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! 🙂

One step forward, two steps back

Alternative title: “In which Michelle talks about her butt”

Sometimes it’s like any progress is immediately followed by regression (it isn’t, but I still feel that way sometimes). If I have one good day, the next day will be crap. If I make a new friend, I’ll lose an old one. If I find something about myself to like, I’ll find something new to hate.

And that’s today’s story. My self esteem and body image are not good. Some days, I think I’m pretty okay, but most days…not so much. I have made some progression. As a teenager, I had far worse body image. This is fairly ironic, since I was in much better shape then (though perhaps slightly more funny-looking [I had distinct ideas about what makeup looked good on me, and those ideas were not necessarily correct]).

But for a long time, I hated my body shape. I’m not the ‘ideal’ hourglass, but rather, am distinctly pear-shaped. This means I carry much of my weight on my hips, butt, and thighs. This was horrific when I was a teenager; I desperately wanted to be one of those waifishly thin girls whose thighs did not touch (‘thigh gap’). It just wasn’t going to happen for me. I don’t think it will ever happen for me without drastic and unhealthy weight-loss. Drastic weight-loss is fairly unlikely to happen for me, since I really love carbs.

And that’s okay. I’ve come to accept my body type. It probably helps that we live in a time that fawns over being ‘bootylicious’. So, thanks, Hollywood, porn directors, and ‘ass men’ for making my body type desirable. I appreciate it.

Except once I stopped worrying about my body shape, I found other things to worry about! One step forward, two steps back. Even though I’d decided it was okay that my butt is kinda big, I started considering that it wasn’t quite the right shape, and was maybe not quite firm enough, and, god, look at that cellulite!

So, I work on these new things. I remind myself that nearly all women have cellulite. I tell myself to exercise if I’m that concerned about shape and firmness (I should be exercising anyway!). Maybe once I get over one of these things, I’ll find something else to worry myself over. Then, I’ll work on those new things.

It’s a long journey. I’m getting somewhere, just not very quickly. But that’s okay…all these steps should help tone my butt, right? 😀

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! 🙂

“Congrats…I guess”

I have a hard time being happy for others. Maybe this shouldn’t be a surprise – I have a hard time being happy for myself, too. But there is a chance that when somebody shares their good news, I won’t be pleased.

I have this idea in my head – one I have a hard time combating – that some people deserve to have good things happen to them and some don’t.

If I think a person deserves good things, I will probably be pleased to hear their good news. As an example, when somebody with depression shares good news, I’m usually pleased. I know that good news can be a bit sparse when you have depression, and that if you are struggling with depression every day, you likely deserve to have something nice happen to you at least once in a while!

On the other hand, if I don’t feel a person deserves good things, I’m likely to meet their joy and good news with feelings of envy and disdain, or, sometimes, without any feeling at all. An example here would be a person who’s ‘got everything’ sharing news of yet another success. At best, I won’t care; at worst, I’ll become upset over their good news.

I wish I wasn’t like that. I sometimes think I’m not a very good person for being this way, even though I know I’m not the only person with these feelings. I know it’s not my place to judge whether or not somebody deserves happiness, and that ‘deserving’ good things really has little to do with receiving them. And I know that my envy or anger it isn’t truly a representation of how I feel about these ‘undeserving’ people, but a reflection of the impotent rage I feel over the state of my own life. It’s not something I can fix overnight.

So I fake it. I tell them “congratulations”, or ‘like’ their post, or go to their party (if I have to!), and I act like I’m happy for them. Maybe, eventually, I will be happy for them. Maybe, eventually, I’ll be happy, too.

Working hard or hardly working

Have you ever heard of those studies that say you shouldn’t tell your kid that they’re smart, and that you should tell them they’re a hard worker, or else they might end up with a poor work ethic and a twisted view of themselves and their value? Yeah, hi. That’s essentially me. I was a very smart child. I knew I was smart. I didn’t have to work very hard in school because I was smart. I’m not trying to brag about this. If it makes anybody feel any better, it all caught up with me. I didn’t learn how to be a hard worker as a child. I thought my value was in being smart (and that alone).

Eventually I found people smarter than me, and tasks that I couldn’t excel at without hard work. It was a sort of sink or swim moment. I could have just stewed in my misery – I’m good at that sort of thing. Or I could learn to be better. That on its own is hard work.

I say that I’m lazy. I’m not sure if that’s quite true. I always get necessary work done. I’m just reluctant to do things that don’t need doing. I say that I’m a procrastinator. This is true. But I’ve become better about not procrastinating while doing my online program. I have to create my own schedule; I’m the master of my own time, so I have to master my time.

I’m not good at working for prolonged periods of time. I worked all of yesterday and much of this morning. Even just writing this feels like a burden at the moment. I’m burning out. Yet, in the right circumstances, I can endure a lot of hard work for a long time. In helping with my friends’ wedding, I spent a few days working into the wee hours of the morning. Now I’m having to spend long hours getting back on top of my school work. I don’t enjoy it, but I power through the best I can. Maybe at the end of it all, I can call it evidence of being a hard worker.

I try to rearrange my values so that they line up with hard work rather than intelligence. I still notice an underlying current of ‘I’m smart. I’m smart. Please notice I’m smart and think well of me for it.’ in my behaviour. Sometimes other people notice it too. I feel like that probably doesn’t reflect all that well on me. And I don’t want to be that person. I’d like to have some value beyond being clever. I’d rather somebody find value in my achievements than my intelligence. Of all things, changing this pattern of thinking is probably the hardest task for me. Guess it’s a good thing I don’t shy away from hard work.


Please accept this post as my explanation and apology for being absent recently. I’ve been busy. I’m ready for a nice vacation now…if only I had time!

Promo update: depression-inspired tattoos

Remember this post about Healthline collecting images and stories of people’s depression-inspired tattoos? Well, the final product is up now. So if you submitted, or you simply enjoy this sort of thing, check it out!

I really like the :): ones. Maybe it’s time for me to get some more ink.

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!

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