Thursday, September 6, 2012

Creating Happiness

I've been brainstorming ideas for posts, so I don't end up getting bored.  That happens to me.  I have the shortest attention span.  I have a lot of ideas and finally found my missing camera, so I plan on taking some photos for posts soon and was actually planning one for today, but I think I'll save that for another time and instead talk about something I've been working really hard at lately.

A few months ago, I started to notice that I wasn't feeling like my usual happy self.  I've always had some trouble with anxiety, but there was something besides that.  I stopped enjoying many of the activities that I normally enjoyed doing.  I couldn't even bring myself to take the daily walks that I always looked forward to.  I began to dread a lot of social interactions.  It was something I had never felt before and it was pretty damn scary.

I went to see my family doctor and ended up just unloading on her.  I told her that I was feeling overwhelmed, that I was crying pretty often, and that I was experiencing a lot of anxiety, more than ever.  The doctor said she thought it sounded like I was suffering from depression.  She suggested that I see a counselor and referred me to a practice nearby.  It's funny, I help people for a living.  I suggest that people get counseling pretty often, but it wasn't something I was fully comfortable with.  The fear of falling deeper into depression outweighed my fear of counseling, so I decided to give it a shot.

I had the worst anxiety the day I had to meet the counselor for the first time, but it seemed to melt as we spoke.  She was so very sweet and seemed to be able to relate to what I was going through.  We talked about my life, my past, my family and I cried like a baby.  We sort of made a plan that I was going to learn to manage my depression and anxiety so that it didn't affect my daily life and pick up some coping skills.  I left feeling a bit renewed and optimistic about overcoming this.  I saw the counselor again and left with some great ideas on how to overcome my biggest obstacle, my own thoughts and self criticism.  I felt pretty determined and I started working on things right away.  I have spent the last two weeks actively working at improving and it's been amazing!  Depression is pretty common, yet it's not something a lot of people are comfortable talking about.  I wanted to share my experience and how I've started to heal, in hopes that it may help someone else with these same feelings.

Here is how I created happiness:
  • I got serious about exercise.  I hate getting up early and I can't say that it's always easy to want to go workout, but I have been going to the gym each morning before work.  My counselor stressed that next to medication, exercise is the second most effective treatment for depression.
  • I downloaded this app for my iPhone.  There are a ton of journal and diary apps, but I really like that the simplicity of this one.  Each day I make a list of the things for which I am grateful and the app puts the items in a numbered list that I can look back at later.
  • I made a list entitled "Why I am Amazing" and filled it with accomplishments and things I like about myself.  I tend to be my harshest critic and sometimes dwell on what I still need to do, instead of the progress I have already made.  I refer back to that list when I start to feel sorry for or criticize myself.
  • I made a playlist of songs that make me feel good.  Music is a pretty powerful thing and can definitely change my attitude.
  • I leaned on friends and family for support.  I have some great friends, both in real life and online.  I make sure that I reach out when I am feeling down.  I have an amazing friend in Australia who I email regularly.  Sometimes it's as simple as describing our days, but that regular interaction is great.  I also made sure to always fill Don in on what I was experiencing, even if I didn't have a good explanation for why.  
  • I made sure that my office was filled with things that make me happy, pictures of my boys, little wind-up toys, and positive quotes.  I spend a ton of time there, so I wanted to make sure it was a comforting space.  I have this great little box of power thought cards, which can be found here.  Each card has a positive affirmation on one side and description on the other side.  I picked out the ones that I thought were the best fitting and displayed them right on my desk.  This one is two-fold, because it helps both me and my clients.
  • Finally, I started this blog.  I love writing and sharing.  This is something I've wanted to do for a long time and this seemed like the perfect time.
Now I'm not saying that it's always easy to make changes and I know I will likely still have some bad days, but I've been feeling really good.  I saw my counselor tonight and she seemed proud.  She only wants to see me once a month, because that's really all I need.  As proof that all my hard work is paying off, on my way home from my appointment, my car broke down and kept my cool.  I stopped for food and it just wouldn't start when I tried to leave.  I called my husband and to his surprise, not only was I not crying, but I wasn't even upset.  I sat outside, ate my food, and waited for my husband to arrive.  When we couldn't get my car started, I simply called a tow truck company and went home.  No tears, no anxiety.  This is pretty big for me!

I know this post is super wordy, but this has been a pretty big part of my life right now.  I'm working hard to be happy and well.  I promise my next post will contain  more pictures and a lot less text!