Depression and Stress

Dear Friends,

This morning has been one God Breeze right after another. Everything that has happened today has connected to this essay about depression and how I found out the importance of taking care of me.

Depression is a sadness that I understand. I know this pain: The pain of feeling so overwhelmed that I didn’t known where to start and then I just sat in a chair for days: The pain of feeling so alone and no one loves you: The pain of being separated by miles from your family and close friends. The pain of having no money for food and never feeling like you can get ahead: The pain of not knowing how I was going to get a flat tire fixed with only 13 cents in the bank. I could go on with this for a very long time. I now know that many of the reasons that I have suffered with these problems is so I can help you. It is never easy to pull yourself out of the pit of despair. It can be done; this takes recognizing that is where you are and wanting to get out of the pit; then it takes specific steps to get help and to help yourself; and it involves taking care of you.

Many times we feel that the earth has just opened up and swallowed us with no way to find our way back to the surface and the sunshine of life. Here is one of the messages I opened this morning.

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Dear FlyLady,

This is really not a testimonial but I have been trying to fly now for over a year and the little bit I have done is wonderful but I have hit a brick wall and wanted to know if this is normal? Right after I started flying (which I heard about from the girl who cuts my hair) I became ill. They did all kind of tests and really couldn’t find anything. Now they are saying it is depression and stress. I am a Payroll SHE and not only am trying to keep my house in order but also my office. I am sending you this e-mail because I feel like I am a failure at flying. I know you are saying no one is a failure but I am beginning to think so. My sister-in-law and her mother (and a few other people I know) started flying two months ago and their house is organized I hate going there because I feel guilty. I cannot even read your testimonials any more because they make me feel like a failure. The Holidays are coming and I’m not looking forward to them at all and it gets worse all the time. Right now my house looks like a tornado went through it and we are living in a pile of clutter.

I know you are always saying to take Baby Steps and I am trying but I feel like I am beyond help. AM I? I guess I am looking for some kind of reassurance.

Drowning In Pennsylvania!

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Dear Drowning in Pennsylvania,

I am not a doctor or a psychologist; I am just one of you who has suffered with depression three times in my life and I am living proof that there is light at the end of the tunnel. My first depression came as a result of the death of a step-parent, a bad marriage, and feeling out of control and overwhelmed by every thing that needed to be done during the holidays.  The stress of it all just zaps the energy right out of you. It didn’t happen overnight. I felt myself slipping into this hole for about 6 or 7 months. I just didn’t know what was happening to me the first time I fell into this hole. It took a friend to notice and she got me the help I needed. I am so thankful that I was willing to listen and follow her lead when I was not able to do it on my own. It is my turn to help you by bringing this to your attention and helping you to babystep your way out of this hole. I don’t know why I have been picked to do this; I just know that it has to be done. So here goes. Follow me!!

The first time I was depressed (1990), I was put into a hospital for 10 days. It was a treatment facility for co-dependency and addiction. I didn’t think I had an addiction; boy was I wrong. I was stuffing my feelings with food and feeling more and more depressed by the lack of love in my life. Food was the cocoon that kept me insulated from the real problems. As long as I could stand in front of the refrigerator and stuff my face and cry; I didn’t really have to think about or deal with the fact that my marriage had fallen apart.

I felt like such a failure that I didn’t want to live. That scared me big time. I wanted to be happy and I had no clue how to accomplish this. In my all or nothing thinking; I felt that I could just flip a switch and everything would be better. There is no magic pill or switch that is going to immediately change the way you think. It is a process of recognizing your stinking thinking and replacing those negative thought patterns with constructive actions.

This is what I learned in treatment. I have told this story before and some of you will recognize it; so please stay with me. When I walked through the door of the treatment facility; I looked and felt awful. I had long stringy hair that was oily, I had on sweat pants and a sweat shirt that I hid behind and I had no energy. I roomed with two women that were thin and beautiful. Their assignment was to give me a make-over.

Yea right! Make me look pretty! That was something that was never going to happen. How could I be pretty when I felt so yucky inside? This is the most important lesson that I teach. Now I am crying my eyes out! I had to live this to help you! It was not easy to get into my head, but I didn’t have to understand it for it to have an effect on me.

They had me take a shower and wash my hair; then they had me dress in some of the clothes that I had brought with me. I don’t remember what it was; but I remember that they accessorized me with earrings, a scarf, and tucking my shirt in my pants. We made do with what we had. They let me borrow a few items from their suitcases too. The most amazing part was fixing my hair and face: A little blow drying and curling can work wonders. Then they put a little moisturizer and make-up on me. I have never worn much anyway so they kept it very simple. The result was astounding; to me and the rest of my treatment group.

I felt better about myself and they all said I carried myself differently. I was no longer slouching and frowning; I had my shoulders back and my head lifted high. I felt empowered. This was a very simple act that literally has changed my life and the lives of thousands. I am not saying at this time that I kept doing this every single day; but I had found the tool to help me get out of the slump when I felt myself falling back in the hole. It took me a while to get into the habit of dressing to shoes every day. I feel now that this is one thing that I do daily to insure my mental health.

Right now, if you are feeling yucky in any form or fashion; just puny, PMSing, draggy, pitiful, lonely, angry, tired or anything else: I want you to go hop in the shower and go get dressed to shoes; fix your hair and face too. Then you can come back and finish reading this essay.

As FlyBabies we forget: YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN!!! We forget to take care of ourselves. Even though we take care of everyone else, sometime we forget to do things for ourselves. So ask yourself these questions.

Have I had any water today? I am not talking about liquid either like 3 cups of coffee or soft drinks! If you have not, then go turn up about eight ounces right now: I just did!

Did you eat today: Breakfast, Lunch and a nutritious snack? Have you had any vegetables or fruits today?

Now here is the biggy! Have you gone for a brisk walk outside today? I am not talking about a grueling 7 mile hike; I am just asking for 7 minutes out and 7 minutes back home again. We need sunshine; there are some days in the winter that we just don’t think that the sun is ever going to shine again. Walking three times a week will help to keep depression away. Get out there anyway; even if you have not seen the sun for days! You will feel better if you will just move.  I know you are saying I am too tired to get up and move right now, but just do it for 2 minutes. You will feel energized! Even just a little is more than you were doing. You can do it!

When you get angry do you let it fester inside of you? Women tend to do this. Men on the other hand like to stomp and bluster which makes us uncomfortable because that is not the way we deal with anger. This took some getting used to for me when I married Robert. The only time I ever saw anyone get angry it was usually directed at me. Robert is a very calm collected man and never gets angry or frustrated; unless he is working on a car!!!! Once he had been installing our anniversary present on his little convertible car. He asked me what I wanted for our anniversary and I said a roll bar for your car! He ordered it and he started installing it, but not without a few tossed hammers and screw drivers. This is how he vents.

Imagine that! Expelling anger and frustration and not doing it toward another person. When I was in treatment; they wanted me to beat up a pillow. I still don’t get a release from doing that; I actually was uncomfortable with that action. It was not until my third bout with depression that I found my release valve! In the past, I would go to the refrigerator and eat or because the house was a symptom of some of the problems; I would clean like a banshee; daring anyone to talk to me. I would push myself into exhaustion so I would not have to deal with it; whatever IT was. Oh and I would retreat to my bed and cry for hours and pout! None of this ever did me any good. Here is how I deal with anger now.

I WRITE! I write till it all spills out of me. One sentence at a time and I have released the anger and sometimes I even come up with a solution. I don’t even have to have a solution to see the problem clearly. I just start writing and somehow it all falls into place. I never know where I am going; I guess it is like throwing that hammer or beating that pillow; it has no rhyme or reason it just feels good to do it. Then I get into a tub of warm water to hug myself!

Another thing I learned in treatment was to slow down my mind and meditate. This was a way to relieve stress. They put on some calming sounds and darkened the room. Do you remember kindergarten when we had to take a nap! Imagine a room full of 40 adults on mats with their eyes closed, listening to sounds of ocean waves. We took ourselves on a trip to the beach or to a park. We could walk away from our troubles just by closing our eyes and going someplace else in our minds. You can do this too.

Try it now; just sitting in your chair. Close your eyes and think of a stream with water trickling over the rocks and down a small waterfall. What else do you see??? Then feel your body relax as the water takes your troubles downstream. OK, Do this now! This is another tool that I use quite often to help me relax and relieve stress. Just concentrate on slowing your breathing down and taking deep breaths. Feel your muscle tension leave with each breath exhaled.

So you have read this and you don’t have this problem it is just the bunch of inconsiderate slobs you live with! The house is a mess and you have 20 people coming on this weekend and you have no idea where to begin to get the house ready for a party. You are sitting here paralyzed because of your perfectionism. You want it all clean at once! Well sister it ain’t gonna happen in this lifetime! You have to deal with your anger toward your family and the martyrdom you are feeling and get up on your feet and go shine your sink. You have to do it for you or you will be headed down that dark lonely path into despair.

After all we each deserve to live in a home that hugs us. If you are feeling bad because yours makes you want to run and hide; then it is time to get up and do something about it instead of blaming others and whining. It all starts with you! You can’t change anyone else, all you can do is change the way you react to them.

Depression comes at you from all sides; you can’t give in to it. Recognizing it is the first babystep out of the pit! We have the tools if you will just pick them up and use them. You are not alone. We are all one big cyber-family! Now take your first babystep!

I love you all, this is the hardest thing I have ever written. I want for you what I have; Peace. This peace came from establishing simple routines to maintain my mental health.

Are you ready to join me?

FlyLady

Please see your doctor too. I did need medication for a while. Don’t allow your perfectionism to stand in the way of getting well.

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