Relative Something

*this* John W. Hays’ take on things and experiences

Posts Tagged ‘Depression

Feeling Love

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In my lifetime, the art of feeling love has been a struggle to fully achieve. Luckily, I have had plenty of opportunity to practice. Most precious of all has been having Cynthia Ann Friswold around to repeatedly offer her guidance.

Quite frankly, some of that guidance comes across in a disguise that deftly pushes buttons that I’d rather not have pushed, but that’s part of the secret. Love isn’t always rainbows, flowers, and chocolate. True love is much more complex than that.

As a depressed person, I was distracted from being able to fully love. A combination of treatment for depression and couples therapy for our relationship was key to opening my eyes and my heart to love’s true potential.

Adding animals to our family has expanded my understanding of love to even greater depths.

Last evening, as I was holding our Buff Orpington hen while Cyndie worked diligently to remove globs of dried poop from the chicken’s tail feathers, I silently conveyed our love to the bird imprisoned by my grasp. Between a few isolated moments of flinching in discomfort, she generally rested her head against me and waited out the task.

We can hope she was able to tell our motives were pure.

Cyndie wanted me to offer the hen a red raspberry treat in reward for her patience of enduring the awkward procedure, but the Buff showed no interest. She just gave it the eye, with total detachment.

I had no idea that owning chickens might involve needing to bring them in out of the cold in the winter to wash and dry their butts. It’s a good thing they have gotten us to fall in love with them.

Owning horses is a whole ‘nother level of love.

Before our four Arabians had even arrived, back when we were having paddock fencing installed, a water line being buried, and a hay shed being built, the excavator arrived in his giant dump truck and chatted out his window with me at our first meeting. He asked what this project was about, and I told him my wife wants to get horses.

In a high-pitched voice of alarm, he exclaimed, “HORSES!?! It would be cheaper to get a new wife!”

Yes, there are costs to owning horses, but the rewards are pretty much immeasurable.

How do you measure love?

All I know for sure is, I’m feeling an awful lot of it in this latest phase of my life.

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Written by johnwhays

January 11, 2018 at 7:00 am

Animal Magnetism

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For most of my life, it was a struggle just to take care of myself, due to a condition of undiagnosed dysthymia. The additional responsibility of caring for pets every day was a burden I found ways to avoid.

Now I know why people who love horses become so passionate about it. I’ve spent the last five years learning what it is like to own horses, and it has changed me to the point I think it would be hard for me now to live without them.

It’s kind of ironic that caring for animals has contributed significantly to my healthier life. The very thing I was avoiding turns out to be therapeutic for what ailed me.

Yesterday morning, Cyndie captured this wonderful moment as our four Arabians made their way along the fence line of the hay-field back toward the barn in the enticing soft light before sunrise.

She and Delilah had just come out of the woods on their morning walk along our trails, a situation that signals to the horses, breakfast at the barn will soon be served.

As powerful an energy as the horses are for us, Delilah radiates her own compelling magnetism. She looked absolutely stunning after a grooming appointment yesterday.

When I walked in the door and reached down to pet her while she was leaning into me in her overly affectionate greeting, I asked Cyndie, “Did you just brush her?”

Oh, no. That was a full-fledged professional job that gave her the silky smooth coat.

Later, I glanced at our beautiful Tervuren under the old Hays family table and caught her paw draped over the antler chew she found in the woods.

Yeah, it can be a lot of responsibility, but I think I’m getting the hang of this animal magnetism they seem to have.

What a rewarding blessing it is to be healthy and have the added benefits of the positive energy our animals inherently provide.

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Key

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Words on Images

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The Thing

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The thing about depression is that it can be so amorphous. There are no clearly defined borders where it begins and ends. If one develops a runny nose, is it a cold or just a runny nose?

When I start feeling less than my best self, is it a bout of depression, or just the equivalent of a “runny nose?”

There is also a chicken and egg type question of which comes first. Do I feel low because depression is coming on, or is depression coming on because I feel low?

On top of those basic questions, there is the added complication of framing the situation as productive, or not. Is doing very little more than passing time a waste, or a valuable break from the rat race?

So many questions with no simple answer. What I know right now is, I have been noticeably under achieving this weekend. I have chosen to frame it in the positive. I have allowed myself a respite from doing significant chores and I won’t be moping that it was a negative.

In fact, this morning I am feeling significantly accomplished for the brilliant use of the available unscripted hours this weekend.

Now that’s my thing.

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Written by johnwhays

November 26, 2017 at 9:59 am

From Nothing

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When I spend my days away from the ranch, not taking pictures, not collecting experiences, the relative somethings get a little thin. Four days a week my hours are tied up with commuting and day-jobbing. By Friday, I have to work a little harder to fill this space with words and pictures. I will often be heard muttering, “I’ve got nothing.”

Thursday nights are what Cyndie and I refer to as my “Friday.”

Last night we celebrated with my bringing home Cyndie’s favorite half-baked deep-dish pizza for dinner. I walked in the door, placed it in the refrigerator and collapsed on our bed, falling into a deep sleep with Pequenita curled up on my legs.

It’s a manifestation of accumulated exhaustion. What a luxury.

One of the things that leaves me feeling like I’ve got nothing to write about, is how incomparable my healthy first-world exhaustion is to the suffering I witness others around me going through. How dare I frame my suffering as particularly arduous, when other’s lives are hovering on the brink, when disasters abound, when life challenges won’t be temporary.

I feel lost within my familiar surroundings, an unsettling perception. It’s an instance when I resort to waiting. That feeling doesn’t last. If I don’t fight against what isn’t really there, balance returns soon enough.

One of the reasons I strive to compose something every day is as a push on my ‘swing’ of daily maintaining my mental health. It’s an interesting conundrum for me when the healthy act of writing meets up with the well-known challenges of writer’s block.

One of my “go to” solutions is to simply post a picture. Sometimes, by the end of the week, I don’t even have that.

Before the point in my life when I identified that I was dealing with depression, a moment like this, with no idea what to write about and feeling lost, would have simply stoked a dangerous fire.

I’m thrilled to be able to report that my perspective and awareness are so completely different after treatment that times like this tend to end up being more of an inspiration than an ominous threat.

It’s so simple, it gets misconstrued as not even possible. It does involve some bigger picture observation, but after that, in each moment, it is simply a matter of thinking differently. The secret is in recognizing what is going on in the moment, and then directing my thoughts in an appropriately healthy way.

Through talk therapy, I learned how to recognize my dysfunctional thinking and perceptions. With practice, I have honed skills in changing my thoughts, which alters my chemistry. Happily, no pun intended, it generates a positive feedback loop that strengthens with each cycle.

One last part of my simple secret to overcoming my depression: trusting it can work.

My healthcare providers were convinced they could help me, and I trusted them.

It worked.

Look at that. When I started writing this post, I thought I had nothing for today.

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Depression Awareness

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My experience with depression involved a long, slow advance that could well be compared to the boiling frog parable. I was oblivious to the illness in my head while it was busy crafting all manner of dysfunctional thinking habits.

When my angst would occasionally lead to curious contemplations, the version of depression I would use as a reference involved the stories about people who hit rock bottom and lost jobs, destroyed marriages, became sick from substance abuse, and eventually suffered run ins with the law.

That did not describe my life, so I figured depression wasn’t my problem.

Ultimately, I was lucky enough to discover that depression was precisely the boiling water in which I was engulfed.

Maybe if I had an easily accessible clinically validated screening questionnaire available to me, I could have become aware of my condition a lot earlier than I eventually did.

I’m hoping the progress with de-stigmatizing depression and all it’s related mental health afflictions, along with efforts like the recent partnering between Google and the National Alliance on Mental Illness to offer an online tool to help diagnose depression, will shorten the suffering for all those who aren’t sure about what’s going on with their health.

Check this out: Learning More About Clinical Depression…

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Lost Hope

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I have discovered how important hope can be on the journey to optimal health. It occurred to me the other day that I have lost hope.

I’m sure it is still there, I just can’t find it right now.

Having an unfortunate first-hand experience with depression allows me to recognize how it is possible to live without hope. It is not a healthy place to live. On my journey to good health, I have learned that it is not in my best interest to reside in that space. I am regretfully comfortable in that place, maybe from having too many years of practice in existing that way, but I cannot afford to accommodate that outcome.

I will do some digging to find my hope again. It is a requirement.

Of that, I am acutely aware.

We cannot live on love alone. That is another thing I have come to realize.

I’m going to love finding my hope again.

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Written by johnwhays

January 6, 2017 at 7:05 am