The Snowball Effect of Self Care

Everyone has negative thoughts. I would imagine it’s a pretty common occurrence for many. Sometimes the negative thought or feeling is small. A floating thought like I can’t do this. It comes and goes. Often time that thought turns into a feeling followed by beliefs we have about ourselves. For me, sometimes the negative thought or feeling can be easily dealt with right away. I am able to use my positive self talk to wash away the doubt and bad feelings. The deeper the negativity (or pain) the harder that becomes. The biggest question is how do you stop the negative from snowballing. What starts out as a snowflake turns into an avalanche. There are times the process may seem quick but if I look deeper there are usually factors that are not obvious. I have realized that my self care is at the root of the snowball. I have never taken care of myself. I bend over backwards for other people which leaves me with very little and these days nothing. I’m completely out of orbit and any amount of turbulence sends me flying into the sun. The more self care and love I practice the better I feel. It’s all connected.

This is what I worked on in therapy today. Spiraling out of control and how to manage the snowball so that it doesn’t turn into an avalanche. What I struggle with most is that it’s not always a negative thought, it’s a feeling. A lot of time my thoughts are so buried deep that I don’t experience them until it turns into a feeling. These moments can be triggered by anything, including a positive interaction. It’s much easier to push away a random thought, than a feeling. This is difficult because you don’t always know what the trigger was. That’s been my experience in the past. I have gotten better with identifying the problem but that’s rarely.

One aspect of the snowball effect is that it goes both ways. Positivity can also snowball but the effects are more therapeutic, unless you go into mania. As quick as the negative snowball can spiral the positive snowball rolls much slower, at a snail’s pace it seems. I get so easily discouraged because I’m desperate for relief. For most of my life I have been a zombie, asleep at a wheel. So the chaos of my life hasn’t bothered me as much it does today. I was okay living in a constant blizzard. I got used to the fridgedness and snow. Now that I’m awake and aware I realize it’s much worse. It’s an avalanche. I just want to cut out the depression and pain out of my life but sadly it doesn’t work that way. Medicine and therapy can only go so far. The reality is that I will have to deal with the ups and downs for the rest of my life.

The key to happiness will be in how I prepare for the winter. That is one consistent part of my life. The storm!!!! I won’t be able to get rid of the storm entirely but if I continue to practice self love those storms won’t be as frequent or severe. Instead of tornadoes they will be your typical thunderstorms. Occasionally that storm can become severe. I am learning that if I have a protocol in cause of an emergency I will handle the event better. For example, having a safety place in place. Knowing the options when you have to take shelter from the storm instead of running around like a chicken with your head cut off in the middle of a tornado. I’m tired of seeing cows orbit me. The witch needs to stay home.

The positive and negative snowball are both connected. The less I take care of myself the easier for the negative snowball to take form. One way that happens for me is my apartment and how clean/dirty it is. One hurdle leads to another. One example is my kitchen. When I’m really depressed I don’t feel like making anything to eat. I go into scavenger hunt, like I’m a mouse on the run. I will eat anything that’s right in front of me, which usually means eating cold soup. Yuck! Yuck! Yuck! If the storm has hit my kitchen I’m less likely to step foot into my kitchen as I become a pig wallowing in the mud, at least that’s what it feels like. Being aware my negativity takes form physically. I can see it clearly now and it’s not pretty. It’s the most uncomfortable and annoying feeling ever.

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When my kitchen is clean-ish I’m more likely to make something substantial. Like a microwave dish. If I have energy I might even cook. Which is a complete treat for me because I usually always eat frozen or canned food. Again, yuck! My eating habits also come into play with the snowballing. Eating canned soup isn’t fulfilling. It doesn’t make you feel good, it’s just gross. Now that I have identified that there are influencers to the snowball I can start to investigate better, that’s progress right there.

This is what I have learned about my kitchen research. Leaving dirty dishes in the sink is a snowball. The more dishes I pill on the bigger that snowball becomes. Eventually the mess with spill out onto the counter and before I know it I have a mini blizzard in my living room. When it gets this severe I don’t even like walking by my kitchen. Nobody wants to look at a disaster zone. So what can I do:

  1. When I use dishes clean them right away. Don’t leave them in the sink. This can be tough when making a big meal. Often times after I cook a big meal I don’t feel like cleaning. It takes all my energy out of me. One thing that helps me is to minimize the use of kitchen utensils. My crockpot is one example. All I need to do is throw in the ingredients and let them sit for hours. When it’s done all I have to clean up is the crock pot thingy and the dish I used to store leftovers in.
  2. Whenever you buy meat, clean it right when you get home. Prepare it however you normally would and freeze them individually. I buy chicken in the family packs because it’s considerably cheaper. If I leave it in the fridge it will sit in there and I will forget about it. There is nothing more upsetting than expensive food going back. I can only afford so much meat a month. Lately when I get home. I clean and cut the meat right away. I will go as far as cut up the chicken into small pieces. I use to just freeze the whole package but that doesn’t help me down the road when I have no energy. So I seperate the chicken by meals. So when I want to make a dish all I need to do is unthaw the meat and I’m done. All I need to do is throw away the plastic bag. This can be done with any meat, especially hamburger. If you can afford it, you can even by meat that’s already prepared.
  3. Buy paper plates, bowls and plastic silverware. This will reduce the dirty dishes big time. Yeah, I know the major downfall is environmental but you can’t fix everything at once. This is just temporary until you can function better. Now I’m more likely to make food and it’s much easier to clean up. I have also learned how quickly the mess and clutter starts to pile up. Now when the dirty dishes pile up (and they do) I can just toss them in a trash bag.
  4. Trash bags are your friends. I keep a makeshift trash can using an old vacuum box. I keep that in my living room. So when I don’t have much energy to clean I can quickly toss everything in the trash.
  5. I have made a makeshift shower seat using a plastic shower curtain and a folding like chair. Taking a shower takes a lot of my energy and I’m lucky if I wash more than once a week. A big struggle with my energy is my weight. I am 6 feet tall and weigh 360 pounds. Now that I have made it easier to get clean I’m more likely to use my shower. I keep a cup in there and can take my time. Be careful with your shower curtain. Make sure that water doesn’t leak out from it onto the floor. You will have a flooded bathroom if you use the shower head. If I’m not as winded coming out of the shower I’m more likely to brush my teeth and style my hair. Monday was one of those days. I took a long hot shower and got really clean. This gave me the energy to brush my teeth, blow dry and style my hair, and shave with a razor. I had a full beard too. I would never had done that if I didn’t have the seat. Practicing self care led to one positive step to another. The better I feel about myself the less depressed I become. Not taking care of my chores and personal grooming only increases my depression. I’m learning it can trigger me as well. I can feel decent and look at my mess. I will want to clean it up and feel overwhelmed. My feel good mood can quickly turn sour just by looking at my mess or feeling dirty. Eventually the mess gets so severe I have to do something about it. Whenever I do a deep clean I always feel better and the results are pretty dramatic.
  6. Managing my medicine times (which improves my sleep schedule) is one way I can manage my depression. I have started to set reminders on my phone to take my medicine at set times. My sleep schedule is all over the place, which means inconsistent medicine times which will make my depression worse. No matter what I make sure to take my meds. If I’m sleeping I take the meds and go back to bed. If I’m awake and don’t want to sleep, I take my night time meds…. which include meds that help me to sleep. Eventually the meds will kick in, helping me stay on a schedule. If I go to sleep anytime after 6am more than likely my mood will be affected. I hate waking up in the evening. Having an off sleep schedule also affects my mood. The early I can get to bed the better. So for me, it’s by 4am. I usually sleep 12 hours so that would mean waking up at 4pm. While that’s probably crazy sleeping hours for most it works for me. I have never been a morning person. I’ve set my alarm for 3 am/pm. At night by 5am I start to get sleepy. In the afternoon by 3pm I’m more awake and more likely to stay up when I’m awoken by the alarm. See how one thing leads to another positive change. There is freedom in knowing that the pendulum turns both ways.
  7. Another medicine related self care step is having your medicine put in pill packs. If you are like me you take a lot of meds and at different times. This can lead to missed doses by either forgetting or not feeling like getting each pill out the bottles. Now my pills are separated by time of day. I also have my medicine delivered so that I don’t forget to get my medicine refilled. At my old pharmacy if my depression was really bad I wouldn’t go to get my prescription. If I miss one day of psych meds the mood decreases pretty dramatically. They will also follow up with my doctors if I don’t have a refill or with me if I need to go in to see the doctor. Now I rarely miss a dose.
  8. Being proactive with anything related to scheduling and keeping appointments. I make sure to enter an appointment right away into my google calendar and I set numerous reminders so I don’t forget. If it’s an appointment to for med refills it’s extremely important to make those appointments. One pebble leads to another until my vase is full of stones and I can’t get out.
  9. Transportation is one barrier for me. I don’t have a car and often times my depression keeps me from taking the city bus. Especially if my anxiety is high. Going to various medical appointments becomes problematic because there are a lot of steps. One that has helped me big time is having a caseworker. I know this might not be possible for many but it wouldn’t hurt checking with your mental health department for your county to seeing if you qualify for one. Even if you can’t or don’t want one there are steps that can be taken to make going to appointments easier. Asking a friend to take you is one way. In the past I would cancel appointments because I wouldn’t leave the house. If I have someone come to my apartment complex I will definitely go. It helps to keep me accountable. Some areas even have local buses that are curbside. I know my city does but it doesn’t go outside my city and all my appointments are in Lansing, which is the bigger city near me. My city bus company offers service to people with disabilities too that go outside of the city but the requirements are a lot more difficult to get approved but if you can get a doctor to fill it out and get approved then that will be one barrier lifted for you. I’m looking into it for myself but I would be limited because it’s $5 round trip. So I couldn’t afford it always. Having multiple options is always a good thing. Planning also helps me take the city bus. Knowing when the bus times are and coordinating my trip around those times will make me more likely to use the bus. Limiting my time on city buses will alleviate the anxiety and make my trips less stressful.
  10. Making grocery shopping easier. Going to the grocery store is one source of anxiety for me. It can be very overwhelming to me, which leads to me not going. If I don’t have food I like and can make easily, then I will go hungry and the snowball is formed. I try to make lists now and keep my visits as brief as I can. In the past, I would only go to the grocery store once or twice a month. Which makes for a lot of work. Only limiting myself to so many items helps to decrease my anxiety. I don’t worry about spending so much money, nor does it take me that long to check out. In addition, when I get home it doesn’t take a lot of energy to put away everything. I also keep a list. This will keep me on track. A lot of time is spent not knowing what to get or ever spending, then getting overwhelmed because I have too much. See how quickly that snowball forms. Having a list also decreases the time you spend in the grocery store. This is really helpful if you don’t like crowds. If I want to get some larger items that I can’t carry from the bus stop I can either take my local bus or use the shopping bus that my complex has once a week. Even then I still only make small lists. I’m trying to increase my fiber so getting gallons of water are heavy. Another source of stress is bagging my own groceries now that most places have mostly self check out. I get so stressed out because I feel like I have to rush or people will get angry. So I kill myself to get out of there quickly. Now my grocery store has shop and scan. Now I use my smart phone to scan and bag items one at a time. This helps me keep on budget too. If I spend too much I can easily remove something rather than have a worker manually void it at the register. I can take my time and am not rushed. Which makes a huge difference. If I can’t do this then I will use a lane with a cashier. My embarrassment for using food stamps only gets in the way in terms of my depression. Another tip to making get groceries easier is getting reusable grocery bags. Not only is it environmentally good but you can also carry more. They are sturdy and won’t spill. There is nothing worse than groceries gushing out of a broken bag.

So these are the steps I’m taking to manage the snow in my life. The better I take care of myself, the less depressed I feel or at the very least if I get triggered it will lesson the severity of the episode. Now these steps might not all work for you and that’s okay. It’s a trial and error process. Do what works for you. It’s taken me over twenty years to have the experience and know how to not only come up with this list but follow through on the steps. It’s so easy to only see what you’re not doing or feel the affects from the inaction. A lot of times it only takes a crumble of doubt to cover up a mountain of good. In the past six months I have come a long ways. I have fallen into the trap of not being able to seperate the good from the bad. Now I’m able to see my successes. One is that I have been in therapy since 2013 and rarely do I miss an appointment. I have never stuck out therapy. The only other time was when I lived in Chicago. I was in therapy for a year and a half, until I self destructed and ran away from my problems. I haven’t done that this time. This last year I have not wanted to go to therapy at all both due to physically leaving my apartment and not wanting to talk about my pain. I pushed myself to go every single time. I only was able to do that because I put a plan into place. Like having a regular scheduled appointment and having a ride each week take me there.

The hardest part of healing for me is not giving myself such a hard time. Being so critical just get’s in my way. So I look at this current PTSD episode (that I have been since Jul of last year) as a do what I have to do, when I have to do it. Meaning I allow for imperfections. I expect change to happen overnight. Again the positive snowball starts off with one snowflake at a time. I have so much in my life that I need to work on. Focusing on the big picture only leads to me giving up. So breaking that up in small segments will help me living a more healthy and happy lifestyle. Now I try to not beat myself up when I drink a lot of pepsi or let my kitchen get messy. Pepsi is one prime example. Honestly I don’t need to be drinking Pepsi because of my weight but it’s a big crutch for me. I have so much else going on that I have to work on that I have allowed myself to have pepsi when I want to. I still push myself but I no longer try to stop drinking pepsi. I think what good is not drinking pepsi if I push my mental health the point of ending my life. I have such a perfect idea of what my life should be, usually based off what society says I need to be. Right now my apartment is pretty messy, outside my kitchen and that’s okay. The one good thing lately is that the clutter is starting to get on my nerves. So I can only avoid it so long before it makes me mad. Just working at one step at a time has helped me dramatically during this PTSD episode. Like I said it’s all connected.

The more I work on self care/love, the more relief I get from depression. I just need to practice it to make permanent. Well those are my thoughts for the night. Does anyone else have some mental health life hacks that help manage their depression, anxiety, etc. I always love hearing new ideas. I get amnesia with the obvious stuff. So let me know what tips you have.

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Nowhere To Go: Managing Your Mental Illness When You are Homeless

 

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My biggest fear prior to being homeless was having to cope with triggers when I was homeless. It’s one thing to have a depressive episode from the comforts of your home but it’s an entirely different thing when you have nowhere to go when you are homeless. There aren’t any safe places. Everywhere you go is a danger zone. This fact kept me in misery for far too long. I have off and on been potentially homeless the last few years. Looking back I wish I had the courage to just take that jump and go into homelessness earlier. Sadly I wasn’t prepared or ready to face the dangers like I am now.

The biggest hurdle to being homeless was the fear and it’s one of the big issues I face with, I always have. Fear has kept me from living since my Mom passed away in 2012. I stayed near my family and didn’t move because I lived in constant fear that they would die to. It was extremely crippling and it made me absolutely miserable. Of course there is a lot more to my mental illness than fear but that’s a biggie. Once I pulled the bandaid off from going to the hospital and then the shelter the situation was no longer as scary. Actually overall it’s not scary at all. Now when things happen like the fight in the day shelter things quickly escalate into frightening but overall it’s not fear or fright that really gets to me. It’s the uncomfortableness and lack of privacy that gets me. You lose all normalcy to life. The first week is scary. The second week is uncomfortable and the third week it starts to get to you.

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What I miss most is the comforts of a home. Today was the first time I have stepped foot into a home in over six weeks and it was only briefly. Today’s temperatures are going to be over 94 with the heat index over 100 degrees. So I had a guy want to hookup with me. Usually I’m like no thank you but today it was hot and he had air conditioning. Plus he picked me up in his nice car that had really cold ac. We get to his house and it was nice. The best part was his huge comfy bed that I lay in for a good thirty minutes. It was like heaven. I felt like I was floating on cotton candy. While things didn’t go as planned with the hookup I at least got to have some comfort for just a little bit. Plus he dropped me off at the library and gave me a cold coke. So I haven’t done a lot of walking.

You start to crave the normal things to life and when you don’t get them it starts to eat away at your psyche. Overall my mental health has been very good since I was out of the hospital last month but this week it’s started to deteriorate as I was starting to get more overwhelmed by being homeless. It didn’t help that Wednesday I had confrontations with two not so nice people. As hard as I tried those two negative interactions left a crack for the depression to seep into. I just haven’t been able to shake this depressed feeling. It’s not one thought either. I just feel depressed and it’s not just because I’m sick. Though I do think that is adding to it. What people don’t understand about depression is that it’s not always an effect of a trigger. Sometimes you just wake up feeling bad. There is something about your brain chemistry that’s off and it sends you into a fog for the rest of the day.

It’s tough to not let things bring you down when you suffer from depression and that’s even more complicated when you have a mental illness. The past three weeks my depression has been okay, it’s not really been at the surface as I had many other things to worry about but now it’s in the mix. It’s overwhelming because I’m having to fight so many other things and now I have to add fighting my negative thoughts and feelings. Add the extreme heat and I just feel like I’m about to go mad. I was dreading today because of the heat. The weekends are the worst because the day shelter isn’t open so you have to walk to get somewhere cooler. On Sundays the buses don’t run until 9am so I had to wait outside for an hour and that is just a miserable feeling. To not have anywhere to go, so you just have to sit in a place you don’t want to. It doesn’t help with how you feel.

Being homeless you are forced to go outside of your comfort zone and that’s even more so the case when you have something like PTSD. Thankfully so far my PTSD has been in check but it’s always a concern. You have times when you are in a PTSD bubble that being around others becomes problematic. Friends and family become strangers and strangers become enemies. You aren’t able to trust anyone. Your world turns into a war zone and there is NOWHERE to hide. So for now that’s in check and I’m thankful for that.

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I think what’s most unsettling is that even though life has been really tough for the past three weeks I have felt the best about myself in a very long time. I have felt so empowered by this experience and it’s lifted me up in some tough times but the last couple of days it’s been a constant struggle. I wake up feeling horrible. Every muscle in my body hurts. It’s tough just walking a few steps. My mind is as thick as pea soup. I feel so defeated and discouraged. I’m worn out with no relief in sight. I hope it’s just the bronchitis because I’m not liking this at all. This will be my third day on antibiotics so I hope I get better soon because this feels unbearable. At times on the verge of losing it, at least it feels that way. It’s these thoughts of not being able to handle life like this.

You just want to scream but no words can escape. They are all stuck in the puzzle of your mind, with jagged little shards of glass poking out. I can handle a lot but it’s the physical pain that’s lately that’s been getting to me. I have to walk. I don’t have a choice. It’s not a fun feeling to have to push through. Feet turn into miles and hills into mountains.

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It’s not helping that it’s taking longer than I expected to get my own place. I was approved for a one bedroom apartment of my own a week ago but the manager of the complex has no urgency. Originally the move in date was going to be the 21st and that’s fast approaching. The main hurdle is getting my Doctor to sign some paperwork to prove that I’m disabled, otherwise I will not being able to move in because it’s only for the elderly and those with a disability. For whatever reason my Doctor hasn’t been getting the faxes and it’s not because he’s not trying. He’s just as frustrated as I am and the lady at the office doesn’t seem to care.

On the 23rd of June will be my thirty days at the shelter, which is the length of stay at this shelter. You can get a two week extension after that but that’s it. So that has me worried because the other two shelters are pretty dangerous especially for someone who is transgender. The homeless shelter is going to pay for the next six months of rent and they need information from the complex manager that she’s not giving. So all of this will just add days to my homelessness and it’s extremely frustrated. In the back of mind I’m thinking, maybe it’s not going to work out. That’s my depression talking. Until I get my doctor to sign that paperwork I won’t be at ease. Without it I won’t get this apartment. It feels like everything is hanging on this paperwork and it’s driving me loco.

I wish they could cut the depression out of me or cure it. If it was always induced by a situation or event then it would make it so much easier. Thinking positive would work like everyone else think it does. The medicine helps but it really just mutes the severity of the symptoms. Being that I have nowhere to run and hide I’m learning to be resourceful. The other night when I started to sob I got the staff person to get me a private place to go. Leaving situations is another thing I have started to do. If I feel uncomfortable I just leave, no matter where I am at. I have days where I don’t feel like walking so I stay in the day shelter but then something happens and I’ve bolted at the door. When I realize that I can control things it improves my mood dramatically to know that I have choices. I’m not stuck anywhere, even in my mind.

I just want to get the heck out of the shelter and into my own place. It’s so close but so far away. After eight years I will have my own place again and it’s a freedom I miss deeply. This time will be different because I won’t lose my place when I spiral into a deep depression and can’t work. In the last fifteen years I have moved over twenty times because of that. That is no way to have stability and I’m desperate for it. It’s the instability that’s played havoc on my body both physically and mentally. I will finally have a safe place that I can call home. One where I won’t fear losing due to the inability to pay my rent. I can have friends over and I can lay in my comfortable bed all day if I choose to do so. I’m ready for some relief. I’m ready for a break.

 

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Nervous for my therapy appointment!

And I’m not really sure why? Maybe it has to do with my recent revelation that I’ve always viewed my body as dirty and I’m afraid of opening up about it during therapy. Overall I feel decent, better than I have in a while. Possibly that scares me as well? The idea of venturing back out into the world is rather frightening!

As I was driving some anger surfaced in regards how my mom was treated in the hospital. I want someone to blame. Some of it is rational and well placed but some of it is not. Anger is a feeling that scares me. I haven’t been able to go in depth yet during therapy. So I know it’s a topic I will need to unearth. Usually anger comes out in the form of me being on edge. I tend to hide my anger.

Well here we go…