Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Breathe Strategy - Don't Break the Chain!

I haven't been great at making and keeping goals lately and felt like if I had some good goals and a way to really accomplish them it would help me feel better and move forward.  So I got online and did some research on tips for accomplishing goals.  I found a lot of articles on the usual tips, but also found a few different ones that I really liked. 

One thing I had been looking for was a good visual and way to break down my goals.  As I looked at different things online, my favorite was this chart made with sticky-notes from the What is a Goal Chart/How Do I Make a Goal Chart article on http://www.positivethinking-toolbox.com/goal-chart.html website.  I created my own version on my computer using a table in Word.  This really helped me break down my goal into smaller steps.  For example, my main goal is to lose weight which I broke down into smaller steps such as exercise, eating better, food journal, etc.  Then under each of those I have broken them down even more.

Speaking of exercise in my research I found these tips from and article entitled "4 Tips for Accomplishing Fitness Goals" by Alice Burron:

"Before beginning your new exercise program, think of exercise as: a break from a stressful workday, a way to boost energy and mood, the only time you'll have to yourself all day, a chance to get totally physical and let your mind rest, a chance to reward your body working so hard for you all day, a way to improve your quality of life immediately."

 I especially liked how she suggests to think of exercise as a break from your stressful day and to have some time to yourself.  A couple other tips I found really inspiring were from "8 Tips for Achieving Your Goals"  by Ray Kelly.  These were my favorite tips:

" . . . Keep a success journal. . . .  In it, you can write down your achievements and successes. You can include pictures or whatever else is inspiring to you. This success journal is not only a testament that you achieved what you told others you would, but it also provides an instrument in which you can look back to when you are achieving new goals to help inspire you. It is a message to yourself that you can achieve anything you set you mind to and the journal is proof of it. . . .  Keep before you, at all times, the benefits of attaining your goal. . . .  When you set out on a trip, you may have a map. On that map are two important items, where you started, and where you are going. Create your own map of your goal. Keep it where you can see it daily so that you do not forget where you are going or forget how far you have come."

Both of these tips inspired me to create a goal journal.  In it I have my "map" which is really my version of the post-it note chart shown above, pages to journal on and add pictures for my "success journal" and my favorite tip of all that I found is in an article titled, "Jerry Seinfeld's Productivity Secret" written by Brad Isaac.  Here is a small portion of that article:

"Years ago when Seinfeld was a new television show, Jerry Seinfeld was still a touring comic. . .  I had to ask Seinfeld if he had any tips for a young comic. What he told me was something that would benefit me a lifetime. . . . He said the way to be a better comic was to create better jokes and the way to create better jokes was to write every day. But his advice was better than that. He had a gem of a leverage technique he used on himself and you can use it to motivate yourself—even when you don't feel like it.  He revealed a unique calendar system he uses to pressure himself to write. Here's how it works.  He told me to get a big wall calendar that has a whole year on one page and hang it on a prominent wall. The next step was to get a big red magic marker.  He said for each day that I do my task of writing, I get to put a big red X over that day. "After a few days you'll have a chain. Just keep at it and the chain will grow longer every day. You'll like seeing that chain, especially when you get a few weeks under your belt. Your only job next is to not break the chain."  "Don't break the chain," he said again for emphasis."

This was my favorite tip of all and the easiest to have as a daily visual.  I put a calendar in my goal journal with the most current goal I am working on as the focus, and all I need to do is put my X's on it and remember, "don't break the chain!"

Monday, June 20, 2011

Filling the Needs

I was doing my morning writing on Friday, writing about how I was feeling so confused about doing things that I need and want to do, this is what evolved as I wrote:

"Is it the depression?  It can be so deceptive.  I think I'm doing what I want, but it's more like I'm not doing what I don't want to do.  Thinking that is what I want but really it is the depression telling me to not want to do anything.  It's like it's this thing that holds you back from doing things you want to do, things that will make you feel better.  But it convinces you that you don't want to do them.  It helps find reasons to not do the things you would normally want to do.  It's the physical great deceiver.  I guess I just need to start asking myself if this is the depression talking or if it is really what I do or don't want.  The depression wants to take control of me and make me do nothing, feel nothing, desire nothing.  It is a great black hole sucking life, dreams and desires into it.  Counter balancing it is so difficult.  I need something just as strong pulling the other direction, but what?"

I started a discussion with my husband about my confusion and he brought up the fact that there is also the child in me that didn't get to experience a lot of childhood and resents that.  That some of the conflict that I feel inside is the child wanting to play.  So not only am I fighting depression and anxiety, but also a life-long resentment of being a grown-up as a child long before I should have been.  This reminded me of a quote in the book Addiction to Perfection by Marion Woodman where she says:

The personal feelings of the adult woman, the feminine ego, may still be locked in the mother.  Women who as tiny children had to begin mothering younger siblings, or even their own "dear" mothers, may project this helpless child onto others.  Beneath it is considerable resentment because they were never allowed their own childhood and, ironically, resent the responsibility they automatically assume in most situations.

My husband is always encouraging me to do things that I enjoy, to remember to have fun in what I do.  This is such a challenge for me.  I feel like it is so wrong to do something that I enjoy while there are things to be done for my family, home, etc.  I realize that there will always be things to do, but I have a bad habit of telling myself that once I have this done or that done, then I can take some free time to do what I want.  Of course, I never do that, I always start on the next thing to be done. 

I feel so guilty if I do something strictly just for me.  Over the years I have completely lost myself.  In Addiction to Perfection, there was one small line that caught my attention, it is this, "The child will unconsciously give of its life to try to fill the need in the parent. . . ."  As a child, I did that, I tried to fill the needs of my mom.  As an adult, I am trying to fill the needs of my own family.  What my husband was trying to tell me is that I also need to "fill the needs" in myself. 

And how do I do that?  Pay attention to what I am feeling, when I am feeling resentment, it is the child in me wanting to play.  When I feel like I don't want to do anything, fun or otherwise, it is the depression.  What I learned, or it may be more appropriate to say re-learned, on Friday is that when I am feeling conflicted inside, it is because I am not listening to myself.  The counter-balance I am seeking is as simple as this: taking a little time to parent myself and see when I need a break, rest, playtime, fun, etc.  I do that for my kids, its about time I started doing it for myself.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Breathe Strategy - The Sunshine Vitamin

As I have been thinking about recovering from my recent relapse, I felt inspired to seek more light in my life.  I started last week by doing my morning reading and writing in the room in my house that gets the first light of the day.  Living in the Seattle area definitely presents problems in trying to get enough natural light and lately it has been worse than usual.  We received twice the normal amount of rain in the month of May, and June seems to following in May's footsteps.

Last week I had a friend come over and she had color (Washington skin rarely gets to see the sun, so it is unusual) and I just had to ask how she got it.  She told me that her doctor said she was low in Vitamin D, that she needed to get more UVB rays.  He even suggested going tanning just 10-15 minutes no more than twice a week.  I thought that was very interesting, so I decided it was time to do some research on the Sunshine Vitamin.

Dr. Michael Roizen said this about getting sunlight, "[G]etting safe sun can do your body good. Getting 10 to 20 minutes of sun exposure every day helps you convert some forms of inactive vitamin D into a precursor that becomes active vitamin D-which has a huge beneficial effect on your cardiovascular and immune systems. . . . But you have to limit the time you're exposed to protect yourself from skin cancer as well as wrinkling. Doing both-getting the right amount of sunshine but not too much-can make you up to 1.7 years younger."

Well, looking younger is always a bonus, but I wanted to know how sunshine, or lack of, affects our moods as well as nutrition.  I found a couple of great articles, this one I found on About.com:

"Your body makes vitamin D when you are exposed to the ultraviolet B (UVB) rays in sunlight. You probably need from 5 to 30 minutes of exposure to the skin on your face, arms, back or legs (without sunscreen) twice every week. Since exposure to sunlight is a risk for skin cancer, you should use sunscreen after a few minutes in the sun and even in the winter and on hazy, cloudy days.  The amount of exposure also depends on the time of the year. In the northern hemisphere, the UVB is more intense during the summer months and less intense during the winter months. In fact, if you live north of the 42-degrees latitude, you will have a difficult time getting enough vitamin D from the sun from November through February. If you live north of a line drawn on a map from the northern border of California to Boston, Massachusetts, you will probably need additional vitamin D from the foods you eat during the winter.  The intensity of UVB rays is also reduced by clouds, pollution and UVB will not travel through glass, so sitting next to a window will not give you enough sunlight to make vitamin D."

Well, maybe sitting by the window getting the first morning light hasn't been getting me direct Vitamin D, but I have been feeling better since I started doing it, so the light is helping in some way.  How important is sunshine, well in usnews.com I found an article written by Deborah Kotz where she reports on recent medical findings.

"Coinciding with the first week of summer, a study published today underscores the importance of getting adequate amounts of sunlight for its vitamin D-boosting benefits. The research, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, shows that those with the lowest vitamin D levels have more than double the risk of dying from heart disease and other causes over an eight-year period compared with those with the highest vitamin D levels. . . .  Click here to find out more!In the winter, it's impossible to produce vitamin D from the sun if you live north of Atlanta because the sun never gets high enough in the sky for its ultraviolet B rays to penetrate the atmosphere. But summer is a great time to stock up on the nutrient. . . .  The government's dietary recommendations are 200 IUs a day. . . .  But many experts believe that these recommendations are far too low to maintain healthful vitamin D levels. They advocate for supplementation in the winter of about 2,000 IUs per day and a dose of daily sunshine in the summer.  The sunshine vitamin may protect against a host of diseases, including osteoporosis, heart disease, and cancers of the breast, prostate, and colon. What's more, sunlight has other hidden benefits—like protecting against depression, insomnia, and an overactive immune system."

So maybe I won't get enough UVB sitting by the window, but on those rainy Seattle days, it will have to do.  And when the rain stops, I'll be outside absorbing the Sunshine Vitamin storing it for a rainy day.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Relapse Happens

When I first was diagnosed as co-dependent, I figured that was it, I'm getting better, it's only upward from here.  Then I had my first relapse and I couldn't understand what was happening to me.  I was reading "Beyond Codependency" by Melody Beattie and found a whole section on relapse and finally understood what was going on.  In the book it says, "Recovery is a process.  Within that process is another one called relapse.  Regression, reverting, slips -- whatever we call it -- any diagram we use to represent growth needs to accommodate it.  In spite of our best efforts to stay on track we sometimes find ourselves reverting to old ways of thinking, feeling, and behaving, even when we know better.  Relapse can sneak up on us, linger, and become as confusing as our original codependency."  I could see how I had relapsed and at first I was disappointed in myself, but I learned from it, made some changes and started recovery again.  I understand now when a co-dependent relapse is happening and I can catch the relapse sooner and get myself back on track.

The last few months have been really tough for me, but I thought I was doing well.  Then I started noticing an overwhelming sense of fatigue and last Thursday I was so tired I barely got up to say good-bye when my daughter left for school and my husband left for work.  After they were gone, I climbed back in bed just to sleep for a little while longer and I was out for hours.  I finally dragged myself out of bed moments before my daughter came home from school.  I couldn't believe I had slept the day away and that really concerned me.  I started a self-analysis and realized I was neglecting many things that I do for me to continue in my recovery process.  I started to see the signs of a relapse.

To quote "Beyond Codependency" again, "The first step toward getting through a [relapse] situation is identifying when we're in it.  Here are some signs.  Emotions Shut Down. . . .  Compulsive Behaviors Return. . . .  Victim Self-Image Returns. . . .  Self-Worth Drops. . . .Self-Neglect Starts. . . .  The Crazies Return. . . .  Feeling Trapped. . . .  After we've identified a return to our old ways, the next step is simple.  We say, 'Oops! I'm doing it again.'  This is called acceptance and honesty. . . .  Now comes the potentially difficult part.  We tell ourselves, It's okay, I did it again.  This is called 'self-compassion."

My therapist is always talking about the importance of "awareness" and now that I was aware of the relapse it was time to do something about it.    I spent Sunday fasting and praying for guidance on how to recover from this relapse.  I knew what to do with a co-dependent relapse, but this was a little different, it was more like a depression relapse, so I felt I needed extra guidance.

My first impression was to get back to the basics, back to following my morning routine and doing my Basket A items (see blog entry "Basketful of Gifts") and to start doing "recovery" items again.  In the book "Reaching for Hope," by Meghan Decker and Betsy Chatlin they say:  "For me, there are two [self-soothing steps] that can usually jog me from the molasses morass of my depression.  One is to physically get out of my house and meet a friend for lunch. . . .  The second thing I do is to watch funny movies or videos.  If I can get past the soul weariness to laugh a little, it usually jogs the depression.  Though many women will never have a second episode of major depression, some will experience a relapse.  Learning skills to prevent or minimize these symptoms will give these women greater control over their own emotional well-being."

I've been trying to be strong, trying to be better, but I also have to be realistic - relapse happens and I need to be aware of that and be vigilant in watching for the signs.  My signs are fatigue, pushing on "doing" for others and home, neglecting self-care, shutting down my emotions, withdrawing and closing myself off from others, etc.  This time I had a few additional signs which are specifically depression related and they are feeling low but not sure why, neglecting basic needs, low activity level and a general feeling of darkness.  Now that I'm aware of these additional signs, hopefully I'll catch any future relapse sooner and get back on my recovery road.  So maybe relapse happens, but it doesn't have to happen for very long, awareness, the skills to recovery and acceptance are all I need to get myself where I need to be.