Regaining yourself.

One of the hardest things about depression is that you tend to forget who you really are.  That smiling person that genuinely cared is probably gone.  Not for good, but gone.  Left is a somewhat empty, tired shell of what used to be you.

The process of regaining yourself is long, because depression has now changed you and is part of you.  Now you have to figure out who you are now, and how to fill the empty shell.  The tiredness may never go away, but the shell… well, the world is your oyster.  You can start from where you are, and keep going.

It’s very hard to explain.  But now that you have been gutted by depression, the remodel and subsequent “decoration” should follow.  Even though you were gutted, you still have your values, your morals, spirituality, passions.  Live by them, and you will be happier, youer, and better.

It’s a process that involves acceptance.  Acceptance that things are not the same as they used to be, but it doesn’t mean it’s acceptance that life will be forever crappy.  Once you have accepted that things will now be different, you can start rebuilding and regaining yourself.

Mental Illness and Gratitude

Major Depressive Disorder is a B*tch sometimes.  It obscures your mind and your thoughts.  It wrings your ideas and twists your views.  One of the things that it did to me, and that it does to many others with the illness, is to twist my views to the point of absolute hopelessness and bleakness.  This is when the suicidal thoughts tend to come.  But I am not going to talk about suicide today.  I will talk about that some other day.  I am going to talk about gratitude.  And how “an attitude of gratitude” has helped me with my depression.

I am not going to pretend that it has been an easy road to get to that point of being grateful again.  Or that it is easy to just one day wake up and decide to be grateful.  It has taken me 8 years to get to a point in which gratitude is a part of my life.
But it all starts with the small things that we CAN do, even in the darkest moments.  It is hard, but we can all take a moment to appreciate one thing that we appreciate, or used to appreciate, at least.  And we can do this every day.  Or at least every time we remember to do it.
It is much easier to talk about it in retrospective, like right now.  I have connected with my spiritual side, and I believe this makes it easier, but you don’t have to believe in a higher power or a God to be grateful for, say, a friend who called you, even if you didn’t take the call.  Or a smile from a stranger, even if you grumped away.
You can start really small, with a small notebook you keep by your bedside, and start writing on it, whenever you remember.  Then, when you are feeling better, you can start creating more structure around it, and make it a daily or nightly thing.  It won’t always be easy to come up with things to be grateful for, but making the honest effort daily is what counts.
If you need a reminder, you can set a reminder in your calendar on your smartphone.  Or you can get an app, such as Thanks Diary or Azasu.  Just search the Google Play Store or the iTunes app store for a gratitude journal, and you should be able to come up with apps that help.
I recommend you do this on a day that you are feeling better, so that you are familiar with the app on days you’re not doing so great, so you can continue the habit-forming practice.
I personally started with the paper notebook, and eventually moved to Thanks Diary on my Android phone.
Why gratitude?  Because it helps you focus on the positive, and to stay away from the bleak.

Recovery is a journey

Recovery is a life-long journey.  It has lots of twists and turns, high hills and low valleys.  It is non-linear, and sometimes, you might feel you’re going backwards.  Recovery is highly personal:  what works for me may not work for you and vice versa.  It also works the other way around.  What works for me, may work for you, so we should always keep trying.  Recovery happens, but it doesn’t happen on our timeline.  It happens in its own way, as long as we keep at it.  It’s a very personal process.

Recovery should be planned around our own strengths, needs, and abilities.  It should be focused on the positive.  What am I good at?  What do I enjoy doing?  What do I need to do?  All people, regardless of diagnosis, are capable of learning, relearning, and growing.  It takes a while, sometimes a long time and several tries, to change old habits.

So, no matter how crappy we may feel about the future, please believe me, that we can recover.  It is not a one-day fix, even though after one therapy session we might feel really good.  So hang in tough, it’s a journey.  Enjoy it.  It’s a life-long ride.  At first it’s like a roller coaster, but with time and practice, it gets smoother and better.

Being in charge of your mental health recovery

First, I would like to make the disclaimer that this does not replace the advise and decisions your doctors make.  And that you should continue to do what they tell you and continue to take your medications as directed, as this is always very important.

In the beginning stages of mental health recovery, you REALLY need to follow what the doctors tell you to do.  Just because you have reached crisis for the first time (or 20th), and have landed in the hospital or the psychiatrist’s office and are not sure why you’re there.  But once you find out why you’re there and are feeling a little bit more like yourself, it’s time to be in charge.

Now, being in charge, does not mean that you make all the final decisions.  It means that you are an important partner in your own recovery decisions, which means that it is time to do some research.  A good first step is doing some research on your specific diagnosis, so you understand what the doctors think is going on with you.  Once you understand what the doctors think is going on with you, you can agree or disagree with the diagnosis, and have an honest conversation about your specific symptoms.  This will ensure that you are being treated for the right thing, as many mental illnesses overlap with each other.

Once you have this conversation, it’s time to figure out your next step.  This can be very daunting, as there are literally a myriad of programs, medications, therapies, etc, that you could go to.  So, having an honest conversation with your therapist, social worker, or doctor, who (probably) knows your case best, will help you decide what is next.

The most important part of being in charge of your mental health recovery is to be committed to your health, yourself, and your options.  Without this commitment, it will be very hard to be in charge of your recovery.

All this said, I wish you the best in your recovery!

Managing some stress

As a sufferer of fibromyalgia, I have learned the importance of exercise to keep well.  However, I have also learned that overdoing it (which can be easy) can also have its negative consequences.  So is with stress.  A little bit of stress is not so bad.  And there is the kind of stress that is positive, too.  But too much stress has its negative consequences, just like too much of a good thing.

I won’t go into the details on how bad too much stress can be for you.  I’m pretty sure we are all familiar with them… high blood pressure, relapse of mental illness, heart disease…  However, there are things you can do to manage some of the stress.

One of the techniques I have used successfully is to plan and divide and conquer.  Sure, you can’t always plan in advance, because you can’t predict the future.  However, there are some things that you know will likely happen (for example, you got engaged, you will likely get married within a year or two. Or wife is pregnant.  You will likely become a father within 9 months.  You can plan around that.).  And for most other situations, though you can’t necessarily plan in advance, you can take some time after identifying the stressful event and plan around it.

The important thing is to break it down into smaller, manageable chunks that you can handle at your own pace, or at least at a reasonable pace.

When you start seeing the world at manageable chunks, the world ceases to be an emergency and a crisis.  It sure does take some getting used to, but another thing you will find when you start dividing and conquering, is that life isn’t the catastrophe that we make it out to be on a daily basis.

Same thing with exercise for fibromyalgia.  Instead of running 5 miles in one day and then suffering for a week because you overdid it, break it down to a mile a day for 5 days with two days rest for the week.  Same goal, different approach.  The latter more effective than the former!

I don’t follow the news.

There are many aspects to keeping your mind free of junk.  Today, specifically, I will talk about why I don’t follow the news.

The main reason I don’t follow the news is plain and simple:  News are almost always depressing to my already depressed state of mind.  They make me cry and feel shitty, so I just don’t follow anymore.

Sure, I still watch TV, and read news on the internet, but at my own pace and discretion.  There is no point in bringing yourself down to a depressed state, especially over how many news outlets are not even saying the truth or manipulate the news to make you believe one thing or the other.

I will occasionally pay particular interest over one story, and follow it, but for the most part, I don’t follow the news.  If you have been following my blog for a couple of years, you may have noticed I tend to follow news of shootings/mass shootings.  These particular events fascinate me.

First, why do people do that?  and second, who the heck do the media think they are making armchair diagnoses about whether this shooter was affected by “name-your-mental-or-neurological-disease”?  The media, while generally good at researching, are still no experts in mental health or neurology.  In my experience, they tend to speculate over what was going on in the shooter’s mind, without really knowing what is going on in the shooter’s mind.

If the shooter were military or prior service, he or she immediately gets tagged with PTSD.  If the shooter happens to be autistic, are we dealing with an epidemic of violent autistic people?  If they can’t find out much about the shooter, it’s probably an unstable, depressed individual that was looking for attention.  Really?  Most of the time, mentally ill individuals are most likely to be victims than perpetrators.

When it comes to politics, in my opinion, they don’t fairly follow the different political factions, opinions, candidates, etc.  It seems at times they are out to smear certain candidates and bring up others.

When it comes to world-wide news, they only cherry-pick what they think makes a sensationalistic story, instead of giving the global overview of what really may be going on.

So, being fed up by the news, and trying to keep my emotions a little more stable, I don’t follow the news.

Finishing the Psychosocial Rehab and Recovery Program.

I definitely learned a lot after 2 years of participating in the Psychosocial Rehab and Recovery Program.  I have learned to manage my emotions, cultivate happiness, community reintegration, communication skills, dating skills, manage my psychosis, and many other things.  My commitment to this 2 year journey has paid off in that I am a mentally healthier person who is in charge of her life.  It is bittersweet that I have completed the program.  It became a part of my life for 2 years.  And my therapist wasn’t only sweet and understanding, she was also very focused and specific, and wouldn’t let me get away with bull about what is going on in my life.

My hope is that I will be able to share some of these skills I have learned.  It is part of my recovery plan, and it is also a way for me to pay it forward. 🙂

I want to share some of what I have learned in hopes that you can too learn a bit of how to be in charge of your life.  I may also share some of my personal stories, or day-to-day life.  I am hoping, too, that this new understanding about myself will help me be more focused and regular at blogging, and why not, I would like to touch at least one life in a positive way.