Things That Don’t Suck

The last two days have been washed in heavy winds. The leaves, just turned golden-yellow, are being stripped off of their branches to accumulate near the front door, where they’re much less pretty. It’s a small thing to be disappointed about, but it seems as though so many things in the world suck right now. For one thing, our Home Depot skeleton, David S. Pumpkins, is constantly buffeted by wind on the seat from which he offers a cheery wave. Every morning, I find him slumped over as if we force him to sleep outside on the park bench, when really, he just doesn’t have the muscle tone to stay upright. What must the neighbors think? He likes it out there, I promise.

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Up and at ’em, Dave!

You know what else sucks? Depression. I recently had my regular mental health bloodwork done to make sure my lithium level is within the appropriate range, as well as to measure my thyroid function. All is well. Lithium can cause hypothyroidism, which can cause fatigue. We thought it would be worth investigating as a potential cause of my excessive sleeping, but no – that’s just depression. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad I don’t have to make adjustments or take new steps to deal with a whole new problem, but reducing my lithium dose or adding a thyroid med sounded like a simpler answer. Instead, the answer is just to carry on treading water in the sea of treatment-resistant depression. Just keep swimming, right?

So, let’s make some teeny tiny inflatable water wings to keep us afloat. Here’s what hasn’t sucked lately.

  • My houseplants are doing great. Man, they look healthy.
  • I learned how to use my new, short ChuckIt to throw a tennis ball like I’m skipping rocks rather than overhead. (My rodent-obsessed dog prefers to chase things that go along the ground.)
  • I unearthed two whole sets of flannel sheets that I forgot I had.
  • I swapped out the hummingbird feeder for the regular bird feeder, and it’s becoming quite popular.
  • The coyotes woke me up with their howling the other night. I always find it eerily mesmerizing. 7/10 spooky.
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Hi, little chickadee.

What hasn’t sucked for you, lately?

grey cat in sunlight yawning

My Depression Naps are Unnecessary (Shocker)

Over the last week, I have taken a grand total of one nap. ONE. This is grossly reduced from my usual minimum of six depression naps per week, each spanning roughly three hours. I cut back on naps this week because I was spending time with my family, instead. Between running errands, cooking, cleaning up, and catching up, there wasn’t much time to sleep during the day, and if there was, I prioritized family time.

The week is over, and I’m learning that I’m capable of being more active than I feel I am. My depression and the medication I take to treat it make me tired, and I might need a whole ‘nother week to recoup from this napless week, but I can function without naps. I think I should take this to mean that doing more is more sustainable than I thought.

I’ve been nervous that adding activities outside the house would be a disaster, because how could I go out and do stuff when I sleep for three hours every afternoon? This is probably a cart and horse problem; I’m worried that I won’t be able to fulfill my commitments if I still feel the need for excessive sleep. But perhaps adding more commitments to my schedule will make me less depressed, and therefore, I would sleep less. There’s bound to be an unhappy medium in the middle, but it would probably settle out eventually. In (wildly simplified) essence, be tired and have nothing to do, do more and briefly be more tired, then be a normal amount of tired and have fun doing whatever you want. This is something that everyone in my life has been saying forever, but sometimes it takes a while for you to come to the same conclusion, right?

A large part of my robust depression nap schedule is due to the lithium I take in the morning. However, I’m sure that another part of it is, at this point, a habit. My brain has learned that every day at the same time, we go to sleep for a few hours. It’s come to expect it. Breaking out of that habit is tough, but if I eliminate that and reduce my depression as much as possible, I’ll be left with just the lithium tiredness. That’s manageable, and as I’ve learned this week, very possible to function with.

Before I was even taking any medication, I slept as an escape. I went to bed before dinner because I didn’t want to be awake anymore, and I took long naps because I couldn’t stand the feeling of experiencing an entire day. Maybe this was what I needed, for a time. It helped me face my existence in more manageable chunks, but then it spiraled into something more damaging. I’m not going to stop taking naps entirely. I feel best when I give in and curl up on my bed for a few hours, sleep it off, and wake up partially refreshed. But I’m also going to remember that I don’t have to do that.

portrait view of black dog with pointy ears sleeping on bed with pillows

3 Things My Dog Teaches Me About Listening to My Body

Ever since I welcomed my puppy, Stella, into my life, I’ve noticed some things about how she treats her body. Unlike Stella, I have trouble recognizing what my body needs; Sensory Processing Disorder can make it hard to discriminate one feeling from another, and to identify what actions would fix an uncomfortable sensation. My dog, however, is especially in tune with her body. Sometimes I marvel at how good she is at giving herself what she needs. In honor of that, here are three things I’ve learned from Stella about listening to my body.

Test Your Surroundings

Stella has no qualms about finding a new place to hang out, no worries about offending others by moving. She goes from place to place as she wants. If the bed becomes too hot or too soft, she switches to the floor. If she feels too exposed around loud noises, she finds somewhere sheltered to lay.

The number of times I’ve kept myself from moving or adjusting my surroundings because I might stand out is too many to count. The little things can make a big difference in how you see your environment and how you feel in your body. Small adjustments help us regulate our nervous systems– a cold drink can wake you up while a warm one can calm you. Do you like your feet to feel secure, or do you prefer the freedom of open-toed shoes? Break up the monotony of your schedule by riding your bike to school or work every once in a while. I work on the computer a lot, and when my slouch has reached extreme levels, I know it’s time to get up and stretch. Take a page from Stella’s book, and feel free to get comfortable in your environment.

Express Your Emotions

Dogs don’t lie about how they feel; if you know how to read their body language, it’s easy to tell when they’re feeling happy, anxious, confident, or any other reaction to outside stimuli. There’s a certain amount of uncomfortable stimuli that we all must face every day. Maybe you hate the feeling of brushing your teeth, yet you do it because it’s important for your health. Maybe you’re sensitive to temperatures and dislike walking to work in the heat, but have limited transportation options. There are times that we have to prepare ourselves for and recover from unpleasant feelings that are unavoidable. There are also times when we suppress our instincts because we think we “should” be able to handle something. If there’s a way that you or someone else can adjust your surroundings to make you more comfortable, speak up!

Look for Joy

Stella loves a lot of things; she loves barking at rabbits, playing in sprinklers, and rolling in the grass. The things that she enjoys the most are the ones that require spontaneity. She approaches every dog she meets with a play bow; there’s no time like the present to make a new friend. She lives entirely in the moment, and whatever feels right to her is what she does– (sometimes to my immense frustration).

Look for joy in the little things. Find ways to have fun with boring activities. When no input is exciting or fun, we become understimulated and listless. So, jump in those puddles, paint with your fingers, and put your waste paper basket far away so you have to toss things from your desk. I don’t know, whatever brings you joy.

How to Persist Through Apathy

In the depths of depression and throughout the hills and dips of recovery, apathy is a frequent visitor. It steals motivation and leaves nothing behind. When this happens, it’s tempting to let it overtake you. I’ve found that continuing with a task despite apathy can help end a spell of it. Here are some of the ways I use to get me through a period of apathy.

Rewards

Whatever gets you even a little bit motivated can be useful when battling apathy. Granted, if you’re feeling apathetic, even the usual rewards might not have much of an effect. For me, I sit in the shade with a book and my dog. Maybe for you, it’s watching your favorite show or treating yourself to a delicious snack. Whatever it is, reward yourself for your hard work; apathy isn’t easy to overcome.

A Conversation With Future You

You might not care right now, but you might care a lot in the future. We like to think that we can predict the future, but the truth is that none of us really know what’s going to happen in a week or a month or a year. So, while this one requires a little hope for the future, sometimes all it takes is to allow for the possibility that things might get better; to admit that you’re not a fortune-teller. In fact, I’m working on this one right now.

Cultivate Satisfaction

I know what you’re thinking–well, I don’t know. (That’s another distortion.) But you might be thinking “obviously, if I’m feeling apathetic, I don’t want to do anything because I don’t get satisfaction from completing a task. Why would I do something that gives me no intrinsic reward?”

Well, that’s a good point. I’ll counter with this: an oyster creates a pearl when a grain of sand becomes lodged in its tissues. Layer by layer, the mollusk coats the grain of sand with calcium carbonate to protect itself from the irritating particle. What began as a negative from the oyster’s perspective is turned into something valuable.

Motivation often comes from the desire to solve a problem. Whether it’s a seemingly small problem like noticing that your hair needs to be washed, or a larger-scale problem like slipping grades that could affect your graduation, everything we do, we do to solve a problem. Every time you do something that moves you towards a goal, you’re building a metaphorical layer around the underlying issue. Every time you go to class even though you don’t want to, you’re building up to something great. Every time you go for a run even though you’d rather sleep, you add another layer of persistence to your pearl.

Often, it’s only after many layers, many instances of forcing myself through apathy, that I begin to get a glimmer of satisfaction. Sometimes, the only way to reach the other side of apathy is to just begin. Momentum only comes when you start to move.

 

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Traveling with Sensory Processing Disorder

I’ve been traveling a lot lately, and I’m worn out. While waiting to board my latest flight home, I pretty much sat at the gate in a sensory stupor while the gate agents droned on the speaker about checking your carry-on bag. Because I have Sensory Processing Disorder, I needed an afternoon (or more) to reset my nervous system and return to the real world as a functioning human being. Unfortunately, airports have very few places in which to hide from the noise, movement, and general chaos of airport activity. (But for help finding those rare spots, check out sleepinginairports.net)

And, it’s not just the crowds of people that are overwhelming- it’s also the tasks you have to do in order to get onto your flight. Standing in lines is okay for me; it’s ordered, it’s neat, and the most difficult part for me is identifying which kiosk just opened up (might take me a little longer, but I’ll get it eventually). Security is a mess. People crossing from the main line to a security line across the room, the choices involved in preparing your things to go through the imaging machine (should I take off my shoes first? What about my belt?), and then all of a sudden the line has moved ahead and I’m the dam holding back a flood of grumpy people trying to catch their flights. At least, that’s what I always worry will happen. In reality, it usually goes more smoothly than I expect, and I imagine we look more like ants, focused on our own tasks with occasional hiccups but somehow hurrying around one another to reach our destinations without incident.

Airports are visually busy, and with loudspeaker announcements, children crying, businessmen talking shop on their cell phones; it’s a barrage of auditory assaults for people with sensitive nervous systems. Not to mention the vestibular hurdles- the moving walkways clogged with people, the escalator that somehow jostles you up and down while also transporting you diagonally to the next floor. Too much of this, and I begin to get vertigo, letting me know that I’m nearing my limit.

My Tips for Traveling with Sensory Processing Disorder

Airports are challenging places to navigate for people with Sensory Processing Disorder. Luckily, there are strategies you can use to make your airport experience less stressful.

  • Get organized the night before to set yourself up for success
  • Bring things that ground you- mints, strong smells, weighted lap pad
  • Give yourself time to recover after your flight
  • Be patient with yourself and others. There are a lot of moving parts in air travel, and getting frustrated often doesn’t accomplish anything
  • Take care of the needs you can control- food, water, wear layers, bring headphones

Science Saturday: How Does Nature Affect Mental Health?

I’m hoping to make this the first post in a series called “Science Saturdays” (now taking suggestions for a more creative name) where I dive into the research at the intersection of mental health and (fill in the blank). I dipped my toes into these waters with previous posts like “Pets and Mental Health“, “Can You ‘Grow Out Of’ Childhood OCD?“, and “What’s the Deal with MTHFR and Psychiatric Conditions?” My intention is to take an objective look at recent research, let it percolate through my noggin while I sift through the dozens of tabs I’ve amassed in Google Scholar, then report back with what I think are some important takeaways.


embroidery-of-wooden-fence-and-red-poppies

Here in the northern hemisphere, we’re perched on the cusp of spring, and boy, am I ready to get outside. I live in Colorado, and hiking is one of, if not the most, enjoyable ways I spend my time in the warmer months. I’ve been gazing longingly at the mountains, perusing dog backpacks (that’s backpacks for dogs to wear) on Amazon, and figuratively dusting off my trail map app in anticipation. It could just be that I’m particularly drawn to being outside because of my personality and upbringing, but I’ve recently come across some buzz surrounding the positive effects that nature has on our emotional and physical health. So, I figured, what better way to become even more entrenched in spring fever than to spend a few hours reading about the outdoors?

So Many Studies

Nearly every article I’ve read so far has referenced a study published in 1984 by RS Ulrich. The study looked at a group of 46 hospital patients, all of whom had their gallbladders removed and were monitored postoperatively. 23 patients stayed in rooms with views of trees, while the other 23 had views of a brick wall. The now classic study found that the patients who had views of trees recovered faster and required less pain medication than the other group of patients.

From what I can tell, the Ulrich study seems to have sparked an interest in, and an understanding of, how nature might benefit us. Countless subsequent studies have been conducted that suggest that exposure to nature reduces blood pressure and increases positive affect, promotes healthy composition of microbiota involved in immune functioning, and lowers mortality from circulatory disease. In terms of emotional health, nature is associated with reduced stress and decreased activation in an area of the prefrontal cortex associated with rumination and mental illness. Higher vegetation cover is associated with a lower prevalence of depression and anxiety. Even potted plants have been found to increase the quality of life for employees in office settings.

What’s in a Dose of Nature?

Nature has the power to make us feel better, but what is it about being outside that has this effect?

Species Richness and Biodiversity

“Nature is not biodiversity, nor a proxy for biodiversity, but certainly encompasses biodiversity.”

Sandifer et al., 2015

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Increasingly, researchers are investigating the relationship between biodiversity in green spaces and psychological benefits. Several studies have found significant associations between higher plant and bird diversity and positive mental effects. A 2007 study by Fuller et al. found a positive correlation between plant species richness and participants’ sense of identity and ability to reflect. The 312 participants were fairly accurate at assessing plant species richness, which muddies causality. The question then becomes: are the benefits derived from species richness or perceived species richness?

Here’s another study to elaborate on that distinction. Researchers here found that psychological benefits of nature exposure were correlated not with biodiversity, but with participants’ perception of biodiversity only. In this study, participants were apparently not at all good at estimating species richness, and it affected their experience of being outside, regardless of how many species were actually present.

Frequency and Duration

So it seems that the more varied and species-rich the environment, the better. But is glancing out a window now and then the same as going for a walk outside, psychologically? I’d say no, but that doesn’t mean that short exposures to nature don’t benefit us. After all, just a 40-second break to look at a green, plant-filled roof has been shown to improve attention and performance on cognitive tasks, as compared to a break of the same length with views of concrete roofs.

In a sample of over 1500 Australian respondents, longer duration of nature excursions is associated with decreased prevalence of depression and high blood pressure. More frequent visits to public green spaces are associated with a greater sense of social cohesion, which I imagine contributes positively to mental health in general.

Criticisms

Few studies on this topic take an epidemiological approach, leading some to point out that we have very little data on long-term, population-level health effects of nature exposure. Criticisms of some studies also include sample size, lack of adequate controls, and statistical rigor. However, the number of studies that demonstrate a correlation between nature exposure and psychological benefit vastly outweigh the number of studies that show no relationship. While this does not negate the weaknesses mentioned previously, it does seem to suggest that there is validity to the idea that nature is emotionally beneficial.

The Daffodils are Blooming

All the signs that winter is ending are here; the daffodils are blooming, more birds are singing, the neighbors are cleaning out their garage, and before spring really gets underway, Colorado is scheduled to get one or two more last-minute dumps of snow.

Speaking of, now that I’ve gotten myself extra excited to get outside and let my brain soak in the wonderful sights, sounds, and smells of spring, it’s time to prepare myself for tonight’s snowstorm.

Dear Spring, please hurry.

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The Weekly Plan: Structure and Expectations

I recently wrote a post about SPD and dyspraxia, in which I mentioned using a weekly plan to help me deal with uncertainty and change. In all honesty, I haven’t used my weekly plan in a while, so I’m hoping that reflecting on what worked for me and what didn’t might encourage me to get back into it.

How to Make a Weekly Plan

There really isn’t one right way to make a weekly plan. I like to create mine with an hourly-organized template so that I can schedule each part of my day. It helps me stay on track and prevent procrastination. Sometimes I take more of a loose, overarching goal approach where I identify a couple of tasks per day or week that I want to accomplish, and then fit those in around my normal routine.

I’ve tried a paper planner and a digital notes app, and I’d say I prefer the digital method; I can refer to it anytime because, like a typical millennial, I’m never far from my phone. It’s also easy to alter by replacing items or copy and pasting them to another day/list. The digital method also appeals to me because replacing tasks leaves no evidence of the previous one, as with paper and pen, which brings me to another point:

Pitfalls

I had to dedicate several weeks to trial and error when starting my weekly plans as part of my occupational therapy. I tend to avoid making choices as much as is humanly possible (thanks, sensory discrimination challenges), so when I’m faced with a decision like “digital or paper?” I won’t know which one I prefer until I try both and compare them.

Rigidity

Here, we come back to the “digital changes leave no trace”. This is a relic of my own high expectations for myself and my reluctance to change plans. I found that erasing (or worse- crossing out) tasks in my weekly plan when I couldn’t complete them brought on a sense of guilt and failure. Nevermind that imposed the plan in the first place and may have bitten off more than I could chew. Once it’s in the plan, I have to do it, right? Nope- moving things around and postponing some tasks is often necessary. Something takes longer than you anticipated, an unexpected problem arises, or you’re really just not up for tackling a particular task that day. I think eventually, I’ll get better at finding the balance of flexibility and rigidity, but until then, a digital format works best for me. That way, I don’t have to see the faint outlines of my overly ambitious, past plans.

Too Much Detail

Honestly, this is still something I struggle with. It’s tricky to know how much is reasonable to plan into one day, especially because, as with the previous section, sometimes things come up and you’ve got to shift gears. When I started figuring out my weekly plans, I started seeing improvements in my productivity, and consequently, my mood. Riding the wave of that success, I was perhaps a bit overzealous in my weekly planning and crammed as much detail as possible into each day. Every hour was occupied by some task, either work-related or relaxation-related. (You can imagine that that approach wasn’t very conducive to relaxation.) Ultimately, too much detail would lead me to fall “behind” on my plan, start to feel discouraged, and sometimes just give up on the day altogether. Now, I like to leave a buffer zone around work tasks and intentionally leave at least a couple of hours empty to take care of little chores or just sit around and do nothing.

My Ideal Plan with Sensory Processing Disorder

I think that anyone can benefit from a weekly plan; even if you try it and decide it’s not for you, you’ll likely learn something about yourself in the process.

I’m over-responsive to a lot of stimuli, and I have some issues with discriminating sensory information, so I do best with predictability. Routine is how I function best, and spur-of-the-moment action makes me anxious. For me, my ideal weekly plan is one that looks pretty similar to the previous week’s. Whether I write it out or keep it in my head, my day-to-day routine is remarkably consistent; and that’s how I like it. For someone who seeks more stimulation, this might be incredibly dull, so it’s certainly not for everyone. I keep most of what I do every day the same, and then sprinkle in equal amounts of fun and dreaded tasks. Going to the dentist on Tuesday? Make Wednesday a library day. Need to go grocery shopping? Pick up a treat as a reward. When things start to get a little too consistent, I go back to the drawing board and make an effort to incorporate new activities.

Extra Tips

  1. Keep a running to-do list for when you’re at a loss for what to do.
  2. Pick a day of the week to sit down and plan the next one.
  3. Break large tasks down into smaller chunks to be accomplished over time.
  4. Don’t take it too seriously- it’s a tool, not a rule.

Dyspraxia, SPD, and Change

If you’ve ever spent time around small children, you might be familiar with the sneaky tactic that is framing decisions with acceptable options. Asking a toddler if they want three pieces of broccoli or four somehow bypasses the part where they say they want cake, instead. For as long as I can remember, my mother has given me options from which to choose, but not because she was trying to shepherd me towards a healthy decision. It’s more because if she didn’t do that, we’d likely still be waiting for me to decide what to eat on my fifth birthday. I’m twenty-two. Dyspraxia as a symptom of SPD is and has been a roadblock for me for a long time.

What is Dyspraxia?

Dyspraxia falls under the Sensory-Based Motor Disorder subtype of Sensory Processing Disorder. People with SPD often have a combination of affected sensory systems that lead to symptoms in one or more SPD subtypes. The STAR Institute for Sensory Processing Disorder sums it up this way:

“Individuals with Dyspraxia have trouble processing sensory information properly, resulting in problems planning and carrying out new motor actions. They may have difficulty in forming a goal or idea, planning a sequence of actions or performing new motor tasks.”

A Few Tips for Dealing with Dyspraxia

As an adult with symptoms of dyspraxia, I notice that decision-making, in particular, is often difficult. Even small decisions, like which brand of cornbread mix to buy can leave me scratching my head in the baking aisle for way too long. Bigger decisions, like where to go to college resulted in a stressful, last-minute choice after months of deliberation. Here are a few of the ways I tackle everyday and not-so-everyday decisions.

  1. Make a list of the options: (my OT calls this a “menu”)
  2. Decide what you can handle at that moment: (Am I only considering something because other people expect me to?)
  3. Ask for support
  4. Take a break and come back to it
  5. Put it in perspective: (Is it crucial that I make the “right” choice? E.g. the cornbread dilemma)
  6. Plan ahead!

When I started occupational therapy, one of the things we worked on was creating a weekly plan. Since spontaneity is not my strong suit, planning in activities ahead of time makes it more likely that I’ll follow through. Now that I have an established routine, I don’t make a plan every week, but it’s a good fall-back option for when I’m in a rut. It’s also great for when big changes are happening; a new job, moving, even the holidays are well-known for disrupting routines and causing stress. With symptoms of dyspraxia, life changes can be completely overwhelming, so tackling decisions ahead of time can make coping so much easier.

Last, But Not Least

drawing-of-girl-looking-at-surreal-landscape-with-bees-surrounding-herMy final tip (one that I’m still working on, myself) is to be as patient and nonjudgmental about dyspraxia as possible. I still get frustrated with myself for being slow to make decisions or reluctant to try new things, but it helps to remind myself of why those things are difficult for me. It also allows me to more easily support myself before and after unavoidable, sudden changes. After all, routines are great, but life can be pretty unpredictable. Knowing how to handle disruptions is always a good skill to have, even if it is a work in progress.

scale-from-more-bad-to-less-bad-ranking-depression-as-potatoes

The Potato Scale of Depression

I’m prone to an almost crippling inability to verbalize my feelings. Some of that is because of Sensory Processing Disorder, and some is probably due to depression and other factors, like my need to feel capable and independent, which results in me pretending I have no feelings whatsoever and consequently getting no practice in identifying them, but the point is: metaphors. I love ’em.

For inexplicable reasons, I find it so much easier to say “everything is mashed potatoes” than to say “I’m lost in a fog of dissociation and depression”. (Actually, come to think of it, that second one is also a metaphor, but you get the idea.) Hence: The Potato Scale of Depression.

It’s Not a Good Scale (But it Kind of Is)

Roughly ten months ago, I really did tell my friends “everything is mashed potatoes”, and thus, The Scale was born. Unlike other scales, there are no numbers, no frowny faces, and no defined increments between items. In other words, it’s a terrible scale. There’s no way to objectively determine how someone is feeling based on the potato scale of depression, but it worked for me during a time when talking about my feelings was both very difficult and very important. It became a kind of inside joke, and my friends would ask me “how are the taters?” and I’d respond with some arbitrary, starchy answer:

“Tots”, or “potato pancakes”, or “undercooked hash browns”, or “just the eyes”.

They’re all utterly meaningless answers, but they started a conversation. We’d debate the relative positive and negative qualities of each dish, and it served (pun intended) to connect us when all I wanted to do was withdraw.

Laughter = The Okayest Medicine

Eventually, I became more comfortable with talking about my emotions. A silly scale opened the door (metaphors are everywhere) to talking about how I really feel. Sometimes using humor to defuse stressful situations and topics gets a bad rap, but it’s incredibly common. Plus, research shows that the right kind of humor can have a protective effect against recurring depression. The adaptive forms of humor (self-enhancing and affiliative) are associated with emotion regulation and positive mental health. The maladaptive forms of humor are the aggressive and self-defeating types. I could probably dedicate an entire post to why I think suicide jokes aren’t funny or healthy, but this is a post about a nonsensical tuber scale. So- perhaps another time. Back to the adaptive humor:

In consequence, an individual can successfully distance himself/herself from a negative situation and appraise its meaning from a less distressing point of view.

When you mentally distance yourself from a negative situation, you’re creating what researchers call “metacognitive awareness“, where thoughts and behaviors are interpreted as “mental events, rather than as the self”. Mental illnesses can often be associated with feelings of guilt and inadequacy, which is why it’s important to take a step back and remember that your symptoms are not character flaws. This has become a regular mantra for me, and anytime I start thinking badly of myself for my symptoms, I turn it around with I’m not lazy, I’m just soggy hashbrowns right now. Y’know, the kind that maybe didn’t get cooked enough, so now they’re getting cold and seeping oil onto your toast. Depending on your humor preferences, this might border on maladaptive, but it reminds me to not get bogged down in a temporary feeling or judgment. And really, what potato dish isn’t still delicious, no matter how poorly cooked?

Depression Scales: PHQ9, Who?

The Potato Scale of Depression is obviously not a tool that will ever be used in any kind of professional setting, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t be beneficial. Maybe potatoes aren’t your thing, and some other metaphor would be more helpful. Whatever it is, I know that for me, finding a less clinical way to communicate how I feel has made it way easier to do so.

May you all have curly fries and solid taters for the foreseeable future.

Some Thoughts on Running

CW: mentions of self-harm

Sometimes I run because it’s when I feel strongest. I run because I love the feeling of my muscles working beneath my skin, my breath matched to my stride. Breathe in for three steps, breathe out for three steps. I love the sense of accomplishment, knowing that my body can carry me further than I think it can. Sometimes I run because it gives me joy. The simple pleasure of the wind in my hair and the sun on my face, moving with a body I’m thankful for. My body is a canvas for my mental state; when I’m well, I run for the joy of it. When I’m unwell, I run because it’s just another way to hurt myself. I run because at mile three I’m still thinking about cutting, but by mile five my brain is numb. Breathe in for three steps. Breathe out for three steps. I run because maybe if I can push my body to obey me, my brain might follow suit. I run because to be exhausted is to be empty, and where could my depression have gone except to have been left behind on the path? Expelled by my lungs, my racing heart, my wrung-out muscles. I run because it makes me feel good, and because sometimes, it makes me feel nothing at all.

Love, 

Your Brain