Posts Tagged ‘mental health’

A moody week.

I had a moody week this past week. It was the kind of mood, heavily influenced by hormones, that creeps up on me every once in a while and makes me grateful that it isn’t always like this.

But in the midst of it, it felt downright depressive and it was hard to see much light in anything. And it was hard to do much of anything, aside from what was absolutely necessary.

To give myself credit, I probably did more than that. But there’s something frustrating about starting a week with a “this is the week I’m going to get organized and do the things I need to do” and then realizing halfway through that I’d have to narrow it way down.

I sat with the mood sometimes: it felt heavy and slow and sucked the meaning out of activities. I distracted myself from it at other times. I cried at the drop of a hat at moments and knew that it always didn’t make sense and it didn’t have to.

Sometimes I judged myself for it, and had thoughts that I should know what I want and I should be clear on what all my next steps are. Despite these moments of “shoulding” myself,  I also knew that it wasn’t a practical time to make decisions other than what to make for meals or what to do next in that particular day.

I have moments where I see moods like this as something to be wrestled with, to get through, to overcome. Perhaps if I add something to my day, a formula of getting enough sunlight + Nia + good food + whatever else, that it will lift, voila. While self-care and doing these activities help, there’s not a fail-safe guarantee that I’m going to feel better and stay feeling that way.

I used my DBT skills and checked the facts of what was really going on. This doesn’t always make feeling and being easier, but it does allow me to see my vulnerabilities. It takes me a few more steps closer towards accepting the mood rather than fighting it.

Now, the mood continues to lift. There’s more grays in it, more rays of sunlight, more hope and desire. I still feel somewhat exposed and cautious. I feel the fear that this mood will continue and become something more. If it does, I’ll take steps to take care of myself. Last week felt deflating; this week may feel different.

Now, I breathe in. I look at the first thing on my to-do list. And I begin my day.

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The power of sharing my own experience.

A conversation with friend from earlier this week:

“You probably haven’t had to deal with stuff like this,” she said, after describing how she’d been feeling lately.

“Depression?”

She nodded. “Well, actually, I have,” I said, and elaborated about my own experience.

Afterward, she thanked me for sharing. She knew then that I could relate to how she was feeling.

This moment allowed me to see how incredibly validating it was for me to share my personal experience — for both my friend and for me.

When I was in the midst of my most severe depressive episode, I know that I often felt very alone and isolated in my experience. I think that affirming for someone that she is not alone may have been a powerful gift. Yes, it required vulnerability. It required me to tread into topics I don’t usually touch on in everyday conversations. It gave me the opportunity to rely on my inner strength and know that I could be — and was — okay to give support in that moment.

I felt cautious with this interaction, both during and afterwards. I know I am not necessarily fragile now, but I see the darkness within myself, the potential for becoming depressed again. These kinds of interactions have the potential to be draining and triggering. But I also realize that in many ways, this gives me an opportunity to establish boundaries when needed while also providing the kind of support that only one who has been through something similar can provide. I won’t offer solutions, but I can offer my own story and share what helped me.

It helped me to share, too. Sometimes I feel like I only give people parts of my story. True, not everyone has earned my trust to hear more. But it was important for me to have a moment where I let my guard down, especially when it seemed appropriate and needed. So perhaps I received a gift in that moment as well.

Friday link roundup 7/21

A group of young women from Afghanistan headed for an international robotics competition were initially denied visas to enter the United States, but later received permission to come. During the competition, the team won a silver medal for courageous achievement.

Ever been told to change how you think when you’re feeling stressed out? This blog post talks about how the stress response is based in the nervous system, not in your thoughts.

A post with great wisdom on giving support: Hold your tongue and offer your heart instead.

In terms of discussing issues like drug abuse and addiction (as well as other topics), who tells the story and how they tell it can affect public perception and opinion and even policy. Here’s a post urging people to  Just Say No to Media Coverage of Drugs.  I would also recommend looking for alternate sources and seeking the bigger picture.

Life: celebrate, honor, live.

Life paintingI posted this on my social media pages along with this caption:  “Painting/drawing in honor of life, of choosing to live, learning to thrive, and being true to myself. On this date three years ago, I was severely depressed and hit rock bottom. Today, I honor my healing and all the choices that led me to where I am today.”

On May 25, 2013, I was hospitalized for severe depression and suicidal ideations.

I’ve been feeling the anniversary energy this month – more strongly than this time last year, but less strongly than the first year. In this energy, there’s an intensity, sadness, grief, determination, and more. In time, that energy will likely change or fade. In any case, I hope that I’ll take many more moments to acknowledge and celebrate my life, to celebrate living.

Year One.

Year Two.

Friday link roundup 5/19

This year’s national Mathcounts champion answered this question correctly:  In a barn, 100 chicks sit peacefully in a circle. Suddenly, each chick randomly pecks the chick immediately to its left or right. What is the expected number of unpecked chicks?

17 Steps for Recognizing and Responding to Signs of Suicide.  I found this article to be very thorough and sensitive. 

A GOP lawmaker asks why men should have to pay for maternity care. A women’s editorial response to his comments is short, to the point, and poignant.

On a fashion/style note, I thought these floral and sparkly fishnets were really cool and fanciful.

There are quite a few clothing companies that sell apparel with feminist messages on them. This article suggests looking at the individual company and seeing if they walk their talk.

There’s a group of scientists that argue that if the asteroid that ultimately led to the extinction of the dinosaurs had hit a few minutes later or earlier, dinosaurs could still be around today. Article here.

 

Friday link roundup 4/21

Netflix has released a series called 13 Reasons Why, based on the book by the same name. While I’ve read plot synopses, I’ve never read or watched either one (my choice). The story is centers around a teenager who dies by suicide and the tapes she leaves behind to describe what (and who) contributed to her decision. I’m sharing articles about the series because the show addresses sensitive topics, and I think raising mental health and suicide awareness is important — and it’s also important to make an informed decision on whether to watch the show (or things to consider if you do). So, trigger warning in these articles for mentions and discussions of suicide, rape, and sexual harassment and assault.  A guide to the series for parents and teachers.  First-person articles from people who have watched it: Why I Wish I Didn’t Watch ’13 Reasons Why.’  4 Important Lessons From ’13 Reasons Why.’  About the show’s visual choices and using teen iconography.  From someone who lost a friend as a teen: 13 Reasons Why Tells a Captivating Story, but Not My Story.  How the show’s promise to raise teen mental health awareness backfired.  On how the show addresses rape culture.

Have some nostalgia with a show that depicts the background of an infamous fictional thief: A future Netflix release that might excite people who grew up in the ’90s: Carmen Sandiego! I don’t know how many hours I spent playing “Where in the World…” then “Where in Time…” on my computer, in addition to watching the PBS game show. I think I also watched the cartoon series a few times, too.

Creative Action Network: A global community of artist and designers making art with purpose. Plus, you can submit your own art that follow the different sayings and themes!

Live updates of the March for Science from all around the world.

There’s a theory that there are four types of introversion.

A few reactions to Starbucks’ limited-time-only Unicorn Frappuccino. What I’ve heard from people I know: “It’s sweet,” and “I’m not sure about this…”

Recognizing my experience of depression in the pages of the DSM-V

A few weeks ago, my assignment for my Abnormal Psychology class – choosing a disorder and writing about it from a specific therapeutic perspective – gave me a reason to look through the DSM-V, the latest version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. I went to the local library, sat down with their reference copy, and flipped through the pages. I skimmed the criteria of different disorders, searching for one that might seem intriguing, but not too triggering or something that I have directly experienced.

Major Depressive Disorder did not meet my second requirement; nonetheless, I stopped skimming and read through the criteria. And as I read, I recognized that two and a half to three years ago, I met nearly every point of the criteria, line by line. Part of me suspected this, but I hadn’t looked it up, not even in my old copy of the DSM-IV that I’ve had for years. If the page had been a checklist, it would have been full of check marks.

On one hand, the realization was sobering: I was severely depressed. That’s scary and serious.

On the other hand, I can also say that it’s factual, it’s true, and that reading the criteria simply confirmed what I already knew. I had a depressive episode, the worst I’d ever had. I acknowledge that before I experienced that episode, I likely struggled with mild depression, or dysthymia, on and off for years, perhaps since I was a teenager.

Alternately, I can also look at it like this: I was severely depressed. I went back to my hometown. There, I got the help and support I needed. I don’t know if I can say that I am necessarily better off because of my depression, but the support I got helped me get to where I am today. I like and appreciate my life now.

There is also something validating in seeing what I experienced written in words on a page. It tells me that other people have experienced this, that people have researched it, that treatment continues to be looked at and further developed.

I do recognize that a diagnosis is primarily a measurement used for medical, prescriptive, and insurance reasons. It isn’t consistently a defining factor in my life; at this point, the main thing is that I take two pills each morning. I also keep better track of my moods and I regularly use skills to deal with challenging situations and emotions.

I remind myself that I don’t have to make too much meaning out of the pages of the DSM; it’s a reference manual used in certain contexts. I know that if I experience and recognize the symptoms of depression again, I am more equipped to deal with it. I am therefore less likely to experience another major depressive episode. And that’s what really matters to me.