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/
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.

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!

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
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.

 

 

Woman sitting behind green bars, smiling innocently.

Simple Ways to Manage Anxiety and Depression

“Once a week, I like to slip into a deep existential depression where I lose all my sense of oneness and self-worth.” -Bo Burnham

The most helpful part of managing my mood disorder is the fact that my moods are fairly predictable. In more severe cases, it is much more difficult to manage, at least not without the help of doctors. I’ve battled these moods since I was a teenager.

I’m almost certain, however, that I experienced strange things when I was younger. These things I’m talking about are the symptoms one sees when they have experienced trauma. Dissociation, depersonalization, and even involuntary, but subtle, nervous ticks.

So, I’ve battled these moods for many years- anxiety, depression, GAD, OCD. I am familiar with the alphabet soup of mental illness- although, that doesn’t qualify me to dispense medical advice. It simply means, my conditions are much more manageable, so manageable now that I can tell the psychiatrist I don’t want to take the Lamictal or any other drug.

And, I’ve spent so many years on the prescription-drug rollercoaster, to no avail. Well, that’s not entirely true- Prozac wasn’t too bad, except for the occasional electrical surge. Lexapro wasn’t so bad, either. Definitely a pass on Paxil, Buspar, and Serzone.

You might be able to pick up on the fact that I haven’t written regularly for the past few weeks. Today I began to see an improvement in my mood. Soon I will be scribbling away, hopefully finishing some artwork. Now that I am feeling better, I wish to share some simple things that help me feel “at peace.”

Thrive Mindful- Ways To Feel “At Peace”

Shop when the stores are empty.

Get a haircut.

Study a free online course through Coursera.

Play board games with family.

Prank-call a family member.

Play a musical instrument.

Enjoy an open-air, free concert.

Organize photos.

Visit the library.

Ride a bike.

Adopt an animal from a shelter.

Call a long-lost family member.

Wash the car.

Donate unwanted clothes to charity.

Do some yard work.

Explore other WordPress blogs.

Read a good book.

Write a poem.

Organize computer files.

Go for a car ride at dusk.

Watch the sunrise.

Make a list of goals.

Write down 3 things you enjoyed when you were ages 9-12.

Do a free, online personality assessment.

Draw (or doodle) some pictures for your poetry.

Draw a self-portrait.

Rearrange living room furniture.

Invite the opinions of others on topics with universal appeal (i.e, favorites lists of anything)- Promotes diversity and fresh ideas!

Take the family or a friend out to lunch.

Watch a band at the coffee shop.

Schedule a yearly health exam.

Play tennis with some family or friends.

Mental Health Communities And Forums

Finding relevant information and maintaining privacy are key issues for individuals suffering from mental health issues such as anxiety or depression. I’ve included some resources that may be helpful for questions and answers.

www.uncommonforums.com: Topics include psychology, depression, anger management, addictions, eating disorders, and anxiety/panic attacks.

www.dailystrength.com: Online support groups for anxiety, addiction/recovery, mental health, men’s health, women’s health, teens, children’s health/parenting and many other health issues in general.

www.sane.org: An Australian mental health website that includes a well-organized forum area. The aesthetic appeal and non-spammy feel make the website worthwhile.

www.beatingthebeast.com: “Beating The Beast” touts itself as an online depression support community, but I’ve discovered useful advice on anxiety disorders, as well as bipolar and other mental health issues.

If you were to write a list of things that make you feel happy or relaxed, what would it include? Is there a pattern in your list?

My list includes a little socializing, some solitude, and purging of unused things that others might want to use. Note that much of my joy comes from reading, writing, and drawing.

No matter how depressed or anxious I become, I try to make an effort to pursue my faith (reading the Bible, watching or reading content online about my faith). One key difference between how I handle my moods now, as opposed to when I was younger, is the fact that I pursue my spirituality. Even when I feel I’ve lost hope or control, there is always something more that governs life and the world around me.

Simple Changes That Improve Anxiety Disorders

“Remember that stress doesn’t come from what’s going on in your life. It comes from your thoughts about what’s going on in your life.” -Andrew J. Bernstein

The word “stress” often gets a bad rap, thanks to “anxiety.” Since stress is often the precipitating trigger in anxiety disorders, it is perceived as a negative experience. Stress is defined as your body’s reaction to a trigger and is generally a short-term experience. Anxiety, on the other hand, doesn’t resolve itself once the triggering event has subsided.

Anxiety is prolonged and debilitating. Disorders, such as GAD (Generalized Anxiety Disorder) leave individuals feeling a sense of doom. Although stress can trigger anxiety, more often than not, the causes of anxiety are not always easily identified.

Years ago, I was diagnosed with agoraphobia and GAD. I felt somewhat relieved to know that a “fear of the marketplace” (agoraphobia) was a logical explanation for some of my distress about running errands or going shopping.

In retrospect, I was afraid of being around a lot of people, in situations where I might find it hard to get away if needed. I especially feared being judged when I was a new mother. I feared people might say rude things to my kids, or criticize my parenting style (they did!). A simple comment on how to manage my children when they cried in the long lines, or how I should discipline then if they misbehaved often left me feeling depressed and apprehensive. My head often grew heavy when I even thought about going out in public!

GAD, on the other hand, is a more mysterious anxiety disorder. GAD is defined by WebMD as, excessive, exaggerated anxiety and worries about everyday life events with no obvious reasons for worry. People with symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder tend to always expect disaster and can’t stop worrying about health, money, family, work, or school.”

So, what is the proper amount of worry about everyday life events? How much is a normal amount of worrying about important things such as health, money, family, work, or school? Possibly, is it an abstract amount of worry that can only be defined by the extent of uneasiness it causes to an individual? Why do some handle such pressures effortlessly, while others are plagued by apprehension or displeasure?

When I experience agoraphobia and GAD as a new parent (who possibly was afflicted by postpartum depression), I was limited into tapping into a source of support, and sources of guidance and encouragement. However, I took advantage of reading and talk therapy in some support groups. I lacked supportive family and friends, so I had to seek out my tribe. Only those people could understand me. Such groups offered a reciprocal dynamic.

What differentiates my ability to cope with stress now compared to those years?

  • Closer to a supportive family (father and stepmother)
  • Stable job
  • Having a reliable source of income (see above)
  • Wisdom, experience, maturity, insight, perception
  • Ability to reframe events and experiences
  • Writing in a journal when I have a difficult problem
  • Knowledge and implementation of nutrition and exercise
  • Stable environment for my children
  • A work schedule that allows me to maximize time with my family
  • Seeking spirituality each day

For me, changes in environments, income, neighborhood- physical resources, have contributed, I suppose. Experience, wisdom, maturity, insight, and perception have helped me significantly. These things do not occur overnight, nor can a prescription cure all elements of anxiety or stress. Understanding that we live in a dynamic, cyclic and rhythmic world, and forming internal and external patterns to accompany this understanding is a crucial step in coping with stress.

Break Into Smaller Tasks

I have also learned to break up problems and tasks into smaller pieces. If I am faced with a vast amount of tasks that need my attention at once, I can only delegate- to myself, that is, I must assign myself different steps to complete the tasks. And, most of all, I ask for help, even when I think others might judge me.

Allow Time For Issues To Improve

Just as we need time to adjust our internal rhythm, the problems and external forces surrounding our stress need time. Time for resolution, time to plan, time to delegate, etc. Time doesn’t have to be considered an enemy. When we are mindful about stress, we should actively pace our breathing to reset our bodies from a “fight or flight” response to a response that is confident and able to handle challenges.

Stress and Relaxed

References:

  1. (https://www.healthstatus.com/health_blog/depression-stress-anxiety/how-is-anxiety-different-from-stress/)
  2. (https://www.psycom.net/stress-vs-anxiety-difference)
  3. (https://www.webmd.com/anxiety-panic/guide/generalized-anxiety-disorder#1)

 

How Leaving an Abusive Relationship Helped Me at Life

“One thing I know for sure – this motherhood thing is not for sissies.” -Jennifer Nettles

Working on the weekend while my kids were home without me gave me much time to worry about them. Running parts on a machine weren’t especially challenging, which is why my thoughts drift. While most of my thoughts centered on my family, there were momentary lapses of reflection on my career goals, my limitations, and what topics to write about for my blog.

I’m almost certain that I was experiencing mixed episodes yesterday, and my thoughts continued to race all day. I hadn’t felt depressed much, mostly manic. This made me wonder if I was cured of my bipolar depression. If I was cured of depression, did that mean I was now “unipolar?” I read a little about unipolar disorder, and how it’s sometimes misdiagnosed as ADHD. I wanted to write a post about unipolar disorder, then I switched gears and wanted to explore the concept of mood disorders diminishing of changing with various life stages.

Societal Ideals And Social Stigma of Motherhood And Depression

But, when I was considering the components of each life stage in my own experiences, I got stuck on the stage in my life when I suffered from postpartum depression. I never had the chance to talk about that time until now. There seems to be even more stigma attached to postpartum depression than any other disorder. The most obvious reason is that mothers are supposed to level-headed, nurturing, patient, self-sacrificing, etc.

jordan-rowland-716367-unsplash

When a woman feels she lacks in these qualities, she doesn’t disclose such information. In my case, I would ask other women open-ended questions that were loosely related to postpartum depression. If the recipient wasn’t receptive, engaging, or seemed to show an unsupportive attitude, I dropped the subject. I usually moved on from my own issues and start to talk about marriage and relationships- to see if my thoughts about a matter were substantiated by others.

One of the things I would mention was how much my husband drank and how he behaved when he returned from drinking. I was in a fog about my relationship problems because I was so wrapped up in getting help for my depression, and learning how to be a new parent. My husband used to ridicule me because I tried to sing to my kids, and he scoffed at the notion of “real” women having a necessity to read books on how to take care of your children.

Seeking Refuge, Finding Nothing

Sadly, he wasn’t the only unsupportive person during those years of depression. When I had to leave the house because of the violence, I found it very hard to feel supported at the women’s shelter in which I and my kids took refuge. The shelter had very strict rules, which didn’t bother me too much until they showed little compassion for women suffering from depression. Their primary focus was to check-in with me every couple of days to find out how my job search was going.

My kids were still very young (ages 2 and 4), and my mind wasn’t organized at that time. I wanted to spend time with my kids. My oldest showed signs of ADHD or some other behavior disorder. I needed help with my depression, but the shelter lacked knowledge and resources for women needing any type of recovery services. On the second day at the shelter, I had a conflict with one of the staff members who was scolding my son harshly. He had difficulties transitioning and being around new places and people, but they didn’t care.

Like many women entering a shelter, I had no money, but I had my own car. Although I had a little Suzuki that needed a lot of work and I lacked the means to get the repairs, the staff treated me poorly because I had a car. Many of the women that stayed there relied on public transportation. Gas for my car and passes for a bus both required money. The money required a job. To get a job, you need somebody to watch your children. Social Services programs and daycare for women entering or reentering the workforce will give you a voucher for childcare…once you have secured a job.

Living far from my own family and friends- and lacking mobility and social support, it was difficult to get help with brief interludes of childcare to apply for jobs. Eventually, I obtained a job and apartment, though car repairs proved to be devastating to our livelihood for many years!

Bye, Felicia!

We were kicked out of the shelter after a 2-week stay simply because my husband’s process server knew the location of the shelter and came knocking on their door. The process server- the man paid to track me down, block my car at an intersection, and throw the divorce papers at me, was familiar with the staff members, as he had once been an attorney. The location of the shelter was well-known to many people- but the staff insisted that I breached a privacy law and ejected us anyway.

Once my children and I returned home (and until I got my own job and apartment), we lived in the dysfunctional environment a little longer. During this time, a number of things helped me stand on my own, despite my depression and anxiety.

Support Groups

Catholic Charities helped my family immensely when I was living in a domestic violence situation. During their support groups, they offered childcare while mothers had the chance to meet with other women who were experiencing similar situations. Additionally, the groups were led by social workers who not only offered wisdom, they treated the women with dignity and compassion.

Individual Therapy/Counseling

The therapist helped me see my blind spots with regard to the toxic people and behaviors in my life. They also can recommend you to psychiatrists and psychologists if you need to take medication. Sometimes it seemed a little awkward talking to a stranger, but they can offer much-needed guidance, especially if you’re lacking in this area.

Reading/Insight/Learning

A trip to the library often reaps many interesting discoveries. Kids can play with other kids quietly, and you can pick up your books and read a little while your kids are being entertained by storytellers, playtime friends, or colorful puppets and toys. I used to grab a calendar of events and circle the dates when my kids could be entertained for free by the library staff.

Solitude

Take any and every chance you get to enjoy the silence. When babies are young, they often have a predictable napping schedule. I used this time to read about depression, boundary issues (Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend), parenting, and money management. I also tried to pursue creative interests, such as drawing and painting, after my kids went to bed for the night, or before they woke up in the morning. I wasn’t always able to stick to this routine, especially when there were chaos and dysfunction in the home, but I tried to draw and paint with my kids too, and get them interested in art.

Quality Time With Children

Even a simple trip to McDonald’s with a play area can be quite enjoyable for young children! When you have little time or money (or emotional resources), you have to simplify. We visited local parks, the library, kid-friendly restaurants. A few grocery stores offer childcare while you shop- my kids thought it was a treat to go in the “Eagle’s Nest” at Giant Eagle while I shopped for groceries.

Things have evolved significantly since my kids were toddlers. There are probably new and better ways in which to find support for depression, domestic violence, and other issues. Which leads me to one other place that helped me.

Listen To Inspirational Audiobooks

My local library was a treasure trove of learning resources. Check out some audiobooks on self-help, parenting, marriage and family relationships, and much more!

Find A Good Church

And by good, I mean a church that is attuned to the needs of their community. Luckily, our church had many support groups and classes- for Christians and non-Christians alike. DivorceCare offered kitschy videos about life after divorce, but during the times when the facilitator paused the DVD, we had lively discussions and developed strong friendships with others among the class.

 

A lady with long, dark hair stands outside on a cloudy day.

Understanding Moods at Various Life Stages

“I don’t wait for moods. You accomplish nothing if you do that. Your mind must know it has got to get down to work.” -Pearl S. Buck

The complexities of the mind never cease to fascinate me! With so many factors to be considered by the medical community, it’s no wonder the DSM-IV lists over 297 disorders!

I’m no doctor or therapist, but simply a person with an intense curiosity about mental health issues. As I look back on my own mental health history, I’ve noticed many changes. Parallel to my mental health history, I must consider my environment at each stage. Was I surrounded by supportive people?

No- in the most difficult times in my life, I was either isolated or surrounded by negativity. I use the term “negativity” loosely, mostly because in many instances, I lived in a dysfunctional environment. In the case of my teenage years, I lived with an alcoholic mother from whom I sought approval. Every time I skipped a meal, it was to win her approval. It was also an erroneous effort to remain fragile and adolescent.

Postpartum Depression

After I had my children, I experienced postpartum depression. Being a new parent is hard enough, let alone being a new mother with no happiness emanating. My depression made me feel unworthy. I didn’t measure up to what I felt a new mother should look like or feel like. The mothers I observed were smiling, singing to their kids, and they had energy. I often felt catatonic but through prayer, I was able to push through the sadness. I tried to get enough rest and get my kids out of the house- even when it meant I had to face what felt like a harsh world.

Reflecting On The (Painful) Past

My first-born had colic and cried frequently for the first few weeks. Although I read books and scoured the internet for information, I couldn’t escape feeling at fault. Babies with colic love white-noise, music and motion. They also like a change of scenery, so car and stroller rides were key to help ease my son’s symptoms.

Walking helped me and my kids get away and connect with each other, away from the toxicity of alcoholism and unsupportive people. I remember getting a double-sided stroller for my kids- right before I knew the time was nearing for us to move on from our home. In 2007, during our stay at the women’s shelter, we used it quite often when the staff arrived at 8:00 A.M each morning.

Children playing outside in the Fall season.

My children and I lived in utter chaos for many years as a result of my husband’s drinking and verbal abuse. At this juncture in my life- with very little emotional resources (or resources of any kind), I couldn’t overcome my depression and anxiety issues, become the kind of parent I desired to be in a marriage riddled with so much strife.

My mind couldn’t take anymore. I wasn’t getting enough rest, and as a result, I wasn’t always attentive to my children’s needs. Fast-forward ahead, divorce, new job, and relocation. It’s hard to believe how much has changed in life, and with my health.

Looking back, I was very withdrawn, anxious, and depressed for 15 years. Then I suffered from postpartum depression and recovered. I went to the doctor and tried Lexapro, then switched to Prozac. I took it sporadically because I felt fine sometimes. I quit taking it when I started to experience electrical surges in my brain. Sometimes I felt like it was too much medicine, even though it was the lowest dose and I usually broke it in half!

In 2017 I was told by a psychiatrist that I was “a little bipolar.” My speech was sped up when I spoke to her, but I honestly didn’t feel I fit into all the typical patterns of a person afflicted with bipolar disorder. She prescribed Lamictal, which I never took.

When Joy And Sadness Are Natural Reactions

At this point, I’m betting that I need to go get an MRI to see if I have something else wrong with me. Sometimes I feel overwhelmed with joy and laughter. Then there was that time at church a few years ago that I couldn’t stop crying at the Mother’s Day service.

Maybe the crying has to do with actual grief of the loss of relationship with my mother, or that motherhood itself has many strong memories- memories of my personal failures attributed to my depressed mood- the times that I isolated my family from what I perceived as a harsh world.

Over the years, my moods have seemed to improve, with a few exceptions (when exposed to conflict, harsh conditions, and disrespectful attitudes). I am not subject to the empty, hopeless feelings of my twenties. The anxiety- GAD and agoraphobia, that I was plagued by in my thirties has diminished significantly. Consequently, I am no longer under the influence of certain family ties.

Sometimes I feel that I have been delivered from the depths of depression and anxiety. I often prayed to have any other affliction except those dueling monsters of invisible mayhem! Maybe all the years of taking SSRI’s have chemically altered my brain. But I took the medicine sporadically- if at all. I relied more on prayer than human wisdom during those years, so I am a little biased to feel it wasn’t pills that helped me.

I rarely have bizarre nightmares. I feel happy or at least, content, most of the time. Sometimes I get bursts of mania and creative energy. Seldom, I get depressed and can’t find the desire to write or draw.

With my moods taking shape in different ways, I’m becoming more curious about the human mind. As I get a little older, I certainly cling to the hope that I never lose my mind.

 

When Painful Childhood Memories Leave a Lasting Impression

A few weeks ago, I was contacted by a distant relative on a genealogy website. She motivated me to obtain and scan old family photos to share on the site. Of course, I was delighted to find somebody that shared an interest in our family’s roots. My dad agreed to let me have his family photos and records.

In the past week after all my work of scanning photos, I felt unsettled. There are brokenness and trauma in my family. My grandfather suffered a blow to the head and died several years after he sustained injuries to his brain. He had two failed marriages and some of his children moved out of state. Whatever his problems were with his wives and children, to me he was my beloved grandfather. To my family, we were all hurt deeply by his death and suffering.

Our family moved into the house my grandfather used to live and my parents began fighting began when I was 10 years of age. I was beginning to put on weight prior to these changes in the home. I can remember being a little on the chubby side back when I was in kindergarten. My mom often ridiculed me and called me, “Tubby”, “Tub-of-Lard,” “Baby Huey” and a number of other variations. Sometimes if I was quick enough, I could see her making fun of my lazy eye, or encouraging other family members to do so. If others tried to console me, she would say that I was trying to be “babied.” After a while, hugs and attention from people embarrassed me. I kept my emotions stuffed and I got stuffed in my appearance! The only time I showed weakness was when I stayed at my grandmother’s house and my mom wasn’t lurking nearby to monitor conversations.

So when I see a few photos of myself from age 5 until age 11, I can clearly see that my problems got bigger at the time of upheaval in our family. When I was 10, I stayed outside every chance I could so I could be with the neighborhood kids, playing baseball, or riding bikes. My stomach had expanded so much that I couldn’t just buy regular clothes. I was relegated to wear “husky” pants (now called “plus” for girls), and they were unattractive. I didn’t want to wear dresses or try to look pretty anymore. This type of behavior went on until I was 14 years old and began starving myself for a few years.

The odd thing was that my mom seemed nicer to me when I lost weight, but she found out I was not eating. In order to avoid fighting, I ate the bare minimum amount of food in her presence. At school and everywhere else, I ate almost nothing and loved to hear my stomach grumble. A grumbling stomach equated with acceptance by others, and it meant that I was losing weight.

Time has a way of helping you change your course, but some pain remains. Therapy probably helps many people, but I just lack the time and commitment to seeing a therapist regularly.

A woman wearing dark clothes and hat walks in a field of daisies.

When People Pretend to Understand Bipolar Disorder

Don’t assume anything about Bipolar Disorder.

It is much easier for me to tell people I have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder now that I have had an actual psychiatric evaluation. It has taken me years to be led in the right direction for such a diagnosis. Five years ago, I believed I suffered from PMDD (premenstrual dysphoric disorder). A few times a year, when I would become so distraught over my moods, I would schedule a doctor’s appointment. I believed my periods were causing me such psychological problems that they were the major culprit in any interpersonal relationship conflict I had with family, friends or co-workers.
In 2016, I penned an email to my family doctor:

“I am no longer taking Lexapro. I tried for 3 weeks and had some nightmares and discovered I grew a tolerance for it. I felt really hostile on it the final week. I was seemingly fine until my period this week.”

She gingerly replied:

“Unfortunately you did not follow-up at your scheduled appointment where we would typically re-evaluate symptoms of anxiety, depression, PMDD, and any side effects. Therefore none of this is actually documented.”

I had been to the same office for “mood” problems since 2012 when the doctor tried to put me on birth control pills. The “pill” was not effective in treating my mood disorder. Each time I visited the doctor, they tried to give me another antidepressant. Mostly, I was given medication in the SSRI class of antidepressants. Then, I was prescribed Wellbutrin, a medication in the NDRI class (norepinephrine-dopamine reuptake inhibitor). My doctor determined that I was “sensitive” to medications, which is why she tried me on Wellbutrin.

I was afraid to mess with the new prescription she recommended. Then, my mood would improve, I’d get a euphoric feeling. I felt creative and happy about half of my life, then I descend into depression. It was always with that period of depression that I sought help. My doctor’s office replaced the previous physician with a new doctor. I explained that I was not there for “meds” as the nurse remarked on my intake form. She reviewed my symptoms and gave me a referral to their partner clinic- the clinic that deals with mental illness, therapy and psychiatry. A wave of embarrassment and shame poured over me. The psychiatrist asked me many questions. As I spoke to her, my speech became more rapid. “Do you realize how fast you are talking?” I said I was moderately aware of how my speech changes but nobody else has ever remarked about it.

We talked about my family history, specifically, how members of my family used alcohol to mask what was possibly their own mood disorders. In the past, there was more stigma against mental illness. People kept problems hidden from others, or at least they tried. The alcoholism simply created additional problems. My grandfather was a WWII survivor (USS Indianapolis). He was quiet and held his liquor well. It was socially acceptable to throw down a few beers. He was dealing with traumatic memories that he wanted to suppress. Grandma, on the other hand, was a talker. She was also a drinker, as was my mother. As a child, I witnessed interesting discussions when they all drank together in the kitchen. My grandfather seemed to have much composure. I can’t say the say for the rest of the family.

I told the doctor about my experiences with Lexapro, and how I had very disturbing nightmares. These nightmares dealt with the macabre- death and decay. I found it very difficult to shake these dreams from my waking moments. When I quit taking the medication abruptly, I experienced unpleasant withdrawal symptoms. I prayed that I would avoid getting into trouble or jeopardizing any relationship. The other medications made me feel dull but balanced. While on the meds, I was neither happy nor sad. My face felt like a mask. Any creative inclination I had previously experienced during my “manic” episodes had all but diminished.

My psychiatrist said that my periods likely trigger my underlying condition of bipolar disorder. She told me that more than likely, my mother and grandmother had mood disorders and drank to cope with their issues. The nightmares that I experienced while taking antidepressants was common in bipolar patients.

“Your family doctor sent you here because she didn’t know what else could be wrong”, she explained. I read that in order to be diagnosed with PMDD, the doctor must rule out any mental health issues that could possibly be causing the symptoms. Although I was not thrilled with being diagnosed with any mental disorder, bipolar disorder was less-embarrassing than PMDD. PMDD is not socially-acceptable and most people misunderstand the meaning of “being bipolar.”

When I need to tell people about my disorder (so they don’t think I’m speaking rapidly because I’m strung-out on drugs), I am met with a dismissive attitude. The term “bipolar” has become synonymous with being “edgy”. The term “bipolar” is used to broadly define any rebellious, hip, or bold attitude. Mood disorders are NOT attitudes.

Bipolar disorder is defined by the American Psychological Association as “a serious mental illness in which common emotions become intensely and often unpredictably magnified. Individuals with bipolar disorder can quickly swing from extremes of happiness, energy, and clarity to sadness, fatigue, and confusion. These shifts can be so devastating that individuals may choose suicide.”-APA.org

As a society, we have all but surpassed the days of unrelenting stigmatizing of mental illness, at least for bipolar disorder. In fact, we now must contend with the ignorance associated with bipolar disorder. Much of this ignorance is due in part from people not recognizing bipolar disorder as a real medical condition.

During a manic episode, people suffering from extreme cases of this illness may indulge in risky, foolish or erratic behavior. They may spend money and put their family in debt. They may become promiscuous and wreck their marriage by having affairs. During a depressed cycle, they may experience psychotic episodes, or attempt suicide and/or self-harm. While I have not experienced those elements of bipolar disorder, I have become so depressed that I have ruminated over my own death. I am certain that such dark moods are not appealing to my family.

Bipolar disorder affects each person differently. My variety of this trendy illness doesn’t involve getting tattoos, drinking and driving, or staying up all night like a rock star. Rather, my bipolar can be managed most days, and I have been given the ability to function enough to hold down a full-time job.

Others are not able to work or even manage to get out of bed and get dressed when they are debilitated by depression. When weekends arrive, I am partially relieved because I can rest at home, or so I believe. Often, I become so manic in the afternoon that I am not able to sit down. Weekend mornings, when the kids are still asleep and my worries are quenched for a little bit of time, are the only times I can spend writing. I “binge,” write during such times, except when I am depressed, or when I am trying a new medication.

When I was in my twenties, I started to become aware that something was not right about my moods. Listening to music from Jimi Hendrix and Nirvana opened my mind to certain mental health issues (i.e., “Manic-Depression”, “Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge”). I was old enough to drink and I drank exceedingly to suppress or to accelerate my mood shifts. Those were some of the worst years of my life!

When people passively listen to me talk about my mood issues, they appear to be dismissive or they appear to “know it all” about manic depression/bipolar disorder. They do not care or they wish to remain blissfully ignorant. After a while, I let them stew in their ignorance or I pretend to not have a mood disorder. Such people love to use a broad lens when depicting bipolar disorder. The lens they prefer to use, however, does not liberate, it merely conveys a broad, generic perspective of the term “bipolar”.

 

 

Simple Ways to Survive a Negative Workplace

When you are feeling no longer feel motivated or you simply feel burned-out, it is best to find the root cause of your feelings before making any major life changes. A common mistake is attributing the sum total of your negative feelings on one broad problem, such as a bad job, or having no money. While both of these things do not elicit feelings of joy or contentment, resilient people are able to deal with such challenges with a hearty attitude.

If being in a bad job, or being broke, is not the root cause- or there are layers of an underlying cause, it may be more difficult to overcome negative feelings simply by getting a different job or working more hours to bring in more money. In fact, if your current job is not recognizing your efforts, why would you want to work more hours to bring in more money- only to continue a never-ending cycle of “live to work, work to live!”

Your Job Isn’t So Bad That You Can’t Overcome Some Obstacles.

You may be unable to change some aspects of your job, but maybe you can change one important component to your experience each day- and remind yourself that life doesn’t cease to exist when you punch the clock, you may be better equipped to recognize what is in your control and what is beyond your control.

Ways To Ease The Challenges of A Negative Environment

  • Read about the type of people that inspire you, instead of only taking in the negative people that surround you.
  • Make a note of it. Keep a notebook handy to write down what is making you angry or sad. It’s not convenient to do this when your manager is breathing down your neck about quotas, but take a moment to write it down the minute you are alone. Talk to a trusted friend to help process your emotions. If you have nobody that understands or shows empathy towards your problem, you need to find your “tribe.” In the meantime, writing it down may help you process your emotions.
  • Determine what it is about the problem. Hopefully, you have discovered at least one root cause of the problem. Sometimes you can get a sense of control or power by determining the problem(s). Taking action to improve elements of the problem are the next logical step.

What You Can Control About The Negative Environment

Some jobs naturally place people in stressful or negative environments. You may explore your personality (www.gladeo.org) discover if you are suited for a particular line of work. It may be you may don’t thrive in a conservative, office job if you are meant to be designing or building something. You can cope better at your job if you have other hobbies or projects that satisfy your need for intrinsic motivation.

When I took the personality test, I learned that I was a “creator”. Jobs for creative types include graphic design, editing, advertising, and writing. Consequently, I don’t use any these skills at my current job, but I have, on occasion, contributed to small projects that satisfy these skills at my company. I created a company newsletter and contributed with some of my peers to engage and motivate employees, via a “safety committee”. I was initially not interested in a health and safety committee because I didn’t realize the creative force within the activity. I was able to work in a team (not unlike how advertising executives work in teams) and I was able to write content and format a newsletter. Employers and managers appreciate the time and effort I invested to boost morale and engage employees in the company culture and values.

The Purpose of Keeping Notes Is To Help You Become (More) Self-Aware.

Being aware of yourself helps you get a grip on the things you can control!. Whether you are an introvert or extrovert, it is helpful to know where you’re going and where you have been. For instance, if my co-worker catches an error, I may not necessarily be distraught over the error so much as the way in which he/she made me feel stupid. My issue would be “respect” and I would be able to handle the disciplinary action of my error. It may be that when you feel bombarded with negative feelings, you don’t know where to focus your anger.

Venting talking to a trusted friend should help peel away the many layers behind the anger. A good friend may be able to help you gain insight, other times, many of us aren’t so lucky. Being an introvert and a writer, I find that writing about my anger and sadness is a natural way to process the situation. Some people prefer to play sports with a group to shed some of the stress, while others work on puzzles or building something.

If your work doesn’t suit your personality, you must find other ways in which you can explore your talents. If you already have a job that allows you to use your talents, and you are not being recognized, perhaps you can ask to take on a small project that will allow you to shine (or at least give you some extra money for your hobbies). Check out Mantelligence for great money-making hobbies!

If you aren’t afforded the opportunity to have a job suited for your personality and there is zero potential to use any of your talents, it’s not time to change yourself, it is time to move on in your career or company.