Bare (Part V)


"I am terrified that you are going to put me on medication," I said.

Janey rocked a bit in her swivel-office chair and, the yellow notepad in her lap, and looked at me. This was my third session, and I had a fairly fierce love/hate relationship with the fact that I could and had to be completely honest with the woman. My first session had been encouraging. Clensing. My second session had been devastating.

I had no idea what to expect from the third.

But I knew with severe certainty that I did NOT want drugs. Happy pills are the worst kind of misnomer. Hormones can be delicate, and drugs are usually harsh. Like trying to clean a lace doily with acid. I knew from witnessing loved ones deal with it that finding the right drug dosage and combination is a brutal and frustrating dance - and there just was never any kind of guarantee. Seemed to me the only answer was always trial-by-error.

And I get drunk on asprin.

I still didn't really know where I stood. I knew I couldn't expect an all-encompassing diagnosis and plan of attack after one session, but I still wanted it. I still wanted to be told exactly and explicitly just how crazy I was.

On a scale from one to ten, Stepper, with one being transcending enlightenment and existing in a warm bubble of never failing wisdom and ten being drooling on the padded walls of your cell, you are a...

But where I wanted something as concrete as a number, I was allowed only the impression of a color.

Toward the conclusion of our first session (and several pages of yellow note paper) Janey told me, "I'm going to diagnose you with depression." I felt immediate relief followed by dread at this. A brief answer followed by an onslaught of difficult questions. The word didn't surprise me. It's what Bill and I had been suspecting. But now it was an official diagnosis. No guessing. Real. There was something real wrong with me. I had a broken brain. But...I was sitting there, on that couch, looking at Janey looking at me. It was as though I was slammed with a leaden weight at the same time I was given a map to lead me to where I might safely (and permanently?) drop it off.

"Okay," I said.

"The insurance companies like it stated as something clearly diagnosed so they know how to process the claim."

I nodded. Okay. Maybe I was borderline. Maybe I had to carry the label for insurance purposes, but Janey believed my case to still be inconclusive.

So, at the beginning of my third session, not knowing whether I was in for an hour of cleansing or one of devastation, I announced it as fact, but meant it as a plea - I don't want drugs!

Janey tilted her jaw and half smiled at me. "I won't put you on medication," she said, "IF you do your homework."

My homework had been (and still is, among many other things) 3 things and then 5 things.

The 3 things were the bare essentials. They meant survival. They were non-negotiable.
  1. Self
  2. Serve
  3. Spirit
In essence, they are:  1. Do something for yourself each day. Not something someone else would consider for yourself - something honestly for yourself. Be it 20 minutes of your favorite novel, a warm bubble bath, a walk through the garden, or just sitting on the couch alone to think for 15 minutes. It has to be something that truly replenishes you.

2. Do something for someone else each day. For mothers, this one comes very easily. We spend our entire day doing for our tiny people, and that absolutely counts. But only if it's done with the attitude of actual service, meaning you are doing it because you love them and not because if you didn't put their shoes on for them, they'd procrastinate until the last second and then panic because we're getting into the car and now they can't find their shoes and WWIII may have just started. It's an important distinction. You may still have to prevent WWIII, because, come on. When it's time to go, it's time to go. You may not always have the luxury of letting the kid make the mistake to learn from it. But this won't count as your daily act of love given to another.

3. Do something spiritual. For me, this can mean prayer, scripture study, reading a conference talk or ensign article, doing my visiting teaching, prepping FHE - there are lots of avenues available to me for my spiritual check-mark. If you're not a religious person, this could mean meditating, going on a bike ride up the canyon, etc. Something to awaken that deep inner self to that awesome sense of connectedness. That sounds new-agey when I read it, but you know what I mean. Be it Alma or Yoga (or both!), give your soul some exercise.

These three things are essential for human balance. If you don't do these three things, you will topple. If you do, you have a chance at a balanced life.

The next five things are five habits for daily life - moving beyond mere survival and into trying to be reliably calm, centric, and happy. I describe this as my desire to be emotionally consistent - especially for my children. This doesn't mean that I won't get mad or sad - but that these trickier emotions won't bowl me over and hand me over to the mercy of my own emotions. So, for example, when the small person knocks the bottle of nail polish onto the white carpet (I have not experienced this, thankfully), I have the presence of self in the moment to not FREAK OUT.

5 Habits of Happy People:
  1. Consistent Sleep
  2. Eliminate Carbs & Processed Sugar
  3. Exercise
  4. Direct Sunlight
  5. Journaling
Some of these are more obvious - I particularly like #4 and #5 because huh! But shall I elaborate a bit on each habit?

Consistent sleep doesn't necessarily mean you get 8 hours per night. Not everyone needs that (I do!). What it means is that you become predictable with your sleep patterns. Your bod will thank you! So if you can't get to bed until 1AM and you have to be up by 6, do that. But then do it the next night, too. And the next. Our bodies are wonderfully (and terribly!) adaptable. It'll learn to maximize the sleep you give it if you can be consistent.

(I know there's lots of science surrounding the concept of sleep - I'm not suggesting 3 hours per night is okay as long as you do it every night. What I am suggesting - and what I believe this habit is suggesting - is that you learn what your body needs, and then give it that. Every night. And if you have to fudge it because of a demanding schedule, at least be good enough to your bod to fudge it consistently so your bod has the chance to learn the new pattern and adapt.)

(By the way, totally being a pot or a kettle, here. Take your pick.)

Eliminating Carbs and Processed sugar is more obvious. Carbs and sugar cause spikes and, consequently, dips in blood sugar levels, which relate DIRECTLY to moods. A stable blood-sugar level = a more stable person.

Exercise is good for lots of reasons. Blood flow to the brain, better energy levels, confidence, and those sweet, sweet endorphins.

Direct sunlight was the hardest one for me. The sun and I do not get along. But you need vitamin D, apparently. And the best way to get it is directly from the sun. The stuff you get in pills doesn't cut it. Doesn't absorb the same or something. So, go sit by an open window! The rule 30 minutes per day. You can get it all at once (a walk around the park!) or spread throughout the day. 3 10 minute intervals is totally approved.

And Journaling - which is my favorite of the habits! When you write things out, you process them differently. Scientific fact. It is HEALTHY and GOOD for you to write about your day. You don't have to be a good writer, and it doesn't have to be extensive - just a daily habit.

Raise of hands - how many of you have written about something that's been on your mind in your journal/blog/old Costco receipt or whatever, and have come out on the other side of it understanding better your feelings and your position on the matter? 

So there you have it. During my first weeks in therapy, this was my homework. I still work on them, now - these are lifelong habits, people. I was surprised and delighted by how simple and obvious these things sounded. Doing these 8 things alone each day would keep me at a safe distance from scary meds? Score!

But it has proven to be more difficult than I thought. There are so many demands pressed upon us each day. So many ways and reasons to bump ourselves to the last of the list, again. It is actually REALLY HARD to get every single one of these things in to a day. Go ahead and try it! I challenge you.

Because the idea is that we can't keep putting ourselves last. We hear it all the time, but the fact is, we really do need to love ourselves enough to take care of ourselves. Because no matter how much someone else loves us, nobody else can be responsible for loving us enough to really get the job of taking care of ourselves done.

Holy crapola, did that make any sense at all?

I mentioned I'm 28 weeks pregnant, right? This baby is going to be SMART because my brain is swiss cheese these days. I defy anyone who suggests that pregnancy-brain is not a real thing. I defy them by admitting as a case-in-point that for nearly this whole pregnancy, I thought June came AFTER July. I cannot add to save my life. I got lost the other night driving from one end of my city to the other - on a road that is usually a straight line.

So I write this thing in pieces and hope it will all come together nicely baked at the end.

Like soul pizza.


Teresa Clark - Storyteller said...

Love this - shared it with my daughters. You are my hero for so honestly telling this story.

Emily said...

"Soul pizza" may be my new favorite phrase. Also, amen for sunlight. And exercise. (Maybe someday I'll give up the processed carbs & sugar.)

SuzQuez said...

I've SO been there. Just by an open window isn't enough. Windows can have protective shields built in against the sunlight. MAKE yourself take a short walk right after lunch (my husband drops me off 4 blocks away and I walk home). Walk the baby. I had a nervous breakdown with 3 little ones and overdoing it. My "for me" thing was taking singing lessons. Write me anytime.