The Depression-Cloud Metaphor

Depression has often been talked about as though it is a dark cloud hanging over your head. The commercial I remember best was a Zoloft commercial many years ago. I perceive this cloud as preventing me from seeing the blue sky and sun, but it is not the only cloud I experience in my life relative to depression and suicide. There are several types of clouds. They may be light and wispy, thick but spaced, large and looming, or a complete covering. In my own life I have found that thinking about where I am in terms of clouds helps me determine the level of severity in my depression and suicidality.
It has been a little over 15 months since my last hospitalization. I started my month-long stay in a local hospital, and I was transferred to a highly specialized facility in Washington, D.C. Things were pretty grim back then. I struggled in many ways to keep myself alive when I had no desire to live. At that time I was experiencing some dense, heavy and overwhelming clouds. I have accepted d…

You Are an Inspiration

As I have mentioned before, I joined a gym in March of this year. It was a step toward making myself a better person. Sure, I wanted to lose weight, get fit, and build lean muscle, but more importantly I wanted to improve my emotional well-being and work toward becoming mentally tough like I used to be. It's not that I do not have mental toughness now, but I do not remember using the phrase "I can't" very often when I was younger. In the past 5 months I have accomplished much more than I anticipated. I am faster, stronger, thinner, more persistent, and mostly fearless when it comes to workouts. More importantly, sometimes I say that I cannot do something, but I suck it up and try. More often than not I am actually capable of doing what I did not think I could do. When I cannot do something I wish I could do I get frustrated, but it makes me want to work harder. Today I attempted to row 2000 meters in 7 minutes. I was not able to do it, but I plan on getting there. I …

Froot Loops with Marshmallows

Back in the summer of 2014 several families in my neighborhood had a yard sale. I will never forget walking outside to help out with a 1.5 quart mixing bowl filled with Froot Loops with Marshmallows and eating the entire thing. It was pure bliss.

When I graduated from high school (2000) I weighed about 135 pounds. In 20I4 I weighed the exact same. My body had a set point that maintained no matter what I ate, how much I ate, or how active I was (though I have always been pretty active).

In 2015 life became stressful, and I had several maladaptive ways of dealing with it. One of those maladaptive coping mechanisms went as follows: 1. Get up in the morning and immediately work out for around 1.5 to 2 hours, skipping breakfast. This included an intensive abdominal workout, leg workout, and cardio exercises as well as a weightlifting routine. 2. Around noon I would go outside and work on building rock walls (lifting heavy rocks) for 2 to 3 hours at a time. 3. I would sit down outside with …

Treat Yourself As You Treat Others

In late December 2018 I talked with my brother about New Year's Resolutions vs. INTENTIONS. A resolution is something that can be broken, and honestly, it usually is. Think of all of the people you know who set an intention to work out, get into shape, or lose weight in January and keep it up for three months only to go back to eating fast food and drinking a few beers every night (this may be the reason I did not start at the gym until March). An intention is something to strive for. Someone I value described it as pointing to the moon or the North Star and heading in that direction without worrying so much about actually being there in the end. It is more about the journey, the process. It is about doing the best you can in the moment and getting better each step you take. 
As many of you know, my intention for this year is to be kind to myself. Kindness has always been something I look for in others while also striving to be kind, no matter who the person is or what the situat…

Good Enough Isn't Good Enough

Starting when I was young everything had to be done in the go hard, do NOT quit mentality. When young, the main areas of life where this showed up for me were academics and sports. I would study for hours. It wasn't always about getting the A, 100%, it was about obtaining as much knowledge as possible. Even now, I rarely read a book that does not impart massive amounts of knowledge on me. In sports I would run, HARD. It wasn't always about a medal or being first place. It was about beating my time; racing myself. Figuring out what my best could be. Playing soccer was the same. Score a goal, run faster down the field than my opponent, faster than the last time I ran down the field, bicycle kick a throw in because I could and SHOULD. There were so many things to focus on at once.

I have previously discussed my all or nothing thinking and need to be perfect. This is such a high standard. What exactly is perfect? Especially when gaining knowledge or at the gym. I cannot know every…

That Next Step

Knowing what the next step in life is can be hard. I have been thinking about what my future will look like a little too much lately. I have been extremely anxious as I think about what my career will look like and how my mental and physical health will impact that. I often think about the timeline. Will I need to go back to work full time before I am ready? This is a long term stressor for me, but the stress it causes me hardly compares to the recent discussion I had with my therapist.

My Psychiatrist asked me the other day on a scale from one to ten how close do I feel to dealing with things appropriately and approaching my mental health with clarity and coping skills. I told him I would put myself at a six. While I have been working with my current therapist for one year and have made significant strides in emotion regulation and distress tolerance we have mainly been in triage to decrease depressive symptoms and dangerous coping skills. We have not pursued the next step, dealing w…

The Eye of the Storm

I have post traumatic stress disorder. It manifests itself differently for each person. I tend to get overwhelmed and shut down to a numb state unable to feel physically or emotionally. This is a safety response with which I have become exceptionally proficient. Unfortunately this way of living has further complicated how I respond to myself and others. 
It is for this reason that I have begun to attempt to reintegrate into a more involved life. 
In therapy I have been challenged to identify and process my emotions daily. I have been able to move from happy, sad, mad, etc. to more nuanced emotions, differentiating between emotions such as agitated, aggravated, angry, and annoyed. I have been able to discuss relationships with others without feeling an intense sense of shame. 
In the beginning of March I joined a gym as an attempt to challenge myself physically. At some point in the past four years I gave up. I quit. I lost the mental toughness and stamina that I once had. Today I ran…