Mental Health

If You’re Sad and Feeling Blue

So if you’ve read my blog, you know I struggle with depression. This month it’s been coming on ever so slowly. I hate it. I can use my tools as much as I want, but eventually, the crash will come and I hate it because I know I can’t fully stop it. The worst thing about depression, is watching it arrive, only to fight it, and still pick yourself up… again…only to know that it absolutely WILL come to visit again.

An unfortunate constant. Especially when I literally have nothing to be sad about. I’ve been writing more, been getting outside more, I have lost over 60 pounds, and I feel beautiful. Confident even. I should be celebrating.

The weekend I went to the cabin I thought maybe I had beaten this round. Yet, I may have found myself driving to work, wishing something apocalyptic had happened so Life could be canceled…or I could just not exist anymore. Folks, I wish I were kidding.

I don’t mean to alarm anyone. If things like that are creeping in, I reach out to someone. And I did and I ALWAYS do. This is part of depression. Everything is going great, but there are those tapes we’ve been playing in our thick skulls since as far back as we can remember. A negative thought sits on the outskirts of our brains. Soft at first, insisting you don’t deserve to be happy. You keep pushing along, because you know there are reasons to celebrate; reasons to thrive.

I’m so grateful I have learned to utilize the tools I’ve learned that help me pull myself out of the meanest sets of the doldrums. Find time to create✅ Reach out to a few of my MANY solid friends✅ (again, guys!! Grateful🙌❤️) self-care✅ Spend time with some of my cherished Little’s ✅

I started out the day on the verge of tears, and tonight my heart is full. I am so loved. I am so blessed in like, every single way. There is hope and picking yourself up again is always worth it.

Tonight’s post written to:

With the game muted in the background. Go Warriors!

Mental Health

Five Sure Steps to Becoming More Brave

Every step towards growth is a step that matters. But sometimes taking those steps is uncomfortable…and scary. Uncomfortableness can lead to some pretty intense anxiety. Figuring out how to manage the stress and anxiety, is to combat it with every weapon you can brandish. Here are just a few things that helped me get through another week of being brave.

1. Invest in some fantastic waterproof makeup. Because sometimes being brave hurts a little. Because being honest and authentic is hard. Saying those honest things is harder. And if you’re sensitive, there may be days filled with intermittent crying sessions. But if you have waterproof makeup, you can have a tiny cry when the moment arises and then you can still look like the new confident rockstar you actually are.

2. Keep a tight schedule. For me, being brave is hard. And it means being completely open and honest with how I’m feeling. Which in turn has meant that I’ve had to be more vocal about my feelings. Confronting and voicing those feelings can be uncomfortable. I am not advocating keeping yourself so busy that you don’t take care of yourself, because that doesn’t make sense. But in line with keeping goals, spend your time working towards them. Chase those dreams as you move through the uncomfortableness. It will help ground you and keep you focused.

3. Don’t neglect your self care. Because if you are going to tirelessly chase your dreams and improve your life, you will burn out if you go full stop. At least in my case. So schedule downtime and honor it. (I hope you all know, I’m saying this because this list is more for me than anything). Watch a movie with your friend or by yourself. Listen to Justin Timberlake and dance around in your underthings. Just make sure you are honoring whatever it is that feels right to you.

4. Exercise is important! If you are prone to anxiety attacks this might be especially important. When you go about doing brave things that shake you out of your comfort zone, the moments before you do it and even for a bit after can rattle you a bit. In order to move through this, breathing becomes especially important. And what better way to do it than to get your yoga or swimming or hiking exercise on. So get out your mat and do some sun salutations and strike some warrior poses. Your body and your calm mind will thank you.

5. Prayer! Keep on talking with Heavenly Father. He will help sustain you and direct you to more opportunities in which to be brave. If you don’t believe in a higher power, I say meditate. I do that too. Slowing down and being mindful of where you are and checking in with how you feel is a great way to figure out if there are any adjustments you need to make to your new brave routine so you can keep fighting the good fight.

And with that, I will leave you with this quote:

“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” -Nelson Mandela

*photo credit to Catherine McMahon

Mental Health

Me Too

I wasn’t going to post Me Too on my wall. I didn’t want people to make assumptions or to think I was throwing a pity party. I was ashamed because I didn’t want people to think about my past and think, “well that’ll teach you.” Then I saw someone completely unexpected post it on her wall and it gave me the courage to speak up. Before I knew it, post after post of women and men who I am friends with on Facebook and Twitter started opening up about their Me Too stories. My heart began to ache. There is so much that some people don’t understand. Rape culture IS a thing. You can’t look at your social media pages today and think otherwise. I am certain it is not just my newsfeed that is flooded with women and men who have been either sexually harassed or assaulted standing together; trying to show that this issue is way too common.

Photo by Ben Blennerhassett on Unsplas

I have been overwhelmed with simultaneous feelings of grief and fury at the outpouring of admissions of someone else’s Me Too story. My heart breaks to see that so many people  have experienced the same loss of power and the sense of shame and embarrassment that I have been through. In some ways I feel like I should not be surprised. I am part of a support group that deals with this. I know women and men who have suffered sexual harassment and assault; and yet, the magnitude of just how many people have dealt with this kind of trauma breaks my heart. There is so much I want to say about this subject, and all I can do is cry. And then, just when I begin to think I am going to close the laptop because this is triggering a lot of emotions, I distract myself by pulling up Facebook and I see more posts from family and friends posting the heartbreaking words, “Me Too,” and I decide it is something I can write about.

 

So I sit here in a puddle of tears trying to articulate this deep sense of loss I feel not only for myself, but for so many other people, men and women who have lost a part of themselves because someone hurt them. And whether it was harassment or assault, both come with loss. Loss of power, loss of confidence, loss of self-esteem…so many things. I heard somewhere recently that the more you tell your story, the power it has over you lessens.Two dear friend’s gave me permission to write about their stories that they shared with me because of this movement. Both of these women deserve to heal, and I think opening up about it can be empowering.

 

One friend shared a story about having something slipped into her drink. She blacked out and she can’t remember all of the night. What she does remember is that she had to concentrate on trying to yell. Despite the effect of the drug she managed to make enough noise that he stopped. She spoke of the shame she felt and how painful it has been keeping that in.

She blamed herself!? Guys!! How is she to blame!? Consent is consent. If it’s not there, it IS rape. I am so glad she spoke out. She told her story and she expressed awe and love for each woman who she saw posting. I want to thank her too.

 

My other dear friend did not share her story publicly, but gave me permission to post it anonymously through my blog. A kid in her class years ago would grab her butt constantly when she was up in front of the class. Because everyone laughed, other guys started doing it too. She was humiliated and kept it a secret for 25 years. Only recently did she even tell her therapist. I am so proud of her. People, if someone does not give you consent to touch their body, DON’T do it. It really isn’t so hard to keep your darn hands to yourself. My sweet friend shared with me that it is what she believes cause her to start gaining weight. It has caused feelings of disgust with her own body and shame at having allowed it…because she was too embarrassed to tell the teacher or her parents. I am so proud of her for finally saying something. I really do believe that there is power in telling your story.

 

I don’t feel like it is necessary to share your specific Me Too story in order to convey that so many people are affected. In fact, I am not going to share my story. For me it is still traumatic. Which is why I really had to push through the beginning of this post. I am not ready to share that part of me publicly and I think that is ok too. There are people, places, and times to share when I need to. I can tell you with certainty that I am going to group tomorrow for the first time in a month and a half. This has definitely triggered all the emotions and I know it is time to start working again. Specifics of each person’s story does not matter in the context of being open about how many of us have been either assaulted or harassed. What is important is that we find someway to not only weaken its power over us, but to also bring awareness to those who do not realize that this is such an underserved issue. And if you were ever hurt there are people who can help you. Contact the Rape Recovery Center if you are in Utah. If you are out of state check out www.rainn.org

 

Thank you to all who may read this. And thank you to all the brave souls who are speaking out.

Mental Health

Depression!? Here’s How to Fix It!

Or at least, attempt it.

Tonight I had a great talk with one of my little sisters. As I have mentioned before in my posting, I am going through a real change, but there is a sense of anxiety about when it’s all going to fall apart, not just for me, but her too. Unfortunately it will, and that’s just the nature of depression and codependence. Sometimes I am filled with so much sadness and simultaneous rage that I can’t cope in healthy ways. But I know there is hope, I know it’’s there and that’s why I keep fighting. I am working hard on combatting my demons, but sometimes they feel like they will consume me. My family has watched me struggle. They have seen my life fall apart over and over, and they are as scared as I am about when it starts to fall apart again. I think it is important to admit that I am scared, but to still allow this positivity to flow without allowing this ever present shadow that haunts me even when I am at my happiest to overcome me. It is normal I think for there to be concern. My family and friends all want to make sure I am healing healthily and most importantly, lastingly.

There has been some momentum in the positive aspects of my life and everyone can see the positive effects all this change is having on who I am. I am happier than I have ever been. There is an internal and almost intrinsic belief that I am good enough, beautiful enough, and smart enough to be happy on my own. I still have bad days. Those days don’t really happen as often, or for as long as they used to last. I have moments where my heart beats so fast and I worry about the future, and agonize over my past so much that I can’t breathe. But I am moving forward. With each bout of depression, I feel like I come out of it stronger. Each low comes with more tools to cope, and more realization of what is working in my life vs what hasn’t worked. Happiness is a choice, and with depression it can be work. Part of that work is recognizing when you need to make changes.

 

Upon talking to my sister and pondering for a bit after our conversation, I have come up with a game plan to get me through the next low. Hopefully some of these things will help others who struggle with depression. I am not an expert in profession in treating any mental illness. However, through the scope of my own perspective as someone who struggles with mental illness, as a daughter, a niece, a friend of others who struggle, I feel that my perspective is of some value. It is my hope that this can help others; and maybe even myself through my readers’ perspectives and responses.

 

Continue to learn and develop new coping skills.

I think in order to do this one you have to really become acquainted with yourself and  what actually brings you joy. And then you have to engage in those kind of activities. For me, I love to be creative. So anything that involves painting, writing, coloring, just creating, brings me joy. I love color and I love words. So combine both and I am in heaven. And the more I practice, the better I am getting. The better you get at something, the better you feel about what you have accomplished. Feeling a sense of worth in this way is important to drawing yourself out of depression.

 

Really you have to pick something that works for you. In my article, 4 Things to Help Turn Negative Thoughts into Positive Ones, I list several ideas on how to show yourself love and kindness. I think finding things that bring a sense of peace and purpose are great things to work on. I am a big fan of exercise more in theory at this time in my life, but I know that exercise does help me immensely. Especially with anxiety, It forces you to breathe through it and there is something incredibly cathartic in the practice of exercising and movement.

Admitting When You Need Help

When I am in my head, it can be hard to get out of it. Usually I have lots of inner conversations about how I am a burden and shouldn’t ask others for help. And oh how easy it is to convince yourself of this when you are in a state of depression. You MUST NOT believe this. There are people who care about you. When I look back at my most depressive episodes, the kind of episodes where the hope is absolutely gone and I can’t seem to find the will go on, I am so grateful I did reach out when I knew I needed help. I think the trick is probably learning to admit to yourself when those triggers start. Being self aware can sometimes feel icky, because we are our own worst critics. The thing is, by becoming self aware, by being willing to admit when it is time to reach out, or to not get on the defense if someone pointing it out in sincere concern, you have to admit that you can’t always do everything alone. If you feel alone, talk to a therapist, a friend, a sibling, a parent; anyone you trust.  I promise if you start talking about it and hashing out where the downward spiral started, you will be able to pull yourself out of it quicker with each attempt to avoid the downslope.In conjunction with this, I have promised my sister after this talk we had that I would be more open to her help when I start spiralling. My goal is to not be defensive, and I told her to use all my words against me and she has willingly accepted this challenge. For this, I am eternally grateful.

 

Practice Using the Coping Skills When You are Feeling Down or Anxious.

In conjunction with learning and developing the aforementioned coping skills, practicing them is essential. And in this sense I don’t mean practice developing your artistic skills. I mean practice turning to the coping skills you have set up for yourself in your own game plan when they are needed. You have to actually put them to use. You can’t set up a game plan and then not activate it when you need it. It is pointless. This is where the work comes in. This is where you have to choose.Sometimes I don’t want to. There are times I would rather lay in my bed and force myself to sleep in order to avoid the things that are tormenting me. And there are times when I let depression win. But I also know that is when I end up feeling even worse about myself. As time moves forward, I do make more of an effort to turn to the healthy coping mechanisms I have set in place. Sleeping and eating only make my depression worse. When I feel like I can’t cope I reach out to someone. The people I turn to are people I know truly love me. And even though I HATE being told what to do, I feel like I listen more readily. Because when my brain is shutting down and I can’t make good decisions regarding my health, I have to turn it over to loved ones. It is hard, and sometimes I grumble, but 98.5% of the time I know their help is not only well intended, but in fact, productive in alleviating my depression and/or anxiety. You have to be willing to work and listen.

 

Depend on yourself too.

So I say all of this above because it is all important. But where codependence comes into play, you have to learn to depend on yourself too. For me, chasing everyone else’s love in order to fill a hole that was never filled by my mom, I have lived my entire life codependently. I have tried to find love in ALL the wrong places. I chased it to whatever hell it led me. If I have been sad, I have reached out and then when nothing is offered up by others, I have been angry and hurt. This expectation of reciprocation is where you have to let go. There will be times when your main support people are in a meeting, sleeping, with their families celebrating a holiday or a birthday. It is going to happen and we have to be healthy enough to reach inside ourselves in order to pull us up out of a depressive or anxiety ridden hole. Again, this requires work. Reaching out is important, but being angry or hurt because someone is unavailable is just asking for misery. So much energy that you could be putting into your own recovery can sometimes be misplaced in anger or hurt in regard to something you or your support person can’t control. This is why practicing your coping skills is so important. There will be times when the support you may need at that moment can’t be accessed for whatever reason. You need to develop your game plan and practice it in order to be able to rely on yourself to pull out of a bad moment. And if you can’t find it in yourself at the moment, there are therapists and crisis lines that can help talk you through a bad moment. I have used them and one in particular saved my life. Remember there is always hope!

I am still working on all of this. Codependent behavior and depression has been developing inside of me over the course of 36 years and it is going to take some time to overcome. But I know as I move forward in my journey, I will get better and better at overcoming all of this. Sometimes the progress will be slow and other times I will look back (as I do often these days) and be proud of overcoming every hurdle I have jumped.

If you need help you can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255

For Utah in particular you can call:

Crisis Intervention & Hospital Diversion Services at  801-587-3000