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Showing posts from May, 2013

Baby Steps

Last night I set an intention to read chapter 1 of "The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion" by Christopher K. Germer.  My therapist loaned me her copy months ago and in my struggle to be able to retain or comprehend anything I was reading, I had abandon the book like so many others.  I did try to work through it once before but found the first chapter baffling as it seemed full of contradictions...but promised it would all make sense as the book went on.  So I will be patient. I will read slowly and take notes (I am at the point where I know things when I talk about them or hear them but the concepts absolutely refuse to remain in my short term memory for review, reflection and eventual evaluation.) There were a few nuggets that kept me interested--- even prompted me to borrow my son's pencil while he did homework beside me and jot it down on a bit of paper. "The only answer to our problems is to first have our problems, fully and completely, whatever they may be"…


I think if I were observed a year ago for a week, it would be common to see my juggling two or more books with three or more in the wings. My tastes are simple, but specific: I like books with vampires (I prefer the non-sparkly ones), werewolves, demons, ghosts, angels or witches--sampling some historic time periods--with clever banter and light romance -- (imagine how thrilled I was to find Jim Butcher'sDreseden Files series and Deborah Harkness' Discover of Witches--all my guilty pleasures rolled into each series). 

But suddenly, I cannot read.  I have 2 novels, supine on my bedside table...a thin layer of dust dulls the vivid covers.  Each time I see them I feel guilty--and confused. The last time I wrestled with depression (and it really does feel like that--a wrestling match.  Sometimes you are on top and strong, other times the heavy weight holds you down and you can barely breathe)  reading was my salvation.  If the stack of paperbacks on my nightstand dwindled to fewer…

Doing it With the Windows Rolled Down?

I love this picture! It says so much about the moment.  Mouth agape in joyful song. Warm little fingers snaking in and out of one another with nerves.  It is a full out, full on best effort of weeks of practice.
In the audience are family and friends, lips silently moving to the words, their smiling eyes aglow behind hoisted recording devices..... pure bliss and wonder where the world seems to stop moving and nothing seems important but the moment. When we are  young....we all love to sing and dance and perform.  Our families all clap and tell us how good we are and we feel great.  But  at some point.....most of us stop singing and dancing.  Kids start by acting shy, singing softly in school, standing on the sidelines when others dance.  Someone has either told them they are not any good --or they have somehow observed people that they feel are better than they are and have become embarrassed to do what at one point brought them such a sense of joy and expression for fear of ridicule.�…

Breakin' it Down

At my core, I am someone who like structure and a good plan.  Don't get me wrong---there are days in the summer when I will wake up early and decide it is a great day to go to the zoo.  There is much grumbling as I wake everyone up and inform them of my fantastic idea and let them know we are leaving in 20 minutes.  Breakfast?  We will eat on the road - breakfast sandwiches (that gets them moving a bit faster). I start packing bathing suits and lunches, sunscreen and water bottles.  Spontaneous trips often turn out better than planned ones since I know I WANT to go and there feels like there is less pressure for the day to be "like I planned".  It is an "adventure day" so anything can happen and I don't put expectations on the trip---ok well fewer expectations.

 A couple of years ago we went on a7 day Caribbean cruise out of Tampa - me, my husband and two of the boys.  I planned out each day of the drive to and Florida, the stay with my mom before the cruise…

My Goal

So really, I want to be the pup in this clip and depression is the cat....

Clara Hughes - Let's Talk

I remember hearing in 2010 when Clara Hughes became one of the faces of  Bell's ‘Let’s Talk’ campaign to help raise awareness and support for those suffering from mental illness.  She signed a five year commitment to share her story of struggling with depression in hopes of erasing the stigma of shame metal illness can generate.

On the heels of Olympic success, her broad smile had been on every Canadian television and it was the perfect moment to share her message ---people would be listening. I was listening!  And then I promptly forgot about her...because I thought it had nothing to do with me. 

Just recently, Hughes spoke to more than 1,100 spectators at the London Convention Centre for the seventh annual Breakfast of Champions, a fundraiser presented jointly by St. Joseph’s Health Care Foundation and the Canadian Mental Health Association London-Middlesex. She described her early experiences with drinking, drugs and ditching school.  Cycling was the one thing that she finally…

Cleaning House vs. Dusting

I do not choose to live like this.  Much like my asthma, I have been dealing with depression and anxiety since my 20's.  Most times I am very productive--some times I need medication and help.  This is one of those times and it is not a choice, a joke, a ruse, a "bad day/week/month", 

I am lucky though. I have an accepting family and a couple of good friends who work hard to understand or who often feel the same things as I do and  wonder what makes the difference between them and me.  I can have real conversations with them and have invited them to read this as it might help with understanding what this is like.

We all come to depression through different paths. Some people I have met have had a long time battle with substance abuse and are depressed because of the loss of family, friends and jobs.  Others are depressed because of a single incident --some tragic occurrence--like the loss of a loved one--- that has rocked them to their core and some people feel like life…

Let's Give 'Em Something to Talk About....

A former colleague of mine recently quit her job to move back to her hometown for similar work.  I was curious to know how things were going, so when I called her we chatted about how workflow and customer service was so different in a small town.
"You know though, the hardest thing about this change has been getting the customers to trust me.  They always want to speak to someone else that they know."
" Oh yeah! So somehow I have to work into the conversation that I was born here and grew up here and my dad still works here.  Once they hear that, the relax completely and then I can help them.  It is like they have put me in some sort of 'outsider' box and then move me into a 'local girl' kinda box."
I think we all do that to some extent, look for a way to fit people into our system of boxes that make up our experiences in life--things we know and understand--we either accept or reject.  
I am actually not married but use the te…

Watercooler Talk....

I have discovered that I care more about what people think of me than I thought. This comes as a bit of a surprise.
Not often enough, I get together with two women I have known since childhood.  As it often does in situations like this, we reminisce and inevitably the conversation winds its way around to why we did what we did when we were younger and someone alwayts says to me, "You never cared what anyone thought!  I wish I was more like that!  When we were little, we would come to your house and ask you to come out to play and you would say, 'nah, I don't feel like it' and close the door!"  Though now, I am wondering if other people would say ?  I will take an unofficial poll and see what I find out.  When I announced to the same two women I had discovered I was a perfectionist during my therapy--they looked at each other and burst out laughing.
I have still not told anyone I work with exactly why I am off work.  Last November I was having problems with my asthm…

Down to the Very Core

“At the core of all well-founded belief lies belief that is unfounded.”
Ludwig Wittgenstein, On Certainty
At the core of each of us is a set of beliefs --"a repeating pattern of thought and behavior defined by our various assumptions and expectations, as well as our ideas about the way the world works, collected over time."[1]  These beliefs were formed in childhood, and throughout life we generally seek out situations where our actions reinforce our core beliefs --- which in turn, provides us with proof that our core beliefs are true --which reinforces the belief. It is a self-feeding cycle.
Core beliefs are elusive---they are in our subconscious--quietly feeding our feelings (which are a bit more easy to identify) information mixed in with so much misinformation you can not longer tell what is real.
Let me walk you through something that recently happened to me to help shed some light on one particular core belief I have been struggling with.  I have what I think of as a s…

Small Victories

You know those photos you see for ground breaking ceremonies?  Everyone turns up in their best attire. Hardhats on. Ribbon around the golden shovel? Smile for the camera!  Sound bite.....and done.
Yeahhhhh....  Me? 
I feel like I live 20 minutes AFTER the photo was taken.... and everyone is gone... and I am standing there in an empty field... still holding the shovel.....and my left heel is slowly sinking into the soft earth as my right foot tentatively nudges the blade of the shovel into the dirt...and I am facing this HUGE tower that is my recovery and I have a lot of earth to move.  This is the hard part.  This is the time when you have to get your hands dirty.  Blisters. Long hours. Every shovel out means a little dirt trickles back in...some days you feel like you are making no progress.
And rare days.....rare days a backhoe shows up for a couple of hours and you feel a bit lighter.  I had a day like that recently and it reminded me just how big this project is.  And how I am the onl…

Check! Check! and Double Check!

When I set my mind to achieving something, I have almost always succeeded.  At my core, I believe that it is just a matter of knowing what the expectation is and working hard. So it is only natural that I would apply this same philosophy my recovery. Me at home: How can I be this sick after all this bed rest? What is going ON with my breathing and where is this pain coming from? I can't afford to be away from work --there is so much going on and these e-mails just keep coming so it is good I am answering them from home.  The laundry is piling up and there is no milk and geeze the toilet needs a good scrub.  I didn't get the muffins made and I didn't take those items to the donation box and I was going to clean out the fridge and pantry today --OMG I am such a loser! I can't do anything right even when I have all day?  I can't even GET BETTER. I feel like I would rather just pack it all in..what's the use anyway.... Expectation of doctor: Go to hospital because …

Searching for Joy....

Ok so for the past few posts I have been talking about Joy. Looking for Joy. Finding Joy.  Inviting Joy in.  Embracing Joy. All seems a bit rushed don't you think?  I mean really, I hardly KNOW Joy and here I am searching for her, inviting her in, embracing her?  (Yeah, that is the voice of the scared kid in my --not so sure I want to play around in the emotional sandbox.  Sand gets in your eyes, your shorts, it's dirty and smells funny and someone ends up crying--and it is usually me).

Yes, I know Joy is not a person (apologies to all the Joys out there--it's a lovely name) but it is really important to me.  And since I am pretty unfamiliar with Joy, I need to understand what Joy looks like.  Hence.... Joy.

Mirriam Webster Online Dictionary defines Joy as: a: the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires. Let's start by assuming that to understand Joy, I need to know what I consider well-being, success, good … Brigid.

One of the first things I think I have to do is acknowledge that bad things do happen.  Just look at the news any day.  But by tempering any joy with a sense of foreboding doom you can't experience the true "Ka-POW" of ANY joy.  Whether it is a matter of I don't think I deserve to be happy (something I struggle with now while being off work ---and getting waves of feeling like why can't I just suck it up and get back at it) or I believe that being joyful is tempting fate to dump a truck load of misery on my doorstep--I am not sure.  Probably a bit of both working there. 

So assuage foreboding joy--I guess I have to slowly, cautiously invite Joy in--while employing lots of positive self talk.

I remember on my first day of the adult day treatment program, the recreation therapist rolled a cart full of pains and paintbrushes, sticker, markers, pots, boxes and other craft supplies into the room.  She explained the importance of recreation in recovery.  There were m…

Mask #1 Foreboding Joy - (part 2)

One of the things I found very stressful during the 8 week adult day treatment program I attended each day after leaving the hospital, was being left at the edge of a cliff when the clock announced each class was over.  Sometimes the discussion was animated or the material too vast to cover in the time assigned but I always wanted to know what I was supposed to DO about my anger issues/panic attacks/perfectionism/low self-esteem (most of which I didn't even recognize as part of my life until I attended the program ).  The worst day was when the doctor   talked about  panic attacks --what one is, what chemicals are being released in your body, what one feels like (for people like me who have them)---and then saying...."Oops we are out of time, so next week when we meet we will discuss what to DO when you feel a panic attack coming." 

What?!  Really?!!

Not quite as bad as being left hanging, was the constant "TICK, TOCK" of the clock running down on
the 8 weeks …

Masking Vulnerability - Mask 1 - Foreboding Joy

I am probably pretty late to the party on this one but recently, through my therapist, I have been introduced to the writings and talks of Brené Brown,  Ph.D. and Licensed Master Social Worker.  She is currently a research professor at the University of Houston, Graduate College of Social Work and has spent the last ten years researching and sharing her findings surrounding vulnerability, courage, worthiness, and shame.  When I mentioned Brown to a friend of mine yesterday, and how I thought I might really benefit from reading her work, she exclaimed, " I KNOW! I just picked up two of her books from the library!" To which I responded--"SERIOUSLY??? I just ordered two of her books from Chapters!!!!"  ( Yes we talk like this sometimes.  I believe everyone should have one friend that you can get incredibly animated with, regardless of whether you are excited or feeling completely superior over others).   Back to what I really wanted to look at..... The Actual Past…

Vulnerability....A Dirty Word?

Yesterday I referenced another great blog and I have been very excited to spend some time reflecting on what I read.  It is from "The Actual Pastor" ..whose post I found through my sister-in-law's, friend's Facebook page post....go figure. 

He talks about how when as a child he was ridiculed and teased at school and how he began to mask his vulnerability to being hurt  ( blog post April 29, 2013)  After all, didn't we all get told: "Don't let people see that they have gotten to you!"; "Just laugh it off"; "Suck it up buttercup!"

" are not sure who to be anymore, or what to do. We just know we never want to be rejected like that again. So we create masks that protect our actual and vulnerable selves, projecting an image that seems more sturdy and less susceptible to trauma.....The problem is that the longer we wear these masks, the more fused to our actual selves they become, and it becomes harder and harder to see and …