Why a Mental Illness is a Big Deal

I’ve been depressing for awhile now -as in, dealing with Depression. I’ve also entertained its close friend, Anxiety; plus a few hangers-on like Disassociation, Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, and Social Phobias. I didn’t even know those existed till they walked off with some of my mental furniture.

Once I’m back to staring at the cracked ceiling of an empty apartment, I wonder why mental illness is such a BIG DEAL. Why does it always have the ability to kick my butt this badly every time?

Photo by Inzmam Khan on Pexels.com

Because, Mental Illness is a BIG deal.

Yesterday, I witnessed a boy who collapsed into a hysterical fit when his mother said they had to ride in the elevator. A perfectly healthy friend had to reschedule her doctor’s appointment for “a better day.” Another friend told how she could not sleep in the same room as her baby, since the baby’s normal breathing patterns kept her up all night.

Minor issues become major. Small things are big. Mole hills are mountains!

So, now what? Treats? Bed? Movie marathon? I wish. Those things cost money! We need practicality before the rest of our sanity escapes out the window, and takes the rest of the chocolate with it.

Knowing that a mental illness blows things out of proportion is empowering. How? When one of my kids starts melting down, I KNOW to back off and get him a snack. When fear and anxiety cloud my horizon, I KNOW to get outside for a walk. When my friend says she needs to talk, I KNOW to drop everything and listen.

Am I freaking out? Don’t have a mental couch to collapse on? I take a break. I breathe. I run a meditative exercise. Try it; re-focus with what works for you. Then, try the basics: sleep, food, love, happiness.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

On the flip side, stop doing the little things that make it worse: staying up, eating crap, avoiding affection, and wallowing in sadness.

Sounds easy, right? It really is. The trick is to not make it difficult. “Just go get in the shower,” I tell myself. “Just get in there and sit -you don’t even have to wash yet.” Or, “Wrap up in a blanket and hang out on the porch. You don’t have to get dressed.”

See? Believe me, I’m in the camp of making a simple thing much more complicated. I also know how BIG I feel once I get past the little, white lies of my mental illness.

 

©2020 Chel Owens

Need Help? Go On and Ask for It

Mental illness sucks.

That’s the summation of my thoughts, usually after a depressive spiral. It’s what I think when a good friend loses a job because of a schizophrenic episode. It’s my answer when another friend hits the low part of his bipolar cycle. It’s the phrase I mutter in response to people’s suicidal thoughts, lack of desire to do anything, or expressions of overall sadness.

Not only do we all experience the side effects of our mental issues, we also get no support whatsoever from our own minds. When enveloped in the venom of negative thoughts that mental illness supplies, we hear things like:

You’re a terrible person …with specific reasons.

No one likes you …complete with names.

Whatever you try fails …including examples.

No one can help you. No one wants to help you.

All of these Wormtongue-spoken messages are not true. In fact, the last one is the most not-true. There are plenty of people who can help. Heck; there are strange people who voluntarily went to school and paid a lot of money in order to listen to others’ mental health problems all day.

Weirdos.

I speak of counselors or therapists. I speak of psychologists. To some extent, I speak of psychiatrists as well. They have all chosen a career, voluntarily, to listen to crazy people like you and me.

Uh-oh: negative-thought brain is talking again:

They don’t really want to help you. They’re just doing it for their job …with examples of friends or relatives who’ve complained about a bad experience.

It’s impossible to find one who’ll be good …with reasons why your issues are a special case.

You can’t afford a counselor …with a list of your expenses.

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Guess what, brain! They really do want to help you. Granted, there must be therapists who are terrible. There must be some who are in it for the money. If you ask around and/or read online reviews, however, you’re likely to weed out the bad ones. After all, these weirdos did choose their job. In my experience, they did so because they wanted to help people.

Plus, the costs might be manageable. Depending on where you live, some of those strange people who can and want to help are cheap or free. Some are covered by job insurance plans, others by government programs, and still others by ecclesiastical assistance.

Don’t be afraid to ask around, get a good listening ear, and get going on your life!

You are important. You are worth any cost.

I promise.

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Photo Credit: Pexels
Matheus Ferrero
Dan Meyers

I Give Myself Two Thumbs Down

Think positively.

Look on the bright side.

Don’t be so hard on yourself.

Don’t worry; be happy.

Yeah; my brain’s not getting that memo. Despite hearing the merits of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or sitting through counseling sessions advocating positivity, I seem determined to stay stuck.

Negative thinking is easier. I’m used to it. I deserve it.

Let’s say a good thing happens, like a job promotion. It’s easier to remind myself of a few “facts:”
-No one else was available and that’s why I got it
-It probably wasn’t as high of pay as someone else would get AND I should get paid less
-Just wait till my boss sees how I perform; he’s likely to demote me again
-The company may collapse and I’ll be back where I was. I’d better not get comfortable.

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Cognitive Behavioral Thinking and methods like it are designed to break the ease and habit of negative thinking. I don’t know about you, but I’m terrible at breaking habits. I am so accustomed to seeing the dark side of life that I just do it. I would rather do it.

Further, as I said, that’s exactly what a person like me has coming to her. I am not smart, talented, good, or hard-working enough for the good stuff. Or -here’s the funny part- if I am, then I need to look around and acknowledge that I’m stealing that from someone else who deserves the goodness more.

Guilt.

Criticism.

Insults, even.

They are all designed to keep me in some pit of self-loathing so I do not ever rise up and see what’s possible.

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Why? Besides the ease, habit, and entitlement to rotten rewards; I’m afraid. I’m afraid of failure and disappointment. As terrible as I feel sitting around in my Venom cloak of darkness, I am convinced that situation is far better than risk. Depression must be better than hurt from expectation.

Right?

A few, happy balloon-like humans floating above the pollution say, “No.” Do I listen? Do you? If you’re anything like me, you ignore them. Sometimes, you pull out your trusty Nega-sniper and try to pick off a few. Why do they get to be happy when you know all the awful things sludging around us?

Yet, some part of me envies them. Some part of me wants to fly.

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Photo Credits:
Image by moritz320 from Pixabay
Glenn Carstens-Peters
Yanny Mishchuk
Jonathan Borba

 

©2019 Chelsea Owens

My Healing Journey

At the beginning of the year my number one goal was for me to work on healing myself from the inside out. I had put my own inner healing on hold for a long time. I had pushed down the most painful memories of my childhood in hopes I would never have to think about them again. Over these last eight months more and more old wounds have been resurfacing. Old wounds that I forgot were even there were resurfacing. This was finally my time to work on healing myself.

 

I grew up in an abusive household facing abuse from my mother on a daily basis. I suffered from this abuse from a very young age up until my early adulthood. I suffered from physical, verbal, and psychological abuse. The most damaging towards me was the psychological abuse.

 

Growing up I always knew there was something “off” about my mom because of the way she treated me. I was the oldest child and I guess my mom figured she could take out all her aggression on me. My brother was extremely lucky because my mom treated him completely opposite of how she treated me.

 

A month ago I read a book about healing from Narcissistic abuse. It opened up my eyes to what narcissistic abuse is all about and it confirmed for me that it was the abuse I suffered from growing up. It confirmed my theory that my mom was a narcissist and the symptoms & actions described fit my mom perfectly.

 

My entire life I could never fully be myself. My mom was the one who called all of the shots during my childhood. It didn’t matter what I wanted to do, if she didn’t like it then I couldn’t do it. It was like my mom was trying to live out her life through me. I wanted to play piano and my mom hated that, she threw away my piano books because she didn’t want me to play it. I wanted to do gymnastics, but she told me no & convinced me that I was never good enough to do it in the first place. She hated me having friends and never let me hang out with my friends. This occurred throughout my entire childhood.

 

She terrorized me, manipulated me, and controlled me my entire life. This book opened up my eyes to how abusive a narcissist can be and how evil they can be.

My mom caused me immense pain growing up. She told me things no child or person should ever have to hear especially from your own mother. I was screamed at so many times. She told me lies like that she didn’t want me born, she wished she aborted me when she had the chance, no one in my family likes me, I’m a burden, I have no friends, I’m fat, I’m not pretty, and I’m not good enough. She RARELY told me she loved me & meant it.

 

Now that I’ve reached adulthood and have started my own healing, I feel like I’m starting to find myself all over again. My mom never let me express who I was so I was always fitting into the mold she wanted. I finally feel like I’m starting to find my own identity and who I truly am as a person.

 

At first I felt like I was going through an identity crisis because I didn’t know who I was as a person at first. It’s forced me to dig deep inwards to get in touch with my true authentic self. I’m still learning who I truly am on a daily basis. I’m starting to finally feel free again since I no longer have to conform to what she had led me to believe my entire life.

How to Break the Cycle of Abuse Within Your Own Mind

I am really good at not being good to myself.

“Most of your class is smarter than you.” “No one wants to be your friend.” “Of course you didn’t win.”

Throughout my childhood, I taught myself to have no self pride. At all. Despite being decently intelligent and skilled; I could never accept a compliment. If I didn’t win the very best at a contest, the voices inside told me why. If I happened to do well; they reminded me of how many other people were better, or of how there weren’t many competitors.

I’d love to say things have gotten better, but they haven’t.

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“Look, see: that person says she likes that person, but doesn’t even look at you when you’re walking by.” “There you go, dummy; forgetting everything again.” “Well, who would want to be your friend?”

I could blame the internet, exposing me and millions of others TO millions of others. But if I’m being honest, my negative self would be able to beat me up even without bringing the rest of the world into the comparisons.

When I’ve addressed this problem with self-meditation, self-medication (usually chocolate), and the occasional session with a therapist; I …can’t actually address it. I’m so good at not being good to me that I jump right in to sabotage any sort of progress.

Me: “Well, when someone compliments me, I feel like they probably don’t know the whole picture.”

Also Me: Justifying “I’m not that good at cooking/writing/being a friend/etc. That person is just really nice. She tells the off-key 8-year-olds at church that they sang beautifully.”

I’m so good at not being good that I claim my conclusions are LOGICAL. I bring outside evidence to back the negativity up, disguise rudeness as truth, and name-calling as accurate titles.

And I don’t see this as wrong.

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If I had a friend (See? If I had a friend? -so mean!) -anyway- If I had a friend whose boyfriend were saying that crap to her, I’d immediately tell her it was abusive behavior. If someone at school were telling these things to my son, I’d advise him to stand up for himself and even talk to his teacher about it. If I were reading a book or watching a movie and heard the things that play in my head all day; I would recognize the character as a petty, selfish bully.

Living with me all day every day, however, I do not. As you may have guessed, I tell myself that negativity is exactly what I deserve.

…Which makes breaking out of the cycle of abuse that much more difficult. And yes, it is a cycle of abuse.

As such, the actually LOGICAL steps to getting out would be to follow professional advice for leaving an abuser. The internet may be providing fodder for my inaccurate comparisons, but it also has a lot of information to help save me from them. In fact, there is even a wikiHow on breaking an abusive cycle.

Since we’re dealing with an internal abuser, I’ve taken their list and modified it:

  1. Leave.
    I can’t exactly leave my own head, but see that my substance abuse and attempts to disassociate are a lot like telling an abusive spouse I’m leaving, but not actually packing bags and arranging for another place to live.
    I feel that I don’t know where to go or what to pack yet, but maybe I can start asking around and collecting a few moving boxes.
  2. Don’t dismiss, justify, or accept the abuse.
    Frankly, I need to stop agreeing with the Meany-Head in my head. I can probably, sort-of, start talking back to it like a stubborn 3-year-old. According to professionals, that’s healthier than allowing it.
  3. Look out for the honeymoon phase.
    I didn’t think self-abuse had this, but it does. I have days or even weeks of letting up on myself. I smile without reminding myself that poor children in Africa have little to smile about. I accept a compliment and don’t downplay it.
  4. Don’t fall for that break in abuse!!
    I can’t let my guard down and assume everything’s better if there is little or no meanness.
    When I went on a successful diet one time, I mentally associated sugars and refined flour with fat gain. Those two became repulsive to me and I had no appetite to eat them.
    Similarly, I’ve got to put a no-acceptance-at-all mental block on the negative talk. Like Susan said in her article, I’ve got to respond right away with positivity.
  5. Unearth your superpower.
    The wikiHow articles says, “One reason individuals stay in abusive relationships is because they feel powerless and unable to act.” Boy, is that ever true. I feel overwhelmed at the idea of finding strength within myself.
    BUT, there are times that I am motivated to act -no matter how depressed or beaten-down I feel. Those times include: if someone I love is in danger, if injustice is raising its ugly head, and when things pile up so much that I simply cannot tolerate any more.
    If I can find strength even in the darkest despair, I can fight this abuse.
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  6. Go get help.
    I think this is my favorite of the steps, because I often suffer from Analysis Paralysis. I don’t know the ‘right’ direction to go, so stand and stare at the different options until I get frustrated and give up.
    With a counselor, therapist, psychologist, trained friend, or even a small reminder to literally choose to be positive; I can get GPS instructions for which way to start walking.

So, what am I waiting for? Honestly, I’m waiting for it to be easier. I’m waiting for the ‘right’ motivation. I’m probably waiting for the chocolate to kick in.

But I have a list. I have a goal. I want to Keep Fighting instead of keep bending over backwards and feeling worthless.

So, let’s do this thing. Who’s with me?

Photo Credit:
Andrei Lazarev
Siavash Ghanbari
Philipp Wüthrich
Gabriela Braga

©2019 Chelsea Owens

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Mental Illness Really Sucks

You wouldn’t believe this, but mental illness sucks.

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I spend a lot of days just stuck. I lack motivation or a positive outlook or even the will to shower. People telling me that things will get better do not help. I mean, things will get better for them

And I only have depression.

What I’ve read about bipolar, schizophrenia, and anxiety (to name a few general terms) makes me understand the suckiness of mental illnesses can only go deeper.

And the worst part? Stuff like motivation and will power is nonexistent. It’s been sucked away. That’s the analogy I keep thinking of with all the recent news about black holes in space.

That’s it! -Mental illness is like a black hole.

The Event Horizon Telescope, a planet-scale array of eight ground-based radio telescopes forged through international collaboration, captured this image of the supermassive black hole in the center of the galaxy M87 and its shadow.

Image: © EHT Collaboration

So… why am I bothering to write about it? It sounds like we ought to just accept our fate and enter another dimension as re-composed atoms, right? Wrong. I’ll tell you why, and you don’t even have to get up from the floor to listen.

Things actually will get better.

No, that’s not a cheery aphorism. I do not believe in those, because they also suck -but not like the suck of mental illness black holes. Go get your own sucking analogy, aphorisms.

But you don’t really care about that right now if you’re in a spiral.

What you need right now is to calm down. That thing you think you really need to be doing will wait, unless it’s a pot of boiling dinner on the stove. Turn that off, remove it from heat, then calm down. Now that we’ve mitigated a fire hazard, everything can wait. The Earth will keep moving and you can take a little break.

Then you need to do something for you. Something funny.


Watch a funny movie, read a funny book, look at funny memes online, ask your dad for a joke, or search for internet fails. Get laughing, or at least get not-crying. Try a smile -that’s it. I’ll take it.

Make yourself slightly more comfortable.
Use the bathroom, eat something reasonably healthy and brush your teeth. Comb your hair. Shower and get dressed.

Lastly, do SOMETHING.
You just got up and ready, after all. It’s not like your couch is a great date, though sitting on it with a great date or group of friends is fine. Text someone (even your mom) and leave the pit house.

Only after you’ve re-centered your mind, aka escaped the black hole, are you ready to do try facing whatever space anomaly sent you near it.

Speaking of, you may want to clean off your stove. That crap’s hard to get off if it stays on there.

 

Photo Credits:
Tiago Bandeira

Y’all Are Crazy, and That’s Okay

Having a mental illness is a lonely thing.

Like most people, we want at least someone with whom we can talk. We want a friend to cry with, or even laugh with. We need a deep connection with another human, to feel loved and validated.

Unfortunately, we have a few things that get in the way of socializing.

Many of us are scared. We have trust issues. When we feel hurt, we feel very deeply and wish to avoid feeling that way again. Often, we’ve had a bad experience of someone breaking a promise or shying away when we shared how we think. Heck, a lot of us have a bonafide diagnosis from a doctor that we have social anxieties.

Besides the hurt and fear, we avoid people for their own benefit. We tell ourselves that we are flawed and unsafe. We justify our anti-social behavior with statements like, “I know I’m a downer,” “No ones talks to me at parties. They can see, in my face, that I’m no fun,” and “If they really wanted to be around me, they’d talk to me.”

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Those reasons and that voice are hard to work with, but our health and mental stability need to fight against them. I mean, did you know that human connections were rated the most important thing in a happy life?

So stop beating yourself up. Seriously. I’ll tell you why:

  • Most people are some level of crazy. They may not be certified, but they have issues. I can’t tell you how many people I talk with who have experienced some angle of what I have, if not the whole enchilada.
  • Even though you are crazy, what are you gonna do about it? I’ve tried starting over, but the person that is me always shines through. I am what I have to work with and I accept that.
  • Crazy people have options, like crazy-people doctors and crazy-people medications and crazy-people blogs. There are even …crazy people groups that meet and talk crazy together. It’s a blast.
  • You are you, and are a work in progress. Just think: are you still crawling around and stuffing car keys in your mouth? NO! You did that as a baby, silly. Now you are older and know better. You are knowing better every day.
  • The future will be better. The future will be even betterer if you keep moving forward -even if all you can manage is a shuffle.
  • If all else fails, there is chocolate.
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I have a few friends. Of those, a few have mental health challenges. Some struggle with depression and social anxiety like I do. One has panic attacks. Another is schizophrenic. A mutual acquaintance is bipolar.

Sometimes when I try to plan a get-together, a friend flakes and doesn’t show up. Sometimes I have a terrible week and have to cancel on one of them. Since we are all in this not-sea-worthy-at-all boat together, however, we get it. If not, we talk about it. We hug. We pull out the chocolate.

I need people. I need understanding. I need connection. So do you. Plus, your challenges and perspectives mean that you are more understanding and empathetic than other people.

I mean, we may all be crazy, but that’s okay. We’re as human as the next person and our needs are just as valid.

You are worth it. I promise.

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Photo Credits:
Sayo Garcia
Ethan Sykes
Anita Austvika

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

Why Do We Do What We Always Do?

I’ve been a little down lately.

For anyone who ever feels the effects of depression, that’s code for: crying sporadically, feeling worthless, and avoiding people in general.

On the plus side, I’ve been doing some thinking. How? A detached, more logical human often steps aside from the involved, emotional creature on the floor and studies her like an anthropologist.

Here are some of my observations:

  1. When feeling bad, I try to feel worse.
  2. I really just want someone to love me, so I hurt anyone who gets close enough to even talk.
  3. Although self-care and routine would help, I intentionally do not sleep and avoid cognitive behavioral therapy-like activities.
  4. I often think nothing will get better, though a hormone shift completely alters my perspective.
  5. Despite knowing to avoid vices, I dive right in.
  6. I tell myself mean, cutting, disparaging, rude, abusive, sarcastic, reproachful, cruel phrases that I also say are all true. They’re not.

In short, mein patient, I haf observed that I not only shoot myself in the foot; I also get the arm, gut, and a hopeful shot near something vital. Why?

Fear. Self-protection. Habit.

Fear? I fear change and the unknown so much that I sink back into habits and negative feelings because they are more familiar. I do not know the outside.

Self-protection? What I do know of the outside is painful. People are rude and hurt me, even by not paying attention –especially by not paying attention. Things I hope for will not come true, I will feel sad, and the world is full of disparity.

Habit? Besides those reasons, I do not have enough motivation to believe that the small steps others (including myself) recommend will make a positive change. I inch a toe out just a teensy bit toward a better habit, see little or no difference, and crawl back to my mud.

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So what’s a person to do?

In actual practice, I repeat my ingrained cycle over and over. I avoid self-motivation by constantly blocking ways that might help. I deny outside help, even shutting the door on physical interventions as simple as a hug. I’m not sure what I’m waiting for in doing this.

Yet, occasionally, the outside observer and the person on the floor become one. I blink, look around, and realize this isn’t such a great place to be. Others may have this happen the morning after a night of drinking or doping, the moment sedatives wear off, or at that terrible time of early morning when you still can’t sleep and know any effort to try will not be enough.

No wonder we’re depressed.

I believe what I’m waiting for is an outside intervention. I’m hoping that a knight in shining armor will show he cares enough for me always, perfectly, consistently. Motivation is his noble steed. His blade is The Real Truth, and his shield The Defender of All Who Might Hurt Me. He never gives up, never takes, “No,” for an answer, and is never distanced by the rude things my inner voice says.

And, until he charges up to little, fat, depressed, muddy me; I am determined to keep up the bad habits.

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This expectation is not reasonable.

So, what’s a person really to do?

*Sigh* I think I need to cut out the crap. In some cases, literally; like not giving into unhealthy vices. I also think I need to really commit to the cognitive behavioral therapy stuff. I talk about it, endorse it, and encourage others to do it. Then, I …don’t.

As a New Year’s resolution this November day, I am going to check out some free resources and get on it. If you might possibly relate to fear, self-protection, and habit-driven behaviors, I recommend coming along, too.

I am worth better than this, and so are you.

Let’s keep fighting.

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?