Mental Health Monday – Mental Health Awareness


May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and we’re kicking it off with the first of a series of Mental Health Mondays.

Mental Health isn’t simply an awareness tool for those with mental illness or issues, but for all of us. We all have mental health, and we consistently ignore it, and as we’ve found during this last pandemic year, ignoring our mental health isn’t good for our…mental health. Or our physical health for that matter.

Right before I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety I was having knee problems. I went once a week (it should have been three times a week, but I couldn’t afford that even with “good” insurance) for physical therapy, and it did help a little bit, but it was really the action of going to the physical therapy building and having the schedule more than doing the exercises. I’m sure the exercises helped my knee, but the schedule of the appointment helped just as much. Once I began talk therapy, medication, and discovering my own self-help tools, my knee pain virtually disappeared.

I’m not suggesting that taking care of your mental health is all on your shoulders. I could not have come out on the other side without medication and therapy. Depression and anxiety (and a host of other mental health issues that I’m not qualified to speak on) are almost all chemical imbalance, and oftentimes, regardless of what some may insist, the only option is medication. And that’s okay. I take medicine for my diabetes and my high blood pressure. No one would suggest not taking it and just “relaxing” and/or “cheering up.” That’s not how recovery works.

And everything that’s working for me now may not work in the future. Being self-aware is important to know when to ask for changes, whether it’s for more therapy in the week or month or a change in medication. Schedule changes, eating habits, stress – all of these can contribute to changes in your mental health and may necessitate changes in your treatment.

For this first week of Mental Health Awareness Month, I would suggest sitting down with yourself in a quiet space and reflecting on what your feelings lately are. Take the time to sit with it and see if things are better or worse than they were a few weeks or months ago. It’s also important to accept that there may be temporary changes that will go away, especially if those changes developed during and because of the pandemic and the lockdowns. In your isolation, what worked for you? If you continued working, how did that effect you? Do you have needs that need addressing?

A really useful graphic appears below (with attribution). Read through it and ask yourself the questions that apply. Think about the suggestions, and seek out a professional for help. I am not a professional; I can only share what I’ve done, and what has worked and not worked for me. It may not seem it but our mental health is a community effort. As I heard on a retreat last week: Take what you need; leave the rest.

Continue reading

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


​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.

Stroke Awareness Month


In 2013, at age 43, actor and musician Rob Benedict suffered a stroke at a fan convention in Toronto, Ontario. Thanks to the quck thinking of his Supernatural co-stars, Richard Speight, Jr., and Misha Collins, he was given medical help and is now doing very well, back to touring with Louden Swain, writing scripts and songs, and performing at Supernatural fan conventions across the world.

He has brought attention to the symptoms of stroke since then.

The acronym to remember is FAST:

Click picture to be taken to’s website. Their copyright. (c)2018

Get the word out

Click picture to be taken to the National Stroke Association.

Mental Health Monday – Keeping a Journal


Living with mental illness or mental health issues or as I like to refer to it, recovery lends itself to keeping a journal. You don’t need to be a “real” writer to keep a journal. My kids all keep notebooks of some kind, and I’ve kept travel journals for trips and retreat/spiritual journals. I’m about to embark on my second Lent journal.
There are also so many options out there for any style of journal-keeping, whether longhand, calendar diary, record-keeping, bullet points, or sketching. Or you can dabble in all kinds, both to keep it fresh but also to experiment and see which type suits you better. I do several types all in the same physical book.

Pinterest is a great place to find and explore the varieties of journal styles that are out there as well as discovering journaling prompts to help you along. We can all use a little push now and then.

You can buy premade journals for specific areas or fancy blank journals or create your own with a small three-ring binder. These can be found online at Staples, Target and online as well as local boutique shops.

The possibilities are nearly endless.

Types of Journals

BulletBujo (this is a brand and a style), Dear Diary, Travel, Sketchbook, Prayer, Memoir, I even have a writer’s planner journal

Evernote is a good way to keep a journal digitally.

Things to Record:

Continue reading

Happy Pesach


Passover begins at sundown this evening. Some years there are conflicts. We travel to my mother-in-law’s more often than not for Easter or right before Easter when the kids are on recess, and so we’ll only observe Passover for part of the eight days. Even after my baptism, we continue to celebrate.

This year Easter was early and we aren’t able to travel to Grandma’s for recess because my oldest son is in school and working two and a half jobs so timing didn’t work out for visiting.

However, we will be home for the entirety of Passover.

To be truthful, I hadn’t really decided to celebrate/observe until I was in the grocery store shopping. I was supposed to get a roasting chicken and potato pancake mix for tonight’s dinner, but I could feel the D-A (depression/anxiety) clueing me in that it was going to be difficult to me for this holiday.

While I want to do Passover (even if we don’t usually do a seder), I could not feel the cooking.

I looked through my wallet and found the raincheck for chicken tenders. I heard the lightbulb click in my head; over my head.

Fake it.

No roast chicken, no standing over a stove frying latkes (we eat more latkes during Passover than during Chanukah), and that’s it. Fake it.

Chicken tenders, frozen potato pancakes, can of cranberry sauce, matzoh. Lunch – gefilte fish.

I can do this.

My point is simply that there are ways to get around those pokes that depression uses to try and bring you to lethargy and apathy. It isn’t a fail safe. There will be depressive moments. There will be times when you have to ask for family for more patience and support, but when it’s important, try. That’s all you can ask yourself.

I wanted to celebrate Passover. It’s important to me to continue these traditions, for my kids to understand their Exodus from Egypt. Even before the Eucharist, I’ve always talked about Passover in the present.

Why do we celebrate Passover, I’ve been asked. We were slave, and we’re leaving Egypt. We’re escaping. We’re crossing the Red Sea. We carry the matzoh with us. It’s happening in the past, the future, and now. it is within and without time.

History and heritage are important.

So is dinner.

Food is the lifeblood of culture and family.

Sometimes depression gets the best of me, but it can never win because I keep fighting, I keep moving forward, I keep keeping on.

I fake it unhtil I don’t have to anymore, and then I fake it again, but I keep going.

Happy Pesach.




There are so many things coursing through my mind that sometimes it’s hard to keep up and get it all out. It’s been going on longer, but the last four weeks have been a really bad place for me, throwing me, well, not throwing me, but sliding me back towards the beginnings of my depression and I do not like it. I noticed that something was off, but as per my custom chose to ignore it while at the same time being hyperaware of it. When my friend asked if I was alright and noticed that every time he called I sounded sad and asked about my mood, I realized that I wasn’t imagining what I had been seeing.

Lately doing anything is a chore. Not something like a responsibility that you know you have to do but are procrastinating doing, but an actual chore, pushing myself to, if not make dinner at least state what dinner would be and getting someone else in the family to make it. Cooking was one of the happy places that I lost when I sunk into depression and it hasn’t bounced back.

I did the cooking and baking for Christmas and my middle son is the only one who doesn’t get a store bought birthday cake because he always asks for my cheesecake (Philly 3-Step variety) and so I oblige him and did, but the daily cooking and experimenting that I was enjoying so much – baking bread, frying chicken in the newly discovered (for me) peanut oil, Pinterest recipes, caramel and ginger cookies. The love was there. The want was there. I just couldn’t get past the chore of getting up and actually doing it.

At least, we’re not eating out constantly or bringing prepared food in. That is something we definitely can’t afford to do as we struggle this year to pay the bills, some that are not always getting paid and our tax refunds going to repay friends who helped us in our time of need. There’s a lot of pasta and grilled cheese, but at least it’s getting made.

I try to have a list for each day, and those usually help, but it seems that my brain has picked up on all of last year’s coping tricks and is sabotaging them. In the Jewish faith, each year on the anniversary of a parent’s death, you’re supposed to light a memorial candle called a Yartzeit. You light it at sundown of the death day and it burns for twenty-four hours. You do not blow it out. This was something I learned when I was a child. I also learned that you never light the candle if your parents are living. I don’t know if this is religiously true or if my mother was just superstitious. I was supposed to do this on Saturday. It was written on at least two calendars. I said something to my husband on Saturday morning. And then I just forgot. It slipped my mind. Literally. I didn’t remember until I was looking at the calendar Monday morning to check the week’s schedule, and I didn’t actually remember it; I read it and had a V8 moment. I thought I would burst into tears. How could I forget my Dad?

For everything else, I’m not so much lazy or unmotivated as much as I just don’t feel it. I want to write, but if I don’t it’s alright. I want to make a phone call, but unless it is anxiety driven, I don’t until the anxiety builds to explosion levels and that is no good for either of us. I want to sit and do homework with my daughter, but if she decides to do something else, I just don’t want to be bothered, and don’t chase her down, and this is the scariest feeling of all; the not wanting to be bothered.

I’m not back in the place of completely mentally paralyzed or suicidal, and I credit that to recognizing the downward slide as well as my friend who knows me so well calling me out on some of my lethargic behavior and moods and knowing when to poke me and when to actually push.

My medication dose has been changed and I go back to the doctor in a week or so, but it doesn’t feel any different and I think it should feel a little better; just a little. The next few weeks are bringing things that are stressful and fun and I should be looking forward to them, but it’s making me feel anxious and as though I’m going to let everyone down including myself. I’m afraid to build anything up because it will be a disappointment; I’m afraid to get excited and I’m worrying over things that I really do have no control over, but they’re still there. I want to scream at some things, and I want to cry at others, and I’m trying to hold it all together so I don’t push away the people who are always there for me, who reach out and care for me, but the next few weeks….I just don’t know how to get through it and actually enjoy the parts that I’m supposed to enjoy.

This list includes Author’s Night at my daughter’s school, Free Comic Book Day, a doctor’s appointment, a therapy appointment, pay the mortgage and other bills, attend a birthday party, Mother’s Day, my oldest son’s prom, my daughter’s birthday party, visit my best friend at least four states away, Memorial Day weekend, which is also my deceased mother’s birthday and a visit from Grandma (the kids’ grandma, my mother in law). And that doesn’t include writing for my memoir workshop even though it won’t be in session and I’ll miss one session but I promised to keep up on my writing. And all of this is off the top of my head. I’m sure I forgot something. Or several somethings.

In trying to come up with some positive things to write about and ease out of the bad place, it is not easy. On a good day I’m at best a realist.

I’ve been very good since declaring my New Year’s Resolutions and my reaffirmation of much of them for Lent. I have been very good since Lent and have stuck to only two cans of soda a day with very few exceptions. I usually will drink those with meals, and I have primarily been drinking green tea with jasmine and water, the colder the better.

I have tried (and mostly succeeded) in eating oatmeal three times a week. I add a touch of brown sugar and a handful of cranberries and some milk. This really has decreased my cholesterol, and it is very filling and tastes good, and much healthier than a bagel.

I am skipping some desserts, and last night didn’t actually have dinner except for a bowl of strawberries and some sour cream, a childhood comfort food that can only be made better with sliced peaches and blueberries.

Except for three bad mornings, I have continued to attend morning Mass and have tried to add Sunday Mass into my week. If I don’t get to the church (and on the days that there are no Mass), I read the Mass in a Catholic periodical that publishes the daily Masses.

I’ve given away several sweaters that either no longer fit or that I know I will not wear again. I have a pile of baby clothes to do the same with as soon as I call the church’s office manager. We are very slowly clearing out the things that we haven’t used in years and that are taking up much needed space that can be used for other things.

I have been writing more even if I haven’t been sharing the really personal ones or the ones that need too much explaining to understand context, but sometimes (more often recently) I’ll start something and just leave it there and not go back to it.

I am not where I want to be, and I think that adds to the chemical issue of depression and brings on extra situational stress and in the place I’m in my level of tolerance and ignoring things is just non-existent so I find myself shutting down.

I also know that I can’t go back to last year; I barely lived through that. I also can’t go back decades and change decisions; I can’t return to college and choose different majors. It’s hard to move forward; though it’s not easy knowing that one changed decision could change everything now.

Or would it?

There is no way to know, but this is one of the questions that weighs heavily on my mind and in my relapse into depression and increase in anxiety, it plays over and over again as though a broken record or a film on a loop.