Sunday, November 30, 2008

one step forward, two steps back

So depression is still kicking my ass. Leaving in the middle of Thanksgiving dinner to go cry your eyes out because somebody said you looked tired and your kid is crying because he's tired, too is NOT A GOOD SIGN.

I'm frustrated to the point where I just want to throw things or walk away from life and start over as, say, a hermit crab.

I keep trying new things to get myself to feel better. I map out the way my day should go in fifty different ways trying to get myself to do what I know will help improve life. I can't get myself to do what I need to. I can accomplish maybe three things a day that I need to, but that leaves maybe seven left that I didn't get done that day that should be done EVERY DAY. And so I accomplish things and it's never enough and all I hear is how I'm a failure and I can't seem to break out of it. I can't seem to stick with things or follow through on plans to just Be Better.

A lot of this comes from being an adult child of an alcoholic. Here's a good link to a description of what that's like. At least I didn't become an alcoholic or marry one, but the majority of the rest applies. The other source of my angst is being a stay-at-home mom. I love my kids, but I'm a college educated woman who wants to do something else besides change diapers and clean my house all day every day day after day with no hope of reprieve in the next decade. And I absolutely feel that I'm doing a poorer job at raising my kids than I should. I'm given to frustration and anger easily, and my kids watch television all day while I sit on the computer and blog and chat with people on the other side of the United States so I can have a semblance of a social life that's at a safe distance.

It's not that I don't try to take steps to get better. I try to exercise. Tomorrow I'm hauling my turkey-filled carcass (ha. my joke for the day) to the gym with my sister-in-law at 5 a.m. to learn to do a real workout the professional way and map out a diet with exact food measurements. I'm pretty good at keeping commitments to other people (since I value them more highly than myself) so I will at least be guaranteed a few workouts this week and maybe have another attempt at getting my kids and I on an earlier sleeping schedule. Going to bed at 2 in the morning is not healthy.

Also, making generalized "this is how to not be depressed" posts are decidedly LAME. So they're going to stop. This is my blog. It's here to help ME. If it helps you, great. If you don't want to read it, then bugger off.

Also, you may have noticed. I'm an angry person. I hide it well, and maybe that's one of my problems. I'm pissed off that my parents couldn't get their act together and raise me properly. I'm pissed off at my grandparents for being the total jackasses who raised my parents to be so screwed up. Between both sides of the family I think every form of abuse is covered. Now that I'm a parent I understand more how my parents did so much better than their parents did, and how much they must have struggled and continue to struggle. I'm more like them than I realize. And I remember absolutely hating them as a teenager and swearing that I would never be like them when I grew up. And here I am, almost a mirror image of my mother, struggling with the same self-esteem issues she has. I realize that if I'm ever going to accept myself, then I must accept my parents and grandparents and forgive them. But I do not have to continue the cycle of destruction.

I've read a lot about adult children of alcoholics. I've read about the trials of motherhood. I don't think my parenting will improve until my self-image improves: depression is too destructive and knocks me down to square one about every other day. Right now my kids cry and what I hear from it is, "I'm crying because you're a bad parent/person." when all they want is a toy or something. I've read about how instability in alcoholic families creates defense mechanisms or warped versions of reality in a kid's brain. What I haven't read about is what to do to change it.

Therapy doesn't seem to be helping anymore. Maybe I need to readdress the issue of "I'm an adult child of an alcoholic, what do I do about relearning the things I learned as a kid?" I go back in tomorrow. I'll try that. And I won't settle for, "Well, what do you think you should do about it?" or "How does it affect your life?" which are my therapist's favorite answers. Give me information, not more questions. That route helped with some things, but I think it's exhausted now.

I've read about codependency, which seems to be a big problem with adult children of alcoholics. It used to be a big problem for me. You get your kicks by having other people need you, and when their day goes wrong you take it as a personal failure. I ended up distancing myself from everybody and while sometimes I probably come off as heartless, I think it may be better this way. I can sympathize with people having a bad day, but that's the end of it.

I realize I'm jumping around topics. Sorry.

So what did we learn today? We learned that this blog is mine and I will use it for my benefit instead of trying to please everybody. We learned that I need to bring up the topic of how to relearn thinking patterns in my next therapy session tomorrow. We learned just how (really really) pissed off I still am. We learned that I need to do more research of my own into Life After Alcoholism or whatever you want to call it.

Also, anyone who wants to be mopey about me cutting them out of my life when all they are is depressing to me can bugger off. I don't need your guilt trips. I can't handle your depression when I'm struggling with my own, and I'm not hanging around someone who's poisoning me just out of a sense of guilt.

Depression is like quicksand. You gotta keep moving forward, or else you sink.

An Article on Frustration <- A good article on frustration, which describes how I feel most of the time. I'm posting it here so I can share it and also so I can find it and expound on it later.

I hope everyone had a good Thanksgiving. I'm thankful that a lot of research and article writing has been done already on the topics of frustration and depression. That way I know I'm not alone and there's help for me. :)

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Learn to Recognize Irrational Thoughts

Studies show that people who are depressed often have irrational thoughts. Irrational thoughts can cause depression, like the belief that you have to be perfect. Logic states that being perfect is impossible, so striving for an impossible goal can only cause failure.

Depression can also cause irrational thoughts and reactions. For example, if you are at home on a Friday night and no one calls, a logical thought is, "My friends are busy. Maybe I should call them." A depressed person in the same situation may think irrationally, "No one has called because no one likes me. I'm never going to go out ever again."

Learning to recognize irrational thoughts is critical in fighting depression and trying to return to a normal life and healthy state of mind. Recognizing thoughts that cause depression is the first step in changing those thoughts. For example, a person who believes she has to be perfect might set one or two reasonably accomplishable goals and say, "I know I can't be perfect in all things, but I can be perfect in these few things that I think are most important, and that will be enough for me to be happy with myself."

Recognizing irrational thoughts that are caused by depression is a good way to dismiss them instead of accepting them as fact. Some good warning signs of irrational thoughts are when you find yourself using absolute terms like: never, no one, always, only, every, etc. For example, "No one likes me," and "I'm never going to get it right." Also, one should be wary of any self-degrading thoughts such as, "I'm a bad person." Those kind of thoughts are almost always irrational.

Fighting irrational thoughts caused by depression may be a matter of countering them with positive thoughts, avoiding thinking entirely, or trying to pinpoint and resolve the source of those thoughts. When you're in a good mood you can write down a list of the things you like about yourself or the things you are successful at. Post this list in a place you can see it when you're depressed. If you can't think of anything you like about yourself, you can ask friends or family members to write down a list of things they like about you and post that instead. Another idea for fighting irrational thoughts is to take your mind off of what's bothering you entirely. You can do this by reading a book, watching television, calling a friend and listening to what their day has been like, or engaging yourself in some other activity that keeps your brain too busy to think of other nasty things to say. The hardest but possibly most rewarding technique for fighting irrational thoughts is to track down their source and resolve them there. For example, women who irrationally think they are unattractive can probably track the source of this belief to all the videos, magazines, and people who have told them, "An attractive woman is slim, well-endowed, with flawless skin, hair and makeup." I don't really know what to do about resolving this problem. Perhaps you can use the same solution from a previous example and decide, "I'm going to set my goals to have a healthy weight, my hair done, and my makeup done every day. If I reach those three goals then I will consider myself attractive."

Let me be clear on one thing, though: DO NOT MAKE MAJOR DECISIONS WHEN YOU'RE THINKING IRRATIONALLY. This may include but is not limited to ending or beginning major relationships, harming yourself or others, quitting a job or school, moving, etc. If you feel the need to make a major decision, check it with someone who is thinking rationally and has a good track record for making good decisions.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Exercise Eases Depression and Anxiety

This article from the Mayo Clinic talks about how exercise can help ease depression and anxiety by producing mood-enhancing chemicals in the brain. Thirty minutes of exercise three times a week is ideal, but just ten minutes of exercise can help in the short term to improve mood.

So what do you do for exercise? You can take a brisk walk around the block. You can remember what you did in gym class in high school: ten sit-ups, ten push-ups, ten jumping jacks, jog in place for two minutes, jump rope for two minutes, lift weights for two sets of ten for each set of muscles.

Maybe I should take my own advice and do the things I just wrote about. :)

Friday, November 14, 2008

Know Thine Enemy

The National Institute of Mental Health has a great article on depression's definition, causes, symptoms, treatments, and more. To sum it up, depression is when you feel so sad that you can't function normally anymore. Nobody knows exactly what causes depression, but there seem to be a lot of contributing factors. Also, there are a lot of things you can do to treat depression.

My goal is to look in-depth at each of the potential contributing factors and treatments of depression, so stay tuned for more.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

I'm starting this blog because there are days, weeks, months, and even years when I've just wanted to lay on the floor and cry the whole day or lash out at anything and everything that comes near me. It's not a good way to live, and I'm tired of it. Really, really tired of it. So I'm going to kick the habit.

I realize there are a lot of possible contributing factors to depression. I'm going to try to find the clinical research surrounding each contributing factor and the suggested remedy for each.

For today, it's enough to make the decision that I will not live this way anymore. It's the first step to a better life, one where I'm actually living instead of just surviving.