Gone Like Magic

Like Magic – that’s how I used to describe any positive effect had an unexpected cause. So when my stomach is soothed by eating mango ice-cream after being stuffed with sushi, it’s like magic. A couple of years ago, and prior to taking a job as a live-in summer camp counselor, I was struggling to manage varying degrees of anxiety and depression. The duration of the camp was 3-4 weeks, and I thought it would be difficult for me since I would have little time to myself. However, after a week, while I continued to feel anxious, feelings of depression had virtually disappeared. This was particularly surprising because during that time in my life, I struggled more with depression than anxiety, so its absence was highly noticeable. I had little time alone, but quite a bit of leisure time. We definitely were not overworked.

So depression was gone like magic, but as far as I remember, it came back like clockwork once the camp was over. My time at the camp and a few other similar experiences have taught me a lot about how depression works for me and the most effective ways that I can manage it. Recently, I was telling my doctor that I had begun to realize how some of my normal thinking patterns and behaviours – which I previously thought were helpful – actually compound the symptoms of depression. As I discuss in another blog, once I begin to head into a deep depression, these thoughts and behaviours actually prolong that experience. Working at the camp made a difference because, from morning till night, my thoughts were oriented outward rather than inward.

To be clear, I’m not saying that depression is a symptom or product of self-centered thinking. I’m saying that for me, feeling depressed caused me to self-isolate, which meant most of my thoughts were focused on myself. When someone is injured, the pain is legitimate. Once the injury has been addressed, excessive focus on it will only compound the pain of the experience. In the same way, the pain of depression is legitimate. But focusing outward, at least for me, has been massively helpful in making my experience less painful and more manageable.

I still do feel depressed at times, but when I get stuck in a depressed state it lasts for a week at the most and not months. Everyone’s experience with depression is different and what works well for me now would have had a different effect when depression was constant and not recurring like it is now. I also didn’t know that my depression would become less severe. I actually thought it would stay that way or get worse, not realizing how much of an impact my environment was having on me. So while I didn’t have much hope for a positive outcome, I did have important tools which helped me to improve myself while the dynamics of my environment slowly began to change. I’m grateful to God for giving me the willingness to find ways to do better, even when I didn’t know how to feel better. I suppose the phrasing I use now makes my actions sound commendable, but at the time I experienced it as a desperate search for pain relief. However, I am intentionally recognizing how valuable it actually was. I’m also grateful for persistence, which allowed me to stop and avoid maladaptive coping behaviours that would have blocked the benefits of the improvements I eventually made.

I’m equally grateful for the changes in my environment, as long as they took to emerge. Once they began to match up with the changes I was making on the inside, I was able to reap benefits I hadn’t even expected. Until recently, I didn’t realize the extent to which environmental factors were diminishing the fruits of my efforts. The eventual effects have been great, but I had no idea they were coming. They just showed up – like magic.

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INNER BEAUTY – THE ART OF LOVING ONESELF AND LOVING OTHERS

While society may claim to have evolved from focusing on stereotypical outer beauty, we are often left to wonder how far have we really evolve? The evolution of beauty trends has evolved to include a greater demographic with some extreme beauty trends spreading to younger audiences. And while beauty trends have their benefits in promoting confidence, the extent makes you wonder that while all that has its place, are the measures fickle?…..

Let’s get back to reality, simple beautiful reality. Reality can be good and dare I say real, we are real, no filters needed, no need for Photoshop. Loving, appreciating and accepting oneself is a thing of beauty, inner beauty.

It can be quite a challenge to shift our mindset from following the crowd to being our authentic self but the results are so gratifying. Here are a few useful tips:

  • Know the difference between happiness and joy, happiness is often based on such things like other people, events and places. Joy come from within, being at peace with who you are and so is much more consistent and dependable.
  • Set reasonable goals
  • Never loose sight of what you have achieved no matter how small it may seem.
  • Meditate, mindful meditation is so profoundly beneficial
  • Self care: eat healthy, exercise and rest
  • Appreciate others without being gullible
  • Be kind to friends and to strangers

 

Weighted Blanket

Due to my depression, anxiety and my sleep disorder, my sleep at night is often horrible. I feel as if I am constantly waking up, waking up feeling unrested. Regardless of the quantity of sleep, or practicing a good sleep hygiene I always feel tired.

Many of my friends, and support groups online recommended a weighted blanket. I’ve been reluctant to try it as they can get quite expensive. Anyways, I caved at the beginning of the school year and bought one online from amazon. They say the weight of the blanket you order should be 10% of your weight, which would help you sleep better and faster.  I bought a 15 lb. blanket. It stated that the  blanket can help you release stress and anxiety to make you relaxed. Research has shown that a weighted blanket can provide outcomes for people with a wide variety of disorders and conditions. Weighted blankets have been studied in the following conditions:

ADHD, anxiety disorders, agitation, Asperger syndrome, brain trauma injuries, cerebral palsy, dental anxiety, insomnia, restless leg syndrome, sensory processing disorder, Tourette syndrome, autism spectrum disorder, bipolar disorder, Alzheimer’s, dementia, down syndrome, fibromyalgia, obsessive compulsive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, seizure disorder, restless sleep, tension, and well as many other conditions, disorders.

The weighted blanket can help reduce and relieve anxiety and agitation by applying gentle pressure therapy to the body. This pressure almost feels like a hug to many people. This type of pressure has been proven to trigger the release of serotonin and dopamine in the brain and body. Serotonin and dopamine are neurotransmitter’s that play an import role in the body, the “feel-good hormones”. I worried that if I were claustrophobic the weight of the blanket may trigger me, however I found that wasn’t the case.  After a minute of having the blanket on me I didn’t really notice the weight anymore. I felt my body relax for once. It was an enjoyable moment of feeling your body calm all at once. I have to say I slept amazing the first night I tried it. Every night I’ve used it since I’ve woke up feeling a lot better. I also have to note that I don’t wake up as often in the middle of the night. The blanket can be used in various ways, it doesn’t have to be for sleeping. You can lay it across your lap, wrap around your shoulders, while watching tv. You can fold half of it under your body with the other half covering your body. You can use it to cover your full body, or half body when you sleep or while you are sitting. The possibilities are endless. You can find a method that works best for you.

I urge anyone with the conditions listed above to give it a try. Because it’s changed my life.

Disclaimer, everyone is different, it may not help or cure your symptoms but from my experience I found this helped!

 

Student Mental Health Advisory Committee

Applications for the 2019-2020 academic year are now being accepted.

Are you interested in student mental health and wellness?

Student Mental Health Services is looking for students to be a part of a Student Mental Health Advisory Committee. The main role involves developing and reviewing mental health and wellness initiatives at the university. This position also involves working in groups, as well as organizing and implementing events at both north and downtown locations. This would be an excellent leadership opportunity for students who are passionate about advocating for mental health. There is a time commitment of 25 hours between September 2019 and April 2020.

Are you interested in volunteering?

Please send a one page letter of intent and email your submission to studentlifeline@uoit.ca by March 25, 2019.

  1. Describe why mental health and wellness are important to you.
  2. Define a message about mental health and wellness that you believe in.
  3. Explain at least one idea or event that can help the university be more involved in students’ mental health and wellness. Please be specific and detailed.
What is the Student Mental Health Advisory Committee?

The Student Mental Health Advisory Committee is a group of students passionate about wellness and advocating for mental health. The Committee is an opportunity for any student at the university, including individuals with lived experiences, to develop and review mental health initiatives.

What kind of time commitment is required?

There is a time commitment of 25 hours over the fall and winter terms of the current academic year.

Depression for Me: A Brief Description

When I was deeply depressed it felt like my world was shrinking, and the real world was receding. Now that I am not depressed, my own experience is difficult for me to identify with. The low moods I experience now don’t compare. Being deep in depression was like being in a parallel world. I will describe a little bit of the worst of my depression.

Nothing really feels real. I feel like I should take off my gloves, but I don’t have any on. I want to push harder or move closer, but there’s nothing more I can do. I feel as if there’s something between my fingertips and anything they touch. I rub my fingertips together, but nothing comes off.

I rub my eyes to make them focus, but they don’t. I feel like I’m viewing the whole world through a lens and not my own two eyes. I close my eyes and open them. I try again, this time closing them more tightly. Everything still looks strange.

Time proceeds in a strange manner and moves much too slowly. I move slowly too. I think in layers and I speak slowly.

I’m slow to start my day. Simple choices are burdensome and normal tasks become overwhelming. There’s nothing I want to accomplish, and I have no more ideas on how to get what I want – which is to feel normal like before. I’m very very tired in every way possible. The tiredness is sticky and no matter what I do – more or less – I can’t shake it.

It’s like being in a world where the sun is a bright, sterile white, not yellow. Everything light looks white and everything rich in colour ranges from grey to black. The sun’s light is not warm, it’s just bright. Too bright. A lifeless white.

This description focuses on some of the experiential aspects of depression. I don’t touch on many other aspects of depression, such as hopelessness, because it’s very unpleasant for me to remember and describe. At the time that I experienced major depression, I didn’t know that I would get better and I don’t think anyone told me I would. Counselling provided me with many tools to cope and improve, but I wasn’t sure if and when they would work. I’m glad I stuck around to find out because I’m in a much better place now. I still struggle but it’s nowhere near as painful. Most importantly, I can feel happiness and joy, which is what makes life feel worth living.