Posted in Free Time Fun, Life Lessons

New Year: Reflections and Hopes

There’s no way to avoid it. 2018 is quickly approaching. Not only are we still recovering from the holidays, we’re dealing with the stress of reflecting on the year that’s passed and the pressure that can come with hopes for the new year that’s on the horizon.

Instead of waiting for the new year to begin my resolutions I started some of them in December. I started a strict paleo diet that I am going to do my best to hold onto in the new year. After only a few weeks the new diet has resolved the majority of my stomach troubles which I am incredibly grateful for. I’m lucky enough to have a close friend, Carly, who went paleo as well and the buddy system is so helpful and encouraging.

This week I noticed a lot more people at my gym. It’s something I joke about every year and I’m sure I’m not the only one who notices. Thousands of well meaning people promise themselves that this is the year that they’re going to get “fit” and for the first few months of the new year the gyms are a lot busier. Mid-February most of the crowd has thinned because the excitement of the new year has worn off and keeping such a vague commitment can be tough. There isn’t one way to be “fit” and if you aren’t doing something that works for you it’s hard to establish a habit and easy to lose motivation.

I’m one of those people, or at least was. This year instead of setting a weight goal I’ve set feats that I’d like to accomplish. Sure, I’d like to be ‘skinny’ and I do have a goal weight in mind, but for fitness to work for me I can’t stress the number on the scale. I get obsessed with it and feel defeated so quickly. Instead in 2018 I want to complete a half marathon and I’m considering signing up for the Half Tough Mudder as well (if you’ve done it any tips would be appreciated!).

More importantly, this year I’m going to strive to be kinder and more considerate of others. 2017 was brutal for me. I faced a lot of hard truths that I had been avoiding. I sought out treatment realizing that I could not handle my mental illness on my own any longer. Now I’m regularly seeing a psychologist and psychiatrist that I actually respect and listen to. I created this blog and poured my heart into being honest and open about my experiences and interests.

There’s been a lot of introspection this year which is great, but it’s so important to me that the people in my life know that I care for them and am here for them as well which is why that’s a big hope for me in 2018. I’m going to do my best to continue working on myself, but make more room to nourish the relationships that mean so much to me. I hope to spend more time with friends, finally remember some birthdays, and become a better listener.

There are a few more hopes I have for the new year, but I’m keeping those to myself. I’m writing a letter to the universe asking for support in my ventures in 2018. It may seem silly, but it works for Keltie Knight and Christina Perry, so why not give it a shot?

 

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Posted in Free Time Fun, Life Lessons

How to Get Shit Done When You’re Depressed

I do not want to do ANYTHING when I am depressed. The alarm clock in the morning is a startling reminder of another monotonous day that I did not ask for, but am forced to suffer through in order to remain a loosely functioning human being. I spend the entire day fantasizing about being back in bed under the covers, surrounded by cats, staring blankly at the wall. I dread the moment when my eyes close and it begins all over again.

It’s times like these I can give myself credit for continuing to shower regularly. Seriously. When my entire body and mind are weighted with this miserable fog the simplest of things become major successes: getting out of bed, completing chores, and making it to class are just a few.

So, what happens with bigger things like event commitments, social gatherings and creative projects? Cancelled and stalled. And guess what failing there does? Deepens the depression. It’s a vicious cycle. My therapist has been challenging me to go through with things. She encourages me to acknowledge the physical pain/mental fog and keep moving forward despite it. I was resistant to this, how would it work? What if I go and am more miserable than I was before? How can I be around people when I feel so broken?

I now know why she wanted me to do this: going through with it makes me feel so strong. Yes I am miserable. Yes I would rather be in bed. Yes the first thought that crossed my mind when I woke up was death. Yes everything sucks and probably will still suck tomorrow…. BUT THAT DIDN’T STOP ME!

On Halloween I wrestled with the Chicago MudQueens! Tonight I am going to see The Used at Aragon Ballroom. Tomorrow morning I’ll be doing yoga and attending a free wellness seminar on the Mag Mile. Sunday I’m gathering with a group of dear friends for our annual Friendsgiving. If you had asked me about these events two weeks ago I would not have been excited. I would have felt overwhelmed, anxious and stressed. It felt like too much, but it doesn’t anymore.

Not only does my strength and confidence grow with each plan I make and keep, but I can experience these moments of blissful relief from the heaviness that comes with depression. There are moments where I am filled with incredible peace, happiness, and gratitude. I’m in awe of how simultaneously I can experience soul crushing sadness and heartwarming joy.

As it is with many of my topics “doing it anyway” is not news. Psych Central has a great post that goes over some helpful Strategies For Getting Things Done When You’re Depressed. The one that resonated the most with me is to make decisions for yourself, not to make decisions around your depression. If you’re looking for a longer read on this topic check out Get It Done While You’re Depressed by Julie Fast.


P.S. Thank you to my talented friend Danielle McKay for spending a few hours of her Saturday night covering the basement at Reggie’s with plastic wrap and painting my face. Didn’t it look amazing?!

Posted in Free Time Fun

Another Mood.

I am still riding out a bout of intense depression and couldn’t muster the strength for a real post. Instead I started playing with words, words beginning with the letter o. I challenged myself to create a poem with o-words expressing my current state of feeling. I think it turned out quite nicely and maybe the positive spin here is that even if I feel like garbage, I can still find some fun playing with words and expressing myself.

OVERCOME

overwhelmed openly observed

obviously obfuscating outcome

obscured oxygen oozing organism

obnoxious obsession overact

opposite outlook ominous

obtuse obtrusive offensive

odd obscene outcast

Posted in Free Time Fun, Life Lessons

Comedy Can Be Cathartic

Pain is often expressed through art. We can point to exhibitions of torment across almost all mediums, but comedy is an area where it’s still uncomfortable to explore difficult topics. There’s a social understanding that certain topics are off limits. If a comedian speaks about loss, suicide, or their own mental illness there’s a chance that the joke is going to be met with awkward silence.

One reason is that the joke might not be funny (haha). More likely, though, the audience tensed up as soon as the subject matter was announced. We’re conditioned from a young age that these topics and feelings are meant to be worked out internally and go unspoken, but that isn’t healthy. There are many comedians that have been making efforts to add these ‘dark’ topics to their comedic routines.

I’ve mentioned Paul Gilmartin’s Mental Health Happy Hour (MHHH) in a previous post on podcasts and it’s worth bringing up again. No topic is off limits. People of all ages (over 18) and backgrounds come on the show and talk about the really dark things they have thought and experienced. And there’s laughter! A term of theirs I love is “awfulsome” and it’s something that is truly soul-crushing, but looking back on it there’s something kind of awesome about it, even if it’s just the riotous laughter that sometimes happens when one reflects on life experiences.

Anna Akana is a former guest of MHHH and one of my top five favorite humans. Her younger sister committed suicide at age thirteen and Akana actively advocates for suicide prevention. Whether it’s through skits on her YouTube channel, her larger creative work like Riley Rewind, or a regular part of her comedic routine she challenges us to talk about suicide and the darkness we can easily be consumed with. She has a book out called So Much I Want to Tell You: Letters to my Little Sister that I cannot wait to get my hands on during winter break.

Maria Bamford is my hero. She is an established stand up comedian, an incredible voice actor, and she’s the star of Lady Dynamite, a Netflix show she stars in that’s loosely based on her life experiences. Bamford has bipolar two and is open about her struggles with hypo-mania, depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, and her recent hospitalizations. On the show she whirls though dark lows to vivid surreal highs and everywhere in-between. It’s one of the first pop culture representations that has found a way to joke about mental illness without making mental illness the joke (if that makes sense). It’s also the hardest I’ve ever laughed, possibly because of how close I can relate. I’m grateful I’ve had the opportunity to listen to and watch someone with a similar diagnosis be so raw and honest.

I think what I’m getting at here is that pain no longer needs to be a solitary experience. If isolating during your troubles helps you process, that is amazing and I am not trying to take that away from you. I’m merely suggesting that there are plenty of people out there who don’t necessarily want to be alone while they are in pain or going through something, but have been so culturally reinforced that it’s something they need to do alone. You don’t need to be alone, we can suffer together and find the laughter in the lows.

Posted in Free Time Fun, Life Lessons

Hour of You

I challenge you to spend one hour each day in November focusing on your dreams. Why? In conversations lately I’ve been running into people who get themselves stuck in the same situation that I find myself in now. There are so many things that we WANT to do, but when we get home from work/school/social obligations we readily let go of those things we hunger for and settle for the quick escape that presents itself instantly in the form of television, movies, and social media. It makes me wonder what we could accomplish if we spent the first hour we got home tuning into ourselves.

You might be wondering what that looks like and I don’t have an exact answer for you. For me it’s going to be writing as my dream is to one day be a published author. Here are some questions that will help you determine how a daily action can bring you closer to achieving your dreams: What are your dreams? What is a goal that you have wanted to accomplish, but never had enough time for? What are your values and morals? What do you want your life to look like in 5 years? In 10 years? What’s something you’ve wanted to do that you never allowed yourself to believe was possible?

If there isn’t anything you want to work on that’s fine, but you should still take an hour to be present with yourself. Spend some time meditating, go for a walk, journal, the options are endless. Who knows, maybe when you’re taking this time a desire or passion that you weren’t aware of might present itself! For more on the power of connecting with yourself check out this interesting read on Wired written by Robert Wright: How Mindfulness Meditation Can Save America.

Posted in Free Time Fun

Podcasts are Neat

When I’m not doing homework on my commute I still need something to fill the time. I tend to recycle the same music playlists and get easily distracted so I finally checked out the world of podcasts. Oh man, have I been missing out!

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There are endless free podcasts to listen to out there on ANY topic imaginable. Fun podcasts that I like to listen to are 2 Dope Queens, The Dollop and The Lady Gang. When I’m not interested in laughing I look for podcasts to help me think more positively like Optimal Living Daily and Happier with Gretchen Ruben.

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Something I never expected to get from podcasts was a greater sense of my own identity. As I explored the podcast landscape more I started finding mental health themed podcasts that made me feel like I was part of a larger community, but more than that, normal.

I found myself relating to the hosts and to the guests on podcasts like Psych Central and Mental Illness Happy Hour. In the rare event that I didn’t relate to the speaker listening to them talk about their own issues and how they cope with them was informative and enlightening.

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The importance of verbalizing your mental illness cannot be understated. Paul Gilmartin, creator/host/executive producer Mental Health Happy Hour, explains it best during an episode with Mike Levine. On the topic of speaking openly about your experience with mental illness he phrases what it does perfectly, “it gives us a chance to own our issue instead of it being owned.”

In sociology we talk about the politics of reclamation and I think this is a fascinating turn in mental health discourse that we are witnessing. The once predominant view that mental illness is a weakness or made a person bad or wrong or should be kept hush hush to prevent embarrassment for the family IS shifting. I think the driving force behind this change is that people living with mental illness (myself included) are done with hiding our pain and pretending we’re okay. It’s exciting and liberating to feel like I can be mentally ill and not feel guilty or shameful about it. Despite all of the incredibly frightening/saddening/soul-crushing things going on in the world, for the first time in a long time I feel like there’s still hope.

 

Posted in Free Time Fun, Life Lessons

Spirituality & Bahá’í Temple

Since moving to Evanston, IL I have spent the majority of my commute on the Purple Line. I kept seeing signs urging train riders to visit the Bahá’í Temple & Gardens in Evanston. The temple itself looked beautiful and I am always looking for new places to explore so I waited for an opening. This past weekend the opportunity presented itself during a blue sky sunny eyed Saturday when I found myself without plans. I grabbed Thom and we rode the train to the end of the purple line, the Linden stop. Then we walked three blocks east.
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