Dealing with Depression

When you’re ill, it’s easy to get depressed. You’re not on track like your friends, your body is attacking you at every turn, and nobody really seems to understand.

When it’s real, clinical depression, you need to get help. I’ve been there! Counseling and properly medicating my pain got me back to a more normal mindset- but here’s the thing. I still fight depression. Daily.

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Yep. That’s right. Me, Miss Positive Blogger, fights depression every single moment of every single day. Sometimes it’s the pervasive empty kind, and other times it’s just an overwhelming sad. So far, my best line of defense has been overwhelming positivity. I’ve done #100HappyDays, I’ve done the Seven Day Positivity Challenge, and I’ve read The Happiness Project. When I was sunk into my deep dark pit, I thought everyone who said “fake it til you make it” was a lying jerk who needed to leave me alone. Now? I cling to every little happy moment I can get.

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Sometimes, like when I get glutened or have an especially bad pain day, faking it isn’t enough. Those are the days I have to be gentle with myself. I drink hot chocolate and vanilla coke. I buy a large milkshake without beating myself up about it. I spend extra cuddle time with the kittens, even though there’s laundry to be done and dishes to be washed. I lay in the hammock and watch Minnie chase bugs around the yard. I take a million selfies and delete all but one.

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After I self-care crawl back out of a slump, I like to keep busy. Whether that means painting in the floor, calling up a friend, or binging on video games while my husband sleeps at night, I do whatever it takes to keep my mind active. This is also the time I take special care of my body, because a healthy mind needs my body as nourished as possible (especially since I have some nutritional problems from my celiac.) So the post-slump peak is full of fresh juices and cute, vegan salad bowls.

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But the most important thing about tackling my depression is being able to reach out. Sometimes, all the self care in the world won’t be enough to tackle that bad brain. In those times, I have to know when to call in a backup team. Whether it’s talking it out with my mom, crying with my husband and best friend, or actually sucking up my pride and seeing my counselor early, knowing when to reach out is a huge step in fighting depression. Reaching out and getting help can mean the difference between a bump in the road and digging a depression well from which you refuse to emerge.

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If you’re anything like me, it’s scary to reach out. You don’t want to admit you’re sliding back into depression. After all, everyone has fifteen bad days in a row, right?

Well, some people might, but you don’t have to. If you’re struggling, please take care of yourself and reach out. If you’re not struggling, reach out to friends and family who are. You’ve all seen the “depression hurts” commercials. It does. But we can all do our part to make it hurt less.

If you feel like you can’t reach out to someone, I am happy to connect you with resources!

Being A Spoonie

I’ve been chronically ill my whole life, but I’ve only been a spoonie for about two years. If you’re a healthy person, this may sound like a lot of gibberish to you, but don’t worry. There’s a perfectly reasonable explanation for my obsession with kitchenware.

You see, a spoonie is simply a person with a chronic illness or disability that identifies with The Spoon Theory, written by Christine Miserandino about her experience with lupus. Since a lot of disabled or chronically ill people have similar experiences, her way to explain being ill rung true with a lot of us.

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Being a spoonie is more than just being ill though. When you take up the spoonie label, a whole new world opens up to your sick self. Spoonies are, as a friend once said, “the coolest group of people you never want to be a part of.” And it’s true. Being a spoonie means having a support group, both across the internet and many times in real life, that’s available at any time and has experienced almost everything you’re going to go through.

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Other than community, being a spoonie means having an easy way to explain your chronic illness to healthy people. Because seriously, healthy people, we love you- but sometimes you just don’t get it!

When I’m searching for a way to make my husband or friends understand, I can send them a link to the spoon theory, paraphrase, or send them, phrase in hand, to the almighty internet. Sure, the spoon theory doesn’t work perfectly for all aspects of my illness, but it’s a good place to start explaining.

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There’s a lot of great reasons to be a spoonie- last but not least because it’s a lot easier than typing “chronically ill” all the time- but there’s more to it than that. Being a spoonie has made me more friends than any other movement or community I’ve joined. Being a spoonie has helped me accept my illnesses, and work with them instead of constantly fighting to the brink of exhaustion. Being a spoonie has given me the drive to advocate and educate about my rare disease. I’ve been able to help newly ill and newly diagnosed people find their way into the spoonie world.

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This week is Invisible Illness Awareness Week. I’m pretty aware of my illnesses, but there are a lot of people who aren’t. Awareness is great! It helps get us money and research for the illnesses we fight. It helps other people recognize their symptoms and get a correct diagnosis that otherwise could take years. This week, if you’re a spoonie, I challenge you to share your story. If you’re not, I challenge you to educate yourself about the unique challenges the chronically, invisibly ill face. And to all of you, I challenge you to be kind to yourself this week. You deserve it.

My love language

I always joke that my love language is food. Seriously, you know the saying “the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach”? The way to my heart is definitely through my stomach. My idea of affection is someone making me cookies, then leaving me alone to eat them. That’s pretty weird for an extrovert, I’ve been told, but it’s the one sure way to woo me.

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That’s an earl grey, three sugars, with milk. The best way to calm me down when I’m stressed. The best way to cheer me up after a long hard month? A fancy dinner.

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So, since my love language is food- whether it’s making it for people or eating it myself- and my husband’s language of affection is doing small things for people or doing activities together. So we’ve figured out a pretty great way to strengthen our relationship, other than our weekly date out.

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Once a week, J and I have a nice steak dinner. He does most of the cooking, because he enjoys it, and I help out by pouring drinks, prepping the broccoli, and setting the table. The time in the kitchen together is an awesome way for us both to unwind and reconnect, and the resulting meal is always one of the things we both look forward to the most each week. In fact, our favorite part of grocery shopping together is looking for new ingredients for our favorite side dishes!

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Since I’m sick and he’s busy, it’s hard for us to plan huge outings or weekend trips. However, that doesn’t give us an excuse to get complacent in our relationship. Our weekly steak dinner is our solution. Shopping at Aldi makes this affordable, especially since there’s only two of us, but the menu isn’t what’s important. It’s the act of cooking together, for each other, and enjoying each other’s company.

It’s really the little things that keep our relationship happy and strong.

Working from Home with ADHD

ADHD is a really misunderstood problem, especially to the average layperson. I get told a lot “but you aren’t hyper,” which is funny, because most people with ADHD aren’t bouncing off the walls. However, I always seem to be restless, I move my feet and hands constantly, and when I’m presented with too many choices or tasks, I shut down completely. Seriously. Recently, I had to call my husband because I had too many options for my Keurig.

So, working from home works well for most of my chronic illnesses, for reasons like “I don’t have to stand up and pass out when my POTS is flaring.” But balancing working at home with my ADHD? That’s been an adventure.

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The first thing that I did when I started working from home was download a planner. Some people use Google Calendars, some people use a written planner, and some people use an alarm and reminders on their phone. I use Planner Plus, and it works for me.

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More importantly than planning, I’ve found that setting a routine is important for me. I have to do the same thing at the same time every day, or I can’t get my mind into work. I change into some comfy clothes that aren’t pajamas, set up my work space, brew a cup of tea or cocoa in my Keurig, and sit down to work. If I’m out of tea or cocoa, it’s hard for me to get in the zone. I guess I’ve trained myself pretty well!

Since getting a routine and planner, it’s become so much easier to work from home. I no longer find myself idly playing Tetris or browsing Tumblr when I should be doing anything other than that. However, if anything gets me out of the zone, I can’t get back in unless I brew myself another cup of tea or cocoa! I think I need to work on that…

Living, Not Surviving

Sometimes, with chronic illness, it seems like I’m using all my energy just to survive. Just eating, showering, and feeding the pets can take an entire day’s worth of energy. I felt so down about it, I started comparing myself to my healthy friends- look at them, in college, working, living on their own. But after I talked to them? It seemed they were just as stuck as I was.

They were stuck in a routine, doing the same things day after day to get by. Beyond their college classes and their day jobs, they had no clue what to do with their life, or what really made them happy.

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It seems that I wasn’t the only one unhappy with my life! It seems like a lot of people don’t actually know themselves, what they want, or what makes them happy. For me? I’ve found now that good food, travel, and writing make me happy. So does makeup, my pets, and educating about chronic illness. That’s why I started regularly posting on this blog- it’s fun!

So if you’re in a rut, I challenge you this: do one thing for yourself each week and don’t feel bad about it. It can be as simple as ordering a coffee with whole milk when you think you should get skim (but you really want that full fat latte) or as grand as signing up for a cooking class or a vacation!

Find out what makes you shine.

Personally, I find that my mental health improves tremendously when I’m doing things for myself. My mental health, in turn, helps my physical health. I know this won’t work for everyone but in a lot of cases, it’s worth a try.

ALS Ice Bucket Challenge

One thing any illness needs is awareness. We’re all pretty aware of various cancers now, and for good reason. Millions of people have cancer, and there are some really good awareness campaigns out there. (There are some not so good ones out there too but let’s focus on the good for this post.)

You know about pink for breast cancer. Red for heart disease. You might even have heard about butterflies for lupus. But when was the last time, before the Ice Bucket Challenge, that you heard about ALS?

ALS is more commonly known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease. It’s a neurodegenerative disease that affects the spinal cord and brain. As the disease progresses, people with ALS lose muscle control, eventually becoming entirely paralyzed. The only end in sight for the disease is death, as there is currently no cure.

The Ice Bucket Challenge is working to change that! By making people aware of the disease using videos you want to watch- I have seem some funny challenges, some heartbreaking challenges, and some just plain weird challenges- and encouraging donations, the Ice Bucket Challenge is providing a lot of press and money for ALS. Donations are at an all time high!

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This is fantastic, and as someone else with a chronic illness, I wish the charity continued luck and donations. In fact, my husband was recently challenged! We didn’t have $100 dollars, the amount you should donate if you refuse the challenge, so he dumped ice water on himself and we made a smaller donation.

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Are you taking the challenge? Are you donating?

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I personally can’t take the challenge, as temperature changes like pouring ice water on myself tend to make me pass out, but I would love to see more of my family and friends donating and raising awareness!

A Southern Celiac is now on Facebook!

Heads up, guys! A Southern Celiac is growing! I now have my own Facebook page, here! Check it out and support me as I continue to improve my blog and share my story!

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On the Facebook page there will be tips, posts, and positivity exclusive to the Facebook page, so check it out if you’re interested. Thanks for the support so far!