Funk

I’m not really doing Lent this year.

My colleague and I were talking about Lent yesterday and he asked what I gave up this year. I told him nothing. And that I had thought about what I haven’t had and just saying that’s what I had given up. I thought I hadn’t had wine, but then I remembered, oh yeah, I have had wine since Lent started. Dang it. The wine was good, though.

I got a hair cut on Tuesday. I took a great run on Monday. My day got away from me yesterday and I wasn’t able to run. I’ve been sleeping okay, after I take something to help me sleep. But the kid still likes to wake up super early.

Self care exercise, hair cut, and sleep aren’t cutting it. I’ve been in a funk since late last week. Energy way down. I feel like sadness is emanating from my pores. Maybe I need to change my meds.

Being in a funk to me feels like being stuck in mud and not sure what to do about it. It feels helpless. I’m starting to feel like I am cycling through the downer part of my bipolar cycle. Or maybe I’m in the descent to it. I have some ideas of how to feel better immediately, but those ideas are things that aren’t necessarily good for me and would probably lead to the manic side of my bipolar cycle.

I’d like to get off this ride and just be normal. For now, you’ll find me doing this, I guess. I need to go find a wall to rest my undersized plump elbows on:

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Tell me a joke? Make me laugh? Please? Leave me a comment in any case. They don’t show up until I approve them, so if you don’t want me to publish it, I won’t.

Thanks for reading.

Getting Better

At least, at running.

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Hooray! Sub 9-minute miles average! My fastest average yet, and 8 mile run is pretty great, too.

I hadn’t run in a week so I was happy to be running, I bought some new running gear, and I’ve been lifting weights. And it was gorgeous outside. All were good contributors to this time.

I thought I was running kind of slowly, but I guess it’s gotten easier to go faster? Kind of magical.

 

Feelings

I chatted with someone this past weekend who said he “wasn’t into feelings.” After some questioning, I understood his comment to mean he is uncomfortable or annoyed by people who are over-sharers of their emotions and feelings. That’s understandable, but for a while I was beginning to wonder how self centered he was!

As a person who struggles with identifying how I feel, labeling my emotions correctly, and then sharing my emotions with others, I was reacting to this guy by thinking, “wow, is he only talking to me about this because he knows me well enough to know that I don’t talk about my feelings all the time?”

This wasn’t a heart to heart by the way. He was merely making conversation.

I can’t stop thinking about it, though, as this is so central to the work I’m doing in my life now.

If you search for images on emotions or feelings, you’ll find A LOT of images.

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Wouldn’t it be funny if I printed this out and started pointing to the face of how I am feeling when I talk to someone? I’m afraid even if I did that, no matter what I say in conversation, I’d still point to “Happy” unless I am either mirroring their emotions or trying to prove a point, usually through a joke.

I find other people’s feelings to be fascinating. Especially when I see someone who is willing and able to exhibit strong emotions.

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I’m also a seeker of the best word or phrase when deciding on expression. This chart is a great example of what I may go through, when I feel a certain way and I try to muddle through the nuance of how to describe it.

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I think it’s a really good chart! I may print it out and see if it helps me pinpoint my emotions more readily.

I noticed that I keep using the terms feelings and emotions interchangeably. That’s not exactly correct, but I do have trouble with identifying both. Emotion describes how your body is reacting to a stimulus, and a feeling describes how your mind interprets that emotion. And, I have to add, your thoughts are the rationalizing of what to do and behavior is what you do eventually with the thoughts and feelings. Hence, the wise advice of thinking before you act.

My issues stem from questioning my emotions and the feelings they evoke. My default is to think WAY too much, question myself WAY too much, before I act (or not act). I squash my feelings so I often deny myself from letting my emotions evolve into feelings. I play it safe because my whole life has been a series of good results (mostly) when I kept my feelings to myself and bad results (mostly) when I reacted to something. In other words, I have been a lot less likely to make a fool of myself or hurt others if I keep my stronger, truer emotions to myself. I have been a cool, collected person. I deny myself so much eventual happiness this way — maybe?? — which is of course severely frustrating.

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Thank God for running. And meds. And therapy.

Thanks for reading.

Irked.

I’m having a silly work issue and no one believes me when I told them the system wasn’t working.

Even Josef didn’t fully believe me. Said he was playing devil’s advocate by suggesting it was operator error. If it had been operator error, I would have known that earlier than the two full days and nights of trying to work through the issue. I don’t pretend to be a genius, but come on, don’t treat me like I’m stupid.

I’m so angry right now. Frustrated. I even cried a little.

I feel like the little girl I used to be, trying to explain something to the adults and older siblings in my life and no one believes me. I’m not being petulant or trying to cover for my lack of efficiency. I am WELL aware of my lack of efficiency — but this issue was standing in my way, making my lack of efficiency even WORSE, thank-you-very-much.

It’s a crap feeling and makes me want to run away, frankly.

Time to look at those ocean pictures again, I guess.

When I Want to Run Away, I Look at the Pretty Ocean Pictures

It would be so nice to go stare at the ocean right now. My heart is crying for it. Heal me, Ocean, I want to say to it. Tumble me like a rough stone and make me smooth. Let me form a seat in the sand and let the waves form a back-and-forth blanket over me. Let my tears join the sea.

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I know the water is heavy and the sand can rip away my skin. I know there are creatures in the ocean that would just as soon eat me for dinner.

But that almighty weighty crash and stinging salt breeze whipping through my hair would do wonders for me now.

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It’s an ineffable primordial feeling to respond to the sea, a feeling I carry from my earliest memories. My son surely has a similar set of feelings imprinted.

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I especially love the wildness of a summer storm on the sea. While I wouldn’t care to be there for a hurricane, there is a thrill to seeing Mother Nature doin’ her thang.

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And then, this magical thing happens:

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The whole place is simply that: magical. Food for the soul.

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Ahhhhh.

Summer can’t get here quickly enough.

Fasching Weekend in Helen

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It was a date weekend for Josef and me, and there were activities all weekend. Between costume changes and making new friends and staying up way too late each night, the weekend flew by!

My sister gave me Jem and the Holigrams earrings for Christmas this year, and this was the perfect occasion to wear them. I met this group of ladies who had stumbled upon Helen and found out about our party Friday night. I don’t really know what my costume was, but my wig and tights matched.

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I was very tall that night. Josef’s suit is made in the same material as the Bavarian flag. He was playing music between the sets of the live music.

That feather boa looked great, right? I danced with my friend Sue, and after the song ended, I smelled something funky. I wasn’t sure what it was, only that it smelled horrible. I left the dance floor in a hurry in order to leave the smell. BUT IT FOLLOWED ME. In the words of Cathy of the comic strip in the same name, ACK!

I made Josef smell me, and he smelled it, too. BARF.

I couldn’t last all night smelling like this. The culprit was the feather boa. The good thing about the location of the party was that it was possible to go home and change, so I did. I don’t have any pictures of my second costume, but the only thing it had in common with the first costume were the shoes, tights, and earrings. The dress, the boa, and the wig were set out to air out.  I’ve had the boa since college, and apparently when you store them for a long time and then introduce body sweat, what results is the nastiest smell I’d smelled in a long time. And that’s saying a lot as the mother of a young child who has had diapers in the recent past.

I changed into a white dress and wore a silver wig. And the party went on.

The next day was the tubing parade, and I put on my unicorn outfit!

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Here’s our whole group as we set out on our adventure.

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That night there was yet another party, and I went as a cat.

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It was fun, but I was pretty tired out. Plus I was developing a pretty bad sore throat. We invited folks over to our house, where they all made fun of me because I had no voice.

On Sunday, right before we left to go back to Atlanta, I helped Josef move some furniture. We were moving a futon, and I was walking backwards with it. Bang! went the side of the futon on my shin. I reacted to it hitting my shin by straightening my legs, and OUCH! went my lower back. Son of a gun, it hurt! Between my throat, shin, and now back pain, I wasn’t sure how I’d deal with a small child once we got back to Atlanta. I worried about work the next day, too.

I wound up calling in sick, got the child to school, went back home and slept all day. I’m much better today. My back is 95% better, my throat still hurts a lot, my shins still hurt, and I have a barking cough. I really want to go run but I think I’d better heal some more.

And today is Valentine’s Day, so I am sending lots of love to the readers who take the time to read this!

Thanks for reading.

This Weekend, I Get to Be a Unicorn

More info to follow. I don’t have a picture yet.

It’s Fasching season in Helen. Fasching is German Mardi Gras or Carnival. Costumes are encouraged, and it doesn’t take much for me to want to dress up in a costume. TWIST MY ARM, GAH!

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That’s me with the rainbow hair above.

Hmm, maybe I should get into cosplay? Funny how there are two cow costumes in those pictures. We should have coordinated better to get the cows together.

Anyhow, tomorrow I will tubing down the river in Helen with a bunch of crazy people also in costume. I’ll be skipping out on taking shots of schnapps this year. To more than make up for that, I’ll be going as a unicorn.

I learned this morning that the unicorn has been the national animal of Scotland since 1300. So I am representing my people.

Cheers, my dears!

Thanks for reading.

Perspective Is Reality

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Yesterday I wrote about Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy. It’s a lot of work to shift how you feel/think/behave. You have to put in the work to be flexible enough to change your perspective in order to make the first move toward re-framing your thoughts.

Take the illustration above. Aside from being funny, it illustrates such an important reminder that we shouldn’t necessarily believe everything we think. Both of these people are correct, but they are also wrong. Memories can be false, all the information cannot be known, other people’s motivations can drastically differ from our own, etc. There are lots of reasons we come up with different assumptions, certainties, and beliefs about how things are. This, of course, is frequently the basis of arguments between people over any given issue.

What is correct? I’ve come to believe it’s arbitrary most of the time.

That’s why I believe it’s more important to be kind than to be right.

This is the way to good relationships. Agree to disagree, and respect that conclusions were reached the same way but with differing results. Whether we’re talking politics, raising children, what happened in a car accident, what was decided in a work meeting, or a number of other topics, we can never assume everyone believes things exactly the same way.

Again, flexibility is what is needed here. Flexible thinking. Flexible certainty.

But Susan, you say, how can you stand for anything if you have to be so flexible with your thinking? How can you be certain of anything at all?

Well, reader, I think it’s perfectly fine — in many cases — to be set in your ways and have solid beliefs you cling to in order to make sense of the world. This is what makes you who you are.

It’s what you do with your beliefs (behaviors) that matters. If you feel, for instance, that you’re worthless, think that everything that happens to you is solid proof that the world is out to get you or that your life has no value, and behave angrily/sadly/dejectedly/anxiously OR act as though nothing’s wrong, as a result of those feelings and thoughts, you’re most likely bound for a mental disorder. I speak from experience, so this is my own interpretation and even validation of this counseling model helping to get out of that cycle.

My therapist has hit the point home: we cannot control other people, places, and things. There is so much out of our control. Most things IN life are out of our control. Not to say that we can’t try to take control to work toward a desired outcome. But, too many times in my life I have assumed responsibilities that weren’t mine: trying to make others happy, carrying their burdens far more than I should have, trying to please everyone I lived and worked with to the detriment of my own happiness. The underlying motivation of this behavior was fear of not being loved and the fear of others confirming that I wasn’t valuable. My core belief was that I didn’t matter, so I tried to build myself up by trying to be perfect. This meant I didn’t share my feelings, and in fact, questioned the validity of my feelings. My feelings were so out of line with my thoughts and behaviors.

Sit there and be a good girl, even though you want to scream out in frustration right now.

When you see someone at work, and they ask you how you are, smile and say, “great, how are you?” even though you feel like slipping through the cracks in the floor and disappearing forever.

Perception is reality. When others see you as upbeat, happy, successful, then they perceive that you are until you show them differently. It takes a LOT of energy to spend so much of life trying to portray yourself as having it all together when you certainly don’t.

Frankly, I got too tired to uphold it all and I started caving in under the pressure. That was when the mood disorder really hit hard. Everything I touched seemed to crumble in my hands, and no amount of emotional duct tape and glue could hold it up. My work was suffering, my marriage suffering, my ability to parent, my ability to keep times and dates straight, etc. It affected every realm of my life.

I had to start working on how to perceive myself. That’s the shift in thoughts I needed to make. I had to make my insides match my outsides. While I am not there yet, I am getting closer. I speak my find far more often, ask for help more often, say no far more often. I ask for forgiveness a lot. Changing my thoughts on my personal values is changing my feelings and behaviors.

That’s my stream of consciousness for today. 🙂

Thanks for reading.

My Weekend of Sobriety #2

My first weekend of sobriety went pretty well, but I was nervous about my second weekend because I’d be going back to Helen. Practically everyone in Helen drinks, plus we were going to a party with friends who’d all be drinking.

We had our son with us, making it a family weekend.

The boys had gone up Thursday night, giving me a night by myself. Alas, it went by way too quickly. I got there Friday late afternoon fully expecting the tug of alcohol.

Fortunately, it wasn’t so bad.

Friday night was very relaxing. After little man went to bed, Josef and I watched a Jim Gaffigan special, and neither one of us made it to the end as we were tired from the week.

On Saturday, I ran 10 miles in 1:35. That’s a 9:26/min average pace. This was one of the best runs I’ve ever had. I could have kept running but I had told Josef that I would only be gone for an hour and a half max.

At the end of the run, I was in the middle of town. There was a scavenger hunt going on that was related to the party that night, where someone would be awarded a prize for getting all the answers and visiting all the businesses on the game sheet. I chatted with our friends who were trying to get folks to sign up to play the game, and I took a game sheet and took it back to the house. Later, our little family went on a walk and looked for the answers to the scavenger hunt from the game sheet.

My first reaction when I hear about participating in a scavenger hunt is something akin to hives. It stresses me out. It’s the last thing I’d ever sign up to do. My theory is that I did too many overwhelming educational ones as a child on field trips. I remember one in particular was very difficult. It was at Space Camp and our teachers had created this scavenger hunt where we had to work in groups, go through the museum to find answers to very vague clues, and the answers somehow lead to a final clue (made a sentence, maybe?). Ugh, it was so awful.

I’m happy to report that this past weekend’s scavenger hunt may have made me a little less apprehensive of future scavenger hunts. It was fun. We had a good time figuring out the answers, and we got most of them by the time we finished our walk.

We hired a sitter so we could go to the party as a date. The sitter was very sweet and we’ll ask her back. Her mother and older sister were at the party. Ah, the beauty of a small town, I suppose. Josef and I stopped by one of our usual bars and he had a beer while I enjoyed a Coke. Then we went up to the party where, again, he had beer and I had a (wait for it) Coke. A few people commented on my lack of drinking, but most did not notice. They were too busy having fun. Those who did notice and asked probably think I am pregnant. They will be disappointed, I imagine, when I don’t have a baby eventually.

The party was okay. There was an overly-friendly accordion player who was looking at me each time I happened looked his way. He cornered me at one point when he was taking a break, whereupon I learned he was fairly harmless and was not the best conversationalist. I got away politely and joined another conversation group.

The crowd there was generally 20+ years older than we were, plus I was pretty tired from my run, so we didn’t stay out as late as we thought we would. Josef walked me back so I could send the sitter home and he headed back out to the bar (literally a 3-5 minute walk from our house — I really should time it as it’s ridiculously close). I curled up on the couch and got through half an episode of Versailles before he came back. Then we watched more stand up, again not making it through the whole episode. It felt good to hang out together and laugh. It felt like the old days.

It was a mild and good weekend. I am a whole lot more prone to seeking out snacks now on weekend nights, so that’s not good. I’ve been researching how to snack and not gain weight.

I did some weight lifting last night. I’m not well acquainted with the machines in my little apartment gym, but I figured my way around some of the options and lifted to work out my quads, inner thighs, and shoulders. Safe to say I don’t really know what I am doing, but maybe I can find someone to train me. I love to do pliés as I hold weight in my hands. I can incorporate a number of stretches and lifts in this position. It has really helped my running. I need to work on my upper body more, though, as well as abs.

I continued with some stretches when I got back home, after I put our son to bed. Strangely, I am not all that sore today, even though what I lifted felt challenging last night. I guess I was being cautious without realizing it. Typical of me.

Tomorrow I will get to run again as tonight we have a meeting at the school. I’m hoping to go for distance again. I’m definitely seeing a performance improvement by not drinking, and I hope weight training will also help me with running.

I’m still holding on to some emotional junk, unhealthy obsessions, and am still faced with triggers that get me down sometimes, but for the most part, by putting in the work, I am feeling better on the whole.

I started a secret Facebook group (it’s not so secret any more, Susan!!) for moms dealing with mental health issues, and one of the members posted some things she wrote on her mirror to help herself. The approach of cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) includes working to change your thoughts. It all rolls into the Thoughts – Feelings – Behavior Triangle:cbt-cycleChange your thoughts and you can change how you feel and what you do. Identify behaviors that make you feel a certain way, and recognize them so you can work on how you think about them.

If you know me at all, you may have heard me stop you if you have ever talked negatively about yourself in my presence. Even if you are only making a humorous self-deprecating statement, I will call it out and say, “hey now, no negative self-talk.” It’s because I am hyper aware of these types of thoughts now.

The mom in the Facebook group who shared some thoughts shared hers and then asked us to contribute ours. These are geared toward anxiety, but I can see these would be helpful for someone with depression, too.

Here are some, which I hope may be useful to you:

-Can any one of you, by worrying, add a single hour to your life? (Yay, Bible)

-It may not be okay now, but it will be soon.

-It’s just a bad day, not a bad life.

-This is not then.

-Feel the fear, and do it anyway.

-Worrying is like praying for what you don’t want.

– That thing you’re worrying about? It is not happening right now. Everyone is safe. You are safe. (This one is mine. I created and used it when I was having horrible fears present themselves to me right as I was trying to go to sleep.)

– Avoidance behavior reinforces anxiety. (YES. IT. DOES. Ugh, guilty.)

I’m working on getting clear-headed and clear-eyed so I can most effectively change my thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. My feelings are my weakness right now because they don’t line up with my behaviors. It’s hard work and I am not going it alone. I think exercise is really saving right now, along with meds of course.

Thanks for reading.

Gifts and Relationships

Feeling good today.

I ran 9 miles yesterday after work and feel super happy about my time – 9 miles in 90 minutes. My right hip hurt a tiny bit, but not in a worrisome way. I feel like I am plowing through my shoes — maybe it’s time to start in a new pair of shoes and alternate them.

Even so, I ran 9 miles yesterday. It sounds braggy to repeat that, but I’m astonished.

The girl who hated running a year ago ran 9 miles yesterday.

I like to run in a park on the university campus where I work. It has various loops and surface types — paved, gravel, dirt/mulch. The only thing that sucks is that when you leave this park, all three entrances are uphill. After a long run, that hill at the end can be killer.

While nature is lovely and I love contemplating it as I run through the trees and along the lake in this park, goose poop was everywhere yesterday! The geese who dropped it were all over the path in this one section along the lake, and it made things tense at times. They were a bit aggressive toward some runners, particularly male ones. It must be getting to be mating season?

There’s a great blue heron who fishes in the lake, too. What a huge bird. It’s always a treat to see it stalking but mostly studying the water around its feet as it hunts. And yesterday, randomly, there was a dude with a falcon or a hawk (must look up to know difference) walking through the park. I’ve also seen a lot of deer along the path and sometimes in the stream that the lake flows into.

All of these things are gifts. Nature. Being able to run — and getting better at it. Even being able to step around goose poop means I am somewhere where geese and other animals can be seen, outside of a zoo, I suppose.

I wish I had slept better, but I think I generated too much energy from my run to settle easily and I refuse to take sleep meds these days. I also was hungry, as my run burned 1,200 calories.

Today I have lunch with a friend from my old neighborhood. I haven’t seen her in years! She works relatively nearby. She’s a musician and I haven’t been able to make it to her shows. I reached out this last time because I really have wanted to see her perform and I miss her friendship.

Several of my friends have told me in the last year that I am good at keeping up with people. I just assumed everyone did. I’m not sure it’s entirely accurate, either, as I often feel out of touch. Or, I will think of someone I haven’t thought of in a while, like from high school or college, and feel terrible that I haven’t stayed in touch, even if they haven’t tried to reach me. I guess I find people and my connections to them to be interesting. Maybe I like keeping in touch with people for the sake of staying in touch with them. I also find it weird to think about how superficially I know most people from high school and college. I just a general feeling about them and not specifics (he was also so quiet but I thought he was cute, she always smiled, I wish I had taken the time to know them all better, etc.).

It makes me grouchy to hear from someone I haven’t heard from in over ten years, asking me to talk to them about their company (products they are selling). Clearly they are scraping the bottom of the barrel of their social contacts by the time they get to me. I want to support close friends and even my sister on their small businesses, and they definitely get first dibs on my support when I am in a mental space to do that.

I keep telling myself that I love people and not things. I’ve said this a few times to my son, especially when I see him fighting over a toy with the classmate he’s closest to. I tell him, our friends are more important than toys. Walking the walk has meant extreme purging in the last few years and living sacrificially in many ways. Rather than buying new clothes, I shop consignment. My son wears majority hand-me-downs. We donate things we haven’t used or just don’t fit in our lives anymore. We throw out papers and other things no one can use. It gives us space to breathe and room to move and think.

Now if we could sit still a bit more. It’s been wonderful to be able to support those in need with truly nice things that we didn’t want to sell — we just wanted to give them away. Many kind people collect things in the area where we live, and it’s easy to find things around the house we aren’t using to contribute. Being able to give is one of the best feelings to me. Asking for nothing in return is also a gift. Nothing I have was due to me being any better than anyone else. All these things were given to me at some point.

I’m frustrated right now with our nation’s political climate and all those who are caught in the web of massive recent changes — and anticipated changes. I don’t take my freedom to go on a run after work and trying to feel better for granted against the backdrop of many people trying to flee wars and seek refuge among safe and welcoming places. I fear for those who may lose their healthcare. I cry with and for those who still have to maintain their faith tradition is actually peaceful.

I wish I knew how to make the great divide come together — it certainly can’t be through comments on social media. I wish I could make everyone see that aside from some stark, pain-inducing differences, most folks would agree on some fundamental things if you got them together in a room. I wish I knew which news sources the middle ground agrees on as the extreme left and right find each others’ news sources suspicious at best.

Along with feeling frustrated, I also feel a bit detached. I probably appear apathetic. I’m not proud of this. I wish I had marched. I wish I had called. Honestly, I feel overwhelmed by all the inputs of opinions, directions, and images. Other than a general sense of what I feel in my heart is just, I don’t know that adding my voice to the ranks will cause the tide to turn all that much. I won’t be airing my thoughts on social media, except for here, but it’s my site, right?

All I have is the day ahead of me though, and the goal of feeling and doing better. Like I’ve built up my ability to run, I can build up my ability to speak up.

Thanks for reading.