A few months after I moved into Santa Cruz proper, a couple stopped me on the street to ask me for directions. A week later, a father and daughter did the same. I liked it. It made me feel good, like somehow I was giving off the vibe that I lived there.
So last week you can imagine my surprise when an older couple in a little car stopped me after my run. (I was walking through old town because those cobblestones are brutal! People who run on those impress me.)
Easy on the eyes. On the feet? Not so much.
The man called out his window, “Bitte. (Insert loads of German that, in my limited understanding, meant they were looking for something.)”
I froze. I had no words. My throat felt like it had closed up. I shook my head and simply said, “No.” Gah! I couldn’t even said “no” correctly!
He smiled and said, “OK,” and drove on.
As they drove away I started to cry. Actually, sob is the right verb. In that moment I was so frustrated with myself and my inability to communicate, it was the only thing I seemed capable of doing.
I wept because I couldn’t speak when the women at the laundromat asked if I knew when the last load was allowed to be washed. I cried because even though I was completely capable of saying the words (in German), “I only speak a little German,” the words refused to come out when a cashier at the store told me I had to weigh my produce.
As I returned home after my public crying session, I came to realize that it wasn’t just because I was living in Germany, surrounded by folks who communicated differently. In fact, that was just the tipping point. The fact was that I had been struggling with my ability to communicate for some time.
I have this nasty habit of not telling people what I really want. Or what works best for me. Or what I’m thinking. I’ve been a people-pleaser for years, and even though I make it a point to read Codependent No More at least once a year, this is a habit that dies hard.
For some reason, it just seems easier for me to let everyone else do what they want and push my desires down, down, down. Mostly I think it’s because I want to avoid conflict, but I also think since I grew up doing this, it’s something I’ve been programmed to do.
So even though people pleasing has caused me harm (misunderstandings, divorce, eating at McDonalds), I still have a tendency to do it. And even though I know better, if I’m not hyper-vigilant, I slip into it.
I always thought because I was a writer that maybe I was just better at putting things into words as opposed to saying them. I thought that the people pleasing didn’t extend to my journals and blog posts, but that just isn’t true. I’ve written before that I sometimes feel like I edit myself.
The sore throat I’ve had for the last month or so is directly related to all of this, I know. As I’ve been working with my awesome life/business coach, I’ve come to understand that my fifth chakra could use some help. Basically it’s what governs our ability to speak our truths and communicate fluidly. Blocks to it can cause sore throats, thyroid problems, TMJ, etc.
If you want more info, I liked this site. I’m also reading Anatomy of the Spirit by Caroline Myss, which lays all of the chakras out in a very simple way and explains how our struggles within each of them can cause physical damage (like random body aches, allergies, cancer and a whole lot more) to our bodies. Interesting stuff.
The sadness I expressed on Marienstrasse was just a message telling me that it was time to speak up, time to say (and write) what I mean and also to create what I want to create. Since then, I’ve been practicing my standard phrase (Ich spreche nur ein bisschen Deutsch.) so I won’t freeze.
I’ve also been focusing on saying exactly what I mean and what I want (and don’t want). Another thing I’ve been trying to be mindful of is what I say about other people. I’m not a super-gossipy type, but sometimes I get a little carried away.
The other big thing I’m trying to be more mindful of is writing my truth on this blog. The fifth chakra affects creativity and part of clearing it out is writing what I want, regardless of how people might view it.
So keep me honest here! If you read something that doesn’t ring true, speak up, either in the comments or through an email. And if you’re digging what I’m writing, I would love to hear it, because speaking my truth can be frightening. Encouragement welcome.
The goal in all of this is to speak really great German (of course!) and also to feel safe expressing myself. It’s one thing to know you’re safe, but it’s quite another to feel it. And I think that by feeling that, over and over, I’ll be able to make a new habit.
And I’ll be able to give great directions to out-of-towners. Because I live here.
I want to stress that what I’m talking about is your one-off, run-of-the-mill bummer times.
If you’ve been struggling with these for weeks or months, the tips may help, but you might also want to chat with a counselor. No shame in that game.
When I first wrote it, I thought it was just something I needed to put in, like how exercise videos always say “Ask your doctor before starting any fitness program.” But lately, I’ve been reading a lot about depression, and more specifically bloggers dealing with depression, and my brain wouldn’t let me keep it to myself anymore.
I know I’ve got a (self-imposed) reputation around these parts for being an optimistic, happy camper, but it ain’t all roses and puppy dogs. So if you were reading this post with that expectation, you don’t have to continue. You should! But you don’t have to.
At the age of 17 I, along with a few others, were the victims of severe bullying at school. It was so bad it made it into the high school yearbook. This was before words like “cyber-bullying” were in our vernacular, but between school and my home computer, I felt constantly attacked.
I quit every activity except band (mostly because we had a trip to Hawaii coming up that I’d already paid for). I stopped playing the piano after 12 years of lessons. I gave away the lead in our musical to my understudy. I skipped classes daily. I stayed home at night instead of camping with friends.
And we all know how much I love camping.
My parents and I didn’t have the best relationship, but they weren’t blind either. They sent to my first psychiatrist where I was promptly diagnosed with depression and put on Paxil. I didn’t like how I felt, so I quit taking them. After a few months, things started to get better and I went on with my life.
Then, years later, my marriage started falling apart. I’d lay in my bed and cry and cry, until I thought it was finally done. Then my eyes would well up again. I was a waitress at the time and there were no sick days. I’d go to work and break down while talking to guests about beer. It was a real downer.
I went to another psychiatrist. And then things got better a few months later. But this cycle continued. Again and again and again. And each time, it got worse. Where I once dismissed passing thoughts of suicide, I now entertained them. Wouldn’t it be so much easier? When is this going to stop?
I called friends but, with the exception of one, felt like I was quickly becoming a burden. People can’t drop their mid-day meeting to counsel me through my latest bout of sobbing. And I was seriously abusing my privilege to work at home. My boss understood, but when you’re out of the office more than you’re in, things get tense.
Something had to change. If this kept up, I was headed for unemployment at best and an early grave at worst. I had to change my attitude that this depression I was dealing with was just going to go away. I couldn’t just “snap out of it” as an insensitive person once said. I needed to manage this.
And so I headed to counseling again. But this time I made several promises to myself. If I didn’t like my counselor, I would find another one. I wasn’t going to lie to my counselor, no matter what. (Why I’d lie to someone who’s supposed to keep everything you say confidential, I don’t know. But I did.)
And finally, I was going to go for as long as it took. No more six-month stints. If I needed years of counseling, so be it. I worked out most days. I ate well. It was time to dedicate my energy to the health of my mental self. Who cares if I ate five servings of vegetables when I was a curled-up, crying mess on the bed?
That was 2.5 years ago. I’d like to say that I’m depression free, but seriously folks, depression is like fibromyalgia or rheumatoid arthritis. You manage it. It never goes away. Most days I am A-OK. I’m the happy, optimistic good witch you read on this blog. But some days I’m in a hole that’s so deep I’m almost sure I’ll never get out.
Thankfully, those days are few and far between. Everyone’s case is different, but I remember desperately searching online for any solutions, so here’s a list of things that really help me manage my depression.
A good counselor. I know. Counseling is scary. There are stigmas involved with seeing one. It’s not cheap. It takes time. But if you can afford it, if your health insurance covers it (which, in my opinion, it should), DO IT! Go.
A lot of employers have EAP programs that offer a few sessions free. Use this to find someone you like. Some counselors offer sliding scales for people who qualify. And keep going. When you feel better, keep going.
I spent two years going to therapy every week. That’s a lot of time. But totally worth it. Since then, I’ve slowly scaled back to once a month. But I don’t intend to stop. It’s part of my life. It’s saved my life.
Pop music. When I was young I hung out with punk rockers who made fun of my love for Bon Jovi, but I held on. I didn’t care then (which makes me a little more punk, doesn’t it?) and I sure as hell don’t care now.
If it’s Top 40, I probably love it. Yes, even Justin Beiber. And this never fails to make me bounce around like a idiot. A happy idiot.
Someone else with depression. It might seem weird that I’d manage my depression partially by having a close friend with depression, but somehow two negatives equal a positive.
One of my best friends struggles with anxiety and depression on a similar level to me. She gets it when I say I feel like I’m underwater and vice-versa. I have wonderful people in my life who have supported me with this battle and I owe them so much, but nothing compares to a person who’s been in the trenches too.
St. John’s Wort. I’ve never been a big fan of synthetic drugs, especially ones that have side effects like sexual dysfunction and suicide. But after months of therapy and still feeling like I’m walking over an abyss on a tight-rope, my friend told me to open my mind to drug therapy.
I sighed. “Fine. I’ll open my mind up a little bit,” I said, mocking her. But when I got home, my housemate’s girlfriend said she brought me a present and gave me St. John’s Wort. I love the Universe. I did a little research and decided to give it a shot.
This stuff? Awesome.
With Paxil, I felt like someone had taken over the controls. I wasn’t myself. But St. John’s Wort has just taken that abyss I was balancing above on my tight-rope and made it more like a small canyon.
I can see the bottom. It’s got a river and a few rocks. It’ll hurt if I fall in, but it’s not the chasm the Nazi lady falls into in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.
Exercise. This is an exceptionally tough one to do once I’ve already hit the bottom, but it is one of the best preventative measures to be sure. It releases serotonin and gives me more energy. There’s also the side effect of a more toned body and the ability to eat way more cookies.
I’m pretty sure Tony Horton would not be stoked that I use his P90X program as an excuse to eat dessert, but hey! Whatdya gonna do? I would totally recommend that program for anyone with depression. Every day is scripted out so you don’t have to make any decision except to hit the Play button.
Lay off the booze. Anyone that knows me knows I love beer (which has made gluten-free living so much more painful). When I was waiting tables, you could say I had a bit of a drinking problem as I could count the number of sober nights I’d had in seven years on two hands. Self-medicating much?
So less of this then?
While that’s changed quite a bit, I still notice that if I have a few glasses of wine a few nights in a row, I start to feel a little down. Not always, but sometimes. Alcohol is a depressant, and I clearly do not need any help in that department.
While I’m not going to swear off drinking entirely, I do enjoy the months hiatuses my husband and I take for his bike race training. And when I drink now, I try to keep it to a more reasonable amount and usually not day after day.
Art. I’ve spent a lot of time working throughThe Artist’s Way, which really helped me feel in touch with myself and my feelings and all that other gooey stuff that makes life awesome. And when I’m feeling bummed, art really brings me back to life.
Sidewalk chalk drawings, paint-by-numbers, pencil art, knitting, crocheting, singing, dancing, gardening and baking (yes those are art to me), reading, writing, and staring at the ocean while stacking rocks on the beach. All of these soothe my soul and ease my depression.
Plus, sometimes you get cute stuff to wear as a bonus.
Just accept it. A few weeks ago I was laying in bed trying to get my ass in gear. I had deadlines. There was food to be cooked and laundry to be done. But my body/mind decided it was a good time to cry. So I let it.
I didn’t have a real reason. I could probably link it back to a movie that triggered some crazy emotional memory, but who cares? Tears fell. You know that scene in Fight Club where Edward Norton’s character cries into Meatloaf’s shirt? Yeah. Like that.
I let myself do very little that day and I just accepted that it was how it was and that tomorrow would probably get better. And if it wasn’t, well the day after was a new one too. So, just take it easy man.
And if you’re reading this and you have other ideas or resources, please let me know in the comments!
P.S. I was inspired to write this post in part by a book out right now called Crochet Saved My Life by Kathryn Vercillo. She’s giving away a few copies right now (entry via blog post) and I hope to win one.
Honestly, between that and my sister-in-law telling me to, I don’t know that I would’ve ever written this otherwise. It takes weird things to give you courage.
While watching Julie and Julia (an excellent movie if you’re thinking about renting it. Nora Ephron=genius.) the other day, someone posed a question to me: Are all successful people selfish?
My immediate answer: Yes.
I think selfishness has gotten a bad wrap. Even Merriam-Webster is out to get it! Perhaps I should submit an addendum to the definition, because I believe that selfishness is an integral part of mental health.
In order to be selfless, one has to be selfish. I can’t save you from drowning if I don’t know how to swim. My cooking skills suffer when I’m dying of starvation. In order for me to help you, I must first help myself.
I know that there are plenty of acts of selfishness that hurt people and destroy lives. I just think that some acts of selfishness are necessary and good as long as they don’t harm others.
A friend of mine had never seen Fight Club. I happen to think it’s one of the greatest movies (and books) of all time. And it’s not just because Brad Pitt kicks a lot of ass while shirtless. And it’s not just because of Edward Norton’s soothing voice as narrator. The book and movie speak volumes for how I feel about consumerism and the American “dream.”
There are a few lines in the book and movie that speak to me. It’s only after we’ve lost everything that we’re free to do anything. Isn’t that the truth? The classic stories of heroes throughout time all begin with a loss so great (family, home, trust) that one doesn’t possibly think the hero can overcome.
But when you have nothing to lose and everything to gain, you start to see things differently. Hell, you can do whatever you want. But only with the right mentality. And the ability to see past the fear.
My favorite line from the movie is The things you own end up owning you. I never wanted to forget that, so I branded it on my body. Frankly, I am not a tattoo kinda girl, but this was important to me. And I’ve had more than one conversation about it that ended with “I’m not a big fan of tattoos, but I really like yours.” And that’s how I feel about it. It means something.
So: A friend of mine had never seen Fight Club, and he actually owned the movie. It was in his home. This was while I was staying in Norway, which happens to be one of the wealthiest countries in the world.
People there tend to be very into fashion. It costs $30 to take the bus. Cigarettes were $20 a pack. (Coincidence I just quit? Hardly.) I hadn’t been able to put my finger on exactly why I felt uncomfortable at times there, but the movie did it for me: I’m uncomfortable with people spending money.
Now we could talk about why that is, but that’s really neither here nor there. What I’m concerned with is my quest to achieve balance in all of this. Just because I have an opinion about owning things does not mean that no one else should. Hell, my roommate owns his house and I’m pretty stoked on that. And I would really like to buy a boat one day, and I convinced him that I should put it in his name.
So is it really bad to own things? Is it terrible to want nice things and to spend money on them? I don’t know. As Tyler Durdin would say: Is this necessary, in the hunter-gatherer sense of the word?
Again, I’m thrown back to Maslow’sHierarchy of Needs.
Where does all of this belong? Is this model appropriate? I’m looking for feedback here. I am open to modifying my ideas here. I don’t know that it’s realistic to all hunter-gatherer lifestyles.
Yesterday my roommate came in with an armful of avocados from our neighbor’s tree. Last week another neighbor stopped by with a basket of strawberries. This is pretty much the standard around here. We all have an excess of some vegetable or fruit and we just trade. I’m pretty much in love with it, mostly because it seems so much more natural than going to buy these things from a store.
I knew this area was a big growing community. One of the biggest berry suppliers in the country is here. The strawberry festival is this weekend. The thing is, I think this land isn’t just about growing food. I knew that moving was going to be a giant adventure and, at times, difficult. But this soil is just encouraging me to grow.
Of course, being Rebecca, I have to pick this apart. I wonder, how do we grow when we’re aware we should be growing? It’s always easier to look back at a time and say, “Wow, I really grew from that experience.” But what about living in the moment and trying to grow in the moment?
I spend time everyday writing, reading, working out, job searching, meditating, cooking, and trying to learn something new. Yet I wonder if this is really what helps me grow. I feel like these are all things I have been doing for awhile. Is it possible to try to grow mentally and spiritually? Or is this something that comes out of all the actions and brain activities during a point in our lives?
I went into the skyway system in downtown Minneapolis today and was struck with a sudden need to have Dairy Queen. While this in itself is not weird (I love Blizzards and would eat one every day if I could), I noticed that the last time I was in the skyway I really wanted something … anything.
The skyway encourages the want in me. And in most people I think. It reminds me of rats in a maze: go through the correct way and get your reward. Turn right at the TCF Tower and you’ll get to Starbucks where you will purchase and receive your coffee, your incentive for making it through the maze and through the day.
Living in a capitalist country makes this sort of thing the norm. Unfortunately it also encourages debt and living paycheck-to-paycheck. Think of all that interest being paid on ventimochacchinos!
I have a few friends who don’t have credit cards and don’t have debt. They are definitely the minority. I strive to not want things, whatever it may be, but it can be difficult. And easy to swing into the extreme.
I ask myself, Do I really need this? And the answer is most times no. But where is the reward in the maze for someone who doesn’t want? Maybe it’s about getting out of the maze, but until that day I guess I’ll just enjoy the people-watching.
Normally celebrity gossip makes me a little ill. But I was forced to watch this whole Joaquin Phoenix interview on Letterman at work today. And by forced, I mean literally my supervisor said, “B, come watch this.”
There were a few different reactions to Joaquin Phoenix’s behavior in our office (there were several people who found this newsworthy–I work in a newsroom). Most of them had something to do with a guess as to what drugs he was on or what mood disorder had suddenly surfaced in him. All I could discern was that he didn’t want to talk a lot at that particular time, which was too bad for him considering he was being interviewed on national television.
(On a somewhat related note: The man’s name is phoenix. Death and rebirth are part of the bird’s very essence!)
When someone makes a change in their life, many people have something to say about it. What’s unfortunate is that many times the things that people say are critical and are based in assumption. These judgments are unfair and most times unsolicited.
Change is hard enough without someone saying how you (in their opinion) have fucked up or are going to fuck up. A few of us are blessed to have great support systems to help us maneuver through our journey. But I would say that the majority of us deal with the former more than the latter. It’s too bad.
I guess maybe too many people have decided their lives are perfect or too far gone for improvement and so they turn to someone else. Reserving judgment isn’t an easy task and no one is perfect, but I think in this case we’ve all heard what I’m trying to say: If we can’t say anything good, don’t say anything at all.
Last week I sent a message to my friend on Facebook telling him how I really didn’t like the desert because the only experience I had with it was neon lights and soul-sucking gambling. Since then many of the advertisements on my page have had something to do with gambling addiction hotlines.
Last night I was told by a friend that Bert’s Bees products are actually owned by Clorox. We then discussed how sooner or later the air we breath in Steven’s Square (or Phillips or LynLake) will be brought to us by some corporate sponsor — most likely Best Buy or 3M.
This morning I read that the new Twins stadium will be called Target Field. (For now I will just ignore the fact that it was mostly funded with public money. That’s for another rant.)
You know how people freak out about our children being desensitized to violence at a young age? What about them being desensitized to advertising? I know some people that don’t even notice that Volkswagen paid for product placement in the Bourne movies, and the company had corresponding car commercials!
Being a journalism major gives me a small window into the psychology of advertising and it frightens me that some people don’t notice the barrage of commercials, billboards, and mind-reading advertising.
(Side note: If you read The DaVinci Code — one of the most popular books in the past years– did you notice the product placement in it? IN A BOOK???? Ack!)
I have challenged myself to rethink the attitude I have about wants and needs. I think this is one of the only ways to battle the steep mind control we are up against.