Sketching on Sunday

Sketching on Sunday

“I draw like other people bite their nails.”Pablo Picasso

As children, our parents and teachers often directed us to draw pictures, possibly because they understood that our ability to express our emotions through our vocabulary was limited. My childhood is laden with memories of Crayola crayons. It was a special gift to have your parents present you with the deluxe box, which not only featured a vast array of colors, but also the handy, built-in sharpener!

For most of us, we lose the desire to draw when we’ve become adults.

“Drawing is putting a line (a)round an idea.”Henri Matisse

At the heart of most ideas and concepts is a drawing, no matter how rudimentary it may appear. Those who work in marketing and advertising start off their ideas with storyboards because pictures help define ideas. In some ways, I don’t really care about how appealing my drawings are to others. I am more concerned about documenting and expressing a thought or emotion. Once I’ve finished a picture, I feel relieved and inspired to write.

What is it about drawing that makes me feel so much better? Perhaps, it’s quiet, focused, and meditative rhythm of the drawing process. It’s a sense of mastery, to some extent, although the drawings themselves aren’t “masterpieces.” By my standards, I have mastered a creation and a story. I suppose there is always the hope that I will one day get a chance to publish my work, though I fully understand how rigorous the guidelines are to have artwork licensed.

In an article, “DRAW YOUR STRESS OUT With a pencil & brush” by Anna Willieme, the author, artist, and lecturer points out how drawing allows us the opportunity to discover the source of our stress.

“Visual expression can help us get past our inner censor, less active in image-making than in language, and connect with parts of ourselves that may have been blocked off. Working visually, we can access our unconscious with greater ease, where we can find out more about our true selves.”

Making art is a process and that is truly the reason I ignore my sketchbook. I’d rather binge-watch “The Office” or drink a pot of coffee when I want to do nothing at all. Allowing myself to sit around and be a consumer, instead of making good use of gift bestowed upon humanity- to be creators, lends itself to further depression and anxiety. Whereas, if I was to overcome my passivity, I’d be less depressed and anxious. Furthermore, instead of worrying about creating so-called masterpieces, it is very beneficial to one’s well-being to draw something, start somewhere. In this regard, we may be able to look beneath the surface of our subconscious mind.

Think of drawing as meditation for your mind and yoga for your muscles. Once you pick up the sketchbook, you may already have an idea of what you want to draw.

Today, my mind was busy thinking about the looming work-week, traffic, bills, shopping, kids, health, and moods. I’m always guided to draw something pertaining to well-being, mental health, body image, etc. (predominantly, issues many woman mull over). I was somewhat disappointed in what I created- I really wanted to capture a broader range of thoughts and feelings, so I crammed them all in the thought bubbles. If I think about it, there are many more thoughts and worries that I could’ve included!

Sources

  1. How Art and Drawing Can Combat Stress. (2016, June 14). Retrieved from https://www.alive.com/lifestyle/draw-your-stress-out/
5 Simple Joys on a Saturday

5 Simple Joys on a Saturday

“Many people lose the small joys in the hope for the big happiness.” 
― Pearl S. Buck

Finding things to do in a small town is often challenging. However, we live next to a larger town, which has abundant shopping centers, restaurants, and a movie theater. It also has a couple of thrift and consignment stores to help freshen the wardrobe or buy a few $3 DVDs. It’s even more challenging to buy food in a small town, as the only grocery store in town lacks variety and is very expensive. With a little hindsight, I try to plans my trips to avoid anxiety and overspending.

To assuage my anxiety, I shopped, as planned, in the early morning hours today. Like a pro, I dashed effortlessly through the aisles, never once becoming stymied over an unstocked necessity. I checked off all the items on my list and stayed under budget. The best part was having to only carry 3 bags into the house!

While unloading groceries, my cat greeted me and snuck under my feet to sit on the porch. She looked so happy at just sitting there. I paused to look and listen to my environment, as to capture some of the simple joy of existing. Often, we chase unattainable and superfluous things to achieve happiness. Humans have a gift of complex minds, unlike animals, but they might have us outwitted when it comes to being happy in the moment.

5 Simple Joys on a Saturday

After I tried to capture my cat being “one with nature”, I figured I’d do a few simple things outside. These simple things brought a little light into my life.

Creatures

The cat seemed so determined to get outside- I listened for a moment to the sounds of spring. It almost sounded like a rainforest outside, with all the birds chirping and other creature sounds. Suddenly, there was a woosh sound and the birds all flocked away from the beast below (my cat).

While driving to the towpath, I noticed hens and ducks, fenced in makeshift, backyard barns. Along the trail where my family and I walked, I could hear cows mooing up ahead. We turned just as one of their cowbells rang. There was also one peaceful pony, standing around in the small plot of land.

Many of the farms were vast, however, I did see a few smaller animal sanctuaries next to a children’s swing sets and toys.

Farmer’s Market

When I rolled into town to grocery shop,  I glanced over a parking lot full of cars to see the main attraction. Just a farmer’s market. Then I thought about my new diet that includes more fruits and vegetables. I hadn’t planned on stopping there, and since I was unable to quickly assess an easy parking spot, I drove past. There were swarms of older people, grey-haired grannies bedazzled with sunhats, while their husbands dawdled along in loafers and polo shirts. I felt out of place and intimidated. Also, I didn’t have cash on me and most of the vendors only accept cash.

The sight of such a grass-roots movement of people buying locally-grown veggies appealed to my desire to be healthier. The mere sight and thought of the farmer’s market kind of inspired me. Sadly, I only implemented my newfound attitude by slicing up oranges for my family’s lunch. I did go out in the yard and weed a little bit though.

Water

The sound of the water rushing over the rocks was very calming. I leaned my phone over the babbling brook to snap a photo of the simple scene. My thoughts drifted off to the time I bought a “Sounds of Nature” CD from Goodwill a few years ago. I remembered how the sounds of the storm and rain drowned out the Friday-night noises coming from next door.

5 Simple Joys on a Saturday

Convenience Stores

In between that long stretch of time from lunch to dinner, we venture to the corner gas station or convenience store. Since pre-packaged, snack-sized goodies are a pricey luxury, my family view such seldom excursions as “treats.” Little nuggets of indulgence and generosity to ourselves. The kids opt for the Icee and I grab a Frappe.

Plants, Trees and Other Scenery

The community works hard to maintain the towpath for both pedestrians and cyclists. The grass is neatly-trimmed, with a few plants scattered among various park benches and picnic tables. Vast, open and welcoming, I’ve never been so pleased to just be outside and breathing air.

I suppose that living with anxiety and depression and so many other negative elements has made me appreciate the good times. Hopefully, I can better learn to make good times out of more of my days.

5 Simple Joys on a Saturday

10 Reasons Why I Love The Simplicity of Weekends

10 Reasons Why I Love the Simplicity of Weekends

“Elegance is achieved when all that is superfluous has been discarded and the human being discovers simplicity and concentration: the simpler and more sober the posture, the more beautiful it will be.” -Paulo Coelho

During another arduous day at work, I was surrounded by a glimmer of hope. That hope came in the form of gazing out the open dock doors, which circulated a faintly sweet smell of fresh, spring air. Yes, that same air that plagues me with overwhelming allergies, also ushered in my delightful mood. I suppose the fact that it was Friday may have contributed much more than I give credit.

This morning, I wanted to “treat” myself to a day of not having to cook or clean dishes, so I pre-ordered a pizza. I like to think of buying fast-food as a legitimate cheat I can offer myself in times of crisis- kind of like “phone a friend” from “Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?” fame.

I often pontificate about the joy of the weekends. In a flash, the weekend whizzes by, yet anticipating the weekend are what often makes people happy.

What is it about my weekends that makes me so happy?

I Get To Decompress

Decompression to me is the gentle art of releasing the stressors that have been building. By releasing these pressure points regularly, I am better equipped to handle additional challenges. My mind has been fully recharged, so I now have sufficient resources to effectively deal with daily challenges, as well as having more resilience in the event of unexpected stress-inducing situations. The way I decompress may be different from the way you decompress, but the theory can be applied to anybody.

Doing Things On My Terms

Although I don’t have many complex projects abounding, I still find joy in doing the most mundane things on my own timeline. For instance, I get panic attacks when I go shopping at Walmart on Saturday afternoons, so I plan ahead to pick up my groceries. I feel kind of special when I can just pull up and have people load my groceries and wish me a great day. This is a far contrast to what I’d experience going inside to shop- crowded aisles, confused and rude shoppers, misplaced items, and long lines. I like that I can go shopping in the early morning hours, while everyone is still at home. It’s a tranquil scene to have an entire store devoid of the flurry of activity that often induces overwhelming anxiety.

Time To Shop More Consciously

When I shop early in the morning or arrange to pick up my groceries, not only do I avoid anxiety, but my mind can focus on making better food choices that are within my budget, instead of mindless shopping. Mindless shopping leaves my wallet empty and my conscious guilty because I have given in to fear and anxiety, instead of using my mind as a tool to provide resources for my family. To be governed by fear is at the heart of many poor choices.

Time To Organize and Declutter

When I bring in stuff, I have to be mindful of what I clear out of my pantry and my house. Again, the principle of mindfulness, as opposed to mindlessness, is one of simplicity. You can see it in the way somebody keeps their house- is this person concerned and mindful of their resources, or do they just view possessions as unimportant. Do they covet their possessions? I am enthralled by how some people are so mindful of their lives- especially, closely-knit groups of people, with strong cultural or religious beliefs.

More Quality Time and Quiet Time with Family

To wake up before my kids and get started a little ahead of them has always been something I’ve indulged in since they were very young. I was able to do this by going to sleep at a reasonable time. I let them sleep in a couple of hours after I wake up. Not everyone can do this, I understand. Some people are not morning people. In that case, there may be other ways to carve out a little time to get ahead of the day.

Sometimes we go to the movies on Saturday afternoons, when the price and crowds are minimal. Less energy is expended worrying about contending with crowded seating and noisy patrons. When it’s quiet and less-crowded, those simple moments with your family aren’t lost on other distracting elements.

Scenic Drives in Town and Country

Early-morning driving into town lends itself to some very peaceful moments for me. Sometimes I see a beautiful scene and I feel inclined to take a picture, but, of course, I don’t stop. There are moments to be shared, and there are moments meant for only you to enjoy. These times might impress something inspiration upon my mind.

Hiking, Being Outside In Nature

In Ohio, there are many scenic walking trails. My favorite park is about 5 miles away and it is home to equestrian trails, canoeing, fishing, and, in the summer, swimming. There is a small pond that is inhabited by the loudest bullfrogs. Just when I think I will be fast enough to spot one, it disappears into the water or beyond.

Reading Lots of Non-Fiction Books

When I pick out books at the library, I grab several because I know some of the books aren’t worth a read. However, I usually pick “winners” when I choose. These books are penned by PhDs, M.D.’s, and best-selling authors and speakers. Usually, my tastes lean towards psychology books, religion, and spirituality, emotional well-being, etc. Much of the information contained in the books is entertaining because the content is presented from a different and unique perspective.

10 Reasons Why I Love The Simplicity of Weekends

A pile of non-fiction books carefully selected at the local library.

Intellectual Stimulation

During the week, I only have time to read news-bites. When I stumble upon important issues, I further research and study them online. If I’m really interested, I find some videos on the subject matter. The weekends are a time in which I can expand my horizons by taking free online courses. Some are interesting enough that I take the time to complete each assignment. (Remember that thing about bipolar? Sometimes it impairs my concentration, so I have to be very selective about what I am willing to commit).

Candles, Aesthetic Design, and Discovering Interesting Blogs

Candles are such a simple way to indulge the senses and create a home filled with warmth. Yes, I’m trying to intellectualize my affinity for Vanilla-scented candles. After I’ve decluttered the pantry, I open up the mail from each day and discard the junk mail, tack-up the important bills and notices, or file in another suitable location.

When the house is organized and decluttered, and the aroma of vanilla-candle is wafting throughout the house, I feel inspired to cast a few glances at the lifestyle blogs at Bloglovin’. My own blog has recently been verified and I’m discovering some other wellness and mental health blogs. While Bloglovin’ is largely known for its Pinterest-like aesthetic filled with beauty blogs, it is very much fertile ground for the unique types of blogs that are featured on WordPress.com. 

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How Should I Feel About My Depression?

How Should I Feel About My Depression?

For about a week straight, I experienced depression. A number of things contributed to the manifestation of my depressed state. I will talk about the contributing factors before moving on to ruminating over my feelings and thoughts about depression.

Change in Seasons and The “Good” Life

For me, spring and summer don’t bring feelings of exhilaration. Why? They are both beautiful seasons. When I was a kid, I loved the freedom of summertime, playing with friends, walking around doing nothing. As an adult, I am the person responsible for everybody’s happiness. I must orchestrate car rides (with none other than myself), worry about safety issues, hand over money, feed everybody- stuff most women think about regularly. But, I have the side of me that wants to be the best provider for the family, keep up on the yard work, arrange car repairs, and home repairs. This is stuff both men and women must tend to in their lives. The problem is the I am not fluently either of those stereotypical roles, yet I feel compelled to excel at both roles, or I am plagued by guilt and envy.

I am embarrassed to say that I am often envious of my neighbors. The strange thing is, I am jealous that the dad has so much time and energy to spend playing with his son outside. I often don’t feel like even going outside, let alone playing outside! And I have considered that the neighbors are a couple, who are about 10 years younger than I and have only one child to chase.

The dad works to make home improvements every summer, while I keep putting off repairs (I am trying to pay off my current debt). I did paint the front steps last year and paid $500 for a household issue recently. It’s wrong to be envious of my neighbor’s lives. I don’t personally acquaint myself with them, and I have no right to make assumptions. Furthermore, I’m certain they have their own struggles, even if they differ from mine. When you observe others superficially, it’s easy to see only the surface issues. I want to give my family more, but I can’t overextend myself. I believe I have accepted my limitations, but I haven’t accepted all the limitations to my budget, my time and other resources. As soon as I learn to accept all these components, maybe I will turn away from envying what others have.

The Logistics of Family Well-Being

In the summer, I worry about my kids at home. My daughter attends a daytime summer camp for teens a few days each week. She seems to enjoy it, but I often worry about if she is eating right and getting along with others. As for my son, he is getting older and will have a job this summer. At least I hope he gets a job in town so he doesn’t have to come work with me in the humidity and harshness of the manufacturing industry.

We don’t have the means to go on vacations, and with the pressures of social media and peers, my kids feel somewhat unusual in comparison to other kids.

Expectations of Others

My ex-husband lacks respect and remorse when he lets down my kids. In our marriage, I often felt mismatched, not only emotionally, but intellectually, with him. In many ways, he had the mentality and maturity of an adolescent boy. In dealing with his kids, he exudes this same immaturity- for example, my daughter inquired about his sudden absence this past weekend. She poured out her heart, only to receive a simple, “k” in a text message.

I feel I’ve let my son down because he always makes snarky comments about my work shirts. It is as though he is ashamed that I have a blue-collar job. Instead of seeing things how I see them- as a strong woman who continues to battle depression and anxiety while taking on the responsibilities of life (keeping a home, paying bills, providing food and clothes for all), he believes his dad had the most potential, but assuredly failed the hardest. My ex’s family probably white-washed many ideas about their son towards my children. They often proclaim their genetics are responsible for anything resembling an achievement in regards to their children/grandchildren. I tell my kids their achievements are a result of their own hard work!

Illness.

With springtime comes a flurry of allergens, which can wreak havoc on those like me, who are allergic to pollen. Eventually, my immunity weakens, and I get very ill. In the past weak, I may have had the stomach flu because I had the chill and wanted to sleep a lot. It’s been 6 days and the mucus is breaking up, and my mood is starting to improve as well.

I’ve particularly vulnerable to depression when I’m ill. When I am sick, I don’t feel as independent as when I’m healthy. Instead of being the planner, preparer, and provider, I become the cast-off. I got weepy at times when I think of what elderly people must feel when nobody checks in on them. What am I worth if I’ve placed all my value based on my abilities to do for others? What if I am unable to do such things? I haven’t considered who I will be apart for those humanly constructs.

Sometimes I wonder if depression is something to be “cured”. When I say this, what I really mean to say is, shouldn’t I give proper attention to my emotions, past trauma, and grief? Depression isn’t easily understood, not by Ph.D.’s, or lay people. As a chronic sufferer of depression, I choose to actively and healthily engage with the entanglements of mind, body, and spirit, when I seek to understand causes and I look for solutions.

  • Life and its inhabitants are dynamic and complex.
  • The purpose of life isn’t about one’s comfort, though I’ve falsely believed in “happiness” mantras.
  • Consider depression a sign of depth. Some would have you simple repress your capacity for depth by diminishing your feelings. In many instances, doctors and therapists, are the only people equipped to understand a broader scope towards mental health issues. However, there are many lay people who don’t have Ph.D.’s but may have much wisdom about depression and other issues.

Depression is something in which I can’t medicate. I don’t respond well to several of the various classes of antidepressants. For this reason, I’ve been lead on a quest to understand depression- not necessarily to treat depression.

The Significance of Purging Material and Mental Clutter

Compulsive decluttering or just a simple distraction to stave off anxiety? Whatever the case, I’m right on track again! Just as with any other time I get exhausted, sick, or overwhelmed, I resort to decluttering my house. This time, it was somewhat benign, as the stuff I got rid of was outgrown clothing and Halloween decorations stashed in the basement.

But, first, a little backstory- yesterday, I drove all the gas out of my car to meet somebody who was sleeping off a hangover. I caught a cold while walking around yesterday, breathing in pollen at the park. And, of course, I’m run-down, tired and angry. It’s Mother’s Day again, and I haven’t spoken to my mother in 10 years. In her mind, throwing out assorted ink pens is more important than a person’s livelihood. There is much I don’t want to discuss my family, but we have differing perspectives on certain issues.

This is the second time in a month that I’ve been sick with a cold or allergies. And I’m dreading going to work this week because when one of the team members in the quality department goes on vacation, I have to fill in. In fact, before my co-worker left for her vacation, she ambushed me to ask me to work this past Saturday. When I said I wasn’t able, she took another jab, guilt-tripped me, and now I’m saddled into working next Saturday!

I get depressed when I’m sick, and I start ruminating. Today I was thinking about how little regard my family has given me and my kids. It usually doesn’t bother me, until I get around “normal” people, enjoying time with extended family members. Maybe I am being unrealistic. Perhaps what I see in an hour of time with others isn’t enough time to truly define how other families function.

When I decided to declutter, I started off with my daughter’s box of clothes from the basement. I told her that I wanted to only keep a few bulky winter garments downstairs. Whatever else that can’t fit upstairs, she has to choose what to donate. Many of the clothes seemed fine, but she had minor complaints about each item she didn’t want.

My son’s box was easy to empty because he outgrew several pairs of shorts. What else was there to go through but the Halloween box? I dumped it out and looked over the plastic mice and bats. I remembered the ugly, heavy-duty extension cords I bought only two years ago to use for lights. For all the work I did putting up the lights, it didn’t look as good as my neighbor’s lighting.

Halloween Clutter

There was some shiny, purple garland that was starting to fall apart. When I saw the gaudy, felt decorations, I was reminded about primary-school artwork. All of these items, I thought I was justified when purchasing because they didn’t contain witches or vampires- nothing more than smiling pumpkins and kitty-cats. I just know that this Halloween, my son will be angry that I got rid of the decorations. He likes to dress up and hand out candy on our decorated porch.

After decluttering, I marveled at how clean and organized the basement looked. I have to obtain the strength to not buy more stuff next year to appease anybody else’s values. I need to take a closer look at what I will do to cope when I have no possessions to donate. Maybe I can get out in nature- away from clutter and needless spending.

 

 

The Rhetoric of Alcoholism by thrivemindful.net

The Rhetoric of Alcoholism

The rhetoric of those who wax poetic about how to handle an alcoholic incites feelings of anger within me. Mostly, because mere words don’t reveal the breadth of emotions felt by family members. Advice by experts tells people to “let them hit rock bottom.” Such advice only gives consideration to the healing and recovery of the alcoholic. When one part of the family lets the alcoholic “hit rock bottom”, there is always another willing and complicit friend or family member that will give them a place to crash or some money to burn. The construct of “rock bottom” is loosely defined as a loss of resources, such as mental and physical health, money, friends, housing, and employment (drugabuse.com).

Several years ago, I worked at a printing company in Akron. The owner’s brother was a homeless alcoholic who often stayed at the Haven of Rest shelter. Even in the shelter, the alcoholics had to meet certain requirements to earn their stay. The most significant requirement was they couldn’t come and go as they pleased- for everyone’s safety and consideration. Also, they couldn’t stay at the shelter if they were intoxicated.

The alcoholic in my family constantly lets his kids down and has been absent from their lives for many years. Sometimes he decides to play Santa Clause, and throw some money around when he’s feeling fine. At this time, he makes many promises of material nature because spending money is easier than spending time and energy. His energy is devoted to consuming alcohol. He needs plenty of sleep to recover from the damage he has inflicted upon his body and mind.

The alcoholic in my family had to leave my house, or I threatened to take legal action. His parents believed him when he told them I was the crazy one, and that he needed a place to stay. That was 4 years ago, and he still lives at their house, despite the fact he is in his forties. Now, his parents tell me he hurls verbal abuse upon them several days each week. They tell me it is overwhelming to have to live with his unhinged tirades, spending-sprees, and his all-nighters. None of this information comes as a surprise to me, as I thought about the time he unleashed a barrage of insults at me during my daughter’s 11th birthday. She had specifically begged her father to not drink that day.

I don’t want to be callous, but I’m consumed by my own hostility towards this man who can’t make time to call his kids to check on them or ask about school. I’m angry when I see other families enjoying normal lives. This makes me feel defective. It feels disrespectful too. He diminishes the needs of others to satisfy his own cravings.

Many experts tell me to not let the alcoholic inflict any more pain. I have set down boundaries with him, but he charms and deceives, and promises to do better. Like a fool, I agree to drive my kids to see him, but he is still out from the night before our visit. Waiting, emptiness, disappointment, and anger. The only thing I can do is put even more distance between my family and him until he starts respecting our time and feelings. We keep hitting rock bottom, but it never happens for him.

References:

  1. Patterson, E., & Ncc. (2017, October 31). The ‘Hitting Rock Bottom’ Myth | Drug Abuse & Treatment. Retrieved May 13, 2019, from https://drugabuse.com/hitting-rock-bottom-myth/
A Simple Prayer Made Me More Resilient Today

A Simple Prayer Made Me More Resilient Today

Wednesdays are full of hope for many people and no matter how depressed I feel, I am filled with optimism. What does Wednesday really signify?

  • I only have to get up early for two more days.
  • Soon, I can be at home with my family.
  • It means I can get caught up on laundry, cleaning, and shopping (oh, joy!).

It all sounds so exciting, I know. Maybe I will find something good to watch on Netflix.

Maybe I will devise another book idea, or get my hopes up about writing for a living.

Today, as sweat poured down my arms, I waited for my break so I could get a drink of water. Never in my life have I wanted a drink of water more than the last two hours of the workday! I felt my heart racing earlier today. My speech was rapid as I voiced my dismay over the quality expectations. Thirty-second cycle times again on the machine. Too much intricate trimming and assembly required for that span of time. The quality auditors were relentless. I bit my tongue and decided to pretend I was trimming everything indicated by the sample parts. The quality auditors were none-the-wiser.

Landscape photo of a factory.

My last break was due at about 1:30 pm. However, another worker took the liberty to ask to have her break first, even though it had been a long span of time for me in between the breaks. When other people decide things that involve you, without including you in the decision-making process- and you too are gasping and parched from a dry mouth, it can be irritating.

I’m sure the other worker didn’t mean any harm towards me. I told the girl that gives breaks that I was really looking forward to my break on time because I was thirsty. Then, I said I would have liked to sit for a few minutes when I started getting palpitations. I kind of just wanted to make her aware that sometimes people have medical issues that require timely breaks. I don’t know if she really cared. She looked very tired too.

I told myself that my co-workers are important to me too. Clearly, I was only considering my own thirst and need for rest. At my machine, in between the monotony of trimming, assembling, folding, and taping, I didn’t want to offend anybody. I just wanted to be considered instead of excluded or overlooked.

Sometimes, we get excluded and overlooked in life. There is a time to ask whether or not it was done intentionally. We all just happened to need a break at the same time, and one person was more vocal about her needs.

I suppose this most the most significant event of the day because it’s the focus of my writing.

It’s not up to me to decide who goes first, or if it’s even fair. In the workplace, I’m just a number.

A figure wearing a baseball hat with the words,

Then I realized something very important! At my morning break, I prayed for endurance and for my co-workers. That prayer must have have been answered today, just not the way I expected. I was given the stamina to ride out the long afternoon. My co-worker got her need for rest and hydration met when she needed it most!

Often I overlook God. I think that because I have such a menial job, He has more important things to care about other than me. While that is true- He has many important people and needs to consider, it doesn’t mean I rank any less in His realm.

Wednesdays somehow make it all better. For me, that place will be far from my mind- at least for a few days.

Life Hacks For Staying Productive During Depression

Life Hacks for Staying Productive During Depression

“I found that with depression, one of the most important things you could realize is that you’re not alone.” –Dwayne Johnson

Can you recall a time in your life when you were so crippled by depression that you weren’t able to focus on anything but your mental health? There was a time when I was so depressed and unable to do even the simplest of tasks. Sadly, this occurred right after the birth of my children, who are two years apart in age. It seemed as though everything was working against me. Some things I can distinctly remember are:

When Your Family Isn’t Equipped To Help

My mother, stepfather, and sister, lived an hour away from me. They were all pretty absorbed in their own problems. I remember feeling like a wallflower, an invisible entity when I was in their presence. My sister was a single mother at the time. She’d have my stepdad and my mom babysit for her while she pulled side jobs. She had many financial difficulties and often borrowed money from the family. They bickered about the money she owed them and complained about having to babysit so much.

I felt guilty for asking for help with money, but I did seek their advice when I was dealing with my abusive husband. They always told me to get away from him, but nothing more than hollow words to appease their own conscience. It took me years before I attained the wisdom to leave my husband.

I especially desired emotional support. I was too far away from the family members that were able to help us. The church and a domestic violence support group offered me the social support and knowledge I needed to take care of my kids on my own.

I Lacked Self-Worth

After my pregnancies, it was hard for me to lose weight. Here I was, in my early 30’s, mentally and emotionally exhausted from depression and anxiety. The constant chipping away of my soul continued for 4 years. My ex-husband took great delight in berating me when I weighed 160 lbs. He told me my stomach stuck out more than my chest, and he could get anybody he wanted, but nobody would want me ever!

I Lacked Mobility

When you are poor, it’s hard to keep up a car. There’s the car payment, the insurance, the car repairs, and of course, e-check. In Ohio, if you have an older car, you can forget about passing the e-check. In fact, I had to get a waiver because I paid money to correct the deficiencies, but it still failed. Luckily, the county I currently live in doesn’t require e-check! But the car I lease now would pass the emissions test.

When you have young kids, many people run the other way when they see you’re in need. After trying to unsuccessfully find a place to stay, I wanted to see if the kids and I could be part of the transitional housing for the homeless. There were several churches that participated in this project. The only catch was you had to move your family each week to another church “host”. I didn’t think that was a great idea for my family, given the fact we had been through so much already. Eventually, we were approved for an income-based apartment. Many people endearingly refer to these homes as the “projects.” It was the best option for us at the time, despite the fact that there was a lot of shady activities going on in the complex.

How did I ever manage to be productive when all this was going on in my life? Nothing fell into place quickly, unfortunately. It took years, but those difficult years helped me become disciplined, even when I was depressed.

Some things that worked to my benefit during my most difficult times?

Ask For A Flexible Schedule

My employer (NACS) was aware of my situation, to some extent, and allowed me to come into work after my son got on the bus in the morning, and after I took my daughter to the childcare center.

Have A Routine At Home

My kids and I followed a regular routine of when we ate dinner, played, and slept. Going to sleep on time, at the same time each day, helps your body maintain a regular rhythm.

Enjoy Low-Key Activities

When you feel the surge of anxiety or depression, it’s hard to be around large groups of people (especially, confident and happy people). While it’s not good to isolate yourself from people, many times they unwittingly cause more hurt than good. We used to go to the park when very few people were there. I took my kids to the “Book Mobile” to get videos, books, and puppets. The Book Mobile is essentially the local library contained on a bus that comes to your establishment (nursing homes, the “projects”, etc.).

Some other “low-key” ideas to get you out of the house, without throwing you into chaos when you are least likely to enjoy it, would include:

  • Walking around a quiet lake
  • Going to the movies during matinee
  • Stopping for some ice-cream
  • Fishing, boating, camping
  • Visiting a nature center

Write Lists

My ex-husband used to scoff at the fact that I was so mentally burned-out that I needed to write everything down. If I didn’t write down even the most minute task, my brain was too foggy to recall key information. Amid depression, domestic violence, unexpected “guests” showing up to “party” with my ex, and the weekly visits from the police, my mind wasn’t focused on the future. Instead, I was stuck in mere survival mode.

My family could not have moved beyond those ashes of despair, that bleak kind of existence, if it wasn’t for writing down to-do lists, tasks, resources, and even Bible verses on index cards.

Get Up And Dressed

It’s important to give your appearance some hope the better days that lie ahead. When you take a shower and get dressed, it’s easier to be ready for whatever is going on in the day. There may be an expected opportunity waiting for you- an unexpected job offer, an unexpected friend may call and want to have lunch. Taking the time to get ready is refreshing to your body and your well-being!

Overcoming Negative Thoughts To Achieve Your Dreams

Overcoming Negative Thoughts to Achieve Your Dreams

“Negative thoughts stick around because we believe them, not because we want them or choose them.” -Andrew J. Bernstein

Imperfections And Negative Self-Talk

My problem is not that I have these flaws, but rather, my dilemma is that I am always finding something “flawed” about myself. Why do flaws have to have a negative connotation? Is it because I envy what somebody else has in appearance, talents, or popularity? My problem is not them- the problem is in the sinful, negative thought pattern of envy. The bitterness takes root and grows uncontrollably, like some weeds in my yard. I carefully weed the yard, but I neglect my mind and emotions.

My mind connects me to everything- my family, friends, co-workers. It connects me to how I think about myself. Imperfections, physical, mental, or otherwise, are most certainly problems at times. Having positive thoughts help me get past those issues to focus on other important things in life. Negative thoughts about myself or others will only magnify meaningless, temporal things. It keeps me away from God and others.

How To Reframe Negative Thoughts

Negative thoughts never generate a positive outcome. While it is important to be self-aware, it’s more important to not dwell on our imperfections. When you enter an art museum to see the vast display of work, you wouldn’t just hang around in one spot? You would probably acknowledge certain attributes, then move on to the next piece, knowing that you want to make the best use of your time. To stand around and disparage some of the artwork would be insulting to their creator.

Be Strong and Question The Status Quo

So easy to say when I am a grown woman. I know it is much more difficult for younger people to not think about their flaws. Parents, family, friends, in a perfect world, should help “buffer” some of the negative messages offered in popular culture. Often, it is the very people looked upon for acceptance that let us down and we are “unprotected” from hurtful, negative messages. When I say “messages”, I am referring to a broad term that represents advertising, social media, peers, school, and work. Messages from popular culture that push us into accepting a photoshopped version of how we should look, dress, act, and think. A culture that essentially shuns independent thinkers. Independent thinkers may or may not look ideal, but they are not consumed by appearances alone.

Find Your Place in The World & Be Content

When you can accept how you were made, you will pick better friends. You will not hurt all the time because you are trying to be something you are not meant to be. Be content, you have a future ahead.

Have you ever known somebody who is self-loathing? I lived much of my life not caring too much about myself. As a result, I did many foolish things. Foolishness never filled a void, it merely distracted me. I guess everyone is entitled to make mistakes. If I hadn’t hated myself for so many years, I might have achieved more, but I also have time now to fulfill my dreams.

It’s Never Too Late To Dream!

In fact, it’s probably better to start working on your dreams once you’ve been exposed to the realities of life, family, and work. College degrees can help you make more money, but no amount of education can provide you with wisdom and insight that are learned through mistakes and real-world experience.

Chasing after your dreams once you’ve been an adult for some time is ideal for people that were not guided and disciplined properly in life. Perhaps life events prevented you from realizing your full potential. The extra benefit to gaining real-life experience before chasing your dreams is this: you remain well-grounded and have desirable characteristics that make people want to see you succeed.

Give your dreams the attention they deserve! Start taking them seriously. Devise an attention plan to achieve your dreams.

If obstacles feel insurmountable, it simply means you have to work harder. If you feel you’re not moving ahead fast enough, perhaps you have to devote some more energy into understanding and managing your obstacles before proceeding. It’s is not a license to give up!

 

Finding Peace For A Troubled Soul

How a Self-Proclaimed Loser Finally Found Peace

By worldly standards. I haven’t achieved much, nor do I have much clout or influence. I do not have hundreds of friends and followers, in real life or on social media. The friendships I have managed to gain have not come easily or quickly. If it were not for having to interact with those individuals daily, I might not even be able to consider those people my friends.

In my life, I have only been a “winner” a handful of times. In middle school and high school, I achieved recognition for my artistic talents. My endeavors to obtain a career in graphic design failed. I was never able to finish college. Fate told me I could keep art and design as a side project, but not as a career- not at least at that time when I was in my twenties.

I had never considered writing as a career and thus, never realized my potential until more recent years. Writing is an especially sweet pursuit for those who struggle to be heard in the noise and busyness of life. One is almost forced to withdraw from the world in order to reflect and gain a fresh perspective on everything from relationships, money, family, pain, etc. Introverts are particularly gifted and drawn by writing.

When I was young, I turned neither to God or writing. I didn’t even try to draw much, but somehow believed that I should go to school for graphic design. Even though I was a very depressed and emotionally fragile person, I tried to attain what I felt the world was calling me to do- and I remained unfulfilled and unsuccessful in my pursuits.

Being poor was just one disadvantage of my youth. Our family no longer lived on the “right side of the tracks” once my grandfather died. My family lost touch with families in our middle-class neighborhood. Our family relocated after my dad was laid-off from his job. After the death of her only son, the family went to live in the upstairs of my great-grandmother’s house on the West Side of town.

My family was wrought with grief and anguish. Mom didn’t want to be torn away from the stability of our old neighborhood. Dad was struggling to keep it together after the loss of his father, and the loss of employment. They started fighting more, and we became poorer, in spirit, community and financially. 

A number of changes occurred to our family with regards to location status. None of these things provided any type of stability. As a result, I felt very insignificant and unworthy compared to other kids. When I saw other kids feeling happy and nurtured, I knew I was going through issues others my age did not face, and I faced them alone.

Only now, as an adult, can I see how selfish I was to consider only myself during those difficult years. Now that I am that parent that struggles to keep it together, I could only hope that my kids would be understanding of their mom. A mother who has tuned-out their emotional needs at times. I can vividly remember all the times I found parenting “short-cuts” to just get some kind of a mental break! Many of the “nobler” parents would gasp at how often I was disengaged, albeit, due to the emotional burn-out. 

Throughout my teens and twenties, I became more withdrawn and depressed. Even with my group of friends/drinking buddies, I felt a certain emptiness in my soul.

By my early twenties, I tried to conform and be an adult. Without any family support, I tried to make it on my own by working full time and going to school part-time. During those years of my teens and twenties, I believe God was calling me but I turned to substances, self-pity, and selfish ambition. I would still achieve anything in the world.

Marriage was also not the answer- a man was not the answer. At 35, I was alone with my two young children. Maybe I was subconsciously trying to correct my version of history by quickly marrying somebody I was not suited for in marriage. Not only did my own inadequacies cause me to make rash decisions, they altered the lives of my children.

We have managed to obtain some of the “good things” in life by now- a house (mortgage), security and stability. The kids no longer have to see drugs and alcohol in our neighborhood or home, but we are without emotional resources many times. In that emptiness, I have tried to fill the void once again, except not with alcohol like I did when I was young. Now my vices were seemingly more benign.

Credit cards- I tried to buy my family’s happiness with entertainment, food, clothing.

Food- I have turned to unhealthy foods to fill the void, and then I’ve purged in an effort to rid myself of the guilt of poor food choices.

Time- Instead of savoring every free moment with my family, I have been given over to passively leaking time on the internet and on social media.

Never could I offer God even just a little of my time in the morning to prepare me for the day. Instead, I turned to the wireless void of deceit (when not used sensibly). Instead of allowing God to manage my time, finances and other aspects of my life, I over-indulged or tried to allocate things as I saw fit.

Now, I spend a few minutes each morning (almost every morning), reading the Bible before I get ready for work. Connecting with God each day has changed my life significantly. I am able to move on past my flaws (sometimes after a good cry). When I am subject to depression and anxiety, I take comfort that I will overcome my emotions and feeling.

Proverbs 18:10 The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous run into it and are safe.

 

Discovering Hope in the Midst of Depression

For years, my weight teetered around 150 lbs. I had a two-year “resonance” in 2012 when I got down to 135. My restricted diet at that time consisted of yogurt and no snacks in between meal. A few weeks ago, I installed the MyPlate app. Sometimes I logged my calories, sometimes I felt unmotivated and didn’t log my food. I figured I was eating right, even though I was hungry. To quell the hunger, I drank some high-calorie drinks.

In my mind, those delicious, high-calories drinks didn’t count as “real food”. When I felt those familiar carb-cravings, I succumbed to the urge to reward my brain– and in the process, deprived myself of health for simple hunger “fix.” Each day, I drank soda or an iced coffee. Sometimes chocolate milk.

Instead of choosing healthier food that would help my body work more efficiently, I opted to still have fast food. Then I weighed myself last week and discovered I gained 5 pounds, instead of losing any weight. For a 5’3 woman, my weight was too much. According to Rush University Medical Center, the ideal weight maximum for my height is about 143 pounds. I would love to be at 135, but I could accept 145.

Sometimes, I don’t even care that I am overweight. I say I don’t care because I have confidence that I can conquer the battle of the bulge. I know I can’t lose it overnight. It’s a slow process. When I see little progress, I decide I must not be doing something right, so I might as well have a Starbucks Vanilla Frappuccino. Or, the family is eating Pizza Hut, might as well “break bread” and have a slice with them.

When I see myself in the mirror, I don’t see an overweight person. It can’t really be me in that mirror! That woman is not really fat, just a little frumpy.

I Have Issues With My Heart

Thump, thump, thump….ever since the doctor asked me if I experienced any heart fluttering, I listen for it more when I am laying down, or when I am at work. I can’t really say much else until I get the Holter device next week.

Anxiety And Panic Attacks

The diagnosis of the “extra” heartbeats (ectopic heartbeats, PVC’s), I’m wondering if I could have something else wrong. I feel as though just thinking about it today at work was making me nauseous and dizzy. In the mirror, I removed my glasses to re-apply fresh eyeliner. My face was as pale as a ghost. Or was it in my head?

Depression

Usually, by now, I’m riding the wave of mania.

No energy, only lots of yawning (despite sleeping 8 hours).

No creativity, no desire, no hope.

I’ve been thinking about how pointless hobbies and writing are to the grand scheme of everything. There is really nothing new, nothing in the world that hasn’t been said, written, painted, or sung about previously. What is life when you take away all the pleasures and activities we stuff into our lives?

Still, I smile at jokes. I enjoy my friends at work. I love my family. There is a lot of brokenness in my family. More significant people in this world have a strong network of caring people. My mother disowned me 10 years ago. There is a brokenness in the relationship, but for me, it is also brokenness about the idea of “motherhood.” Mother’s Day is rapidly approaching.

Last year, I had to leave a church service on Mother’s Day because I couldn’t stop crying. Everybody was watching me too since the pastor called attention to all the single moms in the room. The pain and loss of my own (living) mother affect how I see myself sometimes (for instance, a failure at being a daughter, a failure at not meeting my own expectations of “mother”). Even people that have been rejected or worse, abused, by a mother, still experience a loss when that person is no longer of a part of their lives.

Neverending Worries

Why does it seem as though people like me, people suffering from anxiety or depression, can’t ever take it easy, or enjoy life? Everybody else seems comfortable, quite content and happy in the things of this world.

Here I am in this world. Just like anybody else that you see. A little bit imperfect, no visible clues about the pain inside. Hiding the pain, denying pain, like many people in the world.

Words of Hope

Proverbs 3:5-6 ESV

Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”

Matthew 11:28 ESV

“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.”

John 16:33 ESV

“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world, you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

A doctor holding red stethoscope.

Understanding Unspecified Depression Type Diagnosis

The last seven years of my medical history have been confusing. When I looked over my medical summaries, I noticed I was diagnosed with depression, in some way, shape, or form for these years. I guess since I declined to take prescription medicines for my depression, the doctor(s) may have just decided to not look further into my issues. Maybe they just thought I was resistant, or crazy.

Lately, I’ve been getting stressed at work. In most cases, I think I can manage, but sometimes things are beyond my control. For instance, there are times we are required to work overtime- 12 days straight. Also, the expectations of my company keep changing. More is demanded at times, at other times, I feel bored, unchallenged and unappreciated.

In any event, I knew my previous medical practice wasn’t good for me. I felt like I needed a doctor with good reviews. I researched the doctors in my insurance directory and discovered one in town that was a D.O., instead of an M.D. The difference is an M.D. is a Doctor of Medicine, while a D.O. is a Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine. From my understanding, there is very little difference as far as certification and training:

“While osteopathic programs tend to be less competitive than allopathic medical schools, students in both programs receive similar training. However, osteopathic schools have a stronger focus on alternative therapies, holistic medicine, and disease prevention.” (www.gulfbend.org)

  • This factor appealed to me since I am one that has been resistant to taking prescription medications.
  • I went to the new doctor for convenience (he is located in town, as opposed to my previous doctor, who was about 12 miles from my home).

I went to establish a new doctor, but I discovered I have ectopic heartbeats, or, extra heartbeats. Soon, I will have to wear a Holter monitor to find out more information.

Also, my diagnosis included:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression, unspecified depression type
  • Fatigue, unspecified type.

Depression, unspecified depression type is often used at the beginning of medical diagnosis and treatment. This category is used when there is not yet enough information. Once the doctor has my information, he or she may proceed to choose a more specific condition.

As far as the other conditions are concerned, I suppose I could worry. I’ve read that PVC’s- Premature Ventricular Contractions, can be induced by anxiety. Sometimes the PVCs are nothing to worry about if all else is normal. It could also be a sign of underlying heart disease.

My new doctor asked me if I felt any fluttering in my chest, to which I replied that I hadn’t noticed. I’ve been so consumed about mood disorders, I took for granted the fact that just because I have had a long history of anxiety and depression, doesn’t mean that I can’t have other problems. I’ve been accustomed to “invisible” problems for so long that I ignored my “visible” problems.

Such is the case for me. I become blinded by my own thought patterns. I really wanted my doctor to look into this aspect of my health too.

References:

  1.  https://medschool.ucla.edu/body.cfm?id=1158&action=detail&ref=1019
  2. https://www.nchmd.org/education/mayo-health-library/details/CON-20376741
  3. https://www.gulfbend.org/poc/view_doc.php?type=doc&id=12992&cn=5

A Simple Lesson on Nurturing Ourselves

Lessons On Nurturing

I believe many people regard taking care of themselves as a frivolity, or an act of selfishness. Unhealthy demonstrations, disguised as “self-care” are, indeed, selfish and even destructive. Unhinged shopping sprees may give me a temporary lift, but it isn’t the soulful lift I need to manage myself and others. However, taking the time to replace the drawer of missing and tattered socks isn’t selfish. Not all acts of shopping for myself are selfish.

Bad Lessons

  • The quality of love and care that one gives is circumstantial and conditional.
  • Nutrition is unimportant- grab some junk food and soda.
  • If somebody is behaving badly, keep out of their way or behave badly in return (watch for signals).

Not Trained To Think of Myself As Important

As children, my sister and I never got new clothes or even used clothes very often. Sometimes we got a bag of clothes from an aunt or grandparent. I’m quite sure I never considered the bag of bell-bottom corduroys as a gift or a curse. I got through my high school years wearing jeans and t-shirts- black t-shirts, concert t-shirts, one-size-fits-all shirts. I was happy wearing those clothes and it was very low-maintenance. I still do not treat myself by way of buying clothes, although I am very much in need of the most essential of clothing, jeans, and t-shirts. I long for some dressy clothes sometimes but never make the effort to buy myself such things.

Diet & Nutrition- Taking Care of The Physical Body

Those who lack a strong support system especially need to manage self-care in a balanced fashion. We should not turn to mere substitutes or addictions, no matter how benign they may appear. I am guilty of using caffeine as a crutch. This is probably a factor in my erratic moods and weak food choices (carbs, lots of carbs). A steady stream of caffeine and a depletion of vital, cleansing water leads to an abundance of empty calories and garbage in the body. Perhaps my mood swings are the only way my body can adapt to balancing all the garbage I eat and all the mindless clutter I am consumed by each day? This is something I will explore further.

Leisure Time

Let’s face it- men have their “man-caves”, and some ladies like to get manicures. And then we have the rest of the world. These are ordinary people taking care of their families, working a job, attending school, etc. They may lack the means- time, energy or money- to enjoy “leisure” activities. It is essential to carve out even a little bit of time for yourself each day, whether you have to stay up after the kids go to bed, or get up earlier to go for a walk, read, or whatever else feeds your soul.

Being busy in life sometimes makes us lose ourselves, which can cause us to feel bitter, devoid and empty. Often, it is not until a crisis or conflict when it becomes apparent that self-care is as important as the care we provide for others.

Unpacking the Baggage of the Past

Issues from “the past”, people from our past and messages from the past continue to plague us subconsciously. Both solitude and good company can help us “recharge” and make sense of the world around us. I have suffered frequent episodes of depression in my life, which has made me more isolated at the very times I needed support. I was taught it was embarrassing and “weak” to cry or have emotional needs. As a child, others were told to “not baby me” when I needed to talk or receive encouragement (not criticism). My achievements were not validated by my mother, I wasn’t “validated”. Today, I still battle with such feelings of inadequacies.

My first job as a production artist proved challenging for many reasons- my depressed moods, adjustment to medications, and the stressful work environment (my supervisor didn’t like me, our boss came into work intoxicated, and he and my supervisor had a “love/hate” relationship). In the past decade, I have settled for a more mundane job, but one that provides my family with stability nonetheless. My job does not (always) subject me to harsh attitudes or very much dysfunction, and I have great co-workers.

I’ve had very little training in thinking of myself as important as those around me. Even as I write this, I justify the reasons to take better care of myself so that I can be able to provide a better life for my family. Often, when I project my well-being to others, I’m deeply disappointed when I become depressed or sick.

Today, I will make an effort to ask for help when needed.

There’s nobody to ask- I will pray for strength and endurance.

I’m a weak person and often a weak follower, but I am a believer.

 

woman walking near brown wooden door during daytime

Why You Should Take a Break From Technology

“Technology is, of course, a double edged sword. Fire can cook our food but also burn us.” -Jason Silva

Mobile phones and other electronic devices offer access to an array of entertainment and information. We can access information about anything at any time. We can watch movies, listen to music, and read books with a sleight of hand. But these things are nothing more than distractions. In some regards, distractions can be helpful. When we need to move at a quick pace, listening to music on our iPhones provides that rush of adrenaline we need to hustle.

A diverse group of people who are distracted by cell phones and tasks.

Distractions Are Nothing New

For many years, people have turned to mindless entertainment. Such entertainment is usually wrought little redeeming qualities, but audiences tune in anyway. There’s the stereotypical image of the 1950s, where the man of the house retreats to his den to skim the local newspaper. Women turned to soap operas and television dramas to “escape” their ordinary lives.

In the 1980s, music videos and video games were rolled out to the masses. When people were not watching TV, playing games, or listening to the radio, they passed the time using the phone. Although technology has changed, the concepts are relatively the same. We seek distraction. We seek an escape from reality and our problems. By immersing ourselves in technology, we can feel “engaged” without fully participating in life.

Artificial Happiness

In my experience, I’ve learned that electronics and the various means of communications via electronics (i.e., my phone, laptop, blog, email, social media) provide me with an artificial “high”. Who isn’t delighted to get a new friend request or find some illuminating, esoteric information?

Promises of Opportunity

I was recently seduced by an email invite from a notable online community. I accepted the offer, which involved writing, and realized it amounted to pennies if it amounted to anything at all. Money for impressions, eyeballs, and clicks. The next day I vowed that I wouldn’t let the desire for success or money to cause me to accept such offers.

For others, they may be chasing other promises. The promise of fulfillment, success, friendship, beauty. Advertisers and publishers study our habits and know our desires. Before cell phones and computers, there were magazines, billboards, newspapers, and radio. Now, it is much easier for people to be swept away by advertising.

The Natural Tendency Towards Selfishness And Sin

One could say that greed, not a technology in general, was my flaw. Humans all have a tendency towards sin, whether it’s the promise of easy money (sloth, greed), or the envy of a celebrity, the feeling of adoration (pride), and even gluttony (casually, mindlessly eating while sitting in front of the TV.

Technology, in itself, isn’t inherently good or bad. It is a tool that we use. Unlike “functional” tools, such as an eating utensil, the “tool” of technology lends itself well to human weakness. We love to share our lives with others, yet technology can easily be misused. It also robs us of face-to-face interactions and “real” friends. Too much time online can make people feel lonely and depressed.

Teens Especially Vulnerable To Technology’s Vices

In an article from the Chicago Tribune, titled, “Mobile Phones Linked To Anxiety And Severe Depression In Teens” studies show that feelings of hopelessness and suicide increased by 12% between 2010-2015.

“As smart as phones may be these days, they simply don’t know when to quit. To protect your mental health, experts say you must develop ways of outsmarting them – and often that involves simply turning them off.” (https://yp.scmp.com/news/features/article/108242/mobile-phones-linked-anxiety-and-severe-depression-teens).

For teens, who on average spend 9 hours each day online (Common Sense Research), the use of electronics and technology is especially pervasive. When teens interact on social media, technology can cause harm when they feel excluded from social groups. Additionally, it’s easy to take offense to what others post on Instagram or any of the other myriad of social media.

The Addictive Nature of Technology

It’s important to consider the “feel good” effects of technology, and how we can become addicted to the “reward” our brain receives when we spend too much time online.

“Dopamine is a feel-good neurochemical messenger that carries signals across brain synapses, responsible for motivation and reward-seeking behavior, and essential to neuroplastic change.  Neuroplastic change is what allows a habit or addiction to form in the first place.” (thebestbrainpossible.com).

“All of our technology is completely unnecessary to a happy life.” -Tom Hodgkinson, (British writer)

The Minimalist Approach

In an article featured at Becoming Minimalist “7 Important Reasons To Unplug And Find Space” by Joshua Becker, we can discover some interesting reasons to avoid technology. The reason that resonated with me was  “Powering-down promotes creation over consumption.” Joshua points out that we spend our time in one of two ways: consuming or creating. We spend time reading, watching, playing or browsing. He advises us to power-down so that we can recharge our battery. In doing so, we can inspire the world around us, instead of simply taking in so many distractions.

Shut-Down Technology, Renew Your Soul

Why should anybody fast from electronics and technology? The same reason we should fast from anything in life. Moderation is key. Mindfulness and discipline to keep track of our precious energy and time, and so we don’t become so consumed by worldly pleasures and fleeting things.

Benefits To Your Well-Being

More time for face-to-face interactions.

More Time to create instead of consuming.

More time for personal reflection.

Less time spent clicking unnecessary pages.

Less time worrying about other people’s lives and dramas.

Less time comparing yourself to others.

 

 

Noah Purifoy Outdoor Desert Art Museum, Joshua Tree, United States

When Anxiety Overwhelms: Rules for Purging Things

Problem: It is difficult for me to identify what causes me to purge things compulsively. It is something I do when I feel anxious and overwhelmed. Decluttering- throwing away or giving away things seems to temporarily relieve my anxiety.

Some of the things I’ve discarded or have given away have been perfectly good items, and perhaps, they didn’t take up much room or appear distracting in any way.

In retrospect, I realize that I wasn’t always this way, although I can easily see that I’ve struggled with anxiety, depression, emotions, and disordered eating. Likewise, I can see the times in my life when things were ideal, or when I’ve felt like my true self (euthymic).

Support Systems

During those times, I have coped well and I’ve expressed myself through visual art and writing, exercise and sports. Solid (but imperfect) relationships carried me through adolescence, except for the years when I struggled with anorexia (age 14-18). My grandmother was of great emotional support when I was entering adolescence. Luckily, my sister and I lived with my grandparents during the summer that my parents separated. I was encouraged to draw and go outside to ride my bike while under their roof. Previously, I did not feel free to be a child while living in a dysfunctional home with my parents.

Deciding To “Disappear”

Having a few good friends in high school helped me overcome the misery I experienced in middle school. I was awkward, chubby and lonely before tenth grade. With my friends, I experienced camaraderie and belonging. At home, with the discord of my mom and her boyfriend, I felt invisible at best. At worst, I was awoken by the alcohol-fueled verbal assault of my stepfather towards my mother.

Sometimes I felt I was supposed to be in charge of tending to the emotional wounds of the narcissist in my life who tore me apart with names that caused me to starve myself. I controlled myself and my appearance (at least) by starvation.

muhammad-ruqiyaddin-1367343-unsplash

The more invisible my body became, the more people started to pay attention to me- I was “admired” for my slender physique by the very people I wanted to look like in high school.

From the time I started to become an “adult” (i.e., the period in life that becomes more complex- more responsibilities and learning to focus less on self), my minimalist ways have become the primary thread in the tapestry of life. It is also important to note that at the same time I was becoming an adult, I was more isolated from friends and family.

In reflecting, I realize the following things about being a minimalist (if that is actually the broad stroke that can be applied):

Minimalism and purging for me are cyclic and may be attributed to hormones. During a monthly “cycle” (menstrual), I am wrought with a multitude of emotions and my eating habits become unhealthy. It is during a “cycle” in a woman’s life that we must reflect, regenerate and prepare for the new “phase” in life.

Sometimes simply feeling anxious, overwhelmed or depressed, at any time in the month, brings me to the point of purging things. Two weeks ago, I wanted to chop off my hair for instant relief and regeneration (of a “new” me).

Does purging/decluttering specifically equate to a minimalist lifestyle? When I ask myself about the appearance of the “minimalist” style- the clean lines, simplicity, and functionality of minimalism, I believe the answer is “yes”. But not all minimalists tend to their lifestyle and philosophy because of emotional wounds. Some minimalists don’t soothe their anxiety by way of design choices. Many people choose to live minimally due to religious beliefs, cultural upbringing, even because of thrift, frugality, or poverty.

Going through my “things” (sorting) allows me to think about the needs of myself and family.

For instance, I understand my daughter’s clothing style and choices change over time. It is beneficial for us to go through her closet and decide what should stay and what can be donated. In doing so, I can help her manage her belongings while listening to her needs. Sometimes it takes a while for me to realize that my son will never wear the brand-new jeans in his closet because he doesn’t like the cut- or perhaps I overlooked the fact that his pants are becoming too short!

As a parent, I subconsciously want my kids to remain children forever.

Perhaps sorting and getting rid of stuff- even clothes or toys that are in great condition- is a way to allow them to grow, while allowing me to process this “growth”. Maybe purging and sorting things makes me feel more in control of the process?

 

Not Everyone Approves Of The Minimalist Lifestyle

There are times when other methods or mechanisms may have been better employed. I have purged things of my children’s without discussing it with them (knowing they probably would want to cling onto what I was ready to part with). I should have allowed them time to process the “loss” or have a voice in the matter. In those instances, I could have boxed up the item(s) until a later time.

My minimalist ways have conflicted with the hoarders in my life.

My minimalist ways have also conflicted with the toxic people in my life.

When I shared physical and emotional space with these types, there have been problems with my purging/decluttering compulsion. Compulsion or a lifestyle choice? It is a bit of both for me, hence the compulsion that is the primary aspect of a minimalist lifestyle. The toxic relationships in my life may have exacerbated my habit/disorder (?). It is apparent that it was for the best that the relationships be altered. The process of purging, albeit MINDLESS purging, served as a catalyst for changes in the relationships.

Regret: The process of purging is often sudden and mindless for me. Many things I have discarded have had to be repurchased. Some of the things- drawings, writings, photos and things that have taken time and money to make it into my space- can’t be (easily) replaced. In life, I can sometimes make amends. Other times it is out of my control. But simply “holding onto” things (or relationships, feelings, grudges, wounds) for sake of fear, is unhealthy as well.

Grief Still Remains If You Don’t Handle The Emotional Aspect Of Certain Possessions

I wish I could hold onto some things a little longer. For instance, I would like to keep papers and duplicate photos longer before discarding them. Better yet, I would love to be the kind of person that manages such things creatively- such as making a scrapbook and utilizing them into space, walls, artwork. For this reason, I stay away from talented women on Pinterest. Sometimes I peek into their lifestyles. Other times I follow the other minimalists to see how their managing life. In any event, they may or may not have the same emotions and complexities going on in their minds.

My Minimalism Rules

  • Don’t throw away things when feeling depressed or manic. Wait until moods are “euthymic”.
  • Discuss with children before discarding or donating some things.
  • Read a book on anxiety, stress, spirituality, etc. when feeling the urge to purge.
  • Some notable choices include:

Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy by David D. Burns

My Age Of Anxiety: Fear, Hope, Dread, And The Search For Peace Of Mind by Scott Stossel

Acceptance, Improvement, And Letting Go

Finally, it is often hard to accept myself when I fail others. When I disappointment those around me with flaws- what seems rational to me is irrational to others. I can’t push my beliefs on anybody else, but when I hurt them through my actions (purging), I need to seek amends, if they are willing to accept my peace offerings. My kids have forgiven me when I got rid of a book of a toy they wanted (I often have re-purchased some items $).

The toxic people– those who value possessions above people, or those who hold others to unattainable standards- I’ve let them go for now. I can’t work on myself if I am trying to contend with somebody else’s personality/character flaws. There is no clarity or benefit in such situations.