My Recovery Journey: Depression

I have not written much in my blog recently, which makes me sad and disappointed.  I had hoped that I would write in this blog at least every week and continue on the same journey I was on only nine months ago.  A journey of continuous growth, positivity, and possibilities.  As it happened, my life did not end up that way.  The months continued on and I struggled to write and to participate in every day life.  I tried to pretend that things were not as bad as they were as I struggled daily.IMG_2014[1]

Things finally reached a breaking point recently.  After seven months of being ill every day from my past eating disorder and other issues and being depressed for nearly as long, I decided things needed to change.  I have been working to change the things that I can change while working to accept the things that I cannot.  It is an on-going process.

Over the last seven months, I have lost a lot of hope, connection, and ability to participate in things I used to, but in the last several weeks, I have been slowly gaining it back.  I have realized that no matter what depths I may enter or complications in my path, my world continues on and so will I.  I will overcome what obstacle is before me, I will feel better, and I will be okay.  This is not the end of my life, but simply a change in direction or a bump in the road.IMG_0011

This last week I have a new strategy for combating all of this grief and depression I am going through.  Keep busy and keep going!  I have been doing art projects on things like why I want recovery and who I am.  It has been so healing as well as occupying.  I have something to be proud of, something to do, and something that gives me some healing.  How wondrous!  I feel a little better with each project.

All of this will pass.  It is all a part of being Bipolar and the cycles that I experience and it will end as they all do.  And the being sick?  It hopefully is already gone.  I have not felt sick for over two weeks now thanks to a new approach.

There is always hope.  If you are struggling, continue to hang in there.  It shall pass and the sun shall shine again!

It May Be Rough, But I Can Do This.

I wish I had some more positive things to write on, but I feel as though it would be less authentic.  I am still in a rough patch though right now it is different than when I last wrote.  At the moment, it is less about the body image, which has in fact improved to a degree since I last wrote, and more about my ongoing body’s issues/recovery post-eating disorder, my struggles with mental illness and other personal issues, the season that is very quickly coming upon us, and a general dissatisfaction with certain things in my life, which I am working so hard to change.  All these things separately may not be so difficult, but together, they are overwhelming and a burden and make me feel so terribly isolated.

In order to deal with these issues, I have been reaching out as much as I can to my friends, my team, and general support system.  I have been undertaking a lot of self-care, which for me has including going to sporting events last weekend, taking lots of naps (with Sweetie, of course) when needed, taking breaks when I have needed them, and taking basic care of myself (eating, sleeping, drinking, etc.).  I have been trying as hard as possible to be self-compassionate, but it is truly one of the most difficult things.  I will keep trying because I know how important it is.  Lastly, I have been reframing situations/emotions already present or planning for future situations.  Instead of staying stuck in a negative mindset of ‘I’m never going to improve’, doing a reframe of that and come up with ways of why that is not true.  For instance, ‘That is not true because every doctor’s appointment my physical health has improved,’ or ‘I grow with each therapy session and improve every week I go.’

Every if I am being tested right now in recovery and doing some extra hard work at the moment, I know that it is worthwhile.  I know the alternative is not an option.  No matter how hard the fight is at times, I know that I can beat whatever the obstacle may be.  I have come so far already and I have the strength and ability to keep going.  Sometimes it may be hard to see and feel, but I do.

Wishing you all well, Recovery Warriors! 🙂

Taking Good Self-Care

The NEDA Conference was absolutely amazing, wonderful, incredible, the best, and everything that I could have hoped for and more….and it was EXHAUSTING! I was so worn out afterwards both physically and emotionally. I came home and rested for a few days before getting back to my usual schedule, which turned out to be anything but usual and especially busy pretty quickly. I decided it was the perfect time to take a short self-care break and visit family, especially considering it was so close to Thanksgiving (though it had just passed).

For the next several days, I will be in the company of my family, taking extra good self-care and being gentle with myself, relaxing and not doing much, and simply enjoying the moment instead of being so busy both physically and emotionally. I am so fortunate to be able to have this time to be able to do this.

Self-care is so essential to recovery. I have learned it is absolutely necessary for me to sustain my recovery and be able to avoid being too vulnerable to emotional upsets, triggers, etc. I take every opportunity I can to take good self-care of myself because I know that it will not only make me happy but make me stronger.

Do something good for yourself, whatever that is for you. Take a break when you need it. Have a treat, go to the beach, listen to your favorite song, or whatever it is that your heart desires that makes you happy.

Take good self-care! 🙂

In Times of Struggle

I must confess something…  At the moment, I am really struggling.  I very much hate to admit it, but I am.  And I feel guilty and ashamed about it.  I feel as though I should be better than this.  It hurts all that much more that I am not the strong, positive person that I usually am.  Right now, I am sad and upset and I am struggling to stay positive.

There are several factors contributing to why I am feeling so down and a few reasons behind it.  I am doing as much self-care as possible to help.  It is definitely not easy to practice good self-care when you lack the energy and motivation, but that is when it is most important.  It is in times like these when despite not being able to feel very much joy that still do what brings you joy regardless, still participate in life as much as possible, and take good self-care.  It brings you back from the depths of whatever it is you are lost in.  That is exactly the place where I am now—pulling myself back up.

It is also in times like these that self-compassion is so incredibly important even if you do not believe it is.  Instead of engaging in self-punishment in any form, engaging in kindness and compassion towards yourself.  Tell yourself it is going to be okay, validate how you feel.  Try as hard as possible to stop being upset and angry at yourself for alleged transgressions you commit.  Like right now, I need to let myself know that everyone struggles and there is no reason to be ashamed or feel guilty.

I am reaching out as much as I can right now as well.  Having a support system is essential, especially one that is trustworthy and reliable.  (Otherwise it would not be a support system!)  I am very grateful and fortunate to have an amazing support system around me including my family, friends, and team members.  I have been open and honest with them about what is going on and have been trying to work through what is going on.

This down-swing is temporary.  It will not last forever.  I will overcome this and smile again.  It may take some time and a lot of effort, but it is worth it.  Recovery is always worth it. ❤

Kristin’s Self-Care Favorites

Below I compiled a list of my favorite self-care activities.  It is not always easy to figure out what to do for self-care, so I hope this list helps you get started on your new, improved self-care journey.  Remember: this list is my personal favorites list and it may not be right for you.  Compile your own list of self-care activities that you enjoy.  Refer to that the next time you do not know what self-care activity to do or to get started with better self-care.  As always, take good self-care! ❤

Kristin’s Self-Care Favorites
(in no particular order!)
  • Taking breaks, naps, “time-outs”, etc. 
  • Going for a walk, run, or hike (I would recommend Mt. Rainier to anyone looking for a beautiful hike)
  • Farmer’s Market
  • Going on a drive or road trip
  • Reading or writing/blogging/journaling/etc.
  • Listening to music
  • Watching movies (whether at home or in a theatre)
  • The beach or a park (Seattle Center is great)
  • Spending time with Sweetie (my kitty)
  • Sports (playing or watching) namely football (Go Seahawks!), football/soccer (Go Sounders! Forza Azzurri!), and hockey (Go Canucks Go!)
  • Spending time with friends whether in-person or via text/phone
  • Photography
  • Museums (Chihuly is a must-do for Seattle art fans)
  • Dancing
  • Extra long showers/baths
  • Scrapbook- and card-making
  • Getting a nice haircut
  • Other arts and crafts (such as collages)
  • People watching (downtown Seattle is a great place)
  • Sitting outside even at home
  • Swinging on a swing set
  • Video games (WoW, CoD, Halo…)
  • Camping (I<3Outdoors)
  • A treat like froyo, cookie, etc. (Menchie’s anyone?)
  • Going out to eat, fancy or not (Sushi please!)
  • Shopping (no purchase necessary)   
  • Going to fairs, festivals, etc. (The Puyallup Fair in Sept. here is my favorite!) 

Self-Care Weekend

Since my last post, life has been kind of crazy for me.  Between work, family, friends, and my own stuff, I had little time to catch my breath and take time for myself.  I decided it was time for a self-care weekend, which is a self-care break extended.  I disconnected myself from Twitter, Facebook (mostly), and home and I took the weekend to live in the present moment and take it simply for myself.

My self-care weekend happened to take place just at the right time for me since my friend happened to be in town from out of state.  We spent the weekend doing the Seattle tourist bit, which is always fun to do with visitors since I never really get out and do those things.  Our weekend included downtown, Seattle Center, and the piers and that was only Saturday.  We also spent the weekend talking and catching up.  That is invaluable when times are tougher regardless if the discussion is on the difficult stuff or not.  I cannot stress the importance it had on my weekend and time spent with my friend, especially since I usually do not have that day-to-day.

The possibilities for self-care weekends are truly endless since everyone is different.  I would highly recommend if you are having a difficult time or are stressed out to take the time for yourself whether it is in the form of 10 minutes, an hour, a weekend, etc.  Take a day or two to disconnect from social media and other types of things that are not always the healthiest.  One of the other things that I have disconnected with, which I continue to disconnect from, is TV simply because I felt too triggered at the time by commercials.  It is okay to take care of yourself.  If you cannot believe that right now, keep repeating it until you do.  Make yourself a priority and take good self-care.

Check back in the next post or two for some self-care ideas.  I will post some of my personal favorites.

Basics of Self-Care Breaks

I apologize for being absent as of late.  I have been so busy with work, appointments, the holiday, etc.  When I have not been busy, I have been taking time to simply take a break.  Much, much needed breaks.  For me, breaks are essential because I get easily worn down both physically and emotionally.  I need time during activities and for a day or two in between activities to just have rest.  Rest for me includes a lot of alone time.

I have developed this skill of self-care breaks over time.  It is not always easy given that I am not always able to leave parties or find a good spot to just be alone.  Also, there may not be days where I get to rest in between my schedule.  Regardless of the situation, it is important to take breaks anyways.  Make the time for your self-care.  Ensure the breaks are well-balanced between not too little and not too much.  Lastly, get the most you can from the time and space you have to work with, especially if it is not ideal.

As I mentioned, there are a few basic kinds of breaks (with some overlaps of course).  The first is a “time-out”.  Second is naps.  The third is a “day off”.  There also may be others that you have in your recovery/self-care skills, so do not be limited by my short list of these three.  Here’s how each of these work:

1. Time-Out

  • A time-out is walking away temporarily from a stressful, emotionally, and/or overwhelming event such as a party, dinner, a sporting event, or shopping.  I find this is best done when I can find an alone, quiet spot.  However, it is not always possible.  If there is no alone, quite spot, then find the spot that is most comfortable for you.  Maybe even plan it ahead of time, which I do frequently, especially to parties.
  • In the time-out, take the time to calm yourself, collect your thoughts, and avoid impulsive decisions.  This is your time to breathe and be ready to get back to whatever activity you are at.  Be mindful of your thoughts and remember this is not about rumination but about calming and refocus yourself to be able to rejoin the party.  Sometimes when I am worked up in a time-out, I will listen to music, Facebook, and watch cute cat videos on YouTube (because that is how I roll).  If there is something you have that is calming such as reading, then be sure to have that available at events you know where you will need a time-out.

2. Naps

  • Naps are so awesome for so many reasons.  According to the Mayo Clinic, the benefits of napping include relaxation, the reduction of fatigue, increased alertness, and improved mood.  The other benefit (though this is mostly personal) is being able to nap with my kitty.  I would be this is true for any pet owner.
  • The Mayo Clinic adds that naps are best done when short (10-30mins) or you will likely be more groggy, when taken in the afternoon to not interfere with nighttime sleep though it also depends on your personal sleep schedule, and when you have a comfortable, quiet, dark room to sleep in.  If you do not follow these Mayo Clinic suggestions, do not get upset with yourself.  It is okay to take the time you need, but still be mindful on your napping.  It is important to keep an eye on how much rest you need, if you are getting enough, or if you are getting too much.
  • Naps can also work as a time-out.  There are times when I am so exhausted from a full day and then going to another activity where I am stressed that I need to go take a nap, for example.  Sometimes these are unplanned in which I have to improved a space and other times they are planned in which I have a space picked out for naps and time-outs.  If it is not too hot or cold, I would suggest the car as a great napping area.  It is not always the most comfortable, but it is generally quiet.  I usually have a few blankets stashed in mine, so I am extra comfortable.  See what is the right option for you.

3. Day Off

  • A day off is exactly how it sounds–a day off.  The definition of a day off will vary for everyone.  My personal days off include lots of Netflix, some video games, maybe the beach (if I want to leave the house), time with my kitty, and general no-work day.  I allow myself a day (or half-day if that is what I have) to rest, relax and not have to do anything.  I do not schedule anything either.  It is a do-whatever-I-want day.  For you, a day off may include some of these things.  You may decide a day off includes leaving your house, too.  Whatever is most relaxing, restful, rejuvenating, and not a have-to/work-related activity is perfect for a day off.  Trust me, letting yourself watch movies on Netflix for one day will not rot your brain, especially since there are now TED talks on it!
  • Naps are great for a day off, too.  (Naps are great for everything IMO!)  It is about a day of rest, so rest!  Allow yourself to have that time and the day to rest and relax because you need it, deserve it, and care for your mind, body, and soul.

What kind of breaks do you take?  What do you enjoy doing during rest and relaxation?

Basics of Recovery

No matter where we are in our recovery, some days (or weeks, etc) we struggle.  Life throws us challenges that we did not expect or we are under more stress or some other scenario.  No matter what it is, we find ourselves tempted back into our behaviors and disorders.  But instead we must do what seems the impossible, as always, and fight.

During times of struggle, I find the best way for me to fight back is to go back to the basics of recovery.  The basics of recovery are different for everyone because everyone is different.  However, the same general rules apply.  The basics include (but at not limited to): emotional, physical, food, and spiritually.

-Emotional

  • Reach out for support/help from family, friends, or team members.  Sometimes you do not even have to say anything.  Texting with a friend or chatting with them on Facebook is a good way to get connected.  Remember: do not isolate yourself.
  • Remember what you have learned in therapy/treatment.  Use those CBT, DBT, or other skills.  It can be really hard to remember them when things are so difficult, but refresh your memory with books you have used, friends, or your therapist.  If all else fails, think: is this helping me or hurting me?  (PS: Rumination is never a good idea.)
  • One of my basics of recovery, which I recommend for everyone, is to have fun every day.  It may sound easy and silly, but it truly works.  Leave the house/apartment and go to the beach or the park or a sporting event (Go Seahawks!) or whatever else you enjoy!  Just have some fun or at least what has been fun.  Remind yourself of why recovery is worth it and what makes you happy.
  • Be kind and gentle towards yourself.  Have compassion.  You are hurting and struggling.  How would you treat a friend in your situation?
  • Celebrate yourself.  Your accomplishments, no matter how small, matter.  On those really tough days, getting out of bed is an accomplishment.  Every meal is an accomplishment.  Be proud.  Focus on those positives and what you did do rather than the negatives and what you did not do.
  • Be grateful.  Use gratitude every day.

-Physical

  • Get up, brush your teeth, shower, etc.  Care for your most basic needs.
  • Get enough sleep, try not to oversleep.
  • If exercise is not permitted for you, then do not engage in it.

-Food

  • When I struggle, I go back to basics with my food as well.  I stop “challenge” foods for a time and stick with the more “safe” foods until I feel more solid and on my feet again.  It is really helpful for me to eliminate as much challenge as possible at meal time when meals are already challenging during a period of struggle.  This is a temporary change and not a change in recovery.  If this becomes a pattern or habit, then I would reach out for more support from professionals.
  • Follow your meal plan or eat mindfully.  Stick to your recovery and care for your nutritional needs, especially right now.
  • Drink enough water.  When I find it difficult to drink water, I add flavoring such as a lemon.

-Spiritually

  • Keep going to church and praying.  If you have not gone in a while, think about going again.  If you have not prayed, try saying a little prayer.

The next time you are struggling, try going back to the basics of your recovery.  What does that look like for you?  Try mapping out your basics before you struggle so that if you do you are prepared.  Remember: take good self-care always!