Tuesday, May 10, 2011

100 Things: 1-10

I've made it no secret here that I deal with depression, GAD, and obsessive compulsive disorder. I'm not talking "I have days where I feel blue" or "I can't stand when there's a crooked picture on the wall" but serious, medically diagnosed, been prescribed medication, I've been in the freaking mental hospital thank-you-very-much conditions. While I wouldn't say I'm proud of these things, I'm not ashamed of them either. They are what they are, and they're part of what makes me who I am.

Of course, it would be easy for me to use these conditions to wander through life much like Eeyore from Winnie the Pooh and just moan "oh bother" all day. I could just say hey, I have a diagnosis, I'm depressed. I have an anxiety disorder. Don't ask me to change because this is who I am.

I don't want to fall into that trap though. I don't want my illness to define me. It's that whole "Happiness is a Choice" thing. It is, and it isn't. It's harder for people like me, true, but that doesn't mean that we can never be happy. A big part of therapy is learning that the illness makes you more likely to fall into that "Eeyore" pattern of thinking, but realizing that a lot of it is a pattern of behavior that you choose to continue.

It's like (and this is a terrible analogy, but work with me), walking around with your eyes bandaged closed. Even if you try to open your eyes, you still can't see because your eyes are bandaged freaking closed! It's easier to just keep your eyes closed under that bandage. That's the chemical imbalance in your brain. Now, let's say you start therapy and medication. That's what is going to remove the bandage from your eyes.

Here is where "happiness is a choice" comes in. You can choose to open your eyes, because you can now. It's going to be hard at first. The light is bright, and it hurts. You may have to take baby steps and squint a lot at first. You may have to start out in a dim room, then try a lamp, then move to a sunny room, then finally, outside. It will take work and perseverance on your part, but the bandages have been removed and you can do it now.

Of course, you could say "It's too hard" or "It hurts" or "I'm just the girl who is used to the dark, it's who I am" and choose to keep your eyes closed. There's nothing keeping them closed at this point but you and your refusal to do the work.

There will still be days where the sun will be too bright and you just want to lay in bed with your eyes closed because you're tired, and that's okay. Just don't let it be every day. :)

The reason I'm writing about this is because I've weaned myself off my meds. I'm not taking either one of my sleeping pills or my Zoloft any more because we want to try to have another baby and you can't be on those things when you're pregnant. This means I have to be extra careful to take the things that I've learned about my illness and be sure that I'm using them. I have to be careful to not fall into those old patterns again and to fight against the bandages covering my eyes with all of my might.

I have to CHOOSE to be happy, because if I don't, I'll end up in that hospital again, or worse. I'm not saying it's going to be simple, but it is doable if I work at it really hard and don't let down my guard. Complacency is a demon, for sure.

As part of choosing happiness, I want to make a better effort to recognize those things that bring me joy. It's been proven time and again that expressing gratitude and consciously choosing to reframe the negatives (a never-ending pile of laundry, high gas prices) into positives (plenty of clothes to wear, a car to drive places) helps to increase your happiness and satisfaction with life. I'm going to do a series of posts on things that make me happy. I won't do them all in a row. I will space them out over the next couple of weeks. I'm also not going to over think them. I'll have my camera near me at all times, and if I see something that makes me smile, I'll snap a photo and it will make it into a post. My goal is to make ten posts with ten photos each of things that make me happy right now.

Happiness isn't about the big things... it's about all the little ones that add up to a big thing.

1. This silly boy. He saw me with the camera, and demanded I take his picture. He then proceeded to roll around on the floor, cackling, making it nearly impossible to get a clear shot.

2. How much he loves those kitty cats.

3. The little curly vines that are growing on the pumpkin plants.

4. A cupboard full of jars that I canned myself. Oh, and my cute little labels. :) The font is called Coffee Milk Crazy, if you're interested.

5. Baby zucchini!!! I grew those! Sara, with the brown thumb, actually is growing things!!!

6. Bubba's closet. Most of this stuff is Ralph Lauren, with a lot of Lacoste, Children's Place, Gymboree, and other designer labels tossed in. I didn't pay more than $5 for anything in here and most of it was under $3. I'm pretty dang proud that I'm dressing my child stylishly but not putting us in the poor house in the process.

Things you can see about my taste looking through here - I like stripes, plaids and solids. I like classic designs. I don't like characters. Licensed characters like Elmo and Thomas the Tank Engine aren't the only ones missing from here. There's a complete absence of little dogs and dinosaurs and stuff like that too.

Also, how awesome are those teeny wooden hangers?

7. Overcast days, especially when the clouds are big and fluffy but the sky is still blue blue blue.

8. This zucchini blossom. It's as big as my hand and the only one I've seen that is actually open.

9. Freshly baked bread and really good cheese. This is Kerrygold Extra Sharp White Cheddar. YUM.

10. Making cookies with my boy. He's a good helper. :)

***I'm not a mental health expert. These are just things I've learned after a decade of therapy and living with my own issues.


Blogger Rodi said...

Thansk for sharing that story and the outcome and the why - very enlightening. You write in such a real manner and your photos really made me think about the little things. I think I'll be stealing a thought or two and incorporating it myself. wishing wonderful baby thoughts too :)

7:15 PM  
Blogger Beth said...

Awesome, Sara. Seeing the glass as half-empty or half-full is definitely a conscious choice, and it is SO much easier for some than others. (I was raised in a half-empty type house, though my mom was really good at the half-full outlook - long story) I have to agree with you that the sky today was PERFECT. When I was standing at dismissal with my class, some of my kids were looking at the fluffy clouds and picking out the things they could see in them. I wanted to go lie down in the grass and just watch the clouds for as many pictures as we could find. <3 to you on your journey to happy and to baby #2.

7:21 PM  
Blogger Maggi said...

Great post, as always. I struggle with much of the same mental health issues you do and find it incredibly inspiring how you are so proactive about it. I agree: wallowing in self-pity gets you nowhere, although sometimes I still find myself doing it. Good luck trying for baby #2!

7:51 PM  
Blogger Jennifer said...

Thanks for sharing not only your story/journey but the things that make you happy. It's a timely reminder for all of us!

8:48 PM  
Blogger Colleen said...

Very smart way to keep your head above water and just keep swimming !! I suffer from the same issues though I still took a very low dose of Zoloft while pregnant with my twins as I was so scared of going off the deep end and the doctor okay'd the small amount and occasional valerian root for sleep, they turned out perfect. I will pray for you and your soon to be pregnant self, wishing you an easy HAPPY stress free, sleep filled time!!! Also, thank you for posting about this, to many people make it so shamful when it should not be that way since so many suffer from it.

8:49 PM  
Blogger Becky said...

Great post! Good luck with conceiving. We've been trying for over a year now. It can really take a toll on you mentally, so be careful. Also - if you ever want to chat, my sister is bi-polar and had her son on meds. There was no way for her to come off them. He's a perfect, well adjusted 3 yr old now!

5:14 AM  
Blogger Katy said...

Oh...I want bread and cheese now.

On a more relevant note, when I was weaning myself, that's when I really kicked up the running. The exercise really helped me a lot.

6:56 AM  
Blogger Muffy said...

Terrific post! You're such a positive role model. I love the things that make you happy!!! All the best to you, dear!

8:47 AM  

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