Wednesday, June 10, 2015

How to be Present When You're Depressed

My resolution for 2015 was to be more present. When I decided upon that goal, I didn't realize that I was struggling with Postpartum Depression and that it was only going to get worse before getting better. It's really hard to be present in your life when you feel like life is spiraling out of control and feeling darker by the day. Sometimes all you want to do is hide.

At my baby's two-month doctor visit her doctor suggested I see my doctor about getting treated for postpartum depression. I knew that I felt off, didn't feel like myself, cried quite a bit and whatnot, but I didn't feel like I was depressed. I just thought it was afterbirth hormonal stuff that would sort itself out. My doctor suggested I start an antidepressant, a low dose since I was (and still am) breastfeeding.

Truthfully, I think my depression started while I was still pregnant and only worsened after delivery, but there I was. It took awhile to start feeling the medication working, but it still didn't seem like enough. Between the depression and anxiety and feeling overwhelmed at life, I was a mess. I didn't want to get out to even go to the grocery store. It seemed like a hassle. I snapped at my kids, snapped at my boyfriend, and generally felt pretty lousy about myself most of the time.

A little more than a month ago I decided things had to change. I hadn't really been engaging in life. I had been shutting myself up and I liked it that way. I would be actively involved with my kids every now and then, I was still keeping them (mostly) clean and alive, but I wasn't really there. I was numb. I knew I was loved, but I wasn't feeling it. I was feeling more like a failure than anything.

So I started finding bible devotions on depression and anxiety on YouVersion. I started reading articles on postpartum depression. I started reading blogs and forums by other women who had been through it or were going through it. This made me feel more normal when I felt very abnormal. I started researching different things I can do to improve my mood in order to improve my general well-being so I can be more present in my life, instead of just feeling like a floater or a bystander just watching it all happen.

This doesn't come close to explaining how I've been feeling, and I'm still struggling with depression and anxiety. An increase in my medication a couple weeks ago is helping, as my doctor said I've not improved and it may have even worsened since February. I have good days, more accurately, I have good moments and bad moments. There are definitely triggers that bring out the ugly, but here are a few things I've been doing that have been helping me. If you're struggling with depression, maybe you'll find them helpful too.

1. Being Thankful

I read that a grateful person is a happy person. With this in mind, I have an alarm on my phone that is set to go off at 9:30pm to remind me to be thankful. I then get out my Journal of Positivity and I write down 3 things I'm thankful for that day. I make them very specific. Rather than generally saying "I'm thankful for my kids", I write something specific that happened that day that made me thankful for them. Writing them down gives me something to look at as a reminder for days (moments) when I'm feeling down.

2. Physical Activity

I have taken up yoga, albeit sporadic, and planking. I try to plank daily and do yoga/stretching 3-4 times a week. I read that physical activity releases dopamine or some other feely-good stuff that sends happy goodness throughout the body. Couldn't hurt, right? Doing these little bursts of physical activity have been helping me to feel physically stronger and better about myself, without being a big time investment that would seem more overwhelming.

3. Accepting Imperfection

This one is the most difficult. I'm a natural perfectionist, so accepting imperfection is quite a challenge. But I'm trying to come to grips with the fact that I'm not the perfect mom, I can't keep my home spotless, I won't have perfectly behaved children, I won't have a perfect body, I won't have a perfect relationship, and that things WILL go wrong, but that does NOT make me a failure.

4. Knitting

I have knit 10 (?) pairs of socks since March. When I'm knitting socks I can either focus on the pattern or on whatever Netflix show I'm watching. It allows me to sort of empty my thoughts for a bit. Externally it seems like I'm secluding myself or shutting myself off from the world, but I'm actually just trying to center myself a bit by doing something I enjoy.

5. Getting Outside

Since the weather has warmed up, I've been trying to get out more. I've been sitting outside from my morning coffee til late afternoon when the sun moves to the porch side and it gets too warm to sit outside. This has probably benefited me more than anything. The fresh air and sunshine has been greatly boosting my mood. I actually have been looking forward to mornings so I can sit outside. 

Other things I've been doing have been to try to shower at least a couple times a week, which isn't always easy with a baby. Sometimes I have to bathe with her in order for this to happen. I've been trying harder to get myself dressed each day as though I were going somewhere, trying to do my hair and makeup now and then too. I've been taking time to read. I've been spending more time in prayer and asking God to free me from depression and anxiety, and I've been mindful of what I'm eating and trying to eat things that have been shown to help alleviate depression.

The last few months haven't been easy and I'm not sure how much longer it will last, but I'm finally starting to feel more like myself again. I'm finally starting to feel more joy. And I'm final;y starting to feel more a part of my own life. 

If you'd like some tips on things you can do to be more present with your children, you can check out my post here.

Postpartum depression and anxiety are legit. They are something that you can't just snap out of or wish away. It's a daily process, with or without medication. 

Have you ever dealt with depression? How did you get through it?

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Monday, June 8, 2015

Instant is Inferior


The verdict is in! "Instant" is inferior.

Yesterday, as I was chipping away at the Instant Dry Nail Polish that I had put on the day before, I started thinking about all the "instants" in our daily lives - instant mashed potatoes, instant milk, instant soup, instant coffee, instant cocoa, instant cider, instant oatmeal, instant sweet tea (shudder), instant nail polish, even instant underwear. And then there are all the quick versions to make things "convenient", even though they don't use the word instant in their description - bagged salad, slice and bake cookies, frozen pizza, digital cameras, diet pills, credit cards, pay day loans, e-cards. There are so many, many more.

After asking friends on Facebook, we are in agreement that the instant versions pretty much suck. The Instant Dry Nail Polish I was chipping at with my nails lasted about an hour before it started chipping on its own. One hour. Instant mashed potatoes don't even taste like real potatoes. And don't even get me started on instant coffee and tea.

As Elite points out in this article 3 years ago, we live in an age of instant gratification. We want everything the way we want it, and we want it now.

One down side of this instant gratification mentality is that everything and everyone becomes disposable. You don't like the photo you just snapped? Delete it. Don't like what so-and-so posts on Facebook? Defriend her. Don't like how your husband spends money? Divorce him.

People used to have the mentality that you work for a reward. The greater the reward is, the further you must go to get it. When my grandparents were young, if they wanted a car or a house, they saved money for it. They didn't go get a loan. If they didn't have the money then they didn't get it til they did. We've pretty much given up this idea. If we start a business and it doesn't immediately succeed, then we're ready to throw in the towel and try something new or give up altogether.

We don't want to work for or wait for anything, whether it's waiting for nail polish to dry or working toward a better relationship with the person you're currently with. We want quick, easy, instant results. Another downside of this type of thinking is that the quality of what you get isn't nearly as good as if you had waited and worked for the real thing.

Taking the time to brew coffee, especially if you're grinding the beans yourself, is far better tasting than instant coffee granules. How can they even call it coffee?! Instant oatmeal is severely lacking in texture. Frozen pizza and bagged salad doesn't taste nearly as good as what you can make yourself. The satisfaction and confidence gained through losing weight by proper eating and exercise is so much more rewarding than swallowing a quick fix pill. Enduring trials in a relationship is better than giving up and trying a new one. And the time it takes for nail polish to dry is well worth the wait and frustration, even though it still doesn't last very long on my nails.

We have become impatient and immature. We're like children throwing temper tantrums because we're not getting what we want fast enough. We can either settle for the instant, cheap imitations of what we want, or we can work hard and wait patiently for the real thing.

I know which one I want. What about you?

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Thursday, June 4, 2015

Screaming at Inanimate Objects

There are some days that are great, and there are other days that I want to close myself in my daughter's secret hideout in her closet.

Today is one of those days...

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Today is a day that I'm screaming at my Irish Breakfast Tea because it isn't coffee, because I'm out of coffee. Screaming at it because things are rough with my boyfriend, rough with my kids, rough in my head, and rough with my dang hormones who are working against me and can't seem to get their crap together.

Screaming because divorce and custody sharing blows. Screaming because there never seems to be enough daylight, enough energy, or enough spare moments to do it all before it's all spent and another day has come and gone. Screaming because nothing feels good on my postpartum body. Screaming because my hair looks like I got stuck in a wind tunnel and then licked my finger and put it in an electrical outlet. Every stinkin' day. 

Screaming because I can't always get to my phone to document a moment before it slips away like my memory seems to be doing. Also screaming because our increasing reliance on technology to be our memory is probably contributing to why ours is failing. Screaming because it's taking me MONTHS to read a single book. Screaming because the only books I actually finish have pictures in them.

Screaming because it feels like everything I do is looked at through a microscope. Screaming because my baby doesn't seem to realize that my nipples don't come off (I hope), but that sure doesn't stop her from trying. Screaming because the boyfriend doesn't seem to understand all that is going on with my postpartum self. Heck, I don't even understand it some days. It's overwhelming.

Screaming because there are dishes to be washed and clothes to be washed. Screaming because the floor needs vacuumed and my vacuum is defective. Screaming because I really miss hanging out with other women. Screaming because I need to get groceries, which means I need to figure out what to make for lunch out of rice and mustard. 

Screaming at my Tardis cup full of tea because it won't get its feelings hurt, won't scream back, and won't hold it against me.

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There are lots of "techniques" out there for dissolving stress and whatnot, but when the yoga, de-stress tea, and deep breathing while counting to 10 doesn't work, what do you do?

Sit on the porch and blow bubbles.

What do you do when you're stressed to the max?

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Wednesday, June 3, 2015

The 30-Day Planking Challenge

After doing nothing but sitting and breastfeeding for the last few months, I've been trying to squeeze in a few minutes of physical activity here and there. Yoga and planking have been the easiest way to get in some exercise in my spare minutes.

Almost a month ago-ish, I took on the 30-Day Planking Challenge. WAY harder than I was expecting. This challenge is no walk in the park, piece of cake, or joke... or a joke while having a piece of cake while walking in the park. Nope. None of those.

Here's what it looks like.

Ouch, right? A 5-minute plank by the end of the 30 days?! 

As for me, I'm sort of camping out around Day 20. I want to be able to hold it for 2.5 minutes without dropping a knee before I move on to 3 minutes. 150 seconds is a LONG TIME. 

Have you ever tried planking?

I plank.

You plank.

We all plank.

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