Depression – a weird energy sucking flu


Earlier today I went on a bit of a sharing spree on Twitter. Instead of retyping it all here I’m just going to link the tweets.

I’ll probably be talking a bit more about my depression and the improvements I’m noticing over the next couple of weeks, as well as about other, exciting, things.

Advertisements

Advent – Give


Today’s word is “give.” Conveniently, today is also Giving Tuesday, an altruistic answer to Black Friday and Cyber Monday, two days named after shopping events.

I didn’t give anything today. I didn’t have much to give today, either in the way of money or in the way of emotional support. I drank too much tequila last night and woke up with a hang-graine (a slight hangover that sparked a migraine). I drank too much tequila yesterday because I was enjoying myself and tequila sometimes helps me ignore the mean voice inside my head. I had a hard time ignoring the mean voice inside my head because I hadn’t been taking my vitamins or giving myself enough “down” time after a long weekend of socializing and being “on.”

AdventWord_Give

I know the primary intention behind this AdventWord is to encourage us to give of ourselves to others. We cannot survive as a society if we do not support each other and share our gifts. The world would be so much nicer if everyone took it upon themselves to genuinely care about others outside their family and social circle. Not just blithely donate canned goods once a year, but actually go work to end hunger in their community. Not just hand out a pair of socks to the homeless man on the corner, but actively work to end homelessness.

These are worthy goals.

But so often, we forget to give ourselves the care we need. We ignore the signs that we are neglecting our emotional or physical health because we’re too busy being there for someone else. Or because we don’t think we’re worthy. Or because of another of what are probably a million different reasons.

note-to-self

There’s a meme I’ve seen in social justice circles suggesting we care for ourselves as we would a toddler: feed yourself something healthy, make sure to get enough rest, take your medicine, go outside and move around. It might seem silly at first, but don’t let its simplicity fool you. It’s a vital reminder. The fact that it was created in the first place means someone felt it was important enough to spend the time creating a reminder. That it gets shared around frequently means it resonates with a lot more people.

The idea is that one cannot help others without first taking care of their own needs. It’s the old line from the flight safety spiel: put your own mask on before helping others with their masks. You cannot help someone else breathe if you can’t breathe yourself.

So, what I am giving on this day? I am giving myself a break. I am giving myself permission to feel sad or angry or disappointed in myself, but then I’m giving myself a healthy dose of forgiveness.

And while I’m at it, I’m giving myself the freedom to not know what I want to do with myself. I’m giving myself a chance to sit with uncertainty and listen to myself as I work through it. And, most importantly, I’m giving myself as much love and kindness I can muster, and permission to seek reinforcement from others.

Friday Faves


Looking around, it was a bit of a challenge to find a couple of things that are making me happy in my immediate environment. I mean, other than food and Eric and the cats and friends. When thinking about the things around me, my most likely emotion isn’t so much happiness as anxiety, mixed with some resignation. And even, for certain things, a strong sense of dread.

The house is in a state of flux right now. We’re getting more serious about starting the kitchen work, and the front yard is waiting for a contractor to return a call so we can get started redoing that. The back yard, the garden, and most other rooms in the house have been somewhat neglected over the last couple of months. I’ve thrown myself into my new online social media gig a bit more heavily than I maybe should have, and coupled with my existing blogging goals for my “princess blog” and re-invigorating this blog, and a light sprinkling of depression, well… the house is a mess.

This anxiety is almost overwhelming at times, which, of course, makes it harder to pull myself out of any holes I happen to fall into. And, the worst part is, I know it’s all self-inflicted. The sense of “oh, that needs to get done too” is all coming from me. The feeling that I’m not doing enough is all from my own head.

Which, of course, is why it’s so important to take a few minutes to look around more clearly and really focus on the things that bring me joy.

IMG_0224
 
The Christmas cactus (which has never been transplanted) is enjoying the change in the the weather, and putting on loads of lovely buds. It’s even flowered once or twice! I keep thinking I’ll transplant it, but it seems so happy where it is.

IMG_0226
 
I get a happy, warm feeling every time I walk by our adorable pie-topper. I just can’t believe we actually got married! And I’m so so so happy with Eric and all the wonderful things he does and how much he loves me even when he doesn’t understand how my brain works.

IMG_0248
 
While the back yard and patio areas is mostly filled with dead plants in pots and leaves everywhere, the pink sourgrass is just coming back into its true beauty. I know some people think of these as weeds, but I think they’re beautiful. And it’ll make this lovely mounding pink puff all winter.

IMG_0264
 
And last, but certainly not least, even when I’m disgusted by my gross and messy kitchen (gross because it needs a serious overhaul AND because it’s often in need of a serious cleaning), I just have to look at the stack of jars on the windowsill, filled with beans and grapes and other miscellaneous dried goods that will get used eventually. There were more jars of beans here until recently when I made a big pot of mixed beans and spices for our breakfasts. But, slowly, over the winter, I’m sure I’ll restock it with a cup of this and a cup of that from the farm, and various dried veggies and fruits I plan to make with my new food dehydrator.

I fell in a hole


I fell in a hole. Again.

I guess the good thing is that I’m familiar with the sensation and can kind of brace myself when falling, and then keep myself calm while I’m down there looking for the way out.

I don’t know exactly what triggered it, but I suspect it had a lot to do with a combination of biochemistry (I have been struggling with anemia for several months now), and the stress of having to go to the dentist and have a root canal on a tooth that had already had one years ago, and the waning sunshine and returning rains. I just ran out out of the ability to navigate around the hole and resist the pull.

Anyway, I’m slowly pulling myself out of this one. After spending a couple of days of sleeping as much as possible and not much else, I knew I was on the way out Sunday night when I couldn’t sleep because I was so excited about my cooking project for today (cream of broccoli soup — recipe coming, I promise!). I don’t doubt that the brief return on sunshine on Sunday helped as well.

IMG_0050

Another factor is that I have so many ideas, I feel a bit overwhelmed when I sit down and try to get stuff done. I am having some trouble finding a way to streamline much of my blogging work. I always feel like I’m just barely making my self-imposed deadlines and sometimes even missing them. When I’m tired or stressed (or tired AND stressed), it’s harder to stay positive in the face of what can sometimes feel like failure. The failure to keep up with the schedule that I created to support my goals. The failure to find the easy way around the tedious parts of the work. The failure to instantly be a super star blogger.

“The deepest fear we have, ‘the fear beneath all fears,’ is the fear of not measuring up, the fear of judgment. It’s this fear that creates the stress and depression of everyday life.” Tullian Tchividjian

I know (today) that I will eventually will sort it out. It’s like a kind of puzzle, and I love puzzles. And one of my greatest work-related skills is the ability to do more in a day than others because I’ve created a streamlined process. So, I just have to keep reminding myself that I will eventually find the right system for this new career.

I also know that I will find my way out of this hole, just like I’ve done in the past. And I know that I will fall into another hole in the future. And another. And probably another. But, with each hole I exit, I gain more confidence in myself. Which, for me, is quite comforting when I need it most.

I’m back!


When I went to post this, I realized this is my 200th post. Woot!

It’s been a busy year so far, and I had to put down some of my side interests for a while. This blog being one of the many things that I really wanted to keep current, but just couldn’t and stay healthy. As it was, the things I needed to do regardless were more than I could handle at times. More about that later. This post is just to catch everyone up on the exciting and happy things that have been keeping me busy!

First off, I want to say that we still miss our beloved Mr. Bob and didn’t want to rush into getting another cat right away. But when this little monster needed a home we decided to meet her, and it was a match. Her name is Selkie, because she loves being near water in a way that even Bob couldn’t match. When I take a bath, she has to be on my lap (above the water, preferably on a towel) so she can bat her paws at the water.

IMG_9942

She and Little Girl get along pretty well. At least while they’re sleeping. I think Little Girl would like to be buddies and play, but Selkie wants to play far too rough for poor old LG. She’s an adorable little brat, though, isn’t she?

13 - 1

The main reason I was so busy earlier this year was because I was busily working to finish up my degree. I took 18 units in the Spring, and still had to take a summer class. But I did it. I’m a graduate!

14 - 1 (2)

And, as will surprise no one who knows me, I decorated my cap with Firefly items.

14 - 1 (3)

And then this happened.

Invitation.indd

Yep. That’s our wedding invitation. Can you believe it? Eleven years later?! We got married!

10347626_10101408784720985_295345692271993973_n (1)

It was a great party. We had many of our dear friends there for the event. Kyle did the honors, with a great speech about “Love, honor, and cherish, and always watch Firefly together.”  Oh, yeah. It was totally a Firefly/Serenity themed event. I promise a more in-depth post about the decor and whatnot. For now, enjoy this great photo of our friends dressed up as different characters. The little River Tam is our niece Skylar. How adorable?!

IMAG0461 (1)

And, lastly, I’d like to leave you with this great Google+ AutoAwesome image from our Honeymoon Hike with friends. I’ve been doing a fair amount of hiking lately.  In fact, when I’m done writing this, I’m going to look up info for tomorrow’s hike in a new and potentially awesome place. Stay tuned for more info about it, and so much more! Because I’m back. With lots of ideas and recipes and photos and other great things to share!

Armstrong Hike - 10-EFFECTS

Never Enough Time


On this, the shortest day of the year, it’s worth remembering that even when the days are longer, there’s never enough time to do everything we want to do. Which is an especially important lesson to keep in mind during the Silly Season.

IMG_8635

The funny thing is that we’ve been sold a bill of goods regarding Christmas that was never anything more than a ploy to sell us more things. And even though I know this, I still feel the ridiculous pull to try to do ALL THE THINGS. Sometime in late October, I catch myself thinking about what kinds of cards I want to make from scratch. Then it’s the lists of items to make for friends and family — jelly, jam, cookies, brownies, bread, etc. And don’t forget the idea of endless parties and individual gifts, which I always promise myself I’m going to wrap in the cutest handmade paper, and (this year, I swear) I will mail them on time!

Over the last week or so, I’ve seen several of my friends post comments to the effect that they feel like failures because they can’t get everything done before Christmas — cookies, presents, parties, dinners, cards, and all the other little things we feel like we need to do to make Christmas the way we think it ought to be.  It’s like there’s this big rush to get it all done in time so we can enjoy the 25th. Like there’s some kind of deadline on doing Christmas, and if we can just get to the 25th with the proper number of items checked off, then we’ll have the perfect Christmas.

IMG_8701

Like we can even really enjoy the day after all that planning and worrying and stress. You know that sad, empty feeling you get after all the presents have been opened and the dinner has been eaten and the dishes are done and put away? Yeah, me too. It’s because no matter how wonderful the day actually is, it can never live up to the day we hold in our collective unconscious. The one sold to us by whomever produced the most tear-jerking commercial of the season — usually Folgers, but I think Apple is in the running for the 2013 prize.

It’s no wonder most people rip down their decorations and take down the tree on the 26th. They’ve just run an emotional marathon since Thanksgiving, and all they have to show for it is some ugly sweater and some useless fancy electric knife that will probably break down in the middle of carving the Easter ham.

Don’t get me wrong. I love Christmas. I love the social aspect of it. And I really do love doing all the things I dream about doing in October. But I just can’t do them all. Heck, I don’t even think I can do some of it these day. Not and pass my classes, write term papers,  and study for finals. It’s just not possible. Or, more accurately, if it IS possible, it takes an unGodly amount of dedication and perseverance. And lack of sleep.

I’m not willing to give up my emotional health on a manufactured version of a very serious and special holiday. I mean, I still WANT to do all the things, but I accept that I just can’t, and instead I will focus my attention on the things that bring me the most joy. And which doesn’t disturb my very fragile sense of peace. And isn’t THAT what Christmas is all about, really? Joy and peace?

IMG_8677

Maybe instead of focusing so much on this relatively recent version of Christmas, we should look further back into the history of the holiday. Instead of rushing around, stressing ourselves out, we think about the early Christmas celebrations. Or, if you want to go even further back, think about the Solstice observances. It’s winter, the days are short, and darkness is close. Maybe instead of forcing so much light and activity, we listen to Nature and what she says we should be doing. Going inside, gathering around the hearth, enjoying a period of rest and renewal.

It is this sense of peace and quiet that I have been trying to cultivate in my reinstatement of Sunday Dinners during Advent. It’s nice to sit around the table and talk with people without loud music or games or lots of drink. It feels like a real connection. Instead of feeling like I’ve added more to my worry pile, it’s as though I’ve spent two hours recharging my batteries.

I still have that urge to make lists and plan surprise gifts. But I’m giving myself permission to spread them out over the coming year instead of trying to get them all done in the next week. Which will not only make this Christmas more peaceful and enjoyable, but will likely have the added benefit of spreading a bit of the Christmas cheer throughout the year.

IMG_8750

Peace to you on this solstice.

Into the Wild


I know I haven’t written in a long while. I’ve got so very much to talk about, and while it would probably help to put it into words, I just haven’t had the energy (read: emotional strength) to actually do the work.

I’m depressed. I’ve been trying to deny it for months now, but it has finally caught up with me. It started out as just a little anxiety a couple of months ago, and I was able to shrug it off or pretend it wasn’t there. Or simply ‘power through’ it and still get stuff done. But then more and more things started coming at me, needing attention and emotional energy. Some little, some very much not little. I tried juggling them all, and even started to purposely drop some of the little things hoping that it wouldn’t be a problem, that other people would pick up the slack, that in the end these little things wouldn’t matter.

Some of the little things turned into slightly bigger things when combined, and that …

IMG_7006

… I just can’t keep up with this juggling metaphor. I don’t have the energy to do the thinking necessary to make it work.

Basically, this blog post is a long explanation to myself about why I couldn’t finish a particular assignment for my Environmental Literature class, where we were asked to compare Thoreau’s Walden and the movie Into the Wild.

At the beginning of this semester, I knew it was going to be a challenging one. I’m taking more classes than I’d really like, and I still need to finish up my internship from a previous semester. So, effectively, I’m taking 14 units. Which isn’t a lot for some people, but it’s at least 4 credits too many for me. I was managing fairly well, but things started to pile up towards the end of February, and I started to slack off on readings and homework, and even stopped going to class as much as I should. I kept telling myself that it would be OK. That I could catch up once I’d gotten some rest. This should have been my first sign that something wasn’t right with me. And, to be honest, I was hoping that giving myself a little extra slack at this point would help me later on, so maybe I was at least somewhat aware of things not being right.

But by March, I was really starting to slide into full-blown depression. And then Bob got sick. Like really sick. Like I haven’t blogged about it because it was too scary and putting into words here would have been too painful. (Short explanation: We thought he was going to die. In our arms.) I was in shock and couldn’t function at all, much less even begin to think about school work.

I spent the first week after his diagnosis in an emotional panic. I couldn’t sleep or eat or think clearly. The only work-like thing I could do was endlessly search the Internet for an answer, a miracle, something to help me understand. For two weeks, I went back and forth between denial and severe depression. Sure, I tried to keep up with school work, and probably managed to get through about 25% of it, but even that little bit would leave me emotionally exhausted.

IMG_7130

It’s at about this point that the assignment mentioned above came up. Looking back, I can see where I was resisting watching the film for at least a week. It wasn’t just that I couldn’t focus on anything school-related. There was something about the film specifically that I was strongly resisting. I kept putting it off, telling myself I’d do a rushed watching of it closer to the due date for the assignment.

It’s also around this time that things started to look up for Bob (I’ll post more in a few days, I promise), and I found a thread of hope I could hold on to. Then, a few days later, my dad went into the hospital for emergency gallbladder surgery. While this may not seem like a very dangerous surgery for most people, my dad has special medical issues that complicate any kind of surgery. He had to go to the hospital to have dental surgery. Add to that the fact that I’m 2000+ miles away and unable to comfort my mom or talk to the doctors, and you can understand my worry. (After five stressful days in the hospital, he’s home and recovering fine.)

At this point, I was emotionally trashed. I had nothing left except the sheer will that has been keeping me going at even this low level. I told myself to pull up my big girl panties and get this project done, even if it was late. I ordered the film from Amazon and started watching it. And damn if it didn’t hit every single emotional trigger I had. Still, I made myself watch it, while allowing myself to take short breaks throughout. It took me 7+ hours to watch a 2 hour film. And, I’ll be honest here, I did not watch the last 15 minutes. I just couldn’t. This was a week ago. The paper was due last Thursday. I spent all day Friday trying my darnedest to make myself write the paper. And then Saturday and Sunday. And then Monday. Tuesday. Wednesday. And now it’s a week late, and I’m just starting to come to terms about making myself watch the movie when every fiber of my being was screaming for me to stop. I won’t be turning in anything for this paper. In fact, this blog post is probably the closest I’ll come to even addressing it in writing.

IMG_7191

Interestingly, before this class, I hadn’t read either Walden or Into the Wild, but I had a pretty clear understanding of what they were about based on cultural references. I was 22 in 1992, the year Christopher McCandless went to Alaska. I think he was only about a year and a half older than me. I recall the news stories and discussions about his death. I don’t know if I had a distinct opinion about him other than it was a tragedy. And one I didn’t really care to explore further. Over the years, I’ve read other books by Jon Krakauer, but when friends recommended this one, I steadfastly refused. I never gave a thought to why, except that it made me feel uneasy and a little anxious.

Here’s where I’ll also admit that I haven’t seen or read plenty of stories about tragedy, and generally tend to steer away from them. I haven’t seen Schindler’s List. I can’t watch the end of The Anne Frank StoryLife is Beautiful left me a wreck. I routinely put down books that start to make me feel upset. I don’t think it’s because I have a rosy outlook on life and don’t want to explore these feelings. I’m pretty sure it’s because I’m very familiar with these feelings, and don’t need to add more of them to understand them. I see sadness all around me all the time. And while some may find comfort in exploring these themes in literature and art, I find that much of it leaves me feeling more upset than comforted. Especially when I’m deep within an episode of depression.

Looking at the assignment questions for this blog post makes me upset. Just seeing the name Alexander Supertramp makes me want to cry.

  1. Thoreau had strong feelings about materialism. What were they? How do they compare with the feelings of Alexander Supertramp?
  2. What do you think motivated Thoreau to live at Walden Pond? What motivated Alexander Supertramp?

Looking at the assignment questions for this blog post makes me a little anxious. Just seeing the name Alexander Supertramp makes me want to cry. I have opinions on these questions, but they are going to be a struggle to get out.

IMG_7223

Comparing McCandless/Supertramp to Thoreau is an interesting juxtaposition, but I’m not sure it’s a fair comparison. Honestly, I’d find it easier to compare McCandless/Supertramp to John Muir. Both had troubled childhoods they were eager to get away from. Both wanted to reject their upbringing and explore the world around them. Both went on long treks and took life-threatening risks.

As for comparing McCandless and Thoreau, their motivations were completely different, as were their circumstances and outcomes. Perhaps the comparison is justified in that they both tried to “go away.” And maybe this is why I have not ever felt compelled to read either’s story. I know from personal experience that one can not simply “go away.” There is no “away” to go to. But, for the sake of answering the questions, I will attempt to understand their motivations.

Thoreau went away, but told everyone where he was going and why. And he only went as far as a cabin on his friend Emerson’s property. Yes, he was living in the woods, but he was close enough to town that he often made the trip to visit friends and friends would come visit him. His goal was to separate himself from the influences of society, which in his case meant the daily expectations of city society, work, and leisure activities. His environment, although a bit more challenging than living in Boston, was far from that of true wilderness and seclusion.

McCandless/Supertramp left without telling anyone where he was going or why. Sure, he told the people he met while traveling, but they were powerless to stop him. Why didn’t he tell his family? Is it because they did have some emotional power over him, and he felt like he needed to break that bond by disappearing? Of course, we’ll never know the answer to that.

When I think about McCandless/Supertramp, I think of the folly of youth. He was ill-prepared, ill-equipped, and, in my opinion, literally ill. He was running away from something. Although he may have appeared to be running toward Alaska and his “true self,” it doesn’t take a degree in psychology to see that he was wrestling with an emotional monster. Maybe he hoped to overcome his troubled family life by leaving it behind, but by rushing headlong away from it, he put himself into greater danger. Not at all unlike other young people with similar backgrounds who turn to drugs or other dangerous behavior.

As regarding their views of materialism, I think this one similarity gets entirely too much attention. The rejection of material items is as old as society itself. Acetics from nearly every religion give up their personal belongings and take a vow of poverty as a sign of their faith. That neither Thoreau or Supertramp/McCandless ascribe to an organized religion is interesting, but both are driven by belief. Rather than discuss the expression of their belief as it manifests as anti-materialism, I find it much more interesting to explore the beliefs themselves.

Thoreau was part of the group of Transcendentalist that came together during the early part of the 19th century in the United States. It has long been interesting to me that the Transcendentalist movement comes around at nearly the same time as the Second Great Awakening, and that both seem to be a response to the growing industrialization and ‘scientification’ of the time. It is also interesting to me that both were attempting to have a stronger emotional relationship with the divine, one through crowded revival meetings, and the other through solitude in nature.

I don’t know if anyone has been able to link McCandless/Supertramp to a larger movement of sorts. Perhaps there are others who, like him, attempted to slough off their social requirements and are busy tramping around in the backcountry. There are a few who have gained some attention, like the Soul Pilgrim and those who have followed her. But whether these individuals can be grouped together under a title is difficult to say. I suppose that, like Thoreau and his cohort, McCandless/Supertramp was also attempting to make a statement about modern society. The movie only lightly touches on the fact that he studied issues related to poverty and other social concerns of the era. Perhaps that was part of his personal motivation, but I do not believe it was the driving factor that took him to Alaska.

IMG_6895

Anyway… it’s time for me to leave for class now. I guess I’ll leave it here. Interestingly, I feel a whole lot lighter having done this exercise. I’m still stressed and depressed. I still don’t really want to think too deeply about Into the Wild, and I certainly have no interest in re-watching it. But it has been good to finally get the fragments of thoughts that have been swirling around in my head for the last couple of weeks out into words. It’s like there’s more room for other things now — happier, more hopeful thoughts.