Posted in Background, Mantras

Living your values: What are you about?

My mind’s been going in a thousand different directions lately. I’ve tried meditation; I like it, I’m trying to stick with it, but if you’ve ever practiced meditation you’ll know it’s not an instant fix. It’s the opposite and that’s the whole point.

 meditation GIF
Animation by Tahlia Newland via Giphy: http://www.tahlianewland.com/meditation-on-the-gap/

 

That’s lovely, but when you’re on the hospital gurney, metaphorically speaking, it’s not the time to begin a discussion on eating a balanced diet and taking a daily walk. You want a tourniquet to stop the bleeding or paddles to restart the heart.

I’ll get on the healthy diet, so to speak, but I need the emergency jump-start in order to make room for it in my life. And in order to make that room, I’ve got to get clear about what I’m about.

Because I’m short of memory (due to the cluttered mind), I’m writing it down here, where I can’t lose it.

A vision for a fruitful life

I want to live into my values each day, understanding that my values may shift a bit in priority from day to day. More on that later. Those values are, in no particular order (remember, they shift):

  1. Kindness
  2. Patience
  3. Generosity
  4. Openness
  5. Responsibility
  6. Hospitality
  7. Justice
  8. Humility
  9. Self-discipline
  10. Faith.

I should mention that it was a useful exercise to sit down and try to encompass everything that’s important to me, value-wise, in 10 items or fewer. Have you ever given it a try? What did you come up with?

Posted in Self-care practices

Just do something: The practice of small accomplishments

Some days I don’t have the motivation to do anything. I don’t get excited about work, or about any of the things that give me pleasure, like reading or gardening or cooking or listening to music. Depression is like that. Nothing sounds appealing, not even sitting around or lying in bed.

It weighs me down, and once I’m down it pulls me deeper. I’ve never been suicidal, but sometimes knowing that life is worthwhile feels merely academic. I know intellectually life is good, but I don’t feel it in my heart; I feel indifferent about everything. I call this feeling my gray space.

One of the values I’m trying to live into is self-care. This isn’t rocket science, I know. But for me, and for many women I know, there’s such a gap between accepting the concept intellectually and embracing it emotionally. Self-care is something I’d encourage for my best friend without reservation, but I’ve never permitted myself to think I also deserved self-care. It sounds so self-indulgent! I’m supposed to serve others first, right? The idea of putting on my own oxygen mask before assisting others sounds logical or practical only in the context of a depressurized airplane.

But I’m learning that practicing self-care is essential when I’m also combatting anxiety and depression. Self-care helps keep those two bad roommates locked behind their own bedroom doors. Learning to slow down and recognize how I’m feeling, and identifying my own agency in addressing that feeling, seems an obvious thing to do on the surface, but as with so many things, what appears on the surface to be simple is actually incredibly hard.

One self-care practice that seems to work for me, when this feeling overcomes me, is to get up and do something. It doesn’t matter what I do. I start with something simple, like tidying, of which there’s always plenty to do. Taking a handful of magazines to the recycling, or picking up the dog’s toys, feels like an accomplishment on those days. And one tiny accomplishment can give me the juice to try something else, like going outside and pulling a handful of weeds. I set the bar low, and I almost never put myself in front of a screen. Getting outside is best. Maybe it’s the hit of vitamin D from the sun, maybe it’s fresh air, but it’s harder for me to be depressed when I’m outside.

I don’t know why this works, exactly, but the practice of tiny accomplishments keeps me from sinking too low. Sometimes I can pull myself completely out of my gray space.

Do you ever find yourself in a gray space? What do you do to pull yourself out of it?

Posted in Background

Depression: My Horrible Roommate

One of the big turning points in my life was when I went for a doctor checkup when my oldest child was a little over a year old. I had just turned 30.

I had lost most of my pregnancy weight but I had a stubborn 15 pounds that wouldn’t budge. I couldn’t figure out a schedule to my day because the kid kept growing and changing. I could tell what time it was by what PBS Kids show was on television. Yeah, the TV was on a lot. Let me tell you where to put your judgement.

The doctor I saw was young and energetic and sharp, a resident, employed by the local university teaching hospital. I saw in her who I had been five years before (different profession but same personality). She even looked a little bit like me. I missed her. I mean, I missed me.

She asked me as we were finishing up if there was anything else I wanted to ask her about, and I started complaining about the baby weight but then somehow things got very teary and messy. I don’t remember exactly what I said, but it was something to the effect of being frustrated with not being able to get my shit together, not being sure why I couldn’t, and she looked at me and said, “Oh, honey. You’re depressed.”

And just her saying it, her naming it, made it a little bit better.

She reminded me that I’d just been through four major life stressors in the past year: a cross-country move, a change in my job–from working professional to stay-at-home-mom,–a change in my husband’s job, and a new baby. “No wonder you’re depressed,” she said. And once she named it, she gave me permission to have it.

I’d had it for years, but I certainly never gave myself permission to have it. I just needed to get it together. Get organized. Get moving. But her diagnosing it recognized something that was beyond my ability to address alone. To this day, I feel like I owe her a big piece of my life. So thanks, Brett, wherever you are.