To Be or Not to Be: I Am Not Depression

Our brains like to talk. Thinking is talking to yourself. If you’ve never looked at it that way, congratulations and welcome to realizing you are crazy like the rest of us. Every thought you make is really a judgement. “I like that boulder”, “That smells funny”, “Where are my keys?” These experiences happen without you thinking, you just like to talk about it to yourself. If you said your thoughts out loud all of the time, people would think you are crazy. Since you are “not crazy”, and keep them to yourself, you simply converse with yourself judging away at every little thing: most especially yourself. Judgement is one of the most toxic things for our minds, whether or not you are mentally “ill”.

Diagnoses are descriptions, not definitions. Diagnoses are statistical in nature, people are not. Does a diagnosis affect your life? Absolutely! Any diagnosis is likely going to call for a modification – diabetes causes modifications in diet, exercise and medication. Depression calls for the same. It does not mean, however, that anyone is less than or greater than another due to a presence or lack of diagnosis. Nor does it necessarily impact your entire life. Those are judgements we all make that affect ourselves and those around us greatly.

There is a world of difference between “I have depression” and “I am depressed”. Do you not believe two words can have such a profound impact? “You are a shithead” versus “You are frustrating me” How is your emotional response? How are your thoughts?

When “I am depressed” becomes an internal monologue, you are powerless and in the grasp of depression. It will guide thoughts and actions towards depression. The brain will always support thoughts. If you wake up saying, “I am going to have a bad day, ” you will inevitably find no end of reasons to have a bad day. This is the same as thinking “I am depressed”. In identifying with a diagnosis, the brain will support the diagnosis and find more depression.

When “I have depression” becomes an inner monologue, there is a space between you and depression. Depression is a transient state. It is not forever, although the brain in this state will lead you to believe it is. In all reality, when depression occurs, it is difficult to even realize depression is occurring. Thoughts are often ruminating and circling all of the reasons for misery and all of the reasons you are the cause of your misery. How does reinforcing having depression and being depression change this?

It is easier to see the negative thought patterns as opposed to being the negative thought patterns. It becomes easier to question yourself. “Is it really true that my children would be better off without me? Who would cook them spaghetti?” Questioning thoughts is easier when you understand your thoughts are not reality. It is also easier to communicate your symptoms without judgement. “Today I struggled to get out of bed because of depression” as opposed to “Today I was a lazy sack of shit who did not get out of bed.”

Each of our minds is exquisitely unique different mechanisms. It is not often we get into convos about what our thoughts are really like, and I would propose if we did, there would be far more similarities than differences: regardless of diagnosis. I do not think for a second a woman without depression does not mentally lambast herself for everything she does at least briefly. I do not think for a second anyone does not have thoughts that make them confused and uncomfortable. Yet, a diagnosis of depression will make my brain more suspect than someone who lacks one. Suddenly, all of me is ill/crazy (even the language: mentally ill!) The suffering comes from the thoughts, not the person, regardless of diagnosis.

I have made changes in diet, exercise, seeing a psychiatrist, taking medication, etc. Journaling, meditating, and practicing yoga are all lifesavers. I don’t do any of those things because I am depressed, I do them because I enjoy them or they support me.  They also alleviate symptoms of depression. All of the things that make my life harder during bouts of depression are symptoms: not me. When my thoughts tell me everyone would be better off without me, I can identify a symptom of depression, as opposed to me being depressed. Why? Because I question my thoughts. I know my thoughts are not me, and I do not allow them to run me around by the nose. This is true regardless of diagnosis.

I find the easiest way to deal with having depression is not taking it so seriously. (Get the pitchforks!) If I am depressed, it’s my focus. Why in the hell do I want that to focus on? Even if I focus on “beating” depression, uh… that’s a part of my brain, so I am essentially “beating” myself? I don’t feel like going to war with me, I have enough problems.

When depression becomes a description as opposed to a definition, there is a lot more space to see the light in the all-consuming tunnel when it comes. I’ve stopped fearing depression. Depression used to rob the sun from my skies and the wind from my sails. Happiness could be robbed at the thought of “Oh crap, I’m going to crash!” because what goes up must come down.

Happiness is my ever-present state. Depression is a cloud in the sky of me. There are lots of clouds in the sky of me, some are ugly and shitty and some are quite lovely. Not a single one of them define me. I am boundless and limitless. When I see depression as a cloud in my sky, I can make fun of it. I can make fun of myself. I don’t take any of this seriously because none of it is me. Who cares? I no longer “fight” for stability, as I am under no obligation to be who I was five minutes ago let alone five years ago. Change is good, healthy, normal and aside from death and taxes: the only thing you can expect in this life. This is great when it comes to having a bout of depression. It will go away. If you engage with the thoughts and identify yourself as them, that’s you now. You perpetually judging you which makes you crazy like everyone else either way.

It’s very difficult to engage in ruminating and self-destructive thought patterns when you generally disregard everything your brain has to say. It is, after all, a chattering monkey that we all have. If you give power to depression, it will have power over you. It is the same power as a craving for pasta. Have you ever had a food craving that seemed to take over your being? The more you engage with pasta-based thoughts, the more you want it. That power comes in your thoughts and words and how you communicate with or about yourself.  Am I comparing depression to spaghetti? I suppose.Why be serious?

Depression is a transient state, even when it does not feel like it. I have had bouts that have lasted for months. It is always worse if I allow it to consume me by thinking it is me.  You can substitute depression with literally any other word and it still remains true. The judgements and thoughts are the only thing that will change. It makes it easier when I inevitably am judged for having depression because I am not depression. It makes it easier to not judge myself. I just have depression. Our thoughts and judgement create more misery than anything else, so with or without depression: watch those and you will find the most transformation. Depression sucks, and I would not wish it on anyone, but it’s something I have. Along, apparently, with a hankering for pasta.

And here’s some tips!

Thanks for reading, I would love to hear thoughts and comments, although I would read them and not hear them, but hey. If you want to grab spaghetti, let me know 😉 Share away if you found it helpful, and all of the other good blog-ly things. 

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Tippy Goodness – Depression/Anxiety (How to help, not how to have it)

To Be or Not to Be: I Am Not Depression

How do I deal with depression? Glad you didn’t ask!

  • Understand the diagnosis
    • A better understanding of the symptoms will guide you to see where the symptoms are and where you are not
  • I cannot emphasize enough that you are not your thoughts.
    • Meditation is a tool to allow you to observe the transient yet ceaseless nature of your thoughts.
    • Try to not think, you can’t do it. It does not mean you have to engage with the thoughts. Meditation can strengthen this.
  • Mindfulness is another word for meditation.
    • It is a psychological way to take the spiritual association of meditation away. The tools, methodologies, and reasoning are identical to what Siddhartha Gautama taught in 500 BC and what Buddhists and many other eastern philosophies or religions have practiced for millennia
  • Meditation does not have to imply sitting in lotus with your eyes closed for hours.
    • Any open awareness and focused intention can equal meditation. It is bringing yourself to a state where you are observing.
    • It is not equal to stopping your thoughts, and if you are unable to stop your thoughts, you are not failing at meditating.
    • You only fail at meditation when you try to meditate 😉
  • Pranayama (Spiritual) or Breathing techniques (Psychological coping skill) are powerful tools that can prevent panic attacks and/or break negative thought patterns
    • ALL coping skills (I HATE THAT TERM) are not only for an episode. These need to be part of your routine and part of your toolkit.
    • This will not work if you do not practice when you are not in crisis/struggling
    • 4-7-8 Breathing
    • Alternate Nostril Breathing
  • The Buddha also taught impermanence. CBT Therapy calls this Radical Acceptance.
    • Impermanence means things will always change. Suffering, he said, is caused by clinging or fleeing from that which will always change. This truth applies to everything – you are not always depressed or anxious.
    • If you simply do nothing but wait, change will occur. There are ways to expedite, but change is inevitable.
  • Create a toolkit for yourself
    • Include routines and habits that support you in good times and bad
    • Include anyone you can reliably talk to if you need an ear
    • Create a playlist on YouTube or Spotify of music that helps calm you or lift your spirits and listen to it – I have tons of playlists to help change my mental tracks! It’s a fun exercise and you can create a hell of a habit building playlists for yourself
    • Gratitude – Never forget to be and find gratitude – no matter your mood, make gratitude a constant place to come to in thoughts and communication. It is amazing what being thankful can do to shift your mind.
  • Watch your language about diagnoses.
    • The way you think, speak, and act reinforces your belief system. If you believe you cannot overcome your depression, no one can change your mentality.
  • Do you struggle with basic daily functions during a depressive or anxious episode?
    • Judging yourself and criticizing yourself will only make this worse. If you are berating yourself for not taking a shower, you are making everything worse. You have the power to choose to take a shower or not to take a shower, and thinking about it will not change that reality.
    • If you are unable to do so, accept it. Remind yourself and understand that a symptom of depression IS difficulty performing basic life tasks. Would someone berate themselves for vomiting from chemo? Why are you berating yourself for your symptom?
  • Track your moods in a journal and look for trends
    • Do you find you have increased depressive episodes during certain times? Are there triggers? Is there something you are doing or not doing that is affecting you?
    • A journal is a goldmine of insight into you
    • Take on an observer role – much like a psychiatrist observing a patient. Make notes about yourself.
    • Hell, WRITE about yourself in the third person. Sound crazy? Talk about a way to detach from your symptoms and thoughts.
  • Take everything 1 day at a time.
    • I struggle with every life function during a depressive episode. I can go days without showering, exercising, eating right, etc.
    • I have stopped berating myself because I KNOW I take good care of myself when I can!
  • Create routines that support you every day
    • During a depressive episode: yoga, meditation, and other things may become difficult for me to achieve. Journaling and breathing exercises are easily achieved when everything is difficult though. The more routine something is in your life, the easier it is to turn to because it’s part of your life.
  • Do not focus on what you did not do, focus on what you did
    • If you list out all of the things you did not accomplish during a depressive episode, you will create lots to be depressed about
    • If you focus instead on what you were able to do, you cannot help but feel better.
  • Listen to your body
    • Depression causes psychosomatic pain, fatigue, “brain fog”, etc. It is okay to let your body be the guide. It is not okay to ignore your body.
  • Be honest with yourself and others and ask for help if you need it!
    • I don’t think this needs much explanation
    • This includes basic life functions – if you need help doing the laundry, ask!
  • Lastly, take care of yourself always
    • Like I said, when I am in a depressive or anxious episode, it’s hard to take care of myself. I look at life now as a system of checks and balances. If I cannot do it well when I am not feeling great, it’s okay because I do when I am.
    • I find the more I take care of myself when I’m feeling fine, the easier it goes when I’m feeling not fine – depressive episodes/panic attacks/etc occur less when I am taking care of me.
    • I don’t do it because of my diagnoses, I do it because I want to take care of myself

Got any more tips? I’d love to hear them! I’m always looking to learn 🙂

We Are All Warriors

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My brain did not want to go to yoga tonight. My brain was a mess. Thursday and Wednesday I had two “phase six” panic attacks. My really bad panic attacks culminate in me stuttering (“i … i…. I… I can’t …I can’t..I can’t…breathe) and twitching. I haven’t had this scale of panic attack since probably January of last year. Part of my anxiety lies in hormones, and part lies in my ability to manage life. I am easily overwhelmed by just about everything. If you talk to me, you will smile and laugh – because I smile a lot and I am funny. What you will not often see is me twitching and stuttering. I do. It haunts me, if I allow my brain to dwell. When I talk to people, I find myself scared sometimes that they will see the “real” me. The real me that sometimes can lose an entire day to sleeping through depression, or an entire day in a crying anxious fit.

Do you see the woman in the pink shirt down there? That woman was stuttering yesterday. Yet today, she went to yoga. Why? Because she did not listen to her brain. Because she knows that these problems are temporary. These problems aren’t her. The easiest way to see her is when she is breathing through her discomfort – in warrior II or a phase 6 panic attack. The real me is both calm and a chaotic mess. I love all of me, because the chaotic mess brought me to yoga today.

Shanteel brought me to yoga today. If I was practicing at home, I could have talked myself out of it. I have friends there now, and I wanted to see my friends. I didn’t need to tell them about my panic attacks – I was overjoyed to see them, hug them, and gush about Alan Watts to them. I got to be strong with them.

I cannot be anything that I am without the strengths and weaknesses that make me who I am. If I did not have those crippling panic attacks: attacks which have hospitalized me a literal handful of times, attacks that have pushed me to the verge of nearly killing myself…I would not have found yoga. I would not have found meditation. I would not have found that I am not my panic attack. I am not my anxiety. I am not my depression.

I am a human being. I have highs and lows like everyone else. No one sees the mess but me, and no one can love the mess better than me. Chaos creates balance. I would not come to my mat if I did not know I needed to find myself on my mat.

It is not often you find a psychiatrist who is supportive and encouraging of holistic health. My doctor was thrilled when I joined the studio, saying “This is everything you need to help you find your footing and your way forward.” I have had no end of issues with medications between side effects, reactions, and feeling as though my soul itself was turned off and I was a fleshy robot. My doctor is trying to find a medicine to support me without changing me. He is also encouraging me to try supplements and be mindful of my diet: Tumeric for anxiety/depression, Fish Oil, Magnesium (Epsom salt baths or a topical oil), and I’m going to add B12. (Note: do your own research, talk to your own doctor, I am a woman wearing Pilsbury Dough Boy pajama pants relaying my personal supplement path. I am not a medical professional – I am a pajama professional)image

He says, “everything you do affects your mind. Many doctors think only medication can work, but let’s say diet and exercise offers 5% better results, why wouldn’t we get you that 5% too? I do not want you on medication your whole life. My job is to help you find stability.”It can take anywhere from 1 to over 2 years to recover from psychosis, and no doctor has technically stabilized me yet.

However, I am stable. See me in that pose? My diagnoses are one facet of my life, and it’s a big facet: this affects relationships, day to day life, etc. I have felt isolated and scared most of last year until I found support. “It takes a village” does not apply to only children. We all need community.

The community I have found is helping me stay out of the hospital and on my mat. How does one express gratitude for that? By coming to your mat. My mat and this community are helping me see the light and strength in me.

Strength is not hiding the mess. Strength is awareness of the mess and loving her. Living her. No matter what her brain says. I’m not my brain, either.

I am a warrior because we are all warriors. We all fight battles we don’t see. We don’t share. We don’t sometimes even know. We will only know it if we stare at the chaos in stillness and breath. Every warrior has scars, and I’m so grateful to never, ever be ashamed of those scars. Look how far we’ve come.

Thank you to anyone who reads and shares my journey with me. Writing always makes me feel like myself. Calmly Chaotic 😊

Namaste.

Gratitude is not an attitude

This morning’s focus at yoga was gratitude. If the massive nor’easter hitting me in PA and surrounding states hasn’t been a huge call for gratitude for all of us; I don’t know what could. I’m so thankful for the teachers at my kids school, all schools that stayed with the kids and obviously put their own safety at risk with driving to make sure everyone was safe. I cannot imagine the fear and anxiety for the bus drivers with loads of (I’m sure noisy) kids driving in this mess and getting them all home safely. There were so many cars abandoned, so many without power, some were stuck in their cars for hours. I’m thankful for the people out in this to restore power. I’m thankful for the doctors and nurses and anyone who had to work regardless of the weather that make our lives what they are. Most of all,I am thankful my family is warm, safe, snuggled up and snoozing while I am up late listening to the wind sing. I’m grateful for the eerie quiet with the roaring wind. It’s breathtaking.

In all of this, we can see a call for annoyance or one for gratitude. In gratitude, we can start to see reality as opposed to the illusions we live under in our ego mind. However, you must consistently apply gratitude in all situations, so It becomes second nature. But really, nature. We were all made to enjoy this world and live it and we often focus on the negative aspects of life. I know I have often struggled. Like every skill or practice, you need to retrain your brain. With consistency and discipline to always seek gratitude regardless of your externals.

My biggest saving grace from the mental hospital was starting to journal again and writing at least 3 gratitudes a day. It became 3 pages and I started feeling huge shifts. It’s an easy practice to forget though. This is why yoga helps us all find our true joy and happiness. It teaches us to slow down and breathe. Feel how much you can do when you breathe. Feel how much you can do in stillness. Accept your mind. Be present, so you can see all the gifts, blessings…. in our lives every day. If you practice this daily, this is an amazing first step in quieting your ego to see your true authentic self. It is a key factor in staying in the present. It reduces anxiety. This is an amazing, low energy/low key way to help starting climbing out of the next unexpected sinkhole or life. I went from wishing for my car to veer into a telephone pole to writing and journaling consistently. This is all a journey of learning.

As the storm was ramping up, I was lying in savasana allowing all I am thankful for to surface. Me. My kids. Evan. Shanteel. All of my new friends and family. The list was so big immediately I started crying. A year ago, and really most of my life, I felt like a dead girl walking. Now, I’m smiling at the wind, grateful I have so many blankets. Grateful I can write this for anyone who likes my writing. Grateful I can write

In the storms of our lives, external and internal, we are always the eye of the storm. We are always the calm in the storm. The best way to see that is to stay thank you for reminding me I am stronger than I think I am and more importantly, thank you for for reminding me how to love.

Gratitude is not an attitude, it’s a way of life.

If you want to stop focusing on your ego, start saying thank you and see how much we all truly need one another to survive. We aren’t islands.

Namaste everyone. Hope you are all warm and safe. So thankful for you all.

These two songs nail it 😊

https://youtu.be/u05S9cq2bLY

Successfully Failing at Life

When you finally sit down to write and your laptop won’t boot…I guess you start writing a post on your phone because impatient should be your middle name.

Yesterday, I was watching a Netflix documentary – On Yoga: An Architecture of Peace. This rattled me to my core: “…all of our fears ultimately are a fear of death…I think the purpose of life is learning to accept death…”

It’s interesting because the thing I kept wanting to write (but kept opting to allow OCD to run me by the nose and clean my house instead – seriously, if you wonder why I barely write, I’m cleaning…just call me the Scrubbing Buddha or perhaps Sweeping Buddha) was about failure. Sitting in my messy living room, this concept feels pretty all consuming.

I am in the midst of a complete internal tug of war. The cleaning I mentioned is how I’ve spent months of my life since moving back in with my ex. I used to write for hours and hours daily, and now I’m trying to get some kind of consistency beyond “I think I wrote something a week ago”. When I cannot calm down, I clean. My brain likes order and neatness, otherwise my anxiety goes haywire and I tend to get obsessed with people, memories, thoughts, or whatever.

I talked through this all will my psychiatrist and came to realize this is my mania. Mania has always been described to me as being happy and thinking you are God. When I described myself as feeling as though I’m in a hamster wheel in hell, my psych explained this is my mania. I cried a lot after that session. Mania is not necessarily happy. Mania can also be described as “extreme restlessness” and for me, it triggers OCD. I don’t check the oven. I clean and ruminate, AKA think the same thoughts over and over. Alternatively, I obsess about people – my kids, myself, my exes, whatever.

My moods swing from hamster wheel in hell to “I think I bathed a few days ago. I just need to go back to bed, really”. Intermittently, I’ll have “good” days where I’m not too much one way or the other. More often, I have a combination of a severely depressed hamster in hell. That whole cleaning thing? I am a mom of three kids. Cleaning with 3 kids is akin to building a sandcastle next to a tsunami and telling yourself it will stay just so.

Buddha speaks of impermanence. Every parent knows impermanence so well. It’s that kitchen you cleaned and mopped that now has some form of liquid sugar spilled all over the floor or the sparkling toilet covered in pee thanks to a small child who apparently thinks peeing with their eyes closed is a good idea.

Buddha says the suffering comes from clinging to that which will always change. After cleaning for 6 hours straight just to clean up dinner, I get it. I stopped bemoaning that my house is only clean if no one is home, and hell, my moods change faster than songs on the radio. I wouldn’t know stability if it smacked me in the face. I’ve said for a long time: Motherhood is a crash course in Buddhism. Nothing shows the constant nature of change like looking at your 11 year old who you swear was an infant a couple days ago.

I’ve accepted it all as best I can. I’m human. I am going to get pissed off when I feel like all my efforts are wasted even if I understand the truth is change is happening constantly. My only offense and defense in this is acceptance and awareness. In the time I wrote this, I’ve changed. Cells died or divided, thoughts have come and gone, and I’ve calmed down slightly by typing. I know my obituary is going to say nothing about my immaculate countertops, but sometimes I can’t stop scrubbing them. I am aware of my behavior, but instead of being attached to the outcome, I use it as a form of meditation, so I accept it. “It is what it is” is my mantra.

This is life and it’s what we all struggle with. As much as anyone says they want to change something, their deepest struggle is against changing it…and of course: failure. Suffering comes from fear and fear is often the fear of change. Yet, when you see life is constantly changing, you can see your fear is holding you back from living.

Our egos developed to keep us alive. The notion of “I” is attached to your body, your life, and all that you perceive in your realm of being. When we die, our ego ceases to exist as does our bodies. Naturally, our egos fear change and fear failure.

The Buddha spoke of non-duality. That there is no good or bad, everything “just is”. Our egos are our thinking mind. In our thinking mind, we need judgement and labels. A plant is a plant, that person smells badly, and my feet itch. When we were fighting to survive, these judgements and labels kept us alive. That thing will eat me, that plant will kill me, run.

The thinking mind is always there, and many of us are led by the nose by our thinking mind. If you think I sound ludicrous for spending 8 months cleaning all day every day, (it’s cool, I do too) muse on how much of your life is spent thinking. Thinking, labeling, and judging are parts of our life and necessary. If you are driving and think “I should not run over that pedestrian” and slow down, this is helpful. If you are sitting on your couch thinking you are a failure, this is not.

We have gotten so lost in our thinking minds, we have lost connection with what words actually mean. We rely so heavily on connotation, we have lost sight of the power of our words, actions, and thoughts. The best moments and worst moments of your life are likely inadequately described by words. “Holding my child in my arms for the first time was too beautiful for words” right? What words can you use to describe a sunset adequately? What words can you use to describe how you felt when your lover kissed you for the first time?

Our words truly only have the power we give to them. Calling someone a complete and total douche canoe, on the surface, makes little sense, yet I bet you’d not feel happy if I called you one. This is true of everything in life. Everything only has the power we give it. This is the crux of non duality. Something is only bad if we label it as such and our efforts to pursue or avoid it are the root of suffering. Douche canoe has no meaning beyond what you apply to it.

Did you know the actual definition of failure is: lack of success or the omission of an expected outcome?

To the first definition, the only person who can define success is you. To the second: in this life, we have only one expected outcome. Death. By that understanding, every inhalation and exhalation, you successfully fail. Your life is one successive failure to achieve the only expected outcome you truly have: death. Ultimately, you will succeed by dying. Kinda fucked up to think about it that way right? Yet how much of your life has been labeled with that word?

How can I say the only person who determines success is you? You could argue “if I don’t get my work done, my boss will fire me, he determines the success there.” Yet, by choosing not to do your work, you chose not to be successful, so you did that. Beyond that, we’ve all been told enough times that we learn more from our mistakes/failings than our achievements. So if you get fired, you got a lesson, so there is a success.

“Failure is not an option” – well, death is always an option, but would trying whatever has been pulling at your soul kill you? I opt to clean instead of write because I’m terrified of showing the world how absolutely batshit crazy I am (again). Yet the Buddha has taught me to bring the inside out. That happiness is in being. It can truly be as simple as speaking your mind. “Attachment is the root of all suffering”-Buddha. My attachment to my suffering is keeping me suffering, which means I just need to stop being attached to…me. I’m no one. Me and all my problems have an expiration date. In enough time, the kitchen I scrub won’t exist. I’m not my ego, I could not tell you who I am, but no matter what happens, I am happy, because it is my nature. I just like to think I’m not.

All of this is the only way I stay sane while being a depressed hamster in hell. I have spent so much of my life trying to change, be better, and so forth. Sitting here not cleaning and writing in my “old house” with my ex, I feel like the worlds biggest failure. I would have never expected my life to turn out as it has. I’m not even working right now. There are so many things I can label as a failure. Unlike before, I am glad. As long as I am failing, I’m living. As long as I am living, I am changing. By accepting change, I can be happy no matter what, because I understand my immaculate kitchen will never last. Nor will the bad day. Nor will the good day. No amount of thinking will change that. Without thinking about it all, I have more energy to do the things I care about like impatiently writing all of this on my phone. The true self typing this is inspired, even if my ego is twitching to clean…(Sorry for typos, shitty formatting, etc!)

I hope you all are successful failures today!

21 Days – Tippy Goodness

21 Days Makes a Habit

What can you do in 21 days? Here’s how I helped myself:

  • Black and White thinking is toxic to progress. It doesn’t allow you to see incremental growth in every step of the way.
  • Don’t focus on what you did not do, focus on what you did. It doesn’t matter big or small, your focus dictates where you go. If you focus on what you did not do, you will continue to not do.
  • Don’t think about 21 days, don’t even think about tomorrow. Focus on today and today alone. Today will set you up for tomorrow without you thinking on it.
  • Structure your day around your commitment. This eradicates life getting in the way. If you want to do something at 7PM, plan your day around 7PM.
  • If you can’t make it one day, or something happens, focus on how you can bring smaller versions into your day. If you need an hour and you can’t do it, do 6 – 10-minute versions, and be happy if you only did 1 – 10-minute version.
  • Everything you do is more than you ever did before.
  • Thank yourself and your God, or whoever for everything you accomplish and you will always accomplish more.
  • EXPECT NOTHING. Don’t let your ego run this show. Don’t assign any outcome (i.e. lose 10 lbs) to this practice – whatever it is. You will always disappoint yourself. Your imagination tends to be more creative than your reality.
  • APPRECIATE EVERYTHING. Your ego likes to think you are in charge and you are responsible for everything. Appreciate every step you take in this process – forwards or back because a movement is still movement.
  • Just do the thing – don’t wait for circumstances, don’t carrot your happiness. You have a new beginning every day, every minute if you want. Do it.

 

Shanteel has helped me place the first nut in the right spot. My psychiatrist said the grounding I will find from yoga will make me as unmovable as a 200 lb bull dog. In that case, I guess I don’t need to be worried about nuts at all..

 

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21 Days Makes a Habit

A metaphor for my life is an adorable little squirrel gathering nuts into a precise pile just to have something scatter all those nuts. Inevitably, the squirrel restarts gathering nuts and attempting to figure out what to do with the nuts, and I’ve said nuts a lot now…

In January 2017, psychosis allowed me to see what it is like to actually go nuts. For the last year, I’ve been so fucked up, I forgot I was a squirrel. Or maybe, I am a human who should stop thinking of herself as a squirrel. (note to self)

Not a day goes by that I am not haunted by questions or memories. How exactly does one go back to their day job when they see something and question if anyone else actually sees it too? That’s me, or maybe that was me. I don’t know. Weirdly enough, “I don’t know” is the gift of psychosis. I don’t know what happened to me, I don’t know if it will happen again, I don’t know why I heard demons on the radio, and I don’t know what is wrong with me.  As a type A control freak, those are a lot of identified variables to keep me up at night. For most of the last year, that’s what I focused on. It was eating me alive – mentally, emotionally, and physically. I was paralyzed by fear, sadness, shame, and pain.

quote-no-one-is-more-dangerously-insane-than-one-who-is-sane-all-the-time-he-is-like-a-steel-alan-watts-47-80-69Deep down, I know I have the answers. I fought through this by not fighting. For once in my life, I accepted everything. After my mind and everything that seemed real shattered in a month-long grip of psychosis, I accepted it all. When my car got totalled by yet another shitty dude in a long list of shitty dudes, I accepted it. When I decided I needed to move back in with my ex-husband because I was incapable of caring for myself, let alone my three kids, I accepted it. Most recently, when I was let go from the job I had for over 10 years due to not being able to come back to work, I accepted it. When I couldn’t write, practice yoga, or meditate, I accepted it. I was terrified I was going to become some sort of lazy slob, but deep down I felt that I was supposed to be still, be quiet, and be patient. Every day, I fought a really weird war of laziness. To do something or not to do something, that is the argument. I was going from Type A Control Freak to learning what it means to go with the flow.

It was not until I started focusing on what I did – actually did every day, as opposed to what I did NOT do every day. I realized if I wanted to start rebuilding, I had to start at the beginning. I thought creating this blog would help, but every time I tried to write it was like starting a car with a dead battery. I had no inspiration because I don’t even know who I am anymore, let alone what I want, and so forth.

“I” wasn’t there. Or, I guess the truth is, “I” was there, the real me wasn’t. I – my ego – is completely concerned with success, results, accolades, etc. The real me is concerned with smiling, breathing, and being grateful. The real me sees beauty in every moment, “I” want results.

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Yoga taught me to see my ego results in little ways – instead of seeking instant gratification or pushing myself beyond my limits. Yoga shows incremental growth and impermanence. Every day, something is new and every day, it changes. One day, I might balance really well. The next day, I might fall, but I did a plank really well. It doesn’t matter because really, I’m overjoyed to simply be on my mat. A few months ago, I would wander around my house aimlessly and depressed, and I’m on my mat. So, literally, everything I do on the mat is growth. If I were to practice yoga from my ego, I’d quit right away, because I “suck”, I can’t do this and I can’t do that, and I am fat. Yoga doesn’t let me do that, though. Now my ego can shut up – cause look who’s writing now too?

All of this was not possible until I joined Shanteel Yoga Sanctuary. I joined on January 26th. 1 year prior, I was standing in a mental hospital trying to kill myself convinced I had ruined everything in my life. I went to my first class on the 29th. I was shaking and having a mild panic attack on the way. Worst case scenarios, farting, mooning a studio full of yoga experts, and so forth charged through my head in a 10-minute drive. When I checked out the studio, I had chills and all I could hear in my brain was “home”. I reminded myself of that as I drove, and I jumped in and did my class. I didn’t fart or moon anyone, and at the end, I was a sweaty happy mess. Since that class, I’ve gone pretty much daily. Some days, I do multiple classes.

After the first class, I lost the fear of being in a class. I was surrounded by amazing people in a community. Every class is focused in spirituality. I’ve been chanting to Ganesha (remover of obstacles!) with beautiful people on Sundays in Meditation. I can get into hour long convos after class about Moon signs and astrology. It’s not to say the past year had me doing nothing because I was studying a lot. My obsession with Jung deepened as did my love of Buddha as did a newfound fascination with all things astrology. My circle of people I could talk about this to, though, was non-existent. I think the hardest part of the last year was how lonely I felt. Finding Shanteel eradicated that for me. My biggest fear became that I would do what I usually do: really get into something and give up on it, or have something happen and lose it. I know I’m always my own worst enemy. I found myself afraid I would once again rob myself of the things that bring me joy.

Thanks to the Buddha, I re-trained my brain. Today is all I need to be in. Did I practice yoga today? What am I carrying off the mat with me today? If I didn’t physically unroll my mat today, what lesson am I practicing? Am I breathing? Am I present? Am I moving my body?

All of this is possible by finding a home and a community.  I said today, I did not find a yoga studio. I found a home and a family. I had thought to practice at home was the answer, but I see now that the community and the teachers are what keep you coming to the mat.

Yesterday, it dawned on me that I have been practicing yoga consistently for 21 days. 21 days creates a habit. 21 days creates a routine. For the first time since my psychosis, I created a habit and routine. I created my foundation. I started crying last night at the realization, especially when my brain echoed, “Imagine what you can do in the next 21 days…”

21 days in the face of 365 days of pain. 21 days and I’m just getting started. I can’t wait to write this journey with you all.

What can you do in 21 days? My next post will have tips 🙂 Comments, likes, shares are always appreciated and thank you for reading!!!

 

 

Using a Tough Convo to Empower

I’m a pretty big believer in transparency with my kids. If nothing else, my alphabet soup of diagnoses forces me to be honest about my shortcomings. I can’t exactly smile and be “perfect” when depression or panic attacks are fighting my ability to be a human being let alone a mom.

My kids, like any kids, have these things called ears and eyes. They see all of the goings on, even if I don’t watch the news myself. I realized I needed to talk to them about the shootings. I am not one to brush things under the carpet with a smile and everything is just fine.

My oldest told me he’s scared someone’s gonna come in and shoot him. I overheard the boys discussing what they’d do if someone came into their school and started shooting. Like a normal mom, I immediately felt a rage in me that could make a nuclear bomb seem benign. How the fuck can it be possible that my 11 and 6 year old are discussing getting fucking shot in school? How is this a reality?

I looked my son in the eyes and I gave him the only answer I have. “Ty, the truth is at any moment we can die. There are people who are angry, miserable, and full of hatred and sadness. It’s so bad, they think hurting others is the answer. The only thing we can do for people like that is love them anyway. I refuse to waste my life being scared of mean people or even being scared of dying. I know it will happen one day, and my only wish is I live my life so well – so awesomely – that when I die, I have a smile on my face and all the ones I love know how much and deeply I love them. I feel like the only way I can do that is try to be as kind and loving as I can to anyone in my life and maybe there will be less unhappy people in the world. But I won’t let people take away my happiness. Not by making me scared about dying or anything. I won’t give someone else that power. And I hope you don’t either. I hope you live your life finding everything that makes you smile – to the point you can smile and find happiness even when everything is hard. Because you are strong. You’re awesome. And no one can take that away from you.”

I don’t know if that’s the right answer, but unfortunately there’s no “how to talk to your children about people being massacred in school” section in the non-existent parenting novel. I can’t get rid of the monsters, but I’ll do my best not to raise new ones.

Tree Hugging Hippies Are Cool

Innocent people were gunned down at school, so naturally arguing, blaming, and the media cycle makes a ton of noise but accomplishes nothing.

Fighting and arguing on Facebook and with any human being accomplishes nothing but more divisiveness. “United we stand, divided we fall”

Are guns the issue? I find myself more concerned about why so many are so unhappy, so miserable, so full of hatred, that they would take a weapon and take the lives of innocent people.

On the flip side, I have to remember in many countries, hostile armies/people/etc gun others down for their religion, skin color, etc. There are innocent people fleeing their home seeking safety from the violence and wars killing their loved ones. Children are dying everyday at the hands of hatred and fear.

It’s a truth many shrink away from. It is easy to blame the guns, but the truth is if there is no gun, there’s a bomb, or something else. If you want tighter gun laws – get off Facebook and fight your legislators. But really, our system is broken. Millions upon millions of dollars have been dumped in the pockets of the people we the people have put in power.

We have put these people in power. We forget that we are the ones with the power, even though the system is flawed and broken. We’re not as small and powerless as we like to think, because we are all experiencing this life as humans together. There is pain everywhere in the world. There is joy everywhere in this world as well. What do we cultivate and focus on? Your thoughts and focus create your reality.

I see pain and sadness. I see so many people desperately lonely. Social media has given us an illusion of connection. As we sit with our faces in our phones, we overlook people in general and the ones we love, disconnected from reality and divided from each other.

When animals and people are in isolation too long, they can go insane. Become aggressive and attack. When you say mental illness, do you truly believe inhibited serotonin, dopamine, etc. are causing human beings to take an assault rifle and gun down kids? Do you think even an illness as serious as schizophrenia could cause this?

The highest risk factor for most DSM V diagnoses is suicide. Not homicide.

These people are mentally deranged, but I think we need to stop diagnosing people via media. As awful as this is, we need to consider ourselves fortunate that we don’t live where this is a daily norm. We need to start looking at one another and smiling. Say hello, how are you. Acknowledge human beings as human beings. Hold a door. Say thank you. Be grateful.

Right now, all I see is fear and anger being spread. Fear and anger make picking up a gun and killing easy. Love and unity are our natural inclinations and we are losing touch with that reality. Compassion – not empathy – for ourselves and each other.

I probably sound like a tree hugging hippie but I can vote and write letters to legislators. Beyond that, my circle of influence is small. And in that, I am trying to spread hope and joy. Hope and joy do not incite violence. Maybe if we all felt less alone and isolated, the world would not feel scary and divided.

I’d rather allow my thoughts and focus create a reality where a smile can make a difference in someone’s day. Because that is a truth that is undeniable.

Mr. Rogers taught us to look for the helpers. It’s time for all of us to be the helpers.