Food talk

Health and Fitness

Facebook reminded me today that 4 years ago I was thinking about my health. It’s kind of ironic because, again, I am finding myself thinking about health and the food that I eat and what I can do to be healthier. One of my Facebook friends shared an interesting article about inflammation and it’s link to depression and it has had me thinking. I’ve kind of deduced from my own personal experience that inflammation has been a key to my physical health. For example, if my skin breaks out I know it’s due to inflammation and I will try to eat better (usually I’ve been eating too much sugar). I hadn’t thought about it being related to depression, though. I find this very interesting! It gives me more tools to work with in my fight against this disease. It’s empowering. Admittedly, when I am eating healthier and generally doing things that combat inflammation I feel less depressed. So it makes a lot of sense.

While I’m talking about food I have to come clean and admit something. I made a big deal about becoming (or re-becoming) a vegetarian a couple of years ago, but I decided several months ago that it was not sustainable for me. I really need animal protein. I feel better when I eat it. As a Buddhist I feel really guilty about this. But you do what you gotta do. If I can figure out how to make vegetarianism work for me I would do it. But I can’t seem to figure out how to make it work and have energy during the day.

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Reflection

Life, Photography

Still working my way through those One Pinhole A Day photos. Here is December 14. I took this while eating lunch at my regular lunch hangout. I was probably eating my usual: grilled cheese and tomato soup.

Here are some random things going on in my head this week:

  • Somehow, over the weekend, I found myself deep in a pretty bad depression. I am finally coming out of it, but wow. It wasn’t fun. I think I am feeling very overwhelmed with the world lately and everything hit me the wrong way.
  • During this episode I was having insomnia and I took melatonin to help me sleep. This was a very bad idea. It made me super sleepy and drowsy, even after having 9 hours of sleep. And it kind of made the depression more difficult to work through (mostly because I was so tired).
  • I was curious about melatonin so I did some research and found some really interesting articles about it, especially this one in the NYT (thanks to Inge!).
  • In my research I found out how to use melatonin to combat jet lag.
  • I also found this quiz to help you figure out what kind of sleeper you are.  I “found out” that I am a “strong morning” person (I already knew this). But it was really cool to read about this and how my body naturally readies itself for bed at a particular time. I always thought this was something I trained myself to do but it looks like it’s more biological. Interesting stuff! The article also talks about using chronotherapy as a treatment for depression.
  • Totally unrelated to sleep, I read this blog post today about right action during troubled times and it made me feel a bit better.

About the photo:

It was made with a Holga WPC and Lomochrome Purple film.

2017 plan: G.R.A.P.E.S. 

Life

Yesterday I woke up raring to take on 2017 with a vengeance. I had my list of all of the things I was going to do to turn my life around and feeling ready to take on the world. I got up and started going about my day. It didn’t take long before my old pal Depression started to creep in. It started snowing and  I tried to just roll with the punches but as the snow started to come down and blanket the world in 50 shades of white I couldn’t fight the feelings of disappointment and failure that bubbled up to the surface. I had plans to run 5 miles, dammit! By 11:00 yesterday morning  I found myself crying on my husband’s shoulder for god-knows what reason. I couldn’t tell you what was really even wrong with me. That’s when I realized that nothing had changed. I woke up and it was a new day but I still had the same problems. The same brain chemistry.

I realized I was depressed when I started toying with the idea that I should take a break from social media. This for me is a big red flag. I isolate myself when I’m depressed, which is the worst thing I can do. As soon as I figured all of this out I realized that I needed to change my approach. I decided to scrap the long list of things  to do to  and focus, instead, on what I have been doing for a couple of months. Something that I learned from going to therapy. I will share it with you:

G.R.A.P.E.S.

G: be Gentle with yourself. Remember to practice self compassion!

R: Relaxation. Try to practice 5-10 minutes of relaxation every day (mindfulness, meditation, hot bath, etc)

A: Accomplishments. At the end of the day list two accomplishments, remember there is no such thing as an accomplishment too small!

P: Pleasure. Do something you enjoy everyday: watch the sunset, favorite movie, spend time with a loved one, do a craft.

E: Exercise. Try to get in a few minutes of exercise daily. Exercise the body and brain!

S: Socialize. Do not isolate. Reach out to a friend or a loved one.

I got all kinds of great tools when I was seeing the therapist, but GRAPES was the thing that helped me the most because it is easy to remember and there is always something there to work on. I love it. So this is my plan for 2017. If I manage to do anything else that will be icing on the cake, but I am think I’m ditching the long to-do list.

 

 

 

On a more personal note…

Life

I’ve been pretty open about my struggles with depression and anxiety on this blog so I thought I would share something positive with you.

A month ago I wrote a blog post about being depressed and anxious about the election. My mom read the post and sent me a text suggesting I go get my thyroid tested because she was recently diagnosed with hypothyroidism. She said that as soon as she started taking medication for it her depression left her and she felt good. She also went on to tell me that this runs in my family, my grandmother also had it. And to further the case for my getting tested, I had to be monitored as a child for an enlarged thyroid.

Well this was all news to me. Getting my thyroid checked would never in a million years have occurred to me.

So I made an appointment the next day. I told my doctor I was battling depression and anxiety and told her I wanted to get my blood tested for hypothyroidism. She scheduled the test for that day, but she also made an appointment for me to see a therapist for the depression. She said that she would call me in a few days and that we would either talk about medication for hypothyroidism or depression, depending on the results of the test.

In the meantime I went to the appointment with the therapist. She is a behavioral therapist, which I really liked, because it game me practical ways of dealing with it. I’ve never been to a therapist before. I’ve always been afraid to see the doctor for my depression. But after the first visit I already felt better. I felt like I had some tools to help me deal with it. I felt much more in control. I’ve seen her a few more times and I have one more appointment tomorrow. Seeing a behavioral therapist was one of the best things I’ve ever done for myself and I am really glad I’ve had this opportunity.

I realized that I kind of tricked myself into going to the doctor for depression. If my mom hadn’t suggested the hypothyroid test I would have never gone an I would never had gone to therapy. That is just sad, I realize.

In the meantime, the results came back from the blood test and it turns out that I have hypothyroidism. She prescribed the medication for it and I’ve been taking it for about two weeks now. I noticed results in two days. Oddly, that was the week of the election.

As you know, the election results hit me pretty hard and that first Wednesday I was pretty messed up, mental health wise. But I noticed that I bounced back from it very quickly. Which is odd for me. I tend to swim around in the depths of the darkness for a long time and it takes a LOT to pull myself out of it. In this case, it really didn’t take any effort to pull myself out of it at all. A very foreign feeling for me, but wow. really nice. Now I feel like I have the strength and energy to fight.

So that is what is going on with me. I feel like a completely new person. It’s sort of weird. I am not sure I know this person because for years and years I have been this other person who lived with the feeling of everything being such a big struggle. I have a feeling, though, I am gonna like this new me. She seems awesome. 🙂

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About the featured image:

This is a pinhole photo taken with my Zero Image 4×5 pinhole camera, a camera that uses large format film. The exposure was long enough for me to sit on one side of the table for half of the exposure time, and then move to sit on the other side of the table for the second half of the exposure time.

In which the Precepts come to my rescue.

Life, Thoughts and Opinions

I don’t know about anybody else but the upcoming election and the news around it has spun me into a state of anxiety, the likes of which I haven’t seen in a very long time. My mind is racing and I can’t get a proper night’s sleep. Combine this with the fact that it’s “that time of year” and I’ve not really been myself lately.

Depression is a sneaky bastard. Lately I will be in the middle of a really horrible, self depreciating thought and something will make me come to my senses and I will realize, “Oh, I’m in a depression. And depression lies. OK. this makes sense now.” It’s at that point when I change my approach to self compassion and doing the things that I need to do as my brain works it’s way out of this sate.

This happened to me a couple of days ago. As I was realizing the state I was in I was thinking about how I do stupid things when I’m depressed, and I do them because my brain is telling me lies. I get worked up emotionally about delusions and then I act on those emotions sometimes and then I have to deal with the aftermath of these actions.

I realized that I have a tool to help me through this! The Precepts. I am so grateful for the precepts.  I have come to look at them as like a kind of roadmap to life. When I am in this deluded state I can look to the Precepts to help guide me to the right action, regardless how I feel. I can trust that whatever action I take, if it is based on the Precepts, things will be alright. If nothing else, I won’t have to deal with the karma of  my bad actions on top of the terrible feelings of despair that go along with depression.

Just having this realization has made me feel a lot better.

As a side note to myself, In light of this realization, I think I am going to make zazen a priority. I have been having a hard time motivating myself to meditate and that’s bullshit. All of the precept study in the world does nothing if I am not regularly practicing zazen everyday.