Mental Health Monday on Tuesday – Coloring Books

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Sometimes you just need a mindless break in order to become mindful. Or just to take a breather. I began to color during an art-slash-spiritual retreat, and sitting with a group of people listening to music, lights dimmed, but enough to see the papers and the colors of the pencils was transcendental. It was soothing and calming, and there is no such thing as a mistake on a coloring sheet. You can find a variety in the dollar section at Target or the Dollar store. My most recent acquisition – the Celtic coloring book – was from a bargain store for $1.99. Well worth it.

Give it a try and let me know how it works out for you. Please add any other suggestions in the comments below.

Travel Thursday – Anxiety

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​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.

Mental Health Monday – Let’s Make a Coping Skills Toolbox

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I wasn’t able to post while I was out of town on my family emergency, but this gives me the opportunity to remind everyone that suicidal thoughts can come at any time, and having our resources and coping mechanisms in place constantly is a must for those suffering and recovering from them.

Suicidal Awareness and Prevention is an ongoing struggle and our bad days don’t neatly fall within the prescribed awareness month.

We still need to do self check ups and check up on our friends and family who we know are at risk.

Even though this is October, here is the link to a graphic that I found helpful. Original sourcing is included at the link.

REPOST: Coping Skills Toolbox

Rec – Mental Health Resources

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First and foremost, if you are in immediate danger to yourself or others, call the Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255

After my best friend, this was the second number in my speed dial directly after my diagnosis. My doctor told me that the medicine would help, but first, I would feel better about suicide and to be sure to have that number handy. Depression is a scary place, but it is much less scary in the light, and diagnosed and treated than hidden away or hiding from it.

Second, I think that these resources can be used successfully by all varieties of mental illness and mental health issues. We are all individuals and react differently to different stimulus. Try it, and if you don’t like it, try something else. You will find the support you need.

Some of the other resources/strategies I’ve found helpful:

1. I found wandering into church a good place to sit and contemplate. You don’t have to be a Christian to do this by the way. I knew, but it was confirmed the first several times I went during an off-hour that no one will bother you. No one will interrupt your contemplation, meditation, prayer. No one will ask you to leave and no one will ask you why you are there. It gave me a place to go when I had nowhere to go just to be, and to think.

2. Be alone in a crowd. I’ve recommended Starbucks before, and for a $2 cup of coffee you can sit and sip as long as you like in most places.

3. My Resource List (link here and on the left). There are phone numbers for depression hotlines, suicide prevention, grief support, and I hope to add more websites. Please comment with those that have helped you, and I can add them to my list. Currently, it’s exclusive to the US, but if my readers are from elsewhere in the world and want to share their resources, I will be glad to add them.

4. I get a lot out of writing therapy. It’s not necessarily a diary or journal, but all kinds of writing makes me feel alive. Is there something that you love to do? Try it again.

5. Later on this afternoon, I’ll be posting a Coping Skills Toolbox that I found online. This is an excellent resource and a positive thing you can do to help for those rough patches.

 

Good luck and my best to all of you.

 

Inspirational – Christopher Reeve

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Ten years ago today, I was having labor pains at St. Peter’s Hospital. The television was on. Christopher Reeve died on this day a decade ago, my middle son was born in two days and my Mom died in fifty-seven.

That year began an unconscious depression that usually lasts from October 12th until December 8th. It’s a hovering cloud of darkness that overshadows everything else. It took me a long time to go from this is the first Christmas without my mother and my son’s first Christmas to this is my son’s first whatever. I’m not sure it left at all that first year.

I hadn’t realized the depression that I was in. Rampant mood swings, emotional outbursts of all kinds, hysterics, but somehow I managed to take care of my two boys. Of course, my husband helped, but there was no help for me. What was happening to me was that the dam broke and mental issues that have plagued me since childhood burst through. I wouldn’t know this until eight years later when things came to a head and I was finally diagnosed.

There literally is a rock bottom and I was down in it. There wasn’t always understanding but without the support and reassurances from a good friend, I don’t think I’d be here today. I got medical treatment and professional therapy as well as being hyperaware of what was going on in my head and with my body.

I don’t think you can say that there’s a cure for depression; nor many of the other mental ailments that are invisible but that thousands of people live with daily. For me there are constant checks and balances, awareness and coping tools that sometimes include hiding out and often include writing, an amazing positive for my mental health and in my life.

Next week, I plan on sharing some of these coping tools as well as others’ coping mechanisms. I find that a wide range of means of managing the unprompted reactions to each of our own mental illnesses gives us strategies for getting through those rough patches that often seem rougher when we have no control over them.

These tools give us that control, even if sometimes it tells us, stay in bed for an extra ten minutes or get up and eat breakfast and get a dose of energy.

Sometimes it takes a combination of things to get us into a beneficial place, and that place can last one day or a week or more. Or less, which is why it is good to have another strategy ready to try out.

On this tenth anniversary, I’ll share Christopher Reeve’s quotation from Wednesday because it really gave me valuable insight into never giving up. We can slow down for whatever causes that slow down, but never give up. That road will still be there when you’re ready to take that next step, and that will that he’s talking about doesn’t always come from a deep, inner place, but sometimes we need our strategies to get us to that place where we do summon the will. It’s different for each of us.

“So many of our dreams at first seem impossible, then they seem improbably, and then, when we summon the will, they soon become inevitable.”

 

Dana and Christopher Reeve

Dana and Christopher Reeve

Rec

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Today’s recs were going to be LGBT resources. With National Coming Out Day on Saturday, I thought that might be helpful, but in reading Jesus: A Pilgrimage and in re-watching the tenth season premiere of Supernatural, unbidden, I thought of what helps me through the sullen moments of my depression, and realized that I wanted to offer some of my go-to places.

My top three, not including supportive friends (I just received a card from my godmother that was the perfect sentiment at the perfect time, and later on today, I’m planning a phone call to my best friend):

1. I will read the day’s Scripture readings. For non-religious people, I would recommend Robert Fulghum‘s All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten and his other books. Another book that doesn’t rely on a particular religion is John Harricharan‘s Under the Tamarind Tree – A Secret Journey Into Our Souls: Inspirational Quotes About Life, A Reminder of the Inner Magic. I would randomly pick a page and read it. This book works very well for that kind of inspirational reading.

2. Starbucks or Cracker Barrel. You can get away with sitting there for a long time for very little money. In the case of Cracker Barrel, I have found that their lack of wi-fi and abundance of white noise lets me get a lot of writing done with very little distraction as well as abundant refills of fountain drinks. If you frequent Starbucks, register your card. You can’t beat their perks and freebies if you’re there a lot.

3. It will sound strange, but for me, I watch Supernatural on Netflix. Or TNT. I don’t know when I realized it, but I find it very therapeutic. I think that after ten  years of shows, almost two hundred episodes, being exposed to their personal lives and the good side of fandom, I find it very comforting. It’s well written so knowing the ending doesn’t diminish from the enjoyment of watching it more than once.

Find the thing that makes you feel comfort. It doesn’t have to make you feel good, but you don’t want it to make you feel bad. It gets me through when I know I don’t want to do anything, but I also don’t want to sit like a lump. The background noise of the show is comforting.

For me also, listening to BBC America is also comforting me. It’s those British accents. It doesn’t matter what the show is; in fact, that’s how I started watching The Hour and Orphan Black.

 

Share your go-to strategies in the comments; they might help another reader!