How Depression Feels

After the successful results of our last how-to article, “Depression for Dummies,” I felt a continuation of similar advice might be helpful. I may have decided this after yet another conversation with my loving, wonderful, clueless husband.

Thing is, non-crazies do not understand how we think. They are not living inside us, feeling the things we feel or thinking what we think or assuming what we assume after someone says something. They are inside them, usually feeling pretty darn good.

Lucky.

So, drag that fortunate spouse, significant other, friend, boss, or coworker over here. I’m going to teach them what it feels like to be depressed.

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First, class, you need to get really uncomfortable. Don’t shower and don’t brush your teeth for five days. At least. On top of that, I’m going to need you to roll around in some mud and let it harden in uncomfortable places. Finally, put on some clothes that do not fit right and make you think you look like a muddy, fat elephant who hasn’t visited the watering hole in five days.

Did you do all that? Good! Now onto Step Two:

During or after your five days dirtying the outside, I want you to work on the inside. Eat foods that are bad for you like candy, soda pop, Taco Bell, and Lima beans. I don’t want to go too far, so I’m not going to encourage anything harder. Simply eating poorly ought to do it.

Are you with me so far? Excellent.

Next, you need to contract some kind of virus. No one wants you actually dying, so aim for a bad cough or for that cold that’s going around.

Feeling bad yet? You only think you are.

Lastly, I want you to sit in front of a mirror and tell yourself that you are ugly. You eat like a pig. You are sick. On top of all that, you are worthless and no one likes you.

Are you feeling something now? Something sad? Congratulations! -because you have touched the surface of the ongoing mindset that is Depression. Whenever you want to say something ‘helpful’ in the future like, “This will pass,” “You have great potential; why don’t you use it?,” or “Why would you feel depressed?,” remember what all of this felt like. Maybe you’ll say a more encouraging, empathetic phrase, instead.

Maybe you’ll just listen, and give the depressed person some chocolate.

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Now, I’m not heartless enough to leave anyone down as far as we went, so you can’t leave until we reverse everything we did today. In fact, all of you people hiding in your closets and corners feeling depressed: come over here and do it, too.

First, I want you to get up, take off the uncomfortable clothes that make you feel fat and ugly, and go take the most awesome and refreshing shower you’ve ever experienced. Feel the warm water stimulate your happy nerves as you watch muddy elephant runoff slide down the drain.

Feeling somewhat better? Keep going.

Next, I want you to make the healthiest food that you enjoy and eat it. I’d go for an excellent, nutritious sandwich or shake. Whatever you choose ought to have whole foods, a few food groups, and definitely vegetables.
Brush your teeth afterwards and revel in the minty fresh taste of your smiling mouth.

You’re still with me, right? It gets better:

Go visit a doctor or take some over-the-counter medications to help with your cold symptoms. I really am sorry I recommended that you contract one; they’re the worst. Rest and breathing exercises help as well.

Did you do all of the steps so far? We’re nearly finished!

Get back over to your mirror and sit down. With a nice amount of natural light around, I want you to apologize for saying nasty things. I want you to say the following, instead: “I am good enough; I am smart enough; and doggone it, people like me for me.” Pull up some good Cognitive Behavioral Therapy programs on your phone and run through a few.

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I’d say you should feel right as rain about now, but I’m more honest than that. If you followed all of the recommended steps then I am certain you feel a lot better, but I am also certain that you remember how you felt when you were depressed.

That’s because, during Depression, we tell ourselves some pretty damaging things; things that don’t wash down a drain or disappear when we turn on the light.

But they do diminish. Some days, they almost disappear. With the support of our (now) less-clueless friends and significant others, you will get better. And that’s worth fighting for.

 

Photo Credits:
Miguel Henriques
Jordane Mathieu

Love Them Anyway

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As we walk through the journey of life we will experience the presence of many different people who will touch our hearts in numerous ways. Some are with us from birth and some enter our story in different chapters, however each of them can bring a kaleidoscope of inspiration, disappointment, joy, heartache, happiness and pain. Those who bring us joy, those who show us happiness, are those that allow this journey toward purpose and peace simple and effortless. However, realistically, there will be disappointment and we will feel pain, and the source may be from those we love.

The pain that they may bring, the heartache they may cause and the disappointment you may feel can bring you to your knees, question your faith and, at times, destroy your hope. It is our most human trait to believe in the purity of love. We are wired to believe that if one loves another, they will not cause the other harm. When that trust is shattered, to believe again seems like a pointless endeavor. I know this, I’ve felt this, and I’ve wanted to pretend that the pain was a figment of my imagination. In response, my heart hardened, and my world may have been darker, but the path was smoother, risk-free with no cliffs, no valleys and no chance of falling again. The loneliness and the pain that came when the center of my being shut down was something I never expected.

The pain of shutting off and closing my heart to just walk this earth without really living was a pain I didn’t realize I was feeling, but when I did, I knew it was not a path I wanted to travel. For so long I didn’t want to believe that those who happened to enter my life were imperfectly human, yet they are human. They are breathing, feeling, heart-pumping humans with battles within themselves that we are unaware, and we are not to judge. It was difficult for me to accept that each one of us is an imperfect soul that strives to piece together this puzzle of life, and that while the choice of crossing paths may not be ours, the choice to love them anyway, whether we choose to stay, or to walk away is ours to make.

I recently heard an interview where the author spoke of a conversation she had had with her priest. She asked him if he felt people do the best that they can in this life. His response led me to reassess my entire outlook on those who cross our paths. He asked, if God were to come down and tell you that these people that have hurt us, disappointed us or caused us heartache were truly doing the best they could, they were living their life the best they were capable, would your perspective change? It was a powerful concept that has been difficult for me to shake, and I have used in my process of understanding and forgiving. What if they are doing the best that they can, and while understanding may be difficult to ask, love them anyway, even if it must be from afar.

So…love flower

When your parents shatter the perfect image, you have carried in your mind since you were a child, love them anyway;

When your children don’t act like the perfect angels you wish them to be, love them anyway;

When your spouse/friend/partner disappoints, betrays or hurts you, love them anyway;

When family doesn’t treat you like family, love them anyway;

When the random stranger shows you nothing but angst, love them anyway;

When you cross paths with someone who emits hate, hurt and sadness, love them anyway; and

When you feel like you are not worth the effort or feel alone, love you anyway;

…because honestly, we need more love in this world.

The more love we emit, the more love we will receive. We don’t have to agree with the actions or surround ourselves with those who are blind to the beauty of this life, but we can wish them love in their hearts, and love them anyway.

Much Love,

Lisa J

Speak Up! And Your Voice Will Help You

Sometimes I wonder what world optimists live in. It can’t possibly be the same as mine, because mine is one of twisting mists, overcast skies, and lurking shadows.

Besides the possibility of parallel universes, this phenomenon is likely a matter of perspective.

What is perspective?

Duh; it’s how you see everything. And, I mean everything. In fact, perspective is how you see, hear, taste, touch, smell, and sensedeadpeople everything. It’s like eyeglasses you wear on all your senses.

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Now, I know you’re a smart cookie who already knew all that. But, did you think about how perspective applies to mental health? Specifically, did you think that this means other people will have no clue how to relate to what you are sensing all the time?

While you are lying in bed, certain that nothing will ever change and that people are crap, someone else is skipping around and wondering how to spend such a glorious day. That person may even be in your house and driving you crazy with the skipping.

I know. I’m married to a skipper.

I often resort to sticking a leg out as he passes -but, my counselor suggests I ought to engage in fewer sabotaging behaviors like that.

What I and you really need is for others to understand what we are going through. We want them to help us because we often can’t help ourselves. We want acceptance and love. We also don’t always know what we want besides to just feel better.

This is where perspective comes in.

Many, many posts here at The Bipolar Writer Mental Health Blog of Amazing Stories and Poems and Posts and Mental Health Issues and Such If You’re Still Reading This Title I’m Amazed deal with the perspective of mental illness sufferers. I’ve learned a lot, and consider myself part of this little group -though from a safe distance because I also have social anxiety.

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These stories help others to understand. But, they are only the first step.

For other people to get us the help we need, we need to walk at least one more pace. Now, don’t get stressed and close this article and go binge on chocolate. I’m always about keeping things doable. My steps are always baby steps.

All I’m saying is that, after you share your perspective, you need to ask for the help you need.

Not sure what I mean? I wasn’t, either, till recently.

I began counseling just over a year ago from a very dark, confused place. I hadn’t even found this lovely blog. No one seemed to relate to my anxiety or concerns or negative self-talk. If anyone talked to me about my issues, they handed out aphorisms like useless bits of random jigsaw puzzles.

Fast-forward to a lot of sessions (and money) later, and I had an epiphany. (That means an inspirational thought. Look how much I’m teaching you today!)

I had been attending counseling sessions, waiting for her to know exactly what to do based on the few answers I’d given to questions. I expected that she felt my anxious hesitancy about groups, that she was always looking at the glass half-empty, and that she also saw life as an endless drag of sameness.

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Nope, she didn’t.

Apparently, she skips, too -though, less than my husband. And I needed to tell her what I was sensing.

“I need you to give me exact phrases I can say when I feel that way,” I finally admitted.

Or, “Today, I need to talk about how to talk myself out of a depressive cycle before I spiral and don’t want to even get up.”

Or, even, “Can you please explain what you meant by that term?”

Thing is, the counselor has a different perspective. She has hers. You have yours. That random guy walking past has his. That woman over there has hers as well.

In regards to mental health professionals, we need to approach sessions the way we would a regular doctor visit. If you were at the doctor’s office, the dialogue might run as follows:

What are you seeing the doctor for today?

-Oh, you know; I was walking up the stairs and stubbed my toe really hard. I think it’s broken.

Applied to our mental health, the dialogue would go like this:

And how are we feeling today?

-Oh, today I woke up feeling like even the sun hated me and I had a major panic attack at the thought of riding the bus.

As my husband says, we’re paying the counselor to fix the problems. It’s her job.

If you are smarter than a random blog-writer like me, you may already be past the step of telling your mental health professional what you need. So, smarty-pants, have you gone on to apply this to talking with your partner? Close friend? Mother? Busybody neighbor?

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Don’t go crazy -crazier– admitting all your problems to strangers. Let me tell you: one Facebook post can alienate your neighbors. I am, however, advocating appropriate responses that help friends or nagging neighbors to give you the breathing room and support you might need.

If you’re feeling a bit down and think no one loves you, try texting a friend and telling him or her that you need to feel better. It might be a good night for movies.

If you think you could just use a good laugh, call someone who tells jokes.

If you’re feeling too much pressure from demands, ask if you can’t have a few things due at a later period.

When I attended a local mom’s group we talked about the Audacious Ask. The idea was that we needn’t be afraid to ask other people for help. We were challenged to ask a friend or neighbor for something we needed for us, even if we were stressed that they wouldn’t want to.

My counselor agrees that we all have different perspectives. She also says mine can be tweaked a bit up the positivity scale, but that’s a topic for another post.

In the meantime, I challenge you to use your new power of perspective to ask for what you need.

Don’t be afraid. If your friend came to you, wouldn’t you want to help?

Photo credits:

Josh Calabrese
Kyle Broad
Bryan Minear
Bewakoof.com Official

Depression for Dummies

Hi. I’m Chelsea, and I am married to a wonderful, talented, intelligent man who is pretty dumb when it comes to mental illness.

Perhaps you know someone like this. Your bright, helpful person may be a friend, parent, brother, sister, or boss. As well-meaning as he or she might pretend to be, this acquaintance just doesn’t get it. Worse, he or she is often so inept that whenever effort is made, you feel he or she constantly places a clumsy finger right on a fresh bruise and pushes.

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But our friends and family don’t have to be idiots. Honestly, we really need love and support for our mental health and we can be tough nuts to crack.

In light of that, I’ve developed a helpful guide. I call it The Depressive Feelings/Better Responses Guide (of Science). Just whip this puppy out whenever you want to whip them upside the head and you’ll both feel better:

  1. When someone says that he is feeling depressed, a cheery life aphorism like, “Life isn’t all bad,” “Don’t worry; be happy,” or “The sun’ll come out tomorrow” isn’t helpful. At all.
    Instead, try, “I understand that you are feeling depressed.” This may easily be followed by, “I’d like to help alleviate some of your stress. Can I clean your whole kitchen for you?,” or “…I happen to know that chocolate is half-off at the store. I’ll be right back with a pound or two.”
  2. If a depressed person says she feels hopeless; that everything in life is hard: the incorrect response is to point out how easy her life is. Please oh please do not say, “But you don’t have any serious issues like cancer or your arms falling off.”
    A better answer? “Let’s address your concerns one at a time. Maybe you could write a list, then we can come up with a solution for each one.”
    Or simply listen, without criticism. Some people just really need an ear to dump in.
  3. How about fatigue? Do you tell someone with depression that he shouldn’t be tired? That he should get to bed earlier? No, silly. He knows he should get to bed earlier; worrying about how he needs to sleep is one of the things that kept him up.
    Validate the feelings of the tired person. A passable idea might be to describe a cool idea you read recently -about writing all of one’s concerns on a paper by the side of the bed at night. Maybe you have a really boring book you could lend him.
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  4. Let’s say she is feeling poorly about herself. Her self-esteem is in the toilet of the deep, dark dungeon of the evil underworld troll king’s nephew. Do not advise a person with depressive tendencies that, “You’re a great person,” or how many talents she has and how she has the potential for so much more.
    Telling a depressed person of wasted potential will bring on a crying fit. You’re just backing up the mean little voice already in her head (herself).
    One of the best things to say is that you like her, that you like a specific thing about her (say, her ability to come up with Britney Spears song lyrics at the drop of a hat). Try to turn the focus on something else, especially if that is on a happy memory.
  5. When someone with depressive tendencies withdraws from life, reach out. You need to act if he does one of the following: not answering texts, appearing less-frequently online, and even telling people, “Goodbye.”
    If you can’t go, try to get his family or other friends to physically check in. Even a vocal phone call is better than a text. A visit is better than an e-mail. A long, in-person conversation is better than a social media message.

I have a difficult time with about everything in life due to a negative perspective and very little self-motivation. I need my husband, my few friends, and my family. Theirs are the hands that reach into the cave of my mind and pull me to safety.

With specific directions like this, we can work toward loving the hand that reaches. At the very least, we won’t feel like slapping it away.

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Picture credits:
Pixabay
Pexels
Unsplash

Gratitude–a Game Changer

According to Google Dictionary, A game changer is defined as “an event, idea, or procedure that effects a significant shift in the current manner of doing or thinking about something.”  Gratitude, for me, was such a thing as I struggled through deep depression from bipolar disorder.

While we are looking up definitions, why not take a look at Gratitude?  This is defined by Google Dictionary as “the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.”

Could something as simple as being thankful, really be a game changer?  I will attempt to illustrate just how this worked in my life.  Who knows?  Maybe you will find it to be that “ace up your sleeve” that will help you turn a corner in your recovery from significant depression.

If you have been reading my posts, you know that my most recent episode of bipolar depression caused me intense mental pain and a feeling of being in deep darkness.  I also had many physical manifestations of my depression.  I had excessive weakness and fatigue that caused me to wonder if there was a serious physical medical problem going on.  To say that I felt overwhelmed by what I was experiencing is an understatement.  I was emotionally drowning in tidal waves of hopelessness.  I felt completely inadequate to handle what was happening.  I finally got on needed medications and this helped to just take the edge of of what I was feeling, but I was still suffering.  On top of this I felt very negative about who I was.

Everything was terrible.  It was too hard for me to bear.  I would never make it through.  There was nothing to be glad about.  These were my thoughts at this time.

I went on like this for a period of months–I don’t remember how long now.  But then, as I have recounted before, I had a moment where I realized something had to change.  I had to change.  I didn’t know how long this would be going on.  Would my circumstances stay like this for 5, 10 years?  Maybe the rest of my life?  I certainly didn’t know.  I just knew that if this was going to be a long haul, I wanted to do my best to be happy.

I couldn’t change my circumstances, but I could change me.

I had an epiphany, of sorts–I decided to try cultivating an attitude of gratitude.  It was difficult, at first.  I had to look deeper than I was accustomed to looking.  I decided, that my way of cultivating an attitude of gratitude within me would be to say a prayer of thanks, any time I noticed something good in my life.  I have heard others say that having a notebook handy to record a positive occurrence in your life, works as well.

I would acknowledge any good thing, no matter how small.

For example, I recall a time I was headed to the dentist, but I was running late.  I had green lights at every intersection which sped my arrival.  Now, in the past, I might had overlooked that, but because I was really trying to notice something–anything good–I saw positive things I would have missed otherwise.

Here’s another, more recent example.  I had a short window time to do a little shopping.  I headed to the thrift store–a hobby of mine– and found an armful of things.  When I got ready to purchase my items, I realized that I was going to be late picking up my son from preschool, unless I had a very fast checkout.  There was a problem, though–every line was long and each person in line seemed to have as many items to purchase as I did.  I inwardly groaned.  Thankfully, a new register was opened right next to me and I was invited to check out there.  My checkout process was quick enough that I made it in time to pick up my son from school.  Definitely something to be grateful for!

Now, maybe you are thinking–noticing a couple of good things isn’t going to do anything for me.  And you might be right.  But if you can start to notice and record all the little things going right each day, at the end of the day, you will quickly realize just how long the list is. It won’t be just one or two measly things, it will be dozens of small things that add up to this: there are many things going right in your life.  That is what happened for me and I can assure you that you will notice the same!

It became my quest to look for the good things happening in my life.  It still is.  Being able to really look and notice the good, shifted my perspective from one of negativity and self-pity, to one of deep gratitude.  Just imagine what it could do for you–if you could make it your quest to notice positive occurrences in your daily life.

I still had depression.  I still struggled with negative thoughts and feelings.  I still had difficulty coping with my life, but I was able to do so with gratitude.  I could see the good.  My attitude had changed and I endured with greater patience and greater peace.

Have you had experience with this?  I would love to hear about it.

Before I conclude, let me share some things I’m thankful for today.  Right now, I am really grateful that my son took a nap this afternoon, so that I can have some quiet time to myself.  I am thankful I had hummus and veggies for lunch because it’s one of my favorite foods.  I am thankful I got to go the gym today and use my favorite machine.  I am grateful a good episode of “Fixer Upper” was on while I used the elliptical because it helped me get through my workout.  The list can go on and on and on–It’s all in your perspective.

What will you notice today?