Thrift stores give me two emotional highs, one when I make a purchase I am happy about, and the other when I donate stuff. So much for giving in secret. My counselor talked a little about getting rid of things and understanding that our identity, while sometimes represented by things, is not dependent on things, and that that is an important understanding to be able to get rid of things. It was definitely a helpful thought when I sorted through things. I used a spin off thought: I can remember this event or this person without keeping this item (or at least not the whole item; I tore off a few inside cover pages that just had the book title and a note to me from someone). And I got rid of two boxes of stuff! Hurray! It also helped when I thought about a book I was getting rid of would maybe help someone else. This was good for overcoming guilt for not reading "enough" of a few books I've been given.
When I spoke to the hematologist who works in a cancer center and who I think was also an oncologist, I mentioned how maybe I wanted to work with kids with autism with my communication disorders degree (or rather, the degree after the bachelor's degree). He said something along the lines of, "Autism. Wow, that's hard." Somehow he conveyed his understanding of the possibility that the child with autism would not got better. What struck me was how he found autism to be so discouraging, yet worked in a cancer center. To me, there is so much hope for kids with autism (especially including the joys they already have), but working with cancer patients sounds hard. It reminds me of when I lived in Puerto Rico, and they found large wild animals (i.e. cougars or bears) to be a formidable fear, while they experienced hurricane season every year. Personally, I feel safer taking my chances living in a state with cougars than on an island in hurricane land. I guess we adjust to (some of) the challenges around us, while difficulties further away inspire more fear or distress.
Now, I warned in my post title that my thoughts weren't nicely related, so prepare for another topic switch. While I was going through some of my books, I found "Feeling Good," by Dr. David Burns. My previous psychiatrist recommended this book, and I made some progress reading through it. Early on, there is a depression test, which I took every week or so for about two months my first year with a psychiatrist. I qualified as "severely depressed" at at least one point, but did recede to "moderate depression." So yesterday, I thought, I'm feeling so well, I'll just take the test one more time before I give the book away. Then I can see how undepressed I am and feel good about it. Hind-sight? Not the best idea. If you think you are doing well, why not just enjoy it? Because, what I found out is that I still qualified as moderately depressed. Mid-moderate, but definitely not in the mild range yet. Rats! How depressing! Here I thought I was doing so much better and yet I still might be moderately depressed? I have contrary feelings; A. I still have a decent excuse for not being able to lead the life I would lead if I wasn't struggling with mental illness. (But I haven't even tried living such a life; maybe I could do it, but I don't want to try and fail.) B. The test might not be accurate (of course, it might not have been accurate when I used it before, either, but I thought it fairly indicative). And anyway, who cares what the test says? I'm feeling good right now! C. Hmmm, I wonder what has changed that has me feeling so ... like there is light in my brain, like I'm not overcome by depression. I wonder if it is just a perspective change more than a change in depression level. That and I'm sure the summer weather helps (I mean the sort of summer weather that has you keeping your jacket not too far away, but at least there is more light outside).
Now, for another thought, this one depression related. Maybe there is a theme after all. My pastor has decided to do a sermon series on Ecclesiastes. I am somewhat amused and curious to see how he'll take it. My entry association with the book of Ecclesiastes going into the sermon was of when I read a bit of it in the psych unit of the hospital (I think it was one of those "open your Bible and read wherever you happen to open it" moments). Let me say that reading it on a hospital bed in a locked ward gives one a different perspective. I mentioned it to someone whose opinion I respect later, and they didn't think Solomon meant what he wrote in the depressed way I interpreted it. But to me, it does seem a pretty articulate expression of depressed thought. Anyway, the pastor opens up saying that this wasn't the Sunday to get a cheer-you-up message; it was a rather depressing one. Hmmm, I thought, I need a cheer-you-up message, though. In fact, though, I was potentially one of the least depressed people from the sermon. After all, what does Solomon say that I haven't thought? I mean, that's ridiculous; surely such a wise man thought much more, but some of what he thought isn't so far from what I've felt. "Vanity of vanities, all is vanity..." To me, one of the most discouraging parts was what was probably meant to encourage people at the end. That living for God, life is meaningful. This is annoying because "living for God" has not taken away my depression, which remains plenty aware of the vanity meaningless issue.
Anyway, still on the same topic, after the sermon, I went and talked with some friends. One said that the sermon was really depressing, and the other agreed. Well, I said, if one was moderately to severely depressed, these were normal thoughts, normal thoughts for me. "Thanks, Abigail," replied a friend sarcastically, as if the idea were also depressing. And I was encouraged. How's that for an unexpected response? Well, I look up to this friend, and knowing that average people find such thoughts depressing has me not feeling so bad for feeling depressed. Sometimes I feel like the princess and the pea or somebody who is a wimp and cannot stand up under normal pressure and needs medication and therapy and such (no, you choose to get therapy, my counselor corrected). But if the average human finds such "vanity" thoughts depressing, maybe they would struggle with depression if they were in my position. Maybe I'm not abnormally weak.
Anyway, now I will conclude my thoughts. Despite citing severe depression in my conversation, I am not severely depressed, even if I still thoroughly qualify for medical help and therapy. I'm over all feeling pretty good right now, and rather fascinated by various thoughts that have come up. I am curious about the "happy ending" that I hope still exists in Ecclesiastes. And I'm curious about how the pastor is telling the people in church how finding happiness and fulfillment in life through work and things and such is not going to work while I intentionally work on finding happiness and fulfilling feelings in life through work and things and such. I briefly considered that maybe I was making a big mistake as I struggle to leave my depression, but I'm going to "take the risk of being wrong" and continue to work on intentionally enjoying my work and my belongings and such. Sometimes I feel almost like I live in a separate world alongside these nondepressed people. How's that for building the relationships my counselor wants me to have. But today, I crossed the invisible divider and met with my friends through the sermon as they had a taste of my world and I tasted theirs.