Today, my therapist taught me a breathing technique for managing feelings such as stress, anxiety, or anger. Breathe in while counting to four, and breathe out while counting to four. I find it helpful cuz it takes concentration without taking too much mental energy.
Category: Mental Health
I had a horrible day today. When I was at the bus plaza, I was so upset that I started pacing inside. My emotions were running so wild that I wasn’t paying attention to where I was going. I accidentally walked really close to a mother with her two small children. We did an awkward dance around each other and the mother said, “Fuck, lady.” Although I’ve talked about learning conflict resolution skills, I admit I faltered and didn’t react well. She followed me across the street to keep yelling at me. Security guards at the plaza tried to placate her while I made an escape.
I’ve been thinking more about that encounter. I thought at first that she was just a giant asshole, but I see now that I did, although unintentionally, invade her and her children’s personal space. She didn’t know what was going on in my mind, so she may have thought I did it on purpose to antagonize them.
This incident reminds me of another time I paced while upset in (sort of) public. I was in an assisted living facility at the time, and I was pacing up and down the hallway. Someone thought I was on my way to his room and yelled at me, accusing me of trying to break in. I thought at first he was just a giant asshole, too, but looking back, maybe I didn’t realize how close to his room I had gotten, and it really did make it look like I was trying to break in.
I wish that people wouldn’t keep making negative assumptions about my intentions. It’s really hurtful. However, at least in part, I can kinda see how these two people might’ve taken me as a threat due to my lack of attention during emotionally charged pacing.
I think that two incidents is the beginning of a pattern. Pacing while upset in public seems to cause trouble for me. I wanna break this pattern. From now on, if I get upset while I’m around other people, I’ll sit or stay in one place until I can calm myself down. I’m not sure yet how to get myself to calm down. I’ll talk to my therapist about that tomorrow and share what I’ve learned here later.
Edited on 8/15/17 to add: my mommy just suggested, “Maybe you could pace somewhere people would expect it, like at a park.” I’m willing to try it, but I’ll still be careful to do things like look ahead instead of at the ground so that I don’t disturb anyone. There’s a beautiful park downtown with lots of birdies that I like. If I feel the need to pace when I’m upset again, I’ll go there to walk my feelings off.
I find that keeping a sense of curiosity alive helps reduce my depression. I think of questions, such as, “How did humans evolve?” and “To what extend do animals understand morality?” which can nudge me out of my stupor. Curiosity often inspires me to go from sitting around, feeling glum, to researching a topic, feeling engaged.
It doesn’t even have to be research related. I might happen to look around my room and notice a novel, wonder what happens in the story, and feel moved to start reading. Recently, I went to an art gallery with my support group. I wondered what the art would be like, which helped motivate me to go. I saw art pieces that captured my interest, such as one of a birdie made of yarn perched on top of a carved piece of wood. It had never occurred to me that such different materials could go together. Maintaining a sense of curiosity can not only reduce symptoms of mental illness, but also expand one’s knowledge and worldview.
GNOME icon artists, users: Vipersnake 51 and Sertion. “A questionmark.” N.d. upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/e/e8/Commons-emblem-question.svg
One symptom of my depression that I deal with, as do many others, is a lack of motivation. I’ve found that making the activity I need to do more appealing in some way can help. For example, I got a beautiful, glossy, blue and purple brush, which makes me more inclined to brush my hair. I like to use soaps with nice scents to motivate myself to take a shower. When I get an apartment, which will hopefully have a bathtub, I’ll use bubble bath, as well. Some of my favorite scents for soaps, shampoos, and bubble bath are vanilla, lavender, and strawberry.
Another thing that helps me is practicing self-compassion. Continuing with the hygiene example, I’ll tell myself, “I deserve to be clean and wear clean clothes, simply because I exist. Every living being deserves to be clean, and that includes me.”
I have times when even things that should be fun, like playing video games, are hard for me to do. I find it hard to organize myself to do all the steps that I need to do to start and complete the activity. I write in a journal and found that I can use it as a tool to motivate myself. Journaling is more interesting if I have stuff to write about, so I’ve started reminding myself of that. It’s also more interesting to read what I’ve written later if I’ve done some things.
Doing things, and writing about doing those things, helps me build a more solid sense of identity. I think that a large part of who we are is related to what we do. For example, since I write posts on this blog, being a writer is part of my identity. Having a strong sense of identity is important to me. If I stop doing my daily activities, I feel like I just exist, which adds to my depression. Overall, journaling helps me take charge of my story.
The introduction gets the book off to a strong start. Over 400 clinical studies support the effectiveness of cognitive behavioral therapy, which makes me even more inclined to try it (page 2). Knaus says, “Depressive thinking can be challenged and defeated,” which gives me hope that I can overcome or at least better manage my depression (page 2). It is necessary to be persistent when using self-help, and it may take weeks or months to begin seeing results (page 3). I’ll keep this in mind so that I don’t get discouraged.
According to Knaus, “Perfectionism increases the risk for depression” (page 4). I have some perfectionist tendencies. For example, I have often started my journal over again if I missed even a day of writing in it. I’m gonna be more careful now to resist these impulses so that I don’t aggravate my depression. To help with the process, I’ll look for flaws in my thinking. For example, if I’m tempted to throw my journal away and start over, I’ll remind myself that I’d be literally throwing away memories, and the record of progress I’m making in my life. Therefore, it’s important to me to keep my journal, even if I slip up sometimes.
Next time, I’ll write about Chapter 1: Depression Is Not Your Life, which covers topics including persistence, trying new things, and exercise.