Sunday, December 21, 2014

The Shortest Day of the Year!

Y'all, I am so excited by the fact that it's the shortest day of the year.  I am celebrating hard. Okay, I'm sitting on my couch and watching a movie, but that's pretty awesome. I have that great feeling of being tired from a lot of activity in the last couple of weeks, and that makes it very exciting to be sitting here. I know that there are not a lot of people still reading blogs with Christmas this close, and I get that. This would definitely be a post to skip if you're busy, as it is merely lazy day ramblings.

I am watching "The Dark Knight". I like the occasional super hero movie, but this is maybe a little darker than my taste. That's okay though, I'm not watching it for me. I'm watching this because my brother wanted me to see it. I think movies are his love language, and I'm good with that. It's kind of interesting to watch some stuff that is outside my normal taste. The thing that's extra awesome about my brother, though, is that the movies that he chose are not just action movies that would be appealing to him (though he's a teenage male, so of course that's part of it) but he chose them because he thinks that they have things to think about and discuss. One of the shows that he actually really wanted me to watch was "The Truman Show". Just saying, it's not only about things blowing up.

Anyway, I've seen "The Truman Show" before, but I have never seen "The Dark Knight" or "Gran Torino". I'm watching them today on my lazy, short Sunday before I (hopefully) go see him and the rest of the family later this week.

Changing the subject, I have a quick and possibly silly prayer request if you have a minute in the midst of the holidays. The stomach bug just hit my parents' house. There are 5 of them there right now, so they could easily still be spreading this bug by Christmas. Y'all, I hate the idea that I'm enough of a germophobe that I would even consider staying home from Christmas because of a little bug, but there it is. Between my issues with low blood sugar, and issues with foods I can eat being so limited anyway, as well as the fact that I live alone, so there's no one to check on things if I do hit the floor, I'm just REALLY not excited about a possible stomach bug. I can't even imagine right now trying to figure out what I could eat as I tried to recover from such a thing. I would not even consider staying home for a cold, but the stomach bug?  One of my other sisters more or less rolls her eyes at my concerns and says, "It's just a way to build up your immune system." Yeah. Except that I swear this particular sister is sick at least 3x more often than I am, so I'm not sure I want to follow her advice on this subject.

Clearly, my main prayer would be that my sister feels better and that no one else gets sick so I can go home for the holidays! But also for wisdom to make the right decision. Whether that is to stay here or to go home and risk it, even if there are others that get sick. I know, it's such a little thing, and I am such a big baby, but that is my concern right now.

Friday, December 19, 2014

7 Quick Takes



1) I'm tired, and I should go to bed, but I'm so excited for this weekend that I don't want to yet. I'm excited because I enjoyed watching Elf tonight and I even joined the Twitter party. I have an account that's basically dormant, but it was fun to break it out for that. My living room was even clean, which made the whole thing that much more enjoyable, along with the Christmas lights on the tree.

2) I'm also excited because I finally made it to confession yesterday, and I got an awesome priest. Here I thought I was excited that my living room was clean, but maybe the whole thing is really more about my soul being clean! Anyway, I now feel ready for Christmas, which is funny because I am so not ready for Christmas.

3) I get to go skiing tomorrow! Cross country, and I can't wait to get out. I have been trying to hit 15 hours of activity this week, and I'm at 12 now. Three hours in the sun on skis? Sounds perfect! Getting my last few hours of the week is not my concern. Getting out and having fun with friends on skis is exactly my cup of tea.

4) Mmm, a cup of tea. I should definitely break out the teapot tomorrow!

5) I'm also extremely excited for Sunday. Guess what holiday it is?? Well, it's not really a holiday, but it is the shortest day of the year. I'm so excited. I have big plans to celebrate by hibernating and eating pumpkin pie. Really that particular "celebration" has a lot more to do with ~15 hours of working out in one week and at least 14 hours the week before (too much fun to do with hiking and snowshoeing). I've earned an epic rest day, and when better to do it than when it's dark out anyway. The other reason this is all so exciting is that it will start getting lighter again. So happy!

6) Let's talk about this pumpkin pie, shall we? Because I'm very excited for the pumpkin pie, and I'm going to try it with egg nog instead of milk.  Well, really egg nog substitute instead of milk substitute (the life of an allergic asthmatic), but hopefully it will be as good in reality as it is in my head!

7) I guess this is "7 things I'm excited about tonight". I will say that I was not excited about my workout this morning. I think I've gotten enough hours that I'm just not that excited to be in the gym for the extra time. But there's still more that I'm excited about, like Christmas, seeing my family, hopefully doing a photo finding expedition in my hometown, learning more about postural correction (I'm a geek and proud of it), reviewing TOB, and going to bed. In just minutes now. Sorry, I know this is a very random post. This is me, being tired, randomly typing stuff, whether it makes sense or not. Have a wonderful weekend and head over to Kelly's for more QT's!


Friday, December 12, 2014

Bringing in the Light

Note: let me state again that depression is NOT something that you can simply choose to ignore, fight, walk away from, change your mind about, etc. In the darkest times that I was depressed, it was hard enough just dealing with day to day challenges. I doubt I would have had enough reserves left to try to do something else, and I may have been even more depressed by my helplessness to do so. In other words, please don't tell your depressed friends to just try XY and Z to feel better! If you're depressed or think you might be depressed, please think about talking to a professional to get the help you need.

The last post was a little harder to write than what I expected. For the most part in the last couple of years, I would say that I am affected by certain tendencies toward depression, and there have been moods and situations that have led to me feeling somewhat depressed (though except a couple of very brief moments, not the full-on, weight, darkness and disconnection of a true depression), but I wouldn't say that I've been depressed. I am so thankful to say that I have not felt that feeling of being worthless or fatally flawed in years. Yet, there is still that slight echo there, and it's a little difficult to purposely expose a perceived flaw like that. (Depression is not really a flaw any more than any other illness, but as I said, the echoes remain.) It's also hard to figure out how to describe something so ephemeral yet that has such weight, something that has a lot of commonalities for a lot of people, but is still very different in each individual's experience.

This post is different. I'm excited to write this post. I have had some amazing experiences directly related to dealing with some of these tendencies and moods, and I can't wait to share them with you. These are some of the things that help me out at times like the holidays where I'm feeling a little extra kicked around, or with the way this year has gone, dealing with some of the not so great things that life throws your way sometimes.

One of my favorite things that happened this year started a couple of months before my birthday. I don't remember what triggered it, but suddenly I was feeling that gut wrenching feeling that you get when you realize that you're staring down another birthday and there is absolutely no change in the circumstances that you don't like, in my case singleness and childlessness. It hurt. There was a time in my life where I would have either wrapped myself up in the bitterness ("This sucks! Why me?", etc) or I would have tried to talk myself out of the sadness ("There are so many people in life that are so much worse off; suck it up!")

This year, I started by accepting it. Family is a beautiful thing, and it's legitimate to hurt if you don't have one. I accepted that it hurt, that it was okay to hurt about something like that, and that my birthday might not be all unicorns and rainbows because those emotions tend to crop up where they will. Then, by the grace of God, another thought occurred to me. I can't change my singleness; I can't change whatever feelings I may feel on that day, but what can I do? As I've said before, I often define what I can't do so that I can accept it and let it go, and then try to figure out what I can do. In this case, I decided that I couldn't fill the gaps in my life, but I could celebrate what was in my life. In what I really think was a nudging of the Holy Spirit, I decided that I wanted to do that in a tangible way, and what is in my life is a lot of awesome people. So I ordered some cards and started writing to people about what they meant to me. I'm telling you, 2 cards in, and I was not feeling depressed at all. It was a project that lasted a while (I was very hit or miss about working on it), but I managed to get most of them out and on their way by my birthday; many people received them on my birthday. Here's why I think that it was a Holy Spirit thing: I could not believe the responses that I got. Everyone appreciated it, of course, but I got A LOT of responses from people who seemed to need to hear those words at that time at least as much as I needed to say them. It was such a sweet, sweet thing to see how God could bring such a great thing out of a moment of depression. (I wish I could have gotten cards to those of you reading, too! Thanks for being a part of my life!)

During the holidays, I've already told you about some of it. I am very blessed to have a little O.D.D. (oppositional defiant disorder). Let me tell you, it's a good thing if you also tend towards depression. As some of the holidays have started their thing, I have been recognizing the depression starting to whisper its lies. Like the time my house was a mess (okay, it often is). Normally I don't care because I was doing something fun, so it's worth it, or I do care and I want to fix it. But this time, I didn't care because I heard that voice, "What does it matter, anyway?"  As soon as I recognized that dark voice, I was all, "Oh, hell, no!" And I cleaned the house.  Guess what? It did matter. When things were less messy, I felt less overwhelmed and less of that ennui.

Same thing with the Christmas tree, as I've already said. It was rough putting up, but I have so been enjoying it every evening, partly because you can't help but love the sparkles and lights and partly because I get a great feeling of accomplishment from conquering it.

Feeling depressed also makes me want to isolate myself. I want to hide in my house and nurse my and keep them from infecting the rest of the world. At least, that's what that lying shadow of depression would have me believe. My ODD reaction to the lie was that I was going to talk about it. So I wrote a blog post, and your compassionate responses soothed the wounds immediately; so glad I didn't just let them fester! Not only that, but I purposely chose to get in touch with certain people that I knew would understand, and that had been there. A couple of times it happened that they had been struggling as well, and the conversation helped us both.

There are those times that things are just out of your control. Sometimes, you just have to get through it, but sometimes it's interesting the way God can use someone in a small way that they probably had no idea meant so much. An example is that one of the things that I use to help with depression is working out. Endorphins help a lot. Last week when I got hit by a cold, I couldn't go work out, and I panicked a little, because I knew I was in a vulnerable spot. I didn't want to skip one of the things that can make such a big difference for me. What happened that morning is that I woke up early to get ready and realized right away that I couldn't work out. My first thought was that I needed to stay home, my second thought was that I needed to text a couple of people that I work out with so they wouldn't worry, but that I would wait until a little more reasonable hour of the morning. My third thought was to go ahead a throw a small fit (which I did) because I had been struggling anyway and now I couldn't even work out, so I was frustrated and a little panicked. After my fit, I fell back to sleep and didn't text my friends as early as I should have. I woke up when my phone went off with a text, "Where are you? We're concerned!!" Just like that, my depression lifted. Because someone told me that I was missed, and that I mattered, without having any idea how much I needed to hear it. So I told her I was sorry I didn't text sooner (kind of a lie, because the way it happened meant a lot to me; though I am sorry that she was worried) and thanked God that He could take care of it without me having to do anything but fall asleep.

Whether you've ever had actual depression or whether you've simply been saddened by situations and circumstances, etc, what are some of the things that you do address the emotions?

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

On Having Depression

Okay, this is a sensitive topic for a lot of people. I wish I could give you more professional background and understanding, but I don't have that. I can only give you my own personal experience. One thing about my experience with it is that even though I was (likely) moderately depressed for about 5 years, I was in denial about it and never sought professional help. Therefore, I have never been officially diagnosed with depression.  I knew that I was feeling depressed due to the situations in my life (especially being single, and being alone when all my friends were getting married and having babies), but I thought it was situational depression. I didn't figure that professional help or medication would do anything for that, unless they could make my singleness stop! It's been a couple of years since I was truly depressed, but it's probably only in the last six months that I've gained enough perspective to state the obvious to myself: Situational depression does not last 5 years. I had depression.

I do not know if getting help would have made it so that I had less time being depressed, but I do know that it would have helped me understand a lot better what was going on and helped me have a lot better perspective sooner. I also think that it would have helped to keep the symptoms a lot more manageable. Anyway, like most of my posts, this is not some well researched thing, just me talking a little bit about my experience in hopes that it might help someone in the midst of depression know that they're not alone, or someone that has never been depressed might gain a little insight about what depressed people in their lives might be feeling. I also really liked this article. I can't speak to all of them, but I can tell you that the ones that applied to me were pretty dead on in the descriptions of it.

To me, depression is like living in the shadow. Your entire perspective is affected by it and enveloped in it. There is almost a tangible weight to it.  So maybe it's like living in a shadow that happens to have increased gravitational pull? However it feels to each individual person, it seems that there is often almost a presence to it. The only thing is, while it colors every single thing about your life, you don't always realize that it's doing it.  Sure I knew that some of the feelings of sadness and listlessness were due to depression, but I had no idea the way that it was lying to me and shading all of my experiences.

Depression is a big, fat liar. The number one lie that it has told to me and to at least a couple of other people that I've talked to, is that "You're worthless; you don't matter; you have a fundamental flaw". For me, that must be why I was still single. For one of my friends, that must be why her family and exes treated her the way they did. For others, that must be why they can't have a child, keep a job, etc. For some, it's why they still can't "pull it together" despite their life looking perfect on the outside. Depression tells us that it's us. And by the way, you are the only person that feels like that, because everyone else actually does have it together.

I felt isolated because clearly everyone else had a place in life, and I did not. I felt isolated because so much hurt. It was emotional pain that was triggered easily, and was crushing in its intensity, but it even led to a physical ache sometimes. Surely I was the only one that ever felt that way because everyone else was in a better situation. But then I isolated myself further. Sometimes I wouldn't want to reach out to other people to do things, because if they said no, it felt like a rejection of me (and why wouldn't they reject me? After all, who would want anything to do with me). Or being with people was difficult because I either had to put on the happy mask (the one where you feel like a freak because you don't know if your smile looks right because you are not feeling it at all) or because I was a misfit. Plus, certain types of social activities were almost a guarantee to trigger something.

Did I mention that it also lies about the fact that life is hopeless? It is, because in the day to day, there is no getting rid of this crazy pain. It is there every single day with every single thing that you do. There is no escaping it. And how can it ever get better? Because if there's something fundamentally wrong with me, then that lasts as long as I'm here.

Depression is a crazy ride, and you are along for the ride. You can't reason the feelings away. There can be all kinds of emotional swings. You can be semi fine one day, and in the depths of despair the next. Sometimes it's one second to the next. In the years that I dealt with this, I had times where it was hard to move through the day, and other times where it was something that I carried with me, but didn't notice it quite as much. I had times where things hurt really bad, and times that things were completely numb.

Anyway, if I could talk to myself then, or to someone going through depression now, what I would say is: You are not alone.

Actually, I was going to continue beyond that, but really, that's about what I would say. When I felt like I was drowning in plain sight and no one was reacting, I just needed to know that I wasn't alone. If someone had told me that I mattered, I may have intellectually agreed with them, but what I really would have felt is that they were so good that they even cared about the worthless people.  However, by making sure that I knew I wasn't alone, that's what showed me that I mattered. Someone could have told me that it wouldn't be like this forever, but that's not something I could know or believe at that time.

And, thank God, I never was alone. I sometimes felt like I was alone, but I always knew the reality was that I had friends and family that I knew I could call at any time. I always had friends that I knew I could tell them about all of the ugly feelings and they wouldn't judge me or drop me as a friend.  I also knew enough people that were willing enough to share their own pain that I knew I wasn't the only one going through it. I really think those are the things that helped keep me going.

I do not regret the things that I learned from going through depression. I do not regret the ways that it has changed me. The only thing that I would change is that I think it would have helped a lot to get help whether talk therapy or medication or both. I certainly don't ever want to go back there, and I wouldn't wish it on anyone, but good can come even from that.

For the most part, in the last couple of years, I have not been depressed. I have been sad at times, and angry and all of the other emotions that can be associated with depression, but they are normal and natural mood swings. I've had depressed moods at different times, but they've only lasted days or a couple of weeks at the most. Feeling the difference between those moods and how I felt before is part of the reason I finally acknowledged that I had been depressed.

Depression is something that is caused by biological factors. It is a chemical imbalance, but there are a lot of things that contribute to that. Situations definitely do, grief and trauma, and many other things. I wonder about inflammation contributing. When you are depressed, there is no way to reason your way out of it. There are things to help mitigate it, and ways to help manage in the midst of it, but it will only let go when it's good and ready to. I plan to do one more post on things that I've found that have helped me manage in the midst of depression, and things that help me now when I find those tendencies creeping up on me.

Friday, December 5, 2014

7 Quick Takes Friday



Joining the Quick Takers today.

1) Thank you to all of you that stick with me when my posts are not so bright or so cheery like this last week. I'm doing much better now, and it's in no small part due to the way that you all touch my life, as well as wonderful people that I am blessed to know here. I am going to do at least one or two more posts on depression, but it should be more of an informative thing than me crying into my tinsel. I'm actually kind of excited to do it, because I have been reminded so strongly that it is such a big issue for so many people, and it really does rear its ugly head a lot this time of year.

2) Okay, I had a request for a photo of my tree, so here it is:

Please excuse the tacky cord that's just hanging out there. Also, I
had nothing to do with the choosing of the window treatments.
It may not be much, but it is mine and it is definitely making me happy to have it tonight. :)

3) I'm writing this Thursday night as I wait for the cooking fairies to come make me a meal. I would sort of like to eat, but I'm not at all interested in cooking. I'm not sure how I will eventually get food into my mouth, because this sort of seems like an impasse.

4) Apparently I managed to pick up some sort of bug for the holidays. As bugs go, this is far from the worst one. My throat is sore, but it's already seeming to pass into the itchy stage, so I'm going to assume that means it's getting better. I have worked on taking it easy and drinking lots of water the last couple of days. I have too many plans for the weekend to be fighting some bug!  However, I'm going to have to get off the couch soon. I realized at the point that I was watching a video of a baby rhino playing with a goat, that I've reached a new level and I have to return to real life! (Baby rhinos hopping around are pretty cute though. You can go here if you want to give up 2 minutes of your life that you can never get back.)

5) With that in mind, I'm really hoping to go back to spin class tomorrow. I'll try to take it easy (ha!), but I'm ready for some movement and it's interesting how much I miss that interaction with those people that are there. Love them!  Still, I'll wait to see how I feel in the morning. Bugs are annoying, but they go away so much faster if you give your body what it needs rather than rushing things.

6) For Thanksgiving, I participated in an informal challenge to do 15 hours of activity the week of Thanksgiving. I did it, and it wasn't easy, but neither was it all that difficult. It did involve me on a bike down gravel roads, getting chased by dogs and stared at by cows and making bulls nervous. But I got 'er done, and it was fun.

7)

Midwest sunset




Head over to KELLY's for more Quick Takes!

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Taken Out by the Christmas Tree (Again)

One of the things about the holidays that gets me every single year is putting up the Christmas tree. I remember as a kid going to my parents closet in about August and standing there because that's where the Christmas decorations were, and I couldn't wait for Christmas. I couldn't wait for the magic of the greens and reds and tinsel. Sometimes I could faintly smell the cinnamon potpourri.  We did the whole Thanksgiving thing of watching the Macy's parade, eating the big meal, and then sometime that weekend putting up the decorations. I loved the excitement of getting out all of the stuff and putting it in its special place for the season.  I also remember thinking how odd it was that I had vivid memories of putting up the decorations, but no specific memories of taking them down.

Anyway, it was one of those magical things about holidays and traditions that make childhood what it is, and as I got older, I couldn't wait to recreate that for my kids. Only, it's still just me. Every time I put up the tree, I die a little bit. It's just me by myself collecting the boxes from their respective places, and there's no one to help decide how to do the lights on the tree this year. My dad always used to get so frustrated with the lights, so as soon as we were old enough, we took over that task. My siblings and I would decide about blinking or not blinking, etc. We would get frustrated with the tangles of lights or the ones that you check and they work perfectly, but then you put them on the tree they don't work right. Putting the lights on the tree by myself is the worst of all of it. Each year, it's a fight to put up the tree. I don't do a ton of decorating, but I at least have my tree and a couple of other things.  The question becomes, why do it? If I'm constantly fighting that feeling of "what's the point?", then why subject myself to it?

Well, I'll tell you. It's because I still matter. Even if I can't be creating Christmas magic for a family, that doesn't mean that I'm not still worth the hassle of a tree just for myself. It's because even though putting up the tree hurts, having it up makes me happy.  It's because I refuse to let depression and my circumstances take away one more little thing for me.  It's because when the evenings are cold and dark, the lights of the tree in the evening are warm and inviting.

So, yeah, it was extra difficult this year with extra stuff going on outside of just dealing with decorations and such this year. Yes, my post the other day was in the midst of putting up the tree. However, it's up now, and I just have a few little touches to finish up the rest of my decorating. The smell of cinnamon (still my favorite at Christmas) is starting to permeate the house. It wasn't easy, but it is worth it to me.  I'm not saying that everyone that's going through a hard time should force themselves to put up decorations. It's different for each person.

Taken out by the Christmas tree again this year. However, it's really no match for the people in my life (like you!) that I can tell about it, and you get it and you care. And now that it's up, it's a good thing.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Stepping Cautiously into the Holidays

I feel like I'm walking in where things are a bit dark and shadowy, and I have stubbed my toe pretty hard here before, so I'm taking very slow and very careful steps.  However, it's really not dark, and I'm not worried about my toes. It's the holidays.

Y'all, I would SO like to end this dearth of blogging with some bright cheery posts sparkle like the rest of the season, but maybe later if we're lucky.  So far there have been no huge bombs, but all the constant little things are wearing away at me right now. Not to mention that work has been slow, so it makes me feel useless. Then I come home, and there's not much going on there. I think fb and I may have to take a break, or I may have to severely restrict who I'm following. The whole cute kids doing holiday traditions is kicking my butt as well. It's not just work or the holidays, either. The allergies and this year with some losses has been kind of difficult. I can't tell if I'm trying to fight off depression, or if I'm inviting it in for a snuggle.

I do know that I'm tired tonight and that is helping nothing. I also know that I don't want to go to bed dwelling on that, so even though I'm a few days late, how about a few things I'm thankful for?

I'm thankful for a blogging community that listens and cares.

I'm thankful for prayer buddies, knowing that someone is praying for me, and being able to try to offer some of this up for someone else.

I'm thankful for friends that look out for me and drag me to things that I don't always want to go to, because they want me there even if I'm a little difficult sometimes about going. They don't know why I'm so easily overwhelmed or don't want to go, but it always makes me feel better when I do go, and I'm glad they go through a little extra work sometimes to get me there.

I'm thankful that the holidays are, and that they do help us to think of others, and to celebrate with loved ones.

I'm thankful for health and the ability to do the activities I do.

Also very thankful for endorphins!

I'm thankful for a profession that I love.

I'm going to bed now, but hopefully I'll have more to say this month, and I certainly hope that most of it will be about something besides the same old stuff all the time!