First published in the BC Catholic on July 3rd, 2019 https://bccatholic.ca/voices/lisa-rumpel/language-lets-us-describe-joy-but-also-sadness
Sun rays dappling the sidewalk. Evening bird calls. Summer months promise us fun and relaxation. And they definitely can be filled with both. But when you have a mood disorder, happy feelings don’t always fill your brain. I remember feeling a darkness seeping into my thoughts one summer night. My mood dropped like a speeding roller coaster.
Instead of reacting with self-compassion, I berated myself for feeling depressed. “Don’t be silly! It’s sunny! Don’t feel this way! You are so weak. Why are you feeling depressed again? You’re supposed to be having fun.”
But then I picked myself up and headed out for a walk. Hope-filled music in my earbuds. I didn’t know why I was crying. I hoped no one saw the tears falling beneath my sunglasses. I kept walking. Fading light. Chalk drawings and lush flower beds. Dancing shadows on pavement. Using all my senses I focused on the present moment.
Feeling low can be isolating, so it’s the most important time to reach out. With years of experiencing changing moods, I’m more aware of the signs and symptoms of the mental illness I manage. Calling a friend or family member is on the top of my list, as is prayer.
Adjusting the dose of my medication with the help of my doctor is good too. Getting eight hours of sleep, eating healthy food, and exercising are essential. Sleep restores the serotonin levels in the brain. Serotonin acts like a messenger to our brain cells. It helps to regulate our moods including anxiety and happiness. Even athletes recognize the importance of sleep. At 10 hours they have peak performance. Eight to nine hours of sleep and they are doing very well.
For me, self-care is not optional. It is something I always do. I pray to the Lord, praising and lamenting. Opening my heart with all its emotion to him who is our powerful healer. At a recent talk in Vancouver, John Swinton, a Scottish theologian, spoke about how the third book of Psalms (Psalms 73–89) is lament. “God has given us a language to describe sadness, joy.” He shares that Scripture “encompasses all of our emotions.”
On summer nights when I struggle with depression, “Darkness is my only companion.” Psalm 88, among many others, speaks of sadness. Holding fast to God’s unchanging love for me, I pray as I can. Sometimes it is through listening to worship songs that I praise him. Often it is by walking in nature. The shape of the red-tinged clouds at sunset. Scents from jasmine blossoms. And making rhubarb sauce with orange zest.
For a meaningful connection with God, I imagine visiting a lonely closed church to find Jesus present in a tabernacle and talk to him as a friend. He is with me in my darkness. He reminds me that I matter. And he delights in me. So too, you matter. You are a delight! Jesus is so close to you. The Lord’s redemptive love wraps us in safety and heals our brokenness.
Summer nights may not always be brimming with fun. But we can slow down and relax, knowing that Jesus loves us. And that, as John Swinton says, “Jesus promised a life of fullness for everyone.”
One thought on “Language lets us describe joy, but also sadness”
Lisa! I love this!! I love how you bring beauty from ashes. Keep shining and sharing, Stephanie 🙂