Patience Grasshopper

Master Po
Certain television shows and dialog phrases from my childhood still crop up in memory from time to time. In my mind, one such line was spoken by Master Po to the young student, Kwai Chang Kaine in the television series, Kung Fu... "Patience, Grasshopper."

Those same words have echoed in my mind for the past few days now, with an emphasis on the word "Patience". The virtue of patience is much needed in my life right now, as body energy reserves have been drained in a fight to overcome an infection.

Patience is also often required when confronted with other illnesses, like depression. Discouragement comes from wanting something specific without waiting. I want to be healed from this infection and from depression - and I want it now!! Placing our own desires on hold for any length of time is not pleasant, it requires that rare commodity... patience. I turn now to words of wisdom spoken a few years ago by one of the greatest men I have ever had an opportunity to meet...
Patience is not passive resignation, nor is it failing to act because of our fears. Patience means active waiting and enduring. It means staying with something and doing all that we can—working, hoping, and exercising faith; bearing hardship with fortitude, even when the desires of our hearts are delayed. Patience is not simply enduring; it is enduring well!

... Often the deep valleys of our present will be understood only by looking back on them from the mountains of our future experience. Often we can’t see the Lord’s hand in our lives until long after trials have passed. Often the most difficult times of our lives are essential building blocks that form the foundation of our character and pave the way to future opportunity, understanding, and happiness. (~Dieter F. Uchtdorf, Continue in Patience, May 2010)
There is a lesson to be learned from life... a foundation is being laid to hold a structure. One that my mortal vision cannot see clearly during this building phase - but it is a magnificent structure that the Master Planner has designed specifically for me.

All I need right now is... "Patience, Grasshopper".

Red light / green light

Oh the many different (yet oddly similar) games that were played as a child with cousins and neighborhood friends.
  • No bears are out tonight
    (played after sunset)
  • Sidewalk Tag
  • TV Tag
  • Red light / green light
  • Red rover, red rover
  • Simon says
  • Mother may I
Long lazy summer days filled with little to no responsibilities, and lots of fun! Don’t even know if children today play these games anymore. Heck, I’m not certain if people outside my cadre of childhood friends know much about some of these games.

Times change, and so do people. As much as I enjoyed playing these games for hours on end as a child - they don’t hold the same level of enticement now as an adult. But the joyful memories associated with them will live on for many years yet to come.

Recently I have been thinking about the game of Red Light / Green Light.

The objective of this game is to make it from one end of the playing field (aka: the neighbor’s lawn) to the other, and tag the one child who is the “traffic light”. Movement of any kind is not allowed on a red light... when the traffic light child is facing the others. Punishment for movement is to be sent back to the starting line. Only on a green light... when the traffic light child has their back turned to the others... is movement allowed. They want to catch you moving, and will often turn quickly back and forth - shouting “Red Light” or “Green Light” as they turn.

There is total childlike simplicity found in the rules of the game - only two commands: stop or go. Why does such plainness seem to disappear with adulthood? Now I only see a red or green light at street intersections or freeway on-ramps - and not on a warm summer evening filled with children’s laughter.

Viewing life through my spiritual eyes... red lights are those times when I feel restrained from taking certain life paths or making decisions. This restraint might come as a prompting by the Spirit of the Lord directing me away from danger. But I also know it can be my own fears and depression’s distorted thoughts that hold me back.

Green lights are when I receive a “go ahead” prompting that the route chosen is a good one. These are much more difficult for me to discern or feel, as depression creates a false sense of living in a spiritual wasteland. It is a physical and mental illness which can forcefully impact one’s perceptions. Feeling unworthy and wrongly thinking I have been abandoned by God, I blame myself for lacking the necessary faith - easily becoming overwhelmed and incapable of seeing the green lights.

And lest we forget, there are also yellow lights; where I feel neither restrained nor necessarily prompted to move forward. It could mean to “proceed with caution” - or that any of the choices would be okay, for God has given man the agency to choose for ourselves. I often find that I live in a fairly perpetual red and yellow light world - neither really proceeding forward, nor coming to a full stop.

Oh, and what about the red lights that can suddenly turn green? Or those green lights that abruptly turn red? The easiness of my childhood understanding of the game has become much more difficult to navigate - and I don’t always understand the rules of this adult version.

Looking back over the years, I do not doubt the Savior has been at my side through this whole journey - through my whole life. In retrospect I clearly see the guidance that has been given when needed - and how I have been strengthened to deal with burdens placed on my shoulders. The challenge is to learn how to recognize in the present - red, green and even yellow light promptings of the Spirit; especially when they are muted or hidden by depression’s darkness. And to be more accepting of the love and guidance from God that has always been there, for He will never forsake His children. This is My Faith!!

Drop dead

Recently I set a goal to post something on my blog at least once a week... with Friday morning being the “drop dead” mark. Little did I know at the time that this week I would be the one feeling like I was dropping dead. It’s been a long week in more ways than one - work wise, health wise, and of course depression wise... how could I even think it would be other wise?

Although I have to admit that yesterday was a not-half-bad kinda day. Wish there were more days like that - and less of the not-good days. And today my honorable knight protector, Sir Advil Ibuprofen, was able to finally drive the migraine beast back to the 7th level of Hades from whence it came! Too bad it took multiple doses and pretty much all day - but now I shall sleep through what's left of the night!

There are ideas and thought lines partially written or floating around in my head, of things I want to explore in more detail and write about. Sigh... this week has not cooperated very nicely. Perhaps I shall have time over the approaching weekend?

Live long and prosper
Okay, I admit this image has absolutely nothing to do with what I have written. But it made me smile - and that's good enough for me!!


"absolute terms, no gray areas"
"We depressives can be downright frustrating. We see everything in absolute terms, no gray areas. We set high standards for ourselves and when they aren't met, we can't accept it. We lash out at our loved ones. We're too wrapped up in our own pain to nurture our loved ones. We may have additional problems like OCD*, ADD*, or BPD*. We may cut ourselves, eat too much, or use drugs and alcohol to take away the pain. We beat ourselves up endlessly because we think we're ugly, unlovable, lazy, and worthless."  
~Nancy Schimelpfening

*OCD: obsessive compulsive disorder
 *ADD: attention deficit disorder
 *BPD: bi-polar disorder

Not everything in the quote above is true for all people with depression - but it is nonetheless pretty darn accurate. I don't cut myself, or use drugs and alcohol... however I often find escape through sleep (maybe because I hardly ever dream - so it is sweet oblivion).

Throughout the past few years I have been asked many times about depression, and what others might do to help. I have never been able to provide an adequate answer. Over time I have been doing a lot of reading, searching and pondering on this topic - probably more for my sake than anyone else - and have come up with four categories about depression. These are by no means complete, nor is anything listed in any particular order. Hopefully this will help provide answers, and maybe offer some insights or understanding.

If I have missed something important - please leave a comment and share your thoughts or experience.

Things you should know about depression
  • Depression is more common than you think
  • There are many different levels and characteristics of depression - from severe to mild, chronic to periodic or situational
  • Certain life events or trauma can trigger depression
  • Depression can put people at risk for other health conditions
  • It is not a choice to have depression - no one would willingly choose that
  • A person may not recognize they have depression
  • Depression's behaviors are not the real person - please don't take such things personally
  • Depression does have specific symptoms
  • A number of conditions can contribute to depression (here are only a few)
    • low self-esteem
    • negative thoughts
    • thyroid problems
    • hormones
    • serious or chronic illness
    • imbalance of brain chemical messengers, called neurotransmitters

Things not to say to someone with depression

I have personally heard many of these:
  • Just think positive thoughts; it's a matter of choice
  • I know exactly how you feel, I was depressed once for several days
  • You just need to get some exercise
  • It's all in your head
  • You should get a different job, or go back to school
  • Stop feeling sorry for yourself
  • You know better than that
  • Look at how lucky or blessed you are
  • Everyone has problems
  • Life is hard
  • Have you tried ____ tea, or ____ vitamins?
  • It's your own fault
  • You need to pray harder/ repent/ have more faith/ read the scriptures more
  • All you need is a priesthood blessing
  • I thought you were over that already
  • You should just try harder
  • Talking with a counselor, or taking medication, does no good
  • You're strong, you can handle this
  • No one ever said life was fair
  • There's always someone worse off than you are (I've even said this one to myself)

Things to say to someone with depression
  • I care about you
  • I love you
  • I'm here for you
  • You matter
  • You're not alone in this
  • You are important to me
  • Can I give you a hug?
  • You are not going crazy
  • There is hope
  • You can survive this
  • Don't worry, you won't drive me away
  • I don't really understand what you are feeling, but can offer my shoulder to lean on
  • When all this is over, I'll still be here and so will you
  • We are not on this earth to see through one another, but to see one another through

Things to do for someone with depression
  • Knowledge about depression is important - educate yourself
  • Be understanding and sympathetic
  • Don't give up on them
  • Give plenty of reassurance - and repeat often
  • Little things will mean more than you will ever think
    • send a card
    • keep in touch, maybe a short phone call
    • even a quick email with a smiley on it will do wonders
    • leave a comment on their blog (sometimes I am shameless, LOL)
  • Offer to help, and respect the answer if told no thanks
    • remember, depressed people are not lazy - for them even simple everyday tasks can be difficult and overwhelming
  • Be patient
  • Ask if they want to go for a walk, go to a movie, or go out to eat.
    • If they don't feel up to it, offer reassurance and ask again on another day
  • Encourage them to talk about their feelings
  • Listen, don't criticize
  • Take care of yourself first - don't neglect or wear yourself out by giving too much