A Tribute to Stephen Black of Fractured Faith Blog

Tonight I visit Stephen Black’s blog, Fractured Faith. As I wrote in my review of his bookThe Kirkwood Scott Chronicles: Skelly’s Square, I’ve known Mr. Black for a long time. We’re like those college students whose friends were friends, and found ourselves drawn to the same awkward punch bowl at those friends’ parties.

Stephen’s blog deals mostly with life issues and his observations and encouragements in dealing with them. He also promotes his book, has hosted some writing prompts, written rap-reminiscent poetry, and occasionally talks about marathons and running.

In tribute to an old friend, I give you my attempt to mimic a typical Stephen Black blog post:

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Has Life Ever Surprised You?

This morning en route to another working day, I was surprised to see into the back garden of a house I passed. I could see into their garden because the fence and tool shed were smashed in, done for. Debris from fence and shed, scattered tools, and the churned earth bore testament to what caused the damage, but whatever vehicle had done it was long gone.

I imagined the owners of the house coming out to the same scene as me. What if they only discovered their back part in pieces that morning? Would they feel the shock and surprise I did? How would they react to this unwelcome discovery?

Sometimes in my life I’ve felt like those owners, an unwitting party to unexpected disaster. I’ve written about some. My father’s death, for example. Failing to make the time I wished for on a run. Rejection e-mails or no response to my book queries.

At those times I did not react as would be best. I stood in shock at the damage. I turned to bad habits. I turned away from my wonderful, supportive family and toward shallow friends and the world’s attention. I gave up, and even granted power to the demons of OCD to tell me how wrong I was to try. I stood in the car tyre ruts in my back garden and despaired of any positive outcome.

But the old me is someone I don’t have to be anymore. I am not he. I can look over the scattered debris of my life and choose to act, instead. I don’t need to cry over broken wood and tools when I know I can pick up the pieces and move on.

Maybe cleanup will take time. I might need assistance from loved ones. I may need to seek professional help to repair the damage, to build a new fence and shed. It might take time or a few pints of honeycomb ice cream, but I won’t be alone to solve it.

We are masters of our lives, even when we do not feel like it. We may not be able to control whether something drives through our lives and leaves us in shock, but we can control our reactions. We can control what we do next. I know we can.

Have you ever had an unexpected event take you by surprise?

What did you do to recover and rebuild your life?

——

If you enjoyed my wee tribute, head over to Stephen’s blog and drop him a ‘Follow.’ The poor guy’s only got about 11,000 followers.

 

Photo Credit: Image by Thomas Schink from Pixabay
©2019 Chelsea Owens

The Cure for Depression: Don’t Skip What Works

We are very close to the end of our list of cures for depression. We’ve covered everything from connecting with a person to talking to a professional to medicating to exercising to last week’s post on mindfulness.

So… that pretty much makes you an expert now, right?

I’m going to take a really wild guess that you haven’t implemented any of these suggestions. Yes, I’m psychic. Or… I know this because I also haven’t moved from my lazy habits one titch. In fact, I’ve actually worsened in …um…. about half the areas.

My negative self-talkers are in process of lighting torches and hefting pitchforks. “You’re a failure!” They chant, preparing to run my motivation out of the forest forever.

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“Hold up there!” I reply. I’m actually not a failure. I even wrote about a new title for those with mental illness! We’re not failures. We’re HUMAN!

Instead of giving up, I’m going to brush forest moss from my coat and pick the leaves out of my hair. I’m fine. You’re fine. We’re all fine with -nevermind.

But no more slacking, fellow human. Sit up. Pick an item from the list. Close your eyes and point if you need to. Let’s see: you got “exercise.” That’s easy! Read the blog post I wrote and follow along with my simple step-by-step directions. I even kept it short just in case your attention span wanders like mine….

Where were we? Oh. Attention stuff. Yeah, so, if you could go ahead and pick one that would be great, mmmkay?

Just one. Do it and stop making excuses.

If you are more motivated than I and have already completed one or more of the suggestions, bravo! Pat yourself on the back and eat a bit of chocolate unless you’re reading this after 8 p.m. Get to bed at a reasonable time, and pick another idea to try tomorrow.

Pick another idea after that one.

And again.

The main idea is to try. I don’t even care if you stop after a bit; it’s the trying that matters. After simply trying a few, you are going to notice something important: what helps, and what’s not-so-helpful.

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Let’s say that aerobic exercise stressed you out more, yoga in the morning helped you want to keep working your crummy job, eating organic got really expensive, and your psychiatrist moved to another state. Which of these items needs to stay, class?

Don’t red marker them out of existence; this is more of an “edit the sentence to make it correct” exercise.

Cross out aerobic exercise stressed you out more, and write I will walk outside for half an hour at lunch. Change the yoga bit to a simple I love doing yoga before work. Organic got really expensive can now read Healthy foods don’t have to be organic; I’ll pick up some produce on sale and eat it with my meals. As to your psychiatrist? I’m going to ask around for a new psychiatrist, including asking mine for a good referral.

See how that works? Great! Homework time! Your assignment, due soon, is the following:

  1. Try! That’s all: try one of the cures for depression.
  2. Try another.
  3. Ditto, for about 12 more items.
  4. Look at what worked. Edit your observations in a positive manner.

Now for the most difficult part: DO what works.

Which, of course, is NOT difficult. We just make it that way. Change really isn’t the mountain we see it to be. Change is actually a few small steps to a shortcut we can’t see from the trailhead. That shortcut may require climbing gear and a sherpa, but it’s there and it’s possible.

You’re stronger than you think -but not invincible. Don’t get lazy by dropping the practices and routines that made your life more tolerable. That make your life happy.

Keep at it. You are worth it.

 

Photo Credits:
Vinicius Amano
Esther Tuttle

 

*Chelsea Owens is not a licensed anything, except a Class D driver in her home state, and shares all information and advice from personal experience and research.

Is Mental Illness Something We Get From Our Ancestors?

Recently over at The Bipolar Writer Longname Blog, James wrote an article asking if mental illness were a genetic thing. After reviewing some mental health history in his family, he noted opinions that professionals have on the matter. He asked curious questions, including: “Knowing that Bipolar disorder might be something that can affect other people within my own blood makes me wary of the future. The big question becomes, could I pass this on to my own children?

His article garnered a sizeable amount of traffic. Like, 206 ‘likes.’

I, in turn, was surprised. Flabbergasted. Flummoxed, Astounded. Etc. Is this even a question? Why is it a question?

I do not wonder if mental conditions are genetic. I look at myself and see my grandfather’s anger, my mother’s nose, the potential of cancer because of a grandmother, and a few sources of depression, anxiety, and addictive behaviors.

I assume that everyone feels this way about his family that came before, but maybe he does not.

Then again, this knowledge might be due to my upbringing. I’ve mentioned before that I am LDS and was raised that way. One (of many wonderful) quirk(s) is that we really know our family history. No joke. I know who my grandparents are/were on both sides. Further, I know my grandparents’ parents. If I want to, I can go on the computer and research my grandparents’ grandparents’ grandparents. I can often find a picture and who they married and where they are buried.

Sorry if I weirded anyone out. I bring up my ancestor voyeurism in speculation of its impact on my belief in heredity. Since I am perfectly comfortable knowing my progenitors and since I see similarities in features and behaviors, I therefore feel perfectly comfortable associating mental illnesses as yet another genetic trait.

True, there are some cases where Great-great-great-great Grandpa Bob may have been a little off because of those times his younger brother dropped a hobby horse on his head. Hopefully there are historical notations for aberrations like that.

Overall, however, I see serious mental illness as hereditary a trait as red hair and freckles. Or height and intelligence. Or photoptarmosis and liking black licorice.

Do you think so, too? Why or why not?

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—————-

Short, sweet; here’s what I did this week:
Wednesday, April 17: Moved with history in “There is Hope in the Flame of Notre Dame.

Thursday, April 18: “The Cure for Depression: Follow a Daily Routine,” another suggestion in a series originally posted over at The Bipolar Writer Mental Health Blog.

Friday, April 19: Nothing! Absolutely nothing!

Saturday, April 20: Responded to P’Arc’s post about her pen name with “A Chelsea by Any Other Name Would Still be Sarcastic.

Sunday, April 21: Wrote “Behind the Blogger Tag Thingamajig” in answer to P’Arc’s nomination.

Monday, April 22: Re-blogged Jennie‘s story about teaching.

Tuesday, April 23: “Wilhelmina Winters, Ninety-One.”

Wednesday, April 24: Today.

I also posted all this week at my motherhood site. I wrote “Raise Strong, Independent Daughters AND Mothers,” and a poem titled “Good Morning!

I received my first and last paycheck from Kids are the Worst. It was fun while it lasted and I hope they contact me again once things settle down.

***REMEMBER TO ENTER THIS (TWO) WEEK’S POETRY CONTEST!!***

 

Photo Credit:
Rod Long

The Cure for Depression: Follow a Daily Routine

Aw, crap. It’s morning.

Let’s roll out of bed after not sleeping well, glare at our alarm, blame everyone in the world for how terrible we feel, and stalk off to the bathroom to read our phone get ready.

With a winning morning routine like that nearly every day, why are we confused when the days continue to suck?

Did anyone ever watch The Lego Movie? D’ya remember that Emmett had an instruction book literally subtitled: “The instructions to fit in, have everybody like you, and always be happy!”? We, the viewing audience, laughed as Emmett breathed deeply, greeted the day, ate, exercised, showered, and even said, “Hello,” to all the cat lady’s pets.

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In true exciting story form, the film suggested that Emmett’s real, interesting life began once those stupid instructions blew away. Sorry; but this is not how life works.

Life is really long, and we need to want to live it.

Following a routine like Emmett does is not bad. Routine is not a swear word. It’s actually a magic formula, far more magical than Expecto Patronum or even Avada Kedavra. A routine gives us a little, workable guide for getting through our foggy cloud of negativity and hopelessness.

And, you’re following a routine as we speak. It just may not be a good one.

So! *rubs hands together eagerly* Let’s get started on following one that is good. Here’s a sample morning that I threw together:

  1. Wake up, preferably early.
    Yep, we’re starting there. You already blew the early-to-bed thing. Plus, if we start with bedtime, you’ll be like me and procrastinate starting a routine until you can finally get to sleep before midnight -so we’ll get started, like, NEVER.
  2. Tell yourself you love you.
    This is not vain, it’s Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. It’s good for you; and you are worth it, you beautiful/handsome person.
  3. Do something active.
    If you are following my advice to exercise daily, this may be the time to grab those workout clothes you set right by the bed.
    OR, to not stress you out at all, just do a little stretching. L’internet has loads of simple yoga day-greeting moves that only take a few minutes.
  4. Eat food or get ready for the day.
    I am the only woman in a house of males (all family, don’t worry), so I have to get dressed pretty much right away. For you, though, maybe you can slouch over to the toaster in your skivvies. Whatever; just go. Keep moving.
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  5. Whatever you eat, make it healthy.
    Healthy also doesn’t need to be a bad word. Toast is healthy, at least compared to a breakfast of peanut M&Ms you found behind the couch cushion when you sat down to read your phone instead of stretching.
  6. Shower and/or get dressed.
    Just do it. Don’t give yourself time to think, What am I getting dressed for? Life is…. Ending that sentence is never a good idea for a depressive mindset. Like I said, keep going.
  7. Take your meds, if you do that.
    I don’t know your dosing schedule, but most are taken after a meal and in the first part of the day.
  8. Go somewhere.
    Yes, to your computer chair to check into a freelance job is “somewhere.” I know that some of us are recluses by choice and/or mental condition. If you can get outside to at least stand on the porch and watch the sun, please do.
    Otherwise, I highly recommend getting completely out of the house. Go on a walk, pick up groceries, visit a friend, see a museum, or go to work if you’re employed.

Obviously, this routine is not a hard-and-fast rule. If you decide to pack a lunch in between steps 7 and 8 I won’t leap through your screen and slap you. I mean, you gotta eat lunch, too. I understand.

Still, it’s a good format. Use it like a foundation, something to plagiarize completely for yourself and adjust according to your personal flair.

In terms of the rest of your day, I feel that people’s schedules vary too widely to tailor as much as I did above. If you work, the day’s pretty much planned out for you because you have to do that. If you’re at home, set up activities similar to the morning one.

The main idea is to have assigned tasks; to keep moving.

Depression loves to settle on us like a putrid cloud. We let it. Making life pointless and then dwelling on the pointlessness of life is a vicious circle, but a daily routine will help break you out of that.

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Now, if you’re still with me, you may be wondering about a nighttime routine. I mentioned this in a previous article on sleep, so I don’t want to bore anybody. That, and I’ve exceeded my morning routine writing time. If I wait much longer, I’ll finish the rest of the chocolate almonds and will somehow decide to not exercise due to post-sugar crash.

Don’t get caught up in writing the perfect routine. Use mine for now; I gave you permission. As you follow it, you can slowly change to what works better for you and your lifestyle and work schedule.

You can do it, you beautiful/handsome person you.

 

Photo Credits:
Wikia
Deryn Macey
gbarkz

 

*Chelsea Owens is not a licensed anything, except a Class D driver in her home state, and shares all information and advice from personal experience and research.

The Cure for Depression: Get Some Sleep!

Good morning, everyone! I’ve been meaning to talk to you all about ONE OF THE MOST IMPORTANT topics ever besides food and sex, but I kept sitting down to do so at incriminating times -like, midnight or four a.m.ish.

Yeah, I oughta be asleep then.

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Now that I’ve pushed hypocrisy under the rug by typing at my local time of 10 a.m., let’s get into it!

Sleep is important.

Duh, right? Well, so is eating the right food, but I still ate a Pop Tart for my second breakfast. So is positive self-talk and such with CBT, but I forgot all that when my kids had a meltdown all weekend. So is talking to my counselor and doing what she says and -no, wait! I did go back on my medication because the kids had a meltdown all weekend.

Point is: we know sleep is important. However, if you’re like me, then a good sleep schedule is one of the first things to go right out the window as soon as you have a small sip of it.

So let’s remember why we need sleep:

  1. Better Mental Health
    Isn’t this our goal? My internet reading says that mental illness sufferers almost always do not get enough sleep. I think that’s often because our stupid problems don’t let us sleep; for me, however, I intentionally do not because I’m self-defeating that way.
    Sleep is CRUCIAL to better mental health, resetting emotions and releasing the happier hormones into our systems.
  2. Learning.
    Our brains HAVE TO hit all the key sleep stages in order to retain information. -You know, all that REM/NREM stuff where dreams can happen. There are a ton of articles out there about this, if you want to do a little side research.
  3. Physical Health.
    After a good night’s rest, our muscles are relaxed and ready for a new day. Skin looks better, especially around the eyes. Joints, ligaments, and nerves have time to repair. Without the stress of maintaining activity, the body as a whole can work on healing.
  4. Longer Life
    No joke: consistently cutting back on sleep affects DNA. This bad practice physically shortens one’s life. Don’t get paranoid; decide to get a better schedule.
  5. Creativity
    Despite your tortured artist soul’s ideas to the contrary, good sleep produces more creativity. I am a regular practice-er of late-night muse-calling; I often produce dark poetry detailing horrific, depressive mindsets.
    In terms of consistent artistry, though, I am much more productive when I’m regularly rested.
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  6. Lower Stress
    Yeah, you should know this one. Well-rested is the opposite of high-strung.
  7. Other Crap You May Not Have Known About
    Lack of sleep affects: testosterone (meaning you’re not going to feel like sex so much), weight control, disease immunity, and focus.

Like water and breathable air, humans have to have sleep. The next question, then, is how do we go about sleeping?

  1. Make a sleeping place
    Yep, like a bed. Maybe you’re literally more comfortable in a recliner, though. Wherever you do your business, make it only for sleeping and sexing. Make it comfortable, dark, and free from distractions.
  2. Make a sleeping time
    Ideally (in a fiction novel), you’d get to bed around 9 or 10 p.m. every night of your life. I find that aiming for a reasonable time gets me close to it, plus trains my body to expect that.
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  3. Have a relaxing routine
    Once your time’s set, prepare for it about an hour in advance. We’re talking: showering if you do it before bed, reading a book or your phone on the couch, reconnecting with your loved one(s), getting a drink, bathrooming, etc.
    DO NOT EAT an hour before bed. If you are positively famished, I’d recommend light foods at least two hours before for metabolism and heartburn reasons.
  4. Stay in bed, but don’t stress yourself
    Occasionally when I wake in the middle of the night, I toss about and decide I’d be more productive getting up. Then I’m a zombie all day. Instead, I’ll choose to make myself more comfortable by repeating my relaxing routine and possibly adjusting the house/bed temperature. Then, I’ll go back to bed and just rest.
  5. Sleep aids and medications
    I’m not going to pretend some people don’t need medicine to rest. The elephant’s in the room (and now, in the bed), right? If you’ve tried a bunch of stuff listed above and have serious trouble sleeping, get your doctor on board to prescribe something to help.
  6. Cut out the crappy stuff like smoking, drinking, recreational drugging and caffeinating
    Tricky, of course, but so so so so so so so helpful for your body in so so so so so so many ways -especially sleep.
    If you gotta do it, keep booze and coffee to healthy times: alcohol in small amounts after an earlier dinner and caffeine in the morning after food.

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The other side of excellent sleep habits is your waking ones. Early to bed and early to rise isn’t just a great poem; it’s a blueprint for most people and a healthy lifestyle.

After a good night’s rest, a consistent, early waking time is equally vital.

In my crash-course study on this topic over the past few days, I learned that waking at the same time each morning trains your body. Our smart little brains start increasing key protein levels (PER) just before the anticipated wakeup. Some people don’t even need an alarm clock because their body has been set.

You, too, can be a living alarm clock.

Resolve today to make sleep a higher priority. Make your bedroom cozy, cut out stimulants of all varieties in the evening, wake early, be consistent, but -most of all- RELAX!

Sleep feels great; get some and you’ll see.

Thank you for joining me on Consider not Depressing. Tune in next time, when I discuss the next item that cures depression.

 

Maeghan Smulders
rawpixel
Kristina Flour
Kinga Cichewicz

 

*Chelsea Owens is not a licensed anything, except a Class D driver in her home state, and shares all information and advice from personal experience and research.

The Cure for Depression: Cognitive Behavioral Therapy

It’s that time again: time to cure our depression. Way back in January, I proposed that curing isn’t exactly possible -BUT I listed 14 ideas that will help. We’ve talked about 8 or 9 others; like connecting with people, eating right, talking to a doctor or therapist, medicating, and doing happy things.

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Today, I’d like to get into Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. At least, I thought to get into it. I opened my hand-me-down laptop, typed that big, impressive-sounding word into a search, and then thought, Holy flipping crap! (Yep, I don’t swear often.)

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is LEGIT. It has its own, lengthy Wikipedia page.

Aaaaand I’ve just barely heard about it.

Hopefully, that means that all of YOU readers are nearly as clueless as I was, and will be impressed and amazed at the paltry light I’ll be shedding on this topic.

So, first: What is Cognitive Behavioral Therapy?

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy is often abbreviated to CBT. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (hereafter referred to as “CBT,” for the laziness of the writer) is simply a bunch of exercises to teach our brains better habits.

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Second: Why do we need it?

Let’s say that you’re a little kid playing with a hose out in the mud. You, sweet little unsupervised thing, have full command of an entire patch of mud and have decided to make trails and paths and mountains and mudpies. It’s a glorious, messy afternoon!

Using only the best sticks you find laying around, you begin digging waterways. The hose water follows. You’re a kid, so are not quite the best at design and such. Some of your water pools at places, overruns its banks at others, and ultimately empties right into the neighbor’s back fence and washes away their freshly-planted flowers.

Oops.

An adult comes over to help. He says he’s Dr. Civil Engineer and is also licensed in psychology. “Let’s turn off the water first,” he says. “Now, my good friend and trusted colleague, CBT, is going to gently help you with mud-forming.”

You aren’t exactly sure what a colleague is, or CBT. You just want to play in the mud, and get the neighbor to stop yelling at you about flowers. Don’t flowers need water? You shrug, and watch what CBT starts doing with your mud. CBT builds up a turn, repairs an overflow area, and (most frequently) digs new paths into less destructive directions.

What’s more, CBT tells you what it is doing and how you can do it, too.

Third: We need this. Professionals say so.

My paid friend keeps telling me that my brain has learned behaviors (almost all negative) and I need to stop and complete them with the more-positive truth when negative thoughts come up. Psychologists refer to these learned behaviors as cognitive distortions. Like the mud and water analogy, our mind forms automatic reactions to situations or thoughts or feelings in order to handle them next time; and, like our first, unguided attempts, they’re not always the best.

These automatic reactions are like cringing when hit in sensitive areas, crying when our nose gets hurt, or kicking our leg when the tendon below our patella is hit.

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CBT is training to get over knee-jerk reactions. It’s still having the jerking, but toward somewhere that doesn’t actually kick someone and, especially, with the result of leaving us feeling happy that we kicked our leg instead of then kicking ourselves for reacting.

Fourth: How does one CBT?

Doesn’t CBT sound fantastic? I think it sounds a bit difficult, myself. How do we get started? Can we actually change how we think? I am not very successful at self-run things, and (yep) I tell myself that I’m not very successful.

I highly recommend getting someone professional to run this for you. CBT is the most common therapy of its kind. However, like many major startups, it has spawned subgroups of more specific subjects, die-hard zealots of original teachings, and side-therapies of similar names run by leaders who couldn’t get credit for starting the first one. Some professional navigation of those twisty roads will help you.

If you’re poor, shy, or just starting out, there are self-help options. A blog I somehow found recently lists online worksheets. Other sites exist, as well as books you can purchase.

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Fifth: No, really: does it actually help?

CBT really does help. My counselor is of the camp that minor mental issues are wholly the result of years of negative thought processes and reactions. Psychiatrists advocate for mostly medical measures, no matter how minor. I think the farmer and the cowman can be friends and meet us halfway.

Most health professionals agree that medicine and therapy, together, are the winning combination for fighting mental health issues.

Our bodies become resistant to medications and substances. Our hormones and brain chemistry change with time and stressful situations. Our motivation becomes dependent on that boost we get from outside stimuli, like prescriptions, drug overuse, and stimulants.

CBT is very nearly the silver bullet of therapies. It empowers YOU. It teaches you how to better handle your own brain -which is great because that’s what you’re stuck with all the time! Even doctors, as empathetic or sympathetic or knowledgeable as they are, cannot EVER understand exactly what you feel and experience. They have their own brains, not yours.

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Sixth: How about a run-through?

I’m getting a bit long here, even with shortening Cognitive Behavioral Therapy to CBT so many times, but can’t leave without some practical advice for all y’all. Here’s one type of CBT method you can run through, from wikihow:

  1. Notice when you’re negative.
    My therapist had me make a list what I know about me. It was about 80% self-critical and even the positive items were less-complimentary.
    Or, meditation is an option. Take at least ten minutes without distraction and pay attention to where your thoughts and feelings go.
    Think about a situation in the past that was negative.
  2. Recognize the connection between your thoughts and your feelings.
    Obviously, if you were dropped from a speeding airplane by members of the mafia into a boiling volcano, you had little control over feeling dead afterwards.
    But most situations, even sucky ones, do not cause our bad feelings at the end. WE cause them. YOU cause them. Your natural, poorly-designed mud paths caused the overflow of emotion.
    See the connection, and tell yourself that you felt bad because you had bad thoughts.
  3. Notice automatic thoughts
    All during the day, stuff happens. Automatically, we have some sort of reaction to the stuff.
    Let’s say I went to the store and realized I forgot my credit card. It’s back home in the freezer or whatever. An automatic negative thought from my brain would be, You’re always forgetting things. Further, I would think, Now you have to put all the groceries back. You should never come back to this store again.
    ALL THOSE are not good.
    I need to stop, drop and roll -er, *ahem* I need to stop that thought, way back when it started. Then, I tell myself it’s negative. Finally, I decide to tell myself something more like, Oops! I’ll look for some cash. I’l ask the cashier to hold these for me while I look, or drive home. Heck, I’m not the first person to forget payment; they’ll work with me.
  4. and 5. Talk about core beliefs. Specifically, about tying the automatic cognitive distortions to faulty internal beliefs.
    I’m not in favor of this step, because it’s self-analyzing. Getting into my terrible self-esteem and my potentially-damaging childhood without assistance sounds like a worse idea than the ones my mind comes up with.

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  1. Identify cognitive distortions. This may help with stopping the negative thoughts. Like, you can tell yourself, “I’m not a terrible person! I’m just overgeneralizing. It’s a typical misconception.” Common distortions listed on wikihow are:
    -Catastrophizing by predicting only negative outcomes in the future
    -Having all-or-nothing thinking
    -Discounting the positive
    -Labeling something or someone without knowing more about it or them
    -Rationalizing based on emotions rather than facts
    -Minimizing or magnifying the situation
    -Having “tunnel vision” by seeing only the negatives
    -Mind reading in which you believe you know what someone is thinking
    -Overgeneralizing by making an overall negative conclusion beyond the current situation
    -Personalizing the situation as something specifically wrong with you

Hopefully, this first method of 6(ish) steps works as a starting place for you. The wikihow article lists two other methods as well.

Seventh: A different initial approach is also helpful.

Besides these suggested steps, I’m a big proponent of creating an initial positive environment. I feel like I’m constantly in a negative haze, self-protected and negatively-pressured to the point of not sticking a toe out into the world.

A suggestion from my counselor was to think back on a time when I felt happy or good. Then, I was to keep asking myself, “Why?” until I traced it to a core emotion. For example: I said I’d felt happy driving to the appointment. Why? It was sunny and warm outside and I was alone. Why did that make you happy? I like feeling warm and comfortable. -Holy crap! I like being comfortable. Comfort was my core emotion.

One may also repeat a mantra each morning and evening. Something like, “I am of worth. I love myself;” or reciting an uplifting poem.

Morning meditation is good as well, or prayer.

Whatever activity you do, the goal is to create a positive atmosphere. We want to start our thoughts in a better direction and keep them going that way. Over time, your brain will form better neural pathways. You won’t flood anyone’s flower beds. You’ll have the practice and skills to handle past habits and fight new triggers.

And don’t get discouraged. You’ve had your entire life to build these habits; you can’t change overnight but you can change.

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Photo Credits:
Artem Bali
Pixabay
Pixabay
Sharon McCutcheon
Pixabay
Wikimedia Commons
Tyler Nix

 

*Chelsea Owens is not a licensed anything, except a Class D driver in her home state, and shares all information and advice from personal experience and research.

The Cure for Depression: Get up and MOVE

This topic is my favorite because I actually have experience with it. I have some experience with the others, too. They‘re just not as fun to talk about.

But NOW we get to discuss getting off the freaking floor. NOW we get to talk exercise.

I LOVE exercise. No, I’m not a masochistic, weight-lifting gym junkie. I am most definitely not that person you see running down the street at breakneck speed and somehow grinning whilst doing it.

If you make it over to my gym, I’m the one barely shuffling around the track because I fall off treadmills. Old people are passing me, giving me thumbs-up for trying ’cause they’re nice like that.

Stillstill I LOVE exercise. For me, it’s the ability to move.

Whenever I finally get my sorry rear into workout clothes and start moving, something inside me cannot stop feeling happy. Running makes me feel like I’m flying, like I’m airborne and nothing’s going to stop me. I know it’s not endorphins because it always happens at the start. That, and I seem a bit endorphin-deficient even at the end.

I understand that moving may not be your happy place. Answer me this, though: IS NOT MOVING YOUR HAPPY PLACE?

Nope, you’re lying.

I know, because I’m sitting right next to you. It’s a bit dark, of course. We’ve got some kind of substance and/or distraction and/or avoidance crap going on. No one can get in, even if they’re actually right there by us. We’re comfortable here, but not truly happy.

Soooo…. now you ask how you can possibly get moving.

Answer: Make it easier to move.

No, really. I remember reading an author’s idea about how we are such slaves to convenience, that literally making a habit about twenty seconds more difficult will help us not do it. (Sorry for the run-on sentence.)

think it’s this dude, Shawn Achor:

If not, his book was good anyway. Something about happiness and advantage.

Shawn (or someone very like him) had a bad habit of coming home and immediately losing himself to an hour or a few watching Netflix. Conversely, he wanted to practice his guitar more.

So, he took the batteries out of the remote and ‘hid’ them in his nightstand drawer. He took his guitar and put it on a guitar stand right by the couch. It sounds really silly, but having the instrument right there and the batteries a teensy bit farther away broke him of the bad habit and improved his skills on the good one.

No, this post is not about playing the guitar. I definitely can’t do that. We’re talking about EXERCISE (yay!). We’re talking about how to even get yourself started.

  1. First, ensure that you have something you can exercise in, in terms of clothing. If you intend to stay inside (which I recommend against), you’ll only need undies. If you’re female, however, you’ll feel more comfortable with a bit more for support.
  2. Next, either set the clothing out RIGHT WHERE YOU TOUCH when you wake up, or go to sleep wearing it. Put your shoes and socks that you’ll exercise in nearby, too.
  3. Wake up just a tad earlier than usual, roll over to wherever you intend to officially move, get dressed, and get started.
  4. Choose an exercise routine that you can do. There are many.

Yes, folks, it’s that easy. And, for the low, low price of $999.99, you can exercise, too!

In reality, following my three steps is free (minus the cost of #1).

But let’s say you’ve got a YUGE mental block in terms of where or how to exercise. To answer that, I think going outside is the best. This may not work for you, particularly if “outside” is a super scary neighborhood with super scary people or potholes around. Maybe it’s snowing. Maybe you have allergies. See how the list keeps getting longer and you’re now not going to even consider exercising?

If you’re able to afford it, a local gym is good. They often have deals like “let your friends in for free this month so they’ll get suckered into signing up.” Hang out outside and ask someone to be your free gym class friend.

Thirdly, I suggest the option I use most often: l’internet. I didn’t know this, but lots of peoples on YouTube have free exercise videos. I started out with Fat People Who Move Faster than You and can now do a few HIIT workouts (okay, I do most of their session).

YouTube is my “20 seconds closer.” Sometimes I find myself making excuses like, “I just ate,” “I need to use the bathroom,” “I don’t have shoes on,” or “I haven’t been drinking enough water today and yet I still need to use the bathroom.” When the excuses pile up, I turn the TV on (we’ve got streaming) crank up my dubstep exercise music, and do it barefoot.

Even with kicking myself to move, some days I wimp out. I only do half the circuit, for example. Still, I did some. I’m always good about not beating myself up for giving up. I beat myself up for plenty of other things, but my aerobic habit is not one of them.

The results? After six months of (attempting) daily exercise, I miss the beneficial feeling when I try to skip out. It’s become a habit. I also enjoy all of the following:

  • More clarity of thought, especially when I walk outside.
  • I get good ideas for writing topics when I jog around the track because I’m super bored going around and around like that for so many laps.
  • I haven’t had a bad cold since beginning, and have only had two minor ones.

Plus, I passed an old person at the gym the other day.

I gave her a thumbs-up.

 

Photo Credits:
Curtis MacNewton
CATHY PHAM
Oana-Maria Sofronia
Jesus In Taiwan

 

*Chelsea Owens is not a licensed anything, except a Class D driver in her home state, and shares all information and advice from personal experience and research.

The Cure for Depression: Don’t Be Hatin’ on Medicatin’

Now onto my favorite (*cough* *cough*) advice for treating Depression: medication.

Whoa –what?! YOU don’t like being dependent on pills? We should hang out. Oh, wait. We kind-of are.

For nearly my entire anxious life I’ve worried about THE Day: that point at which the doctors would finally tie me up in a straight jacket, cart me away, and dose me full of anti-depressants. I knew it would come. As relative after relative succumbed to depressive tendencies, I’d mentally count down to when my turn would be.

I watched a friend balloon in weight on anti-psychotics; saw the not-so-fun of adjusting medications in another. I read and heard and watched people being negatively affected by their cocktail of drugs. Would that happen to me, too?

Frankly, there is a lot to be depressed about in terms of depression medication.

But this sort of thinking is clearly that of someone in a depressive mindset (aka ME). I love to take the easy route of negative self-talk; of assuming the worst.

The truth -no, The Truth is that medications are extremely helpful. They are often vital.

Need an example? A close friend of mine was married for a couple decades to a guy with serious schizophrenic issues. Super nice guy, by the way. He became concerned that apocalyptic situations were nearing and concluded that medication dependency was a bad thing. So, of course, he went off of his pills.

This is not one of those ‘happily ever after’ stories, but it is one in which life had to keep going and did (and, still does). After severe manic/depressive episodes, a necessary divorce, and removal of his ability to get credit cards; he’s back on a higher dose and somewhat back to the person I knew before.

No, not every story is that extreme. Yes, some are more so.

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In my vast experience of talking to a lot of people about mental illness (’cause I’m nosy), most use medication for its intended purpose: a leg up. Prescription drugs are meant to give our poor minds and neural pathways a little help.

They are meant to be taken WITH therapy, because we need to teach ourselves to form automatic pathways to brighter fields of mental flowers.

I found some really great sources of information online (Mayo Clinic, WebMd, MedicineNet) that go into more details about common medications, their types, and side effects. They’re especially good if you want to get worked up about how you have a 5% chance of a limb detaching once on a course of Prozac.

So, this is the part where a psychomedicaldoctordude comes in handy. He or she will help you not panic after reading about arms falling off, and come up with a working plan to fit your symptoms. After talking through what you and s/he think is going on, s/he may prescribe you something to try.

The most common medications to treat Depression are:
-Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) like Prozac, Celexa, Zoloft, Paxil.
-Serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) like Cymbalta and Effexor.
-Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs) like Nopramin and Nardil.
-Other classifications, like Wellbutrin (aminoketone class), Trazodone (serotonin modulator), or Remeron (tetracyclic).

You may have a mix of mental illness, in which case anti-anxiety or anti-psychotic medications are prescribed. Ones like:
-Antipsychotics: Seroquel, and Zyprexa with Prozac.
-Lithium carbonate.
-Some stimulants like Ritalin.
-Anti-anxiety, like Buspar.

For those like me who deal with related issues like thyroid deficiencies, the prescription may simply be:
-Supplements to raise natural levels in the body
-Hormone therapy
-Specific thyroid medications

Whew! That’s quite a list. I swiped it from WebMd, mostly, leaving out the fun side effects notes.

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These all affect serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine in some way. An article by Harvard Health also referenced Glutamate and GABA. Once assisted, those internal hormones and neurotransmitters and such will give us our mental leg-up.

In reading over these sites, I get the idea that Depression is a tricky bugger. The medications tend to improve symptoms in about 70% of sufferers, but doctors are not entirely certain why. Yes, they affect these hormones or connectors -however, simply affecting said things in isolation does not always work. That, and some people are still not helped by the good old anti-depressant classics.

Talk to a doctor continually in order to address the issues you have, and involve therapy along with the medication(s).

But besides boring you all with technical details about prescription drugs, I wanted to repeatedly hit my main point home for you: Pills aren’t all that bad.

During my brief stint on hormones, I experienced something wonderful. The sensation was very much like the gift of sight despite not wearing contacts or eyeglasses. I looked around at the world and saw light, felt hope, and assumed better outcomes instead of the worst possible ones.

Prescription drugs can be the older-brother boost to get into that impossibly high tree. Instead of constantly staring up at all the other people who got to the top branches, you can get help. With The Pill, you will be able to see knotholes or branch stubs or bark indentations. With psychotherapy, you’ll gain the strength to use them.

A low-angle shot of a tree with an impressive trunk

The journey to a brighter place may necessitate medication. Don’t be hatin’. Try what your paid medical friend suggests, pay attention to side effects; try, try again. Train your mind, young padowan, so that you may someday need fewer legs up -or, perhaps, none at all.

These pictures were swiped from JES’ database, which uses Unsplash.

 

*Chelsea Owens is not a licensed anything, except a Class D driver in her home state, and shares all information and advice from personal experience and research.

The Cure for Depression: Get a Paid MEDICAL Friend

A few weeks back, I wrote about 14ish items that help “cure” Depression. Shortly after, I covered connecting with a human and getting a paid friend.

I realized, however, that I did not have information regarding a medical friend (AKA a psychiatrist). Therefore, the post you’re reading RIGHT NOW is Item 2a on that 14 item list, as an amendment to the one before it.

A moving freight train on railroad tracks on a cloudy day

Let’s back the runaway train of thought up just a tad so you can get on:
Do you or a loved one experience some reactions to life situations that interfere with normal behavior?

We’re talking inability to leave the house, extreme anxiety to the point of a raised heart rate and panic, thoughts of suicide, and/or manic and depressive episodes.

Honestly, I could go on and on. I could name ev’ry depressive phenomenon… but there are many, many possible symptoms to consider. I highly suggest you follow my second advice to get a paid friend.

But… should you consider a psychologist or a psychiatrist? They are more than a few letters’ difference.

All of my personal experience has been with the former; of the familiae Counselor or the subclass Therapist. That’s not to say I don’t have any knowledge of psychiatrists. I have several family members and friends who have talked to me about them, plus my flash internet education just a few minutes ago (don’t worry; I read fast).

Sigmund Freud, by Max Halberstadt (cropped).jpg

One website I read over said that psychiatrists are a good choice because they attend medical school first. After all that work, their residency is specifically in psychiatry. They’re a doctor who understands your brain better than a zombie would, and can use a medical foundation with any treatment plans.

One family member I read over, however, says the psychiatrist is only there to write her prescriptions.

I know some psychiatrists who fit a little of both, and I think you can find a really great one. How? Even if you go more with the psychologist route; consider these tips:

  1. Get your regular doctor or counselor to give you a referral. Heck, maybe they go to a psychiatrist.
  2. Check if your insurance covers anyone and who that person might be.
  3. Internet stalk the recommended psychoperson to learn their credentials.
  4. Read about their work experience. If you suspect your cocktail of symptoms are Bipolar related, you may not want to visit a guy who says he’s good with eating disorders.
  5. Think about whether you want a dude or a chick. I prefer females, myself, as they empathize with my goings-on.
  6. Read through their internet ratings. You simply don’t want to go with the 1 star blender.

(By the by, I lifted these ideas from Health Grades.)

Psychiatrists have the legal ability to write prescriptions. Whether that’s mainly what they do or no, you’ll need them (or a regular medical doctor) if your symptoms could really use the help of medication.

If you’re unsure, feel intimidated, or don’t want to even think about medication; that’s totally cool. We’re about small steps, remember? Talk to someone you trust first. That may lead to feeling comfortable enough to ask your medical doctor about a psychologist. Said doctor or counselor might know a psychiatrist they play golf with on Saturdays.

Start small. Ask for what you need. You are worth it.

 

Photo credits:
Ankush Minda

Image Two from wikimedia commons
Amazon sells blenders

 

*Chelsea Owens is not a licensed anything, except a Class D driver in her home state, and shares all information and advice from personal experience and research.

Insided Out

We watched Inside Out for our family movie night last week. Since then, my husband and I have had a lot to think about. He relates to Joy.

“I’m like Joy. I draw a circle and tell Sadness to stay inside it….” -Him

Me? I relate to Sadness, then Anger, then Fear. Sadness runs my little control panel, and tells Joy to keep it contained. We wouldn’t want things to get too happy, you know?

“Crying helps me slow down and obsess over the weight of life’s problems.” -Sadness

I know it sounds depressing. You don’t really need to tell a depressing person that she’s depressing. The funny thing is that, when other people express similar sentiments, I put on a little mask and cheerleader demeanor (though not ever the outfit). “I’m sure that problem would be helped by _________” I say. “You’re not worthless,” I add. “Every human being has worth and I have seen you do amazing things.”

Inside, however, my coagulation of Sadangryscared says rotten things.

“There is no point to life and no one really likes you.” -Me

I’ve expressed the feeling that others are driving, that life is ho-hum, that I don’t know what to do and that I feel badly for feeling this way on top of it all. At rarer times; I have been a little happier and explained how to move on, get over oneself, and improve.

The problem is Depression and its insidious friend, Despair. When both of those are too lazy to try very hard, they kick Apathy over to sit on me. I can’t care about much with her sitting there.

…. -Apathy

See? She can’t even be bothered to construct a sentence, let alone give me the idea that I ought to try to try.

Why are things that way? Why can’t I try a little joy? It’s because when Joy is loose inside my mind, she’s a tad crazy. We’re talking toga party crazy. We’re talking repressed emotion crazy. She bounces off walls, says embarrassing things, and doesn’t really know how to respond to others’ comments. As Fear slowly gets a good grip on her arm to put her back over in her circle, she turns into Anxiety.

“Oh, no. What did I say? I should never have allowed myself to feel happy.” -Me again, or Joy as Anxiety

Like in the film, I believe my emotions need to get along better if I hope for more stability. My mind islands need a fusion; a cohesive Pangaea where all may play and get along.

After all, Riley’s mother’s dominant emotion is Sadness. She and the other eyeglass-wearing, ponytail-toting gals get along fine and don’t seem to be collapsing in crying heaps all over the place. I can aim for that, can’t I?

Until then, here’s a final message from Sadness:

“I’m too sad to walk. Just give me a few …hours.”