It’s extremely difficult to ask for help. No matter how big or small the problem, for many of us our reaction is often, “I’m good, I can do it, It’s fine.” Is it really? Whether we like to admit it or not, this can be more difficult for men, especially a man who is considered the head of his family, who just went through a health crisis, who is adjusting to unexpected changes in diet and lifestyle, who is being ridiculed for seeking help for a serious medical issue, whose family is mocked for nothing more than being his family, who went through a tough political race, and began a new job mere weeks ago.
It’s a lot.
It can be a lot without all of that going on.
For myself, I ignored a lot of my anxiety and depression. It didn’t occur to me that there was a problem. When you feel that something is off and search for help (today through Google), the wrong questions are asked. Do you skip out on work? Do you sleep a lot? Do you want to harm yourself? If your answers are no, you’re fine.
But you’re not.
I’m talking about myself, and not suggesting any of this is true for Senator Fetterman. Please don’t use this as an implication to some secret knowledge or diagnosis of the Senator. It’s not.
Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.
– Theodore Roosevelt
January almost always starts off with a bang. I’m organized, I’ve got my calendar, I’ve planned my blog and my classes up to a point, and then around now, not quite halfway through February, it flounders.
It hasn’t floundered. Not really.
I think I may have found a routine, sort of, some motivation, kind of, and even though it’s not perfect, well, nothing is, it seems to be working (for the most part).
I’m still trying to find the perfect storm of organizing while not being overly fastidious and ridiculously detailed.
I’m sitting at my desk (read: dining room table that was actually cleaned last night for dinner, but is currently not even remotely close), surrounded by folders, papers, planner, notebooks, car keys (which actually have a home, but are not there at the moment), and my cell phone.
I have a meeting in ten minutes, and I’m still trying to get this post halfway done so I can put it up tomorrow (Wednesday). It would only be two days late (in my mind) so that’s okay, and that’s what I wanted to talk about.
Since the beginning of the new year, I’ve been on top of things. Not only on top of my website writing, but the site housekeeping is coming up this week (ch-ch-ch-changes), and I’ve been getting ready for my two new classes in March, and working on organizing my two books on Scrivener, my storyboard program.
And, the list goes on and on. Not sure if that’s such a good thing.
Since my success in November with NaNoWriMo, I’ve been really excited about writing. I’ve tried to keep track of my writing time, word counts, ideas for future items, and writing every day. Almost every day. This has been coupled with moving all of my computer folders onto an external hard drive to better organize my writing and be able to see what I have and what I can do with those old workshop pieces. Next up is transcribing those workshop notebooks that go back about a decade.
Things seem to be coming together, and I’m hoping that by writing about it, I won’t jinx it.
I had my final therapy appointment (until I find another therapist) last week. I’ve decided to take a month off and see how I’m feeling. It’s been ten years and therapy has been a lifeline as well as a mental comfort. I’m not sure how I’ll be, but I’m hyperaware of how I feel, and I have my coping. There have been so many changes recently and a lot of the positives began about ten years ago when I found therapy; my faith; my writing. It’s been a lot in ten years and the changes take some getting used to. Including deciding on a new therapist.
I had a funeral last week for a wonderful woman in my writing group. At her funeral (and unrelated to my friend), I believe that I was given inspiration for a short story.
Inspiration is everywhere.
I’ve been on a new social media site, Spoutible. It opens to the public on Thursday and despite its glitches and slowness, it’s amazing. The atmosphere is truly the anti-Twitter. Everyone is so nice and friendly and we’re all following each other. We’re helping each other figure things out and having conversations, and I think I’m going to really like it there.
It’s still in beta (and will continue to be on Thursday) but it’s a million times better than a week-old site should be. I feel safe, I feel lighter, something I didn’t feel on Twitter. I can feel my blood pressure remaining steady. And when I open it, I don’t see Jim Jordan, Ted Cruz, or Lauren Boebert like I do on Twitter at the top of my feed even though I don’t follow any of them. It’s kind of annoying. I mean, I can’t mute everyone, can I?
I will have a Spoutible account attached to this site, something I did not do with Twitter. I’m not sure how I’ll use it but come along for the ride.
That’s it for now. I have an exciting Friday Food coming up at the end of the week. Come back for that!
I spent today with my family, and when I got home realized that this post wasn’t ready. I was going to put it off until mid-week when things would be seemingly calmer, but I thought about that for a minute, and realized that our mental health can’t be put off.
We need to take the time needed and focus on our mental health when we need to. It will never fit into a schedule. Things come up with mental health that we need to cope with just like things come up everyday in our lives like an overflowing sink or a backed-up toilet. Some things just need to be taken care of right away.
One thing that I have been struggling with is my prayer life. My faith is strong, but I’m having difficulty praying, so I’m looking at new techniques. If it doesn’t improve, I may resort to a finite-timed checklist. And for me, not being prayerful affects my mental health. I am hoping to attend mass tomorrow before I begin the rest of my day.
Before I give you my quick list, please…. if you are in distress or having an emergency, contact a mental health professional or call 9-1-1. The Suicide and Crisis Lifeline is 988 and they are there to help.
Here are five simple suggestions for coping with mental health and the anxieties that accompany it:
Focus on something neutral, something ordinary. The breeze blowing the leaves outside. The clouds drifting by.
Take some quiet time and listen to music. Instrumental music is often good for this because there are no words to distract you, but if you like loud, blaring music, play that and sing along.
Read a book.
Write in a journal. You can write what you’re feeling, what you’re grateful for, what your plans are when you’re feeling better.
Watch a movie you’ve seen before. That way you don’t have to give it your full attention, but you’ll feel as though you’re doing something if that’s what you need.
This post was a lot to write. And rewrite. I hope you will be able to draw out something for yourselves as I call myself out and set my intentions for the next few weeks. If you are inclined to add anything or offer any suggestions, please do so in the comments. they would be most welcome.
I offered a preview last week of goals, resolutions, whatever they’re to be called this year. That can be found here if you need a reminder of my first thoughts. At the end of that post, I said that I was going to take a break, read a chapter, play a game, and get dinner ready. I did almost none of those things. I’m sure we had dinner, but I can’t think of what it was. Even Saturday night’s dinner was in flux since no one took out the meat from the freezer despite multiple requests. Last night also. (Note that these requests were not always towards others in the house; I told myself to take them out and then forgot to, so it was a multi-person failure.) Pasta until the meat defrosts, I guess.
It’s probably not a bad thing that our (my) new year is off to a less than stellar start since the years that I’m all gung-ho and organized for will often fizzle out by February.
I plan to use my Instagram more, and that was one thing I did do last week: a post on intentions there. You can view it and click to visit there from my sidebar on the left. I will share the picture below since I’m going to try and use it as a guide for my intention setting.
The words I used were:
Each one has a different thought process behind it, some from years past, others from spiritual direction, some that simply always come up again and again (like focus and intentionality). I may add some as the weeks go by and I settle into my new year.
None of these words are easy to implement in my day-to-day life. I plan to keep a small copy of the list, perhaps with the picture and reflect on it through January, as a mantra, a guide, an accountability checklist. By accountability, I simply mean is this something that I keep in my head. Is it something that I’m aware that I’m doing or am I ignoring it because it’s hard? It’s not a grading system – no A’s or B’s, no failing or unsatisfactory. Am I doing (it, whatever it is) with intentionality or am I sleep-walking through another day?
One thing that I can take a bow on is the following: About a year or two ago, I made the decision that I did not need the last word in online discussions. I also did not need to engage with everyone there. I will still call out lies and misinformation, but at some point, it’s time to walk away. Before I made this decision, I was anxiety-riddled constantly, needing to convince people of the truth, of the facts. This decision needs to be recommitted to every day. I need to know when to walk away, when to push. I’ve been proud of myself, and while this isn’t a new year focus it is something that continues to be encouraged. Every day is a new day.
I will still speak out.
In between birthday fun for my daughter, trying out new Christmas gifts, and just relaxing with the family, I spent Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday watching the vote for Speaker of the House. I have never seen such a shitshow on the floor of Congress, and it was a despicable showing on the second anniversary of January 6th. Two Republicans nearly came to blows, and one had to be dragged away. I was proud of my party; of their commitment to the people, to the advancement of new leadership without in-fighting and acrimony. Over the weekend, I posted part of the speech given by Minority Leader, NY Representative Hakeem Jeffries, where he took us to church so to speak. It was exhilarating, it was motivating, it was inspirational. I look forward to the day when he is Speaker. The Republicans can say they’re behavior was a lesson in democracy, but in reality, it was a lesson in dysfunction and chaos.
As I told my class last semester, everything is political. Everything. From the water that flows through our pipes to the roads we drive on, from the schools to the garbage pick-ups. We all need to be involved, every year, every election, every race. I guess that’s one of my goals. Civics 101.
Apart from politics, I need to see what priorities I need to keep and pull to the forefront. I’ve come up with three in particular, although there is always room for more. They are:
I need it all, and I need to learn how to blend them, how to connect them, how to live them, and how to balance them. I should add that word to the photo and list above: balance.
It’s all a balancing act. I’m a mom. I was a teacher. I can multi-task. I can also drop all the spinning plates. It happens. I need to accept that and move on – No. Not on; forward.
As I look at each of those words on the list and the three main places I want to focus on, how do I make it happen? How do I use all the tools available to me without constantly running around in circles, thinking I’m succeeding, but really only standing in the same place?
The first thing I’m going to do is to put a note on my calendar, about a week after Ash Wednesday. Lent is a good time for reevaluation, and I can see how and if I’ve moved forward between now and then.
I’m also going to list one specific, tangible goal here related to the three subjects of therapy (which includes talk, writing, art, etc.), writing, and faith. As I’ve said, and as I believe, they are all interconnected in my life. I rely on my faith in my writing, I write about my faith, talking through things (even if only with myself) – it’s all related and yet still separate enterprises that need their own nurturing and development.
The words sound easy, but we all know that it is also hard. Hard to change, hard to grow, hard to become something different, hard to change. With the internet and social media, we can all be so self-aware and easy to be swayed towards something, even simple, non-hazardous things: a glass or water or Diet Coke?
I know that I’m more outgoing in certain ways since becoming a regular online. I wonder how I managed without the online community that sustains me as much as my family does. I speak my mind more, sometimes to my detriment. I say yes more without saying no first. I realized that I protect myself by declining, and then “changing my mind.” It lets me have the time to think, but I’m getting more comfortable with saying yes (and no when appropriate).
How do I set goals and keep myself on a trajectory of moving forward?
NaNoWriMo really motivated me to write every day, and while I haven’t been writing every day, I have been writing a lot more. I don’t mind the writing without the external validation despite really loving (and needing) the validation. Writing a book won’t work that way, however. I can’t publish every little piece online, can I?
Every year, dozens of articles, posts, podcasts and the like tell us what we need to do to make this a successful year; the one year we will finally get things done, handled: lose weight, clean the house, raise healthy, well-adjusted children, start our own businesses, and whatever else that will make us content this year.
I have never figured out what it takes to make new year’s resolutions that will stick. I try. I’ve tried renaming them: goals, plans, focus, changes, intentions (my personal favorite and the one I will continue to stick with), and aspirations.
On Sunday, I scrolled through my emails and opened the Target ad, and in a few minutes of turning pages in this first advertisement of the new year, I saw what Target and their advertising consultants think we should be focused on in our resolutions for beginning and following through on in this year:
Tax Software and Office Supplies for Taxes
Small appliances – air fryers, roombas, vacuums
A thirty-page ad.
How long will many of the consumers stick with the new exercise regimen? No between meal snacks? Brushing teeth at lunch? Not ripping off a piece of tin foil and covering the dinner plate instead of using those expensive (and very clean) containers?
To be honest, I already have three doctor’s appointments scheduled plus my physical, so I guess I’m ahead of my own procrastination. I’m also planning on replacing all the glasses (eyewear) in our family this spring.
This year, though, my focus is on my writing, expanding my writing adjacent activities, and my faithfulness and becoming centered on my spiritual life. I’m not sure precisely what that means; I’m still defining what I’m looking for, what I need in my world, and what my specific intentions are. I plan to form them in the next week and share them. This is also one reason that I reevaluate my goals and intentions throughout the year. It works out not quite quarterly: Back to School/Jewish New Year, Lent/Easter, Secular New Year. While these times are somewhat etched in stone, I still leave room for reevaluation.
This year is beginning with a few points of stress. My therapist is retiring, and I am in the process of searching for a new one. I begin that tomorrow morning, after Mass. For the last couple of years I’ve wondered if I still needed to go regularly for therapy, but in contemplating stopping, I realized that just simply having it on my calendar gives me a conversation to look forward to, a time to see, and that alone seems to curb my anxiety. Nothing is cured; anxiety doesn’t work that way, but it is part of my recovery. Those little things add up and make a difference; they give me a focus, they offer a routine, a schedule that I can look forward to and as it did when I started (with both therapy, writing, and mass) it gave me a schedule to follow. Many of these techniques remind me of posts from neurodivergent folks and how they live their lives. I wouldn’t call myself neurodivergent, but who knows. There’s something to be said for trying something new. Letting chips fall where they may and seeing what works. Including reusing cliches.
Something I said to my husband about one of our children – if this child was diagnosed as on the autistic spectrum we would make allowances, we would accommodate some of their needs and expectations. Just because they don’t wear the label doesn’t mean that we can’t still make the accommodations that they need, whether we call them quirks or personality or neurodiversity.
There is no reason that I can’t make those same allowances for myself or to expect those same allowances for myself if it makes me, helps me function better. Whatever that means for me.
I’m going to take a break, read a chapter, play a game on my kindle and work on getting dinner ready. Later in the week, I will share my New Year’s intentions. I hope to see many of you along on the journey, whether you’re here as a spectator or a participant. No change is too small. No intention too minor.
There are so many things happening in the last 24-48 hours and I’d love to write about them and share them here, but putting them all in one post feels as though it would diminish each of them and not give them the attention and love that they deserve.
I decided to give a little piece of each, a tease if you will, and then write more in depth with the feelings that are rising within me.
The new talk line/help line number has been streamlined to an easy to remember three digit number –
It’s the same information, trained counselors willing to listen to you and your concerns, ready to help.
This is the first post for Mental Health Monday this month. I have a friend who commited suicide a few years ago – his birthday was last week, and he was so young, and I think of him often as does his family and his fiance.
When I felt suicidal I was fortunate to have friends encouraging me to get help, a doctor who listened, and a patient family, who may not have understood, but still became supportive to my needs. Simply adjusting the medication took a toll on all of us.
But we got through it.
And I’m glad to be able to post these hopefully helpful encouragements and resources. My main go-to resource is the NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness) website. Visit them and look around to see what suits you.
At least once a week, I’ve sat myself down and wanted to write and publish here, and more than once a week, I’ve failed. I checked online to see my last publication, and it was way back in July.
Where has August gone?
I stopped subscribing to more is better, so while I do track my writing and word counts, it’s for my own accountability, but I still do not like when plans go by the wayside.
Although last week was a bit of a dip for things.
My priest died nine months ago. My oldest moved after some personal stuff that we’ll call a setback. My middle son is moving out when he starts college. My daughter hates me. Fall memoir workshop was cancelled. And my therapist is retiring.
Okay, let’s be fair: My daughter doesn’t hate me. It’s really just the normal teenage daughter – mother tension, and I did tell her that I’d be writing this, so we’re good. But everything else? I guess I’d say I’m coping.
All our money went to car repairs, house repairs, gas, and groceries. At some point, we know that our kids are not going to want to continue going on vacation with us, but until that day comes, I’m here for it. We’re just doing an overnight in the Finger Lakes and making memories.
I’ve got a master list that I’m working through, and one (or twelve) of those items is publishing a few pieces before we go away, instagramming for the two days that we are away, preparing for the class that I’m teaching in the fall, and reorganizing myself. Not my stuff. Not my writing. Not my clutter, but myself. Where do I want to be in six weeks?
I will let you know sometime in the next week or so, but I am here to also remind you that there is no right way, there is only the way you choose to move forward.