Spoonie Tales: Enough

You know you live with chronic illness when you spend the evening convincing yourself that having a shower and washing the dishes today was enough.

It wasn’t a wasted day.
I’m not a waste of space.
I’m not lazy.
I did my best.
I’m not worthless.
It’s okay to rest.
Be kind to myself.
My worth is not based on what I do or do not do.
Today was enough.
I am enough.

Do I believe it yet?

Bad Mental Health Day

Some days are better than others. Some days feel like an impossibility to get through – you’re sapped of energy, of purpose, of initiative, of drive and of hope. You don’t know if tomorrow will be harder or easier, so you do your best to look after yourself as time slowly passes by. That’s depression.

Self Compassion Henry

Henry has learnt how to be an expert at self compassion; choosing to ignoring the internal and external critics and instead, showing himself kindness, grace and acceptance.

We are constantly being compared and comparing ourselves to others. We see our sufferings as weakness. We see mistakes as failures and our illnesses as brokenness. We are constantly believing we are not good enough. I call bull-crap. They’re LIES! All lies.

To endure suffering is strength, to feel emotions makes us human, to persevere makes us strong and to measure ourselves up to no one but ourselves is freedom. The reality is that crap that is out of our control happens all the time. We all have bad, hard, painful and unbearable seasons in life. So instead of beating yourself up (or allowing others to do it for you), remind yourself; you’re doing the best you can, emotions are okay, you’re not perfect (and that’s not only alright, but what makes you human) and that you’re pretty, freaking amazing.

Begin practicing self compassion by putting your hand over your heart and saying to yourself, “may I know kindness. May I know grace. May I know happiness. May I be at peace. May I be at rest. May I know love. May I know empathy. May I show myself compassion.” Or “I am suffering. I am being kind to myself and giving myself permission to feel whatever emotions I am experiencing.

Be like Henry, learn the skill of self compassion. Be kind to yourself and stop beating yourself up! Self-compassion has been a life changing skill for Henry as he manages depression and FND.


Spiritual reflection

For those who believe in God, remember he is a compassionate God, who continually shows compassion to his people.

Is. 49:3 – Shout for joy, you heavens; rejoice, you earth; burst into song, you mountains! For the LORD comforts his people and will have compassion on his afflicted ones.

Jesus is the perfect example of this… oh, and we are also made in His image and are called to imitate His character.

Col. 3:12 – Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.

So, let’s follow God and show compassion to everyone, including ourselves.


Some more information/resources on the concept of self-compassion:

Meet Henry

Meet Henry.

I created him at an Access Arts workshop. He has a depressive disorder & FND. He also loves pink flowers, art, the theatre, chocolate, going on adventures and talking about uncomfortable but important issues.

Keep an eye out for his fun adventures – he’s just taken a trip to space to spread awareness & break stigma about mental illness across the galaxy.

You’re alive. You’ve survived. You got this.”

While I was looking at the 5kgs I put on during my 5 week hospital stay and thinking about the fact I had been in a mental hospital for 5 weeks, I was beating myself up… but then that small, kind compassionate voice reminded me, “you’re alive. You’ve survived. You got this.”

If you’re in recovery be kind to and nurture yourself. Remember; you’re alive. You’ve survived. You can do this.

Fun Fact: Hospital Disharge

‘Fun’ Fact: when you are discharged from hospital, they don’t expect you to leave “well” and ready to fully engage in normal life, as it was before you were unwell. They wait until you’ve made a change in direction, lasting a few days to show you’re moving toward wellness.

I was so surprised when my Psychiatrist told me that’s how it is. So, I leave the psychiatric hospital, returning home tomorrow and I am excited, thrilled and a little bit apprehensive. I’m feeling better than I was 5 weeks ago, but I am not where you may expect me to be in my recovery – I am not yet “well.” The real test will see how I am going in 6 months time.

If someone you love is being discharged from hospital, they need your love and support to adjust back into life, slowly. Realise they’ve just left a safe, regulated environment, where they didn’t have to cook, clean or work. Leaving can be scary.

So maybe offer to clean their toilet, cook a meal, do some dishes, a load of washing or bring over some groceries. Be a legend.

Remember there will be more good days than before, but don’t be surprised when their are bad ones. Remember that and be a legend.

Be patient, be kind, be empathetic, be thoughtful, be compassionate – show love and genuine care. Be a legend! It will be worth it as you see your loved one become more and more ‘themselves’ again.

So, please, be a legend and lower your expectations. They’re still ‘getting better,’ just in a different environment, at home, hopefully with lots of love.

Conversations With Healthy People #1: The Amusing, ‘Really?’

It’s days like today when I’m struggling to summon the energy to be a ‘functioning human being’ that I remember an honest and genuine conversation I had with one of my teenagers during Bible study a few months ago.

I recall this conversation to remind myself of God’s grace, strength and sustaining power that gets me through each day. It’s an encouragement to continue being honest about life, even when it’s painful and sucky. I must confess, it amuses me (greatly) and makes me giggle a little on the inside.

I also find comfort knowing that I can come back and read it whenever I need to.

We were discussing how God uses suffering to deepen our relationship with Him, better understand faith, build His Kingdom and bring Jesus glory. For the sake of application, I briefly mentioned that these truths give me hope, even though I am in pain every day…

…another interruption (but a welcomed one)…

“So, you’re really in pain?”
“Yes.”

“All the time?”
“Uh, huh.”

“You don’t look like you’re in pain.”
“I know.”

“Wait! You were in pain on Friday night?”
“Correct.”

“Are you saying that you’re actually in pain, right now?”
“You’ve got it.”

“…Like, now-now? Standing there?”
“Yup…”

and then he slumped back into his chair with a sympathetic bewilderment written on his face. I think he started to understand, which I am grateful for, even if it was just a little.

This wasn’t the first time I’ve had this conversation, and it probably won’t be the last. So, I’ll continue to embrace the small opportunities to encourage open and honest dialogue. Conversations that develop empathy and grace to spur one another on to rely on God and persevere in suffering for the sake of God’s kingdom.

2 Timothy 2:10 (NLT) “So I am willing to endure anything if it will bring salvation and eternal glory in Christ Jesus to those God has chosen.”

 

8 Strategies To Get You Out Of The House When You’re Depressed

One of my strategies for managing chronic depression is getting out of the house every day. When I’m having an episode, most days I open my eyes, sigh with frustration and then begin the battle of my inner dialogue…

“Oh, another day. Time to get out o…”

“… close your eyes and stay in bed – just ten more minutes. Feel how tired you are!”

10 minutes later

“Okay, now I really have to get out of be…”

“…staying in bed won’t hurt anyone. You’ve had a busy few days. Besides, nothing bad can happen if you stay here in your comfortable, warm bed.”

“But, but I don’t want to waste the day…”

… and it continues. I am so glad that after years of unhealthily late sleep-in’s and ridiculously late nights, I’ve learnt;

a) that getting out of bed, despite my feelings is beneficial to my mental health, and

b) I can put strategies in place to make getting out of bed and out of the house every day possible.

So, here are a few strategies:

1. I acknowledge I am blessed to have a part-time job that I love, so three days a week I am obliged to get out of the house, and it has made a massive difference to my mental health. Don’t have a job or can’t be employed? Try volunteering; it’s commitment without the pressure. Before I was well enough to have paid employment, I volunteered at a local kids club, at church and for a mutual-help support group.

2. Organise to have a tea/coffee at a cute cafe least once a week with a ‘no pressure’ friend.

3. Spread out doctors, specialist and support appointments so they are on different days.

4. Access your local community centre or mental health support service. There are plenty of organisations funded by the government who organise activities (e.g. choirs, art lessons, computer tutorials, community gardens and tours) and mutual support groups for people with mental or physical illnesses.

5. Don’t do a massive grocery shop, rather, get what I need for a day or two. This forces you to go out and get a few groceries 3-4 days a week. This has the added benefit of cooking with/eating fresh fruit, veggies and meat.

6. Make bookings! I love going to the theatre and the cinema. Booking tickets in advance can force you out of the house, lest you waste good money on something fun.13987851_1063897257012450_1674396231_o

7. Make a list of all the things you enjoy doing when my mental health is good and give a copy to those in your support network. It can often be obsolete to say, ‘do something you enjoy’ to a depressed person as a symptom of depression is that you can’t think of something you could enjoy. This is where my list comes in handy, it reminds me (and others) of the activities that can get me out of the house/bed and will improve my mood – even if it’s a smidgen, it’s worth it.

8. Give yourself credit where credit is due and don’t be hard on yourself when you do stay in bed or the house all day. Learning to manage mental illness is a long learning process. Write-off a bad day and have an early night because tomorrow is a new day.

I’ll be the first to admit that balancing mental health strategies with physical illnesses can make this harder; for example, I’ve had non-stop dizziness for five days and can’t drive, leave the house or operate machinery (in this case some appliances/hot stovetop).

For these sick or flare-up days, my goal is to get out of bed, brush my teeth and eat my meals or watch Netflix while sitting in the sun. If I can add a shower, play with some pastels, paint, read, welcome a visitor, or walk to the mailbox, it’s a productive day.

Then when I get better, or my flare up ends, I’ll start leaving the house again.

What helps you get out of the house when you body is telling you otherwise?

Six Reasons Why I May Be Happiest Depressed Person You’ve Ever Met

When I start getting to know new people, and we move from acquaintance to friend, I’m pretty open about my life. The chronic pain is hard to hide as it is, but I also mention that I have depression, and if they ask, I don’t hesitate to say it’s been around for a loooooooooong time.

As I’ve settled in a new city, with a new job and meeting new people, I’ve been told multiple times that I’m the ‘happiest depressed person’ they’ve ever met, which amuses me, greatly. I don’t really understand what ‘happiness’ feels like, yet I seem to project it. After some reflection, I think I’ve worked out why.

  1. When you’ve had an illness for 16 years and have received consistent treated for most of that time, you learn how to manage it. I can CBT myself like no one’s business. I never miss a dose of medication and every couple of years get reviewed by a psychiatrist. I regularly see my psychologist and check in with my GP monthly. I’ve taught myself how to get out of bed, even when I don’t have the energy. I’ve learnt how to smile when joy has faded.  Listening to other people is a welcomed distraction, and I can listen to my body by making healthy choices, even when I don’t feel like it.
  2. Some days are better than others, but the practice of gratitude and acceptance helps me make the most of the good days which makes the bad days a little bit easier.
  3. I have built an incredible support network – a team made up of family, friends, work colleagues and professionals. When the depression overwhelms me with loneliness, I’m rarely actually isolated. When the depression has me hating on myself, people are quick to show me their love.
  4. I’ve found healing and acceptance in sharing my story, bringing awareness and supporting others in their mental illness. It gives a sense of purpose, a weapon to fight against overwhelming hopelessness and helplessness. Being open and honest also demonstrates that there is no shame in having a Mental Illness.
  5. I grew up in a family where depression was understood. I have never felt the stigma society holds around mental illness which makes acceptance and openness easier.
  6. I trust in a faithful Creator and have the perfect Counsellor living inside of me. I have hope in a new, perfect creation and faith in a God who is loving, holy and just. These truths bring me joy that stops an often futile ‘pursuit of happiness’ and enables me to rest in spiritual peace (sometimes my emotions are just a little slow to catch up with spiritual truths).

But please don’t be mistaken…

I still battle with depression. I still have days where I cry all morning. I still have mornings where it takes all my energy reserves just to get out of bed. I still experience overwhelming with sadness. I still need patience, empathy, love, support, to take medication and participate in psychotherapy.

Accepting that I have a chronic mental illness doesn’t mean I have a defeatest attitude. I eagerly await the day I no longer have to deal with depression, acknowledging it may not happen in this lifetime.

You can’t compare me to other people you know with depression as everyone is on their own journey. Let’s be real, most people haven’t spent (approximately) 64% of their life learning the skills needed to be a high functioning. Instead, encourage them to seek appropriate, professional treatment; help them find mutual support; show them love through compassionate empathy and remind them that hope and healing from depression is possible.

30 Ways to Creatively Engage with your Illness

It’s easy to lose interest in life when you’re consumed with pain, depression and other awful symptoms. I’ve found engaging with my illnesses and experience creatively very empowering.

You don’t have to be the next Van Gough, Ansel Adams, Sylvia Plath, PewDiePie or Alicia Keys to be creative. I have compiled a list if ‘creative’ things you can have a go at, even if you think you suck.

By creative, I mean expressing yourself in an imaginative, artistic, innovative, inspirational, personal or unique way. You can ‘creatively engage’ with your illness by using any creative medium to:

  • process the pain and grief your illness has caused;
  • externalise overwhelming feelings;
  • articulate acceptance;
  • rest and relax;
  • create awareness about your illness;
  • reach out for support;
  • distract yourself for a while;
  • innovate a way to re-engage with an activity your illness has prevented you from doing;
  • encourage others to persevere;
  • show others they’re not alone in their illness;
  • remind yourself that you have hope;
  • share your story and experience;
  • reveal your resilience and strength;
  • ask for support;
  • project positivity;
  • express gratitude, and
  • break stigma.

Here is a list of 30 ways you can engage creatively as another tool to help you manage your journey with chronic illness.

morethanmanysparrows1. Go for a stroll in the park, a walk on the beach or simply sit in your sunny backyard and take a few pictures. Anyone can take a photo of the grass, a tree, a bird, the clouds and the sun on their phone. If you’re feeling a bit crazy, add your favourite filter.

2. Pick a photo you have taken, or download a free stock image and add the cheesiest quote you can find (or your favourite quote or verse from scripture.) You can use a photo editing program (like Photoshop or GIMP), a website (like Canva), or even Microsoft Word.

10383479_660858887316291_6416940749823705263_n3. Type and print encouraging statements with fun fonts to put on your wall.

4. Print your favourite family or holiday photos and make a collage. If you’re renting and don’t want to risk ruining the walls with blue tac, you can get a whiteboard or cork-board. I spray painted an ugly room divider to use as a giant pin board. …or you could finally scrapbook those holiday and baby photos.

5. Give colouring-in a try. The adult colouring in fad has taken the world by storm, have you tried it yet? Buy one from Kmart or your local bookstore, borrow your child’s activity book or find a picture to print through a ‘Google Images‘ search.

6.Communicate with pictures. Visualise your how you feel and what it’s like to live with your illness and paint or draw it.

244319_151690988233086_385182_o7. Experiment! Go crazy, painting, sketching and blending with different mediums. Most variety shops sell (oil, soft and hard) pastels, charcoal, (acrylic, watercolour and oil) paint and canvas pads. Experimenting is fun and can be a great distraction. On bad days I’ve been known to see how many shades of black, white and grey I can mix into one picture. When I’m feeling a bit more optimistic, I’ll play with colour.

8. I’m an awful drawer, but sometimes it’s fun to sketch. My favourite is creating stick-figure comics.

9. Too scared to try karaoke? You can now download karaoke apps onto your phone or tablet to take ‘singing in the shower’ to the next level.

10. Pick up the musical instrument you haven’t played in years. We all have a recorder hidden at the back of our wardrobe. My preference is the guitar – after 10 years I still can’t read music.

11. Write a song to share what it’s like having your illness and encourage others.

12. Don’t have a musical bone in your body? Try changing the lyrics to a song or nursery rhyme.

13. Create playlists for every occasion: to relax, feel like singing, angst, fight songs, etc.mr-g-gif (1)

14. Make up an interpretive dance – I can never go past Vanessa Carlton’s 1000 Miles.

15. Write a short story.

16. Create a character you can relate to and write a monologue, one-act play, radio script or a short film to explore and communicate the characters journey.

17. Start a journal/diary, blogging or (and you don’t have to edit and publish it for the world to see, but if you have a laptop with a webcam) a video journal. tumblr_n6eu9xazEC1s79tl2o1_500.gif

18. Write a poem – if you don’t ‘do poetry’ you could always start with a simple HaikuUntitled design or Limerick.

19.Write a letter to yourself.

20. Turn statistics, research and (accurate) medical information into an infographic.

21. Put on an apron and be a MasterChef by cooking your favourite cuisine or experimenting with a classic dish.

22. Create the next ‘Paralympic Sport’ – if there is a physical activity/sport you love, but can no longer play it due to your illness, come up with an adaptation that fits your physical
limitations.535131_752938168174916_8494518392625972808_n

23. Knit! You can never have too many scarves, beanies or comfort blankets. This beautifully adorable yellow teddy was made by Lee Miller.

24. Give your alter ego life and make a (sock) puppet.

25. If you’re a gamer and can code, create a game related to your illness – I dream of playing an arcade game called “The Angry Uterus.”

26. Design a personal tattoo (which is in no way a commitment to get a tattoo).

27. Make some (awareness) jewellery.

28. Design a t-shirt and wear your message. You can never have13064520_10153945092096329_3814720925769389373_o too many awareness t-shirts! (Although my mother would disagree.)

29. Get pretty and expressive, experimenting with makeup and nail art. This fantastic body art is by Kiley Inman.

30. Download a meme generator and amuse yourself.

If you can afford it, pick a hobby/skill and invest in some lessons. I’ve chosen to prioritise a half an hour singing lesson every two weeks into my budget. I then record the lesson so I can continue to practice between classes. It is both empowering and encouraging to see the progress/development of that still over time.

Ask others to get involved; sometimes it’s nice just to relax with a friend and have fun together. Sometimes laughter is the best medicine. I’ve also had friends with artistic talent sit down and teach me for no cost.

The most important thing to remember is not to be a perfectionist. It’s not about the finished product; it’s about engaging with your illness, disease or disability in a creative way.  Short-term, being creative will help you relax, decrease tension and give you another way to communicate. The long-term benefits of developing this habit is often insight, acceptance and healing.

I’d love to hear from you!
Do you have anything to share?
Do you have anything to add the list?
Have you noticed the benefits of engaging creatively with your illness?