Monday, March 26, 2012

Being Emotionally Fit

I was thinking about being physically fit the other day and about how when some people who are on a lot of medications then get physically fit end up being able to reduce their medications. I love seeing that on The Biggest Loser, when one of the contestants start rattling off all the pills they don't have to take any more. As I was thinking about this it occurred to me that maybe the same thing was possible for people who get emotionally fit.

I have been on an antidepressant for almost two years now and can't help but hope it is just a temporary thing. And if it is just temporary, what do I need to do to be able to get off the medication? That's when I thought about the Biggest Loser contestants. I wondered if I get emotionally fit, will I then be able to reduce my medications?

Yesterday I was reading a book my therapist gave me called "Hand Me Down Blues" by Michael Yapko and I read this:

"Realize that much more is required of you to manage depression well . . . , specifically learning and applying key antidepressant concepts and skills."

It was the phrase "antidepressant concepts and skills" that really stood out to me. I know there are things you can do that help with depression like eating right, exercising, etc. but it was the author's naming it as antidepressant skills that I just loved. So there are antidepressant medications and there are antidepressant skills. It is the things that I am learning now on how to treat myself better that are the skills the author is talking about.

Being emotionally fit is working on those emotional muscles to be strong, such as feeling and getting out your emotions, talking kindly to yourself, being able to say no when you need to, connecting with your spiritual self, doing things that make you feel beautiful or handsome and having fun. These are skills that come naturally to most people but for many others they are a daily, if not hourly challenge.

I don't know if taking antidepressants are a life long thing for me or just temporary, but I do know that it won't be until I am emotionally fit will I be able to find out for sure. I would rather be on antidepressant skills. Time to flex those emotional muscles and get fit!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Embrace the Good With Every Breath You Take

This morning as I write I have had to realize that I have been on a slow decline for the last several months. My doctor warned me that it could happen and to watch for it, but I really hadn't been watching for it. It was a conversation I had with my husband last night that made me realize it. Now as I look back over the last several months with my eyes open I can see the slow slide back into depression. My motivation to do things, even things I enjoy, has slipped away. I am exceptionally tired and drained. The desire to take care of myself has dramatically dropped and so on. It was hard for me to admit my depression in the beginning and it is hard to admit the slide back into it. But I read this quote this morning from Dr. Laura in her book "In Praise of Stay-at-Home Moms" which has given me a clear perspective:

The bad is real and has to be dealt with, accepted, improved and/or endured. . . . The good must be emphasized and embraced with every breath you take or you might be overrun by the lousy feelings from the bad. . . . The best way to handle life is not to agitate over what might be, but to enjoy what is and endeavor to be flexible and creative enough to take on life as it unpredictably rolls along.

It expresses exactly how I feel this morning, the bad is real, the depression is real, but it doesn't have to take over everything. My husband helped me come up with a plan to move forward and to do the things that I like to do despite how the depression tries to pull me down. I was telling one of my sister's not too long ago that I have a team of people helping me. They aren't all helping me all at the same time, but I know they are there when I need them. I have my therapist, my doctor, friends, family and more.

It is my support system that I embrace at this time with every breath I take. It is the knowledge that I didn't fall as far this time in the depression before I could see it. I feel like I was more open to the possibility of what was happening this time and, therefore, more able to be focus on what to do and how to embrace the good in the experience. The depression isn't fun or enjoyable in any way, but knowing I have people who love me and support me makes every breath I take so very good!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Challenge: Journaling Your Emotions

One of my sisters started giving her siblings challenges to do, like I dare you to dance to music today. I think challenging ourselves is a great way to get yourself moving then the added part of telling someone your challenge makes it more real. I have quite a few things that I need to challenge myself with and lately I have been trying to work on some anxiety issues. I decided to get a few books on anxiety from the library and in one called "Anxiety Free" I read this:

"Worry, in addition to being a strategy to fend off disaster, is also a way of blocking your emotions. . . . You are thinking not feeling. You are trying to think your way out of discomfort."

This was an eye opener, I knew I had a problem with facing my emotions, but the worrying part as a tool to block the feelings made me take a closer look at what I am doing. One of the suggestions in the book is to "validate your feelings" and suggests keeping an emotional journal. The book also suggests to carry it around with your or make an effeort to write in it several times a day for about 10 minutes each. The book went on to say:

"Your being able to feel [your emotions] is absolutely crucial. . . . The more you are able to feel them, the less you need to keep them at bay through worrying."

I love journal writing, I have written in journals since I was a little kid, but when I read this I realized that I am keep a daily journal of what I do, rarely do I write how I feel in my entries. I write about my day and what I do, where I go, what I am struggling with, but I am failing to really connect with my emotions through my writings. So I decided I need to give myself a dare, to challenge myself to start writing my emotions daily. I'll let you know how I am doing.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Not Perfect, Just More

Well, this is the last of my five therapy boxes and I labeled it "Perfect."  Aiming for perfection isn't necessarily a bad thing, it's just that I felt I had to be perfect, that I could never do anything wrong.  I'm pretty sure this tendency started at a very young age.  I have this memory of being spanked by my dad when I was little and I remember thinking, "I will never do anything wrong again."  I don't remember why I got the punishment and now as an adult I wonder why I wasn't mad at my dad for the punishment (isn't that what most kids do, be mad at their parents), I only remember thinking that I would never do anything wrong again.

As I grew up, I gave myself no room for mistakes, everything had to be just right or I felt like the consequences would be really bad.  Around the house, I felt like I had to take care of things, my siblings, the cleaning, mowing, helping with dinner and so much more.  I tried really hard to do as much as I could around the house, because I also felt like if I took care of things, then my mom would be more calm and I just wanted everything to be nice and perfect and I did what I felt like I could to control that.  I even remember climbing up on the house by myself to hang the Christmas lights when I was around 13.  When I was 16 or so I went and bought my family's Christmas tree and brought it home in the car.  I felt like if I didn't do it, my parents wouldn't and we would miss out.

Once I was living on my own, the perfectionism continued.  I remember one time buying something at the store and when I got home I realized I had the wrong item.  I was really upset with myself, all I had to do was go back to the store and exchange it which shouldn't have been such a big deal, but it was.  I messed up, and that was too much for me at the time.

If things didn't go the way I thought they should in my head, I got upset.  I expected myself to do everything perfect and things had to go in perfect order.  I forced myself into a perfect system every day.  I thought I must be the perfect church member, daughter, sister, mother, wife, etc.  I felt like I had to have the perfect home and be on top of everything.  I felt like every little thing that wasn't a perfect comment about me (or even no comment at all) was an attack against me.  If someone was whispering, I was sure it was something bad about me.  I exhausted myself trying to be the working mom, support my family and be there for every little need of my family.  When my daughter was 5 year's old, she said that I was Rabbit from Winnie-the-Pooh.  I was running around like a chicken with it's head cut off and my 5 year old could see it, but I couldn't. 

My need to be perfect was so great that I completely exhausted myself.  I hit a point in my life where my every waking thought was, "I'm so tired."  I had nothing left in me, I could hardly stay awake as I drove home from work every day.  I started going to doctors for help with the fatigue and they pretty much just told me it was my life and I believed them, because my life was pretty crazy.  Eventually, I became a stay-at-home mom and thought that I would start feeling better, but I didn't.  Partly because I was still trying to be perfect in all I did and also because I had exhausted my body to the point that it could not recover on its own.  I found my way to a naturopathic doctor and she put me on an adrenal gland support and that changed my life.  Eventually I was able to get off the support and feel good on my own, but I was still trying to do everything and do everything perfectly.

When I started therapy and started working on my therapy boxes, I really struggled with what the counter balance of "perfect" would be for me and I finally decided that it would just be "more."  Not perfect, but just more of what I was the day before, the year before, etc.  I realized I didn't have to be perfect, I just had to try to be more of me. 

So what have I done to be more of me?  Well, first I had to stop trying so hard to be perfect, which wasn't easy.  I think one of the biggest things for me was learning how to relax and recuperate.  Learning the cycle of things, that you do stuff, then you recuperate, then you can do more stuff.  I had just been doing stuff and doing stuff and never letting myself rest.  I learned to listen to what my body was telling me.  If my body is tired, it is time to rest, it doesn't matter if my project or goal isn't done yet, it is time to rest.  If you stop and listen, your body has many messages and now I listen, or at least try to.

Another thing I did to be "more" of just me was learning to believe that what I thought about myself is more important that what others thought about me.  I had come to realize that my self-esteem was connected to what other's thought about me, not what I thought about me.  I visualized myself with arrows coming at me and those arrows were what I heard from others, if those arrows were good comments, then I felt good about myself.  If those arrows were bad comments, then I felt bad about myself.  I was letting those arrows determine what I believed about me.  It was learning to put a barrier between myself and those arrows, I put the good things I believe about myself all around me, that is my barrier, then it doesn't matter if the arrows are good or bad, I'm still me, not perfect, just me.

Admitting my fears, not just to myself, but to my husband as well was another big step for me.  I realized they are just fears, just because I don't do something perfectly doesn't mean my fear will come to pass.  I would have so many fears running through my head, they would push me to do too much, and just admitting what I was afraid off was a first step in facing them.

It's funny, now that I have stopped trying so hard to have everything be perfect, I'm worse than I was before.  For example, I can let the dishes go for a few days and be okay with it and, really, that's not worse, just more relaxed.  More is better than perfect, we can't be perfectly happy, perfectly healthy, etc., but I can be more happy, more relaxed, more creative, more real, more me.  See more is better than perfect.