Category Archives: healthy living

What Does It Mean To Feel Alive?

For our first small group session, we did an active listening exercise where we described a moment where we felt most alive. Mine was about a morning in Jamaica, the summer of 2011, where I and a few friends got up early to swim. The sun wasn’t scorching yet, and the water was just cool enough to be refreshing. I floated on my back, eyes closed. The last few years had been extremely rough. My soul felt like a raw piece of meat that had been beat with a mallet. It felt like my body and mind were set against me, determined to kill me.

Some people feel most alive when their adrenaline levels are high, but I’m the opposite. For me, high adrenaline levels mean I’m afraid, that I’m in danger. There’s a theory about anxiety that it was biologically important back in the days when life was really dangerous, when we lived without much shelter and death by wild animal was common. That anxiety kept us alive and told us to run when we encountered danger. Now, however, most of us don’t need that much anxiety. I certainly don’t – I’m not in a bad area, I’m pretty much white-passing, and I’m not being hunted by animals. That adrenaline/anxiety sparked up at every little thing, and told my body that sitting in class was a life-or-death situation. I didn’t feel “alive” in those moments, because I wanted the feeling to stop.  I wanted to shut it off. I wanted to be dead, because at least then I could have peace and quiet.

Floating in the ocean, my ears beneath the waves so the only sound was my own breathing, felt like being alive. I felt whole, my mind and body not fighting. It was sort of weird, too, because I also felt disembodied at the same time. That felt like freedom, like I had found a way to escape the chaos of the physical, and just be. Recapturing that is not easy. The closest I get is when I can’t sleep at night, and I lie down in Baxter’s room. It’s the coolest room. The sleeping bag is slippery, and feels a little like water. The only sound is faint rustling. After a half hour or so, I feel calm again, pieced back together, and I can go back to bed and fall asleep.

What this taught me is that my soul is connected to the ocean. Whenever we go to the coast, I know that I could live by it forever. When I’ve visited deserts, like New Mexico, I feel off-kilter, like something is missing. The ocean has its rhythms, like a pair of lungs, and follows the moon. It’s steady, but also not predictable. It’s totally, completely alive. 

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what I’ve been into

TV that I’m into: “Playing House” on USA with Jessica St. Claire and Lennon Parham. I’ve been binge-watching this show, and I LOVE it. It’s exactly my sense of humor. It also has the added bonus of having Keegan-Michael Key in it.

TV that I’m looking forward to: “I’m Sorry” with Andrea Savage on TruTV

Books I’ve been reading: I’ve been reading A LOT lately, which is good. Just finished a historical novel called The Ghost of the Mary Celeste. It’s based on a real incident, and pulls a lot from history including the Spiritualism craze, Arthur Conan Doyle, and more. I just started my second Erik Larson book, In The Garden of Beasts. It’s about the American consulate in Germany during WWII and his family.

Work stuff: Just finished a book on Ethereum, which is Bitcoin’s competition. It’s unique in that you can create applications on its blockchain, it’s not just for currency. If that makes no sense to you, look it up, I’m not going to summarize the book again. I usually just get blank stares. Still working on the book for my Gildshire articles, too, just finished up editing and writing the intros.

What I’ve cooked/baked lately: Made no-bake brownies with black beans and dates. It’s more like fudge than brownies, but it’s delicious. Getting out a slice is kind of like digging for fossils, because they have to be frozen, but it’s worth it. I also made homemade tomato sauce the other day. It was a bit runny, but I can thicken it up by just reducing it some more. I didn’t make this, but we tried Ben and Jerry’s “One Love” ice cream flavor, which is banana ice cream, graham cracker, caramel, and chocolate peace signs. Chris says it might be his new favorite.

Fitness stuff: Still using the good ol’ mini trampoline and rowing machine most nights. I take just one day off a week. Also got myself a resistance band, which is very convenient. Looking forward to having the toned arms of my dreams. It’s been gross and hot lately, so haven’t been exercising outdoors as much as I (or Yoshi) would like, but what can ya do. I know weight isn’t the goal here, but I am happy that I’ve successfully went down to about 155 after plateauing at 160 for so long. Paying attention to macros and sugar has made the difference. It doesn’t matter if I’m eating just 1200 calories if way too many of them are coming from sugar.

Novel stuff: Still steadily working on my Harley Gray novel. I filled out one notebook, so I’m on to a new one. That feels like an accomplishment. Been focusing a lot on trying to actually picture my characters moving around in the world I’ve created, so I can convey that to the reader. That means writing a lot of stuff that won’t actually end up in the book. I’m still figuring out how to get that in the story without actually putting it in the story (like a character’s whole marriage, basically), but I enjoy the challenge.

So that’s pretty much it, that’s what I’ve been doing. Small group meets again soon. Chris’ parents will be visiting, which means beach day!

 

 

Taking Medication On Vacation

We went to Hawaii for my grandma’s 90th birthday, which meant lots of plane rides and 3-hour time difference. It also meant plying myself with lots of pills in order to stay as functional as possible. What are some ways that I managed this?

Tip #1: Stick with number of hours between pills, and not actual time

I usually take my first pill between 10:30 – 11:30 am, but during travel, the time changes. Instead of focusing on the actual time of day, I just paid attention to how many hours had passed between pills. At night, it resets, so I started taking my pill about an hour after I woke up, around 10 am Hawaii time.

Tip #2: Dramamine is amazing

I was worried about feeling sick on the airplane and all the car rides, so I took the less-drowsy formula about two hours before getting on a plane or in a car. It completely reduced any nausea I might have felt. A few nights, I would start to feel nauseated randomly – probably because my body was adjusting to a different pill schedule – and Dramamine would help with that, too.

Tip #3: Always carry food and water

I never went anywhere without my water bottle. Staying hydrated is key to not feeling ill in heat, whether or not there’s medication involved. I always tried to carry food with me, like a protein bar, because my second pill of the day would fall around 2pm, which was after we had eaten lunch and before dinner. Depending on what we were doing, going to get food wasn’t an option, so I had to have something with me.

Tip #4: Don’t forget how many pills you’ve taken

This is a weird problem I have sometimes, where I will forget if I just took a pill or not. It’s become so automatic, when the alarm goes off, I act on reflex. Sometimes I eat before, and sometimes I eat after, so that doesn’t help me remember. One day, I forgot if I had taken the pill, and not wanting to risk the withdrawal from a missed dose, I took the pill. I’m pretty sure I ended up double-dosing myself, which resulted in a headache. Thankfully, taking two pills wasn’t nearly as bad as three (which would make me instantly sick), and I was able to walk it off and drink lots of water to feel better.


All in all, having to take three pills a day didn’t interfere with the vacation too much, and I was able to relax and enjoy everything that went on. There was only one major miscommunication with the family about it all, which reminded me that other people need to be privy to my schedule. That isn’t a problem I’ve encountered before, because usually I have an identical schedule and only take my last pill of the day with others around, and it’s usually just Chris and we’re at home.

5 Things Church-Goers Should Know About Former Church-Goers

1. We don’t want to be invited to church

The reason we aren’t going to church is not because someone just hasn’t asked us yet. We’ve already been there, we know what it’s like. I have this thing where I go to small groups (I’ve been to, like, two) and see if the people are actually invested in people, or just getting people to the church. The first group was structured around the sermons, so right off the bat, it’s clearly intended for people who already go. For one of their outreach things, they went to a grocery store and handed out gift cards, but also included a church business card. It was a PR move, not a service project. It wasn’t about building relationships or meeting a real need (I’m sure people appreciated it, who knows what their stories are, but if the church really wanted to make the most impact, they would not have chosen a grocery store in one of the wealthier areas of town), it was about drumming up attendance. So, long story short, don’t invite us to church. Invite us into your lives. There’s a difference.

2. We didn’t necessarily stop becoming believers when we stopped going to church

When someone stops going to church, there’s an assumption that they’ve lost their faith. However, that is not necessarily the case. A person’s faith can actually become stronger when they leave church, because they’ve realized their convictions are not hinged upon going to a building every week, and that staying in a place where they don’t belong is harming their faith. I’ve never stopped loving Jesus.

3. Church PTSD is a real thing

Yes, someone’s experiences at church can be so bad, they start to manifest PTSD symptoms. People have been physically assaulted at church by church leaders, they have listened to damning sermons, they have been betrayed and abandoned by trusted mentors, and so on. That is trauma, and trauma has consequences. Going to church feels dangerous. It’s not like I can should just shop around or that I haven’t found the “right one,” it’s that the whole concept of church, the rituals, the decor, the music, the language, reminds of me all the bad things that have happened. Anxiety kicks in. Panic. My body is literally telling me to run.

4. We still want a community

It’s really hard to find a shared-faith community that is not a church. Right now, I’d say it is impossible. While the concept of “church” literally makes me want to throw up, I still want to find the people who love Jesus, but are having a real hard time justifying it. I still want that spiritual “mentor” of sorts, who I feel knows more than me, but still asks the big questions and doesn’t act like they have all their shit together.

5. We want to talk about why we left church

I guess I should really just say “I” want to talk about it. I’m sure there are lots of people who don’t want to talk about it. I just know that it’s kind of a weird moment when people have asked what church I go to, and I say that I don’t go, but Chris does, and they don’t ask why. Sometimes I offer a slew of reasons unprovoked, but they don’t dig deeper. They probably don’t want to be nosy, but at the same time, if you’re a church-goer, you should really be interested in why people are leaving the church in droves. The worst that could happen is the former church-goer saying, “I don’t want to talk about it.”

 

Image source: http://www.sbts.edu/blogs/2016/05/06/should-i-leave-my-church-8-critical-questions/

9 Things That Won’t Happen When Fall Is Here

1. I won’t need to sleep from 2-4pm in order to avoid bursting into flame, because it’s so hot outside.

2. It won’t be unusual to feel a crisp, cool, life-giving breeze when Chris and I go on our walks.

3. I won’t have a rotating wardrobe of about 4 outfits, because the majority of my clothing is cool-weather based. Sweater weather is where it’s at!

4. I won’t need to wrack my brain trying to think of dinners that don’t require a stove-top or oven.

5. I won’t have random moments where I miss Yoshi the Pomeranian, because he’ll be here!

6. My face and nose won’t feel like sandpaper from all the fans blowing directly at me, because we won’t need them as much.

7. There won’t be a giant kiddie pool in our yard all the time, though it may be replaced by some autumn-specific children’s toy. I don’t mind it so much, the kids are having fun, and the leaky pool has actually kept the grass pretty green. They’re just right outside the window.

8. Lighting candles won’t heat up the house.

9. It won’t be weird to crave hot chocolate.

 

Falling into Routine

It’s been a busy three months (give or take). We’ve been on a lot of walks, I’ve taken a lot of pictures of trees, and I’ve packed in a lot of life work: getting medications, seeing doctors, and getting an Oregon driver’s license. We’ve been to Portland and Lincoln City. I started growing parsley, which is now in full bloom and edible. Baxter’s skin is no longer super dry, and he loves having his own room to be super loud in. Chris loves his job, he feels he’s doing important work, and is always in a good mood when he comes home.

It’s nice to fall into a routine. We shop at Fred Meyer, I eat frozen cherries most nights to help me sleep, we go for longer walks on the weekends, and my work load has been pretty light. That means more time for working on my novel, painting, reading, and keeping the house organized. It also means more time for naps, which I still take probably too often, but I’m learning to give myself a break from fretting over that. The fact that my medication changed from caps to tablets has kind of helped with that, because I have to take one pill three times a day, so I have to be awake at certain times to take it. That schedule also helps keep me asleep at night, too, which is weird.

In terms of mental health, it’s been a relatively smooth transition. The only reoccurring blip has been feeling really isolated and kind of at a loss about how to make friends. Chris has been scouting out churches, looking specifically for ones with young people and groups, but I’m still not really interested in going to church. I would definitely join a group though, that just hasn’t happened yet. I tried going on Tinder to look for friends, and chatted with a few people, but after a few messages, that just fizzled out. I recently tried Bumble, which has a better friend-finding feature, and found a person who I’m hanging out with soon. Since I’m just a naturally intense person, I have to keep myself from thinking, “This is my new best friend! Kindred spirit! We’re going to do everything together!”

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Being away from everyone I’ve ever known has forced me to get better at communicating with people and work on old friendships. It’s also made me more appreciate of friendships in different stages, and not neglect someone just because we’re not as close as we used to be, or if there are certain things we don’t talk about. I guess distance does make the heart grow fonder.

Things I Like About Salem:

Rainy days
Having a huge park close by
Having basically every restaurant close by
Fred Meyer and their incredible organic/natural options
So much green
Dogs everywhere
Being closer to Erin (and seeing her twice already since we moved!)

New Things I’ve Baked/Cooked:

Walnut-fig scones
Chocolate pudding
Quinoa salmon bowl
Chicken enchilada bowl
Butterscotch + dark chocolate oatmeal cookies w/ brown butter

 

How Do You Say Goodbye To A Psychiatrist?

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I’ve only had one psychiatrist since I was diagnosed with depression at 16. Last week, I had to say goodbye to her.

It was weird. We just talked about how many refills she should give me, so I could have enough meds to last till I found a new psychiatrist in Oregon, and she prescribed a separate anti-anxiety in case I got panicky during the whole packing/moving/adjusting deal.

And then I stood in the doorway and said, “So…thanks for like…almost ten years? A lot has happened.”

And I do mean a lot. After filling out the same questions every visit (“Rank this statement on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the most true”), I would take off my shoes and stand on a scale to be weighed, and then get my blood pressure taken. Then it was into the office at the end of the hall to spill out my guts and decide what to do with my dosage. I went through my rough high school years, my first true heartbreak, experimenting with meds that made me sick every morning and then meds that made me feel like I was having a heart attack. We went from the lowest dose to the highest dose of at least one medication out of the seven I’ve tried. We went through my first year of college where I had to see her every two weeks because I had formed a suicide plan, followed by broken-up college years where I met and married Chris, took a year off to develop agoraphobia, and then went back to graduate. I saw four counselors, co-led a youth group, became a charismatic Christian who saw demons at the end of my bed, and then learned about sleep paralysis and fear-induced hallucinations. I left the church, but not my faith. I lost some friends of the road and made some friends of the heart.

I didn’t want this post to be all “me me me me me,” but it kind of bcame that. My apologies. My point is that while all these things were happening, my psychiatrist was sitting across from me, offering me tissues when I cried, laughing at my jokes, listening, and asking questions. I’ve seen her with long hair, short hair, glasses, and contacts. She’s had a baby in the time I’ve been seeing her. She has a bookcase in her office with stuffed animals, like the purple octopus, and quirky little figurines that look like they’re from Anime. She always wore black or gray. She seems shorter than me, but she’s probably the same height.

I had no idea how to say goodbye. I still don’t. Should I have asked to hug her? Shake her hand? Psychiatrists are in a very weird spot, because they aren’t counselors, who can’t prescribe medications, but it’s not like my psych didn’t know anything that my counselors did. She was basically the same as a counselor, just in shorter sessions. There’s a layer of professionalism there that’s absent with counselors, maybe because (to quote Dana Scully) she’s a medical doctor? I don’t know. It’s just weird that one of the longest relationships of my life was with someone who isn’t my friend, but who knows more than most of them do.

 

 

Songs For Sad People

To me, music is the antidepressant I know best, and one that is devoid of side effects. While necessary for many, selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors frighten me because some artists and authors say they stunt their ability to create. As a writer, that’s unsettling, having my voice muffled or extinguished.

I know I may well have to use them at some point. I may need to find some stability from the ups and downs that characterize my depression, instead of white-knuckling as I have. But for now, I find, tiny instances of relief can be found in the furthest reaches of depression, small reminders that life is worth it.

Sometimes you just have to find the strength to push play.

Full article: http://www.laweekly.com/music/the-music-that-has-helped-me-battle-depression-5014322

I love how this writer described her relationship with music. Music has always been a huge part of my life, from when I first began listening to music on my own, late at night, discovering the rock music of the 1980’s on my Walkman to now, when I create playlists based on specific characters I’m writing about. My main playlist is just called “Writing,” even though I don’t listen to music when I’m actually writing. It’s the music that inspires my writing, and it brings me calm. Kristian Libman listed a few of the albums, bands, and songs that have helped her depression, so I will do the same here.

  • Blue October – I’ve written about them before, and their impact is still true. Lead singer Justin has been through hell and back, and listening through the band’s albums is like hearing his life story.
  • Audrey Assad – One of the few Christian artists I consistently listen to. Her songs are like hymns in their lyrical sophistication, but so intimate and personal at the same time. Every song is a prayer.
  • Ingrid Michaelson – there’s something about the simple strength of her voice that calms me.

Additional artists:

  • Joy Williams
  • Jetta
  • Brandi Carlile
  • Jason Isbell
  • Bee Bakare
  • Greg Laswell
  • Matthew Mayfield