Bella’s Babbles: Lemons

close up photography of lemons

Photo by Lukas on Pexels.com

What is the saying for lemons?  Is it the lemons don’t fall far from the tree?  Or a bad lemon spoils the bunch?  Oh yeah, I don’t think it is either one of those.  Let me think, oh yeah, it’s “if life gives you lemons, make lemonade!”

I have had numerous lemons given to me, perhaps a number of boxes or a crate or a dump truck full.  Therefore, I have made a ton of lemonade, so to speak.  At this point in time, I am sick of lemonade.  It’s either sour or sweet and I’ve also had enough cavities from all that sugar!

I recently celebrated a birthday.  I am smack dab in the middle of my 30’s.  And boy things are going down hill (literally) fast.  I am noticing changes that I am not thrilled about.

I recently went to the optometrist because I was having a horrible time with night vision.  It made driving feel risky and I was struggling with even allowing my self to drive at night.  I already have driving anxiety so it was exemplified due to the problems with the night vision.  After seeing the doctor I found out that my eye sight was now increasingly worse and this occurred over a short amount of time (4 months to be precise).  The new prescription will clear everything up, literally speaking, and for this I am grateful.

However, I took this news hard.  The change in the astigmatism is probably from age.  But, the overall prescription change is most likely caused by my medication change.  I was in tears conversating with my spouse about how frustrated I was with the side effects of medication.  And how I was struggling with the fact that I have a condition that is not curable and will require medication for the rest of my life.  In that conversation I was reassured that I am doing really well, symptomatically speaking.

Through my tears, runny nose and mascara trailing down my cheeks, I had to stop and take in what he said.  The truth is this is the most stable I have ever been.  And with the change in medication I was actually able to lose a quarter of the weight that I have gained over the last four years.  My anxiety is decreasing and the irritability is extremely low and almost non-existent.

With this thinking, I am making lemonade.  And I am making it the way that I like it, and that’s with a little bit of ice tea in it.  It’s easy to get caught up in how many lemons you get in life.  To dwell on the unfairness of life and pout about the crap that has flowed downhill.  But, I have found that stopping, taking a breath and then thinking before acting is what is helping me succeed.

Today I am trying to embody a sense of peace and lightness.  To connect with my inner being and find solace in my soul.

 

~Bella

www.bellasbabbles.com

My mother.

With the news of James’ mom’s recent passing, I find myself reflecting on my own parent/child relationship. How lucky am I to have her, and how much I feel for James. Please consider donating here to his family’s gofundme to help with expenses. I know that this place that he has created has helped me immensely. It has done more for me than I can put into words and I hope that we can open our arms to be a comfort in return.

______________________

I have always had an incredibly tumultuous relationship with my mother growing up. I know now that I was a bit unpredictable to say the least and with reason. What I didn’t know is how much of a comfort she would be to me now.

My mom is disabled and she lives with me. I am just on the cusp of 30 (HELP!) and many people who hear this picture an elderly woman who can’t feed or bathe herself. They look at me with sad eyes and apologize. They provide niceties about how “you shouldn’t have to take that on!”. The truth is she takes care of me. Yes, I end up grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning, doing laundry, and the occasional bathing when she is really hurting. But she does a lot for me too. We can start with the obvious: She hasn’t killed me.

I was, in all honesty, a mean little bitch. I told her I hated her, stole from her, lied, and had even hit her once growing up. I wasn’t some pot smoking, partying, rebellious teenager. I was just, bipolar. It is kinda funny now, but it really isn’t at all. I was so “moody” as we had thought that my mom wanted to send me away to a camp in an attempt to reform me. I was even more manipulative. She took me to a specialist on numerous occasions to be evaluated. The mental illness is heavy in this family. My devious ass saw right through their questions and lied my way home. Things only got better when I acknowledged I had a problem and sought out help. I only got better then.

That woman is a saint. In a few short weeks she will be 50. She had me young and endured more than she should have. She put up with me and sometimes had to keep me at a distance. So yes, I take care of her. I pay the bills, do the grocery shopping, fetch her medications, and at times I bathe her.

But she is still doing more for me. She still puts up with my sudden mood changes. The volatile sport that is Bailey. She bites her tongue when I tell her I am having an “off day” as I have grown to call manic episodes. She helps me monitor my spending during this time so I can stay on the right track. My mom stays up with me when insomnia strikes and we binge watch Netflix and crack jokes. She sets her alarm, but has no reason to get up early. It is for me. One time they raised the dose of my Seroquel and slept through three alarms and multiple calls from my boss. She keeps me accountable.

She stays on the phone with me when I choose to move 1000 miles away on a whim. When I left her with my grandmother to care for her. When I am sobbing because I am off my medication and afraid of myself. She doesn’t push me to get back into life when I move back home. She doesn’t comment on the amount of time that I have gone without combing my hair or showering. Instead, she waits for me to be ready and offers to help me sort it out.

I am so grateful for my mother. I am grateful that I have her. I am grateful for the things she does for me. I am grateful for the way she has loved me in spite of the way I have behaved.

I have no idea how it feels to lose a mom. The closest I have come is to emotionally feel like I have lost her as a teenager when she had to love me from a distance. I know now that when we speak about that period of time, we both weep. I especially am brought to tears when she tells me how hard it was to not be there, to not communicate. I know that when she is gone from this Earth, it will hurt like hell. Life will never be the same. I will have to remind myself of her words and how her heart aches when she is away from me as well, that she did not abandon me.

All of this to say that we are so lucky to have people in our lives that support us through….well, us being us. It isn’t easy to see past the terrible parts of mental illness. It is all risk and no reward. My heart absolutely goes out to James and the others that find themselves one less ally, friend, parent, sibling, or other relative to walk through life with. I hope that you know that you meant the world to them. I can say that with full confidence. You have to love someone more than a lot to stick through it.

 

 

 

 

Reflecting.

Mental illness can be exhausting. I feel that this past two years have been a whirlwind of emotion and change. Both fast and slow at the same time. Depressive episodes have made the days drag and falling into the pits of despair made them almost unbearable. Stable moods made days of adventure seem like flashes of happiness rather than long days of fun.

I hated this past year.

I feel like my mental health management consumed me. The constant ups and downs were exhausting and I felt as though it would be the end of me. I really didn’t think I would make it. I lost my humor and silliness. I did not dance in my kitchen, I did not play silly pranks on my sister who has come to adore them, I did not go out with friends more than a handful of times, and I did not love myself. I am an extrovert through and through, but this past year I was a shut in.

2019

4 doctors.

2 states.

4 jobs.

2 moves.

4 lapses in medications.

5 lapses in health insurance.

6 medication changes.

This is not my ideal year. I have let bipolar run my life. It has humbled me. Sometimes, when I am feeling under control, I let doubt creep in and think that maybe I am completely fine. Maybe I don’t need medication and I am just one of those people that needs and excuse to behave badly or skirt responsibilities.

I am in fact, not that person. I am completely, without a doubt 100%, mentally ill. And in 2020 I will, for the first time in my life, be making a resolution. I will consistently manage my illness.

2020

Choose a new doctor (mine quit)

continuously take my meds

blog twice per month (because I made a commitment that I never kept)

finish my graduate degree

be okay with being okay.

 

Babbles: A Dry Well

There are many times that I have much to say but don’t end up writing.

I stop myself from typing because what I have to say is not uplifting and edifying and I fear that I will not be a positive influence on others and therefore what I want to write should not be published.

I have it in my mind that whatever I write must be positive, uplifting, encouraging and inspiring.  And when I am unable to be such things, I stay quiet, I write nothing, or I write but I do not publish.

No one told me that these were the rules.

These guidelines were never posted and I never signed anything that said I would follow something so strict and absurd.  They instead were what I came up with in my head and chose to hold myself to, I guess in a way of punishing myself (I am making a weird questioning face right now that you cannot see because I am not sitting with you in person, but I wish you could see it because it adds so much more depth to my writing).

So, today, I am breaking the rules that I made.  I am typing what I feel that I need to type with no rules attached.  It will not be a free frall, because that is just not the way I roll, but it may be a bit more transparent than my normal transparency.  You have officially been warned.

__________________________________________________________________________________________

And yet, several hours later, really a day or more later… several starts, stops, words and character counts typed later, and a lot of deleting, we just have the opening down on paper…

I have so much to say, and much is coming out, but its jumbled and jambled.  It’s like a Dr Seuss book.  I WOULD indeed like to write with fox in a box while a bird with a word watches…

I am not certain why I can’t unleash totally, let what is locked up deep inside of me flow like the rivers, rather than be stagnant like a dried up canal… but it is just not happening, and I have to respect the fact that my body, soul and mind are not willing to share, at this point and time.

However, I have a few things that I would like to share:

Confession #1:

I don’t always feel strong.  I feel weak a lot of the time.  But I am stubborn and it’s actually my stubbornness, oh and my pride, that gets me through the hard, long, trying days.

Confession #2:

I am angry.

I feel torn about the anger though.  Because I feel so incredibly blessed, so why should I feel mad.  I have more in my life than I think I would have ever thought I would have, but then there’s this whole Bipolar Disorder, and that is the thing that is the kindling to my fire.  Having gone through a “rough time” it is hard to focus on times that were “good” and to see past these struggles.  Hence the frustration that I feel, although these feelings are specifically pin pointed towards the disorder, and no one else.

Confession #3:

I am tired.

I am ready for the time to come where I am balanced.  I am ready for smooth streams and babbling brooks.  I am weary and tired after fighting rapids for so long.  My brain is fatigued as is my body and my spirit.

 

As the weekend approaches, I am nearing a day long meditation retreat that I am looking forward to attending.  I am hoping to get back in touch with my inner voice and obtaining calm and peace in my soul.  I hope that the depression will stay away and I will have the energy to participate.  But most of all enjoy the process.

May your days be blessed and filled with sunshine and warmth.

~Bella

www.bellasbabbles.com

10 Things That Help My Mental Health

More often than not, I struggle most days. I’m sure I pass for a normal adult. But sometimes I’m having a panic attack. Or every little noise makes me irritable. Every day has some amount of stress. The days I struggle with the normal stress are extra difficult. There are a few things I use as coping mechanisms to get me through most days. Sometimes I never leave my apartment and focus on a few of these things. I don’t think I could get by without this list. These are the things I need the most and sometimes don’t get enough.

1. Caffeine (Coffee/Tea)

It’s not uncommon for me to have several cups of coffee throughout the day. I’m trying to cut back by drinking tea in the evenings. As long as I get caffeine, I’m satisfied. Caffeine is a pain reliever. This is why I drink so much. If I’m not drinking coffee, I’m pills for pain relief. The pain is muscle aches. Hypertension. Even when I’m relaxed, I don’t feel relaxed. Caffeine doesn’t make the pain go away, but I don’t notice it as much. I also use the cup or mug as a barrier. I feel safer with that barrier between me and the world.

2. Quiet/Silence

Finding a quiet place is difficult sometimes. Noises don’t always bother me. On bad days, nowhere is quiet enough. Not even my home. Libraries are great if seats are open. Sometimes I must have my back to a wall to feel safe. Sometimes the ambience of a coffee shop is soothing. On the worst days, listening to other people talk is so irritating I can’t be in public. I struggle with friends who feel if I’m not talking that means I’m angry. Usually I need to warm myself up to interact with others. That usually takes a couple hours and a couple coffees.

3. Writing

Writing is one of my passions. I couldn’t survive without the written word. I can convey my thoughts and emotions in written form better than verbally. It’s my way to vent. I get all my emotions out. It prevents me from bottling up everything. It has also helped me work through many of my mental health issues. Sometimes comments from others going through similar situations is enough to help me stay positive. Sometimes writing fiction is a great way to escape. I wouldn’t be who I am today if I couldn’t write down my thoughts and feelings.

4. Human Interaction

When I say human interaction, I mean spending time with loved ones. My support system. I haven’t always had a support system. I never knew how much being close to others could affect my life. I get upset if I don’t talk to this small group of people every day. Their interaction, or lack of interaction, with me can determine if I have a good or bad day. Sometimes we may not speak or text. But we share pictures or memes and it reminds me they’re thinking of me. That thought alone is enough to pull me away from the darkness of depression.

5. Reading

Many people read to escape. They want to imagine a life different from their own. This is part of why I enjoy reading. It’s helps my mental health because it clears my head. If I’m reading, I’m not overthinking something or stewing in negativity. I can focus my mind on the story, and this alleviates my anxiety. This is especially useful if I read before going to work. It’s relaxing and helps prepare me for any potential stress. I’ve gotten into the habit of carrying a book with me everywhere. I could go several days without reading but I always have a book with me in case I need it.

6. Walking

Any kind of exercising can help one’s mental health but not everyone is built to spend hours at the gym. I lose interest in anything over a half hour. When I was in better shape, I could do 45 minutes. Walking, however, is something I can do all day every day. I stopped using my car so I could walk more, and I enjoy every minute of it. Recreationally, I can walk for an hour listening to music from my smartphone. I walk to work or to coffee shops or wherever. It’s exercise and I enjoy it.

7. Staying Busy

When I start running out of things to do, I feel depression spinning its ugly head in my direction. Keeping myself busy with work or projects, even games, helps me focus. When I’m focused on a task or project, I’m not having negative thoughts. I’m less concerned about what may or may not happen. Just like prioritizing tasks, I prioritize my thoughts. Worrying won’t get the job done. I stay busy so I don’t have time to worry. But I don’t get so busy that I feel overwhelmed. I keep a balance between projects and fun. Sometimes my projects are fun.

8. Hugs

This is a difficult thing for me. Hugs are important for everyone. It helps one’s mental health overall. My problem? I don’t like other people touching me. I’ve worked on this over several years. Strangers should definitely never touch me. Acquaintances I’ll give a pass now and then, but I don’t go out of my way for hugs. The handful of people closest to me are the ones I accept hugs from without question. It’s taken me a long time to develop this. Even to allow myself to accept it from close friends. Overall, I don’t get many hugs. But when I do, it changes my world.

9. Photography

I’ve always had an interest in taking pictures. I recently acquired a new camera and I love it. I want to take pictures every day. I don’t know if it’s the task itself, or the act of creating something that makes my soul happy. I’m a creative person. I enjoy creating things. That may be all it is. Or maybe there’s something about photography that brings me more joy than other things. Regardless, it will always be a fun hobby and I recommend it to anyone looking for a creative outlet.

10. Sustainable Income

This is something no one thinks about until they don’t have it. I was unemployed for half of 2018. My mental health hit an all-time low during this time. Most people don’t think about how much financial stability affects their outlook on life. It was eye opening for me. It’s easier to find the good in the world when I happy to have food on the table and a roof over my head. No one can appreciate the small things in life until they no longer have the small things. Having enough money to survive with a little extra is enough. I don’t need all the money in the world. I only need enough.

All these things work for me and I recommend them to anyone looking for something that will help. I will caution that what works for me will not always work for someone else. Still, none of these things will hurt anyone if they try them. It costs nothing to try something you might enjoy.

September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month

September is Suicide Prevention Awareness month. While it’s great there’s a month dedicated to this, it should be 365-day year awareness.

I understand suicide can be a touchy subject especially for those who have struggled with it themselves or have lost a loved one to it.

I wanted to share my personal story with suicide because that was something I struggled with for a long time.

I was 14 years old when I started getting suicidal thoughts. I was in high school and was completely miserable. I was living in an abusive household suffering abuse from my mom on a daily basis. It was physical, verbal, & psychological abuse. Living in such a toxic environment and experiencing that abuse on a regular basis caused me to go into a severe depression.

I would spend hours locked in my room crying myself to sleep. I would always question God asking him “why me?”

“Why was this happening to me?”

“Why did I have to get a mom who treated me so terribly?”

It wasn’t much longer when I started to get suicidal thoughts on a regular basis.

My mom told me so many lies on a regular basis that it was hard for me to not believe them. She convinced me I was a burden to others & that I shouldn’t be on this earth. She told me things that no child or person should ever here. She told me she wished I were never born and that she wished she had me aborted when she had the chance. These are things I wish I could say never happened, but those were all lies she told me.

My thoughts started to become more negative and darker as the days went on. I started to lose feelings of happiness and forgot what happiness felt like. I started to feel numb & empty on the inside not feeling any emotions but sadness. I started to cope with self-harm when I was 14 years old. I believed it was the only way for me to feel something besides emptiness & sadness so I turned to self-harm.

That’s when the suicidal thoughts started to creep in and became more frequent. I started to believe the lies my mom and my depression told me. I believed I was a burden to others and that the world would be a better place without me in it. I wanted out of the world so bad that I came up with a plan when I was 15 years old to end my life. I had been prescribed pain medication from a dentist visit when I had to get a root canal and researched that medication and found that if I took all of the pills in the bottle I could never wake up again. That was my plan.

It was like playing tug o war in my mind though, there was that part of me that believed I was a burden and that I should just leave the world now, but there was another part of me that wanted to keep fighting. It told me to keep pushing through that those negative thoughts were lies and I could beat them.

I confided in my high school’s guidance counselor and he helped me push through the suicidal thoughts. I didn’t seek out treatment for my depression at the time even though I should have. Throughout high school I still struggled with depression and being active in sports helped me manage it.

After high school and when I went away to University the suicidal thoughts started to creep in again. I thought it was just homesickness since I was going to school on the other side of the country, but it was much deeper than that for me.

It was the summer of 2014 when I was home from University that I sought out treatment for my depression. I struggled with an alcohol addiction and one day when I had way too much to drink I couldn’t control the suicidal thoughts. I knew that if I didn’t seek out help that night, I would have harmed myself and may not be alive today. I had my best friend’s boyfriend drive me to the mental hospital and drop me off. He asked me if I was sure I wanted to do this and I told him yes I knew if I didn’t get help I was only going to get worse.

I spent three days in the crisis unit of the mental hospital. I was put on Zoloft and anxiety medication that helped ease my anxiety while I was there. I wish I could say going on Zoloft helped with my depression, but it actually made things worse for me. At the time I was diagnosed with depression and didn’t know I had bipolar disorder. When I was on Zoloft I felt like a zombie I was so out of it and numb, I hated it. I didn’t realize that for those who have bipolar disorder, anti-depressants could cause you to go into mania, which it did for me.

When I was back at University that semester I was a wreck. I was in and out of depressive episodes along with being in manic episodes. My alcohol problem was out of control and my behavior was reckless. I was failing all of my classes and was drinking on a daily basis. I started to struggle with self-harm again and the suicidal thoughts again. I knew that if I didn’t leave University and get myself out of that environment things were only going to get worse for me. That’s when I withdrew from University and moved back home to Florida.

I wish I could say everything got better for me when I got back home to Florida, but my depression grew worse. The psychiatrist I was seeing was no help at all to me and didn’t listen to my problems. He didn’t care to give me a proper psych evaluation and just wrote me a script for the next anti-depressant out there. I continued to struggle with self-harm and battled the suicidal thoughts daily.

I was empty & numb living in an endless cycle of my depression.

It wasn’t until the end of 2016 when I finally found a psychiatrist who gave me a proper psych evaluation and diagnosed me with bipolar disorder. Getting on the proper medication and changing my lifestyle to healthier habits, put an end to the suicidal thoughts. It was like the fog had finally been lifted and I could see clearly again. I started to see a therapist for a few months as well that helped me work through some of the issues from my past.

I’m happy to say that I am stable now and have not harmed myself in over three years now. I still find myself going into depressive episodes every now and then and will catch the suicidal thoughts creeping into my mind. I’ve become a lot stronger than I was three years ago and can fight off the thoughts much better than before.

I know living with a mental illness will be a life long battle for me. I’ve spent over ten years now fighting the demons and while it can be exhausting, I know I will survive the fight.

For those of you that have experienced something similar or going through a tough time please never hesitate to seek out help. There are so many resources available out there today and remember you are not a burden to others. Your life matters and you are never alone in this fight.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255

Confronting Your Shadow Self

“There is no light without shadow and no psychic wholeness without imperfection.” – Carl Jung

This last month I stumbled upon something new called shadow work. It was something I’ve never heard of before and it intrigued me. Shadow work is when you take a closer look within yourself at the parts of yourself that you hide. The “dark side” of your personality; the negative parts you might be ashamed of, fearful around, or feel guilt around. It’s something we all have inside of ourselves, but it can be hard to acknowledge and address it.

The psychologist Carl Jung was the one who coined the term “personal shadow.” This is the part of the psyche a lot of people tend to neglect and pretend that it doesn’t exist. Even when you pretend it doesn’t exist your personal shadow can operate on it’s own without us being fully aware. It’s when the unconscious mind assumes control while our conscious self goes on autopilot. The longer you repress your shadow the more you start to see those qualities in the others around you.

At the beginning of the year, one of my resolutions was to work on my self-awareness and to heal myself from within. I spent the last three years focusing on my physical health; I didn’t spend as much time on my mental health and inner work as I should have. Something I’ve learned through my journey is that the mental transformation is just as powerful if not more powerful than a physical transformation.

Shadow work is for everyone, as humans we all have parts of ourselves we like to hide or feel embarrassed to share with others about. Throughout my childhood and early adulthood I’ve had to overcome numerous obstacles like the abuse my mom put me through for almost 18 years. All of those painful memories & experiences I had growing up, I pushed so far back in my head wanting to never think about them again.

When I stumbled upon shadow work it made me realize that I need to stop pretending that the memories don’t exist. Yes they are painful and I’m embarrassed about some of them, but they are going to resurface at some point in time so I can fully move on and continue my growth. Diving into the shadow work and committing to the process was a little scary for me. What scared me the most was fully addressing all those memories & allowing myself come to terms with them.

One of the first steps of shadow work is addressing the memories or emotions you’ve hid from for so long. You also must figure out and identify possible triggers that cause certain emotions with those memories. When you’ve identified the memories & triggers you can start to work on moving on from those to create new beliefs that will bring positive light into your life.

For me this is just the beginning of my own shadow work and bringing awareness to those dark parts so I can bring in new light. If this is something that does intrigue you I encourage you to look more into it as well. It’s something that everyone can benefit from and will only bring in more positivity in the long run.

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A Special Thank You to my Friends & Family

Right now I’m at a period of my life where I’ve been focusing more and more on my own inner work & personal development. It’s something I neglected and put off for far too long. I held the belief that if I pushed away the painful memories & experiences I could forget about them forever. I’ve learned though, that’s not the truth. At some point they will resurface and force you to deal with them.

For being 23 years old I feel I have experienced so much already in my lifetime. I grew up in an abusive household for almost 18 years being abused by my mother on a daily basis. I was sexually assaulted at the age of 19. I struggled with an alcohol addiction during that period as well. I hit rock bottom and almost killed myself. I was hospitalized for my mental illness. I was in & out of depressive episodes along with manic episodes. It was only two years ago when I got the help I needed & became stable again.

During the years when I was away at college and struggled with my alcohol addiction I stopped caring about the others around me. I stopped caring when my friends voiced their concerns about me and wanted to help me. My actions became careless and reckless that cost me friendships at that time.

I think back and wonder that if I did listen to them or if I showed more compassion maybe some of those people would still be in my life. I wonder that if I didn’t struggle with alcohol and mental illness that some of those people would still be in my life. It also showed me, who my true friends were, the ones who stuck by me through it all and are still in my life today.

It’s why I want to say thank you. I want to say thank you to my family and closest friends who stuck by me through my darkest moments. I thank you for not giving up on me when I was at my lowest points. I thank you for not getting mad or leaving when I wouldn’t listen to your advice. I thank you for always being there to support and show me love even when I didn’t want to receive it.

I believe it’s always through our darkest struggles and moments that shows us the people in our lives who truly care. It strengthens us to rise up even higher than before. So again, thank you to all those who showed me support and love through my darkest moments.

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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.

Why You Should Start Practicing Mood Hygiene

We practice personal hygiene, dental hygiene, etc. But have you ever thought to practice mood or mental health hygiene?

The word hygiene was derived from the Greek goddess of health, Hygiea. Hygiene is defined as the science of the establishment and maintenance of health. Mood hygiene is when you practice and build habits that will promote good control of your mood symptoms. For those who have a mental illness this helps take preventive measures to improve the symptoms over time.

Living with mental illness, I never thought to add mood hygiene into my routine. The more I learned about it made me realize how beneficial it can be. Practicing mood hygiene doesn’t have to be just for those who have mental illness; it can be for everyone to practice. There are a few ways to practice mood hygiene and incorporate it into your daily life.

  1. Stress and conflict management

When you find yourself in stressful situations, it can sometimes trigger symptoms of your illness like a depressive episode or anxiety attack. There are several ways that you can take to help and prevent stress in your life such as exercising regularly or meditating.

I’ve learned that when I find myself in stressful situations is when my depressive episodes start to surface again. It’s why I’ve added exercise and meditation into my routine because it does help eliminate the stress and lifts that weight off of your shoulders.

  1. Lifestyle regularity

Having structure in your day-to-day life is extremely important. By establishing and sticking to a schedule will help build that structure in your life. For example, I wake up at the same time everyday and have a morning routine that I stick to everyday. I start my mornings by journaling and listing out a few things that I am grateful for each morning. By practicing that gratitude also helps get me in a positive mindset for the day. I then get my workout in before I start my workday.

By having a schedule you stick to on a regular basis builds the structure in your life that will help you feel in control of your life.

  1. Track your moods

By keeping track of your moods will help you determine if there is a certain pattern or cycle in your moods. I started tracking my moods a couple months ago in my journal and it has helped me become more self-aware. It’s helped me notice a pattern in my moods and it allows me to get my moods more under control. It allows me to prepare for the month so I can be strategic with my commitments and make sure I don’t over extend myself.

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These are just a few ways on how you can practice mood hygiene and start implementing them into your own daily life. Practicing mood hygiene on a regular basis will help immensely in the mental health recovery process. It allows you to have a new sense of control in your life and can be empowering for the individual.