You Can Get Ready for Christmas Now

halloween is over

Thanks to the miracle of time, the harvest festivals are over, and the witches’ hats are hung. A chill is in the air (we had our first freeze last night to celebrate), and winter is well on its way. Now that Halloween is over, you officially have my permission to celebrate Christmas, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, the Solstice, or all of the above.

I’m getting ready, too! We’re learning new Christmas carols, I recently made a new stocking, and making plans for Christmas, because it’s after Halloween, and it’s now time for these shenanigans. As ever, we had a blast on Halloween, supporting our kids as they quest for treasure. We picked up a kid-friend, went out to eat, and then let them loose on a local neighborhood. And by “set loose”, I mean that I became a cruise director for the evening, jovially pointing out all the houses they are missing, and making sure they don’t eat any glass. You know, normal parent stuff.

We then had a sleepover, and I’ll be making egg-nog waffles for breakfast. Because it’s holiday time, folks. Huzzah!

Mental Illness is Not a Halloween Costume

https://www.pinterest.com/pin/221309769158660338/

Damn. Don’t you think she’d have made a killer Cruela Dent? Or a nasty Bellatrix Lestrange?  https://www.pinterest.com/pin/221309769158660338/

This isn’t cute. It’s not funny, creative or original. It’s a cruel jab at a part of the population dealing with serious issues. Seriously, someone give this woman a prize for awesome make-up, and encourage her to find an appropriate costume.

Oh, and here's how she dressed her kids. 'Cause why not?

Oh, and here’s how she dressed her kids. ‘Cause why not?

Do anything else. Those kids would have been great zombies or something, you know, actually scary.

I don’t want to go off for hours on this, but I could. It’s just too damned exhausting, and I have work to do. Please teach your children about the difference between the criminal and the insane. There really is a very small crossover there.

I Need Someone to Tell Me to Stand Up in the Morning

Image: Rory Bristol Original photo: Allen Watkin from London, UK (Lazy Cat) [CC BY-SA 2.0 ]

Image: Rory Bristol
Original photo: Allen Watkin from London, UK (Lazy Cat) [CC BY-SA 2.0 ]

I’m depressed. I’m not sad, I’m not separating myself from everyone else, I’m just depressed. Mostly, this means that I wake up, and follow my normal routine until it fails. Namely, I wake up, check the time, start planning my day. Normally, this is the part where I get out of bed and do stuff. Lately? Notsomuch. I fall asleep before I finish planning my day.

After a couple of days struggling to start working on time, I realized I had a problem. Jenny had to come wake me up on Saturday. I had been in bed like three extra hours. We talked about it a bit, and decided to work to be pro-active together. All I need is for Jenny to say, “Stand up.”

That’s it. It’s not that I’m lazy. It’s not that I’m sad, or tired, even. I just don’t wake up with enough brain to tell me I’m going to fall back asleep if I don’t stand up. Pretty simple. I just need one thing, and my day is back on track, right from the start.

Huzzah for figuring my brain out a little bit!

Also, a follow-up about telling my therapist “no”… I chickened out when I realized she was going on vacation. I’ll have to do it later. I didn’t want to ruin her vacation with my complaints, and she didn’t tell me how I was feeling once that whole session! So, no harm done. Now… where’s my mug? I need caffeine.

7 Must-Know Facts About Depression

 

Tickle yourself 2

There is so much to know about Major Depressive Disorder that it can be daunting to learn about it. Thousands of studies representing billions of dollars of research have been conducted around the world. This isn’t the work of a few deranged folks. Dozens of countries have been studying this illness for decades, and the work is far from done. Here are the must-know facts of Depression:

Depression isn’t a mood. It’s a mood disorder. The difference being that moods change constantly. Mood disorders are often a permanent part of a person’s mental chemistry. Those with Major Depression face the daunting possibility of ongoing treatments for the rest of their lives.

Depression is the leading cause of disability world-wide. With over 350 million people world-wide dealing with Depression, it is also a leading portion of the world health burden.

Depression ≠ Laziness. Lethargy and a lack of energy are symptoms of Depression, but it’s not a matter of being lazy, it’s a matter of being overcome with an illness. When someone suffering from Depression says they literally cannot get out of bed, it is not a matter of being “too sad” to get up. I compare it to hypothyroidism. In both cases, the body has created a lack of hormones required to function properly. It is literally impossible to do more than the body allows.

Depression cannot be cured. Some people who are diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder are later declared “cured”, but no cure was applied. In some way (as yet still not discovered by any scientific community), the person’s bio-chemistry has altered significantly, removing the disorder.

Depression is difficult to treat. If things weren’t hard enough, folks with Depression might never find a treatment that helps. Nearly half of the population with Depression are unaffected by Depression medications.

There is hope. Effective medications and other treatments have helped millions of people find relief from their symptoms. Medication is not the only treatment out there. Psychosocial treatments, therapy, and other ongoing care can treat symptoms.

The best treatments are unique to each person. While it is encouraged to use therapy, medication, and other treatments, not everyone needs all of these. Some people will not find success with medication, while others will struggle more while participating in therapy. Only a diligent care team and physician can make the final call, but the patient knows themselves better than anyone.

Check back tomorrow for my list of things you should never say to a depressed person.

Sometimes You Have to Tell Your Therapist No!

No!

I love therapy. I love it to bits. My therapist is kind and funny, and brings me out of my shell. Sometimes, though, she puts me on the defensive. I’m going to talk to her about it today, but I wanted to share with you guys while it’s on my mind.

Sometimes, at the end of the session, she tells me how I feel, or how I will feel later. Things like, “This was a hard session, so you’ll be depressed tonight, and that’s okay.” If her wording was just a little different, it would be great! I want her to go from telling me how I feel to telling me how I might feel.

This small change can make all the difference. Preparing me for negative emotions is a great tool, and one I value regularly. But predicting my emotions puts me on the defensive. If she says I will be depressed, my brain instantly says, “la-la-la-la-can’t-hear-you. You-don’t-know-me-ho!” All the hard work we put into the session has now been blown because my brain had to re-embrace my defensiveness and anxiety. #NotCool

So today, I talk to her about it. Finding a good therapist is a pain in the ass. I like her, and I want it to work. #FingersCrossed

She’s Done Chasing Happiness

Today, I have a treat for you. A darling girl (who I took to prom once, full disclosure) reached out to me, and asked if she could share something on Terminally Intelligent. I hope you enjoy Brittni’s stirring words as much as I did.

I am Still Fighting

I live my life in a fluid discontentment between anxious and depressed. My anxiety stays around a 7-8 on a 10-point scale (with very few spikes and valleys) until my body and my mind can’t handle it anymore. When this happens, everything shuts down, and I get really depressed.

I think when my anxiety is an 8, my depression is a 4. Even when I crash, my anxiety is still a 3, and my depression becomes a 9. The worst part is that I know it’s coming. It always happens this way. This means that in my brief moments of happiness, I still feel the looming of depression about to set in.

I’ve chased happiness for as long as I can remember. I played softball. I thought winning would make me happy. I tried to impress my parents, thinking that would bring me happiness. I was the first in my family to go to (and graduate from) college. That brought some happiness to my parents, but not a lot to me. I found a man I love. At this point, I have to distinguish that while I am happy with him, I am not truly happy. We moved across the country, and while he did this for work, I thought this would be just the transition I needed to finally find ‘it’. Guess what. In New England, the days are short, the winter is long, and this southern girl hates the cold.

I have a hard time making friends. Exercise isn’t something I enjoy. I don’t feel at home here. There is so much that I’m missing out on from so far away. These are the thoughts that come to me every single time I start to enjoy a fleeting moment. I forget that I am loved. I forget that I am brilliant. I forget that I have never set a goal that I did not reach.

An outsider looking in says, “You seem so determined, ambitious, and kind. I really thought that you were such a joy to be around. How could you be so sad?” My burden is so much to have to bear, I would hate to impose it on anyone else. I don’t ever want to bring anyone down. So, I “fake it till you make it.” That’s all I know. I open up to very few.

My first real “bout” of depression began when I was a senior in high school. I heard a preacher say, “You choose to be happy.” I went home and read Ephesians, and decided it was true. To this day, I have no idea how that book brought me so much peace. I’ve re-read it again and again, but the peace is gone.

There are things I’ve done to try to gain some sort of contentment. I lost a hundred pounds, then gained 30 back. I have a list of my “favorite things” (which includes The Sound of Music) that I reflect on when I stop seeing the positive side of things. I try to move, and go outside, even when I don’t feel like it. I make an effort to eat real, whole foods, because being Paleo Primal “will save your life.” I talk to my mom. I talk to my shrink. I write notes to myself to pick me up when I’m down. I am telling you right now, if you could choose to be happy, none of us would ever be sad.

I still have hope, and hopefully it’s enough. I’m trying this new thing out. I’m going to try to teach myself to be happy. Let me break that down into a more doable task. I am going to make an effort to combat every negative thought with a positive one. I may start off reusing the same positive thought over and over. I may need to start out small. Maybe one positive for every two negatives. The important thing is that I’m still trying. I may need to take breaks, and when I do, I know there are people there to help me through. I want to find happiness, but I’m not chasing it anymore. This time, it can meet me here. Right where I’m at.

I’m still fighting.

Everything You Need to Know About Self-Harm

everything self harm

What is self-harm?

Self-harm is just what it sounds like: a person hurts themselves intentionally, specifically without intent to commit suicide. This usually includes a ritual which the person follows each time.

  1. Self-harm does not include hurting others or lashing out.
  2. Self-harm is never committed by another person.
  3. Self-harm is defined by a physical injury or trauma. If no physical injury occurs, the behavior and/or symptoms are not classified as self-harm.
  4. Self-harm is committed intentionally. Accidents or unintentional injuries do not qualify as self-harm.
  5. Self-harm never includes suicide attempts. Although a person who has attempted to commit suicide may have hurt themselves, they are trying to die, which is directly opposite the models of self-harm.

Why do people self-harm?

The reasons for self-harm are unique to each person, but there are several common factors.

  1. Relief from emotional or physical pain. Causing a physical injury prompts the body to begin the physical healing process. The body releases endorphins, hormones, adrenaline, and other chemicals which reduce physical and emotional pain.
  2. Addictions to endorphins can form. Endorphins affect the body in a way similar to morphine. Adrenaline is also addictive in the same way.
  3. Reenacting previous abuse is another reason a person may hurt themselves. This can represent the person taking control in a way they couldn’t when they were abused, or could be part of a flashback episode.
  4. Self-nurturing is another goal of self-harm for some people. Sometimes, the person feels alone or abandoned, and self-harms to provide a reason to take care of themselves. Many people in this category have rituals regarding their self-care, which can sometimes include preventing the wound from healing properly.

If someone self-harms, are they suicidal?

Self-harm events and suicide attempts are completely different actions. In fact, if someone attempts to commit suicide, the event is not considered self-harm, regardless of physical injury. If someone self-harms, they are looking for solace, strength, or relief which makes living easier. If someone attempts to commit suicide, they are trying to die, not live a better or easier life.

Who self-harms?

  1. Gender: Both genders are equally likely to self-harm, about 8.9% of the population. Transgender individuals, however, are much more likely to have self-harmed, up to 59%.
  2. Sexuality: LGBQ individuals are between 3 and 6 times more likely to self-harm at some point in their lives.
  3. Age: Self-harm usually begins as a teenager, intensifies into the twenties, and fading in the thirties. This is by no means a hard rule, and people of any age might self-harm.
  4. Victims of abuse are much more likely to self-harm. It should be recognized that those who self-harm are not always victims of abuse, and not all victims of abuse self-harm.

Wait, boys self-harm too?

Yes, despite the mistaken perception of self-harm affecting mainly girls, both genders are equally likely to self-harm.

Is self-harm an attention-seeking behavior?

Not necessarily. Some individuals might self-harm to communicate pain, but this is done to reach out, not cause drama or receive pity.

How do people self-harm? Is it just cutting?

While cutting is the most commonly seen form of self-harm, there are many ways a person might self-harm, including:

  1. Cutting
  2. Burning (flames, cigars, hot objects, and sometimes flammable substances such as gasoline)
  3. Scratching
  4. Biting fingernails, cheeks, lips, or fingers
  5. Breaking bones
  6. Hitting

stand alone

Where is someone likely to hurt themselves?

The most common places a person might self-harm are:

  1. Shoulders and upper arms
  2. Wrists
  3. Chest
  4. Thighs
  5. Genitals

What kinds of rituals are involved when someone self-harms?

Any repetitive behavior a person participates in is considered a ritual. These elements can include:

  • Location of injury. Some people always self-harm in the same place, even cutting or burning scar tissue from previous self-injury sites.
  • Type of injury. Usually one or two forms of self-harm are used regularly.
  • Environment is another factor. Many people only self-harm in a particular place such as the shower, bedroom, or garage.

Is it possible to stop self-harming?

Yes! Most people grow out of their need to self-harm. Others remove or treat the cause of the need to self-harm. The first step, as with anything, is to ask for help! I suggest a few things for folks who are looking for help:

  1. See your doctor, therapist, or family member you trust.
  2. Make notes for yourself, so you can clearly communicate your points.
  3. If you become overwhelmed, take a break. Talking can be hard.
  4. Be compassionate to yourself. You deserve it.

What do I do if someone tells me they have self-harmed?

Here are my best tips for helping someone who has reached out to you. Remember, you know them better than I do, so YMMV.

  1. Feel honored. It’s not easy to trust someone with your pain. They told you, therefore they trust you.
  2. Listen, don’t assume. Everyone’s experience is unique.
  3. Encourage treatment.
  4. Avoid telling the person that they can/should be “fixed”, and instead focus on treatment or “help”.
  5. Emphasize that they aren’t alone. They have you, and people all over the world are getting help, too.
  6. Say, “I love you.”
  7. Don’t say, “I understand,” unless you have been there.
  8. Don’t encourage passivity. Letting God take care of things includes them getting treatment. Taking care of yourself is half of God taking care of you.
  9. Don’t give up, but take breaks if you need to. Your needs are important, too!

To everyone: Whether you self-harm, know someone who self-harms, or suspect someone you know might self-harm, it’s important to remember that people are people, not their illness. Hate the illness, but never the sick. We’re all human, okay?

Go Out With a Bang—I’m Terrible at Leaving Parties

Image: Rory Bristol

Image: Rory Bristol

I went to our friends’ annual Pie Party last night, and had a blast. I love this party. We don’t celebrate the harvest, or Halloween, or anything. This was just a group of cool people getting together. [Note, this wasn’t a Pi(e) Party. We save the math jokes for Pi(e) Day in March.]

As per usual, I was excited to go to the party until we were ten minutes away. It was raining all afternoon which always scares the crap out of me, but I wanted to go to the party! When we got close, I started running dozens of play-by-plays in which everyone decides they hate me, or I get killed for being “rude” to someone who doesn’t have a sense of humor.

Then I got there, ran into a friend I hadn’t seen in ages, and sat at a table with gracious folks. I saw a couple of them the week before and joked that we had set a record. Seeing Jenny and I twice in a month is a big deal for us these days! I settled in for fun and games, and hours flew by.

Finally, Jenny stopped trying to be subtle, and told me she wanted to go home. We were tired, fat, and full of sugar, with a long drive home. I realized all at once that she’d been trying to give me the hint for a little while, and I said, “Okay.”

Then, the never-ending march of exits began. Hugs in multiple rounds, conversations started and dropped as I made my way out, and lots of “Hi!-Bye!” flying around. After almost twenty minutes, I found myself explaining to a perfectly nice group of strangers that I had been in a long term relationship with a man before I met Jenny, and I realized that I’d fallen in the oldest trap my brain has: the anxiety babble.

My need to placate the guilt I feel leaving a party early (four hours after it started—God, I’m getting old), mixed with the anxiety of being confronted with a wall of people I hadn’t seen come in, added up to me saying whatever came to mind, and then explaining things in way more detail than necessary. The vicious cycle, once started, leaves me in a time-loop of mental paralysis while I watch my mouth talk non-stop while trying to figure out how to leave.

At some point, I took my hair out of its bun, and someone started braiding my hair. It was a great braid, considering I barely have enough hair for it. (If you’re reading this, girl, thanks for the bobby-pin. My hair still looked great when I woke up!) So, here I am, talking up a storm while someone is primping my hair. Jenny had been swooped in on by someone else, and I had no escape plan. Shit.

Thankfully, the wonderful lady fixing my hair gave me a quick squeeze and I felt my hair. She said, “I braided it.” I took the opportunity to break from conversation. Escape! I hugged her, then turned to show everyone my hair. Jenny finished with the gracious attentions of the host, took my hand, and we fled into the night, not looking back.

Well, that is, until I realized I left my drink on the table. I sneaked back, slipped in, and held me finger to my lips. I made a silent “shh” sound, grabbed my drink, and waved a quick goodbye at the two folks who had spotted me. They grinned, yelled, “Bye!” And I was off again.

It had been a long process, but we had left the party. I’m so glad we went. But looking back at my past party-going, I realized something. I have always been terrible at leaving parties. Either I stayed so late everyone fell asleep, I left as soon as the first person headed for the door, or I found myself in the talk-explain-talk-explain cycles of How-the-hell-do-I-leave.

Maybe I should work on that. Meh. I’ll go to Costco. I need food.

I’m Making a Baby–Don’t Worry, I’ll Share

Dudes. I spent my entire day yesterday typing. Like, 12 hours. It was intense, and I didn’t want to stop, but the kids made cookies, and I kind of ran out of words. I’m still out of said words, so I deserve a medal for typing this. I’m serious.

I’m so close to finishing my book I can taste it. I’m so ready for this. Of course, it’ll be months before it gets to an agent, much less a publisher. But It will be complete. So there.

Good enough for me!

Tonight, I eat pie. Today, I back up my computer, and prepare for my next writing binge. Hopefully the manuscript will be done this weekend. That’d make my year. Just saying.

Professor Rory—German Studies

German Demystified is a textbook resource our family uses.

German Demystified is a textbook resource our family uses.

Seriously, doesn’t that have a nice ring to it? Our family decided to study German together, and I get to be in charge, well, not really. Hooray for German, though! It counts for homeschool, but it’s also for our eventual time in Europe. Jenny and I will spend at least a year travelling in Europe after the kids are in college. We are both hoping that at least half of that will be in Germany and surrounding countries.

Add that to the fact that the Girl was getting sick of doing Spanish alone on Rosetta Stone, and voila. We’re going to apply some synergy to our routine. We’ll knock out three years of foreign language with both kids, while learning German as a family. This has a lot of benefits.

  • Gradual immersion
  • Synchronized vocabularies
  • Games and activities
  • Less frustration
  • A familial sense of togetherness

Basically, none of us have to feel alone in the task at hand. Working on it together means we are doing something as a family. Nobody is left learning on their own, and nobody is singled out. We just do it. Jenny and I designed they syllabus together, but I get to read out loud because I’m not an introvert, and don’t mind when people watch me. I also get to hit the play button because my computer has the good speakers. This makes me feel very important, but I also realize it’s just a button.

For today, I will tyrannize the internet as a self-made expert on the German language, so long as nobody calls me on credentials, experience, or, you know, knowledge. Oh, wait. This is the internet. Who gives a rat’s tail about credentials and experience? It’s Jenny’s job to be a teacher. I’m an expert because I have a keyboard, don’t you know? Whee!

 

In case you’re interested in how we are studying German, here’s a breakdown:

  • Daily: Duolingo
  • Monday: 1 Pimsleur German Lesson
  • Tuesday: 1-5 sections of German Demystified
  • Wednesday: Games, Music, Activities, Culture, and Immersion
  • Thursday: Repeat Monday’s Pimsleur German Lesson