All Posts By:

Blair Casey

Health & Nutrition/ Mental Health & Wellness

Living with Depression, Pt. 1: Reach Out. Seek Hope.

Part 1. Reach out. Seek hope.

depression

 

When we were children, we were told, “If you get lost, stay where you are. Someone will find you.”

I was very young when I first felt the fear of being lost. I was too small to see over the produce shelves at the local grocery store, but looking up, I could see a bunch of purple grapes cresting over the shelf. I stood on my toes and groped until my fingers closed over a plump grape. After separating the fruit from its stem and popping it into my mouth, I remember feeling immensely satisfied. Success was mine! You can imagine how shocking it was to return from my adventure of grape-snatching to find that my mother had vanished.

I stood alone in the aisle, confused, shocked, terrified – my mind racing with panic, “Where had she gone? Why had she left me behind?”

And then, she appeared from around a corner, ready with a consoling word; and everything about the scenario became a memory. I grew up. I became an adult.

But that lightning strike of panic, the terror and mind-numbing dullness of feeling completely and utterly alone. I have felt it again and again. Call it post traumatic stress or anxiety disorder. But physically, it’s a lightning strike, the gun shot at the beginning of the race – the call to arms and action.

Translation: It’s being nervous as hell – all the time.

Depression is something different all together, and I think it probably varies with each person (it’s a personalized sort of hell). In my world, depressive episodes are lived like detached nightmares of impending doom, where my  memories haunt and mock  me, and I gradually begin to believe that I am entirely alone and completely worthless.

This is what it feels like to be meaningless. It’s standing on a dark shore before an oily black, alien sea. It is night here, and there is no moonlight. There is no moon here. There are no stars.

There is nothing to do but wait, to rest my toes in the still dark waters, to press my heels into the black sands. I know it is possible to go mad here, waiting for the sun to rise. I have wandered far in the desolation of these dunes. There have been times when I’ve fallen down, wearied and exhausted, but the sun has always risen, no matter how briefly, to give me hope. — July 24, 2013

I always find  it incredibly hard to make sense of the world during a depressive episode. Everything I do seems to be a failure in the making, each day an omen of ultimate doom. I hate to be so melodramatic about it, but it’s some dark stuff. It’s a mind-bending, heartbreaking illness; and it takes a village to heal someone who hurts this deeply.

People will give you a lot of well-meaning advice, like “Maybe you should get out more.” (Which always increases my inner snark by about 1,000%.) And there’s the all-too-common accusation of “feeling sorry for oneself” or “having a pity party.”

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Your instinct may be to push people away, and there are times you may feel like your burden is so heavy that everyone you love will be weighed down if you ask for help. But here’s what I’ve learned…(get ready for a good advice nugget)…there is someone out there with the knowledge and compassion to help you begin the healing process.

With all the strength you have, be brave, love harder and talk with people you trust about your options. I waited 15 years to talk to my doctor about medicine. I didn’t understand what was “wrong” with me. Ashamed, confused and frustrated, I allowed my depression to reach its 3rd stage before I began the journey of medicinal healing (which has had its own ups and downs…but that’s another story…)

There are a lot of stigmas surrounding mental illness, which means that oftentimes, we are asked (explicitly or implicitly) to suffer in silence, to carry our burden alone. Last year, I experienced a significant breakdown; which I successfully hid from most of my friends and family. I was embarrassed and angry with myself for a weakness I couldn’t overcome, and I began contemplating suicide.

I reached out to those closest to me, and that, for me, was where the healing began. When I began exploring my “weakness” as an illness, I was disheartened by the lack of support I felt, but when my brother called me to tell me that he too had been dealing with depression, I felt as though a window had opened in my mind. He gave me the courage to continue seeking treatment, and now, almost a year later, I want to share what I’ve learned with anyone who will listen.

Early Warning Signs and Symptoms

Having a combination of symptoms (not just one symptom) indicates that someone might be showing signs of a mental health condition. Be aware of these symptoms when they last longer than a few weeks:

Problems with concentration, memory, or ability to think clearly
Changes in eating such as loss of appetite or overeating
Not being able to complete school or work tasks
Feeling overly worried
Feeling sad, empty, hopeless, or worthless

http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/b4stage4-get-informed

I believe if we spread awareness about the reality of depression, the more commonly accepted mental illness will become. This gives the younger generations a greater chance to have their symptoms treated before they reach a critical point, and it gives all of us a greater chance to heal.

 

General

Hands in the Soil

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There is something therapeutic about handling dirt and watching things grow. Neglect, imperfection, accidents, ignorance. The beginning gardener faces many challenges, especially when the soil is foreign and your schedule is busy. But when you begin something new, you have to accept that there is always a learning curve. I’ve long since thrown out any fantasies about mastering new things immediately. I plod along with the mindset that roadblocks often give way to breakthroughs.

It feels natural to plant things and (try to) keep them alive. The rocky clay of the Ozarks has its qualities: steadfast and strong. It is the land of my people.

I have memories of riding with my grandfather across the cow fields, his trucker’s hat and neatly trimmed beard, the white, ever-aging, ever-present poodle he carried everywhere, his many pairs of gloves that we slipped on during the cold winter days when we would push hay bales into the field and watch the sky spread its arms over the Ozarks.
I feel his memory when I wear work gloves, when I slide open the backdoor and fell the air on my face. I learned to love the outdoors from my grandfather, how to enjoy the bite of crisp cold air. In the cow field my brother and I skipped rocks, ran from snakes and learned to drive. We were cowhands, and we loved it.

Love & Relationships

VIDEO: On Marriage, Love & Being Alone

Love is the ultimate human condition. It unites us and strengthens us.

Noted July 3, 2015 | 1 Week After SCOTUS Recognized Gay Marriage

Over the years, I have spoken with many different people, made many different friends, and what I’ve discovered is that love is love regardless of gender. People are people regardless of gender. One’s entire identity can’t be neatly tied up in a sexual stereotype, and in an ironic way, excluding gay couples from our collective family portrait has created a level of extreme self-consciousness, both in fierce pride & insecurity in the matters of sexual orientation.

Homophobia, paired with religious reverence for the traditional American family, has made this fight for equality especially emotional. If you are still struggling with concept of love across a growing range of genders, I hope this video will serve as a starting point.

Starring: @waylonlewis

Published by: The Elephant Journal ©

Curated by The Tough Cookies Blog & Re-Blogged May, 2015

Easy Recipes/ Food

Blueberry Muffin Recipe

best blueberry muffins

The Joy of Baking

 

Sometimes we forget to grease the pan or add baking soda, but we learn from our mistakes.  That’s the joy of baking. Knowing that mistakes are…eh…just part of the learning process. Here are a few recipes to get you started.

If you don’t consider yourself a baker, this is my message to you:

Throw caution to the wind! Go forth! Burn the cookies. Make mistakes. Get better. Live to bake another day. I can attest that so-so cookies are *usually* damn delicious. You’re gonna do great. 😉

best blueberry muffinsMr. C’s Favorite Blueberry Muffins

Mr. C is NOT a breakfast person. He’s a 5-star fanatic of brunch, and rarely has more than juice for breakfast. I, myself, am a firm believer in breakfast, so my husband’s aversion to it is an absolute mystery to me. Eating always holds the #1 spot for my day’s priorities. If I miss breakfast, I’m ruined until I’m able to grab a snack or early lunch.

In the past few years, I’ve made it my mission to find a breakfast food Mr. C will actually eat. So what’s the one exception to the hubby’s anti-breakfast lifestyle? MUFFINS. That man loves muffins, especially blueberry muffins. It was Mr. C’s birthday yesterday, and because he’s a legitimate cake hater — yes there are weirdos out there who dislike cake — I got up early and made him muffins instead.

TIP:It’s okay to substitute olive oil for vegetable oil.(in this recipe at least)For the right texture on the cinnamon crumble topping, use stick butter, not spread.

Happy Baking!

RECIPE HERE: Best Blueberry Muffins EVER!

hearts
Show Diana Johnson @EatingRichly some love for today’s recipe. 🙂 Thanks, Diana!

General

#Notetoself Suggestions for new life goals.

#Notetoself

Create a lifestyle that nurtures peaceful contemplation and cultivate an appreciation for the simple rewards of life, such as good meals and good company. Plan your day around long walks and deep thoughts. Stride toward your purpose as though it is a mountain — See it there! Whether it is a speck in the distance or looming overhead, tall and foreboding with mist draped over its shoulders.  In your walks with others, remember we all face a mountain each day. Point people in the right direction as best you can. Help them get up and over their mountains. The most challenging journeys are the ones that teach us the most about life, about our own strength and shortcomings.

Seek. Share. Cultivate.

General

Thoughts on the New Year: Looking Back & Looking Forward

2013 has left me with dark circles. I realize this as I am in the mirror, dabbing on concealer.

It is a Saturday. From the bathroom, I can hear the music from the living room. Our apartment is small, and we are able to listen to music throughout the house without turning up the music so loud the neighbors complain. It is the first time since our move in October that I have felt the sudden, irresistible urge to write.

It wasn’t until 2011, the year my father died, that I embarked on my writing career. It’s not a promising field, but I’ve been lucky enough to find work over the past three years. Newspapers across the country are struggling to stay in business, leaving entry-level writers little option but to write commercially (as I do now). In August of this year, shortly after creating this blog, I was laid-off from my job as a staff writer and content analyst.

It was a heavy blow to my self-esteem. In the three months I was unemployed, I began to seriously question my professional value. From there, I began questioning my self-worth in every facet. I didn’t have a job, but I had the enormous responsibility of paying for a wedding. My portfolio was decent, but not outstanding. No one was calling me back for an interview, and I felt out of place and constantly overwhelmed in Houston.

I began to question whether I should be a writer at all. I could be a teacher or a marketer. I could go back to school and become a professional in a more practical field. But even when employing all of the most logical arguments, the truth remained that writing was my strongest skill. It was what I had studied in college, and what I had dreamed about as a child. I am most proud of myself as a writer and for the work I’ve produced, but I’m not as good as I would like to be. I know I can be better.

That’s the biggest lesson I learned during my unemployment, “You’re good, but you could be better.”

Heartbreak and promises of new adventures have always been the pegs I twist my strings around. I’ve often found myself determined to start over, to forget the past by building an entirely new future in a new direction. My first instinct is to say I’m too old to start over again, but I think it’s more accurate to say that I’ve finally committed to a direction. It’s the path that started with a childhood dream, but it’s proving to be a hard dream to follow.

The dark circles below my eyes are my hard-earned stamps of stress, bruised by the half-mooned hooves of anxiety’s war horse. Stress has driven me to my breaking point more than once this year, as I’ve grappled with wedding plans and loneliness and professional rejection. But luckily, instead of despair, I’ve finally found peace. I’ve already come so far on this journey, and I have the distinct feeling that something wonderful is just ahead. Even if the road is hard, I can’t turn back quite yet.

The scent of a new adventure is in the air.

***

HAPPY NEW YEAR, EVERYONE!

Any suggestions for a concealer? Lawd knows I need it!

– Blair

Inspiration

Words of Wisdom

 “Living is like tearing through a museum. Not until later do you really start absorbing what you saw, thinking about it, looking it up in a book, and remembering – because you can’t take it in all at once.”  – Audrey Hepburn