Writing

Anything But Quiet

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I don’t think I need to say that it’s been anything but quiet around here.  My little corner of here and the greater world of here have been loud and chaotic, demanding attention.

But you knew that.

And I said it anyway.

Because it helps me to process the noise if I first acknowledge that THERE IS NOISE.

The constant noise has been like a game for me, as I keep trying to decide what to focus on and which skills to use in mitigating the impact of that particular noise.

Should I focus on the country’s grand campaign to abolish sexual harassment or on the sad and disruptive remnants of the water that poured from my ceiling just a few weeks ago?

Sorry, Kevin Spacey, but the home front wins every time. I need to get my ceilings, walls and floors put back in place before I can even ponder how many people you had to silence in order to get away with hurting so many young men.

Should I focus on the savory juice of long-awaited indictments or on the light bulb situation that has left eight out of the nine track lighting bulbs lifeless?

I’m figuring you guessed that the life bulbs had to win. You gotta fix your lighting situation so your view of the post-indictment CNN circus is really fine.

Every day I do a basic review of stressors and states. I check the relative environments and how I’m handling things, basically.  I divide everything up so that I can pinpoint the trouble spots and get resources to those trouble spots asap.

For example, this week went like this:

The Big World:
Medium/High Stress given indictments, Halloween, upcoming holidays, nuclear war, weather threats, domestic terrorism

The Local World:
Regular Stress given the status quo

My Part of the World:
Medium/High Stress given the fact that my home got flooded and the damage isn’t fixed yet and I’m having trouble breathing because of the dust.

My Body:
Working pretty well. Whew. Except for not being able to breathe.

My Brain:
Working pretty well. Whew.

My Mentalness:
Pretty good (!!!)  I have a list I use to measure how I’m doing mentally. It focuses mainly on things like sleeping problems, waking up problems, ruminating, obsessing, feeling paranoid, and more fun activities. And all of those are running on a very low speed way in the background. I need to give thanks, I suspect, to the recent addition of NAC, a supplement, which appears to be giving a huge boost to some or one of medications. Thank you to the doctor who suggested that. And I highly recommend you research it. Maybe you can try it too. I love it for its boost and for it’s lack of side effects.

My Mood:
My mood and tolerance have been pretty lousy, somewhere between negative and icky, but not too too bad in either respect. I would say mildly icky. BUT….I’ve been living in a torn apart depressing environment for almost three weeks now.  So it’s probably reasonable for me to feel a bit down. And it’s reasonable that my version of down is slightly more down than other people’s.  I have spent an awful lot of my life being down, after all. I’m used to it. I’m overly practiced, if not perfect.

My Management of My Mentalness and Mood.
This is an especially important category. I mostly can’t control my mentalness and mood, but I can manage them better at times. And this week I managed them very well. I did an especially good job at distinguishing between feeling bad about a depressing situation (my home got flooded) and feeling depressed. I can feel that the situation is depressing, but it’s nowhere close to actually feeling depressed. Apples and oranges. My home getting flooded sucks. But I can still wake up, add 2+2, write sentences, laugh at jokes, and enjoy coffee.

So that’s a very good report, obviously. I’m very lucky this week in that I’ve been able to focus on managing stressors.  I haven’t had to be distracted by a bad brain or volatile emotions. The timing just happened to work out in my favor.  I was able to really focus on distinguishing between living in a depressing situation (the mess at home) and being depressed. As I said earlier, it’s apples and oranges.

Sometimes the timing of events is helpful and sometimes it’s not.

But now, finally, the home front is getting fixed, so that stressor will soon be mitigated, giving me more resources and energy to work on building reserves. As I type this, I hear the lovely sounds of paint being laid upon drywall…..ah, music to my ears.

So now I can build reserves.

Building reserves is important ahead of the holiday season. Whether you like the holiday season or hate the holiday season, there is no escaping the fact that it’s highly stressful. Even if you love it, the people around you at work and at home are more stressed out than usual. One way or another, you have to deal with it.

I happen to love the holiday season. I like the cold, the threat of snow, the music and the tinkly happy Hallmark movies. I especially love when most of DC leaves DC.

But I know that I’ll get blue, since a part of the whole season is the sentimental part …and I have trouble experiencing sentimental feelings. There’s something about feeling sentimental that feels too much like depression and my brain gets confused.

So, I’ll do some practicing of ‘feeling sentimental’ in the weeks leading up to the holidays. I’ll try to get used to having sentimental feelings without being freaked out over the feelings. And I’ll come up with a temporary list of things I can’t really think about. A trigger list, of sorts.

So that’s the deal.

That, and apparently sexual harassment has officially ended.

Woo hoo.

As much as I would love to write on that subject, I won’t for now.

I will just say, everyone must practice being aware. Awareness must be an action, not just a state.

Teach everyone to respect everyone. And teach everyone, female or male or fluid, to respect themselves. Learn about power. Learn about your power. And beware the power of others.

And stop being a silent witness. We’re all silent witnesses at one time or another. Let’s stop doing that.

Okay. Go relax. Live your Saturday. Or whatever day it is when you’re reading this.

xoxo, d

♥ www.livingbroken.org 
Giving power to personal stories of thriving
through wearable, shareable art.

 

Know Thine Enemy

My Facebook feed has recently been adorned with enthusiastic, bold t-shirts for suicide awareness.

The t-shirts shout out loudly that nobody fights suicide alone.

So there.

SO THERE, DAMN IT!

And I’m glad.

Obviously, I’m glad. I encourage any bit of awareness-raising, particularly around the topics of suicide, depression, and pain.  I am pro-awareness generally and, for personal reasons, I am personally pro-awareness.

B-u-u-u-u-u-u-t…

(There’s always a but in these darn essays.)

But what do we do with the raised awareness? Where does the raised awareness go?

If the raised awareness results in donations of money to the cause, then that’s great. The cause needs funds. Funds can help those who need help.  Funds can push forward the critical research that can hopefully someday alleviate or mitigate the problem at the root.

But what else?

What else does raised awareness do? What do the newly aware do with their new awareness, caring, concern and commitment?

I can suggest an answer.

The aware – whether newly aware or renewed in their awareness – can study the enemy closely. Study the enemy in preparation for the next time the enemy rises. Prepare to seriously fight the enemy in an efficient, effective and meaningful way.

Study the enemy.

Study the enemy while things are good.

I know, I know. It’s tempting to just feel good when things are good.  It’s like thinking about rain on a sunny day. Nobody wants to do that.

When I’m in a good space, I definitely don’t want to spend my time revisiting depression and suicidal thoughts. I want to spend time with my family and friends, enjoying the absence of the bad things for a change.

But it’s smart to regroup on a sunny day. Make sure your umbrella and rubber sole shoes get back to wherever it is that you’ll need them on your next rainy day.

There’s no question that I have to keep my eye on the enemy at all times. Because my personal medical history shows that depression and suicidal thoughts come back on a fairly regular schedule.

I have to be ready for the return of depression and suicidal thinking and I have to be in top notch condition to fight them when they appear.

More importantly, I need for those in my support system to be ready to fight.

Why is it more important that they be ready to fight?  Because one of the first things I lose during recurrence is my own will to fight.  Two hallmarks of depression are losing hope that fighting will help and losing the energy it takes to fight.

So I need my support system to be ready to act in my stead, ready to jump in to fight the enemy on my behalf when I become unhelpful.

And there will be a point where I become unhelpful. Because that’s what my enemy does to me. My enemy does not fight fair. My enemy makes me turn on myself and want to destroy myself. It’s hard to imagine and hard to believe, but any family or friends who have witnessed major depression or suicidal thinking will recognize the precarious nature of the condition. The condition feeds on itself, helping destruction to thrive if not fought against mightily.

So be aware, yes, be aware.  But don’t wait to take action. Take action now.

Hunker down and identify both the enemy and target. Find out now what to do when things get rough.

Learn the enemy. Know the signs.

Plan your strategy and understand how your attack will work.

Practice if possible and keep your toolkit with you.

We prepare for all sorts of events that are statistically less likely to happen. We prepare for active shooters, fire alarms, tornadoes and floods. We know that taking steps to prepare could make the difference between life and death if conditions get worse. And generally, we don’t want to play the odds.

So when it comes to depression and suicide, let’s not play the odds. Let’s not play around with the chances of things getting worse. Let’s not play around with statistics.

If someone is hurting, let’s fight the enemy when the enemy rises and then, when the enemy backs down, let’s regroup, re-energize and let’s be prepared to fight even harder next time.

Because it really is true that nobody should have to fight alone.  And we can prevent that from happening a statistically significant portion of the time.

P.S. It’s sunny where I am today. I’ve got one umbrella by the door and one in the car. Just in case. 🙂

xoxo, d

♥ www.livingbroken.org 
Giving power to personal stories of thriving
through wearable, shareable art.

 

#metoo #notyou

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This week I lent my support to the #metoo campaign of women and men helping to make more women and men aware of what we all supposedly already know, but apparently also don’t know.

Really? We still don’t know?

I’m sorry. I guess I thought we all knew.

And honestly, I thought one of the reasons we all knew was because it had happened to most, if not all of us.

I don’t say that to sound either naive or cynical, jaded and negative.  I say that because almost all of the women and many of the men I know have had experiences that I believe must have included some degree of sexual harassment at the very least. I also say that because almost all of the harassers I know came into contact with many more vulnerable people over the years than just me.

I honestly wish I had more to offer during this ‘ ‘watershed moment’ of awareness’ or whatever the media is calling it. I certainly have my own stories, but I don’t really want to tell my stories. I don’t enjoy telling my stories and I don’t get much out of reliving the details of them.

Now if I thought telling my stories would help anyone, I would tell them in an instant, of course.

So maybe someday I will tell my #metoo’s.

But these days I’m surrounded by kids who do most of the talking. I’m surrounded by kids, thanks to two pro-procreation brothers and a few local cousins. I’m surrounded by a few teens and pre-teens who talk to me and who graciously let me hang out with them from time to time.

Maybe I’ll tell them my stories when the time seems right. Like if they ask a question or seem curious or seem in need of that sort of information.

Usually, the questions of the teens and pre-teens start because of song lyrics or a particular episode of Catfish or because of a snicker in the car about something somebody said or didn’t say.

And of course YouTube prompts billions of “I didn’t know you knew that” kind of moments now.

Luckily, the cool thing about kids is that they talk if you let them.

I’ve been thinking about how valuable my words could be to the young people I have access to…but then I’m really not sure.  I’m really not sure if I can help because I can’t quite identify the words that might have kept me from having some of the experiences I unfortunately had.

What could someone have said to me that would have kept me safer?

Well, I guess someone could have warned me not to be alone with men older than myself, even if they were family friends, neighbors, relatives, etc.

That would have been helpful.

And really, there’s not much reason a young girl needs to be alone with men older than herself.

Maybe I would tell the kids in my life to never be alone with any adult or kid they felt any sort of discomfort with.

I know, I know…you’re thinking “well then, you can never do anything since that’s too broad.”

To that I say this:

I was talking to a teenager today and she said something really smart to me. She said that kids her age need curfews because bad things happen after a certain time of the evening. 

Now THAT is smart.

Even this teenager knows that bad things are more likely to happen under certain circumstances.

So yeah, I would say to kids just don’t hang out with adults or kids where it feels weird or uncomfortable or more likely that something uncomfortable might happen.

Let kids know it’s okay to feel weird and leave because you feel weird.

And that not knowing if it feels weird is reason enough to leave.

And oh yeah. I also wish someone had told me that sometimes an adult will say something that just sounds weird or makes you feel creepy.  I would say to kids that at those times, it’s no longer necessary to be kind or polite. At those times, you are allowed to say “eeeeewwwww….that sounds weird or makes me feel creepy” before you run off (fast) to look for your friends or your parents.

Okay. So those are two helpful pieces of guidance I didn’t have when I was growing up.

I talk to my sister-in-law about issues like these pretty frequently.

We talk about how to protect the kids without smothering them.  How to keep an eye on them without limiting their experience of the world.  How to keep them safe without making them scared to go out of the house.

She may or may not know that whenever I can, I remind them that I am a safe and non-judgmental adult. I remind them often to call me if they ever need an adult to call. I tell them I will come and get them or that they can come to me or that they can use me as an excuse to leave wherever they are.

Because sometimes kids are stuck and just need an excuse to get out.

I tell them to remember I am a safe adult if they ever need a safe adult to help them in an unsafe or uncomfortable situation.

Today I told the teenager I was with to count me in as a safe adult. I told her to call me anytime of the day or night and promised that I would be there.

After a week of #metoo, I plan to now say  ‘I’m a safe adult’ so many times that the kids in my life get sick of hearing it. I want them to hear my voice saying it when they are in precarious situations, the way I here my own protective voice these days.

And I think I’ll start sharing more with them about how to trust your gut.

Unfortunately, I didn’t learn to trust my gut until decades after it was too late. When I was growing up, I was told to trust adults, not my gut. 😦

But now I have a gut worthy of trust. And maybe I can lend it out to the kids in my life.

Maybe I’ll say “If you’re not sure what to do, think about me. What would your Auntie Dee say?  Would she say ‘no big deal?’ and laugh this situation off?  Or would she say ‘I’m coming to get you right now?’

Maybe I can’t come up with the guidance for how to avoid bad situations entirely, but I think I can do my share to help the kids I love to know bad situations when they see them.  And, more importantly, maybe I can help them to feel those situations are WRONG when they happen.

And they will happen.

Because no matter how many of us say #metoo, there will always be people out there who know that someone younger or more vulnerable is just that….vulnerable.

#metoo. And hopefully #notyou.

xoxo, d

♥ www.livingbroken.org 
Giving power to personal stories of thriving
through wearable, shareable art.

 

 

What about 100% of Effective People?

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“100% of effective people seem to have read that book.”

Listening to Scott Adams plugging Influence by Robert Cialdini.  Tim Ferris asked him for his opinion on best book ever (or book he’d be most likely to gift to others). This is a great listen for Scott Adams fans. He covers broad territory – from hypnosis to affirmations (always fascinating) to cartooning to Builder protein bars.

So I’m moving on to ‘Influence’ after I finish Tools of Titans.  I’ve pretty much reached the point where I’ll do whatever Tim Ferris says to do.  If Scott Adams seeks to eliminate decision making from his daily routine, I am seeking Tim Ferris to make my decisions for me.

 

 

 

Flash Cards for a Functional Year

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I’m sorry the title of today’s offering isn’t better.

I should have written something about a happy or joyous year, right?

But seriously, happy and joyous aren’t my goals.

I wouldn’t mind being happy and joyous, mind you.  It’s just that I don’t generally set out to be happy and joyous. Generally, I set out to be functioning and, hopefully, very high functioning.

So far, it looks like this could be a good year for high functioning.

The basics appears to be in place in that respect, so I’m pleased.

Wow.

How’s THAT for some jumping-up-and-down, crazy, out-of-control positivity, eh?

So here are my basic rules for achieving my goal of having a high functioning year.

And yes, I keep them on note cards.

(1) Ignore my brain

Well, I can’t really ignore my brain, but I can try to step away from messages my brain sends to me.  I can try to avoid getting hooked by bad brain messages.  And I can try to avoid getting caught in the swirl of my brain activity…when my brain activity is swirling.

(2) Question my brain

I can ask whether my brain is being helpful or unhelpful at any given time. If it’s being helpful, I can work with it.  If it’s being unhelpful, I can choose not to engage with my brain…or at least try.  Some days are better than others, but it’s a good exercise to disagree with my brain and practice rejecting it when it is not helping me.

(3)  Ignore others

I can’t really ignore my brain, but I can definitely ignore other people.  I don’t need to be rude or disrespectful toward them.  I don’t even need to let them know I’m ignoring them. I can just discount their input, their perspective, or their words (or their texts and emails).

I should probably mention that I don’t mean all others. I just mean those few others who tend to be unhelpful. Let’s ignore them.

(4) Don’t Feel Bad

Number Four pertains to Number Three.  I can ignore those few others I ignored in Number Three without feeling bad about the fact that I’m ignoring them or wondering if I’m hurting their feelings. And if I worry about them at any point, I can remember that there are plenty of people out there who are ignoring me.

(5) Move

I need to move everyday.  Whether its a few miles of running or 10,000 steps of walking or something more structured, I need to move.  I’ll assume you’ve experienced the difference between moving and not moving.  Moving just feels better. Period. It feels better, it looks better, it works better.  So I gotta move. Every day. In some way.

(6) Be My Own Police

I need to be vigilant about my environment. No moody music. No sad movies. No time spent alone around known triggers.

Policing myself is easy in some respects since I’m quite rigid and generally hyper-disciplined.  It’s a bit harder when others are around and I have to bow out of an activity or conversation topic that triggers me.  It’s especially hard when I’m in a place – physically or mentally – where everything’s a trigger.

When everything’s a trigger – or when it just seems like everything’s a trigger – it’s important not to take on big thoughts or big decisions.  During those times, I try to call a personal time out and I declare privately that everything’s on hold. I take more hot baths than usual and eat some comfort food (i.e. oatmeal for dinner) and I just allow time to pass.

(7) Regroup, Reorganize, Reimagine

This is the story of my life. I do this all the time. I do it every weekend. I do it every month. I do it anytime I need a do over or a new start.  I make lists and charts and graphs and spreadsheets and then more lists.

I always know the most current priorities. And I always feel like I can be on top of things.

It might not be that I’m actually on top of things, but hey, at least I feel like I am.  And I have to think that feeling there is part of the way to being there, right?

(8) Fantasize

I imagine fantasies that are partly based in reality so that they can serve as positive visualization.

These days I imagine that Leonardo DiCaprio likes my style of painting and commissions me to paint for him. In the advanced fantasy, he provides me a studio in which to paint.

I always wanted an actual studio.

Then I imagine that my art becomes wearable as yoga clothes and I pass people wearing them in airports.

You know you’ve made it when you see your products in airports.

(9) Initiate More Conversations

This one is tough for me but I’m going to do it. I am going to initiate more conversations. I tend to not do so and I know all of the neurotic reasons I don’t initiate conversations. Mostly I don’t because I’m an uptight workaholic Type A personality.

But not initiating is hurtful to people I love so I am going to really really really try to initiate more conversations with a few people I love and a few people I like.

(10) Number Ten

I feel like there should be a number ten.  Nine seems so wrong to end on.

Ooooooh! I know! I know!

I’ll reinforce a rule I made last year and didn’t do so well with.

I want to throw things out and/or give things away EACH WEEK.

Okay. I’ll journal that so I keep on track. Dump stuff each week. I really really really want to get rid of stuff.

Well, back now to working on the art business, which I never have to remember to do.  Same with painting…no reminders ever necessary.

And then out to walk the dog and knock out some steps.

I hope your 2017 is filled with meaning, passion, purpose, love, giving, hope and inspiration….and laughs, hugs, cuddles, and all that mushy stuff too, of course.

xoxo, d

Don’t you want something different?

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The puppy who’s no longer a puppy has been fed, walked, watered and thrown balls to.

Well, they weren’t actually balls. They were actually pieces of penne pasta, if you must know.

This puppy who’s no longer a puppy likes the half-crunchy-half-chewy pieces from the top of the casserole. So she gets them thrown across the room and she chases them down.

Nah.

She’s not too spoiled.

So let’s see. We’d covered two points so far in previous essays:

(1) Don’t be upset if the Person With Depression (PWD) can’t always keep your schedule; and

(2) Don’t take it personally if the PWD drops off of the face of the earth.

So, that brings us to the third helpful lesson we learn from Rob Kardashian‘s life and his family’s responses to his depression (as witnessed by me from my obsessive viewing of Keeping Up with the Kardashians and Rob and Chyna)

(3) The Person With Depression (PWD) most likely isn’t choosing for his or her life to be this way. 

Omigod.

I cringe every time I hear any person who doesn’t suffer from depression asking WHY the PWD is being this way, as if the PWD is choosing to stay in bed, choosing to stay at home, choosing to be completely lifeless and choosing to be completely hopeless.

Think about it folks, especially you folks who don’t experience major depression.

Who in the world would want to volunteer for depression?

It’s so hard to explain to people that depression takes over your body and mind. It consumes you to the point that you can’t control it because it’s controlling you.

Depression takes over, making choice an irrelevant factor after a certain point.

I know, I know.

You’re saying “But you DO have a choice.”

And yes.  Yes, there are points where the PWD has choices.

But those points are NOT during the time of crisis.

During the time of crisis is NOT the time to ask why the PWD is choosing to be this way.

Choices are a topic of conversation better left for when the PWD is feeling better.

Choices are a topic of conversation for when the PWD has more control over the depression than the depression has over the PWD.

When the PWD is in the throes of depression, your job as a family member or friend is simple: help them to get through it and then help them to get out of it.

And if you’ve never been in the throes of serious depression, chronic depression or major depression, just know that it’s awful.  It is painful and upsetting and full of constant reminders that life won’t get better.

It’s worse than you can imagine.

So, for the PWD, hearing a family member or friend question why one would choose that way of life isn’t helpful.

It’s just more hurt on top of the already hurtful hurting.

Okay, that’s enough about depression for one day.

Hope you’re more down than up this fine day. And more yes than no.

Time for me to paint some pretty paintings.

Enjoy your version of painting, whatever it is.

xoxo, d

www.livingbroken.org
Giving real life stories value, purpose and power.

Why didn’t you call me?

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Okay. Phone rang. Answered phone. Call over.

Back to Rob Kardashian and Part II of how his experiences with depression can help others.

(2) Sometimes it’s hard for the Person With Depression (PWD) to pick up the phone. 

So there are a bunch of episodes where Rob disappears.

As the official disappearing member of my family, these episodes are especially special to me.

The thing is that making contact with family and friends is a lot of work for someone who is lost in the darkness of despair.

I know that sounds melodramatic, but depression is melodramatic.  The whole depression thing is a big dramatic drama.

But whirling away at the inside center of all the drama is the basic inability to do anything. The inability to do anything and the total lack of desire to do anything.

So actually, a lot of the emotional drama comes from that tug of war between the PWD and family or friends who wish the PWD would just get over it.

Yeah, I said just get over it.

Your favorite phrase and mine too.

Here’s the thing.

Getting mad at the disappearing PWD isn’t really logical.

The disappearing PWD really just needs to be given time or a safe environment to be coaxed back into.

So getting mad at the PWD has the opposite effect; it pushes the PWD further away.

For some PWDs, it might trigger worse things like suicidal behavior. For some PWDs, your anger might be interpreted by them as a dare.

So don’t get angry.

It doesn’t help.

And it doesn’t make sense, if you think about it.

The PWD isn’t trying to upset you. The PWD is just upset.

Either step back and give the PWD some space or work on making the environment safer for the PWD so that he or she will reengage more quickly.

And remember…it might feel like it’s about you, but it’s not. It’s not about you.

More in a bit.

The puppy (who really isn’t a puppy anymore) is giving me the look.

xoxo, d

www.livingbroken.org
Giving real life stories value, purpose and power.