Beyond Blue

Beyond Blue

Mindful Monday: On Discipline and the Small Battles

I thought I’d repost this piece from my archives, since it is a message I always need to be reminded of. Because battles don’t go away. You just get stronger in how you deal with them.

climbing.jpgWinston Churchill once wrote, “The heights of great men reached and kept, Were not attained by sudden flight, But they, while their companions slept, Were toiling upwards in the night.”

I love that quote. And I remember it throughout my day. On many days.


Because even as the milestones–landing a job, celebrating 14 years of marriage, publishing a book–garner the praise of family and friends, the harder work happens in those invisible moments when no one but you sees the struggle: to beat back all the resistance to good health, and to say yes, over and over again … to do the harder thing consistently and continually in the name of recovery.

Today was one of those days where my discipline up and left to go to school with the kids. It drizzled all day and my house was quiet (a miracle!), and I so wanted to stay in bed with a book and say “to hell with the functioning world.” Alas, I could not say “to hell with the functioning world,” because there is this thing called responsibilities. I had to sit down at a very blank computer screen and squeeze from my brain some catchy bit of advice on how to stay sane. And after that, I had to use my body on the exercise bike.


I thought of the many reasons why I should stay in bed. They were plentiful. I was almost there when I thought of Winston’s quote and how this moment was most probably one of those instances where courage could push me toward better health, or laziness could swing me around and into the danger zone of the Black Hole. I could vegetate the whole day and no one might notice, but by tomorrow I could very well be crying.

So I sat down at the computer and slogged through a piece about stress with half of a brain. Although I preferred to order a pizza for lunch and finish it off with some mint-chocolate chip ice cream, I ate a salad with the right kind of nuts for an Omega-3 blast. And I finally mounted the stationary bike after my neurotransmitters whispered in my ear that they’d hang out with me all afternoon if I listened to the soundtrack of Rocky while I peddled.


I stumbled all day long, walking toward better health with the grace of a kid wearing leg braces. Each decision was harder than the one before it. And I never stopped wanting to give up. To give in just this one time, and do the bad brain things: sleep, wolf down simple carbohydrates, stay sedentary, and let my brain atrophy.

Alas, I came to the end of the day with some successes, and I realized that it’s definitely not the noteworthy achievements that should be celebrated if you are, like me, impaired by bad brain chemistry. It’s the days where you choose over and over again to get well, even though the other side is beckoning you to sleep in, eat pizza and ice cream, skip the exercise, and blow off work.

Churchill was right. The heights of great people aren’t reached in spectacular leaps or sudden flight. They take place in the mundane decisions on rainy days, when no one but the one fighting has a clue about the war of wills taking place, of the battle being fought in the name of health.


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  • Elizabeth

    Beautiful! Very inspiring! I have been trying to do the same lately despite my default responses of things like pizza and laying on the sofa.

  • charlie

    Thanks for the boost. It’s cold and rainy and i can work today or not-was feeling like reading and worrying about bills lol but the Churchill quote won’t let me do that

  • Heather Whistler

    What an awesome post! It’s so important for me to remember to take the right actions despite my feelings, too. I never wake up the morning after having a day like the one you described, where I felt like crap but did what I needed to do anyway, and regretted it. I’m ALWAYS grateful that I put the work in after the fact. It’s just while I’m slogging through it that I’m, shall we say, less than enthusiastic.
    I just wrote a new blog post about why I stayed and put work into my marriage following my husband’s bipolar diagnosis. I’d love to hear what you think if you have a chance to stop by:

  • Beth @ To the Fullest

    I think you’ve been living my life. Except with kids. Thanks for being so honest and inspiring. Congrats on your many, many little victories.

  • Lou

    This post has come at just the right time Therese!For weeks now I have been battling that desire to just stay in bed all day ,while the kids are at school.Most days I have given in even though I know it is only going to make my depression worse.I’m going to try hard tomorrow to remember your wise words.God Bless.

  • Beverly

    Hello, what a beautiful post today. I have been in bed for 2 years with depression after getting pneumonia and dying (great docs and GOD brought me back). After being in hospital 2mos, I was going pretty good, allbeit, I had to retire from work at 62 and I wasn’t really ready. Then, 5 mos later, I had a total meltdown, and I’m still melted. Nothing seems to help, am seeing a psychiatrist fm Mental Health Helpline and was talking to a mental health nurse once a week, but once she left, her replacement dropped me, I don’t know why. I am actually laying in bed every day, just existing, not even existing actually, probably just dying. I can’t motivate myself to even get up. I have to force myself up around 9:30pm each evening to play with my new puppy for a while (can’t even get him house broke because I can’t force myself to get up to take him out) plus our budgie needs nightly medication and my cat needs fed. My poor husband has to exist on frozen meals which I get through ordering groceries on-line and having them delivered. I can’t physically walk around the stores anymore because I have been in bed for too long. What do I do? I don’t know! I pray to God and ask Him to help me, but it seems like He doesn’t want to. I’ve only been married 8 years and my husband is about ready to buy me a one-way ticket back to the US. I’m an American living in Australia married to an Australian. I miss my only daughter and handicapped grand-daughter who will be 20yo, I have an 8yo grandson I have never met because my health is so bad right now I am afraid to make that 32hr flight back home to visit. I couldn’t even go back a year ago for my dear Mother’s funeral. I feel like my five sisters really think bad of me for this. So, how do I get any motivation to get out of bed? Doctors, physical and mental, can’t seem to help me, God isn’t hearing me, I can’t do it alone. I’m so sick and tired of being sick and tired and in the black hole of which there is no way out. I need some wise words of wisdom which you seem to always have. I admire you for struggling to get well with all you have to face. You seem so strong. I know it is a struggle for you, so how do you do it? Where do you get your will power to get out of bed and stay out? What is the motivating factor in your life? I never miss any of your blogs, you are truly an inspiration for the world. God Bless You and all you do for others.

  • Mary Sturm

    Thanks for this post reminding all of us how to get up and do the prayers, the work, the homeschooling , the laundry, all of it and work thru the days where we all want to stay in bed, or give in to the depression of those around us or our own. Often the grace comes about midway thru, when I realize my mood has lifted and I am making it along in my day! God bless you for all the posts that help us be more mindful, everyday.

  • Dave Allen

    This is my first post. I’m back on meds (for depression & bi-polar)and feel much better. It’s nice to feel more balanced.
    Beverly, of course I don’t know anything that you are going through but here is something that worked for me: Years ago I was in the depths of depression. I had received a cash settlement that allowed me to check out of life for awhile. Even though I should have been estatic I ended up spiruling into a depression.
    Upon sharing my depression experience with a long time wise friend he told me that “I needed a problem” to get fired up about life.
    The advise seemed a little weird; no comforting words, etc. unconsciously dealing with the bi-polar element with bursts of energy I have always been a good project person (usually social causes) and I ended up finding a good problem that I thought I could do something about.
    These was abandoned conservation land that included a recreational pond in the town I live in that the town could not take care of. After getting permission I organized a small group of volunteers (mostly high functioning people on disability) to act as stewards of the property. Most of the work is done by volunteer groups but we oversee the operations. I’m also now on the Conservation Commission. The two activities have brought fulfillment into my life as well as what I call “good” problems.
    The long winded point here is that instead of seeking “what I love” I have been able to add value to my life by finding something I didn’t like and do something about it.
    I hope this can be some food for thought.

  • Jill

    Thank you for this post. You have described the daily struggles so well. I really feel inspired by you. While it is still a struggle, you are taking the daily steps to stay healthy and not give up. I admire the way you fight. I want to get there. On your blog and in your book, you seem to have a talent in showing us how to take it step by step and breaking it down, it makes the impossible seem possible. Thank You.

  • Lisa Sellman

    I really enjoyed reading your post today it has made me realize that the little challenges are noteworthy of accomplishing and do not have to be let go until tomorrow. I think I will go for a nice walk for the good of my body and mind this morning instead of feeling all rushed and eat a good breakfast and then admire the nice weather and pet my dog, I am feeling better already. Thanks.

  • Meg Y

    Therese: again, such a great post. Again I feel like there is someone out there who struggles exactly the way I do on most days. Come 2p, after I put my toddler down for a nap, my bed seems like a magnet pulling me to just snuggle in and forget the world and my troubles for at least 2 hours, if not 3. I do believe this is a mental as well as a physical pull… I feel pysically drowsy and tired. But if i do that, then I wake up to dishes that need to be done, laundry piling up in clean piles throughout my room (I can get them clean, it’s the folding and putting away that eludes me) so much so that my poor husband has to ask where might his clean underwear be, and the mountain of bills and paperperwork on my kitchen counter will still receive a new layer from today’s mail! My mornings seem easier, as I’ve intentionally scheduled most days with activities to do with my little 2yr old; we come home, eat lunch (most days I can barelely think past the standard pb&j, much less come up with something different or healthy, play for a bit while i attempt to keep my eyes open or just plop her down in front of the TV (Guilt!!) until it’s time for her nap. This is not the existence I envisioned nor want for myself. I want that “zest” for life that I had in my 20’s to come back. I hate having to drag myself through each and every activity, task, moment b/c I have to, I want to! I know God is bringing me through and teaching me valuable lessons on the way, but at some point school is over and you get a break, right? I’m so ready for a break!!
    OK, I could go on, but my precious girl will be up soon and I could go open a bill or something…or maybe cut myself some slack and just do the best with each decision today, call my doctor to touch base on meds that don’t help and be thankful for what’s going right in my life!

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  • Joe Gonzalez

    Therese, i commend u for the ‘ keeping on keeping on ‘ ! i truly do. But i know u and i are Catholics, so do u think it’s reasonabe to always stay the path ? We wouldn’t need confession, or compassion from above ; luckily for me, i’m disabled and 61, so – with the crisis going on, my limitations, and the limitations the SSA inposes on disabled people, i’m not on the treadmill. And in a very ample sense, i’m very grateful to God for my present situation. My income, which comes from a goverment check ranks me among the poor. Yet, i’ve never been happier, though for a while there my dad was a top world CEO, and i had everything i could wish for. I don’t miss it at all. i’m just coming out of a 3 week mini Dark-Night, where i could hardly see my hand in front of my face ; and yet, those dark nights provide ample and irreplaceable material, experiences, etc., to Love God all the more. Still, i commend your stance. i remember that our beloved Mother Teresa of Calcutta had her long period of the night of faith, according to notes found in her possession, for more than a decade of her life. Still, she kept on keeping on ; and with ‘ the poorest of the poor ‘, no less. So good luck and Grace, especially in all your ventures, but forget not the fragility of the flesh, of the sacrament of penance, and of the Glory of Re-admission at Absolution. And also remember that the first saint, canonized by Our Lord himself, was Dimas, the good thief, who anointed Him with the most precious Oil,that of compassion, defense, and acquiesence at His very last moemnts. On with Churchill, that great man – who also had serious weaknesses, you know he was a life-long alcoholic – and on to your work ! The latter, and your insistence even when dark clouds besotter the skies, proves a boon for all that read you. God bless you !

  • Lacey

    “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much…” Luke 16:10

  • white tiger

    Lots of depression in these blogs!
    Try this:
    First, study(not just read) your New Testament for an hour.
    Second, pray, in your own words, not someone elses’, for ten minutes.
    Third, laugh, force yourself, for one minute.
    Fourth, now sing a favorite happy, brisk song for two minutes.
    Your depression will be gone, guaranteed.

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  • Debbie

    I love this post!! Thank you!!

  • Sandy

    Will take this to heart, print it, pass it on to others, Thanks.
    What do you do when you’re old, have survived the great struggle, and now there’s no more to do?
    Am 61 now, due to hips/ankles/knees can’t stand or “go” like I used to without paying for it painfully later.
    Cant possibly get down on the ground and garden.
    Can’t handle the watering can to keep the potted baskets healthy.
    Can’t get down on the floor and cut fabric for big projects like new kitchen curtains.
    My children live far away and are very independent.I raised them to be.
    Will not be having grandhildren, my heart aches when I see moms and babies in the store. Guess that coming from my gene pool it might be a good thing, but :(
    Been there, done that, got it all. Now what?
    Suggestions appreciated.

  • Paula

    This repost comes at a very good time for me. I don’t always manage to do what I am responsible for. I will keep trying. It would be so easy to quit and so hard to go forward.

  • Skylark

    Sandy, I understand where you are…my position in life is similar..I am 73 years of age with children and grandchildren at a far distance and have been “beached” from the sea of life it would seem by physical infirmities. However there is much to be done even when in this state.Through prayer more things are wrought than this world dreams of….get out your Bible, your rosary (if you are Catholic) or your favorite book of psalms…whatever you use for prayer..and become one of the greatest prayer warriors this world has ever known…Pray for all in your life,family and friends you’ve known. Pray for the world and that it will know peace through Jesus Christ! Pray for the sick and the infirmed and pray for the coming generations, the unborn and their mothers who will bravely defy cultural pressures and give them life.Pray for strong, courageous and prayerful leaders…the list is endless! You still can make a difference in this world by praying as if the whole world depends upon your prayers. It does. Good luck and God bless. As you join in prayerful battle your heart will know a peace and calm it has never known before …the true peace that the world cannot give!

  • Cindy

    Thanks for this blog. so many times I have stayed in bed with a good book and forgot there was a world and responsibilties, only to feel quilty later and, thus, the downward spiral.
    I love reading your writings.

  • Mary

    It was helpful to me to read this today. But I thought I was doing pretty well to get up and take a shower and get dressed by noon, after moping all morning.

  • Lisa

    So fuuny…Was just about to do the treadmill before I read this.. So I ate some crackers and jelly instead…Ok, time for treadmill.

  • deb

    ..last week..back to bed after carpool,
    listening to -Eat Pray Love- on the cd player

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