Taking Stock

It’s a new year and the tendency is to resolve to be better in the year ahead. Three days in, I’ve done that, broken that and become a bit lost. So after a long absence, I thought I might return to blogging, something that has helped me so much in the past in figuring out where I am and where I am going. So here I am.

Major Depression:

Six years post-major depressive breakdown, I really do feel like I’m on the verge of breaking free. There have been several relapses, but they aren’t as bad now. My doctor and I have been lowering my medication over the past year, and I’ve managed to make some progress regaining my career. Low mood, hopelessness or sadness aren’t so much the issues now as anxiety. 

Generalized Anxiety Disorder:

The companion of my depression has been anxiety. This, I think, is my biggest obstacle at the moment, but here too there has been progress. I think for a long time my shame over mental illness fueled my anxiety and made me so afraid of people finding out. But a lot has happened to fight the stigma of mental illness and I think this has helped. I’m comfortable discussing it with some friends, I don’t dread going to see my psychiatrist, and I’m not ashamed to admit my situation to myself. 

But I’m currently not managing my anxiety very well.  I’m struggling a lot financially, the aftermath of my prolonged depression and career issues. I’ve taken significance steps to address this, but until these play out there is a lot of immediate stress in trying to stay afloat. So here is where I try to remind myself that I have taken the steps, that I’m almost at a point where I can balance things. But it’s hard. Not being able to pay for the simplest things, figuring out how I’ll feed myself and get to work until my next pay cheque arrives…it all adds up. My psoriasis has flared up and there are big red sores where I’ve scratched too much. I wake up with my fists clenched and tension up and down my arms. I struggle to sleep at night and yet sleep way too much overall. I’m sleeping in the day to avoid my worries, but this is just perpetuating things. 

I also stress about work. I’m struggling with a project and veer from worry to avoidance. This has affected my recent work and I’m seriously stressed about going in to work this week. I also worry about my work reputation, which compounds other worries. 

Right Now

I feel this post getting more negative as I confront my worries. So I will take a step back and look again at the big picture.

Depression: under control, with the exception of oversleeping

Anxiety: grounded in real stresses that I’m taking steps to manage

Medication: gradually lowering

Work: I’m functional, I have recovered some of the ground lost when I was laid off, and I have found a job and organization that I like

Social: I’m making some efforts to break free of my hermit like ways, though there is still a lot of work to do here

Shame: lessening as I’ve stopped self-stigmatizing and I have opened up to some

So that’s where I am in a nutshell. Thanks for listening 🙂

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Energy on the Rise

I’ve had a good week. I have been dedicated to doing my runs — I’m now at 3 minute running intervals. And, with my new tracker, I have also been dedicated to making sure I have 10,000 steps per day. This has been a very helpful motivator for me on days where I have no plans and I would often stay in bed. This week, at least, I’ve beat the temptation. And the more I am active, the more I feel like being active. Yay!

I’ve been reading a lot lately on the benefits of exercise for depression and other mental illnesses. And the benefits for the brain in general. I find it helpful to think in terms blazing new pathways in my brain and how I have to keep reinforcing them to make them strong and replace the old, well-worn paths.

So that’s where I am right now. Finding my way out of the funk of winter and easing my way back to an active lifestyle with walks and short running intervals.

Hope you are well!

Better Days

A friend just pointed out that it has been over a month since my last post, which was a sad one. I’m happy to report that many days since then have been better. I’m starting to suspect that SAD impacts my depression and the weird hours of my job are exacerbating this. The good news is that spring is supposedly on the way… Despite all the snow today!

I’m starting to feel a bit more energized and have started doing more regular exercise. Yoga and running – for real this time! I’ve talked a lot about running in the past and how I wanted to get back to running half marathons, something I did prior to my major depressive breakdown. After several years of setting myself up for failure with my big goals, I’ve taken things back to the beginning with much more success. For the last month I’ve been running intervals for about half an hour, one to three times a week. At first I did intervals of one minute walking, one running, and now I’ve done a couple of weeks at two minutes running, one walking. It’s nice, manageable, pushes me gently and makes me feel better. I’m up to 3.75 km and should have a nice base in place when I can finally start running outside (once the snow melts).

I’ve also just bought myself a Fitbit to encourage myself to stay active. I’ve had it for a week and it’s been clear that I have some very inactive days. I’m hoping to start evening this out by tracking my steps. I’m also reading the book Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain and it makes quite the case for regular exercise to treat depression. I’ll write more on this once I finish the book.

Bye for now and take care!

On the verge of tears

I’m feeling like I’m about to burst into tears. And there isn’t even a good reason. At most, it’s that I feel overlooked by my friends, that I’m not important to anyone. But that is perhaps just my filter… Or it’s perhaps that I’ve pushed them all away. I feel angry for no good reason and feel like self-destructively flaking out on yet another gathering because I just don’t feel I can face it and these people who are supposed to be my friends. Or that they want me to be there anyway.

I can’t get out of this rut. I feel tired and like there is no hope for things to change. Yet I keep having mini bursts of energy and hope, like yes, I can change things. Like I can start running again and lose weight. And I do, but then self-destructively stop and binge on ice cream and hide in my bed.

I’ve closed so many doors lately and and it seems too hard to reopen them.

I’m no longer on the verge of tears… They have come. I suppose I am crying for my loneliness…. But how much of it is self-imposed?

A mini breakdown and recovery

Today I had an important test I knew I could ace, and yet I mismanaged my time and wasn’t able to finish. I was so frustrated and angry with myself, and I had a mini breakdown.

I cracked. I cancelled everything planned later in the day and buried myself in bed. I wanted to cry, I wanted to hide, I wanted the relief of sleep. I slept for hours. Constructive, I know.

But then I woke up. And I felt a bit more compassionate towards myself. Yes, I didn’t do as well as I could have, but I had been exhausted from lack of sleep. Also, it is still good practice for other tests and maybe I will do better than I thought. Nothing I can do about it now. Just learn for next time.

And I had a surge of energy and started to tackle a lot of things I’d left half done. I got rid of clothes that didn’t fit, purged clutter in my room and completely organized my closet. It felt so nice as these were things I’d been wanting to do for quite a while and the clutter always weighed on me.

So at the end of the day, I’m feeling more neutral — not upset over the test as that is finished and there is nothing to do but wait for the results, and satisfied with my decluttering progress. I was triggered for the potential of crashing, but managed a bit of compassion to reenergize and inspire myself in other ways.

A new year, mantras and compassion

Wow, it’s been over a month since my last post! My WordPress 2014 Year in Review report shows a definite drop in activity, from posting nearly daily last winter and spring to once month or so in the fall. I’ve missed blogging and this great community so I will try to be more active again. 🙂

With the new year, it is of course time for resolutions. But instead, I heard about another idea that I would like to try: making new year mantras. I like the idea because it’s not so absolute as a resolution — I will always do this or never do that. Instead it’s like regularly reaffirming an intention — much better for my perfectionist self, who avoids anything with the potential for failure. (And who sees the first small mistake as failure…)

I have yet to create my mantras, but it’s something I intend to put my mind to this week. A year or two ago my therapist recommended I do the same, so I think it will be a good step.

Speaking of perfectionism, I’ve been listening to an interesting e-book while doing some boring tasks. It’s called The Compassionate Mind by Paul Gilbert. I’ll write more on this once I’ve finished it, but it looks at the following:

  • the evolution of the human brain
  • how our brains and bodies are programmed to work and their discord with modern life
  • perfectionism and criticism and how they contribute to anxiety and depression
  • what compassion is and how it can be used in daily life
  • how a compassionate approach can help those with depression and anxiety, anger and other issues.

The section on criticism, perfectionism and anxiety made me realize that I focus a lot on my depression, but not so much on the anxiety that (I think) causes it. Most of what he says really resonates and I’m interested in trying out some of the compassion exercises he recommends in order to develop compassion skills. He says it’s all about practice and exercise, just like with building physical fitness. We’ll see if I can teach this old brain some new tricks!

Have any of you read some interesting thoughts on compassion? Do you have a mantra that really works for you?

Re-finding my yoga mat

Today, after a few months off, I re-found my yoga mat. It feels so good to be back.

Why did I stop? Well, mostly due to pain in my arm that made yoga difficult and frustrating and my crazy work schedule which makes it hard to stick to a routine. Oh, and it is expensive and I’m still trying to get back on track financially.

These are all true, but the thing is, with all the conflict, stress and long hours, I really need yoga now more than ever.

Today after a really long sleep I woke up and decided that it was time to just get on the mat at home. I’ve trained as a yoga teacher. I know what to do. I can adjust the routine to work around injuries and aches and pains.

So I put on a meditative music cd, stepped onto my mat, and just did a free flow of whatever poses I felt like in the moment. It was so great!

It’s unfortunate that I lost yoga for these past few months, as I’m sure it would have really helped with the stress.

But I’ve found it now, and it feels good. I plan to try to get on my mat every day now. Any length of time, no routine to memorize and follow. Just be present and move.

Namaste! 🙂