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Monday, August 8, 2016

Letting Go

Tonight, I accepted my sister-in-law's invitation to a Bible study with a bunch of people I'd never met that would require me to drive 20 minutes each way. This is not something my introvert self would normally do. Especially not now, when the stress and pain in my life is ridiculous. Normally, I'd be circling the wagons and hermiting it up. 

So what was different? 

It's simple: I'm lonely. I'm alone. I don't think I've ever really been honest about that before. And this time, I'm not only being honest about it, I'm fixing it. 

There is no reason a grown woman like myself should be lonely or alone--with or without a relationship. So I am learning to say yes to social engagements that could be good for me (and no to those that wouldn't). I'm learning to ask for help or a shoulder to cry on when I need it. And most importantly for me, I'm making an intentional effort to grow in my faith. 

So how are you? Sound off in the comments or shoot me an email or Facebook message. Love you all!!

Thursday, February 18, 2016

On Good Days

I think one of the hardest and most surreal parts of depression is that you'll have good moments when you feel light and cheerful and even laugh like normal with your friends. Sometimes, those moments will even stretch into a good day.

But you can't let your guard down.

Because if you stop taking your medication, working out, journaling, or doing whatever it is that you do to help keep depression at bay, it will overwhelm you again. It will swallow you whole because you will not be on your guard and you will skip your morning workout to get some extra sleep, only to discover that nothing seems quite as bright as yesterday.

Today was a good day. So, let's be honest, this entry is probably more for me than you. Because tomorrow is Friday, and it's been an absolutely draining two weeks at work. So I will want to sleep in instead of work out. And I know that, if I do, I will regret it because depression, that sneaky little bastard, will sneak up and throw a giant wet blanket on my day.

Don't let your guard down, loves. Stay alert, stay active, and stay focused on winning this battle. We've got this.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Five Tips for Dealing with Depression

If you missed my last post, let me catch you up by telling you that I'm once again experiencing severe depression. Yes, I will be seeing someone for it (only admitted it to myself yesterday), and yes, I have excellent coping mechanisms in the meantime, which is what I'm telling you about today. **Note: These tips do not replace professional counseling or, in some cases, medication.**

First Tip: Make A Schedule
Last night, my boyfriend made me make a list of things I needed to do today. He added things, including "get up no later than 7," "workout," and "write or paint" (which is partially why I'm writing this blog).

Second Tip: Find Someone to Hold You To It
In my case, my boyfriend made sure I was up, that I worked out, and helped me when I couldn't make a decision on what to do next, even with the list right in front of me. (That indecisiveness is one of those side effects of depression that nobody talks about.) However, it takes a village, and I have four people close to me who know my diagnosis and are helping me cope.

Third Tip: Go Outside
My boyfriend and I made sure this was part of my schedule. If it's sunny, this could mean taking work out onto the porch to do. But even just getting outside to go get groceries gives you a small dose of Vitamin D and some movement.

Fourth Tip: Work Out
This is what my boyfriend had me do first thing when I got up. Not because he wants me to look a certain way, but because he knew what I'm about to tell you: Exercise releases endorphins and endorphins help fight depression.

Fifth Tip: Connect
Making connections with people, even meaningless little jokes with your cashier, can help lift your mood. If at all possible, do this in person - handshakes, hugs, and other physical touch can be very good for you. However, even on-line can work if it's a connection with a genuine friend who you actually have honest conversations with on-line.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Falling Back In

Today, I've managed to shower, get dressed, walk next door to church, walk home, change into comfy clothes, start laundry, and now write this. 

Given that, last night, I took every available online depression test in hopes of finding just one that told me I was alright, only to be met with a constant result of severe/clinical/"see someone immediately" depression, that's quite a feat. And now I want a nap. Because the looming to-do list no longer urges me to do anything. 

I'm bad again. Maybe you are, too. But we'll get through this. We have to. We're survivors. 

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Ponderings

I apologize for my long absence. I've never before understood Mary so well when Luke 2:19 days she "treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart." I realize this is a mental health blog, so hang with me. We're getting there. 

My grandpa has been having a rough go of it, medically speaking, and the resulting stresses on my family have been extreme at times. I have been left pondering God's will as well as what my grandpa would want. 

My long-distance, interfaith, interracial relationship always brings its own unique set of things to ponder, chiefly, again, God's will, but also what my boyfriend wants and how he and his family feel about things. 

Work is a mine field of ponderings, including how or why people can intentionally choose to mistreat a child, how I can help that child, what administration this or wants, what parents want or need, etc. 

A few nights ago, I called my boyfriend. I was completely shut down over some of those work ponderings. He proceeded to remind me of a very basic mental health lesson I needed to relearn: boundaries. 

Certainly I am free to be frustrated, scared, angry, sad, or any other emotion I choose. But my boyfriend asked me a very important question: Is it helping you to think about it right now?

If you can leave your stress and tension at work/school, do it. Use the ride home to work it through in your head and then be done. I've been much more carefree since taking his advice. Because you and I can choose to control our stress levels, so let's do it. 

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Purpose - Finding a reason to live.

Remember that post, the one from forever ago about moving on? Well, here's your third installment. I do apologize for the long delay between postings. I'm currently trying to finish my doctoral degree, teach full time, obtain teacher certification through a transition to teaching program, start up a new business, and hang out with you all on the blog - all at the same time! It makes today's post on finding your purpose extremely timely.

Finding purpose is arguably the most important component of the healing journey. Particularly for those of us who have struggled with depression, suicide, and anxiety, purpose can be the thing that keeps us going when those rough days roll back around. And they will roll back around.

But how do you find purpose?
Purpose needs to be something that will get you out of bed in the morning. Something that will help you see the light at the end of the tunnel. Something to remind yourself of on those hard days, when nothing seems right.

As you begin to contemplate your purpose, let me offer a few cautions:
1. Your purpose is not a person. In this broken world, people leave, people die, people hurt us, in short, people are imperfect and they will not be consistent enough to serve as your purpose.
2. Your purpose is not a job. Now, hear me on this - there is a difference between a job and a calling. Your purpose is not to obtain that promotion or to get any job that makes enough money. Your purpose could then be fulfilled at some point and you would have no reason to continue.
3. Your purpose is not material. The next iPhone, bigger TV, or fastest car is not your purpose. Again, once you obtain the material thing, then what?

Your purpose must be more. It must be positive. It must drive you. Consider what you get excited about, what lights a fire in you? I discovered my purpose when I began to realize that I got excited, angry, and upset the most quickly when discussing how people were treating other people. Therefore, my purpose is to help others and to facilitate treating others well, to make the world a nicer, friendlier place.

But what happens on those days when your purpose isn't working out? For me, it's the days when I see my students relentlessly picking on one another. That's where the reason behind your purpose has to come into play. For me, that reason is my faith. After all, the most important command for Christians is "Love your neighbor as yourself." More than that, though, I remind myself that not everything is awful, and that God has promised good to me (and to you!).

What's your purpose? Comment below or shoot me a message. I'd love to hear from you!

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Counseling - Who, What, When, Where, Why, and How

Welcome back, y'all! (Okay, so I know it's me who's been gone. Sorry!) The school year has started up again, and so I've neglected the blog for a bit. But I'm back!

Last time, we talked about moving on. If you missed it, just click here! There's even a fun video.

Today, we address the first thing on the list for moving on: counseling.

Who?
I know it can be tempting to think that talking to your trusted friends is good enough. And for some of you, that may be true. However, please consider the following before deciding to rely solely on friends for counseling.

  • Confessing your deepest darkest secrets to your friends might feel good for you, but it can take a toll on them, too. Especially things that were scary or painful for you. Sometimes, those things are even more painful for them, because they don't know how to help.
  • Some things, especially trauma, require someone with training. These are complex issues and, tempting as it may be to try to untangle them on your own or with friends, most trauma really does require expert help.

Once you've decided that you need someone more than your friends, who do you go to? To be honest, I lucked out and found my counselor by simply Googling for counselors in my city. Do be sure to read reviews, though. While not completely reliable, too many bad reviews of a particular counselor could be a red flag. If faith is important to you, simply add the name of your faith to the search. Also, check with your insurance company to make sure the counselor is covered.

When you call to schedule your appointment, you can request a specific counselor, let the receptionist know which gender of counselor you prefer, or just ask to try whichever counselor has the first opening. You can always change counselors, so look at the first appointment as a trial run.

What?
So you've found a counselor to try and called to set up the appointment. Now what?

Waiting and trying to imagine what the appointment will be like can be anxiety-inducing. But relax. Honestly, I went into my first appointment with a million and one things I thought I wanted to tell the counselor or that I thought he would ask of me. I probably caused myself more worry thinking about it than necessary.

In reality, the first appointment will usually consist of the counselor asking you to tell him/her about yourself and why you decided to enter counseling. After that, the route of the counseling will vary based on your needs, your counselor's preferences, and the purpose of the counseling. Mine often consisted of anxiety techniques, trauma debriefing, self-defense strategies, and just talking about life and what was going on. It was not overwhelming or intimidating, and I always felt better when I left.

When?
Putting off counseling out of fear is easy to do. I tried counseling once, with devastating results (I cannot emphasize switching counselors until you find one that is right for you), and then put off counseling again until I attempted suicide and my friend forced me to attend counseling.

If you are reading this and considering counseling, the answer is now. You are considering it for a reason. You owe yourself the chance.

Where?
In small towns, counseling can be a little scary. What if you run into someone you know? What if your friend sees your car there? I solved this problem by simply parking in the back, but also, don't be afraid to explore nearby towns, just don't find a counselor so far away that you'll be tempted to skip appointments.

Why?
I've had friends tell me that they had considered counseling, but didn't feel that they had a good enough reason. The truth is, if you're considering counseling, you probably need it. Counseling is helpful for a variety of issues, from feeling overwhelmingly stressed out by school to considering suicide. If you're thinking about it, you owe yourself a trial run.

How?
But how do you pay for counseling? After all, it can get expensive. I can't say that I have all of the answers, but here are the ways I managed to make it affordable on a grad student budget.

  • Insurance - Grad student insurance sucked, but it did still cut down the cost some. I paid about $25-30 per visit.
  • Student Counseling - My university offered free counseling. I did not stay there because I saw an overtaxed system and knew I could afford to pay for counseling to free up space for students who could not. Check your university; if you are faculty/staff/student, they likely offer some sort of free or cheap counseling.
  • Counselors in Training - My last, and best, counselor was completing his clinical hours toward his master's degree. He was not covered by insurance until he completed those hours, and so the clinic he worked with only charged a total of $30 per hour. It's a long shot, but when calling counseling centers, you can always ask if they have anyone in a similar situation. 


The bottom line is this: If you are considering counseling, try it. Even if it is a little pricey, it could quite literally save your life. You can't put a price tag on that.

Stay healthy, friends, and feel free to sound off in the comments if you have any tips or tricks for finding and affording the right counselor!