Archive for January, 2012

Breakfast, anyone?

Breakfast is served

The problem of not eating breakfast, for me, isn’t actually about breakfast. The fact is, I’m usually pretty good about meal planning, mostly because I’m something of a food snob (read: Italian – see previous blogpost). I usually remember to pack my lunch (or have already decided to eat somewhere else that day). I got better about breakfasts after I realized what an impact not having breakfast had on my migraine count. I tend to go in cycles, I’ll drink protein shakes for a week or two, then eat eggs for a few days, sometimes I just have brown rice. Recently I discovered a love for apples and so have been having them for breakfast on and off for the last…hmmm…couple of months, I guess.

I've eaten about this many honeycrisps this year

So, if those are all the ways I’m good about breakfast, then where’s the problem? The problem comes in when I get thrown off my schedule. If I plan to run in the morning, I don’t eat breakfast till I get home. Except if for some reason I don’t manage my run (issues with the dog, emergencies that arise during the night, some new errand) I will look up and discover it’s 2 pm and I haven’t eaten a thing. This is generally bad news for my migraine count. And it isn’t just on running days. A sharp disruption in my schedule – even a non-physical, emotional disruption – can throw off all my great planning skills.

On a day when I get distracted enough to forget my breakfast, I get home and I’m not just hungry. I’m hungry AND I feel deprived. So when I start for my late lunch, I’m not just thinking about eating, I’m also thinking about soothing that poor, deprived me.

I started my day today in something of a panic, racing about, trying to get things done before I had to head in to work. Once I was at work, I had to work (obviously) and didn’t even think about eating. When I got home today I wasn’t even hungry, but I knew I needed to eat, so I started water for pasta. Pasta is a favorite of mine, so in order to keep myself from going overboard, I did two things. First, I only cooked one serving. My usual tendency is to make enough for 2 servings, ostensibly so that there is enough to eat the next day, but if I’m having a rough day, I’m just as likely to eat them both. The second thing I did was fill my bowl half way with broccoli before I even added the pasta.

Mmmm...broccoli

I’m not saying that I didn’t overeat – I probably still ate too much for one sitting. But do I think I saved myself from that way-too-full feeling AND the residual guilt that would have accompanied it. Part of what helped me was the Reinvention Project that I am participating in this month. Even though it’s all happening virtually, knowing that there are a bunch of other people out there trying to make positive changes in their lives kept me thinking about my choices as I got my meal together. Thanks, everyone!

I love tortellini.

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Oh yeah, well…take that!

I’m lucky that I haven’t experienced much anxiety, but what I have experienced seemed pretty straight forward. Either I was anxious about something in particular, or maybe I didn’t know why I was anxious, but when I was, I knew I was. Depression is different, at least it is for me.

Everyone experiences depression differently, I know that, but sometimes I forget that even within an individual experiences of depression can differ. Sometimes when I’m depressed, I get low, so low I can hardly get through the days. I get this feeling like there’s a heavy blanket pressing down on me and it even seems difficult to breathe. I lose interest in everything, even food and books. I find everything tiring, even doing regular, every day chores. I want to sleep a lot and I fall behind on my paperwork.

Van Gogh knew depression

But this is not my “normal” expression of depression.

What I usually experience is quite different. What it usually looks like for me is that I get busy. I mean it, I get completely swamped. My schedule gets packed. I work, take classes, start projects. I fill up blank moments with 7 books at a time, including at least one audiobook. I start learning something new, organize my cabinets, my closets. I clean – oh how I clean! I even clean up my computer files, delete old emails, reorganize my itunes. I clean out my car, organize the freezer, build a desk thing for my treadmill.

And away we go...

From time to time, someone in my life will say, “Depressed? You don’t look depressed to me.” And they’re right, I don’t “look” depressed, because most people think of depression the way I described it before, sleeping a lot, not being able to get things done and all of that. Me racing around doing a million things doesn’t look much like depression, but it has a similar affect. Even though I’m moving a lot, I’m not getting much done. If you’ll look back at my list, you’ll see that while those things might be useful, none of them are particularly essential. In fact, they frequently keep me from doing what I actually need to be doing. I don’t sleep enough and start to fall behind on paperwork. Sound familiar?

Here’s the interesting part. When I’m down and slowed down, it isn’t particularly pleasant, but I can usually see it (after a day or three) and I know what to do about it. Back in the day I would sort of force myself up, and out. I’d make myself do more social things, make myself get more physical, that kind of thing. These days I’m a bit more gentle with myself, allowing myself some down time and easing myself back into the swing of things.

The problem is much more difficult to manage when I’m experiencing the other kind, the do-bee kind. Because I forget myself that this, too, is depression. I get so busy I don’t notice that things are slipping. And because I’m busy, I mostly think things are ok. And, hey, busy isn’t so bad, right?

Bzzzzzzzzzz

The part that really messes with me isn’t the doing, or the not doing. The part that really messes with me is the thinking – or rather the not thinking. See, that’s the other side affect of being intensely busy. When I am staying fabulously busy, I keep my mind spinning and churning, circling and flitting from idea to idea. What happens is that I keep myself from pondering, from really thinking about the important things in my life. All that spinning is like so much busy work – remember those dumb worksheets teachers used to hand out that had nothing to do with any lesson you were learning, but was just about keeping you quiet for 10 minutes? My busyness ends up doing that…keeping my mind occupied on something relatively unimportant while carefully ignoring much more important things.

Cuz this is teaching kids...what?

Sometimes the important thing is related to work, setting up my billing the first time, for instance. For the last few years it’s often related to school – finding a dissertation chair, completing a paper, typing transcriptions. Sometimes it’s kind of both – looking for an internship, for example. As I was going into that process, I stayed so busy that I couldn’t think about it. Now, don’t get me wrong, it was on my mind. I talked about it and looked at my options over and over again, but this wasn’t thinking, not really. This was more like spinning my wheels. At that time I wasn’t sitting down, thoughtfully and meditatively going over my options. I wasn’t carefully weighing possible placements. I didn’t sit down and listen for any still, small voice. No, I was just racing in circles.

Round and round and round

Now, in that particular example, maybe it didn’t matter that I spun my wheels for so long (right up to the deadline, in fact). Most of the selection process was out of my hands from the beginning. But that isn’t always the case. And sometimes what happens is that I spin for a long time and when something finally gets through and I realize that I’ve been spinning, it’s too late. A deadline is missed, a mistake has been made, something gets lost by the wayside.

For me, those times are much worse than the depression doldrums, because I tend to be pretty hard on myself afterwards and because it usually goes on much longer than the doldrums. I don’t see it happening and so miss pieces of my own life. I’ve just been through a period like that and when I suddenly realized that I was spinning, I was stunned and disheartened. I’m up now, and am determined to leave the spin, but I just wanted to say that depression is a mean old bastard, and sneaky, too.

Take that, depression!

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