Living with Seasonal Affective Disorder
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SAD: Why Living in the PNW is Hard.

SAD: Why Living in the PNW is Hard
SAD: Why Living in the PNW is Hard

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Living in the Pacific Northwest is Hard

Almost four years ago my little family and I returned to the Pacific Northwest. This relocation has been a struggle for several reasons, but one of the biggest struggles we’ve had to deal with is my ongoing battle with Seasonal Affective Disorder–SAD. Although the struggle didn’t start out as hard as I expected it to be, it has recently gotten worse.

I spent four years living in the desert, a place where it was sunny almost every day. On those rare occasions when it wasn’t, every part of me knew it. Those days were miserable for me, and made me grateful for each and every sunny day.

I also realized how blessed I was to no longer be living in the PNW.

The LORD had other plans for my little family though, and one day we packed up and headed back to the trees and mountains I’d grown up around. The PNW is beautiful. There is no denying that, but to be beautiful it spends quite a bit of time gray and dreary. For someone who needs the sunshine to be mellow and happy, the trade-off comes at a high price.

Summer Makes Me Come Alive

Today is beautiful. The sun is shining, the birds are singing, and there is just the right amount of breeze rustling the trees. Spring is here, and summer is approaching. I’ll be honest and say summer makes me come alive.

The past few months have been hard for me. Our family thrives on schedules and routines because, when it comes to me living in a state that spends close to six months a year with little sunshine, routines help me to not completely become a hermit. It also keeps the SAD from getting so out of control that I end up becoming a shadow of myself.

Sadly, this year those schedules and routines haven’t helped as much as they have in the past.

Making the Connection

I can’t really lock down when this ongoing battle became noticeable;  when the depression started interfering with my life. All I know is one day I realized I’d started putting off going places. I’d started finding reasons to not leave the house–to excuse myself and my family from social events because they felt like obligations–and that feeling stressed me out.

During the winter months I struggled with this a lot. Since the loss of my father and the suffocating feeling I had from the bleakness of the weather, I found myself leaving my home less and less. I’ve stepped away from several things I enjoyed doing, because I couldn’t convince myself the recovery time it would take me afterward was worth it.

The only things I’ve managed to maintain throughout this time are things directly involved with my children. No matter how hard it is for me, I don’t want to let them down. They enjoy their time at AWANA and Classical Conversations community day.  It wasn’t (and isn’t) their fault that I have a hard time functioning without glorious sunshine.

I’m Worried Too

My husband worries about me, and my friends worry about me. They’re afraid I’m not just going to become a hermit, but a full-fledged shut in.

If I’m honest, I’m worried about that as well.

You see, I love my church, but when this suffocating sensation turns to panic at the thought of leaving my home Sunday morning and facing people, I know there is reason to be concerned.

Today, I’m feeling great, and that knowledge can lull me into a false sense of security. It can cause me to forget the way I feel when it isn’t sunny and beautiful.

Sunlight therapy isn’t enough (though, I highly recommend adding it if you suffer from SAD!), and neither is the medication I gave in and started taking four years ago.

I need God to help me through this, the same way I need Him in every aspect of my life.

Blessings, 

Sare Signature

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encouragement, Faith, God's Beauty, Homeschooling, Loss, My Walk, Parenting, Relationships, Wisdom

Father’s Day and Healing

Three days ago we scattered my father’s ashes in the Puget Sound. A place he’d always loved. The week leading up to the memorial was rough and emotions ran high with everyone. I wanted nothing more than to forget about the whole thing and keep my father’s ashes on my shelf, because as soon as they were removed from their place of honor, lonliness enveloped me. He’d been there since February, a constant companion in my home. It was time to let him go, but I wasn’t sure I was ready.

At the approximate time the sun would have been setting, had the rain not decided to join our tears, we said a final goodbye to the man who had taught us so many things. There was laughter amidst the inappropriate humor my father was so used to from my sister Rae, and me. As she shared her memories, it occured to me that my father was a wonderfully flawed person. He swore, he drank, he was selfish, and was always impatient. I realized much of my personality came from him. Many of my strengths and many of my weaknesses were nurtured and ingrained at his knee. My father made many mistakes in his life, but one thing he did that wasn’t a mistake, was loving his children inspite of our differences, and sometimes because of them.

With that knowledge, it was important to remind myself that we all grieve differently, and that emotions are strong factors in the way we react to situations. That night wasn’t about who we were, it was about who he was. There was no right or wrong way to memorialize him. Whether it was drinking a bottle of wine in his memory as the rain poured down, or closing off from others and holding inside whatever emotion was burning the heart. We needed to set aside our various differences, ignore the typical family dynamic and just be there for one last moment with the man who had raised us in the only way he knew how.

After the others left, I sat on the bench beside the water with my dear friend. We watched otters play in the current, and I cried. Big, ugly, body wracking tears. For months there had been a pain inside my heart that couldn’t seem to heal. It was like a splinter left just beneath the surface, and it was festering as the days went on. I didn’t realize it, even as I sat there, that the healing had finally began. For the months since my father passed, I was in a holding pattern, not really grieving, but not really healing either.

Three days before Father’s Day, the proverbial splinter was finally removed, the wound cleaned, and my body and soul could really begin to heal.

When Sunday arrived I was leary of attending church. It was my first Father’s Day without my Dad. I didn’t know what to expect, and I was concerned I’d break down and not be able to stop. In fact, I almost decided not to go, to stay home and be safe from the emotions, smiles, and warm wishes of others.

Instead, I prayed.

Then I put on my big girl pants and joined my family in church.

It was a wonderful day. The words were exactly what I needed to hear, and my heart didn’t ache. For the first time in months I didn’t feel like I would get blown away in a stiff breeze, or shatter like glass. I felt free. With the scattering of my Father’s ashes, a weight was lifted from my shoulders. My Father is truly at peace now, and even though I might not be completely there yet, I am on my way. My heart is light and I am filled with the Joy of the Holy Spirit.

Life moves on and changes, much like the tides of the sea.

Happy Father’s Day, Daddy and may you forever be at rest in the place you loved best.

Sare

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Why We Don’t Participate in “All-Fools’ Day”

Ever since I was first introduced to April Fools’ Day in the early years of elementary school, I’ve dreaded the first of April. I hated falling for lies in the guise of ‘jokes’, and most importantly I hated not being able to trust the people I saw each day.

I’m sure it didn’t help that the way kids played jokes weren’t particularly funny. The jokes–or in most cases the pranks– were often mean-spirited and made the person, unlucky enough to be caught in the middle, embarrassed and uncomfortable. Some people, like myself, hate being in a spotlight of any kind, and these types of jokes are akin to being thrown onto a stage in a fully-packed stadium.

If jokes are supposed to be funny, those situations failed dismally.

As I’ve aged, I’ve noticed that many people never outgrew this rather childish and loathsome activity. However, many of the ‘jokes’ are now played online. For instance, at any given moment today I could scroll through my Facebook feed and see numerous posts about pregnancies. Now, for many this isn’t a big deal, but for people who are desperately trying to conceive, or have experienced the loss of a child, it isn’t an amusing topic.

Also, in this age of social media, there is a much wider base for ridicule. In the case of a few people on social media who post outrageous–yet totally plausible ‘plans’, and then sit back and watch as their friends and family ridicule and tear down each other for believing the words in the first place.

My children haven’t had the experience with All-Fools’ Day, because they are both young and educated at home. My daughter is much like I am, and though we enjoy goofing off and telling actual jokes, we never aim to get a laugh at someone else’s misfortune.

As a Christian, albeit a rather new one, I feel that the overall point of this day is decidedly UN-Christian. Nothing about it promotes a happy or exciting and enjoyable experience. I feel that this one day of the year is used as a way to say, “Hey, it’s okay to make fun of others, or to hurt, ridicule, and embarrass others, because it’s ‘just a joke’.”

We spend so much time dealing with bullying and abuse in our society, yet no one seems to blink about the pranks and jokes associated with this particular day on the calendar. Shouldn’t we use every day to teach our children the difference between a joke that makes EVERYONE laugh, and something that causes one person to be laughed AT? Shouldn’t we teach our children that it is never okay, not even one day a year, no cause others pain and embarrassment? Shouldn’t we be teaching our children that a lie even on the first of April, is still a lie?

I’m sure there will be people who feel I am overly-sensitive. That’s fine. It won’t be the first time those words have been applied to me in life. The difference now is, I’m an adult and I’m a mother. The only thing I care about it raising my children to be respectful of everyone, regardless of who they are or what time of the year it is. I don’t ever want my children to feel like it’s okay to make fun of someone, or be made fun of.

Even if it makes me out to be “overly-sensitive”, I will not confuse my children by participating, or allowing them to participate in something that at the very core marks what is wrong with our society. Words and actions affect people. The date on the calendar doesn’t change that.

Fellowship, My One Word, My Walk, Wisdom

(Kind of) Navigating Friendship

I firmly believe the LORD places people in our lives for a number of reasons. We may never understand what those particular reasons are, but as Faithful followers of Christ, we take it on Faith (or at least try really hard to). We trust the LORD, because we know He has it all figured out (Right?).

Since my word this year is Fellowship, I’ve been contemplating friendships: how they’re formed, how they’re nourished, and how they fade away. I’ve never been someone with a large group of friends. Even in school, I preferred the company of a single person to a crowd. This hasn’t changed in the years since I left the halls overcrowded with teenage angst, overlapping voices, and the slamming of lockers (and do I need to mention the overpowering smell of cologne and body spray?).

Making friends also isn’t what it used to be. I’m no longer forced into situations where friendships are made simply out of necessity. I am no longer trapped inside a building for eight hours a day, sharing experiences with the same people hour after hour, bonding over a shared desire to grow up.

No, now I am that grown-up. I’m voluntarily in a home all day long with my children, and when possible, my husband. I’m not sharing in misery, I’m sharing in love and a desire to grow together.

Without the forced interaction, making friends is hard. Friendship is no longer about shared boredom, but about responsibility. Being friends isn’t just about seeing someone during classes, at lunch, or in the hallways. Friendship as an adult requires effort. It requires a deeper bond, and the understanding that you may go long periods of time without seeing each other, because you’re adults with responsibilities that take you on different paths.

Several years back God introduced me to one of my nearest and dearest friends. It was completely by chance we ever met. I was in California and she was in Washington. We met through an online writer’s group, and we often joke about it being the only time online dating ever worked (Love you, Babe!). She now lives in Hawaii with her new husband (one of my few friends from high school), and her three children. I’m of course, back in the PNW. Though we see each other rarely, our relationship remains intact. Our lives have taken us in drastically different directions, and on paper we shouldn’t match up, but God knows what each of us needs. Without even realizing it, she helped me to acknowledge God and to understand He was calling me. I’ve never told her I feel she was placed in my life to help me be the person I am today, and I’d like to think the LORD has used me in her life as well.

As I grow and change each day, I look for new opportunities (and often have to force myself into them) to meet people who may change my life in some way. I keep my heart open so I don’t miss the subtle signs God gives me that may lead me to someone who will become one of those few friends I cherish.

Of course, even with God’s grace and love, these opportunities always scare me. The shy girl I thought I left in junior high wants to come back. I start questioning everything I say. Did I just sound really dumb? Man, I should have dressed differently. I don’t fit in here. I have nothing in common. I’m so new to being Christian, what if I say something that completely labels me as some kind of fraud?

Okay, so in some cases making friends as an adult brings you right back to those terribly awkward teenage years. Or, maybe that’s just me.

I’ve met some amazing people in the last year, and especially in the past three months. I still have moments of discomfort and shyness, but more often than not I look forward to seeing them and getting to know them. Most of the time when I’m with them I’m able to relax and not wonder if I’m going to say something that will make me the social pariah. I’m a work in progress.

What it really comes down to is I NEED to trust in the LORD. I NEED to trust His work in others the same as I trust His work in me. None of us are perfect, and it is possible some of them are as hesitant as I am when it comes to meeting people and letting them into the heart.

Until next time, may the LORD bring peace to your life,

Sare