Three-day Rule

 

Forewarning: this post discusses suicide.

Hello all! Still alive? Yes, me too. I’m going to credit this fact to the three-day rule.

No, not the dating three-day rule. I’m not qualified to give relationship advice!

This rule: if you are going to commit suicide, wait three days…or five days…or a week. Just wait.

Suicide might seem like a really good idea – or, at least, a very tempting idea – at a particular moment. But there is a very real chance that if you wait at least three days, it won’t seem so appealing.

Now, if three days seems like way too long, or if you still intend to attempt suicide after three days, I’ll encourage you to call emergency services (911, 999, 112, or whatever it is in your location), or a suicide hotline (here’s a list of hotlines by country), or go to an emergency room, or talk to somebody…anybody.

But the decision to commit suicide can be a very impulsive one. And impulses pass.

For me, the impulse came on very suddenly. One moment, I was okay (well, as okay as I ever am). The next moment, I was very much not okay. In under an hour, I had a method and a note planned. But I still had a few details to work out (I’m a stickler for details, even in a life-or-death situation it seems!). While trying to work out those details, I came across the three-day rule online. Three days isn’t very many – it’s very few in comparison to being gone for all of eternity – so I figured I could suffer through them. By the end of those three days (hell, by the end of the next day), the impulse was gone.

I’m glad the impulse passed. I’m okay (again: as okay as I ever am). I still have bad days, and I still have suicidal thoughts sometimes. But not every day is awful. Some decent things happened in the months following – like eating great food, or watching interesting T.V., or petting a dog, or talking to my family, or meeting my goddaughter, or spending time with my friends – and I would have missed out on those things if I hadn’t followed the three-day rule.

Take things one day at a time…or three days at a time. Whatever works for you.


If you want to read more about the three-day rule, try this website.

 

Side note: apparently, the blog is 5 years old today! It doesn’t feel like 5 years!

Skin hunger (It’s not about eating skin!)

Skin hunger describes the want to be touched (any sort of wanted touch – not just sexual/sensual touch). Maybe you’ve heard the term. It’s become more popular in the last decade or so. We know that lack of touch is very detrimental to infants. A baby’s healthy development requires human contact. Adults need touch too, perhaps not to the same extent that a baby does, but enough that we have a term like ‘skin hunger’ to describe what adults experience when they lack touch in their lives.

I’ve noticed that my grandmother’s personal support worker, who comes by a couple of times a week, will lay a friendly hand on my grandma’s arm or knee. It wouldn’t surprise me if this was something the PSW was taught to do – a way to combat the skin hunger that the elderly might experience. I’ve never asked if this is something my grandmother appreciates. However, I know that she has never commented or complained about it.

My extended family are not especially ‘touchy’ people. My immediate family was/is. Many of my friends are. I would definitely say I’m a touchy-feely person. If you’ve ever looked into the 5 Love Languages, you probably know that ‘touch’ is one of the languages. That’s me. I like to show love through touch; I like to receive love through touch. Hugs, kisses, massages, friendly back-pats, enthusiastic high-fives – it’s all good with me. Not everybody is as receptive to touch as I am. Some people don’t like to be touched. So I tone things down around them, as I want them to be comfortable.

When I’m not around other people who like touch, when I am unable to give/receive touch, my depression always seems to be worse. Some of this might simply be attributed to some level of social isolation (more social interaction, more touch; less social interaction, less touch). But we know that touch can cause a release of oxytocin (one of those feel-good hormones), so perhaps the lack of touch and reduced oxytocin contributes.

While a good hug certainly doesn’t fix my depression, it can make me feel a little bit better. And I’ve noticed that I experience skin hunger much more strongly when my depression is at its worst. I think maybe satisfying the want for touch could help alleviate the depression a little, but it’s not always easy to get touch!

Some people combat skin hunger with massages or other spa treatments that involve touch. I think even haircuts could work. Some people say touching a pet can help (I imagine this works best with a cuddle-able pet like a cat or a dog better than with a goldfish or a snake, but your experience may vary!). I recently saw a suggestion that a warm bath might help with the want for touch (I feel like this wouldn’t be quite as satisfying, but it can’t hurt, right?!).

I’m not currently feeling flush enough to splurge on a massage, and I have no pets to pet. I don’t see my friends very often, but I joke that I ‘stock up’ on hugs when I do. I’m lucky enough to live with my brother, and he is willing to give hugs.It’s not perfect, but it does help (I don’t know what I’d do if I lived alone!). Still, I feel the skin hunger, and it really kind of sucks.

Do any of you get skin hunger? Do you notice any connection between it and you depression? Do you have great tips for fighting it? I’ve love to hear about it if you want to leave a comment.

For now, virtual hugs to all of you!

 

 

 

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!

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 🙂

 

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! 🙂

The physicality of depression and anxiety

I think that some people don’t fully understand how mind can affect body, especially in the case of mental illness. Even I underestimate how the effects of mental illness manifest in my body. I’m good at ignoring and neglecting my body. Which isn’t good! There are many symptoms you might notice in yourself or others. I’m going to talk about some common ones.

Changes in sleep patterns

You might find yourself sleeping more, less, or lighter/heavier than you normally do. I think this often goes hand-in-hand with feelings of fatigue. I know it’s hard for me to get a good night’s sleep when I’m very stressed or depressed. I could easily stay awake all night ruminating. I’ve always been a night owl and had troubles falling asleep. It’s really hard to maintain sleep patterns when you have depression and anxiety, but it’s still good to try. It’s easier to face the world when you’re well-rested.

Changes in appetite or diet

You might find yourself more or less hungry when you’re depressed or anxious. Personally, I’m an emotional eater; I try to distract myself from bad feelings with good-tasting food. Spoiler alert: this method doesn’t actually work. I find I have to keep in mind what my body needs rather than what my mind wants. Staying hydrated is really important too (and it keeps me from feeling hungry when it’s not time to eat).

Pain and tension

This one covers a lot – you could experience back pain, chest pain, joint pain, muscle pain, tension, pressure, etc. I’m lucky in that I don’t experience too much pain in relation to my depression and anxiety, but I do experience a lot of muscle tension. I’m incredibly tense all the time. I clench my jaw. My shoulders are often drawn up. My back and neck are held stiff. My brow furrowed and lips pursed in an unhappy expression. I’ve been trying to correct this. I do a little self-massage, and I practice muscle relaxation. These are both useful, but as soon as I stop thinking about being relaxed, I tense right back up again. I joke that tense is my natural state. I’ve unknowingly trained my body to always be tense, and now I have to train it to relax. It’s not an easy task, but I’ll keep working on it.

Headaches

I think headaches, especially tension headaches, are a really common symptom. I get quite a few headaches. I don’t know if this is entirely connected to my mental health, as headaches and migraines are common in my family, but the depression and anxiety certainly don’t help. I haven’t found a good way to prevent stress-related headaches. When I get a headache, I generally just take some aspirin or acetaminophen (a.k.a. paracetemol) and hope for the best. I know several people who don’t like to take any medication when they have headaches. I couldn’t do that! Kudos to them, I suppose.

Stomach aches

I don’t know exactly how common this symptom is, but it was my first and most noticeable bodily symptom. As a teenager, I had chronic stomach aches, often to the point that I felt quite nauseated. I would get so anxious and stressed out my body was producing excess acid (which I feel is a really weird ‘defense mechanism’). Turns out this hurts! My doctor prescribed me ranitidine (which you might know as over the counter Zantac) to reduce acid production. This worked fairly well for me; I used ranitidine for a long time just to able able to get through the day without an aching belly. My stomach is still sensitive, and I take ranitidine from time to time, but I’ve become more attuned to when my stomach is getting achey, and I’ll try to nip the problem in the bud by altering my diet and doing some stress and anxiety-relieving practices.

I’m of the opinion that recognizing these physical symptoms is important. Recognizing them can help you be more aware of your mental state (e.g. ‘I haven’t been sleeping well…possibly because I’ve been anxious about x‘). Plus, you can treat the symptoms if you notice them; this might not be as effective as treating the overall cause, but I think it could still give you a little relief and improve your quality of life.

If you have any experience with or tips for dealing with stuff like this, please do share! 🙂

Poke the wound | Rumination

I can make a day take a bad turn with the power of my mind. Some super power, right? I bet you can do it, too. Maybe you’re having an okay day when you start to think about things – the bad things, the things that worry you – and suddenly, you’re pulling yourself into this terrible depression with your rumination. I can’t even count the number of times I’ve done this; I don’t have enough fingers and toes!

It’s like having a sore in your mouth. You keep poking at it with your tongue. It hurts and it’s unpleasant. You tell yourself to stop it. You do it again. Still hurts. You do it again. Still hurts. Repeat ad infinitum.

The thoughts are a lot like open wounds. Here’s one: “I’m worthless.” Ouch, hurts to think about. Let’s put that away. But your mind wanders back to it without your permission – tongue touching the sore. Yup, still hurts. Poke it some more. Really hurts. Okay day doesn’t feel so okay anymore.

I won’t lie, there is a certain satisfaction in poking the wound. At least, there is for me. I think it’s the pleasure of ‘knowing’ something. I feel like I know to my very core that I am worthless (or whatever thought I am ruminating on). Ruminating lets me turn the thought about and admire it like it’s a precious antique. Maybe I’m worthless, but at least I know this.

Sometimes rumination might feel like problem solving. If I think about how I’m worthless, maybe I can come up with a way to not be worthless. I can’t speak for anybody else, but I’ve never actually healed any of my wounds or solved any of my problems with rumination.

And now I’m ruminating on ruminating.

I’ve not quite figured out how to stop the rumination. I can distract myself sometimes. I’ll have a shower, or work on a craft, or watch a video, or read a book – anything that will break the cycle. If I catch myself early enough in the process, I might be able to stop myself from turning my day into a bad one. It doesn’t always work, but I’m grateful when it does.


Michelle is now accepting your anti-rumination tips.

It goes on.

I know a number of people who find comfort in the phrase “This too shall pass.” I appreciate the idea behind it; I think it’s beautiful. Yet, it never rang true for me. I can’t forge a connection with the saying because it doesn’t line-up with my experience very well.

Perhaps I’m impatient. I feel like many things in my life don’t really pass, but maybe I’ve just not waited long enough. I’ll be the first to admit that my level of patience really depends on how long I have to wait!

But then I think of my dysthymia – my chronic depression. Will it, too, pass? Maybe. Maybe if I wait long enough. But maybe not, too. Maybe this shall not pass [insert your own Gandalf reference here]. So when people say “This too shall pass.”, I’m a bit skeptical.

Eventually I found my own phrase to use. Something I could find some comfort in. It is from a Robert Frost quote:

Robert Frost quote

In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: it goes on.

It goes on. That’s something that does line up with my experience. No matter what has happened in my life, whether it has passed or stuck around, life has gone on.

I suppose, in a certain light, it might sound terrible. If you are suffering incredibly, life carrying on might seem to prolong that pain. Wouldn’t you rather the pain pass rather than go on?

But, for me, it is also a reminder that life is bigger than me and my suffering. Despite suffering, life goes on around me. I think that’s part of the reason why the quote resonates with me; it pulls me from my self-involved misery and reminds me of the world.

It goes on. The world goes on. I go on.

What about you? Do you have a phrase or a motto that helps you? I’d love to hear it!

Incomparable Lives

I compare myself to other people. I know better, but I still do it. When I see other girls, I’ll compare my looks to theirs. When I go on Facebook, I compare my life to my friends’. I judge myself harshly, and usually find myself lacking. This certainly does nothing to alleviate my depression.

Comparing myself to others has never made me happy. It’s a sort of sick compulsion, and part of a competitive nature I can’t seem to shake. “Stop comparing yourself to others”; I will…just as soon as I’m doing better than them.

I know I’m not alone in this. A lot of us spend time seeing how we measure up – if we’re keeping up with the Joneses.

Obviously I do not know the inner workings of every person’s mind, but it seems like some of the happiest people I know are not burdened by self-comparison. Of course, I compare my own relative discontent to their happiness and end up envious!

However, I had something of a breakthrough when I was considering some upcoming events. Let me take you through the events:

  • In a month and a half, my best friend is getting married.
  • About 2 months after that, i will graduate from my program and complete my 20th consecutive year of school.
  • About 2 months after that, my cousin will give birth to her first child.

My friends, my cousin, and I are all very close in age (all born within a 32-day period). We all grew up in the same county. We all went to the same schools. Yet, despite these similarities, out lives have taken drastically different paths.

How can I compare my life to either of theirs? It’s all apples and oranges.

Am I failing because I’m not getting married or having a child? No. Are they failing because they have not pursued education to the same extent I have? No.

Comparing our lives to the lives of those on different paths will not make us happy, and it’s a silly thing to do anyway. I think, from now on, I will find it a bit easier to remember this.

Bubbles!

Well, I’ve been so busy I’ve barely had time to breath (I’m ready for this school term to be over now…). I have a proper post planned – part two of my last post – I just need to find time to write it! But, for now, I want to share an image from Tumblr I came across.

image from Tumblr

My favourite ‘cheer up’ tip in the image is the one about saying bubbles in the angriest voice you can. Maybe it won’t work for everybody, but it has been bringing me some amusement. My brother and I have been joking about it: every so often, one of us will make an angry face and grit out “BUBBLES!”, and we’ll both break out into smiles.

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