Monday, September 1, 2014

Anguish, but Hope

“Opportunities to find deeper powers within ourselves come when life seems most challenging.” Joseph Campbell

  Lately, I haven’t been as consistent as I’d like with my blogging. I debated with myself about this post. I don’t want pity, and I don’t want to whine. I just want to be honest about where my head has been. And perhaps there are others out there who are going through similar upsets or who can relate and know they are not alone.

As you know if you’ve been reading this blog for a while, I experienced a jolt to my emotional and mental sense of well-being this summer. My mother attempted suicide, and my reaction to her act was like an emotional explosion.
I began remembering things that I haven’t thought about in years, memories of my childhood and teen years, memories of my mother. I began thinking of familiar memories from a different perspective.
I made the decision to not have a relationship with my mother, at least right now
As a result of all of this, I feel like I have been peeled down to my core and have been left wondering, who am I?
My mother taught me certain things: I wasn’t good enough, I wasn’t creative, I was lazy, I was selfish, I was like “a lump on a log.” If others knew what I was really like, she’d say, they wouldn’t like me.

Who am I if I don’t view myself through my mother’s eyes? If I don’t believe what my mother said I was, who am I?

It has been a difficult time. I have done a myriad of things to soothe my soul. The bedtime anger has lessened. Probably someone seeing me in my daily life would note no difference in my demeanor.
But just the other day, while I was taking a shower, I became infused with anger. It felt like it was burning me, like my heart was going to burst from it.
I cried because I didn’t know what to do with the anger. There’s no one to foist it upon. No one deserves it. Certainly no one wants to hear all of it.

One thing I’ve been doing to deal with it is journaling, some by hand in a lovely book Larry gave me, and some on the computer.
When I’m angry or upset or very anxious, writing on the computer suits me better: it’s faster, and the sound of the keys clicking helps to calm me.
Much of what goes in my journal is for my eyes only. But here’s a bit of what I’ve written lately.
It’s personal. It’s embarrassing. But it’s a way to show what I’m thinking:

I am stuck. I am sad. I am depressed. I am lazy. I am immobile. I do what I have to do, absolutely have to do, and a little of what I want to do, and then it’s sleep. It’s nothing. I have a nothing life. I have a small life. And I don’t know how to get a big one. I want a reason to get up in the morning. I need something to push me through life. Oh, God, have mercy on me, please.

And then later:

My past is over. I am 51 years old and it’s time to do what I want to do with my life. Not selfishly. But I need to stop adding that. “Not selfishly.” I am not a selfish person usually. It’s OK that I want to do something with my life that makes me happy and content and in the flow. I want to be in the flow. I want a good life, a big life.
What is a big life to me? I’m not yet sure. But it’s more than I’m living now. It’s doing what I want. Doing. Things. I. Want. To. Do. Loving others. Being honest. Being compassionate. Helping to make the world better. Being in the flow. Being in the flow. Not letting fear and fatigue stop me. Not letting depression or OCD or anxiety stop me. Living in spite them. Living a big life in spite of them. In spite of my past. Living a big life.

Yes, I’m struggling. But I have hope. Things will get better. I am putting one foot in front of the other, every day. I will get better.
I will learn more about who I am and how to be in this world so that I have a positive effect on those around me.

Part of my journey is rethinking how I’m spending my time and what I’m writing. With that in mind, I’ll be starting a new posting schedule, changing to two times a week, Mondays and Thursdays. I won’t post again this week, so I’ll be back here on Monday, Sept. 8.
I’d like to devote Bringing Along OCD to the subjects that I originally started out with. I want to use this blog as a form of mental health advocacy.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Nearing the end of the growing season

The raised bed garden on Aug. 23, 2014.

The harvest from our raised bed garden is nearing its end. We’re still getting a few cucumbers, but other plants have died, wilted, or been pulled up.
It was a season of adventure and disappointment. We didn’t get the tomatoes we wanted—blight took most of them. And we didn’t get any broccoli—green worms got those plants.
But we got plenty of two types of lettuce, lots of cucumbers, peppers, and onions. We felt the pleasure of working soil. We enjoyed the excitement of watching something grow from seeds—watching that process will never get old.
And we learned a lot.

*Decide early on if you’re going to use pesticides or go organic.
*Don’t plant too much, too close together.
*You will have to thin some plants.
*If you buy plants, buy early and buy the best looking ones you can find.
*Get a good gardening book.

Seedlings in April 2014.

Raised bed garden on May 10, 2014.
The addition of tomatoes on May 19, 2014.
Raised bed garden on June 15, 2014.

This fall, we’ll be working on the soil in the bed. The topsoil that we bought for it was supposed to be great for planting. But we found that it contained a lot of clods of dirt difficult to break up. And the soil got too hard once it dried.
Larry has already worked up one section with materials including peat moss and perlite. We’ll do the rest this fall and add some composting type materials to it, too.
And I plan to learn more about organic gardening and have supplies on hand early next year.

All in all, it’s been a rewarding experience. And like all farmers, we hope for a better crop next year.

If you have a garden, how did yours do this year?

Monday, August 25, 2014

Mindfulness and mushrooms

Do you ever get in the mode where you see something every day but don’t really notice it?
I do. For example, I walk out to the car every day to go to work or to go elsewhere. I look around the yard, but I don’t really see it.
Lately, we’ve had more rain than usual, and even when the rain isn’t falling, the days have been cloudy.
The other day, I walked across the backyard for the first time in several days, and I couldn’t believe the number of mushrooms I saw.
An abundance of mushrooms. Brown, red, yellow, off-white. Big, small, alone, in groups.
I don’t remember ever seeing this many at one time.

I took a few photos with my phone. But I knew I needed to do a real study of what was going on in my yard. And that required my big girl camera.
So I spent some time wandering around in the yard with my camera, trying to capture the oddly shaped fungi among the grass.

It has been a while since I’ve taken the camera out. I just haven’t felt motivated. The mushrooms provided me with a nudge. And I knew I needed to get outside and behind the lens of the camera and see what I could see.
It calms me to take photos. I think it’s because I have to be in the present moment when I’m taking photos. I have to concentrate on the object I’m photographing and on how I want the picture to turn out.
I don’t ruminate about the past. I don’t get anxious about the future.
In other words, I practice mindfulness.

What’s been going on in nature where you live?

Friday, August 22, 2014

I finished

I finished my first knitting project: a blanket for Chase Bird.

It’s not perfect. I somehow increased stitches without knowing I was doing it. And there are some dropped stitches here and there.

The new blanket spread out on Chase Bird's bed under the sofa table in the living room.

But it’s OK that it’s not perfect. Chase Bird doesn’t care about those things. He just wants soft things to lie on.
And I have found that I don’t care about the mistakes as nearly as much as I would have at one point.
I decided ahead of time that I was going to put my perfectionism on the back burner for knitting.
I enjoyed the process of making the blanket. I enjoyed getting through the struggles. I enjoyed relaxing and not worrying about perfect. I enjoyed starting a project and finishing it.
And I know I’m going to improve because I’m going to keep practicing.

I bet I can apply those lessons to other things in life, don’t you think?
And yes, I'm planning my next knitting project.

At first, Chase Bird seemed unimpressed.
But then he decided to give it a try. 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Sharing the ponderings of others

My minister shared something with me that I would in turn like to share with you.

First, a word about my minister. Alan truly ministers to people. Even though I go for long stretches of time without attending church, he still believes that part of his role as pastor of the church is to minister to me.
He has been generous with sharing others’ and his own the wisdom and ponderings during the last few months as I’ve faced difficulties. I appreciate his emails “checking in” and the time he has shared with me for conversations about what’s going on in my life, what I believe, and what I don’t believe.
He gets that religion and the spiritual are not easy things for me because of my OCD and depression.

Most recently, he shared a sermon/blog post called “I’m Through with Love” by Matt Gaventa, a minister who serves in a nearby county.
Gaventa’s story about his father and his understanding of love has me thinking about depression and love and grace in whole new ways.

If you have time, please read this post HERE.

Monday, August 18, 2014

It’s not all or nothing

Sunlight through oak leaves on an early morning in August.

As you know, I’ve recently taken up knitting. At first, I didn’t think I’d ever get beyond a few awkward stitches. It was a struggle for me to become comfortable with the movements of the needles and yarn.
But gradually, things changed. I kept pulling out my knitting bag and doing a little more. I recognized that I was moving my needles more quickly. I was feeling more comfortable.
And I could look at the results and see with my own eyes that I was getting better.

Another example of practice making us better at whatever we’re trying to do.
I know that practice helps. I’ve experienced it. We usually have to practice, have to keep trying, before we reach our goals, before we get to the place we want to be.
So why can’t I keep that idea—that wisdom—in mind with all my efforts?

I think an obstacle for me is the “all or nothing” thinking that goes along with my OCD and depression. With that kind of cognitive distortion, I believe that if I don’t get it right the first time, if I’m not perfect, then I’ve failed. Then it’s not good enough. Then there’s no need to keep trying.

I’ve been trying to make some changes in my daily routine. One change I’ve been attempting is to get up at the same time every day, preferably at an early hour.
All or nothing thinking has been getting in the way.
I’ve tried motivating myself with thoughts of what I’d accomplish by getting up earlier. I’ve set a regular alarm clock on the dresser in the bedroom so I’ve had to get out of bed to turn it off. I’ve charged my cell phone in the bedroom so I’d awaken to a more pleasant alarm (the phone has so many choices that sound better than a blaring alarm or even the radio).
I’ve had mixed results. I’ve gotten up, turned off the alarm, and gone right back to bed. I’ve gotten up, fed Chase Bird, and gone back to bed. I’ve gotten up and stayed up. But I don’t yet have a firm routine in place.

I’ve felt defeated. I’ve felt like a failure, a personal failure. Other people get up at the same early hour every day. Why can’t I? I’ve done it in the past. What’s wrong with me now?

But then I decided to apply the “practicing” way of thinking. Maybe I haven’t defeated my propensity to sleep “just a little more,” but that doesn’t mean I won’t get better at it. Why not just keep practicing? Why not learn from my experiences?
Why not believe that down the road, I’ll look back and see that I’ve improved? Just like I’ve improved in my knitting.
And in so many other things, if I’m honest with myself.
So I’ll keep working at this.

Name something that you have practiced to get better at.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Gardening, knitting, books, and hints of fall

Hello, dear readers. I’m finishing up the week with a hodgepodge of things that I’ve been doing and observing:

Our garden is just about over for the summer. Larry picked these cucumbers and peppers Thursday morning.

We were disappointed that the tomatoes didn’t do well. We also didn’t get any broccoli or fully-grown carrots. But we learned some things that we’ll put to good use next year.


The scarf I started knitting has morphed into a kitty blanket. I started out with a width that I thought was manageable and suitable for a scarf. But I quickly found that it’s almost too wide to keep on my needles.

I also discovered that it’s the right width for Chase Bird’s kitty bed that sits under the sofa table in the living room.
So it will be a soft blanket for Chase Bird to lie on.


Last weekend I read an excellent book by Elyn Saks: The Center Cannot Hold: My Journey Through Madness.
Saks is a law professor at the University of Southern California and has many more professional accomplishments.
In her book, she writes about her life with schizophrenia and how she built a life with work, friends, and love while battling it.
I didn’t want to put the book down. It was hard to read in places—she describes her psychosis with honesty and detail—but the way she fought through it to a good life is amazing and inspirational.
If you enjoy memoirs, you will enjoy this book.


We’re already seeing some acorns from the oak trees in the front yard. I’m so glad to see them. I hope we have a good crop this year for the animals. And I hope fall weather is not too far away.

This week’s weather in Central Virginia gave us a taste of fall—daytime temperatures in the 70s and low-mid 80s and some of the nights dipping into the 50s. I love fall, and I can’t wait for it to arrive.
But hotter weather is returning next week. Oh, well. Soon.
One thing about this time of year I don’t enjoy: allergies. I’m allergic to ragweed, and apparently, it has arrived. Itchy eyes, sneezing, sniffling—you get the idea.

Are there any signs of fall where you live? Do you even want to think about it? And what have you been up to this week?