on attention and paralysis


After my Daddy knocked the wind out of me by saying he thinks I might be struggling with depression, he gave me something to think about. He said, “I want us to start a new tradition. Let’s once a year meet as a family around a fire in the Fall up on the hill next to the dewberry bushes. What we’ll do is tell a story – even the kids. Every person has to tell a story.”

I approved with exclamations because I love a story. So now I’m thinking – what story would I tell? 

I have to learn to pay attention again. Just Pay Attention.

surprise lilies

Since our conversation yesterday around 6:00 PM, I’ve tried so hard to do it – to direct my thoughts and make them stick. How, in this stage of life, is it possible to capture a thought? Mine float around with the indiscipline of a housefly.

My daddy is right, and it isn’t completely true that I can’t pay attention because I have focused a great deal on my own weaknesses. I focus and become paralyzed; my legs become useless. My story starts to sound like the time I lost my temper, a little one crying and saying it would be easier if I hadn’t had little boys. It’s sad, and the dishes pile, and the boys fight, and my response to the surprise lily is a blank stare. 

“We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:5

So now I have to relearn to pay attention. How do I get up and live my story? 

When the thought comes, take hold of it. Don’t grab it and hold it and pull the covers up over its head, but take the thought and make it obedient. Get up with it and act it out. If the thought is to make the bed, turn it into obedience. If the thought is to consider the lilies, then look at them up close, lifting and unfurling. Let Jesus make us get up and smile and live. Tell the right story and demolish all the others.

amberhaines
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16 Comments

Susan R
Reply July 27, 2009

How I needed those words today...nuff said! Love you guys!

Kelly
Reply July 27, 2009

Awh Amber, I'm not there to see how you interact with life on a daily basis, and a blog post only tells you so much. I wanted to share that I had postpartum depression for over a year after Piper was born, compounded by a Lyme infection that compromised my pituitary gland. I've been through the wringer on depression, and it's a really hard topic to face, especially when you've been confronted about a struggle with it. Sometimes it *is* just physical, and sometimes it's something that God is using to draw us into His heart. Right now, I can hardly believe how good He is to me when I think about what He has done in my life over the last year, but the road to this place wasn't an easy road. I landed at the end of myself, giving up on Him, finally telling Him what I REALLY thought, that I just didn't matter to Him. Then somewhere in the emptiness of all that pain poured out, I began to see Him loving me, even if things didn't go the way I wanted, even if He didn't look the way I thought He would. The last few months have been awakening for me, and I find my whole life changed and joy I never imagined wriggling beneath the surface issues of the dailiness. My heart is different now, but not because I did anything; I think I know His heart better.

I think you might appreciate a little couple of my posts from the last year - it says more than I can say in my comment: http://livingbygrace.blogspot.com/2008/03/pardon-my-dust.html
http://livingbygrace.blogspot.com/2009/02/hope-that-does-not-disappoint.html

    Amber
    Reply July 27, 2009

    Kelly,

    Thank you, friend. I wish that none of us were familiar with it, but my suspicion is that we know no mother who hasn't battled. I've been in the pit, but usually I teeter on the edge of it. I know myself well enough to know what pushes me over. Lack of discipline is the number 1 thing - because when my mind stays in the sad places, I'm too exhausted to fight in the right ways. I turn on the "flesh and blood" nearest to my heart. I turn on myself.

Jessica
Reply July 27, 2009

I heard something inspiring in a funny place....Mr Majorium's Wonder Emporium...

"Your life is an occasion, ...rise to it!"

Jess
Reply July 27, 2009

I love your conclusion, to "get up with it and act it out." That is so good and so-- practical. In a really encouraging way. I ALWAYS, ALWAYS love what I find here!

Sus
Reply July 27, 2009

I needed this today. Thanks for writing. Love, Sus

laura @ peacoat
Reply July 27, 2009

i really needed this today. i've felt like i was flailing a little, but to just tell one little story at a time is something i can manage.

thanks for a smidgen of peace on a monday.

Jane Anne
Reply July 27, 2009

I just said a prayer for you.
Also, these words were wonderful for me today:
"If the thought is to consider the lilies, then look at them up close, lifting and unfurling. Let Jesus make us get up and smile and live. Tell the right story and demolish all the others"

the scooper
Reply July 28, 2009

There are few posts I read where I think, "That's me. She's me. She climbed into my thoughts and she's spilling them to the rest of the world." Emily has written a few of those too...as have others. But they are few and far between b/c I'm such a misfit, ostensibly.

It's been a doozy of a year. A doozy of about 3 or 4 years actually, bouncing back and forth between attentiveness and paralysis and insanity. This post really resonated with my soul, especially the grabbing the thoughts part.

Sara
Reply July 31, 2009

"Tell the right story and demolish the others." I needed to read this right now. It's good to not feel alone in the struggle.

Boy Crazy
Reply August 2, 2009

I think you're right that many mothers (many women) fight this. I was doing so well for such a long stretch, but right now I am deep down in it again. Hang in there, and do what you need to to get better.

I like your advice of just obeying the thought. Just last week I stared at the five baskets of overflowing laundry. And instead of thinking 'start folding', I felt paralyzed by what seemed to be an insurmountable task. Recognizing Depression for what it is helps, but it is really really hard to break out of.

Boy Crazy
Reply August 2, 2009

I just re-read your post again, and I guess I didn't realize that the inability to maintain attention while depressed is something other people experience, too. I have been failing at any attempt to remain in the present, and I've felt like I'm flailing and floundering without anything to ground me. My thoughts are scattered and I stumble through my daily life in a state of perpetual chaos. It's very interesting to me that the inability to focus may be wrapped up in the struggle with depression as a common experience for those who deal with it.

Amber
Reply August 2, 2009

Boy Crazy, really you've nailed it. The inability to pay attention has a lot of consequences, too. I start to believe that my hearing ear doesn't work anymore. It's a lie though.

I know that being intentional with one thing at a time does some major wonders.
Thing#1 - wake up and be still with God.
#2a Make bed
2b unload dishwasher
#3 feed babies
#4 have story time with babies
#5 ...
it starts to look like a schedule - not the law - just some intentionally thought-out priorities to pursue.

This, right now, is what I'm trying to do. It's a good day if I do even one thing on that list, and I find that the more I do it, the easier it is. It's the getting started that's the hard part.

Thanks for speaking up here.

Boy Crazy
Reply August 4, 2009

I see what you're saying. And it isn't a rigid schedule, it's more of a family rhythm, isn't it? A comfortably worn groove that you can all slide into. And when the rhythm and routine are disrupted, the whole family feels it and chaos perpetuates chaos and the mamas go crazy and set the mood for the whole household, right?

It seems to me this is going around these days. Again, thanks for sharing what works for you. I am always grateful to glean new coping/mothering strategies. ;)

Carissa
Reply March 7, 2012

I am reading this two and a half years late, because I didn't "know" you or your blog two and a half years ago, and I just put "depression" into the search here, and this one I read...

This is me: "it isn’t completely true that I can’t pay attention because I have focused a great deal on my own weaknesses. I focus and become paralyzed; my legs become useless. My story starts to sound like the time I lost my temper, a little one crying and saying it would be easier if I hadn’t had little boys. It’s sad, and the dishes pile, and the boys fight, and my response to the surprise lily is a blank stare. "

So I guess even though I am reading this late, I am really reading it at the right time, because I needed to at this minute. Thank you for writing words for kindred spirits to find and say, as if looking in a mirror, "I see me in that" later.

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