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

The Significance of Purging Material and Mental Clutter

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

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

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

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

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

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

Halloween Clutter

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

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

 

 

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.”

Cyclothymia- A Milder Form of Bipolar Disorder

“I am bipolar, and I am a full manifestation of it in terms of my speech, in terms of my energy.” -Mauro Ranallo

After several years of being called, “bipolar” by endearing family members, I set aside my judgment of them and often wondered if there was some validity in the criticisms.

The depression persisted from my teens up until now, however, the mania wasn’t fully manifested until later in life. I can recall one friend telling me that I was the only person they’ve known that exhibited both a melancholic and hyper disposition simultaneously.

As a female, my moods have always been further compounded by the fluctuations in my hormones (i.e., “pms”, and postpartum).

About 7 years ago, I went to my doctor who diagnosed me with depression and PMDD. Every visit since then, the depression notes remain on my summary. Once, when I tried to contact one of my doctor’s, she stated that none of my conditions weren’t applicable because I wasn’t re-evaluated for them- I had missed an appointment and she seemed harsh and unhelpful.

When I went back for a yearly appointment in 2017, the doctor assumed I was there specifically for a prescription. I told her I wanted to have a thorough diagnosis- that meant I had to get blood tests to rule out physical conditions. It also meant she would refer me to a psychiatrist for the full evaluation.

I met with two psychiatrists- the first might have had a different certification because he made my second appointment with the doctor who conducts evaluations. Again, I think I was scheduled with him first because the staff thought I just wanted counseling or pills.

When I had my evaluation, she told me I was, “a little bipolar.” I told her I didn’t want pills, just a diagnosis so I could manage my disorder on my own. She prescribed something that I never took. Weeks later, I requested my records and discovered the notes about my mood disorder- which didn’t explicitly state that I had bipolar disorder.

This diagnosis leads me to research more about bipolar disorder. More specifically, I wish to learn more about cyclothymia- or, as some people refer to it- “mild” bipolar (a “little” bipolar!).

Cyclothymia is a somewhat rare mental disorder, affecting about 0.4-1% of the population, with women being more frequently diagnosed than men by a ratio of 3:2.

“Cyclothymic disorder is characterized by hypomanic and mini-depressive periods that last a few days, follow an irregular course, and are less severe than those in bipolar disorder; these symptom periods must occur for more than half the days during a period of ≥ 2 yr. Diagnosis is clinical and based on history. Management consists primarily of education, although some patients with functional impairment require drug therapy.” (Merck Manuals)

Many people, such as myself, enjoy the hypomania component of the disorder allows me to be “high-functioning”.

It helps those who are achievers, leaders, or those with an artistic bent, to be productive and creative, even influential and admired by their peers. On the other side of the coin- the “depressed” element of cyclothymia, wreaks havoc on relationships and can create conflict due to erratic behavior in the workplace and otherwise.

Many people afflicted by cyclothymia (or other forms of mood disorders) often turn to drugs and alcohol to a feeble attempt to quell their moods.

How can somebody get help if they think they may have cyclothymia? There is no test for cyclothymia. A doctor usually refers to your medical history and sometimes will refer you to a psychiatrist. Since the symptoms of cyclothymia are similar to bipolar 1 and bipolar 2, it is important to seek an evaluation from a psychiatrist.

Since cyclothymia is less severe than other forms of bipolar disorder, you may decide to examine various methods of treatment, with or without medications.

What works well for one individual isn’t always ideal for everybody else.

You can choose to see a therapist at regular intervals, join a support group, etc. Still, many psychiatrists prescribe medication.

Medications Often Prescribed

Lithium– a mood stabilizer

Lamictal– an anticonvulsant

Tegretol– used to treat seizures and bipolar disorder (anticonvulsant)

In conjunction with working with your doctor and psychiatrist, you can find online resources to provide you with information. The ADA has a screening tool to help guide you.

References:

  1. https://ada.com/conditions/cyclothymic-disorder/
  2. https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/psychiatric-disorders/mood-disorders/cyclothymic-disorder
  3. https://www.psycom.net/depression.central.lamotrigine.html
  4. https://www.psycom.net/depression.central.cyclothymia.html
  5. https://www.drugbank.ca/drugs/DB01356
  6. https://www.everydayhealth.com/drugs/tegretol
A natural-looking woman rests her face in her hands while smiling.

The Importance of Following-up After a Diagnosis

I had hoped for clarity when I requested my paperwork from the psychiatrist’s office. Instead, I am more confused. All day today I have experienced “mixed episodes” with my moods. Mixed moods, ranging from happiness and mischievous to sadness and despair, to obsessional thoughts of the darkness in the world. Now I am obsessed with records and details again. It has only been a week or so since the clinic mailed me my paperwork- I haven’t had time to ruminate until now.

When I was a kid, I recall my mom commenting on how sensitive I was, and now I read the doctor’s notes and find he made this same observation. It’s not all the time that I feel sensitive. Sometimes I can feel quite apathetic, or envious and bitter. The clinic offered me the paperwork from both doctor’s that I met to discuss my mental health issues.

The first doctor (the one that observed that I was sensitive) gave me a primary diagnosis of Anxiety Disorder, NOS (Not Otherwise Specified).

The second doctor noted on my mental status “Excessive elaboration on insignificant issues.”

She observed my speech to be “circumstantial.”

My thoughts were logical, my grooming and eye contact were average. My insight was deemed to be “fair.”

Affect (Mood): Constricted/Blunted. I believe that means a restriction in my display of emotions, but not so much that my expression of emotions would be considered “flat.”

The second doctor’s primary diagnosis: Persistent Mood (affective) Disorder, Unspecified. She had told me that I was a “little bipolar.”

I found some information on this disorder at http://www.gpnotebook.co.uk

Persistent affective disorders are a lifetime diagnosis in patients with recurrent mild symptoms. The main persistent affective disorders are:

  • cyclothymia: (resembles a mild form of the bipolar affective disorder, with cycling between hypomania and mild depression).
  • dysthymia: (chronic low-grade depression, the symptomatology does not meet the full criteria for major depression and is not the consequence of a partially resolved major depression).

There is no resolution of the information contained in this paperwork. My mood disorder does not fit neatly into any specified category. It was noted that I was a sensitive person. It was also indicated that the previous medications caused me much distress. Yet, I was prescribed Lamictal for management of my moods. Lamictal is used to treat neuro-patients. My sensitivity and a low threshold for any nuances of chemical restructuring and balancing hinder me from taking medications.

Oppression

Sorrow and pity often accompany my thoughts when I do not have the answers. It seems I lack answers and help of “natural” man and anything temporal- I have a rudimentary existence, no true social support system (i.e., family and friends) in place for myself or kids. We have, for the most part, only each other. This may be a bit suspicious or presumptuous of me to conclude, but when people are poor, they are less inclined to have very many friends. My obvious barrier to having strong relationships is my mood disorder. When you are dealing with a myriad of emotions, it makes it difficult for others to accept you. Also, it makes it hard for you to sustain the energy and desire to handle some people.

Despair and Obsessive Thoughts

Focus on others- I think my family would be fine without me. In fact, maybe they would benefit more without me, but then I realize that being a parent means you do not back out, even if your kids would be better off without you! It means that you need to quit devaluing yourself. When I am mulling over such thoughts of hopelessness, I try to pinpoint where such negative thoughts originated in my thought pattern.

Guilt

As a parent, you feel sometimes that your kids expect too much. Too much money, too much energy. When these expectations are not met, some of us less-hearty moms feel guilty. Mothers with less emotional reserves have less to give at times. I was easily manipulated by my own guilt and insecurities. More often than I’d like to admit, I purchased things on my credit card just to “feel” better. Although the amount I spent wasn’t astronomical, it most certainly wasn’t a wise choice.

Not Otherwise Specified

The doctor said my speech was circumstantial. I discovered that means that the individual elaborates on insignificant or unrelated issues, but always returns to the primary issue.

Circumstantiality (also circumstantial thinking, or circumstantial speech) – An inability to answer a question without giving excessive, unnecessary detail.[9] This differs from tangential thinking, in that the person does eventually return to the original point. Wiki

My primary issue with this subject is “Not Otherwise Specified”. Knowing whether or not I have a particular anxiety disorder or mood disorder is a SIGNIFICANT detail towards my healing. I only wish they could have elaborated on the details. In fact, the psychiatrist who authorized the record’s release advised me to talk to her about the diagnosis. I haven’t given proper attention to prioritizing follow-up visits, mostly because I don’t want to be prescribed medication again, or I will be judged- by others and even myself.

A woman sits on top of a on a white sedan.

How Bipolar Can Trigger Other Disorders

Obsessive behavior is one intrinsic element of mania/hypomania in bipolar disorder. The brain is “rewarded” somehow by this behavior, just as an addict’s brain is dysfunctionally rewarded by another hit. Part of recovery is learning how to replace the dysfunctional behavior with an acceptable behavior/reward. Along the way, when I have not been mindful of either my disorder (which has vast complexities) or the nuances of the new “reward”.

All of the various components of this disorder feel untamed during the elevated periods (mania/hypomania). As a creator (all of humanity can identify with the desire to create to some extent), I love the rush I experience from the flight of ideas bipolar disorder bestows upon me!

Obsessive thoughts about clutter do not emerge from a physical craving, but rather a psychological craving. Becoming mindful of the psychological craving that occurs with my obsessive thoughts have helped me to remedy my mindless thought patterns in regards to decluttering. Not all decluttering is “mindless”, however. If I am disturbed by my actions, and I keep re-purchasing the items I have discarded, decluttering in this manner is disordered.

The periods of my “lows”- the depression stage of bipolar disorder- feel like, for lack of a better word, a funeral. I feel like life is dwindling. The melancholy that always follows or precedes my bipolar disorder ushers in feelings of despair, hopelessness. I fail to plan at this point when I am not able to concentrate on the future because I effectively see the future. The moods are always fluctuating. The best I can sometimes hope for is the knowledge that the mania will manifest, and I will be happy once again.

The obsessive behaviors I have experienced along the way include: spending countless hours on the internet piecing together my heritage. In retrospect, this perplexes me since I am isolated from most of my extended family. I have become engulfed in various ideas: the idea of changing careers when I do not have the means or aptitude to pursue continuing my education. I spend money on things that I end up throwing away. For instance, I decide I will start doing handiwork in my house, so I purchase a few tools or accessories. A month later, I become discouraged and the thought of a project or unfinished idea occupying my mental space is unsettling, so I donate or discard the items.

I may decide occasional doodling is not enough, I need to start a business or design a shirt. Soon I learn that there is much more involved at such notions and I abandon my idea, at least for a brief time. Something along the way triggers the desire to create, and in a healthy scenario, I am able to pick up a drawing pad and simply relax, nothing more. Writing has mostly satisfied my desire to express myself without having to spend money on a creative pursuit (which oftentimes leads me to purge items). I find myself “purging” my stories and poems, then regretting my decision to discard.

I was once obsessed with finding a poem I wrote several years ago. It was submitted to a poetry website, circa 1999, and was supposedly published in a poetry book. I have gone to great lengths to contact the Library of Congress and any publisher affiliated with the defunct website. I am embarrassed at the amount of time I dedicated to that vain pursuit of locating the book.

Although I am satisfied with using writing as a coping mechanism, I am unhappy with the times I demonstrate mindless behavior. My spiritual side needs to be nurtured and this is the most integral part of anybody’s journey.

 

Spiritual Healing for Depression

Disconnect And Depression

The solitude and a spiritual connection are the most important steps to understanding and conquering depression. Some of the circumstances can’t be changed, but a renewal in our minds is necessary to overcome depression.

Have You Ever Wanted To Cry But Don’t Know Why?

Every weekend I welcome the notion of not having to attend to work. Although work can be very satisfying, it often brings about many stressful elements. Some jobs, such as industrial or manufacturing environments are intrinsically more susceptible to stressors; high production quotas, working in extreme heat, and louder noise levels, are typical in many factories and warehouses. Tension among employees and low morale create negative feelings. Many workers return home not feeling fulfilled, but rather, overwhelmed or undervalued.

It is during the weekend that I have time to reflect on the occurrences of the previous week. When I find myself feeling depressed, or worse, I feel like crying but I’m unsure where my feelings of depression are rooted, I can’t help but consider the obvious causes. Five out of seven of my days are spent in a flurry of activity, errands and other demands. My busyness may have been masking my depression. Working and having an active life is not necessarily unhealthy. It is unhealthy to use aspects of a busy lifestyle (i.e, being consumed by your workload, using shopping and errands) to distract or soothe our emotions. The effects of busyness and distraction can be similar to how an addict uses drugs to escape from reality or negative emotions.

Isolation

When we feel unsupported at our jobs, we may turn to our family and friends for guidance and encouragement. However, we may not always have a strong network of social support (see The 7 Elements of Wellness). In some instances, our social mobility may be affected by our familial or marital status- that is, if you are divorced or a single parent, you are more likely to experience feelings of isolation. Those living with fewer social ties are 2 to 3 times more likely to become depressed. Having a strong support system of healthy relationships can insulate individuals from feeling overwhelmed when faced with challenging circumstances.

As a divorced or single person, you may feel the world seems to favor couples. After experiencing the break up in the family, you may no longer have access to extended family members. Your family and even your children may blame you for the breakdown in relationships. This is more likely to occur when they are feeling the effects of social isolation, or they may see the world as favoring families that aren’t divorced or headed by a single parent. It is very important to instill a sense of self-worth in your children so that they may be equipped to recognize the reality of divorce- there will be fewer resources, but nevertheless, such realities are conquered by many people each day. By conveying the idea that a strong family is comprised of quality relationships, children can be better equipped to overcome feelings of isolation, in school and at home.

It is especially complicated to meet the emotional needs of your children when your own feelings of isolation are profound. I have accepted the fact that we will be excluded from the benefits of an undisrupted family- in fact, I consider the value of not having to attend to stressful relationships. It is best to spend quality time with my children, and not dwell on what has been lost (although acknowledging grief and loss are healthy elements of healing).

In my quest to understand my feelings of disconnect and depression, my efforts are applied to searching for the emotional aspects of depression; while I realize the many components that contribute to depression, I must give greater attention to those things that which affect me the greatest. For individuals who suffer from bipolar or other mood disorders, emotions play a significant role in one’s well being.

Spiritual Disconnect?

Our social ties are a significant aspect of our overall well being, but what is more important is our spiritual connection. By spending time alone, or engaged in religious or worship activities, we can become more attuned and connected to our purpose in the world.

One of the first things I realize when I have solitude is that I have not renewed my mind. In fact, my process towards renewal may have begun yesterday, when I have had a strong desire to clear out unused things in our home. By being engaged with this process of “clearing out” the, I was letting go of the ideas and concepts attached to these things. Initially, I was displeased that I was, once again, purging things to soothe my anxiety. Solitude has given me the gift of insight to see that I am on the path to renewal- a push many of us subconsciously resist.

The emotional overload we experience in life can cause confusion and agitation. Agitation means the state of anxiety, but it also means “stirring” or “disrupting” something. You may need to be more attentive to your spiritual connection and free yourself from worldly distractions. Excessive worries and fears can hinder our relationship with not only others but also our relationship with God. Our Enemy wants us to live in fear and to be too distracted to pray and give thanks.

When I understand that I am being oppressed by fear and worry, I recall James 4:7, which states “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”– New International Version (NIV).

Unresolved Grief

The loss of a spouse due to divorce isn’t the same as how someone feels when they’ve lost a spouse due to death. Divorce is often sought because of a betrayal, perhaps physical or spiritual, as often is the case when adultery is involved. Sometimes divorce is the result of emotional betrayal or abandonment in favor of alcohol or drugs. The reckless disregard that accompanies adultery, abandonment, or abuse, leaves a profound impression upon the soul. It is difficult to move on if these feelings are suppressed. The marital relationship was created to promote spirituality, health, and happiness. When we lack this sort of relationship, it is easy to fall prey to feelings of low self-worth.

To overcome grief and depression, it is important to ensure the following:

  • Eat vitamin-rich, unprocessed foods when possible. Drink water to cleanse toxins in your body.
  • Enjoy solitude so that you are better equipped to enjoy time with your family.
  • Spend time in nature! Not only does sunshine provide vitamin D that can improve our mood, but being in nature will help you reconnect spiritually.
  • Acknowledge negative feelings through the appropriate outlets. If you don’t have a trusted friend, spend time in prayer. You can also release negative feelings through art, writing, and music as well.

References:

  1. https://www.wakeupcloud.com/overcome-spiritual-depression/
  2. https://www.christianhelpfordepression.org/depression-is-it-a-spirit/?gclid=EAIaIQobChMIoP3K28TV3AIVGI3ICh0nJAlKEAMYASAAEgKii_D_BwE
  3. http://www.theworldcounts.com/life/potentials/social-connections-and-happiness
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.

Understanding the Causes of Burnout

When everything around you seems to deplete you of energy, it’s time to do an assessment of your environment, your mind, and your body. If you suffer from a mood disorder, such as bipolar, you may become manic or depressed as a result of any precipitating factor. Take special care of yourself from the very moment you realize you are becoming stressed or ill.

Your body:

Do you have cramps, have a headache or feel nauseous? If it’s any of those things, plus you feel tired and moody, watch out for PMS. PMS can make a logical person act irrationally. Women feel more sensitive and self-conscious during their cycle.

Your environment:

Being around people that drain you, as opposed to people that nourish and encourage you, can deplete your energies in many ways. I work with toxic coworkers, one in particular who complains when she is directed to do something other than making copies or sweep the floors. She has a penchant for gossiping about me and telling others I’m having a “bipolar” day (I made the mistake of confiding in her that I have bipolar disorder). When I am sick or having my cycle, it is challenging to bite my tongue around this woman. I  find it helpful to meditate and pray when circumstances feel beyond my control.

Your mind:

Have I been neglecting to feed my mind good things? Like the physical body, our minds can only bear good fruit when we feed it with enriching things. When we give our mind a steady diet of garbage tv, vile images, words or music, nothing positive can become of such things.

Others do not need to deal with my crabbiness, either. I must retreat from people when I am being stressed. Solitude refreshes many people, especially introverts like myself. It’s rare that I have much quiet time. Small blocks of time seem to help me quelch the crankiness. A heating pad, good music, and 15 minutes to myself, much needed mental and physical rest not only benefits me, but it helps my family, my co-workers and others.

When I get overwhelmed by stress, my moods or emotions, and I have nowhere to “dump” that which exacerbates my bipolar disorder, I turn to mindless purging- purging of material things, or purging of documents, papers, receipts, and even things I was trying to save (old report cards from my children, school programs, newsletters, etc.). I have not been diagnosed with OCD, but I feel such behaviors are compulsive. These behaviors are rooted in an anxiety disorder.

Sometimes when I do not pay attention to my diet and I drink too much soda pop or eat junk food, I feel ashamed and unhappy with myself. I have wanted to purge on a few occasions, but have avoided this by distracting myself with writing or some other activity.

When we fail to nourish ourselves, our mind and body will cry out for attention. Poor nutrition, overeating, alcohol abuse, and many other unhealthy habits will manifest and cause us more harm in the long run.

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”.