Snowballing Thoughts

I’ve written a lot about going to therapy. I spent two years seeing a therapist that kept me from going to jail, rehab or both.

Those posts are: Going to Therapy: Setting Goals and Smashing Them

How Can Therapy be Beneficial for You?

Well, it’s time for another round.

I’ve been struggling with writer’s block because I’ve been depressed and anxious. It’s hard to write when you don’t feel like it’s any good.

Motivation is probably my biggest issue- I’d stay in bed all day reading or watching TV if I had the chance. Instead, I drag myself to work for 5 hours. Those hours crawl by. I’m not happy at all with my job and I’d quit tomorrow if I could.

This leads me to my career in general- I don’t know what’s next and that just creates more anxiety. I worry about the kids and my marriage.

These thoughts snowball and are hard to stop.

Facing Reality

I really struggled with the idea. I felt like I failed. I decided on a different therapist because I couldn’t face my former one. It just wouldn’t be the same.

I even got into a psychiatric nurse practitioner. She’s great and I started an anti-depressant. I can’t say yet if it’s helping but I sure hope it does.

She asked me if I had cravings for a drink.

Until then, I hadn’t even thought about it.

Sometimes when I’m stressed, sad or both, I’ll think “I could really use a drink.” I guess I wasn’t paying attention. Part of why I went back to therapy is because I don’t want to relapse. I’m not sure how I’d come back from it.

One of the promises I made to myself when Jake died was to finish the work he started. Even thinking I didn’t do so broke me. As Sara put it, sometimes you need a boost. Plus Jake would be angry at me for not going back because he wanted me to be happy.

As usual, Sara was right.

I felt like I was letting everyone down because for the most part, I’m okay. I got myself back together. Going back means I wobbled on my path.

I talked to Matthew and my closest friends about it and all of them were supportive. If you don’t have friends like these, you need new ones. Matthew hopes it helps because he noticed me pulling away from him.

I cried. I cried a lot. My friends’ support means a lot more to me than they realize. They really do care. I’m not the burden that I thought I was.

That’s the depression talking. It tells me that I should be doing more professionally and that I’m a terrible mom and wife.

If you’ve been depressed, you know what I mean. There’s that voice in the back of your mind telling you things that are hard to process.

I went to my first therapy session with my new therapist last week and she’s very nice. I’ll be there once a week for a while and that’s okay. I have to remind myself of this when I start thinking the bad things.

One day at a time, right?

A Guide to the Holidays: Staying Emotionally Healthy

The holidays can be a difficult time for many people. Many deal with stress and/or depression, grief, or other issues like toxic family members. Some even go through the holidays alone. This can be especially hard. It’s important to know how to stay emotionally healthy during this time so that you can enjoy the holidays and possibly be able to help someone you know.

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If You Are Alone

This situation is caused by different factors- distance, family issues, financial issues, and so on. There are ways that you can make this a positive time of the year:

  • Reach out. Many people will offer to extend an invitation to someone they know may be alone for the holidays. Let them know if you are available, offer to bring something. If you have friends who wouldn’t mind an extra person, ask if you can join them for a celebration.
  • Create alternative traditions. “Friendsgiving” potlucks have become popular in the last few years among those who aren’t able to see their families. I’ve gone to a couple, and it’s a lot of fun. Everyone brings a dish, decide on a fun activity, and let the fun begin.
  • Pamper yourself. Do something you enjoy- a day at the spa, nails, a new book, shirt, etc.
  • Help others. This can take many different directions- volunteering at a homeless shelter, animal shelter, etc. This can help remind you of how fortunate you are and it’s a good experience.
  • Travel. If you can afford it, go out of town for a couple of days. If you can’t, try a “staycation” and go places in your city that you haven’t been to.
  • Self- care. Check in with yourself daily- feelings, hygiene, etc. You don’t have to be cheerful 24/7 during this season, alone or not. If you realize you are having a hard time, reach out. Please see my Resources page for more information.

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For Those That Are Grieving

Grief is a hard process any day of the year. The holidays can be harder on someone that is grieving than most people realize. If you are grieving or will be celebrating the holidays with someone that is, these tips may be helpful.

  • Take care of yourself. Grief can affect people differently. Depression can cause a person to not care for themselves as they did before the loss. Self-care is important, even the tiniest steps like brushing your teeth, taking a shower, etc.
  • Don’t rush the process. It may take years for a family to feel like holiday gatherings are “normal” again after a loss. Do not rush through your grieving process for others. Everyone grieves differently and this should be respected.
  • Plan ahead. Do you really want to host Thanksgiving this year? Can someone else do it? Think about where you are in the grieving process and how comfortable you feel hosting holiday events. It might not be for you this year, but in a year or so, it might be okay again.
  • Share stories. This might be hard, depending on the situation, but it can also be helpful. Sharing stories can be good, however, when they focus on the good times with the person, acknowledging that they are missed.

If you are going to a gathering with a family who has had a recent loss:

  • Offer help. Maybe the family needs help with shopping, cleaning, decorating, etc. This can be a huge relief to them. It’s one less worry in an already tough time.
  • Ask how everyone is doing before attending the gathering. It may be a somber or joyous gathering, but you will not know unless you ask beforehand.
  • Respect the right for everyone to grieve. This is very important.

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Holiday Cheer or Holiday Stress?

There’s a lot of pressure to spend lots of money on presents, spend time with family that we may or may not get along with, get our kids everything they want and so on. How do we remain, or even get, cheerful about the holidays? How do we deal with the stress?

  • Tune out the noise. The holiday specials, songs, and movies can be a bit too much. If it becomes too much, turn it off. I can’t stand the radio stations that play nothing but Christmas music- starting before Thanksgiving.

Can we get through Thanksgiving first? It’s a bit much for me to hear this music for over a month, so I don’t even turn it on. I am stuck with it when Matthew and I are in the car together because he loves it- there’s a thing called compromise.

  • Set limits for presents. This can be a number of presents, price, or even both. We have four birthdays within 2 weeks after Christmas, so we really try to watch how much we spend. (Those birthdays are mine, Matthew, my father in law, and Cameron.) Plus, there’s the battle of making sure each kid has the same number of presents. Kids need to know that money doesn’t come easily and that they may not be able to always get what they want.
  • Toxic people need to be shown the door. Not everyone in your life is meant to be there, and that includes family. Your time is valuable- why spend it with people who don’t value you? Be realistic about what you can handle.
  • Be grateful. The main message behind the holidays is counting our blessings and being grateful for what we have. It may be a good idea to make a list of the things you are grateful for, no matter how small they are. This can be a bit of a lift, especially on the harder days.
  • Have fun in moderation. You will feel a lot better if you don’t overeat, drink too much or overdo other activities. Everyone has their limits- don’t go past them or you may disappoint yourself.
  • Take care of yourself. This can be a very hectic time of the year, and self- care can slide to the bottom of your to-do list.

Example: If you’re a perfectionist, it’s okay to let things go a bit. You can find the perfect gift for everyone, but if you’re so stressed out finding it, you’ve lost the fun part. It becomes a drag. Try loosening up a bit- don’t spend hours online looking. If you need to, take a break after an hour and come back to it the next day. Start shopping earlier to relieve some of the stress.

  • Say no. This is okay. It’s possible to become overburdened with parties, work, and other activities. Saying no lessens that burden. It’s important to remember your needs.
  • Nourish yourself- physically and emotionally. Don’t entirely skip the good foods, because there are plenty out there. Try a smaller portion. Treat yourself. Try taking a bit of “quiet time” each day to read, write, draw, anything that helps you rest your mind a bit. You will feel much less smothered by the demands of the season.

Do you have any tips for a stress-free holiday season?

All pics are from Unsplash

Information from Psychology Today

To and From the Safe Place

The days in front of us can get hard.

Small things appear to be the largest mountains.

Larger tasks are impossible to complete.

Lists are the last thing you want to deal with. Getting out of bed would be a good start.

On these days, surviving the day is the main task. Eating, bathing and hygiene are the most crucial things you need to achieve. Just about everything else can wait.

Energy levels can be extremely low, so go at a pace that works for you. Don’t let anyone rush or shame you. This is your battle, not theirs.

At the end of the day, bed can be a safe, soft place. Tomorrow is another day to try again.

Book Review: “Girl, Interrupted”

This month’s book review is for another movie/book combo.

Feel free to comment or email me with your thoughts at wraemsanders@gmail.com.

I’m not sure which I like more- the book was intriguing, but the movie is a bit more in-depth. I guess it depends on whether you are more of a book or movie person.

**TRIGGER WARNING** This book review does briefly discuss suicidal thoughts, attempts, and similar topics. Please read at your own discretion.

Book cover

Title and why I chose this book:

“Girl, Interrupted” by Susanna Kaysen

It’s not often that people tell their story of mental illness- at least not from the time frame that Susanna does. This book was based on her story in the 1960s when it wasn’t acceptable to tell anyone you had a mental illness, much less write a book about it. I think it’s interesting to look at a person’s story from another angle, even if it’s a different time.

Who do I think this book is intended for?

If you aren’t familiar with what it was like to be a patient in a mental health facility during this time period, Susanna’s story will give you a peek into it. Many of us are a bit curious about that, myself included. I think it’s because of my work in similar facilities. I’ve read quite a bit about facilities in the past and how patients were treated, and it wasn’t always positive.

What did I like about this book?

I like Susanna’s honesty. She breaks down her thoughts and the events that occur in the story so that the reader can understand exactly what is going on. Some of those events may be a little hard for us to comprehend because we weren’t there to witness them, but she tries her best.

What didn’t I like about this book?

I thought that the book could have been a little longer, I think it ended a bit abruptly. Everyone has their opinions on this, so maybe it’s just me. The tone of the book was a bit formal for me, but I had to remind myself of the time the book was set in.

Plot:

Susanna is hospitalized at McLean Hospital in 1967. Her hospital paperwork is actually included in the book, with some things blacked out. This wouldn’t have happened today, thanks to HIPAA. I’ve seen this in other books, but it still astounds me.

She is hospitalized following a suicide attempt- I won’t include details, but she does detail the attempt and events that follow it. She also discusses suicidal thoughts and means.

I had a laugh while reading her description of “maximum security” and McLean’s checks system. This is the way that mental health workers (“orderlies” in the book) are able to assess patients on a 1:1 (constant), 7.5, 15 or 30-minute basis for their safety. Try doing 7.5-minute checks while hugely pregnant. I did this while pregnant with Lily and it was a bit challenging.

Susanna signed herself in voluntarily and thought she would be there for two weeks- this became almost two years. She got along with her roommate and the other patients around her, and after her release, was able to find two of them. She was released after she was offered a proposal for marriage.

What was Susanna’s diagnosis? I won’t spoil that for you. It’s in her paperwork.

I’ll let you find it in the book.

Quote that I liked:

“Crazy isn’t being broken or swallowing a dark secret. It’s you or me amplified.”

Just because you’re broken inside doesn’t mean you’re “crazy”. Everyone’s a little broken, right?

Come back next month for another book review!

Picture courtesy of Google

Are You Okay?- A Conversation Starter

Three words can help a lot more than you realize.

“Are you okay?”

This question can start a potentially life-saving conversation or start a complete shut-down- but it’s worth trying.

If you’re asking someone this question, there’s likely a good reason, maybe more than one. Think carefully- has he/she been quieter than usual, or have you seen changes in their personality? Other changes?

If so, good move.

You may be on the right track.

The Infinite Struggle

Some people, however, are not good with expressing that they need help, or even talking about their feelings when they really should. These are the people you may want to be gentle with after asking if they’re okay.

I am one of these people. It’s a struggle. I worked on this in therapy and still, it’s a struggle. Let me explain- I know that I get stuck in my own brain, which is not a good thing. My thoughts can get pretty bad. I also know that I need to talk to someone about those thoughts. Don’t freak out, because I don’t have suicidal thoughts or anything like that, but stay with me.

I just freeze up when it’s probably time to reach out.

Why?

If we remember that horrible time in which I cried constantly and drank my pain away, I probably got on everyone’s nerves. That’s how I saw it. My former therapist explained (very patiently) that people were there for me because they wanted to be.

Okay, then.

She went on to say that if they were truly tired of all my crying and sadness, they would have left me alone at that point.

Once I felt a lot better about my life, I began to feel as if I didn’t really have a right to burden people with my problems anymore, because I’d run out of people’s patience. I have friends who will listen to me anytime I need them to, but I don’t always talk.

I really need to work on this.

The Next Steps

So what do you do if someone says, “No, I’m not okay?”

  • Listen. This might be the best thing you can do for them.
  • If they say they need some extra help, do what you can to help them get it. If they need emergency assistance, call 911 or take them to the nearest ER.
  • Ask “What can I do?” This might sound super simple, but you may be surprised at what might help someone during a rough time.
  • Don’t tell them that this will pass very soon, etc. Time can feel like it is slowing down during a depressive/manic/other episode, or even speeding up. Saying things like that can make the person feel trivialized or otherwise like a burden.

What if the person says “I’m good, thanks,” but you feel like they are not quite okay?

This is a hard one. As someone who falls into this area, all you can really do is wait it out. Give the person some space. We have our own reasons for not talking, and we may do so on our own time. Unless the person is an immediate danger to themselves and/or others, there’s not a lot you can do. Just watch out for the person as much as you can and give gentle reminders that you are there for them if needed. My best friends do this quite often.

If the person says “No, I’m fine” and becomes angry and/or aggressive:

Absolutely back up. I don’t advise taking this any further because someone can get hurt trying to push the conversation. Stop what you’re doing immediately and get to a safe location.

The Conversation Continues

Talking about our mental health isn’t a bad thing. We need to check in with ourselves and each other. Every day. Every week. Every month.

The stigma is still present while many of us fight the battle daily. We go to therapy, take meds, and do other things to make sure that we remain stable.

If you know someone is struggling, reach out to them. You may be helping them through the darkest hour of their lives. If you’re the one that’s struggling, you’re worth it. Take a minute and text someone you trust.

*picks up cell and texts bestie*

#SpeakNow #ForMySuperman

Do you struggle with talking about your feelings?

If so, BetterHelp can be a good place to start. This will help Georgia residents find a therapist, but can also lead others to what they need.

Photos courtesy of pexels