What I’ve been up to

Hello everyone! It’s been a while! I’m still alive.

A few people have asked for updates on my job search. Well, I’m still searching. It’s kind of a roller coaster (I want off the ride now…). I went through a series of interviews for a job that would have been a fairly good fit for me. I even got a bit hopeful that time, but it didn’t pan out. This was disappointing, but such is life, I guess. I just keep sending out my applications.

It’s very easy to get frustrated – with yourself, with the companies, with the society as a whole. I find myself wondering why I spent so many years in school when it doesn’t really seem worth it from a career standpoint (But don’t get me wrong, from an education and self-growth standpoint, I loved all those years of school.). I find myself wondering why the companies are asking for 5 years of experience for an entry level job. I find myself wondering why we put so much emphasis on people’s jobs (We so often ask people “What do you do?” even though it has very little to do with who they are as people.). I know I’m not the only person wondering these things; I know I’m not the only one who is frustrated. It’s not easy, and it’s not fun, but we all just keep plugging away.

What else have I been up to in my absence? I’ve been trying to separate myself from the internet a little bit. I love, love, love the internet, but it’s so easy to waste away a day surfing the web. I don’t want to do that, and I think it sometimes makes my depression worse, so I’ve tried to find some other ways to waste my time! I’ve been doing some exercise. I’ve been reading more books. I’ve been writing some books (Two of them! I was fairly proud of this, since I’ve wanted to write one since I was very small. Whether they’re any good still waits to be seen haha). I’ve been trying not to die in the humid heat of a Southwestern Ontario summer. I’ve been catching up with family and friends. I’ve been catching Pokemon. I’ve been eating way more potato chips than any human being should.

Basically, I’m just trying to fill my time and not let the depression set in. It’s an everyday battle. Some days are harder than others. But today is an okay day! I hope you have an okay day too!🙂

Runs in the Family

Mental illness can have hereditary links. Between scientific evidence and anecdotal experience, I don’t think many people would disagree with this. If somebody in your family has a certain mental illness, you might have it too. You might not. But you might.

I couldn’t really tell you if depression runs in my family. I’m tempted to say it does, but I could be mistaking somebody’s regular old sadness, or temporary bouts of depression for something more serious. I’m not a doctor, so I won’t try to diagnose anybody.

However, I can say with more confidence that anxiety does run in my family. It is especially common in the women. One of my aunts has received medical attention and medication for anxiety. When some of the others talk about their worries, I’m able to recognize the unhealthy thought patterns. I recognize them because I have them myself.

But here’s the thing: we don’t talk about it, not really. Something might be mentioned in passing. Nobody comes out and says “I have an anxiety disorder.” For whatever reason, talking about it isn’t something we do. I’m really no better than the rest of them. I’ve never told anybody in my family my diagnoses. None of us are necessarily hiding the truth, but we don’t face it head on either.

And I wonder how much of the anxiety is learned behaviour. My mother is a worrier. She’ll keep herself up all night worrying about things. I’ve done it a time or two (or three, or four – I’ve lost count) myself. Did I pick up on her bad habits? Did I subconsciously learn to be afraid of things because I sensed that she was afraid?

I don’t know, but I know it can happen. We’ll use the example of my mother again. She hates thunderstorms. She’s afraid of them. I love them, but so does my father. I asked my mother why she’d afraid. She said because her father was. When there was a storm in the night, he’d get up and pace in the kitchen. He was afraid of storms because his mother was afraid. She would gather the children and they would all hide beneath the kitchen table when there was a storm. This fear was passed down through the generations because the children took on their parent’s worries.

What can I conclude from all this? Not much. All I know is that my family is a bunch of worriers and I love a good storm.

Art Therapy: Mandalas

I read somewhere that drawing mandalas (basically, geometric patterned shapes/designs) could be a good way of coping with stress and anxiety. Having a bit of a creative bent, I thought I’d give it a try. A little art therapy is good for anybody, right? So, for a while, I took to doodling mandalas (most often when I was watching T.V or doing some other mindless task that had me sitting down).

I had mixed results with this activity. On one hand, I think it can be useful to get your mind off things because you’re focused on creating your pattern. It gives you something neutral to concentrate on. This is handy if you’re feeling a bit anxious!  On the other hand, I’m not sure it’s a great task for somebody with perfectionist tendencies (like me) because you will notice every wonky line, uneven shape, etc. Perhaps for the especially self-critical among us, coloring mandalas would be more relaxing and less infuriating (You can find lots of mandala colouring pages online that are free to print off!). Colouring is also pretty popular these days as a way of dealing with stress and anxiety; I do that once in a while too.

One great things about this activity is that it’s pretty easy and incredibly inexpensive to do. All you need is some paper and some sort of writing utensil. I used lined paper and a black pen (plus a red pen to colour one). You can make your mandala very simplistic, or very intricate. If you need some ideas, I recommend looking up images of mandalas for inspiration.

I’ll show a few I did (and I’ll try not to mourn my sloppy line work too much haha!):

If you click on the image, it should enlarge. Number 3 is my favourite🙂

So, if this seems like something you might enjoy, I suggest giving it a go. Just try not to stress about it too much – I’ll try this too!

Healthline’s Best Depression Blogs of 2016

Just a quick post to mention an honour my humble blog has received. This is a Depression Blog was listed as one of Healthline’s Best Depression Blogs of 2016.

I’ve been blogging here for over 4 years, and I still think it’s pretty wild that people are reading this. But I guess life can be pretty wild, can’t it?🙂

So hello to my new readers (and, of course, hello to my old readers too). I’m glad to have you all here with me on my journey.

And if you haven’t checked out the other blogs on the list, do! There’s lots of good reading!

 

Michelle’s very unscientific and inconclusive vitamin D experiment

Spring finally rolled out in my area. It’s warmer (sometimes). It isn’t pitch black outside at 5pm. This is good news for sufferers of seasonal affective disorder (SAD), also sometimes called ‘winter depression’. I’ve never been diagnosed with SAD, but I have noticed that I often feel more depressed in winter. I wanted to try to combat this last winter.

Now, let me try to explain my thinking:

  • Some research suggests there could be a link between vitamin D deficiency and depression (Just check out these Google Scholar results for the search ‘vitamin D depression’).
  • I experience increased symptoms of depression in winter.
  • I am probably vitamin D deficient in winter.
    • I come to this conclusion because the main source of vitamin D is sunlight. I live above the 37th parallel, which makes it more or less impossible to get enough vitamin D from sunlight in the winter (I’ll let Harvard Health Publications explain this one.)
  • Therefore, vitamin D deficiency might be linked to my increased symptoms of depression.
  • Therefore, increasing my intake of vitamin D might help combat those increased symptoms of depression.

That makes sense, right?

It’s difficult to get enough vitamin D from diet alone, so I decided to take supplements. Eat Right Ontario suggested that 600-4000iu was both safe and good for me, so ignoring some allegations that we might actually need far more vitamin D, I always took between 1000iu and 2000iu.

I’ll jump ahead and give you the “results” right now: taking vitamin D didn’t seem to do a damn thing for me. I tracked my mood throughout the winter, asking myself at the end of the day ‘How did I feel today?‘…the answer was usually ‘Blah!

But here were the problems with my experiment:

  • I did not take the supplements every day.
  • I varied the amount of vitamin D I was taking (and my amounts may have been too low).
  • I did not use a very rigorous mood and symptom tracking questionnaire.

This makes for bad science (not even touching the fact that I’m just one trial!). Any of those problems could skew the results of my very unscientific experiment.

So, unfortunately, I can’t really come to any solid conclusions. I might try this experiment again next winter, but with stricter guidelines. Until then, I’ll just enjoy the sunshine.

Notes: I’m not a doctor and I don’t play one on T.V. I did not do this with a doctor’s permission or under a doctor’s supervision. If you are curious about what supplementing vitamin D could do for you, talking to a real doctor is almost certainly a good idea. Stay safe, stay well, friends🙂

 

Worthlessness, Depression, and Unemployment

I am almost impressed by how worthless depression and unemployment can make you feel.

If you have depression, chances are you already question your worth. Unemployment can seem like confirmation of your worthlessness. Job searching is like a really un-fun game to see how many times you can be rejected and still get back up after. Every rejection can make you question your own worth. Am I not good enough for that job? Am I not smart enough, skilled enough, nice enough? Am I not worthy of a job?

Since I graduated, I’ve been looking for full-time work. The job search isn’t going that well. I place some of the blame on the poor job market, and some of the blame on myself. Yes, it doesn’t help that I live in a city that was hit hard by the recession and hasn’t really recovered. Yes, it doesn’t help that I’m overwhelmed by anxiety every time I send out a resume. There are many reasons things aren’t going well. It’s a complex problem. Yet my brain likes to tell me that it’s a really simple thing – I mean, isn’t it clear? I’m unemployed because I’m worthless!

The truth is, I’m probably not worthless. You’re probably not worthless either. I’m not sure if I’ve met a person without any worth.

So how do you combat the feelings of worthless that come with depression and unemployment?

I really wish I knew the answer to that question!

I’ve been trying to do a few things to keep my mood up. I’ve been doing some exercise. I’ve been taking some vitamins. I try to get out of the house once in a while. I’ve been doing some writing (though not on this blog obviously, oops). It all helps a little, but it’s not a perfect solution. I still have to fight the feelings of worthlessness.

But if I stop fighting the feelings, I know I will just get more depressed, and feel more worthless. If that happens, I don’t think I will have the strength to continue my job search, which would make me even more depressed and worthless-feeling. Vicious circle, no? So even though I’m tired and sad, I keep going. Hopefully that’s enough for now.


 

Have experience with depression and/or anxiety and unemployment? Have tips? I’d love to hear your stories or advice, and I’m sure other readers would too! Why not leave a comment below?🙂

 

Change of Scenery

I fought tooth and nail to avoid spending the holidays with my family and friends this past year. I was in such a bad state of mind that I didn’t feel like being around people (especially when people would be merry-making). I just wanted to be left alone with my misery.

Despite my protests, I ended up ‘going home’ for a visit anyway. In truth, my family and friends didn’t give me much of a choice – they were quite adamant I was going to visit them! And you know what? The change of scenery was good for me.

I totally expected to spend most of my time completely miserable. That’s how I was spending my time, so I figured it would continue. But just being in a different place and around different people helped my state of mind. I wasn’t necessarily all smiles and laughter, but I also wasn’t hobbled by my anxiety and depression. It was okay.

Now that the holidays are over and I’m back in my normal environment, I can feel the miserable state of mind creeping back in. I can’t just pick up and visit my family and friends whenever I want, but I think I can still use a change of scenery as a way of shaking my bad mood.

So, when I’m feeling poorly, I’ll try to switch things up. This might mean going for a walk, or heading to the store, or it might just mean stationing myself in a different room (It’s cold outside, but it’s nice and warm in here!🙂 ) Hopefully I’ll see some benefit from this.

Anybody have any experience with this? Anybody think this would help them? Drop it in the comments🙂 I’d love to hear from you!

All the best to all of you!

X

Michelle

Web find: Anti-Depression Kit

Just a quick post to share something I saw floating around the web (I believe this is the original Tumblr post). Check out this ‘Anti-Depression Kit):

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I just thought this was very sweet.


More posts coming – I’ve just got to pull myself out of my pit of sadness first. I’m getting there!

All the best to all of you🙂

The Impact of Suicide (on someone with depression)

Warning: This post talks about suicide. If that will be upsetting or triggering for you, I do suggest skipping this post. Please keep yourself well!


Someone I knew killed himself. Read the full post »

Just Breath | Breathing Exercises

Hopefully you know about breathing exercises as relaxation method. There are quite a few techniques – breathing meditation, diaphragmatic/deep breathing, breath counting, etc. I don’t notice much a benefit to using breathing techniques as a way of dealing with my dysthymia/depression (that’s not to say there are no benefits, only that I do not personally notice any). However, I definitely benefit from using breathing techniques as a way to combat anxiety.

I now – finally – use different breathing techniques instinctively. I don’t remember exactly when I first learnt about using breathing, but I estimate that it has taken over 5 years for me to reach the point where I use the techniques without consciously telling myself to beforehand. That seems like quite a while, doesn’t it? But it’s not easy to train your brain, I guess (or at least, it’s not easy to train my brain).

When I feel anxious, my breathing becomes shallow, my chest and muscles all tighten up, and my stomach will get a bit upset. It doesn’t feel great. However, by doing some deep breathing, those sensations go away. They don’t go away immediately (I wish!), but I do think they reduce fairly quickly. Breathing exercises also give my mind something to focus on, rather than ruminating on whatever idea is making my anxious. So, for me, using different breathing techniques is a good way to avoid panic attacks.

I do experiment with different breathing exercises, but I have three go-to ones:

diaphragmatic/deep breathing: literally just taking slow, deep breaths using your diaphragm (rather than your chest)

4-7-8 counting: breath in for a count of 4, hold your breath for a count of 7, breath out for a count of 8, then repeat (warning: this one has made me a bit light-headed before; you may wish to slightly modify the count, such as 5-6-7)

4-count breathing: breath in and then count ‘1’ as you exhale; repeat and count ‘2’; repeat again and count ‘3’; repeat again and count ‘4’; keep breathing, starting again at ‘1’ – never count past 4

As a bonus, I find breathing exercises can be a good way to get to sleep. It’s better than staring at the clock, anyhow.

So, if you don’t do breathing exercises, give it a try! If you do, be persistent, because they can be very useful!

P.S. Feel free to share your favourite breathing exercises; I’d love to give them try!🙂

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