When panic attacks, this is how I regain control

My anxiety has this charming habit where it can completely derail my life when it’s in the mood, but, today I wanted to share some pretty neat ways that I calm the Anxiety Monster when it throws a tantrum.

They definitely don’t completely rid me of my panic, but, they do help me regain control over my mind, and that really speeds up the process of recovering from crippling anxiety to being able to get on with my life – because that doesn’t wait for us when our mental illnesses are having a go at us.

These are pretty effective for run-of-the-mill stress, and if you’re a pro-Worrier like me, then these are (I hope) really helpful.

If you decide to try any of these, even when you’re just feeling a little stressed, I would love to know if it helped!

The Can-and-Can’t Controllables

When faced with an immediate and triggering situation, I make lists with two columns: “Things I Cannot Control” and “Things I Can Control”

The root of all stress (a certain trigger for my anxiety) is our perception of control over a the outcome of a situation. We often don’t realize how significant our abject horror is at the fact that we can’t control everything, and how much it can exacerbate our already-prone-to-panic minds.

Today, my panic attacks were triggered by the sudden news that I have to find a new apartment in 2 weeks, so my list looked kind of this:

Things I Cannot Control

  • The price of property
  • The fact that I have to move

Things I Can Control

  • Where I will live
  • How much information I have about my options

I know it seems slightly silly, but when you have a full list of things you CAN control, highlighted with colorful lines and exclamation points reminding you to only focus on those, you also have a list of stuff on the “can’t control” list that you now recognize have no business being worried about, because – well, you can’t control them.

List of stuff you’re allowed to worry about

This is a habitual reminder. Before you label this as way-too-obvious, it’s very powerful for someone with heavy control issues like me. I am a firm believer that we can engrain stuff into our brains and make them part of our lifestyles, and this list is an attempt at just that. It lists the things in the world, my life, and my character that I am responsible for, and is stuck up next to mirror, so that every morning I read the following:

“Stuff I’m Responsible for/Can Control

  • My choices and actions
  • My attitudes and priorities
  • With whom, where, and on what I spend my time, money, labour, and resources

If the thing you’re worrying about is not on THIS list, STOP WORRYING ABOUT IT!”

I love lists – maybe a bit too much. My psychology textbook says people with over controlling, A Type tendencies (like me) are more prone to illness, and even Coronary Heart Disease (yikes).

But, even though I’m trying to lighten up on the whole totally-mortified-at-the-chaotic-consequences-of-losing-total-control thing, I also think my list-making is a way of making affirmations and it’s necessary step to regaining control over my mind when anxiety pushes it off the rails.

Maybe lists and being obsessed with what I can control can be detrimental if overdone, but, in the case of using these controllable vs. uncontrollable lists as a GPS for my brain when Generalized Anxiety throws it into the wild, I think it’s a helpful habit.

If you don’t make lists, are there any other ways that help you regain control over your mind when panic strikes? If so, I’d love to hear them!

– Steph

Makeup Saved My Life

Please don’t judge me for the title of my post, hear me out before you think of me as someone who is “fake” or “self-absorbed.”

In my life, I have always enjoyed wearing makeup. I never thought I did a great job at it, but I admired others who had a true talent for it.

I fell into a severe depression in 2016 where I could barely get out of bed, was self-harming and was suicidal. At this time I was seeing my therapist twice a week and starting my 6-month long journey to finding the right antidepressant for me.

I’m not sure how I stumbled upon the beauty community on YouTube, but once I did, I was completely sucked in. As I watched the makeup tutorial after foundation review after getting ready with me videos, I was able to forget the pain. For the moments I was watching the videos, I wasn’t consumed by suicidal thoughts that plagued me day in and day out.

Watching women like KathleenLights, Tati Westbrook and Emilynoel88 made me feel like they were my friends and that they were helping me through this horrible part of my life. I could count on them to make me feel better when nobody else could.

Eventually, I started buying lots of makeup that they recommended. My makeup collection grew from a small bag of products to a small pond of them. I began practicing their techniques which helped me express myself in a new way. When I was focused on recreating a look, I could go into my zone and be safe.

At the time I was working for a newspaper so I asked if I could have my own makeup column. I wrote Megan Does Makeup for a year and I loved it! I started an Instagram account, @megandoesmakeupxo, to go with it and everything, it was (and still is) great for my mental health to have that creative outlet.

It’s 2018 now, and I have come so far in my mental health journey. Makeup is still an amazing escape for me when I’m feeling depressed or anxious. I am so incredibly thankful that I stumbled upon whatever video first pulled me into the beauty community.

See, I’m not so shallow, am I? 😉

I Read/Write/Watch Horror to Cope with My Mental Illness

I always enjoyed horror though I never considered myself a fan of horror. I remember watching Tim Curry portray Pennywise the Clown in “IT” (1990) when I was three or four. I pretended to sleep while my parents (and I) watched the film “Dr. Giggles” (1992) about an escaped mental patient who kills with a surgical theme when I was six. I saw the film “Return to Cabin by the Lake” (2001) about a murderous screenwriter as a teenager. These films standout because they reminded me of suppressed trauma. Repressed memories that only recently returned.

I recall watching many films and having no emotional response. Scenes that made most tear up left me feeling numb or indifferent. I felt out of place and segregated from everyone else who had ‘feelings.’ Even horror films didn’t scare me or make me jump. I felt I knew the scares were coming. In high school and the first few years of college, I was described as ‘creepy’ by many of my peers. I could easily sneak up and scare others. I’d walk behind them for several minutes before they noticed me. One friend remarked after going through a haunted house it didn’t scare them because they had known me for so long.

I didn’t become an avid reader until my late 20s, but I’ve always had interest in writing. In the first grade, I wrote a detective story. It had all the tropes of film noir though I didn’t know what those were at the time. Film noir has similar elements to horror with suspense building and dealing with killers without the fantasy elements. I always enjoyed reading the works of Edgar Allan Poe and he is considered the creator of the detective story.

Many of the stories I have written or plan to write deal with death in one way or another. Some may not be called horror stories but still have death somewhere. I have written a few detective stories as well and they’re much better than that first one in the first grade. Serial killers, murderers, monsters, and people who’ve lost their minds take center stage in many of my stories. These are the topics in which I am most interested. Why do I have this fascination with killers, monsters, and madmen? Why would anyone want to think about these horrors?

I believe this is my way of coping with my own trauma. Upon writing this, I am 32. My trauma began when I was four. It had such an impact on me, I had to begin anger management counseling when I was six. We were cleaning up one day in class to go to recess. I was putting away a puzzle or something and this other boy tried to help. I told him I got it. He helped anyway. I got angry and hit him with a chair. I reacted with violence because I was exposed to violence at home. I thought that was the best response.

As I’ve aged, repressed memories resurfaced, and I’ve started to feel. I tear up during emotional scenes in romantic comedies or dramas. I can feel my heart racing during chase scenes in horror or action films. Horror films and horror fiction remind me of the violence and terror I experienced as a child without causing a panic attack. Writing horror fiction, I believe, is my way of dealing with the trauma and getting all the pain out. My mind has tried to pull my repressed memories forward through horror fiction. I think this is why horror is becoming even more popular as so many traumas continue in our chaotic world.

I am not the only person to experience this and this is not exclusive to PTSD. People with different anxiety disorders have a similar affinity toward horror fiction. Here are a few other articles I’ve found on the subject.

How do you feel about horror when it comes to your mental health? Is it helpful as it is for me or do you struggle with watching or reading horror?

Photo Credit: James & Carol Lee

Music and the Memories of Depression

Music has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. From the baroque era to black metal, I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t listening to some kind of music, first on a little cassette player, then on CDs, and now of course through online streaming. In fact, the world of streaming music has opened my library up to hundreds of thousands of songs that I would never have thought to listen to before.

According to my iTunes library, I’ve listened to the 10,000 songs in my library over 300,000 times. Some I’ve listened to only once or twice, of course, but the top ten percent of plays – 30,000 or so – are of just sixty songs – by just ten artists.

From Coma White by Marilyn Manson, at 450 plays, to Brief is the Light by Sentenced, at nearly 500, these sixty songs are an unintentional reflection of my mental state over the years. On average, I’ve listened to these sixty songs at least once a week for the past fifteen years (since I first built an iTunes library), although of course there’ve been days when I’ve listened to some on repeat for hours at a time.

You see, music is my memory. I don’t have the sharpest recollection for things, people or events, but listening to a particular song will invariably revisit the feelings I was experiencing when I first came to know and love it. For me, music is feeling, it is emotion, and frequently, it is depression.

When I listen to My Hope, the Destroyer by My Dying Bride, I am returned to the gloriously dark, gothic days of my teenage depression, candles and vodka late at night, wondering if I was destined to be alone for the rest of my life. When I hear Join Me In Death by HIM, I remember the blood running down my arms as I cut myself repeatedly, wishing I had the strength to cut deeper, harder, more finally.

These aren’t necessarily pleasant memories, but they are the foundation of who I am today – the essence of my soul. It would be a disservice to forget who I used to be, and how it led to who I am today. There are still days when I simply can’t cope, when I want to sleep all day and forget the world; there are days when I just want to cease existing. This last week has been especially hard, coping with the death of a dear friend and being asked to read his eulogy.

And in those times, I fire up my Depression playlist, and I remember. I remember what it feels like to be alone; what it’s like to be numb, and miserable, and to want to die. These are powerful memories, and they’re important.

Sometimes people ask me why, if I’m already depressed, I choose to listen to music that reinforces the feeling. They wonder why I don’t listen to happy music to cheer myself up. The answer is that I don’t use music to change my mood; I choose my music to reflect my mood. When I’m at my darkest, I need strength; when I’m at my lowest, I need reassurance. And the memories of past sadness is, in a way, just that: a reminder that I’ve felt this way before, and that I’m still here.

Music, in the end, is timeless and eternal. And in this, it serves as a reminder that all things pass, for better or for worse. I too will die one day, and I don’t want that day to come having wasted what’s left of my life.

That doesn’t mean I want to write a book, or cross off a bucket list; to me, that’s not the measure of a life well spent. To me, it’s about feeling. And feeling, be it happy or sad, alive or numb, is the essence of life. For some, they get their feelings from movies, or books; some get it from food, or family.

I get it from music. I am eternally grateful for the music in my life, and I will continue to rack up the plays on those top sixty songs for the rest of my life. Every time I need to remember, every time I need to feel, those songs will be there for me.

So remember to listen, and remember to feel: we aren’t long for this world.

Ideas for Mental Health Recovery

arturo-rey-747851-unsplash.jpg

One of the critical components of mental health recovery in my mind is finding the things that work to make you happy.  Over the years I have used different things to get me through the worst months of the year (my SAD months.) It differs from person to person because one person’s illness is not exactly alike, so find what works for your specific mental health recovery.

What I have found useful in my life is role-playing video games as they get me through some of the worst depression in my life. It is a way to escape the reality for a few hours and focus on something different. It gives me an opportunity to reach goals and feel good about myself when depression is taking over.

charley-pangus-782885-unsplash.jpg

Writing is my greatest weapon to deal with the ups and downs of my mental illness. The writing projects that I am currently working on and this blog are so helpful.

There are other things that I am working towards as we head into the final three months of 2018. I had many lofty goals this year, but there are still somethings that I would like to try out– like photography. I have talked to other artists and photographers about how therapeutic taking pictures is for their mental health. When I use video games or reading books to escape my mental illness for a few hours, it is the same for them with photography. It was one of my goals to start the year, but I got further away from it because of the cost.

james-carol-lee-793937-unsplash.jpg

What started this blog post was one of the fellow bloggers asking me how people deal using different forms of media like books, video games, watching film, photography, and even writing. This blogger mentioned that people coping with trauma often get into horror movies and books because they connect with the genre. I can relate to this in so many ways. I got into reading Edgar Allan Poe because of the connection to the “dark romanticism” feel of his work, and his influence is in every aspect of my writing.

What I want people to get out of this post is this, there are so many ways out there to cope with mental illness, and these things are essential to finding what will help with your overall mental health.

Before starting The Bipolar Writer Collaborative blog, I was lost. I had my writing but it was not enough.

Then I started this blog and everything changed. I have used this blog to improve myself through shared experiences in mental illness, and now I am more open to sharing my experiences. I wrote my memoir because of the amazing mental illness community here on WordPress. It has been what has helped my mental health recovery. Find what helps you get through the tough times, and it will make these times less harsh. Never dwell of the negative and always move forward.

Always Keep Fighting (AKF)

James

Photo Credit:

Julius Drost

Arturo Rey

charley pangus

James & Carol Lee

What IS The Black Dog of Depression?

Ah, metaphors. Without them, we’d be adrift in a landscape of cement without an actual tree or honest-to-goodness purple unicorn to disrupt our perspective. Sounds boring and harsh, doesn’t it?

The main problem with metaphor or simile or hyperbole is that other people may not have any clue what creative types are talking about.

If you have been hanging around people who describe Depression, you may have been feeling this very thing about The Black Dog. What is this dark canine? Where did he come from? Why a dog?

abstract-animal-animal-photography-1074882

The Black Dog is a description for Depression. He is the faithful animal that will not be trained, a dark and hulking shadow to our lives. Much betters writers than I have who have done better research than I say that associating negative feelings with a gloomy, unwanted creature has been happening for a very long time.

The most popular attribution is given to Winston Churchill. Annoyingly, writers say things like, “Churchill often cited ‘a black dog,'” or, “Churchill referenced ‘a black dog…'” In trying to pin down an actual quote, I found this snippet about a new German doctor Churchill had seen, from The Churchills, by Mary S. Lovell:

I think this man might be useful to me – if my black dog returns. He seems quite away from me now – it is such a relief. All the colours come back into the picture.

But The Black Dog has been around since long before Churchill. Think of stories like The Hound of the Baskervilles by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, or centuries of fireside folktales about hellhounds in British tradition. J. K. Rowling even used these to describe her characters’ fears of The Grim in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.

The Black Dog has been around for a while, mostly in association with an omen of bad tidings.

One of the best methods of explaining the old rascal is in a video released by The World Health Organization:

I love so many things about the video, but a favorite line of mine is:

Depression is an equal-opportunity mongrel.

Some animal lovers out there may feel a big defensive on behalf of dogs. Most dogs are lovable, goofy idiots whose main goal in life is to get you to dote on them. Not like those cats…

Given the history of the metaphor’s use, the name makes sense. Man has long used dog as a companion, hunter, guard, and helper. In sensing a creature to be ever-present, even at the foot of our own beds, the idea of this foreboding creature being a dog is not so far-fetched.

The most important question to ask, however, is not one of the three I posed earlier concerning its history. It is How do I deal with my own black dog?

At the end of the video I included are a few very simple pieces of advice. Therapy is number one. Medication, exercise, sleep, journaling, and talking openly with friends are all mentioned.

Hmmm… those sound a lot like the tips we’ve discussed in my Cure for Depression series.

We can learn to live with Depression in a positive way. We can leash our shadow, diminish his presence, and even be rid of him altogether some days. As Matthew Johnstone says near the end of his video:

I learnt not to be afraid of the black dog, and I taught him a few new tricks of my own.

Screenshot_2018-09-24-12-46-15

Living with Depression is not easy, but it can be easier.

If you’re not certain whether you have depressive symptoms, The Black Dog Institute of Australia has a basic quiz online. Whether you fill it out or not, I recommend that anyone who wonders ought to get in to see a counselor.

Life has happy moments, too. Don’t let your black dog or purple unicorn stand in front of your view. And that’s something worth fighting for.

The Woman of the Inn – A Sonnet

We met an age ago amidst a storm.

Her inn shone like a beacon in the night.

I longed for some relief, for some place warm.

The storm would pass and I’d leave at first light.

The lonely place was strangely filled with life.

A thousand men and women packed within.

And stranger still they all shared the same wife!

Each married to the woman of the inn.

I came to love her just like all the rest.

It was not long until we too were wed.

And I became so much more than a guest!

I didn’t care that life outside was dead.

Now I don’t feel a thing except remorse!

To hell with her!  It’s time for a divorce!

Continue reading

Challenge Yourself! – Find 5 Meaningful Things To Do

Ever get so caught up in the day to day crap-you-have-to-do that you lose sight of what you actually need to do… or what might actually enrich your life?

Of course you do!  If you don’t, you’re probably kidding yourself.  That, or you need to immediately publish a book enlightening us on your secret – probably make a million dollars while you’re at it.

Today I was trying to distract my mind from the typical stress at work (and procrastinate from doing the crap-I-had-to-do items detailed on the to-do list sitting on my desk) so I started cleaning and organizing my office.

After reaching the bottom of a formerly bottomless desk drawer, I found a note from my predecessor.  It was a to-do list filled with 5 mundane tasks that were not unlike the ones I was myself putting off that moment.

The note was unremarkable in every way but one – the date; it was dated from just before he went out for the last time.  You see, his cancer had returned, and this time it would not be beat.  He passed away in the months that followed.

It made me think about what I was doing in that moment – just going about the motions of the day, looking at the clock, wishing it was over.  What if this was it?  What if I was running out of time and I didn’t even know it?

How many of you are doing the same thing?  How many of you are wishing for the hours to slip by so you can do something that’s actually meaningful to you?  What is actually important to you?  Challenge yourself to make a list of what you actually need to do.

I scribbled off the list sitting on my desk and made a new one:

5 Things I Actually Need To-Do:

#1 – Help My Kids Find Their Passion.

There is one really important word in that goal – “their”. I want to help them find their passion, not mine.

I love football. I’d love to have my kid in the NFL.  But I have two daughters that probably aren’t going to share that goal.  Also I don’t see many women in the NFL in 2018.

This was something I think I missed as a child; I never found something that I was really into that I could also do for a living. It wasn’t until after college that I really started developing true passions other than drinking beer and spending money.  What a waste!

Also, I think it’s really important that kids have at least something they know they’re interested in before school’s over.  Otherwise how the hell are they supposed to decide what they’re going to do after high school?

Here’s what the decision making process looked like for me:

Dad: Alright, here’s a book of college majors, you need to pick one.

Me: Wait, what?

Dad: Yep. You’re 18, and it’s time for you to decide what you want to do for the next 40-50 years.

Me: Can I just play X-Box?

Dad: Nope.

Me: Ok, let me see that book then…

Me: [Flips through book of alphabetized majors, loses interest at the letter ‘C’]

Me: Chemistry sounds good!

Dad: Excellent.

Me: [Wastes next 10 years of life stumbling down misery-path]

I really, really want to avoid that, which I know can be difficult.  I know my parents tried to get me into things and it was me that resisted.  I know you can’t make your kids do anything once they get to a certain age, but I hope I’ll be able to help them see how what they are interested in can become a career.

Here’s an example that would have worked for me. I’m really into video games.  That’s one of the only things I was consistently into growing up.  That sounds like a horrible waste of time, right?

Cut to 10 years later and I discover a passion for computer programming. Now I program video games in my spare time for fun.  Imagine if I had the creativity and vision to see this as a possibility when I was 18?  I could be doing this for a living right now, and I would have loved it!  Sometimes you need to be creative.

#2 – Pay for Kid’s College.

My wife’s parents paid for her to go to school, a generosity for which I am extremely grateful. We bought our first home when I was 24, and she was 23, because of the financial boost her parents were able to give us after we graduated.  We had an incredible head-start.

I graduated with $25,000 in debt, which is probably pretty low since I went to a public school. $300 dollars a month to student loan debt payments really sucks when you’re 22 – A huge percentage of your paycheck simply disappears.

Thankfully, I actually have a pretty decent head-start plan on this. It’s called the Stop-Obsessively-Buying-Ridiculously-Irresponsible-amounts-of-Ethanol (that’s alcohol for you – remember, chemistry major)-This-Year also known as SOBRIETY.

The math looks something like this:

$20 dollars per week for margaritas on date night.

$35 dollars per week for beer.

+             $45 dollars for Woodford Reserve because I’m one of those classy alcoholics.


$100 dollars per week

×             52 weeks in a year


$5200 per year on alcohol.

×             18 years


$93,600 saved over 18 year period.

That’s a decent head start!

#3 – Finish One of Those Damn Mania-Projects!

If you suffer from bipolar disorder you probably know exactly what I’m talking about. You’re manic, or hypomanic, and you’ve fallen in love with… something. You have all this energy and you’ve decided to direct it towards writing a book, or starting a blog, or making movies, or learning an instrument, or learning to paint, or going back to school… or all of those things at once!

The problem is that bipolar disorder is a cruel mistress, and now two weeks later your depression is back and you have absolutely no interest in doing any of those things anymore. So what was just days ago an all-consuming passion project is left abandoned and incomplete.

I’ve spoken at some length about how mania or hypomania may be thought of by some as a blessing, but I’ve started to view it as a curse.  In my days or weeks of depression immediately following a hypomanic period I find myself surrounded by husks of beautiful, useful, and creative things that I was only able to take halfway to completion.  The sense of failure does nothing to help the depression.

Just once, I’d like to finish something. Write a book, learn a skill, finish programming that video game – anything!

I can say I have found one way to scratch this itch; break it down into small, bite size pieces! When you get the bug to start writing, instead of only working on that 100,000 word manuscript, why don’t you write a blog post!  I finish those all the time!

#4 – Travel Abroad With Family

I’ve been to two countries in my entire life. The United States, since I happen to have been born here, and Canada, since I happen to have grown up about 30 minutes from the border.

I never had a strong desire to travel (or really, to do anything) when I had the (relatively) easy opportunity to do so in college. Many of my friends did however, and it always seemed like a great adventure that enriched their lives.

I’d love to do this with my family, or if we can’t all go, I’d like to send the kids when they’re young, in college, and life is still (relatively) simple.

#5 – Start a Business

Is this every manic person’s dream, or is it just mine?

Imagine taking your energy, and your sudden, intense focus on something, and getting so good at it that you can actually start a business around that thing. Then you can screw the man and ride off into the sunset!

Ok, so I understand in reality that starting a business isn’t actually easy, and the whole riding off into the sunset thing is not likely to happen, but can’t a guy dream?

So that’s it!  That’s my What-I-Actually-Want-To-Do list – my 5 Meaningful Things.  I challenge you all to do the same thing!

Unfortunately, reality always seems to get in the way.  Speaking of which, these expense reports aren’t going to approve themselves. Back to it…

The Things We Do When We’re Lonely

Despite having lived with people for most of my life, I’m no stranger to loneliness. In fact, those of you who suffer from depression as I do can probably attest to the fact that you can feel lonely in the most crowded of places, surrounded by the most loving of friends and family. When it sinks its teeth in, nothing can bring you back.

I’m lonely right now. I’m lonely through situation – my wife and son have left on vacation and I wasn’t able to go with them – but I’m also lonely through isolation. Because of the events that led to them leaving without me (I forgot to book the time off from work), I feel a great measure of guilt, which only serves to deepen my sense of loneliness – a sensation that somehow I deserve to feel this way, and that I shouldn’t do anything about it.

I’ve also been lonely before in my life. It started when I first became depressed as a teenager. The first bouts of depression felt like they stemmed from a sense of insignificance, that in the grand scheme of things I didn’t matter, and nothing I did would ever amount to anything worthwhile. Feeling like a blip on the radar of life is a very isolating experience, I can tell you.

Later, I began to isolate myself from my friends at school, both deliberately and through sheer ignorance and bad luck. It came to a head one drunken night at a friend’s house where I made a fool of myself and got us banned from going over there again. My friends turned on me, left me and abandoned me, and I’d never known such loneliness. This led to some of my first truly suicidal thoughts.

When I went to college in London, I lived in a dorm but with a room of my own. That one year was the absolute worst of my life. I saw no one, spoke to no one, almost never got out of bed; I rarely showered, didn’t shave, stank, and fended off everyone around me with vitriol. I hated myself, hated my life, hated everyone else in the world. And I knew – absolutely knew – that it would never get better.

It did.

I met my wife, we had a child, and for a little bit, loneliness was delayed. But it always returned, in the deep of night or on a cloudy day at home when everyone else was away. And I did some strange things, some of which I recall fondly, whilst others are less positive.

In my teenage years, of course, I dealt with loneliness through self-harm. Before losing my friends, I would compare scars with one of the girls at work. Hers were always deeper, but mine were more plentiful. I dealt with it through drinking, too – sneaking whiskey from my father’s liquor cabinet as often as I dared.

Later, as an adult, I continued to deal with it through alcohol. I would finish a bottle of whiskey every few nights. I stopped cutting, but I drank more and more, and kept the loneliness at bay by minimizing my sobriety as much as possible.

Now, I find myself retreating to drink again, but I’m trying to control it. I know the things that will help, and the things that will make it worse. I’m trying to go out more (I’m writing this at a coffee house instead of my bed), trying to invite people to come over and spend time with me.

My cat also helps me feel less lonely. She is my rock, the one creature who will always show me affection no matter what I do or how I feel. When I pick her up she smushes her face into mine. I talk to her, I play with her, and I act like a complete goofball with her. It all helps.

But in the end, loneliness will always be there in the background, waiting to flood my life and drown me in solitude. I can fight it, I can cope with it, but I’ll never be rid of it. It’s as much a part of my life as my bipolar, my depression and my scars.

What makes you feel lonely, and how do you cope with it? Let me know in the comments.

Dispelling Emotional Darkness

Alien Mind

A poem, by Chelsea Walker

Within this crypt,

This coffin deep

The real me gone–

Dead, fast asleep

I dwell inside the doorless keep

of my alien mind.

Shadows darken

All I view

Gloomy yellow

Light imbues,

Scenes of horror to confuse,

In my alien mind.

Bony fingers,

Cold as ice,

Tons of pressure,

Like a vice,

Squeeze with agony inside

Of my alien mind.

Evil whispers

Fill my ears

While ghoulish phantoms

Leap and jeer.

No sound of comfort do I hear

In my alien mind.

Curled up–

Full of fear I hide.

Body trembling,

Dark inside.

Hoping visions will subside

And truth will fling the exit wide

That I may leave the darker tides

Of my alien mind.

This is darker than what I would usually write.  My intention here was to describe what it’s like to be in the depths of darkness and pain from depression.  That being said–I have to acknowledge that though this was a reality for me at one time, I have been free from this dark, alien state of mind for a long time.  I still struggle with depression, but not on such an extreme scale.  Because of what I’ve been through, I learned a significant truth:

There is always hope, no matter how deep the darkness.

The thing about darkness is that the only way to dispel it is with light.  This is true in the physical/literal realm as well as the emotional/mental realm.  Ponder with me, as I explore this idea.

There are many different sources of light in our physical world.  Sticking with what is most obvious and familiar, the first lights that come to mind are: a flashlight, a ceiling light in a room that is switch operated, and the sun.  First, properties of a flashlight are that it lights only a single beam directly where it is pointed.  The remaining area will still be dark as before.  It’s sufficient to get us from point A to point B usually, but does not provide enough light to really let us see what is going on all around us.  Second, the properties of a ceiling light in a room include that the light comes on instantly, with the flick of a switch–immediately dispelling darkness.  This type of light is usually sufficient to light the entire room at once.  Lastly, let’s examine the sun’s properties.  Imagine with me how the sun lights the earth–is it just instantly in the sky and it’s suddenly illuminating everything?  Of course not– the sunrise is a slow and gradual process that begins with a grey dawn which eventually progresses to full morning light, then climaxes with afternoon sunlight, which tends to be it’s brightest and hottest time.

Stick with me–this is where I’m going to tie this in to depression.  You’ve heard me say that depression for me felt like darkness.  I would have loved for the proverbial light switch to appear and end that instantly, but this rarely happens in these situations.  So, since the light switch was unavailable, I needed to use something to light my way while the darkness was all encompassing.  Something like an emotional flashlight.  Something to help me navigate this darkness while waiting for the sun to rise.

Because one thing you can always count on, is that the sun will rise.  It’s just a matter of time.

So what would I consider an emotional flashlight?  I would say that anything that gives you courage and strength to go on would be an emotional flashlight.  As would anything that helps you relax, recharge and be at peace.  All of these types of things keep the emotional darkness at bay.  It might only be a small bit of help, but that is what the flashlight does–it’s gets us from point A to point B.  It gives us just enough of a lift to keep going.  Here are some things that were emotional flashlights for me:

  • Guided meditations and white noise
  • Reading
  • Prayer, meditating, scripture reading
  • Attending church
  • Inspirational music, such as hymns–I also loved The Piano Guys
  • Inspirational videos
  • Quiet time
  • Journalling
  • Time outside in the sunshine and fresh air
  • Gentle exercise
  • Medications

The list could go on and your list might be different than mine.

The key thing to remember here is that this time in complete darkness will eventually pass.  The sun will begin to rise.  You will soon see the grey light of dawn instead of the black of night.

I fully acknowledge that even with my emotional flashlights, I could not have made it through the darkness of depression without the Light of the World, my Savior, Jesus Christ.  Is there a way out without Him?  I don’t know, because I’ve never tried to do it alone.  I know that He is the reason I am where I am today.  I wouldn’t have even been able to operate my emotional flashlights without His help.   Because of what I have been through, I know that there is no darkness so deep, that the Savior’s light cannot penetrate.

Maybe you aren’t so far gone.  Maybe this isn’t something you subscribe to.  If that’s the case, focus on the emotional flashlights themselves and hold on tight until the sun begins to rise and depression begins to lift.  The process might be slow, as it was for me.  But focus on the progress you are making.  Keep on moving forward as best you can.  And keep hoping for better days ahead.

Eventually, the sun will rise.