Depression Goggles

If you struggle with any sort of depression for long enough you can start to catch yourself slipping into negativity right at the start of a cycle.  That doesn’t mean you’ll be able to stave off the descent completely, but it might help you plod through a little faster with more self-awareness.  It also might help you feel less guilty as you watch everyone around you form concerned looks on their faces.

The precursor to recognizing your unique brand of depression goggles is, of course, realizing that:

Depression exists.

It can be triggered by many, many different things (situational  or chemical).

You can get better.

You might become depressed again.

And…Say it with me, everyone…It’s not your fault.

Why Do You Homeschool?

The response I hear most often when people find out that I homeschool our three kids is, "I could never do that.  I mean, how do you do that?"

It starts with a discontented kind of feeling.  Moms know what I'm talking about.  Something isn't quite right.  You run around circles in your mind until you can pinpoint it.

It's not like when you step on a carpet tack. You know immediately what has happened and you swallow a curse word and just move on.

It's like the first few warm days of summer and the temperature in you house has slowly crept up past your comfort zone.  You can go quite a while being a little warm and then suddenly you're cranky and sweaty and it dawns on you that you need some relief.  You turn on the A/C.

Likewise, you start the year with a fresh batch of school supplies.  Yay!  New faces.  Recess.  Smelly cafeteria, shoes are too small, son has strep, son has scarlet fever, need to bring in 30 matchbox cars in different colors for a project, daughter has strep, son has strep again, need to paint my face and hair for spirit day tomorrow, nearly 2 hours of homework, son has stomach flu, pukes in van, come to the assembly and watch me get a certificate, help my class make ghost cookies, daughter has lice, help my class my turkey cookies, need to bring in 30 tiny (inexpensive) gifts, daughter has lice again, need to bring in 30 gender-neutral valentines, but call them "friendship cards."

Then an older kid on the bus shows your daughter a picture of a "Camel-toe" from his smartphone.

Now you're sweaty. 

Arizona - Heat, Haboobs, and Soul-Searching

We moved to Arizona when I was pregnant with our first child and we could not take another Chicagoland winter with potholes, gray skies and too much traffic.  We had visited close friends in Arizona for a week in March one year.  It did not take long to decide that we needed more sun, more open space, and a dramatic change of scenery.

We drove across the country with Cheeto, our baby Chihuahua.  I threw my filthy winter coat in a dumpster at a rest stop in Flagstaff, and thought, "So Long, Sucker!"

Enormous Year-Round Blue Sky, Scrubby Plants,
and a General Feeling of Solitude in the Sonoran Desert

Favorite Quotes from Some of My Favorite Books

Words, arranged in just the right order, make me happy and elevate my consciousness.   Reading just happens to be my easiest mood power-up.

Pa said, 'They's change a-comin'. I don' know what.  Maybe we won't live to see her.  But she's a comin'.  They's a res'less feelin'.  Fella can't figger nothin' out, he's so nervous.
Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck

This tense statement, thick with anxiety and even hope, is an artful representation of the whole stark story.  I felt myself barely able to breathe throughout the entire book.  That is powerful language.

One thing that comes out in myths is that at the bottom of the abyss comes the voice of salvation.  The black moment is the moment when the real message of transformation is going to come.  At the darkest moment comes the light.
 The Power of Myth, Joseph Campbell with Bill Moyers

This is the kind of book that you can open to any page and start reading to find an incredible new perspective on life.

What a person learns in a classroom is how to be a person in a classroom

Build more, consume less
Unschooling Rules,  Clark Aldrich

 These are two chapter titles of the book that stretched my brain on how we educate our children.

Through the use of...partnership models...we can also begin to transcend the conventional polarities between right and left, capitalism and communism,  religion and secularism, and even masculinism and feminism.
 The Chalice and the Blade, Riane Eisler

I take it as a very positive sign when people get past certain labels and cut to the core idea behind the politically-tainted words.  This usually requires people to free themselves from old stories first.

If you have any favorite quotes or books, please share them with me in the comments section below.

Freeing Ourselves From Old Stories

If you have ever experienced a recurring nightmare, you can relate to reliving the same painful story over and over again, but the kind of stories I'm referring to are actually the ones we tell ourselves repeatedly and very quietly in the background.  They are our perspective on past triumphs or failures.

The negative stories we reinforce in our minds are usually the ones rooted in fear, shame, regret, and anger.  Without realizing it, many of us have carried these burdens for a long time.  We forget that we are not actually supposed to live like this.  We are supposed to be happy.  We are worthy of joy.

If you can pinpoint a particular story that has weighed you down and colored your decisions, you're probably ready to let that go.

The process of ridding your mind of these toxic false narratives is called many things.  I recently met with a woman who taught me about how she reads people's energy.  She helps them identify problems and clear the negativity holding them back.  Some refer to this as a chakra clearing.  Some call it meditation, praying or visualizing.

Regardless of the label people put on it, it's always a good idea to quiet your mind, pay attention to what's happening and figure out if there's something you are missing. 
Here is an example.  I know that in the past, I have often lost my temper when my kids are hovering around all talking at once.  If I purposely set my intention for the day, an interesting change occurs.  I can picture the peace I will feel as we have fun together and laugh.  I will imagine the relief and contentment of quiet time just for myself.  I approach the day with a vastly more positive attitude after reaffirming these goals.

After visualizing how I want my daily life to be and expecting joy, I am the calm center in my house and for the most part, everyone else mirrors that centered stillness.  Anxiety and frustration are much less likely to get the best of me.

There are times when things reach a fever pitch and I shout.  That is usually a sign that I'm not feeling heard. Fellow blogger Eilat Aviram said it perfectly in her post "Learning to Be Kind to Self".

We all know someone who isn't honest with themselves.  It's painful to see.  Sometimes that person is us.

A wise man once said, "One of the hardest things you can do is know yourself."  I take that to mean that even if we have all the evidence clearly laid before us, we sometimes choose to act out of self-preservation and continue telling the old untrue stories.  (Ex.  I am a mean mom who yells at her sweet kids way too much.)

In reality, I occasionally lose it and bark at my kids.  Instead of wallowing in guilt and shame (and pressing play on the mean mom story loop), now I take a breather.  I eat some chocolate.  I find them in a quiet space and give them a hug.  I apologize and say what I really meant: "You're not respecting me when I'm busy and you interrupt.  It's hard for me to listen when I'm already in the middle of something.  I want to really hear what you're saying.  I love you."

Any old stories you need to rewrite?  Leave me a comment and share your old and new stories.

Mood Power-Ups

If  you have ever watched a TED Talk, you may have run across one of my favorites by Jane McGonigal:  The Game that Can Give You 10 Extra Years of Life.  In this video, she reveals the story of her painful recovery from a head injury that doctors said would leave her with significantly lower mental capacity than before the accident.  As an avid gamer with a strong will to prove those doctors wrong, she began to keep a list of activities or things that boosted her energy just enough to stay positive and not dwell on hardship.

I love the idea of knowing what your personal power-ups are.  I haven't written mine down (until now).  I  have simply taken note of what little things provided unexpected relief when I have been riding the anxiety roller coaster or the depression train to nowhere.

A Few of My Personal Power-Ups:

Reading aloud to my kids.

Dabbing essential oils on my wrists, particularly doTERRA's Serenity blend, or Citrus Bliss blend.

Listening to Temple of the Dog's "Hunger Strike" or any 90's hip-hop.  When I hear it I borrow a tiny piece of that rebel angst from a person who has nothing to lose and is just looking for an outlet.

Doing a little exercise, but not enough where I have to put on a sports bra.  That way I can trick myself into thinking it's just a little energizer, not a workout.  Sports bras are for serious workouts.

Drinking a Cafe Mocha (not part of the Primal Blueprint, but if Paleo-moms had a chance to stop at Starbucks while they were corralling their kids on the way to gather more nuts and berries, they would have.)

Hiding in the bathroom for 5-7 minutes doing nothing but enjoying the silence.



Doing "heavy work."  This is a wonderful strategy normally used to help kids who feel wiggly and need to burn it off.  It is also a tenet of the Primal Fitness philosophy (Lift Heavy Things).  My heavy work  is either shoveling snow, scrubbing the garage floor, or re-arranging furniture.  When my husband sees that crazy look in my eyes and everything is askew in the living room, he usually backs out of the room slowly and waits until it's over.

A special meal with a friend.

Reading anything at all by David Sedaris, or something like Let's Pretend This Never Happened, by Jenny Lawson. 

Looking at photos of when I was even more depressed.  Saying to myself, "At least I'm not that bad."

Me in 2010 with a Phony Smile Holding my Catheter Bag
Finally, relying on my husband's sense of humor.  (He's the one who wrote "Hapee Holidays!" on my catheter bag and made me take this picture.)

After employing one or more power-ups, I come out of my fog with much more clarity and a more positive outlook.

What are your power-ups? 

Worthiness Part 2

Vignette Version
After a spontaneous decision to pick up and move across the country from the desert, we landed in a beautiful small town in Missouri.  As I start to unpack the relics of our old life, I open the kitchen window and feel the freshest breeze on my face.  My kids running around in the grass and laughing late in the afternoon on their first cool autumn day brings tears to my eyes.  They are safe and silly and I am content to build a new story for our family.

Kooky Poet Version
            Wine trickles into the glass    
            Foreman Grill, my savior again

            Round ‘em up
            Fill all the seats
            Cajole, Nag, Threaten

            Let’s talk about our day!
            Confused silence permeates
            Laughable moments & strange coincidences emerge
            Just a few more vegetables, please

            A little too full
            Content in the cleaning
            Hugging my partner in this controlled chaos

            Breathing in the slow comfort of the evening
            Letting contentedness fill the empty spaces
New Age Version
These tiny celestial beings constantly test my mettle.  They are doing the jobs they were sent to do.  Instructive, rather than judgmental, they insist that I learn how to care for them.  In doing so, I will find the humility and the divinity that comes from loving someone else so completely that you couldn’t imagine it any other way. 

My body, surrounded by an indigo flame, tells me that I’m making progress.  If I continue seeking lightness, I will more easily pull myself out of the muck when I stumble, slowly tipping the balance in favor of serenity.

Worthiness Part 3

Worthiness Part 1

Worthiness Part 2

I’ve pulled out of a major emotional tailspin.  Becoming a mother for the first time was not what I pictured.  It was traumatic, heartbreaking, illusion-shattering, ego-slashing.  I felt like less of a person.  Why was I struggling so much to pull it together when my baby was healthy?  Isn’t this what women have done since the beginning of…well…humanity?  Why did I feel like my life was over?  I listened to the advice my friends and neighbors offered.  I latched onto a blessed few hobbies to keep me afloat and give me activities to look forward to.  Slowly, I became light enough in spirit to see that my life wasn’t over.  I was one of millions of people who indulged in various cover-ups, masks, and self-defeating cycles until a soul-saving, painful awakening.  Depression can be treated, but only if it is acknowledged.

During my darkest days, one of my favorite distractions was learning about my ancestry, filling in gaps in the family tree.  Running themes in my family include overcoming enormous obstacles, work, sacrifice, and austerity.  The belief that to suffer is to be closer to the divine is common in many family stories.  My own grandmother gave birth to one of her sons by herself in a small cabin in Northern Ontario while her husband was away working in the mines.  She read a book on how to deliver a baby.  The plug to the only heater was broken, so she straight-wired the heater and put it under the blanket to deliver her own baby.  I didn’t ask, but I’m pretty sure she got up from the bed and went back to the housework after that.  This kind of incredible perseverance made my people amazingly stubborn survivors. 

This trait, passed down to me, looks like insanity.

Worthiness Part 1

As a mother of three children under the age of nine, I am just crawling out from beneath the mountain of self-doubt, pre-packaged snack food, and societally imposed “shoulds” that can heave themselves upon uninitiated parents.  Since I have never appreciated clich├ęs, when I hear “Everything happens for a reason,” it causes involuntary eye-rolling.  “Live, laugh, love” and “It is what it is” fall into the same category for me:  people putting on a happy face instead of examining what hurts and changing their understanding in a meaningful way.  When you collapse into deep, senseless depression and you are desperate to be present in your kids’ lives despite it, those hackneyed expressions are a waste of your precious breath and mental space.  Instead of turning to generic phrases to smooth over raw emotions, I prefer to tell myself mini-stories.  In each one I am the same character in a different setting.  When I imagined sharing this experience with others to light their paths and amuse them, I couldn’t settle on just one perspective.  In reality, it depends on the moment.  That’s what mothers do.  They must find either the humor or the lesson in every situation.

Quick, Jaded Version of the Last 13 Years of my Life
I was driving along and crashed head-on into a pile of marriage, babies, confusion, headaches, mortgages, joy-sucking illnesses, dashed expectations, and rare glimpses of what I thought life was supposed to be.

Hillbilly Version
I crapped out three kids.  They hauled out my busted uterus.  I ain’t done nothin’ outside this house since 2005…”  Joe Jr! Shut Up!  Momma’s recordin’ her innermost thoughts!”  I told seven different bosses to start runnin’ and I’d give ‘em ten seconds before I got my gun.

Flowery Elizabethan Version
Loving a man more profusely than the sun shines through the rosettes at the most wondrous cathedrals in France, I joined myself to him for eternity.  We met on the shores of passion and risk, dove headlong into the sea of uncertainty, bringing forth three magnificent babes. 

As any committed mother aiding in the formation of the future generations, I gave myself fully to their nurturing, education, and happiness.  In this work, I too found my purpose, my nurturing, education, and happiness.  But, man, this corset is a little tight sometimes.