Can we talk?

Maybe you're not feeling depressed, just down. You avoid the word depression because it connotes something very bad is wrong with you. If you are just down, you realize that is temporary; however, depression visits all of us once in a while....Recently, speaking with a group of women, we talked about false expectations and the resulting depression - a time of feeling down. A time of wanting to cry. An angst within our breasts that creates a profound sadness may be part of this feeling. We can't make someone love us. We can't change how people are. We sometimes can't take our own physical pain away. We can't make our children visit or call us more. All we can actually change is how we perceive things.

I have never had a lot of pain. Never. I can distinctly remember three huge times of  pain and they were fleeting moments, but this week I have had pain for the third week in my leg. It radiates up and down and sometimes is in the knee, but other times it is in my thigh. I started to get very depressed. I started to be anxious and diagnosed myself with far worse maladies than the doctor did. And then my husband told me...."I've had pain for every moment of the day for the past ten years." Unbelievable. He never complains about it. I had only known because he had told me once a few years ago. I couldn't believe anyone could remain happy through pain. Yes, my pain will probably subside in a few weeks. A torn meniscus is not a big thing in the great design of my life, but it almost overtook me with angst and fear.

We tend to become depressed when someone doesn't love us the way we want. We feel we need others to fill our hearts with the type of love we want. When that doesn't happen, we become depressed. Perhaps we have lost someone we loved. How can we fill that hole with something other than depression?

It is okay to be depressed for a while. It is NOT okay to be depressed all the time. We can have moments of relief from the heaviness of depression. How is that done? If your depression is so bad you are contemplating hurting  yourself or others, call 911 and see a doctor.

If your depression is short-lived and you can still enjoy others' company or reading a book or having a glass of wine, you will be fine. Here are some things to do when the shroud of depression threatens to envelop you:

1. Talk with a friend. Call or chat online with someone who will just listen and validate your thoughts - not someone who will say SNAP out of it. That kind of advice merely serves to worsen your depression.

2. Redirect your thoughts. It's okay to feel sad, but give yourself a break. Watch a funny movie. Read a good joke. Laugh at something.

3. Take deep breaths and say loving things to yourself. We call that self talk. Talk to yourself in a positive fashion. Beware that if you start doing this out loud there will be those who question your sanity a bit....

4. Pray or meditate. Research has shown that those who have some spiritual convictions tend to sail through life on an easier wave.

5. Do something you love - paint, draw, color, sing a song, join a band, write a book or blog! Do something fun for you.

6. Exercise - walk a labyrinth. Go up and down the stairs. Park your car as far as you can at the grocery store.

JUST DO SOMETHING other than keep the depression inside, fed by your angst and loneliness! You do not have to be alone!

 January 12th, Thursday at 6:15 pm

Our small tribe will meet to create a new moral support group for women
Reed Opera House B-1 
Salem, OR
Spaces very limited
$30 per person per session

MUST be registered to attend!

And, yes, sometimes depression needs to be taken care of by a physician who can prescribe medications that help you. Sometimes depression is chemical and  you can't change that by simply ignoring it!

Happy New Year

The other day someone asked me if I was going to make goals or New Year's Resolutions. I replied I was not going to do so. In the past I have made them and broken them. So my new approach is that I want to make each day the best I am able to make it. I will live in the present. I will not dwell too far in the future nor shall I linger in the past. Today is all we have. We are not promised any future....we do not know what is coming. But we can enjoy the time we do have. As I sit here waiting for my husband to go to a holiday party, I am enjoying a soft drink and the fact that all my children are gainfully employed and seemingly quite happy. I take a deep breath as I thank the stars above for my sister who wants to spend two weeks each year with us during the holiday season. I treasure the little adventures we take and the friends we take with us. Life is good and I am happy. What more could I ask for?

Artwork by the talented Maxine Addington, who can teach YOU how to paint as well!
I have a warm house. I have food. I have love. I am thankful for all that I do have. When small irritants come my way, I remind myself that those are first world problems. I really have nothing to complain about. Life is good, as my friend Martin says. Yes, life is good! Enjoy the year. Enjoy the day. Treasure each moment you receive - your gift is the present!

Peace to you all and Happy New Year!

Peace During the Holidays

More and more clients complain about stress and anxiety during the holiday season. As we are in the midst of the fall/winter holiday season, we are deluged with suggestions on how to make our holidays pleasant, warm, and memorable. Buy this or buy that and you will be happy. Go to this concert and your life will be changed! The list is endless - buy, buy, buy. Bigger, better, and instantaneous happiness is a mantra threading its way through media. Relax. It's time to reflect.

 As I look around my desk, I see a carpet stained by decades of use, but soon to be replaced by new carpet. I look at the freshly-painted walls and smile. The color pleases me. My office is my sanctuary where I can sit and fill in words to stories yet to come. It's been a year since we decided to improve our home. The changes are slow, but permanent for us.

While writing in this room, I am happy and my mind is not flooded with thoughts that have the potential to disturb my mental balance. The holidays are much more complicated now than when my children were young. When I was the boss. When I knew what to do. As we grow older, our roles change, and sometimes we do not know how to fit gracefully into those new roles. Worse yet, some of us don't even know the rules and what our new role is to be. I'm constantly amazed at the folks who seem to have the perfect families - the perfect meals - the perfect home. I'm doing something now that I caution my clients about - comparison shopping.

Newly divorced or separated folks have an unknown path to tread during the holidays. Will they be alone? What does it all mean? Is love around the corner? Will they have enough money to survive, much less splurge on gifts and holidays treats?

Ah, back to the office thoughts....This redirection is a strategy one can use when things become too difficult or too negative.

Changing the dynamics in my office was easy. I found a color of paint I liked and found someone to apply it to the walls,. Simple. Family change not so easy. First of all, we don't get to choose who will be in our family. We are not sure about their colors. Will they or will we like it once they join the family? Is this a permanent change? We are not in charge of that. We can decide to control our thoughts, however. We can adopt a positive attitude, even when we feel we are in a sea of negativity. We must grab on to those positive vibes throughout the journey. No, it is not easy. It is much easier to get caught up in the trivial, the mean-spirited comments on social media, or lack thereof, and the heightened anxiety of the season.

So, what is a person to do during the holiday season?

1. Remember everyone is doing their best, no matter what you think. It is their best at the time. Be patient with the world.

2. Hold on to loving thoughts. Chase away the negative! The positives should outweigh the negatives in your mind.

3. Exercise. Doing so helps clear the mind and balance the soul. Just walking around the block helps.

4. Watch out what you eat. During the holidays, we must be vigilant about our nutrition intake. Make wise choices. You don't have to deny yourself any pie, but one piece as opposed to the entire pie makes better sense.

5. If you are religious, go to church. Pray. Watch a YouTube video of someone's preaching you like. Learn, learn, learn.

6. Be sure to get plenty of sleep. Research shows that those who get less than seven hours of sleep end up having a more difficult time dealing with every facet of life.

7. Volunteer to do something nice for someone. Help out at a soup kitchen. Make a few homeless bags to give to those far less fortunate than you. Babysit for a neighbor. Take a friend to lunch. Be proactive.

7. Remember this life is temporary. It will be over before you know it. Why not enjoy the trip while you are here? Invite those who please you to join your table this holiday season. It might even be a good idea to invite those who do not please you. It might be that your dose of  love and acceptance is exactly what they need.

Habits are Hard to Break

Everyone has habits. Some of of our habits are ones that help us lead a peaceful and positive life. Others interfere with those feelings. Folks can't seem to stop promising themselves they will start doing (insert new habit here or insert removing old habit) without understanding the process by which a habit is acquired or broken.
This graphic illustrates what needs to be done - something is repeatedly done. That means if you are really great about putting on a seat belt when you get into the car without really even thinking about it, you have a good habit of doing so, not to mention you are following the law, which helps to reinforce this habit.

What other habits have you formed from early childhood? Are there some habits you'd like to eradicate?

When you have a habit you'd like to get rid of, the first thing you need to do is examine the habit - how long has it been a habit and what steps  you need to take in order to rid yourself of that habit. For instance, I'm going out on a limb here, I need to lose weight for my health. Many of us do. So we say, "I'm going to lose two pounds by Friday." Great goal, but what happens when Friday comes and I've GAINED two pounds? I feel crummy, disappointed, and head for carbs and sugar, something I do when I am stressed. To make it even worse, my friend made the same goal, and she lost six pounds. I watched her weigh in because I didn't even believe her.

So it's more than stating a goal and going in blind. You gotta have a plan. I'm an easily-stressed kind of person, so when stressors invade my mind or body, I seek out food. Now I need to replace all those sugary, fluffy white carbs with something equally satisfying. That's where a roadblock appears. I don't particularly find cooking/baking enjoyable or easy and have very little time, so fast food beckons me when I feel the desire to eat. Now I have to look at another way to have those goodies that are actually good for me available.

Do you see the process? It's arduous, complicated at times, and, at best, might slightly ensure that your goal is met. Two pounds? I need to have low cal foods on hand. When I start feeling stress, I will take a short walk. I will drink a glass of water. I will say a prayer. I will do a lot of self talk. Then I will find one of those approved goodies to eat. That is, if I still am feeling this artificial hunger. It should work. I'll report back. (Oh, no, did I say that? Maybe that's part of my plan...being responsible to others.)

Take it from me. This is only one of the many habits I could break, but probably best for continued good health. Tackling this one habit will actually effect other habits as well. But it will take time. It will take focus. It will take determination. If I can do it, why can't you?

Opening up old wounds

My family, especially my mother, always emphasized being the best, especially when it came to school, but she didn't stop there with the pressure. No, it had to be that I would be the loveliest, most beautiful girl in the world. I couldn't be #2 in school - I had to be #1. So my childhood and teen years were rife with disappointment, for I was neither.

I knew I was smart, but not THE smartest. I sadly did not think I was attractive at all, so spent relentless hours trying to create a facade that would be pleasing to others. That was the three-hour curse. It is now gone, thank goodness, but the insecurities still loom in the netherworld, only to be resurrected by small, and, seemingly, innocuous events or triggers.

Being a second language learner is also a factor in my psychological makeup and one that creates minor dramas when none should appear at all. Attending school I was always aware of the fact that I just did not get some humor. I did not understand all words spoken or read, and when my mom and Oma would praise me and say how smart I was, I would cringe with disbelief. Even when I was working on my dissertation, some secret part of me was afraid the school would find out they made a mistake and I would simply be tossed out of the program. If  you have not experienced this doubt, then you cannot understand fully...It's as simple as bringing something up and everyone in the group looking at you as if you are crazy.

Recently, in a group of esteemed colleagues, I forged out of my insecurities and offered a short video that I thought was hilarious and made the point of a term we were all discussing. Everyone looked forward to watching the video, but during it all I heard was, "Well, THAT'S not good teaching! Uh, look - that's the worst teaching model I've ever seen...." And so on....

In the background I initially tried to defend my choice, but my voice soon faded to nothing. The video was over and everyone was silent. I was doomed. The voices inside shouted to me, "You are not our equal. You are ignorant. This was ridiculous. What an awful video."

On the outside I managed to acquire some aplomb and said it was okay not to like my selection. It was also okay to say so. My feelings were not hurt. Surprisingly, they weren't as hurt as they would have been ten years ago. I would have fled the room, crying, distraught, and ready for the world to end. I see progress in myself. Slow, but steady progress. It must have made an impact on me, for I would not be writing this blog now; however, the impact is not as severe as it could have been.

So when we are working with others and they disappoint and are off task, how do we handle that scenario? Are we sensitive to those hidden triggers our students and clients might have? We do not have to tiptoe amongst our colleagues, but it's helpful to realize this hidden hurt is everywhere.

This experience was a positive one for me, for I was allowed to practice my mind-balancing strategies. I have shown my colleagues I am not as thin-skinned as I once was. I have proven to myself that not everything is high drama. I am thankful that I see life in a positive and loving light and that it is not all about me anymore. Deep sigh of relief. Still working on it, though....

Time to think

Summer allows me to continue work, but at my own pace. . . . During the school year, many demands are put upon teachers, and seldom is there time enough to just reflect upon life. We are busy, active, and in the moment, for most of our days. We crash at night regretting we haven't done the latest bit of housework, and/or have neglected nurturing personal relationships. But summer is our respite. Our time to gather our thoughts, plan for the coming year, and heal our spiritual, emotional, and physical wounds.

It is a time to dream and reflect.
A time to restart our engines.
A time for love and laughter.
A time for family.

GONG. I hope you hear that loud gong going off in my head. Yes, a gong. It diminishes some of what I said. A time for family. In this day and age, family is not always what we want. Family can be difficult and many are choosing to avoid family. In my youth, and, of course, in my mother's  youth, family was the end all. You sacrificed to see them. You vacationed with them. They were, after all, part of you. You did these things even if you did not always like them. You did love them. They were, after all, family.

Recently, a friend mentioned that she could not invite her niece's in-laws over for family fun, as the niece would not show up were the in-laws to be invited. How sad is that? She said that it hurt her as well, but she had to choose between blood relatives and friends. Sad that she felt she had to make that choice. Sad for the in-laws.

People talk about being religious - about being Christian, but I understand why many are so turned off of these so-called "Christians." They don't appear to walk the talk of Jesus. They do a lot of talk about it, but when it comes to relationships, it seems they need to do some reflection about what it means to be a Christian.

So as I meander through the summer, placing orders and planning my new English class "Multicultural Literature," I am reminded to think before I speak. I am reminded to speak kindly to and of others. I am reminded that life is difficult for most of us and that last thing we need in life is to have others rain on our parades. So, take it from someone who's been around a very long time in this life, just love and let it be. You cannot change others, but you can definitely change the way you perceive their actions. Be free and enjoy life. Dream and reflect. Restart your engines. Love and laugh. Yes, spend time with family! After all, they are you.

Grief and pain. . . .

It's a dream....but it's cold reality and one must face the consequences of evil run rampant throughout this world. January 15th every year is a day of mourning for my dear friend and her family. Their beloved daughter was killed in 1997. Slain for no reason other than just because by two thugs.
A mother's  heart beats more rapidly when she thinks of her children and every year my friend loses part of her psyche on this day.

Lately, I have been talking with clients who are sharing their grief and loss with me. Deep breath. Center yourself. Being a therapist can be difficult at times. We are empathetic souls who try to help the world be more joyous.

How does one cope with loss? As everyone knows, when you experience loss, a hole of sorts rips your soul. That tear must be mended or filled by something exquisite. Something that will mend the shards of pain that intermingle throughout the heart. How do we know exactly what that is? If I knew, I would tell you, and we'd all be richer for it. But it is different for each person. Each person must explore and expand his or her horizons until a rich process of healing begins.

What I do know is that it is a very tedious and slow process. It doesn't happen overnight and you can't find pills to speed up the healing. But with care and great moral support, the pain will lessen. The trauma will unfold and dissipate slowly, atom by atom. And one day you will be able to possibly come to terms with your loss.

I will leave you with a few thoughts that will perhaps buoy you through your wellness journey:

  • Be good to  yourself.
  • You can't change the past, no matter how much you try.
  • Forgive yourself.
  • Keep yourself active.
  • Find a support group of a few or a thousand who have experienced the same kind of loss. 
  • Smile and think of positive things and, yes, think of your loss and embrace it, but with the knowledge that no one can ever take away your memories of your loved one or other loss.
  • Try to find something you enjoy, such as art, music, drama, or volunteering somewhere.
  • Thank the heavens that you had the opportunity to meet with your loved one. . . .
  • Create a living memorial for him/her.
  • Write a story or poem about this individual.
  • Scribble and scribble and scribble without care. . . .
  • Listen to soft music or energizing music - whatever brings you joy.
  • Read. Find a series of books you can escape to at times when thoughts start to turn your world upside down.
  • Pray and ask for sustenance.
And, finally, remember to breathe and take care of your physical body. You only have one and only one life in which to live within it.

You are safe. You are good. You are loved!