Cleansing It Away

So, after a month of feeling miserable and struggling at a depressed level in mood, I am finally starting to pick up again. The last few days have been especially better, as I find myself thinking much more clearly again, and making fewer mistakes. I tend to make a lot of mistakes when I’m low. I also keep dropping things. This may sound funny, but it’s not. I drop things constantly when I’m low. I don’t understand it. I’ve noticed that I drop my pills (not good), my eyeglasses (really not good), finger foods, and just about anything else that my hands have to grip. It frustrates me to a point where I’m in tears and either pick the thing back up and slam it down on a table in anger, or struggle not to throw it across the room. This just makes me feel even lower.

However, since about the middle of last week, I’ve been noticing my mood has been elevating again. I am greatly relieved. I was so worried that I would slip even further, until I lost all control and wound up in a full-blown depression episode. My therapist has been amazing as usual. And, with her compassion, the support of my loving family and friends, my awesome friends here in the blogging community, and most of all, my loving Lord, I feel like I am moving back up again. I’m not letting my guard down, though. I’m keeping up with all that I have to do, in order to hopefully maintain this incline.

I used to have a stuff-it-and-hide-it-away closet.
Image found on “Friends” Wikia

I’ve realized something interesting with this last minor (compared to what I’ve experienced in the past) episode. I have recognized a habit that I have resorted to during these times. One thing I’ve been doing a lot over the last couple of weeks, is cleaning. And, I mean a lot of it. I always clean our house on a regular basis as my mom has more difficulty now doing such tasks due to health issues. Not to mention, it’s a way for me to contribute to the household. However, lately, I’ve been doing a different kind of cleaning. I’ve been getting rid of a lot of things and organizing like crazy. This is a pattern that I’ve noticed from past episodes.

When I’m in a full-blown deep and dark depression, then that is different. Doing anything during those times creates an immense load of stress and overwhelming emotions. But, when I’m at a point such as this last month, I notice that my OCD kicks into higher gear. I become obsessed with getting stuff clean and keeping it clean. And, if something gets out of place, then I get anxious that the “mess” will keep growing. I constantly ask my mom, “Mom, how long is this going to be here?” Or, “Why is this here? It doesn’t belong here… we need to move it.” I know that I annoy her with the constant picking, but I can’t help it. It becomes the most important thing of which I need to take care. I need to keep it all in order, or else I will feel out of order. I will feel even more anxious and out of place than I already do.

So, these last couple of weeks, I have gotten rid of many items, as well as have given away things that I no longer use. This may sound strange, but I find it cleansing to my soul. It feels like I’m getting rid of the past that I don’t want anymore. Last week, I removed a drawer unit from our family room, which contained my boxed set of DVDs. About a year or so ago, I put all of my DVDS and Blu-Rays into these zipper cases that hold both the discs and the inserts. I condensed my entire collection into these cases and recycled the original DVD cases. However, I still had my boxed sets in the drawer unit, because I could not bring myself to break those down into zipper cases. But, last week, I said to myself, “I don’t care anymore.” So, I took them all out, organized them, and put them into some zipper cases, and eliminated the drawer unit.

It felt so great to do this. Now, I don’t even miss the original cases, and love the freed space that I was able to create. I feel less claustrophobic now too. The unit was not that huge, but it was big enough for me to notice its absence, and it feels wonderful. I removed that part of my past (it was a unit that I’ve had for about 10 years or so), and I don’t miss it.

What I’ve learned through all of this is that I have one of two extremes when I’m in a mild depression. I either lie down all day and don’t do anything, or I force myself up and start doing all that I can to get things in order. I think in the process of cleaning and organizing our house, the work becomes a way to cleanse myself.

Image Courtesy of Indulgy

I find that interesting, because I had never realized that pattern until recently. So, to see that now and discuss it with my therapist, I realize that it’s something that has become a coping mechanism. She told me that when I’m out of control on the inside – as well as on the outside (in regard to my family member’s situation) – that my OCD kicks in. This causes cleaning to become one of my ways of trying to regain control. Eating is another, but obviously an unhealthy, way of coping. Cleaning, on the other hand, is much more healthy, as it’s a way for me to also get my body moving more. I’ve actually lost some weight over the last couple of weeks, as I can feel it in my clothes, and that’s a plus.

“The Trashman”

The act of cleaning out the misery reminds me of a short story that is included in a book that I own, called Next Door Savior, by Max Lucado. The story is called “The Trashman” and it’s a beautiful one.

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It opens on a woman who is carrying a bag of trash. Tired, she sits down and watches many other people walk by her, each with their own bags of trash. Some of the people look absolutely drained from the loads they carry, while others look as if their trash bags are not yet as full. The heavier the load, though, the more strain and exhaustion exists on the faces of the people. The woman is tired, as she doesn’t know what to do with her trash. She knows that she cannot give it to anyone else, because they have their own loads to carry. She then sees a man who looks the most tired of all. He is much older, slumped over, and has a look of loneliness on his face. She wonders what his bag of trash must have inside. It is then, when a voice behind her says, “Regrets”.

The woman turns to see a happy and pleasant man standing before her, wearing a t-shirt and ball cap. She doesn’t understand how this man knows the contents of the elderly man’s bag, but she doesn’t doubt what he states. However, after the man asks her to bring him her trash that coming Friday, she wonders if she’s hearing correctly. What would he want with her trash? And, why would he make such an offer to her, a complete stranger?

As the week goes on, the woman remembers the man’s offer. After much thought, she decides to head to the landfill. It is there that she sees a line of many people, each with their trash bags. One of the most relateable parts of the story for myself comes into play at this point. The woman sees a teenaged girl with her load. The girl says what is in her bag. “’Rage. Rage at my father. Rage at my mother. I’m tired of the anger.’” And, as she motions to her bag, she continues, “’He said he’d take it.’”

It is then, that the woman starts to truly wonder who this man is. All of the people are wondering. They do not understand how someone could be so kind to strangers. As each person goes up to the man on the top of the landfill, screams and groans can be heard echoing through the air. As each person goes up to the man, they are emptying their trash bags on top of the man. He takes each and every one, and screams in pain and anguish with as the contents pour onto his body.

Then, it is the woman’s turn. She approaches the main who is crying and in pain. He tells her that she cannot live with such trash in her bag, and says, “’May I have it? And may you never feel it again.’” He then looks up to the sky and screams in tears, “’I’m sorry!” The trash is then poured onto him.

The woman is confused and anguished to see this man not only in pain, but also apologizing for something that is not his fault. She then realizes what this man has done. “… he sobs as she has sobbed into her pillow a hundred nights. That’s when she realizes that his cry is hers. Her shame is his.”

Her weight has lifted. Her trash is no more.

After all of the people in line have emptied their trash, the man is collapsed on the top of the hill. He is weak and no longer moving. However, although the people are free to leave, they do not do so. They all stay throughout the night, and don’t even fully understand why. What they don’t realize is that they are staying due to their love for this man who has rid them of their miseries, pains, sins, and so much more.

When the morning comes, a sight appears on the top of the hill of trash. It is the man. He is standing, with the morning sun glowing brightly behind him. He is perfectly fine after his turmoil, and he is strong. The people see this and they rejoice, for the man who saved them has also been saved.

Jesus is wonderful!

He Wants to Take It

As I stated, one of the most relateable parts to the story was the teenaged girl who had rage. I do not have rage toward my parents, but this last month, I have had rage toward my family member, as I’ve discussed in detail. It has been a difficult time. I do not like feeling so much anger. It scares and hurts me. But, it was an anger that would not go away.

After thinking about my realization of my cleaning and organization, I decided to reread “The Trashman”. In doing so, I was reminded of that part of the story. I had forgotten about the girl with the rage. It struck a chord with me, and makes me cry. Just as the girl, I am also tired of the anger. And the fact that Jesus will take it is so emotionally overwhelming.

Please understand, though, that I know that it isn’t as simple as just praying. I can’t just pray any of this away, and I cannot stand when people have told me that prayer and accepting Jesus into my heart will cure me. I do have Jesus in my heart, and people can think whatever they want, but I know what my relationship with my Lord is, and they cannot tell me otherwise.

Mental illness is not a sin. It is not something that just disappears with prayer. It is a real, psychological and physical illness, as it takes place in the brain. It is important for people to realize that it is not a flaw or punishment. However, prayer can do something beneficial for me. It can help to ease my pain and struggles. Jesus does indeed want to take my trash, and when I pray, He takes what He can. He can take everything, if He chooses to do so… bipolar and all. However, for whatever reason, He has chosen for me to walk this path. So, due to this reason, He has not taken all of my trash, but I think He places His sponge of love into my bag. It helps to soak up some of my load, and lighten it. I try my best to remember that when I am in a depression. It is hard, but I talk to Him often, and ask Him for guidance. I also ask Him to please help me feel His arms around me. And, when I do, I make sure to thank Him for not leaving my side.

However, I must admit, that as strong as my love for Jesus is, my bipolar can make it hard to fully retain that knowledge at times. I find myself getting angry with God at times, and wanting to yell at Him. I find myself wanting to just turn my back on Him as I feel He has done to me during my most emotional points. But, there’s always a voice that pops back into my head. It may be faint, but it is there. It reminds me that He is in my heart, and that I don’t want to let Him go. I apologize to Him for doubting Him. We all have our own arsenals, in which we carry our tools and assets. These are what help us to get through our daily lives, under the shadow of mental illness. For me, God is my greatest asset in my arsenal, and I feel blessed that He is with me.

I love You, Jesus, and I thank you for never letting me go.