Saturday, April 28, 2012

The REAL Academy Awards are TONIGHT!

It began like this . . .

Princess:  Mom, you know the Youth Group Academy Awards*?
Me:  Yes.
Princess:  I kinda volunteered you to direct our movie.
Me:  (pause - thinking about everything else that was on my plate)  Okay . . .
Princess:  We're going to shoot on Wednesday.**  And it's due on the 15th.
Me:  (blinking)  Okay . . .
Princess:  It's kind of like The Hunger Games, but it's with water.  We're going to have a bunch of water balloons and water guns and whoever gets wet is out.  The winner gets a swimming pool.
Me:  Do you have a script or an outline?
Princess:  (eye roll)  Mom.  It's going to be improv.  We won't know who wins until we do it.
Me:  So you don't even have a storyboard?
Princess:  (eye roll) Mom.  No.  It's IMPROV!
Me:  Sweetie, I can't shoot anything without a storyboard.  It would be impossible.
Princess:  (eye roll)  MOM!

So I proceeded to explain how I couldn't shoot an action movie that was 100% improv because I wouldn't know where to place the camera (singular) and I wouldn't know who to follow and I might miss the winner winning, etc.  I got several more eye rolls and "Mom"s.  But I finally convinced her that we should use Wednesday the 4th as a planning meeting (the Youth Group meets every Wednesday evening) and then we could shoot on Wednesday the 11th.

Our planning meeting was fun.  I was so impressed with the creativity of the group.  We were able to get a very comprehensive outline together along with a prop list and costume list.  We decided that (almost) all of the dialogue would be improv, but we determined the order of elimination and the winner of the Games to make it possible to actually shoot and get the action.

The next weekend was a long weekend, so I was able to get three of the girls together (one of whom was unable to come on Wednesday the 11th) and film a couple of segments.***  Then I edited the footage on Monday night and Tuesday afternoon before filming on Wednesday.

Wednesday's shoot was a bit hectic.  Not only was I shooting the majority of the games, we started shooting at 6:00 so we were working against time outside AND I was shooting the most difficult girls.****  We managed to get it all done, though.  And then I finished editing Saturday afternoon.

Now I must apologize for being such a tease.  I do NOT have the permission of the parents of the girls to post the video here.  I am going to send out a request for permission, but if I do not get it, I will respect that and not post it.  I'm sorry because it's really fun!  But I think that you all understand privacy issues.

It was kind of sad how excited I was about this project.  I haven't shot and edited anything since The Foot Dream (warning NSFW because of language - this, too, was improv and, well, adults sometimes improv with cussing).  It was a ton of fun!  As I was editing and manipulating the sound track (I forgot to get ambient sound so I was splicing in two seconds of sound here and three seconds there), I realized that there was probably not another project whose editor was spending THAT much time on it.  But there was probably not another project whose editor has a degree in film.  ;-)

We'll find out tonight whether or not we win an Academy Award.  Princess and her friend are dressing up as Capitol citizens (re: The Hunger Games) using two of my red Ro-tel wigs.  I signed up to be one of the paparazzi on the red carpet (after promising not to embarrass Princess too much).  Princess hasn't given the okay for me to attend the entire event.  Although I want to see all of the entries, I will respect Princess' wishes should she want the event to be hers alone.  Sigh.  She's getting to that age.  And I have to start letting go.  But that's an entirely different post.

If I'm allowed to attend, I'll live tweet it!  ;-)  

*Every spring her youth group has each small group make a short movie (maximum 4 minutes) and then they hand out "Oscars" at a big party where the kids dress up and walk the red carpet and just generally have a goofy, great time.

** This conversation took place on a Sunday, April 1.  No, it was not an April Fool's joke.

***The shot of Princess coming down the ladder was entirely her idea.  I'm so proud!

****The majority of the girls were focused and very creative and helpful in getting an outline of the script together and in listening to and following direction.  However, during our planning meeting there were three girls who never sat down for a moment, who crawled under and over tables, who made noises, ran in and out of the room and were just obnoxious, rude and distracting.  I was appalled and frustrated.  (And, on our way home, I found out that one of them had called Buddy a "retard".  NOT okay in any way, shape or form.)  Keep in mind that all of the girls are in sixth grade (except for one fourth grader who is the neighbor of one of the other girls).  I could NOT believe it.  Princess told me that they are like that every week.  I noticed that the small group leader (a woman around my age) tried to get them corralled, but it was a losing battle.  It looked like she was used to it.  After about 15 minutes, I became used to it and was able to tune it out.  It was a little better during the shoot because they obviously wanted to be on camera and I think they realized that I would cut them out if they messed around.  One did try to pull a diva and pouted that I wasn't shooting her enough, but I  told her that, had she been paying attention to the planning, she'd know that I was shooting people one at a time and that she was a little down on the list, and that snapped her back to focus.  Sigh.  Already a diva at eleven.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

More Than I Hoped For

Yesterday, after sitting in front of my laptop for over an hour contemplating whether or not to hit the "publish" button, I posted an entry about my struggles with depression. I could not have anticipated the outpouring of love and support that you guys have given me. And I could not have anticipated the many of my friends who have come forward and acknowledged their own struggles. I was struck by how many people posted comments here and on Facebook.

Thank you all so much for your love. I hate that others have gone through or are going through this, but I love that we can share this together. I read somewhere that when we share laughter, that laughter is multiplied in our lives, but when we share grief it is diminished. That is certainly true.

Thank you for accepting the real me. Let's always be real together.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Optimism, Christianity and Depression (Oh my!)

This entry is a long time coming. (Even as I type, I don't know that I'll be able to hit the "post" button.)

First, please click here and read the article written by Stephanie Gallman. I'll wait.

I could have written (most of) that article. While there are significant differences in our lives*, the core truth of the article remains: my doctor has diagnosed me with depression. I hate typing that. Somewhere inside of me there is a voice telling me that I "shouldn't" be depressed, that I "shouldn't" be sad, that depression is a choice/weakness/laziness/whatever. There's also a voice telling me that no one really wants to hear about another person with depression. Isn't the world depressing enough without me bringing everyone down more?

And the part about anxiety? I'm a Christian. I'm very active in our church. I know that I would get quite a few well meaning friends/acquaintances sending me Philippians 4:6 "Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God." Yes, I can read those words and I can meditate over them and they do help somewhat. But . . . they don't stop it. They don't take it away. The anxiety will stay until it decides to go on its own or it is helped out the door with medication.

Stephanie Gallman talks about how some people offer their own solutions such as engaging in a hobby or reading a book. Depression saps you of your enthusiasm and some days of your passion. I love music, but it's a chore to even turn on Pandora when I'm in a dip. I always feel better when I do, but it's hard. In the past when I have shared my struggle with a few here or there, I'm met with "Read your Bible more" or "Pray more - this is spiritual warfare" and other comments in that vein. I do acknowledge that reading God's word helps. It can take the edge off. I also believe in spiritual warfare and that prayer helps. But sometimes when I'm in a dip, reading the Bible is frustrating. I try to read passages that talk about prayers being answered like Matthew 7:7 "Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you." But all I can focus on is that I haven't heard any answer other than "no" or "not now". (Or I assume those are the answers. Most of the time I just feel silence.) It's these times that I usually go to Psalms. I think David might have gone through just a bit of depression, too. I especially identify with Psalm 142:7 "Bring my soul out of prison, So that I may give thanks to Your name; The righteous will surround me, For You will deal bountifully with me." It acknowledges how depression can feel like a prison or a trap, but it ends with hope - that (eventually) He will deliver me from the prison and bless me.

However, and this is a BIG one, I am not capable of bringing myself out of a dip. I can't talk my way out of it, I can't think my way out of it, and I can't pray my way out of it. I have to either wait it out, or take some form of medication.

My doctor is a Christian. He and his wife used to attend church with us. I know he walks the walk. And he is all about trying non-drug things - tools that God has given us to help - like nutrition, prayer, friends and counselors before writing a prescription. We tried all of those, and it wasn't enough. My doctor asked if I had a broken leg, would I pray to make it better or would I seek medical attention? I would go and get the bone set. I would get professional help to get MY BODY WELL. I would probably ask God to bless me with quick and complete healing, but I wouldn't sit there with my leg at a funky angle not letting anyone touch me and just pray that God would take over. God has given us physicians. He has allowed us to discover medicines and treatments and diagnoses that help us to heal. Yes, He is capable of miracles, but He's pretty much given us what we need through ordinary measures. As for me, my body does not make enough serotonin so I need to take something to boost the production. I am on a low dose of anti-depressant and I have a prescription for an anti-anxiety that I can take if the anxiety gets overwhelming. I've only taken the latter a handful of times, praise God. But the times I've taken it, I've been glad I've had it available.

I have identified some triggers - of course finances are a main one (owning your own business is not as glamorous as it seems), but I think I'm kind of used to that one now. God is always providing for us, sometimes at the last minute, but we are still above water. I'm learning patience in that arena. However, I've noticed lately that if I feel that I'm either being misunderstood or ignored, my heart will start to race and I'll feel that tightening in my chest and my hands will start to shake. The incident can be as mild as Buddy not coming to dinner when I call him or as big as someone telling me a choice I made was wrong but not trying to understand why I made the choice (and would do it again - okay, that's a whole 'nother blog post and it's centered around the Muppets!). It can trigger a dip that can last a few hours (the dinner thing) or a week or more (the Muppets - got you intrigued now, don't I?)**.

So why am I writing this blog post? I've hinted about my struggle here and in some locked posts to close friends, but nothing like this - nothing revealing how low I really get. And I've never cross-posted so that Twitter and Facebook friends can read it. Even as I type and edit this, I don't know that I'll publish it for more than a few to see.

I want people to understand who I am and how I work (or don't work). I want them to know that when I don't return a phone call I'm not ignoring them, I'm just not able to function beyond basics at that particular time. Thank God for texts and e-mail or during a dip I wouldn't be able to communicate at all! (And sometimes I can't even manage that.) I want people to know about my struggle, but . . . I don't want people to feel sorry for me, to withdraw from me, to feel weird around me, etc. I don't want this knowledge to affect the way people treat me. I don't want people to walk on eggshells around me and I don't want well meaning people (hi, Mom) to constantly worry or constantly ask how I'm doing with their head cocked to the side and in a singsong voice. I don't want to be treated differently. I just want to be understood. (Hmmmm. Back to that trigger.)

The main reason I'm hesitant about sharing my depression is that in the past, people I've loved and trusted have accused me of being too dramatic or of being a hypochondriac to get attention. Looking back on those particular times, I realize now that I was truly depressed and trying to get help, but was . . . misunderstood. I tried to express how deeply the pain went, but was "too dramatic". I exhibited physical symptoms (I've learned that depression can manifest itself as physical as well as emotional) and yet had no fever or no infection - therefore I was a hypochondriac. In their defense, I don't think that at the time those people understood what depression is or how it manifests itself. I surely didn't. I thought that I was being too dramatic and blowing things out of proportion and seeking attention. So I shut up. Which made it worse. Sigh. Vicious cycle. (Even now, during each dip my inner voice will silence me by saying, "Snap out of it. You're just being dramatic and self-centered." Hence my hesitation at clicking the "Publish Post" button.)

Through all of this, just like Stephanie Gallman, I'm an optimist. I like to see the good in people and in situations. (Sometimes almost to a fault.) I can say, and (mostly) believe that things will get better. I know that my dips are temporary. And I'm blessed that the majority of the time I'm able to function during a dip. I still see humor in some things and I can even Tweet one liners during a dip! I'm working hard to identify my triggers and to be more proactive in preventing or shortening a dip. I have a select few people to whom I reach out. I'm learning to force myself to be more active during those times. It seems that getting out and accomplishing something, anything helps - even if it's just getting the mail. I'm trying not to be afraid to take a Xanax when I feel I need it. I'm researching diet and nutrition to see how I can boost my moods in a natural way. I have researched aroma therapy (I have a vial of essential oil in my purse) and herbal teas (look in my pantry - and in my garden). I'm working up to getting into an exercise routine. (The problem I've had with exercise is that whenever I have started to work out, my mind starts working overtime and I finish just as stressed out as I am when I start - if I do finish at all.) I'm working on it.

I'm working on it.

Who knows if I will ever conquer it. But I'm working on it.

Now if you will excuse me, I'm off to listen to Erasure and sing at the top of my lungs. That, too, helps. (But I think that it has the opposite effect on Princess.)

*I have never Hula Hooped at Wal-Mart. But I do make it a point to jump on the bed every time we check in to a hotel.

**When I write the Muppet post, I'll come back and link here.