Belly magic.

TheMightyFeatureEmailRecently, I received a lovely email from The Mighty Team. They shared with me that they had featured one of my articles about relationships and depression on The Mighty Facebook page. It was originally a post on this blog, xo, O.*

The Mighty publishes crowdsourced articles written by people who are not abled or experience chronic illness (mental, emotional and physical).

It’s a great resource if you want to read about individual experiences. You quickly find and feel that you’re not alone in whatever it is you’re struggling with, because you are so not alone. I suggest it as a resource for caregivers as well!

I digress.

Knowing that sharing my writing is helpful for some people is amazing and so motivating. I love that the act of sharing our painful experiences with one another is a form of self-care for the ‘sharer’ and the receiver.

In this case, sharing is –literally– caring so get your Care Bear Stare** on, folks! It’s good for your health.

What does your Care Bear Stare look like?


*The Mighty publishes articles that have been approved by their editors so the article differs from the original version I posted on this blog.
**”The Care Bears’ ultimate weapon is the “Care Bear Stare” (a.k.a. “Belly Magic”), in which the collected Bears stand together and radiate light from their respective belly symbols. These combine to form a ray of love and good cheer which could bring care and joy into the target’s heart.” 

Advertisements

My wish for you.

I added an addendum — pasted below — to the ‘About’ page that I wanted to bring to your attention, dear readers.

Also, I’m working on a posting schedule for my social media projects (a sci-fi about teen depression – Senescence and a site focused on learning about social media – odawni.com) so you can expect new content here regularly. Stay tuned!

***

When I started this blog and composed the ‘About‘ text. I was still searching for a partner. Little did I know, a few months later I’d meet Kevin — my beautiful, patient and thoughtful Rennaissance man (seriously, his guitar skills are swoon-a-licious).

What I wrote still applies in terms of the purpose of this blog, but I decided that I would focus blog content on how my depression impacts my relationship with Kevin, including what we do to help us work through the times when my symptoms circle around again.

In relationships, conversations about depression absolutely need to happen – transparently and with oodles of compassion. Depression visits me (us) relatively regularly so this is something Kevin and I come up against a lot.

My wish is that what I share here about the relationship Kevin and I are nurturing together helps others to feel understood and hopeful that depression doesn’t need to drive a wedge between partners in a relationship. Depression can provide opportunities for partners to engage in deeper intimacy that strengthens and enriches relationships.

xo, O. ❤

 

us_heart shoes

Thanks, for your patience

I’ve been busy with multiple projects –which I have been loving– but I hope to pick up activity on xo, O soon! 

A little peek into the next post:

If you wanna check out my other active projects:

Senescence: An interactive mixed-media sci-fi about a 16-year-old hum-bot told through social media

www.senescence.space 

Nightstand Audio: A motley of musical collaborations from the past year with some of my favorite people, everrrrr. I’m talkin bout you, Krusty Kastle Crew (that includes @Buffaloquick 🙂 

www.nightstandaudio.com

Speaking of patience. Thanks for your patience, friends.

xo,

O

The havoc depression wreaks: Instability.

One of the many things that I am grateful Kevin has brought into my life,
is something I had not experienced before:
stability.

His life is rooted in:

  • having a large circle of good friends he sees regularly, as far as being mid-to-late 30-year-old men goes; two friends are our housemates (of sorts),
  • a close nuclear family who spend time together and are in touch with one another often,
  • a six-year-old job with many of the same colleagues, and
  • living in the same place the past six years.

(These are all protective factors of depression, btw. Meaning, these are some life variables that deter depressive symptoms from developing in a person. It mostly has to do with having close-knit networks of friends and family, AKA support. You can find research articles with more info about protective factors on Google Scholar here.)

One of the side effects of having depression that doesn’t get a lot of airplay is the instability-havoc it wreaks on a person’s life. Experiencing drastic or significant mood changes in a short period of time does more than just make someone appear to be “moody.”

  • Your ability to think clearly,
  • finish a coherent sentence, or
  • stay awake for a whole day for work —

they– like all habitual things one does in a day,
will not fall into a regular pattern
that a person living with depression can depend on and expect.

As a person living with chronic depression:

  • Your social contact drops so regularly that some friends stop inviting you out, or
  • your “negative energy” is a drag to be around, or
  • you’re weird and awkward, and you talk about morbid and sad things, or

you have no choice but to hide
because
your anxiety about being around other people is so
intense
it keeps you paralyzed in bed.

**
I’ve been meaning to get back into a regular meditation practice. I’m excited to bring Kevin to try it with me at a Buddhist temple. When I asked if he would be willing to go with me, he looked at me and said, “OK, but I’m not going to one of those sensory deprivation camps.”

To which I lifted my left brow with a quizzical side-stare and responded, “You mean the 10-day silent meditation retreat?”

**

It’s important to make time for stillness, especially for someone living with depression and their partner. It doesn’t have to be meditation in the traditional sense. Go on a hike or take a walk in your neighborhood.

Are you curious about meditation and its benefits?
Check out this lovely infographic made by @AmandaPage, Editor at HealthCentral.com :: .@HealthCentral.

MindfulnessInfographic_HealthCentral

Repost from Visually :: .@Visually

 

Need you to be extra touchy-feely.

Earlier on in our relationship, I pulled Kevin aside when we had a moment alone together in the kitchen. Friends were over.

“I need you to be extra touchy-feely, babe. Can you rub me on the back and check in to see how I’m doing? You do already do those things but I’m feeling anxious and I need them a bit more than usual tonight.”

“Sure, boo,” he said. My anxiety was at about a level 8…ish. (How does one even measure feelings on a Likert scale?)

These are the things that are good to relay to your partner regardless of your situation, but when you live with depression, this is particularly important. There needs to be explicit communication about how you’re feeling and what you need from your partner.

Carrying anxiety (or depression) by yourself becomes a habit when you grow up in an environment that enables you to carry the baggage solo. You forget that there’s an option or you’re not yet aware that there’s an option to practice vulnerability and trust. There’s an option to reach out. A healthy, sound relationship requires it of you to reach out to your partner.

I use to think that if my partner’s love for me was authentic, he would notice when I’m feeling out of sorts and that would cue him to reassure me in some way; if he didn’t catch on and offer care and support, I would get upset. Your partner can’t read your mind (and really, would you want them to?) and regardless of how obvious you think your situation is on the outside, it’s best to be upfront and proactive. Help your partner support you by telling them what you need of them. I assure you, they want to know. Your partner wants to support you. Depression tells you that no one wants to support you. Don’t listen. You and your partner will take turns leaning into eachother. That’s how it works.

Clinical Psychologist and author Dr. Sue Johnson wrote in her book, “Hold Me Tight“, “When safe connection seems lost, partners go into fight-or-flight mode… Most fights are really protests over emotional disconnection.”

I know it can be difficult when depression is visiting because the depressed partner, by nature of the illness, is unable to give as much to the relationship as they are able when they’re feeling OK. That’s OK. Kevin and I have acknowledged that and it (along with his kind and gentle soul) has given me permission to give myself permission to not feel guilty about the temporary imbalance. When I’m not under depression’s spell…

…these are some things that Kevin and I do to stay connected:

  • Take walks together with Fuzz after breakfast (I try to force myself out of bed to do this when depressed – it may only be a 10 minute walk but it makes a huge difference)
  • Leave surprise love notes for each other around the house (sometimes I sneak something into his lunch box)
  • Enjoy a weekly date night together – we met on a Wednesday, so those days are our weekiversary days (you don’t need to go out – sometimes we veg at home – it’s the time investment and being present with one another that matters most)
  • Massage each other (OK, sometimes the massage is a 2 minute shoulder massage in passing but any length of time is wonderful) – our favorite is trading foot massages facing each other on the couch
  • Pick up something from the grocery store that we didn’t put on the list but know the other likes – for Kevin, it’s Sour Patch Kids or bleu cheese, for me, it’s La Croix or gummy cherries
  • Kevin has my meds reminder on his phone as a backup in case I forget or miss my reminder alarm – he sends me reminder texts if we’re not together when it goes off
  • I refill or top off his water bottle if I see he’s running low

What are some things you and your partner do to stay connected?

***

Side note: I watched a video on The Mighty today that does a pretty good job of illustrating the experience of a depressive mind; the dizzying and self-deprecating internal world of a person with depression. (It looks like it’s not share-able. You can watch it below my most recent story about depression posted on The Mighty. I didn’t set up a plug for myself, I swear.) Share it with your partner, if you need. Reaching out means reaching out for resources, too. The internet is rife with stuff.

Happy bright spring flowers.

Oh my, it’s been a while.

<<my sincerest apologies!!! truly.>>

I feel like I do just as well adding new blog posts (on the regular) as I do maintaining my friendships! Actually, that’s not true. I have invested extra effort into mindfully improving my maintaining-of-friendships over the past few years. I’m proud to say that.

I’m proud to write that because. let’s just say that I spent my highschool years attending four different schools in three countries. (Some of you could make a drinking game from how many times you’ve heard me say that.) Add a geographically fragmented teen-hood to my quiet, shy, depressive, anxious (emotionally neglected) teenage self. It was rough mostly. Seemingly unbearable at times. Teen O would have benefited from finding a goth crew to pale and brood with. (Crew, right? Crew? Or are a group of goths called a…uuuuuh, goat? A goat of goths? A gaggle of goths?)

Having to re-adjust and build new friendships every year takes an exponentially increasing toll on a person. And so, I didn’t have much practice “friendshipping” while growing up. It’s something I continue to actively work at because I know it’s worth the (temporary) uncomfortable painful feelings that sometimes shake out when someone treats you kind, someone treats you like a friend.

I wasn’t able to join a circle of friends who experience all those teenage things together. They build memories, share stories. They’ve witnessed each other’s smiles grow into their faces and remember what other other’s favorite colors were as littles. Their parent(s) are friends with yours; they have memories and stories, too. There are pictures, tons of pictures. (Sidenote: On my ‘don’t-need-so-immediately-but- wouldn’t-mind-acquiring-one-now’ wish list is a Super 8 camera. A belated birthday gift is still within reason. After March 5th, you can give it to me on Friendship Day, which is every day of the year. 🙂

<<<SKRIIIIIIIIEEEEEEEECH!>>>         (record scratch)

Sorry. I’m cutting this short! I have an opportunity to jam with some really cool people ahora (translation: right now) so I am going to away. What I wanted to say in this post – nutshell version:

  • Kevin has continued to welcome me in to his life, introduced me to his friends – his amazing wonderful friends.
  • Kevin has given me a chosen family. or helped me to allow family in.
  • Maintaining friendship is important. friendship borne of reciprocal support, love, and respect.
  • Music is therapy.
  • My depression has been lifting. I know a key reason is the lifestyle I’ve created together with Kevin and Fuzz. I know it’s partially because of the authentic, meaningful friendships that have been sprouting like happy bright spring flowers in bloom.
  • I love our life.
  • I’m still significantly sensitive. as I’ve always been and will be. and it’s OK.

I end this entry with something Kevin said to me this evening. I was telling him what this blog post was about. He said,

“We don’t need friends, we just need each other!”

What do you think was my response? 

I leave you in wonder and wish you joyful well.

xo, O

 

And thank you for coming back to my snaily blog or for reading this!

 

**Edited from original post 3/3/17.

Demons are not yours.

Kevin doesn’t have depression. His knowledge of depression — first, second, or eleventh-hand — is limited. Sixth months into our life together, he’s spent time with depressed O at least half the time. I’ve been struggling with anxiety and depression for about three of the past six months. The struggle I’ve been grappling with and have held onto as a ‘my’ struggle for the better part of my 37 years has, in six months, become a ‘we’ struggle.

Every now and then,  when I emerge from the dark dizzying sticky slumber of depression, I ask Kevin, “Are you sure you want to move forward in this relationship? This is how it’s going to be the rest of our lives. I will always fall into depressive ruts.” I feel like I need to regularly give him an out, let him know that I get it if he decides that it’s too much for him to manage. I would understand if nurturing a relationship with someone who cycles through depression as often as I do is too overwhelming for him, for anyone.

Each time, Kevin squares his shoulders and steadies his eyes to mine as if to convey, if you don’t hear my words, feel the conviction of my presence.  “Yes. I’m sure,” he says. “I want to be with you.”

**

I feel as though I’m using up the majority of the relationship resources. On top of the other depressive symptoms, I feel selfish and self-absorbed. I feel small, alone, a failure, like I don’t belong in this world. For years, depression has tricked me into believing that no one wants to hear the ‘ridiculous’ thoughts tapping my brain and to (ssssssshhhhhhh) keep my thoughts where they belong – hidden.

This is one of the ways depression keeps a stronghold on you. It’s hypnotic trickery suspends your ability to trust that people who care for you want to hear your fears, and that they want to hear your fears as many times as you need to speak them. But you must share these thoughts, you must share what frightens you when depression has you by the tongue – whether you believe the thoughts or not. Especially in a relationship.

As Kevin said to me one night, holding me as I cried into his warm chest, “Your demons are not yours to fight alone.”