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

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.

What You Should Know About Bipolar Mania

Know The Difference Between Hypomania and Mania

The symptoms of hypomania and mania are very similar. You may feel more social, excited, confident and creative. However, the two conditions differ in severity and length.

Hypomania is a milder form of mania and lasts a shorter period of time- days, instead of weeks. Mania is a condition that is more severe and lasts longer than hypomania- generally, mania lasts a week or more.

Often, those who experience hypomania enjoy the bursts of energy and creativity. On the other hand, individuals who experience mania may feel quite uncomfortable with their symptoms. A person experiencing hypomania may simply be more friendly and active. The sudden burst of energy often leads them to take on many projects at once, or accept more risks and responsibilities.

Somebody experiencing mania will also feel excited, but it is much more difficult to manage the sudden bursts of energy. Instead of simply feeling more creative, the manic individual has difficulty harnessing their energy. Their words pour out quickly and frequently, thus making it difficult to engage with others and allow them to interject. Accompanying that desire to talk frequently and quickly, they feel overly confident, grandiose- as though others don’t have the capacity to understand their special abilities and talents.

The person experiencing hypomania feels that they can perform tasks more efficiently and better than normal. They feel happy, have boundless energy and creativity, and seem to be able to manage their energy, racing thoughts, and ideas.

When somebody is experiencing mania, however, it is difficult for them to organize and direct their energy.

Key components of mania may include:

  • Jumbled, unorganized and racing thoughts.
  • Inability to concentrate on tasks and/or easily distracted.
  • Lack of insight, which hinders the ability to mania as problematic.
  • Delusions and paranoia
  • Seeing, hearing, or feeling things others can’t observe (psychosis).

Managing Hypomania and Mania

Boundless energy, feeling more attractive and social- people often enjoy hypomania and mania and seem no harm. Their distorted beliefs about hypomania and mania may lead to an incorrect diagnosis, or they fail to follow-up on their treatment.

The first step should be to get a physical to rule out other potential causes. If you are taking any medications, your doctor needs to assess if these medications are the cause of your symptoms, or if any medications or other health issues are affecting your treatment.

Many patients are advised by their doctors to take antipsychotics or mood stabilizers. If you are taking medications, it is essential that you take the medicine as prescribed and follow-up as needed with your doctor.

In combination with taking medications, or instead of taking medications, many people are advised to participate in therapies that involve talking.

Talk Therapy includes:

  • Family-Focused Therapy, which involves working with members of your family to identify certain behaviors and traits that need attention. Problem-solving methods are employed as part of therapy.
  • Interpersonal Therapy examines your relations and how to improve and interact more effectively.
  • Psychoeducation is a type of intervention that helps people learn to cope, either on their own or as part of a group.
  • Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT)- Therapy that focuses on living in the present and becoming more attentive.
  • Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT)- A type of therapy program that is practical and short-term, that helps people identify and change behaviors associated with hypomania and mania.

How To Help Yourself

Learn to identify triggers:

  • Avoid excessive amounts of caffeine and alcohol.
  • Avoid skipping meals.
  • Not allowing yourself downtime to enjoy rest, pursue recreational activities, or enjoy time with family, friends or solitude.

Make a plan to manage hypomania/mania episodes.

A management plan may address your triggers. An example of a management plan may include:

  • Keeping track of your moods. Record the day, time and other factors important to the event.
  • Avoiding situations, places, and people that may put you at risk to engage in dangerous behaviors (such as taking drugs, spending too much money, etc.)
  • You may opt to avoid places that are over-stimulating, or too chaotic, busy or crowded.

Apply daily routines to help manage episodes of hypomania and mania.

  • Get plenty of sleep and try to go to bed at the same time each night.
  • Practice proper nutrition and eat regular meals. Avoid skipping meals.
  • Keep balanced! Avoid taking on too many responsibilities. Seek relaxing activities to counteract the stimulating/stress-inducing activities. Relaxing activities include meditating, journaling, reading, working on puzzles, etc.

Support System As Part Of Treatment

Many people who suffer from mood disorders lack quality relationships with family or friends. Take steps to correct this if possible! Many family members or friends don’t have specific knowledge about hypomania and mania, and they may reflect this lack of knowledge in the way they deal with their loved ones!

Clearly, but kindly, express your frustrations with them. Educate them on your symptoms so they don’t falsely attribute every “good” day to hypomania/mania. Tell them how much you appreciate their efforts to make sure you are getting enough sleep, nutrition, etc.

Family and friends can play an important role in treatment. They may be able to let you see your blind spots (this theory can be applied to all people- not just individuals with mood disorders).

Conversely, if you lack quality friendships or family relationships, you may prefer to find a group that deals specifically with mood disorders. Such groups can be found locally, but more often, people with mood disorders enjoy connecting with others online- for example, online forums, or online therapy (if covered by insurance).

How OCD Nearly Destroyed My Creativity

One of the things that helped soothe my mind as a child was art. I had a special affinity for drawing people. Teachers noticed my skills and would shine the spotlight on my artwork sometimes. I became known as a good artist by my classmates. I always believed I would choose a career path that utilized my artistic talents. By the time I was in my mid-twenties, I started to become disenchanted with the concept of art. In school, art was never very disciplined.

Once I took art classes at college, it was very different. I hated using charcoal pencils, pastels, and paints. My artwork no longer represented my creativity, but rather, it reflected “mental clutter” and oppressive memories. I started purging my pencil and charcoal sketches that I had devoted so much time and energy. I did not want these remnants of my past, for whatever reasons.

In my early thirties, I began favoring a more minimalistic home environment, much to my family’s dismay. I was unable to have any kind of clutter. This meant I could not pursue my art anymore, though I tried to keep my interest in art alive by doing art with my kids. I would buy art supplies, make arts and crafts, then throw the supplies and designs away. It also meant that my husband and I would have arguments over what he wanted to save and what I wanted to discard or donate. He wanted the basement to remain undisturbed. He did, in fact, want to hoard too many things, but the truth is told, he had a point. My thoughts were impeding on the liberties of others in my home.

OCD or A Bipolar Trying To Control External Stimuli?

It’s odd that I started to favor a minimalistic theme in my life. I loved to see art, I loved to be surrounded by cozy objects in other people’s homes- just not my own. My mind became cluttered with stimuli if I allowed any empty space in my house. My kids said our house looked like we just moved in. I tend to agree with them! The mission to maintain a clutter-free house consumed me- OCD Decluttering! Absolute madness, yet disregarded by many that do not see the damage caused by this disorder.

Assigning Values To OCD Stress & Triggers

I don’t know what has caused my OCD symptoms to lessen. Perhaps the passage of time, or maybe I have become more mindful of the destructive ways of OCD. When I have become overwhelmed, I have purged “things”…clothes, paper, the pantry, anything I could get my hands on! I try to minimize things that trigger OCD. For instance, I try to avoid doing too many things I dislike in one day. I won’t grocery shop and drive excessively on the same day if I can help it. Maybe somebody should try to assign numbers to indicate varying degrees of stress for daily activities. I know there are such systems for monumental stressful life events (such as jail, divorce, job loss, etc.). For people suffering from anxiety or OCD, this would be ideal.

Reconciling OCD, Rekindling My Creativity

My OCD symptoms have diminished in the last few years… I haven’t thought too much lately how far I have come with my anxiety and OCD because I have been distracted by other issues. Visiting an art museum has helped me to become inspired by art once again.

In my previous post, I wrote about being happy when I am out in nature. Nature is beauty in its simplest form, no clutter or embellishments. Art is the creation of man (and woman). It is not necessarily simple, yet I find it beautiful and edifying. I have become less focused on intrusive, unimportant worries about clutter, and more concerned about what is involved in the making of the things that are in my surroundings. Processes, engagement, activity: things that are relational help make the visual beauty in a way that has depth. This is beyond what was once shallow. Everything that is material or visual is not superficial to me any longer.

A woman takes a drag of her cigarette.

What’s the Harm in Soft Addictions?

As much as I would like to fool myself and claim to have no true connections to technology, I am guilty of spending countless hours of wasted time on the internet and on my phone. Every few hours- at the minimum, I must “check in” to my email, research something on Google, or read the juiciest Hollywood gossip. In a way, this habit reminds of when I was a smoker. Every 1 ½ to 3 hours, I submitted myself to just one more drag off a cheap Dorel cigarette. With great anticipation, I called on my “posse” of smoking friends and co-workers to join me outside for a break. It was soothing as we smoked and talked. Then, within a few moments, guilt overwhelmed me. I wanted to get a grip on my habit. Maybe if I just reduced the number of cigarettes I smoked, I could fool myself, have a little pleasure without becoming totally immersed in nicotine addiction. This never worked for me. After several failed attempts, I finally quit for my family.

Now I have the same guilt about what I believe is technology addiction. I’m addicted to the internet, my email, and my smartphone. If I’m out with my family, I have got to document for the world to see at some point, so I use my phone to capture the moment. Something in my mind felt awkward about this new socially-acceptable behavior. When did “having fun” become such a novelty? Granted, I only have one social media account for which I use to keep up with my children’s online presence. It has been a year since I posted a photo.

I became disenamoured with Facebook a few years ago when I started seeing a predictable pattern in the posts of my friends. Sure, it seemed nice to reconnect with people I haven’t seen in over twenty years, and it was entertaining to see their photos, read their quips, and “like” their strongly-worded opinions. It felt like high school again, in the virtual world. The “popular” kids at one table, the misfits somewhere else, and the people that didn’t really subscribe to any particular subset or clique. Regardless of my feelings, it seemed easy for me to become addicted to Facebook. After a few years, I consciously chose to ignore the “fear of missing out” syndrome and I finally deactivated and deleted my Facebook data.

When I needed help in conquering past issues, I prayed. I failed several times even as I was in the midst of fighting my issues. Often, it was years before I saw anything positive as a result of fighting a battle for my mind. I have battled emotional eating, caffeine addiction, smoking, and drinking. Of those habits, I have overcome two. The caffeine use has increased, possibly to replace the need to smoke, drink or eat. A few years ago, I dropped nearly twenty pounds, only to pack it on again. Somehow I can’t discipline myself to drink more water, which would help curb my appetite.

Quite possibly, I can’t connect to the real world, as a result of technology, or perhaps, because I can’t connect to the real world, I turn to my laptop and phone.

A smiling woman, standing near trees.

How I Refresh When I’m Depressed

“If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there”- George Harrison

For several weeks, I have neglected my writing, my drawings, my dreams, and my passions. Why? Because I am depressed. As a result, I feel hopeless and unmotivated. It is the same reason why I buy things and throw them out a week later, I suppose. When I feel ambitious, I buy things to “make changes”, to pursue a hobby or some other “worthy” cause. I become overwhelmed and depressed, and I figure my plans and abilities will fail, I simply discard my purchases.

Writing is my faithful outlet- I won’t throw away my laptop, but I may edit some of my ideas on the computer. I have written essays to process my feelings, to aid in my research and recovery of mental health issues. When I have a problem, I turn to the internet or books to help me understand; I usually feel compelled to write while researching a topic.

But even now, I have only recently begun to feel like writing again. I had hoped to be making progress in composing a collection of essays to be published, either independently, or otherwise. I don’t like waiting months for a response and I feel I want control over my work. I have been feeling like I’m drifting, sailing mindlessly, with nothing to do but observe the grim scenery. I’ve come to realize, despite my depression, bipolar people can still do some things, even when they are crippled by mood fluctuations.

How To Work On Your Dreams Even When You’re Depressed:

Work on smaller tasks that help you achieve your goals.

When I feel too depressed to write, I should accept the fact that I won’t probably compose a novel in that state, but at least I can make an effort to put my thoughts, ideas, or any other “fragment” down on paper. The mind can gather and begin to subconsciously work in a way to move me to write once again.

Peruse the internet to find support groups and tips.

Many people are in the same place, looking for answers and support.

Remind yourself of your dreams and how they are a great part of you!

No matter what others think of me, no matter how lousy life has become, I am grounded in at least one passion. I don’t seek approval from others when I am depressed because people tend to view depressed individuals in a negative way. Thankfully, I’m an introverted person- I don’t need other people to make me feel better. It is a boost to my ego when I do feel accepted by others, however.

Get some fresh air and some fresh perspective.

Maybe circumstances and people are creating a climate that is toxic. Get around new people, go for a walk, listen to music to drown out some of the toxicity.

Read!

Being a writer means I must be a reader too. When  I am uninspired, I read inspirational stories of other writers. In the midst of feeling depressed, I read articles about how to improve my mental health. I understand that with my mood disorder, I am prone to bouts of depression- I have almost accepted this fact of life. Reading about mood disorders helps me to feel less anxious and isolated.

Recently, I bought myself a Kindle and I’ve discovered a wealth of free ebooks on self-improvement, mental health, productivity, and creativity. Every chance I had a break at work, I read a few ebooks, got inspired and more motivated.

Sometimes, acceptance is a great way to overcome depression. When I’m depressed, I tend to consume too much caffeine. I drink coffee compulsively, sometimes to fill the emptiness in my time, or to curb physical hunger. This behavior wrecks my eating patterns, as I often “crash” from this caffeinated-diet and I supplement my diet with junk food. I don’t always accept my poor eating habits- but I make concessions for them.

Acceptance, a positive attitude about something that can’t be changed- but I can change my shopping, cooking and eating habits. There is often an issue with anxiety that I am unwilling to exchange for a healthier habit (such as eating right). With depression, there are often many layers of behavioral issues that need to be managed. If I am too overwhelmed to pursue healthier choices, I have enabled internal and external factors to influence my life. Despite living with unresolved issues, but because one can choose to acknowledge that which is “unresolved”, acceptance is authentic. Choosing acceptance doesn’t mean I am free to mull over poor choices, rather, it is a way a life sometimes.

man standing beside grocery rack

Finding Emotional Support When You Feel Marginalized

Traditionally marginalized people– (e.g., women or people of oppressed racial/ethnic groups; people with mental and physical disabilities, as well as older people and individuals from lower socioeconomic classes)- and any person that is underserved, disregarded, harassed, ridiculed or ostracized need to find ways to feel supported despite their environment. Each group of marginalized people has specific needs that are not necessarily understood by those in the community, thus, they must serve as their own advocate in finding such social and emotional support.

Fortunately- or unfortunately, we have become a society that has become more reliant on the use of the internet and social media. In one regard, this reliance on the internet and social media engagement have made us into socially-awkward creatures in the real world. Conversely, these tools can help some people- individuals who feel marginalized, in particular, by mental illness. Often, the stigma attached to mental illness cause people to feel ashamed or distrustful of others, as is the case with people suffering from schizophrenia.

Women, especially those who live with the fear of being abused, have varying reasons as to why they can’t obtain the social or emotional support they need. Victims of domestic violence must be vigilant when speaking to others, either in person or online, about the issues they face. These women live in fear of their lives and the lives of their children- they fear losing custody of their children and perhaps, they wonder how they will support themselves and children alone. (http://www.ncadv.org/learn-more/what-is-domestic-violence/why-victims-stay).

Three forms of social support are noted: (https://psychcentral.com/lib/strategies-to-reduce-anxiety-and-stress/) and they include:

  • Socioemotional support- The ways in which you feel validated, or (the ways) “that you are loved, cared for, esteemed and connected to other people in a network of communication and mutual obligation.”
  • Tangible support- Money, transportation, and housing.
  • Informational support- Describes the ability to obtain “advice, personal feedback, expert guidance”

While much research tells us the benefits of having a strong support system, the truth is that marginalized people from all walks of life do not have access to such social supports. The reasons for this include:

  • Lack of money
  • Lack of mobility
  • No support systems in place within the community
  • Mental or cognitive impairments that prevent individuals from seeking help
  • Lack of supportive family, friends or co-workers
  • Lack of knowledge or lack of education about such help
  • No affiliations with community groups or churches

In many cases, “social support” may only be available from government or nonprofit agencies. While these agencies can offer many resources- such as referrals to legal or mental health resources, people still lack socioemotional supports.

Many marginalized people might be able to obtain a support network, and information, through the internet. One may be able to access the internet at the public library so long as they have the means to get a library card (proof of residency, driver’s license or ID). In many cases, the librarians can offer patrons a “guest” username and password in order to use their computers. Once online, they can connect to a plethora of online support groups, or they can locate community resources.

(http://www.reachout.life/)
Reachout is a Support Network for patients and caregivers fighting chronic conditions. By connecting with other patients with similar ailments in specific support groups, users are able to find support, gain self-confidence, develop coping skills and reduce loneliness and depression.”

(https://www.benefits.gov/benefits/benefit-details/613)
“The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program provides grant funds to states and territories to provide families with financial assistance and related support services. State-administered programs may include child care assistance, job preparation, and work assistance.” Users may search for benefits and grants for various causes.

(https://catholiccharitiesusa.org)
“At Catholic Charities we help people who are struggling by addressing the often complex issues at the root of their need. Through our national office’s advocacy and disaster relief programs — and its support of our network of member agencies — we’re making tangible progress toward better serving and loving our neighbors all across the country.”

 

References:

  1. Understanding Why Victims Stay. National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Retrieved on September 3, 2017. http://www.ncadv.org/learn-more/what-is-domestic-violence/why-victims-stay
  2. Strategies To Reduce Anxiety and Stress. Psychcentral.com. Retrieved on September 3, 2017. https://psychcentral.com/lib/strategies-to-reduce-anxiety-and-stress/