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?

First Sunday of Advent

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One of the things I became re-acquainted with when I began to attend Mass at the Catholic Church was the liturgical calendar. I had never realized that just like an Asian New Year and a Jewish New Year, there was also a Catholic New Year, and it begins with Advent.

Once Thanksgiving is over, many move into Christmas mode. After all, it is the Christmas season.

There is the misconception.

The Christmas season doesn’t actually begin until Christmas Eve, the Vigil of the Nativity. The song, The Twelve Days of Christmas…well, those twelve days begin on December 26 and conclude on January 6, also known as Three Kings Day, Los Posadas, Epiphany, and Twelfth Night. That was the traditional day to receive presents. When I was involved in medieval re-enacting, we often gave gifts and celebrated Twelfth Night.

After Thanksgiving, begins the season of Advent, the time of waiting; waiting for the birth of the Christ child. Like Lent it is an anticipatory time. We reflect on the past year that’s concluded. We begin a new Gospel cycle. This is the A year – Matthew. I am very fond of Matthew. It was his Gospel year when I first joined the church and I took a great lecture series on his gospel. I learned a great deal and so I became very attached to him.

Today, our church gave out a Daily Reflection book for Advent and Christmas. This one is compact and gives you something each day to read. It takes about five minutes or so, and you can meditate longer if you have the time and the inclination. Personally, I’m going to try and sit quietly with a cup of tea while I read and reflect.

I read the Introduction and then turned the book over to read the description on the back. The blurb recommending the book at the top caught my eye, and then I realized that the blurb was written by my godmother. A surprise that brought a smile to my face.

Front of the book given out by my church for the Advent Season.


Back of the book with the description and a blurb about the author, Bishop Robert F. Morneau.


There are many Advent resources offered in paper form, online or as e-books. I will sometimes buy the e-book of whatever the book is that my church gives out so I can read it on my Kindle, only if the price is reasonable.
One of the things I love about these little books is the change and the challenge to do a daily meditation as well as the Introduction to a book that I might not have ordinarily found on my own.

The Advent wreath is up, the banners are changed, the colors are purple, the incense is fragrant. Now the waiting begins, and a new search for something wonderful on this Advent journey.

Later in the week, I will share some other resources for your Advent journey.

Adventure

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I may have mentioned this once or twice already, but my birthday is next Saturday; a mere six days away, and I will be 50. I’m honestly not sure how I feel about it, but I’m approaching it positively. It’s a big milestone, and I don’t want to ignore it and regret that later. I skipped having a big thing for my fortieth becuase my daughter was turning 1 four weeks later, and I wanted her to have her special birthday.

Money is still tight, but I did actually ask for something for my birthday since it was a special one – a new model Kindle. That will be next week or sometime before Christmas since we’re trying to divide the paychecks for bills and Christmas gifts and holiday festivities.

My husband has been planning a birthday surprise for today. He has been going over logistics for weeks, finally deciding on Thanksgiving weekend rather than my birthday weekend.

My idea of an adventure is getting in my car and seeing which Starbucks I end up at. The one two towns over? The one inside the Target? Crap! It’s Monday; there are no lunch sandwiches. (The truck comes on Tuesday.)

I don’t do adventure. Or really, I do it slowly and quietly, and then I congratulate myself on a spontaneity well done.

I’m also not great at not being in on the plans.

I’ve decided to ignore my comfort zone and my instincts to try and find out what’s going on today.

There have been very few clues, and I have been uncharacteristically nonplussed. I haven’t tried to weasel it out of my kids. I haven’t checked his browser history. I’ve asked no questions.

It is truly a birthday adventure. I don’t know how to dress or what jacket to bring or shoes to wear. I will check with my husband but I will probably end up wearing my favorite outfit even though I wore that for Thanksgiving a few days ago. And my boots. I love my boots.

The clues I have received are as follow:

It will be a couple of hours in the car. At least two hours from home.[I have not checked a map to see what falls within a two hour radius of home.]

We are leaving at 9:30 in the morning.

The place closes at 4, I believe.

There is no meal involved; we will have to eat afterwards.

I will need to find our camera and charge it. I’ve been told this is very important.

It was more money than he would normally spend in advance, but I don’t know how much money. [I have also not checked the credit card bill.]

I need to bring all of the family’s passports. [I believe this is a red herring to keep me on my toes, but I will still comply with the request.]

I had a dream last night that my surprise involved live turkeys, driving up stairs, Napoleonic wars re-enactment, war monuments, costumed men on horseback, Ben Franklin, but the size and demeanor of a leprechaun, Philadelphia, Canada, although I don’t know that there actually exists a place. There was also a bridge overflowing with water shaped like one of those tubing waterslides. It was frightening in many, many ways.

I’m going to guess that my dream was way off from the reality. At least, I’m kind of hoping it is.

I’m looking forward to whatever it is. I’m excited because my family is so excited to have kept the secret for so long, and for me to find out what it is.

I will post about it late tonight or tomorrow. Who am I kidding? It will probably be tomorrow.

Fandom Patriarchy – The Walking Dead Edition

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I was watching The New Rockstars on YouTube, and they were reviewing Season 7, episode 3 of The Walking Dead, The Cell. They are one of the good reviewers/commentators to watch for a lot of their analysis. They have good ideas, good observations, and ask good questions to keep in mind as the season progresses.

In The Cell, we get a glimpse of Negan’s world in Sanctuary, his home base. We see the men and women who he trusts, the ones who work for points, the security, the loyalty, etc.

Make no mistake: Negan is G-d. He made that clear in the premiere episode by giving Rick the same sacrificial request as G-d gave Abraham in Genesis. I wasn’t the only one to notice this. Then there’s all the kneeling and head bowing. He not only runs the show, as he says, his is the only way. He’s the only game in town. And if you cross him, he exacts revenge. Death might be better in some cases.

In the comic books, the episode, and the New Rockstars video, there is much said about consent in having sex with the women.

There doesn’t seem to be any room for non-cis, non-straight people. If there are any, they are very firmly in the closet; at least, that’s how it appears at the moment.

One of the rewards offered to Dwight by Negan is his choice of any of the women. Except his wife, of course. Dwight can have sex with any of them, but only if he has consent, only if they’re willing.

Which sounds like a very enlightened attitude for the sociopath that Negan is.

The comments were made that the point of offering Dwight a night with his wife who went with Negan to save Dwight’s life was a way to hold it over Dwight’s head and show him who was in control. It also reminds Dwight that his wife went with Negan willingly. Kind of. So, yes, technically she consented, but really she didn’t have a choice. She was coerced. And the whole trying to get her pregnant thing with Dwight being encouraging… –  not cool.

The entire commentary is on the emasculation of Dwight where there is no mention of the continued rape of Sheri or of the other women.

It doesn’t surprise me that Negan, the narcissist would focus on the man pain and have no regard for the autonomy of the women, while at the same time feeling that he’s a good leader by giving them a false choice. I’m just not sure if this is a plot point or a latent bias by the writers to ignore the women except where they relate to the men.

I also realize that a zombie apocolypse would bring us back to basics, but I’m just not sure that the equality that women have earned is something that would just disappear overnight.

We do see women in positions of authority, carrying guns and giving orders, killing, being leaders to the men, but I have a feeling those are not the same women offered into sexual encounters as rewards for the men in authority.

If you’re offering youself sexually to save your life, or to protect your spouse and/or children, there is no valid consent. Denial would be enough to lose privileges and risk your life. Coersion is not consent.

Thoughts?

A Thanksgiving Reflection

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Cornucopia. Colored Pencils. (c)2016

Today is the first Thanksgiving Mass that I will be able to attend. I’ve looked forward to it. There is a tradition at my parish to bring a non-perishable food item to donate. 

At the time of the offering, instead of passing a basket around the pews for a monetary collection, parishioners process to the altar and leave food items. It was a really profound experience, everyone giving what they could, wishing the others a Happy Thanksgiving when they passed one another.

At the end of the Mass, each family was given a small loaf of bread to bring to mind the Eucharist we had just received to share with our families. Breaking bread is a tradition followed by nearly every culture across the globe.


Our parish has a very active St. Vincent de Paul Society who collect food for Thanksgiving and Christmas baskets for those that request them. They also provide Christmas gifts to those less fortunate so that the kids will still have a memorable holiday. They also work throughout the year. They ask for nothing in return. My son and I volunteered one year to help load the Thanksgiving boxes/baskets and it was an exuberant, lively, joyous crowd, bending and lifting, filling boxes and organizing food and household items like paper towels and toilet paper. One of the things that amazes me when I see the men and women volunteering for the Society is the compassion and positivity they come to their ministry with.
I am still surprised when I do something for someone else with no expectation of reward, although every time I’ve volunteered or done something extra or special, I have received a reward: a smile, a thank you, but most importantly, a swelling of my soul that feels so much better than receiving a gift myself.

We all want acknowledgment for our good deeds. It doesn’t have to be much; a simple thank you or smile will suffice. But seeing a child with a huge smile as they receive a winter coat or a pair of boots or sneakers. An extra pudding or lollipop. Bright eyes shining with joy.

During the homily, which was of course very G-d centered, it made me recall the first thanksgiving. Not the holiday proclaimed by President Lincoln, but the very first one. While both the Pilgrims and the Native Americans had their beliefs and would have expresed their gratitude to, there was also much more to that day and fall season for them. Today should be a reminder of that cooperation, the beginning of that friendship. The Native people welcomed the new immigrants, refugees even, from religious persecution. There was the language barrier and the difference in customs, but they muddled through.

And we can all muddle through with the challenges we’ve been given and thankful for the blessings we receive.

Thanksgiving is a good reminder to look around and smell the flowers. Take a little extra moment to look at your family as they’re playing with cousins, watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade, taking a hike or playing in the snow, and sitting around the table, passing dishes that we’ve eaten every year since forever in our families.

I make my friend’s sweet potato pie or a sweet potato casserole.

I make my grandmother’s green bean casserole, which is really French’s recipe. My grandmother always made it without milk to keep it kosher in her house.

We rely on 1950s convenience: Heinz gravy, DelMonte French style green beans, Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom Soup. We make mashed potatoes from scratch, but my mother used to use a box mix of potato flakes. My sister’s husband would only eat mashed from scratch. He never noticed the difference. (I’d leave a few lumps in it for him.)

Think about what you’re grateful for and try to remember it the rest of the year. One way is with a gratitude journal. Or a jar to add slips of paper to for the year. I did this one year, and it was a joy to sit on New Year’s Eve and read through that last year of good moments. Whatever you come up with, find something that works for you and your life.

This year had some really difficult times for our family, and we’re still struggling with them: my mother-in-law’s death this summer and the election of Donald Trump as our new president, at best a wariness as we wait to see how his administration forms. I already have some issues, but this is not the forum. Suffice it to say, we are all waiting to see where we go from here, and we should all be praying for our next president and our country. I would encourage that to be the first thing we do.

If I learned anything from this past Year of Mercy, it is that mercy is everywhere; we just need to simply accept it when it’s given or found.

For my part in being aware of my blessings and my gratitude, I will be planning on incorporating a gratefullness to a weekly writing blurb.

In the meantime, I look to my family, my extended family, my friends, my church, and my support network to continue moving forward in my writing and my life.

I will spend tomorrow being grateful for what I have and how far I’ve come.

Bless you all on this day of thanks.