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perkreations

Honesty about creativity, art, mental illness, grief, feminism, human rights and chronic pain with a healthy dose of sarcasm

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mindfulness

My Experience with Ruminating

I am 12 years old and competing in my first national curling championship. My team is getting ready to play the New Brunswick team and I am excited. They’re a really fun team and I’ve been looking forward to this game for days.

Ten minutes prior to going on the ice I’m all dressed up in my curling kit and stretching out. My coach and the other, older, 3 players approach me and ask me to sit this game out so our 5th player can have a chance to play a game.

I instantly deflate and mention how I’ve been looking forward to the game and that I’m all geared up to go. I ask if it could be a different game I sit out. They all say, “no, this is the only one that will work.”

They add comments like; “I’d do it if I could but I can’t. I have to play.”

I’m near tears, I feel like I’m being ambushed and guilted at the last minute. I decide to hold my ground and play. Bad decision.

My teammates won’t talk to me. They cross to the other side of the ice if I try to stand near them. I feel wretched. I am in tears for most of the game even after my teammates are told to stop shunning me. 

I feel as though my soul is bursting with guilt. I should have let the 5th play. What kind of selfish asshole am I? 

This is a story that haunts me frequently. Is rattles round, and round my adult mind and I want beat myself senseless for this wrongdoing I did at age 12. 

This happened 25 fucking years ago and I’m still coming back to it over and over. It’s a bizarre form of mental self flagellation. There are days when I ruminate about this and other things so obsessively I cry hysterically because I’m so disappointed in myself.

The child in me imagines what would have happened had I not been so selfish. I want to take that time back and fix it. I deserved to be shunned.

The adult in me sees the difficult position I was put in. I was asked no more than 10 minutes before the game. I was already in the zone. We should have decided as a team which game I would sit out prior to the event. Then I’d have been prepared. Also, I was only 12! My teammates were 14, 17, and 19. Perhaps I didn’t deserve to be shunned. Alas, this rational assessment rarely does anything to cut out the guilt.

It seems when I’m mentally tired thoughts such as the above gain repetitive status. Like a tv stuck on one channel and forever repeating the same short story endlessly. No escape. I simply cannot seem to let these thoughts go.

Often if I do manage to let a thought go I find something else to dwell on. I even have guilt from grade one I occasionally go back to! 

Admittedly I’m poor company when I’m heavily ruminating. I vasilate between being distant and unable to focus socially and asking questions about what I’m ruminating about for reassurance. The reassurance only lasts so long before I’m back to the same self-induced, navel-gazing bloodbath I started with.

Sometimes I ruminate about several of my transgressions in rotation. This allows me to beat myself up relentlessly for a number of wrongs I’ve done.

How do I snap myself out of this type of thinking. Sometime’s painting works or another distraction complex enough to take up extra space in my mind like puzzles or brain teasers.

Often I’ll write about the situation bothering me and force myself to read it with older and wiser? eyes. This allows me to also write out the parts I did correctly and what I would change if I could.

Sometimes to cope, I’ll apologize for something I did years ago. Often the person I apologize to has no idea what I’m talking about as they’ve long moved on.

Sometimes, despite trying to use my coping skills, I still manage to slip from ruminating into a panic attack and eventually I resort to anti-anxiety meds. I then must try not to feel guilty for being so weak that I had to take meds – even though I’d never think of anyone else as weak for taking meds when needed.

Ruminating is an afliction I’ve long dealt with. Forever second guessing myself, forever, finding things to punish myself for. It’s part of my mental illness and part of me. I do my best not to slip into the past too often. I try to stay present, be mindful, but sometimes these thoughts of past wrongdoings sneak in and OCCUPY my mind like it’s Wall Street in 2011.

K

 

Psychiatric Meds are a Personal Choice

Panic attacks and depression are beastly and I’ve chosen assistance when it comes to slaying my dragons. I admit to needing help, help of the chemical kind, in order to move as close to wellness as I can get. There is absolutely no shame in this.

Roughly 10 years ago I began having acute, up-all-night-pacing, ugly-crying, hand-wringing, worry-looping, vomit-inducing, panic attacks. I was living on a razors edge. At first I thought I’d try to handle the problem “naturally”. 

I prowled through health food stores, begging for assistance from the resident naturopaths. I plunked my money down for any tea, herb, or supplement recomended. Some seemed to help briefly, but the effect was never lasting for me.

I tried alternative healing methods such as reiki, scent therapy, accupunture, accupressure, censory depravation flotation and crystal healing. I changed my diet, I cut out caffeine, I yoga-ed, I wrote in my journal, I cried in my bath tub, I screamed into my pillow, I practiced mindfulness and I meditated. Some of it helped. Some of it didn’t.

Under Dr’s supervision I eventually began taking the phamacutical Cymbalta on a daily basis to help me combat both the anxiety and depression and using Clorazapate for more acute emotional crisis such as panic attacks. This combo, along with bits and pieces of the treatments listed above seemed to work for me, at least for a while.

My first admission into the psychiatric ward for severe depression and anxiety came with the addition of a daily dose of Wellbutrin for extra assistance. During my 2nd and most recent admission both the Cymbalta and Wellbutrin were increased slightly.

These are the meds that work for me now. There are, literally, hundreds, if not thousands of mental health related meds on the market. Finding the correct cocktail can be an arduous task as medication types and dosage differ for everyone and needs can change as life marches on. Remember pharmacists can be an excellent, and often overlooked, resource when it comes to offering options and ideas Dr’s may not have heard of yet or thought of.

Side effects are also a reality when trying anything new. Sometimes they go away after getting used to a new regime. Sometimes side effects are permanent and one must weigh the benefits versus the detractors.

I don’t love taking phamacuticals but I think of it as a means to not ending my life. Perhaps someday I’ll be able to cut down dosages, maybe even taper off entirely. That would be wonderful. In the meantime I am doing what I feel is best under the advisement of healthcare professionals I trust.

Treatment for psychiatric illness, for any long-term illness, is complicated and involves a very personal series of decisions. Every patient has unique needs and I would never claim to know what’s right for anyone other than myself. 

What I do know for sure is, as a patient, I must never be passive when it comes to my treatment. I need to research as much as I can. I must advocate passionately, honestly, and tirelessly for what I need because, while I am not a Dr, I am the one who has to live with each decision made about my healthcare. Never forget to be your own advocate because nobody knows how you feel better than you.

K

Enough

So, after a two month stay in the hospital for severe depression and what turned out to be a severly low hemoglobin count I’ve been at home for more than a month. I’m feeling better about my life in general. In fact, most days, the prospect of getting out of bed doesn’t feel so overwhelming I suspect my head will explode.

Yeah me!

I think I’m actually on the mend. I owe a huge debt of gratitude to my friends and family who’ve been supportive and caring in so many wonderful ways during this difficult time. I also owe heaps of thanks to the many kind and patient Dr’s and Nurses and hospital staff.

I’ve been doing well at keeping my expectations realistic. I’ve been spending a lot of time indulging in long-lost rituals of self-care, and self-love. And I’ve been trying to function in a manner that gives love back into my community. 

But I’m not on top of it all yet. I could easily make a list pages and pages long of gratitude I owe and people I haven’t reconnected with and visits postponed and how I CANNOT EVEN FIND THE STRENGTH TO CONSISTENTLY CONTRIBUTE TO THIS BLOG OF MINE!

Now, as my heart pounds with panic and my brain feels like a hampster on a wheel going full speed towards… what?

This is where I must give my head a shake and go back to being that self-loving, gratitude-having, nurturing person I was at the top of this page.

So, I will publish this little snapshot of how I’m doing a month and a bit after release from the psychiatric ward and I will say to myself, “This, all of this, is better than it was and that is enough for now.”

K

Passion Practice 

Author Malcolm Gladwell posits to gain expertise at something one must put in roughly 10,000 hours of practice and study.

I believe I have my 10,000 in many aspects of curling. I believe I have roughly 10,000 hours accumulated in writing and reading but I feel I could do with another 50,000 hours of study before obtaining the expertise in literature and how to craft prose without sounding like a poseur. 

I was recently asked by someone trying to get a feel for how serious I am about art,”When did you last make art?,”  

I immediately replied, “last night before bed. I try to practice drawing and/or painting every day.”

I’ve been asked about this too with regards to writing and the answer is generally the same. I work hard to practice whatever I want to gain skill at every single day whenever possible because, for me, this is what keeps me moving closer to competence and , eventually, expertise. 

I find my confidence grows the more I practice. I try to vary my studies. I read a bizarrely broad range of books. I try writing in as many genres as possible. With art I experiment with as many different mediums and styles as I can.

Sure there is reading material I prefer but I try to mix it up in order to see what I might be missing. I am often surprised to find myself enjoying things I felt skeptical about at first.

There are also styles of writing I enjoy but I try everything from Haiku to science fiction. Again I am always surprised to find myself enjoying an unexpected new writing style. Art is also always surprising me. The more I learn, the more I grow to llove the practice.  

My wish is that everyone has a chance to work towards exploration, achievement, and advanced knowledge in whatever one finds a passion for, be it anything from plumbing to flower arranging.

Knowledge is power, skills are transferable and practice is a huge part of growing and learning and stoking the passion within us all.

K

Meditative Drawing

I have been drawing these little bird characters off and on for about 6 years. I call them Strange Birds (kinda like me😉) and when I draw them in mass quantities they seem to put me into a semi-meditative state. While in this state I feel less pain, less anxiety, less depression and less grief.

Here is an example of a partially finished piece at the beak colouring stage. From here I will move on to add colour and more personality to each bird. Even making colour decisions has a calming effect.

Is this actually meditation? Perhaps not conventionally, but it works for me so I’m not going to knock it!

K

Finish Line

There’s something deeply satisfying about finishing. Finishing is a battle. I’ve learned I hate my art and my writing most right before I turn the corner and finish. 

It’s a struggle to stay with a project I think is nothing more than tripe, fit for no eyes or ears lest the looker/listener cry out in pain from the hideousness of it all (dramatically collapses on fainting chaise lounge).

The satisfying part is when I push and finally see the ugly duckling turn into a swan. There’re few better feelings than signing a piece of art work or seeing one’s byline in print because finishing is incredibly satisfying. 

The painting above is one I began a month or so ago. I showed a picture of it halfway finished at the I-fucking- hate-this-painting-and-can’t-believe- I’ve-wasted-so-much-time-on-it  (dramatic foot stomp and pout) stage. Truth be told that blog, entitled Finding A-MUSE-ment, was written, in part, to help me find the strength to power through and finish!

The finished painting above is titled Espressoscape as I cured the canvas in roughly 10 layers of coffee and espresso to start. I then used both coffee, espresso and acrylic ink for about another 10 layers for both light and dark areas, the shadows were laid in last with about 5 layers of espresso. It smells like the dreams of a Gilmore Girl❤❤❤

It was a really interesting project as I was making it up as I went along. I’m working on another similar and experimental piece where the canvas is cured in a combo of coffee, espresso and red wine. I’ll let you know how it works out😊

K

Are You, Unwittingly, Not Claiming Your Experience as Your Own?

“When I have a panic attack it feels like _____.”

Only one tiny word alteration changes how this sentence will be perceived, either consciously or unconsciously. Behold:

“When you have a a panic attack it feels like _____.”

Take a moment and think how each sentence makes you feel. Take another moment to consider the language you typically use?

Up until a few years ago when I entered group and individual therapy this extreme difference had never really had never given me pause. I was guilty of using you statements instead of I statements. The difference just hadn’t occurred to me until it was pointed out.

Once it was pointed out to me the gravity of such a small difference began to sink in and I began to notice it everywhere; in movies, TV shows, interviews on the news, in writing and everyday speech.

Unwittinly and without malice, many people are guilty of projecting their views and feelings onto others. Doing this, instead of recognizing the need to assume all viewpoints are subject to the unique thoughts and paradigm of each individual, can have a powerful effect on our psyche as individuals.  

As soon as I began to speak in I feel and in my experience type statements I began to notice significant and important changes in my interpersonal relationships. Others seemed more open to sharing their unique experiences and viewpoints. I also began to see my thoughts and opinions as important and, very much, my own, authentic.

If you haven’t already adopted this type of language shift I encourage you to give it a try. To start with, just listening to how others tell stories is helpful. Once the you epidemic is heard it can never be unheard and it is everywhere. 

Try slowly shifting your language to embrace taking ownership of your opinions and ideas as uniquely yours. I found, for me, it took a while to adopt this virtually all the time but the sense of accomplishment and, overall sense of authentic me-ness was worth the effort!

Remember we cannot change the actions and words of others but we do have the power to change ourselves.

I challenge you to try practicing the above dearest readers and let me know how this change makes you feel or let me know if you think this is just psychobabble hogwash😉

K

Whirlwind 

I feel like things are moving faster than I can handle. If I stop for a moment and allow my thoughts to stray into the future or back to the past I feel paralyzed with fear.

Sometimes when I look to the past I mostly think of situations I could have handled better or situations where I behaved like an ass or a moron.

I think of interactions in my recent past where I failed in my estimation. For instance, I ran into several old friends recently and my current situation came up and despite all my practice, all my determination to take control I gave more information away about my health than I wanted to. I failed to practice the answers I’ve been rehersing so I can stay in conversations, not feel uncomfortable, and hold my head up high.

When my thoughts stray to the future I get into the counting game. Maybe if I do really well I can be back to a full time job I enjoy in 6 months, maybe a year, but what if it takes longer? What if I never find anything I can support myself and family with that I’m passionate about? What if it all falls apart again?

I try so hard just to stay in the present to think about now and only now but I’m not always able to control my thoughts. I keep thinking being mindful of the present is the only way forward. I can feel the difference when I stick to this. I feel less worried, less terrified, less hopeless. 

I just don’t understand why I can’t maintain my grip on the now. Why do I constantly allow myself to be dragged to the unproductive parts of the past and future when I know it won’t help. I’m not an ouija board or a fucking magic 8-ball. 

Does anyone else have trouble maintaining mindfulness? What works for you and what doesn’t? I’m not looking for anyone to solve my problems but I could sure use some reassurance there is hope.

K

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