Wandering with my eyes and heart open, searching for pieces to add to my own personal big picture.

Tag: depression Page 1 of 2

Anxiety: The Lies My Brain Tells Me

Anxiety lies quote from the book on a desert background.

“You’re right. Brains are fuckin’ liars. But you got this.”

The Library of the Unwritten by A.J. Hackwith

Anxiety sneaks up on you.
Your brain lies like a rug!

The character was having an anxiety attack. His friend walked him through the panic in the sweetest way I’ve ever heard. She didn’t deny his feelings or tell him to get over it. She simply agreed with him and gave him time, helped him breathe to calm his heart rate and think more clearly.

Bravery is personal. No one can do it for you, no one can spur you to take the leap. It has to come from inside.

Our brain…well…
it can lie like a bitch sometimes.

I have a paper bracelet on my shelf that reads across the band, “Depression Lies.” I should make a new one that says “Anxiety Lies.” I printed it from a website over ten years ago and used to have it taped around my wrist as a reminder. It sounds silly but that little piece of paper may have saved my life. It got me through a rough time, and it sits there reminding me to this day that my brain could be lying to me. If I’m feeling badly, I need to double check my thinking and possibly adjust.

How we think about our objective reality (the weather, the situation, the sensation) is completely subjective. Our reactions to it depend on our personality, our past, our culture, and our imagination. Unlike animals, and the demons and angels in this book, we have the power to direct and control what we think, how we perceive, how we judge, the world around us. We have imagination. We make up stories. It’s what gives us our edge. It’s that “god” in us, the likeness we are created in. But it isn’t easy to control and we aren’t born knowing how to use it well. It takes effort and practice.

What’s the difference between lying and telling a story?

Nothing really. It’s just what we think about it. My Grandmother telling us that elves were looking in the window and would tell Santa that we were bad? Lie or story? She wasn’t trying to entertain us with fables. She was trying to get us to settle down and behave ourselves. She knew there were no elves, but when she told us that and we’d all go running to the window to see. Some of us would burst into tears at the thought of Santa finding out that we weren’t “good.” Others thought Grandma was clever, some thought she was probably crazy because she really seemed to believe her own story. Her intentions were good. She wanted us to settle down and she found a clever way to do it.

Our brains do the same thing. Our intention is to stay safe and get what we need out of the current situation we find ourselves in. And we invent stories to make sense of the input and act appropriately. Life experience, instinct, and imagination play a big role in the decision making. Sometimes we make a big deal out of nothing. Sometimes we make too little a deal, too.

I have a tendency to let my imagination run wild and react without thinking things through. Maybe that helped me survive in a past life. Maybe there is some sort of cultural or evolutionary memory in our genes. Here and now, though, it has caused me some pain and heartache. I’ve learned, like the character in the story, to get my body calm first and then re-think.

I ask myself, “What’s the story here? Can I confirm any of it? Can I re-frame the input in a way that serves me? Can this be something I don’t fight or run away from?” And I ask for help from people I trust to give me honest feedback. I have two main people I go to right now, my husband and my best friend. I talk…a lot. And they listen while I work things out for myself.

I picked this quote to write about because I saw myself there and it made me smile. Sometimes my brain likes to tell me I’m all alone in the world, one of a kind, unlike any other human on the planet. It’s a lonely place, and I’m not sure why it thinks I need to feel that, but then I read books like this. We all feel this way from time to time. We all make up stories about the world and they aren’t all helpful. We all need a friend that can make space around us so we can sort things out.

““Want to walk around? No? Good choice – this grass is kind of scratchy, don’t you think? And that air – smells like butterfly farts, yeah? Look at those squishy, weird flowers. Wonder if you can eat ‘em…” Brevity kept up the words, grounding him, creating a steady soft patter that, over a handful of minutes, slowly eased Leto’s shoulders away from his ears. Brevity produced a small blue bottle from her bag and pressed it into his hands before shooing the rest of them away to give Leto a chance to recover.”

The Library of the Unwritten by A.J. Hackwith

We all should have a partner like that.


Want to read this book? You can find it at Amazon HERE.

Want to read more quotes from this book?

Would You Want to Come Back for a Day?

Do We Have the Ability to Change the Meaning of Our Life Story?

Anger Management

“We both know you only get mad when you know you’re wrong.”

Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane

That’s not true!

Wait. Maybe?

Hold on a minute. (searches through recent arguments) Dammit.

The last argument I started was over closing windows. Yes, you read that right. My husband had the audacity to close the windows and I proceeded to lose my mind. I wasn’t wrong to want the windows open. I wasn’t wrong to be irritated by his response. I was wrong to jump on him about it and then continue a screaming rant about how he ALWAYS does things like this. That’s actually what I was losing my mind about, the fact that I had jumped to conclusions and escalated a battle…again.

When I get really mad, I’m 99% mad at myself. I can’t seem to stop the spiral downward once it starts. I feel the feeling, think the thoughts…and then the words start pouring out before I can stop them. Then I feel like I have to fight to prove why I’m right, to justify my outburst.

In the past, this behavior has gotten way out of control. I wish someone could see inside my head what’s going on when I act like that. It’s like an alter ego has escaped from prison and taken over my mouth. The real me is inside screaming, “Stop! You’re hurting them!”

Medication has helped slow me down in the past, but more recently, meditation has helped much more. The idea of “making space” for feelings and watching them pass by has helped me change from reacting to responding. A few weeks ago, I was able to walk away from something I knew would trigger me to react. I spent an hour alone, talked to my brother, wrote in a journal, and then came back to respond to the situation in a way that (hopefully) wouldn’t make everything worse.

This window closing tirade didn’t last long, so that was an improvement. I was able to slow and pause, think. And then beg for forgiveness.

How many times can a person forgive though?

Those are the kind of thoughts that trigger depression though. I had to stop again. I’m not a bad person. I’m not evil. I’m not mean. I’m doing the best I can and every day is an improvement.

The work continues

Probing Anxiety Wounds

“Her peripheral vision sparked and distorted the edges of everything so that when she turned quickly to look at something, it moved just out of sight. And even while everything inside her body seemed to speed up, everything outside of her body – the movements of other shoppers, the reaching and lowering of boxes and packages into carts – slowed.”

Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane

What a rush! I read this description of anxiety and was instantly transported back to when my children were preschool age.

In the past I could work all night at Disneyland surrounded by thousands of tourists and then go to university all day. I could design the sets and lights for live shows, direct a crew of twelve people, and schedule an entire department of technicians, but two toddlers in a grocery store had overwhelmed me and I could not for the life of me understand why.

Looking back, nearly twenty years later, the reason stands clearly before me. Before children, I was responsible for only myself. I slept when I was tired, ate when I was hungry, and went wherever I wanted, when I wanted to. There was no one to consider but myself. Having children changed that completely.

I had already spent my young life playing as much as possible. Now was the time in life to take responsibility for others seriously and I was ready to do it, I just wasn’t sure exactly how to go about it without losing myself completely.

Lack of sleep didn’t help matters. I wasn’t ready to give up my job. I’d worked so long and hard to get to that place and I’d only been there a year when I met my husband. Besides, I didn’t think I’d need to, lots of people work and have kids. The situation seemed perfect to my young mind. My husband worked during the day and I worked after he got home. The shift was only a few hours in the evening anyway, so I was home at a reasonable hour, and I figured a few hours of sleep and I’d be fine to take care of my kids.

I was wrong, but it took me a few years to realize what was happening. I had no idea how much energy little people can consume! I had an amazing support system; my husband was understanding, my family helped me out, and having my Mother-in-law living with us was a blessing beyond belief. Even with all the help, I still found myself getting angrier and angrier every week. Anxiety attacks became more frequent, emotional outburst became more destructive because I could not find a way to escape from confrontation. My family needed me, and I was so afraid of letting them down that I refused to walk away even for a moment.

I’m not sure how it happened, but at some point I had said something my doctor about feeling so angry all the time, that everything seemed to be moving at breakneck speed and couldn’t keep up. I remember telling her about an incident that had worried me. I was standing at the kitchen sink, doing the dishes, when I heard the front door open. I instantly cringed and prayed that my husband would not talk to me, that a child would not call me, that somehow, I would be invisible, and they would just pass me by. I had been flushed with the heat of anger over something as simple as a hand on my back and a kiss hello while I was doing the dishes alone. She immediately prescribed an anti-depressant and told me that I needed to talk to a therapist. I cried and she hugged me. And that’s when the healing began.

Nearly twenty years later, I’m still working on my depression and anxiety, but I’m definitely better than I was back then. There’s not a day that goes by that I’m not thankful that I spoke up when I did, before things could get worse. I still have bad day, weeks, but in general I’m good. I’ve learned new ways to cope with anxiety, new outlets. Most of all, I have better understanding of who I am and what my needs are, that they change from time to time, and that everyone is a work in progress.

I stopped medicating ten years ago, the year I moved out of the city. Something about the slower pace of rural living (and the fact that children do grow and don’t need constant attention) helped me immensely. Recently, I feel like I’m self-medicating with alcohol more than I probably should, and I’m working on that. Sign of the times, I guess. The upside is that I’m aware of it earlier and I’m not letting it get me down.

Fascinating the things that a piece of fiction can bring up from your memory. I hadn’t thought of that feeling specifically in years. Writing about it helped me clarify it and clean it up, like gently probing a wound to make sure there’s no debris in it so it can heal properly.

Why DO I write here anyway?

“We need to talk.” It’s probably the last thing you ever want to hear from a close friend or family member, right? Sends shivers down anyone’s spine! But we do and don’t worry, it ends well!

About my last post, if you haven’t seen it, you can read it HERE, but all it really says is “Why do I write and post here?” I thought about it all weekend. I’ve thought about it before and I’ll probably think about it again (mostly because I have a cute little squirrel brain that doesn’t hold on to things for very long, but it makes things…interesting).

An existential crisis began on Saturday morning when, in an attempt to catch up on writing my “What In The World Is She Reading” newsletter, I opened a book that I had finished a couple weeks ago and recognized none of the text inside. I flipped through the pages reading here and there thinking, maybe that part wasn’t interesting? Maybe I was thinking of something else when I read that short story? I flipped to another page and started reading. Nope. It’s all gone, slipped out of my mind like those planetary systems Princess Leia said Darth Vadar was losing through his grip.

I slapped the book down, piled up my notebook and my laptop, and went to sit on the porch and stare at the desert. I was out there for an hour.

The rest of my Saturday spiraled slowly down into a mild depression. My heart hurt and I held back tears the whole day. My family began to worry. I watched a movie. I cleaned my closet of extra clothes. I laid on my bed and watched the ceiling.

If I can’t remember what I read, what’s the point of reading at all? And then what’s the point of writing about it? I spend a lot of my day reading, making notes, taking pictures, and posting about what I read. Am I just wasting my time? Is there something more important and lasting that could be done?

Maybe I should spend more time knitting. At least I’d have a product at the end of my time. I recently bought a cross-stitch kit thinking I’d like to make some presents, so I spent an hour trying to learn it. In my mental state of the moment, it didn’t go well, as you can imagine.

I continued to pout and get angry all day and well into the evening. My best friend was off busy all day, my youngest son left for work, my husband and oldest son were working on projects in the garage, and here I was…useless. I’m just killing time waiting to die…yep…I heard myself grumbling to myself. I’m a freakin’ bundle of fun sometimes.

At some point, we ended up on the couch watching a tv show and eating leftovers for dinner, when I laid my head in my husband’s lap and poured my heart out. He patted me and gave me some loves. My son gave me some advice that I grumbled about and then I went to bed.

After a good night’s sleep and a long Sunday morning of yard work, I took a hot shower and then sat down at my desk. Picking up the book, I flipped through it again. I still don’t remember much of those stories. I picked up another one and flipped through its pages. Hold on a minute. I remember a lot of that book! What happened? Why do I remember so little from this book?

All of a sudden something important occurred to me. There were a lot of notes in the book I remembered a lot of but the book that I didn’t remember had very few. I opened up Instagram and scrolled through my pictures to find only four quotes that I shared from the book I didn’t remember and ten from the book I did.

My son was right the night before. The advice I grumbled about…stupid kid…doesn’t know anything…you don’t know my feelings! Like I said, I can be really fun if you love sarcasm, dramatic exits, and self-pity parties. His advice was…Mom, you probably didn’t need any of those words, so your brain dumped them. Some day you’ll read that book again and that’s when you’ll remember because you’ll need it, or you’ll know someone else does so you’ll loan it to them. Kids these days!

He also reminded me, when I cried about wasting time, that no time is ever wasted if you’re doing something you enjoy doing. I don’t know where he gets this stuff.

Here’s the thing, my friends. I like reading books, all of them! Each book has its reason for being there. Some are packed full of information that I need. Some are guidance in troubled times. Some help me help someone else. Some make me smile, and some make me cry. Some are just damn fun. I don’t read because I have to and I don’t read things that I’m not enjoying, even if the information in them is important. I just love the experience!

Getting up before dawn, grabbing a cup of coffee and settling into the couch with my current lover…I mean book…is soul satisfying to me. It feeds me.

So why do I write and post about it here? There are two reasons really. The first is that writing about what I’m reading, while I’m reading it, helps me remember what I read. It helps me link other things I’ve read to what I’m currently reading. Organizing my thoughts on the page also helps me use what I’m reading to organize my life. I’m a better person because of what I read and write about and that cup overflows onto my family and friends. Happy reader…happy wife, mom, friend, PERSON!

The second reason is you. The book is already read. The page is already written. The photo is already taken. Why not post it all to the internet on the off chance someone out there might need it or at least enjoy it? It’s a little like sending a message in a bottle. I’m out here on my desert isle, writing out little messages, rolling them up and stuffing them inside my empty whiskey and tequila bottles, throwing them as far out into the sea as I can. Hopefully the tide will catch them and bring them to you…although, I know some do get washed back up onto my shores, but I just brush them off and throw them out again!

So here we are. I’m glad you’re here to listen to me rant about these things. I can tell you’re a great listener, so thanks. Let’s get back to books!

What are you reading?

Mind Over Mood

Confession: I love self-help books and videos, especially workbooks.

I started reading this yesterday afternoon in the hopes of getting some help for myself. I’ve taken anti-depressants in the past, had some small semblance of counseling, but in the long run nothing helped but time. Stresses change, kids grow up, relocation; time changes the situations but not my thinking. For a long time, I honestly thought I had changed. I had cured myself, all I needed was some time and space to breathe.

But here we are. And I’m not ok. I don’t deal with stress well at all and I can easily spiral out of control, creating a vortex of depressive thoughts that spin into a storm of angry chaos, destroying everything around me, leaving behind only those strong enough to weather the storm. It’s not fun for me and it’s hardly fair to my friends and family. Something needs to change.

I learned about cognitive behavior therapy years ago and only recently felt pulled toward trying it. Yes, I know…I should probably talk to a therapist too, but if you know me at all you’ll know that just won’t work. I’m a “do it myself” kind of girl! Besides, all they are going to do is say what’s in these books and I can read in the comfort of my own home. They’d also ask questions…which is why this book is awesome. It’s a workbook!

For the foreseeable future, I’ll be spending thirty minutes a day in this book. I intend to read and then sit reflectively with the workbook pages alone.

Yesterday when I pulled the book off the shelf, I flipped it open and found the first chapter is called, “Understanding Your Problems.” I laughed and showed my son as he walked by. That’s when we both laughed. “You’re going to be in that chapter a long time, Mom.”

The fact that my sons are open about reminding me how crazy and confused I am, leads me to believe I can be saved. I may be a bit “touched in the head” but they love me.

I’ll be posting about my progress as I go. Maybe this book will help you, too!

“I Am Enough” Book

This was one of those books I had to add to my Amazon wishlist because I heard her interviewed on a podcast on one of my drives into the city. And, as usual, I can’t remember which podcast! When will I ever learn to write these things down? Probably never. Free-range brain, I guess.

I loved the interview. Her ideas about retraining your mind to focus on positive thoughts seemed like something I could really use, so as soon as I got home, I looked up her book.

I’m taking it in small doses, trying to let the ideas sink in. So far there are some good ones. I’ll be posting my favorites on my Instagram as I go along.

I’ve struggled with depression and anxiety all my adult life and most of it is because somehow along the way, I got the idea that I need someone to acknowledge what I’m doing and express their approval verbally at every turn. If they do, then I know I’m doing “right” and “good.” If they don’t I must be failing somehow and scramble to fix my behavior.

What if I only worried about what was making me happy? What if I was satisfied with what I was doing and accomplishing? What if I were enough for MYSELF?

That’s what I’m hoping to learn. This book seems like a good start down that road.

Two New Books Started This Week – Happiness & Russians!

I’m so excited about my July TBR pile! It’s going to be an amazing reading month!

The nap was apparently much needed, by the way, and when I got back the movie was over. My son commented that “Indiana Jones” is a much more interesting movie when you’re not four years old. “The sign of a great story. You can watch it again and again and get more each time.” Oh, my heart!

I also started reading “A People’s Tragedy – The Russian Revolution” by Orland Figes this week. I’m so intrigued by the era and have been reading and watching a lot about it.

A few years ago, I read Tolstoy and Dostoevsky and I’ve been curious about Russian history ever since. I’ve been meaning to read more history but hadn’t found any recommendations until recently.

My youngest and I are watching “Trotsky” on Netflix on his days off work and we keep pausing it and talking. It takes our family so long to watch TV shows and movies!

And then I read a commentary article in the Wall Street Journal recently about the parallels between the Russian Revolution and our current political climate.

And…here I am. It’s all so fascinating.

Should I Stay or Go? – The Verdict

So my kind and wonderful reader, I hate to say it but I still don’t have an answer about social media. My thoughts over the past few weeks have sat firmly on, “If this is social, I’m not sure I enjoy it.” And if I’m not enjoying it and it doesn’t serve my life, what’s the point of being there? Would I keep going to a party filled with people that I don’t enjoy being around? Would I keep working at a job that brought me only stress and no income? Would I continue a relationship with a person that only made me cry?

Of course, I wouldn’t, but is that what social media is doing to me? No. In the past, the negatives were buried far beneath all the positives. Logging on each morning and scrolling through the “gossip pages” (that’s what we should really call it) brought me a bit of joy: my friend from high school got a new job, a cousin had a baby, my mom went fishing, etc. There was a bit of news from around the world. My writer group and my inspiration pages posted some tidbit of joy.

I’d share a piece of my life there as well and feel a connection with friends and family as we bonded over the jokes, photos, or articles we posted.

The negatives? You know what they are. A new medium always brings out the weird in some people. Social graces, manners, and rules of etiquette have to be reestablished. And there are always things that people share that you just didn’t want to know about them. It was easy to ignore the minor squabbles and navigate around the things I’d rather not discuss. “To each his own.” I’d think and move on.

This month, as we all are very well aware, has been different. Our lives have been abruptly changed by outside forces and we’ve all had to suddenly adjust. For me, the biggest hurdle hasn’t been the change in lifestyle but has more to do with dealing with people’s reactions online without the important benefit of physical and emotional context.

I’ll admit, which I really didn’t want to do and why I took a pause over the weekend to think about it, I’m struggling. I’m struggling to hold on to my compassion for others. I’m struggling not to withdraw and be fearful of others. I’m struggling not to lash out in my fear and anger.

Like someone threatened with drowning, I have to make a choice. Do I push people off my raft because I know they’ll pull me under? How do I stay alive without losing my humanity in the process? It sounds so overly dramatic but mental health is like that. No, I’m not threatened with immediate physical harm. There is no one with a gun pointed to my head or a mob at my door with a rope, but here I am with my heart rate up and my breathing rapid. Our minds are awesome and terrible things.

What’s your point, Michelle? Where are you going with this?

I’m getting to that. Hold your horses.

Human nature makes us do crazy, stupid, and terrible things to each other when we’re scared. I am human. I don’t want to add to the chaos, so I withdraw my participation. BUT, I also don’t want to withdraw my own point of view from the world outside my own four walls. I have joy and peace to share, experience and insight. I love my friends and family that I only see through social media. I love my readers, my fans, and my followers. You all add to my life in a very wonderful way. I don’t want to push you off my raft!

So what can I do? I’m still not really sure but I know what I’ll try. I’ll keep posting my joy and peace. I’ll continue to write and think and share what I’ve found and learned. I’ll allow you into my digital world to do the same as I want for myself, take what you want and pass on the rest.

“Walk into splintered sunlight
Inch your way through dead dreams to another land
Maybe you’re tired and broken
Your tongue is twisted with words half spoken
And thoughts unclear

What do you want me to do
To do for you to see you through
A box of rain will ease the pain
And love will see you through

Just a box of rain
Wind and water
Believe it if you need it
If you don’t, just pass it on

Sun and shower
Wind and rain
In and out the window
like a moth before a flame”

“Box of Rain” by The Grateful Dead

Down Days

“Witness your emotions without acting on them.”

Interesting.

This came up in my meditation app this morning and I wrote it down to remember it.

I’m not having the best of emotions today. I feel pretty damn crappy actually and for no reason at all, which makes me feel worse than if I had something to be unhappy about. I’m unhappy that I’m unhappy and that makes for a pretty shitty day.

Am I acting on them? I’m not sure. I’m not changing anything. I’m not calling to tell people how crappy I think they are. I’m not on social media making the snarky comments I want to make. I’m not canceling all my plans.

I am making myself busy though. I stopped around noon today and thought (as I mindlessly scrolled through social media feeds, one right after the other), “This is a nasty feeling, maybe I should do something about it.”

Or maybe I shouldn’t.

I can’t always be thrilled to be alive. There isn’t always a reason or a trigger for a bad mood. It just is and no amount of tortilla chips and Pepsi is going to make it better (but I did get some anyway, just in case).

I focused on getting busy. I got one corner of my livingroom cleaned up from Christmas. I’m attempting to declutter the whole house and I did mutter “someone just burn it all down and help me start over” as I sorted through the old and broken ornaments. The dishes are done. Dinner is in the crockpot.

Maybe I’ll go for a walk in a bit. Or get me a nice shot of tequila on ice!

I know one thing. Bad moods don’t last forever.

It’s The Little Things

paul-bulai-XOQJa4OC8P0-unsplash

Photo by Paul Bulai on Unsplash

Today I noticed…

The build-up of a manic episode. The first sparks that light the fire. The fire that can warm and cook to perfection, or burn out of control and destroy.

Thoughts race, mood lifts, creativity flows. Words race out in text, building up fantastic castles in the air.

Projects are conceived and begun. Materials gathered.

Commitments are made. Parties planned.

People are contacted. Apologies made.

It’s a mental spring after a dark winter. Warmth comes from within and dares to spill out into the world of reality.

These are the good days. The days that so much seems so possible, so achievable. But will it last?

Can I build a useful fire? A controlled and sustainable burn?

A feeling that always escaped me in the past, never noticing the build-up until it has begun to burn me.

It’s a start.

Page 1 of 2

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén

%d bloggers like this: