My Spirit Animal Is Eeyore

Eeyore-Quotes-12I’ve been feeling really good lately. And sometimes I worry. I’ve opened up to people that I’m depressed. The image that people possibly have of depressed people may fall around the image of Eeyore and always walking around with this perpetual dark cloud over his head. Am I being a liar that I have depression and I’m smiling and laughing and enjoying life? I have these moments where I wonder if I should stop smiling and have this look on my face that says “Hi I’m depressed” but I don’t. Please understand that even though I feel good and I’m in a good place, I still have depression.

I don’t share with many people when I’m in a depressed state. People who truly know me will figure it out quickly and if you are one of the few people I trust, I will just say “I’m just having a day” which is my way of saying depression has set up roost in my body at that moment. If you don’t know me well enough but can sense or read me, I’ll just seem off. Like my smile doesn’t reach my eyes or I’m extremely quiet or distant. If I’m in a bad place, I’ll just want to curl up on my side and sleep and just ask to be left alone.

I see depression as an article of clothing. Imagine one of those suits that cover you head to toe. img-product-lime2-f This is what depression felt like for me this past summer. It consumed me. It felt like it was strangling me and I couldn’t find a way out of it.The suit wouldn’t let me just be still. I had this sense of needing to keep moving. Unfortunately for me at that time, I did anything possible to not be in my house. No one was there, they were all away and I hated the sound of no one home. Sometimes, the head of the suit would fade away and I’d have moments of happiness and feeling good. Those moments didn’t always last long, but the depression suit didn’t come back to consume me like it did. At times the depression suit looked like an actual suit. More of my natural

At times the depression suit looked like an actual suit. More of my natural self-showing through and I could take off the parts of depression that felt heavy and confining. Then they’d go back on when the AT’s (automatic thoughts) came racing back in. I started therapy (with an amazing therapist) and decided to dive in. So the depression suit started to look like a tee shirt and jeans. Less control of me and less confining. Over time the depression suit began to become smaller and smaller. I could hang up the old suits and learn how to live with the new suit. Now I imagine depression to be like a tee shirt, more like an undershirt. The kind we wore when we were kids. We knew the undershirt was on, but no one could see it. They only saw the clothes we wore. My clothes are my feeling good and my happiness and my genuine smile. My depression suit is my undershirt that no one can see (unless I let them) and I always know it is there.

I’m very far from saying that I’ve conquered my depression. I honestly don’t think I can ever “conquer” it. I’ve got a handle on my triggers and how to handle them. Some I have to avoid or the depression suit will have me in turtlenecks and long pants sweating in the summer. Sometimes the undershirt of depression can be itchy. It wants to remind me that there are things that I have not completely gone away. That the issues will still float to the surface begging to be itched and become annoying. But that’s the thing. I’m learning how to deal with those triggers and learning that it’s okay to be happy and to be in a place of feeling good. I’ll always be scared of my depression. It terrifies me that it can come back when I’m not looking and consume me again.

I texted someone this morning and said this “I do have my moments where I have my doubts about things and I get worried I’m slipping back. But I hold on to what I know to be true and try to keep the doubts at bay.” I mean that with all my heart. I’ve had to learn what is true and what I can trust. I feel like my belief in myself was shaken to the core in what I’ve been through in the past year and I have to learn to believe in myself; that I am stronger than I think I am. I needed to learn that there are people there for me and who genuinely care for me. I needed to learn that I do not cause more bad than good.

I have learned that it’s okay to feel good, to be in a good place and to be happy and still have depression. Depression does not define me. It is just a part of me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Getting a handle on my automatic thoughts

Three weeks ago at my last appointment, my therapist gave me a log I am supposed to use when an automatic thought (AT) occurs to help me get to the root of “the problem”. I’ve used it a couple of times. Sometimes I find out the answer right away, or what causes the AT. Sometimes I don’t get any insight for a few days. I wanted to share the questions and how I’m supposed to answer them.

First is Situation: “What happened?” I’m supposed to write what happened, where it happened when it happened, who was it with/about, and how did it happen. These are sometimes hard to write down. When it’s in my head, it’s easy to dismiss it, but having to address it and “say it out loud” makes me look at it directly.It also makes me see if I’m dwelling on one specific thing that I need to look more at in therapy.

The next area is kind of a different one.It’s Emotions/Mood Scaled 0-100% I need to identify what emotion I felt at the time? Did I feel anything else with it? How intense was the emotion? The scale for that is 1-100% The ones where I feel it more than 75% are where I need to focus on. For me, the emotions have been sadness and hurt. I’m not sure if depression can fall into the emotions category.

This is followed by Physical Sensations. “What did I notice in my body?” and “Where did I feel it?” These apply to me saying “I felt it in my chest” or “I felt it in my stomach”. What did I notice in my body would be how did I feel? Did I feel a sense of loss? Embarrassment? Anger? Like I got a sucker punch to the stomach? My therapist said right now we are focusing on the feelings in my body and not my head.

The fun and digging deep stuff come next with Unhelpful Thoughts.  What went through my mind? What disturbed me? What did those thoughts, images, and memories mean to me? What do they say about me or the situation? What “button” is this pressing for me? What am I responding to? What would be the worst thing that could happen? Now, me being me and being a frustrated writer, I answer all of those questions. Sometimes the answers are the same, but in certain situations, it helps me to slog it all out. What went through my mind? That part is almost just typing it all out. Short incomplete sentences, things that come across as jibberish, and no matter how it looks after I’ve typed it out, I make sure I say it. There is no filter here.  What disturbed me? This makes me look back at what I typed and try to narrow down exactly what is causing the AT to occur. The next part – What did those thoughts, images, memories mean to me or say about me in the situation? This brings up my list of negative core beliefs: I am inferior, I am nothing, I am worthless, I am invisible, I am insignificant, I am plan and dull, I am not special, I don’t matter, I’m not valuable, I am unworthy, I don’t belong, I am alone, I’m nothing, I am uninteresting, I am unimportant, I am unattractive, I am ugly, I am useless, I am fat, I have a mental problem, There’s something wrong with me, I am a failure, I am inferior, I am a loser. (I know, it’s a long list). When I answer that question, I feel another NCE that I don’t think is on the list per say. I feel pathetic and petty. But I need to do this. I need to address this. I need to take the water wings off and dive into the lake. What am I responding to? What exactly happened that make all of this jump out of the water? And this brings back the list of what “button” is it pushing for me? Answering what the worst thing that could happen or what would the worst thing about that often brings out my greatest fears.  This is generally where the bulk of my writing happens, in this “cell” of the spreadsheet I created. I tried writing it all out by hand, but I type faster and it feels somewhat more freeing to do it this way. I do think that it would be easier to do it by carrying around a notebook, but when I have to wait until I”m at my laptop, I do get some form of perspective. Being the devil’s advocate, though, having it “mapped out” in a journal I carry can also help me at that moment when the AT happens.

Next up is where I have to reflect on Alternative/Realistic Thoughts and a More Balanced Perspective. Here I need to “STOPPPPPPP! Take a breath” and I actually type this out and make myself do it physically. I need to state if the AT is fact or opinion. That is usually an opinion since the bulk of my AT’s come from me and from overthinking the situation. So far none have been factual. It could be because I am the Queen of Overthinking and I never see the actual truth of a situation at first. What would someone else say about this situation? My answer for that is always “You’re overthinking the situation.” What is the bigger picture? That one can be a bit more difficult to answer. What is the overall bigger picture or what is the bigger picture for that particular AT? I mean I know it’s the AT, but sometimes it’s both. Is there another way of seeing it? Is there another way of seeing it? Of course, there is. I’m seeing things/it one way and it’s usually in a negative way. There is always a way of seeing the situation in an actual way. What advice would I give someone else? I always seem to say the same thing here. I’d say that they are overthinking the situation and am/are reading too much into it. Is my reaction in proportion to the actual event? It never is it seems. But isn’t that part of the definition of overthinking? Is this really as important as it seems? At the moment to me it is. But the purpose of this exercise is to determine if it really is that important.

What I did. What I could do/defusion techniques. What’s the best response? Re-rate the emotion from 0-100% I’m going to admit to stumbling sometimes when I get to this one. For the first few times I did it, I managed to get to the end of exercise. The past two times I have not. What does that mean? Does that mean I’m giving up on the exercise? Or does it mean that I’m getting to this point and realizing that the situation isn’t nearly as important as I think it is? Should I go back and fill in the end of the exercise? Probably. What’s the point of doing something if I don’t see it through to the conclusion? I mean with everything else I’ve done I haven’t let myself quit because it got hard or I didn’t understand. I have pushed myself physically, in order to make this work for me and get through my issues, I need to make this work mentally too.

Matter

What is the matter? Do I matter? It’s a matter of opinion. Mind over matter. A matter of life or death. For that matter. It’s a matter of importance. The crux of the matter. No laughing matter. A matter of how you slice it…..and the list goes on and on.

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How do we decide what matters? How do we decide who matters to us? Why do we hurt the ones that matter? (Okay, I cribbed that from those we love)

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Matter as a noun is a physical substance in general, as a distinct from mind and spirit; (in physics) that which occupies space and possesses rest mass, especially as a distance from energy. It is an affair or situation under consideration; a topic. As a verb, it means to be of importance, have significance.

 

When I was 8 years old, it mattered what my favorite singer said and wore and expressed opinions about. Taylor Swift

Does it matter who we matter to? How does that effect our day to day life? How does it affect our being happy or sad? Why does it matter who likes our Instagram pictures? Why does it matter if we don’t get a text back? Who says that the things that matter the most are what we share on Facebook? Why does it matter if someone won’t add us on Snapchat? These all seem like petty things to matter to people, but they do. Maybe not to everyone, but to some it does matter.

As I said, the phrase “I matter to those whose lives I touch” has been a big in my head this week. Today it backfired on me a bit. Well, maybe more than a bit. In trying to keep the saying in my head, I snapped at someone who matters to me. I didn’t mean to, and I did apologize, but still, it was wrong of me.

When it comes to people who matter to me, I end up putting my foot in a giant pile of shit a lot of the time. I don’t mean to do it, it just happens and then all those automatic thoughts of being worthless and not mattering to others come flooding back. More often than I care to admit, I give my value in the lives of those that matter to me more than I should. And that makes me feel awful when I stop and realize that I’m not the center of anyone’s universe except my own and possibly my dog Coco’s (I’m the one who feeds her and takes her to the dog park). The truth is the people I care about are too busy with their own lives to worry 24/7 about me. That’s my job. I can’t help it if I worry about people. It’s in my nature. I don’t want to totally give that up. The happiness and safety of the people who matter to me are important to me and it’s what makes me…me. I do need to understand though that’s its okay to not be front and foremost on the minds of the people that matter to me.

Social media fucks with people’s minds when it comes to what matters. You can post a picture on Instagram of something you know someone that matters to you would like and when they don’t respond with a like/heart then you feel like … or rather I feel like a loser …or as I’m supposed to say that I feel like I don’t matter. When you post something interesting on FB and no one notices it, you feel like you don’t matter to anyone who follows you. When I post here what I think is an interesting blog post and no one “likes” or comments on it, you feel like why am I bothering posting things here that matter to me if no one reads them.

I tried giving up social media because of the feeling I get when things that matter got no response. But I looked back. So what if some people didn’t like it or read it or respond to it. Some people I didn’t expect did like and makes comments that led me to look at other sites and other things I didn’t know I’d find interesting.

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I picked the image above because of what it says.

“You are enough” I struggle with that in all phases of my life. Am I enough as a parent? Am I enough as a wife? As a friend? As a teacher? My knee-jerk reaction is always no. I am lacking in some part of my life. I am learning to know that I am enough. I know that I make a difference to the people whose lives I touch. I make a difference to my students. I want THEM to never think they don’t matter to anyone. I impart that to my children. No matter if I am angry with you, I love you and you matter.

“You have influence” I like to think that in some way, a small way I am having influence in someone’s life. I see the influence I have on my children every day. They are the two most amazing things I will ever have accomplished in my life. I see the influence I have on my students when I tell them I am proud to be a Geek and there is nothing wrong with being excited about the things you love.

“You are a Genius” Author Seth Godin says a genius is a person who can solve a problem in a way that no one else has solved it before. So in terms of my body and what it can do, I finally figured it out. I have lost close to 75 pounds. I am stronger and healthier and have learned how to do it the right way and the smart way. (With a little help from people to keep me going.)

“You Have a Contribution to Make”  “We cannot all do great things, but we can do small things with great love.” ~ Mother Teresa. The size of the contribution isn’t what matters, it what part of my heart I put into it.

“You Have a Gift to Give that Others Need” “Happiness never decreases by being shared.” ~Siddhartha Gautama (Buddha). It is said that happiness and love are the two greatest gifts we can give the world. But more often than not, we are wrapped up in our own gratifications and forget that there are people in the world that we can make feel loved, appreciated, or even just noticed. These are not gifts that we need to buy. A smile. A hug.

“You are the change.” A shared smile, an unexpected kindness, the small encounters with people that show us that we matter. That our presence is important. Leaving people with something positive; it is these things, no matter how small, we choose to matter and in doing that, we are making the world a better place.

“Your Actions Define Your Impact” “How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before beginning to improve the world.” ~Anne Frank. If action is the world’s greatest currency, then there is no better day or time than now and today to start to make a difference in your world. It’s not about waiting until you have the time. It’s not about waiting until you have money. To let someone know that you matter, just tell them. “Hey, you matter.” That will take all of two seconds.  If you are reading this, you matter to me.

“You Matter!” To be of consequence or importance to others is what it means to matter. It means that I am worthy of note and have crucial value. It means you are significant and relevant. My world doesn’t always tell me this and my friends and family may not always communicate it in a way that I can understand and see that I am important in their lives, but that doesn’t mean that what I do and who I don’t have a profound impact on the world.

 

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Is it easy to appreciate?

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One of the things I talked about in therapy this week was being able to say out loud that I mattered. To say it out loud and MEAN it too. That was harder. The first few times I said it, it came out like a question. I was questioning do I matter? That comes down to one of the roots of what I’m talking about in therapy. Do I matter? Who do I matter to?

You can do a Google search on the subject and you’ll come up with quotes by the dozen – not unlike the one I posted above – that say if you matter to someone, they’ll make time for you. That’s a heavy, heavy comment to hold over someone’s head. How do you know if you matter to someone? Is it because you talk to them all the time? Is it because they tell you that you matter to theHow do they show that you matter? Is it with a hug? Is it with a smile? Is it with a text or an email or a letter? I don’t have the answer to that. I’m struggling with that right now. Some people are amazingly lucky and can give you an answer off the tip of their tongue. They know why they matter. They have no doubts in their minds. Me, I have many doubts…hence therapy.

One expression I did come up and was able to say with conviction (eventually) is that I matter to the people who’s lives I touch. I can’t say that with a thundering conviction, I can just say it. But how do I know that I matter? That’s the sentence running in my head now. And that brings me back to my other questions…do we show someone they matter to us with words or with actions? Sometimes it’s a combination of both. Sometimes actions speak louder than words and then you have to stop and think, if they matter to me and their actions show that I don’t matter to them, do I stop letting them matter to me? Can I be that person? No, I don’t think I can.

This therapy stuff can really make you think and think too much sometimes. We refer to the issues I’m dealing with a lake. Some stuff I may want to dive right into – which I am now – and some we may have to take little steps along the shoreline. I was journalling some stuff and apparently what I was doing was stating the issue. I was identifying the issue, but not dealing with the core/root of it. And we started doing that. For someone like me to say with conviction that I matter and I deserve help was an extremely hard thing to do. I will praise you, I will shore you up when you are down, I will go to the ends of the earth to help you with whatever you need. But for me to believe I matter and I deserve help was not an easy thing.

I am learning how to trust again. I lost that ability. I am very guarded and jaded now. I appreciate people who have been there for me no matter what degree it has been. I just hope that my saying and believing that I matter to the people whose lives I touch isn’t going to come back and hurt me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Long and Winding Road

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Many times I’ve been alone
And many times I’ve cried
Any way you’ll never know
The many ways I’ve tried

Stealing again from the Beatles today. Not so much about the long and winding road that I’m traveling. That is part of it, bu the section I quoted above…”many times I”ve been alone.” Alone. Alone seems to be a theme for me right now. Mostly because I feel I’m traveling this road alone. I mean I know I’m truly not, but it feels like that.

Let me explain a bit further. This road is meant for me to travel alone. No one can clear the thoughts in my head or the depression from my soul but me. As I travel down this long and winding road, I may see a friendly Diner and decide to pop in for some coffee and pie. I see the Diner as a metaphor for people who offer me the chance to talk to them and let me have someone to confide in. But I can’t stay in the Diner and talk to the waitress forever. She has her own life and other customers to help out.

So off I go again, alone, down my long and winding road. Maybe I’ll see a quaint roadside stand selling tchotchkes. I see those as the many books and sites and things I may try to help me out. Some of those tchotchkes will help me out, but I will go through a lot of crap before I find the one(s) that really help me out.

I continue down my road and I see an accident. I panic. The accident is when I have my setbacks and I let my automatic thoughts and negative thinking (depression and anxiety in general) come roaring back. The accident victim is me and the instigator is the Depression Devil. I may get stuck at this accident scene for a little while. There is a lot of rubber necking going on – me over thinking and worrying and letting it all come roaring back. But eventually, the things I’ve learned (am learning) will help me move on past this accident and through the congestion to continue on my road.

 

Alone.

 

I can’t expect anyone to tag along as my co-pilot because, honestly, who wants to call out “shot gun” for a road trip like this? No one  I know. Asking people who say they love you to ride shotgun on a trip like this is asking too much. It is for me anyways.  More often than not I have placed too high of a value on my place in their life, forgetting they have lives of their own to live. I respect that and now can understand that.

Automatic Thoughts

I got a sheet about automatic thoughts from my therapist yesterday and I wanted to share it. Our thoughts are created by our mind. They are trying to help us see and understand the world around us helping us to make sense of the sounds, sights, smells, events and feelings. With an event; we give meaning to the event and that leads to an emotion. We interpret these based on previous experiences, upbringing, culture, religious beliefs and family values. These interpretations and meanings we give events and situations can result in physical and emotional feelings.

If we think that we are in danger and won’t be able to cope with it, it triggers Anxiety and Fear. If we think that we are being treated unfairly and won’t stand for that; Anger and Frustration are triggered. And if we think everything is hopeless (I’m totally worthless, no – one likes me, and nothing can change) then Depression is triggered.

Automatic thoughts….

  • Can be words, an image, a memory, a physical sensation, an imagined sound, or based on “intuition” (a sense of just “knowing”)
  • Believable – we tend to automatically believe our thoughts, usually not stopping to question their validity. Thoughts are not necessarily true, accurate or helpful. They are often based on emotion (rather than facts), which drives our opinion.
  • Are automatic; they just happen, popping into our head and we often don’t even notice them.
  • Our thoughts are ours – they can be quite specific to us (because of our present/past experiences, knowledge, values and culture or for just no good reason at all) and out of keeping with those things, we make them seem all the more distressing.
  • Habitual and persistent. Our thoughts seem to repeat over and over, and the more they repeat, the more believable they seem, then they set off a whole chain of new related thoughts that lead us to feel worse and worse. They can follow themes, for short periods, or very often, throughout years and decades.

An Open Letter to No One

I am writing this to you because….

I want you to know that I am sorry.  I hope you never feel what I am feeling right now. What I have felt in the past few months. I have depression. Sometimes it brings up anxiety attacks, but for the most part, this letter is about my depression. I call my depression, the Devil Depression on my shoulder.

I hope you never meet the DD personally, but you’ve met him through me. I try to put on a brave smile and pretend that nothing is happening. I was afraid if I was open and honest with you, you may not understand it and think that I was over reacting or worse yet, that I was seeking attention. I hide my depression because I’m afraid of being judged as terminally sad or worse yet, crazy.

Let me explain something about my depression and depression in general. It’s not about being sad all the time. It’s like this huge chasm in front of me that I can’t see a way around or over. I end up crying when no one is looking wondering why is this happening to me? I’m not like this. I love to smile and laugh. My brain gets overpowered by the DD and sometimes a good cry will clear him away for a bit. Sometimes it takes a day or two. But I have always been able to make him shut the fuck up and let me live.

I wish I could show you that sometimes I can’t control the DD. I wish I could be as happy and focused and see things as they are. You make things look so fucking simple and I struggle like a mother fucker. When I look at you, I see a confident, amazing, beautiful human being. When I look in the mirror, I see a useless human being.

You may want to know what made me depressed. I don’t have an answer. I can trace it back to my tweenage years when my father drank and things were said to me that crushed my beliefs in myself. I don’t know. I didn’t ask to be depressed. I didn’t fill out a form when puberty hit and checked off body hair, periods, acne and oh fuck it, let’s throw in depression for the total package.

I worry that I can be a burden to you. An albatross around the neck so to speak. I don’t want you to become tired of me being like this. I’m honestly tired of me being like this. I’m afraid of burning out the relationship between us. I don’t want to burden you with the emotions I am feeling and don’t want to be unfair to you. I try to take this on all by myself, but sometimes the weight is too much for me to bare. I’m afraid if I speak to anyone, I’ll burst into tears. Sometimes it’s all I can do to hold it together.

But that’s not what I want you to see. Me; trying to hold it together and not fall apart. I want you to see that I am a fighter. That I am determined. That I am brave. Yes, brave. I may not seem the heroic type of person, but I am fighting this battle harder than I ever had. I’m just starting to tell people that I have depression. I’m tired of people thinking that my resting bitch face is a permanent look for me. It’s not. Sometimes I have to pretend I’m okay when I’m not. I want you to understand that I don’t like pretending and often it’s very very hard to keep that up.

I want you to know that I am sorry for the times I have been curt and spiteful and just a straight out bitch. My words were cutting and blind and uncalled for. I’m sorry for the times when you were trying to support me and show me all the good around me and I took those kind words and allowed the DD to twist those words into negativity in my mind. I am sorry.

 

 

I wish you didn’t have to deal with this; Ironically, you seem to feel the same way about me. So this is a learning process for both of us. I promise to keep trying to find new ways to cope with my anxiety. In return, I simply ask that you keep being my friend, even if don’t always deserve it. Friendships like ours are often what keep my head just above the water. And that means everything to me.

 

The hardest part of having depression is thinking I could handle it myself. But I can’t. I need help. Those three words were hard for me to say up until recently. I thought I could do this all on my own, that needing help meant I was weak and a failure at handling my life.  I had to admit to myself that I was okay, when deep down I knew I wasn’t. And that is a scary thought.

I will be fighting this fight my whole life. There is no cure for depression. There are only ways to deal with it. I have to learn how I deal with it when the DD comes to roost on my shoulder again. I have brought you into this fight with me maybe not by choice. I love that you want to fight with me and be there to hear me out and be blunt and honest. And I will completely understand if you want to walk away from it. I will love you no less than I do at this moment.