“Everyone’s Gone Through It”

When I was in grade school and high school, I considered myself a good student.  I was never the best, but I consistently held a high GPA, and ranked in the top 5-10 of my class at any given semester.  (The only class I ever got a C in was Spanish, and I prayed hard for that class!)   Upon transferring to a community college, my experience remained steady.  Studying hard for my tests paid off, college parties were ignored in favor of books and class curriculum, and if I realized I was struggling, there was always helpful tutors I saw.

After my two years at community college, I transferred to a State University.  It was the first time I had lived outside of my parents house, the first time I lived with strangers (or “roommates” as the housing department refers to them), and the first time I would genuinely experience loneliness of not being surrounded by family and friends.  Still, the experience is necessary for most of us; we have to move out of our safe space and venture out into the world.   My venturing was relatively safe:  I lived less than a mile from school, and my parents were paying for my housing and accommodations, not to mention tuition; and I had friends who would come visit me in my new city.  My roommates and I got along for the most part, and I even had my own room for when they did drive me up a wall.

School was fine at the beginning.  I enrolled in academic classes, as well as some drama courses.  During my community college, I had discovered this deep love for being a part of the theater, and it only grew that spark that I had always carried as a child while watching plays and musicals.  (I think the Phantom was my first real crush.)   Things went well, for a while.  Classes were interesting, I moved into another apartment with closer friends my second year at University, and continued my work in the costume department of the theater.  I was in a new relationship, and things seemed to be going well.

When the “fog” set in, it confused me.  Fog is the word I use because nothing else describes it. Things would slip my mind, coursework that should have come easily wouldn’t stick.  Focusing on reading or studying simply wasn’t an option for me.  There were other symptoms too, like the extreme tiredness at all hours of the day, regardless of sleep.  Oh, and speaking of sleep, I would sleep in excess of 10 hours if my schedule allowed it, more if possible.  I started to skip classes, and isolate myself.  I moved into an apartment by myself so I wouldn’t have to deal with other people when I came home from school or work.  Along with the isolation came the binge eating.   Cooking was just too tiring, but I felt listless without the comfort of food so I would visit the drivethru’s of fast food chains and collect bags full of the worst food, go home, and sit and devour it until I made my stomach burst.  Then I would crawl into bed, tired, defeated, and feeling terrible.  It was no wonder I started to gain weight and lose even more of my already diminished drive to attend classes or finish my costume shop internship.

Understandably, my lack of attendance started to draw the notice of my teachers.  I was given the option to drop classes/internships before the date was too advanced, but being the perfectionist I was I couldn’t bring myself to do that.  I would get better, I told myself.  I would break through this fog, find my energy again, and return to normal.  I just needed to work harder, be less lazy, push myself more; I could catch up.  But that didn’t happen.  As much as I wanted it to, as much as I tried, I had no idea how to fix my situation.  In fact, I didn’t even know what was wrong with me.  I told myself that I wasn’t sick, I was just lazy, it was all in my head and if I wanted to get better, I should just do it.  Because, that’s what you do when you are a good student, a good person.  You get better.

But I didn’t get better; I got worse.  Teachers started dropping me from classes whether I wanted it or not, and my internship wasn’t renewed.  The shame and guilt I felt from all of this was emotional hell, and I blamed it all on myself.  I vividly remember a conversation with the head of the technical theater department.  He was asking why I was withdrawing from classes and shows, and I very quietly told him that I was going through something, something that I couldn’t identify…  That maybe, I was sick?  His response to me was simple, “Well, whatever it is, other students have gone through it too.  You’re no different from then.  You need to figure out a way to deal with it.”  His reaction hit me like a ton of bricks.  It was the first time I had admitted to even myself that I was going through something abnormal.  Guilt washed over me, and I felt like a lazy loser who wasn’t good enough, a complete failure: of course other students went through this, and of course they rose above it.  They had found ways to deal with it, so the fact that I hadn’t meant that I wasn’t good enough to be here.

I don’t think that was his intention.  I’m sure he meant for it to be encouraging or to make me pull myself up by the bootstraps.  But at that moment, I didn’t know how.  By the end of that semester, I stopped going to classes altogether.  The university sent me a letter explaining that because I hadn’t dropped or provided a legitimate reason why I didn’t finish, that I wouldn’t be allowed to enroll for the next semester.  I officially flunked out of college.

Years later, I look back at this experience, and realize that is where depression first touched my life.  After that incident, it came and went in increasing dosages.  When it reached a critical stage for me, years later, I got help.  I look back and wonder how my life would have been different if I had been able to see what it was, to name what it was that attacked me.  Would I have finished university, would I still be able to walk into a theater without feeling sick to my stomach, nervous, anxious.  I still battle the monster that introduced itself to me in college to this very day.  Depression has and probably always will be a part of my life, but now I know how to combat it.  I know to recognize my triggers, and where and when to find support and help.  Naming it helps; knowing it’s real helps; and helping others get through it helps.

Please know that if you are going through something similar that, yes, others have been there too.  But that doesn’t make what you are going through any less real, devastating, or difficult.  And it doesn’t mean you should know how to fix it on your own.  There is healing, and there is help.  Contact your doctor today to start working toward the right treatment.   Don’t give up or stop asking for help.  Depression is real, but so is healing.

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Create In the Margins – Bible Journaling Class 1

I am so happy to report that our very first Bible journaling class, Create in the Margins 1, was a really fun night!  We had about 12 people come and join us, and we spent the night talking, and working on our Bible journaling entries.

For this class, we gave the prompt of Genesis 3:11, “Who told you that you were naked?”

Odd verse to start out with, right?   You see, the story in Genesis 3 has to do with Eve and Adam living in this perfect garden of Eden.  Then they make the big mistake of listening to someone (the serpent) who isn’t God.  Instead of trusting that God knew best, they took the serpent’s advice and disobeyed their Father.  Afterwards, they start to experience this shame, and start to be embarrassed because they were naked.  Well, here comes God, and when Adam finally ‘fesses up to being ashamed of how they looked, God asks the question, “Who told you that you were naked?”.

Somewhere in your life, someone or something has probably made you feel less than enough, too much, not pretty, worthless, a failure… the list goes on.  And when we start to listen to those voices, when we start to feel that same shame that Even and Adam felt, we need to stop and ask the question, “WHO told me that?”  Because it definitely wasn’t my Heavenly Father.  He thinks I am awesome, beautiful, a new creation!   When we listen to God’s voice, we start to see ourselves through his eyes, as someone who is worthy of love, who has strength to love those around us, who is brave and courageous enough to live the life He called us to.  That is the only voice I want to be listening to!

So, for this Bible study, we made everyone an owl prompt for the “WHO told you that” line.  We used the new Cricut Gold machine, and made a variety of different owls.  Each person used whatever medium they preferred to journal the entry. (I used my Mermaid Markers, and my mom used her watercolor crayons!)

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Everyone’s art came out so different, and I truly think this was one of the funnest Bible studies that I have ever participated in!

The rest of the night we sat and worked on other pages and had some fun fellowship and give-a-ways.

If you are in the Lodi/Stockton/Galt area and want to join us next month, we would love to have you!  See the Faith Community website for more information, or leave me a comment here and I can contact you!

 

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First “Create IN the Margins” Bible Journaling Class

It’s official, the very first Faith Community Bible Journaling night is happening!  If you are local to the Lodi, Stockton, Galt area, come join us this Monday, January 30, 2017 in Portable 3 for friends, food, and Bible journaling!

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You bring your journaling Bible, Art journal, or any other canvass you are working on, as well as your favorite supplies.  (We will have some limited supplies to share as well!)

The address is 18621 N. Highway 99, Acampo, CA and we will be meeting in Portable 3.

Also, there just might be a little  surprise “mini” kit for those who attend… I’ll post it next week for those of you who can’t be there.

Have a great week,

Carolyn, from Sparkling Waters Studios

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A little more of my story…

So, this is going to be a little bit of a personal post.  I’ll try to keep it brief; it’s just a little part of my story.

In the last few years, I’ve struggled with depression.  It started with some small, insignificant (at the time) bad habits, and steadily progressed and grew into a overwhelming monster of fear that invaded my life and crashed my perfect plans into rubble.

At the very worst point, my husband came home one day to find me shut up in our living room, in complete darkness, bawling my eyes out.  I had such a bad depression pit that day, and the thoughts that had flashed through my mind terrified me.  In pain, in despair, I had a very real moment of wanting it to end, of taking my own life. And it terrified me to the core of my soul.

I’m a Christian.  I don’t believe that suicide is ever the right decision.  And I have experienced the effects and grief that suicide leaves behind in it’s wake.  So why in the heck would such a thought ever pass into my mind?  How could it?  Was I losing my faith, had I somehow lost my way?  I didn’t thing so, I was active at church, and had a decent prayer life.  I’d always felt close to my Father, even in the more crazy times of my life.

Depression rattled my world in a way that I had never experienced before.  That night my husband encourage, or demanded really, that I go see my doctor immediately.  And I did.  I took my mom.  On the way to the appointment, I told her what had been going on.  How I had done my best to hide it from her and my family,  not sure why because they are some of the most caring people I have in my life.  She was sad, a little hurt I had locked her out, I think, but most of all she was supportive.  She sat with me as I talked to my doctor, who sent me immediately to the therapist on staff.  We rode home together and talked about the plan that my therapist had set up for me: weekly group meetings for a Depression Support Group and bi-weekly one-on-one appointments.

I could write pages on what I learned over the next few months and the coming years, both about myself, about depression, and about how other people would react to hearing my story.  And I will, at some point on this blog.

It was during those moments that I realized that I had let a very important part of myself die; the part that was created to, well, create. I’m an artist.  (Maybe not a very good one!) but I had stopped creating, stopped doing anything that had fed that part of me.  So I slowly eased myself back into it.  That’s sort of what this blog is aboutL part art therapy, part my story.

This isn’t the end of my story, but I do want to wrap up this blog with this: there was hope and healing for me, and for my depression.  If you are going through something similar, know that you are not alone.  There are so many people who are on this journey with you, and there are so many who have walked it before you.  Keep going, find help from those who are healthy, and find support with your community.  You are worth it; you still have a story to tell.

 

 

 

Illustrated Faith Workshop at the Island Creative Escape in Los Gatos

This December has been just full of fun.  My mom, sister, and I went to a Bible journaling class held in Los Gatos and we just had a blast meeting Katherine Nalywaiko from Illustrated Faith and journaling with all the ladies there.  Plus, it’s always fun to visit the Island Creative Escape in Los Gatos, where the class was held.  They just have the best scrapbooking store, and the ladies there are always so sweet and helpful!

Here are a couple of the pages we journaled.  Since it was so close to Christmas I picked some of my favorite nativity verses to work on.

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I hope your Christmas is Merry and Bright!signature

-Carolyn

Gratitude Journal – Pictures and How To

It’s certainly taken me enough time to post these cuties, but here they are!  The gals in our group are just so talented.  🙂  There is a short “how to” so feel free to make your own at home.

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Materials: Spiral Notebook, Stamp, Stamp Pad, Wasi tape (several coordinating patterns and colors), glue, twine.

Here’s what we used:gjournal-1

Step 1: Cover your spiral notebook with a piece of kraft paper.

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Step 2:  a.)  Add three pieces of wasi tape across the bottom of the kraft paper.  I like using different patterns and sizes.

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b.)  If you like a little sparkle, add that now to the spine!

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Step 3: Use your stamp!

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Step 4: Cut a piece of twine for the top of the journal.

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Step 5:  Add tape to the piece of twine.  Fold it over onto itself, and then cut the edges into little inverted triangles.

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Step 6:  Attach the twine with a little bit of tape on the back side of the cover.

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And there you have it!  Have fun making your own!

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An Attitude of Thanksgiving – Nov 14, 2016

This was material I used for the Bible study for the Overcomer’s Life group on Nov 14th, 2016.   We also made Gratitude Journals, which I will include a picture of and a link to a DIY How To.  Enjoy!

Prologue

Depression is a nasty little thing, that lies to you.  I think one of it’s greatest lies, and it has so many, is that there is nothing good left in your life.  This lie can snuff out hope, extinguish even the faintest light of motivation, and cloud our attitudes.  Trying to carry on in a life where you can see nothing good is exhausting and, in my case at least, lead to deeper depressive symptoms.

Discussion question:  Have you ever felt this way?

The tool we are studying tonight, to break through this lie, is Gratitude.  If you are experiencing depression, identifying things in your life to be thankful for can be hard.  But if we take small steps, do the work, it can also lead to a ray of hope.

Here is what happens when a person practices Gratitude:

  1. Your brain chemistry actually changes, and can counteract the lie of negative thinking of depression.
  2. People who express gratitude regularly have been found to take better care of themselves, engage in healthier behaviors including exercise and better diets, and cope better with stress and challenges.  (From a studies from the University of Utah by Lisa Aspinwall and the University of California at Davis, Robert Emmons)

Discussion Question:  How can you practice gratitude on a regular basis?

There are many ways to practice being thankful.  I like to start out my prayers with at least one thing I am thankful for.  You could also thank someone who was kind to you, but who you never acknowledged.

One of my favorite methods, however, is writing in a gratitude journal.  At the end of the day, I try to write at least one thing.   I found that as I practiced this, each day it became easier to write more than one thing I was grateful for.  It doesn’t have to be something huge: it can be a hug from a family member, a smile from a stranger, or the fact that you found a quarter wedged between the couch cushions.  It could be that you are grateful for a brief time of energy, a respite from that headache you’ve had all day, or the brush of your pet against your leg.

Another benefit of writing down these occurrences of thankfulness in a journal, is that when you fund you are in a depressive state, and hope seems to be gone, you can go back and be reminded of what blessings you experienced.  🙂

What does the Bible say about being thankful?

Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 ESV

And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. – Colossians ESV

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.  -Philippians 4:6

I love how these verses seem to mention prayer and peace alongside thankfulness.  I think it’s sort of an action/result sort of message.  By expression our thankfulness to our Heavenly Father, we find that this “peace of Christ” starts to flow into our lives.  And for those of you who have experienced the anxiety that often accompanies depression, doesn’t the idea of peace sound so amazing?

Hope you liked this months Bible study.  I’ll be including a short DIY on how we made our journals in a new post, and some pictures here in just a few mins.

 

***The opinions expressed here are just one girls thoughts and experiences in my journey through depression.  I am not a doctor, and my advice should not be taken in the place of one.  If you are experiencing depression, please know that you are not alone, and that there is help, hope and healing.  Please contact your medial professional and doctor and seek professional help immediately.***