Celebrating Freedom

I closed a major chapter of uncertainty, anxiety, and shame today. I feel lighter than I have felt in years. I had a phone call this morning with my lawyer. I had a lawyer. Never thought I would say that. It wasn’t related to anything criminal, but I needed a lawyer to help me get through some difficult things. This morning, in a pleasant phone call with the woman who has been my lifeline, we reviewed some details and financial info, then I said goodbye to my lawyer. Hopefully for the last time, unless it’s to meet her in person (we’ve only ever spoken on the phone), I thanked her for her help and hung up. A huge weight lifted off of me, one that I’ve been carrying for a long time.

The lightness was tempered when I thought, almost immediately, of the long road ahead and the many things still on my plate to tackle. But instead of letting that thought drag me down, I consciously decided that I would allow myself some time (the whole day sounds good) to revel. I’m giving myself permission to be joyful and free for the rest of the day. I took myself to one of my favorite spots for lunch. For the first time in memory, I sat alone at a bar and drank a beer and ate lunch. The old Cheers– style bar regulars who sat on either side of me were pleasant but didn’t make small talk. I was all alone to savor my strawberry cider (okay, it was cider, not beer, and it tasted like dessert) and salad.

I was also alone when my saga (the one that necessitated hiring a lawyer) began, but I was crushed under a boulder of guilt, shame, anxiety, FEAR. Today, I celebrated the end of my case, alone as well. But now I feel free. And while I was eating lunch alone, I realized I’m no longer really alone. I have a team of people who know me, like really know me, and support me. I have a boyfriend who knows about depression and anxiety, both mine and in general, and still loves me for me. And now, best of all, I have myself. Strange to think that I never had me before. Now I know how to support myself, how to understand and handle my feelings, and how to be inquisitive and compassionate with myself. I finished this massive battle on my own, with only the team that I recruited for backup.

When I hung up the phone with my lawyer, even though it was an innocuous call and I wasn’t worried or anxious about it, I said out loud, “I am a badass bitch.” Well, really I exclaimed it and jumped out of my chair. Then I fell to my knees on the carpet, leaned over a leather chair and thanked God over and over for getting me to today, while tears steadily hit the leather below my bowed face. I am so lucky, and so lucky to realize that I’m lucky. Whatever happens, my pain had a purpose, and I’ll be uncovering the full depth of that purpose for the rest of my life. And while the hard stuff will return and I will feel the pressure of worry again, for today, I have permission to be carefree, from the only person who has the power to control how I feel…ME.

Happy for the Holidays

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As I continue to pull myself out of my depression, I’m preparing myself for how to stay healthy and handle the stress of the holidays. My family is no more stressful than most, I suppose, but having everyone in one place brings chaos and occasional skirmishes. Like most families with grown children, we have issues and run-ins, and sharing limited space can be overwhelming. So I have been brainstorming a bit about what I can focus on and enjoy to keep the chaos from interrupting my healthy progress.

So, here are some of the things that make me happy, all year long, and especially through the holidays:

  • Red lipstick. This is totally a girl thing, but I love makeup, and red lipstick always lifts my mood and makes me feel merry. I’ve been coveting MAC Russian Red for awhile, so I might finally grab a tube and have a new pick-me-up to help me feel festive and put-together.
  • Yoga. Yoga and meditation have been game-changers for me during my recovery.  I feel so relaxed and connected to myself (if that makes sense) when I work yoga into my schedule. If I don’t have time to make it to scheduled classes, I use Apple apps to help me get my practice in. Finding a cozy, quiet spot may be a challenge with a full house, but that’s what the early morning is for. My favorite yoga app is Yoga Studio; my favorite for guided and timed meditation is Insight Timer.
  • Reading. I’m one who learns by reading, and finding new insightful books has been a huge help in taking back my life the past few months. During the holidays, I think that keeping up the practice of reading a helpful, healthy book for at least a few minutes every night will help keep me focused on my mental health and stability. My current read is Brene Brown’s Rising Strong. I’ve found it so interesting and encouraging, and it dovetails very well with what I’ve been working on in therapy.
  • Art. Another thing that has helped me “wake up” from my depression has been exercising the artistic right side of my brain. I’ve started drawing again for the first time since high school. It is so soothing and relaxing to focus intensely on something visual and artistic. For Christmas this year, I’ve been working on colored pencil drawings for my family and boyfriend. I love that it’s multitasking:  checking off the people on my Christmas list (almost for free!) while doing something that’s so beneficial to my well-being and sense of accomplishment.
  • Blogging. I’m new to blogging (in case you couldn’t tell, my one reader), and it is therapeutic to put myself and my thoughts out here for others to see. Openness and vulnerability are healing for me, so continuing to blog through the holidays will help me monitor myself and process what’s going on in my life. As the blog progresses, I hope it will focus on more things that I enjoy (makeup, lifestyle, physical health, current events, etc.), in addition to overcoming depression and mental well-being. That’s where I’ve started my blogging, because that’s what is going on in my life right now, so it’s the most authentic thing for me to focus on right now. But as I continue to gain strength and move forward in life, I hope that I can tackle many other topics here.

I’m wishing all people a peaceful and happy Thanksgiving. Let the Christmas decorating begin!

I Do Hard Things

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One of the ways that my depression has manifested itself is that it causes me to avoid things that give me anxiety. Simple things that are part of being a productive adult — like going to the bank, checking my mail, paying an overdue bill — became so incredibly difficult. And then, the guilt and shame about not having done the “normal” adult things that are expected of all of us, amplified the anxiety and made doing those things harder with every passing day. As you can imagine, a consequence of not doing things like paying bills and returning phone calls, is that the simple, day-to-day operational parts of life began to fall apart. The shame-and-avoidance spiral seemed utterly hopeless and never-ending.

Since I started seeing the right therapist and have been pulling out of my depression, the list of things I have to “fix” after a long period of depression-neglect has been daunting. Some things are little, like writing an overdue thank-you note. Some are big and scary, like owning up to a major professional snafu. As I have been going through this process, with an anxiety-ridden task at hand almost every day, one phrase has become like battle cry for me, a motto as I harness my fear and charge ahead. The motto comes courtesy of an online bible study that I came across a few months ago. The title of the study is I Do Hard Things by Havilah Cunnington.

The bible study itself is fantastic. It’s a series of short videos in which Havilah guides us through scripture to help us grow as people of faith as we face the difficult things in life. The study is wonderful, and well worth spending at least a few minutes a day. But it’s the title of the study that hit me square between the eyes and will not get out of my brain. Just adopting those words as my personal mantra has been so incredibly helpful. When I’m preparing to do something difficult, I buck myself up with a pep talk along the lines of: “Heck yeah, I can do this! I’m Ms. Glowstick, and I DO HARD THINGS! It’s what I do, I tackle scary things and I triumph!!!” It may sound silly, but it is incredibly effective for me. And after I conquer something that scared me, I pat myself on the back and say, “That’s right, I do hard things.” It makes me feel like a warrior, a gladiator, who is fighting one challenge at time, to reclaim the life that depression almost took from me.

For whatever reason, this phrase really captures my spirit and bucks up my resolve. What is your “I Do Hard Things”? What motto or phrase gets you psyched up to handle your challenges? I’d love to hear from you about what works for you!