Looking Forward to Looking Back

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Brazos Bend State Park, TX (LB)

Song lyrics, memes, and more often tell us, “Don’t look back.”  It seems like sound advice.  In a practical sense, we know we should watch where we are going in order to avoid an accident.  Metaphorically, if we dwell too much on what is past, we risk missing out on great things in the present and future.

The pain of a loss, disappointment, or failure can be so great we often choose anger or avoidance as a way of minimizing the grief we feel.  It makes sense – anger is an emotion over which most of us feel we have some control, whereas grief can launch a full-fledged assault on all of our senses, leaving us feeling emotionally and energetically empty.  Avoidance is a sort of “saving face” inner voice which tells us, “I didn’t really care about that as much as thought I did, so it doesn’t really hurt as much as I think it does.”  To be fair, anger and avoidance can be effective coping mechanisms for the short-term.  However, the issues they appear to heal today can reappear as open wounds tomorrow.

Grief is a time of nevers.  “I’ll never fall in love again.”  “I’ll never forgive that person.”  “I’ll never get another pet.”  Ever heard something similar?  Ever said something similar?  The problem with never statements is they trap a piece of our psyche in a particular place and time.  Our brains are basically big file cabinets.  We file painful memories deep in our subconscious, and research has shown our brain sometimes files for us, stashing away traumatic events in an effort to protect us.  However, painful memories have a way of springing to the forefront – sometimes in our dreams, and sometimes because of a trigger such as a smell or sound.  When you prepare for the possibility of the past appearing in the present, you minimize the anxiety and depression which might otherwise accompany these troubling and intrusive thoughts.

In my job, I meet people every day who have been the victims of trauma, who have been in prison, and/or who are trying to overcome addictions to drugs/alcohol/sex/gambling/food — you name it.  Several have a special item or memento they keep close at hand which serves a dual purpose.  First, it grounds them in the present to remind them of where they are right now in their recovery.  Second, it reminds them of how far they’ve come, and how much worse things could have been had they not taken a step towards positive change.  It is something they can touch — a coin, a family heirloom, a necklace — which helps them regain focus when life seems out of control.

Keeping a memento does not necessarily mean we are living in the past.  It can mean we have prepared ourselves for those times when our present feels too much like the past.  Likewise, looking back doesn’t mean we are going back, but rather serves as an acknowledgement we have made progress, no matter how small.

Only looking forward can be daunting, particularly if you have a big goal.  For instance, if you are trying to write a novel or lose a hundred pounds or run your first marathon, the road ahead can seem frightfully long and arduous.  Take a moment to look back – look at the first word on the page, the first pound lost, the first mile you ran without stopping.  Then remember it wasn’t very long ago those small milestones were hurdles in front of you.  In moments of quiet reflection, it is sometimes helpful to look back – not so we can live with regrets or dwell on the past – but to enable ourselves to keep pressing forward.

 

 

Anxie-tea

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We all know life is good at throwing us curve balls.  Some of life’s difficulties — such as the death of an elderly relative or a child going off to college — although unpleasant, are not entirely unexpected.  The real curve balls are those sudden shocks to the system – finding out you have cancer, losing your job, a breakup – that are like suddenly being hit in the face with a steaming cow pie.

Some people expect trouble all the time, living with a constant burden of fear and worry.  Just watching the news for a few minutes should be enough to convince anyone these worries are not completely unfounded or unreasonable.  Bad things happen regardless of whether we’ve been naughty or nice.

Getting caught by surprise can send a shock wave through our coping systems, overloading us with worry and regret.   The result is often a fear of trying new things.  New relationships, careers, adventures – all are avoided because of an inner voice which echoes, “You remember how badly things ended last time, don’t you?

To say you can learn to expect the unexpected would be untrue.  Someday, bad news is apt to hit you like a bolt of lightning, and it will totally suck.  But living with the expectation of trouble also sucks; it sucks the joy out of life.  So how can we weather life’s storms today without losing hope for tomorrow?  The key is in preparation, not expectation.

People in the Gulf Coast often keep a ‘hurricane kit’ on-hand.  Those in the north often have extra supplies on hand for surviving blizzards.  For weathering those soul-crushing storms of the psyche, there is much comfort to be found in small, seemingly mundane tasks.  As an avid fan of British mystery shows, I often wondered why nearly every crisis was met with somebody saying, “I’ll put the kettle on.”  Tea was made and cups poured, but frequently untouched.  After a particularly trying day, I decided to test this peculiarity out for myself and I discovered something: the act of drinking tea is less important than the act of making it.

There’s nothing complicated about making a cup of tea, but something magical happens while we do it.  The part of our brain which handles repetition and sequence is engaged, granting us a temporary reprieve from the anxiety centers of the brain.  Granted, stopping to make tea doesn’t resolve the major issue at hand, but it does allow us a moment to catch our breath.

Try imagining the brain as a file cabinet, with the front files in disarray and those in back in perfect order.  So often, an event takes us by surprise and we feel completely powerless.  This is the front of the file cabinet, but very close behind is order – those things we CAN control in a time where everything feels quite out of control.  It may seem odd to claim there is power in making tea or coffee, or doing laundry, or any number of ordinary household tasks, but indeed there is.

When a crisis comes, allow yourself to stick with some small habit, even if it means encountering some disapproval from the people around you.  If you normally go for a walk every day, try sticking with it even if you have to limit your time.  If you write or journal each day, go ahead and write, even if the topic is how you don’t feel much like writing.  Feeling anxious?  Make a cup of tea or coffee.  Make several if it helps you feel better; nobody says you have to actually drink them — sometimes just holding the warm cup can be soothing.  The point is to focus – if only for a few minutes – on the back of the file cabinet.  The problem of the day may still need to be addressed, but you will be better able to deal with it because you’ve found yourself some breathing room.

 

Sad for a Season

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Photo by Glenn Carstens-Peters

Many of us love a rainy day.  It’s a great reason to snuggle in and enjoy a good book or movie while sipping our favorite warm beverage.  However, there is something about multiple consecutive grey days which leaves many people with a major case of the “blahs”.  For some, this results in a condition known as Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD.  For others, it contributes to an overall ‘bah humbug’ feeling throughout the wintry holiday season.

The symptoms of SAD are very similar to those of depression, such as:

  • Chronic tiredness or malaise
  • Sadness and irritability
  • Lack of interest in activities previously enjoyed

The big difference between those people dealing with SAD and those with clinical depression is that SAD symptoms typically disappear in the spring whereas chronic depression persists in spite of the changes in the seasons.  Fortunately, there are a few simple things we can try to alleviate both short and long-term winter blues and weather blahs.

Boost Your Vitamin D

The exact link between Vitamin D deficiency and depression is still not fully understood, but multiple studies have shown a common correlation between the two.  While increasing Vitamin D is not a cure for depression, it can be useful in alleviating some of the symptoms, so you may want to start by asking your doctor to check your Vitamin D levels.  If they are low, he or she may recommend you try some of the following methods to increase your levels.

  • Vitamin D exists naturally in tuna, salmon, and eggs and it often added to dairy products. Try adding more of these types of foods into your diet.
  • Most multivitamins meet dietary guidelines for calcium, potassium, and Vitamin D. Read the labels and find one which includes 100% Daily Value (DV) of Vitamin D.
  • Sunlight is a natural source of Vitamin D, but can be scarce during the winter months. If your moods are susceptible to the lower light levels of winter or other stormy seasons, you can purchase a special therapy / energy lamp.  These lamps are specially designed to emit safe levels of intense lighting.  When used regularly as instructed, this artificial lighting is known to help relieve depressive symptoms and boost Vitamin D levels.

Exercise

I know, I know…who wants to exercise when just getting out of bed seems nearly impossible?  However, just raising your heart rate for a few minutes can boost energy levels and help chase away the blues.  If the weather outside is frightful, try a quick indoor fitness fix, such as jogging in place.  Make it fun by binge-watching your favorite show and exercising during the commercial breaks.

Take Your Meds As Directed

This seems simple enough, but people with depression often skip doses when they feel like their depressive symptoms have improved.  On the flip side, some people will skip their medication if they think it may trigger a manic episode and thus provide them with a burst of energy and elation, albeit potentially harmful.  This is not the time to experiment.  If you feel your meds aren’t helping, or if you are experiencing unwanted side effects, speak to your doctor about trying something different.  In the meantime, take your antidepressants as prescribed for the best possible results.

Write It Down

If the grey skies are making you feel blue, try journaling.  Writing your feelings down is a great way to transfer internal sadness to something external, like a notebook.  Challenge yourself to list as may descriptive words as possible to convey how you are feeling about the weather, the holidays, current circumstances…whatever!

The holidays can be both joyous and stressful, and sometimes inclement weather seems to cast its shadow over everything.  Take care of yourself to ensure you enjoy the season as much as you possibly can.  Whether you are experiencing a meteorological storm, or a metaphorical one, spring WILL come.

Sometimes, a Not-so-Thanksgiving

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Photo by Maria (unsplash.com)

Have you ever witnessed the epic failure of good intentions?  I once attended Thanksgiving dinner at a small church.  Just prior to the meal, the pastor suggested we each share our favorite Thanksgiving memory.  Seems harmless enough, right?  In fact, it is somewhat of a tradition for friends, family, and colleagues across the nation to share holiday memories and those things for which they are thankful.  However, in a perfect example of why it is important to know your audience, this idea was received about as well as a half-deflated football.

And so it began, one story after another about abuse, abandonment, loneliness, and grief.  A few people even walked out.  One could easily defend this pastor and say he couldn’t possibly have anticipated such a negative response, but I found myself wondering, how did he NOT anticipate it?  He’d served this church for years, and knew most of these people and their family histories very well.  Why then didn’t he select a less risky conversational topic, or skip it altogether?  My theory is, holiday happiness made him forget his audience.

Perhaps the magic of the season lies in its ability to help some forget the pain of holidays past, and helps others look ahead to new years and fresh starts.  I believe it is this holiday forgetfulness which led to the strange reaction this pastor encountered.  Some of us get caught up in in the festivities, becoming blind to those around us who are completely miserable.  Others of us are so caught up in current circumstances, we become blind to the joys around us.  The constant barrage of happy this and merry that can seem cruel if you’ve just experienced a great loss.  Pair that with the guilt of not feeling the holiday cheer which seems so overwhelmingly obligatory, and it’s no wonder some people find themselves simply hoping the season passes quickly.

If you are currently a holiday reveler, good for you!  Please, just be kind to those around you who are going through a rough patch.  You don’t have to let them bring you down, but you might just check to make sure they are coping.  Try to avoid pressing people to participate when they aren’t quite up to it, and perhaps offer an alternative, such as a small get-together instead of a big holiday party.

If you are finding the holidays particularly difficult this year, here are a few survival tips.

  1. Know your limits. If you don’t feel like you can endure an extended family gathering, find out what time the meal will be served and plan your entrance and exit accordingly.
  2. If you dread sitting home alone – don’t. Many restaurants and businesses are open.  Take yourself out to dinner or a movie.
  3. Talk to somebody. If a friend is also struggling, suggest a mutual morale-building plan.  It may be something as simple as sending a “How’re you doing?” text message every hour or two, but those little messages can be a big help if you are feeling alone.

If you’ve had some good holidays past, try writing down some of those happy memories.  If, like my church friends, your past Thanksgivings left you not-so-thankful, think about what you’d like the holidays to be.  Then try one or two small things to perk yourself up, such as lighting some candles or baking yourself a treat.  Some people choose this time of the year to volunteer at the local shelters or food banks in order to help others who are also down on their luck.  Helping others is a great way to lift yourself – and someone else — out of a valley.

Try different things until the holidays shape themselves into something less dreadful.  By doing so, you are not only empowering yourself by taking control over events during a time when things may seem very much out of your control.  But, you are also creating a new future, one in which each holiday season becomes better than the one before it, and perhaps even — dare I say it – cheerful.

 

Overcoming Anxiety through Observation

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Photo by Dmitry Ratushny

My daily commute is pretty stressful: six lanes of bumper-to-bumper traffic, angry drivers, and a “Debris Challenge” as I circumnavigate random objects which appear on the freeway.  I was recently going nowhere fast (in spite of the 65 mph sign), when I noticed a new IHOP sign: not a new IHOP – a new IHOP sign.

The tiny analyst in my brain began doing the math.  I pass two IHOPs in my daily commute, so essentially four:  two on my journey in, and the same two on the way back.  If one estimates 260 workdays each year, that is over a thousand times each year that I pass these IHOPs.  And yet, it was only on this day I noticed not only a new logo, but it was smiling at me.  Something about that smiley face made me feel a little less aggravated about the endless sea of taillights ahead of me.  How had I failed to see it so many times before?

Although I am a fan of the cakes of pan, today’s post is not meant to peddle pancakes or advertise for IHOP.  Rather, that smiley face made the misery of a traffic jam less miserable; and it got me wondering what else I have been missing.  For instance, how many times have I walked from car to front door without noticing my jasmine was in bloom?

We can easily become so focused on simply trying to make it through the day that we become unable see those things which could make the day better.  Granted, everyone is susceptible to stress, but in people with depression it becomes absorbed and refined into chronic anxiety.  Still, something as seemingly insignificant as a smiley face on a sign can make a difference.  We can retrain our brains to absorb more positives and filter out more negatives, but this means we have to look for positives to input.

Seeing life sunny-side-up doesn’t come naturally for the depressive brain.  In fact, an overactive deep limbic system means the brain is predisposed to noticing the dark cloud behind every silver lining.  So, how can we begin to — as Johnny Mercer wrote — “Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive”?  Start by playing an observation game.

Ten Things…then Ten More Things

Pick a place you go frequently – it can be a coffee shop, work, the park, whatever – just someplace familiar to you.  When you reach your destination, write down ten things you saw on the way there.  Then, set your list aside until the next time you go back to that place.  When you arrive, write down ten things you saw on the way there, but without duplicating any of the items from the previous list.  This game is also helpful in staving off a panic attack.  Suppose you are in the bedroom when anxiety hits.  Go into the living room and write down ten things you see.  Now, go back to the bedroom and write ten more things you saw in the living room.

Focusing on what you saw earlier in the day or in the previous room allows you to shift activity out of the negativity and panic areas of the brain.  It enables you to direct your thoughts towards a specific outcome: ten things.  In other words, you are shifting your thoughts from the Problems area to the Problem Solving area.

Have fun with this!  You can try variations such as looking for ten blue things, or looking for ten animal references in signs you pass on the way to work.  The key is in observing more so you can begin to “eliminate the negative and latch onto the affirmative“.  Thank you, Johnny Mercer.

 

 

“A” is for Anxiety, “P”is for Phone…

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Do you ever get phone paralysis?  When you get a call or a text message, do you ever find yourself frozen, unable to respond?  It can be difficult to explain phone paralysis to somebody who has never dealt with anxiety, but there is a very real, physiological reason behind it.

Within the brain is a group of neural clusters called the basal ganglia.  These clusters surround the deep limbic system (where depression lives) and are the anxiety center of the brain.  Persons with overactive basal ganglia may regularly experience one or more of the following: nervousness, being easily startled, anxiety, panic attacks, tremors, and nervous tics.  Other and often more severe symptoms can include persistent headaches, obsessive-compulsive type disorders, and Tourette syndrome.  Symptomology is caused by a semi-permanent heightened state of alertness which causes the sufferer to consistently anticipate conflict.

Have you ever driven a car with a sensitive gas pedal?  Imagine your brain as a car with the engine constantly revved up; the slightest touch of the gas pedal sends it lurching forward.  Lurching forward at the wrong time can cause an accident, which in turn can cause a fear of driving.  Similarly, when our brain lurches us into a panic attack at the wrong time, we can become fearful of social situations and stressors.

Now obviously, there is no right time for a panic attack.  However, there is a difference between having one in the privacy of your own home versus the middle of a shopping mall or board meeting.  Perhaps one of the most aggravating aspects of anxiety is its incessant ability to generate more anxiety.  What frequently happens is this:

Person senses a panic attack coming on

Person recalls the horribleness of previous panic attack(s)

Anxiety over past panic attacks fuels the current panic attack

It is a terrible cycle.  Franklin D. Roosevelt said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”  That is exactly what anxiety disorders do; they teach us to fear fear.  Whereas normal basal ganglia might generate mild excitement or nervousness about an upcoming event, overactive basal ganglia will convince you that if you attend, things will go apocalyptically wrong.  Sound extreme?  Not to somebody with anxiety.  In essence, their ganglia are gangling up on them.

Panic attacks are dis-empowering.  They rob people of their dignity.  This is why anxiety disorders often manifest as agoraphobia and conflict avoidance.  When we anticipate a situation may become stressful enough to provoke a panic attack, we avoid it.  Further complicating matters is the revved up brain which needs very little to set off its alarm bells, thus making even a common task like answering the phone feel very threatening.

There is good news – you CAN cool the engines of your brain!  What has worked for me is “PBB” – Puppy Belly Breathing.  When we breathe normally, our chests rise and fall with each breath.  Have you ever watched a puppy sleep?  Its little belly swells up with each breath, and that puppy sleeps peacefully as can be.  Forget the old adage ‘sleep like a baby’.

Sleep like a PUPPY! 

When you crawl into bed, focus on filling your belly with a deep, cleansing breath.  Hold it for a couple of seconds and then exhale slowly.  Do this ten times.  Then practice PBB throughout the day.  Make it a habit!  By doing so, you allow more oxygen to reach all the cells in your body and cool overactive basal ganglia, which will return your brain to a comfortable idling speed.

Let me know if it helps!

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Do you feel like you absorb the stress of the people around you?

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Tampa, FL (DB)

You probably do.

Dr. Daniel G Amen’s book, Change Your Brain, Change Your Life has been critical in helping me connect the dots between how I think and how I feel.  Dr. Amen has imaged and studied thousands of brains in an effort to determine which parts of the brain correlate to our different moods and thought patterns.  The deep limbic system is located in the middle of the brain and basically functions as an emotion-driven filing system with an adaptable filter.  People with depression tend to have overactive limbic systems.

The deep limbic system begins filing with our very first memory, storing every joy and every disappointment throughout our lives.    As it files, it begins to filter by familiarity.  What this means is, if more negative messages are received and stored than positive ones, the filter adapts and begins to interpret all incoming messages as negative.  This is the birth of Lobespierre.

After it has adapted into a negative filter, the limbic system scarcely recognizes positive messages.  You know that feeling when you step out of a dark movie theater into the sunlight?  It feels kind of good — but also hurts a little — and you end up squinting for a few seconds.  Positive messages are the sunlight of the brain, but if your filter has been living in the dark, it shuts its eyes against the light.

So, how does somebody else’s stress become your own?  It happens by way of filtering and familiarity.  Consider this scenario… You wake up feeling pretty good, and run into a friend who is going through a rough time.  As any good friend would do, you lend an ear.  Now, your overactive limbic system begins passing every word through its filter.  The sadness and anger your friend is sharing is easily matched up by the filter to your own filed-away feelings of sadness and anger because such feelings are familiar to you.

The opposite is also true.  I can think of several times where I was feeling low and found cheerful people quite annoying.  Granted — some people are just annoying — but why didn’t I absorb their cheerfulness?  In these instances, my filter simply couldn’t locate a familiar feeling to pair it with.  Instead, it translated the feeling into something more familiar: irritation.

Are you dealing with an overactive limbic system?  Is your filter keeping out the sun?  The good news is just as your filter became programmed for negativity, it can be reprogrammed to absorb good messages and filter out the bad.  You will have to be patient with yourself – undoing a lifetime of negative programming takes some time.  I still have days where I catch myself giving in to old thinking patterns, but have come far enough that I now know what it is like to have more good days than bad ones.  I’ll be sharing tips to help you take control of your filter in future posts.  You will feel better!

You can find a link to Dr. Amen’s book on my Resources page.

NEXT WEEK: Three good things about bad things.

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Rule #2 for reducing anxiety

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Brazos Bend State Park, TX (LB)

Like an ocean tide, depression ebbs and flows with the potential to unleash a flood of unwanted thoughts and feelings at any moment.  During low tide, life is pretty sweet.   During high tide, even the anticipation of doing something fun with people we love can overwhelm us.  Depression is inconsiderate in its timing, and I typically find myself feeling worst on the days when I need to be at my best.

Depression is truly the horse’s hindquarters.

Life goes on in spite of our emotional tides, but we don’t have to miss out on it.  Even when going through a rough patch, if you know your limits (Rule #1) then you already know you can do anything.  That means you can also alleviate some of the anxiety around less-than-desirably-timed socializing with a little planning.

Rule #2: Always have a Plan B.

Choose a strategy or develop your own.  The point is to find something that works – something to alleviate the stress of socializing when your depression is at high tide.  I typically use one of the following:

The exit strategy

The fail-over

The no, but

The exit strategy is a time to leave, plain and simple.  For example, you want to attend your young nephew’s birthday party, but know being around a crowd of children is a bit more than you can stand right now.  Plan on going for an hour or two, but also plan an activity for later – something flexible – and use that as your reason for leaving.  It can be as simple as shampooing your hair, but if being at the party is making you anxious you can say, “I need to be somewhere at 6:00” and leave.  You don’t have to say where you need to be, and if you are enjoying yourself, stay.

Plan B’s are not meant to deceive, but rather provide some flexibility around inflexible people.  If people know about your depression and are supportive, then they will most likely understand the need to minimize your visit.  However, we all know people who view depression as a self-indulgent pity party – the exit strategy is for them.

The fail-over is a substitute, and especially useful at mealtimes.  Have you ever beaten yourself up for burning dinner?  In the grand scheme of things a minor offense, but there are days when the smallest mistake triggers a litany of self-deprecating statements from Lobespierre (my depressive brain):

“You can’t even do THIS right.”

“Once again you’ve disappointed everybody.”

“Any idiot can cook…except you.”

I have learned to silence those negative voices by keeping two things on-hand at all times; biscuits and frozen somethings.  When a new breakfast recipe goes wrong, I may be disappointed in my inability to channel Julia Child, but I’m NOT feeling guilty or stressed over it: I just make biscuits.  When dinner is an epic fail, I fail-over to mini-frozen pizzas.

Pick something you know everyone likes, keep it on-hand and off-limits.  Tell the kids it’s your Plan B, and everyone will be cheering the next time you burn dinner.  Well, maybe not, but at least there will still BE dinner, and you can spare yourself the mental beating.

Finally, the “no, but” strategy is the proposal of an alternative which suits today’s tide.  If going to a dance club is beyond your current limits, offer a “No, but I could meet you for coffee later.”  This way you acknowledge your friend’s invitation, confirm you want to spend some time together, but choose a setting you can both enjoy.

Depression does not mean being doomed to a life of Plan B’s, but when circumstances feel beyond our control, Plan B’s give us choices, and choices empower us.  You will feel better, the tide will go out, and you will dance again.

NEXT TIME: Do you  feel like you absorb the stress of people around you?

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Rule #1 for reducing anxiety

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Adams Beach, Florida (DB)

We all know somebody who accepts invitations only to beg off at the last minute.  It may be you, and it has certainly been me.  Different areas of my brain disagree about my social life.  There are times when I’m doing quite well and can socialize with the best of extroverts.  However, there are also times when each day is a struggle and I find myself canceling appointments, feeling as if I’ve disappointed myself and my friends.

The ‘well’ part of my brain optimistically accepts invitations on my behalf, telling me, “Yes, you can be a social butterfly!”  Then my depressive brain begins its negative incantations:

  • It will be crowded…lots of people you don’t know
  • It’s a late event – you’ll be too tired
  • You have nothing decent to wear
  • Blah blah blah

Do you say things like that to yourself?  My brain is littered with the carcasses of dead social butterfly dreams.

What makes these negatives so easy to accept is their ever-so-slight ring of truth.  Now, a couple of things actually are true about me; I get nervous in crowds and — thanks to thyroid cancer — I have chronically low energy levels.  Over time I can learn methods to ease my social anxiety, and even learn to maximize my energy, but what to do right now to avoid another butterfly death?

Rule #1: Know your limits.

Does having anxiety or depression mean you should become a recluse?  On the contrary, a little self-awareness can help you make appointments you will be able to keep, thus reducing your anxiety and guilt.  My hope is someday we will all feel well enough to accept any invitation which comes our way, but if you aren’t quite there yet, try asking yourself two questions:

How am I doing today?

How have I been doing lately?

One of the frustrating things about depression is its unpredictability.  I’m sad to say pride, embarrassment, obligation, and guilt have all kept me from simply admitting “I don’t feel up to this” at one time or another.  Instead, I forced myself into going out only to spread my misery to the people I care about.  To those who say I was just feeling sorry for myself or being selfish, I say: You don’t get it and this blog may not be for you.

We can probably all think of an occasion when a friend talked us into breaking out of our shell for a while and we ended up having a great time.   This is the ‘today’ aspect of Rule #1.  Some days we feel more willing and able to take a chance.  The key is in recognizing those days as well as admitting to ourselves when we just aren’t feeling it.

Please don’t believe you are doomed to staying home and missing out on important events, but rather believe you have a choice, and choices empower us.  Our limits are ours to control.  As we learn new ways of coping with depression and grow stronger, our limits can be expanded.  This is the ‘lately’ aspect.

Have you heard the phrase “play your cards close to your chest”?  It simply means be cautious.  When you’re going through a rough patch, play your calendar close to your chest.  In other words, only commit to what you feel able to do.  No more over-promising and under-delivering – just do what you can.  When you feel more inclined, try scheduling farther out.  YOU choose!

Circumstances don’t care how we feel, and some events are compulsory, or not attending would make us feel worse.  How can you make the best of being a reluctant attendee?  That will be next week’s focus: Rule #2.

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