Happy Holidays!

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This won’t publish until tomorrow morning, but as I write this it is many things for many people today: it’s the day after Christmas, which makes it the First Day of Christmas. It is also the fifth night of Chanukah. It is Boxing Day. It is the first day of Kwanzaa. Please add your holidays in the comments, and I can add them to my yearly calendar for next year.

I had so many intentions for writing and publishing last week, and part of the week before, including a a reflection on gratitude, a short commentary on something my priest said during a homily about everyday is Thanksgiving or at least the opportunity for thanksgiving, the emotional legacy I feel for the new Star Wars movie as well as something Supernatural finale related, holiday photos of our family’s menorah and Christmas tree as well as other shared instagram-type posts. The one thing I really tried to get done was a special Mental Health Monday before Christmas with ways to avoid holiday stress.

Instead of writing about it, and offering some advice I decided to take my unwritten as of yet advice, and not worry about writing and posting (among a few household things). For one thing, every time I looked at my ever increasing list of writing projects, I blanked. I closed the computer or the Kindle, and I walked away. There were presents to be wrapped, cards to be mailed (which had its own special stress for the lateness that they were received by me and losing my address book), our tree wasn’t up yet, our stove wasn’t working and I wasn’t sure how we were going to prepare Christmas dinner*. I tried to write to avoid the stress of the holidays that were on a timeline, and in making an editorial timeline at this time was really stressing me out. Each time I postponed a day’s planned posting, it increased my stress. And this isn’t why I write. While there is good and valuable stress that comes with my writing choices, this last week and some days was truly giving me bad, debilitating stress.

Once I made the decision to not write until after Christmas Day I felt as though a weight had been lifted from my shoulders.

There are six days left to this year, and it’s been quite a year. It is not only a year ending, but an entire decade. It’s kind of a big deal. I will write again before the New Year and then after as I discover which direction I want to travel in with my writing.

My advice for the rest of this week is:

SLOW DOWN.
BREATHE.
TAKE TIME FOR YOU. If you’re working, spend your break times eating, hydrating, meditating, reading or whatever it is that you do for you. At home, take time for you. You’ve worked hard all year; take a little time for yourself.

Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah, Happy Kwanzaa, and have a Blessed and Peaceful upcoming New Year.

*A quick note on these things:

The presents got wrapped.

The cards we ordered from an online photo card store didn’t come, but we did receive another family’s cards. It took a little longer to get our own cards, but we did. No big deal, and an unavoidable delay. I sent the cards out in waves, and it turned out all good.

I found my address book that has ALL of my addresses.

We got our tree and lights up. My son put his Santa hat on the top, and it looks very cute.

Our oven hasn’t worked for months and we are buying a new stove. Unfortunately, it won’t be delivered until the weekend. (My son is already planning on baking a pizza the first night!) Fortunately, a generous friend offered us her countertop convection oven, and Christmas dinner was saved!

It all works out in the end, doesn’t it.

Mental Health Monday – Setback

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​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 – Me, My Self-Care, And I

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This is a limited series from Crooked Media. The link below is to the first episode, which you can listen to on your favorite podcast provider. There are four shows in total.

This series is hosted by Maya Munoz and Diosa Femme. Each week they are joined by a guest that discusses a different aspect of self care. One thing that they brought up is the privilged aspect of self care. For many of us, we feel that we can’t take the needed time for ourselves. Especially as women, we feel selfish taking any time away from our jobs, which include so much more than our salaried job and self care is NOT selfish. It took me a long time to figure that out, and the lesson was worth it. There is also a lack of safe spaces for women of color, and this series addresses that.

In each episode, they repeat an Audre Lord quotation that sums up for them what this series is all about:

“Caring for myself is not self-indulgence; it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”

Find the first episode here:

Mental Health Monday – A First Person Account of Depression

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This is Zach Beauchamp’s first person account of his suicidal depression He wrote it for Vox in June of 2018. A lo of what he sys is familiar to me, but we still walked different paths as each of us with depression does. There are so many similarities, but there are also so many differences. This is how we help each other, learn from each other, and keep moving forward.

I Had Suicidal Depression – Zach Beauchamp

Mental Health Monday – Having a RUFF Day?

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Simple Self-Care Mental Health from The Mighty.

As described on their website, The Mighty is “a safe, supportive community for people facing health challenges and the people who care for them.”

Acronyms are a simple way to check in with ourselves. RUFF is one of those. Click the link and read the article’s thoughts and suggestions.

Mental Health Monday – What Are Your Go-To’s?

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If you search through my tags or have read me for some time, you may notice that my mental health go-to’s will sometimes change. That. Is. Normal. What helps you, what soothes you, what centers you will change over time. And if there is no change…well, that’s normal too. Not any one thing will work for every one person. That is why it is so important for us to talk, to eliminate the mental health stigma, and to share what works for each of us so that the rest can pick what might work for them and give it a try.

My top five go-to’s:

  1. Writing. I am currently in a memoir workshop but it will come to an end. My plan for the next two weeks is setting up a writing schedule and a list of topics so I always have something to go to with pen and paper or keyboard and kindle.
  2. Supernatural. As I’ve mentioned this is the last season for the long-running series, and it is my heart. It is comfort for me.
  3. Prayer. I’ve been studying labyrinths and having that focus is a positive thing for my mental health. I read a daily Thomas Merton devotional that starts my day. I’m searching for prayers, I’m writing prayers, and I’m praying in new ways. For me that means the labyrinth, the rosary, and upcoming retreats.
  4. Podcasts. Two in particular. Stay Tuned with Preet BhararaLovett or Leave It. I have several other podcasts (Pod Save AmericaPod Save the WorldAnn Kroeker – Writing Coach), but they aren’t mental health go-to’s for me.
  5. Reading. I have my public library on my kindle, and I am constantly borrowing e-books from my library. I have three on my kindle at the moment of all variety of genre.

    Please comment with your go-to’s and I’ll put together a future post with your responses.

    Crisis Intervention Resources Page has been Updated.

    Have a good week!

    Coping Skills Toolbox – REPOST

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    I discovered this on Tumblr, and wanted to share it with you since many of us need that little boost to get us through the day.  I’ve posted this before, and because it’s so important you will probably see it again over the months. I like to bring it out in May during Mental Health Awareness Month and during my Mental Health Monday series. For this iteration, I’ve added one item in each category from my own Coping Skills Toolbox! I hope they are helpful. Good luck with your today!

    Coping Toolbox by summerofrecovery 1

    My Personal Coping Skills Toolbox with a couple of samples. No list is ever complete and everyone’s toolbox will contain different skills. (c)2019

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