Does the Air We Breathe Affect Our Mental Health?

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I thought I’d give a little update on myself. I’ve been doing extremely well the last couple of months. I believe part of the reason is because winter ended, and so did my seasonal affective disorder. It truly is amazing how much I improve once the cold, snow and gray days are gone. It’s amazing what a difference warmth, sunlight and longer days make.

I was thinking more about how well I’ve been doing, wondering if anything else might have to do with it. I believe some of it is just my own growth through experience and knowledge I’ve gained. But I also have been wondering if any of it has to do with the fact that I’ve gotten rid of all the chemicals in my home. A few months ago I signed up to be an independent sales consultant for Norwex. They make, among other things, microfiber cleaning cloths to replace the traditional cleaners in your home. Their global mission is to reduce chemicals in the home. So, the day I got all my Norwex stuff, I threw out all of my bathroom and kitchen cleaning supplies, laundry detergent, fabric softener and drier sheets, soap and facial cleanser. I no longer use harmful chemicals in my home, and I honestly wonder if the fact that I’m no longer breathing in or absorbing all of that crap has played a part in my improved mental health.

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According to a study by the University of Washington air pollution impacts mental health and has been associated with behavior changes. If it’s true of the air outside, why wouldn’t it be true of the air inside? Food for thought, for sure.

 

Time and Seasons

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Today was what we refer to in my church as “fast and testimony” meeting. Usually, the first Sunday of each month is dedicated to fasting, and at church, in sacrament meeting, all members of the congregation are invited, if they so feel the need, to get up and share their testimonies of the gospel. The first person to do so today shared an amazing story of incredible miracles she had seen on a recent trip. The Spirit was so strong, when she sat down I thought to myself, “I love coming to church!”

This has been my thought every Sunday for quite awhile now. Every time I’m at church I leave feeling so uplifted and inspired. I’m always able to feel the Spirit, to learn something, to hear something I needed to hear and I leave with something to ponder. I love Sundays, and I love church!

This hasn’t always been the case, though. I remember going into the bathroom this one Sunday many years ago, feeling tired and frustrated. My youngest was a toddler at the time, or, as I liked to refer to him, my little monster. It was always a near-impossible task just getting to church at all, let alone actually being able to pay attention while I was there. When I walked into the bathroom this other lady in my ward (what we call an LDS congregation) asked me how I was.

“I hate Sundays,” I told her. “Sundays are the worst day of the week.”

I almost couldn’t believe I had let the words out of my mouth, but she leaned toward me and said, “I’m glad I’m not the only one who feels that way sometimes.”

Church with babies and toddlers can be frustrating. But I realized today it is only a time and a season. There are still times I have to get after my ten-year-old daughter and six-year-old son during sacrament meeting for being too loud or for bugging and picking on each other, but for the most part they are pretty good—good enough that I can listen to and enjoy the majority of church.

I think there are many things in our lives that are part of a time and season. Things come and go. As frustrating as those days were in regards to the Sabbath, in many ways I miss them. It’s hard to see your kids grow up. But sometimes it helps to remember that hard times can pass and good times can grow.

Light Therapy for Bipolar Disorder

I’d like to start posting more resources for people with mental illness, beyond my own personal experiences. Below is a link to an article about the benefits of light therapy for bipolar. I’ve only ever seen bipolar from a distance through friends who have it or other mental health bloggers, so my knowledge of it is limited. I have, however, had first-hand experience with light therapy for my seasonal affective disorder and found it to make a huge difference. Hopefully this will be of help to someone.

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/demystifying-psychiatry/201712/possible-new-treatment-bipolar-depression

Life Lesson Learned

Last weekend I had the opportunity to go to a retirement event for my high school band director. Band was huge at my high school. We had student officers and dance royalty who did band. I even knew cheerleaders who gave up cheerleading to do band or color guard. It has one of the most successful band programs in the state. A huge part of this is because of a motivated, dedicated and loving band director.

Over the last week I’ve been thinking about my time in marching band. I think about it often—yes even seventeen years later! I can still say it was one of the best experiences of my life. Besides being able to play and be a part of some amazing music, which was food to my soul, I met some of my best friends from band. One of the most valuable experiences I gained, however, was leadership skills.

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I had never really been in a leadership position before, other than as a president in my Young Women’s class at church when I was twelve or thirteen. I had always been a shy, quiet person. As I got into high school I didn’t want to be that person anymore because I didn’t feel as though it was me anymore, yet I could never find the courage to break out of the mold that I felt others had formed for me. I had to live up to other’s expectations of who I was. I thought I had qualities that would make me a good leader, but I wasn’t sure how to, or if I ever did, show it. I was a fairly good flute player, not the best, but good, but that wasn’t necessarily enough to be a section leader, which was something I wanted so badly my senior year of high school.

When it came time to vote for section leaders as I approached that last year of high school I was afraid people would only see my mental illness instead of seeing me—that they would see it as a hinderance and something that made me not good enough. I guess I forgot what amazing people they were because they were able to see past it, they did see me, and I was voted as section leader.

What an amazing experience it was! I came to love each of those girls—yes, I had twenty-nine girls under me! However, the band director and I sometimes had our differences. Part way through the competition season I became upset about a decision he made. Without going into the whole long story, I pretty much defied him and rebelled against what I was supposed to do. I was this hippie-like character after all!

Obviously I ended up getting into a lot of trouble for it. As the band director was discussing my discipline he suggested taking me out as section leader and putting someone else in. The thought was devastating. He asked me what I thought about that. “Well, you have to do what you have to do,” I said, “but I will tell you that (said person) isn’t a good leader.” He thought for a second, laughed then told me, “You’re right. She’s not. I’m not going to do that.”

I did end up having to explain to the band that afternoon at rehearsal what had happened and apologize, which was extremely embarrassing, but I got to stay in as section leader. Knowing that he had that kind of faith in me, despite the fact that I had messed up, meant so much to me. It still means so much to me. And it has become an incredible life lesson as well.

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I can use this as it applies to parenting. When a child does something wrong, it’s okay to reprimand and discipline, but it’s also important to let them know you still love them and have faith in them. Let them know that even though you are disappointed they did the wrong thing you know they are still good and of worth and can do better.

I can use this when looking at mental illness. Sometimes we have setbacks, but that doesn’t mean we have failed and need to be completely devastated. Awhile ago I had a very low point in my life. I had lost all hope. But guess what? I got it back. I kept going, I kept trying, and I got it back. Just because I hit rock bottom didn’t mean that was the end. I had to have faith in myself. And I did. I picked myself up and tried again. And right now I’m in an incredibly good place mentally, emotionally and physically.

I’m so grateful for a band director who was able to see past my deficiencies and continue to let me grow and develop and do something that meant the world to me. And I’m grateful for the lesson it taught me, that I’m still gleaning from.

Doing Your Best

Last Saturday I cleaned my house. At least, that was the goal. I had an event to be to that afternoon, but I thought I could get my entire house cleaned in the morning. I started with my bedroom and bathroom, had my kids clean their bathroom and help me as I started on the kitchen. I soon realized, however, there was no way I was going to get my entire house cleaned. I didn’t do a single thing in the basement which is ridiculously messy. I was so frustrated and angry at myself and hoping no one would come over that day to see how I hadn’t done enough. I’m not sure why I thought that. It’s rare for anyone but my kid’s friends to step foot in my basement, and they don’t care about the mess! But that nervous thought plagued me as I got ready to go out that afternoon.

I just read this really great article, To Women: “Doing Better Doesn’t Mean Doing More”, that has helped put my mind at ease and wanted to share, because I absolutely believe it. Sometimes we need to be told or reminded by other people. The article is by Sharon Eubank and Reyna Aburto, leaders in the women’s organizations in my church. They talked about doing our best and how that doesn’t necessarily mean doing more. Sister Aburto shared how she felt like she had so many things to do and could never accomplish them all by the end of the day. She said, “One day, I realized I will never be done. My lists will never be finished. It isn’t possible. I want to tell every woman what I have learned. You don’t have to do it all, and you are never done, and you can be okay with that, and you can accept that.” So simple, but so true. Even though I got my kitchen totally clean only a couple of days ago, there are dishes on the counter and in the sink, crumbs on the table and the floor. Even when we get something done, we’re never really done, and that’s okay. There is always more to do, and that’s okay. What we do accomplish is enough. puzzle-1727997_1920I thought of it in terms a giant puzzle that has endless pieces. If you only focus on getting the pieces in you miss the beautiful picture you’re already forming. Sometimes we can accomplish a lot, sometimes a little. It’s not about how much we get done, but simply about putting forth the effort and doing our best.

The article ended with the quote from Sister Eubank, “Try. Pray. Trust. You don’t have to do it all.” I’m trying, I’m praying, and I’m going to trust that God will help and supplement me as I do so. So today, I’m telling myself it is enough, and I’m telling you that you are enough, too.

About Being a Parent

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Just based on my own experience being a parent is hard. Being a single parent is harder. You have no one else to help, to lean on, to offer shared experience or support. You’re doing it all alone, and that can be very intimidating, knowing that my kids are counting on me and me alone. Alone is exactly how I was feeling last night as I tried to help my daughter who was struggling because of someone in her school class who had been very mean to her when she was only trying to do the right thing. I immediately turned to scriptures and the words of my church leaders, then spoke of my own experiences and thoughts to try to help her, but I felt so inadequate and wondered if I was really helping her or not. After I finally got her into bed I sat on my own bed and cried, feeling that aloneness, thinking how hard it was being a single parent.

But then I remembered that I wasn’t alone, that I actually had the most knowledgable, wise, kind, perfect parent on my side—my Father in Heaven. He’s the one I can lean on for support and look to for guidance, and I know He can give it to me. I also realized, though, that in order for me to have that I needed to be living my life in a way where I can hear His spirit and His voice speaking to me. It ignited a fire in me to strive to live a more spiritual life. There are little things I know I can do better at, things that will bring the Spirit into my home and into my life. In so doing I truly believe that I can have that help and experience to guide me and that support I need to lean on.