But 30 Days is SO Long!

You might be wondering what kind of commitment this whole 30 Day Art Challenge is.

Honestly 30 days is a long time.

Will you be kicked out of “the club” if you miss a day?

NOPE

Will you be letting someone down if you miss a day?

NOPE

Will you be shamed or called out if you miss a day?

Also NOPE!

I would strongly encourage you to join our 30 Day Art Challenge with every plan of creating art every day.

Purposing to do this will allow you to get the most out of the process. It will also encourage you to get creative with finding ways to fit creativity into busy days. It could be a quick 5 min session while you wait for a bus or a kid. It could be drawing while you sit in the waiting room at the dr or dentist. It could be on your coffee break at work. We waste so much time but the more you realize that. The more you purpose to fit creativity in to your day to day life , the more ways and times and places you will notice that you can fit it in.

If you get to the end of your day and realize that you forgot or were too busy…..take note of that. Use that information to give you feedback. If you had the most soul fulfilling day packed with love and joy and people, then call it a win and have a good nights sleep. If you think back and feel like the day was tied up in fruitless busy-ness; think about how you can make changes to be living the life that you want to and make one plan to do so the next day.

If you choose to invest in a month of adding creativity to your life, make that month count. But don’t feel like a failure if life gets busy. Just come back to it.

Live life with the passion of a baby learning to walk. They try. They fall. They try. They fall. They keep trying and trying and trying and trying until they’ve got it.

This also means they fall and get up, over and over and over until they walk.

Also think about the fact that we say they are “walking” when they manage to stumble through 2 or 3 steps. We don’t run them down for falling. We cheer and squeal and shout and encourage them on.

Be your own cheerleader on this artistic journey. Speak gently and encouragingly to yourself. Let us, also, cheer you on. The more steps you take, the more you will be confident in your abilities. But it’s not about the finished product. It’s about the journey.

We’d love to have you join us from September 1-30 for our 30 Day Art Challenge. Stay tuned for more details.

It takes Courage

Waiting is not an easy thing.

Have you ever had a situation where you wished that time would speed up? I think we’ve all probably had situations of anticipation where you wished that time would hurry up already. It’s hard to wait when you’re hoping and praying and waiting for something.

I remember when I was pregnant. My pregnancies were not delightful. I was SO sick. I was so tired. It was uncomfortable and frankly, miserable. But…..I believed there was a beautiful ending and beginning. I hoped there was a beautiful ending and beginning and so, I waited.

I waited miserable, sick and exhausted. I tried to find the beautiful moments – like feeling the baby move inside me. It’s one of my most favourite moments in life. But mostly I just waited miserable, sick and exhausted. I was biding my time waiting for the end of my misery and the beginning of wonder.

I’m in another one of those times in life. I’m not pregnant. Not a chance. I’m way too old for those shenanigans. But I’m in a season that sometimes feels confusing and challenging. It’s a shifting season, a growth season, a rediscovery season and it’s frustrating.

In my devotions today, I said, “God I need something. I need a sign or a message or something to encourage me.

And then I read Psalms 27:14. (NLT)

Green watercolor eucalyptus border along the bottom of the image with the words Wait patiently for the Lord. Be brave and courageous.  Yes, wait patiently for the Lord. Psalms 27:14 overlayed on top of the image

Seriously! Wait. Wait??? Just wait.

But the words that really stood out to me were those words in the middle of the verse. Be brave and courageous. In another translation it says “Be of good courage and He will strengthen your heart.”

As I thought about those words today, it stuck with me that it takes courage to trust and wait. It takes strength of heart, determination and confidence to patiently wait when you don’t want to, when you feel impatient; especially, when you just want to rush in and make things happen.

And so, I wait. Hopefully with this reminder, I’ll be a little more patient and I’ll have a little more grace for myself and others. But I can also recognize that I am brave. I am strong. I am courageous. There is strength in waiting patiently and confidently. And so I wait.

Hurry Up and Wait

I woke up this morning from a sad dream. I’ll take those over nightmares any day but they are not my favourite kind of dream. I think the absolutely absurd ones are my favourite. Do you have a favourite kind of dream? Weird question, I know!

Anyway, back to my feelings! I felt sad and discouraged. It felt like my world was weighing so heavy on me.

I couldn’t easily shake the heaviness so I got up and got ready for the day. I grabbed a coffee and headed out to my garden. I watered a few plants, checked on my seedlings and then felt frustrated.

Some of my seeds sprouting

I was frustrated because I want them to be grown and mature plants producing beauty and nourishment.

I looked at my garden and felt irritated. You see, right now it’s in the beginning stages of growth. It looks an awful lot like “dirt”. The seeds are hidden and even the young plants are pretty sparse and gangly looking.

Cucumber seedling emerging

I know what it going’s to look like in a month from now. I planted healthy flower and vegetable seeds and it’s a certainty that at least some of them will grow. I also planted some more mature seedlings and provided that I tend to them and give them what they need, my backyard is going to be full of gorgeous greenery, flowers, veggies and herbs. There are going to be butterflies and bees flying around pollinating. Dragonflies will be zipping around and the ladybugs will be everywhere.

In less than a month, I’ll be harvesting salad and adding in herbs to my food. In 2 months, it will be even more stunning. I’ll have plants that reach over 6 feet tall and some that spread wide and it’s literally going to look like a garden oasis.

I can see it in my mind. I can picture myself drinking coffee in the morning or a glass of wine in the evening while I water plants or sit and relax.

But I’m impatient and I want it now. This all ties back to my dream. There are things I’m working toward and hope for that I don’t see the full fruition of and it’s easy to get discouraged if I get stuck in the here and now.

But I can trust that if I’m planting good seeds and tending to them; that the laws of sowing and reaping are as certain as the changing seasons. Even if I don’t know exactly how long the growth process is, I can trust and believe that at the right time, it will happen.

That’s easier said than done but I will keep reminding myself of this when I feel discouraged or frustrated. And I’ll try to remember that no amount of wishing or hoping or dreaming can make things happen any faster than they are supposed to.

Plant the seeds, nurture and tend to them until you see a harvest. It will happen.

A Glorious Cascade

Jon got me the most decadent hanging baskets for Mother’s Day. You know the HUGE ones that end up being the most glorious cascade of color and substance.

I’ve wanted some forever and it feels so extravagant but also so incredibly special. We’ve hung 2 in front of our driveway and one by our front porch and would you believe that I currently have no pictures of them. Crazy!

We also got a bunch of flowers and veggies, herbs, seeds and dirt this past weekend.

Lettuce, Rosemary and Cosmos

I have tried to start seeds twice this year already and have killed both attempts. I’m not typically so deadly when it comes to plants but I’m still in a weird season.

Last summer, I missed my garden terribly but I couldn’t even fathom attempting to tend to anything. Just existing was about all I could handle.

Obviously, the desire to nurture is there and I’m hoping that with a bit of a jump start, the follow through will kick in.

Wave Petunias

I managed to get all the plants we bought planted. It took until today but in a month, my back yard should be the most gorgeous, lush oasis.

Oregano

There is a fabulous mess of flowers, mixed in with veggies and herbs; tucked into pots and baskets and corners and even neatly lined up inside the greenhouse that Jon built for me last year.

Cucumbers starting from seeds

We should have fresh salad all summer long. And I’ve planted 4 zucchini plants and have started seeds for 6 more. I know that sounds crazy but I’ve only ever once had a zucchini plant go crazy and I shredded and froze zucchini in 1 and 2 cup portions and still managed to run out before the next summer. So I’m praying for an over abundant harvest.

Zucchini

I’m hoping that growing them in the greenhouse will help protect them from the powdery mildew that seems to be rampant in my neighbourhood. I’m also going to try growing some in planters in my front yard. It gets sun mostly all day.

Garlic chives

I still have a few things that I’d like to plant, like beans and carrots and radishes as well as Alyssum. But if I don’t get to it, that’s okay too.

Tomatoe and Basil

I’m tired and a little sad tonight. Just feeling a little melancholy. Do you have moments like that, sometimes? Times when life feels a little bit weightier than others. I’m sure it will pass.

Cosmos and Petunias

As I wait with anticipation for this season to wind down, I’m thankful for life. I’m thankful for joy. I’m thankful that I have enough. I’m ever so thankful for the warmth and glow of the sunshine. I’m thankful that I have the capacity to hold both the sadness and the gratitude at the same time.

Lemon Balm

This too shall pass and until then, (and most likely even after) you’ll probably find me in my garden.

Midnight Musings

I’m laying in bed with a million thoughts running through my brain. You’re welcome to tag along, if you’d like.

Why do bad things happen? I’ve never really focused or got stuck on that concept and I’m not sure why. I’ve certainly had my share of tough situations. I know that it’s a common thing. Why? Why did this happen? Why did that happen? Why did it happen to me?

I have a vague recollection of my dad saying that there’s no point in focusing on “The Why.” I think he shared that with me either after his mom died or after Nathaniel died. He wasn’t saying it in a dismissive way. I believe he was encouraging me to accept that sometimes bad or difficult things happen. We don’t always have control over our circumstances but we do have the ability to choose how we act and react moving forward. Getting stuck focused on circumstances beyond our control doesn’t help us; but we do have the ability to focus on and choose what to do next.

I wonder if it has something to do with assigning blame. Does “the why” look to figure out what went wrong so there’s something or someone to blame? Or is it just a distraction? Is it our minds looking to shift focus from feeling to doing in an effort to alleviate pain? Hmmmm…

Is it possible to search for solutions without assigning blame? This is a weird thought trail I’m wandering down. I think it must be possible? Right?

I have this song playing on repeat inside my head and heart tonight.

All my life You have been faithful. All my life You have been so SO good. With every breathe that I am able. I will sing of the Goodness of God.

I want to always remember that my life has been so filled with goodness and love and grace; and that nothing can take away from that. That goodness and love and grace can coexist along side the tragedy and heartbreak that we experience; and although they don’t take away the pain or hurt, maybe just maybe, they fill our heart and soul with enough light and comfort that it makes it all just a little more manageable.

Why the Focus on Gratitude (Part 5)

The title doesn’t really fit because I’m not focusing on the “Why” aspect of Gratitude, but to keep it as part of the series we’re just going to go with it.

I love talking about how practising Gratitude helps me but I REALLY LOVE sharing practical ideas and ways to help others put the practise into action so that they can see and receive the benefits for yourself.

There are many different ways to go about putting a practise of Gratitude into action but before I offer practical ideas; I have some suggestions for you to think through.

I talk about a “practise of Gratitude” because we as humans are hardwired with a negativity bias. It’s easy for us to focus on the negatives in life, on those things that aren’t going well; and even if you get to a place where gratitude seems to be a habit (a behaviour or action that is repeated almost subconsciously); it’s likely that when life becomes stressful or overwhelming, the natural wiring of our systems will revert back to negativity. This is where a “Practise” or purposing to do things differently from before with the intention of getting better is so important and helpful.

You actually need both Habits and Practise to be successful.

One cool thing about Gratitude is that when we practise being grateful, the brain releases dopamine and serotonin and those two “happy chemicals” make us feel good. It’s an instant boost to your mood. When you’re struggling, that’s a really good thing. However, when you’re struggling, if you don’t have habits to fall back on or a plan in place, it’s way too easy to slip back into “Stinking Thinking”. Oh, I’ve been there way too many times. It’s not beneficial or helpful.

So, my suggestions are:

  1. Determine what you want
  2. Decide how often you are going to practise
  3. Create a Plan
  4. Have a support system
  5. Continue on regardless

I’d suggest either writing it down or just getting super clear with your intentions. I like to write so I’d probably write in a journal, something like this…

I want to start a daily practise of Gratitude because I want to improve my mental health and be more aware and focused on the good things in my life even when things are tough. For the next 30 days, I’m going to share, every day, with my family and friends on Social Media, a photo of something I’m grateful for and describe what I’m thankful for and why. Even if I miss a day, I’m going to carry on. I don’t have to “make up” the missed day but I can if I want. I’m going to try and find something to be grateful for before noon and will definitely take a few moments before bedtime to think back through my day, if I haven’t already posted.

The reason I do this is to get clear with myself, what my intentions are. It’s so much easier to stick to it, if you create a clear plan. You don’t have to write anything down, just getting clear with yourself is enough. Then, get started and make it happen.

Different ways that I’ve heard of or seen people practising gratitude.

  1. Write in a journal – Start your morning or end your day with a couple of things that you are thankful for. It could be a list, bullet points, a paragraph or even a drawing.
  2. List on the fridge – I’ve seen lists on a fridge of the things people are thankful for. You open and close the fridge multiple times a day and it’s pretty central and prompts you to do it when you walk by. Plus seeing a piece of paper fill up as you create the list is so satisfying.
  3. Gratitude Jar – Get a decent sized jar, some scraps of paper and a pen, set them on your table. This could even be a family project and again, its so satisfying to see the jar fill with all the reasons you are thankful. When it’s full or at the end of the allotted time, take them out, read through and remind yourself of all the good in your life.
  4. Digital Images or Memes – This is one of my favourites. I take of picture of something that I am thankful for and create a digital memory. You can take the images and put them together in a photo book when you have enough and it’s a great reminder and keepsake.
  5. Post on Social Media – Social media is filled with garbage and negativity. Can you imagine how inspiring it would be to see 4 or 5 of your friends or colleagues posting daily about the things they were grateful for. You can be part of that. Make it happen.
  6. Sticky Notes – Get a pad of sticky notes and write down what you are grateful for. Stick them to a wall in your 0ffice, or bedroom or bathroom. Put them someplace where you will notice them and as you add more and more it will encourage you and those who see, to be thankful.
  7. Poster – Purchase one of those huge sheets of cardstock from the dollar store, decorate it however you want and start writing all the things you are thankful on it.

You could just hold a memory in your mind, create a word document on your computer, send an email or daily letter to yourself, create a Group on a social media platform, paint, draw or choose something else entirely.

I find that doing something tangible really helps me. To see a journal, jar or wall fill up or a list get longer encourages me to keep going and it reminds me by just being out and in my field of vision.

While you are putting this practise into play, there’s a good chance you might miss a day or forget. JUST! KEEP! GOING! Think about it like this, when a baby is learning to walk, we encourage them over and over and over. We champion them. We prop them up and when they take one or two steps together, we cheer “They’re walking!” Then they fall. We tell everyone we know that the baby is walking, even though they only took two steps in a row. Why? Because we believe they are going to get it. We prop them back up and encourage them to keep going because we know, we are CERTAIN they are going to do it.

We don’t turn away in disgust and say, “You stupid baby. You fell. You’re never going to get this. You failed and you might as well just give up.

So, believe in yourself as much as you’d believe in that baby. Encourage yourself with as much fanfare as you would that sweet babe because YOU ARE WORTH IT.

You’ve got this! I believe in you.

Why the Focus on Gratitude (Part 4)

I feel like I’m finally getting back into the swing of things here at home. A month out of routine is long enough to really throw you for a loop and I think. In some ways, I’ve been trying to “get back” to where I was.

But I don’t know if that’s truly the goal. I’m starting to think that a “shake up” is not a bad thing, if I choose to see it that way. Is it possible that this is a new stage of life and rather than attempting to “go back” to what and where I was…maybe this is a fantastic opportunity to put new routines into play? I’ll definitely be giving that some thought over the next while.

I pushed quite hard on Monday and Tuesday to accomplish my “To do” lists and I got a ton done but today. I felt like I was flailing a bit. Not as productive or organized and I was even struggling to create a list, let alone work through it.

But, it’s a gorgeous sunny day and I did get my linen closet organized so I’m calling today a win!

One of the things that I’ve learned over the years is to be kind to myself. Did I accomplish as much as I wish I had today? Nope! But what would I say to a friend who was lamenting their lack of productivity?

Would I say, “You loser! What’s wrong with you? You just need to be more focused and try harder?

No, I wouldn’t. If I did, I wouldn’t be a very good friend and I probably wouldn’t have many friends. Instead, I’d probably say, “Oh that tough! I know what it feels like to not get done what you were hoping for. But look, you did get “this” done and that’s amazing. There’s always tomorrow to try again. You’ve got this.”

If we wouldn’t talk to a friend with scorn and contempt, why do we do it to ourselves?

I’ve found that practising looking for the things that I can be thankful for has impacted so many areas of my life.

In today’s example, I didn’t get done what I wanted; but my brain sees the gorgeous sunshine and the fact that I did tidy the linen closet and those things are AMAZING.

I’ve had days where I’m just grateful that I’m alive and that my kids had enough cereal to get them through serving themselves breakfast, lunch and dinner. I’ve had days where I was just thankful that my bed was comfy and I had a window to look out of. I’ve had some really bad days where I had to set the bar of what I was grateful for pretty freakin’ low; and that’s okay. There will be those days.

But you know what, just as certain as winter turn to spring which then turns into summer and then fall; the seasons of your life will change, too. I’ve experienced some of longest, darkest winter seasons where I couldn’t possibly fathom a change to anything even resembling the growth of spring. But it happened. Every time. Without fail. And I’ve learned to trust that. I’ve learned to trust that Season’s change and sometimes what I need to do is to hunker down and just hold on because even if I don’t see it or feel it, it’s gonna happen.

In the mean time, I look for things to be grateful for. I look for the beautiful things. I look for the things that make me smile. I look for the things that will bring my soul, even the minutest glimmer of hope; something to help me get from this moment to the next and the next and the next because I know that Spring is coming.

It wasn’t until 2019 that I decided to go all in and actually DO A THING. At the end of February 2019, I decided to do a month of Gratitude and post every day on Instagram with something that I saw or noticed, in my day, that I could be thankful for.

I had already been irregularly practising gratitude for over a decade BUT the change in me from the beginning of the month the end of the month was powerful. It was easy to see the good. It became natural to look for things that I could be thankful for. Putting the idea into a daily practise meant that it became a habit. A regular behaviour that gets done almost subconsciously.

So now, I’m always looking for things that will brighten my day. If I’m struggling with something, I’ll acknowledge the challenge to be honest with myself AND find something to be thankful for.

It’s not about Toxic Positivity. I looked that phrase up and the definition is dysfunctional emotional management without the full acknowledgment of negative emotions, particularly anger and sadness.

That’s not at all what I’m encouraging because life can be really freaking hard. I know. I really know. Life has been challenging enough for me that I needed “something” to help me not only survive when I’m in the middle of a challenging time but to help me carry on and even thrive, in spite of the garbage that I’ve been going through.

Practising gratitude has been that thing for me and I believe in it enough to say that it could be life changing for you, too.

So practically, how can you do it? How can you start to live a life where you practise gratitude and see the benefits at play in your life? I’m gonna talk about that in the next post.

If you feel like it, I’d love to hear ONE thing from your day that you are grateful for. I’ll go first.

I’m thankful for my dishwasher. It’s full and running and I don’t have to wash all the dishes by hand and my empty sinks make me feel happy.

Or…..I’m thankful for cold drinks on hot days.

Or…..I’m thankful for the wind that’s blowing my wind chimes and making them chime so pretty in my backyard.

Or…clean clothes. Really thankful for clean clothes.

What are you thankful for!?

Why the Focus on Gratitude? (Part 3)

Thanks for the love and support on my previous post! It’s meaningful to hear (or read) your messages and comments. I share because I know I’m not alone on this journey; but at one point, I thought I was and that felt awful.

If my sharing helps even one person to know that they’re not alone, or if it helps explain what it’s like to live with this aspect of mental illness to someone who doesn’t understand, or if it raises awareness or even opens conversation, then it’s worth it.

I previously mentioned all the things I use to help me cope. Things like therapy, medications, exercise, diet, journaling, sleep, nature, being present and gratitude all contribute to a healthier, happier me.

I could spend a long time talking about the journey from where I was to where I am now, and how I got here. Maybe I will add to this series but the point was…

Why do I Focus on Gratitude?

Why? Because I believe that practising gratitude has made a HUGE difference in my life.

I have had my share of struggles and challenges. In Jan 2005, our 4th child, Nathaniel, was stillborn. That rocked my world. We never got a clear reason why. It was “just one of those things that happened” according to the drs. It was devastating. After that, we tried to have another baby. I got pregnant 4 more times over the next 2 years and lost them all. Again, Drs had no answers. The 5th time was the charm and Josiah was born in 2007.

To say that my mental health was challenged during this time was an understatement. I was sad and grieving but also, anxiety was at an all time high. It was not a great time for me. I spent the 9 months of Josiah’s pregnancy terrified that he was going to die. I had brutal rumination every waking moment of the day. Combine that with 9 months of “all day” sickness and you have yourself a serious party. I was desperately wishing for a dr. to admit me to the hospital because I felt insane, all of the time.

I was so thankful that Siah was born healthy and was finally earth side but the years of intense anxiety had done a number on my brain. I was terrified that something might happen to him; and that we might lose him too. I was severely anxious all the time and basically white knuckling it to make it through each day. At this point, I didn’t have an anxiety diagnosis. I wasn’t on meds. This was part of my, “it’s normal to feel anxious after you’ve lost a baby and I should be able to handle this better than I am.” period of life. I just had no clue what “better” could look like.

In June 2010, our eldest was diagnosed with Leukemia, one week before Judah (our 5th child) was born. Talk about holding space for conflicting emotions, we had the immeasurable joy of one child being born combined with the heart wrenching pain of seeing another fighting for their life.

The birth wasn’t what I had planned. Going home alone after the birth wasn’t what I had planned. Parenting 4 kids alone wasn’t what I had planned. Nothing was going according to my plans.

I’m a hard core planner. Well, I was. Now I’m more of a loose planner who hopes for the best but is willing to flow with whatever because I’m aware that I have absolutely no control in this life.

One afternoon, a couple of months into the cancer journey, I felt like I was approaching rock bottom. I was exhausted, depressed, hopeless, devastated, I felt alone and unsure as to how I was possibly going to do “this”. It was too much. Way too much. I couldn’t fathom carrying on but I didn’t have any other choice.

I have no idea why, but I picked up my camera. I determined in myself, to capture 10 photos of things around my home that brought me joy.

A Rainbow of Cloth Diapers

I purposed to take pictures of the beautiful things in my life, no matter how mundane or ordinary. In fact, I was looking for the things that most people would gloss over.

A sleeping baby

My life felt like it was a run away train barrelling towards a cliff and there was nothing I could do to change where I was at.

Perfectly clean floors

I had no control over anything. I was helpless and hopeless; or was I? I couldn’t change my circumstances but I could change what I was focused on. Even if it was for just brief moments of time, I could focus on the beauty around me.

Perfectly moist Banana Muffin

I could shift my focus from the chaos, devastation and difficulties surrounding me and seek out the good, the beauty, the light. I could choose to be thankful for any little thing that I could find.

It took a bit for me to get started because I was so used to seeing all the bad things that were happening; but once I got started it got easier.

My gorgeous backyard

I honestly believe that practicing gratitude saved me. It didn’t change my circumstances. Things were still SO tough. I was still overwhelmed. I was still exhausted and had no idea how I was going to carry on but purposely shifting my focus from negative to positive, even for a moment, gave me a brief moment of respite.

My Sweet Jeremy – age 10

That brief moment of gratitude filled my heart and soul with happiness. Even though nothing had changed externally; internally, there was a shift. A minute and fleeting shift but a shift none-the-less.

I’d love to say that from that moment on everything was sunshine and roses. Um…but it wasn’t. And honestly, that was just the beginning of my gratitude journey. It was a brief foray into the world of living with gratitude.

The “cancer years” were a pretty dark time. And although I did practise gratitude sporadically, and mostly when things got really dire; it wasn’t until a couple of years later that I attempted my first 30 days of Gratitude.

That’s when I really started to realize how powerful and life changing it could be.

Why the Focus on Gratitude? (Part 2)

Where were we?

Oh yes, in hell.

Sounds dramatic, doesn’t it? Are you ready for a story? It’s a scary story.

Ok, it’s not horrifying but it’s my reality and it’s exhausting and when I get overwhelmed by anxiety, it’s really, really hard to deal with.

In bed with a migraine – March 2022

My Brain: There’s something wrong with you. You probably have cancer.

Me: I have a headache. It’s a migraine. I’ve been getting them for years. I’ll just took a med and I’ll take it easy and be fine.

My Brain: Ya, but what causes it. No one else in your family gets migraines. Not like you do. It’s probably a brain tumour.

Me: It’s a hormonal migraine. I get them every single month around this time. It’s annoying and yea, I wish I didn’t deal with them but with meds, it’s manageable. Relax!

You have no idea if it’s a tumour or not. It’s not like you can see inside your head or like you have a diagnostic tool you can easily access. You could have one growing and have no idea.

It’s not a tumour.

You got dizzy when you stood up from bed this morning and your hand was going tingly and numb. You even felt nauseous.

I have always felt dizzy when I stand up too fast, that’s nothing new. Thank you, POTS. My hand was numb because I was sleeping on it. And I only felt like I was going to puke, when I was brushing my teeth. Stupid gag reflex from being sick during my whole pregnancies. There is nothing new to be worried about.

The fact that you are downplaying all of this means that when you finally take things seriously, it’s going to be too late. It’s probably already too late.

Me: I’m fine. You really need to stop this. It’s not helping. There’s nothing wrong and you know it. This is your brain lying to you.

Also Me: Ya, but what if that’s right? If I discount my worries then how will I know if there is a problem. I’ll just tell myself to ignore my intuition and end up not being able to be treated before it’s too late.

My Brain: If it’s a brain tumour it’s too late anyway. Not like you’re beating that. It’s probably skin cancer that has metastasized into your brain. You’re totally screwed. You have way too many freckles and moles.

Me: Are you kidding? How can I possibly be having this conversation with myself? I’m crazy. I’m absolutely crazy. I’m bullying myself and I can’t possibly “out-think” myself. This is ridiculous. How can I make this stop?

Ocean Sunrise – April 2023

This type of conversation with myself could and would happen for 18+ hours a day. While I’m making breakfast or dinner, taking kids to school, folding laundry, watching TV, driving to an appt…..it just loops and loops and loops. When it’s really bad, I can’t seem to stop the conversation or thoughts. It keeps me awake at night thinking through worst case scenarios. It wakes me up, if I do get to sleep; and it’s really difficult to find something that distracts me from the rumination.

Now, I don’t actually hear voices and it’s all me; but I have felt like I’m warring against myself for as long as I can remember. It’s traumatic. Imagine feeling like you are in a battle or war for years and years and years. Imagine the mental gymnastics when you contemplate that it’s yourself that you are fighting against. How do you protect yourself from yourself? Is it even possible to do?

The ruminating could be about a conversation that I had with someone and parts of me are trying to convince me that I messed up and the other person thinks I’m awful. It could be about any health issue imaginable. It could be that one of my kids is sick. (That particular one is hard because one of my kids did get life threateningly sick and so I know that it’s a real possibility and not just an imaginary thought.) It could be that a neighbour is annoyed with us for some weird reason like my kid was too loud. Most of the things I worry about are either health or socially related. Once in a blue moon, I might have a bizarre thought, like the wheels of my car might all come off at once while I’m driving; but that’s ludicrous enough that I can laugh it off. The ones that are hardest to deal with are the ones with a tinge of truth or possibly reality to them. Those are particularly difficult to shake. I can’t just “logic” myself to not worry.

It’s exhausting. It’s like the alarm system in my brain is set to a hair trigger release and it fires at the slightest issue. Once it gets going, it’s so difficult to get it turned off.

I’m fortunate enough to currently be in a good space. I have the right meds on board. I’m fairly balanced and stable. I’m not currently in a state of rumination but, it also seems to cycle. Winters and our rainy season are particularly hard on my mental health but summers have been tough, too. I’ve had a number of summers where I seriously contemplated checking myself into a hospital because I could not get my mind to settle and it was so overwhelming that I could hardly cope.

Knowing that summers have been tough and knowing that summer is coming, I’m preparing as best I can. I’m doing as many “right things” as I can. Not in a frantic or panicked way, I’m just trying to make good choices. Eating better, getting enough sleep, exercise, journaling, therapy, medication, getting outside, practicing gratitude and staying present.

I wouldn’t say that any one thing is my magic elixir that makes everything all better; but each thing layers on top of an other and together they are more effective than any one thing on their own.

Part 3 tomorrow…don’t hesitate to ask if you have any questions!

Why the focus on Gratitude? (Part 1)

I talk a lot about gratitude. I truly believe it’s life changing and has even been life saving for me.

I don’t entirely understand why my brain works the way it does. I mean, I know that there are chemicals and hormones at play and they require balance in order to work properly. I just don’t know why my brain isn’t balanced and working properly all on its own.

There are aspects of the way my brain works that I adore. There are other aspects of the way my brain works that feel devastating.

I love the way I can remember things. I love that I am continually hungry for knowledge. I love the way my brain seeks out puzzles to solve in efficient and effective ways.

I also find it devastating. I can’t remember a time when I didn’t have ruminating thoughts. I, sometimes, wonder what I was like as a child. I have memories but not a clear grasp of who I was. If there was a before and now I’m living in the after? Or if I always felt like this? I don’t know. I have nothing that I would consider a significant traumatic event, that might signify a “before” and having watched my kids grow up with anxiety and other mental health challenges, I believe that a huge part of my story is genetic.

Chemical deficits that lead to faulty wiring in my brain and body; or maybe generational trauma, but that’s getting deeper and headier than I was planning on getting in this post.

Regardless of the why, I’ve experienced anxiety and rumination for as long as I can remember.

For the most part, it’s under control. But I’m ever so aware, that this stability isn’t guaranteed. I don’t know exactly what triggers it but when it happens, it feels like it blindsides me.

I know it sounds strange to say that’s a good thing, but it is. I, now, have periods of time where I’m not ruminating and that’s incredible; because I have had periods of time, in my past, where I couldn’t stop the thoughts from looping.

I think the hardest part of this was growing up thinking that everybody experienced this and that they were just doing a better job of managing it than I was. I thought everybody’s brain worked like mine and they could cope a lot better than I could. I felt defective, and not capable enough to handle the regular every day pressures of life; but everybody else was doing it, so I just needed to try harder and be better.

I had no clue that it wasn’t normal to over think and over analyze every conversation you had. To pick apart everything you said and did; and based on that information, to judge yourself as lacking, foolish, inept, and basically just so stupid. I had no idea that most people didn’t hyper fixate on every social interaction and determine that others were judging you for slight social miscalculations or flubbed non-verbal nuances. That was just my normal.

But my normal was often hell. (to be continued)