Category Archives: Life

Some Thoughts on Happiness and Unhappiness

Some thoughts on happiness and unhappiness, and the amount of control we have over these feelings:

I agree with author Eckhart Tolle, who says “The primary cause of unhappiness is never the situation but your thoughts about it. Be aware of the thoughts you are thinking. Separate them from the situation, which is always neutral, which always is as it is. There is the situation or the facts, and there are my thoughts about it. Instead of making up stories, stay with the facts. For example, “I am ruined” is a story. It limits you and prevents you from taking effective action. “I have fifty cents left in my bank account” is a fact. Facing facts is always empowering. Be aware that what you think, to a large extent, creates the emotions you feel. See the link between your thinking and your emotions.”

So, generally speaking, your thoughts lead to your feelings. Whatever story you have made up in your head (a fantasy, frequently based on one bright shining picture of a distilled moment of possibility) will probably be let down, because usually we aren’t even aware of the actual distilled moment we are in. When you stay attached to that fantasy about who someone is, or how something should be, reality won’t fit. You can easily spend all of your time thinking about everything that is not how you want it to be, and be constantly frustrated, because reality doesn’t fit into your fantasy.

The fantasy of *how things should be* is interfering with the ability to be happy now. The fantasy of *how things should have been* is interfering with the ability to be happy now. The fantasy of *how things will be* (someday) is interfering with the ability to be happy now and in each successive moment.

I know this to be true, but living it is exceedingly difficult. I think the key is learning to detach from the outcome. Easier said than done.

When people say “It is what it is”, I frequently scoff, thinking that it is a defeatist attitude (someone has given up) or, conversely, a woo-woo new agey everything-is-beautiful attitude that doesn’t live in the real world.

But here is the thing: it really is whatever it is, regardless of what we want it to be.

Let go of the fantasy. Be mindful of the present. Detach from the outcome. Rearrange your thoughts.


You Are A Gift, And So Am I

What if you realized today that YOU are a GIFT, exactly as you are, to the people that love you?? How would that change your day?

You are NOT a burden to shoulder, not a performer to impress or entertain, and not someone that is only partially acceptable. You are a gift, the way you are, including both your talents and self-perceived flaws.

You are not your job, nor your successes, nor your failures. You are not your diagnoses. You are a gift that comes without strings or conditions. You may have been broken on the way; that does not affect your perfection.

You are the perfect YOU. You are still a beautiful gift to the people that love you. Go be the best you, insecurities and all; I’ll be over here, being the best me I can be.


What we see as victory

What I see: on a bad day, getting out of bed, getting dressed, going to work., these are major victorys!
What the rest of the world sees: I’m late, I’m lazy, I’m irresponsible. I think the rules don’t apply to me.

Every minute past the deadline hour that I don’t get out of bed, I am perfectly aware of how much worse my situation is getting. Now I’m anxious on top of depressed. The anxiety increases in some strange algorithm the longer it gets. I start thinking of lies I can tell to excuse my lateness or at least explain it away, without having to say “I couldn’t get out of bed”. Or really, I couldn’t stop getting back into bed. I got up several times… bathroom, take the dogs out, get some water. Each time, my brain says “get in the shower, get dressed!” and each time, my emotional self says no, and crawls back under the covers.

In the end today, I got up 1/2 hour past the time I should have been at work, so I got there 1 hour late. I didn’t tell any inane lies about it, just apologized and said I was having some problems this morning. I didn’t offer details and for once wasn’t asked for any.

I really wish I could just “wish” this stuff away, just decide to be happy, and be motivated. The real world doesn’t work like that though, at least not for me. A quote making the rounds on facebook “Most folks are as happy as they make up their minds to be” by Abraham Lincoln. That sounds really good. Seems profound, seems …. “doable”. Doesn’t seem to take into account chemical depression. I’m not unhappy. I probably have an enviable life in many ways. I’m just depressed in a way that doesn’t take happiness or lack thereof into account. We need another word for this. Maybe there is one. It’s almost closer to inertia really.

Taking it One Day At A Time, even if the rest of the world expects more.


ironic

Ironically, a month after my last post about suicide prevention day, another person in my life tried to commit suicide, without me noticing the signs. Each time, someone who lives in my home with me. These kids are tremendously skilled at covering up their feelings.


Suicide Awareness Day, 2012

DEPRESSION LIES! Depression is a lying rat bastard… hard to ignore, but never trust it!
:: Today is Suicide Awareness Day, 2012. ::

If you feel hopeless and alone, remember that people love you, even when *you* don’t believe it, and they would be devastated to lose you. I’m still here based on that one bit of knowledge. (And my puppies. I think Dylan would be lost without me.)

And because I came *so close* to losing someone I love most dearly to that lying jerk, and I realized the pain that caused everyone around her. I know now that I couldn’t do that to the people that love me. Sitting with her at the hospital waiting to find out if she would live was terrifying.

And because my asshole stepfather killed himself and took his dog with him, and even though I hated him, I cried for days (possibly more for his selfishness in shooting the dog though, I’ll admit) upon hearing the news.

And because there are beautiful days around the corner, that you can’t see ahead of time. Keep your eyes open!

Learn the warning signs of suicide. http://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/GetHelp/SuicideWarningSigns.aspx
If YOU or someone you know is thinking about it, mentioning it, showing signs: Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255): Suicide hotline, 24/7 free and confidential, nationwide network of crisis centers.

Thanks for your attention.


New Meds

New meds are definitely helping, and I’ve only been taking them a week! That doesn’t seem possible, but the difference is more than noticeable, and definitely wasn’t happening without them. I have mixed feelings about having to take another medication, was really hoping that regular exercise, good nutrition, enough sleep, and therapy might make enough of a difference to drop that second medication, but 3 months of only one medication was enough to show me that it’s not gonna happen right now. Maybe when I’m not trying to work full time and go to school in the evenings. I was so overwhelmed, crying constantly, on the verge of an anxiety attack at all times, so I’ll take this right now. It was really needed. I’m so thankful that it’s working already too… amazing! I’m nervous about the side effects, but I guess it’s better to be alive with some annoying side effects, than to be dead because I couldn’t handle life.


No Gold Stars?

DISCLAIMER: This is a depressing post, about depression. It is not addressed at anyone particularly. It is just me sharing my experience. If you don’t feel like reading it, I totally get that! Please feel free to skip it.

One of the most frustrating things about going through a clinical depression episode is that people get frustrated with me for all the things I’m doing wrong, at a time when I feel like I should be being applauded and given gold stars for making it out of bed at all.

Also, getting dressed, making it to work, paying attention to other people that I am in relationship with, going to school, doing homework, feeding myself and my animals and doing any of the other things that are expected of an adult, all feel so close to impossible, yet are mostly getting done.  I try to wear a smile and still be pleasant and kind.

I get that those things are expected.
I get that it’s frustrating for other people when I don’t do them “right”.
I get that no one will be cheering when I actually make myself do them.
I get that no one else can see that I’m actually wildly succeeding at life at these times.

It’s just really hard to feel and hear other people’s disappointment with me at a time when I’m already beating myself up for “failing at life”.  (I’m late to work a lot during these times, I agree that is a problem. But you know, I made it!! C’mon! Gold star!)

I’m seeing a professional, I’m getting help, I don’t need an intervention. Some of you may be in relationship with people that suffer with episodes of depression, maybe it will help to read this. Maybe not.


Life is Short, Eat Dessert First?

A funny story, but also a question at the end.

So when I went to see my mom last week, I saw that her Lean Cuisine dinner (she’ll only eat that for dinner, and only one kind) was sitting on the counter with a cover over it, but getting cold. I suggested that maybe she should try to eat it while it was still warm, or I could re-heat it for her. She nodded and moved it to the table, put the cover back on it, and walked away.

OK…. picking my battles, I moved on.

We went to go sit and watch The Sound of Music (her daily show), that was already on when I got there, and she picked up the half gallon of ice cream sitting there. I said “Oh! Dessert before dinner! Good idea!” with a smile, and she said “Well, I saw there was still some left in here and I thought I’d better finish it off.” I said “Oh, well, you’re an adult, enjoy! How much was left?” “Ohhhhh, about half.”

Me internally: !!!!!!!!!! half!!!!!!!!????

So we sit there watching the movie as she scoops mouthful after mouthful of ice cream in, and I start hearing these heavy sighs or “ooof”s. I look over at her and she is looking down at the ice cream container with some apparent consternation. I said “Mom, you don’t have to finish it off, it’s okay, we can just put it back in the freezer.” She said “no, no!” I couldn’t decide if she wanted it or felt she *had* to finish it.

Her Depression Era childhood says to finish all food and not throw anything away, and her lack of memory lets her forget her dinner completely.

Finally I said I had to get going but suggested that she put the ice cream away if she was full and not to skip dinner completely. I just couldn’t watch her doing that anymore. I mean, I’ve been known to eat a pint of ice cream in one sitting before, but not when I’m clearly TIRED OF IT!

I felt a little helpless. What would you have done?


Silently Surviving?

Yeah, pretty much. When I make it through another day, I am surviving.

I’ve been living with diagnosed depression for almost 20 years, but since it was diagnosed at that time as Long-Term Chronic Depression with a probable onset in my toddler years, we’ll just go with “my whole life.” (almost 46 years) Also, I have Generalized Anxiety Disorder. I attribute my depression and anxiety to a lovely cocktail of influences: parental neglect, emotional detachment, childhood incest, a highly-sensitive nervous system, and a genetic predisposition toward depression and anxiety. (Hey, at least there is a cocktail involved!)

Depression and Anxiety aren’t what I want to discuss here, but they are the backdrop of my life. I silently survive from day to day to day, and no one gives me a ribbon for making it another day, another month, or another year. Only other depression survivors understand the miracle of making it through each bout of depression alive, and sometimes those bouts are indistinguishable from daily life. If I had a “real” sickness, people would bring me casseroles and offer to help me however they could. Most people don’t see depression as a “real sickness” though, and I get offers of… well nothing. I don’t get offers of help or casseroles or sympathy. I get judgement, shame, criticism, guilt, etc.  It makes me never good enough. I take medication. The medication helps me remember to do things (that would never get done without it), but I have to remember to take it. I have to remember to refill it. I have to remember to pick up the refill. Taking a pill to help you remember to take a pill is all kinds of fucked up, and when I forget, I get shame and disapproval. “I THOUGHT YOU HAD THAT FIGURED OUT.” …. well, I thought so too, but OBVIOUSLY, I WAS WRONG.

I don’t want to be Debbie Downer here, just give you a little lens to view me through. I’d like to be funny. Sometimes I am. You may not see it that way. I have a pretty twisted, fucked-up sense of humor, but I know I’m not the only one, thank God. Even if no one in my personal life is that way, I see evidence of it all over the internet, and that gives me hope that someone, somewhere, understands me.


Back to it….

In July I made a decision to make some changes: diet (again), time out from the world (meditation), exercise (though for two weeks now I haven’t, in an effort to give my shoulder and knee that are hurting time to rest), reading, journaling, no computer gaming (for a month), and I began to purpose to spend more time with my husband and play with my dogs. All this in response to a deep depression that had moved past my heart and crept into my bones… malaise, apathy, depression. Those words seem like they don’t work together, but I guess I felt one or the other all the time. Just completely burned out… doing anything more than I was already doing seemed like more effort than I could possibly stand. I didn’t want to die, but I frankly felt like that was a preferable alternative to doing more. More than what? Well, everything. Anything. The proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back seemed like it could come at any moment from a simple request from someone. From who? Everyone. Anyone. My family, my employers, my friends, and my husband were all potential straw bearers. I felt like I was made to let people down, to disappoint them, to fail them. I just couldn’t keep pretending to be someone I wasn’t in an effort to gain approval. Discussions with my husband about his unhappiness with my attitude and my unhappiness with his expectations verged on discussing divorce, though the word itself was unspoken. We agreed to make some changes, each of us, but only because it seemed like it was our last resort. I might not have done anything further about my depression had I not brought some of my recent writing with me when I went to see my therapist. Excerpt follows:

May 25, 2009

My whole life is made up of disappointing people. That’s what I do. I guess I’m not an acceptable person, because I never seem to be accepted as I am. I am never good enough. Never. I am only accepted when I pretend to be something I am not. I’m never going to be that person, and I don’t want to be that person. I should stop worrying about being acceptable to other people, and accept that I am not going to be able to be what they want. It is slowly killing me.

 

I don’t even know who I am anymore. I don’t know if I ever knew, but I am sure I don’t know who I am right now. What do I believe? What do I want? What do I think is important? What gives me purpose? What makes me want to go on? What makes it worthwhile to get out of bed in the morning? What makes it worthwhile to wake up at all? I have no idea anymore.

 

She was understandably a bit alarmed I guess. Not extravagantly… she has known me for 15 years and seen me in worse times, but enough to ask me to tell my doctor that she felt I was on the verge of burnout and fatigue. Which, honestly, I had forgotten about til now.  She also recommended that I take a few days to go away alone. Not because I was “sick” or “broken” but because she feels that we all need that from time to time, and now seemed like a really good time, to possibly prevent further burnout I guess. I told my husband and he said that I should do whatever it was I needed to do, whatever it was that my therapist felt was important.

I did go away, for four days to the Columbia Gorge, to a quiet little place on the top of the hill above the river, with a balcony and  a view. I did nothing but sleep, read, write, play with my dog, sit on the balcony and soak in the view, listen to quiet music, and meditate. At the same time, I began my diet. Since I had my dog, dining out wasn’t going to be much of an option, which was perfect. I had a room with a refrigerator and a microwave. I brought my own food: a very healthy soup, some healthy snacks, and some Slimfasts. I ate the exact same food for four days and it didn’t bother me once. Without any temptations, it was easy to be good. I lost around 6 or 8 pounds. I forget exactly. It would not have been good in the long term; I was eating far too few calories to be properly nourished. But as a way to kick start a change, it was perfect for me.  Two days before I left for the Gorge I attended a major league baseball game. I could not fit comfortably in the seats. “Exactly how fat have I allowed myself to become?” I wondered. The body I saw in the mirror did not look great, but it did not seem to me like a body that couldn’t fit into a seat in a baseball stadium. How dysmorphic am I? I don’t know.

It’s now the last week of August. I have lost 16 pounds, I have made it a priority to take time to myself every day, and to make time for my husband. I have not returned to gaming in the same depth as I was playing before. And until two weeks ago I was exercising regularly. I have made one major discovery; one of those things you know is true ‘theoretically’, but doesn’t seem like it would apply to you….. I feel a million times better when I am doing these things for myself. It turns out that self care is not allowing myself to do exactly as I please, but is instead requiring myself to make these things a priority: mental health, physical health, space to think, beautiful sounds, positive caring relationships, and getting enough sleep. I have noticed in the last two weeks that I don’t feel as good as I did the prior month. What’s different? No exercise, a little less sleep, a little less space, and a little less time out from each day to meditate and decompress. This is enough to convince me. I want to feel better. I want to feel happy. I want to save my marriage. I want to be healthy!

But overall… I feel good! I feel hopeful! I feel like life is moving forward instead of stagnating. I feel healthy. Maybe most importantly, I feel. The depressing numbness has been beaten back and positive feelings are taking its place. Life isn’t perfect, but life is good. DOING one more thing doesn’t strike me as harder than living anymore. In fact, doing some new things sounds great. I’m trying my hand at storytelling in the form of writing fiction. I haven’t gotten very far yet, but to even begin strikes me as a major step from where I was. And for that, I’m thankful.

If you’ve read all of this, thanks for caring enough to read on. 🙂 I appreciate that care.  Thank you so much.