Category Archives: health

I am ALIVE!!!

As I finally decide to sit down and write, one thought is louder and a bit more pushy then the rest…it’s that we all go through things in our lives that leave us feeling, for lack of a better word…DEMOLISHED!! This can be anything. It might be a relationship issue, a challenge to your mental health or a snafu to your physical health. It might be family, friend, life, work, body, mind or soul related. Sometimes it might be a multitude of those things occurring somewhat simultaneously …which we all know BITES, LIKE REALLY FREAKIN’ HARD.

I am going to keep this brief (doubtful) and hopefully even more than that…simple. Life can throw us some serious F’n curve balls. Because why? Because it is life…that is what the fuck it does. No further explanation needed. Without the dramatic details, I will say this, I am no stranger to any of the aforementioned struggles. Work…check. Physical health…Check. Depression, Anxiety,  just plain soul sickness? Check. check. check.

I haven’t blogged in over a month. My usual and customary M.O would be “Ummm…ya know what?  too much time went by…I give up…Yet another thing I started but didn’t continue, but…whatever…I kind of hated blogging anyway .” (now go ahead and add in some sprinkles of mild self-loathing and a touch of self-righteous indignation and you may have even had my younger self’s  response to what I perceived as a (wait for it…) “shortcoming” in my character!

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But not so fast Y’all…that is precisely why I started to blog to begin with…to reflect, learn, nurture and even forgive MYSELF!!!  And perhaps inspire others to do the same along the way.

So today, as “they” say, is a new day. It doesn’t take away all the days I had that were hard. It does not “undo” the days that felt or perhaps even WERE impossible to write.  However… it doesn’t mean that I can’t just write a few paragraphs today and simply haul off and hit publish. I think writing is one of those “just get back on the bike” type of things. Maybe life knocked me down for a bit. Maybe my automatic thinking voice was “Oh well…I guess I won’t write anymore”,  but what about my quieter voice…the one I have to really tune in to hear? The one that might say something a bit more polite and a tad more kind like,  “Listen, it’s been a tough few months and look at you…You are still here! You still have things to share and words that are real and important and worth writing. Even if for no one else but YOU!”

So, ya know what?  It’s a start. Sometimes you just have to say “I am alive” and hit publish, knowing that it is enough. Because being alive, well that is pretty fucking important! And sometimes staying that way is pretty fucking hard. So celebrate life today and know this…not everyday will be a great day…not every month will be a productive month.  However, each day you wake up, breathe and learn how to navigate this world to the best of your ability, you have won. Every day that you reach out to another when your own ability for living seems weakened at best…well, in my humble opinion, my friend, you have succeeded.

So let’s just celebrate and honor all the little things that prove we are ALIVE…the inhales, the exhales, the getting out of bed and the crawling back under the blanket…the writing, laughing and dancing  and the silent, sleeping, desperate sobs.  Let us honor all of it! Today, I honor the wonderful things and the terrifying crap and all of the stuff we survive that falls somewhere between the laughter and the tears.

So…as you can see, even though it’s been almost two months and a boat load of life since last I wrote,  I am very much alive, and if you are reading this, so are you!  And well, as it would happen, that is what the HELL we are celebrating right now!!!  So go ahead and do something FABULOUS for yourself, because ya damn well better believe I am!

My Mental Health Tool Box

Here it is…a somewhat assorted variety…a mixed bag, if you will, of tools. Tools that have worked for me…and in my professional experience…many others along the way. Others, whom like myself have had to deal with the darkness of depression, the disorienting fears of anxiety and the sometimes relentless battles that are endured when fighting mental illness.  Disclaimer:  Since mental illness is, well…ya know, an illness like any other…many of these tools work brilliantly when dealing with other sometimes chronic illnesses as well!  The list is by no means comprehensive…it is simply some of my “GO TO” tools that I have found to offer hope, distraction and some real life strategies.

Creating a self-care tool box:    To be clear…I have made both the  “metaphorical tool box” and also the real life actual BOX.  It contains reminders of what has worked in the past, touchstones for coping and items to grab on to emotionally and/or physically in times of need. Perfect for when your brain chemistry does not allow you to “access” what seemed like “such a great idea” while on your therapist’s couch last Tuesday!

I didn't make this...but this is one of the ones I use. filled with scraps of papers, thoughts, pains, prayers...

I didn’t make this…but this is one of the one’s I use. It’s filled with scraps of papers, thoughts, pains, prayers…

THE MENTAL HEALTH  “TO DO LIST” (Remember what works for one, does not work for all…take what you like and leave what you don’t) *** or…riddle me this….even if you don’t like it, why not try it anyway, because depression will lie and tell you…”That is stupid, YOU ARE NOT doing that!”  Screw it… Do that shit anyway!!!

While I was in  graduate school in NYC, a quirky, albeit, brilliant professor said to me, “In all my years of practice, I have learned there is NOTHING that breathing can’t make better.”  Is this hyperbolic? Perhaps. (Breathing…while swimming underwater, may not make swimming underwater better…) Outside of that, I have seen this be true time and time and time again…in my practice and certainly in my own life.

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So…BREATHE. Learn mindful breathing. The balloon Breath. A Simple inhale through the nose, slow and deep…Hold… release slowly through mouth. Repeat out loud, IN….OUT. Slowly. A nice relaxed pace…(just do it as it feels right for you…no over thinking here)

Stretch….bend, walk around the yard, down the block. Look at the grass, look at the clouds. Pick a flower or a leaf or a rock… and stare/study the details.  Take pictures of flowers or nature or the sky. Your goal might be “do this for five minutes 3x per day” and work up your time intervals and rest when needed.

not me...just a cool yoga/relaxation picture. Does that not look nice?

not me…just a cool yoga/relaxation picture. Does that not look nice?

Get in WATER…A shower, a pool, a garden hose, a sprinkler…an ocean…a lake. Being in water changes your perspective. Also,  DRINK (water!)  A GLASS OF COLD WATER WITH ICE, SLOWLY. CRUNCH THE ICE, SIP THE COLD WATER. FEEL THE WAY IT CHANGES YOUR BODY. Force yourself to stay hydrated. Sounds too simple? Strangely it is often the simple things that work!  **Disclaimer II: If you are feeling acutely suicidal call hotline/911 and stick with just drinking the cold water, hold ice cubes, feel them in your hand…wash your face with cool wash clothes. Call and talk on the hotline, with a friend or your therapist. 

water, water, everywhere

water, water, everywhere

Go on Youtube (or the like there of )…search up guided meditations for “anxiety” depression, anger, fear, love, etc. Listen… Some will suck, but a few will be great…try some.

Read : Read blogs…funny ones, random one, “How To ones” (fill in the blank, mine was learn to loom knit)…. and one’s for support.  Head over to Twitter: Bluelightblue or The bloggess…or Speak Your Truth…or any mental health blogs for support! Watch cute animal videos.  Search funny memes on weird topics…look at the ever popular e-cards. It’s called distraction people! It works.

Support…even online support (especially online sometimes…because it is always there.) I think the right forums, twitter feeds, facebook groups…they can really help!

http://www.bluelightblue.com

http://www.thebloggess.com

http://www.twitter.com/pixeedust72  (MY twitter feed…SPEAKYOURTRUTH)

Literally, make a box. Use an old one to decorate or make one out of wood or a shoe box (whatever works)…decorate it…cut up little pieces of paper and write POSITIVE things (Box of Hope)….Make a box…cut up paper, write what you would like to let go of, painful stuff, things you want gone or healed or feel to heavy for your right now. Give it a name.  Your “wish box”…prayer box…worry box?

Go look for smooth rocks…wash them…feel the earth and watch the dirt wash away. Dry them. Feel the texture.  Get permanent markers or paint…write worries, fears, things you want to let go or even affirmations…pray on it, meditate on it and throw them in water, river, lake, ocean, a damn puddle…preferably the visual is seeing them floating away. You can do one rock at at time…You can also throw them in the woods…far…just make sure NO ONE is in your line of fire. Bury them…Or you can keep them. Possibilities people, possibilities!

these I found, washed and decorated...I did not float these away. I look at them each day.

these I found, washed and decorated…I did not float these away. I look at them each day.

Go somewhere safe (with a trusted friend) …and break stuff…I did this with old crappy plates I got at a garage sale, I went to an old abandoned lot with trusted and emotionally safe friend. Yelling my anger/pain/traumas…with each smashing plate. (Was this the smartest thing? Perhaps not. Did it help release deep rooted pain and childhood wounds? Yes…yes it friggin’ did.  **Disclaimer III: If you break shit that you really wanted or get in trouble with the law, this is just a blog people, I hold no responsibility. Ya know? Free will and what not. 

Physical Activity…This is a tough one…especially with depression giving ya the ol’ serotonin sucker punch…but try something/anything… (why not?) Kick box…chop wood/break sticks…rip paper…power wash shit…mow a lawn. I can’t tell you exactly why, but I can tell you this…power washing dirty stuff clean, it’s healing and cathartic in it’s own weird way. (for me)  Lawn mowing…OMG!!!  Meditative, physical and productive.I have a strange obsession with pool skimming as well… that also helps with anxiety. Sorry people, but this shit has and does personally help me. I skimmed today. Yay!!!!

skimmer therapy!!!

skimmer therapy!!!

Do art journaling….Go on Pinterest and look up art journals. Do composition notebook art. In fact…Just go on Pinterest and start looking shit up. Plan real or imaginary things/trips…(secret magical rooms, gardens, sacred spaces) Start a resource guide for all that ails you. “Natural remedies” “Mental health tools” …whatever…Pin it.

journal is what journal does...be as creative as you like...again. (this is not mine...)

journal is what journal does…be as creative as you like…again. (this is not mine…google image, if it’s your’s claim that beautiful credit!)

Plan vacations…you may or may not go on them…just look up what you might want to do one day. Day dream about it. I like vrbo.com to imagine all the houses I am going to rent, like everywhere.

Make a play list: Add songs you love or find new songs. Ask others what their inspiration songs are. Again…a shout out to http://www.bluelightblue.com (I believe she did an article that included something about what our fight songs are to get us through.) Right now, I am so feeling Lake Street Dive, Alabama Shakes and my own personal obsession of many years… Ani Difranco.

Get Some Art Stuff and Make Shit: Model magic (my favorite/Play dough/ clay etc.) and play with it and make stuff and be a kid, even if you are a grown up!  Get a coloring book and color….YUP from 1 to 110 years old…coloring helps. *put a picture or a tiny creation in your BOX!

I play with model magic and make tiny little creations. It soothes me. And others. Seriously.

I play with model magic and make tiny little creations. It soothes me. And others. Seriously.

Buy a plant or 10…start with one. Take care of it. Learn about that specific plant. What it needs, what it doesn’t.  Take care of it. If it dies (it happens people…go get another plant) Try again.

Herbs from my garden...cut and in water. smell amazing. IF they fade out...I go snip some more. Pretty all around the house. While your at it grow some mint and lemon balm...plant it anywhere outside. It spreads like crazy.

Herbs from my garden…cut and in water. smell amazing. IF they fade out…I go snip some more. Pretty all around the house. While your at it, try growing some mint and lemon balm…plant it anywhere outside. It spreads like crazy.

So there you have it folks… Like I said, this list is far from comprehensive, however, it is comprised of things that have actually worked for people. ( First with me and then as I share ideas with my clients  they often give positive feed back! ) Now…LISTEN. It’s not perfect…it’s not magic. Therapy, Medications, Support Networks…those are important and life saving tools that also may fill our unique tool boxes. If you struggle with the darkness and feel there is no way out…put this in your box and use it! You can call as often as you need.

You can just call and talk...they are there to listen. You are worth every minute.

You can just call and talk…they are there to listen. You are worth every minute.

PLEASE…Feel free to comment on what has helped you and remember…there is always hope, help and light, even on the darkest night…sometimes, we just need a a few tools along the way.

Love, Light and Healing Always….

Blooming In Spite Of It All…

Remember…it was a rough winter…this was covered in decaying leaves, ice and snow… invisible for so long, maybe even considered gone forever.  Yet despite unfavorable conditions…this feisty flower said, “Not so fast bitches…I will bloom in spite of it all.”  And little by slowly, I am watching it happen. If you are struggling for hope or the conditions feel tough or impossible,  you too,  have the innate ability to bloom. Look around you…sometimes hope comes in unexpected forms. May you find some beautiful, tiny glimmers of light on this holiday weekend. As for me…things have been rough, things have been painful…but my plan includes some serious pushing up through the mud and the darkness and blooming the fuck out of this day.

Now…go ahead and look… and let me know those unexpected signs of hope that you might  just find.  garden3

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Now…this is a different determined little guy…but he too, refused to be held down.

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and her too!!

!garden6

He Is My Husband Now…We Are Gay

We all gauge the multitude of so-called successes and failures of parenting moments by different variables. We (us parents) each have a different set of lenses in which we view our children, how we may “think” they are doing. Whether we are talking in general, like their grades, behavior or  mood or  we are looking at more of the minutia. Little snapshots in time, that sort of show you something unique in your child’s development or personality. It can simply be a look, a statement, a small conversation…watching them play, when they don’t know you are looking…those tiny moments that go on, but often are a reflection of who they are “right now” and even perhaps a foreshadowing of who they may  become.

Now…I have two boys. They are both vastly different in both looks and personality alike. They are five years apart. Despite their differences, I try to raise them in quite the same manner, with the same fibers of morals and values being loosely woven through our years together.

O.K…I will cut to the chase. One is a teen and one is in second grade…I am, what one might describe as a bleeding heart liberal. A heart on my sleeve kind of girl. I am a social worker by trade and by human make-up. For as long as I can remember, I have tried to be the voice for the voiceless. The cheerleader for the underdog. The advocate for the marginalized and oppressed…YOU GET IT.  My husband, is also a mental health professional  and is a Latino male, who despite his best efforts, still carries with him what I might describe as this  “semi” machismo  perspective. He has come a long way and is also himself, incredibly liberal but let’s just say when my boys were little and I bought them baby dolls and a stroller to push them in (which they did often and around the neighborhood) …he seemed kind of was perplexed, he “sort of”  tried to discourage me from letting them… (I wasn’t having it).  I would have to say that his reaction was rooted not only in his cultural roots and norms and gender and social norms but also…rooted in FEAR. ( we all know, having a baby doll turns you gay right? )

“Not my boys…not baby dolls? They are not GIRLS!”  As the years have gone by…he has softened a lot… has a greater understanding of why I would encourage that … and as for my boys, despite my best efforts…they don’t seem to really embrace there feminine side right now, and that is o.k. It seems, at least right now, they are kind of these brutish, loud, wrestle each other to the ground primate type of kids. (which does not mean they are not sensitive emotionally) But they are rough, crazy, sports nuts who are dirty and what societal/gender stereotypes may reference as or  consider “All Boy”. Whatever… I still send the message that it is o.k to cry, to openly talk about feelings, to be sensitive and most importantly to not feel pressured to conform to social norms “just because”.

One of the other things we do together, though I watch next to no television, is watch several weekly sitcoms. One is Modern Family…think what you may about the show, but it has allowed us to crack up together, to explore a vast range of family issues and also to have on-going dialogue with my kids about homosexuality. Questions come in many forms like…”why are those guys married mom AND they have a baby?”  Just one of the questions my younger one has asked. My teen…he kind of  get’s it already and knows I am open about  whomever people love they just  love. My little one has asked questions over the past year, and more recently, he seems to “get it” a little more. (not sex…he does not know what that is yet, outside of kissing) But he knows a girl can love and marry another girl…a man can love and marry another man. That God made us all different and amazing and that is o.k.

In a world where gay, lesbian, transgender, bisexual youth have so many struggles, higher rates of clinical depression/ anxiety  and a significantly higher suicide rate, I feel it is my job as a parent to keep an open dialogue with my kids. To send the message that no matter who they are, whom they love or even if they were confused….they will always be accepted, loved and supported, at least in our home. Now, obviously my son is in second grade, so I don’t go into great detail. I just answer what he asks and try to communicate that however you are, it’s o.k and you will be loved.

It’s kind of hard to gauge how they are doing on that. My older son had a sleep-over…with a diverse group of boys. He mentioned one would be pretty late because he has dance. (now being most of his friends are on sports with him…I talked to him about this… just out of curiosity because I never met this boy…what kind of dance, how late will he be?) He answered without much thought…” he’ll be pretty late and he will be hungry…and ummm, I don’t know, he does ballet, jazz, hip-hop…yeah…he is  kind of feminine, but I don’t think he’s gay, but honestly…who really care’s anyway?” (For a seventh grade boy…to me this signals, he is getting it!)

Now, my younger son…was snuggling with his big, muscular, Latino father (otherwise known as my husband) I walked in to his room and said jokingly “Hey you…You are always snuggling with my husband…you better give him back to me !”  He glanced up at me, with wild and sleepy eyes, as my hubby lye half asleep and boldly said “HE IS MY HUSBAND NOW…WE ARE GAY!”

Let’s just say my husband was no longer asleep…He gave me the look of “You did this” but then smiled… and I thought to myself:

“YES…PARENTING WIN!!!”  (yeah…I know…I may have clarify a few things as time goes on) but he was being silly and I thought to myself…So far, So Good!

SLENDER LORIS HELPS WOMAN COPE WITH CHRONIC PAIN

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Because sometimes…after having a night where you wake up in pain that is indescribable at 3:46am, tears flowing in your sleep… for the 297th time in a year, Ya just need to open your eyes to this guy.

He is all like “What’s the problem? I am just the cutest f’n 8 month old Slender Loris (that’s it’s proper name).  I personally think we shall call him “Frankie…who you callin’ slender Loris”.

I love him, He makes me happy…Pain sucks hard. Lupus sucks harder…but Frankie, does not suck at all. So If you are going through it today,  whatever that means for you, I know it’s hard. You are not alone. I  promise.

But come on.

Frankie. He’s gotta make things even just a teeny bit better and that’s gotta count for something.

“KEEP CALM AND LOVE A SLENDER LORIS”

I am the queen of the “awareness ribbon”…

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So…I don’t know if anyone else will find this fucked up or not, so I will just throw it out there. MAY IS LUPUS AWARENESS MONTH. MAY IS BRAIN TUMOR AWARENESS MONTH. MAY IS MENTAL HEALTH AWARENESS MONTH. MAY IS MY BIRTHDAY.

Let’s just throw all the cards on the table and say…is it some kind of freaky shit show of a coincidence or karma or fate or JESUS?  Is it a taurus thing?  BUT…I have LUPUS. I HAVE A BRAIN TUMOR…I AM A SURVIVOR OF DEPRESSION, ANXIETY AND TRAUMA (let’s not forget my ADHD diagnosis too) . I also happen to be a freakin’ clinical psychotherapist who continually advocates for mental health issues.

lupus

What the friggity FUCK May?  I think I am going to look at this like the universe has given me my own special month to kill as many fucked up birds with several colorful awareness ribbons.  (I mean of course they would have to be strangled, because the old “two birds with one stone” wouldn’t actually work in this scenario) But death by ribbon, with little birds might work. (people I am kidding, I love birds and ribbons for that matter)

I mean, I totally appreciate the awareness. It is in fact critical and shines a beacon of light and hopefully research and cash on these very real struggles. (not really my birthday part though… just to be clear)

But really…it’s honestly got me wondering what might have been in the water in MAY? This is the trifecta of some weird alignment in the stars in the 70’s.

Forgive me for sharing this quirky observation…perhaps it means NOTHING…but just as a PSA, It might be prudent  to just go ahead and check those damn ribbons aligned with your birthday.

(let me know if I am on to something)

And one more question…is it excessive to celebrate them all AND where the rubber awareness bracelets too? I totally don’t want to steal the fucking show?

But honestly. It’s MY MOTHERFUCKING BIRTHDAY. So doesn’t that give me carte blanche to just be a shit show of ribbons and rubber bracelets?

I think so…yes, I think it does.

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LOVE TO ALL THE MAMMALS

AS I tweeted about Mother’s day…and lupus…and brain tumors and the plethora of things I live with (in under, I might add, twitters allotted character #) I ended my tweet with “love to all the mammas!!” Which, then in the total fashion of my life, posted as ‘LOVE TO ALL THE MAMMALS’.  By all accounts this kind of applies, but I suppose was not exactly how I wanted to “tweet” my mothers day story on perseverance and love. I Mean the struggle is real for the blue whale, the giant panda and even the common vampire bat. I can’t however forget the love for the sweet little snakes and mamma birds…I mean DAMN, they fly and vomit food to their babies. BUT. I sort  of just wanted to say “LOVE TO ALL THE MAMMA’S”.

In reality, I suppose my original statement was far more inclusive and I am just trying to support as many beings as possible…so yeah. Love to all my mammals (and reptiles, amphibians, birds…and the whole damn lot of ya).

Motherhood…it does stuff to your brain. (and I am not talking about my brain tumor…that shit’s benign…Motherhood, is most certainly NOT!!!)

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