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Friday, September 20, 2013

just no time!!!!

Hey!  It's been forever since I have posted.    Since the fall school year has begun, I have been just incredibly busy.    I think that I do not have time for this blog.
I have enjoyed sharing my thoughts on mental illness and recovery with all of you!
Take care and continue to be mindful!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

deep cleaning

I recently received several large trash bags full of amazing clothes.    When I tried to put them in my closet, I couldn't fit them in.   I knew immediately that I needed to go through all of the clothing in my closet and just reorganize the entire thing.   I needed to thoroughly deep clean my closet.  I spent the greater part of yesterday doing just that.

I have stated before that I am not very good behind closed doors.   My storage skills are lacking.  I tend to keep things that really don't serve much purpose.   Here is a representation of my closet, just to give you an idea:

As you can see, there are some nice trees in the background of this photo.   But there  is a whole lot of old and dead stuff in the way.   Pretty much like my closet, if you exchange the trees for the clothing.  

As I went through my clothing, I found they fit in the following categories:

Just plain worn out:   things that were ripped or stained beyond repair, that I just could not let go of for some unknown reason.   I guess I was thinking that I might need them later.

Just did not fit:    things that were 3 sizes too small, that I essentially keep to torture myself into trying to fit into them again.   Keep in mind that fitting into these for me involves some major eating disorder behaviors.

Just didn't work:   those things that are just plain weird and won't work, or just don't look right.  They would need huge modifications or alterations before they could be worn, and maybe would still not work.

Things that fit me right now and look great, and make me feel beautiful:  these clothes fit me right now.   They are beautiful clothes that work.   They are not ripped or worn out.   They are not too small.   They work beautifully.

It took me most of the day to weed out my closet.   I was sore, hot and tired.  But now, I have a nicely organized closet full of things that I can use now, and things that make me feel good about myself.   The clothing all fits, and it is organized, so that I can see what I have, and find it when I need it.  It was a lot of work.   But it was worth it.  Here is a representation of my new closet:

This whole closet thing got me to thinking about my beliefs and coping skills.    My beliefs and coping skills seem to mirror my closet and my clothing.   They even fit in the same categories:

Just plain worn out:    These are belief systems or unhealthy coping skills that I have worn until they have just fallen apart, and I can't wear them anymore.   An example of this is thinking that I need to rescue other people, or become their caretaker.   I know now what things belong to me and what things belong to others.   I do not excessively feel the need to mother other people anymore. 

Just did not fit:  These are the belief systems that I used to wear a lot, but for a variety of reasons, I just can't get back into them anymore.   And example of this is hiding from my mental illness.   I no longer feel the need to be ashamed of my illness.    I refuse to apologize for having bipolar disorder.  Those ideas are just too tight for me now.   I can't even step back into those ideas, and I really don't want to.

Just didn't work:   These are the belief systems and unhealthy coping skills that take up valuable space in my life that just need to go.   Unlike my closet, I still have some of these hanging around.   On some level, I am still hoping that I can make them work somehow.   A stitch here, a cut there.  I am in the process of weeding this stuff out of my life.    It is a slow and difficult process.  An example of this would be binge eating, or just plain hating myself.   In the past, those beliefs and unhealthy coping skills probably protected me on some level.   But they really don't work for me now.   I am no longer a child in a chaotic life situation.   I am an adult.  Sometimes it is still hard to let go of these things.   I know they don't work for me now, but part of me still thinks that I can't throw them away.    This is still a work in progress for me, and I am making progress.

Things that fit me know, and look great and make me feel beautiful:    I am getting more and more of these belief systems and healthy coping skills.   They are replacing the other categories of beliefs in my 'wellness closet'.   They fit me right here, right now.  They meet me where I am.   When I 'wear' these beliefs and coping skills, they look great, and I really feel beautiful and content.    An example of these beliefs and skills would be DBT skills, mindfulness practice, curvy yoga, loving-kindness meditations, and journaling.   Also included in this list are things like exercise, intuitive eating, sewing, decorating, singing, dancing and reading.   These items are just like those bags of new clothing.   They are amazing gifts.   They fit me, and when I wear them, I feel beautiful.   They are replacing the worn out, ill fitting clothing in my life that just doesn't fit me anymore and just plain does not work for me.   Soon, I will not need to hang on to the beliefs and unhealthy coping behaviors that don't work.   I will be able to throw them away and replace them with a better fit.

And, just like with my real clothing and closet, this work takes time and it makes me feel tired and sore sometimes.   But, it is so worth it!


And now for a message from our life coach cats, and One Day at a time Mindfulness:


My mindfulness and life coach cat message are connected today.   Mindfulness does not only mean meditative acts.   Mindfulness can also mean using your 'wise mind' to gain perspective on your life.  It means living your life with intention.   Taking the space to figure out what you need.  Looking back on what you have learned.  Using cheerleading statements to change your negative thoughts.  Gaining insight on the meaning and purpose in your life.   It can even mean just taking the space that you need to give yourself just what you need.

Take time to reflect on your life today.

Do you have some old beliefs or unhealthy behaviors that you can get rid of?

Begin to replace your old and worn out thoughts and beliefs with new ideas and skills.  Get rid of all of the stuff that just doesn't work.    It will take great effort.  But it will pay off in the end!

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Mind Training

As I have stated before on this blog, I am very interested in happiness.   I watch documentaries on it.  It fascinates me.  People can be happy in a variety of circumstances, including some that are pretty harsh.

I found this youtube Ted Talks video of Mattieu Ricard, a Tibetan Monk who discussed the habits of happiness.   He talks about meditation as mind training.   How, usually if we experience anger or obsession our mind goes back and back to whatever event and then the emotion keeps coming back and back again.    He talks about training our mind to the point where that emotion may still come back, but it leaves no trace, like a bird crossing the sky.

For me, DBT skills work this way.   I used to see my emotions as fact.   If I felt bad, then things were bad.   If I felt bad, sometimes I would feel guilty for my 'negative' feelings and push them aside in the hopes that they would just go away on their own.    And of course, they didn't.   They just grew larger.   

DBT has taught me that emotions are not facts.   They are emotions.   Most emotions will pass away in a few seconds if we do not feed them.   

I am just a beginner in using mindfulness or meditation to change my brain.    I certainly cannot meditate for long periods of time.   I don't fully understand all of the science in this youtube video.  But I do believe that this kind of 'zen' stuff can really change your life, and change it for the better.   I believe this because I see the evidence of it within myself.   I can handle things better.    I can deal with my illness better.   I feel more content with life overall.   I know that I can handle life.   I do not feel as afraid of life.  Watch this video and see what you think.   Do you think mind training might work for you?

Friday, August 30, 2013

Everything else can just wait until Tuesday

It has been far to long since I have posted anything!    School started back up this week and I needed to move my office at work, so the past two weeks have been just sort of an overwhelmingly fast paced blur of activity.

When life speeds up, I tend to speed up too.   

 The night before I moved my office at work, I had a difficult time falling asleep, even with my medication.   My medication usually knocks me completely out.   I had plenty of energy the next day to move the office, but I had a hard time catching my thoughts.   I felt rushed and a little confused.   The chaos of moving is a struggle for me.  Add to that the chaos of the first week of back to school for my child, and you have the perfect recipe for a nice little mania mixed with some anxiety for spice.
I found myself edging up that mania scale.    I have a hard time sleeping.   I have a lot of wonderful ideas.   I begin to want to create things.  I will often sign up for too many projects or committees.  I will want to begin purchasing things.   I will sometimes spend too much money.  I also notice some sensory issues when things speed up for me.   I have a lower tolerance for things being 'out of their place'.   Any kind of clutter is almost like someone is screaming at me.  Music can seem too loud and too fast.   I feel speeded up and confused, and my environment seems like the sensory equivalent of really rough sandpaper.  

It is weird.   It's like the world seems too much.    Like someone turned up some kind of cosmic volume knob on the entire world and everything seems louder and brighter.   Sometimes this effect is super cool and intoxicating.   Since I feel overwhelmed with all of the stuff I have to do right now, this effect is just super annoying.   I find myself wanting to snap at people.

To cope with this, and to give my body and mind a chance to calm down a little, I decided that I needed a break.    I am taking a nice long weekend.  I have also made myself check in on my bank account to keep in touch with financial reality.   It is easy to spend too much money when I feel like this.   I also am limiting the things that I will allow myself to do.   If I am not careful, I will do way to much, and just keep this manic momentum going.    It is hard to limit this, because I really am creative and can get a massive amount of things accomplished when I feel this way.   I feel a little chaotic, but I am damn happy about it.
But there is another side to all of this that gets really ugly in a hurry.   Mania must be limited.   It can go from 0 to 60 really quick.   It can devastate your life.    I am committed to never allowing that to happen to me again.  

 I do not want to lose my footing. 


So for this Labor Day weekend, I am focused on not really having much labor at all.   I need to just take time out to relax.   Meditate.   Maybe to not do anything.    So I am going to just be lazy and enjoy myself a little.   I need to get away from my never ending 'to do' list.   I need to break that list down into small 'bite-sized' chunks of chores.    But that can wait until Tuesday.    Today is mine to just 'be'.

And now for a message from our life coach cats:


Sometimes, you just gotta rest.  

One day at a time mindfulness:

For me right now, mindfulness means knowing that I am not in a good place for a lot of activity.   I need to slow down.    I need to rest.   My mind is moving too fast for me to meditate on just my breath.   I will have to count my breaths in order to stay focused enough to be still.   This is exceptionally difficult for me.    Today is my 'rest' day, but I have already rearranged my pantry and revamped my whole shopping list for the month.  Twice.    I had to stop myself.  Mindfulness in this situation is being aware of my mental state, and calming myself down to the point where I can stop and evaluate my actions.    I will allow myself to do a few things.  But that is it.   Then I am done.


Tuesday, August 20, 2013

End in sight.....

I am finally at that place where there is a light at the end of a long dark tunnel. The end is in sight.  Some of my struggles over the past month are beginning to resolve.   As with all things, they tend to pass into something else.   Hard times come and go and fun times come and go.   My mood shifts seem to come and go as well.

I was thinking tonight about how I have learned to deal with the changes in my life.  I guess I have learned to deal with them one day at a time.   It is easier to tackle one day of any situation than a month, year or lifetime of that situation.   Likewise, it is easier to deal with one day of depression or mania than it is to think "how am I going to live like this for the rest of my life?"  I try to take things in as small of a chunk as I can.  Just like that old saying about eating an elephant.   How do you eat an elephant?  One bite at a time.

My other trick is to tell my self that situations and moods change.  Some situations and moods are great and some are harder to deal with.   Neither lasts forever.   So while I am living through things one day at a time, I am also telling myself that this hard time or mood or hard time and hard mood will not last forever.   There will be an end.   This makes it easier for me to get through things.

I have also learned to have things to do.   I need to be busy.   If I am on the manic side of things, then I need to monitor how busy I am, but generally, I need to have something to do.  Working keeps me plenty busy, but on the weekends, if I am depressed or in a tough situation or both, I need to be sure that I do something.   The task that I pick isn't necessarily important, but I definitely need to get going or I will just stew in my depression all day.  All weekend.   Having something to do and continuing to do something, usually helps my mood to lift.   It gets easier to put one foot in front of the other and keep going.

My mood is much better this week.   My situation is pretty much the same.   Some things are beginning to fall into place, and I know that the end of some uncomfortable things is in sight.   Other situations are still just ongoing.   They are situations that are difficult and uncomfortable for me.  I tend to think about them constantly, and when I try to focus on something else, I just keep going back to these things and pick them up again.    There are times I have to really work on just letting things go.    Being busy helps me to continue to let them go.   Even if I just let go for five minutes and don't continue to ruminate over things, it helps.   The next time I may be able to let go for six minutes, or ten.    Eventually, I begin to train myself to just let go of things.  This helps me to feel better and to get through difficult situations, and to stay healthier.

Most of the time, I still feel like I am walking uphill, through wind, water, mud and snow, with a 400 pound rock on my back, but I still make progress up my mountain.   After a while, there is an end.  Tough times change.  Moods change.   And so do I.  

And now for a message from our life coach cats:

There are things and situations that we can't change.
It is a whole lot easier to accept hard times if you can take them one bite at a time.
Know that these times will pass. 
Learn to let go.

One day at a time Mindfulness:

today I practiced mindfulness while exercising in the pool.   I thought about my body and the movements I was doing with my limbs.   I also thought about the feeling of the water on my skin, and the color of the water, as well as the smell of the water.   Then I focused on what I was doing and put my awareness on the sounds in the pool around me.   Many times I will use the 5 senses to put myself in the present moment.  This helps me to get out of my head and just relax.   Often, I will have to pull my focus back to the present using one of the 5 senses.  It helps me to keep track of the places my mind wants to wander to.   This raises my awareness of the things I am struggling to let go of in my life.    Mindfulness is easier for me when I am in contact with water.  Water is like magic for me.   Whether I am doing the dishes, swimming, showering or even sitting by a creek in the mountains, there is just something about water that helps me to connect with the now. What helps you to connect with the now?

Thursday, August 15, 2013


Ever have one of those days where you just feel broken, splintered and stretched too thin?  

 I've been feeling that way for many days now.   Not necessarily all in a row, but the feelings keep coming back and back.

I have a job that is stressful and amazing and rewarding and painful, all rolled in to one.  It can be a real challenge for me some days.   Yet, at the same time, I am growing from having this job.  I am immersed in mental health recovery.   I am learning how to develop skills and tools that help me and other people to cope with the challenges of living life with a mental illness.   I am also learning to strengthen my interpersonal skills, and I have struggled with this area of my life for a long time.  I am learning to stand up for myself and to set boundaries.  I needed to learn these skills and wellness tools, so that I could continue to grow as a person.  

Growth is amazing.   And painful.  And necessary.  And really, really painful.

Today,  am at a conference in a different town.   As I was driving here today, I questioned my job.   Times have been hard lately, and a bad day in the mental health work world can be a very bad day.  I sometimes have this feeling like I am falling off the edge of the world.  Like I have no idea where my life is going and that I am spiraling out of control, with no real purpose.  In the midst of this feeling I prayed or asked 'why am I here'.   'Do I really need to be doing this job?  Do I really belong in the mental health world?  Will I ever make a difference, or a change?'

I just sort of left that thought there, and went on driving and going about my day.  For me, when I have a crisis of faith in life, or myself, or just whatever, I usually get an affirmation.  That affirmation or answer can be 'get out' or 'stay right where you are'.   I had that affirmation today.    I know I am right where I need to be in my life.    Life can really be a challenge sometimes, for all of us.   If you have mental health challenges as well, it can get pretty darn interesting sometimes.  We all have those days where we feel splintered.   We all have days when we feel like we are just running full speed ahead towards a cliff.  I am just grateful that those days are not constant.   I am grateful that those days have an end.  When they come, I am grateful that I am learning the skills to deal with them.

Change and Growth are painful, and will probably always be hard for me.  I do struggle.   The difference now is that I don't give up.  I don't fear these times as much anymore.  I feel better prepared to deal with them.   I feel like I have worked on the skills to weather these splintering times, and I am learning how to increase the chances that I have amazing and healing times to balance out the hard times.  Life will always provide us with challenges.   My job provides me with plenty of challenges, and it also provides me with truly rich and meaningful experiences, as well as stellar coping skills.   Splinters are on one side, and beauty is on the other.   I just need to keep trying to keep my balance, and accept that the splinters and beauty of life and work are normal.  I also know that I can handle both the splinters and the beauty.  

And now for a message from our life coach cats:


Life can be full of times that leave you feeling splintered.
You can handle these times.
Keep Going.  This won't last forever.

One day at a time mindfulness:

Today for my mindfulness activity I did a couple of different things.  During my conference I really tried to focus on keeping my thoughts in the present moment and to 'one-mindfully' focus on the information and the tasks before me.   This helped me to get out of all of the emotions swirling around in my head from the situations in my life.
I also did a progressive relaxation for my body, along with some meditation focused on my breath.  My mind is all over the place tonight, so I needed to count my in and out breaths until I could just focus on the breath.    This helped me to relax.  When times are turbulent for me, or if I have been triggered by events in my life, I need this space to just be.   It helps me to deal in fact more than emotions, and it just helps me to function better in general.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

that moment when things you hate actually work for you

I've never been a fan of charting my moods.   It just hasn't worked much for me.   When my bipolar was new, and more turbulent, it was hard for me to focus enough on life, not to mention my moods.   I couldn't make sense of anything.  I couldn't keep track of things.

That was a long time ago, and I have learned a great deal about my illness since then.   I also have medication that works well for me, and that makes a huge difference.  My workplace has a new online self help portal about depression and anxiety.   My boss asked me to use this self help portal myself, so that I would be able to discuss it with people at my agency.

When I saw the dreaded 'mood chart' my mind began to close off.   But this one was slightly different.   This one is more of a mood and activity chart.    In this self help portal, they described it as a way to be 'mindful' about how we live our lives.   They explained that often we are on 'auto-pilot' when it comes to the day to day of our lives.   We do many things without thinking about them.   We are usually thinking about other stuff.   The theory behind this activity and mood chart is to make note of your activities throughout one week, to start.   You write down all of your activities for the day, and then you make note of your mood and the intensity of your mood.   The particular self help portal that my workplace uses has an online version of this chart, so that it is easy to just put in your activities and your moods.

Still, I was skeptical.    I have been 'well' for many years.   I function well with bipolar.   I have learned how to manage with my illness.   I don't need a mood tracker.   I don't need to track my activities, because I work and I am out there in life.  At least, that is what I told myself.
But the truth is, depression still gets to me.

I have been depressed now for about 3 weeks.    It is mild depression.   And that is one of the world's biggest oxymoronic phrases.  Mild depression.    Even mild depression can kick your ass.   At least, it kicks mine.   Repeatedly.

Now when I say I am well and that I live and function well with depression or mania, I mean that I have learned to tolerate it.   I still hate it, especially depression, and I suffer a lot while I deal with it.   It makes everything seem so much harder.    I muddle through it and have learned some tricks to alleviate it somewhat.   But I had not noticed that I still do things that feed my depression.   I was unaware of the 'auto-pilot' effect of my day to day activities and how that ties into depression.

I had to do the mood/activity tracker to continue with the modules in the self-help portal I am using for work.   I want to do all of the modules and to really use them in my life.  I don't feel like I can tell people to try something that I am not willing to try and use for myself.   So, I began to use the stupid tracker just to get past it so that I could go on to other things, telling myself that 'not all wellness tools will be your cup of tea.'

Imagine my surprise when it actually worked for me.    Here is a visual of the exact moment to help you imagine it:

So, I actually could see what parts of my life sort of feed my depression and keep it good and strong, or at least foster it along.    I think of it like allergens in the air.   They get your nose and sinuses all aggravated and swollen so that bacteria can move in and create a nasty little sinus infection.    This is the same way that the things we do can feed into depression.    We do things without thinking that aggravate us and make certain parts of us 'swell' with negativity.   That opens the door for the disease portion to move on it to the aggravated area.  Depression in this story is the same as the bacteria in the sinus infection.
The mood/activity tracker just sort of helped me to identify the 'allergens' in my environment.   So, I got to get a new perspective on the things I do that help my illness along.  I also got some insight into activities that make my illness diminish.   So now my goal is to increase the positive mood inducing activities and decrease the aggravating or negative ones.
Never thought I would ever say this but Hooray for the Mood/Activity Tracker!  But part of me still hates to track things.   I just do.  

But it sure did work.   It gave me a new perspective and increased my awareness.  Go figure!


And now for a message from our life coach cats:


Don't close yourself off from trying new things, or even old things.  They may surprise you, and actually work.   You might even learn something new or useful.

Even if you hate every moment of it, it is still important to try!






Saturday, August 10, 2013

Heavy Lifting


I've been struggling with depression lately.   It feels heavy.  I don't feel like doing much.  My soul feels like it is full of lead.

So, today I decided to do some heavy lifting.

Let's face it.   It's hard work to fight depression.  I have to really work at it.   I know what I need to do to fight it.   I have to force myself out of my house over and over and over.   The first activity is always the hardest.   After that, I usually will have an idea for something else that I can do that will lift my spirits.   Then the trick is just following through with whatever activity that I have selected for the day.   Once I've done a few things, then the lead in my soul is not as unbearable.    It may still be there but it is not as bad.   I may still feel like it is a challenge to do everything I need to do to get through the day, but I feel much more able to face things.   
I used to feel ashamed and angry that I had to work harder to face life.   I didn't want to have to do this heavy lifting to get through the day.  The fact that I need to do this to face life used to make me feel like I was less than other people.  But now I know that we all deal with hard and heavy things.  In reality, everyone has some type of heavy lifting.   If I was in a wheel chair, I would need to adapt my surroundings and the way that I do things to move around in my chair.  I would need to have some necessary accommodations in my life.  If I had a cold or a flu, I might have to change my plans.  I may need to get some rest, or take some medicine to help me deal with my symptoms.   The same goes for mental illness, or mental health challenges.  Sometimes, some days, I need to adapt.  I need to make room for these accommodations to help myself to move through my environment.  I need to take good care of myself, and give myself time to heal.
I think my anger and shame came from self stigma.   I guess I felt that it was wrong to have a mental illness.  That I shouldn't be different than other people, that I shouldn't have to force myself into an activity just to feel like I was able to put one foot in front of the other and show up for life.  But it is okay to have depression.   It is okay to have anxiety.   It is okay to have mania.  They are just like any other illness.  It is okay to adapt yourself and to learn to cope with the changes your illness may bring to your life.

These were my accommodations today:

Nature.    I have a connection to nature.  I need to be outside when I am depressed.
I need to throw my everything into an activity outside.  Today I pulled some weeds in the yard.
This activity did two things.  First, I used it as a mindfulness exercise to give myself some emotional space from my depression and loneliness.  Second, it was like cold medicine for my soul.  It got me up and out of the house, and involved.  Just involved in anything helps me when I am depressed.  Being involved makes my mind work better.  I usually am better able to think of what I need to do for the day to cope.
As I pulled the weeds, I thought about activities that would bring me joy.  Things that would bring playfulness to my heart.   
 I chose to do some yoga to stretch my body and to spend some time in meditation and to just breathe.  Yoga also makes me feel connected to the universe, and since I practice 'loving kindness' towards my body while I do the poses and meditation, it helps me to not binge eat.  I usually end up being much more gentle to my self and my body after yoga.
As I was doing yoga, I thought about how much I wanted to go for a walk.
My body was just aching for a walk.
I also thought about a good friend.   She is someone who sometimes struggles with the same things that I do.  She is also a 'healthy' friend.  We do healthy things together.  She is also an inspiration to me, because I know that she loves and accepts herself.   We can support and encourage each other without giving advice.  I texted her and asked her to go for a walk.   She has 2 beautiful black dogs, and we each walked one.   It was lovely.  It was a beautiful day to be outside.  We were good company for each other, and the dogs were wonderful.   Animals always help to lift my spirits.  Cats are my companions in the quiet, and dogs are great companions for adventure.  They are happy and content creatures.   I really needed the walk and her friendship.
These accommodations today made my day better.   I woke up feeling depressed and lonely.   I didn't want to do any heavy lifting.  But doing that heavy lifting helped me to turn my day around.   Doing that heavy lifting helps me to be mindful of what activities buoy my spirits.  Doing that heavy lifting allowed me to lift the heaviness of depression, so that I can cope.
What can you do to help you?   What is your heavy lifting?

And now for a message from our life coach cats:


Listen to yourself today.  Be gentle with yourself.

Give yourself permission to be you.   Give yourself what you need.


One Day at a time Mindfulness:

Today I pulled weeds mindfully.    What does that mean?   I knew I needed to get outside and do an activity.    I woke up feeling low and dark.  My soul felt weary and heavy.   I knew that I needed an activity that I could just lose myself in the present moment.   I like working in the yard and in my garden.   I like pulling weeds as a mindfulness activity.   I simply begin by taking a few deep breaths.   Then, I feel the warmth of the sun.  I listen to the sounds in the air.   I feel the weeds in my hands.   I feel them as I pull them.   I can also smell the weeds and the smells of the earth.   I like the smell of the earth.    It makes me feel connected.   When I am depressed, I often feel disconnected.   I feel separate from everything.   I like to get a connection with nature.   Plants weather change.   They are rooted to the ground and the weather and the air.   They remind me that I am connected too.   While I pulled the weeds, I was in the present moment.    Being in the here and now always helps me.  I get out of my head space for just a tiny bit.   This activity helped me to pull some of the weeds in my life.   I have many coping skills for depression.   Some are healthy, and some are not.  
Being Mindful helps me to choose the healthy coping skills over the unhealthy.  Choosing the healthy coping skills helps me to get well and stay well.   I can avoid the shame that comes with unhealthy behaviors.   Healthy coping skills keep me from becoming stuck, and staying stuck in depression. 


Thursday, August 8, 2013

Energy in the Stillness

Tonight I had a chance to meditate in a group for 30 minutes, and then to do a walking meditation for 10 minutes.  I wasn't sure that I could do it.

I meditate in the course of my job and I try to either meditate or practice some other sort of mindfulness at least once or more a day.    I am never able to meditate for very long when I do it on my own at home.

Tonight I went to a local yoga center that has a free meditation.   I was nervous to go.    I have been struggling lately with some mild depression.   When I feel depressed, I feel exhausted to my bones and my soul.   I feel like I don't want to socialize.   I feel separate from others and cut off from the world.   In short, I feel like crap.   I feel like crap physically, mentally and emotionally and spiritually and any other kind of 'ally' you can possibly think of.

I also had a very long day.   I went straight from work to the local NAMI in my area to attend a support group for family members of those who have mental illness and to set up the next family to family class that I co-facilitate in the fall.  That meeting went clear up to just a few minutes before the meditation session began.   I hesitated, and decided to go try it out, even though I was tired from my long day.

I completely enjoyed the meditation.    I wasn't sure I could do it for 30 minutes.    When they rang the gong to stop the session, I thought we had only done it for like maybe 10 minutes.    I was completely taken aback.   On my own, at home, I have only been able to meditate for 3 minutes at the most.   I was surprised that time passed so quickly.   I often had to bring my mind back to focus on my breath.   Sometimes, I had to focus on my body, where it was making contact with the cushion or the floor.    I would sometimes follow the path of my breath, and then have my awareness loosely on the sensations in my body, like the tingling in my feet or the numbness in my butt.   I was vaguely aware of my thoughts, but did not latch on to them.   I noticed what the thoughts were about, but did not judge myself for having thoughts, and did not judge the content of the thoughts as good or bad.

I was struck by the number of my thoughts that had to do with my insecurity with my self, or with my discomfort with being with myself as I am.   I thought about being fat in a room with mostly thin people.   I thought that I wasn't good enough.   I thought about work.   I thought about my daughter.  

I did not latch on to these thoughts, but it is interesting to note how many thoughts I have that are 'worry thoughts' about not being enough.   Oddly enough, these thoughts interfere with me just 'being'.    I don't allow myself to be myself.    I am usually in my waking moments lost in a torrential stream of negativity towards myself.    When I allowed myself to just 'be' without thinking or really doing anything, I found not only awareness, but a feeling of energy and what I can only describe as a kind of peace and joy, all at the same time.

I am awake later than normal right now, after a really long and jam-packed day.   My job can be very emotionally draining sometimes.   I am somewhat over extended by my volunteer commitments with the local NAMI.    I would expect to feel completely wrung out and totally sucked dry to my soul at this point.   But I don't.

I can feel that my body is tired, but my spirit feels at peace.   I feel content.   I feel energized, but not in a "I'm going to go home and deep clean the house and re-arrange all of my cabinets" kind of way.   I feel energized and refreshed in my emotions and spirit in the same way that I feel energized and renewed after a long deep sleep, or a nice relaxing vacation in the mountains or at the beach.  It's weird.   And not what I was expecting.

I did not have any major revelations or any big kind of experience.   I guess I just had 30 minutes of really just accepting myself as I am and being in the present and in reality as much as I could for those 30 minutes.   And for me, that is just what I needed to feel peaceful and content.

Meditation to me used to seem 'out there' and weird.   Stuff that real people just don't do.  But it really does work, and I really do feel better than I did earlier today.  Go figure!

And now for a message from our life coach cats:

We live in a world that is obsessed with 'doing'.   Sometimes it is helpful to just 'be'.
When we are still in our bodies and minds, we allow ourselves to be who we are.
When we are still in our bodies and minds, we are fully in the present moment.
When we allow ourselves to 'be', we gain energy that we need to 'do'.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Happy to be stuck with you....

I was thinking about happiness today. 

I used to think that being happy meant getting exactly what I wanted at the exact moment that I wanted it.   I now know that happiness is not just about what we get or don't get, but about our attitudes about those things we really can't control.   Which is pretty much everything except ourselves, and on some days, I can't seem to even control myself.

I often watch documentaries on happiness or contentment, because it fascinates me that sometimes people who have lived through incredibly hard situations are among the happiest and most content.
I watched a documentary called 'happy' on Netflix that discusses happiness across nations, socio-economic status and life situations.  It was interesting to me that some of the people were living in poverty, or had been through terrible things, and yet were still able to feel happy and content.  I wonder if it is just that they accept life as it comes, or is there more to it?

I found this TedTalk by Dan Gilbert on the surprising science of happiness.    It is his theory that being stuck or 'bound' actually scientifically helps us to become happy.   The spiritual part of me believes that this comes from acceptance of what is, and adjusting ourselves to reality.   He calls this 'synthetic happiness'.   He takes this synthetic happiness further than just the spiritual process of acceptance and gratitude.    Our brains are happier when we are bound.   Our ambitions are better when bound.   Our fears and worries are better when bound.   We are the most happy when we are stuck.   It is a very interesting video.  Watch it and let me know what you think.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Just what I needed

I've been having a rough time lately.  I have been dealing with some depression and anxiety.  There is a lot of change in my life, and there's been some rough days at work.   Today, my seemingly hectic life gave me just what I needed.

I had a nice picnic in the rain with some old friends.    I forgot about my struggles, and just enjoyed the time with them.   It was nice, and it was exactly the medicine I needed to deal with my pain.   DBT skills and mindfulness are helping too, they seem to put me in a place where I can at least think and not get lost in a sea of emotion.  I probably wouldn't have gone to the picnic if I didn't have these skills.  I would've just barricaded myself at home and got lost on the wave of emotion.

Instead, I went out and left my stress for about 2 hours, and had an amazing time.    I enjoy it when I get little gifts from life.  Even in some of my most miserable times, I've had these little islands of rest that seem to fill my cup and keep me going.   I feel very grateful.    And that is saying a lot since this morning I pretty much hated life and was so nervous and upset that I couldn't even drink my coffee.   If you knew me, you'd know how big of a statement that is.   I am practically surgically attached to my coffee.

Sometimes, just doing ANYTHING helps me to get away from my depression and anxiety and the hard situations in my life.   Having an activity to focus on, or a person to talk to really does help.   The nice thing about this picnic is that I didn't even need to talk about the stuff that was bothering me.    I just talked to friends and enjoyed the day.   It gave me the space I needed to put away my work day, and begin my home day.   It gave me the space I needed to just breathe and relax.

I enjoy those times when life seems like a gift that gives us just what we need.  I am happy to see this more and more in my life.  There used to be more pain in life for me.   There is still pain now, I think I am just better equipped to deal with it before it messes with me on a physiological level and sends me into a bipolar tailspin.    I may have to work hard sometimes to get to this point, but before I was too lost to even begin to find the joy in life.

Pockets of joy in the hard times are a gift.   How many of them have been in your life?   Have they helped you?

And now for a message from our life coach cats:

Depression and Anxiety can turn your life upside down.
They make it harder to accept life and change.
These are the times to trust that things can and will get better.
These feelings will not last forever.  They will pass.

One Day at a time Mindfulness:

Today, I decided to make a 'Grateful List' for my daily mindfulness.   I have slipping in doing something mindful every day, because depression gets in the way.    I tend to want to give in to the depression, and not do the things I know make me feel better.   Everything just seems so much harder when you feel depressed.   It surrounds you and suffocates you with its sadness and numbness.  Making a grateful list is the absolute last thing in the world that I want to do.   I feel bitter and horrible and I don't want to be grateful.     But I know it will help.  So here is my list:
I am grateful for:
my daughter, my family, my friends, my boss, my job, my home, the smell of the earth in the rain, my cats, the progress I have made in life, the new coping skills I am learning in my job, grapes, tomatoes, pay day, and the pool.
Making this list shows me the bounty that is present in my life.   If flips my focus away from the lack or the feelings that drag me down.   It changes my perspective on my hardships and it gives me hope for the future.   I feel more content with myself and my situation.   I feel more content with the ordinary.  I feel like I have a good life even if I do deal with depression.   I feel blessed that I have an opportunity to learn new skills to help myself get through this time.   I know it sounds corny to make a list of things that you are grateful for when you feel like just laying on your couch and telling everyone to just go to hell, but it really does work.   Try it.  

Friday, August 2, 2013

Homeless Shuffle

In the headlines this evening, I saw an article on how Hawaii is planning to pay for homeless persons to 'have a flight home' in an effort to save some money.  You can see that article by clicking here.

According to this article, Hawaii hopes to save some of the cost associated with food, shelter and medical costs.     What about those people among the homeless population that have mental illness?
How does 'flying them home' and basically putting the burden of care on another state help?    So now, instead of 'bus therapy' are we going to have 'plane therapy'?     How does burying your head in the sand and hoping someone else will take care of things for you solve any problems?

What if Hawaii were to apply for federal housing programs that help fund assisted living for people with physical and mental disabilities?    The Olmstead act provides for money to be used in this way to help provide housing for persons with mental illness.  
What if Hawaii were to use the money for the plane trips to build some more community mental health centers so that people could get treatment instead of being homeless?   What if these community mental health centers ran Assertive Community Treatment models of care as endorsed by NAMI?   Then people could get the support they need when they are in crisis, and they could build the skills they need to create a productive and healthy life.

Flying people back to their home state will not work.   If they do not have medication and health care, how can they ever hope to get well and stay well?  Dumping people like human garbage and passing the buck to another state do not solve the problem.    This type of behavior only increases stigma and prevents meaningful treatment and support.   How many people will trust enough to ever get services for their mental illness if they fear being shipped off to another state, dropped off and forced to fend for themselves?

How can our nation say that we need to help those with mental illness and then respond by sending them to another state?   

Why don't we just speak the truth?   We do not want tragedies like Aurora or Sandy Hook, but hey, it is not my state's job to fix it.  We want the violence to end, but we are not willing to help in any real or meaningful way.  Isn't that the job of a different state?

You don' have to ship off the people with mental illness to a different state.  They are constantly in the state of indifference.


And now for a message from our life coach cats:

Become a face to face Advocate.


Tell someone, anyone, about how mental illness is treated in our nation.


Change minds one person at a time.


Tuesday, July 30, 2013

grey skies, bad days, hard moods...

Why, Why, Why do I hate myself so much?    It seems like I will be fine and dandy and then Bang, out of nowhere, I feel like a worthless piece of crap and spend all day hating myself, hating my life, and struggling just to put one foot in front of the other.  I feel this horrible grey mood move in on my soul.   It seems like the monster in a horror flick, just continuing to pursue me, even when I thought I was safe and had gotten away.  During these times, I feel fearful and uncertain.   I feel weighted down and sad.   I usually hate myself during these grey moods.

I feel this way even with medication and therapy and coping skills.    Some days I grow tired of feeling this way, and I have been searching for a cure for a large part of my adult life.   Some days seem like they are just a struggle, and that is the part that makes me want to scream "It's just not fair!"

I struggle to accept that I have feelings like this and that some days are hard.   In my new quest to be more mindful and to watch my judgment thoughts,  I am learning to give myself permission to be me.  Me with all of my insecurities, fears and self hatred.    Part of this permission includes the fact that I try as hard as I can to not feel this way, and sometimes, in spite of everything, I still feel this way.    And that is okay.

I struggle to accept the fact that I have to work really hard to maintain my wellness on these days.  It feels like trying to run a marathon uphill with weights tied to your limbs while facing 50 mph head winds.    I just want to give up and stop trying to fight.  But then, I remember that I can't give up.   I need to keep going for myself and for my family.

So what do I do with these hard days?    Well, tonight I am going to take a good long look at the thoughts swirling around in my head.   Where am I judging myself mercilessly?  What are the facts and what are the emotions?    Then I think I will distract myself with something fun.   Something opposite of the emotions that I am feeling.   I am feeling down, and hopeless and pointless and worthless.   So I might watch a comedy on television, or read an uplifting  story, or play a fun board game with my daughter. 

Finally, I will try to do a mindful activity, both because I said I would on this blog, and also because I know it will work.   I am going to do some yoga from my curvy yoga site that includes some loving kindness towards myself.   I really need all of the loving kindness I can find.   That can stop that horrible inner voice that seems to want to rip me to shreds.

It does bother me that I have to work hard to be well.   But, in reality, we all do.  Mental illness or no mental illness, everyone has bad days.   Everyone has times where they feel worthless, like they are just spinning their wheels for no reason.   Sometimes we all struggle to put one foot in front of the other.   At least, I can feel grateful that I know some coping skills that really work for me.   I can keep on trying out these skills when times are tough.   There will be blue skies ahead for me.   This funk, or bad mood time will pass, and the joy will come back into my life.  Until then, I will take each day as it comes, and work hard to change the things that I can.  I know the grey days can't last forever.


And now for a message from our life coach cats:

Some days are just hard.
Sometimes you will have moods that don't want to yield.
These are the times to use your skills to keep going, and let the hope of a better tomorrow do the rest.
This too, shall pass.   There are better times ahead.

One Day at a Time Mindfulness:

I waited to write this part after I had done my mindfulness activity, to see if it helped to improve my mood.  It was hard to make myself participate in this activity.   Every fiber of my being did not want to do it.   I just wanted to give in to the hopeless feelings and dark mood.   But, as with most of my coping skills, I pushed myself to try something.   I wanted to see if it could make a difference, even on a very dark and hard day.
I decided to do the curvy yoga video segment on body love and loving kindness.   It is 30 minutes long and uses a chair for most of the poses.   I noticed several things while doing yoga.   I focused on what my body felt like and not what it looked like.    I breathed deep and did not push myself.   I also noticed that I felt uncomfortably full.   Today was rough.   I comforted myself in my usual way, with food.   For the first time, I feel too full.   I can see how that so called 'comfort' is just self punishment in disguise.   I never saw it that way before. 
After doing the yoga, my body feels much more relaxed and limber.    I feel like I dropped some of the stress I'd been carrying around.   My stomach feels over full, and I am not judging myself for that.   This was a new awareness for me - one that I needed to feel much more than to know.   I felt deep within my soul how much this was hurting me, instead of reading it, or knowing it on an intellectual level only.
My mood is still low, but the sadness feels much easier to deal with.  It feels less heavy, and it seems like it is easier to set it aside.    I am going to continue to be nice to myself.   I can feel that I am tired, and I am going to let myself rest.   Tomorrow is a brand new day!

My mindfulness today was like a light at the end of a tunnel.    It eased the darkness, it made me aware of things I could not see before, and it gave me the promise of hope.



Sunday, July 28, 2013

The Power of And

It doesn't take much, just 2 or 3 upcoming changes in my life and I get afraid.   Afraid of the future and my place in the world.    I don't really know all of the reasons why I tend to do this, and I suppose it wouldn't really matter if I knew, because the reality is that I feel uncertain and down. 


I try to deal with these feelings in several ways, so that they don't get the best of me. 

First, I try to force myself to spend an equal amount of time thinking that things will work out great, as I do thinking that they will be horrible.    I tell myself that the future does not exist, so if I am going to put some worry thoughts out there, then I can also put some great thoughts out there.

I also try to ground myself in the present moment through an activity like meditation or yoga.   I will probably need to do both today, because I don't like myself very much today.  Spending time in the present moment usually helps me to get out of my slump and back into life.

I will also find something to do today, to get myself out of the house or busy.   The weekends are perfect for this, because I usually have a lot of house cleaning to do anyway, and I can play some fun music, clean the house and then maybe go to a convenience store for a pop after. 

I am also try to use the word 'and' instead of the word 'but'.   I heard this suggestion from a co-worker and it really does make me feel better.   I tend to like to kick myself for not being perfect.  So, if I am worrying about something, I will kick myself for worrying and not being more Zen.      So instead of saying " I feel worried about the future, but I know the future does not exist" or "I feel worried about the future, but I know what to do to feel better", I will change the but for the and.    Why?   The and opens doors.   The and lets you be you, will all of your imperfections and flaws.   The and gives you permission to be human. 

Let's  take those statements again.   If I tell myself "I feel worried about the future, but I know the future does not exist" , I am telling myself that I should not be worried about the future and that I am stupid and a failure for having these thoughts, especially when I know what to do to help myself.    This is judgment, and it makes me feel like crap.   

If I change that but to an and, then I have permission to hold both of these beliefs at one time, and that more accurately reflects reality.   " I feel worried about the future, and I know that the future does not yet exist"  or "I feel worried about he future and I know what to do to feel better" both give me permission to have my feelings.   They give me permission to be human and to know how to fix my mindset.   They make it acceptable to be myself and to have the feelings that I have without judgment.    And they help me to feel so much better.

So I am going to help myself out today by cleaning my house, relaxing, grounding myself in the present moment, and by changing by 'but' to 'and'.

Try using and in your life.   See if it makes a difference in how you feel and think about yourself and your life.

And now for a message from our life coach cats:

All of us wonder about the future sometimes.   Try to wonder both positive and negative if you are worried about the future.   Try to ground yourself in the now and put the future on a shelf.

One Day at a Time Mindfulness:

I sat for a moment this morning and just noticed the beauty of my surroundings.   I listened to the sounds outside on this cool and calm morning.    I noticed the sounds of my daughter playing and the sounds of my cats sleeping.    I have a beautiful life.  

Friday, July 26, 2013

Happy Friday!

Happy Friday Everyone!

I don't know about you, but I love to just relax and spend time with family on Friday night.   Tonight I am going to cook a nice dinner, put my feet up and maybe watch a movie with my daughter.

Part of staying well for me involves knowing when to leave work at the office.   Sometimes, this is easier said than done.   Our work lives can sometimes be stressful.   Office politics can be very hard to deal with and sometimes work can be full of changes and uncertainty.    I am lucky that I have a job that I love.   I have worked some places that I hated every minute, and couldn't wait to run out of the door.   I tend to over think things in my life, and I really have to watch it or I will work when I am at home, or just not leave work at work.

Fridays are my time to play and just let go of the work week stress.  What will you do with your Friday?

And now for a message from our life coach cats:


Everyone needs time to play,



time to spend with friends and family,


and time to relax.

Make sure to set aside some time in your life just for fun!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Middle Beauty

I don't know about you, but when I am frustrated, upset or just annoyed I tend to vacillate between extremes.

I will have goals and work obsessively to meet them.   Then I will read that you can't force life, or I sense that I am forcing, and I let go of my goals to the extent that I no longer try and then kick my own butt for trying so hard and wanting to have goals in the first place.

Or I will feel like I really want something in my life that I do not have or want to change, and then feel guilty that I can't just like things the way that they are. 

What happens in these situations is that I bounce from one side to the other, and then feel guilty for having been to both sides.   I am trying to learn to walk in the middle.

What do I mean by the middle?   I mean that I can both work toward my goals and let go of the outcome of those goals.    I mean that I can want things that I do not have and yet be happy as I am right now in this moment.    I mean that I can want to change certain situations in my life and yet accept those situations as they are in my life right now.
This concept of the middle is new to me.    I have long yearned for balance in my life.   I've often known that I am out of whack.     I know that I tend to go back and forth between extremes.    I try to let go of things to the point of feeling guilty that I wanted them in the first place.   
I really like the middle, because it is a gentle and kind place to be.   For example, I can think things like:  I want to go to your party, and I also really need some sleep.    Or, I really like you a lot, and I am not sure that I am ready for a relationship.    This whole way of thinking allows me to be me.   It gives me permission to be myself as I truly am.
I am a human.   I am imperfect.    I like impermanent things.  I want things.   But, I also want to let go, I want to accept life as it is, and yet, I really want to change my life.   All of these things are okay.  I don't have to feel guilty for being me.
I am okay right now, just as I am, and I need to work hard to change.
And that is beauty.

And now for a message from our life coach cats:

We all have to find our own path in life.
Does your path give you permission to be yourself?

One Day at a time Mindfulness:

There are many changes coming in my life.   Some changes are easier to accept than others.   Some of these changes bring up thoughts of fear and scarcity within me.   I feel insecure and overlooked in the face of these changes.    I feel anxious.   My mindfulness for today was to put a stop to these thoughts and feelings within myself.   I stopped and checked the facts.   I described the facts verses my feelings about the facts.    I don't really know what is going to happen in the future, but I can stop myself from worrying thoughts that make me miserable today.