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10 Tips for Managing Depression

 I’ve written about this topic before, but I decided to revisit it, since it’s one of the most popular things people search for on my blog.

Anyone who has suffered through a major depressive episode or clinical depression knows the feeling – a few things go badly, some misfortune piles up and you start to feel the dread.  Dark thoughts creep in and anxiety seems to hang around like an unwanted party guest.  You think to yourself, “Is this just a brief spell of mood swings, or will this snowball into a full-blown episode?”  I’ve struggled with mood problems my entire life, but after a difficult divorce I spiraled into a massive depression.  I never really understood how overwhelming the disease could be until I faced it myself.

Treating depression requires medical treatment in the form of therapy, medication or a combination of both.  A quick top 10 list is not going to cure a mental illness. But if you need something to help keep your demons at bay, these tips might help.  I know they’ve helped me prevent a few bad days from snowballing out of control.  They might seem like common sense, but it’s good to have a reminder.

1.  Reach out to Friends, Family or Loved ones – For some of us, our families might be the most toxic people in our lives.  If that’s true for you, then by all means just try to connect with someone who is loving and supportive.  Face time is a million times better than social media. Liking posts on Facebook and tweeting a buddy is not going to cut it.  Get up and leave your house, have lunch with a friend, or hang out with a buddy after work. If nothing else call a friend.  As much as we think we are alone, everyone has people who love and cherish them.  If it helps, make a list of those people and put it in a place where you can find it easily, complete with phone numbers, emails, and other contact information.  Avoid Isolation – When we’re alone we can control our environment, avoid negative people and focus on work.  The downside is we are social creatures who function best around other human beings.  Even if you can’t find a friend or loved one to hang out with, just sitting in a library or coffee shop with other people can help.

2.  Volunteer or Help Others – Helping others always helps get you out of your head and you’ll probably get to interact with more people, which is another way of avoiding isolation.  Again don’t just click a link on a website or sign a petition.  Get out of your house or apartment and physically get involved. Studies have shown that volunteering can actually reduce depression symptoms.

3.  Exercise – Physical exercise, especially cardiovascular exercise can help increase endorphins and other powerful chemicals in your brain.  It won’t even cost a cent if you just decide to go for a walk, or do some yoga by yourself at home.  Deep breathing can also help.

4.  Eat – I completely lose my appetite, others might eat to try to fill the void.  Know your tendencies and do what you can to try to stay on a healthy regime.  I literally will write “Eat Lunch” on my ‘To Do List’ because otherwise I might actually forget to have a meal.

5.  Hang out with a friendly animal – If you don’t have a pet, then find a friend who does.  If you are allergic to the furry variety, even watching fish swimming around in a tank at pet store can help calm your mind.   If you don’t like animals then go to a park, getting out and around nature can do wonders for your mood.

6.  Find a Creative Outlook – Draw, write, paint, craft, bake, cook, sew, knit, play an instrument, whatever you love to do or make – do it.  Musical instruments seem to help me more than anything, as does this blog.  Surfing the internet, watching television and playing video games are passive activities.  It’s really best to try to make something out of nothing.  Creativity is one of the best ways to boost your brain.  Some studies have shown links between creative people and higher rates of depression, but don’t let that discourage you.  Creating something will give you a sense of accomplishment.  Just be careful about how you spend that creative energy.  If you’re feeling especially low, you might want to avoid work on that memoir about your divorce.  Baking cupcakes might cheer you up instead.  🙂

7.  Avoid Crazy-makers – Sometimes negative and destructive people are impossible to remove from your life.  If your boss pushes you to the limit every day, there is little you can do about it.  But if you are struggling with an ex-partner or spouse, then by all means try to give yourself distance.

8.  Practice whatever therapy has worked for you in the past –  For me its Cognitive Behavioral Therapy or CBT.   I write it all out, my fears, the deep voices of dread and doubt that live inside of me and then I have to cognitively and logically destroy those voices.  It’s not always easy, and it doesn’t work for everyone.  Others might use meditation, acupuncture, aromatheraphy, biofeedback, massage therapy, yoga or any number of other alternative methods to help manage their depression.  If something doesn’t work, then try something else.  Don’t give up.

9. Avoid self-destructive behavior – Your well-meaning friends might encourage drug or alcohol use when you’re down.  Substances are just a crutch that will exacerbate a depressed person’s symptoms.  Getting loaded might make you feel better momentarily, but if you’re suffering from depression, the high won’t last.   Other self-destructive behaviors could be gambling, binge eating, reckless behavior or a string of sexual encounters with virtual strangers.  None of these are inherently bad, but anything done to excess can ultimately slow recovery.

10.  Ask for Help – Probably the hardest one on the list, because if you have recovered from depression, the last thing you want to admit is that it’s back.  But if you are having thoughts of self-harm, losing hope, or finding it difficult to simply feel joy, don’t be afraid to seek medical help. Depression is not a weakness of character, it’s a disease.  Triggers for depression vary from person to person and some struggle with it for most of their lives, while others will have one brief episode and then never go through it again.  You are NOT ALONE, and you are not a bad person because you are suffering.  The reasons behind your depression are complex but it’s not your fault.  If your first doctor or therapist doesn’t work out, keep searching.  If CBT doesn’t work for you, then try any number of alternative therapies.  If an anti-depressant doesn’t work out for you, then ask for a different prescription.  If you think you are being over medicated, then tell your doctor.  For many patients treating this disease involves a lot of trial and error.  NEVER GIVE UP!

As a person who has suffered through this myself, you have my empathy.  You’ll have times when you might lose hope, but so many of us have been there.  It will get better. No one is fortunate all of the time, and no one lives in misery all of the time.  We’ve all had our ups and downs and millions of us have also suffered from this horrible disease and recovered.  It’s going to be OK.  Hang in there.  🙂  I’ve included some other articles of mine on the subject and other links to use as resources.  There is a lot of help out there, don’t be afraid to ask for it. 🙂

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Depression is such a bitch…

Depression

Depression (Photo credit: Gingertail)

I don’t need a book or lecture to remind me that depression is a physical illness, and not something that is just made up in my head or a weakness on my part.   I don’t choose to battle this demon over and over again.  I know exactly what has caused this latest bout, but I won’t get into it on this blog because I really don’t want to pull anyone else from my personal life into something so public.  But even though I have come miles from where I was three years ago, just a mild cruelty from another person can cause me to spiral.

I am fighting back as best I can, but again I know this is biological in nature because I can actually feel it deep in the core of my being.  Depression feels like a physical ache, a dullness, almost like a heavy suit made of lead that the universe forces me to wear and walk around in.  Depression isn’t just feeling sad, it is the inability to feel joy.  It affects everything I do, everything I see and everyone I interact with on a daily basis..  I have difficulty concentrating, I lose my appetite and have trouble falling asleep, mixed in with the dark moods are bouts of anxiety that arise seemingly out of nowhere.  The constant battle of highs and lows is like riding the world’s most unpleasant roller coaster.  Sometimes looking at pictures of friend’s babies on facebook, or seeing a loving couple walking down the street will reduce me to tears.  The subway tends to bring on bouts of sadness.  I don’t know if it is something about the stillness, the anticipation of getting home, or that I have to sit and deal with my brain but I tend to fall down the rabbit hole on long late-night trips.  Or maybe it is that while sitting there I have a tendency to notice everyone around me, and little things remind me of what I lost.  I honestly don’t know, but those long late night commutes will cause all sorts of negative thoughts to swirl in my head.

But I fight back with every tool in my arsenal.  I write, I do all the cognitive behavior therapy techniques I know to dissipate the dark clouds that want to engulf me.  I silence the what if, what if, what if narratives that play out like a bad repeated record.

What if I was still married?

What if I was working more?

What if that last date had worked out?

What if I wasn’t so damn broke?

I know these things aren’t rational and I there is no point in dwelling on anything that is hypothetical but the thoughts linger nonetheless.  I know I am not alone and that there are millions of others out there who fight with this monster.  For some of us we have been at war with it our whole lives, maybe its is partly genetic, or from whatever traumas we have endured but we still have to fight a mental illness on top of our every day obstacles.

I write this piece with no answers, no quips or nifty conclusions at the end.  I write this for release as it tends to inexplicably help me when I do it.  Maybe one day the medical community will develop medication that actually works without so many side-effects.  One day doctors will find the biological mechanism that causes depression, and the stigma towards patients who suffer from it will disappear.

I have to remind myself how far I have come, and how much better I will be in the future.  To my fellow suffers of this disease I say…hang in there.  Whatever is troubling you shall pass, and you will survive it.    Avoid the temptation to self-medicate with drugs and alcohol and try to not fall into the trap of  self-destructive behavior.  We are all loved and cherished by many, never forget that.  We will get better…we are just battling a disease that doesn’t have an easy way out.

Life After Divorce: A Change in Perspective

...Hope...

…Hope… (Photo credit: ĐāżŦ {mostly absent})

I don’t normally write this type of post, I usually try to have a point before I write.  Some of these come right out of me while others take days even weeks before I am happy with them.  But the past few weeks have been so strange, painful and weird I felt I had to share.

As most of my regular readers know I have worked on a book for the past few months, a memoir about being married to a gay clown.  The project has been so overwhelming that I have avoided socializing, looking for a permanent job and even cut back on performances.  The book has completely kicked my ass.  I am not going to go into too many details for a number of reasons, but a couple of weeks ago I got some bad news about my book.  So I have taken a mental hiatus from it to give myself a break, and to eventually re-group.  Needless to say it was difficult news to get and a huge blow, as the book and my writing are one of the few things giving me hope lately.

And also in the past month a few things reminded me how terrible I still am at dealing with the opposite sex and dating.  To protect the privacy of others I won’t get to too many details but its been a rough few weeks.  In one incident I was fairly humiliated and mortified but I immediately picked myself back up, dusted myself off and refused to show any sign of being hurt.

Since my divorce, I have lost a lot of confidence when it comes to dating.  I tend to over think everything and misread pretty much every signal out there.   I just keep falling flat on my face, and it isn’t a lot of fun.   To add to my bad mojo, earlier this week some random person posted a fairly nasty, personal, direct attack towards me on this blog.  Ironically he picked my most popular post of the week and said something along the following.

No one cares what you have to say, you are a narcissist, get over yourself, you are still a nerd this blog is crap.

I am pretty sure I know who wrote it, but I won’t go into any more detail because why fuel that fire?   But calling me a narcissist is an easy shot as I am a performer who usually gets on stage with nothing more than a microphone.  It does take a certain type of personality to do that kind of work.  I also have a website, a youtube channel and this blog, all named after myself.  I just thought it would be better branding to keep everything the same, there was no more thought put into that decision.  So guilty as charged I guess, but a true narcissist can never admit they are wrong, and I admit I screw up all the time.  So that is a bit off, and I also tend to hide out in my bat cave doing nothing but writing this blog, or working on my book.  The whole transition from performer to writer has made me far more introverted.  I am not exactly walking around screaming “look at me!” when I don’t leave my apartment for days on end.   As far as “getting over myself” the person in question has no idea what he is talking about.  The following is all true and I openly admit it about my life

  • I make next to no money, I scrape by every single month.
  • I live in a horrible neighborhood and I have to rent out my living room as a second bedroom to afford rent.
  • I don’t really have much of a performing career –  I perform around NYC but for very little money, and despite repeated attempts I can’t seem to land an agent.
  • I have trust and bonding issues so dating has been next to impossible.
  • Even though I worked in my ex-husband’s profession for about nine years, the entertainment agents who used to hire me – stopped hiring me after the split
  • I work as a human prop – background extra in film and television – a mostly dead-end job that is completely unreliable.
  • I tried to get a “real” job for months and registered with about 10 employment agencies and got exactly one interview, which I couldn’t make, and it was for a temp job.
  • I am from a working class background – Many things from paying for college to pursuing a career in the arts have been much more difficult for me as a result.

That is my reality.  I am hardly kidding myself.  But since I have had so much success with my writing, my hope is that it will pull me out of this mess.  In fact I know it will, I am just not sure exactly how it is going to work out.  And to the person who has nothing better to do with his life than to troll the internet and make direct personal attacks against me…well…I don’t even think I need to comment…it is fairly pathetic, especially when the person remains anonymous.  We all have enemies, but I usually just try to avoid mine.

So given all of that I should have been down…and a few years ago I would have sunk into a depressed state…and I did have a couple of bad days.  But since I discovered Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) I decided I wasn’t going down that road.  I told myself that all of this was a sign from the universe that something completely positive was about to happen. I just keep focusing on the positive, and then the strangest thing happened.

I check my blog every single day, just to see how it is doing and at around 9 am, it showed that I had already had about 200 readers. For my blog those are crazy numbers so I went to investigate where it was coming from.  Someone on the Straight Spouse Network had decided to post one of my older articles, On Being a Straight Spouse – Broken Memories and it was exploding.  As the day went on more and more people were reading it, and the positive comments started pouring in.  As I read through them I started to cry, because they were all so heart-felt and it proved to me that there is a purpose to this blog and to my life.

Meanwhile I posted another article to the Huffington Post, I didn’t think it would get picked up as the Chick-Fil-A story is a few days old but to my amazement they printed it and it is doing extremely well.  So on top of the glowing comments I got on my old blog piece, I was getting a ton of crazy twitter and facebook attacks on my “Chick-Fil-A Do you really want to run your company on Biblical Values?” article.  And I have long since gotten used to attacks from strangers, I don’t even remotely sweat it, but it did make my day quite interesting to say the least.  When the dust settled I had a total of 806 readers on this blog for the entire day, my second highest day to date.  And it still isn’t completely over as I already have over 200 for today and it is still climbing.

The negative energy was somehow turned positive and everything lined up to remind me that there is a point to what I am doing here.  Even though I have performed since I was 11 years old, at no time in my performance career have I gotten this type of feedback.  The universe is telling me something…still not sure how I am going to steer my life back on a better path but I am headed in the right direction.  Thank you.  I am truly humbled by the wonderful comments I get, and to any straight spouse reading this blog…HANG IN THEREYOU ARE NOT ALONE!  Much love.

Growing up with Depression

First Day of School

I guess it has always been there to some degree since childhood.  I would love to say that my childhood was happy and that everyone around me was loving and supportive.  But who has that childhood?  I have met a few who have been fortunate enough to at least have strength in their basic foundational relationships.  The lucky few who are supported by both their parents, have a secure and safe environment, and a steady predictable routine. My upbringing was relatively stable in most respects but emotionally I would describe it as volatile.

I don’t blame my parents, and at my age I would feel a bit silly putting any blame on them considering my circumstances.  I wasn’t abandoned or left to starve and I wasn’t neglected or ridiculed.  My parents got married young and had four children in five years.  We didn’t grow up with much, and money was a constant source of stress and anxiety.  Their marriage wasn’t perfect and they were not ideal parents but they always made their children their primary concern.  So with all of their faults I knew the did the best they could consider the obstacles they were up against.   I may not have had a father I could have tender moments with, but he worked overtime, marched on picket lines and lived with very little material wealth for the sake of his children.  My mother was in over her head with four babies and a husband who worked all the time but she always made us the center of the universe.   She constantly took us to trips to the library, bought us every educational toy or game we could afford and made sure we did our homework.  She may have been too obsessed, but I would rather grow up with her than an indifferent mother.

School wasn’t much of a solace as I was awkward and socially withdrawn.  I found children my age to be a bit of a mystery and found more enjoyment reading a book than playing with other kids.  There is much more I could write about, but I won’t because I cherish relationships I have with certain family members.  I don’t want to dredge up old traumas for the sake of this blog.  Some things need to remain private, for the sake of my siblings and my immediate family.   When things got bad I literally hid in a closet in our basement.  I would shut the door and wait for my world to stop spinning out of control.  To this day I don’t think anyone in my family knew I would go down there, I guess they might know now…if they read this blog.

Depression has always been there.  The dread that will sometimes wash over me that I can’t shake.  It causes me to overreact and panic and lose faith in others.   My divorce made it much more pronounced but depression has been with me for as long as I can remember.  I had no idea how bad it would get until post-divorce I became suicidal and nearly completely lost my sanity.  Clinical depression is nothing to joke about or to shrug off as just the blues.  I realize now that I suffered from a mental illness that is quite common but extremely frustrating to manage.  But I fought back with traditional therapy, medication, cognitive behavioral therapy and eventually my situation greatly improved.

Although now, I can feel the seductive pull of the dark clouds sucking me back in from time to time.  At first it feels comfortable to give in to the black moods and collapse in tears but they soon take over.  And instead of having a quick therapeutic moment of release the dread wins out and starts to devour me.  I find myself lying on my bed looking straight up trying to fight back a panic attack.  I haven’t had one in over a year, and I am so proud that I have been able to stop them but when things get bad it is a constant struggle.  At least now I know I have some control, I don’t have to huddle in a closet until it passes.   And just knowing that I have some control has been paramount to my recovery.  As a child I didn’t know what it was, I couldn’t understand why I wanted to retreat by myself, why I had difficulty dealing with other and why I constantly had crying fits that were nearly inconsolable.   I couldn’t understand why things got so black in my head, and why hope was such a hard thing to imagine.  My Catholic upbringing caused me to look for a supernatural source but now I know the real demons live inside my head.  If it is brain chemistry or some genetic defect I don’t know, or if repeated trauma caused something in my brain to develop abnormally.  The source of my depression doesn’t really matter, at least that is what therapy taught me.  What matters is management, and trying to live with and fight against this affliction.

For the most part I do alright.  I am so much better off than I was just a year ago, but I still struggle.  And I know from the amazing feedback I have gotten from this blog and from fellow sufferers of depression that this disease is a tricky one.  If you are reading this and you have struggled with depression since you were a child, don’t give up hope.  You can and will beat it.  Some of us aren’t as lucky in life as others, some of us are born with more obstacles that the average person, and some of us are born with the biology that causes depression.  But it doesn’t mean that we can’t beat this disease and we can’t overcome it.

I wish I knew what I know now when I was six years old, if I could I would go back to that little girl with the ice blonde hair and the rosy cheeks and tell her that God isn’t punishing her when the gloom overtakes her mind.   Whatever is going on in her head is not pay back for any sins she committed and it is not a battle between good and evil.  The dark moods are just a slight flaw in her wiring, and that flaw is depression.  And everyone has a flaw, no little girl is born perfect.

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Why I just can’t get over it and be happy — Depression is an illness

Rethink Mental Illness

Rethink Mental Illness (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This post is originally from July 2010.  I am moving this from my other blog.  It got tremendous feedback and I am sad that I can’t move the comments over as well, but I am very proud of this post.  Depression is a mental illness and should be treated as a serious medical problem, not something that can be easily brushed off as the blues.

My last blog post was so positive!  Well here comes the ANGRY part of my little Miss Angry Girl blog.  The other day had such a beautiful interaction with another human being and then last night……..ARRRRRRGGGGHHHHHHHH (pirate growl)

Someone gave me yet more unsolicited advice tonight.  Boy, do I hate unsolicited advice!!!

“Why don’t you try looking on the positive side of things for a change?”

Really, I hadn’t thought of that.   Now I am sure that this person had the best of intentions.  They thought they were helping me out, but let me break it down for why it is not so easy to simply “Think positively”

Would you tell an anorexic to just eat some food?  An alcoholic to simply stop drinking?  A drug addict to simply stop using?  A person with ADHD to simply focus?  A person with schizophrenia to simply stop hearing voices?  Or would you even dream of telling a person who is physically handicapped to simply start moving?  Yes stopping the negative behavior is part of the problem, but there’s a reason telling a person suffering from mental illness to THINK BETTER is absolute nonsense.

Just as a physically handicapped person can not suddenly become fully functional after thinking positively, the same cna be said about a person suffering from depression.  I’m suffering from reactive depression.  To quote Psychology.suite101.com

This form of depression is a direct result or responses to a painful or difficult circumstance or event in a person’s life. In reactive depression there is a specific and recognized reason found to be the source of the condition.  Examples of situations which may result in a person suffering from reactive depression include: redundancy, work stress, marital problems, bereavement, loss, problems with one’s children, retirement, moving house, DIVORCE or changing job.

Sometimes it takes longer than perhaps casual acquaintances think is necessary to work through a major life changing event.  I was clinically depressed just a few months ago, so I’m actually doing better off now.  Clinical depression is depression that gets so bad a person cannot normally function.  That is eat, drink, bathe, sleep, get out of bed…..FUNCTION.

Not to mention that I lost not just the primary relationship that I had for nine years. I had to move.  My income has severely dropped as has my ability to find work.  All thanks to a number of circumstances surrounding my divorce.  Even the loss of a regular source of income could lead to depression never mind, the loss of my husband, sense of betrayal, loss of trust in other human beings, damaged sexuality, and destroyed self esteem.

If you are reading this and don’t know me, I found out my marriage was a complete fraud.  My husband has been living a secret life, and has lied to me from day one of our marriage.  It’s been a rough 13 months.

All of this doesn’t even  take into consideration my childhood, my life history or any trauma’s besides my divorce that might also be contributing to my depression.  Trust me, you could sit down with my therapist and we could go over some things in my past that might make your hair turn white.  I’d rather not rehash them here.  :

Depression is an illness.  Depression is an illness.  DEPRESSION IS AN ILLNESS!

It’s not to say that I won’t overcome it, but my brain is sick right now.  Chemicals such as dopamine, serotonin, nor-epinephrine all play a role, and they are real.  It is not simply  a question of “thinking positively”.    I’m not being self-destructive sexually or with drugs and alcohol, and I’m in regular therapy with both a therapist and a psychiatrist.  So I think I’m doing everything that I can to overcome this.

What I am currently dealing with is trying to get off an SSRI (Zolfot) while still trying to figure out how to survive in a ravaged economy with high unemployment.  My life hasn’t exactly stabilized since leaving my husband, especially financially speaking.

Not to say that positive thinking won’t help, of course it will, but I’m dealing with a chemical withdrawal of a drug that altered my natural levels of serotonin.  Just sitting back and trying to think happy thoughts, is not really going to cut it.  What might help is some respect for this MENTAL ILLNESS called depression, and some compassion. for not just me but the millions of other Americans who are currently battling this disease.  Just as a handicapped person cannot simply will themselves to walk, a person suffering from a mental illness needs a little bit more than positive thinking to pull themselves up.    I am not weak because I can’t get over this, I am NOT being self-destructive, I am doing the best I can.

And solidarity to my fellow sufferers of depression, we will get through this and we will be stronger for it.  One day people will understand that we can’t just simply “be happy”.

Read more at Suite101: What is Reactive Depression?: Understanding Common Mental Health Conditions http://psychology.suite101.com/article.cfm/what-is-reactive-depression#ixzz0uCm4pTxr

4/23/11

I wanted to add an an epilogue as it were to this post.  I left my husband nearly two years ago, because he was gay and every aspect of my life much completely collapsed immediately afterward.  Emotionally and financially I was a mess.  If my financial life had been in order, or if I had steady employment that was not tied into what my husband did for a living I would have been much better off.  That being said, I can honestly say that I’m much better off now.  It takes serious time to get over something like a divorce.  I have never gone through anything as torturous in my life, and I really hope I never have to go through it again.   There is hope on the other end of whatever hell is causing your reactive depression.  If you’re suffering from clinical depression due to a recent crisis, please seek help if you feel you need it.  There are so many resources out there, and if you feel like your life isn’t worth living anymore, that’s the biggest warning sign.  Get help.  Depression is not just feeling blue.  I had no idea until I went through it myself, but it’s an actual mental illness that will take over your life.  If you’re experiencing most or a a few of these symptoms seek professional help.

  • Lack of appetite
  • Lack of desire to do anything, get out of bed, shower, eat, drink,
  • Isolation – Refusal to go outside, see friends, etc.
  • Suicidal thoughts – This is not a joke, get help as soon as possible.
  • Waking frequently at night, not able to sleep for more than a couple hours in a stretch
  • Sleeping way too much
  • Poor concentration
  • Overwhelming feelings of guilt and despair
  • Crying ALL the time

Clinical depression is often coupled with anxiety.  And in my case the anxiety was so bad, that is why I knew I had a serious problem I had never had anything like it before in my life.

  • Panic attacks
  • Anxiety attacks – Panic attacks that go on for hours, my worst was 8 hours long and absolutely terrifying.
  • Overwhelming panic and fear
  • Waves of depression followed by waves of anxiety – this is actual textbook depression, and not at all unusual.
  • Inability to sleep that goes on for days.

I’m not here to sell any drug.  Medication doesn’t work for everyone and isn’t always the best option.  I was only on meds for a short period of time, but I believe strongly they saved my life.  Don’t be afraid to ask for help and please get help if you need it.  There’s a light at the end of the tunnel, don’t give up.  🙂  If your first therapist or doctor isn’t working for you, find another one.  Keep looking until you can get the help you need.  Cognitive behavioral therapy is a great resource that I’ve tried and highly recommend.

Also try to find distance from anyone who doesn’t take your illness seriously.  They probably are trying to help, but some well-meaning friends or relatives can actually cause more problems.  As much as the lover or friend will also help you out, there is a limit to what they can do.  Having someone around who is objective and doesn’t know you or want anything from you will really help you in finding the right course to help you with your healing.

Try as much as you can to not self-medicate with alcohol or recreational drugs, they will just make things worse, and could kill you.  Substances are just stretching out the process.  They numb you temporarily, but in the long run they will just make things harder.  The same thing goes for sex, or food, anything that can be used in a self-destructive manner should be avoided.   No one is perfect and you will make mistakes, just try to pick yourself afterward and not beat yourself up too much.

Just my two cents of course, you don’t have to agree with me on any of it.  I just know what helped me.  Good luck to anyone finding this blog, may you get stronger and healthier each day.

I wanted to add this brilliant Lecture by Dr. Robert Sapolsky of Stanford University.  The first time I listened to this it blew my mind, I found out I was suffering from a textbook case of clinical depression.  His explanation of the inability to sleep through the night and weight loss was EXACTLY what I was going through.  It was a PHYSICAL manifestation of my depression, it wasn’t something I could control.

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Life After Divorce: Some Basics I try to remind myself of every day

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This is a blog post from another blog that I used to write, that due to confusion with this blog I am shutting down and moving my better articles over here.  🙂

So I was sort of acting as impromptu counselor for a friend who is facing a separation/divorce.  And I will repeat what I have said numerous times.  Divorce is much different from a regular break up.  You stood before your entire family, you committed your life to another person, you had legal and financial obligations, you had to go to court to actually break up, you have a wedding ring, and on and on and on.   There is just such a perceived permanence to marriage, even with a 50% divorce rate.  If you were betting on a horse, a 50% success rate wouldn’t be so bad, so thinking you might stay together forever isn’t really that far-fetched.

Divorce is hell, I am still over a year from separating from my husband and I still have dark nights of the soul, crying fits for no reason, insomnia, and the occasional panic attack.  I am doing a MILLION TIMES better than I was just a few months ago, but it is still a daily struggle.

But I try to live by these very basic rules every day.  Sometimes I succeed, and sometimes I don’t, but I try and, trying is half the battle. This is sort of what I was telling my friend tonight (who shall remain nameless) and I thought it would be good to write it down.   I get a lot of “Think Positive and I think that is a lame way of saying “Be Happy for me there is a bit more to it, and I am breaking it down.

1. Don’t Dwell on what You cannot control – Like it or not, we cannot control other people.  I can’t control the main factor that lead to my divorce, so I have to let it go.

2. Get Rid of Crazy People in Your Life – Not exactly crazy people, but people that make me crazy or encourage crazy behavior, especially self-destructive behavior.  Sometimes this is impossible if it is a family member or a roommate but if you can avoid people who make you do crazy things, do it!  They might not even know they make you crazy or are actively trying to make you crazy…..but it doesn’t matter.  People that put you into CRAZYTOWN, should be avoided.

3. Do Not Hurt Yourself – Avoid the trappings that seem like an easy fix to a complex problem, drugs, alcohol, sex with people if it is in a self-destructive way, lashing out at loved ones and friends.  I don’t do any substances and for the most part have avoided dating, but I definitely find ways to mess up my life…..trust me.

4. Surround yourself with supportive people – This one is hard with my crazy schedule but I try, I wish I could do this more often.

5. Focus on the Future not the Past – I think it is important to know your past, but not to dwell on it.  This is HARD especially while in therapy, because in therapy a therapist is usually trying to find a cause to the core problem.  I actually saw my future as a black hole when I left my husband.  I am still extremely uncertain what lies before me, but it is a little less black and more gray now.  🙂

6. Forgive yourself and others for past mistakes – This one is also very difficult for me especially.  I won’t get into it, but because of childhood issues, I have difficulty letting go of things and especially with forgiveness.  My biggest problem is forgiving myself.  I tend to beat myself up over things that I cannot go back and fix.

7. Ask for Help when you need it – This one is beyond hard for me.  It always has been, but I tell myself that I am a weaker person when I DON’T ask for help.  No one is perfect, everyone needs help sometimes.

8. Stop Saying “What if?” –  What if I had not dated so soon after leaving my husband?  What if I had left him earlier?  What if I had never married him in the first place?  Do these questions really do me any good?  NO, they just make me crazy.  And they will never stop, so I have to stop them…..I will never know the answer to WHAT IF?  So I have to stop asking!!!

9. Don’t ignore reality – When I start to spiral I say to myself, I have a great apartment, I am working, I am healthy, I have the best friends, supportive family, and the two world’s greatest cats, and compared to how a lot of people live in this world I have it pretty good.

10. It is going to get better – This has become a mantra I say to myself nearly nightly, although it is usually “It is going to be OK, It is going to be OK”  Life has a way of constantly changing, and even though things are bad now, they could very easily get better soon.

11. Find something that makes you really happy and do it – For me that is performing and more specifically singing and music.  One good thing that has happened through this whole mess is that I have re-found my love for singing that studying music had sort of beaten out of me.  🙂

12. Try to throw away the bad advice and take the good – I can’t tell you how much well meaning bad advice I have gotten.  It is extremely difficult at times to just let this stuff roll off of me, especially comments about my Ex-husband and judgments on myself and my marriage when the people giving the advice are uninformed.

13. When in doubt find my cats – They are pure love, they are furry, they purr, and they never let me down.