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?!

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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 Life Lessons

Am I Doing Friendship Right?

Without exception every single day in our digital age we need to interact with other human beings. Most times the people we interact with aren’t even the one’s we care about. When we finally get to those we love we need to listen, respond, follow up, make plans, keep plans, check in…. it can be daunting. I constantly find myself asking the question: Am I doing this right? 

I frequently worry that I’m not doing enough and the reality is that I’m probably not. I’m an introvert by nature so it’s difficult enough for me to approach people in general, let alone keep up with the delicate process of building and keeping a healthy relationship. I forget to call, respond to texts, make plans, or worst of all if I’m feeling extra anxious or depressed I’ll cancel plans last minute. Should I just face the fact that I’m a bad friend?

Often I wholeheartedly agree that I am a bad friend, but today I’m going to take a stab at playing devil’s advocate: maybe I experience friendship in a nontraditional way. Don’t get me wrong, most of the behaviors described in the last paragraph are destructive and have/will continue to damage relationships. And I can understand why.

At least once a year I go through an outgoing phase where I make tons of plans and try to connect with lots of people. Inevitably I am faced with last minute cancellations and unanswered calls or texts. I try my best not to be hurt, but I am and in that moment I understand exactly how I make others feel when I cancel plans or fail to return messages. It sucks, but things happen and sometimes plans fall through or people get distracted.

Maybe sometimes we’re all bad friends, so instead of focusing on my failings I can focus on how I can be a better friend, but how does one go about leveling up in friendship? I know that I’m a broken record, but it seems the answer lies once again with mindfulness. Sophie Dembling asks some good questions in her post for Psychology Today:

“What is our role in creating intimacy in our relationships? And what roadblocks might we put in our own way? In what ways do you feel you “can’t” contribute more to the relationship?”

Dembling’s questions should get you started on a good path. Instead of evaluating relationships in your life piece by piece, start thinking about relationships as a whole, the elements involved and how they function.

Another reason we fail to connect with our friends is because we are just too busy. Life moves at hyperspeed now and sometimes there isn’t enough time to take a breath, let alone remember to reach out. The tips in this Fast Company  article are clear and seem easy enough to implement, particularly practicing random acts of kindness.

I’ve thought about bringing the Pen Pal tradition back with friends it’s harder to meet up with so we still have a space to connect that isn’t as easy to tune out of like social media or texting. Will I ever get to it? Maybe, maybe not, but at least I’m trying!

If you’re curious if you might be a bad friend check out this article from Vincent Nygen that goes over eight different warning signs.


This is a side note on how grateful I am for the friends that I do have. Yesterday was hell for me. My mood plummeted and I couldn’t seem to stop crying and pull myself out of it. I was insecure about all the relationships in my life, questioning everything I have ever done… I was so ready to call it quits. My bestie texted me later that day to tell me she was there for me and it brightened me up enough to make it through. I don’t know what I would do with that woman, but once the appreciation wore off the insecurity that I don’t reciprocate enough and don’t deserve her friendship began to consume me again.The dark cloud of doubt, sadness and insecurity threatened to stick with me today, but another observant friend was determined to snap me out of it and she succeeded:

20171026_133606

I’m 100% sure I do not deserve this awesomeness and it’s so tempting for me to feel guilty that she went out of her way for me when I’m not worth it, but I keep telling my brain that is not the way to receive this support and love. I am so grateful and glad to have her in my life. I am excited to see how our friendship will evolve over the next few decades and will do my best to spoil her and the other friends in my life with my own random acts of kindness ❤.

Posted in Life Lessons

Feeling S.A.D.?

As soon as the temperature dropped into the sixties and the scent of fall permeated the air around us I felt myself sinking. The changing season means that the sun will be dipping into the horizon earlier and by the time we leave work the landscape surrounding us will be shrouded in darkness. It reminds us that winter is right around the corner and we’ll soon be shivering as we shuffle from place to place. It’s understandable these changes can lead to seasonal affective disorder (S.A.D.).

There are a few ways to combat S.A.D. One option is to talk to your doctor and see if medication or therapy might offset some of your symptoms, but it’s not the only route. In research for this post I came across a recent article from Columbia Chronicle and it suggests looking into getting a, “specialized SAD box or light box.” It’s a small box that emits an artificial light that replicates the sun. Stennett notes that, “The benefits of light therapy, also known as phototherapy or helioptherapy, have been proven to replace medicine for those with SAD.” This is something I’ve never looked into so I took some time looking at options. I’ve put a random photo as an example of one type of light therapy box:

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I’m not done shopping around, but so far it looks like the minimum cost for a light therapy box is around $70. It seems steep, but if it alleviates some of the S.A.D. struggle it might be worth it. When I do select a model to try I’ll post an update on the blog after a month of use. In the meantime I’ll keep learning and practicing self care.

If you’d like some holistic suggestions I found a nice article at Jackson Free Press that has some good tips for preparing for winter, particularly the segment on taking a few moments to breathe the air in as the temperature continues to shift.

Posted in Life Lessons

Mental Healthcare is a Struggle

For the past year (maybe even more) I have been struggling to get back into regular treatment with a therapist. It’s something I don’t talk about because it’s a frustrating process. I won’t waste much time on how hard it is to get access to healthcare. Seeing a regular doctor for a routine health issue can be a complicated process with numbers, carriers, referrals, approvals, co-pays and so on. Access to treatment for specific illnesses involves more complications. Without insurance it’s nearly impossible to afford treatment. 

Beyond the issue of access there’s the problem of stigma associated with mental illness that can make reaching out for help incredibly difficult. I talk a bit about the weight of stigma is in my post Bouncing Back From The Blues.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) put together an excellent fact sheet on mental illness statistics in the United States and it’s saddening yet not surprising to me that Only 41% of adults in the U.S. with a mental health condition received mental health services in the past year.” To put that percentage into perspective there are approximately 43.8 million people living with mental illness in the U.S., which breaks down to approximately 26 million people without care. 

More than an individual’s mental health is at stake when mental illness goes untreated. Lack of treatment is a risk to physical health. NAMI notes, Individuals living with serious mental illness face an increased risk of having chronic medical conditions. Adults in the U.S. living with serious mental illness die on average 25 years earlier than others, largely due to treatable medical conditions.” Lack of treatment can lead to traumatic outbursts and, “Mood disorders, including major depression, dysthymic disorder and bipolar disorder, are the third most common cause of hospitalization in the U.S. for both youth and adults aged 18–44.”

Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S. indicating that there are countless people out there without hope for the possibility of healing.

Let’s pretend you have great insurance and can get right to a mental health professional without a referral. Then there’s the chance that they might not be a good fit for you. There are innumerous horror stories about providers that fail to help. I heard something that really touched me in a podcast from Psych Central. Their guest Natasha Tracy recalled an incredibly painful comment that a provider made when she was feeling suicidal, “You’ve tried every treatment and they’ve all failed, what’s the point in you having a doctor?” For Natasha those words, “drove me into a place where I felt like suicide absolutely was the only option for me.” I haven’t been in the exact situation, but I have been in similar situations where I was searching for hope and help and instead was met with judgement and defeat.

Recently thanks to a random series of circumstances I have been linked with a therapist that wants to help and fits my needs. A friend begun treatment and loved it so much that she gave me their information. I had given up on finding a provider because each referral was for a clinic I could never make it to since they were only open during regular business hours, but my friend’s excitement about tackling her anxiety gave me the courage to reach out to the contact she gave me. I was impressed at how quickly they responded. Not only did they take my insurance, they had me setup for an appointment in less than a week. I’m still slightly apprehensive about the process since I’ve been burned before, but I know how helpful it is to have that support while I sort out my thoughts and behaviors and aim for a happier life.

If you’re out there struggling with your mental health you are not alone and there is hope, even if you can’t see it right now. Call the suicide line at 1-800-273-8255 if you’re struggling and need someone to talk to, they’re there to help. You matter.

Posted in Backwards is Better, Life Lessons

Bouncing Back From the Blues

It happens. You were super busy, feeling confident and capable of it all. And then you hit a wall. Not a literal wall, but something inside holds you back. That’s what happened to me these past few months. Things were falling into place, but then I shifted. Everything felt wrong and scary. I had trouble looking at myself in the mirror because I couldn’t be honest about my state of mind. It was a mixture of my own issues and waves of grief. Existence was a struggle.

It’s easy to feel ashamed and like you need to hide what you’re going through, but that is fucked up. Bottling things up only fuels the fire of negative introspection. Check out the Association for Psychological Science’s article Stigma as a Barrier to Mental Health Care and read about the impact mental health stigma has.

Aside from seeking professional help (which I did), there is little you can do to fix this. While you are waiting it out be kind to yourself, and try being honest with others.If someone asks how you are don’t mumble the typical retort of “fine.” Own that you are going through some shit. Take the support (this is as much for me as the reader).

An organization focusing on mental health education and suicide prevention through self-expression is Hope for the Day. I learned about them at their booth at Riot Fest years ago and I’ve found a lot of support there.

A new resource of self-support I’ve found is meditation. I started using Headspace. It’s an easy app you can download on your phone and within the 10-minute sessions, I feel like I’m getting to know myself in a new way. Sometimes there is a huge mind/body disconnect for me and I’ve found this helps ground me. Fair warning, after the trial there is a charge.

Healing is hard. There is no magical cure. This will likely happen again, either unexpectedly or with a bit of warning on the way down. I’ll end the same way a New York Times article on Julien Baker does, with a quote from her, “I wouldn’t say it gets better. We just get better at dealing with it.”

If you find yourself in a dangerous state of mind please reach out. If not to your doctor, a friend or family member, if not them then call National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.