Posted in Anxiety and Experience

Depression and Other Magic Tricks

Depression and anxiety present themselves differently for everyone and people learn how to cope on their own terms. For some people, they can function fairly well without the need for assistance. For others, they completely shut down while they are in a depressive episode. It took going to therapy and doing my own research to discover that one does not need to be able to accomplish everything at 100% to get by. Some of the hardest things I find to do while I am in a seriously depressed or anxious state is to get myself up out of bed, showered, and properly fed. I learned over the years that if you cannot bring yourself to do the full things that there are tips to getting by.

On days where I know I have somewhere I have to go and must look presentable such as work or a family function, but I just cannot bare the thought of taking a full shower, I know that I can use dry shampoo on my hair. I know that I can use wipes for a quick wash on the face and body to freshen up. I may not be able to bring myself to brush my teeth but I know that if I bring a travel size tooth brush with me I may feel pressured to brush my teeth once I am around people. I may not look perfect but my hair will be brushed and off my face, my face wiped clean, and it will help me to feel a bit better.

For days that I cannot bring myself to eat a full meal, the effort of having to cook seems too daunting or overwhelming, I have learned to snack. I make sure I bring with me granola bars, fruit, or trail mix. Something easy to munch on that will be easy to eat on the go. I keep snacks in my drawer at work so that if I finally do get hungry I have something easy that I can grab. The healthier the options you put aside for later, the better you will feel in the moment when you actually need to get into that stash.

Finally, the best thing I ever did for myself was a pack a “walking pharmacy”. In this pouch I have packed everything that I could possibly need on a weekly/monthly basis including medications, band aids, a nail kit, ear plugs, a tangle teaser or fidget cube, chapstick, and wipes. Knowing that if I ever get an upset stomach or a headache I have the medications that I need on hand is a big relief. I may not need every single thing in that pouch every single day, but I have used it long enough to know that eventually through out the month myself or someone around me will need something from that pouch. It helps ease me during really anxious days because I know right where everything is and it is small enough that I can move it to whatever bag I am using. **For more information, Pretty Neat Living on YouTube.com has a whole slew of videos on the subject which was my inspiration**

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Posted in Live a Thousand Lives: Read

National Book Lovers Day: My Bookshelf

In honor of yesterday being National Book Lovers day (August 9th), I thought I would make a list of some of my current favorite books and authors with summaries. So if you see something that interests you, feel free to add it to your “to read” pile!

1. Tuesday’s with Morrie by Mitch Albom

“Morrie is an extremely lovable college professor who—in his late sixties—finds out that he is dying. The story of his last few weeks on earth is told by Mitch, one of Morrie’s former students, who happens to bump into him during his final days.”

2. The Grave Series by Darynda Jones

Charley sees dead people. That’s right, she sees dead people. And it’s her job to convince them to “go into the light.” But when these very dead people have died under less than ideal circumstances (i.e., murder), sometimes they want Charley to bring the bad guys to justice. Complicating matters are the intensely hot dreams she’s been having about an Entity who has been following her all her life…and it turns out he might not be dead after all. In fact, he might be something else entirely.

3. Cell by Stephen King

Cell is an apocalyptic horror novel by American author Stephen King, published in 2006. The story follows a New England artist struggling to reunite with his young son after a mysterious signal broadcast over the global cell phone network turns the majority of his fellow humans into mindless vicious animals.

4. The Tea Rose by Jennifer Donnelly

The Tea Rose is a towering old-fashioned story, imbued with a modern sensibility, of a family’s destruction, of murder and revenge, of love lost and won again, and of one determined woman’s quest to survive and triumph. “

5. Speak by Laurie Anderson

After a blurred trauma over the summer, Melinda enters high school a selective mute. Struggling with school, friends, and family, she tells the dark tale of her experiences, and why she has chosen not to speak. In the book Speak, by Laurie Halse Anderson, Melinda Sordino is forced into the worst year of her life.

She also followed this up with a book about her own traumatic experience that was the spark of inspiration for Speak, called Shout.

6. Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling

Harry Potter is a series of fantasy novels written by British author J. K. Rowling. The novels chronicle the lives of a young wizard, Harry Potter, and his friends Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley, all of whom are students at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.”

7. The Border Chronicles by Bertrice Small

“The Border Chronicles” is a series that was written by Bertrice Small, an author of historical romance and erotica, that has appeared on many different best seller lists in her long career. She is also considered the queen of historical fiction, and writes with an erotica and earthy style. The series takes place in the English and Scottish borderlands before and during the Tudors period.”

8. Unf*ck Your Habitat:You’re better than your mess by Rachel Hoffman

Interspersed with lists and challenges, this practical, no-nonsense advice relies on a 20/10 system (20 minutes of cleaning followed by a 10-minute break; no marathon cleaning allowed) to help you develop lifelong habits. It motivates you to embrace a new lifestyle in manageable sections so you can actually start applying the tactics as you progress. For everyone stuck between The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up andAdulting, this philosophy is more realistic than aspirational, but the goal is the same: not everyone will have a showcase of a home, but whatever your habitat, you deserve for it to bring you happiness, not stress.

9. Stalking Jack the Ripper by Keri Maniscalco

Presented by James Patterson’s new children’s imprint, this deliciously creepy horror novel has a storyline inspired by the Ripper murders and an unexpected, blood-chilling conclusion. Against her stern father’s wishes and society’s expectations, Audrey often slips away to her uncle’s laboratory to study the gruesome practice of forensic medicine. When her work on a string of savagely killed corpses drags Audrey into the investigation of a serial murderer, her search for answers brings her close to her own sheltered world.

10. The Stranger Beside Me by Ann Rule

“The Stranger Beside Me is a 1980 autobiographical and biographical true crime book written by Ann Rule about the serial killer Ted Bundy, whom she knew personally before and after his arrest for a series of murders.

Posted in Anxiety and Experience

What Tubing Taught Me About Control

I find water in all its forms (lakes, rivers, rain, puddles, waterfalls) to be comforting and calming. I grew up on the water, always swimming and kayaking in the river by my cabin or at local lakes. However, I have not experienced being on a tube while floating on a river since I was a kid, years before I was diagnosed with a panic disorder. Since it is summer time and I enjoy river outings, I figured I would give it a shot and I learned quite a lot about myself and my anxiety along the way.

This trip in total without any stops would take roughly 3.5 hours to complete. I fet relatively comfortable because I knew what to expect and had packed accordingly. I made sure to have all of the belongings that I wanted with me in a waterproof pouch so as to avoid any mishaps if I fell in or something got wet. I made sure to pack food and beverages to snack on along the way. I had lathered myself in sunscreen, put on my bathing suit, and was on my way.

What I had not taken into consideration since I am so used to being on a kayak in the river, is that when you are on a tube you cannot steer yourself. You have to kind of give yourself over to the river and go with the flow, which meant that I was constantly having to push off of trees, I was floating backwards and unable to see where I was going, and I would get stuck on rocks and logs that were hard to see in the water.

I had not realized just how out of control I would be on this trip and I had to learn to just sit back and enjoy the ride because it was just me and this tube floating on the river for the next 3 hours. I could not turn back and change my mind. I had to learn to cope on the spot and make the best of it. So I settled in, I opened a beverage, I let my hands and feet dangle in the water, and tried to go with the flow.

Now I will say that I enjoyed myself on this trip. Water to me is therapy. I find the sounds and smells comforting and calming. I enjoyed seeing the water pads with lilies on the sides of the river. I enjoyed seeing birds flying above me. I relished in the moments that the bridges and trees shaded me from the sun and gave me a moment to cool down.

However, I also realized that though I made it through this adventure and had fun along the way, the next river trip I do I will definitely prefer to be in a kayak. It is good to step outside of your comfort zone so that you can learn new things about yourself.

Posted in Anxiety and Experience

PTSD and Me: Triggers

*Trigger Warning: this post is going to discuss mental health and disorders, and potentially triggering descriptions of physical abuse. Please read at your own discretion**
Roughly 4 years ago I was diagnosed with PTSD which stands for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, along with also having a panic disorder and Agoraphobia. What exactly is PTSD? Most commonly known due to soldiers coming back from the war “shell shocked”, people are frequently intrigued to discover that it is not just war that can trigger PTSD.
PTSD is defined as:

post-trau·mat·ic stress dis·or·der

noun: post-traumatic stress disorder;

noun: post-traumatic stress syndrome

  1. a condition of persistent mental and emotional stress occurring as a result of injury or severe psychological shock, typically involving disturbance of sleep and constant vivid recall of the experience, with dulled responses to others and to the outside world.

And for inquiring minds, Agoraphobia is defined as:

ag·o·ra·pho·bi·a

noun
  1. extreme or irrational fear of entering open or crowded places, of leaving one’s own home, or of being in places from which escape is difficult.

My diagnosis came after several events that occurred in my life, some mental and some physical, that left lasting impressions on me such as physical and mental abuse. While the event that I will be discussing is not the initial reason that I was diagnosed with PTSD, after going through counseling and researching my condition thoroughly, I have learned how to spot some of my triggers when other traumatic events have occurred.

One event in particular stands out because every single time I smell oranges, my mind is brought right back to the events that occurred. Let me take you on a journey through one of the hardest jobs I have ever had. I worked as a temporary para pro in a disability classroom, working one on one with a Deaf and autistic student. This student was nonverbal, had very low communication abilities with sign language, and was prone to outbursts of rage where they would tear apart books, rip back packs in half, rip bookshelves down, and if allowed to become frustrated enough would self harm by punching their head and face. I was well aware of the risks involved when working with this type of student and felt equipped to handle the task.

However, I did not realize that constantly being on edge and wondering if/when the student would lash out had put me in a constant state of fight or flight. At least once a day help was needed to be called because the student was a threat to themselves and/or others. The one thing that seemed to calm them down almost instantly though was oranges. They loved to sit and smell the orange peels, pick and stab their thumb nails into the peel, and eat the fruit. The mix of the citrus smell and the texture of the peel was calming to the student. So in the midst of trying to calm this student down, dealing with the screaming/hitting/biting/object throwing, etc. I also found myself peeling open oranges, getting the citrus peel under my nails, and squirting my shirt with droplets of juice.

One day, however, I was in the wrong place at the wrong time and no amount of coaxing or soothing I did would settle the student. They became so enraged that when I went to hand them orange slices, they grabbed me by my arm and ripped me across their desk, spraining my shoulder. I was so shocked and so desperate to get out of harms way that I did not even notice I had damaged my shoulder until the adrenaline rush wore off. I ended up in a sling and had to go to physical therapy for a few weeks.

I do not blame the student. That was a risk that is always present when working in that sort of environment. However, no matter how much rationalizing I use, when I smell or taste oranges, my mind goes right back to that classroom. I can still see the students wild eyes as I stood across the table from them. I can still feel their hands on my arm as they dragged me across that table. I can be sitting on my couch at home, peeling an orange for breakfast, completely safe and sound. But my mind will still be flashing back to a time when I felt absolutely terrified. That is PTSD.

Posted in About the Author

The Battle of the Bulge: Dairy Edition

For most of my teenage and young adult years, I have struggled with controlling my weight and have poorly managed stomach issues. I have gone to see specialist after specialist, with little to no relief. Yo-yo fad diets, quick fixes, and easy fast meals have led to my health declining in a very major way. After a visit to the E.R., another specialist, and further testing, I am beginning to see just how important proper nutrition plays a role in how I feel.

My GI specialist gave me a list of certain foods to try my best to eliminate or cut way back on from my diet. Top of the list was dairy products, fruits high in sugar, and gluten. So I set out on a mission on my next grocery trip to really take the time to inspect the nutrition labels of common foods I had been mindlessly buying and consuming. I was shocked by how many things contain unnecessary added sugars, dairy, and dyes. It took me a while to find healthier alternatives and I cannot say I did perfectly. There are some things that I could not easily find an alternative for but I did the best I could this time around.

A couple things I figured I would give a try include but are not limited to:

-Almond “milk” creamer

-Lactose free milk

-Almond milk cream “cheese” spread

-Just Egg (Plant Based Egg Replacement)

-Lactose free vanilla Activia Yogurt

-Gluten free pasta

-Veggie pasta

-Dairy free edible cookie dough dessert

-Strawberry Poppyseed dressing

Just Egg plant based, after being scrambled. Looks pretty close to real eggs. Added pepper and garlic powder for taste, and really could not taste a difference.

Now of course, moderation is key here. I am learning to retrain my brain and my body that less is really more. I am retraining my taste buds to foods that only have naturally occurring sugars or very small quantities of processed sugars instead of the normal heaps of processed sugars I am used to. I am taking small steps to learn the correct portion size for things (pasta has been the hardest!). I have also learned that using smaller plates and bowls makes the portion size look bigger and I am left more satisfied. A lot of it is in the mind.

For me, I still do not have a lot of answers for what is going on in my stomach. I am by no means an expert. I still consume meat and dairy and processed sugar when I know I should not be consuming as much as I do. I am still struggling with my body weight. But I know that every little bit counts and the more I work on making small changes every day, I will see improvements. I can already tell that my stomach pain has lessened removing regular dairy milk and creamer from my diet.

**Before starting any major diet/food change be sure to consult your doctor and research what is best for you and your health needs. The goal is not perfection here. The goal is just looking and feeling better.**

Posted in Anxiety and Experience

Hello Coffee,

I delicately blow on the steam rising from my mug before taking a tentative sip, letting the burning liquid slide across my tongue and swirl around before I swallow. Gripping the mug with one hand, a distraction to keep me from picking at my fingers. A moment of silence, giving me time to think and collect my words before I am forced to respond. Getting my thoughts together, calming my racing pulse, and another tentative sip. Drinking is not out of character for me. They will not notice that my mind is racing, so long as I grip this mug and sip this amber liquid, able to get away with being quiet while drinking this liquid, under the guise of being tired. One sip, a sigh, another blow on the steam. I am able to focus on the feel of the mug, the smooth texture underneath my thumb as I grip the bottom. Focus on the feel of the warm liquid touching my lips, my tongue, and sliding down my throat. Count the bubbles that were created by the cream.

Voices swirl around me, laughter and jokes, yet I sit here stone cold. Withdrawn. A fake smirk plastered on my lips. My voice comes out as almost a whisper, raspy, and controlled. Every word heavy on my tongue. One deep breath, followed by another, in through the nose and out through the mouth. One sip, followed by another, the liquid slowly warming me up from the inside out. I sip and I stew, swirling the liquid in my mug as the thoughts turn over and over in my mind. I pull at the liquid, every drop, until I have drained the mug of its contents. The empty bottom reminding me of just how hollow I feel.

Posted in About the Author, Anxiety and Experience

The House I Built…

I got very good at letting my feelings fester and rot inside of me. My tongue punctured and scarred from biting down to keep from letting the words come bubbling out from my raw vocal chords that spent too many hours silently screaming.

I became a builder of my own solitary confinement. Brick by brick I built walls around myself to protect, to block, and to surround myself with something familiar yet solid. I built a house full of empty promises and lies to soothe my shattered confidence, screaming into every corner and crack, hoping the foundation would be strong enough to hold up my secrets. Keeping everyone else on the outside at a comfortable distance, close but not quite letting them see inside to the wobbly foundation that I had perched my house on. A careful balance of tip toeing back and forth to keep the walls upright.

I learned that so long as you smile, just a little smirk will do, people will find your “I’m fine” more believable. The smile does not even have to reach the eyes. So a deep breath and a smile would get me through this moment, and onto the next five minutes, and the next. Until I could spare a moment to myself to finally let out a heavy sigh and relax my face. With the drop of my shoulders, it feels like the whole facade drops and the foundation of my house shakes. But the walls quickly go back up, the smile put back in place, and on to try to get through the next 5 minutes, and then the next.

Some days I feel my emotions come pouring in and out of me like waves, washing over me in brilliant blue hues and deep dark greens. Other days, I feel uncomfortably numb, like I am standing barefoot in sheets of grayish snow. I feel as though I am not in control of this body, but merely an observer looking out. A well worn traveler with no destination, wandering aimlessly for meaning and creature comfort.

My body is an open book of scars and tattoos, showcasing my journey from self destructive injury to comfortable self acceptance. If not quite love then at least likability in my own skin. My broken and chewed nails showcase my anxiety, the nail punctures on my palms my struggle to keep balanced. My chewed and bloody lips a testament to my inner battle, a desire to keep in the words that so desperately want to come pouring out of me. I am at odds with myself, craving to be positive and happy yet my mind wading into dark waters. I endlessly float in a sea of happiness that I cannot seem to baptize myself in, forever lapping at the shore to be bounced back out to the depressive sea again.

But I always come back home, to my walls of brick and ink. The walls covered with my stories and insecurities, wrapping me in a dark quiet, waiting for the day I can pull the blinds back and let the sun shine in through the cracks. In the corner I sit, wave after wave crashing over me and into me, the pain absorbing into my bones until I ache. Soft music playing, my security blanket, blocking out the noise from the outside.