Category Archives: Depression

Confessions of a Maya Angelou Flunkee

Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.      –Maya Angelou

Yeah, except that I don’t.

  • A stitch in time saves time.
    • The button that came off my duvet cover this weekend isn’t back on the duvet. Are you kidding?! It’s on my nightstand where it will stay until it gets lost forever.
  • An apple a day keeps the doctor away.
    • I buy apples all the time and a few days later, I throw those same apples into my compost pile when I take my fast food containers to the trash can.
  • Haste makes waste.
    • In my case, haste makes waist – I can down a pint of Phish Food with frightening efficiency.
  • Well done is better than well said.
    • I talk about eating right and exercising all the time; but, where some people are healthy by following the 80/20 rule, it’s a banner day if I’m 50/50.

Since I have not been able to go to work, I don’t have a set time when I have to be up most days, which means that I can get up really early and enjoy the day! Um, we’ve met at least virtually, right? Yeah. So, no. I am sleeping late, then napping later – no early to rise for me, Poor Richard! I don’t have a schedule or routine which, it turns out, is super bad for my adulting efforts. So maybe I need a roommate or chaperone (whatever).

I got one. My sister has lived with me for the past 18 months or so which is both a good thing and a really bad thing. We keep each other on track with a lot of stuff; but, we both struggle with adulting on some of the same issues. We don’t fold clothes or put them away. We don’t dust. We don’t wash dishes. We don’t clean out the refrigerator. There are lots of things we’re just really not very good at. I don’t want you to think that my house looks like an episode of Hoarders, it doesn’t; however, if you walk into my kitchen and can see the top of my table, it’s a pretty sure bet I’m expecting guests. When I say that we don’t do those things, what I really mean is that we don’t do them willingly. We do them, but there’s a lot of pouting and foot dragging that goes on.

I see people and I know people who never have a pile of clothes sitting around waiting to be folded. There’s never a dirty dish in the sink. The brightware in their bathrooms is always sparkling. I am not one of these people. It’s not rocket science on being one either, is it? I mean, if you take clothes out of the dryer, fold them and put them away. Wash the dirty dishes and put them away right when you’re done with them. I don’t need an algorithm to figure out how to do it. I know how. I know better. I just don’t do it. I flunk Maya Angelou.

A couple of years ago, I wrote a piece about how you don’t get a Gold Star just for doing the minimum. Yet, I have to admit that when I go to bed knowing that there are no clothes to be folded and put away, that the floors have been vacuumed and that there are no dishes in the sink, I feel like I should get a gold star. I feel like I’ve done something note-worthy. It’s not particularly note-worthy in the larger scheme of things; but, these days, when my universe has been limited largely to my own home for months, I really don’t care about the larger scheme of things. I don’t. These days, I’m trying to motivate myself to rejoin the human race. I’m WAY behind the curve now that I’ve been sidelined for so long; so, sometimes, the only step I make in the direction of a reunion with humanity is putting away the dishes. Maybe you’d say that doesn’t merit a gold star; but, right now, I say it does. And I’m going to take it.

 

Drowning in Disability Depression

If you’ve read my blog over the last year, you may know that I’ve been struggling with foot issues. July 2016 I began to experience extraordinary left ankle and foot pain. I’d been suffering with plantar fasciitis in that foot for several months; but, this was something else, something worse. Several nights I left work literally in tears, hobbling like Quasimodo on a bender. Let me put it in perspective for you on my pain scale:

  • 10 – childbirth
  • 9 – folded meniscus
  • 8.92 – this foot and ankle pain, hence the “extraordinary” adjective

Resized_20170411_115300I began consulting an orthopedist which has been a very expensive proposition, both in terms of bills and in lost wages. I’ve had stress fractures in the foot as a result of a  fibrous calcaneonavicular coalition in there. I’ve worn a walking cast/boot for so long that the rubber at the ankle is beginning to tear. I’ve been in a hard cast twice and I’ve been unable to work since the end of December. A little over a month ago, I had surgery to remove the tarsal coalition in my left foot. What that means in practical terms is that the doctor drilled a hole in the middle of my foot to allow the bones that were previously improperly connected to each other to move freely – that’s actually my x-ray with the shiny new hole in it.  As of today, I’m still in the orthopedic boot. I hope that changes when I see the doctor on the 22nd.

This foot problem has impacted every area of my life and I hate it. Walking with crutches or using a knee scooter is such a hassle and because I couldn’t walk without them for so long, I stopped going places. Because I didn’t go anywhere, I wore my pajamas most of the time. Because I wore my pajamas most of the time, I felt like a slug. Because I felt like a slug, I got depressed. Because I got depressed, I ate more. Because I ate more and couldn’t walk, I gained even more weight.

My skin feels greasy. My hair looks like crap. I’m enormous….again. I feel ugly nearly all of the time. And I feel so ugly all the time that when I get dressed, I can’t tell if I hate what I see in the mirror because it’s an I-feel-ugly-because-I-feel-fat thing or because it’s a genuine WTF are you wearing thing. I would ask my sister (who is my roommate) but since I left her favorite stuffed monkey Zip outside and the dogs chewed him up when I was four, I can’t completely trust that she wouldn’t let me walk out looking like Holy Hell Barbie just to pay me back.

As you know, I have battled depression since my early twenties – sometimes the battle is a raging internal conflict, sometimes there is an uneasy peace. These past months have been a constant, intense onslaught due to pain, immobility cause by the pain, frustration caused by the immobility, and anger caused by the frustration. Throw a little self-loathing in there and you get a pretty good idea of where I am today.

Normally, I try to end my posts on a positive note – you know, since I’m the Positive Thinking Blog Goddess and all – but, y’all, I just don’t have it right now. The combat has exhausted me and although I am able to get my head above water from time to time. I feel like I’m drowning.

Maybe this is overshare. Maybe you don’t want to know all of this. Maybe you don’t care. But, maybe you do. Maybe you’re drowning, too.

Maybe you know where the life buoys are?

 

 

Just a Duck at a Penny Arcade

Last week was an exceptionally emotional one for me. It started out great with that five pound weight loss; however, that triumphant moment was followed quickly by a professional disappointment, then an enormous financial failure. I kept my chin up, though, and focused on good things and solutions. Then, as you know, our dog stopped eating, signaling his approach to the rainbow bridge. Still, I kept moving forward. I got help for the financial crisis. Trey got pain meds and began eating again. I was still moving.

But the coup de grace still awaited – or, rather, the coups de grace (if that can be plural).

Sunday found me accidentally awakening a childhood demon. This event was followed literally minutes later by a real blow when I received an email from a man from my distant past. This man is associated with a particularly difficult time in my life – a watershed time, you could say. My life has since been divided into before him and after him. It wasn’t a bad email; but, it portends another irrevocable change in the life I’ve made. These two things on top of everything else were just too much for me.

My emotional eating triggers started snapping and, honey, it sounded like a shooting gallery in a penny arcade! (Do they even have penny arcades anymore?) Anyway, those triggers were going off left and right! I wanted to strap on a feed bag of puffy Cheetos, go after a gallon of Phish Food with two spoons, then (as I told my friend Jeff) climb into a bottle of cheap Cabernet. (It would have to be a cheap bottle. Good ones are for sipping. Cheap ones are for drowning.) In the end, I did none of those things. If I had, I would still have all those issues to face today, plus I’d have processed food and wine hangovers. I’d have initiated another bout with my sugar addiction AND I’d have the guilt associated with all of those things.

So, in the end, I had some veggies with hummus and a little ranch dip, some fruit, a little Margherita pizza, some chips and corn salsa, a vegetarian corn dog (hot dogs are a Super Bowl tradition for me), and a little salted caramel Dream gelato while I watched Pete Carroll blow the game. I drank one Mike’s Hard Lemonade and did not count my calories for the day. Well, I didn’t count them yesterday. I counted them just now. Ouch.

For the day, I ate just under 2200 calories. With the little bit of exercise I performed, my net for the day was just under 2000. It wasn’t a gawd awful day, but my daily calorie budget right now is 1317. Sooooohoho…….I blew that up. Do I feel guilty this morning?

Nope. Not even a little bit.

In the face of what I wanted to do and what I would have done four years or even four months ago, I restrained myself yesterday and I count it a victory. For sure I felt like a shooting gallery duck but, that’s okay because you know the great thing about those little guys?

When they get to the end of the line, they get right back up again and make another pass.

What Do I Know, Anyway?

When I find myself with a set-back like the one I’m dealing with now – ugh – that negative little voice inside my head asks, “What do you know, anyway?” “Why should anyone pay any attention to what you have to say? After all, look at what you did!”

Yep. Look at what I did. I gave in to cravings and ate myself 20 pounds up the scale. It doesn’t matter if the cravings were the result of medication, 70-hour physically exhausting work weeks, heartache, or moon cycles. Those things may have caused the cravings but none of them drove me to the grocery store. None of those things bought the Tastykakes that I stuffed into my gob. Nope, I did that all by lonesome. I did it years ago and I did it this time, too. I failed myself.

But, it ain’t over yet!

I lost 94 pounds four years ago and I know how I did it. I know what worked for me and what didn’t. I know how to do it again. Here are a few things that I know without a doubt:

  1. I cannot buy bread. I can’t buy it because I cannot be trusted with it. I will eat it plain or with something smeared on it to make it a sandwich. I will eat a butter sandwich rather than make a nutrient-dense meal that my body needs. I can’t do that if there’s no bread in the house; thus, I cannot buy bread.
  2. I cannot be trusted with a family sized bag of chips. I will turn into a family of one and eat that bag all in one sitting. If I treat myself to chips, they  must be in the tiny, single serving size.
  3. I cannot open cans of mixed nuts while driving in the car. I will eat the entire can.
  4. I am an emotional eater. I must deal with wayward emotions in another way, like going for a short walk, doing ten jumping jacks, meditating, or writing lists to figure out the source of the negative emotion. Eating to make it go away solves nothing.
  5. I want the sugary snacks in the vending machines at work. Therefore, I must not take my debit card or cash to work.
  6. I am a sugar addict. I must eat more fruit to combat the cravings my body assaults me with.
  7. The_Smurfs_2_2013_(Brainy)Each meal must consist of 75% vegetables.
  8. I must move more. I don’t have to start by running a race. I can start the same way I did last time – by walking the dogs.
  9. All food must be carefully measured, else the nine-serving box of cereal becomes a three-serving box.
  10. Undocumented calories still count.
  11. There is never undocumented exercise.
  12. My food and exercise diary app is invaluable.
  13. I deserve to have a body that functions properly.
  14. I deserve to have a body I feel comfortable in.
  15. I have way too many clothes in my smaller size to redo my wardrobe now!
  16. I don’t want to redo my wardrobe.
  17. I can do this.

So, as it turns out, I know lots of things. I just have to remind myself because there is a great, big, giant chasm between knowing and doing. And, yesterday, in setting a new goal in my LoseIt app and by logging all of my food and exercise, I began doing again.

The Button of Truth

Who knows what evil lurks in the heart of men? The Shadow may know that. But, who knows what calorie-laden sweets linger on the hips of mankind? The Blue Jean has that one covered.

As I’ve told you, I have not been careful with my food intake for, oh, about a month now. Last night, I firmly felt and saw the results. Oy.

I’ve known that I was gaining a little weight; but, I was using that old standby method of denial – elastic! And as we established just forEVER ago, Satan did, in fact, invent yoga pants. But, last night, I didn’t wear yoga pants. I wore my jeans. Well, most of me wore my jeans. There was some spillage over the top until everything got all stretched out. Muffin top. Yech.

I’ve earned it. And it’s not even the holidays yet; so, I can’t blame it on holiday eating! This is just plain, old emotional eating. Thankfully, I have been able to slow it down since I identified the emotions which started the whole thing. Now, I just have to deal with the aftermath, which, if I’m not careful, could lead from Depression Eating straight into Guilt Gorging. Neither of these activities or mental locations  appeared in The Princess Bride; however, I’m fairly certain that if the book had been written by a woman, there would have been no Fire Swamp, but rather the Gorge of Nervous Snacking. And there would not have been large rats. There would have been huge trees of Little Debbie cakes, potato chip flowers and a river of melted Phish Food. (I’ll let you enjoy that calorie festival vision for just a second.)

I told myself that I hadn’t done too much damage – just a pound or two; but, my jeans showed that as a lie I’ve been selling myself with a side of lycra. But, just as Wonder Woman’s golden lasso will reveal any falsehood, so will the waistband of my blue jeans. And, honey, did those show my deception last night! Thankfully, as I’ve said, I’ve already been able to slow the process to a near halt and I’ll reverse it because I know that I can and, to be in the kind of physical condition I want to be, I must.

As I’ve known all along (but need to be reminded occasionally apparently) self lies are the most dangerous. Thankfully, I have a couple of sets of lie detectors in my closet.

It’s More Than a Choice

…but that’s as good a place to start as any.

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Reading through some of my posts, if you don’t know me well, you might get the idea that I’m happy-happy-happy all the time-time-time.  If you do know me well, you just soiled yourself laughing.  Go change.  We’ll wait.

Years ago, there was a book making the rounds called Happiness is a Choice.  I don’t believe that and I believe that psych wards are full of people who would agree with me.

I know people who struggle with bipolar disorder, unipolar major depressive disorder, and other psychiatric conditions that are biological in origin.  These are often endocrine issues – just like diabetes.  Who in their right mind would tell a diabetic to “Buck up! A sugar coma is a choice!” No one, right?  Yet, every day, all day long, people tell those suffering from depression that they could be happy if only they wanted it badly enough, if only they chose to be. How archaic and counter-productive.

Earlier in the week, I was discussing a bad study habit with my son.  We discussed how this habit was reinforced during his pre-college years.  Now he is dealing from the fall-out and blaming himself 100%.  He doesn’t want to be “that guy” who blames all of his short-comings on someone else.  I told him that finding the genesis of the habit isn’t blaming anyone.  It is simply examining the habit, finding its causes and edges so that he can develop workable coping mechanisms or effective habit-changing behaviors. Finding the edges defines the habit, not him. I do not believe that he is to blame for the behavior’s inception.  I DO believe that he is to blame for its continuation if, after recognizing it, he does nothing about it.

Likewise, if I know that I have depression or other biologically based mood issues, I cannot reasonably blame myself for their existence. However, I can blame myself completely if I do not develop, implement and maintain coping mechanisms or follow prescribed treatment.  Just because my body is predisposed to produce this negativity, does not excuse me from spewing into the world around me.  I’m not Vesuvius. I’m not even Italian, for goodness sake!

A positive attitude is very difficult for me on some days.  On those days, I find myself jonesing for calorie-dense foods more than usual. I find myself pulling the covers over my head rather than going for a walk.  I find myself giving in to the darkness.  While I’m not always responsible for my moods, I am still responsible for how I respond to them.  Do I take the easy road and let them win? Or do I take the harder road and fight for myself?

On Tuesday, I posted a photo I took this summer at a serenity garden on the campus of Tacoma Community College.  On that photo, I wrote, “I am responsible for the energy I bring into this space.” I don’t recall where I first heard that; but, I have it written on a photo of an F-18 on my desk, too. It’s a good thing to remember.

Maybe I can’t choose to be happy, but I can choose whether or not to be a jerk.

Taking Out the Head Trash

Head trash. The mental landfill between our ears.

It creeps into the salesman’s mind after a blown presentation. It attacks the dieter after a prohibited cupcake disappears. It assails the recovering nicotine addict after puffs from the contraband cigarette. It torments the struggling alcoholic after the forbidden cocktail.

Is it real or is it the bogeyman? I happen to think that the veracity of Head Trash lies somewhere between the objective truth of Sean Connery being the most attractive man ever (a truth any idiot can see) and the subjective truth that red poppies are prettier than roses. Regardless of its accuracy, Head Trash can and does (on a daily basis) make failures of the most talented and the brightest individuals.  Which leads me to this: the question isn’t whether or not it’s real.  The question is: what do we do about it?

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When I was little, I was convinced that sharp shooters from Gunsmoke were in the top of my closet.  (No. Seriously.) I was so sure they were there, I couldn’t sleep if the closet doors were open.  My mother insisted that there were no snipers in my closet; but, clearly, she just wasn’t looking in the right places.  I could plainly see them; so, I was angry with her for dismissing my fear.

When my own son was little, he had a similar monster infestation.  Remembering the Gunsmoke tormentors, each night, I sprayed water around the edges of the room, driving the monsters into a Japanese letter box which was secured with a brass fish lock (the very best monster containers, don’t you know). With the box of monsters out of the room, the sleeping Ginger Prince was safe for another night.

Hurricane Katrina destroyed my Japanese letter box; so, I no longer have it available for my own monster disposal.  The brass fish isn’t around to contain those spirits who say that I can’t do something, that I’m not good enough, that I’m less than, unattractive, unable to do anything right, whatever lies the beasts are selling on any given day.  I have to put on my big girl pants and deal with them myself.  To do that effectively, I must do these things:

  • Acknowledge that they are there and look at them closely. Closing my eyes left the snipers in the closet; however, turning on the light clearly and quickly showed no danger.
  • Disassemble them to find the flaws. When I internally hear, “You can’t do anything right.” I make a list of actual accomplishments: performing a back flip off a diving board, overcoming a paralyzing fear of horses, baking good brownies. I don’t have to be perfect.  I just have to be good enough for the context.
  • Pluck them out.  Do not allow those negative thoughts to take root.  Deal with them.  Relentlessly. Mercilessly.  See them as the destructive forces that they are and rout them daily, constantly.  This is a battle for spirit, mind, body and success.  I must fight like it is.  Fight for friends. And (this is a big one) limit my time with those who would destroy me.  Emotional vampires have no place in my life. Friendship doesn’t help them and destroys me. It’s a lose-lose.
  • Finally, I develop a game plan.  If sales meetings leave me feeling down, I have to review them with a coworker to find out why. A helpful colleague can suggest how to handle the situation better next time. When I craved cigarettes, I avoided coffee shops and bars. I don’t go to bakeries when I’m hungry. A game plan helps me win the battles before I face them the next time.

To be a successful parent, sober person, non-smoker (or  non-smoking smoker like me), professional, student, dieter, athlete, or insert your own noun here we must clear out our minds, making room for positive things, good thoughts, good people and good experiences. To do that, we must first take out the Head Trash.