Tag Archives: mental health

So hard to do the things I know I should do

14 Jul

In the mental health field we love that joke about not shoulding on yourself, meaning don’t harass yourself with self talk about what you should and shouldn’t do.  Yet that is precisely what I do-  I should do this, I shouldn’t do that, should, shouldn’t. should, shouldn’t. should.  shouldn’t.  SHOULD. SHOULDN’T.  SHOULD!  SHOULDN’T! 

Gross, huh.

Even though it’s been a month since I lost the baby, I’m a bit of a mess.  I stay up too late, forget to eat, then eat lots of crappy stuff, and lately I’ve been working way too much.  I often stay in the office until my brain shuts down in an effort to avoid free time.  Something I used to love and savor so much has become something I dread: free time usually means crying and moping.  Running my own business, I have no boss so it isn’t like someone stands in my doorway and says “your last client was 2 hours ago.  Why are you still here?”   Nope, it’s just me so I piddle away, listening to music, reorganizing my files and concocting new projects to occupy my mind.

So many of the shoulds are things that truly will help me feel better- eat more veggies, get more exercise, go outside more often, walk the dogs, lay off the coffee, lay off the sugar, for god’s sake PUT DOWN THE WINE, and so on.  But I just don’t do it.  Admittedly, there’s a part of me that really doesn’t want to.  In the moment I enjoy the chocolate, the wine, the coffee, and the 4 consecutive episodes of True Blood.  Also, part of me feels that I deserve to feel like crap and rush through each day like I’m white knuckling it on the interstate during rush hour traffic with only 1/8th of a tank of gas.  I don’t have much reason to treat my body like a temple right now. After all, it feels like my body betrayed me and because of that I had to give up one of the most meaningful dreams I’m ever had- the dream of being a mother.  I know it may still happen, but like I’ve written before, that dream feels far off.  Like, really, really far off.  I know, I see how irrational I am.  I know I’ll feel better if I take care of myself, I know I’ll be in better health both physically and mentally but it all seems really… really… annoying and difficult and stupid right now.  I should…. I should… I should…. 

I’m doing this big training for work all next week.  It is a two year training intensive so it is like being in school all over again.  Prior to the in-person training, I was to complete an online portion.  Wouldn’t you know I put most of it off until….um….yesterday.  I have to give myself some slack though, I planned to do mostof it this past month and well, things got a little crazy this last month.  So yesterday I stayed up late working on the online training and got right back to it this morning.  I was determined and when it was finally completed all of this dread and irritation washed over to me.  How odd, right?  I was so ready to be DONE with work and then when I was, I just couldn’t think straight.  I told my husband, very clearly, that he HAD to pick something for us to do, that I am incapable of making decisions in my free time because everything seems kind of pointless and annoying.  “Just pick something, I’ll go along with it and then I’ll be fine,” I told him.  Usually I’m pretty bossy and picky about just about everything, so this probably seem extremely exciting for Q, except that I’m probably rather scary to him these days.


In case you wonder what I look like in real life! I admit that this isn’t a great photograph.

We managed to keep our cool (I’m so luck to have such a nice husband, because I’ve been acting really crazy lately.  Thanks hormones and grief!  What a combo!) and came up with a plan to take our dogs to a K9 FUN ZONE where we threw dog toys and chased the dogs around for an hour.  It was fun and exhausting for all.  That was followed by a walk, some sushi and then a visit from a dear friend, so I am feeling better now.

So this next week will probably be pretty hectic, which I admit is what I prefer these days.  I recently decided to change offices and billers and conveniently both of these tasks have proven to be quite time consuming and attention consuming.  It’s a blessing to love my work and it helps to find things to keep me busy, but I’m also aware that I’m keeping myself occupied as a way to avoid what I’m really feeling.

I’m going to keep trying, bit by bit, to take good care of myself.  The shoulds don’t really help, they just make me feel worse and more frustrated.  Eventually I will make it back to a yoga class and start cooking again.  Also, this week’s training might help because I’ll be by the water and much of the training is about mindfulness.  It might actually be beneficial to get out of the office and away from the overworking habits.  In the meantime, I’ll look at some pictures of corgis and maybe go see the new Guillermo del Toro movie.

It’s all gonna be okay.


The lady at the restaurant

8 Jul

We went out for dinner last night.  Q has been on call and much of his day was spent dealing with some mess while typing away on his laptop. I worked for hours in the garden, pulling weeds and even planting some new things.  So after he was finally done working and I was cleaned up, we decided cooking was not an option, so we went out.

We ate at a nice neighborhood restaurant.  We got a table outside and enjoyed our drinks while we waited for our food. The food was fabulous, by the way.  All of it was lovely until the hostess sat a family of four right next to us.  Like 2 feet away from us.   Cute kids, normal looking parents, but let me declare, THE MOST ANNOYING MOTHER IN THE WORLD.

Okay,  I know.  I’m in no state to be judging parents.  Just the fact that parents ARE parents is a sore spot for me right now.  But I am sure that even in a more normal and serene state of mind, this woman would have made me bonkers.  For those of you who know me in person, you know that fake mother voice I put on, right?  With the midwest accent and I say things like “Oh!  You better not be doin’ the marijuana, Billy!”  That voice.  It’s a lot like Kitty from That 70’s Show, except so much worse.


Anyway, that’s how this woman spoke.  And one of her kids was WAY too young to be in a kind of nice restaurant.  He needed to be at Red Robin or something.  He hated everything and yelled and was overall really annoying.  And the husband was silent.   I tried to ignore and look away, but we couldn’t help but hear her lecture her small children on how they HAVE to have full body wet suits on their upcoming trip to Hawaii because without them, they’ll get too cold.

Anyway.  Yes, she was annoying but it wasn’t like she was hitting her kids in front of us or anything.  She was just annoying.  Kind of funny that just a few hours after posting about letting go of resentment, I dealt with just that.  Resentment. Lots of it.  I mean, I’m sure I’d be an annoying mom in a lot of ways.  But I’d be a cool mom too.  I couldn’t help but think of one of the many teens I’ve worked with who said “You’d be the cool mom, like really fun but strict at the same time.”  It was a huge compliment and at the time, I hoped someday that would be true.  Now I feel so discouraged and dark that I can’t help but just be pissed at the world that the annoying lady with the ugly sandals and a desire to cover her children in neoprene while vacationing in a tropical paradise, that SHE gets to have these cute healthy kids.  And also, that I have to hear her crap when I’m trying to enjoy my dinner and fill my babyless abdominal area with a fancy glass of Pinot. No!  I can’t enjoy it!  I have to hear her shrill voice saying “That’s not nice!”…  “Oh but the aquarium was fun!”…. “But you liked alfredo sauce last time!  It’s the creamy kind!”

Angry cat

Yeah so that’s me.  Angry.  Bitter.  Same old stuff.

I feel rather crazy some minutes, some hours, some days.  Truthfully I am a bit afraid that I’m going to stay like this forever.  Really,  know I won’t and this moodiness and grumpiness and sharp bursts of anger are all part of the process.  But I’m still scared that I’ll be the grumpy cat forever.  My humor is getting darker and darker, I’m bitter about so many things right now, and I even listened to TWO Nine Inch Nails albums today.  What is that?!  I haven’t done such a thing since I was an angsty seventeen year old.

This is the tough thing with loss- we are crazy when we lose something.  It is hard as hell and it hurts.  Loss comes with a lot of hard to feel emotions- sadness and anger and guilt… we feel it drag us down but at the same time we’re changing and adjusting to the absence of what we once had and what we once loved.  Evolving in that way is hard but the alternative is to not evolve.  I don’t understand how I couldn’t change after going through a miscarriage, so then I’d have to be living in a world of denial.   The desire to avoid all of these emotions is understandable because it is not fun to feel this way.  But this is the way through it and I just gotta keep going.  Every so often, I get a glimpse of how this awful time will make me a stronger person.  It may even help me to better serve others.  But most of all, I’m just doing whatever I can to get through it.  That’s really the main reason I write here, I’m just trying to deal with it.

“Scar tissue is stronger than regular tissue.  Realize the strength.  Move on.”  -Henry Rollins


Okay, Henry.  I’ll try.


15 Jan

Yesterday I felt very sad.  I won’t get into a lot of the WHYS, but there were a lot of things that bubbled up to the surface.  I was thinking of some upsetting situations and my hormones got the best of me.  I let myself have a nice big cry, remembering what I always tell my clients- Crying can be helpful.  Crying is a way we release stress hormones from our physical bodies.  Crying is cathartic.  So I just let loose with it.  I leaned my head against the wall.  I grabbed the hand towel from the bathroom and used it to catch my big ole tears.  I let my body posture completely slump down like a rag doll.  Radar, blind superdog, came into the room and began to growl at me.  Really, blind dog?  You growl at me when I’m sad?  This is what Radar tends to do when he isn’t sure what is going on and something startles him.  Although he knew it was me, I don’t cry like that very often.  My hypothesis is that he thought something was wrong with me.  He growled a bit and did these little yip barks.  I told him “I’m okay, it’s okay” and he stopped with the barks and growls.  All the while he held his little funny face really close to me, trying to assess each second with his big nose tilted towards me.  Once he got over his startled growling, he just sat next to me and that was comforting.


“Are you okay?”

I thought a lot about what to DO about being sad and realized I didn’t really need to do much of anything.  My sadness felt appropriate, it wasn’t overwhelming, and I was trying to take care of myself.  I had a yoga class to teach so in preparation for it, I did a long home session of restorative yoga, moving very slowly, deliberately and carefully, like a moving mediation.  It helped.  Driving to yoga, I still felt pretty sad and realized I was going to need to pick my energy up just a bit or my students would spend 75 minutes crying into their mats.  I put on my favorite pick-me-up song, which I prefer to listen to at a loud volume while I hit the steering wheel to the beat.  This helped too.

XTC- Making Plans for Nigel

Yoga class was fine and it was actually quite nice to move around and get my mind on other things.  As I drove home, I listened to another song, this one is one of my go-to sad songs.

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds- People Ain’t No Good

Once I was back home, I ate some warm soup, talked with my husband, and we watched some TV.  Oh and I ate some delicious dark chocolate.  After a good night’s sleep, I really don’t feel sad anymore.  However, if I hadn’t let the sadness bubble up and be present when it needed to be, I would perhaps feel less present and connected now.  Although it isn’t fun to feel sad, it happens.  I recently listened to this podcast, Opening to Our Lives with Jon Kabat-Zinn.  He talks about how in Western culture we tend to EXPECT constant happiness, which is completely unreasonable.  Sadness happens.  This really resonated with me.  It is what we do with it and how we treat ourselves that really matters.

Here are some of my general approaches towards sadness (based on DBT approaches for emotion regulation):

  •  Be curious.  Is it appropriate to feel sad? Do I have a reason to feel sad?  Investigate what it is all about.  Typically, emotions present themselves for a reason- they show us things!  Sadness can show us what is important and what we value.  When we feel we’ve lost something in line with that, whatever it might be, we feel sad.  However, there are also times when we inexplicably feel sad and it is helpful to know we can pull ourselves out of that if we need to.
  • Recognize appropriate sadness.  If there’s a reason to feel sad, try to sit with it.  Practice self-care even while feeling it, for example doing something soothing (drinking hot tea or taking a bath), or take part in an enjoyable activity (playing with my dogs or chatting about things with a loved one).  Sometimes when I feel sadness for a relevant reason, I just let it go through me (like I did yesterday) and assume that once I get through the wave of sadness, I’ll move on to something else.
  • Practice opposite action. If the sadness is making it hard to tend to necessary things (like teaching yoga, for example) OR if the sadness seems like it doesn’t fit the situation of what is going on, try using the skill of Opposite Action– Do the opposite of what you feel like doing.  The idea is that the opposing action can inspire different thoughts and feelings, which can actually change your mood.  This is what I did when I listened to the XTC song, which tends to make me energized and excited (instead of listening to the Nick Cave song, which makes me feel even more sadness).  When we’re sad, we tend to want to isolate and be very quiet.  Instead, try going outside, watching a funny movie, talking to a friend about light topics, and so on.  Exercise can be very helpful for this also.

Emotions are like waves. They come and they go.  They have a beginning, a middle and an end.  Some of them are very large and some are very tiny.  They will always be there.  We can learn how to understand them and how to work with them.

You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf. -Jon Kabat-Zinn

Water waves

Photo by Rob Casey (photo links to original source).

What do you do to take care of yourself when you’re feeling sad?  What are some of your favorite songs to listen to, either as a pick-me up or to really feel your sadness?

A Day Off from Mindfulness

5 Jan

My favorite animal picture from 2012. (I think the bear is okay).

I didn’t go on epic walks while picking up doggie poo with the little plastic bags.  I didn’t hum songs while carefully cutting up pieces of kale to make a healthy juice.  I didn’t thoughtfully consider my vegetable intake or gaze happily out the window at the big trees while doing sun salutations.  Nope.  Today I didn’t do much of anything related to my project.

Today I went to work and I spent the entire day (and then some) in my office.  That sounds weird, like I never go to work, which isn’t true but I think I’m suffering from some kind of bizarre guilt of the formerly overworked.  The truth is, I am in my office a few days a week and I do a lot of general business running on the other days.  I also sub yoga classes periodically.  And this week I’ll start walking a few dogs here and there, fulfilling a years-long daydream of quitting social service work to be a dog walker because dogs are nice and easy compared to suffering people.  Anyway, after quite a few years of tough social service jobs, enjoying an open schedule and being my own boss feels both freeing and overwhelming. Still there is that nagging guilt causing me to consciously hold back from pursuing full time work again to deal with those uncomfortable feelings and all the uncertainty.  I feel like I should be doing MORE.  I feel scared about the uncertainty of running my own business even though it took years of really hard work to get here.  ACK.  This is the kind of crap that can keep me up in the middle of the night.

I’m starting to realize that this is how my new schedule is- I have some days that are open and some days where I’m just in the zone of doing what I need to/ want to professionally and I’ve got things to do and can’t spend a lot of time fixing perfect meals and chanting OM.  I have never been good at maintaining healthy habits during really busy times.  My hope is that I can find balance with all of this.


For reals. Image from nataliedee.com

So I’m a bit disjointed and very much thinking about things like schedules, taxes and treatment plans.  Part of this challenge, surely, is to integrate mindfulness and self-care even when having a busy day.  I didn’t succeed to0 much with that today, but perhaps next Saturday I’ll do a bit better.

How do you balance taking care of yourself with taking care of your responsibilities?  

Welcome to 2013

1 Jan
image from nataliedee.com

image from nataliedee.com

A new year!  It is just a day like any other but it is also a day off!  So I stayed up really late playing games, eating chips and drinking champagne and then expected to sleep in.  Unfortunately, my neighbor started their new year with some impromptu construction work.  Starting around 7 am I heard the growling and beeping of a Bobcat tractor digging up their yard.  Hopefully a plumbing crisis is what prompted such early rudeness. Needless to say I was awake much earlier than I expected or preferred.

Anyway, I enjoy the new year and appreciate it not just as a day off but also a symbol of turning over a new leaf, starting anew and moving forward in meaningful ways.  I’ve been thinking carefully about goals to follow for 2013 and it is exciting that it is finally here.

“Happiness is not a goal…it’s a by-product of a life well lived.” ~Eleanor Roosevelt

“If you want to live a happy life, tie it to a goal, not to people or things.” ~Albert Einstein

I’m going to be rolling out a lot of changes this year and blogging about it all the while.  This month the focus is on taking better care of my physical self, an endeavor for which concrete goals can be quite helpful.

Here are some of the goals:

  • Take multivitamins and supplements daily.  
  • Attend appointments with the doctor, dentist and other health professionals as recommended.
  • Eat at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables daily.
  • Cut out wheat.
  • Walk 10,000 steps per day, 6 days per week.
  • Do a daily yoga practice.

Of course there are specific reasons for all of these goals and I have some ideas for how I’ll be tracking them.  Stay tuned for more!

What are your goals for 2013 and how do you plan to keep up with them?


29 Dec

Last night we saw the film This is 40.  It was funny, although a bit long and silly in certain parts.  I’ll see anything with Paul Rudd because he is hilarious and tends to be in decent films.  We went to a local cinema that serves drinks and dinner- a great idea but the food is actually pretty bad and overpriced.  I love the novelty of drinking wine while at the cinema and the ease of not worrying about what to make or where to go for dinner.  But it ends up being a pretty expensive and unsatisfying meal.  So I told my husband this morning that we should just not go there anymore and just head to a regular theater instead, and perhaps have dinner beforehand.  He agreed.

Mr Rudd- so funny! My friend got his autograph in a bar in Athens, Georgia years ago.

This reminds me of part of the movie.  The neurotic wife (played by Leslie Mann) decided to quickly implement some major life changes, with the expectation that it would make everyone happy.  She told her husband (played by Mr. Rudd) that she’d stop smoking, that he had to stop eating cupcakes (for some reason they had cupcakes in their house every day).  Anyway, she decided that they would exercise daily, eliminate all sugar and gluten from their diet, etc.  She also proclaimed that the entire family would reduce the amount of time spend on various electronic devices, much to the chagrin of their teenaged daughter who was obsessively watching all the episodes of Lost (been there, done that, yeah, the ending sucked).


Vincent was my favorite.

Anyway, not to spoil the movie but it didn’t go very well.  The changes didn’t stick and hilarity ensued.  So most of us know- deciding to make sudden and drastic changes, no matter how helpful they can be, just doesn’t really work.  I admit that I’ve set such lofty goals on about 1,000,000 occasions.  Sometimes I am successful, but really looking back, I see clear evidence that for change to be lasting, I have to be bought in, disciplined and it has to happen gradually.  Also, I do not do well with a mindset that feels punitive and punishing, which these fasts, diets and life-changing plans often are.  Instead, I prefer it when the focus on what is helpful and beneficial.  This is also an approach that I promote to my therapy clients.  Be nice to yourself, don’t punish yourself, and the results will tend to be better.

So I’m going to be rolling out a pretty big project for myself for 2013 that is along these lines.  Without the daily structure of a 9-5 job (or, realistically, an 8-6 job) I can be listless and well, lazy.  I yearn for more of a schedule but struggle to stick to one.  I fall behind on things I really need to do and then wonder what the heck I’ve done with my days.  Then I worry about things at 3 am.  Keep in mind I’m not sitting at home doing nothing, I have a business to maintain, and also to build and nurture.  This is exciting, but I am now the boss who sets deadlines and ensures that things happen.   This is not the easiest role for me.

I’ve researched, pondered and had a lot of failed attempts to increase self-discipline and to focus more on things that are healthy and edifying.  When I have been successful in the past, I’ve been overly disciplined, to the point of being rigid.  I’m sure there is a balance to be found and I’m excited to find it.  I’ll take some cues from this movie about what NOT to do also.  And, I’m not going to require that my husband take part on all of the changes I do- this is something I’m doing for myself.

Anyway, stay tuned.  All this is starting with 2013, and I’ve spent all of December gearing up. I’m excited, but nervous!

Do you have any resolutions for the new year?


14 Nov

Image posted on Facebook by Conscious Body Pilates Seattle.

A primary goal of both psychotherapy and mindfulness practices is to find meaning in life, which some might say is feeling HAPPY.  Interestingly, the more we strive for typical methods of securing happiness, such as pursuing wealth and power, the more we might struggle to find it.  Sometimes happiness comes about in unexpected ways such as being out of your comfort zone and taking risks, or in finding profound meaning from very painful circumstances such as trauma.  As Joseph Campbell said “It is by going down into the abyss that we recover the treasures of life.  Where you stumble, there lies your treasure.”

Today I watched the 2011 documentary “Happy” which explores the wealth of scientific research into happiness.

The film delves into Positive Psychology research and introduces its viewers to numerous concepts related to happiness, quickly moving from topics such as laughter, bullying, community and religion.  The film rapidly moves all over the world- from Louisiana to India, to Bhutan and to Japan.  It is a quick ride with a lot of happy information thrown at you, but overall it is interesting and fun as well as inspiring.

Some highlights of the movie include:

  • Happiness is partially related to our genetics and only 10% influenced by things like money and possessions.  However, research has shown that 40% of happiness is influenced by what we choose to do with ourselves as far as activities, thoughts and practices.  The movie does mention the importance of basic needs being met (think basic shelter and food) in order to pursue happiness.
  • Activities such as exercise (especially “novel exercise”, which the movie shows as people running in gorilla suits) increases the production of dopamine which makes people HAPPY.  (This must be why exercise is often regarded as the best anti-depressant.)
  • Positive Psychology research claims that close family and community support provides more happiness in life than material wealth ever will.  Makes a lot of sense.
  • Compassion meditation is shown to boost brain functioning and is found to increase happiness, even after just a little bit of practicing it.
  • Counting your blessings  is a way to stay focused on good fortune and can boost happiness.  (Shout out to all of those on Facebook currently posting about the gratefulness for the entire month of November!)
  • Research has shown that random acts of kindness is a huge way to boost overall feelings of well-being and happiness.

So overall, it is a compilation of information many of us may already be familiar with.  The message is clear though: Happiness is not some elusive thing you’ll find when you save enough money to get some new car or house.  It is also not something you simply find and have forever- it is a practice and a lifestyle.  Happiness is found in the everyday- cooking and enjoying meals with friends, learning to surf, taking time to walk outside and so on.  Happiness is also found by being part of something bigger than yourself, perhaps by giving back to the world.   The more you do those things, the more you’ll tap into happiness.

The ending narration of the movie states: “The formula for happiness is not the same for everyone.  The good news is that the things we love to do are the building blocks of a happy life: play, having new experiences, friends and family, doing things that are meaningful, appreciating what we have…these are the things that make us happy, and they’re free.  And with happiness, the more you have, the more everyone has.”

So what will you do today to find happiness?  

Ren & Stimpy- experts on happiness? Image from http://www.fanpop.com