Ziya’s Day

I had a positively wonderful massage at my local Massage Envy today. The therapist who worked on me recommended medical massage to relieve the tension in my back; we compromised by dedicating the 1st half of the massage to medical and the 2nd half to relaxation. Without me saying a word about my diet and exercise habits (or lack thereof), she was able to tell that I was dehydrated and suffered from malnutrition based on the areas and degree of tension in my back. She said I needed to drink more water, eat more fiber (beans & vegetables), reduce my sugar intake, and start exercising. She also realigned my right leg and both hips, literally helped me breathe more easily, and (I thought) improved circulation to my arms.

I opted for aromatherapy during my massage, namely the “Anxiety Release” blend. The aromatherapy in conjunction with massage helped me to relax, both physically and emotionally. Though the therapist said I “slept like a baby,” I was actually awake, listening to the relaxing background music and feeling the massage with my eyes closed. I was also thinking quite a bit about what I can do to take better care of myself.

Thinking clip art#1

Obviously I need to do the things the therapist recommended, including getting massages regularly (for now, every other week; I’m hoping to be able to reduce that to once a month by the time I’ve used up all the pre-paid massage hours I’ve accrued).

I also need to take one day off each week, a day dedicated entirely to my mental, physical, and spiritual health. It will be a day when I do not have to do anything for Mom – unless it is an emergency. A day to relax, get a massage, turn off the computer and other electronics, express my spirituality and creativity, and really focus in on my health. On this one day per week I am thinking of abstaining from foods with added sugar, and limiting my diet to whole fruits and vegetables, beans, nuts, eggs, and maybe milk. I’ll be happy to spend time with loved ones on this day, as long as that does not interfere with me focusing primarily on my well-being.

CaptureMay

I love the idea of my day for all this being Wednesday because it’s smack in the middle of the week! What better way to put myself at the center of my own life? Wednesday should work for now, based on my and Mom’s schedules, but if necessary I can change it to another day. However, I will not compromise having one day per week to myself – unless there is an emergency.

I hate tracking food (and planning meals), but I need to get a realistic idea of how I’m eating in order to improve my nutrition. I’ve used SparkPeople in the past and find it mostly good for tracking and to some extent receiving motivation to live a healthy lifestyle. There are a lot of ads that get annoying and send messages I’m not entirely confident are healthy, but using the site is otherwise free of (monetary) cost. I did have to spend a lot of time looking up nutrition info on other sites, though. :-/

My biggest gripe, though, is that it doesn’t really give one the information needed to track the “nutrient” I’m most concerned about right now: sugar. I could track my fructose and sucrose intake, but the site provides no guidelines regarding how much of each I should consume. “Sugar” only exists when you’re viewing or inputting nutritional information for a specific food; it is not a “nutrient” you can track, nor are there clear guidelines – on SparkPeople or in general! – on how much of it one should eat in a day.

Based on this LiveStrong.com article and the daily range of calories recommended to me by SparkPeople, I figured out that the maximum amount of sugar I should consume in one day is 31 grams. Just the 2 chocolate chip cookies I had hours before my massage contained enough sugar to put me over this limit for today.

I'll use an Excel spreadsheet to track sugar in foods I eat, excluding the natural sugar found in fruits.

I’ll use an Excel spreadsheet to track sugar in foods I eat, excluding the natural sugar found in fruits.

It’s not something I expect to be able to adhere to every day, but I hope that at least intermittent tracking will hep me to become more aware of what I’m putting into my body. Maybe it will help me make better choices more in line with my need to be healthy and live a fulfilling life!

NewProjects

With only 11 days until the Out of the Darkness Overnight, it’s seeming less and less feasible for me to participate. I haven’t been training, I’m nowhere near the $700 I’m required to raise, and I haven’t made any travel plans or hotel reservations. Mom keeps saying, “Maybe this isn’t the year for you to do this.” It hurts like hell to hear it, but at least half the reason why it hurts is because at least part of me thinks she’s right.

I was finally able to express how her feedback is affecting me: “When you say things like that, I feel depressed. I feel like I suck.”

“I don’t think you suck. I just think you have a lot going on right now, and maybe trying to do this on top of it isn’t the best idea.”

She has a point. A lot of things have been going on to get in the way of my preparations for the Overnight:

  • my response to the 15-year anniversary of my father’s death
  • moving back in with Mom
  • moving back in with Mom
  • the extreme self-deprecation and anxiety that forced me to drop the last 2 pre-thesis classes I need to complete my master’s degree because they increased my self-harm risk
  • lack of social support
  • midterm and end-of-the-semester stress
  • anxiety over Mom’s surgery
  • Mom’s surgery
  • visiting Mom after her surgery
  • taking care of Dog and rats
  • turning to the computer (rather than walking or other forms of exercise) for escapism
  • depression symptoms
    • fatigue
    • lack of motivation
    • self-harm ideation and thought imagery
  • social anxiety; not wanting to be seen

Yes, I could have made different choices. But I think blaming myself for not preparing for the Overnight would be like blaming someone for losing a poker match in which the best hand ze was dealt was a pair of deuces. Sometimes, your best option is to fold.

When I expressed all this to Fox, he suggested a brilliant compromise: instead of attempting the overnight walk in Washington, D.C., I can do my own, shorter, walk locally. I can time it for when Banji and other people I love and trust can make it. Mom can come – even if she can’t walk the full route, she might be able to walk part of it. Just her physical presence as a supporter would mean the world to me!

I can even still ask people to chip in what they can to donate to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP). We might even raise some awareness; I can wear the shirt I received for raising $100 for the Overnight and maybe my supporters can wear matching shirts in a similar color (ooh, getting together to decorate them might be fun!) … that kind of thing usually gets people to wonder what’s going on; even explaining our shenanigans to just one person might make a difference.

The AFSP even has tools for creating your own campaign that I can use! They offer a variety of ideas; endurance events (e.g. walks) are only one option.

I’m thinking of making a campaign I could link to from this blog, actually. One idea I have is to invite readers to commission posts on topics of their choice related to my experiences with mental illness, mental health care, and possibly other topics – all with the caveat that I will only share information I feel comfortable and safe sharing. What do you think?

Another project I’m planning is an herb and vegetable garden. Fox is on board with it; I love the idea of having someone to garden with. We’ve done some research and decided to start small, just a handful of plants in a few pots, preferably raised off the ground so we don’t have to bend too much. It’s a way for us to get outside in the fresh air and sun, do something that resembles physical activity, connect with nature, and possibly even grow our own fresh (preferably organic) produce! – that is, if the squirrels don’t eat it all …

From a supporter’s point of view

Ziya has written a lot about hir reactions and experiences with the depression, and its effects on hir life. But, I think that there is something valuable to learn from the supporters in the life of a person struggling with depression.

I’ll admit: I’ve had a few significant, yet minor (comparatively) depressive episodes in my lifetime. So I can’t strictly speak from the outsider’s perspective. But my day to day emotions (range, strength, etc) are usually stable enough that I can’t (and, more importantly won’t) claim to fully understand what Ziya goes through. I see much more how the depression effects hir behavior, mood, and ability to function. After all, I’ve been with Ziya for close to three years now.

A short “glossary” before I continue: drs = depression supporter. Anyway, onto the rest of the post.

As a drs, I get to see Ziya at hir best (ie, the moments when ze’s functioning “normally”, able to experience genuine happiness, complete common chores and generally have fun)… you know, how those of us who don’t have to deal with serious depression issues are usually able to. But then, usually unexpectedly, it’s as if someone has flipped a switch in hir brain and… boom. The lows become very low: things that leave me sad for a little bit of time have the potential to knock hir out for hours on end. Hir energy levels drop dramatically, and the very chores that were relatively easy to complete earlier become Herculean tasks.

For example, just a few days ago we were getting ready to go to a church I’ve been attending recently. It wasn’t a particularly nice day to begin with (rainy and gross; the fact that my glasses had broken the day before didn’t help much either). And, a few minor blips aside (namely our normal, early morning slow warm up), it looked to be going pretty smoothly. Until it happened.

I was almost ready to go, and basically waiting on zir; when hir anxiety flared up. I’m certain that said anxiety is tied into the depression: the two tend to go hand in hand with each other. In a matter of moments, ze went from being nearly ready to go to needing to back out; and feeling really bad about doing so.

Several thoughts/things ran through my head at that moment. The first was concern: would ze be okay if I went on my own (like I had the previous two weeks)? Or would the intense guilt lead to thoughts of hurting hirself? The second was hurt: not that ze had backed out last minute (although that was disappointing), but instead that ze was hurting. The third, to be honest, was a little bit of annoyance: this has happened before, and often when we’re heading off to something important to me. But to be honest, the third feeling was very small compared to the other two; and I do believe that those frozen moments have become significantly less frequent than they used to be.

There’s another change I’ve seen sometimes too. Rather than flipping to depressed and anxious, I’ve seen Ziya flip to something akin to manic. This is the Ziya that comes out when six+ hour long Sims sessions occur (particularly late at night) or when a sudden creative project (like a new Let’s Play) seemingly comes out nowhere. Ziya tends to get hyper focused during these moments, and I’ve found ze seems to ignore things like sleep. These “episodes” (I suppose one could call them that) seem to be less frequent than the depressive ones; although I’m certain the lack of sleep that comes from them does nothing good  for the depression as a whole.

But then there are moments like now. We’re sitting on the couch together, each at our own computer; each composing an entry for this blog. And Ziya is bright, cheerful and happy: ze smiles when we make eye contact or the little touches that we both find reassuring. There’s a natural seeming energy behind zir: an excitement over the new information ze found that reminds me of one of the reasons I fell in love with zir. Despite the late (early?) hour (which isn’t so unusual for us these days) that this is happening during, today felt like a good day: we were able to run a number of important errands (including finally getting a tv for the apartment… yay!), and we were both really productive.

If only more days could be like today, with more happiness than the sorrow; where we’re both on the ball concerning what we want to accomplish… My hope is that as Ziya continues to work through the depression we’ll have more days like today, and less like how Sunday started. And as long as ze is willing to work through it, ze’ll have me by hir side to support zir however I can.