Dancing in the Rain

Fighting Depression With Laughter and Grace

Sad Songs Say So Much…and So Do Zombies

From Creative Commons- Dreamtime.com

In an effort to try and lift some of this heaviness in my chest and fogginess in my brain, I started creating a playlist on my Apple Music account. I thought, surely a collection of songs that make me want to dance and sing a little bit could only help. Right? I know I’m not the only girl who uses music as part of her recovery efforts. Music has long been used as a part of therapy for depression and anxiety.

So I’m searching through songs, looking for uplifting tunes that remind me of happier times, or at least drop a great beat, and just nothing sounds right. Most of the time, my girl Lizzo can get me nodding my head like, “Yes, sister! Preach!” But right now, she flips her hair back, checks her nails, asks me how I’m feelin’, and it’s crappy as hell. Even Pink, with her girl power and amazing vocals, can’t get this party started, you know? I’m just stuck, and I didn’t know where to look next.

As I scrolled, I came across an old song my mom used to love. Just for nostalgia purposes, I hit play and began to move on to peruse other titles. Instead, I found myself singing along to this song, which was decidedly sad but beautiful, and losing myself in it. So I just sat there, eyes closed, belting out this song that talked about lost love and the end of a life together, and felt…better. This “depressing” song improved my depression just the slightest bit. Weird, right? Beyond the obvious, what the hell is wrong with me?

Then I read another blog written by a fellow mental health warrior, and he discussed the fact that one of his pick me ups during a depressive episode is horror movies. Zombies, monsters, and ghost shows make him feel better. The protagonist’s struggle to survive, and to finally come out on top even if he isn’t in one piece, gives the blogger hope for his own battle. My slight (major) obsession with the show Supernatural proves that theory works for me, as well. When my brain goes off the deep end, I binge the hell out of that series.

So, I’m cranking up the sad music and letting it take me away on a wave of broken hearts and piano melodies. It feels cathartic to blast those tunes and sing my heart out to the misery of other people. Lizzo will just have to flip her hair back later, when I’m not so down. I guess it could be worse. At least I’m not being eaten by zombies.

To read the blogpost mentioned, follow Juan at The Dark Tales Project.

I’ll Stick With Zombies, Thanks

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Making Hay While the Sun Shines


Summer is here! For someone with seasonal affective disorder, the arrival of the “happy”season brings such a feeling of relief I almost feel giddy. It makes me stop and question my joy a little, wondering if it’s too much. An over abundance of good feeling that isn’t warranted and therefore isn’t to be trusted. But mostly, I just try to go with it because I know it won’t last forever. 

It’s during this time that I am trying to learn to take advantage of the motivated, positive outlook and “stock up” for the winter. Like the little ants that toil under the hot sun while the grasshopper goofs off, I know a time is coming that the positive energy won’t be readily available and I must prepare. I also know that my ability to function takes a nosedive in the fall, right when I need it the most. So unless I enjoy booking a stay into lovely accommodations that provide crayons and feelings journals but confiscate shoelaces and writing pens, it’s time to make hay while the sun shines. 

I am an educator. It’s not just my profession, it’s who I am. Along with being a mom and a wife, it is who I feel I was born to be. It is rewarding and exciting and difficult and stressful, and when I am healthy I love every single second of it. Unfortunately, the beginning of the school year coincides with my yearly slide into the depths of hell. 

This year, after more than 20 years of the same routine due to misdiagnosis and incomplete treatment, I’m learning. All the fantastic ideas I’ve got now? I’m writing them down. The incredible lessons? I’m preparing materials now. If I walk in to school armed with ready-to-go plans to use when I’m struggling to put together a coherent thought, how much easier will life be? How much stress and self-abuse can I avoid? How much more free time will I have to take care of myself? This can only be good. 

But it’s not only for my professional life I’m hoarding productivity. Now, while I have energy, I need to remember to invest it in my relationships. When depression has its knee in my back pinning me down, I have to fight to be present in my children’s lives. I isolate from friends. I forget to cherish and be grateful for my wonderful husband. I’m hoping to avoid that this year, but if I don’t, I sure want to give my kids the love and attention now that lets them know how much I value them. I want to socialize now before the thought of going out of the house leaves me frozen in fear. I’m going to pay attention to my husband’s needs and commit to being the best wife I can. When my brain won’t cooperate and allow me to participate in life, I have to know I’ve done my best when I could. 

This is also the time I need to stock up on self-care like Chip and Dale stored nuts in those old Disney cartoons. Face it, on days that taking a shower feels like an Iron Man competition, we don’t really have a grasp on good health. Our hygiene and nutrition pretty much suck. Exercise, though it would be helpful, seems impossible. So I’m putting some healthy habits and routines into play now, while I have rational thought and determined commitment. Hopefully later I’ll either have them so ingrained into my life that I continue while on autopilot, or I’ll have gotten myself healthy enough that a few weeks off the wagon won’t do serious damage. 

I know. This sounds like a lot. Unless you look at the life of someone who doesn’t have mental health issues. With the exception of a few bad days, these people can have a productive day at work, spend time with friends or family, and hit the gym or a track. All in the same day. They even remember to eat most of the time, but not two gallons of ice cream and an entire pizza on their own. Amazing, but true. So I’m claiming this time. I’m making it mine before my brain undermines me. I’m going to be the me I was meant to be before depression no longer allows it. The sun feels warm on my skin, and I’m making hay, baby. 

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Don’t Believe Everything You Think, and Hope Springs Eternal 

  Right now, my mood seems to be stabilized with the ECT every 10 days and the medication combination I’m taking. The anxiety and self-esteem need work. The thought of returning to work in less than two weeks makes me want to throw up. A lot of that is from all the negative things I’ve convinced myself are true. My therapist says we can’t change behavior until we change thoughts, and my self-talk is down right hateful. I hold myself to these impossibly high standards and feel that I’m a terrible failure when I don’t meet them. I think some really awful things, like being the fattest woman in the room and wondering how my husband could possibly be attracted to me. Or that I’m a terrible person for not having a clean house.  Or I’ve let everyone down because of the “illness” my brain tries to convince me is just selfish laziness. 
The last few days, I’ve had two recurring thoughts. I was thinking about how most of my fears deal with what other people think of me. What if I could accept that this is who I am right now, and anyone who can’t accept it doesn’t matter? The people at work will think I’m horrible. So what? Yes, this year sucked. That doesn’t mean I will never be fantastic again. Just not right now. Yes, I’m overweight and it interferes with things I want to do, but anyone who wants to judge me for that can take a hike. It’s not their business, and it doesn’t matter what they think. I have a husband that loves me, so anyone else’s opinion doesn’t matter. If I can learn not to give so much importance to other people’s judgement, I could possibly focus on becoming who I want to be instead of trying to be who I think people want me to be. 

The second thought I’ve been having comes from seeing The Passion of the Christ the other night. Jesus, all bloody and beaten, looks at Mary and says, “See, mother. I make all things new.”  It’s still resonating with me. Easter comes in the Spring, a time when the earth abounds with new life. But what if I take that gift and apply it to myself? That’s what He meant, right? I don’t need a New Years resolution. I don’t have to wait for a Monday, or hope for someday. Every day, I have a clean slate. All I have to do is focus on one day at a time. Maybe even one hour at a time. Let go of all the “shoulds” and “ought to be’s” and concentrate on what is right now. I have to allow myself to make mistakes and learn to forgive myself for them. I need to stop trying to read others’ minds and project my negative thoughts onto them. In all truth, most people don’t even care. So what if they think, “Man, she got fat!”  They don’t know me or my life. Nothing important is dependent upon their opinion. And really, if they love me, they won’t care. 

So, two things. 1. Accept who I am right now and don’t worry about other people’s perceptions of me. They aren’t critical to my journey.  And 2. He makes all things new. Or Spring is a time for renewal, depending on what you believe. 

What would I do if I didn’t care what anyone thinks about me? Sing karaoke. Wear a swim suit–uncovered. Play competitive games. Try sports. Go to book club. Enjoy parties. Act. Be more social. Share my writing. Go places where I don’t know anyone. Live life with no regrets. 

What would you do?

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Silver Linings

Brains are weird. Even when they’re working properly, it’s still strange to think this wrinkly blob of gray matter controls all we do and who we are. When they malfunction, well… take today. Anxiety hijacked all rational thought early this morning. It took no prisoners. Before 10:00 a.m. I had decided to quit my job, get a new job, find a new profession, quit everything, cower under my covers and see if I can get paid for it, admit I’m a fraud, and run away and join the circus. It was a busy morning. Trying to calm my racing mind, I thought I’d take my little dog for a walk. She’s tiny and sweet and loves me more than anyone else. She does a special little happy dance whenever I come home. Everyone ought to be greeted like that every day. But I digress. I was talking about how strange brains are, and the “dog walk episode” is a perfect example. Panic had been making it difficult to breathe, so I was just going around the block with this puppy on a leash. We wouldn’t be gone long, so I was empty handed when my adorable mutt decided to take a shit right in front of a neighbor’s driveway. Right. In. The. Street.  For real, what dog does that? Now most people would consider this an unfortunate event, but it couldn’t be helped. MY brain decided to melt down completely. What if the neighbor saw it? Should I go all the way home and get a bag and then come back and pick it up? How could I let my dog do that? How would I ever face that neighbor again (I don’t even know them)? I will feel ashamed now every time I pass that house. Hours later, and I’m still wondering if I should go back. Crazy, right? My brain has zeroed in on this one thing and is replaying it over and over, making me a worse person every time. I’m now that horrible woman who lets her dog crap wherever it wants because she’s a rotten human being. Before the dog episode, I was freaking out over work. Before that, getting my diet back on track. The point is, when anxiety takes over, your brain latches on to a single thought and puts that sucker on replay like Adele’s latest song. It takes so much to let it go. Breathing. Being mindful. Doing something creative or productive to divert my thinking. It’s hard.

I watched The Silver Lining Playbook last night, and the main character’s technique of looking for a silver lining, taking the bad and turning it around into a positive, hit home for me. I could identify with the struggles depicted in that movie. I’ll admit I didn’t finish it because it was a little too realistic, but that’s what Netflix is for. When I’m feeling stronger I can go back and see the ending. In the meantime I’m taking that single idea and running with it. Find a positive thought and add it to the play list in my head. So my dog created a neighborhood faux pas.  Instead of focusing on how much I deserve to be lynched, I’m going to think about the fact that I chose to go for a walk instead of drowning my negative thoughts in a vat of Ben and Jerry’s. I enjoyed the sunshine and the cool breeze, and maybe burned some calories while I was at it. I found a silver lining. When your brain is focused on a load of crap, that’s the best thing you can do.

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Too Bad We Don’t Get a Clarence

 

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As I posted on the FaceBook page the other day, I’ve been thinking about poor old George Bailey ever since I watched It’s a Wonderful Life that night. He is the perfect example of the distorted thinking we can get sucked into when we’re in the midst of depression. He honestly thought the world would be better off without him. He wasn’t thinking of Mr. Martini and his family moving into Bailey Park, or saving his brother, or even Mary and his children. The panic took over all rational thought, and the feeling of worthlessness overwhelmed him. All the good he’d done and kindness he’d shown didn’t even come to mind. If he’d asked anyone in Bedford Falls, they would have told him how important he was. Mary would have let him know how much he was loved. But he couldn’t remember it, and he didn’t ask. This is how we see life through the fog of depression. Good times seem far away, and we can’t find a single redeemable trait in ourselves. Too often, it seems that jumping from that bridge is the only answer. I think the reason I love that movie the most is because George gets the chance to see how it would be without him. Wouldn’t that be a gift? Do you think if you had the opportunity to see whose life you’d changed, what difference you’ve made, that it would help fight off that hopeless feeling of failure? Imagine it!  Just like George, we’d look back and see the successes, the golden moments of happiness, and know that something as unimportant as money could never be worth our lives. But like George, we don’t ask. Unfortunately, we don’t get a Clarence to come down and walk us through a world without us in it. So, we wander around with the warped notion that we don’t matter and we have nothing to offer the world around us. We go about our lives with our spirits quietly bleeding to death, wanting nothing more than to feel that we contribute something good to the world. The holidays are stressful even for the best of us, but for those that struggle to find joy all year round it can be even more difficult. I know I’m fighting it. If you are, too, know that you matter. There is someone out there who values you and whose life would be totally different without you in it. You may feel like you’re on that bridge looking down, but don’t jump. Make a list of the good things you’ve done, and the good things you are. If you can’t think of any, ask someone. It would have been a completely different movie if George Bailey had been honest and talked to someone about how he was feeling. He’d have gone into Martini’s Bar, poured his heart out, and the town would have rallied around him. It makes for a boring movie, but a wonderful life. Happy Holidays.

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Just Breathe

  
Depression and anxiety seem to always be there in the back of my mind, just waiting for a weak moment to pounce on me. Today I had every intention of getting things done. The holidays are here, and I’d like to have my house decorated before, you know, February. But anxiety derailed my train of thought along the way. Sifting through the carnage, I’ve been trying to make sense of the heart palpitations and hyperventilating. I’ve narrowed it down to one major fear. I’ve been on medical leave for depression since October, and my doctor may release me to return after the first of the year. Today, instead of focusing on the moment (and the pile of laundry in front of me, the floor that needs vacuuming, and decorations needing placement), I’ve begun anticipating going back to work. This causes me to feel physically ill. The knowledge that I will have to face coworkers and supervisors filled with questions scares me. Being in charge of so much and having so many people relying on me makes me want to hide away in a dark corner somewhere. So I’ve spent the last hour watching an old, comforting movie and cuddling my dog while I focus on breathing. I’m trying to ignore the guilt that I’m not accomplishing all the things. I’m fighting the worry that comes with waiting on insurance to pay up. For now, I will concentrate on NOW. NOW I am safe at home with a puppy on my lap and Harry Potter on the TV. NOW I  am taking deep breaths and reminding myself of all the things I’m grateful for. NOW I have to let go of all I’m not able to do and just do what I can. NOW I am not ready to go back to work and face the judgement and stress, but I don’t have to today. Today I will just breathe.  I will take comfort in small things and try to ignore the monsters that threaten to devour me when I turn my back. Anxiety and depression will try to rob me of my joy and peace, and they might win…eventually. But not NOW. 

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Depression Blows

key-west-81664_640I’m from the Texas Coast. If we know anything around here, it’s storms. Winter rain, summer thunderstorms, and of course the ever-dreaded hurricane. I’ve always thought a hurricane was a lot like my depression, because when it hits it’s time to barricade the doors and windows, hunker down inside, and pray it passes quickly. Like a hurricane, it sucks the air from your lungs and strips you down to nothing. It roars and throws your world into darkness. It’s huge, and ravenous, and devours everything in its path before becoming very still. You discover that sometimes the worst has passed, but sometimes you’re just in the eye of the storm and there’s a huge wave coming to you sweep you up and try to drown you. When it’s gone, you’re left to pick up what little is left behind and start over. Sooner or later, you begin to question why you keep rebuilding if you’re only going to lose it all over again.

I’m in the rebuilding phase. Again. I’ve just returned from my third stay in a mental facility in two years, and I’m feeling naked and vulnerable. I’ve tried just about every anti-depressant and anti-anxiety medication, and now my doctor has me receiving electroconvulsive therapy once a week. A large part of me fears getting my hopes up, knowing that the depression always comes back. But another, stronger part of me rages at the storm and constructs new defenses, regardless of whether they’ll be blown away again. I want to stand in the midst of the gale with both middle fingers pointed up in defiance of this disease. I want to dance around in the rain as if it can never hurt me. It’s from this place of survival and hope that I decided to create this blog. The single most important words I have ever heard are the simple words, “Me, too”. You see, the thing about these hurricanes is that they isolate you. Lines of communication go down, paths are blocked. Yet somehow when people pull together in the aftermath, beautiful things happen. It makes the suffering have meaning instead of seeming to be this endless, pointless pain. I have met some of the most beautiful souls as comrade-in-arms, fighting depression and anxiety in some form or another, and we agree there is security in numbers. There is comfort in knowing someone else “gets it”.

I’m not saying that finding the silver lining makes everything better, or that being positive can beat the storm back. I’ve hidden in the dark, waiting, too often to believe that bullshit. But we can hold each other’s hands in the shadows. We can tell each other stories to make the time spent in the blackness pass more quickly. When one of us goes down, we can send the lifeboats that float them to safety. You see, unlike tornadoes, you can see a hurricane coming. You can’t stop it, but you can prepare. Maybe having this blog is one way of stocking up on supplies. It’s having somewhere to turn when the lights go out and we’re not certain we can make it. Here, there will be someone who says, “Me, too” and survived their storm.

Today, it is quiet around me. That doesn’t mean tomorrow won’t bring another deluge, but for now I will take the moment that is given and dance my ass off. I will laugh and love and hope. The storm didn’t win. I can feel the sun on my face. Blow me, hurricane.

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