Tag Archives: recovery

On Thriving (not just surviving) in the Dog Days of Winter

Lazily browsing Instagram this afternoon, I stumbled upon a woman who described herself, in winter, as a hibernating bear. I adore this in so many ways. How freeing to allow, to forgive, to be PATIENT with myself through the long, struggle-y winter months.

Though born in the heart of it, I’ve never loved winter. Extra hours of darkness combining with icy sidewalks, bitter wind and waves of 21st century plague cause my insides to tremble in dread as early as mid-August. I know I sound dramatic. The fact is, winter means facing things that feed my depression, making staying ‘okay’ a bit more difficult.

Medication and therapy can be vital tools for managing depression, however, I believe much of the healing happens in the seemingly insignificant moments of daily living. Truly LIVING with depression means finding ways to fuel the inner flame.

In winter, much of my survival toolbox consists of methods for generating warmth and light, both literally and figuratively. These are a few of the things I do regularly, if not daily, to keep my fire burning.

  • Light candles with intention. By this I mean, be PRESENT in the action.
  • Create a skincare regimen and stick with it. Cold winter air means dry, thirsty skin. Taking care of your skin not only helps combat dragon scale but also serves as a SELF-CARE practice.
  • Maintain a TIDY and pleasant environment. I keep my space clean and organized.  Those who know depression will relate to the all-encompassing dullness of anhedonia, that lack of interest in everything. Keeping art and craft supplies in easy to reach, organized compartments means that when I feel like doing something I easily can.
  • Hang string lights. Yes, year round.
  • Focus on eating healthy, PLANT-BASED meals. Stay away from items made from a long list of ingredients you cannot pronounce. I also like to keep low or no prep items in stock for days when my energy is running particularly low. Lotus Foods’ Rice Ramen is my current addiction. And Larabars are almost always available in my kitchen.
  • Plan for FUTURE fun. My latest project is researching all the road trips I can take with our new little dog, Hazelnut. She’s just the right size for car travel, and I’m thrilled at the thought of sharing outdoor adventures with a canine friend.
  • If at all possible, GET OUTSIDE. Early last autumn I determined not to allow winter to keep me housebound. Keeping cold weather gear at the ready gives me fewer excuses to remain glued to the couch.
  • Show MERCY. Some days are tougher than others and that’s okay. Dare to show yourself the compassion you would a beloved friend.

Now it’s your turn. I want to know–how do you get through the winter doldrums? What are your tried and true self care methods?

Keep it cozy, fellow hibernating bears!

 

 

 

 

Conversations With Myself: Reversing Negative Internal Dialogue

Image source: http://www.mindislife.com/tag/imagination
Image source: http://www.mindislife.com

Consider this for a moment, if you will…

You invite a friend to your home. Upon her arrival, you inform her that her outfit looks terrible and that she could really afford to lose a couple pounds. When she speaks, you let her know her thoughts are silly and invalid. When she says she is hungry, you tell her she doesn’t need to eat and hand her a piece of gum. OR, maybe just give her an entire package of cookies to go ahead and finish off because her weight is already “too far gone.”

You’d never do this, would you?

And yet, many of us treat ourselves in this manner on a daily basis. I confess, I am one of them. I struggle to feel the same love and tenderness for myself that I can easily muster for others.

The reality is, you (and me) are just as deserving. Just as worthy of love.

All of us have a running internal dialogue. Some feelings and thoughts may be so deeply ingrained that we no longer realize when we are silently judging and sabotaging ourselves. My challenge to myself today is to become more aware of that internal dialogue and to turn around the negative thoughts when they arise, to choose to treat myself as I would a friend.

What might this mean for you? In what aspect of your life could you benefit from slowing down and offering yourself that which you would freely give to someone you loved?

A (Very Short) Bedtime Story

A long time ago, in a galaxy much like this one, boys and girls, there lived a very sad girl. The fire in this sad girl’s heart had been nearly snuffed out, and she struggled just to find the strength to make her way through each new day.

Luckily for this very sad girl, there also lived a wise old man. And when the girl cried to this man that she had lost all her hope, he looked her in her very sad eyes and said, “It’s okay, very sad girl, if you cannot have hope in this moment, for I have enough hope for both of us.”

And this, boys and girls, is what I want to share with you tonight, as you drift off into soft pillows and magic dreams. If you have lost your hope, do not fear! For I have enough hope to last us both until you find yours again.

 

Stop the (labeling) madness!

Awhile ago I caught an episode of Dr. Oz (a rare occurrence, as I’m not a fan) where I was informed of a new body-labeling term called the “thut.” According to Dr. Oz, a thut occurs when a person has no real definition between the bottom of her butt and the top of her thigh. I’m not even going to discuss the definition of this thut phenomenon further because the entire thing infuriates me.

When are we going to stop this madness?!

If it isn’t one thing it’s the other–bat wings, muffin top, saddle bags, belly pooch, thunder thighs, back fat, crows feet. I’ve had it up to my “diminuative chin” with the body shaming!

We’ve created a culture in which we tear our bodies apart, piece by piece. While there’s nothing wrong with trying to be healthy, shaming our bodies for imperfections is both unhealthy and joy-stealing.

flaws
See link for image source. I love this girl’s post.

Perhaps, instead of focusing on supposed flaws (and perpetuating body hate), we could start looking at our bodies as one amazing structure. Look at all this body has carried you through–the injuries and illnesses and times of emotional stress (both positive and negative), the misuse, abuse and times of neglect.

Perhaps, rather than picking out our bodies’ perceived shortcomings, we should be thanking them.

The next best thing

Some days simply don’t go as planned.

After not sleeping well last night, I found myself in an emotional slump. My attitude was negative, I (might’ve) cried into my lunch, and I made poor eye contact with the nothing-but-friendly cashier at the health food store. So many times I’ve let bad hours turn into bad days and bad nights, relinquishing any chance for seeing or experiencing beauty. I did not want today to be one of those days.

Though I can’t recall (or even find) the specific quote, I once read something about doing the “next best thing.” This particular quote was in reference to eating disorder slips, but can be easily applied to any number of good-mood-destroying events. The basic idea is that, even if you cannot always prevent something negative from happening, you can do the “next best thing,” the next positive step toward opening yourself up to what could be.

NextBest

For me, today, that involved a hot shower, comfortable clothes, tea, a book and a soft blanket.

 

 

On Self-Harm

I’ve avoided this topic for some time, both because it is especially personal and because I fear someone seeing this an acceptable behavior to try. It is not. Regardless, though self-injury is a thing of my past, my body is a walking testament to the consequences of engaging in this misguided coping mechanism.

Self-harm entered my life during a particularly low and difficult period of young adulthood. Struggling to find my way in the world, I stumbled upon “cutting” quite by accident. To this day I do not know why choosing this course of (in)action even crossed my mind. Once it had, however, self-harm become a bit of an obsession and a mode of dealing with all the painful emotions which bubbled underneath the surface of my psyche.

I’d like to bring some understanding to the reasons why some of us engage(d) in self-harm, though I recognize that everyone’s experiences are different. I can speak only for myself.

Consider a dull headache, then consider a horrific migraine. One hurts more than the other, yes? For me, self-harm was the dull headache. The pain was unpleasant but in no ways comparable to the pain of my depression. And for a few brief moments, hurting myself physically distracted from the strange, frightening firings of my brain. Self-harm was my way to attempt to stay grounded in a world that had lost all meaning and tangibility.

Unfortunately, I was also becoming trapped in a dangerous cycle. Self-injury, in whatever form, tends to induce guilt which furthers negative feelings about oneself, in turn leading to a renewed desire to self-injure. And on and on, the cycle continues. In this way, self-injury is very much a drug and an addiction: the need, the obsession, the craving, the endorphin rush, the crash and the increasing need for more and more in order to achieve the desired level of high.

My recovery from this form of self-harm was long and filled with slips and lapses. Initially, I would go jogging, journal, make collages with magazine clippings, jot poorly-written poetry, anything to keep my hands busy and my mind on task. Eventually, self-harm just didn’t “work” for me the way it had previously. And while I used to hide year-round in long-sleeves, I reached a point of self-acceptance and, in a sense, self-appreciation, which gave me the strength to show the real me.

We all have a past. Mine just happens to be written on my skin.

Looking for more information on self-harm? Go here.

 

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And the Beat Goes On

For as long as I can remember, I have found solace in music. Whether I was throwing myself into piano practice or blasting industrial “noise” as loudly as my eardrums could tolerate, I longed for the sweetness of rhythm and melody, the objectivity of notes and measures and time signatures. Even my first tattoo is a visualization of this feeling–a woman floating, peaceful and untethered, held aloft by nothing more than the gentle pulse of song.

Most recently I’ve had the pleasure of beginning to learn some basic drum skills. (A thanks goes out to my patient and ever-encouraging teacher…you know who you are.) I’d never imagined the drum set an easy instrument to master, though I have to admit I was unaware just how brain-splitting the entire process is! And I’ve not even managed to move beyond the basics (bass, snare, hihat)! Regardless, I am enjoying myself immensely and, given the absence of a set to regularly practice on, find myself occasionally air-drumming in the manner of some beat-obsessed lunatic.

Each time I sit down to play I first must overcome the introvert within, who screams in fear of making a giant ruckus. Once I begin, however, I find that the opposition to making noise lessens to the point of extinction, and I am able to find pleasure in my self-created cacophony.

I suppose the lesson in this, my friends, is: Try something new. Make some noise! Let your spirit run a little wild and to hell with the opposition.

Little life changes and a bit on mindfulness

I have been absent for awhile, as events in my life have forced me to re-examine the way I’ve been living, the way I think and the way I carry out my beliefs on a day-to-day basis. I think it sometimes takes a minor crisis to get my attention. With that being said, I’ve developed a renewed focus on being aware of myself and staying mindful in the individual moments of my day. As a chronic worrier, my mind is often a step ahead in another dimension, so this is a titanic task (oooh, I love accidental alliteration).

In college, I gave a speech about mindful eating. I passed out Hershey’s kisses and asked everyone to look at the chocolate, smell it and finally allow it to melt on their tongues. Eating slowly, using your senses, allows your body to truly grasp what is happening as you nourish yourself. Too often we are in a rush, focused on something else or just too tired to go through this process. And I understand that! I was always eating in front of the television, shoving food into my face without paying attention. The end result? I often felt unsatisfied and reached for more food that I didn’t need.

“When walking, walk. When eating, eat.” rashaski

One of the newest goals for myself has been to 1) make meals I enjoy 2) arrange them in an attractive manner 3) set the table and 4) turn off the damn television. Without the added distraction, I feel I am able to get more enjoyment out of my meals, leaving me sated and not needing seconds (or triggering a massive binge). I know this is going to be a lengthy process and though I’m not “permitting” slip-ups I’m sure there will be some along the way. Regardless, I feel this is an important aspect of my recovery and of learning that food is not the enemy.

My challenge to everyone is to give mindfulness a chance. Could you sit quietly for even one meal a day? How does doing so change the experience of eating? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

For more on mindful eating, check out this link. I love these suggestions!

A Single White Goose

Standing brightly among the plethora of Canadian geese is a single white goose. I’ve named her Genevieve.

I’ve seen Genevieve all over town–on the sidewalk by the park, swimming alone on the river. I can’t figure out why she is always the only one of her type or why she is generally alone. (Any goose experts out there?)

As I am wont to do, I’ve been personifying this solitary white goose. She’s a loner, independent. She stands in stark contrast to her environment but doesn’t care! No inadequacies here, Genevieve knows who she is and isn’t afraid to show it.

M’dears…if you’re feeling insecure, look to Genevieve and be your big, bad, beautiful self!

 

Seriously…stop and smell the flowers.

By default, my brain is a negativity sponge. Left to its own devices, it would put down roots in the land of all that is gloomy, cloudy, gray and uncomfortable. Preventing this takes work. Every day is a choice: Give in and ruminate in sadness or fight like hell.

I will say that years of practice have made the fighting, or rather the knowing how to fight, a little easier. For instance, you won’t generally find me sitting alone in the dark; If a room has curtains or blinds, expect me to open them. I’m wary about the music I listen to and the movies I watch. I almost always do some kind of chore while I wait for my coffee to brew in the morning because it helps me to productively pass the precarious minutes between asleep and awake time. This is important because those minutes have the capacity to set the tone for the entire day.

Perhaps most importantly, I am learning how to look for the good in each day. My hope is that slowly but surely my brain will start to see these things naturally, that the effort to be consistently happy will be less difficult. And I have reason to think this could be the case. Studies in neuroplasticity show that, contrary to popular belief, the brain continues to rewire itself throughout life. Exposure to difficult and/or new experiences can actually change the physical structure of the brain! How fucking cool is that?!

In the meantime, spring has finally arrived in Indiana and with it, so many reasons to feel happy and hopeful. Just look at that blue sky!

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Lying in bed last night, I was thinking about the similarities between spring and the end of an episode of depression. Both bring a sense of new life and an enhanced appreciation for all the little things. While I certainly don’t recommend taking a spin at depression (“All Aboard Misery Cruiselines!”), I do believe that experiencing a particularly rough patch of life can help one to better appreciate moments that might otherwise be taken for granted.

Take a moment today to step outside and feel with all your senses.

Stop. Be still. Close your eyes and breathe.