Where is my Christmas Spirit?

Christmas is my favorite holiday, it always has been. I look forward to the holiday season all year long. It’s always the highlight of my year. But now, I can’t seem to get into the Christmas mood. I’m doing all of the things I normally do to enjoy the holiday season except they aren’t making me as happy as they used to.

I don’t know if it’s age, where I’m at in my life or because it’s 2020 but I have been trying hard to get into the Christmas mood but can’t. I thought maybe snow would help. It snowed 2 feet (which isn’t common where I live) and it didn’t make me feel much better. I thought maybe giving gifts and baking cookies would help. It only made a little bit of a difference.

It makes me depressed that my favorite time of the year is so lack luster. I want this time of the year to be the best part of the entire thing! I am longing to feel the happiness that Christmas has brought me in the past.

Sadly this year I will be spending most of Christmas alone. My boyfriend is working and my brother is quarantining after a business trip so we have to hold off on our family get togethers. I will be spending a few hours with my mom so I guess I won’t totally be alone but it won’t be like past Christmases. I will wake up alone, eat alone and give my pets their presents alone.

This potentially shit Christmas is effecting my mood. I’ve been extra tired and cranky as well as binge eating like nobody’s business. I want to be happy during my favorite time of the year. Why can’t I be? My God I sound like Charlie Brown.

I guess there is no guaranteed happiness at any point in time even during Christmas. You can’t just turn depression on and off even though I’m sure so many of us would love to.

I want to be happy, cheery and all of the great emotions that come with Christmas. I’m just not there this year. Sure, it’s ok. There’s nothing wrong with feeling this way, it’s just that I don’t want to. I can’t force happiness upon myself but I can try to do things that make me not feel like shit. So somewhere in the middle. Maybe?

I don’t know, I just want to be happy. You know?

How are you feeling about this time of year? Is it normally a sad time or a happy time for you? Leave a comment and tell me!

Happy Healthy Holidays

Photo by Oleg Zaicev on Pexels.com

Lots of wishes float around this time of year. Lists are jam packed with material goods, gadgets and toys people covet. Well wishes also abound as folks entreat each other to celebrate all of the holidays that fall in December. In that spirit, I want to wish all of us in this community a Healthy Holiday season.

Remembering Christmases when my children were younger brings up some painful memories. Mania gripped my mind years before (and after) I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. The stress of trying to provide a happy holiday seemed to exacerbate my tendency to overspend. This left a mound of unwrapped (and mostly unnecessary) gifts at 2am on Christmas Eve more years than I care to count.

Another year, I stayed up late hand-stitching personalized Christmas stockings for my in-laws. The socks didn’t turn out great and my morning was marred by lack of sleep.

I understand firsthand the desire to buy your way into your loved one’s hearts. Especially this year, when things have been so dismal. For those of us who suffer from a lack of impulse control, I wish you restraint, moderation and creativity in meeting the needs of those around you. And your own.

The flipside of mania, depression, can also come to call around this time. Personally, the shortened days and lack of sunlight can have a real detrimental effect on my moods. Couple that with expectations of constant cheerfulness that are impossible to achieve and it’s not just Elvis having a Blue Christmas.

But the biggest obstacle to enjoying the holidays this year will be our unconventional celebration. Like a lot of families, we’ve made the decision not to gather in person. The consequences are too grave should the virus invade our group or be contracted by vulnerable family members back home. I haven’t been able to listen to “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” or Mariah Carey’s “Miss You Most”. I fear I’ll cry my eyes out and won’t be able to put them back in my head.

So instead, I’m going to be grateful. I believe it was Shawn Achor, the best-selling author of “The Happiness Advantage” and positive psychology expert, who offered a stunning antidote to depression. He said (paraphrasing), that you can’t be simultaneously grateful and depressed. I’ve found this to be true and extremely helpful in dealing with my depression.

I will try my best not to have a bipolar Christmas. I’m hoping thirty years of living with the diagnosis and achieving a certain level of insight will allow me a healthy holiday season. And that’s exactly what I’m wishing for you.

Be well,

Colleen

National Cheer Up the Lonely Day

Tomorrow (July 11) is National Cheer Up the Lonely Day. With social distancing, isolation, and quarantine, this holiday is important now more than ever. I’m certain many people have never heard of this day. The holiday was founded by Francis Pesek. His daughter, L.J. Pesek said he “was a quiet, kind, wonderful man who had a heart of gold. The idea came to him as a way of promoting kindness toward others who were lonely or forgotten as shut-ins or in nursing homes.” July 11 is also Francis Pesek’s birthday. I have yet to find any other information such as when Francis was born or what year the holiday was founded.

Autophobia is the fear of being alone. While many may not have the full-blown phobia, everyone at one time or another is afraid of being alone. For me, I’ve feared people would leave me which added to my insecurities and caused me to drive them away. I created my worst fear. When one feels this way, the smallest gesture can have the biggest impact. Sending a short message, an email, or letter can brighten their day. On social media, tagging a friend or sharing a link or post in a direct message (DM) can bring a smile to their face.

Remember, if you spend most days having conversations with several people, that doesn’t mean everyone else does. You may be the only person one of those people talks to for the entire day. There was one time a couple years ago when I went an entire week with no contact or conversations with anyone outside of work. I felt ignored and unwanted. I know others have felt this way. It takes little effort to remind people that you care about them. It’s also important to not assume someone is lonely because they spend a lot of time alone. Don’t jump to conclusions. Just tell them you care about them.

James Pack is a self-published author of poetry and fiction.  Information about his publishing credits can be found on his personal blog TheJamesPack.com.  He resides in Tucson, AZ.

Firefighting under the Sun

I  was lucky to be able to take a holiday recently – not everyone is able to afford either the time or the money but on this occasion I could, and I did.   It was a much needed break.    It felt like the longest time since I’d taken the sort of holiday which is a real rest; a  nothing much to do and nowhere much to be sort of holiday.   Usually, if I’m away from home,  I feel compelled to do worthy things like visit museums and architectural sites,  but not this time.

transformation 2

Mood swings and sadness should not be part of a holiday.   One feels that they should be put in a box and labelled “deal with this some other time because I’m on holiday now”.

But sadly, they still show up, those old mood swings.  Or should I say they still showed up and down,  despite the lovely views, the sunny weather and nice relaxing time we were having.   My appetite diminished to zero just when we were surrounded by lovely healthy fish and feast style food.

Eating nice food is usually part of a holiday.    I find restaurants very difficult – it’s a first world problem I know – but I simply can’t face the amount of food they tend to offer.  A restaurant’s idea of a main course is my idea of a week’s food. Then the waiters look crestfallen when you don’t finish their food and ask anxiously what was wrong with it which makes me feel guilty because there wasn’t anything wrong with the food I try to explain, it’s just me.

It’s hard to do nothing in this modern world.  We are confronted 24 hours a day by a million images of the things some advertiser feels we should be doing (ie buying) or achieving (ie buying).   However many yoga classes we go to or deep breathing exercises we do, however much we like to feel ourselves immune, it is almost impossible not to be affected by some of those images and ideas.  From being bombarded by all the supposed things we should be doing, the ways we should supposedly be looking,  and the supposed things we should be achieving it’s easy to feel not good enough in some way.  Throw in a few health, work, money and relationship worries which most of us suffer from in some shape or form and hey presto!

After that  it’s a short step from to anxiety and depression.  Although of course not everyone succumbs but stress affects people in different ways.   No, not everyone succumbs to depression and that can add to the problem, it  can feel like another failure.    We should be stronger, wiser, get over ourselves more, think of others less fortunate, pull ourselves together!  Although I have no medical knowledge I believe that there are a number of factors which cause pre-disposition to depression and perhaps even bipolar but because these are not looked for in health checks, it is unsurprising that they are not found.  Once the disease is present, it’s a firefight.

I wonder how much depression is caused by or started by poor self image?  In my own case I am convinced this is part of the problem. Low self esteem and low self confidence. I suppose the second follows on from the first.  I know I should have a positive self image and this would certainly help in some ways but thinking I’m great is not something that has ever come easily to me – I’m afraid ageing hasn’t improved that!

Also I have to remember that if I had been diagnosed with a blood disorder (I haven’t) no-one would suggest that I should pull myself together.  I apologise if I’ve said this before – which I have on this blog somewhere – but I do feel strongly that there is still a long long way to go before recognition of mental illness gets the same attention from within health services as does recognition of the physical illness from which people suffer.     The difficulty comes when those two things are treated as entirely separate.  They are not and never can be.  It is all part of the same organism – the same being – the same person.

Everyone has their own mission.  Everyone has their own unique individuality and talents to create value on our beautiful blue planet.   The trick is to remember it, and keep remembering it even on days when our internal barometer is pointing to storms.  Perhaps especially on those days.

You are all amazing.  Take a holiday now and again.  Try and eat some delicious food.  Nibble fruit.  Find a book, curl up.  Believe.

Ain’t No Mountain High Enough

Sometimes, life gives you lemons. At other times, it throws them at you. Really, really hard. Especially if you’re not looking.

In one moment, you might think you’ve got everything under control:

  • Job = secure
  • Bills = paid
  • Clothes = washed
  • Social life = uhhh…work in progress
  • Prescription = filled

And in the next moment…pure chaos. Cheers, life.

Whether as the result of some external event (eg. an untimely incident or unexpected circumstance) or internal influence (eg. a chemical imbalance in the brain or a traumatic memory), chaos hides around every corner waiting for the chance to strike, threatening dysfunction and disorder.

I believe that in small doses, chaos can bring a healthy amount of excitement and unpredictability to our lives. A life without chaos is a life without challenge; there is a yin to every yang, as they say. But to someone suffering from a mental illness, chaos poses a substantial threat. If we’re already struggling to keep our heads above water in day to day life, chaos can easily overwhelm us.

Depression is a constant battle, and when we’re treading water it’s easy to spend too much time staring into the abyss below and wondering what would happen if we stopped paddling. We get so caught up in the chaos and fear that we lose sight of the bigger picture and start behaving irrationally. Life throws us lemons, so we pick those suckers up and squirt the juices into our eyeballs. Not exactly the best move.

Sometimes, we need to be better than our emotions. Every now and then, it’s important to look up from the abyss and make sure you’re still headed toward dry land.

Let me tell you about a time life threw me a nice, big, juicy lemon.

A few years ago, I was exploring my home state in Australia, driving through the ranges of north Queensland. On this day I’d driven to the peak of the Eungella ranges and spent the morning trekking through the rain forest, conquering the mountainous trails and generally being in awe of the breathtaking views of the valley below. My companion on this journey was a maroon-red ’02 Toyota Corolla hatchback, that I had affectionately named Colin. We had been through much together in our three-year long relationship, and yet nothing had prepared us for the tribulations we were about to face.

After hiking my last hike for the day, I returned to my four-wheeled friend to find that he was almost completely out of fuel. Shit. I wish I could say this wasn’t a common occurrence, but I haven’t met any genies lately.

I was about 70 kilometres from the nearest gas station, and even further from the nearest town. But I had complete faith in Colin, and he had faith in me. I’m sure that if I coasted my way back down the mountain, I’d conserve enough fuel to make it back to the bowser.

So, down the range I went, gliding gracefully along the winding road in my little red go-go machine. I felt every bump, crack and dip beneath the rubber as we rode the waves of asphalt to the foot of the mountain. Every tweak of the steering wheel, every touch of the accelerator and every pump of the brakes was made with intent. It felt good. I was in complete control.

Or so I thought.

In the distance, a sign was fast approaching. “Eungella Dam, turn left in 500m”.

I’m going to let you in on a little secret, dear reader. I freakin’ love dams. Some might call it “an unhealthy obsession”, but I would call it “don’t judge me, asshole.”

I grew up a stone’s throw away from a dam, and they’ve always fascinated me. They’re a true testament to the ingenuity of mankind; monolithic structures with the capability of harnessing one of nature’s most unstoppable forces – lots and lots of water. Eungella was so far away from home, and I didn’t know if I’d ever get the opportunity to see this dam again. How could I pass up the chance at one last incredible view?

I pulled my steering wheel to the left, and barrelled toward my new destination. Surely, this would only be a slight detour.

I started bashing through the bush, leaving a large cloud of dust in my wake. The dirt pricked my eyes but I kept them peeled, scanning every bend in the road for a turnoff or parking area. Minutes passed, and as I strayed further and further from the beaten track, I could feel every meter travelled accumulating in the pit of my stomach. Deep down, I knew that I’d made a terrible decision.

“Surely, the lookout is just around the corner. You’ve committed to this, it’s too late to turn back now.” I’d taken a calculated risk, but I was never good at math. The lemon was in my hand, and I was starting to squeeze.

Colin’s petrol gauge was well below empty. I’m convinced that he was completely out of fuel at this point and was running only on the fumes of my sheer stupidity. My red solider, loyal and true, was on his last legs.

I was so focused on seeing this damn dam, that I didn’t notice the next turn was quite a bit sharper than the rest. I brought my foot down on the brake like an anvil, and the car began to slide. Perhaps in an act of protest after being pushed to the brink of exhaustion, Colin threw his back wheels off the road the same way and infant throws his rattle across the room during a tantrum. I went careening into a two-meter deep ditch and came to a humiliating halt.

Great. Now I’m really stuffed. It was going to take some real gusto to get up this slope, most likely wasting the last of my precious petrol in the process.

Here’s the thing. Sometimes, emotions make us dumb. Really dumb.

I was so distracted by the fear of potentially being stranded in the middle of nowhere that I wasn’t thinking straight. Chaos had taken the wheel, and I was being pulled along by a four-cylinder engine of emotion straight into a ditch on the side of the road. I was acting completely irrationally. I’d lost control. I’d chosen to stare into the abyss below when I should be been searching for the safety of the shore.

But no more. It was time to look up.

Let’s turn this ship around.

I put the pedal to the metal, and in a Dukes of Hazzard inspired moment of pure triumph Colin and I aimed for the sky and fired. Without the weight of my emotions holding me down, for a moment, I knew what it was like to fly. I was finally acting level-headed, and the Corolla was back on level ground.

By some miracle, I managed to reach the petrol station. I was on cloud nine, and approached the lady at the register like I’d just won the lottery.

“That’ll be $45.67.”

“Here, just take my whole wallet.”

I think we’ve all been in a situation where we’ve decided to squeeze lemon juice into our eyes.

When this happens, often the biggest challenge is having the self-awareness to take a step back and access your current situation, put aside your predispositions and decide what is truly best for your wellbeing. You’ll use any excuse in the book to avoid the answers that are often right in front of your face. You’ll allow yourself to be distracted, and put your wants before your needs. This is destined to lead you down the path of chaos, and one day you might find yourself stuck in the middle of the bush in rural Australia.

You need to know that it’s never too late to grab the steering wheel and turn yourself around. There are many factors that influence our decisions in this modern world, but ultimately, it’s your responsibility to know what is best for you and make the right choices.

If you only follow your heart’s compass, it’ll lead you astray. But, if you play it smart, you’ll find that the little diversions take on a whole new lustre as you start to appreciate life’s various side paths and gravel roads. You’ll be free to pursue your passions comfortably, whether it be writing, mountain trekking, or visiting dams. Know that when your priorities are in order, you’ll have more mental fuel to go the distance in life and enjoy a richer human experience.

So remember to keep your chin up, and keep swimming.

Anxiety’s Lies

Why is it so easy to believe the negativity anxiety pours into my mind?

At the moment, my anxiety has taken the form of a dark storm cloud in my mind that is off in the distance. Each day getting closer and closer, like waiting for an impending doom. I stare out into this imaginary sky with a racing heart and the feeling that all of my organs have contorted into a knot.

What does this storm cloud mean? What horrible thing is on its way? What did I do wrong to create this storm cloud in the first place?

I worry and worry that my life is going to be turned upside down by this imaginary cloud in my mind. That the rain will start pouring with no end in sight, I will drown in my own imaginary realm.

My anxiety has taken the reigns of my brain and it is not giving them back.

Very rude!

In this magical holiday season I am trying to find positivity but I’m having trouble holding on to it. It’s like water, I grab it but it slips through my fingers.

It is mainly because anxiety telling me all sorts of shit like: “Something awful is coming your way, Megan. Better watch out!” and “Your boyfriend says he loves you but are you sure he does? You two have been getting along really well for months, that can’t last for too much longer.”

Anxiety is a shitty fortune cookie that I wish I could throw in the trash.

I hold on to those thoughts, no matter how negative or impossible the worry is. I keep them close to my heart even though it only weighs me down. I have no actual reason to believe my brain but I do.

The strain on my body from the anxiety makes it all the more real. My worries feel real even though I have no actual proof that there’s something bad headed my way.

My anxiety knows what to say to make me freak out, it comes straight for my throat. Anxiety never shows mercy.

I’m seeing my therapist tomorrow morning so I am hoping that her and I can sort this all out.

Happy Holidays everyone! I appreciate everyone who has read, skimmed, liked or commented on my posts since I joined this massive family here! I’m so happy to be here and be able to share my experiences and encourage my fellow writers.

Please Forgive Me.

Please forgive me for the things I said

And for the things I didn’t

Forgive me for the outbursts

For the door slams

For the silent treatment

Forgive me for ruining something special

The dinners

The holidays

The vacations

Forgive me for the stealing

For the spending

For the hurt feelings

For the time lost

Forgive me for not knowing

For not telling

And for not seeking help sooner

Please forgive me for the other me

I don’t like her either

I forgive you

For not always understanding

For your own bouts of anger at something you cannot control

For despising the other me

For calling me crazy

I forgive you for giving up

Lord knows I have at times

I forgive you for not knowing the right things to say

And for the right time to say them

Most of all I forgive myself.