Mental Health Monday – Re-opening Stress

Standard

​I’ve kind of put this off for most of the day. I didn’t intentionally procrastinate. I did need to get groceries, and I suppose I could have not bribed my son to come with my by promising him a trip to the bagel shop and Starbucks for a frappechino, but I did. And while I do really need to sit down and finish my lesson plan for RCIA next Sunday and contact the printer for the handouts (that need to be mailed since we’re meeting by Zoom), I still really did not intentionally put this off. There were also people WRONG ON THE INTERNET that I needed to take care of.

It is true that this Mental Health Monday comes at the beginning of the last week for us in New York for NY Pause. While the entire state won’t be opening up, and the emergency orders are still in effect, the formal Pause expires on Friday, and I honestly don’t know how I feel about that. It gives me stress just thinking about it. That is partly because I will continue to isolate at home, as will my family; I will continue to wear a mask when I go out, and I will stay six feet away from you, and I will expect you to stay six feet away from me. Being cautious doesn’t make me paranoid. After all, sometimes they really are out to get you.

Seriously though, the stress associated with opening up the states is almost as viscerally debilitating as closing them down was in the first place.

My main advice to you is the same that I’m giving myself: Take it slow. If you’re not ready to go to the store when everyone else is there, don’t go. I can tell you that there is food on the shelves. Today when we went they didn’t have everything I wanted but I just picked alternatives, like in pasta – cavatappi instead of penne, thin spaghetti instead of angel hair. They didn’t have Bertolli’s pasta sauce but they did have Prego. Meats were all on sale and we got everything we came for. The only thing we didn’t get that was on our long list was Alfredo sauce. 

My church is still livestreaming on Facebook Live four times a week. If they came back on Sunday, I would still not attend. If you’re not comfortable, there is no reason for you to go to the building for your worship service. There are appropriate alternatives.

If you’re working from home, see if you can extend that. 

If you’re in a house, get outside once a day. You don’t have to go anywhere – just breathe in the fresh air. Of course, if it’s snowing, like it was here in New York on Saturday, maybe avoid that. If you’re in an apartment, go for a drive. I will take a drive at least once a week (and not go through a drive through) just for a change of pace.

Go to bed earlier than usual. Turn off the electronics, get away from the internet and social media, take a quiet half an hour before sleeping. I may have mentioned that I’ve been sleeping with an eye mask. The light pressure of it has a way of calming me down for sleep, which surprised me, but it seems to work for me; maybe it will work for you.

Share some of your coping and stress relievers in the comments so we can all benefit from each other. We are all in this together.

Mental Health Monday – Setback

Standard

​A week or so ago, a man I follow on political Twitter had a rough couple of days. I left some supportive comments, and liked a few extra posts because I know how far that can go when you’re reaching out. I know he’s going to be okay, and so does he. Setbacks happen. I’ve said for a long time that depression and anxiety is very much a constant state of recovery. I can’t compare it to a 12-step program as I’ve never done one, but there is the continuity of keeping yourself healthy and remaining self-aware when things change.  There are ups and downs as there are for people who do not have depression or anxiety disorders or issues. All life is a roller coaster ride, and for some of us all we want is the merry-go-round or the slow train around the park.

Before I was diagnosed I didn’t know what was going on. It was unsettling to say the least. After diagnosis it took several weeks to begin to feel better; to recover. The meds didn’t work, then they worked too well; finding a happy medium takes time and patience, and depression is many things, but one thing depression is not is patient. I didn’t feel it at the time, but I was very lucky. Once I got through the initial couple of months of doctor’s check-ups, medication, weekly and bi-weekly talk therapy, and whatever other coping tools I amassed in my toolbox, I was more or less good; not all good, and by no means perfect, but steady. I remained noticeably self-aware of how I was feeling, checking in with myself and paying attention to what I needed. It’s been seven years.

And then about a week ago, I got hit with something. There was nothing gradual or building up to it, and I’m still at the tail end of it today, but there is was: setback. Although setback may be the wrong characterization. I’ve had low moments, but in the course of a year, depression as sad or disappointed is really quite regular. I’ve recognized the situations, and adjusted. This was different. Ironically, it also occurred after my regular therapy appointment. I could probably go back sooner, but there wasn’t really anything new to talk about. I’m in a rut. I will muddle through. It will pass.

But it hasn’t passed; not all the way yet. I can feel myself moving towards the light, but it’s the third week of November, our Thanksgiving plans are still in flux, I have no idea what to get my family (or my son’s girlfriend) for Christmas, my house is a disaster, my papers are too abundant, and writing this part and re-reading it reminds me that this isn’t that weird for any other person out there, with or without depression.

I felt the lethargy first. Then the wanting to just stay in bed and sleep; a different type of lethargy. I got up every morning with headaches for several days in a row. Apathy set in. One minute I was excited about Nanowrimo, the next I was uninspired and not at all caring about writing anything, let alone working on my book(s). If I had an appointment, I kept it. It got me out of bed, and gradually, I’m getting back into my groove.

The first thing I did was recognize whatever this was. I checked myself. I was not suicidal. I knew that. I could feel that. As deep as this felt, it was survivable, and I could handle it. I did not need an emergency intervention. (Others may, and that’s okay. We all need to do what works for us to maintain our recovery.) I chose to stay away from certain political sites, but still remained in the informational loop. I became very picky on what I let into my sphere. I put aside all but four of my podcasts so I could better use the time I had carved out where I wasn’t lying in bed. I tried to read (Catch and Kill by Ronan Farrow, which I did read, and finished it despite having to stop just to be so very angry about the content). 

I kept my morning routine: taking medicine, reading the day’s [Thomas] Merton, listening to What a Day podcast to get the overnight news (and bonus they do more than politics). I forced myself to meet all of my obligations: driving the kids, planning dinner, blog planning, praying. Then on top of that, as I thought I might be surfacing, I got sick last weekend with some kind of twenty-four hour bug, and I wallowed. I allowed myself to be sick, to stay in bed, to do what I needed to do to get well. I was at a church breakfast, and instead of soldiering through, I called my husband to come pick me up. I didn’t talk myself out of taking care of myself and letting my family fend for themselves. I didn’t worry about what I could let go of. Easier said than done, I know.

I didn’t try to why myself and analyze why I was so down, so deep in a hole. I just accepted it; briefly.

And everyday, I got up, I checked in with myself, accepted I was still in the hole, and thought about what I could do to keep living until it passed. I did consider that I might need to adjust my medication, but I wasn’t sure that was something I wanted to do at the stressful holiday season. I do have a doctor’s appointment in a couple of weeks, followed by a therapy session, and I know I can get through these weeks until then. I’ve found that just having the days on the calendar is a asset to my mental state.

I know that so many people go through these feelings, these moments of self-doubt, undermining and self-sabotage that taking away the stigma and talking about depression and the inevitable setback benefits many. But I think I’ve gotten over this bump.

What are some of the ways you get through your ruts?

Mental Health Monday – Resources

Standard

Suicide Prevention HelpLine: 1-800-273-8255

The Trevor Project: 1-866-488-7386

IMAlive (an online crisis network)
The Trans Lifeline: 1-877-565-8860

TWLOHA: To Write Love on Her Arms

NAMI: National Alliance on Mental Illness

Veteran’s Crisis Line: 1-800-273-8255, press 1. Text to 838255. There is also a confidential chat line on the website.

There is a more comprehensive list (although not inclusive) on my Crisis Intervention Page.

Check out all of the Mental Health Monday posts by followng this tag: mental health monday

Two other things you should check out:

Questions to Ask Before Giving Up

Let’s Make a Coping Skills Toolbox

Add anything you’ve found useful in the comments so I can include it in any updates.

Mental Health Monday – Profile – Wil Wheaton

Standard

​Wil Wheaton is an actor, best known for his roles in Stand by Me and Star Trek: The Next Generation. His motto is: Don’t be a dick, and he tries to live his life with that philosophy at the forefront. It is a simple philosophy; one I equate to the Golden Rule – do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

He and his wife live in California with their two dogs, Marlowe and Seamus, and a cat, Watson. They are both (all) very committed to animals and their welfare, and lend a lot of support, both in time and financial charity to the Pasadena Humane Society and SCPA.

He homebrews and is a huge fan of the LA Kings, through good times and bad.

Wil Wheaton is a writer and has been influential to me in seeing alternative avenues of publishing, the importance of using social media to your advantage, and inspirational to keep going forward and to never stop writing.

He also has chronic depression and generalized anxiety, something that I can understand, having similar, if not the same diagnoses. I can only imagine how much harder it is when you’re a celebrity and all eyes are on you when you’re out in public. He is one of the voices speaking out against the stigma of mental illness and supports NAMI among other groups who help.

Visit his official website: Wil Wheaton

From Slate

In Wil’s Words

Wil and his lovely wife, Anne at a LA Kings game. Copyright belongs to Anne Wheaton. (c)2019

The Road to Recovery is Paved with Good Intentions or Something Like That

Standard

​The biggest difference between a recovery and a cure is with a recovery there is no end. Whether that’s with chronic or terminal illness, alcoholism, or depression.

People who don’t have first hand experience with depression think it’s a mood that can be changed by a good night’s sleep and a journal, a glass of wine and a walk in the woods, shopping therapy, but it’s really so much more complicated than that, and the person with the depression is tired of explaining it and the person listening is tired of hearing it. 

I can do this; why can’t you?

Even when they  don’t say it, it is heard.

And then there’s that one person who’s like but you’re on medication or they didn’t need medication or some other sabotaging dig that really means buck up, pull up your bootstraps, we all have depression.

It’s been two weeks, and it wasn’t that I didn’t have anything to say or a planner filled with mediocre posts for you, but I just couldn’t sit down, couldn’t clean off the table, couldn’t wake up early enough, and it wasn’t that I ignored all of this and didn’t care, but I can’t say that I mulled over it either. It wasn’t until the first week blended into the second that I recognized this for what it was.

I still had stuff to do.

Kids had to get fed.

Doctors had to be visited.

My annual GISH scavenger hunt was this week, and I was not feeling it.

This weekend is a retreat at my favorite place, and while I was looking forward to it, I am also so, so tired. The kind of tired that sleep won’t fix. I forgot my notebook to take notes in, and my tea (!), and my hairbrush, and without a recent haircut that is practically a necessity. I’m usually quite organized, especially about packing, and i literally tossed everything into my suitcase and zipped it up. Half of it wasn’t folded, and I’m not sure if I have enough shirts and I definitely don’t have enough pants, but for some reason I have six pairs of underwear, so I guess I’m ready for next time.

Maybe I could change my meds, but I don’t want to change my meds. I’m pretty self-aware, and this retreat is all about self-awareness and mind-clutter as well as physical clutter and it’s exactly what I need, and maybe meds do need to be adjusted, but I think I can muddle through for the moment.

Lists are being made, and some are being ignored. Bills are behind, and have been, and that’s part of that helpless feeling.

I think I can force myself to be somewhat productive this coming week, and I’m hoping that might jump-start a little something.

Between now and Tuesday, I plan on catching up on my posts – the July quotation, the August blurb, possibly a travel post, and on Tuesday, as much as I know it contributes to how I’m feeling, I will have a resource post to add to the political one from a couple of weeks ago – a few more recommendations of reliable political thinkers and speakers.

I know it can be draining, but stay aware of the world around you. I’m sure you have been tempted, as have I to hide under a rock for the next two years or more, but we are needed, here at home and in community.

Just being here lightens my load. Now to see how to bottle it and take it with me when I leave.

July: Sum Sum Summer: Reflection

Standard

​July has sped along, and it hasn’t been bad, or terrible, or really all that hot. Some really hot days, and really hot steering wheels, but I can’t complain overall about the nights. I was just mentioning today that the last couple of years it seems that August is the hottest of the summer months, thank you very much global warming for screwing up the norms.

From the end of the school year until just after Independence Day, our family is in flux. Some days off from work, some, if I’m being honest, a lot of, lazy days, some pajama days, not always planned until we wake up and don’t feel like getting dressed, but it ticks along until we get into some kind of schedule that works for everyone. Usually after my husband’s birthday.

I have implemented a points system this year for my kids that appears to be working. More or less. They don’t know what they’re working towards or what the points can be traded for at the end of the summer yet. Neither do I. Yet. But with my husband working from home, it’s really helped them declare their own independence while letting me work in my bedroom for most of the morning. Instead of bothering him, they get their own breakfasts and set about doing their busywork, whether that’s YouTube or games or books. They quietly feed themselves with whatever we have, and they’re old enough to microwave or use the tea kettle and toaster, so their breakfast and lunches (peanut butter for one, Nutella for the other) gets them through most mornings without rancor.

For me…I just don’t want to do anything. I think it’s part of a mild depression. I don’t feel that things are impossible or that I’ve reached desperation, but there’s something just bleh that I can’t shake. I’m tired but not in the needing rest sense. I know that current events and politics are feeding that tiredness and anger and frustration. 

I want to be in church for mass, but I don’t want to actually leave the house to go to  mass. 

My husband organized a spontaneous road trip to Destiny USA on Cayuga Lake in Syracuse, and it was cheap, which is always a good thing. I mean it cost next to nothing, and it was fun. It was adventurous for the two of us in the family who need plans and lists and things. But it was still something of a struggle. It was a very conscious effort to be there for everyone and everything. And the amount of energy it expends to be that self-aware and that self-censoring is really quite exhausting.

I want to write, but I don’t want to sit down and get to the process of writing. I have so many things that need to be written and then posted or filed or edited, and I can’t decide on which is the most important, and then I get paralyzed with indecision and do nothing. I have yet to continue the journal I want to write for our family trip to Ireland. It’s almost a year since we went and came back. Part of that, I know is that we probably won’t get a vacation this year, but part of it is also that I want it to be perfect for posterity and summer at home is too noisy to just sit and reflect quietly on that very special trip. Unsure about a vacation this year with too many other monetary priorities plus a mistake with our taxes that refunded us significantly less than I had anticipated. Trudge along, though. That’s all any of us can do. Trudge along.

I did see my therapist a couple of days ago, and that helps; not just the going, but the anticipation of going. It’s like a balm. If I’m feeling anxious, I look at the calendar and see the appointment and I can get through a minor pang of anxiety.

I think July is just more of my cranky month than the others. The kids home more than usual, the air hotter than usual, less money, more expectations, anticipations of so many things to do, and then having to live up to those expectations.

Well, let’s think positively.

Let’s see what can happen.

REPOST: Coping Skills Tool Box

Standard

Let’s Make a Coping Skills Tool Box is a wonderful resource that I’ve found that gives suggestions on what you might add to your own coping skills tool box. Have a look, and if you think of anything else that you find useful, please add it in the comments.

Travel Thursday – Anxiety

Standard

​As much as I love the idea of traveling, and the actual visiting places, the anxiety associated with the anticipation of planning is one of the most debilitating and horrible things to deal with. It’s something that needs to get done, or the trip itself is a no-go, but starting the planning…

And it isn’t even the actual planning. I love the listmaking, and the reading the tour books, researching what i want to do when I get there. It’s the starting. The monumental decision of putting the money into non-refundable tickets. Hitting that send or buy or submit button takes three times as long as filling out the information on the forms.

In the case of our Ireland trip this summer, it isn’t just buying plane tickets; it’s renting a car. There’s the anxiety of finalizing the search with a credit card number, but there is also the shortness of breath and shaking hands just thinking about driving in the UK again.

After eight years back, I thought I was ready. The memory a cry in the distance, but the closer it gets to reserving a car and planning a route from the airport to the cousins and the cities, and the ferry to Wales, my stomach jumps up into my throat and I feel a choking sensation. I can’t imagine what it will be like to get on the plane with this feeling gnawing at me.

It’s almost unbearable, and there is no earthly reason to feel this way at this moment, weeks in advance of actually having to do it.

My kids are coming, so compiled in all of that stress is the stress of pretending that there is nothing to be anxious about to soothe their own normal, rational fears, so I must hide my own, some irrational fears, but fears all the same.

I feel quite sick writing about it right now.

I vividly remember the white knuckles, the terror of every intersection, every roundabout, reminding myself to breathe, the post-it note on the dashboard telling me to turn into the left lane, always the left lane, thanking G-d at every church passed, the slight sound of scraping as I inched too close to the town wall.

It’s all coming back to me.

Not the feelings a few years later that maybe I could do it again; I got through it once, and it wasn’t that bad, but the anxious screaming IT WAS THAT BAD, PLEASE DON’T MAKE ME!!!

But as with all things, it will be okay.

Between that time and now, I have received many tools to get me through this one little hitch that seems so overwhelming, but I can get through it; I know it.

One of those is a diagnosis and treatment for the elevated anxiety that falls into the not quite normal range of emotion and brain chemistry as well as the same for depression, not entirely unrelated, but the destination will assist in alleviating any extra. I have a therapy session planned for a week prior as well as reconciliation with my priest. Not for anything specific, but you know…anxiety and such.

Another thing was something I heard at one of my first masses, actually it was at my first healing mass, the anointing of the sick. My entire life, no matter how severe, no  matter how stressful, no matter how bad, I would tell myself that it would be okay. I didn’t necessarily believe it, but just saying it to myself did have a calming affect.

At that first anointing, my priest quoted St. Julian of Norwich, subseequently a new found favorite of mine.

All will be well.

All will be well.

In all manner of things,

all will be well.

How perfect, and how needed, then and now.

Yes, I’m still anxious, and som of it will be debilitating, but all will be well.

Writing Retreat Weekend, Day 2

Standard

Outside
I took a quick walk around the front of the retreat center. It was a beautiful day, and I should have walked more than I did, but my legs have been giving me a lot of trouble this weekend. I’m not sure why, so with Christmas in just about two weeks, I had better play it safe.

The sun was bright, the sky that perfect blue. I had intended to wander down to this cross that was carved out of the tree stump, but they’ve removed all of the benches. I’m assuming that is to get the grounds ready for winter.

However, that didn’t stop me from checking this out and another tree stump on my way back up to the picnic table. I sat out there reading for a bit, and was so enthralled with what I was reading that the retreat director had to come out and get me for lunch!

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

image

We continued our writing with courage and hope. There are so many things that I’m feeling. Talking to my tablemates and hearing different things from the video (Rob Bell – I believe you can look him up on You Tube) and the musical selections like Star Child by David Haas.

I’m hoping this weekend gives me the push and the anchor that gets me through the rest of the year.