Sharing the lessons along the way…

Archive for the ‘Depression’ Category

Zombie-Proofing the Holidays #1

In holiday zombie mode, we are more likely to go back to old patterns of behavior whether we mean to do so or not.  It all starts with the old patterns of thinking we have about holidays, family, loss, etc. and quickly turns into some sort of unhealthy obsessive or compulsive behavior.

This sort of thing can go unnoticed because it is the time of the year where it is socially acceptable (and encouraged in our society) to spend more money than we have, and eat and drink more than we need.

Back in my holiday zombie days, even when I knew I needed to do something differently to break those patterns, I found it almost impossible to find the motivation and drive to do it.  I can remember the exact year I figured out how to do it anyway.  My zombie-hazed brain didn’t realize that simplifying the goal and making the change very small would make a big difference until that year.

Holidays are temporary.  Shifting my thoughts to “get” that made a difference.  Although that wasn’t always enough to make it through.  From there, I eventually realized that holidays can be enjoyed whether it is the “ideal” holiday scenario.  No matter where I am or who I am with, or not with, there can actually be enjoyment celebrating a holiday.

Seriously, there can be if we decide it can be.  I have celebrated many more holidays without family than with them.  The ones I spent wishing I was with family (or had family that didn’t make the holidays crazytown) weren’t as enjoyable because I was wishing I was somewhere else.  If I wish I am somewhere else, there is no chance I can find pleasure where I am—that is a fact.

Next time I will share another zombie-proof holiday trick I have learned.  In the meantime, please continue to share how you get through the holidays—no matter what your experience is.  Even the happiest of holidays often is hectic or includes notable losses.  My hope is to get every one of us through the holiday season without being any worse for the wear on the other side, so any thoughts are considered helpful.


Now Leaving Crazy Town

Now Leaving Crazy Town

June has been incredibly busy and full of changes and crazy!

Duke started out the month with a serious back issue that at this point seems relatively well-managed with medications.  What was more interesting was how I handled the crisis initially, then what happened next, then what happened after that.

We were at work when I noticed he was tripping and having a lot more trouble getting his hind legs underneath him.  As the day wore on, it was getting worse, so I scheduled a vet appointment.  Within an hour, I had called the vet back to be worked in directly from work.

The good news was that it was his back.  What I had done in my head was to spiral him into complete organ failure.  Yes, I know.  I had gone to Crazy Town until our veterinarian came in and assessed the situation.  Tears of relief and worry only fell after that.

He was to call in sick for the rest of the week to rest and let the medications take effect.  It was taking a bit longer for the medications to work than I expected, so by midweek, I had explored a new level of Crazy Town.  I knew I had crossed a line toward a larger city.

I was in Crazy Town about work, about Duke, about social security’s repeated attempts to collect twenty-five thousand dollars, tending to my classes, and grappling what to do next.  Even in Crazy Town, I knew everything was going to be ok, but the town was starting to rub off on me, so it was making that idea of “ok” seem farther and farther away.

My friends agreed that I had crossed a line, and I already knew I was crossing it.  I had crossed from Crazy Town into the big city of Maniacal.  Reeling myself in, I started to take some action to get at least back to Crazy Town.

I back-tracked my route into Crazy Town from the city of Maniacal.  Along the way, I found a backup therapy dog to remove some of the pressure for work from Duke.  After several phone calls and several weeks, I scheduled a meeting with a nice (seriously she was) and helpful (really, I am not being sarcastic) woman at social security.  Duke was on the mend and got a good follow-up report from his doctor after having been back to work for over a week.

I was on my way home from Crazy Town after filling out an adoption form for a wonderful program that has rescue greyhounds they train and certify as therapy dogs.

Until, I took a wrong turn at a roundabout (I can never get those right).

I ended up back on the road to the city of Maniacal for a day because the processing of the adoption paperwork was happening too quickly.

Was Duke ready for another dog in the house?  Was I ready for another dog in the house?  This quickly?  What if the dog bumps Duke and injures his back?  I didn’t know how I felt about “replacing” Amore.

Shortly after my wrong turn, a beautiful road sign appeared that got me back on the right road.  I was heading away from the city of Maniacal, and was even almost clear of Crazy Town.

A local greyhound rescue had a perfect dog for me that would go into the other program, then come home in August if I wanted her.

Well, she greeted me at my car with kisses.  When she and Duke were introduced, it was as if they knew each other and she belonged in my house with us.

She started training Friday, I now have a payment arrangement with social security that is do-able as of Thursday, Duke and I have a work plan to moderate his activity and survive the summer heat at work.  The backup therapy dog will be on vacation for a couple of weeks, but when she returns, she will still go once a week, so that Duke gets a day off.

When Ruby gets back home and is adjusted, Duke will show her the ropes at HEP.

I have no plans to revisit Crazy Town or the city of Maniacal.  I wouldn’t recommend either as vacation destinations.

New Family

Once I Knew a Woman…

The Tawny


She was living each day as if it was her first.  She was trying new things, and marking things off her list that she had wanted to do but never took the time to do before she became ill.

There was little that doesn’t spark excitement or intrigue.

The only evidence of her past life in the wheelchair was a titanium baclofen pump, which was visible only if she took off her clothes.  Only then did offer some explanation of what it was for, and only then did she have to acknowledge that past reality.

She could talk freely about the past and the wheelchair, but the story was void of emotion.  She could talk about the homelessness and nursing home experience, but it had become a story that was about some other 30-something-year-old woman.

There was no emotional connection to it, at all.  At least not until the day she toured the homeless program in preparation for her return to volunteer with her newly certified therapy dog, Duke.

She was clueless really that she had separated herself so much from that former life until that day.

It wasn’t really until the pump drama began shortly after that day, that she realized the amount of scarring this time in her life created.  The intensity of emotion was often overwhelming.  The thought of life without the pump was so scary that she would have done anything to keep a pump in her body.

This desperation proved costly for her, but the time spent experiencing problem after problem at least allowed her to acknowledge the trauma and begin to heal it.

Without the pump entirely, she still grapples with the integration of both lives—life with the pump and without it.  Life without the pump is different from how it was before the pump, with the pump, and different still than in the early months of the illness.

Bunker It

igloo bunker image

Photo Credit: John and Merilyn

No matter how simple I make something, at times it all still feels quite heavy.  To ease the weight of my full plate today, I built myself a bunker.  I imagine it to look very much like a bomb shelter, except that it is above ground and mixed together with an igloo image.  It has gray, thick, block-shaped slabs of concrete for its walls and a rounded top, much like an igloo.

I didn’t realize I was actively building it as the day progressed until I thought back on my first image.  My first image was one gray wall that was taller than me.  Then there were two walls, then four and then a ridiculously rounded top that made me chuckle by the middle of the afternoon.

Throughout the day, I tossed some of the heavier issues that are on my plate into the bunker.  I could see myself tossing them into the air and them landing in the bunker.  At first, this is probably why it didn’t have the igloo part.  That makes it easier to lob over some intrusive thought of one of the heavier things on my plate.

Today was not the day for any of those heavy things.  Today was for Duke and HEP, and later for my students at Phoenix.   I will pull out some of the heavier items from the bunker for tomorrow.

What do you do with the things that weigh heavily on your mind?

It’s All Ok, Except When It’s Not

life can be overwhelming

I do have a lot going on, although I tend to try to minimize it as much as I can.  I would prefer for you to have the impression that everything is under control, whether it feels that way over here or not.

While I am the master at shifting my perspective from being overwhelmed with those things in my world for which I am responsible, I do spend a great deal of time feeling just that.

I share the shift more often than I share the overwhelmed moments.

Today, I feel overwhelmed.  I am tired from an overly busy week and weekend.  In spite of my best efforts, my energy was not managed well.  This is a set up for feeling overwhelmed and I know this fact.

When I think about the many things that I need to do to prepare for the Social Security hearing, my Amore’s recurrent respiratory infection, my own health issues that I am feeling rushed to deal with, and various other tasks I am responsible for taking care of, I start to feel overwhelmed.

If you have ever shared with someone that you feel overwhelmed, you have likely heard the following:

“It’s all ok.  You will be fine.”

Of course that will all be true, but not if I do not get done what needs to get done!  It doesn’t take away the need to be busy doing things I do not feel like and do not want to spend my time doing.

Of course I will be fine.  It is what I do.  I turn shit into rainbows.

At this moment in time, in the midst of feeling overwhelmed, I am not fine.  I am on deadline and there is an urgency that I need to honor.  That means make appointments, gather records, get records to the ALJ, blah blah blah.

That means getting my dog to the veterinarian.  It means scheduling a minor surgery for myself when I need to be spending that time gathering up records and seeing doctors that relate most to my illness symptoms.

Mostly right now, it means I have to do things I do not feel like doing because my body and brain are too tired.

Feeling overwhelmed is pretty sucky, so I don’t stay here long.  I do validate that it does happen and will happen periodically, however.  I will develop a plan so that I can refer to that plan when I feel overwhelmed the next time.

It isn’t anything but life.  No matter what it is, it can seem overwhelming.  I say it is ok if you feel overwhelmed.  Life can feel that way for grown-ups who are trying to be responsible for the outcomes of their circumstances.  These are things that no one can do for me, so in a minute, I will sit down and map out my plan of action.

I just felt like you should know that I do feel overwhelmed over here.  Sometimes I need to stay here a minute before I can plan my way out of it.  Yes, I know it will be ok once I do.  It just isn’t right now and that’s ok.



Do What You Know

I have started dozens of blogs this week.  I have finished only a few.

When I sat to write this one, I had abandoned three others.

It isn’t that I don’t have anything to say because I certainly do have a lot to say.

It isn’t that I am not focused because I am focused.

The problem, if it can be considered a problem, is that I have too much to say and it is all connected.

I am in the process of simplifying my basic coping strategies right now to minimize my episodes of becoming overwhelmed.  In my efforts, I am seeing just how convoluted I can make things in my head and with my thoughts.

While we do live in a pretty complicated society, there is nothing as complex as I make it in my mind sometimes.  Lately, I have been giving myself some breathing space.  I have been processing events and situations without overly complicated them.  I have been trying to get back to the basics.

Did you know that you cannot cope effectively with anything if you aren’t eating well, sleeping well, taking time to play, to laugh, sharing how you feel and what you are thinking?

The brain and body doesn’t have what it needs, so we are at a physiological handicap as we try to manage our emotional selves.

I teach this in each of my courses, so I am familiar with it.  I am not sure how I get so far away from it several times a year, but I do.

Yesterday afternoon, without any awareness as to what I was thinking about, I said to myself, “Tawny, stick with what you know.”

I know the basics.  I know how to simplify the complicated.  I know what does and can make me feel better.  I also know that if I do nothing else but those basic things that I can get through just about anything.

Kitt O'Malley

Bipolar Writer and Mental Health Advocate


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