Bouncing Back

The last few weeks have been really rough. On top of dealing with some difficult things in my personal life, my depression and anxiety have been worse than they usually are at this time of year. I’ve felt myself slowly sliding down this rough and rocky slope towards the bottom. Then Wednesday night I finally hit rock bottom again. But this time, I decided I wasn’t going to stay there.

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Emotions are real. All emotions. There’s nothing we can do about initial emotions we have as reactions to things that happen to us, things we might witness or hear or things that are said or done to us. No one ever tells you to stop feeling happy after you’ve just witnessed your child do something silly. No one ever tells you to stop feeling excitement after you’ve won a prize vacation. No one ever tells you to stop feeling peace after you’ve had a spiritual experience. So no one should tell you to stop feeling hurt, pain, anger, frustration, disappointment after something bad, sad, frustrating, hurtful or disappointing has happened. It’s okay to have those feelings. But it’s also your choice how you’re going to proceed and react after the initial feeling has happened. With mental illness, it is extremely difficult to let go of those feelings and not let them sink in and consume you. But there are things you can do to help.

I’ve often stated how there’s no one set cure, or even help, for mental illness. What works for one person may not work for someone else. We’re all different and we all need different things. It’s also frustrating that what worked for you a few years ago may not work for you now. Or maybe something that didn’t work for you before is something you should try now, as hard as it is to realize that. Each day, each time, can be different. Hitting rock bottom for me this time was different than last time.

trammpolin-2635260_1920Last time I stayed down. I moved forward, but it felt like I was inching along hard, rough ground the whole time, and it took a certain experience with a certain person to really pull me up. This time it was like I hit a trampoline. I landed hard enough to hit the ground, and it hurt! It really hurt, but then the trampoline bounced me back up. And it’s because I decided I didn’t want to stay down. I decided I was sick of feeling depressed and confused and in turmoil, and I was going to do something about it. I decided I wasn’t going to let initial feelings of hurt stew inside of me. I decided I wasn’t going to let someone else determine my emotions for me. I’m a fighter. I’m not weak, I’m strong. And I’m stubborn. And this time I needed to prove to myself, and others out there, that I am all of those things, that I know what I’m doing and that I can do it!

So, despite still having a lot of unresolved conflict, despite uncertainty, despite unfulfilled hope, yesterday was a good day. I was happy! There were times I started thinking of what has hurt me, what I have done wrong, and I’d start getting that sinking feeling in my stomach, but I’d move past it. I didn’t let it overtake me, I didn’t let myself drown in it. I pushed it aside, knowing it was still there, but also telling myself I was okay. And I was okay. I am okay. And I know I will be. You will be, too. You can be. Whether it’s by your own sheer will power or medication or therapy or coping mechanisms or help from another person and whether it’s the same as it was last time, or different, you can do it. You can come back from rock bottom. I know you can. And I know I can.

Coping Vs. Managing

THIS IS ONE OF THE BEST ARTICLES I’ve read on how to manage depression. I really loved the distinction she made between coping and things that actually help. It’s made me think of how I can make my coping mechanisms work better for me.

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One thing I thought of was playing my flute. I have been playing the flute for almost 25 years now. It is something I love and that always makes me happy. Just a couple of days ago I was feeling pretty depressed so I took my flute out and played for ten to fifteen minutes. It helped a little, and it’s always nice to play. But I think I can and need to use it as more than just coping. I need to take time every day to play—even if it’s just for five minutes. Doing that one thing that makes me happy every day might help me manage my depression more than just cope with it.

I encourage any of you that have depression to think of something you use to cope and how it can become more than that—how it can transform into something that helps you manage your depression and helps you get more fulfillment out of your life, despite your illness.

 

Circling Thoughts

I have been lacking motivation. Recently. For a long time. In just about every aspect of my life. I always think about writing, but don’t do it. Now I have a little time, and guess I mustered a little motivation.

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My kids started school last week. I have to admit, it was really hard seeing all these people posting their first-day-of-school photos on Facebook. I was never one to take it very seriously. Usually I’d remember last minute and snap a quick photo before walking to the school with them. But I’d still take one—just to have, for remembrance sake. But I didn’t get to take a picture or drop them off because I had to be at work. I didn’t even get to see my seven-year-old before I had leave for work. It was just another reminder that my life isn’t where I ever thought or wanted it to be. I don’t want to miss out on saying goodbye to my seventh grader her first day of Jr. High. I don’t want to miss out on dropping my son off and taking his picture as he starts second grade. I envy those moms who get to do that.

It’s also been hard seeing so many people posting about vacations to Europe when I can’t even afford to take my kids to Moab for two days over Fall Break. Then, I think about my friend who recently spent two weeks in Africa. children-of-uganda-2245270_1920She met people who had nothing, yet they were happy and grateful, and I think to myself, “That’s who I should be comparing myself to. I may not live in a big, fancy house or have the money to spend weeks in Europe with my family, but at least I have a house, I live in a good place, my kids and I are healthy, I have a job, even if it means I don’t get to take picture of my kids on their first day back to school. I should be nothing but grateful and happy.” Then those thoughts get me feeling like I’m the worst person in the world—for comparing myself to my neighbors instead of people who have nothing. I should be grateful. I should be happy. I shouldn’t be down or envious. And the thoughts circle. And sometimes it’s so hard to get out of. How do you stop the negative thought process?

Taking My Own Advice

I recently had one of those experiences where I realized what a hypocrite I am and that I need to take my own advice. I had told a friend that it’s not about where you live, but how you live and how you choose to raise your children, no matter where you are.

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Now, I love where I live. It’s not because I feel I belong here or that I fit in. See, I’ve always been an outcast, someone who has never belonged, fit in, been part of the in-crowd or part of the click. But I’ve never sought to be. I’m different. That’s just how it is, and I’m good with that. I mean, who else do you know that wore tie-dye shirts and bell bottoms, paired with multiple peace necklaces, beaded bracelets and several rings on each hand? In between the years of 1999-2001? In Utah?! Hell, I even wore tie-dye pants to school! A friend sewed them for me and told me I could wear them as pajamas. “No way,” I said. “I’m wearing these to school!” And I did—along with a bright orange shirt and my necklaces, beads and rings.

I may not dress that way anymore, but that hippie chick is definitely still a part of me! And I still don’t belong, fit in, am part of the in-crowd or the click, but I’ve learned that I don’t have to be in order to be happy with where I live. I love the neighborhood I live in, I love my church group which is full of some of the most amazing people I’ve ever met, I love my job, I (sometimes) love the school my kids go to and (sometimes) love their teachers. I love the convenience of the city I’m in and how close it is to bigger cities with (slight) diversity and culture. I love how where I live is surrounded by such beautiful places in nature that inspire me and bring peace and renewal to my soul. I love where I live. But I hate the drivers here!

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Seriously, Utah has the worst drivers! Okay, okay, so there are two other places I’ve noticed worse drivers—California and Idaho. But Utah really is famous for the crappy drivers. One of the first things I noticed when I moved to Phoenix, Arizona almost eleven years ago were the great drivers! People actually drove the speed limit, were kind and courteous. When I put my blinker on, signaling I needed to move over (that’s what a signal is for after all) they’d slow down and let me in. They recognized that a yellow light meant slowing down rather than gunning it and speeding up. It was amazing! Then I moved back to Utah, and one of the very first things I noticed, or had brought back to my memory, were the crappy drivers! Everyone speeds at least twenty over the speed limit, they’re rude and reckless and speed up when they see your blinker on because there is no way they’re going to let you move over in front of them! They speed up at yellow lights instead of slow down and often don’t use their blinkers. And then there are the “opposite” days, where everyone on the freeway decides to go twenty under the speed limit instead of twenty over, like usual, for no apparent reason! Yeah, it’s really frustrating, and I totally let it get to me. I’m constantly complaining in the car, often times in a very loud voice and with a lot of four-letter words—when my kids are in the car with me. I don’t even know how many times they’ve heard me shout, “Stupid Utah drivers!” Or, “Utah drivers suck!” It may not sound like a big deal, but my twelve-year-old daughter hates getting in the car with me now. And she’s terrified to learn to drive—in Utah.

Sometime after I gave this friend my advice, I realized that I was letting place affect me and what I was teaching my kids. I don’t want to teach my kids that it’s no fun getting in the car with Mom when we’re driving in Utah. I don’t want to teach them that driving here is terrifying and frustrating and not worth learning how to drive. My daughter even once said that she thought I’d want to move sometime just to get away from the crappy drivers here. So not true! Everything I love about where I live is worth the bad, frustrating or hard things—like the crappy drivers. I want to teach my kids that it’s about how you choose to live your life no matter where you’re living.

So I decided I needed to take my own advice and stop complaining about the drivers here. I’ve challenged myself to be better at not saying bad things about other drivers when I’m in my car. I’m not gonna lie—it has been hard! And it doesn’t mean I’m not cursing them in my head—because I am. But I really, truly want to try harder to be more positive and help kids focus on the positives. Like the fact that we live in a wonderful, beautiful place full of amazing people, amazing opportunities and awe-inspiring nature. I want our lives to be about how we’re living, what we’re learning, what we’re giving back rather than focusing on the negatives of where. Any place can be a good place if you can do that, right?

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Another Perspective

We’re having a rare summer storm. Summer storms in the high desert generally consist of light rain that doesn’t last long and wind. I’ve been sitting on my couch, looking out the window at the globe willow in my front yard, blowing in the wind. It got me thinking, but I’ll come back to that.

Are you the kind of person who sometimes has a hard time keeping your mouth shut? Or, in this day and age, your fingers from typing responses on social media? It’s something I sometimes struggle with, mostly when it comes to hypocrisy or judgements or narrow, limited perspectives. I tend to be okay at first, to just ignore it, but when I’m constantly barraged with it it finally begins to wear, and I give in. I get annoyed, and I give in, and I write a response. Generally speaking, it never goes well. My experience has been that most people enjoy living in their bubbles, their tunnels, and don’t want to hear alternate opinions or be given the opportunity to see things from other perspectives. That’s not always the case, but it has been most of the time. Maybe the reason I struggle with that is because I’m not like that.

See, I enjoy things that make me think. I tend to get disturbed easily. Some books that have disturbed me greatly are Lord of the Flies, Into Thin Air and The Heretic’s Daughter. And yet, I LOVE those books! Why? Because they made me think. Because they opened me up to new perspectives. I never just dismiss something simply because it’s not what I believe or because it’s different than my own opinion.

Not too long ago, a friend posted a political article on Facebook. For the most part we have polar opposite beliefs when it comes to politics. But I read the article anyway. And I laughed my head off! It was the most ridiculous, hypocritical thing I’d ever read. However, I didn’t stop with giggling and move on, I decided to dissect it and see if there were any valid points to it. I like to be challenged. I like to think. In the end, I continued to think it was ridiculous, hypocritical and just downright funny, but it did give me the opportunity to think about why I believe what I do and only strengthened that belief even more. Out of it, I found even more reasons to believe what I do and validity for my own opinion. I’m grateful I didn’t reject it outright or dismiss it as stupid without actually trying to look at it from another perspective. And sometimes, taking that opportunity might change our beliefs or it at least might allow us to be more understanding and compassionate toward others. But not everyone sees that, and for some stupid reason I feel like I have be the one to show them, even though it rarely does anyone any good.

So back to the tree. I was thinking about how the tree blows in the wind. The trunk and the branches move, arc, bend, but they don’t snap or break. The roots of the tree hold it firm even in the midst of turmoil. It might be really annoyed at the wind for pushing it and making it so it can’t stand up straight like it wants to, but it doesn’t give in. So I want to be more like that tree. When those winds blow, tempting me to do something I know won’t make a difference, and will probably just make things worse, I’m going to attempt to think of my tree. Move, arc, bend, but don’t snap. Just hold firm.

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Sweating the . . . Anxiety Stuff

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You’ve heard the phrase “sweat like a pig” right? I like to say, “sweat like a boy.” I sweat like a boy. When I go to the gym I have to make sure one of their big floor fans is blowing on me, and I take my own little, personal fan that I can clip to the elliptical. I know, I’m a nerd. But I get hot, and I sweat, and it’s uncomfortable and gross and disgusting.

One thing that makes me sweat profusely is my social anxiety. Take this morning, for example. I went to a neighbor’s house to help clean. This sweet, sweet family has gone through so many trials and tough times lately, so some other women in my church and I went over to do some cleaning for them. I was really grateful for the opportunity to give service when I’ve had so much given to me the last couple of years. That didn’t stop the sweat.

The cleaning made me hot, anyway, and even though I was with these amazing, wonderful, friendly women my anxiety was bad. I’m so awkward around groups of people and my anxiety always takes over, making me feel so insecure and stupid and worthless—and it makes me sweat. So not only was I feeling more self-conscious than usual because of my anxiety, but it became a million times worse knowing my brow was sweating, my hair was sticking to my neck with sweat, and even though I’d showered that morning I wondered if I smelled bad. I wanted to dig myself a hole to crawl into and die. Why? Why sweat? And as soon as my anxiety dies down, I stop sweating and am totally fine.

It isn’t some earth-shattering thing that I have to go through with my anxiety—the sweat. But it is annoying and does add to the anxiety I’m already feeling and dealing with. So just know, if I’m sweating like crazy—even in a nice, cool house—it could be my anxiety, and maybe try not to be too disgusted. We’ve all got our things, right? Mine just happens to be uncomfortable, gross, disgusting sweat.