My Flu

A tree doesn’t grab hold of every kind of weather or it would be pulled down and destroyed. Likewise, our job is to notice storms, not hang on to them and let them uproot us.
~ Jewel

I have battled anxiety and depression most of my life. I call it my flu because it doesn’t stay, but like any virus it has power. I respect it, and I realize that when it comes it wants to destroy me. Today, at fifty-three-years-old, I’ve never been more comfortable with my flu and it’s never been buried so deep. I haven’t been this healthy or happy since I was a child. Writing down the reasons for this helped me realize how intentional I have to be in order to be well.

Avoid danger – I identified destructive behaviors and I stopped doing them. Think of the alcoholic who avoids bars. I’m careful about what I read, listen to, and watch. I’m careful how I speak and I shy away from gossip both in-person and in the media. Garbage in, garbage out. I might briefly dip my foot in, but I no longer plunge into treacherous waters.

Necessary endings – Dr. Henry Cloud urges readers to move on from unsafe people. Yes, even family. Setting boundaries is extraordinarily difficult. You can love and pray for people at a distance.

Help others – When you’re in the middle of hell, the natural reaction is to withdraw, to retreat into your own bubble. Resist this. Incredible blessings come when you turn your attention toward someone not in your mirror.

Medication/Herbs – I discovered an herb called St. John’s Wort. Lifesaver.

Health – Sleep. Eat right. Drink water. See your doctor regularly.

Ask for help – Many years ago, depression was taking a physical toll on me. I was working in my yard and suddenly my bones exploded in pain. I dropped to my knees and burst into tears. My parents stopped by unexpectedly to see the kids. They waved and went straight in the house. I whispered, “Mom, please help me,” but I never said a word. That was a mistake.

Talk about it – Find an ear. Not someone to fix you, but someone to hear you. Don’t make excuses about this. Wisdom and empathy are as near as your local assisted living facility.

Play! – I pop a lot more ibuprofen than I used to, but I play basketball. I love high fives with total strangers. I love how there’s no black, no white, no Left, no Right, only athletes and want-to-be athletes with one common goal: Winning. Exercise releases endorphins in the brain that trigger a positive feeling in the body similar to morphine.

Prayer/Meditation – Talk to God. Listen for God. The hills you climb are no surprise to Him.

Gratitude – It’s unimaginable to me now, but I went years without ever thanking God for anything. Years. Luckily, He doesn’t require a thousand “I’m Sorrys.”

Forgive – Holding on to grudges is like burning down your house to kill a spider.

Laugh A LOT – Dance like a dork. Act the fool. Embarrass your kids. Make memories that will carry on far longer than the things that ail you.

Fall in love with your life – Hate your job? Quit. Hate your city? Move. If the season has changed, change with it. Love yourself enough to make new beginnings.

If I’m not intentional, I become a target of sickness. Not only am I living with my flu, but I am grateful for it. Without it, I would have little empathy. I know what it’s like to wake up and instantly cry for absolutely no reason. I know what the headaches feel like, the ones that come with more despair than pain, and I know what it’s like to try and fight this battle alone.

Michael J. Fox, who suffers with Parkinson’s disease once said that if God offered him a deal that he could be perfectly healthy again, but he’d have to go back to the person he was before, no way in hell would he do that deal. I feel the same way. My flu is mine. It’s a hot ember that lies dormant, and while I respect its power, I refuse to throw gasoline on it.

Control the controllables.