Y is for Yonderly

zen hand-colour

Yonderly is an adjective that hasn’t been used much in the last century. It means distant. The Urban Dictionary defines it as located in the distance while the Collins Dictionary defines it as mentally or emotionally distant, gloomy or aloof. For me, feeling “yonderly” is usually the predecessor to feeling really low. I usually try to figure out what’s got me feeling disconnected and fix it before I hit the real down spell, which is hard to get out of. These are the questions I ask myself.

  1. Have I been taking my medication? Has my medication been changed recently?
    If my morning routine is disrupted, I can sometimes for get my meds. That’s an easy fix. If my meds have been changed recently, then I know there is an adjustment period and the knowledge that there is end in sight usually makes me feel better.
  2. Have I been taking care of my body? Exercising? Eating healthy?
    I have more energy and generally a better outlook if I’m taking care of myself. I know a couple days of poor eating or not exercising wont make much of a physical change, but when I’m not being healthy, my body image issues get magnified. I look in the mirror and see something so hideous I’m embarrassed to be seen. If I’m exercising and what not, I can handle myself. Amazing what a drastic influence being healthy has on my attitude towards myself.
  3. Am I sleeping?
    I am the type of person that needs eight good hours of sleep. If this is my problem, a nap does wonders. If I’m having a bout of insomnia, I can try one of my sleep strategies.
  4. Am I being a perfectionist?
    This is one of my big problems. I’ve learned how to recognize it and work with it. You can read about that here. I tend to see everything as a grand failure. I need to remind myself that I’m blowing it out of proportion and that I learn from mistakes.
  5. Am I worrying about the future?
    First, is there anything I can do to feel more prepared? If so, make a list and go for it. If not, I know my worries are usually based on past experiences. I have to remember that the past does not equal the future. Just because it happened once, it’s not going to happen all the time.
  6. Have I been alone a lot lately?
    This is just a trend I have noticed. If I spend a lot of time home alone, I start to spend too much time in my head and then I get depressed. This is easily fixed by going out with friends or working from a different location, like a coffee shop or my parents’ home.
  7. Has anything changed recently?
    If the answer is yes, the ideal would be to reverse the change, but that’s not always possible. Changes happen, that’s life, we have to evolve along with it. Simply identifying what has changed often gives me comfort. Once I pinpoint the change, I can then figure out the best way to adapt.

So that’s my list. I never get through it without finding the cause of my change in mood. This list has been put together over years of recording my moods and behaviour. I know my triggers quite well now. I think it’s important for you to know yours. Of course overcoming the cause is a whole other battle, but you can’t fix the problem without knowing what it is in the first place.

 

X is for Xenoestrogens

sugar skull

X- is also for X-ray. Here’s a fancy skull for you.

I knew “X” would be a difficult letter. I know very few words that start with “X” never mind words that have to do with mental health. I settled on xenoestrogens. I’ve been seeing this term pop up  more frequently lately and I didn’t know much about it, so I thought I would educate myself at the same time. There are plant and fungal-derived xenoestrogens, but the ones I’m referring to are the synthetic, industrial kind. You are probably familiar with some of them; polychlorinated bipehenol (PCBs), bisphenol A (BPA) and phthalates.

Why am I talking about xenoestrogens when I’m writing a mental health blog? High levels of xenoestrogens (causing estrogen dominance) cause symptoms similar to depression. Whenever I see a new doctor, they want to check my thyroid to make sure that’s not the cause of depression. No one has ever wanted to test my estrogen levels before. Here are some of the symptoms high levels of xenoestrogens share with depression;

  • Anxiety
  • decreased sex drive
  • weight changes
  • fatigue
  • migraines
  • headaches
  • insomnia
  • irratability
  • memory loss

Hmm,  maybe I should get my estrogen levels checked.

Xenoestrogens are similar in structure to the estrogen produced by our endocrine system. They mimic the function of estrogen in our bodies, except they are more potent. The Endocrine Society views xenoestrogens as environmental hazards to humans and wildlife. They interfere with natural hormonal signalling causing precocious puberty in children and complications of the reproductive system (example: cancer) in adults. They act as free radicals turning on genes and causing hormonal imbalances that contribute to conditions like cancer and estrogen dominance.

The impact of xenoestrogens is becoming a great concern in first world countries. Estrogen levels in individuals living in America are incredibly high compared to those living in undeveloped countries. This is because in developed countries, we contact these compounds everyday. They are used in agriculture to fatten animals up and in fertilizers to ensure good crops. This means you’ll find them in all non-organic produce. They are also used in water, plastics, household cleaners and cosmetics/toiletries. I use all of these on a daily basis and I’ve never really considered what’s in them. My strategy for buying products is what works best and costs the least. I think that’s a strategy a lot of people use. I know it’s better to buy organic meat, fresh, raw vegetables and avoid processed foods. I’ve also heard about food absorbing xenoestrogens from the plastic containers or saran wrap they are stored in and I know not to microwave food in plastic, but what I didn’t know was the threat posed by cosmeticstoiletries. This includes not only make-up, but lotions, soaps, sunscreens and your plastic toothbrush. I admit I don’t pay attention to what’s in my cosmetics/toiletries. I buy whatever has SPF in it and is not tested on animals. Xenoestrogens are 10 times more potent when absorbed through the skin! Eek! Reading this sent me to the bathroom to read the ingredients on all my make-up! The results were not good. Here’s a good website to learn about what is in your cosmetics/toiletries and how harmful they are: http://www.ewg.org/skindeep/

I wonder if I ate organic and eliminated xenoestrogens from my diet and household products, would it make a difference in my mental health? Does anyone do this? Have you noticed a difference? I would love to hear from you!

Sources:

Skin Deep

Olga’s Whole Life

Center for Brain

Better Nutrition Magazine

W is for Worth

Sometimes I feel worthless. I can’t do anything right, I have no talent, I’m useless. I don’t deserve the air I breathe. For some people, this self-hate is ironed into you. This is how you think and what you tell yourself everyday. No wonder everything seems pointless.

war with myself

I was feeling like this during one of my appointments with a psychologist. She told me to write two lists. One of all the screw-ups I’ve had and the second of all my accomplishments. She told me to look at the big things and the little things. She said that my list of accomplishments would come out longer. This would make me feel better. So I did my homework. The screw-ups came easily, but I had to really think about the accomplishments. My lists came out dead even! So that exercise back-fired. Oh well, she meant well.

Psych was determined though, so she had another suggestion at my next appointment. She told me to ask at least two people to write down a list of the things they valued about me. I felt stupid asking people to do this, but I did it anyway. You can’t accuse me of not trying here! I asked my mother and my husband to write lists. I gave them a week and went to my next psych appointment with the lists in hand. Psych and I went over the lists together. They listed about 15 things each. Very few of the things they listed had anything to do with how I look or what I’ve accomplished. This is how I usually evaluate myself, on my appearance and accomplishments. Maybe I’m going about this wrong if the people I care about most don’t evaluate me that way? The lists were very similar. Two people said I was kind and generous. I think I’m selfish. It’s kind of hard to argue against what two people think of me. So maybe there’s some truth to it?

I kept the lists. I keep them for emergencies when I start to hate myself again. It’s a good reminder that appearance and career accomplishments aren’t the be all and end all. Anyway, the point is, these lists got me thinking. They not only made me feel better about myself, but they caused me to gain a new perspective on worth.

2014-04-06 09.57.21My cat, Ewok, doesn’t have an income, in fact she costs money. She doesn’t contribute to housework, she gets fluff all over the place. She mostly curls up in a ball and sleeps all day, yet I consider her valuable. Other people have plants that they take care of. They do so because the plant has worth to them. Maybe we expect too much of ourselves. We shouldn’t have to be the best, to make lots of money or have many accomplishments to be important. Sure we would all like to, but we can’t all be number one! Animals and plants don’t do any of these things. Yet, they are given worth just for existing. Shouldn’t we give ourselves the same consideration?

I never really thought about it that way before. It makes a lot of sense to me.

Your worth is a given because you exist.

V is for Visceral Voices

When I say visceral voices, I mean thoughts, your inner monologue or self-talk. The thought processes that occur so naturally that you often over look them. Often in anxiety and depression these visceral voices lean towards the negative. You have to take the time to learn to recognize when you are having a negative thought and challenge it.

When I think of negative self-talk, I imagine the angel and the devil on my shoulders battling it out. But what if it was more complex than that? According to Edmund Bourne’s Anxiety and Phobia workbook, there are four main types of negative-self talk; the victim, the worrier, the critic and the perfectionist. I can see components of all 4 personas in my internal monologue. No wonder the angel is often overwhelmed, the odds are 4 to 1!

The Angel and The Devil

The Angel and The Devil

 

The Victim. Characterized by feelings of hopelessness, the victim usually contributes to both anxiety and depression. I give myself anxiety by telling myself that I’m not making enough progress, that I’m not smart enough to complete the task at hand. Depression comes from the sense of being unworthy. I will never achieve my goals, nor do I deserve to. It’s the everything sucks and will never get better attitude. I don’t intend to have this attitude, in fact, I don’t want it. It’s just so subtle and innate that I don’t realize I’m doing it until I reflect on the situation.

The Worrier. Anxiety is created by imagining the worst-case scenario and anticipating embarrassment and/or failure. The worrier is always apprehensive and on the lookout for trouble. I know I do this. My reasoning is that I want to be prepared and able to handle the worst-case scenario, but in doing this I create dread, so I’m not really doing myself any favours.

The Critic. This voice promotes low self-esteem. I am constantly comparing myself to others, evaluating my behaviour and magnifying my mistakes. This makes me feel like a failure most of the time.

The Perfectionist. A state of chronic stress is created by thinking nothing is ever good enough, I should be working harder, I should always have everything under control. I am only worth the sum of my external achievements.

4 to 1

To combat these attitudes, I’ve been told to give myself positive counter-statements. Sounds easy, logical. The problem is getting myself to believe the positive talk. I’m hoping an open mind and some repetition will do it.

Underrated Awesomeness

Sometimes you need to take the time to appreciate the little things that make you smile. These are mine.

  1. Sharpened Pencil Crayons. I have just realized that the terminology “pencil crayon” is a Canadianism. In the States, they are called “coloured pencils” and in the UK they are called “colouring pencils”. Interesting. Anyway, I love the sharp ones. They are good for colouring, drawing, shading, blending and writing. You can’t do all of that with the dull ones. I write my research notes using sharp coloured pencils. It makes them more interesting to read and they are so much cheaper than those fancy gel pens.
  2. Mini Cupcakes. They are just so happy and cute. Why are they better than the real thing? Because you get to eat the whole thing without feeling guilty! Calories don’t count if it’s one bite right? With a mini cupcake, that’s it, one, it’s gone.
  3. Unicorns. Unicorns are lame…said nobody EVER! Am I right or am I right?unicorn
  4. The Cold Side of the Pillow. Sometimes when you can’t sleep or you are uncomfortable, turning the plow over to the cool side is all it takes. I wish it were always that easy to get back to sleep.
  5. Jeans that FIT. Ever put on a pair of jeans and they fit like they were made for you? This happens so rarely for me, that I feel like a total rock star when it does happen. I have a small waist and a rather large behind, this makes finding jeans that fit difficult. If I get the ones that fit my waist, I can’t get them over my hips. If I get them to fit my hips they are gaping at the waist.
  6. Geeks. I view a geek as someone who has excessive enthusiasm for and knowledge about a certain subject. I admire people who can get that excited about something. It’s something I have never been able to do. I can show interest, but the level of enthusiasm seems to elude me. My husband is a total geek about Batman, Tigers and Aerosmith. I love it!
  7. Haircuts. Usually when an artist draws a caricature of you, they exaggerate a certain feature that makes the cartoon identifiable as you. My unique feature is my hair. It’s long and is not blond or brown, but not a full blown red either. It’s hard to describe. Because of this, I feel great after a haircut. Plus, I’m not talented with hair, I can never get it to look as good by myself as the hair dresser does.
  8. Libraries. They have books with personality.
  9. Jabberwocky. Jabberwocky is a a creature from Lewis Carroll’s Alice Through the Looking Glass. There is a poem about the creature. I have it memorized, as do most of the women in my family. Don’t ask why, I don’t know. The poem is a lot of nonsense. The first line is”T’was brillig”. Sometimes I say this for some reason or another and a perfect stranger will reply “and the slithy toves…” the next line of the poem. This has happened several times and I can’t help but smile when I think of it.
  10. Wild Socks. They break the mold. I have a colleague who always dresses well, usually a shirt and tie. When he sits down and crosses his legs, you can see a bit of crazy-patterned sock sticking out of his pant leg.
  11. Daylight savings – Fall Back. Having that extra hour makes such a difference. I feel like I get so much more done…or at
    2013-01-27 14.41.35

    So much fluff!

    least more sleep!

  12. Kitty fluff. Or more specifically, Ewok’s fluff. She’s a persian so she shed in cotton balls rather than individual hairs. Yes, cat hair is annoying, it gets everywhere! But sometimes, I’m away on a conference or have has a really long day and I’ll find a little bit of fluff on my clothes and it’ll make me think of her. I can’t help but smile as I dispose of the fluff ball.
  13. The Spice Girls. Who cares if they were so 90s! Platforms, catchy tunes and girl power?! How is that not awesome?! Azigazigah!!
  14. Left over Birthday Cake Straight out of the Fridge. Just because.
  15. Flannel Sheets. These are especially awesome in the winter. They are cozy and warm, almost fuzzy.
  16. Cereal. It’s quick and easy, comes in all sorts of flavours and it works at any time of day. What’s not to appreciate about that?
  17. Finding your Birthday is on a Saturday this year. Who wants to go to work on their birthday anyway?
  18. A Real Fire. Except for that super loud “pop” sound that happens every once in a while, the crackling sound of a fire is soothing. Depending on what type of wood you are burning, it smells really nice too!
  19. Bean bag Chairs. For once you’re not the one that has to adapt. They mold to fit you.
  20. Laura Secord Ice Cream Cones. They smell fantastic! It took me a while to figure out where the yummy smell in the mall was coming from, but I figured it out eventually. It was odd to have a baked-goods type smell in the mall. Who would have thought a cone would smell so good. They must make them there.
  21. Pearls. How something so beautiful and so perfect can be made from something as weird looking as an oyster still amazes me.

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