and then, but the tricky part about depression or bipolar is how to manage it and prevent as afar as possible from getting too manic or falling into severe depression. Even if I do fall into severe depression, I hope I will remember that it will pass away and I will be better again. It is hard during severe depression to remember what it is like to be well. I hope this blog and what I have written when I am well, will remind me of it.

One of the best coping strategies, suggested by professionals and patients alike, is using a mood chart to track my own episodes and symptoms. I am using a Mood Diary to keep track of my mood swings. Some charts I found to be helpful in tracking moods or lifestyles are:

a. Mood Diary (mooddiary.pdf)

b. Here is another Booklet from DBSA with some explanations and charts for Lifestyle and Mood Tracking (lifestyle-and-mood-tracking.pdf)

c. Here is a helpful tool to use for Healthy Lifestyle Tracking with the emphasize on Sleep, Nutrition, Exercise, Relaxation, Comfort and Self-Expression, Relationships (healthylife.pdf.)

3) I am taking my medication regularly. I am taking 100mg Lamictal (Lamotrigine) which is a mood stabiliser and 25mg Seroquel (Quetiapine) which is an anti-psychotic, daily. My pdoc said these will help to stabilise my mood on the longer run as I learn to manage triggering factors.

4) I am endeavouring to eat regularly and more healthily. I eat a variety of fruits and vegetables daily to get enough vitamins. I am also taking Omega-3 supplements regularly which is supposed to be helpful in stabilising mood disorders in long run.

5) I am trying hard to sleep at regular hours though I am tempted to work beyond my sleeping hours. I am learning to slow down now. I think with enough rest for my body and mind, plus healthy food for my body, it will be able to cope better with the various challenges.

6) I am making time to exercise every morning. I have not been able to continue my membership with the Women's Gym after the trial membership expired in mid-Feb because they have decided to change their opening hours. I prefer to go to the Gym in the early mornings as it helps to strengthen me for the daytime. Now, I try to go for brisk walkings whenever I can and do some simple exercise at home.

7) I am learning to cope with stress. I hate stress but I know we cannot avoid stress. Unless I learn to manage stressful situations in my life, I will always be overwhelmed by it.

I thank God for friends and family's advice and brain storming. Thank God that providentially, I need not do one of my freelance assignments which is very stressful due to its volumn as well as tight deadline. Although this mean a great loss of income, I am glad I can keep my sanity! I realized that I cannot take on freelance assignments that are too difficult and strenous, or mentally too straining and stressful, with too tight deadlines. I will burn myself out and it is not worth the money. My health is more important.

I am also learning to use a Diary to plan my time and tasks daily, set my priorities and break down difficult items into smaller and more manageable portions. I marked down dates of various appointments and deadlines of my freelance assignments, so that I don't missed them out. I list out items I need to work on daily, and I check them out whenever they are completed. There is a sense of accomplishment when I finished a small tasks.

I am learning to take one day at a time! Hard lesson to learn as I tend to do 101 things at the same time :-)

8) I am learning to plan some time either along the day or at least once a week, to take a break from my daily routine and to have some form of recreations. All work and no play, makes Jack a dull boy :-) I need some form of breaks and recreations, to recharge my batteries!

I am enjoying photography whenever I have opportunity to go out. I am also enjoying making bookmarks using the photographs I have taken and giving them to my church members and friends. These are rather therapeutic to me.

I am also learning to take short breaks throughout the day to stretch myself and take a drink, or sometimes a quick nap when I need them. These takes a lot of discipline too as I tend to be very engrossed in my tasks.

9) I am learning to open myself up and share with my family, church and friends when I am troubled or perplexed or too stress. Often others can see things more clearly than me and can help me to see things from a right perspective and manage them better. Thank God for family and friends who have helped me recently to manage some stressful and difficult situations in my life.

I am thankful for opportunities to go out for a meal with my friend or to go Prayer Meeting together. These help to break from my routines and are refreshing to me.

I am thankful for this blog where I can use like a Journal or Online Diary to express my thoughts and feelings. It is therapeutic for me to verbalise my thoughts and feelings whether they be happy or sad ones. I am glad that I can express myself in this way and need not put on a mask. And I am thankful for church friends and blogging friends who care for me and willing to read my thoughts and feelings and pray for me and encourage me, or make suggestion on how I can cope.

And I am so thankful to God to be supported by so many of you, my dear blogging friends! It is such a great blessing from God that though we may never meet on this earth, we can pray, encourage and support one another through the various challenges we face here. These are tokens of God's goodness and mercies to me, and I praise Him!

10) I am learning to recognize when my thoughts began to turn negative and eats into me. When my moods spiral down, if I don't recognize it, it will overwhelm me. My thoughts became rather negative recently and I started to feel very down for many days. Thank God for sending family, church members and blogging friends who reminded me of God, His love and mercies and ways to manage my condition. Some helped me to identify faulty or unhelpful thinking patterns or behaviours, and how to rectify them.

Thank God that my thoughts are clearer now and I am feeling so much better! I know I still need to be very prayerful and vigilant. I am comforted that the Lord has provided me with people who loved and cared for me, and also provided much help to manage my conditions. I know I must learn to look to Him and use these means for my well being.

Thanks and praise to God for His goodness and mercies in helping me to learn to cope. There is so much I am learning daily and seems to have to keep relearning some of these things, and reapply them. Thank God for grace and strength.

Thank God for His presence with me and encouragements through His Words. And thanks again to all of you for your prayers, support and encouragements.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Brisk walking - helpful and therapeutic

Thank God for discovering the joy and helpfulness of brisk walking and regular exercise end of last year while recovering from an episode of severe depression. I was encouraged to do brisk walking or other form of exercise for between 30 to 45 minutes daily as it can work like anti-depressant.

I do brisk walking around the neighbourhood of my home as regular as I can. Sometimes I go for long walks at the beach or gardens. I also signed up for a trial-membership with an all ladies gym near my home which had a very special offer at that point of time. I did brisk walking on their treadmill between 30 to 45 minutes daily, 3 to 5 times a week. I was on 20mg fluoxetine (common brand name is Prozac) daily at that point of time. After 1 week of doing brisk walking regularly, I was able to lower the dosage of my anti-depressant. And after 2 months, I was completely off the anti-depressant. Now I am on a mood stabiliser, 100mg Lamotrigine (brand name is Lamictal) and anti-psychotic, 25mg Quetiapine (brand name is Seroquel) every night. My doctor said I will probably need these 2 medication life long as they will help to stabilise my moods in the longer run. But whenever I fall into severe depression, I will need to take a short course of anti-depressant to lift me up to a more functional level. Then I can benefit from exercise and other helps.

Thank God for providing various helps for me as I strive to understand and manage bipolar disorder (manic-depressive illness). With medical helps, counselling and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, regular exercise, Omega 3 fish oil, managing stress level, et etc my condition is under control now and I am able to live a more stable and productive life. I also pray and read the Bible daily and finding much joy, strength and comfort in God to live for Him.

I find brisk walking and other form of regular exercise are good to help me to fight depression. I think they are also good for general physical and mental health, and in preventing heart disease.

For those of us with physical or other illness or our age above 40, it may be good to check with our Doctor before we start regular exercise or vigorous exercise so that we do not injure ourselves during exercise or do exercise which is not suitable for us. Those with knee problems in particular, should be very careful with what kind of exercise we do, or what to do before and after exercise. Best to consult our physician.

For me, I do enjoy brisk walking a lot and I am beginning to enjoy nature and God's creations in many wonderful ways. I also picked up photography and am deriving great joys in capturing some of these beauties in God's creations with my digital camera.

I find myself physically more stronger and healthier when I started regular brisk walking and exercise. I found that mentally I am also more alert and happier after my exercise. I managed also to lose a bit of weight which has been troubling me for many years and making me very sluggish and lethargic. Therefore, I do personally find brisk walking very therapeutic and helpful in my recovery from depression as well as maintaining my physical and mental well being now.

There are truly a wide spectrum to the experiences of those with depression and bipolar depression. So sometimes brisk walking or regular exercise may be very difficult for those of us who are severely depressed as we are depleted of all energy or we simply didn't have the desire or will to do anything. We may find waking up in the morning itself is very very difficult. There will be times when a family member or friend's accompaniment for a walk maybe helpful and motivating. And whenever we are well enough to go for walks on our own and get the sunshine, I think it may be helpful to our physical and mental well being. And when we are no longer severely depressed, regular exercise or brisk walking may help in maintaining our physical and mental well-being in complement to our medical and other existing helps.

My friend and brother-in-Christ, George, emailed me this helpful and informative Powerpoint presentation on the advantage and importance of brisk walk especially in preventing Heart Disease.

Download this Powerpoint Slide on Brisk Walk : briskwalking.pps

In this Powerpoint Slide, it is documented the following :

Heart Disease is one of the most common diseases afflicting today's workers.

Caused by excessive stress, smoking, high calorie diet, sedentry lifestly, this disease is the no. 1 killer of today's employees.

Sedentry life style, smoking, high calorie diet, stress, alcohol may lead to high cholesterol, high blood pressure and over weight. These in turn may lead to angina, heart attack, cardiac arrest and heart failure. The end result may be blockage in coronary arteries or clot coronary arteries or constriction of coronary arteries.

With all these health problem, our family and job may be greatly affected. Expenses over medical treatments may increase or loss of income due to poor health. We may also experience much anxieties, sadness and loss of peace of mind.

Only we can do something about it. And we can start with a simple step TODAY.

It is recommended that we take a brisk walk for 30 minutes daily, every day.

For over 40 years now, studies have shown walking to be the best form of exercise that people of all ages can do.

  • Regular walking can increase the levels of good cholesterol.
  • Regular walking is a positive habit to replace smoking with.
  • Regular walking makes the heart work more efficiently and improves blood circulation. Blood vessels become more elastic and the amount of oxygen delivered to the tissues increases.
  • Walking is one easy way to deal with tension, anxiety and stress. Studies show that people who exercise regularly can cope better with stresses of life. Walking recharges our batteries after tension and stress have drained them of power and energy.
  • Regular brisk walking improves muscle tone, makes your heart stronger and gives you that bite of fitness. Do it regularly for 30 minutes every day and enjoy that feeling of fitness from within.

Caution for those with knee pain: walk at normal pace. Do knee stretching exercises as shown in two of the slides.

Simplest - Cheapest - Easiest

Effective & Safe
  • Reduces Stress
  • Helps quit smoking
  • Strengthens the heart
  • Massages the legs
  • Strengthens the muscles
  • Reduces cholesterol
  • Improves blood circulation
Build it in your daily routine, 30 minutes ever day.

Strengthen your heart and your health, walking 30 minutes briskly every day.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Looking through our prisons

Recently, I was thinking of the way my diagnosis of bipolar disorder have affected my perspective in life. When I knew that bipolar is a lifelong condition, I was at first very discouraged. I felt as if I have been given a lifetime imprisonment sentence in which there will be no release from this prison. It is worst then a death sentence.

There are different kinds of prison in this world. When I was diagnosed with proneness to bipolar disorder (manic-depressive illness), it was a relief to me because it helps me to understand my confusing past. With medical helps, counselling and Cognitive Behavioural Therapy, regular exercise, Omega 3 fish oil, managing stress level, et etc my condition is under control now and I am able to live a more productive life.

But my diagnosis last year did at one point of time throw me into despair. When I knew that bipolar disorder is a lifelong condition and that it is cyclical in nature, which means it will recur, I was very discouraged. Every prolonged and severe depressive episode is very unbearable and painful beyond words. The nature of severe depressive episodes is such that our brain can become so malfunctioning and can't receive/send the appropriate messages which cause our thoughts or feelings to be either blank, flat or distorted. Depression robs away all joy and hope, and makes living itself very difficult. I am often tempted with suicidal thoughts during severe depression episodes and I often pray that the Lord will take me home. The inability to enjoy my family, church, friends, work and even God Himself (as my brain simply can't function), makes life very meaningless. The hopeless I faced each day is beyond words description. Day in day out, night in nigh out, every hour, facing such hopelessness and helplessness is like living in hell. Oh, how the Lord preserved me! I cannot imagine how I could have survived those distressing episodes without God's mercies and preservation. Though I couldn't feel God's presence with me at times due to the chemical imbalance in my brain, God is still with me to sustain and deliver me.

When I knew that bipolar is a lifelong condition, I was at first very discouraged. I felt as if I have been given a lifetime imprisonment sentence in which there will be no release from this prison. It is worst then a death sentence. A death sentence will end all pain and misery once and for all. But to be imprison in a brain that can malfunction at any point of time and be thrown into severe depression episodes over and over again, is both scary and distressing. How my heart sank when I thought of that. But thank God that He will never allow us to be tempted or tried more than we can bear. I found comfort in God's Words and His love, mercies and faithfulness. I realized that no matter what God allows me to go through, He will be with me in it and His grace will be sufficient for me. He promised that He is working all things for His glory and for my good. And He will never leave me nor forsake me. He makes no mistake! If He allows me to have bipolar disorder, He knows that it will be cyclical. He does not delight in my sufferings. But yet He allows it for a good purpose and I can trust in His love and sovereignty.

I prayed much for grace to submit to God's will, to trust in Him and His mercies, and to live for Him despite my condition. Bipolar disorder does not define me nor my life. It is merely an illness just like diabetes, hypertension and asthma. People with these illness can live a life close to normal despite their limitations. So with medical and other help, people with bipolar, depression and other poor mental health illness can also live a life that is close to normal and be useful and productive.

There are different kind of freedom. I realized then that I still have the freedom to make choices. Would I smile when I see my family, church and friends or would I weep? Would I rail against God in bitterness or would I ask Him to strengthen my faith and give me grace to live for Him despite my condition? Would I allow my condition to rule and ruin my life, or would I seek to find and apply whatever help that is available and within my means to make use of? Would I allow my life to waste away in despair and hopelessnes, or would I look to God for strength to be useful and helpful to others by giving them hope in their own sufferings? In other words, what would I do with the free will that was still mine?

I decided to live as fully as I could, as the Lord enables me, to look for ways to transcend my physical and mental limitations by making use of my available mental capacities and expanding its use to help others. I could choose to be a role model to others who suffer in various ways, or I could wither and die, emotionally as well as physically and mentally.

There are many kinds of freedom. When we lose one kind, we must look for another. We can look at our illness and our limitations, or we can look through them. I thank God that He is strengthening me day by day and giving me the grace to trust in Him, to look beyond my condition to see His love and faithfulness, and to make use of whatever helps He has provided for me to help others too.

I thank God for the joy of developing this blog which is not only therapeutic to myself as I journal my thoughts and feelings. It also has been helping others who are suffering from depression and bipolar. I thank God that I can share His goodness and mercies, for it is only when we view our pains and sufferings in the light of the sovereignty and love of God, that we can find hope and help in our prisons. In God is our freedom and liberality. One day we shall leave our earthly prison to go to a far away land where the roads are made of gold, there are many mansions for us to live in, there will be no more pains and sorrows, and we shall enjoy our Lord Jesus Christ's love for all eternity. Maybe then we can understand a little better the path He has chosen for us. It shall redown to His glory and we shall be awed by His love and faithfulness, through all the changing scenes of life. What a mercy! And what a comfort! It is these thoughts and knowledge that gives me the courage to face each day joyfully in the Lord, looking unto Him alone who is the Author and Finisher of our faith. He who laid down His life for me, loves and cares for me daily. Praise Him.

My friend, HH Sau, took this lovely photo at Combodia.

"For thou wilt light my candle: the LORD my God will enlighten my darkness." Psalm 18:26