Mental Wellness Challenge – 2020, May 29
Last week my challenge to you had three parts:
- Listen to a song that you like. Have a really really good listen to the words. Think about what the song is really saying to you.
I challenge you to this because this is a mirror for some of my experience… I go through pieces of my life thinking that the “song” is telling me one thing… when in fact, the words might mean something totally different… and I learn from that…
- Look at the nature (the trees, birds, bees, bugs, grass, etc) that surrounds you. Really look at it. Pay attention to how green the fir tree is, or how pale yellow the iris is, or how colorful that “black” blackbird is… Take a couple of minutes every day to disconnect from the “stuff” that’s going on around you and just “be” in the nature that surrounds you.
- The value of perspective keeps coming up in my experience, so I am going to challenge you to check your perspective too. Find three things every day to be grateful for. Then, just for a moment, imagine your life without those three things.
This challenge comes from a discussion I had this week with my coach. The conversation got around to the reality that I am pretty fortunate to have – well – even just the open space of my back yard – to get out into and “spread my wings a little”. We were discussing how someone in New York, Vancouver etc must feel being, pretty much, confined to a high-rise condo. In some cities around the world, people were not allowed to leave their homes at all… I feel pretty good about my experience. Perspective.
So, how did you do? I hope that you were able to take a little time for you.
I did pretty well with my challenge from last week.
I like my tunes. I like most music. I don’t listen to music while I am working or trying to think as I find that it distracts me. I more listen to music to – well, listen to music. Anyway – the piece of the challenge here was to really listen to the lyrics of a song you like and to see if you are really hearing the words. I know I have had more than one song where I thought (and would even sing the song to myself) with what I thought were the lyrics – only later to learn that I was “out for lunch” as an old friend used to say. Sometimes – pieces of my experience are like that. For me, I have a tendency to take a “lesser” view of my circumstances… and then when I really “listen to the song of my life”, I can hear the lyric that is actually being spoken… and its usually a brighter picture… so – it’s a little like the second rule of the four agreements – don’t make assumptions… I very often make contrary assumptions of someone else’s intent… I jump to the negative… I hear the song and says one thing to me – when really – if I sought clarity – really listened to the words – the song was more positive. Of course, the opposite can be true too… I might think the song is all about butterflies and puppy tails when its actually about wasp stings and dented fenders…
I was intentional about my appreciation of the little things this past week. Like just this morning, I was looking at the silhouette of the tree line in the forest to the East of my house against the pail blue sky of the early morning. I could, from a long way away, see the shape of each of the trees on the horizon. Beautiful… a gift. I, at first, thought to grab my camera and take a photo – and then just stopped and stood at the window and soaked it up. I took the time every day, just a few seconds at a time, to appreciate the wonder in the details of my everyday experiences.
On the perspective piece, the gratitude piece… I “practiced” gratitude each day… for the things I have in my life that are too easily taken for granted. From being grateful that I have a window to look at sunrises from to the food on our table, all the way to the wonderful companionship and love my wife and I share.
This week I’d like to share a little about some of things that I have experienced in working my way through my “slog” with anxiety and depression. I’ve shared that I am feeling the weight or “burden” of my mood disorder more lately and that I have been taking steps not to end up “lost in the forest” again. I am being active in my approach and have be doing the things I know I need to do that help me manage my experience. In doing this work, I am aware of the pieces of my life that PDD, GAD, OCD, ADHD, PTSD, this D and that D have been taking from me. I suppose that it really just makes sense that when I intentionally examine my life, my experience for things to be grateful for, I will also see things that are currently missing, diminished or stolen.
In identifying these facets of my life that have been beaten up lately, I am able to take corrective actions, remedial steps if you will, to work to support or correct them. This is really just being mindful about what’s going on in my life and taking an active role in my wellness.
Probably the most notable piece that I experience is my inability to sleep. My depression and anxiety totally mess with my sleep. Some people experience the opposite – they sleep and sleep and sleep… not me… when my “Big Black Dog”, as one of the mental health videos from the WHO calls it, comes for a visit, my sleep vanishes. This lack of sleep causes all sorts of issues for me. From fatigue, to upset tummy (if you have ever worked shift work you will know what “midnights guts” are), to irritability and so much more. I take care to make certain I do things to help support my sleep. I try to go to bed at the same time each day, I do my best to NOT nap in the afternoon – although sometimes I sit down to watch a little television and BAM – and I use medicine when I need it. I really do not like using any medicines to get sleep, but when I am out of gas, I need to. I do know that with the work that I am doing and the supports that I am employing, that my sleep will come back to – something like normal – when I get my Big Black Dog to heel…
Then, I would say that my ability to concentrate, to think… would be next on my list. Even if I am getting sleep, depression and anxiety steal away my ability to concentrate. Having ADHD… AND having depression reduce my ability to focus means that I have to expend big amounts of energy to be able to do my work. I usually manage this with effort – straight up “its got to get done” effort. Not being able to think can be exhausting. I see/feel this especially when I have to be “quick” on my feet. When I get asked a question by a student that is a bit off topic… I REALLY have to work my brain to be able to think about the answer. Its terribly frustrating for me.
Another piece of my experience that I feel being battered is my wit. I tend to lose my haha some when I am struggling. I know that I have an “odd” or “off” sense of humor in the first place… Hmmm – I’m an acquired taste – some say… Depression and anxiety dull that. I don’t find things as humorous as I would normally do and might seem surly… well really, I suppose I am surly… I work at trying to be lighter. I try, yup I try to keep a sense of haha… that isn’t always easy.
Motivation takes a beating too… Depression saps the motivation to get things done like a nail in a tire lets the air out. One of the biggies is the motivation to exercise… I 100% know that regular exercise is as important in the treatment and management of depression, anxiety, ADHD, as the rest (CBT, medication, etc)! I know it!!! The BIG D just annihilates my motivation to get off my butt and sweat… I actually feel shame about not being as diligent with exercise as I should be… and this is a piece of my experience that I know I need to work harder on… and it seems the harder I try to push myself, the more sapped my motivation gets. This paradox isn’t unique in my experience.
WOW, oh ya – memory. Now there’s a piece that takes a real thrashing. I usually have a pretty sharp memory. Ya, not so much when I am into a spell of depression/anxiety. C.R.A.F.T! Can’t Remember A F&%$#NG Thing… I know this is an issue and I mitigate it, as best I can, with notes and calendars, and things of the sort. I have a whiteboard in my kitchen and notes on the fridge and all that – and then I can’t remember where I wrote stuff down…
I’m a pretty intense person normally. When I am struggling, that intensity is most often magnified. I am edgier that I normally like to be and other folks are often put off by this. I know I have shared before that I have been referred to as moody, unpredictable, impossible. This is one of those pieces that I REALLY REALLY REALLY have to watch. I work with people. If I am out of gas, tired and not on guard, I can be pretty snarky… This is a piece that takes energy to mind as well.
Self-confidence. My self-confidence and self-image are brutalized by depression. ADHD does a number in the first place, and I’ve shared about that previously… depression just dessimates my self-confidence and feelings of self-worth. Writing this – I almost kind of feel like an outsider looking in – if that makes any sense. I know, I can rationalize – write it down on paper kind of thing – that I am worthy, I am valuable, I contribute, and I do my part. Depression is like a filter that blocks all that rational “knowing” out with negative “thinking”. This is a piece where tools like my wellness model, CBT, check-ins and working with my counselor support my wellness.
I suppose it would be pretty safe to say that depression and anxiety touch or affect my whole being. From a nervous bouncing leg to pretty consistent brain aches, to irritated guts, to interpersonal relationships, to intimacy, and appetite. Being aware of the places in my life that are particularly affected offers me the opportunity to be able to shore up and support those areas – in whatever ways I can.
I have far too many good things in my experience to let up on my efforts. I KNOW that this episode will pass. I know that this particular “bout” is more or less situational, and I know that situation will pass as well. I have the tools that I need, the supports are there for the asking and taking. While I understand fully that this isn’t going to be easy or that there’s no magic panacea for any of this… I know I’m responsible for my wellness. Nobody or no medicines can keep me out of the forest but me… and I’ve got a chainsaw.
My challenge for this week is:
- Write an old fashioned letter to a friend… even if they live just next door. Use a pen and paper… stick it in an envelope and mail it. Write about what ever you want – short or long, deep or funny… your pleasure. Be intentional about the care you put into this. Do this as an act of love.
- Take 5 minutes (more if you like) each day and just be. Push the thoughts from your mind and just be.
- Limit your intake of social media each day to – say – 30 minutes. If you don’t do a bunch of social media, maybe you watch YouTube or television. Limit that. (The YouTube bit is gonna be tough for me…) Turn off the technology and find something else to do… like a book, or paints, or dirt, or sewing…