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Traffic Cones & Mortification

Driving kids to school can be stressful, but when you run over the school’s cones and have the police officer directing traffic shame you, it really brings that stress level to a plummeting despair.

No joke, my husband calls me Cruella Deville.  It’s not because I’m a bad driver; it’s because when we dated I drove a 1968 VW bug and hunched over the steering wheel.  But back to those school cones. 

I didn’t even see them.  I was completely in my row.  But next thing I know I hear a small thud and the officer, who I used to admire and think was a badass, gave me the worst grumpy grandpa look of shame you could ever imagine.  I rolled down my window and tried to apologize, but if you know how car drop off works, there is no slowing down for a sincere apology.  And at that point his red impatient face wasn’t going to accept it. 

I kept driving, and all I could feel was complete remorse, guilt and of course embarrassment.  I really am a good driver!  And just because I almost was in an awful car crash the day before doesn’t mean that I am one who disregards traffic laws, or school cones.  Truthfully the mortification came in tears.  One small incident brought my morning down. 

When fighting depression, in particular, even the smallest situation that is inconsequential to our lives can put us in a downward spiral.  The process? self-doubt, blame, inner hatred, and then believing all the lies that come from that dark place in our heads. That subconscious part that fights with us all the time. 

How do we overcome that feeling of worthlessness?  

  1.  Reflection.  Take a moment in the midst of the negative self-talk, and ask yourself some questions.  Why does it matter so much?  Am I a bad driver?  Does Badass Officer’s judgment of my action need to be taken so personally?
  • Answer a few of those questions. I liked the officer and having his disapproval makes me sad.  Sometimes I can be careless while driving.  The officer’s reaction was justified, and I don’t have to hold on to all the embarrassment and shame of running over a few cones. 
  • Remind yourself that it’s okay not to be perfect.  No one is perfect.  Mistakes are made daily.  And you bet your tushy that someone else has run over those cones and got the same mean, gruff disapproval from the same officer.
  • Take a few deep breathes. Breathing deep is cleansing and can give you a fresh start through the day.
  • And most importantly, once you acknowledge that yeah you made a mistake, the officer had a right to be mad, and there’s room for improvement, then forgive yourself.

So even when your day gets overloaded, thrown off schedule, or down right down, do that reflecting, breathing and forgiving because a few cones shouldn’t ruin your whole day.

Uncertain

Covid-19 has affected my Mental health. As I’m sure it has everyone else’s.

I’ve had a rough go this last month.  It’s come in phases of course.  First knowing the disease hit the United States, a shock.  I guess I thought we were impenetrable?  Not likely, but reality hit.  We read about hundreds of people infected in Italy.  Then it came to my family’s state, my state.  Next thing we know schools are closed for a few weeks.  No big deal really because spring break was happening anyway.  Then no sports…now this has been the hardest.  It’s our favorite time of the year: baseball tournaments, softball games, soccer games, dance recitals.  Then instead of a few weeks of no school, now school was cancelled for the year.  Jobs have become insecure.  Businesses have been closing.  And hundreds of thousands of people aren’t just sick but dying. 

The stress is insurmountable.  And then we, or at least me, feel helpless.  Stuck at home.  Trying to teach your kids is not easy, trying to run your household and teach your kids is even harder. The struggle is real.

Then the grocery stores.  It brings tears to my eyes to see lines into stores, masks on everyone, shields on each register.  And the fear and uncertainty are just palpable.  Trying to make sure all the groceries get wiped down before the kids touch them all is another challenge; I have not mastered at all.  I figure we are just doing the best we can.  At least I can feed my family.

Another heartbreaker is walking through our neighborhood.  Mostly it seems empty or just not as friendly—we all are guarding our kids, ourselves. 

Listening to news, debates of what is best and how to do it.  How each person is handling stay at home orders ranges from strict to careless.  Leadership from state to state and federal haven’t become unified, it’s all still a pollical game. 

We have essential workers who are out in this daily, doing the best they can.  People who are trapped inside doing the best they can. 

And then within a month, we think we can move on.  The ride might not be over just yet.  As we finish out this year, it’s imperative to create a schedule that is realistic while stuck at home. What works for you and your family?  What makes it easier for everyone?  Focus on spending time together, makings some meals, creating some art and some memories. e’ll get through this one day at a time until hopefully, a vaccine is created.  

What is a Brain-Break?

Learning to extend our level of patience takes practice. Anxiety, mood disorders and depression can make this seem like an impossible task. No worries, depression can lie to us a lot. Part of my journey to healing from depression has been learning how to tell myself which things are true and which things are lies. Patience is something that is possible to gain. We can put in effort and lots of trying to achieve this. And no, this doesn’t mean we have to endure things that cause stress, annoyance or even trama. It’s actually the opposite.

First, I find my triggers, the things that irritate me or make me lose it. Sometimes these are extremely obvious. Other times it may take some tracking of what makes me upset and when I get upset. There are times these outbursts aren’t related, and because of this I have had to do some real thinking. Asking myself why somethings bother me more than others gives me a chance to self evaluate what causes me to want to yell, feel overwhelmed, hopeless, or out of control. When that why is answered, I can usually start working on pinpointing the triggers. For example, I have a very difficult time with my messy house. I like it to look perfect. I can’t always make it that way because of four specific reasons (children). But it’s not just huge messes, or when the house is in need of a deep cleaning. All of which is understandable. But I get high anxiety when there are small messes. Or when anyone comes over. These have been a source of extreme panic attacks. Asking myself why has helped me really understand that I have post trauma from growing up in a hording household. Figuring out the triggers are the first step in knowing how to handle the affects.

Once I have figured out a trigger or two. (I have more than that, but starting small is good.) I can then know when I need to take brain-breaks. A brain-break is an easy trick word to help my family and myself know when mom’s having a hard time copying. The thing with depression is that one trigger can cause a chain reaction. Learning to catch yourself before the fuse is lit helps that chain reaction to dissipate or not even start in the first place. Our brains need healing, they need rest, and a time-out. A brain-break gives me time to step back before things get too hard. Or even if I have started the chain reaction, it gives me time to back off, say I’m sorry I need to take a brain-break, and then come back calmer and able to communicate in a positive, healthy way.

Brain-Breaks can consist of anything that helps you to recuperate, to lessen stress levels, or gives you alone time. Here are a few examples I use regularly:

  • Step Away–leaving the room or situation until everyone has cooled down or until you feel calm. This can be your room, bathroom, or even a quick drive in the car.
  • Deep Breathing–this is not just a few breaths in and out. This requires time to focus and fill your stomach and whole body with air, as deep as you can. Then slowly releasing. Look into Erica Ziel at https://www.ericaziel.com. She has some amazing podcasts with deep breathing exercises.
  • Positive Affirmations–have your list of positive saying. If you haven’t created one, this is a good reminder to set some time aside to write a few up. These are good to read when you need to center yourself. Adding positive words and thoughts into our self-talk can be a huge help.
  • Asking Reflective Questions–Asking ourselves why helps us stop battling that subconcious brain of ours. Reasoning and reflection can help us see where we can improve.
  • Grounding–plant feet solid on the ground. Then identify one thing you can smell and hear.
  • Gratitude–name five things you’re grateful for.
  • Naps/Relax–sometimes some sleep or rest is what needs to happen for us to feel refreshed and renewed.

Brain-breaks may need to be discussed with your family so a plan of action can take place. If there is a partner who can help facilitate time for you, this can make things a lot easier. If you are solo, some of these brain-breaks can be done with your kids. All of you do it together, or decide you all need to stop whatever is causing extreme stress and take that brain-break. Defining ahead of time what your goal is, why it is important to have time to calm down, and knowing when it is most effective to use, can really help minimize the toxic aftermath of falling apart.

Bag of Tricks

With having depression or any mental illness it becomes vital to have a few tools that can be easily accessed to help in times of chaos. What some people don’t understand about mental illness is that even if you choose to take medication, you aren’t healed. Medication, most often than not, helps with the symptoms of depression. They also can help to level different chemicals. But, we still have to work at our healing, just as someone may need rehabilitation after a surgery; we need to practice healthy ways of thinking. To improve ourselves, our lives, and the lives of those we love, learning tricks helps us deal with the ups and downs and promotes a healthier way of living for us and our families.

Figuring out what triggers, or starts, a hard, sad day or moment will give us a reference point to work with. For example: if loud noise is a sensory reaction for me, I need to take note of this. Maybe most of the day, loudness doesn’t bother me because kids can play outside, I have more patience, or maybe I can handle loud bouts in short periods. But if at night the loudness of the children, music, or shows start to bring anxiety, I need to write this down as a top trigger. It may take some trial and error to figure out the top triggers. It can become frustrating when we aren’t sure what’s making us lose control. In this case if you have no idea what is making you angry, please call your doctor. I had to get on medication before I could even start to find triggers. My anger levels and anxiety were so high I was living in high stress constantly, so I couldn’t feel any warning from my body.

After finding triggers, then you can move onto a plan and tricks. Plans sometimes need to be adjusted so that they work easily with routines and schedules in your life. If you are one who can’t handle big messes like decorating gingerbread houses or eggs around holidays. Plan it with friends or family that can handle that kind of chaos. The planning is to help eliminate the extra stress that triggers our depression. So, a strategy I use in the evening is that it’s quiet after 7:30. If we are playing board games, we keep our voices down. If we are watching a movie we don’t blast the volume. Music needs to be more calming or earbuds used. You get the picture. I have come to know that my brain can’t process excessive noise in the evening. My kids say I’m just old, and though there is truth there, it is also the way my anxiety and stress work in my body. I have been able to self-regulate all day, but once I’m tired it’s harder on my body. My trick is telling my kids that I am hulking out, or I feel the hulk transforming. They like Marvel and the reference is a perfect visual of how I feel with too much noise. It also reminds me that I have a breaking point. Knowing what plan I have put in place (quiet after 7:30), I can then give reminders (these are your tricks). Make sure your trick is something that helps you, your kids and family understand that you are close to losing it.

Identifying Triggers, coming up with a plan and having a trick can really improve our interactions with our family. Track your irritabilities, sadness, and anger. Then take time to see what can help limit some of these feelings. The feelings are going to happen, this is not pushing things under the rug, but we want to minimize the emotional ups and downs around them. After you have both the trigger and a plan, come up with a key word as a reminder for both you and your family. Your survival bag will eventually be full of some tricks to alleviate your stress.

Shake Up Your Life

How to change your own perspective:

Depression has stigmas in society. Yes, we’re trying to change them, but they are there. Instead of letting those stigmas affect you, start thinking of how your situation has benefitted you and those around you. It’s easy to see all the negativity with depression. It is a hard illness and can leave you and family at a loss. But once you seek professional help and start to heal and start to manage your life, you will see the blessings because of the struggles you’ve been through.

1. Depression Does Not Define You

Just because you either deal with depression or because you have dealt with it doesn’t mean it is the only thing that makes you, you. Learning skills, coping mechanisms and ways to be more positive have made you a stronger individual. We all need ways to build confidence in our lives, so be grateful that you’ve learned these even if it may have taken depression to get you to learn the devices you’ve needed to build a better you.

2. Affirmations and Gratitude

For me, it has taken depression to really make me realize I don’t want to be in a dark and lonely place. But I also know it is something that happens to all of us. I have also learned that I can practice daily things that will help lessen the dark and the loneliness. Everyday, I try really hard, I have a list of positive affirmations that I read. These help center me and remind me what my focus on life is. Also numbering the things in my life that are blessings or that bring me joy help me know that life is good. Even when days get hard and my depression is stronger or my anxiety is higher these small practices help make the day a little brighter.

3. Time For Me

For many people they may have learned that time for themselves was important way before something tragic came to their lives. But for me, I didn’t understand that I needed breaks and time apart from everyone until PPD. After my depression got really bad, I started to realize that I needed time to myself. At first I would feel guilty about this, but with encouragement from my husband, I started to learn that this was essential in my health. My brain needs breaks, it gives it time to heal from the stress I feel. And it’s okay for me to get these moments daily so that I can be a better mom and a better person.

So as much as I would like to have never encountered depression, the truth is…it’s helped me become a better me. I have had to seek out help; I’ve had to step out of my comfort zone and allow others to support me when times were hard. And as I have gained more understanding of what I need to do so that I can function, I have learned that me, being me is a great thing, even with depression.

#perspective#mentalhealthawareness#despression

Motherhood and Mental Illness

My Deck of Cards

Be yourself; Everyone else is already taken.

— Oscar Wilde.

Life is hard.  Add children to the deck and the chances of that life getting easier is lowered, but add mental illness and the odds are your hand is not going to win you the deluxe simple life you’ve been known to day dream about.  Come lay down your bets as you read how the every day gamble of crazy versus calm is played in A Life to Love.