Learning to go with the flow

When I was a kid, I used to hear this expression all the time: go with the flow. I was an imaginative child, so I had several different variations of visuals pop into my head when I heard this. One was my period, I know I was weird. Another one was a gushing waterfall, and yet another was some mellow dude listening to reggae music and dancing slowly. As I got older I realized that none of these things are what people mean when they said: “Just go with the flow.” What they were trying to tell me was “stop thinking so much and just live your life.” Well shit, if it was that easy to stop thinking I THINK I would have done that by now. But seriously, I know that going with the flow is a good thing. There is the whole mindfulness movement that encourages people to be here in this moment. Focus on your breathing and don’t try to change what’s happening in this moment.

Yeah, I dig that. I would like to worry less and enjoy life more. I mean, who wouldn’t like that? Sometimes we (as human beings) get stuck in our heads. We don’t enjoy our lives because we’re thinking about the next step; worried about what “could go wrong.” What I’m beginning to realize is that when I do that, I miss what’s right in front of me. I lose sight of reality. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t plan for the future. I’m saying that there needs to be a balance. I’ll admit, sometimes I find myself being impulsive and I’m working on that. But I don’t want to go to the other side of the spectrum and worry myself into oblivion. There are shades of gray here and it’s possible to find them.

I’ve noticed that I gain nothing by obsessing and worrying and that it’s actually a bad habit, much like biting your nails or picking a scab (both of which I have problems with at times). Habits can be changed with hard work. I don’t particularly like working hard, but sometimes you have to do things that aren’t so much fun in life; that’s one of the reasons I miss being a kid. My kids do NOT know how good they have it. They don’t have to worry so much about things.

I’d like to “go with the flow” more and obsess less (hey that rhymes) but I recognize that is about me changing my way of thinking. I’m down if you are, brain. Let’s have a sit-down, you and me, and talk about switching things up in there. Maybe you don’t have to be so rigid in the way you worry about stuff. Yeah, I know you’ve been doing it for years, but maybe it’s time to try on a new mind outfit and see how that looks. It’s no fun to wear the same thoughts every day. Mix it up and try this whole mindfulness thing. I hear people like it and they’re happier when they spend less time worrying about shit that probably won’t ever happen.

I’m going to try to go with the flow like that dude I used to imagine dancing to Bob Marley. It sounds like fun.

When I hide

I hide when I am tired, shutting down, needing a break. It’s not that I don’t care about you. It’s not that I’m selfish, it’s not that I don’t want to be your friend. I just can’t help anyone right now. I’m trying to help myself and even that is challenging. I know that hiding in my cave is temporary, and I understand that it may frustrate you, but (as the cliche expression goes) it’s not you, it’s me. I am trying so hard to stay afloat, live life, be “normal” and go through the motions, but those “motions” are exhausting and sometimes I need a little bit of help. I’m realizing that it’s okay to ask for help. It’s not like it’s a new concept. But I have had challenges in the past where I overwhelm people with the help that I ask for. I realize that it’s about balance. I recognize that my friends and family have their own lives to attend to. And if they can’t get back to me right away it isn’t about me, it’s about the fact that they are busy. Busy isn’t a code word for “I don’t care about you.” And actually, it’s the same for me.

Similar to when someone breaks their leg or needs to see the doctor, when I’m feeling depressed I need to take care of myself. I don’t want to burn out trying to help too many people. And it’s hard to do that. It’s so hard to say no when someone needs my help. But setting those boundaries is crucial to my mental health and it will preserve it. I’m not being an asshole, at least I’m not trying to be that way. I just want to feel better and I know that will take time. I’m getting frustrated with the way that time works. It’s slow and I feel so tired. I’m using mindfulness to accept the fact that I can’t do it all. If I cry at my desk, It’s okay. If I scream into a pillow because my brain makes me feel upset, that’s fine too. We all have bad days and when you have several days of feeling depressed it can take a toll on your mind and your body. Trust me, I’m speaking from personal experience.

I don’t know when it’s going to get better, but I do KNOW that it WILL get better. That’s what I tell myself when I’m crying. That’s what I repeat to myself when it feels like I’m struggling to stand up. I still stand up, I continue to take care of myself because this is my one life and I deserve to be happy. It’s not a cliche to want happiness. It’s a goal and I want that for myself. I will keep going always and I will achieve my goal. I know that happiness comes in spurts or moments. And when it hits me, I’ll gladly accept it with open arms. Maybe that looks like my kid’s smile or singing at the top of my lungs. I will feel happy again. I know it.

You gotta talk to someone

UGH, I hate talking about my problems. Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know I seem like an open book, but we all have secrets. We all have things that we’d rather not talk about. So I got to therapy and vomit out what I’m aware of and not too scared to admit. That’s not impressive or that helpful though. If you’re going therapy, or in this case, if I am going to therapy, my money would be best spent if I actually went to the deep dark scary parts of myself. If I could confront these parts then maybe I’d begin to heal in a way that I don’t know about. What I mean is that I don’t know the nature of the healing. It could be a surprise how it pans out. That’s the thing though, I’ve not a big risk taker. I know that also might be a shock to you, but with emotional shit, I am not one for taking risks.

There are other places where I do take risks. I have a goal, I set my eyes on it, someone tells me “you can’t do that,” and then I have the drive within me to prove them wrong. But with my heart, the soft places, I am scared to let those feelings out and just be. I overthink the way that I want to be and my brain spins around in circles. I end up focusing on the other person and forgetting all about myself. I see their needs before mine and maybe that’s a part of what love is. Another option is that it could be co-dependence. That’s the thing though, I don’t want to label shit anymore. I want to live my life, go to therapy, talk about things that are holding me back and start to fix those things. Well, not fix the things, but change my perception of how they impact me. I want to be able to cope better with stressors, not cower in the face of life challenges, but rather rise to the occasion.

The tricky part is that I don’t know what those given occasions are. I am afraid of the unknown and it causes me anxiety. I do know that there are some areas right at this moment that I can practice being in the moment with. There are specific things that I need to stand still during and not run away. I typically either run away or freeze when conflict arises because conflict or discord makes me uncomfortable. Does anyone out there understand this? I don’t want to upset people and I don’t want to have my feelings hurt. I feel these two things on a deep level and it’s hard to let go of either of them.

So, what can I do? I can get down to it. I can talk to someone, and by someone, I mean my fucking therapist. I have been avoiding the real issues and dancing around them and I have to admit I am not a great dancer.

Slowly

Little by little I am getting better. I’m not sure what I’m getting better at or from. I just know that I am getting better. That’s cool, right? I mean, it’s better than getting worse. How many times can I say the word “better?” I think it’s five so far. Maybe I should have titled this post “better.” Eh, that’s okay, I’m going someplace with this. I think where I’m going is that I am going somewhere. For a while, I assumed that I was standing still. It’s not possible to stand still or pause time. Life keeps going and going. I sometimes wish that I wasn’t such an analytical person, but we are born into this world with a certain type of brain and if I wasn’t so analytical than I wouldn’t be a writer. I’m so hungry right now. No, literally, I am hungry and I need to make dinner. I’m not existentially hungry or metaphorically hungry, I’m legit hungry as in I need to eat. So why am I continuing to write this? I guess because there are still things to say/write. My mind hasn’t calmed down and it has some more words to impart to you. Not that they are wise words or anything but they are words. I think we can all agree that these are words right? They are words written in English.

It’s weird when random memories pop into your mind (or in this case my mind) but, you get the point. I wish there was a way to have a brain dumpster to dump the useless memories into. I would like that because I have a lot of those that I don’t actually need. I’m sure they think they are serving a purpose of some sort, but they aren’t. Come on, man. Someone invent a tiny dump truck that we can use to dump our memories into a brain junkyard. I wonder what would be at the brain junkyard. You probably wouldn’t want to go roaming around that place; I bet it would be scary and not like a fun haunted house type scary. It would be full of weird creepy memories from people you don’t know. That’s why the brain junkyard would exist: to throw out memories you don’t want anymore.

I’m still hungry, but I don’t want you to worry. I am making dinner soon and it’s going to be delicious. I don’t know what I’m making but I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that if you were here you would like it. Just let me know the next time you’re coming over and if you have any dietary restrictions. That’s important to know before I start making your food. One thing that I can guarantee is that there will be dessert. Why would anyone eat dinner if they didn’t have something to look forward to afterward? That’s the moral of the story: find something to look forward to and you will find happiness; even if it’s just for a moment.

The Depression Diet

I have been on a diet lately. It’s an impromptu diet as in I didn’t plan for it. I don’t have a great appetite right now and I find that I am forcing myself to eat. I’m accepting that this is the way things are right now. It comes along with depression for me. Some people over eat and others under-eat. Oh well, fuck it, that’s what’s up with my mind and body. I’ve 10 lbs unintentionally and even though I needed to lose a weight, I’m not particularly happy about this. But the worst part of this is that people find the need to tell me how awesome it is that I’ve lost weight. Here’s the problem with doing that: I don’t like when they comment about how many lbs I’m displaying.

I didn’t intend to lose this weight in the way that I did and when they say I lost weight it reminds me of the fact that I’m feeling like shit. Damn

BUT WHAT IF THEY MEANT IT IN A NICE WAY?

Well sure, it isn’t like they wanted to be insensitive and probably they were thinking it was a compliment. But when someone tells me I lost weight, I start thinking about how I looked before I shed that 10 lbs. Was I weird looking or something? Did my clothes fit differently? I certainly hope I didn’t look like a freak. Hearing these words had me feeling self-conscious after I was reminded that I lost some lbs.

I know these individuals are trying to be helpful and kind, but I feel like commenting on someone’s weight, in particular, isn’t necessary. If you feel like your friend looks awesome, maybe just say THAT. You could tell them “you look great,” or “I like your outfit,” or something that doesn’t directly have to do with body image.

The reason I think pointing out weight isn’t sensitive is this: what if I had an eating disorder? I don’t, but I have a lot of friends who have struggled (and continue to) deal with eating disorders. When you tell someone who has an E.D. that they lost weight, that might trigger them in a harmful way. I’m beginning to think that talking about weight at all isn’t a thing we should do as a society. There are so many different bodies in our world and all of them are beautiful. Beauty comes in all shapes, sizes, and colors (or colours if you’re Canadian) and who are we to decide what is beautiful? We can have opinions about what looks good or appears to be aesthetically pleasing to us, but why does weight have to be a part of this?

I want you to seriously think about this, and here’s my question for you: have you ever told someone that they lost weight? What was your motivation for this? Maybe you meant to compliment a loved or a colleague. How can we change the societal dialogue to help people feel empowered about themselves?

Believing and NOT giving up

It’s been hard not to give up lately. I have a shirt that says Don’t Give Up.

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When I am sad (or depressed) It ‘s hard not to give up. But I know that I have no other option. I have to keep going. One thing that helps me to persevere is being thankful. That is hard when I am feeling low, but I know that ultimately it will help me. Here is a gratitude list to help me remember not to give up:

  1. I have supportive friends and family
  2. I am healthy
  3. I have two healthy beautiful smart kids
  4. I have great pets (cats and a dog)
  5. I’m a successful writer
  6. I am funny
  7. I help people
  8. I created a community to help people with mental illness – Stigma Fighters
  9. I’m tenacious
  10. I am a good mom
  11. I make things happen in seemingly impossible situations
  12. I’m a good speaker
  13. I motivate people
  14. I make friends easily

I forget the good things when I am low and it’s so easy to do that. Making lists of the things I am grateful helps me to feel better, even if it’s just a momentary thing. I’ll take that moment of peace rather than suffering. Underneath this cloud of depression, there is hope and I’m working hard to find it. There are days when we don’t want to go to work. The same goes for working on our mental health. It’s not easy to work on yourself. It’s not easy to work on MYSELF. But what’s the alternative? I don’t want to sit here and feel like shit. I want to take my pajamas off, put on “real clothes” (even though they suck) and get outside. I want to live my life like a human fucking being. You only have one life (unless you’re a cat) so let’s do this yo. I want to make shit work as opposed to taking out a violin and feeling sorry for myself. What good comes of that? No good, I tell you.

You know what the easy road is? Feeling like a victim, feeling like you “can’t” when if you push a little harder, “you can.” I know this because there are so many moments that I feel like I can’t do something. In those moments I tell myself that I’ve had these thoughts before and I have done what I believed I could not do. I know who I am, even when depression tries to fuck with me, and what I know is that I am a good person. I try hard at life, and that’s what I can do. I’m going to get off this chair I’m sitting here in and I’m going to change some shit up today. What are you going to do today?

 

Thoughts Roll In

Lost in thought, wondering how I can find the road back to where I am supposed to go. There’s no supposed to. We enter this world with no instructions and we live according to our brains or our hearts. I admire people who listen to their brain over their heart. I lead with emotions, which gets me into trouble. I’m trying to balance though two things better. Sometimes (often actually) I don’t know what to do about a particular thing and so I turn to my heart and it has a tendency to lead me astray. This happens when my ears are closed. If I could just listen better and not believe what I want to believe. Listen to what people tell me. It’s hard to hear things that hurt sometimes. Unfortunately, you’re not going to like everything you hear. I’m not going to like everything I hear. It’s difficult to proceed when you feel like your feelings aren’t heard, and this happens to me often. I’m sure it isn’t personal and that other people don’t feel heard. I work hard to hear others and I sincerely hope that they reciprocate and listen to my voice.

Sometimes (like now for instance) I am having trouble grabbing the words from inside me and handing them to other people. I worry that the people in question won’t want to hold those words in their hands. I obsess about the possibility that they will drop them on the floor or (even worse) throw my words in the garbage. What’s the point of giving my words to someone who throws them away? I wouldn’t do that to another person on purpose. Sometimes we get angry and we WANT to throw other people’s words (or even the people themselves into the garbage. It’s unlikely that you would actually put another human being into a trash can, but visualizing this happening is a form of catharsis when you’re angry. I’m not even angry anymore.

All I want to do today is work on myself. My brain is so tired though. So very tired and it has actually found an off switch. One of the neurotransmitters reached up high and flipped my mind off. I am so grateful to that neurotransmitter. It is trying to protect my mind from exploding. Anger isn’t always a productive emotion, and though we try hard to make transform it into something that works for us, it inevitably will sneak out of the closet we put it in. It sneaks up like a little red and white elf and pokes you right in the eye. What would you do if someone poked you in the cornea? You’d react poorly I’d imagine. That’s why anger is a trickster and it’s important for us all to be aware of its sneaky ways.

I’m letting my emotions flow through me rather than judging them. I can’t control what I feel, but I can control how I react. I’m trying the best that I can, and that’s what I can do at the moment. Do what you can and the rest will follow.

Do you ever not know how you feel?

Do you ever not know how you feel? I have that weird feeling sometimes and it sincerely bothers me. I think it’s because I am so used to emoting that it irritates me when I can’t figure out how I’m feeling. When I can’t determine what I’m feeling and why I’m stumped. That’s the thing about feelings is that you can’t break them down on a logical level. They are free flowing globs of slime and they do what they are going to. Maybe it’s not fair to call feelings slime. When I think of slime I am reminded of “You Can’t Do That on Television.” And if you think about that show, you’ll remember that the slime was preceded by when someone said: “I don’t know.” So maybe my analogy about feelings sort of works. If you don’t know what you’re feeling you’re covered in slime. I’m a fucking genius. It’s like you don’t know what you feel and you’re rewarded by slime. That’s sort of awesome.

But feelings aren’t slime; they are created by your mind. Everyone’s mind is different and I know this because a neurologist confirmed this when I got a brain MRI once. After the brain MRI, I was told that I had an incidental finding on my brain. I asked what that meant and she said: “everyone’s brain is different, but I can tell you that it’s not a brain tumor.” As someone who experiences anxiety, this bothered me. I was irritated because it says in my medical chart that I take medication for anxiety and it would have been nice if she had considered that fact before she went ahead and told me there was something unknown on my brain like a UFO. Unfortunately, there are a lot of doctors in this country who have limited or no bedside manner. I often wonder why this is and what I can do to help make that better. I think one step towards making that happen is encouraging people to tell stories like the one I just mentioned so that they recognize that a lack of consideration or bedside manner for patients is extremely common.

Dude, if you see that someone has anxiety, why the hell would you tell them that there’s something unknown on their brain but it’s not serious. I guess legally they have to tell me that, but it still, till this day, bothers me. I think about it often and this happened in 2011. I mean, to be fair, I do live with chronic anxiety and I can develop coping mechanisms to deal with that obsessive thought. However, I often think about the motivation for why she told me that and the manner she said it in. I’m certain she didn’t have a malicious intent and it was mostly just thoughtlessness. But this is the same doctor who told me that I had to just “calm down” about my physical symptom of neuropathy. I was mad at the time, but now I can laugh about this because she probably doesn’t know what a panic attack is.

I’m not sure what the point of this post was, but I am curious if you’ve ever had a bad experience with a medical professional.

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