Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Hello Darkness, My Old Friend

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. I've decided that it's time to share a little about what's happening in my world right now. I've been transparent in the past about my battles with depression. I've been more reserved lately, because I just haven't had the energy to discuss my current situation. But since I know that our secrets keep us sick and that there's power in voicing those things that keep us shackled, I'm finally writing this down and making myself vulnerable again.

To give the Reader's Digest summary for those that haven't read my posts in the past about my history, I've struggled with depression since my teens. I have a very strong family history, with two suicides on my mother's side. My third diagnosed depression occurred in 2003. I was told then that I may need to be on medication indefinitely. However, in 2015, I noticed that I was forgetting to take my meds some days, even though I was feeling better than I'd ever felt. I decided maybe I'd try to live life Prozac-free.

Last year was really difficult for me. Pierce's graduation from high school was totally overwhelming as we now have to figure out how to parent an adult with autism. Reagan's junior year has been challenging for ALL of us. Then, winter hit. It was one of the most cold, gray, and wet ones in recent history. Winter has always been tough for me, even when I was on meds. I look forward to Spring every year; as the plants and animals awaken, so do I. Only this year, the awakening didn't come.

I had no interest in attending the Nashville Lawn and Garden show. This is, for me, a highly anticipated event. I missed it for the first time in about 12 years. The things that used to bring me such joy (singing, gardening, dance workouts, church) became laborious.  I was crying every day, but since my job is in retail, I crammed all that sadness down as deep as I could and put on the happy customer-friendly face. I thought that Spring should be bringing me all the happiness that winter sucked away from me, but it wasn't happening, and to me, that meant that I was broken. When I started thinking that I would be in a better place if I just didn't wake up tomorrow, or imagining dying in a car crash and feeling relieved that my pain would be over, I knew it was time to tell Tim that this was more serious than just "winter blues".

I don't have a happy end to this story yet. I'm back on medication, this time for life. It's a higher dose than I was on before. The crying has stopped, but the sadness is still there; I feel kinda numb and unable to express my feelings. I think the higher dose is also interfering with my sleep. It may need some tweaking. Spring in the garden center is BONKERS, and this Spring has just been all around harder than previous ones (depression aside), for various reasons. At the end of my day, I have nothing left in the tank for anyone or anything. I've been going to bed around 9 every night. Instead of a restful day off, I'm attending counseling every week. It's emotionally draining. There's A LOT of junk to unpack. Tim has been incredibly supportive, taking time out of his busy work schedule to accompany me on appointments.

Much like a high-functioning alcoholic, I consider myself pretty good at wearing the mask of normalcy. Many of you may have seen smiling pictures of me over the last few months and never knew anything was amiss. Like the picture above of me wearing a wig at a birthday party. Yep, I'd cried that day, and didn't feel at all like going to a party. But I did. I'd remind you that Robin Williams had such an incredible gift of making people laugh, but inside was a tortured soul that ultimately put his suffering to an end. Not that I'm comparing myself to the genius that was Robin Williams, but you catch my drift. Be gentle with me. Patient with me. My faith is shaken and I'm quite fragile, even if I seem to be handling things well. And most days, I don't want to talk about it. I'm working hard to get better. I thank God for the positive people in my life right now who are constantly whispering, "You're going to be okay" when I'm incapable of believing that myself. Please don't suffer in silence. Call your doctor or the suicide prevention hotline for help (1-800-273-8255).

Tuesday, March 27, 2018

True Story

Ladies, find a guy like this:
My kids are on Spring Break this week, which doesn’t mean a whole lot for me, since the garden center is just starting to get busy. But today is my day off (after a 6-day work week, I might add); kids would be sleeping in, and hopefully, so would I. I asked Tim for ONE THING for Spring Break: Please don’t schedule an early morning meeting for Tuesday. Once he’s up, I’m awake, and once he leaves, the dog goes crazy. Well, guess what he wasn’t able to avoid? Tim needed to be out of the house by 6:15 this morning. This dear, sweet man of mine slept on the couch last night and got ready this morning in the hallway bathroom so that he didn’t disturb me. Though the dog was frantic at the back door, my earplugs and Unisom helped me sleep through it until she gave up and went back to bed with Pierce (the pets can come and go through the pet door in our garage.). 

When I got up this morning, this was the story I wanted to tell, because I love Tim and want the world to know what a genuinely wonderful human being he is. I planned to end it there. BUT. We’ve had some discussions lately about how deceptive social media is. It’s hard to see all these fabulous travel pictures, praises about everyone’s super successful kids, testimonies about everything wonderful in your lives, when we’re struggling every day to put one foot in front of the other. My bad days still outweigh my good at the moment. 

I say all this to say, don’t read this story about Tim, or look at my Instagram pics of Things That Made Me Happy Today or my sweet kids, and think that's the complete story of our family. There’s a whole lot of other thoughts I’m keeping to myself right now. Things that are too raw and personal to talk about, really. Maybe you aren’t in the best place either. Maybe social media is bumming you out, too, and making you feel like everyone but you has this whole life-thing totally figured out. I want you to know I GET YOU. 

Friday, March 9, 2018

Big Brother

My daughter Reagan is a junior in high school. I haven't talked about her on my blog as much as I have her brother. This year, she is taking AP Lang, and recently wrote this essay about Pierce. You've heard a lot from me about parenting a child with autism, but I thought you'd appreciate a different perspective. Reagan has given her blessing and allowed me to share.

Reagan McKay
Narration Essay
AP Language and composition

Big Brother
I stepped out of the car into the humid evening air of July, my face rigid in an attempt to remain neutral. I wasn’t happy to be here, but I wasn't angry. Not yet. I tread through the parking lot alongside my father, listening to my brother sing to himself about a talking vegetable who had lost his hairbrush. He was dressed in a white button up shirt and dress pants, and only God knows if he knew why. As we strolled into our beloved church’s sanctuary my stomach dropped. Lively music was being played over the speakers, and on the screen were displayed the many faces of those who were about to depart from our body. We were there to say a final farewell to the now graduated class of 2017, as it was the end of a summer of lasts: last camps, last Otter Creek Sundays, last life groups, last youth group adventures. Senior Night was the throw of the cap in the graduation ceremony of an OCYG member, when your final camp had been completed and your last retreats long gone. This was all that was left in the process.

We took our places in the third pew from the front, my parents beginning to make small talk with some people I didn’t know well enough. I watched my big brother’s face with a sort of pity as he watched Veggietales on his phone, smiling with him as a silly green cartoon cucumber hopped across the screen. He rewound and replayed the same ten seconds over and over again, a finger pressed against his left earbud to insure he could hear better.

“Pierce is here!”

I looked up to see the familiar faces of the boys in Pierce’s grade as they travelled over to our pew, and Pierce pulled out his earbuds and waved. A huge grin spread itself across his face.

“Hi guys!”
“Pierce, you wanna come sit over there with us?”

As he gave them a simple yes in reply and jumped to his feet, the boys checked with my mother to make sure it was okay. She threw them the “Oh of course” she always did, and watched them all sit down together with a tearful smile. It was like any other church event, and to an outsider, it was just any other group of guys.

As the lights dimmed and the music faded, our youth minister came onto the stage. He thanked everyone for coming, welcomed a round of applause for the grads, and introduced a video that contained clips of different church members sending their thoughts and prayers for the seniors; thus, beginning the same spiel that I had begun to despise.

“We are so proud of all of you; we’re going to miss you; we know you’re going to be successful; don’t forget the lessons you’ve learned here; come back and visit when you can!”

My eyes darted over to my brother, folded in on himself staring down at the floor as he whispered nonsense movie lines to himself. My stomach boiled. Unable to stand it any longer, I rose from the pew, charging for the doors towards lobby. Hot tears were brimming the edges of my eyes; they came fast and hot and plentiful, for though it wasn’t the first time I had been hit with these feelings, it was the first time they had hit me with such force.

I couldn't comprehend why we were being forced to endure such a spectacle, for though my brother had graduated, it felt like it didn’t count. Everyone else had been saying goodbye, and all summer I had listened to the laments of girls who were losing their brothers and sisters to the call of college, yet they were so proud. I envied them. Everyone continued to pester us over where Pierce was headed, and it felt like a cruel jab every time. Pierce wouldn’t be going anywhere; he wouldn’t for a long time. I, his little sister, would all too soon be leaving before he did. He was trapped in the basement, tangled in computer cords, rewatching old veggietales DVDs that should have gone to goodwill, singing “Oh Where Is My Hairbrush” and “Barbra Manatee” day in and day out, without a care in the world. That was the best and worst part about it; though my parents and I grieved over unrealistic life goals we had hoped for him, he couldn’t give a care to the world. Pierce was both blessed and cursed, living with a childlike mind in a 19-year-old body, unable to see where he wasn’t going, yet so content and happy in where he was staying. Life in Brentwood would most likely be the only life he’ll know, for there are not many places a boy with autism like Pierce can travel.

I listened to boy’s names ebb though the open doors of the balcony, names of boys who were Pierce’s closest friends and guardians. They’d be leaving him, and he couldn’t follow. Maybe they’d visit, but it’d never be the same. My brother would never again have the same constant, inviting circle of boys he had right now, who were happy to invite him over to sit or take him out to the newest Disney movies. He would have me, my parents, and adults from church and school once he returned there for more learning in the fall. He’d never have any more guys his age there for him, and it made my heart ache then more than it ever had.

An hour later my family walked to the car together, my parents emitting a silence that I knew meant I’d done something wrong by fleeing. But as I looked upon my brother walking to the car, a hand cupped to his ear as he reenacted a line from the Pixar film, Finding Dory, “Dory, you are about to find your parents! And when you do that, you’ll be home,” I wanted so badly to give to my brother what I had. Opportunity, awareness, a life that was better than the one he had been dealt. I wanted to hurt and feel joy for him in the way everyone else got to for their siblings; missing them when they leave, crying with happiness when they marry. I’d never know these supposed luxuries.

In spite of all of it, however, I’m reminded that we were, and still sometimes continue to do all this hurting for a boy who wasn’t even hurt himself. It was all almost funny. We all wish we didn’t have to grow up, and in a way, my brother had the ultimate wish come true. As a friend of mine later put it, he’s always going to be with people who love him. He’ll never have to leave the shelter that we’d always known. And once I leave, he’ll always be there waiting for me.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Things That Made Me Happy In 2017

2017 is nearly over, so it's time to do what everyone does at the end of the year: Reflect on what I've accomplished, evaluate where I've been unsuccessful, and make a plan for next year. Every year, I make a list of goals, and every year, I fail at most of them. Three years ago, I made a goal that I actually managed to accomplish. I decided I needed to get healthy, and I lost a total of 35 pounds. Now, I have fallen off of the wagon a couple of times (the holidays completely wreck all sense of willpower) and put a few pounds back on, but I manage to shed them once I start eating healthy again and the Spring season at the garden center kicks my butt. This is one of those very few New Year's Resolutions I consider a win.

This past year, I had a list of things I wanted to do. I failed to complete the majority of that list, as usual. BUT, the number one thing on my "need" list, written in all caps, was to FIND MY JOY. My first approach was taking on the Complaint-Free World challenge. That involved wearing a bracelet and switching it to the other wrist every time I complained about something/someone. The goal was to make it 21 days straight without moving the bracelet. I was not successful with this challenge. Like, didn't even make it more than 2 days in a row. However, it did make me work harder to stop complaining. Through January, while the country seemed to be in a tailspin of despair (I can't help thinking of a certain Hee-Haw sketch when I hear the words "gloom" or "despair"), I struggled to keep my head above water. One day, I thought about all of the small details that had cheered me up throughout the day. My mood seemed to improve. I decided I would practice writing down these little gems every day for a month. Thus, the Things That Made Me Happy Today project began in February. In 2017, I have journaled every day since February 1st. I've filled up two books, and part of another. I also found an article on bullet journaling about how to chart your mood daily. There was a handful of days that I forgot to document, so I had to go back and guess, but I have a color-coded chart for the entire year. This practice has dramatically changed how I perceive my day. It has helped me to let go of anger or frustration I felt about something that may have happened to me, and put it all into perspective when I list the positive things about my day. I'm more likely to consider the day "good" or "ok" instead of a total wash because of a couple of bad incidents. I've spent the day reading all of my happy lists from this year. Here's my Top 20 Things That Made Me Happy in 2017. Of course, there were LOTS of other things that made my lists throughout the year, but these topics showed up the most consistently. They are listed in no particular order.  

There are things I wish I'd been able to add more often, and others I wish didn't have as much prominence. I'll be working to change that in 2018. 

Actions besides journaling that I took in an effort to find my joy:

  • I dropped a couple of activities that were bringing me more stress than happiness.
  • I found an alternate route home from work so that I avoid the interstate completely. That has made a WORLD of difference in my mood during the afternoon commute.  
  • Tim and I made an effort to fit in a date night every week (usually Sunday nights). We also scheduled 3 weekend get-aways instead of taking one vacation for just the two of us. We aimed for 4, but it was a little too difficult with my work schedule.

Has the practice of journaling turned me into a 24/7 happy person? Absolutely not. There were still days that filled me with sorrow and angst in 2017. Trying to adjust to parenting an adult with autism and facing all of the uncertainty that comes with the territory has been difficult, to say the very least. Raising a teenager is lots of fun but also quite terrifying and, at times, aggravating. Cutting out some activities has given me more time at home with Tim and the kids, and that has been wonderful. In doing so, however, I now feel disconnected and isolated from friends and church family. Have I misled you on social media and painted a rosy picture? I certainly hope not, and I don't believe I have. We've had some struggles this year, and I feel like I've been honest about that. If your perception of me and my family is that we are completely carefree, I apologize. I never want to sugar-coat a situation or deliver a false reality. On the other hand, there are NUMEROUS frustrations that I could've told you about and chose not to. I've seen these negative posts on social media, and, while they may allow the person posting to vent, it also whips their followers into a furious mob: "Yeah, I HATE that, too!!!" "If I were you, I'd have handled that with *insert with angry retort or violent reaction here*!!!" The poster may feel vindicated, but lots of their followers are angry, sometimes for no good reason. Instead, I tried (and many days I had to try harder than others) to share the positive in my life. I mainly wanted to stop myself from knee-jerk responses to those daily annoyances that happen to all of us. I am truly humbled by the comments I've gotten from so many of you. I've been told that my happy posts make YOU happy; that you look forward to seeing them on Facebook or Instagram. Those reactions are Things That Make Me Happy Today, too.

Some statements during a recent sermon have stuck with me: "We like to be around hopeful people. We want to be around people who stand for hope and possibility." If you find your friend group shrinking, "What do you exude? What are you pouring into people? Joy? Encouragement? Hope?" Before I get comments about it, I'm obviously not talking to people that are struggling with a mental illness right now. Your brain is literally unable to see things in a positive light. Trust me, I know. For the rest of you out there, you can't choose how you feel, but you CAN choose how you react. I love the quote, "Promote what you love instead of bashing what you hate" (origin unknown). I am challenging you in your daily social media interactions, heck, even in your face-to-face interactions. Before you spew about the jerk that cut you off in traffic, or rant about the horrible customer service you just received, or tear down the latest celebrity that's done something shocking, or whine about something frustrating that your spouse or kids did, or share that political meme as a way of shaming those who voted differently than you, pause for just a moment and think about what you are "pouring into people". It is extremely hard to positively interact on social media all of the time. But I think we ALL can do a better job. Joy is choice. Negativity is choice. May we all choose wisely. I hope all of you will join me in my challenge to document the Things That Made Me Happy Today. I already have a new journal, one that has enough pages to last me all of 2018, and two new packs of colorful markers (also pictured is a new planner and an instructional book for a new hobby I want to try).

I am ridiculously happy about these new markers. They definitely made it onto a happy list. May you all have a very HAPPY New Year!

Friday, December 1, 2017

Never A Dull Moment

I don't have a single picture of our honeymoon. Why? I'm not sure, exactly. I owned a camera at the time, though it was pretty darn cheap. We were young, broke college kids. We'd been gifted a week of timeshare at a place in Lake Lure. In winter. I decided on a Christmas wedding, because after 2 1/2 years of dating we were, quite frankly, too anxious to wait until the following spring to get married (as we had originally planned), moving in together was definitely out of the question, and we knew we wouldn't have any more money in May than we had that December, so why wait another 6 months? Besides a candlelit tour of the Biltmore at Christmastime, there wasn't a lot of sightseeing on that honeymoon, therefore, hardly any scenery worthy of a photo. Sometimes I kick myself for not asking someone to take a picture of the two of us at dinner, or the place we stayed, or even the dang Biltmore House in all of its Christmas glory. 

As we approach our 24th wedding anniversary, I think of all those moments in our life that I failed to document. In 1993, we weren't equipped with camera phones, always prepared to capture life's most significant events. No one was there to snap a picture of Tim proposing to me in my dorm room, not that I would've wanted an audience, anyway. No elaborate, romantic, well-thought-out proposal. Just a 19-year-old kid, down on one knee, pretending to find something in my laundry bag, and trying to put the ring on my right hand instead of my left. Would I have wanted something more dramatic? Of course; I was a hopelessly romantic, 18-year-old girl. I did have my very own customized ring, though; Tim's stepdad, who happened to be a jeweler, designed my ring using a sapphire from my mother-in-law's first wedding ring and a couple of cubic zirconia stones (did I mention we were broke?).

There are other things from early in our relationship that I wish I'd documented in pictures:
-The cars Tim and I were driving when we were dating
-Tim (or both of us, actually) on his motorcycle
-The site of our first date 
-The dorm where Tim proposed to me
-Pictures from our time together at Clemson
-Our first apartment in Clemson
-The coffee table that Tim built using PVC pipe, and old mirror, and dark green spray paint
-The dryer we inherited that required a bungee cord wrapped around the door for it to work
-The couple of places I worked while Tim finished school (daycare, discount eyeglass place)
-The craptastic apartment we rented when we first moved to Nashville

We traveled back to our hometown recently for Thanksgiving. Tim and I grew up together, though we weren't really friends until the months before we started dating. There's a comfort that can't be explained knowing that, with the exception of the first 3 years or so of our lives, and the year Tim was at Clemson and I was still in high school, we've never lived more than a few miles apart. We shared some of the same elementary, middle, and high school teachers, though not at the same time, since Tim was a year older. We felt so very old driving around town and pointing out buildings and locations to our kids, saying, "That used to be a Blockbuster. The Fast Fare used to be right on that corner. We used to play with kids in this neighborhood. The lot where those apartments are used to be a giant field of kudzu." One of the first things that greeted us as we got off of the interstate, was the Bi-Lo grocery store on Reidville Road. Tim and I expressed surprise that it still exists, since so many other things have changed over the years. We told the kids that this was the place where our romance began. You see, one night, Tim had stopped at the Bi-Lo to cash his McDonald's paycheck. He managed to lock himself out of his truck. My family had stopped at the Bi-Lo to grab something (can't remember what) on our way home from church on a Wednesday night. When my parents got back in the car, I pointed out Tim McKay, a guy from my math class, and that he seemed to be locked out of his truck. Dad drove over and asked if he could help, but Tim said that his stepdad was already on his way. As we left, my mom asked me all kinds of questions about him and gushed over how cute she thought he was. Fast forward a month or so to prom season, and I was whining about not having a date. Mom suggested that I could ask that cute guy from the Bi-Lo parking lot if I REALLY wanted to go that badly. She kept pestering me, until I finally said I'd ask him (with little hope that he'd actually want to go with a geeky junior like myself). I passed him a note one day after class, because I was WAY too shy to ask him face to face; he called me that afternoon to accept. And here we were, driving past that same Bi-Lo more than 26 years after that encounter. Reagan suggested we get a picture. So on our way out of town, we drove into the parking lot, and I snapped this picture with my phone.

It wasn't until I had kids and became an avid scrapbooker that I realized the importance of documenting our life, for us and for future generations. The older I get, the more nostalgic I become. I want to savor every moment of time together, and I want to remember what we've shared. Every ordinary bit of it. The proposal was anything but grand, the wedding was simple but lovely, our beginnings were ever so humble. But this marriage continues to evolve, flourish, strengthen; it's a magnificent tapestry of beauty that might show some fraying in places, but is still being woven, and with new threads being added every day, it will not be unraveled. This boy that I fell head-over-heels in love with is the man with whom I still want to spend the rest of my days, whether they be mundane or full of adventure. And with each passing year, I'm learning that no part of our story is too dull to be photographed.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

The More Things Change, The More Things Stay The Same

In case you didn't know (and how could you not; I've posted about it ad nauseum), Pierce will be graduating from Brentwood High School next month. Spring is becoming a flurry of activity. Travel plans are being made by family. I've spent hours writing up his info and compiling his slide show pictures for our church's Senior Night service in a couple of weeks. My daughter tells me that Pierce will probably get his cap and gown this week. That will be followed by a sign in our yard telling all of our neighbors that a Brentwood senior lives here.

It comes up in casual conversation with people I meet.:
"Do you have kids?" Yes
"How old are they?" 16 and 18, almost 19
"18? A senior?" Yes
"Oh wow! So where will he be going in the Fall?" ...

That's where things get complicated. I've been asked by people that know us, "How does it feel, now that Pierce is a senior?" I've been giving pretty much the same answer: "It's weird." And it is. That's the easiest way to say it. I don't think people really want me to vomit all over them exactly what's going through my head right now.

We are going through the motions with all of his senior friends. Pretending that he's on to new and exciting things just like the rest of them. But Pierce's future just won't be the same as everyone else's. I can't deny it. The thought of watching him walk across that stage in his cap and gown and getting to celebrate just how much he's managed to accomplish does fill me with joy and excitement. But come August, he will carpool with his little sister right back to the very high school he "graduated" from the previous Spring to be in the Transition Program, where he'll learn more life and work skills. He will be at BHS for 3 more years. In fact, his younger sister will leave BHS before he does. Though he will technically still be a high school student, he will no longer be a part of the youth ministry at our church. Pierce will be in the "young adult ministry" instead. I don't know if any of his friends will still be in town, but most likely he will have to make a new group of church friends. It's as if everything and nothing is changing all at once. Instead of starting a new chapter, it feels like a comma in the sentence.

Selecting pictures for the Senior Night service at Otter Creek was a stressful and depressing process for me. Nineteen years of photos edited down to 20 images. Oh there were lots and lots of smiling pictures, and his high school years have given him an opportunity to participate in Best Buddies, so I could share pictures from prom and his 1st place wins in Special Olympics events. But how do I tell his story in 20 pictures? I found photos from his first Kindergarten program and wondered which one to select. The one before the program of him dressed like his father in a hard hat and smiling in the doorway of the gym, or the one of him sitting on the risers in the lap of his resource teacher, red-faced and crying, totally overwhelmed by the noise and the people, while his teacher tried to soothe him and help him do the hand motions along with his classmates? I looked at pictures from the Disney trip our family took when he was 10 years old. There aren't a lot of smiling Pierce pictures. The one I chose was pretty descriptive of that trip. It's a picture of Tim and Pierce together on the sidelines of a parade, taken just before Tim took him back to the hotel to get a break from the excitement; Pierce had his hands over his ears. I included it in the slideshow, because it is so symbolic of life with a child on the autism spectrum.

I've been asked if Pierce is excited about graduation. I honestly don't think he knows what it's all about. I have no doubt that he will soak in the applause when his name is called for him to come forward and accept his diploma, and he'll be happy that his grandparents have come to town for the occasion. But when he gets home, he'll most likely add his diploma to the pile of school papers on a table in his room. And I'm sure he doesn't realize that he only has a few months left to hang out with these friends of his before they all go their separate ways to colleges around the country; that he won't see them every Sunday morning like he has for the last 8 years. That will be hard on him.

To all the moms of the seniors that are graduating with Pierce, please know that I am SO excited with you for the bright futures that lie ahead for your kids. And I really don't want things to be awkward when we chat about graduation. I will likely get all teary, and I sincerely hope that it's not off-putting. Our parenting journey, like yours, has been full of ups and downs, and this moment in time, for me, is a little more bitter than sweet. But it's on me to find more of the beauty and joy in this. I love all of you, and I love all of your kids; especially the ways they have loved Pierce along the way. They have been such a blessing to our family.

I am so scared about what happens next. I don't know what to expect. But I do know that Pierce will continue to amaze us with what he's able to accomplish, so that gives me some comfort. I will find a way to cope with this "new normal"; I always have before. But until I manage to pull myself together, please forgive me for being a puddle in the corner for a while.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Proof Positive

A month ago, I started my Things That Made Me Happy Today project. I've journaled every day in the month of February, and shared my lists of happiness on social media. Several of you have told me that my posts have encouraged and inspired you, and I sincerely appreciate those sentiments. But as I said in my last post, my main motivation for doing this was purely selfish. I did this for me as a mental health experiment. I'm pleased to share my results/observations with you.

I can honestly say that this has been life-changing for me. By thinking so much about what happy thoughts I can write down every day, I've found that I'm able to let go of the things that irritate me a little more readily than before. I'm not dwelling on those negative aspects of my day the way I always have. Now, it's possible that there are other factors at play. About the same time I started journaling, I began taking an herbal supplement from Advocare every morning that "promotes a sense of well-being and brightens mood". I've also stopped reading articles that are politically inflammatory and gotten better about either scrolling past those sorts of posts on Facebook or hiding them altogether. Facebook is not where I want to get my "news", anyhow. And with the beautiful Spring-like weather we've been having, how could I not feel more cheery these days?

Along with the journaling, I discovered a fun method to track mental health. It comes from the practice of bullet journaling. Basically, you set up a grid for the year. Pick out some pen colors and assign a mood to each color. Then, based on your mood that day, you color in the day on the grid. I started this along with the journaling, but I went back and filled in the chart for January by looking back at my social media posts and from memory. For the month of February, I've had more amazing and really good days, and though I have had a couple of exhausted, frustrated, and stressed days, I've had NO depressed days (as opposed to about 4 in January). That's pretty huge for me. Tim can tell a difference in me as well. He notices that I'm not as prone to those knee-jerk freak-outs as I was just a month ago.

Do I think I can just will away the negative in life by trying to think happy thoughts? Absolutely not, especially knowing my history of depression. But science has proven the health benefits of keeping a positive outlook on life. I'm going to keep up the journaling and mental health tracker, though I don't know if I'll be sharing those posts on social media every day. To those of you that have shared happy stuff on my Facebook wall, I'm grateful for your encouragement and support of my experiment. And though I've done this for my own gain, I do hope that I've brought a little joy into the world and maybe helped to start a "happiness movement" on social media.