A Confusing Session

“Storm windows.”

“Sorry; what?”

“That’s it. That’s what I live behind!”

Matt Burdsall, PhD, moved from his leaning-forward mirrored-glasses scrutinization into a leaning-back mirrored-glasses scrutinization.

“Your glasses made me think of it.”

Dr. Burdsall attempted to keep his expression neutral. This new patient, Holly Runner, was a curious one. First, she’d explained Social Anxiety as, “Party Aversion,” then she’d said her Passive-Aggressive mother had, “Tangled Trauma.” He’d needed his daughter to explain that Tangled was a film…

Now storm windows. *Ahem* “How so?”

“Well!” Holly sounded excited. “Whenever bad things -storms- come up, I block them! Ta-da! Storm windows!”

copy-of-working-template-for-ff-challenges2.png

Written for Carrot Ranch‘s prompt, (you guessed it) storm windows.

 

©2019 Chelsea Owens

Throwback Thursday: The Pit of My Mind

Originally posted at The Bipolar Writer Collaborative Mental Health Blog in April of 2018. If you think it’s depressive; yes, it is.

A spotlight coming from a hole in a dark underground cave in Minorca

“Chelsea? Chelsea?” I don’t look up.

Wendy the counselor waits; I assume she waits patiently. She’s going to have to wait for a while, if she thinks waiting will get a response from me. I may be as mentally distant from her, the room, and life as possible; but, I smugly acknowledge, I still have my stubbornness.

“Chelsea?” She tries again, though not pleading or cajoling. The woman is too good at her job. Her paid job. The one I’m paying her to do. “I can come in there after you, if you need me to, but I want you to find a way out on your own.”

Fat. Chance.

I’m ugly. No one actually cares about me, least of all her. I’m paying her; she’s a paid friend. She doesn’t want to to see my face; my red, splotchy, tear-stained face, with stringy, greasy hair and imperfect, crooked teeth…

“Whatever you’re telling yourself right now is not true.” I hear, from a distance. “You need to stop listening to that voice, and meet each untruth with the more positive truth.”

Whatever. I’ve heard aphorisms before. know that my “voice” is the truth: the UGLY truth, yes; but the HONEST one. No one really cares. No one really cares. No one. People standing outside my pit, calling to me, don’t really want to be there. And, they are ignorant twits.

Whenever someone leans over the edge of The Pit I wait. “You don’t actually care!” I yell, from somewhere near the bottom, out of sight of any penetrating light. Occasionally, they take the bait; they lean closer. Grabbing them like a mud-pit crocodile, I drag them down with me to their doom.

“Wha-?” They manage, before getting a faceful of mud, moss, roots, overplayed apps, and wrappers from an entire package of Fun Size Snickers.

Believe me, that size of chocolates was not as “fun” as they said.

Soon enough, I have amassed a small pile of hapless prey. Almost all of them are not strangers; they’re me: Optimistic Me, Tried That Day Me, Motivated Me, lots of Medicated Me’s, Broke the Habit Me, and even Did Something Worthwhile Me. They’re not as big or strong as Me in The Pit, of course, which is why they’re lying, broken, at the bottom.

Balancing carefully, I decide to climb atop the living pile of bodies. They moan slightly, too down-trodden and depressed to fight back.

Knowing me, I’d probably kick them if they did fight. It’s easier to kick another down than help myself up.

Slowly, precariously, my head reaches sunlight. I climb higher, ignoring the complaints below. Helpful Me, the poor sucker, proffers a handy boost with her unbroken leg. Soon I see the top of the hole; I’m looking at ground level.

“Wow,” I breathe.

A slight, sweet-tasting breeze tickles my exposed face. A completely careless birdsong whistles down from a nearby tree. I see light, clear skies, beautiful landscapes. I can almost touch rough twigs and mossy ground. Almost.

A low shot of green underbrush in a forest under a bright sun

It’s not real, someone I know, inside, tells me.

“Come out,” my counselor requests. Still waiting. Perhaps she’s eyeing Medicated Me, just beneath a dirty sneaker, when she adds, “Medication is never meant to be taken on its own. Studies are clear that any treatment must include therapy.”

The breeze tastes of rain, as well. Storms will come, maybe soon. That whistling bird is a sitting duck for a hawk or fox, singing so anything can hear it. The impending storms will mar the sky -look! See? A cloud is already blocking the sun. The twigs and moss are not actually there. I’m sure they’re just fake craft-store props.

It’s too much.

I climb or stumble or intentionally fall back to the dark comforts beneath me. We all roll or crawl or drag ourselves to muddy positions as I select the easiest numbing solution nearby.

“Don’t do this,” I think I hear, from far away. Wendysomething?

You didn’t, Depressed Me says.

“Let’s play Fallout,” Addicted to Apps Me suggests. A few others perk up a bit in agreement. I acquiesce, and we all wait for it to load. We really ought to fix the WiFi in The Pit, but Motivated Me is still recovering from a concussion.

“Can I have a Snickers?” Pig Me asks. I hand her the bag. Thank goodness for home delivery, otherwise we might starve.

 

Photo Credits:
unsplash-logoJez Timms
unsplash-logoDeva Darshan
unsplash-logoIan Chen
unsplash-logoJanus Clemmensen

 

©2019 Chelsea Owens

The Cure for Depression: Eat Healthy

Good morning/afternoon/evening/midnight/snacktime everyone! I am ready to very professionally talk to you about one of my favorite subjects: food.

Fruit smoothies in glasses topped with pieces of fruit and marigold flowers

I just spent ten luxurious minutes searching for food pictures, and now I’m hungry. There are so many pictures of food! WHY are there so many?

Duh. Food is life.

That, and it’s delicious. During one of my no-sugar diets, I sagely told a friend, “I’ve decided the problem with chocolate is that it tastes good.” I hope I come up with better quotes when I’m not dieting.

So…. why bother monitoring what we stuff in our faces? This is one of those answers that we all know, like how we ought to be getting outside more, or exercising. We know that eating well is better for our health.

Anyone with food issues like me also knows that an entire bag of Snicker’s ‘fun’ size is really appealing at depressive moments. As appetizing as a picture of odd fruits with flowers (why flowers?) is, I’m apt to choose something meatier and fattier and baddier.

Oooh yeah. People don’t believe me when I tell them I like meat and have issues in general, because I periodically diet and usually exercise. And if random good behavior keeps me looking passable, then you have my personal assurances that such a plan will work for you.

First, let’s list why eating well is such a great idea:

  1. Vitamins, minerals, nutrients, madeupwordients are ESSENTIAL for complex creatures such as us. They’re our fuel.
  2. Eating the right things really helps to not get sick often.
  3. A balanced diet definitely helps with mental illness. Seriously, Google found me so much proof -like on a Harvard Health blog.

Hmmm… I probably should have put #3 first. I blame not eating breakfast yet.

“Put simply, what you eat directly affects the structure and function of your brain and, ultimately, your mood” (Harvard Health Blog).

Oops. I’m just gonna hide this bag of …Snicker’s. *crinkle* *crinkle* Hey, look at this beautiful picture of a salad!

Right-o. We know that good food is good. Most of us know that, from our childhood years of basic nutrition education. If not -hey! I taught you something new!

The tricky part is application. Take one little tiny baby step with me here:

You don’t have to starve yourself and only eat rabbit food.

In fact, if weight loss alone is your goal, you can eat only McDonald’s and still shed pounds. McDonald’s, even the salad, is NOT healthy; just so’s you know. Processed foods tend to not be. And, you have to put up with only Mickey D’s for six months which would be hell for me.

I likes my variety, and you can too!

Rambling point: Small Step #1 is to eat less* overall. You can feed your OCD tendencies if you have them and write down how many calories if you wish. Use a website or app to estimate what your daily calorie burn is, then eat less of that each day. Eat a little less; we’re not encouraging any anorexia here.

*Eating less than what you burn leads to weight loss. Ignore this advice if you are already at a good weight. In that case, eat close to what you burn in order to maintain.

Small Step 2 is when you eat. Your body will burn calories or hang onto them differently at different times of day and different times of year. Generally, avoid eating after 8:00 p.m. and/or two hours before sleeping. Eating later not only helps the food stick around, it makes you less comfortable and more depressed.

On the same page, make sure you are stuffing your face at regular mealtimes. I also need to eat between meals, like a hobbit. I keep the calorie count low (see Step 1), but don’t starve.

Step 3 is what you eat. If you consider lettuce a food fit for hopping creatures, that’s totally cool. I especially understand if you only ever eat iceberg lettuce; that crap is just water. Get yourself the more green and leafy varieties like Romaine, wrap your protein in it, and salt and pepper the thing.

Everyone has some foods he/she likes that he/she knows are healthy. If not, buy some of your friend’s favorites and sneakily eat them in your closet. I won’t tell. At the end of such an experiment, you will have a few that you can stomach.

Use the old internet for searches like “low-calorie recipes,” “healthy snacks,” and “edible and appetizing ways to prepare kale.” -Okay, that last one was a joke.

I recommend AGAINST anal counting of minerals and vitamins and whatnot because it’s a very tricky process that is probably not entirely accurate. Fresh foods have a different value than ones that have been canned, dried, frozen, or covered in chocolate to actually make them taste good.

The advice I follow myself is to lower sugars and white flours and rices, keep the calories low, and include a treat in that count. If you’re following my earlier advice to exercise, you’ll need the extra calories.

A good Step 4 is to cut out stimulants and booze. Ya know, like coffee and alcohol. I think this is a great step, but I don’t touch the stuff myself and therefore wouldn’t presume to lecture you on how to do so. There are plenty of internet and local areas to help, however. (Like, the addiction national helpline, if it’s that serious: 1-800-662-HELP [4357].)

You’re probably thinking I’m crazy, but I thought the same thing when my paid friend told me she hadn’t consumed sugar since 2003. She still has valid ideas in many other categories, so I’ll probably keep seeing her.

As a final note, I don’t even have to be an expert to mention a vital consumable related to eating well: drinking well. As a human, you need water.

Water is life, more so than food even.

I live in a desert environment, and even I skimp on the “recommended amount.” That’s because I don’t like using the bathroom all day. I’ve been told that regular, consistent drinking of water should make that problem disappear.

Wherever you live, make sure you drink water. It improves skin, helps organ function, helps singers sound better, and keeps you from dying.

So, class, let’s get started today. Keep your diet tasty, consistent, and manageable. Drink your water. These simple steps will help you be better able to fight those depressive tendencies.

This has been a part of our Cure for Depression series. Tune in next time, and we’ll talk about joy.

 

Photo Credits:
Brooke Lark
Haseeb Jamil
Vitchakorn Koonyosying
Lacey Williams
Yasuo Takeuchi

 

*Chelsea Owens is not a licensed anything, except a Class D driver in her home state, and shares all information and advice from personal experience and research.

The Cure for Depression: Get Outside

I can’t believe I plan on spending an entire post on this obvious tip, but …I can count on two fingers the number of times I walked around in Mother Nature last week. Clearly, some of us are not practicing what we preach.

Therefore, I’m totes going to push the advantages of getting outside:

  1. Nature’s pretty. This prettiness helps instill happiness and inspirational thoughts that just might lead to award-winning poetry (though, you may want to only tell those poems to yourself).
  2. It smells nice, if you’re somewhere like a park. I’ve heard you might need air to breathe, too, so bonus!
  3. As a human with skin (unless you have solar urticaria), you need sunlight to soak up UV rays and make Vitamin D.
  4. Happy sun rays combat Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).
  5. Time outside has a buttload of benefits for your mind. We’re talking improved short-term memory, mental energy, concentration, sharper thinking and creativity, and overall mental health.
  6. Walking outdoors lowers depression and perceived stress, according to a study at the University of Michigan.

It’s highly possible your backyard doesn’t look like this. Does that mean that you shouldn’t even bother? NO!

Waaay back a full year ago when I started talking to my counselor, she gave me this one direction: “Get outside.”

“But… but, the kids…” (Me, making excuses.)

“No.” (Her, the one paid to help me.) “Tell your husband that I said to drop everything and go outside. Grab some food from McDonald’s or something, go to a park, and just sit out there.”

And she was right.

I don’t care if you slip yourself out the side door at lunchtime, if you sneak out before kids are awake, if you walk home because you missed the bus, or if you decide to go camping and sleep all night where our ancestors did -just grab some time and DO IT.

Since we’re about starting small, just tell yourself you’re going to hang out for a few minutes. Next, try 15. Ideally, we’ll work up to 30 minutes as a minimum daily exposure. Who knows? Maybe you’ll feel so inspired we’ll have to drag you back to cavedom.

If you’re fair-skinned and/or burn easily, put on some sunscreen. Otherwise, go to it with my blessing.

Of all the expensive, time-consuming, stressful things people consider for helping with mental issues; this is the best because it’s FREE.

Seriously, just look at that. What are you waiting for?

Becca Tapert
Jannis Brandt
Kym

 

*Chelsea Owens is not a licensed anything, except a Class D driver in her home state, and shares all information and advice from personal experience and research.

The Cure for Depression: Get a Paid MEDICAL Friend

A few weeks back, I wrote about 14ish items that help “cure” Depression. Shortly after, I covered connecting with a human and getting a paid friend.

I realized, however, that I did not have information regarding a medical friend (AKA a psychiatrist). Therefore, the post you’re reading RIGHT NOW is Item 2a on that 14 item list, as an amendment to the one before it.

A moving freight train on railroad tracks on a cloudy day

Let’s back the runaway train of thought up just a tad so you can get on:
Do you or a loved one experience some reactions to life situations that interfere with normal behavior?

We’re talking inability to leave the house, extreme anxiety to the point of a raised heart rate and panic, thoughts of suicide, and/or manic and depressive episodes.

Honestly, I could go on and on. I could name ev’ry depressive phenomenon… but there are many, many possible symptoms to consider. I highly suggest you follow my second advice to get a paid friend.

But… should you consider a psychologist or a psychiatrist? They are more than a few letters’ difference.

All of my personal experience has been with the former; of the familiae Counselor or the subclass Therapist. That’s not to say I don’t have any knowledge of psychiatrists. I have several family members and friends who have talked to me about them, plus my flash internet education just a few minutes ago (don’t worry; I read fast).

Sigmund Freud, by Max Halberstadt (cropped).jpg

One website I read over said that psychiatrists are a good choice because they attend medical school first. After all that work, their residency is specifically in psychiatry. They’re a doctor who understands your brain better than a zombie would, and can use a medical foundation with any treatment plans.

One family member I read over, however, says the psychiatrist is only there to write her prescriptions.

I know some psychiatrists who fit a little of both, and I think you can find a really great one. How? Even if you go more with the psychologist route; consider these tips:

  1. Get your regular doctor or counselor to give you a referral. Heck, maybe they go to a psychiatrist.
  2. Check if your insurance covers anyone and who that person might be.
  3. Internet stalk the recommended psychoperson to learn their credentials.
  4. Read about their work experience. If you suspect your cocktail of symptoms are Bipolar related, you may not want to visit a guy who says he’s good with eating disorders.
  5. Think about whether you want a dude or a chick. I prefer females, myself, as they empathize with my goings-on.
  6. Read through their internet ratings. You simply don’t want to go with the 1 star blender.

(By the by, I lifted these ideas from Health Grades.)

Psychiatrists have the legal ability to write prescriptions. Whether that’s mainly what they do or no, you’ll need them (or a regular medical doctor) if your symptoms could really use the help of medication.

If you’re unsure, feel intimidated, or don’t want to even think about medication; that’s totally cool. We’re about small steps, remember? Talk to someone you trust first. That may lead to feeling comfortable enough to ask your medical doctor about a psychologist. Said doctor or counselor might know a psychiatrist they play golf with on Saturdays.

Start small. Ask for what you need. You are worth it.

 

Photo credits:
Ankush Minda

Image Two from wikimedia commons
Amazon sells blenders

 

*Chelsea Owens is not a licensed anything, except a Class D driver in her home state, and shares all information and advice from personal experience and research.

The Cure for Depression: Get a Paid Friend

Sup, yo? I’m here to talk about my second suggestion from The Cure for Depression: the most amazing elixir to not actually exist and is therefore really a list of 14ish items that seriously help.

I need to work on my advertising taglines. Let’s try again:

Are you suffering from Depression? Do you think you might be? If yes or no; you’re reading this article, so there’s a good chance you don’t want to stay down in your hole.

You could use professional help.

“But… but, I don’t know who to talk to!”
I don’t either. I’m not you, sitting on your floor, living in your town, with or without your health benefits. That’s Google’s responsibility. -Google, or your old enemy Facebook.
Open up ye olde FB, and type something like “Hey guys, do you know a good counselor? Asking for a friend.” You’re not really lying because you should be your own best friend, right?
If that’s too intense, text a close friend. I literally did this to my neighbor, out of the blue, and got one of the best therapists I’ve ever been to (and, believe me, I’ve been to two in my life).

I have no way to pay for services.”
-I don’t, either. I’m a moocher off my husband. It’s not even covered by our health insurance, so there goes this year’s family trip and a few months of groceries. As he says, “It’s cheaper than divorce.” He’s sweet like that.
Do not get me started, rambling, and still cursing about health insurance. Even in America where I live, it has issues. I do happen to know that options exist out there. Use your friend, the internet, to look into what you can get.
If you’re religious, many ecclesiastical leaders are willing to help with what they can.
If you have parents, try asking them. Maybe they can at least let you live downstairs for another decade while you get to a better place.
If you have a rich great aunt, hope that she knocks off sooner than later. Okay; just kidding about that one.

“What if the person I get sucks?”
-Find a new person. It’s your hard-earned money (or, your great aunt’s). If you’re stuck picking from a certain office or a specific list, try asking the nurses who they think is good for what you’re experiencing.

“I can’t open up to a therapist or counselor. What if s/he judges me?”
-I may have this exact problem. Still. I am the slowest person ever, I’m sure; because I finally start opening up at the END of the session. Sometimes, I close off at the end. I’m a mixed bag of self-protective measures, really.
I keep going back to my paid friend because THIS IS HER JOB. She is supposed to “judge me,” because she’s trying to help me. She’s super nice so would probably want to help anyway, but she is also there because I’m paying her.

“Insert your excuse here.”
-Nope, not going to buy it. Do what I said. Try, try again.

Think of it this way: A counselor, therapist, or psychologist is like a tightrope instructor. Instead of tightrope walking the way you have for (possibly) YEARS now, why not pay a person who knows? After a few sessions, you may think, So I wasn’t supposed to be doing it UPSIDE-DOWN this whole time! Who knew?!

You’ve tried it your way. A paid friend can show you a better way.

In terms of a more advanced paid friend, aka a psychiatrist, I’m afraid I have no experience in this regard. I’ll do some more research, and get back with you next week.

Go get a counselor if you don’t have one. A good one is worth it because YOU ARE worth it.

 

Photo Credits
rawpixel
Casey Horner

 

*Chelsea Owens is not a licensed anything, except a Class D driver in her home state, and shares all information and advice from personal experience and research.

The Cure for Depression

Step right up, folks! Step right up!

Come feast your eyes on this marvelous tonic; right here, right now. What you may think is a simple bottle is actually the most secret of formulas from the Jungles of the East; from the hand of Marvelodijiling, the famed Healer and only man to live past 200 years of age without a health problem of any sort.

This is The Cure for Depression.

It is, indeed. You may shake your head at me, madame. You may wonder at the authenticity, young sir. I assure ALL that this product is exactly as it says. One simple dose each day will GUA-RAN-TEE to rid you of the woes of Depression.

Labelled glass bottles with various powders and liquids

…And if that sales pitch convinced you, then you and I need to have a long talk.

Actually, we can have a really short talk: Depression doesn’t work like that. For one, it isn’t “cured.” It is, however, a condition that CAN be managed once you learn the skills. This depends on the severity of symptoms and genetics and a whole crapload of stuff that would best be handled by a professional.

I am not a professional; at least, not that kind. I am merely a fellow sufferer with access to Google. I have, therefore, come up with a list:

1. Connect with a human.

2. Connect with a paid human; also known as a counselor, psychologist, therapist, and perhaps a psychiatrist.

3. Swallow that pill, if necessary.

4. Get up, then move.

5. Get outside.

6. Eat something healthy.

7. Do something that brings you real joy.

8. If it doesn’t fit in with #7, do something for someone.

9. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.

10. Sleep, at sleeping times. Wake at morning times.

11. Follow a routine.

12. Meditate, pray, journal, etc.

13. Don’t get sloppy and don’t skip what works.

14. Never give up. (Never surrender.)

Whenever you’re in your cave, I’d like you to pull out this list. Grab one; do it. Maybe steal another after an hour of trying the first one.

Furthermore, I’m gonna help a brother/sister/broster/sisther out by writing individual articles about each of these ideas. It’ll be a tetradecalogy. Stick around; eat some chocolate.

Come for the treats, stay for the community, and live life for the future you.

 

Originally posted at The Bipolar Writer Mental Health Blog on May 28, 2018. I intend to publish one of these articles each week.

 

Photo Credit:
Matt Briney

 

*Chelsea Owens is not a licensed anything, except a Class D driver in her home state, and shares all information and advice from personal experience and research.