Original post from Hope to Cope in 2014
I find it remarkable that although I’ve come to accept the fact that I have depression and all that comes with it, I still become frightened by how powerful this hardcore illness can be. Last week, I was forced to succumb to the violent strain of flu that’s been making its way across the country. The virus completely took over my physical being, the symptoms robbing me of sufficient sleep, nutrition and essential daily medications. After a painful four days, when the bug was finally out of my system, the shock of my ghostly reflection in the mirror paled in comparison to the invisible heaviness and despair weighing me down on the inside.
This has happened to me several times in the past – getting hit with a depression after a bad cold, for example. So much of managing my mental health is based on routine, and when that gets shifted for whatever reason, in addition to the inability to digest food (and meds) and not sleep eight hours per night, it really messes me up. While it helps knowing why I currently feel so blah, I can’t simply snap my fingers and make it disappear. As much as I hate having depression, I can’t pretend it’s not there. I have to acknowledge it and respect it, just like the flu.
Time and experience has taught me to never underestimate how quickly depression can take control of my life. Sure, it would be easy to surrender. I won’t deny the temptation to withdraw, hide away, unplug and disappear. But I’ve done that before and it only makes it worse. While my eyes burn with familiar tears of sadness, I can feel my bodily strength returning slowly. It’s a bizarre dichotomy – mental and physical powers pulling me in opposite directions. Yet, if history has taught me anything, there’s no reason for me to think that I won’t get through this rough time. I’ve done it before and I shall do it again!
Link to Hope to Cope Blog
A short blog from the past, originally posted on http://www.hopetocope.com, in honor of my mom, who somehow always knows exactly what I need to get through a rough patch (of course it involves food).
It’s no secret that when we’re going through a depressive episode, every little task seems monstrous. The glass that needs to be put in the dishwasher looks like it weighs 1,000 pounds and the walk to the corner bagel place appears miles away. Eventually dread sets in and as a result, nothing gets accomplished. Add to that a quick log-on to Facebook for a barrage of photos of your friends running marathons, enjoying exotic vacations and having the kind of fun only seen in television commercials. The day ends with a mental berating of how useless, unproductive and lazy you are.
I’ve had some days and nights like that lately. It’s something I’m working on and it will pass soon. Until I get my mind and body back into sync, it’s critical that I push forward, as difficult as it may be.
Yesterday, in what could easily have been a day like that described above, turned out to be just the opposite. My mom, who somehow always knows what I need to get me through tough times, invited me to go food shopping with her. Reluctantly, I met her at the busy supermarket across the street from my apartment – and within a few minutes, my mood got better, simply by being around the fresh, colorful produce, the aroma of ground coffee beans and the delicious smell of just-baked baguettes. I started to grab items from the shelves and excitedly filled up my cart.
Strolling down the aisles, I wasn’t consciously aware that the perfectly untouched cantaloupe didn’t appeal to me, yet the clear container with the no-effort-on-my-part mouth-sized melon cubes grabbed my attention right away. At the checkout counter, I started to laugh when I realized that every thing I picked out required little to no preparation. All the fruit was sliced and ready-to-eat. The vegetables were washed and cut.
There are simple ways to combat the lack of motivation and energy brought on by depression. Apparently for me, the remedy can be found in the produce department.
Link to original post:
Link to Hope Blog
It’s time to start thinking about the highlights of 2014. I have a feeling this year will be more about quality than quantity.
All is Quiet
December 31, 2012
Over a decade ago, on the first day of the New Year, I started composing a list of personal highlights compiled from the year that just ended. It was my way of reflecting on the past 365 days and documenting the special moments, as fleeting or as prolonged as they might have been, in order to piece together a chronological string of elated experiences. I did this so I would not forget how fantastic I felt at the time, all the while reliving these special occasions with a secret smile.
Without realizing it, these recollections became a coping mechanism for me – for the times I was down and out and losing hope, I could turn back to my list(s) as reminders that great things do and can happen at any moment, and I should never give up believing that I’d be stuck in a state of despair forever.
As I write this, it is the last day of 2012. Which means, tomorrow, I will retrieve my “book of highlights” and start to jot down my pockets of joy from this past year. I’m not looking forward to it. In fact, I’m dreading it. Just thinking about the grief and loss that are alive and well in my heart, combined with the absence of few memories of jubilation, I just know the register is going to be the shortest one since starting this practice.
What I think I’ll do on January 1st, 2013, instead of pounding my brain just to fill up a page of pseudo-happy memories, is write a list of all of the good things that came out of the bad things in 2012 – a list of silver linings. That won’t be difficult at all. Even if they don’t fall under the same umbrella as highlights, all I’m doing is putting a new twist on an old tradition.
Here’s a link to the original post on hopetocope.com
Link to Hope Blog
“The best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry”
From “To a Mouse,” by Robert Burns, Scottish Poet
I’ll be taking a break from posting in this space for the next few weeks. What I thought was a routine problem with my shoulder, turned out to be a much bigger and more serious health risk. Long story short, I need to have surgery relatively soon, and will be using my energy to prepare for what lies ahead. All of the projects and plans I had scheduled over the next six weeks are currently put on hold until further notice. While this is disappointing, the good news is that I’ll be in better health all around once I’m fully recovered. As always, I’m so grateful to be living in a time in which medical advances for treating all sorts of mental and physical illnesses were not available fifty years ago – maybe even twenty years ago.
Thank you to my friends at esperanza magazine for your good wishes and for holding a place for me on the Hope Blog while I’m out.
I’m looking to chat or email offline with others who’ve had cervical spinal fusion. Please contact me if you’re willing to do so. I would really appreciate it! Thanks.
When I focus on how much time I’ve lost to suffering with depression and anxiety throughout my life, I get angry and profoundly sad. From there I switch to feeling grateful that I’m doing better, but no matter what, I always come to the same conclusion: ruminating over the past is detrimental to my wellbeing. It does not help me in any way. Yet, I still do it, especially at times when I’m not feeling well physically, like now.
I’d always planned on making up for all the great adventures, big and small, that I missed out on because I was too depressed to face the world for so long. Therefore, it’s extremely frustrating that now, when I’m feeling pretty good mentally, I’m stuck at home, grappling with close to unbearable pain in my neck and right arm. The discomfort has become so severe lately that I’m unable to sleep – not a good thing for me, since insomnia is one of my main triggers for depression.
Until now, I’ve been successful at not letting “it” get to me. But after another sleepless night, filled with invisible knives stabbing and twisting inside of me, I’m feeling vulnerably wide open to an uninvited bout of depression. It’s times like these that all of the tools I’ve collected and worked so hard to use properly become useless against the mighty powers of the body and mind.
I don’t want to look at any time in my past or present as being lost or wasted due to depression or a physical ailment. In addition, the future is not my enemy, negative projections are.
One lesson I’ve learned is that perspective can turn negative experiences into positive ones, most of the time. From that standpoint, I’ll consider this day as one not lost to pain and anxiety, but as an opportunity to share my struggles with the hopes of helping others to heal.
Each of us has our own level of tolerance for stress. Some people thrive under pressure. I’m not one of them. One of my top triggers for anxiety and depression, is feeling overwhelmed by having too much to do. A full but manageable plate is one thing, but when the plate suddenly becomes too small, I know I have to take action before it cracks and everything falls to pieces. Every so often, usually when I’m over-tired, I feel overloaded by my responsibilities. My thoughts turn to doubting my abilities and I’m convinced I can’t handle even ONE MORE THING.
The best way for me to manage the situation, so that I don’t get riddled with pop-up panic attacks or pangs of depression, is to prioritize my to-do list. I start by doing the easiest things first. That way I get an immediate sense of accomplishment and I’m encouraged to move on to the next item. For example, the beginning of March is when I start the dreaded task of tax preparation. If I made that chore my number one priority, I’d avoid my list of obligations entirely, like a carton of sour milk humming in the fridge, wishing it would disappear on its own. Instead of making any progress, even on a tiny scale, nothing would get done. The list would keep growing and my anxiety would skyrocket exponentially each day leading up to April 15th.
So, if I can check off the easier jobs, like paying bills or scheduling business meetings, I obtain that instant gratification needed to keep my confidence strong and build momentum towards organizing my tax info. I’ve learned that it’s critical for me to be aware of my threshold for the daunting responsibilities that come with being an adult. The method I’ve created to maintaining my sanity may not work for others, but it’s kept my anxiety levels in-check. My personal goals in life are not about being perfect, but continuing to make self-improvements – that’s something that will always be at the top of my agenda.
I’ve got an appointment with my orthopedic surgeon this coming week. Based on results from recent X-rays, it appears that I have a large bone-spur in my right shoulder. The excruciating pain running up and down my arm for the past four weeks is what prompted me to go to my doctor in the first place. This second appointment will be to decide if I need an MRI, and/or surgery. I’m well prepared what to expect, since the same problem arose in my left shoulder just a few years ago. The operation itself is not very complicated, however the recovery part is not something I’m looking forward to in any way. In fact, it’s something I was hoping I’d never have to relive.
But, if I had to guess . . . chances are, I’ll be having surgery within the next six weeks. Besides the need for prescription post-surgery painkillers that totally mess with my head in a bad way, I’ll also require something that makes my very uneasy – relying on other people to help me with every little thing imaginable. I feel like a hypocrite, because I’m constantly preaching that there’s no shame in asking for help, and here I am cowering at the thought of requesting assistance for walking from the bedroom to the kitchen. All the years of living with depression, of not believing I had a smidgeon of worth or value, not having the courage to ask for anything out of fear of rejection, apparently has left an emotional scar that’s starting to flare up once again.
The horrid belief that I would be burdening a loved one with having to take care of me is a thinking error of major proportions. I already know who I can count on – and truthfully I don’t even have to ask for help, it’s already been offered and arrangements will be made before I even step foot into the operating room. Decades of shyness, fear and self-loathing sure do play a role in the person I am today. At least I can see now that the people who love and care about me want to help me, and I’m no longer ashamed to take every drop of support that I can get. I don’t think a day goes by without me reminding someone in psychological or physical pain that they are not alone – now it’s time for me to look in the mirror and do the same.