Thursday, November 12, 2015

GOOD night





i've been wading through the darkness for a few months now; and today, for the first time, i feel fully alive. 

what i can't control pounds like the raging surf around me. it could knock me down and drag me under, or i could ride the waves to shore. the choice is mine, and i choose life.

this does NOT mean that i'm happy about any of this! i'm just slowly learning to make the most of that which is. 











Wednesday, November 11, 2015

KC's Top 10

I'm writing about depression again...yes, again. I wonder, though, if I'm even qualified to
give any advice on the topic at all. Some days are better than others, but inevitably I find
myself back where I started - fiercely struggling to get on the road and moving forward again.


Yes, I know what I should do; it's exactly what I've suggested you do in previous posts. But damn if it isn't almost impossible sometimes - like now.

I'm going through a very difficult time. A dear friend passed away unexpectedly about two months ago, and then in the beginning of October, a close family member became critically ill. I'm struggling to keep myself together and be strong, supportive, and optimistic. Some days, yes, I'm hopeful and energetic, and other days I'm just down and lethargic and feel hollow inside. 

Unlike amorphous depression disease I sometimes experience, this depression has an external source. And it won't just go away any time soon. I have two choices here: I can return to the Vortex and implode, or I can move forward one day at a time using some of the things I've found most helpful in the past.

Here then is what I'll try...


KC's Top 10 - not Casey Kasem's, but Karen Clarke's Top 10 steps out of depression:
  1. Shower, damn it! When I'm depressed, getting up and into the shower requires more energy than a NASA shuttle lift off.  
  2. Pray or meditate. Give it a try for a few minutes a day - even if you can't do more than that, you will in time see God's presence in your day.
  3. Get out of the house and go somewhere. Anywhere. Just get out and into the world - and hopefully into the sunshine - vitamin D and all...
  4. Blog. Or journal. Or talk to someone who will listen - just listen.
  5. Drink water, and limit caffeine and simple sugars. [But some is good for the soul too.] 
  6. NO mid-day napping.
  7. The "Power of 5": Break down tasks into fives. For example: do something for 5 minutes at a time; load or unload 5 dishes into or out of the dishwasher every time you enter the kitchen; put away 5 items every time you enter a room; read 5 pages at a time - or hell, 5 paragraphs - you get the picture.*
  8. Mystery Science Theater 3000 (MST3K) - or another really great comedy.
  9. When you are well, make a list of things that lift your mood and bring you joy. Then when you are feeling down, refer to the list and try out some of your own suggestions.
  10. Get a massage. My favorite is a foot massage. [Hint - hint, oh husband of mine...]
*Not entirely my idea. Google a book from a few years ago about breaking things down into ridiculously small parts in order to gain momentum and complete the larger goal. Actually, this isn't entirely his idea either, rather it's based on the Japanese philosophy of "Kaizen".










Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Alcoholic or problem drinker?

{Re-post from 3/14/13 - especially for my friends who have been trying to quit and/or questioning their own drinking habits.}

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

I'm often asked how it was that I knew I was an alcoholic when I first quit drinking. After all, I wasn't exactly the image most people have in their heads when they think "addict". I wasn't an angry drunk - I never beat my children. I held down a job. I didn't drink early in the day or in the morning. I didn't drink in bars - didn't do "happy hour". I didn't hide my wine - in fact I reveled in the notion that I was a connoisseur {or so I fancied myself.}

Me with my Ex...and a perm! - hey, it was the mid-90s!
But I did spend my adult life trying to pound a square peg into a round hole. I wanted to drink as I pleased AND be a happy, healthy, fit, confident, successful woman...but it wasn't working. 

In my mid-30s, I began to see a therapist for panic attacks, anxiety, and low self-esteem. I thought I'd be able to root up some childhood trauma, hold it up to the light of reason, and watch my anxiety turn to dust like a vampire at dawn. Instead, I began the long journey of peeling away the layers to expose the diseases within. 

Apparently, my therapist suspected a substance abuse problem early on. She challenged me on several occasions to forgo the drink, but I could never follow through with the commitment. In fact, though I heard her most of the time, I repressed her words almost instantly.

Finally, after failing yet another self-control challenge, I agreed to at least be evaluated by a substance abuse counselor. I thought I could finally put the discussion to rest, learn how to drink modestly, and continue my "hobby". 

The counselor asked several questions, and at the end of the evaluation, told me he thought I had an addiction. I looked at him dumbfounded, so he handed me a sheet with the definitions of abuser vs. addict to see what I thought. {See bottom of post.} I was certain that I was an abuser and simply needed help getting back on track with "healthy drinking" - after all, wasn't I doing myself a favor in choosing red wine over beer? 

First, I read the traits of abuse and could relate to most. Then, it all came crashing down when I read through addiction -  my eyes filled with unstoppable tears. The divorce proceedings had begun.

In early outpatient treatment, much of my "work" was spent examining the evidence that I was not a normal drinker. Diagnosis buy-in {admitting I had a problem} was step one.

Over the next few weeks, the evidence mounted. I'll share with you some of what I revealed to myself - in no particular order. I knew I was an alcoholic, because: 
  • I felt uncomfortable, nay, damn irritable at parties, weddings, or other events at which no alcohol was served; and I would limit time spent there.
  • And if I knew in advance that alcohol was not on the menu at the occasion, I would drink before and after.
  • I drank everyday - my dose was 1 - 3 glasses of red wine.
  • At special occasions {i.e., parties, weddings, funerals, holidays, Fridays, Saturdays...} I drank as much as I pleased. 
  • I could almost always drink more than any other {non-alcoholic} woman - and many men - a point in which I took great pride.
  • I felt uncomfortable and cranky almost nightly when my husband wouldn't have a drink with me at dinner.
  • If given the choice of food or wine at a party, I chose wine first.
  • I could never understand how some people can have just 1 or 2 drinks or leave behind a half-full glass. It made me uncomfortable and gnawed at my core.
  • If my husband or I went out to dinner and the place we chose had no alcohol on the menu, I would be irritable and bitch about finding another restaurant.
  • My dresser and night stand were littered with wine glasses almost all the time.
    ©Jenny Ondioline
  • My kitchen decor was a grapes / wine motif.
  • If I thought, for example, that a piece of chicken I ate was a little too pink inside, I would take a shot of Stoli {vodka} that I kept in the freezer - to kill any salmonella bacteria I may have ingested, you see.
  • If the weather forecast called for a possible hurricane or snowstorm, the first mental planning I did was an assessment of how much wine I had left, and how much I should pick up - forget the bread, milk, eggs, bottled water, and batteries that everyone else foolishly stocked up on!
  • Every day on my ride home, my thoughts would turn to how much wine I had in the house, and whether or not I needed to pick up any.
  • Once we were invited to the wedding of a good friend; and it was held at a vineyard. Since it was a weekend wedding extravaganza, we rented a house with our other friends who enjoyed drinking as much as I did. So...I brought five bottles of pricey red wine to have on hand. I kept my stash in the car, however, since I didn't want anyone else drinking it. It was back-up. Just in case my drinking buddies ran out of booze. At a vineyard.
  • I had rules around my drinking, e.g., "I don't drink before the evening", "I only drink 1 - 3 glasses on week nights", "I only {mostly} drink red wine - it is healthy for the heart and prevents cancer", "I don't hang out in bars, unless it's a special occasion", "I don't drink and drive" {unless I have to...}, "I don't drink hard liquor" {unless I ate under-cooked meat, or unless there's nothing else to drink!}, "I don't hide my wine - only alcoholics hide their booze. Please note - normal drinkers do not need rules.
  • I always thought, "I'm not an alcoholic...I'm not like them...I can control my drinking"...yet I never really could. Every time I started a health / fitness program and challenged myself to forgo booze until the weekend, I could not do it. Here are three days in a row from my 2005 fitness log: 
 

I am very grateful to be 10 years sober now (come November 18, 2015). It was only through quitting drinking that I was able to heal my body and begin the long process of healing my mind and soul.

Chemical addiction does not go away without help, and will leave you empty, lonely, very sick, insane, incarcerated, and / or dead. Please think about this if you can relate to any of what I wrote. Seek assistance from a therapist or counselor. I promise that it is brighter on the other side - and waaaay more fun!!!

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
*Handouts from that first recovery center interview - taken from the Diagnostic & Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th Ed. Copyright 1994, American Psychiatric Association:























*UPDATE: The above sheets are a good overview of addiction symptoms vs. abuse symptoms; howeveer, keep in mind they are older diagnostic sheets; the DSM-V (the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders {5th revision} of the American Psychiatric Association) has since categorize symptoms and diagnosis a little differently.

a day in the life


-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


7:13 am - some days it takes a herculean effort just to get out of bed - and not because i'm tired. the day ahead feels heavy. "what if" fears and "i'm a loser" thoughts are soul-sucking spiders that creep back into my head, shrouding me in a sticky web. i can't move. 

feeling that way this morning. sitting here contemplating the shower and dreading even that. it takes energy and i can't bear the thought of leaving my cocoon.

okay. here i go. 1...2...3...
                                                               4...5...6...



8:26 am - can't find my moisturizer, we're out of q-tips, and the grey line growing in the part of my hair screams, "omar!"



9:37 am - put on my anti-anxiety / anti-depression / addiction-smashing talisman ("Believe" pendant and Serenity Prayer infinity charm), and off to work i go.


10:11 am - arrive at work. ( yes...10:11. it's non-profit ;) )



11:30 am - a glimmer of hope. putting one foot in front of the other this morning and facing my fear is yielding results. confidence.


1:20 pm - lunch...ish. i know i should eat a healthy, protein-carb-balanced lunch with 1/2 the lunch veggies, but i feel guilty and settle for a snack.


2:46 pm - still rolling along...not the hottest tamale today, though.


6:00 pm - head out. off to night class.







7:12 pm - in class. waiting. feeling cranky. my mind's been on addiction  - especially alcohol. once again, i feel like taking a baseball bat to something. i'm  ruminating. addiction truly is a wrecking ball - demolished individuals in its wake. families, friends, colleagues, and humanity, devastated. yes, humanity. the loss of human potential blows me away!


7:30 pm - gotta go. class starting.









Saturday, October 10, 2015

Aparecium*

This post is dedicated to my friends in the planner community. 

Although it is not entirely mental health- and addiction recovery-related, as I mentioned before, creativity and the pursuit of healthy hobbies are great ways to foster mental health. ;) }

Here is a peek at my planner set-up for October.






















--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

*"Aparecium: a charm that forces invisible ink or other hidden messages to appear. It is also possible this spell can be used to make other invisible things reveal themselves." (Harry Potter WikiLike this charm, my personal planner is a tool which helps me reveal my life's map. :)

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Planner supplies shown:

Harry Potter tab dividers by:  Mrs. Modern Home on etsy:  https://www.etsy.com/shop/Mrsmodernhome

Planner charms by:  Crafters Retreat on etsy:  https://www.etsy.com/shop/CraftersRetreat?ref=l2-shopheader-name

Harry Potter wand for conjuring up my weekly plan and checking things off, by Olivanders Shop {Universal Studios, Orlando}

Hedwig, the planning owl, by Webkinz {Snowy Owl}


Wednesday, October 7, 2015

READ THIS BLOG POST - IF NO OTHER!!!!

Well it's official folks. I am depressed...


...again. 

I'm writing this as one of the first steps towards turning things around. Writing is therapeutic and can help one unleash pent-up emotions, problem solve, and get motivated, refocused, and recommitted.

You see, as I've mentioned a lot lately, I'm so DONE with chemical addiction. In the past three months, it's plowed through the lives of several people I know and love, leaving damaged relationships, incarceration, insanity, and death in its wake. And now, yet another individual I know and love is hospitalized and undergoing tests for a potentially life threatening illness that's very likely caused by addiction.

I'm exhausted, spent, and feeling defeated. 


But you can help, DEAR READER!!

If you even remotely suspect you may be abusing alcohol or drugs or have an addiction...

and/or...

If you will not or cannot drink less than the recommended daily or weekly allowance of alcohol...

and/or...
Art therapy from my treatment. 2005

If any of the Pink Hi-Top Adventures' posts below rings true for you...

please, PLEASE, PLEASE!!! at very least check out the resources below AND make an appointment with an addiction professional. (I say "addiction professional" because the medical and psychological professions' knowledge of addiction diagnosis and treatment is scanty at best.) 

And for the love of God, please keep in mind you do not have to "check in" just because you are having an interview. Legally, it's entirely up to you. You won't be kidnapped, drugged, or coerced. It's not a cult.

And contrary to what many addicts tell themselves, aside from treatment centers for the rich and famous, addiction treatment specialists and centers do not make a boat load of money. They do it for the love of others and the HATE of the disease. Besides, they don't need you. Believe me, there are more than enough people out there to fill the beds. 

Speaking of money. By law, insurance companies are now required to cover at least some of the cost. In addition, most treatment centers are happy to assist you in coming up with a manageable payment plan. They know that addicts are notoriously bad about personal finance and may well have low-paying jobs, legal expenses, been fired, or lost a supporting partner. And besides, the interview is frickin' FREE!

The only thing that will happen to you in having an interview with an addiction professional is self-knowledge and peace of mind. YOU HAVE NOTHING TO LOSE!! If you don't have an addiction to drugs or alcohol, then you can go on your merry way. If on the other hand, you discover you haven an addiction, YOU HAVE EVERYTHING TO GAIN - energy, relationships, health, hope, and LIFE!!

So...

               for the love of God...


DO IT, DAMN IT, DO IT!!

-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Before

National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (NCADD)
Pink Hi-Top Adventures:

After!

If you ever want to talk about any of this (or anything else,for that matter!), PLEEEEEEASE contact me at: 
pink.hi.tops@gmail.com.







Sunday, October 4, 2015

So it begins...

  
Sam and I have just gone through the black gates and stand inside Mordor. 


I'm sorry to be so cryptic and metaphorical. And for those of you not into fantasy genre stories, my apologies too. Anonymity is important right now, but I needed an outlet in which to vent at 1:52 am.

I promise: at some point, details will unfold and I hope to emerge victorious. For now, please keep us in your prayers and / or send positive energy our way. We need all the power we can get...









Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Mental Health: Plan on It!


The key is not to prioritize what's on your schedule, 
but to schedule your priorities. - Stephen R. Covey

-----------

Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life. - Pablo Picasso

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

When I'm depressed, I lose a sense of time and priorities. Everything in life is awash in grey. I get nothing done and as the days drip by, I become increasingly aware of a monster growing in the periphery: anxiety. All the appointments, tasks, projects, and people that have been neglected, await me at the entrance of my cave.


...happier days
I'm sitting here now, staring out - afraid to move forward, but knowing that if I don't do at least something, the monster will grow larger and larger. 

So, how do I get myself up and out when I feel so overwhelmed? How do I gain some control and get moving again back on my path? 



Among the many self-care tactics which I've written about before, there's one other tool in my kit: my personal planner. 


A personal planner keeps track of appointments, tasks, and contacts, yes; but it can also do so much more! {Those of you in the "planner community" (and yes, there is a planner community) know what I'm talking about!} A planner can be your road map and guide, as well as your creative outlet, mental health manager, and curator of your dreams!

I think I'll be digging mine out now to help me get rolling again.


--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

About My Personal Planner

There are an infinite number of ways to set one up. Mine typically features these familiar sections:
  • Calendar
  • To Do
  • Notes
  • General info and key contacts

In addition, I've added "Focus" and "Goals" sections which contain:

  • Inspiration: gratitude list, list of my accomplishments, life's highlights and lessons, quotes, affirmations, visualizations, etc.
  • Lists: various lists and key information from diverse areas of my life, in alphabetical order.
  • Other sections dedicated to life areas for which I have a lot of info to track: my job, college, college club, etc.
Aside from its functional, organizational, and motivational elements, my planner has also become a creative outlet.

Personal planner decorating has actually become quite popular. A quick Google search will yield post after post and video after video of planner set-up ideas and decorating tips. 

When I was in PHP (Partial Hospitalization Program) a few years back, one of the therapeutic activities our group did involved art. To help us relax, and express our emotions using our visual cortices, we drew, made collages, and yes, even colored. Decorating my planner has the same effect on me. It's a soothing, serotonin-raising hobby!

Some of my tools include:


a pretty planner,



sticky notes and stickers,


...the beaver's face cracks me up every time!

decorative clips,



washi tape,



colored pens,


decorative tab dividers 
with a great inspirational quote,



and finally, planner charms {see pics above and below}.



I've included just a few of the resources out there to get you started. Happy planning!




-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Special thanks to all my friends in the US, the UK, and Australia who gifted me most of these planners and supplies! I appreciate your kindness and friendship, and I promise to pay it forward when I can!


Planners by Filofax USA and Filofax UK

Inspirational Dashboards by tweetiepiecollage on Etsy

Planner charms by CraftersRetreaton on Etsy

Canoe do it? sticky notes {with that beaver face!} by Hatley

Washi can be found on Etsy

Amazon.com and office supply stores are great places for sticky notes and pens.


Not shown, but also HIGHLY RECOMMENDED:

Planning pages, goals, and inspirational forms and lists by Life Is Crafted





















Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Crossing the bridge, and letting go...

I have been very depressed over the last week. This time, it's not just brain chemistry. There's a legitimate reason in my life right now. I'm not at liberty to go into details, but suffice it to say, someone I know and care about is suffering from addiction and depression. 


I've done the best I can to support her, but I can only do so much. I know that I have to, as Alcoholics Anonymous says, "Let Go, Let God"; but that's easier said than done! The need to control outcomes is a difficult thing to...control!

I'd like to share an excerpt from a book of daily meditations from which I'm trying to draw inspiration from now: The Language of Letting Go, by Melody Beattie.* {A book I highly recommend for those in recovery of any kind, those who are co-dependent, and, well, everyone else!}

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

"Letting Go of Those Not in Recovery"  February 12

We can go forward with our life and recoveries, even though someone we love is not yet recovering. 

Picture a bridge. On one side of the bridge it is cold and dark. We stood there with others in the cold and darkness, doubled over in pain. Some of us developed an eating disorder to cope with the pain. Some drank; some used other drugs. Some of us lost control of our sexual behavior. Some of us obsessively focused on addicted people's pain to distract us from our own pain. Many of us did both: we developed an addictive behavior, and distracted ourselves by focusing on other addicted people. We did not know there was a bridge. We thought we were trapped on a cliff.

Then, some of us got lucky. Our eyes opened, by the Grace of God, because it was time. We saw the bridge. People told us what was on the other side: warmth, light, and healing from our pain. We could barely glimpse or imagine this, but we decided to start the trek across the bridge anyway.


We tried to convince the people around us on the cliff that there was a bridge to a better place, but they wouldn't listen. They couldn't see it; they couldn't believe. They were not ready for the journey. We decided to go alone, because we believed, and because people on the other side were cheering us onward. The closer we go to the other side, the more we could see, and feel, that what we had been promised was real. There was light, warmth, healing, and love. The other side was a better place.

But now there is a bridge between us and those on the other side. Sometimes, we may be tempted to go back  and drag them over with us, but it cannot be done. no one can be dragged or forced across the bridge. Each person must go at his or her own choice, when the time is right. Some will come; some will stay on the other side. The choice is not ours.

We can love them. We can wave to them. We can holler back and forth. We can cheer them on, as others have cheered and encouraged us. But we cannot make them come over with us. If our time has come to cross the bridge, or if we have already crossed and are standing in the light and warmth, we do not have to feel guilty. It is where we are meant to be. We do not have to go back to the dark cliff because another's time has not yet come.

The best thing we can do is stay in the light, because it reassures others that there is a better place. And if others ever do decide to cross the bridge, we will be there to cheer them on.

*Beattie, M. (1990). February. In The language of letting go (pp. 41-42). Center City, MN: Hazelden.

Friday, September 25, 2015

The Ring of Fire


I love The Lord of the Rings - this movie and its trilogy; and I'm currently drawing on this particular scene (esp. first minute) for strength and courage. 


http://lotr.wikia.com/wiki/One_Ring
You see, like Frodo, I've been sent on a personal quest to carry my own ring, bear its increasing weight, and cast it once and for all into the fires of Mount Doom

Life is like that. There comes a time in all our lives when we are called upon to take up our own cross, bear its weight, and complete our quest. We never ask for it, and we are free to choose to accept it or to walk away. Either way, there is a price to pay; but one choice leads to strength, growth, love, and peace, and the other to weakness, fear, loneliness, and a nagging feeling of what could have been. 

Bear in mind, the journey is never an easy one. It's always fraught with this world's dragons, orcs, and wraiths. So how do we make it? How to we do it alone?


We don't.

We must create our own fellowship: friends, family, support groups, therapists, etc., who will walk with us along the way. There is strength in numbers.

We also need to recharge every now and then, for such a journey requires as much energy, strength, and focus as we can muster up. We all know how to do this - take care of ourselves physically, mentally, and spiritually. But that's easier said than done. When faced with such challenges, we often feel we need to focus all of our time and effort on completing the quest. We think we cannot afford the time, but the truth is, if we don't stop along the way to replenish ourselves, we will inevitably fail.

Here are just a few resources that may help in your own quest:

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

FELLOWSHIP


Addiction:

Al-Anon/Alateen Family Groups

Alcoholics Anonymous

Gamblers Anonymous

Narcotics Anonymous


Cancer:

Cancer Support Community

American Cancer Society


Caregiving:

AARP Caregiving Resource Center

American Cancer Society


Grief and Loss:

The Hospice Foundation of America from which these links come:


The Compassionate Friends  Support after the death of a child
AARP Grief and Loss Resources  Support after the death of a senior
National Widower’s Organization  Support for men grieving a loss
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention  Support for suicide survivors
Griefnet.org  Support for adults grieving a loss
Hellogrief.org Support for adults and kids grieving a loss


Mental Illness:

Anxiety and Depression Association of America

Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance (DBSA)


National Alliance for the Mentall Ill

schizophrenia.com

US Department of Veterans Affairs: PTSD Support Groups


Suicide and Crisis Lifelines:

National Suicide Hotline: chat online or call 24/7: 1-800-273-8255

Crisis Text Line:  TEXT “START” TO 741-741



OTHER SELF-CARE

As you may well know, I have blogged endlessly about this topic - if only to drive it into my thick head. 

This is my favorite spiritual well:  Sacred Space

Here are blog posts I've done on "Wellness":

Renew and Refresh (4/5/15)
New Hobby (10/3/14)
CBT (6/29/14)
Physical Wellness - Getting Back on Track (5/3/14)
Pet Therapy (3/24/14)
Coming Out! (3/14/14)
The 7 Habits of Mental Wellness (about Stephen Covey's, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People):
 - Introduction to (1/25/14)
 - Habit 1: Be Proactive (2/2/14)
 - Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind (2/12/14)
 - Habit 3: Put First Things First (6/23/14)
Trip to Roanoke, Virginia:
 - Rain Clouds (10/12/13)
 - Roanoke (10/12/13)
 - Heading Home (10/14/13)
Never underestimate your own power! (2/26/13)
Acceptance (3/1/13)
Recovery step #2: sleep, damn it! (3/5/13)
Rebirth (3/30/13)
Wellness part I: physical (4/26/13)
Change is possible part II (6/27/13)
Seven steps to mental health (8/2/13)
Take me out to the ballgame! (8/12/13)
Climbing back up (8/18/13)

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

I have only scratched the surface here of all the resources available out there. A quick search of Google.com or your favorite search engine is a great place to start!