What Meditation Can do for Your Mental Health

fea57484e69fcaf7d41d81031a350230.jpg

Meditation is an interesting concept.

Reaching a calm spot in your mind can be hard, especially if life is busy. Your mind is racing with thoughts and slowing down can seem almost impossible.

There are meditation apps on both Apple and Android platforms, even on YouTube. It’s up to you. I prefer an app, Insight Timer. I like the selections- some are led by a person, some use music. I prefer the person.

I started meditating as part of running a group at a former job. I got really into the quiet time to gather my thoughts and just relax. Everyone knew that was my group. The patients also loved it- the group was usually packed.

I’ve gotten out of the habit and need to restart.

Less than five minutes can change your whole day.

Feeling Good All Over

Meditation can help your mind get into a better place, which can help the rest of your body.

How can you get to that place?

  • Find a comfortable space. I prefer sitting on my bed or couch, but this is entirely up to you. Some like sitting on a yoga mat on the floor as part of a yoga practice. It’s all about what makes you comfortable.
  • Quiet is a must. It is hard to meditate if there is a lot of noise in the room you are in, so try to find a good time/place to try this. It can be an almost impossibility with children, pets and/or other people, events, etc, but it’s possible.
  • Do you need a timer? Some do, some don’t. I’ve tried untimed and timed, and I prefer timed. Otherwise, my mind tends to wander off and it defeats the purpose.
  • It’s okay if your mind wanders. If you’ve never tried meditating before or you are coming back to it, your mind will tend to wander. It’s natural. It’s hard at first to let your mind just be. If you’re listening to meditation with words, it can be hard to listen to and connect to the meditation. This is why I suggest short ones at first. As you get deeper into practice, you can work up to longer ones, if you decide it is for you. Everyone has different needs and preferences.
  • Don’t force it. Meditation isn’t for everyone. If it isn’t for you, you will realize it.

Calm sky

Meditation can help you in the following ways:

  • concentration
  • relaxation- as you meditate, your breathing slows and deepens, helping you relax. Also, your mind clears. This is helpful in many situations.
  • pain management- keeping your mind off severe pain, even if for a short while
  • anger management- thinking through things before adverse actions, using relaxing breaths
  • stressful situations/anxiety
  • can help children and adults
  • sleep

Self-care is vitally important. I’ve covered this topic many times on this blog. It’s not just a passing fad or something to do when we’re bored or just when we have time, but something we should find time to do every day, even if it’s just five minutes. I entirely need to get better on the meditation- I love it. It helps me center my thoughts for the day. Restarting an old habit can be a pain sometimes. How do you do it?

For further reading:

Self-Care Isn’t Just Bubble Baths

Alone Time Is A Wonderful Thing

Is It Time for A (Mental Health) Break?

Book Review: “Fall to Pieces”

I love to read memoirs. For some reason, I really enjoy reading memoirs of those with addiction, and this was before my drinking became a problem. I’ve read “Life” by Keith Richards, which was fantastic but took three weeks because it’s over 500 pages.

I’ve also read Nikki Sixx’s book, “The Heroin Diaries”. It was a bit wild, but still very interesting. I’m just waiting for a member of Fleetwood Mac to come out with their memoirs. If anyone knows of one, please let me know.

I”ve read “Fall to Pieces” before, but it was a bit different re-reading it this time. This book was written by Mary Forsberg Weiland, the first wife of Scott Weiland.

He was the lead singer for Stone Temple Pilots, one of the best rock bands of the 90s. If you’re too young to know who this band is, you might want to go on YouTube. They were a great band. Scott died in December 2015, unfortunately from an overdose.

Book cover

The book opens with a very descriptive explanation of her childhood in California, a bit in New Jersey after her mom’s remarriage and, of course, when she met Scott.

Mary also became a model while moving around and became quite successful while still a teen. She also met her best friends during this time. She became friends with Anthony Kiedis, lead singer of Red Hot Chili Peppers. They have remained friends for many years.

It wasn’t until I read Scar Tissue, his autobiography, that I understood all the while Anthony was being my true friend, his own soul was being badly shaken.”

This stood out. We don’t always know what our friends are going through, much less anyone else. People hide things but still make things look at least bearable. I’ve been there for my friends through their own issues but yet struggling through my own.

The story of her relationship and later, marriage, with Scott, is so well detailed. She tells of the good, bad and in between. They were together off and on nearly a decade before marrying, and they had two kids together- a daughter and a son.

During this time, Mary drank and used a lot of substances. She knew it wasn’t the best way to live, but it took multiple attempts to finally stop using.

Mary also has had a long battle with bipolar disorder, possibly beginning when she was a teen. It’s hard for her or anyone else to know. She wasn’t diagnosed until well into adulthood, and this is well documented in the book. She struggled to accept this diagnosis along with being an addict.

Many people with either issue do. I will say she is being treated and is sober, but I won’t spoil the ending for you on how she got there.

Mary shared a quote from a community college class:

“In recovery, we look for progress, not perfection.”

Collage 2018-04-15 14_57_12.jpg

This is very accurate. Nobody is perfect, and anyone recovering from any kind of addiction certainly isn’t. Progress is what counts the most. It is not close to easy, and anyone who tells you it is- they are not entirely correct.

One of my best friends, Tyson, once asked me if I was okay while sitting at dinner and the talk to turned to beer for a while. I wasn’t a fan of beer to begin with, and he knows this, but he was making sure I wasn’t thinking about having a drink.

I wasn’t, but I am very grateful that he asked. It took a year before I could even go into a sports bar. “One day at a time” is the best quote I have ever heard that applies to recovery.

As many of us know, Scott and Mary did not work out (the section about the end of their marriage is a sad one) but they were able to co-parent, at least as of the writing of this book. I’m one of the millions of fans that were saddened to hear of Scott’s death. He was incredibly talented, like many others, but yet, he had an addiction that he was never quite able to end.

Pic courtesy of Google

The Deeper Thoughts of A Special Needs Mom

I’ve talked about Julian, and to a smaller extent, Lily, a lot. If you’ve missed Lily’s story, you can catch up in these stories:

Special Needs Round Two

Thoughts on a Second Diagnosis

It’s a lot to deal with. I didn’t wake up one day and wish for not one, but two kids with special needs plus a third with a heart condition. I promise you, I didn’t.

Cameron’s SVT is pretty much manageable, but it’s still super scary when your kid texts you at school because his heart feels funny and you’re a half-hour away trying to watch “The Act” with a friend. (I recommend that show if you’re ready to throw things at your TV.)

I’ve heard pretty much everything since I even had a thought that things weren’t 100% okay with Julian when he was somewhere around four years old. Lily was about a year when I noticed things were less than perfect with her development.

One of Matthew’s aunts hinted that having her three weeks early plus my heavy activity while I was pregnant with her might have led to her not doing what she should.

I almost punched her. Matthew grabbed our coats and we went for the door. Mama Bear was ready to roar.

Not long afterward, Lily was evaluated and of course, I didn’t do a single thing to cause her delays. She was born three weeks early, but that’s not early enough to cause the severe global delays she had. His aunt can go have several seats because Lily has since kicked her brothers’ butts in grades and speaks wonderfully. Two years of speech therapy will do that for you.

When you have a kid that consistently has meltdowns, tears your house apart, runs off in public and does other things that make people go “hmmm”, you’re going to hear a lot of different opinions. I heard almost everything before and after Julian’s diagnosis, even after I put him on meds, even from Matthew, which contributed to our marriage falling apart.

Sad

The Battle In My Mind

I heard a lot internally, also. This is the stuff that will rip you into shreds. It ripped me in half. I read books. I cried. I yelled. (I’m still working on this one, because, well, I’m not perfect.)

I talked to my mom, who understands Julian on a level that I am not sure I ever will. She says she was like him as a kid but didn’t have a mom that tried to understand her like I do Julian. Even though I worked with kids that were like him but bigger, I still didn’t get it. I was lost. So was he. I kept hearing these thoughts:

“You’re a terrible mom.”

You can’t handle Julian and Lily.”

The house is a mess and so are these kids.”

“You’re not good enough”

No wonder I was depressed, and Matthew wasn’t helping. I was trying to help Julian on my own. Lily had therapists left and right, and she did great in First Steps, but I was entirely on my own with Julian. I had some moral support on the bad days from friends and my mom, but I stopped going to Matthew because I knew I wouldn’t get it.

Julian finally got diagnosed in late 2011 and his evaluation was one of the best parenting decisions I’ve ever made. The story of that can be found in Looking at the Bright Side

Getting him on medication is a decision that I do not regret and to this day, I’m glad that I did. Some kids with severe ADHD can function well without meds and that’s great, but as of now, it just isn’t a possibility.

Maybe when Julian gets older, we can revisit meds, but for right now, I’m not willing to take him off. Clonidine is a great medication for impulse control and sleep- he has not been a great sleeper since he was a toddler, and whew, he needed something for impulse control.

Hearing From the Outside World

In the almost eight years since his diagnoses, I’ve heard so much, positive and negative about them. At this point, I’ve probably heard everything, so I no longer care. These are just a few that stick out:

“I’m sorry”- well, I’m not. I am not sorry that my son has an awesome brain that not a lot of us can understand. I would not change him, but I would change his struggles.

I couldn’t do it“- it’s not as hard as you think. Some people really are not meant to parent kids with special needs. If you watch the news, you can see this. Being the mom to two kids with special needs is hard.

It’s really hard when both have a rough day and all I want to do is cry. Instead, I just do my best and everyone goes to bed early. I have a support system that now includes Matthew, my mom, and great friends.

“He doesn’t look autistic”- this makes me want to punch people. First of all, there isn’t a “look” that people with autism have. They look like everyone else. Second, I’ve put years of hard work, money and my marriage on the line (right down to divorce papers) to make sure he is happy, medicated and has skills to live the best life he possibly can. Why wouldn’t I?

“Does he really need the meds?” This one was from my mother in law. She wouldn’t give him his meds on sleepovers but yet complained that Julian wouldn’t sleep. Matthew and I told her either stop complaining or give him his meds- guess who sleeps great now?

I don’t explain anymore to people why I decided on meds, I simply ask them if they want to come to my house on a day in which he hasn’t had meds in two days. (This is not a thing, by the way.)

“How do you do it?” This is annoying. I parent just like everyone else- I get out of bed and hope for the best. Honestly. Pepsi helps. Staying sober is a huge thing. When I was working with kids with developmental disabilities, I will admit, that was rough.

I would come home from a full day, sometimes 12 hours, then have to deal with Julian. (Lily was much easier.) I was mentally and physically drained a lot, and I almost asked to not go to those units, but I loved the work. I eventually transferred to one of those units about a year after Julian’s diagnoses.

At this point, I keep a consistent routine, both kids in their therapies, Julian’s medications consistent and just keep moving. Three kids is a bit of a circus without special needs, but having two with ADD, ADHD and autism is a whole different game.

It requires patience and empathy that I didn’t think I possessed, but here I am. Some days entirely suck, but then, I am dealing with two teens and a preteen.

“ADHD is not really a thing.” Okay then, please come clean Lily’s room, because she cannot without a list explicitly telling her what to do. I also have to take her tablet. She gets distracted so easily that I have to constantly check on her, which annoys her but the job gets done, right? Plus, come wake her up for school. No other explanation needed.

I’m already trying to figure out her morning routine for middle school because it will have be a lot different from the elementary school one.

If you want to experience it from Julian’s perspective, try being super smart, but bored as hell after you finish your work at school, even when the teacher offers you more stuff. Try being hyperfocused on things but not being able to finish them because you, like your sister, get distracted easily.

As a five-year-old, try running off in a parking lot after a bird and not realizing there are cars that can back out at any minute and hit you because all you want is that bird. Oh, and throw in autism. It’s a lot. I don’t know how Julian does it. He prefers to stay at home but will go out if there’s not a lot of people involved.

This stuff happens, everyone. I had to chase Julian through parking lots more than once because he darted off. He’s always been a fast runner. Luckily, he’s stopped this. Whew.

Even with meds, he struggles. They don’t cure ADHD, but they definitely help. I wasn’t looking for a cure- just something to help him not be so aggressive, impulsive, calm enough to sit and learn, and most importantly, sleep. As the years have passed, Julian has calmed down quite a bit, which is a bit of a relief.

Flower

A Few Kind Words

If you’re reading this and you’re not the parent of a special needs kid, please take this as what not to say to someone who is. There are other things you can say that are so much nicer, like:

  • “How is your child doing?”
  • “Is there anything I need to know or learn about your child’s diagnosis?”
  • “Let me know if you need to vent/get out/anything else” (this is so freaking important and believe me, we need this)
  • “You can do this.”
  • “How can we include your child?”
  • “Neat accessories”.. if they have them

These are just a few suggestions. I’ve had parents ask how they can accommodate Julian over the years on playdates and parties and I have appreciated this so much. My father in law has indulged his love for destroying things by bringing him things from his old workplace to take apart.

I’m just a mom, trying to get through parenting. It’s a weird world out there.

What annoying things have you heard while parenting? It doesn’t have to be special needs related, because every parent has heard something annoying. Feel free to share.

What You Can Do when Mental Health Affects Work

Part of adulting means working, for most of us.

Our careers are meant to give life a chunk of meaning, reflect part of who we are. For example, I chose psychology because I like helping people and I’m curious to know what causes (at least in part) why people do the things they do. My Career in Psychology reflects this choice and the different jobs that I have taken on this path. It’s been interesting. Real Stories of a (Former) Mental Health Worker is a slightly funnier reflection on the best job I have ever had. If you’ve worked in psychology, especially at a mental health facility, you’ll get a few laughs.

Stressed at work

However, when our emotional well-being takes a negative turn, most aspects of our lives are affected. This includes work- it’s hard to concentrate or even show up when you don’t want to get out of bed, get dressed or leave your home.

A Few Interesting Facts

According to Mental Health America, clinical depression is one of America’s costliest illnesses. If it’s left untreated, depression is as costly as heart disease or AIDS in the cost of lost productivity, absenteeism during a person’s prime working years. Most people, which is around 80%, can be successfully treated and live a full life with clinical depression. It’s about the same with anxiety. Other mental illnesses may have lower rates due to their severity and other factors.

  • Most of those who take short term disability due to depression are female.
  • Many of those with depression will not seek treatment because they are worried about confidentiality (a large issue in the medical field) and/or the effect it will have on their employment.
  • Untreated mental health issues can lead to strained relationships with co-workers.
  • Around 50% of those surveyed say that anxiety has diminished the quality of their work. (I have had this issue and it is not pretty.)
  • Once this becomes an issue, many do not want to speak to their supervisor about their stress because of fear of how they will be seen- as weak, not willing to work, etc.

Work

How Can I Tell There is a Problem?

Do you dread going to work?

Are you always the first out the door when your shift/day is over?

Do you feel like you have too much on your plate at work but feel you can’t say anything?

Have you lost the “spark” in your work?

If you’ve answered “yes” to any of those, it might be time to step back and think for a minute. If you have additional stressors like anxiety, depression or another mental health issue, it may be time to re-evaluate your job.

You may already be trying to handle the issue without knowing it by doing things like:

  • taking longer to complete tasks
  • calling in sick/coming in late frequently
  • having issues with co-workers

How can you handle this in a healthy way?

  • Make a to-do list. This can help with overwhelm in general but can be very helpful at work. It feels good to check things off a list after staying on track.
  • Take frequent breaks. Work for an hour, take a five-minute break- even if this means just walking down the hall for a few minutes. Moving around can help a bit. This may need a tweak depending on your environment, but make it work for you.
  • Try not to take on too much. This can be difficult, especially if you like to help out, but it may lead to the overwhelm you are trying to avoid. Think carefully before you take on another project or committee.
  • Set small goals. You can break down big tasks into smaller, manageable things so that it doesn’t feel so scary.
  • Add personal items to your workspace. I had pics of my kids all over my locker in the breakroom at the mental health facility I worked at. You could barely see the inside of the locker door. It was a bit of a boost on the hard days.
  • What are your triggers? What bothers you? I am a huge fan of finding these things out. Everyone has something that sets them off- what is it about the job that stresses you out the most? Try to do something calming before that, if possible, even if it’s just deep breathing. When I was a substance abuse counselor, I kept a bottle of bubbles in my office. If I knew I was about to have a difficult session, I would close my office door and blow bubbles for a minute or two before and after. It helped.

This information is from Learn How to Become

HR talk

A Word About Human Resources

If all else fails, please speak to your supervisor. Things do and can happen. Mental health is not a joke or meant to be taken lightly. If you know that things are going badly for you, no matter what your diagnosis, even if you don’t have one, please talk to your supervisor. If you don’t feel okay doing so, then go to Human Resources.

They have ways to help you out, and even more, these people want to help you. That’s why they’re employed! There’s an interesting program that most employers have called an Employer Assistance Program that offers FREE counseling for up to six sessions, depending on the company. Sometimes it’s six sessions period, sometimes it’s six sessions per issue. Again, this depends on your company. I highly advise looking into it. After those sessions are up, they can refer you out to long term therapy if you are into that.

You’re worth it and so is your career.

Most employers want their employees to succeed and are catching up (slowly) to their needs. It may be scary as hell to ask for help, but again, you’re worth it. I’m willing to bet that you are not the first or only person at your job to ask for help.

Sometimes, losing your mojo completely may be one of many factors (long commute, extreme work conditions, etc) that play into work dissatisfaction, and if so, maybe it is time to leave. Mental health can be a large one, however, and should be looked at. How do you feel every day going into and leaving work? That’s a question only you can answer.

Has mental health been an issue where you work? Have you left a job due to stress/anxiety?

Photos courtesy of Unsplash

Behind the Name 

I have a lot of new followers and I’m pretty sure not everyone gets the idea behind the name Shortstack Blogs, “One Day, One Blog at a Time, or even my Facebook page, which you can find at ShortstackBlogs

Field trip

Field trip with Lily

The Facebook page is pretty ordinary- Meredith is my middle name. Thanks, Mom and Dad. I’ve actually hated it as long as I can remember but in this case, it flowed and I ran with it.

The title of my blog comes from sobriety and blogging coming together. If you’ve ever heard of any kind of recovery phrases, I’m willing to bet that one of those is “One day at a time.” This phrase is tattooed on the inside of my left wrist.

I live this way because I know the feeling of planning out the rest of your life and then having it fall apart. I have spent almost four years putting myself and my life back together. I’ve literally had to do it one day at a time, sometimes an hour at a time.

One day at a time
“Shortstack” is a nickname. I’m 5’2″ and Jake was 6’3″. I don’t remember how this got started, but we had a long-running joke about our height difference and this was one of his nicknames for me. (I’m used to getting jokes about my height from pretty much everyone I know, including my own kids.)

His brother Josh still gets me every chance he gets. My blog was created partially to spread awareness about mental health issues, and Jake’s death was the background for it. As my therapist would say, it’s turning something awful into something good. The other part, of course, is to tackle the fun and sometimes not fun part of parenting.

One of my life’s greatest lessons

I am being myself everyday, no excuses.

The name behind the blog is as important as the blog itself. 😀

I have been raising money towards a book getting published. If you would like more info, please go here