woman running shoes running up concrete staircase

December Resolutions: Mid-Month Update

Last month, I decided I’d get a head start on my New Year’s resolutions by treating December as a sort of trial run. I set myself four goals:

  1. Start volunteering
  2. Run regularly
  3. Re-establish skincare routine
  4. Begin relearning German

We’re roughly halfway through December, so I thought I would check in with my progress. Currently, I give myself a 2.5/4. I have been running almost every day, persisting despite the weather. I think I’ve surpassed my goal of establishing enough endurance to (somewhat comfortably) go five miles, so maybe I should aim higher for the end of the month.

I’m diligently maintaining my skincare regimen with topical steroids, a giant light, and a lot of sarcastic jokes about how great I look in UV-protective goggles. I’m not seeing much benefit yet, but it’s not an instant fix.

My efforts to begin volunteering have been temporarily halted; it turns out the organization I was interested in has recently moved (still nearby) and stopped their volunteer orientations until mid-January. I am signed up for the first orientation in January, though, so I think that counts for at least half credit.

That brings us to number four: begin relearning German. I have not started this yet, and I’m trying to decide if I want to push forward with it and see where it takes me by the end of the month, or replace it with a different goal.

All in all, I’m feeling pretty satisfied with my December resolutions.

 

Anonymity and Mental Health Stigma

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When I started this blog, it was deliberately anonymous. I didn’t have my name anywhere on it and I made a conscious effort not to mention anything about my life outside the sphere of mental health. I don’t think I even told my immediate family about it until a few months in.

I liked the freedom of writing anything I wanted without overthinking it. Those fears of what will people think? were almost nonexistent because nobody knew who I was. Over time, I began sharing it with people I knew. My immediate family and friends, then my extended family, my therapist, and others involved in my treatment.

I know that putting my name on my blog doesn’t change much for you, the reader. It does, however, signify a big change for me. I’m finally coming to terms with my diagnoses and feeling more comfortable talking and writing about them as myself, with my real name attached.

Everyone has their own reasons for keeping their online presence anonymous. My reason was rooted in shame. I was afraid that if people knew I was writing about topics like depression, self-harm, and suicidality, they would never again see me for the things that make me, me. The reality is that people I know tend to notice the things that shine through the overarching topics. They comment on my love of writing and my sense of humor before they mention the content of my posts. And when they do broach the subject of my blog, they express their happiness that I’m still working towards stability. It helps, of course, that my family and the people surrounding me are very understanding. Not everyone has that, and I’m so thankful that I do.

Anyway, there you have it. My name is Genevieve (Gen), I’m 23 years old, and I live in Colorado. I got my bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan, where I studied Ecology and Evolutionary Biology as well as Evolutionary Anthropology. I work from home as an editor and freelance writer (not at all related to my degree, but whatever). On my blog, I write about my diagnoses of sensory processing disorder and major depressive disorder. I like reading, making art, and being in nature. This is starting to sound like a cross between a cover letter and a dating profile, so I’m going to wrap it up.

Lumpdates is still lumpdates, but I’m pretty dang proud of myself for typing the nine letters of my name into my username settings.

Wishing you curly fries,

Genevieve

jar of peanut m&ms

The Sound of Peanut M&Ms: The Ketamine Chronicles (Part 9)

Part of figuring out what your individual limit is between ketamine infusions for depression is to stretch it out bit by bit until you find the length where it wears off. My daily mood metrics show a drop a few days ago that stayed steadily lower than my previous (good health) average. However, there were several possible factors that may be to blame, so it’s not clear to me whether three weeks between infusions is actually an accurate time frame to use. That said, we’re going to go another three weeks and see what happens.

I had a lot of trouble with my music this time. The playlist I chose stopped playing shortly after I started to feel the ketamine, but I kept thinking that it was just really quiet. It was like when the radio is on in your car on low volume, and part of your attention gets sucked into it and you’re going what IS that? I just kept turning the volume up again and again over the course of several minutes before realizing that no, nothing was playing. My brain was just making something up that was barely audible because I expected to hear something. I managed to find a different playlist that I’ve heard many times, so it was comforting but not very interesting.

Maybe because I listened to something familiar, I didn’t have any sustained scenes like the very memorable fish wedding. But, like always, I sank into flowing images that seemed to come from my subconscious. A deep red octopus slithered around my mind, only one day after I marveled at a captive one in a butterfly pavilion. Under the influence of ketamine, I tried to imagine what it would be like to be an octopus; how would it feel to have eight limbs, each one a sensing individual capable of independent reactions? At some point, a vibrant green light was disrupted by a dark shadow moving up from the bottom of my internal “visual” field. Like when someone stands up in front of a projector, this vaguely ominous shape rose up again and again. As it reached the top and had obscured all of the green light, the bottom thinned out and the light shone through again. Then, the shadow started again from the bottom.

I have no idea how far into the infusion this happened, but at some point, my doctor sat down at the desk in the room and began preparing something with plastic bags and vials. It sounded exactly like he had taken an enormous bag of peanut M&Ms and dumped them out on the desk, then rolled them around with his hands. The sound reminded me of how on road trips, my dad used to stop at the gas station before we left and get “a duffle bag” of skittles, peanut M&Ms, whatever was the largest bag available. I tried not to laugh at this memory, as that might sound weird out of the blue, and then I’d have to explain it with my too-big tongue. Instead, I cracked my eyes open and tried to discern what he was actually doing, because I knew, rationally, it definitely wasn’t the M&M thing. Too blurry. I got distracted and started looking around the room.

The walls looked sort of like I was looking at them through a big sheet of cling wrap. Subtly shiny, a little distorted, and slightly moving. The edges of things were indistinct, and trying to focus on any one thing produced a weird motion that was like looking at something far away with one eye, then switching to the other eye. It felt like a very subtle change in perspective, despite looking at it from up close with both eyes open. The M&M noise had paused momentarily, so I looked over at Dr. G, who motioned for me to close my eyes. Ah yes, I’m not supposed to be looking at things. That’s how you get a bad case of nausea. I shut my peepers and was swept away by…something. I don’t remember.

Later, I laughed about the M&M sound with my mom, who apparently didn’t even notice it, despite sitting directly next to my feet. I’m sure Dr. G was actually being very quiet, but something about ketamine can make your hearing sensitive while the infusion is going.

I’ve been noticing that, for me, it’s the second day after an infusion when I wake up and feel better. The day after an infusion is usually a pretty sluggish day, but then the day after that is when things start to look up. If I didn’t know that, it would be pretty discouraging to wake up the day after an infusion and feel crummy. Now I know to wait it out and not let that first day throw me off. Experience is a great teacher.

Oh No. More Depression Naps

The irony of my recent post about unnecessary sleeping is glaringly obvious. Yesterday, I got up at 6, took care of Stella’s morning routine, then took a four-hour nap. Then, I fell asleep at 7pm, woke up at 2am still wearing my clothes, took my meds and brushed my teeth, then went back to sleep until 6. Big oops.

At this point, I don’t think I can still use the “I’m tired from traveling” excuse, much as I would like to. Sleeping too much is, for me, a big indicator of depression. I’m really hoping this is a fluke and not the ketamine wearing off. If it’s the latter, that would make my time between maintenance infusions about three weeks, which is a little short for my liking.

I had errands to do today, which I managed to do after an entirely too-long nap. I’m putting my foot down. Time to drag myself outside and go for a run, because you can’t sleep if you’re moving. Curse you, depression symptoms!

Update: My run was lovely, despite stepping in an icy puddle and getting my socks wet. Also nearly ate it on some ice deceptively camouflaged with snow. It definitely woke me up. I saw some cute dogs, though, and the mountains were pretty. All in all: would recommend, minus the puddle and the ice.

woman in orange jacket holding flowers in front of face

4 Tips for Therapy Clients Who Hate Talking About Themselves

If you ever feel like a deer in headlights when asked to talk about yourself, I empathize. Whether it’s one of those dreaded get-to-know-you icebreakers or your therapist asking you a question, having to talk about yourself is uncomfortable for many people.

When I first sought therapy for myself, I found it extremely difficult to engage with it fully. If you don’t like being the center of attention, beginning therapy can be overwhelming. After all, the entire point of it is to focus on you. Early on, talking about myself in therapy felt, at times, nearly unbearable. Too many questions too fast made me shut down, and too loose of a structure lead to lots of awkward silences, both of us waiting for the other to say something. Over time, however, I’ve gotten much better at it. Here are some of the ways I’ve found to help me feel more comfortable about talking about myself in therapy.

The Essentials

This list wouldn’t be complete without a soapbox moment about the therapeutic relationship. It doesn’t matter if you’re just starting therapy or you’ve been in it for a while; it’s vital that you like your therapist. The struggle of talking about yourself will be even worse if you don’t feel understood or accepted in therapy. In fact, research shows that therapy is much more effective when you and your therapist click. Don’t feel bad about shopping around or about switching therapists if it’s just not working out.

Secondly, remember that therapy sessions are for you. Push yourself out of your comfort zone, but go at your own pace. Therapy is your time to do with it what you will.

Communicate What You Want From Sessions

Hoo, this is a tough one. There’s a lot that falls under this umbrella, but mostly what I mean by it is: tell your therapist if you would like to direct the topic of each session or be given more structure. Maybe it’s hard to talk about yourself because answering questions feels too probative, and you’d rather start off with a narrative. I prefer to have more structured questions because if I’m given free rein, I go blank and have absolutely nothing to say. Regardless of which end of the spectrum you’re on, your therapist is always there to help direct you and keep you on track.

Practice Saying How You Feel

I struggle hardcore with identifying how I feel. Maybe it’s SPD, maybe it’s Maybelline. Sensory discrimination issues have extended into the emotional realm and mean that I often don’t know how I feel about something. If you have a hard time verbalizing how you feel, my advice is to practice. It sounds silly, but just as if you were a little kid, practice saying “I feel ____” and then fill in the blank with something more specific than “okay” or “fine”. Even on your own, check in with yourself; am I feeling excited? Lethargic? Irritated? It really does start to feel more natural over time.

Make the Space Comfortable

Of course, it’s not your office. You can’t go swapping out furniture and changing the overhead lights. But you can do some things to make the space more comfortable for you. A therapist I saw in college noticed that I have a very wide bubble of personal space and offered to move her chair a little further away from me. You can ask to close the blinds if it’s too bright for you, bring a small blanket to help you feel cozy, and be sure to wear comfortable clothing.

Something that I learned in occupational therapy but haven’t put into practice (maybe I should!) is that talking about difficult things is often easier when your hands are busy. Bring a coloring book, a fidget toy, or a craft- if you’re a knitter, crocheter, or have some other portable project.

 

For us reticent folks, therapy can be scary even just to think about. But, like so many things in life, working on what’s difficult often leads to the best outcomes. With time and practice, talking about yourself in therapy gets easier, especially if you find what will support you and then advocate for yourself.

 

grey cat in sunlight yawning

My Depression Naps are Unnecessary (Shocker)

Over the last week, I have taken a grand total of one nap. ONE. This is grossly reduced from my usual minimum of six naps per week, each spanning roughly three hours. I cut back on naps this week because I was spending time with my family, instead. Between running errands, cooking, cleaning up, and catching up, there wasn’t much time to sleep during the day, and if there was, I prioritized family time.

The week is over, and I’m learning that I’m capable of being more active than I feel I am. My depression and the medication I take to treat it make me tired, and I might need a whole ‘nother week to recoup from this napless week, but I can function without naps. I think I should take this to mean that doing more is more sustainable than I thought.

I’ve been nervous that adding activities outside the house would be a disaster, because how could I go out and do stuff when I sleep for three hours every afternoon? This is probably a cart and horse problem; I’m worried that I won’t be able to fulfill my commitments if I still feel the need for excessive sleep. But perhaps adding more commitments to my schedule will make me less depressed, and therefore, I would sleep less. There’s bound to be an unhappy medium in the middle, but it would probably settle out eventually. In (wildly simplified) essence, be tired and have nothing to do, do more and briefly be more tired, then be a normal amount of tired and have fun doing whatever you want. This is something that everyone in my life has been saying forever, but sometimes it takes a while for you to come to the same conclusion, right?

A large part of my robust nap schedule is due to the lithium I take in the morning. However, I’m sure that another part of it is, at this point, a habit. My brain has learned that every day at the same time, we go to sleep for a few hours. It’s come to expect it. Breaking out of that habit is tough, but if I eliminate that and reduce my depression as much as possible, I’ll be left with just the lithium tiredness. That’s manageable, and as I’ve learned this week, very possible to function with.

Before I was even taking any medication, I slept as an escape. I went to bed before dinner because I didn’t want to be awake anymore, and I took long naps because I couldn’t stand the feeling of experiencing an entire day. Maybe this was what I needed, for a time. It helped me face my existence in more manageable chunks, but then it spiraled into something more damaging. I’m not going to stop taking naps entirely. I feel best when I give in and curl up on my bed for a few hours, sleep it off, and wake up partially refreshed. But I’m also going to remember that I don’t have to do that.

yearly calendar on table with cup of coffee and dish of paper clips

December Resolutions

The yearly frustration that most of us can likely relate to is that our New Year’s resolutions only last a few weeks, or at best, a few months, and yet we continue to make them. It’s relatable because change is hard, and the excitement of turning over a new leaf soon gives way to the stresses of normal life and the reality of breaking old habits. But there’s something so attractive about starting fresh; new calendar, new me.

Clearly, I like the idea of making a deliberate change on a specific date. Something about marking your resolution with an external, cyclical change makes it feel more decisive. Unfortunately, I am so put off by the pressure of an entire year ahead of my resolutions that I simply don’t make any. I’ve made New Year’s resolutions in the past but petered out before they really formed habits. Then, the internal shame of having failed a New Year’s resolution discourages me from trying again mid-year. Because really, why can’t I just resolve to change whenever I want? Because human brains like to impose order on things like arbitrary laps around the sun.

Instead of griping about the pitfalls of New Year’s resolutions and why I can never seem to make it work for me, I’m going to try something different.

~*~*~*~December Resolutions~*~*~*~

This sounds incredibly silly and I think that it’s a little bit sad that it’s come to this, but I think I need to trick myself into meeting my goals. Instead of making a list of resolutions and waiting until the new year to begin, I’m going to have a trial month for my new habits. December will be my 31-day behavior test, and if I hate the goals/habits I come up with, no big deal. I won’t feel bad about quitting because it’s only my December resolutions, not the monumentally more important New Year’s resolutions.

(Yeah. It’s exactly the same thing, but shhh, don’t tell my brain.)

Bonus, if I do like my resolutions and am happy to keep going with them, I won’t have to face the overwhelm of a brand new year stretching ahead of me. I’ll already have a whole month under my belt.

I really think this is going to work for me, at least better than the usual resolution schedule does. Here’s my list of December resolutions, but remember, it’s low-stress, low-commitment, so these can change without me feeling like a failure. At least, that’s the theory.

  1. ACTUALLY start volunteering. Somewhere. Anywhere. Don’t just think about it.
  2. Keep running regularly (yay, I’ve already started!) See if I can reach a comfortable 5 miles by January. I’m more than halfway there, so this seems very doable.
  3. Reestablish a skincare routine, aka get my psoriasis under👏 control👏.
  4. Welcome the hostile Duolingo owl back into my life and start re-learning German.

These seem reasonable to accomplish within a month. The one that I’m definitely most apprehensive about is volunteering. At this point, I’ve thought about it for so long and looked at opportunities in such detail that I really have to just go and do it, and try not to worry about all of the unknowns (thanks, SPD).

Ok, internet, hold me accountable.

Week 25 of Working on Us: Thankful and Grateful

Working on Us is a wonderful series over on Beckie’s Mental Mess, where each week has a new prompt meant to get people talking about mental health topics. Check out the original prompt for week 25 and click around to find participants of previous weeks’ topics!

This week, the prompt is loose; just write about something you’re thankful/grateful for.

I joke with my family that my life basically revolves around the dog park, and although it’s funny, it’s also kind of true. I adopted Stella when I was in a really tough place, mentally, and her sweetness, affection, and persistence are what have gotten me out of bed and outside over the last year.

black dog with pointy ears laying in grass between person's outstretched bare legs

When I think about how grateful I am to have Stella, I also think about my family’s support and patience, and how willing they were to care for her when I was in the hospital. I’m thankful for the people I meet at the dog park, and the sense of community and routine I’ve found there. I think about the resources I have to be able to provide for Stella, and the fact that my body allows me to walk, run, and play with her.

IMG_4092black dog with pointed ears panting while lying in shade next to concrete structure

When I think about how grateful I am to call Stella mine, it ripples out to every aspect of my life with her. I think that’s a powerful quality of giving thanks; you cannot be thankful for one thing without also being thankful for what contributes to it and leads to it.

I’m also incredibly thankful for what comes from my responsibility for and love of Stella. I’m thankful for long walks with frequent sniff stops and short walks around the block. She gives me stories to tell and reasons to get out of my comfort zone. I’m grateful that she makes me laugh every day.

IMG_4489black dog biting stream of water from sprinkler

I’m thankful that she is instantly joyful when I buy her toys, but is also amused with a simple piece of cardboard. I’m thankful that I can tell when she’s tired because one ear flops over.

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I’m thankful for my pup because she makes my life more joyful, she connects me to other people, and she demands that I take care of her and in so doing, myself. I hope that everyone had a lovely Thanksgiving, and if you don’t celebrate Thanksgiving, I hope that you had a great week filled with all of the people, pets, and things you’re thankful for all year long.

 

A Poem About Being Tired

QUALITIES OF FATIGUE

head statue
Photo by Mika on Unsplash

My eyes are beginning to feel

Like peeled grapes, getting dry

This cannot be fixed

with one. slow. blink.

No, this requires something more

A seven-hour soak inside my orbits

Floating in dark saline dreams

Getting ready for the crack

Of eyelid curtains

And another day of dried-out vision

A Plains Poem

NOVEMBER SNOWtall, yellow grass with overgrown tire tracks and pink sunset

All summer, golden grasses swayed

Over prairie dog burrows in dry caked clay

Little sentries stood at attention

Through parched heat and months of baking sun.

 

rocky mountains under blue sky with clouds and snowy plains in front
Photos are my own

Now, November snow blankets the plains,

Flattens grasses and where it melts,

leaves golden cowlicks sticking up

at odd angles