Wednesday, November 30, 2016

November and Seasonal Affective Disorder

November is wearing me down.  It is my least favourite month of the year because of the short grey days.  Each day is imperceptibly shorter than the one before until the cumulative affect suddenly catches up to me.  It wouldn’t be so bad if it was sunny out, but November tends to be cloudy and dreary.  Even in summer I lack energy on cloudy days, so now I am really getting low on energy.  No matter how much sleep I get or how much coffee I drink, that grey fog of tiredness never leaves my head.
Thankfully, I am still able to function.  I am doing way better than last November.  I am working 25-30 hours a week and still managing to get things done at home.  It helps that my husband is in school right now so he is home more than he was when he was working full time.  Between him being home more and me being home less, the dark days aren’t long and lonely this November.
December is just around the corner.  December means pretty coloured lights, cheerful parties and get-togethers, extra church services, candy canes, and hot chocolate.  Even though it is probably the darkest month of the year, I prefer December over November because of all the Christmas events.  Whatever your theological or philosophical views about Christmas, I am thankful for it because it is like the light at the end of the tunnel for me.  It’s like a reward at the end of the shortening of the days, and after Christmas the days start getting longer again.
So what am I doing to cope?  Since I’ve been aware of this pattern of low energy in winter for about three years now, I have perspective on it.  I know that in a couple of months, my energy will start to pick up again, the Lord willing.  I’m kind of settling into hibernation mode, conserving my energy for things that need to be done, like working, housework, going to church, etc.  I’m not bothering to read deep books, research interesting topics, or tackle jobs like decluttering or deep cleaning.  In past years I have felt guilt for this and was afraid there was no point to life.  It felt like the greyness would last forever.  The perspective I’ve gained from going through this cycle multiple times is allowing me to cut myself some slack. Thankfully. 

As my sister pointed out the other day, it is now less than a month until the shortest day of the year.  We can do this. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Productivity Ramblings

This post has been running through my head for a while, and it has had many potential titles.  I’ve thought of calling it “Saying Yes and Saying No”, “Creativity”, “Getting Stuff Done”, etc.  I’ve settled on “Productivity.”
I’ve been listening to a podcast called Beyond the To-Do List.  The host, Erik Fisher, interviews different people about their productivity strategies and practices. This has got me thinking about how I can be more productive.
There are two apps on my phone that I started using.  One is the calendar.  I always mean to use a calendar, either the one that hangs on the kitchen wall or one that I’ve drawn out on lined paper in my binder. Neither one lasts for long, but without it I start to feel a bit panicky as I feel like I’m going to forget an important event or appointment.  Last week I started using the calendar on my phone, which is great because it is almost always with me and when I open my phone I can immediately see the events of the next few days.
The other app is Keep.  I don’t know where it is from because it was on my phone when I bought it from my dad.  It is a note-taking app.  When I got this phone, I thought there was no note-taking app on it because the Keep icon has a light bulb on it so I thought it was a flashlight app.  However, my dad showed me that it was a note-taking app.  It’s actually really cool.  You can write notes or make lists.  The lists have check boxes which is fun.  I love being able to check off the items.  There is also the option of adding labels to the notes and lists which is really handy for organizing.
I’ve also been streamlining how I do things.  I’m trying the uniform system to minimize time trying to decide what to wear.  My current “uniform” is jeans and a t-shirt with a hoodie or cardigan.  At work I wear a t-shirt and jeans or sometimes shorts, while at home I wear jeans and a t-shirt with warm socks and a thick sweater.
The main thing I find helps with productivity is being purposeful/focused in what I do.  I feel much more productive if I do things like going on Facebook or reading a book after I DECIDE to do them rather than doing them because I FEEL like doing them instead of doing something else that I have DECIDED to do.

I’d love to hear your productivity strategies! (Or podcast suggestions.  I’ve discovered a love for podcasts, especially investigative or documentary style podcasts.)

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

One Year

Today it's been a year since I ended up in Emerge in the middle of a mental breakdown.
A year ago I was afraid to be around people and afraid to be alone.
A year ago I couldn't handle reading bad news stories.
A year ago I was afraid to go for walks alone.
A year ago I was afraid of turning on the lights at night in case someone would see me from outside and shoot me.
A year ago I was afraid of my own hands.  I was afraid of myself and what I might be capable of.
A year ago I knew I had depression and anxiety, but I didn't realize how much they had affected my thinking and changed my behaviour.  I didn't realize I could relax and spin around in circles in my own house without being a target in someone's gun scope.  I didn't even realize that I was rigidly tensing up and walking in certain ways for fear of my life.
A year ago I felt (not thought, just felt) like if I wasn't a perfect wife and housekeeper all the time, my husband would hate me and want to separate.
That Sunday evening when I couldn't stop crying and I was so, so afraid, I felt the love of God so strongly.  There in the ER He answered my prayer that "Please could there not be a long wait."  When we arrived there were not many people in the waiting room.  The nurses were so caring and compassionate.  The meds they gave me made me feel so much better.  In the nurses compassion and the effectiveness of the medication I recognized God's care for me.  He hadn't left me in the dark terror of my head and heart.
Through the days that followed I continued to feel God's love in the support of my family.  First when my husband didn't mind me waking him up in the middle of the night when I was too scared to be awake alone. Then when he took me to the ER and was so supportive.  Then in the next few weeks as he worked his normal long hours and then came home and made supper or cleaned or did whatever needed to be done.  Also when my mom came and visited and brought candles and books.
I felt God's care through the Christian counselor I saw.  She listened to me and helped me see that some of my thoughts were ones I didn't need to listen to or believe.  She helped me see the boundaries between myself and the rest of the world and between myself and my illness.
Today, I am doing so much better.
Today, I am on meds that help me to function.
Today, I know that I am not a threat to myself or the human race.
Today, I know that if I am feeling or thinking badly, I can get help.
Today, I know that bad days happen.  I know that it is ok to not get everything done.
Today I know that I can walk down the street or curl up on our living room couch without being guaranteed to become a victim of crime.
Today I am learning to fully appreciate the good days, because I know a bad day is just around the corner, but I am not going to let it ruin the good days.
Today I remind myself that while life often seems hard and pointless, it has a purpose.  If I can't see the purpose, that's ok.  God knows what it is.  I just need to live today.
I know that this better health might not last forever.  I know that someday I might again have to quit work and spend my days taking naps and trying to breathe.  But that's ok.
I also know that one day all of this burden will be behind me.  One day everything will be light and joy.  One day there won't be anything to be afraid of or even cautious about.  One day I shall be with the God who has shown me so much love and care.  No matter how low I go in this life, He who sent His Son to die for me so I might live with Him is able and willing to also care for me so that I can live with Him.