Relative Something

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

Posts Tagged ‘treating depression

Unintentional Meditation

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The truth is, I just don’t know what to think. There is a simple solution for that, though. Sometimes I just don’t.

Think, that is. Maybe that is my version of unintentional meditation.

There are plenty of days that boil down to just putting one foot in front of the other. Some people do a better job of that than others. I believe there is an art to finding a way to carry on with a seemingly endless routine, regardless of having either a preconceived intention or none at all, on any given day.

Being something of a “both/and” person, I have no problem reconciling the odd combination of experiencing two opposing emotions simultaneously. More often than not, it is probably fair to say that I feel both happy and sad all at the same time.

Whatever gets you through the day is okay.

There is an interesting dynamic in the process of striving to become more healthy with time. Like peeling an onion, or zooming in for a closer look, new opportunities for improvement keep coming into view as progress is achieved. It’s as if someone keeps moving the goal line of optimal health farther away as I approach.

Progress begets progress, and so in one aspect, advances –both mental and physical– seem to come a little easier with time. But, there is also a change in the rate of improvement over time which makes it harder to perceive ongoing gains being achieved.

Of course, I have chosen love as my secret –or not so secret– weapon of choice for solving life challenges. I need to remind myself to love myself and send love to others all along the way. It helps to sooth angst over plateauing progress and energize doldrums that might begin to weigh me down.

The biggest success I hope to celebrate someday in my life will be a time when I discover that I am beaming that self-love and love for others without needing to think about it.

Wouldn’t that be a fine ambiance in which to live?

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Think Sticktoitiveness

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Stick-to-it-iveness.

If there is one simple key to self-improvement that could serve us well no matter what aspect of our lives we wish to address, I would select —whatever action toward better health you choose: repeat it every day.

Repeat it every day. Don’t stop. If you miss a day, don’t give up. Pick up the next day and the day after that. For a week. Then a month. Six months. A year. No reason to stop now. Keep doing that healthy thing every single day.

Look at the inverse. What do humans do that make themselves suffer negative consequences?

Smoke cigarettes? They smoke every day.

Eat poorly? Day after day.

Not get enough exercise? Harbor negative thoughts and feelings? Don’t get enough sleep? Neglect friends and family? Neglect themselves!

Most of the afflictions we heap upon ourselves grow into problems because of unhealthy choices enacted repeatedly, day after day, over an extended period of time. It’s illogical to think an easy remedy would erase the results in a fraction of the time it took to travel a great distance away from good health.

Turn around. Go the other way. Take a step toward optimal health and then do it again the next day. And then three hundred sixty-five more days after that.

Because. Progress accumulates.

I took the first steps to interrupt my slowly intensifying depression in 1993. As can happen in many situations, things got a little worse after the initial diagnosis and early treatments, but eventually progress settled in and incremental improvement began to develop. Slowly.

Sometimes, in waves. I can almost measure progress by decades. This year, I am noticing new levels of relief that reveal I am continuing to improve, even decades removed from the day doctors released me from medication and therapy treatments. A year ago, I didn’t notice that my mental health was anything less than prime.

It is only by experiencing this unprecedented level of healthy mindset lately that I’ve gained a sense that it wasn’t as good as this before.

Every day, I do something that helps. I also DON’T do things that harm. I don’t do negative self-talk like I used to. I make an effort every day to not do that. I do get exercise, I eat healthy, I smile, I pay better attention to energy, I send love, I sleep well, I write a daily blog. Doing these things regularly and over time, continues to provide accumulating improvements to my mental health.

This year, I am noticing improvements that weren’t so apparent last year.

It really does pay to stick to it.

I invite you to stop doing something today that isn’t healthy for you in the long-term. Replace that with one thing that is healthy that you can do every day. Do it for more days than you ever thought possible. Then do it for a few more years after that.

Here’s to the ongoing journey toward optimal health.

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All There

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It’s all there. The good and the bad. Really, it’s always been that way. Disasters and human rights abuses are scattered throughout history, right along with the victories and accomplishments.

We can choose which of these we allow our attention to focus.

Wars take lives, medical advances save lives. Weather disasters destroy, ingenuity builds.

In my old life, the negative held an illogical amount of my attention. I aligned with the adage of Murphy’s Law, “anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.”

When a hard day at work feels like things went wrong just because they could, it is too easy for me to slip into a dreary doldrums of woe. It is the natural direction my mind, and subsequently my body, would tend to go. It takes a conscious effort to think otherwise.

Luckily, after receiving a diagnosis of depression and being offered treatment with education, medication, and talk therapy, I learned both the ease and the benefit of choosing to think differently.

Bad things still happen, just like they always have.

Yesterday, at work, I decided to start a new adage. My natural inclination to be pessimistic shows through a little bit, but you can see my intentions are noble.

“Anything that can go wrong, might not.”

See what I did there?

Thinking positive!

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Written by johnwhays

April 25, 2018 at 6:00 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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Improving Outlook

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It is said that one way to a person’s heart is through their stomach. I won’t deny being an easily satisfied eater. Ply me with delectable delights and I will instantly offer my allegiance. Cyndie and George hatched a plan to assuage my recent exhaustion and woe with a promise of homemade pizza and some massage.

Who wouldn’t begin to feel more hopeful at offerings like that?

I decided to take some of my own advice, choosing to turn off the sad news flowing constantly out of my car radio and replacing it with my personal library of long-cherished music for the drive home from the day-job yesterday. It was bad enough that I had to commute to the day-job on my usual extra day on the ranch. I didn’t need the added downer of endless news-feed distress.dscn5679e

I stepped in the door from walking the dog and tending to the horses to find George’s smiling face in the kitchen. He was working dough and creating scrumptious food art that looked as good as it smelled. And trust me, it ultimately tasted even better than it’s aroma implied.

As if that wasn’t enough to loosen my strings, Cyndie had a fire glowing in the fireplace and offered up the opportunity to have my stress headache massaged away.

Yeah, those knotted muscles in my back and shoulders were real. Real crunchy.

Right up until they weren’t.

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And as quickly as that, the ache in my head wasn’t so noticeable, either. Now that’s my kind of medication for what ails you. Turn off the news, put on good music, get massaged, and eat a special meal prepared by hand with loving care. No pills or alcohol required.

I’m feeling some hope that these steps of intervention have me well placed to carry on a search for that hope I lost somewhere along the way in November.

Cyndie is gaining strength and ability every day in her journey of healing and rehabilitation, post knee replacement surgery. I am beginning to believe once again that she will someday be able to help care for the horses and walk Delilah, which would lighten my load considerably at a time when the demands of the day-job appear to be intensifying significantly.

If I am unable to find hope in anything else at this time, I am at the very least relieved to have found hope in this improving outlook.

Here’s to the prospect of a lighter load.

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Written by johnwhays

January 7, 2017 at 7:00 am

Depression Podcast

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hilariousworlddepression328It’s unusual to consider depression something to be laughed at, but maybe laughing at it has some merit. I have discovered a new podcast from American Public Media hosted by humorist John Moe called, “The Hilarious World of Depression.” Through conversations with some nationally respected comedians who share tales of their own experiences with depression, Moe explores a link between the illness and comedy.

The show is sponsored by HealthPartners and its “Make It Okay” campaign. I have long been a fan of the idea that talking about mental health issues is a crucial step toward reducing the stigma normally associated with them.

Depression can be treated. I treat mine everyday. In fact, talking about my experiences is one of the methods I employ to treat my natural tendency toward a depressive mindset.

I think it’s a great thing when humor can be added to the topic that is uncomfortable for most people to discuss. Spread the word about this podcast to people you know. It’s okay to talk about mental illness.

Now we can even laugh at it, too.

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Written by johnwhays

December 16, 2016 at 7:00 am

Greatest Discovery

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As I was driving home from work yesterday, I became aware of an absence of a gloomy pall which had been working its way over me for a couple of days prior. Even though few circumstances actually improved, my mental state had.

That is a testament to the greatest discovery I ever made. Many years ago, I identified my depression. Becoming aware of my depression allowed me to take action toward treating it. Treating my depression has led to every improvement in health I have achieved since.

TreatableThrough daily adherence to my personal “program” of thoughts and actions that specifically counteract my depressive tendencies, I now manage my mental health without prescription medication or professional psychological support. I originally used both to find my way out of the darkness.

I still find myself surprised when the things I’ve learned to do, like catching my negative self-talk and ending it, or cultivating love for others and projecting it, produce such tangible results.

It is well-known, and usually rather obvious, that people’s energies are contagious. Individuals have widely varying levels of tendencies to be an influencer or the influenced.

If you haven’t seen the viral video by Shea Glover, People react to being called beautiful, check it out to see how quickly, and mostly involuntarily, people react to a positive verbal message. Imagine if we sent that same message to everyone, nonverbally from our hearts.

Be the influencer. Send love.

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Written by johnwhays

January 6, 2016 at 7:00 am