A lot has happened since I last posted, mainly that the world is going to shit. Schools are closed, people are working from home, and everyone is watching Frozen 2 on loop. We’re definitely headed into the unknown…amirite?!
And now, today’s the last day, you guys!!! It’s Day 30 of the Whole-fuckin-30. I definitely hit a groove somewhere in there and started to eat and make my food choices without much thought. Now, I get up in the morning and make my eggs like I’ve been doing it always.
But here’s the thing. It’s not really over, because now I have to reintroduce all them non-whole30 foods the proper way because I want to see what makes my body angry or this was all for nothing. Tomorrow, I get legumes. I plan to smother my face in peanut butter as soon as I’m conscious. Then it’s non-gluten grains, followed by my personal fave, DAIRY, and lastly, gluten. We’ll see how the next 10 days plays out.
Top two things I definitely missed: ice cream and crunchy things to add texture to meals, like chips and crackers.
Surprising things: I didn’t get sick of eggs! I still really like them. Also, I think I actually prefer almond butter to peanut. I guess I’ll know for sure tomorrow.
The hardest part: Not partaking in alcohol and sweets in social settings. Emphasis on social. I have willpower for days, and the principle of out of sight, out of mind totally applies to me regarding food, but when I’m around all these other people who are having yummy sangria and frickin gooey rice crispy treats, I tends to get a little more than a little grumpy.
Another thing that made this hard is that I came down with a nasty sinus infection last week (which I’m still fighting, grumble), and being sick makes everything harder. It makes you tired, it makes you grumpy, and it makes you reach for the comfort food. Forever the stubborn rule follower, I stuck to my guns because I wanted to say I did this the right way.
I did not deny myself some sweet, sweet NyQuil that is actually 10% alcohol, which I confirmed after ingestion. Having a shot before bed after being sober for 25 days was like my own personal party! #noregrets
So. Congrats to me in about…5 hours when I go to bed…for successfully completing Whole30!
But honestly, the real celebration will be a week from now when I finally get to have my ice cold, sweet, fatty, smooth deliciousness. Hopefully, it’ll actually be there in grocery stores when it’s time for me to have it. Fingers crossed.
Seasonal Depression, or Seasonal Affective Disorder (appropriately SAD) is a real thing. Oregon is cold, it’s dark, and it’s freakin gray. It’s hard to get out of bed some mornings, and I often can’t get warm, even in my own house. It’s no mistake that Jo Rowling (we’re on a first name basis, people) gave the dementors, a metaphor for depression, the power to create an icy chill in their midst while sucking the soul out of their victims. When I’m cold, like that chilled-to-the-bone feeling, I’m irritable. Moody. Unable to feel contentment. I feel like crawling back into bed.
I have several tricks up my sleeve to try and keep the soul-sucking dementors at bay. I wish I had a magic wand, but I guess my Hogwarts letter got lost in the post.
Until that ruddy post owl is found, here are the things I try:
Note: This post is not a replacement for real, amazing therapy. These are simply things that work for me personally. Psychology Today is a great place to start looking for a therapist if you’re in the market, as it were.
My light therapy lamp
Last year, I finally went out and got myself a happy lamp! Getting up in the morning is hard for me, especially in the winter time when it’s pitch black outside. Somehow, that just seems wrong for a person to have to function in those conditions. I just got my lamp back out for the season, and I put it on my bathroom counter and flick it on as soon as I get out of bed. It’s on and shining into my eyes for about 10-15 minutes as I get ready in front of the mirror. It helps to perk me up in the mornings and makes me feel less dead inside. I wish I could get the effects for longer, but I have active kids who need to be places and I no longer sit in one place for very long. At this point I’ll take whatever I can get.
My slippers and hats and sweatshirts and blankets. And sometimes my cat.
Did I mention that I get cold in the winter? I’m actually always cold, but in the winter I’m knocking-on-death’s-door cold. I still can’t believe that I survived living in Boston for two years. I attempt to stay warm by wearing fuzzy slippers. I have ones with down feathers in them. And memory foam. I also have those buttery-soft slipper-socks. When I’m feeling saucy, I’ll wear slipper-socks and slippers at the same time. It’s also not unheard of for me to wear a jacket indoors, or one of my many knit hats. The couch is covered with blankets. And when I don’t hate my cat (and when she doesn’t hate me), I will allow her to sit on my lap to keep my nether regions from frosting over. When animals aren’t total assholes, they can be kind of comforting.
Those microwavable ricey/beany heat pad thingies
They are warm when I am not. The end.
Hot drinks, sometimes with sugar and caffeine
In the winter, I’ll often make hot decaf tea in the afternoons and evenings (in addition to my normal caffeinated morning beverage) to take the chill off, but also because they provide this psychological cozy boost. I enjoy feeling the warm, solid mug between my palms and breathing in the sweet, warm vapors. The Dutch call this feeling gezellig, which roughly translates to “cozy,” and I find myself often chasing it.
FIRE. (Candles and the fireplace)
First off, let me just say that Oregonians have a weird obsession with scented things and lighting shit on fire. Haven’t any of you heard of a spare the air day?! Having said that, I do enjoy the occasional scented candle or switching on our gas fireplace because Oregon creeps up on you after a while. It’s the warmth, but it’s also the psychological boost from the bright, flickering lights and the yummy, spicy, earthy, comforting scents that can fill up the house and my soul.
Music is the perfect drug; there is a piece of music to induce any mood you’re after, with little to no side effects. Spooky Halloween music, cozy Christmas music, after dinner dance party music (pants optional). Music shoos them dementors straight back to Azkaban. Also, if you don’t get these Harry Potter references, consider yourself on notice.
I tend to isolate when I’m anxious and depressed, so I schedule events on my calendar to get me out of the house and interacting with humans over the age of 5, even if it’s cold and rainy and gross and disgusting outside. We might get wet or cold or muddy or all three, but at least we have a fun time hanging out with others, and then we’ll get warm and gezellig once we’re back home again.
HUMOR!!!!!! DEAR GOD, THE HUMOR!
Humor is my EXPECTO PATRONUM!!!!!! Laughter boosts the mood and the immune system. It brings people together, and holy crap it makes me feel less alone. The best cross-section of humor and mental health I can think of can be found at The Bloggess. Jenny suffers from anxiety and depression, but she doesn’t let that get in the way of being fucking hilarious. She’s the reason I started blogging, and I love her and I met her once and she signed my DSM because that’s how deep her commitment to hilarity runs. She normalizes and humanizes mental illness, makes me feel less alone, and makes me laugh – which makes me feel better. Boom. If you’re at all interested, read her blog, check out her books – geez, I wonder if she’ll pay me for this? Shout out, Jen! Call me.
As an example to show how much Jenny Lawson just gets me, here are her calendar pages for October and November:
Ok, I’ll stop here. I hope this is helpful for some people. TELL ME – What do you do to combat the cold, dark, gray, damp winter months of torture?!
Quick anxiety update: it’s flare-up time. (Relapse time? Outbreak time? Really unsure what terms to use here, and I’m the mental health expert. Better get on that.)
I’m on my second week of dealing with early morning anxiety…..again. It goes like this: something will wake me up early in the morning. Take your pick – husband, cat, bladder. Neighbors. Traffic. Kids, but very rarely. Go figure. And then something sparks this burning fire in my chest that I can’t extinguish in order to get back to sleep. So I toss and turn in anguish and waste 1-2 hours when I desperately need sleep, but can’t get it. Lastly, my kids wake up, and then it’s all over. The anxiety slowly fades and is replaced by exhaustion as the day goes on. Makes me fantasize about going full Walden.
I’m hopeful to report that I think I’m getting better at squashing this more quickly. The past few mornings I’ve actually been able to get back to sleep and wake up for the day not feeling like such a zombie. It’s this magical combination of self-talk, physical relaxation techniques, and distracting myself by thinking about something – anything – not about me, my body, sleep, or the present moment.
(Update: I started this post yesterday, and this morning I actually slept all the way through the morning and woke up naturally and feeling rested. So there’s hope!)
Now I’m going to outline things that help me – specifically, things whose helpfulness I tend to forget – to fight this anxiety monster that creeps into my bed (or tries to) each morning. This is not meant to be preachy or self-helpy, but it’s rather to help…me. Because, just like depression, anxiety lies. It lies to me and it makes me forget what normal and healthy feels like. It makes me forget what coping skills actually work and it lies to me about there being joy in the world, and that it’s within my reach.
The biggest one by far. If I don’t get enough sleep I have very little motivation to face the day. The sleep that anxiety steals from me in the mornings sets up my entire day to be complete rubbish and it’s really hard to get back on track. That makes naps vital on some days (when I can get them), and I’ve been working very hard to get to bed at a time that ensures I’ve allowed for at least 8 hours of sleep. Even though I don’t always get it, I have to carve out room for it. Have to.
I’m not a person who really enjoys exercising, per se, but this week I’ve been feeling the urge to move my body. I tend to get that feeling when I’m super angry, or when I’m jumping-out-of-my-skin-anxious. I’ve realized that when I exercise, I don’t have room for the jitters. I actually get real-time relief. That’s why I made sure I got out there and ran from zombies, even in this smokey heat wave we’re having. It felt so. good.
I’ve written about this before, but the act of singing, like really singing, is so stress relieving and this is one that I forget about all the time. So if you see me running (from zombies) and I suddenly stop to belt out a well-timed lyric and bust a move, then you know what’s going on.
This usually means social contact, but sometimes a really, really good show or standup routine will fit the bill here. I recently watched Iliza Schlesinger: Elder Millennial on Netflix, and man it was exactly what I needed. I might just watch it again. Also, The Bloggess is the reason I started blogging in the first place, and I realized that I was no longer getting her updates for some reason. That has been remedied.
5. Taking time to get out of my head and space out
Having kids all day everyday, this often takes the form of me being on my phone. This usually comes with a lot of guilt, but I’m trying to tell it to fuck off. As long as the kids are safe and cared for, I am taking lots and lots of tiny micro breaks throughout the day just so I can slip the phone back into my pocket and be present for 20 more minutes when I previously thought I couldn’t. I kinda felt like I needed permission to do this, and only realized that after my therapist had given it to me unsolicited.
6. Having something to look forward to
It has been a godsend to join my local chapter of MOMS Club and automatically have events lined up for me on my calendar each month. It sounds so mundane, but it keeps me going. I’m constantly looking forward to the next thing, and being able to feel excited anticipation is a powerful enemy of anxiety, depression, and loneliness.
There you have it. These are the main coping skills that I often forget are available to me.
Side note: while writing this over the course of two days, I have been interrupted a total of eleventy billion times. Another antidote to anxiety is being able to get into a flow state, and in order to do that you need to cultivate calm and stillness. Yeeeeeah. This is one reason why it’s SO HARD for me to put myself to bed at a reasonable time, because stillness only happens WHEN PEOPLE ARE UNCONSCIOUS. My point: I reeeeeally miss flow states. Please tell them to come back and visit.
I was feeding them to my daughter when I started singing.
Movin to the country, gonna eat a lot of peaches…
Dylan thought it was a funny song, a song about peaches, so we put it on.
Peaches come from a can, they were put there by a man, in a factory downtown…
We started talking about music from the 90s and how some songs can just bring you back…in my head. She’s lump, she’s lump, she’s lump, she might be dead.
It got me all nostalgic, remembering middle school dances and feeling socially anxious and awkward. Breathe in, breathe out, breathe in, breathe out, breathe in…
Most of the songs we listened to weren’t our favorites, but they were those songs that were always playing in the background. We know them, but may not know who sings them. We don’t know all the words, but just hearing the first few notes transported us back to age 15 or so, depending. And we hadn’t heard them for years.
We said, tell me all your thoughts on God, cause I really want to meet her. Ask her why we’re who we are.
And this is what s/he said: Well I guess what you say is true, I could never be the right kind of girl for you, I could never be your woman, I could never be your woman. (all you need to remember from this one is that high-pitched dee-do-dee-dee melody at the very beginning.)
But don’t worry about asking God, because we all know that goats go to heaven, sheep go to hell. I saw this one performed live on a sunny day in San Francisco.
I been downhearted baby, I been down, I been downhearted baby. Ever since the day we met, ever since the day we met. (for this one, the memory was just of the sound of the voice singing these lyrics. I’m not even sure I knew the exact words before looking them up just now.)
I wasn’t the coolest middle school kid on the block (hard to believe, I know), and I was very slow to catch on to all the hip music the cool kids were listening to. Music trickled down to me via my friends with higher cool factors or older siblings or both.
Just remember, Love will lead us, alright, can you hear the dolphin’s cry?
To end the night we can drive it home with one headliiiiiiight…
Did any of these lyrics jog your memory? All the band names are tagged on this post.