The church I belong to (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints) have a women’s organisation called Relief Society. I help run Relief Society in my ward and one of my responsibilities is to help organise monthly activities. Last Wednesday we did an activity called, When life hands you lemons…
I bumped into it on Pinterest a few months ago and thought it would be perfect. It was a very successful evening, we learned how to clean our home with lemons, how to make a lemon body scrub and had a very entertaining demonstration on how to make traditional lemonade.
I started the evening with a talk on how to make lemonade in an emotional and spiritual sense. I could’ve delegated this talk to someone else and even had a couple of people in mind. However, I decided that , given the journey I’ve been on over the last 14 months, I should do the talk myself.
You know that dream you have sometimes, when you’re in a room with a group of the people you know and love. They’re all talking and laughing; it all seems very cordial. Then, and you know what’s coming, you look down and you are stark naked. Ever had that one? No? Well, you will.
Anyway, that is how I felt at the start of my talk. I have never told more than one person at a time about my struggle with depression and anxiety. Here I was sharing my very personal thoughts and feelings with a room full of women. I felt it was time to rip another plaster off and I have felt ready for a while, although that didn’t minimise the terror of it.
It was clear from the outset that there were at least a handful of sisters in the room who shared some of my feelings and struggles. That always feels reassuring, that feeling of not being on your own.
I then proceeded to share how I make lemonade, in the form of an acrostic poem, so here’s my recipe:
Love yourself is positioned first not only because it fits the lettering, but because it really has to be the first step. We are our own worst critics and it’s about time we stopped beating ourselves up and see how great we are. Not in a boastful or self-absorbed way, just loving the person that we are, weaknesses and faults included.
Embrace vulnerability really is so important for me, I’ve always struggled with control. I had to have everything neatly tidied away into boxes (if only I were like that in my home). I wasn’t allowed to feel upset or angry or depressed. I had to be okay, or at least appear okay to those around me. I shared with the women at the activity, this bold phrase: “it’s okay to not be okay”. I’m still telling myself that every so often.
I can’t take the credit for learning the concept that vulnerability can be good, my counsellor shared the following video with me at one of my earlier sessions. Dr Brené Brown’s words immediately resonated with me and have stuck with me ever since. I applied the concept to my own thoughts and feelings and maybe you can too. Please be aware there is one mild swear word about half way through.
Move away from comparing was obviously going to be an ingredient in my lemonade. As most of you will remember, I left Facebook a few months ago. One of the reasons for which, was that I needed to not be exposed to regular opportunities to compare myself with other people. I still find myself trapped in this destructive occupation but I’m working on it.
I shared the concept that, though we may all be on the same path, we are all at different parts, I’m probably at the beginning of the middle, so there’s no point, or benefit, in comparing myself with someone who is towards the end of the middle. We all have strengths and weaknesses, they make us who we are. They are not a tool for measuring our worthiness.
Photo source: lessonslearned.com
Open up your heart in prayer. Whether you share my beliefs or not, there’s a great deal of relief to be found in saying your thoughts and feelings out loud. For me, praying means more than that though, it means conversing with someone who completely and perfectly understands the workings of my mind and the struggles of my life. Someone who knows exactly how to help me or comfort me.
Never give up on yourself. For a long time I felt like I was such a waste of space and had failed to meet so many of life’s demands, that there was no way I could make up for my failings. There was no way back for me; I would be in the hole I was stuck in indefinitely. This is one of those cognitive distortions that is a fairly common symptom of depression. I didn’t know that at the time though, I felt like I was the only one.
The thing is, you can have a fresh start whenever you want to. I certainly have to learn to forgive myself and move on with my life. Not that I think that you always have it in you to dust yourself off and start again, but it’s always there for the taking.
Avoid social media surfing is pretty self explanatory. I get how useful Facebook can be for keeping in contact with friends, family, colleagues etc. What I think is both a tool for procrastinating the important things in your life and a breeding ground for comparing yourself with others, is surfing the news feed. Seriously, just stop it!
Discuss your feelings. Talk therapy has really helped me in countless ways, ways that I never truly expected. Opening up about my thoughts and feelings has helped me to start understanding and managing some of the symptoms of depression and anxiety that I experience.
You don’t necessarily need to see a counsellor (it shouldn’t be ruled out though). Talk to anyone you feel comfortable with and feel you can trust; your spouse, your friend, your parents, your siblings, your pet rabbit. As before, sometimes just saying it out loud can help and there’s always that chance that the person your speaking with is able to relate their experiences, which make you feel less alone.
Enjoy those moments. I asked the women in the room, what they thought “those moments” referred to. One woman, who I hope won’t mind me sharing her experience, said that earlier on in the day, her eleven year son, held her hand. She described how it was such a special moment because he was growing up and didn’t really need to hold Mammy’s hand anymore.
We need to really pay attention to the small moments when we feel at peace, when we feel joy, not from the fireworks of life but from the quiet feelings of, “yes, life is good right this minute”.
So that’s my recipe for emotional lemonade. I did need to remind the group, and myself, that sometimes all you can do is put the lemons in the fruit bowl or just hold them in your hands, or as one meme suggested, squirt them in someone’s eye. Make lemonade when you can and when you can’t, that’s okay.
Until next time.