30 Days of Isolation health life mental health

30 days of isolation: Day 1 of social distancing

To be fair, this doesn’t really start with day one of isolation. We’ve been social distancing for a while now. However, stay-at-home orders have been extended to April 30, and things have started getting more and more “locked down” for lack of a better term, so why not start with April 1. That is, after all, when it started feeling more isolated, more solitary, more alone. It’s not all bad, though. You’ll see.

Day 1: 4.1.20

April 1, as you know, is April Fool’s Day. A day where we play (usually) harmless tricks on each other and post incorrect Instagram or Facebook posts as a joke. This year, there was a black cloud over it all. Companies and celebrities tried their best to be light-hearted and post silly things, which was nice, but it just wasn’t the same. This year, the biggest, cruelest joke of all is that we are stuck inside, stuck at home, just stuck. Unfortunately, there was no one shouting “APRIL FOOLS!!!” at any point so that we could go back to normal. Alas, we are making it work.

Social Distancing isn’t all bad

I've been training for social distancing my whole life.

As I said to someone the other day: I have been training for this my whole life. I am an introvert by nature, so having to stay home and do things, for me, is like a dream come true. I love working on things around the house – yes, even cleaning. Staying home opened up a whole new world of opportunity for me to deep clean and organize and just be the homebody I was meant to be. I love it. In fact, there have been several times when my fiance asked me to go to the store with him or somesuch – and I opted to stay home. I just… like it here.

I am also blessed beyond measure to work for a job where I am able to work from home – which I absolutely love. If it was up to me, I’d work from home most of the time. I love the Zoom meetings and the emails and the distance. I feel much more at ease interacting electronically than I do personally, so this has been a Godsend. The only downside is that every Zoom meeting is an opportunity for me to see that I have exceeded the maximum number of chins. And social distancing doesn’t help with the whole “healthy eating” thing, either. But that’s another discussion.

Grateful I can shine

The point is, I am fortunate, and I know it. I am grateful to God daily for that. I’m also thrilled to be able to finally shine a bit brighter at my job. As the introverted number nerd, I spend a lot of time in my office, doing my introverted number nerd thing. I’m also the “techie” in my office, so when someone needs tech help with things like Excel or Zoom or a Learning Management System, they call me. The instances are usually few and far between… until now.

Now, I’m the one everyone needs just to make things work – and I LOVE IT. I get to shine at my job and do it from home? HELL. YES. I feel valued and needed; smart and competent. It feels simply wonderful. So, of the several good things I can name regarding this stay-at-home order, that’s one of the best.

But it’s not all good, either.

If you’ve read any of my previous writing, you know I have anxiety – and it can get really bad. Usually, staying home is what helps quell the anxiety. My, how the tables have turned. At least, kind of. I don’t think it’s the “staying home” thing that has me anxious – it’s the lack of normalcy that has me on edge. Now, I’m staying home because I legitimately have something to fear.

For most people (as in more than 99%), Coronavirus is no more than a bad flu – in some very mild cases, even a bad cold. For me, though, it can be fatal. I am asthmatic – which is a chronic lung condition, and I also have autoimmune issues, which means my immune system doesn’t work the way it should. If I should catch the Coronavirus, it would likely kill me. That’s not hyperbole. I might die. I could go to the store for a loaf of bread, someone could cough, and a few weeks later, I could die.

Normally, this is the kind of situation my anxiety would cook up in my head to keep me from enjoying myself. Now, it’s very, very real. And it’s terrifying. I’m trying not to let it take over me, but it’s tough. Before, I could talk myself down by reminding myself that it isn’t real. Well, what do I do now? It’s very real. So, I just keep praying and finding peace in little things – and being as vigilant as possible when I go out somewhere.

Daily Social Distancing Affirmations

I could go on forever, but I won’t. I want to save something for future posts. However, all posts will have some simple lists at the end to sum up the day and may even help you get through. Heck, there may be some days that’s ALL that I have on the blog. Regardless, here we go:

Three things I am grateful for today:

  1. Tony, my fiance.
  2. My job
  3. My brain

Three things I accomplished today:

  1. Laundry
  2. Organizing and deep cleaning the bathroom
  3. A productive work meeting

Three things that made me happy today:

  1. Frasier
  2. My BoxyCharm box
  3. April Fools Instagram Jokes

Three ways I can make social distancing better tomorrow:

  1. Turn off the news
  2. No dumb nitpicky quarrels with my fiance
  3. Avoid political Instagram posts

Bible verse of the day:

Bible verse to help with social distancing anxieties
Bible Verse – Nahum 1:7

Nahum 1:7

The Lord is good; a strong refuge when trouble comes.

30 Days of Isolation health life mental health

30 days of isolation: joy and melancholy in solitude

I know, I know. Another blog about Coronavirus. Another whiny blogger bitching about the quarantine and not being able to go anywhere or do anything. Blah, blah, blah.

Then again, not really.

I’m not trying to browbeat you with ALL THE FEELS about this whole ordeal, but I will share what I’m doing to get through, how I’m feeling, and how my mental health and wellness are faring throughout it all. I’ll share in hopes that you can find some solidarity with me and me with you that you might not yet have found elsewhere. I’ll share in hopes that I might be able to offer some tips to deal with all this unsettling craziness out there right now.

Some days will be short posts – just to check in. Some days will be more heartfelt. The goal here is to write something, each and every day in April, to help make it through this new era of social distancing with a modicum of sanity and a whole ton of perspective. More than likely, the posts will be posted in the evenings or at night, as I am still working – albeit from home.

I hope you all are safe and healthy and well and are taking things seriously and staying home unless absolutely necessary. We need to be united, but separate. Let’s carry each other’s burdens as we trudge through this aloneness… together. Stay tuned.

mental health

Of love & depression.

Depression rarely comes by itself.  It’s not a single, sad kitty sitting on your doorstep – the kitty is a mom, and she brought her litter. Along with the depression and its recognizable and not-so-recognizable symptoms can come things like anxiety, panic, insomnia, mania (yes, mania), obsessive-compulsive behavior, and addictive behavior. Depression also has a tendency to bring with it the one thing that is most difficult to let go – the past. That past not only creeps in and steals our joy, but it also encourages us to hurt those we love. 

I am currently on the upswing from a recent depressive episode, but it was a pretty rough round.  I am used to most of it by now – I have been dealing with the rollercoaster for almost my whole life.  The one thing for which I was not ready was how it made me treat my boyfriend by way of transference and fear of abandonment.  Depression did not cause those feelings, it caused me to focus on all the negatives in the past, and that made me frightened and angry.  Thank God my boyfriend is as strong, patient, and understanding as he is.  

Too good to be depressed about.

Here’s the deal:  I have had quite a few shitty relationships.  I was manipulated, gaslighted, stalked, used, cheated on, and experienced abuse – mentally, physically, sexually – and I managed, with the help of my faith and my strength, to get through all of it and put it all behind me.  In my marriage, I was able to keep those things in the past because my marriage, while not contentious, was not the kind of relationship where I felt cherished and loved and scared to lose it.

I never bothered to even think that he might be any of those things because, quite frankly, it never occurred to me to worry about it.  I don’t know if that says more about him, me, or us, but it says to me that the relationship was not something I was scared to lose. It also says that he could not easily be considered “too good to be true.”

Too good… and too true.

I saw a meme once – and of course, I can’t find it right now – that said something to the effect of it’s pretty sad when you’re so used to shitty guys that when a good one comes along you don’t know how to handle it.  Well, I’ve got a good one.  He is so kind and patient and understanding that sometimes it is hard to believe.  However, he has done nothing to warrant suspicion. At all. He has proved himself to be genuine and sincere over and over again.  I know this. I know this down to my core… until depression comes along and says “HEY! Wait a second. I bet he didn’t just change his mind about dinner… I bet he was manipulating you.” 

Hey, depression: It was a friggin’ cheeseburger. Take a seat.

It has happened a few times, and each time when I was in the throes of depression or anxiety.  Those have also been the only times we fight… largely because it hurts him so much. I cannot stand that.  He truly has done nothing to deserve it, but during these times my depressed brain is spiraling into the oblivion of negativity and it is difficult to convince myself otherwise – until I see the hurt in his eyes. That hurt, as painful as it is for both of us, is what usually helps pull me out of the doldrums. 

Depression or discernment?

The difficult part about this is that we, women especially, often have an intuition that helps us recognize early signs of toxic behaviors. Discernment is key.  We have to learn to differentiate between actual toxic behavior and perceived toxic behavior. This is not easy, and I do not have any really great advice about how to do this.  You must be self-aware enough to know when you are experiencing anxiety or depression. Then you must learn to determine if these perceived toxic behaviors only seem to pop up during mental health struggles, or if they are constant. 

It is an arduous process, but one that can help save not only your relationship but your mental health. It can show you when your behavior is hurting the other person versus them hurting you. You are the only person who can differentiate.  Once you do, and you realize that it is the depression talking, then you need to recognize how you are hurting the other person and make changes to stop it.

Too much of a good thing.

See, we go online and on social media and see all these wonderful pieces of advice about how those of us with mental health issues need to focus on ourselves and take care of our mental and physical wellbeing and that we should not feel guilty about having a mental health issue. 

All of these things are true. However, I do not think it is the ONLY way to treat it. I think that we need to focus on how we are making other people feel. Not so that we feel guilty about it, but so that we can use it as a catalyst to get better, to change destructive thought patterns and behaviors, and to ultimately get on the right track toward overcoming the issues.  When our mental health is hurting the people we love, I think we should try to stop and notice and realize that so that we can use their love to help us fight the battles. 

The depression/self-focus cycle

We, as a society, have become exceptionally self-centered.  While there are a time and a place for this type of behavior, we simply cannot continue to function as if we are the only people who matter, and that our sole focus should be on ourselves. Yes, we need to take care of ourselves.  We need to make sure we are eating properly, exercising our bodies and minds, and getting rest. We need to take days off to reduce stress. However, we also need to look out for the wellbeing of others. No, we cannot pour from an empty vessel… but we have stopped pouring altogether.  

It is that very focus on ourselves that directly contributes to our mental health issues.  We focus so much on our own wellbeing that all we see is that which is “wrong” and that which we need to “fix.” We are not meant to focus solely on ourselves, we are designed to live in a “tribe,” a community, a group. We are designed to look out for one another. This is not only a religious viewpoint – it is also evolutionary.  

Again, I must reiterate – I am not saying that we should not take care of ourselves.  We MUST. At some point, though, we also must look around us and see how we are affecting others.  We must see if our depression can be helped simply by treating someone else with kindness and love.  Purpose treats depression. Having a reason – something that drives us – alleviates the symptoms and helps us push forward.  Do we still need medical help sometimes? Absolutely. But sometimes we are medicating that which only needs love. There is a balance, and we need to find it. 

On purpose.

For so long my purpose was myself, and that got me nowhere.  I spent so much time trying to better myself that all I kept finding were flaws – things that were depressing.  I have never been an unkind person, but I can become disinterested and moody – largely when I am depressed or anxious.  Now, however, I am in a relationship that makes me want to be better. I want to focus my attention on the man I love and revel in his love and support.  Most importantly, I do not want to hurt him. Will I get depressed and anxious? Sure. Loving someone isn’t a cure. What it is is an impetus. A reason.  A purpose.  

A happy, healthy, cooperative life together is the goal that will not be reached if depression gets in the way. So, when my brain starts sinking and focusing on the past and drumming up falsities about how this man is treating me, my attention must focus on treating him like the good man he is.  It must focus on making sure he is happy, and not just focus on myself. It’s that purpose, that reason, that goal that pulls me out every time.  

Find your purpose, something that you love.  Find a reason. If it is not another person, perhaps it is a hobby.  Perhaps it is a pet. Talk to your doctor, of course. Some medications may be required; I am not anti-meds.  However, no medicine can make you treat others well. There is not a magic pill that can turn your love and attention toward others’ feelings – but that’s what you need to do.  And If you focus on others, then you have far less time to think about what is “wrong” with yourself. Try it sometime.