Category: living with low mood


Whisper it very quietly, but a little more than six years after I first started taking medication for anxiety and low mood, I have stopped taking the tablets.  I’ve left it for a while before posting this to make sure that I am able to sustain the progress I have made and I now feel confident that the gradual reduction to nothing is permanent.

It has taken a long time – longer than I would have liked.  After a while, I gave up with a timetable.  Life just doesn’t work that way does it?  I would devise a plan and then something happened to foil it.  In the end, I stopped the medication completely as we headed into Winter – contrary to all advice and common sense but it felt right and it seems to have lasted.

I am still affected by both anxiety and low mood.  The medication helped me but it didn’t cure me.  It’s just that I have now reached a point where taking better care of myself and adopting helpful strategies are enough.  I need to keep doing both of those things.

I would not have wished for the experience, but the last eight years have taught me a lot.  They have greatly increased my compassion and empathy for others who experience mental health illness.  They have enabled me to help other people more effectively.  They have made me a better person.

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We just don’t think about skinny bears do we?  Baloo, Winnie the Pooh, Kung Fu Panda.  Being overweight is part of the deal.

I was in a shop the other week when I noticed someone looking at me.  “Blimey,” I thought, ” that bloke’s chubby.”  Turned out to be a mirror.

You see, when all you do is sit in your cave all day and eat, you put on weight.  When you hibernate, you put on weight.  When you eat because you’re bored, under pressure or feeling low, you put on weight.

And when you put on weight and feel bad about it and start getting down on yourself, you have a tendency to eat.

It’s a bit of a vicious cycle.

So – now that spring is here and I’m venturing into the great outdoors again, I might just do so with a little bit more vigour than I have done recently.  It’s time to meet the furious five.

being a bear (ii)

So, I have this cave.  I think many self-respecting bears have a cave.

It’s not much of a cave.  Basic.  No facilities.  But the most important thing about my cave is that it’s mine.  And you’re not welcome.

Don’t take that personally.  Nobody is welcome.

Even if someone I really love follows me into my cave, I tend to lose it with them.  A bear needs privacy every now and then.

My family has got pretty used to the process.  They can spot when I’m heading for my cave – a quiet place where I can reflect on things and try to figure out what’s going on in my life.  They know that when I’m ready, I will wander back into the woods with them.

Other people aren’t quite so perceptive.

It probably doesn’t help that my cave is a bit of a nomadic place.  Sometimes it’s my room, sometimes it’s my garden.  It can be a walk in the country, a drive in the car or a bench in the park.  There are no sign posts.

But you do need to remember this: never follow a bear into his cave.

being a bear (i)

Hibernating.  NoImagew there’s a concept.  This year, I have been giving it a try.  It’s not that I deliberately chose to hibernate, it’s just that I kind of ended up doing it.  I haven’t posted since Christmas Eve and that’s just one way in which I have been out of circulation.

I’ve been asleep a lot too.  That’s an important part of the process, apparently.

And my heart rate has dropped, at least I think it has.  My GP says I need to raise it two or three times a week in any event.

Anyway, I have decided that hibernating hasn’t been very helpful.  I enjoy a little time on my own, I haven’t enjoyed four months on my own.  But now that spring is here and I have woken up, it’s time to get on with life.  Apart from anything else, Mrs Bear and the three cubs need a little attention…

leadership

When I had my meltdown in 2009, I was a full-time elder in a local Newfrontiers church.

My time with that church came to an end soon afterwards.  My self-esteem was low, my confidence weak and I had lost courage.  All my effort was being aimed at recovering my health and being able to function again as a husband and father.  It had been a very difficult season.

Some months after the initial breakdown, I was driving down a familiar stretch of road when I sensed God ask me if I would step back into leadership again.  I wasn’t thinking about church or the past – I wasn’t looking forward to the future.  It was totally out of the blue but I had no hesitation.  Yes LORD, I thought.  I would.

Why?  Because I would do anything Jesus asked me to do.  I trust Him to lead me well.  Because my past does not determine my future.  His purposes do.

And because leadership is a gift like any other, and I don’t think that God takes away His gifts once he has given them, it seemed natural that I would be asked to step back up to the plate at some point.

I kept fairly quiet about the experience though.  It would be a long time before it became an issue in any setting other than my own heart.  But I definitely settled something that day, in that moment, and I’m so glad I did.

This week I have been welcomed into the leadership team of Jubilee, my new church.  It is a different model from my previous experience and I have no idea where it will lead.  For now, I am grateful for the love and support I have received there, for the trust that people have placed in me and for the opportunity to serve Jesus and my local church within the gifting He has given me.

It is the next chapter in a wonderful adventure with Jesus.  And I am looking forward to every step!

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