Burgundy

I bought some burgundy kitten heels from Zara yesterday.  It was Black Friday and I wanted to reap the benefits of a once a year big deal discount (they were 27 dollars; don’t know how much of a big deal that really was, but oh well).

I rarely have much gumption to dress like the model advertising those red toned shoes, all dolled up and ready to take the world by storm, whether it be the supermarket or a business meeting; probably neither, but what a great outfit she had on with those burgundy heels.  You know, red represents courage, determination, strength, love, and all the words that exude power in its context.  Everything I don’t feel right now; I hate to be negative.

I had such high hopes of writing this post yesterday, eloquently describing the meaning behind my great Black Friday semi big deal find (the shoes), and highlighting the meaning behind the color red and how you should dress the way you want to feel, but motivation and happiness didn’t find me yesterday.  I wish I could make this post more upbeat and positive, but I made a vow to be honest through this blog, because beautiful pictures, tales of amazing travel destinations, and model like images of amazing garments isn’t what this blog is all about.

I wasn’t that determined this holiday.  As the color red is the theme of this post, I can say that love was present for my family and the time we were privileged to have together at a beautiful three bedroom airbnb home, but that’s about all I could give this thanksgiving holiday.  I’ve always been talkative when it comes to being around my family, more so than usual, because I see them mainly on the holidays, but this time I didn’t have much conversation in me.  It hurt to make conversation sometimes. I just felt like breathing and doing nothing.  It feels like I’m back to square one.

I know this just might be a bad moment and depression likes to take a small dent in the road and make it a sink hole, but I just feel like I wish I could have stayed at home by myself; I feel awful to admit this.  The sad part about saying this, is that I don’t feel bad about it.  I don’t feel bad about thinking about the food I would miss out on eating, the planned activities I wouldn’t attend, or the once in a lifetime memories I would not be intertwined in, if I missed this holiday.

I think I’m more upset that I participated in EVERYTHING and didn’t enjoy it; I was just ‘here’.  My therapist would say ‘good job for pushing yourself to do things when depression says don’t do anything’, but it’s hard for me to accept that notion right now.  Would I have been less determined, less courageous, less loving, if I didn’t do some or all of this holiday’s activities? I don’t think so, but I don’t know.  I’m just venting right now.

All I know is that I feel bad, glad that I bought those red shoes, but just not feeling the way the color tone of the shoe may represent.

I guess I’ll patiently wait for the new shoes to arrive, and a new day for a new mood.

I guess this is determination at its finest.

 

Barefoot ‘Can’tessa

I cooked.

Two days ago.  No applause deserved?  I beg to differ.

Its been nearly three weeks since I was released from the pearly gates of heaven, aka the psychiatric hospital (heaven may be an overstatement, but it was a safe place to be broken, and I needed a judge free existence that my world lacked).  I was put back on a prescription medication all too familiar, a medication that made me gain the freshmen 15 and I haven’t been a freshman for years; so that lack of appetite depression bit me with for months now, has turned into an appetite of a pro athlete.  Needless to say, I’ve gained a little weight, which is depressing in and within itself, but this is the only medicine that helps me to function at the basic level; you know, bathing, eating, and breathing…basic.

So, this ‘puggy’ pill has made me eat a little more and feel a little better, to the point that I felt like cooking something and being creative with it, which is not like me (a gift of depression, when anxiety doesn’t plague me, is the ability to just not care and try something new, even if it doesn’t work).

I had just enough motivation to take my girls to Whole Foods- the Disneyland of all things organic.  Getting the kids into the store was a challenge, a little overwhelming- mainly because the energy I did get from the ‘puggy’ pill, was nearly exhausted with all of the redirecting and freak out moments that probably happen with moms of two toddlers who aren’t depressed.  Therefore, you can imagine why I felt like calling it quits the moment I finally buckled in each child into the buggy, but I pressed forward.

I ended up having a great time with them, just being in the moment and allowing  Sydney, my two year old, to rummage around, practicing naming her fruits and veggies, as I tried to scrounge up a little more energy to engage in her verbal and mental acrobatics; what a tough thing it is to honestly, fake like you feel happy in hopes that your kids aren’t affected by your uncontrollable mood-thanks genetics.

We ended up coming out strong; my mind didn’t go to a terrible wasteland due to all the stimuli and intense sense of responsibilities put on me during that time, like it usually does, and I found butternut spirals that were ‘spaghetti’ ready.  To go with it, I decided to go with a local choice of pomodoro sauce infused with lavender (known to be calming and relaxing, good for the mind), thinking that such a sauce would pair well with such a sweet veggie as butternut squash.  Of course we needed a little fat to go with such a healthy meal for the mind and body, so I went with boneless chicken thighs- gives you a moister texture (yum!).

Now let’s get back to the beginning of this post.

I cooked.

Two days ago, yes, but we won’t let depression hold on to the negative thoughts I’m currently rejecting (the fact that I wanted to blog about this after I cooked, but felt too down and unmotivated to do it the last two days).

I’m proud of myself and so many other people that I know know how much of a feat and win it is to do something that may seem so simple, like cooking.

I may not be barefoot contessa, but what little light of hope I get through this journey, like whipping up a unique spaghetti squash meal for my family, shows me more and more that I CAN keep going, because I am going strong, fighting to get to say that I cooked TODAY.

Dreams

Picture this.

We’re in the movie Mary Poppins’; its that point in the movie when it’s raining (very detailed right?).  You know.  That part when that guy is singing ‘chim chimery chim chimery’ (I would google the exact details, including that guy’s name if I didn’t have sprint as my phone carrier).

Anyway, it’s raining that light sort of rain, where ‘that guy’ gets just enough wet to mimic reality, but manages to skip and hop in puddles  while singing, with an occasional smile on his face; ahhhh, what a moment.  Remembering that part of the movie somehow gives me warm feelings inside.

What does Mary poppins and some guy singing in the rain have to do with anything, you might ask? It has everything to do with how I dream joy may feel like in remission, or maybe in the near future.

I’ve been suffering a long time.  And although I am yet suffering, less than five days out from yet another hospital admission, one thing has remained steady, and that is my ability to dream. My days are so clouded with darkness that some days are easier to conjure up a dream than others, but I’m grateful for the ability to dream; to think about where I want to be and how that would make me feel.

Right now, if I had it my way I would write for a living.  Call me the next Toni Morrison or Maya Angelou. Heck, call me Dominique- the best writer in the land.  Creator of art from an idea, with the know how to use untapped words to make a masterpiece.  That’s what I dream.  Of course, along with the accolades would come the high financial award, but would all of this bring me the kind of joy that I yearn for everyday?

I’m not sure, but I know that doing something low stress, at my leisure, only when creativity calls, would be a great place to be right now at this point in my life.  I’ve had to put adulting on hold; working, doing a PhD program, and doing anything beyond getting up in the morning and managing to find 5% of energy to show some glimmer of hope and love to my daughters and my husband, is all I can give to this world right now.  Sometimes, even that can be too taxing on my fragile mind.

But, like MLK jr. said ‘I have a dream’.

I have a dream, that one day I will be able to do what I love, feel passionately about it, and experience joy in the midst of it all, no matter the weather, rain or shine; I have a dream that one day I will be fine.

So I’ll dream on…

 

911

I’m anxious.

Like the expected sequence of events that follow anxiety, my mind shutters at the thoughts of the future; tomorrow.  After the students have been taught, illustrating their dearth of new nursing knowledge, as I quietly deny intrusive thoughts, I’ll drive to a familiar place.

You’d think, after countless times of going to the doctor, routine or emergent, by choice or not by choice, that I would be calm about another go at it, but denial engulfs me, yet fear surrounds me; a scary place to be.

I have to have a procedure done.  A procedure that ironically falls within a month adorned with pink and a height of tribute to the strongest of survivors.  I can’t stop thinking about the moment I discovered a strange new part of me; both astoundedly freightened and strangely accepting of it.

I’m a nurse.  I know what to do in those moments.  I know what to assess for to confirm or reaffirm a strange finding, but that didn’t change how I felt in that moment.  Who knows what this new finding may be.  The doctors questioned the image of it, I lay there emotionally unmoved.  It was like I had already been in this situation before, a sort of dejavu.  But this was definitely the present.

Im not surprised at how I reacted as I lay quietly for hours on the table, exposed, vulnerable and alone; physically.  Yet I knew I wasn’t alone.  There’s been this cool and calmness that has been in me lately.  I expect the unexpected.  I remain unflinched by the inordinate, though my body responds in its normal mode of panic.  But I know why I’m calm.  His strength is made perfect in my weakness.

My relationship with God is different now.  I recognize that I’m not exempt from strife.  I’m not above reproach.  Why has it taken me so long to get that? To not be moved by every storm?  I don’t know.  But this valley I’ve been in for over two years now, is starting to show me more and more how his ways are not our ways.

I’ve never cursed him, and I never will.  I feel like Job.  So much pain, so much loss, and so much weight, more than I’ve thought I could bear at some points, but no where near the amount of strife he had to endure; I still feel a close semblance to his struggle.

I’ve called for help, I’ve called on him many times.

911 God. I’m ready to tap out, I’ve said, so many times, yet he keeps me going, though I don’t understand.  But he tells me “I’m preparing you for something”, so I press on.  And as I try to calm my body’s normal reaction to intense amounts of stress, the pounding of my heart and increase in the depth of each breath, I don’t feel the urge to cry out 911; not because I don’t care, not because I’m bigger than God (cause I’m not), not because I don’t believe, but only because I believe.

I believe that his will is perfect.  I believe he doesn’t make any mistakes.  I believe that whatever happens, whether it feels good or not, it is good.  So though my heart will pound away. Though my breath may become more labored, I still will hold on to this gift he has given me in this journey; the need not to dial 911.

I trust him.

 

(photo: courtesy of stocksnap.io)

Focused

Why can’t I just be depressed?

After nearly three years of torment is that too much to ask? To just deal with the torment.

So funny how things play out and come full circle.  At many points in this journey you could find me curled up on my closet floor, crying for the depression to leave.  It didn’t matter what was going on in my life during those moments, that didn’t fuel the fire of agony.  It was just the agony that was unbearable.  Now I’m internally wondering why I can’t just be in agony.

I know that might sound bizarre, but if you knew how much life has been such an additional weight on an already heavily burdened mind, you might ask for that same agony; it seems so peaceful as I think back to that time of strife, but that was all that existed then. Strife.

I didn’t have a full time job to worry about, I wasn’t crazy ambitious and in the throws of a PhD program, and along with all of that, trying to be a great mom, wife, and family member; I was just depressed back then.  For some odd reason, I told myself that it was ok to heal my mind as I worked hard to pursue my dreams.

Was that a good choice you ask? Probably not, but I had to make a survivor’s choice; wait for this episode of depression to heal or not heal for God knows how long, or heal, trust God’s plan for leading me into Potiphar’s house, and power through like I always have done.

Lets be completely honest though about it; I’m tired.  Maybe I’m stronger in my journey than I was before, only able to handle the agony alone, but now having to deal with the agony (with little improvement) on top of being in a great position in life, with great opportunities at my job and with school, is making me lose my focus, and feel wavering stress.

I’ve  wanted to quit so much, challenging dark thoughts, telling myself that I can’t do it when I don’t have the motivation or energy, heck, any sense of feeling to care about anything, and dreaming about how relieved I would be if I was ‘just depressed’; but that dream always ended in turmoil, me falling into a deeper abyss, sad that I had given up on dreams I’ve had, simply because I was depressed.  As great as that would have been, to literally throw in the towel on all the busyness of life, I knew that wasn’t the way to get to my healing.

Staying focused, when your mind wants to do anything else but, has been a huge struggle for me.  It’s been hard to walk this path, with so much unknown, but I’m DOING it.

Its tough, but I’m doing it; we are doing it; you are doing it.

God says that he won’t put more on you than you can bear.

That is so true, especially when you focus; not on the road ahead, or the turmoil all around you, but keeping all eyes on him, the one who is the author and finisher of our faith.

All you have to do is focus.

Painting Vulnerability

Art is an expression of one’s inner most thoughts, desires, hopes, dreams, fears, and everything in between; at least that is what art means to me, and so many other individuals that I have connected with through using the art of creative writing to heal and help others, in my journey with depression.  Rose Vitolins, a fellow resident of the Nashville, Tennessee area, is an extremely talented artist who knows all to well this sentiment I echo.  As a current art student and mastermind behind my blog logo, Rose understands the power that art has on your mind.  She was so gracious to take a little time to share with me and you about her thoughts, as well as emotions, behind the paint, the sketch, and the canvas, enlightening us on her view on creativity and mental health. •

 

Dominique: Rose, I am so glad to have you as part of my interview series ‘break the stigma’: a conversation series! Thanks for taking the time to do this interview with me.

Rose: Thank you so much for including me… I feel so honored!

Dominique: I am so in awe of your artistic talent, and so glad we were able to connect through the wonderful world of social media! Could you tell us briefly about what art means to you?

Rose: Wow, that is so kind! I am so thankful for social media… without it I would have never been able to connect with so many of the wonderful people I’ve met.. Like you!!
Art has been a steady part of my life for as long as I can remember. But as I’ve gotten older I’ve started to see how powerful and important art can be. It has played a huge roll in understanding myself by helping me process my emotions, my problems, or whatever is on my mind. To me, art is a powerful form of self expression and communication.

There is something so incredible about looking at a piece of art and being able to understand or feel what the artist was feeling when they created it. Art can connect us in that unique way. Maybe that’s why art feels a lot like vulnerability. For me, my work carries a piece of my soul (as cheesy as that sounds) and when someone can look past the colors and lines and see ME… that is the best feeling.

Dominique: How do you think Art and Mental Health relate?

Rose: I think they relate in so many ways! One of the main ways they relate for me personally is the simple act of intentionally creating space for something I enjoy even when life gets super busy… it’s self-care!

Dominique: I have a space on my blog dedicated to caring for your mental health through various outlets, i.e. #colortocope. What activities do you do to help you cope with the stress of life?

Rose: Love it… I am a big believer in coloring! Whenever I’m feeling stressed out or up-tight, drawing is one of the best forms of therapy to soothe my soul. Getting in the zone and completely focusing on the project I’m working on has a way of re-centering a restless mind!

Maybe that’s why art feels a lot like vulnerability

Dominique: The logo you created for my blog is simply divine! I gave you a whole lot of random ideas for my vision of what I wanted the logo to look like (God bless you for taking on such a task!), but can you share with us the creative process behind how you brought my ideas to life?

Rose: I loved working on your logo… It was so great because you had so many inspiring ideas to work off of. My creative process is simple, but vital to my work. First thing’s first: I have to figure out where the project needs to go. I like to set a goal with a few guidelines to keep me working in the right direction. I might sketch out a few little ideas at first, but then I always need to give the ideas some thought before I dive in. Something about the little brain break really cultivates my ideas, and brings them to life. Then it’s time to turn up the music and fill up my sketch book!

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After the initial ideas are on paper, the next step is getting feedback. (Another reason I loved working with you!!) Then I tweak it, erase it, change it, flip it upside down until it feels perfect… and that is an amazing feeling!

Dominique:  Thank you so much again Rose, for taking the time to do this interview and to share with others about the importance of art and caring for your mental health.

Rose:  Thank you so much, Dominique. I adore meeting other people that understand the importance of art! I love that you are highlighting the connection between mental wellness and creativity.

Dominique:  Is it ok to share your contact information, just in case anyone would like to pick your brain further about all things art or mental health?

Rose:  That would be amazing! My email is roselovesnashville@gmail.com. •

Ghost Writer Series: E4: A Glimpse into Depression

Written by Mallory Gothelf

The images were scattered, the night blurry. The hour was indecipherable. It could have been 5am or 5pm. I couldn’t tell if the thrashing in my head was from the force in which I was crying, or from hitting my head after throwing myself to the floor in tears.

I remember I stayed on that dirty carpet for hours. My chest felt as though it would explode from my heart, hammering at a rate that I thought would require medical attention. And I swear if I sobbed any harder, the little food I had in my system was going to come back up. I vaguely remember something breaking, I think that was my fault. I don’t even remember why I did that or with what intention.

Was I scared?

Was I frustrated?

Was this simply an attempt to punish myself for being this damaged?

These questions remained unanswered. I managed to catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror as I crawled towards my bed. Who was I even looking at? There was no color in my face, the corners of my mouth were turned down, and dark circles encompassed my eyes. I dared to glimpse into the depths of my eyes, but I only saw a dull pool of brown, utterly lifeless. Was this the end? Was this really how I was going to go out? 

 I must have fallen asleep. I woke up the next morning with little memory of the disbanded events from the previous night. They felt separate from me. But that didn’t matter. I woke up. I lived to fight another day. “I’m alive”, I kept muttering. And even now I’m still racking my brain.

How did I make it?

Why did I make it?

But truthfully the how and why really don’t matter, because the fact remains that I’m still here. My heart still beats, my lungs still take in air, and I can without a doubt see and feel the grey and blue bruise forming on my forehead. “I’m alive”, I said one more time. I kept saying it as a reminder, because I was determined to accept that beautiful and slightly mysterious fact.

 What I realized, walking outside later that day, made me remember a few things. I become agitated when people walk exceedingly slow when I’m late, Boston smells like there is a never ending gas leak on certain roads, and melting snow is significantly less awe-inspiring than when its first fallen. But on the other hand, the slow walk allowed me to breathe in fresh air for the first time in days, Boston can smell delicious, especially walking past the various food trucks that line the streets, and watching people dodge slush falling from the trees can be pretty entertaining.

The point is that I’ve learned that my life will toggle between the darkness and the light, depression and elation. I can either embrace it and live fully or choose to give up on it and never know what could have been. And as difficult and complicated as that choice can be, here I stand, knowing that living another day will always be one of my best decisions.

Some days I’ll truly hate that decision to live, and other days I’ll shudder at the thought that I would have missed out on my life.

Luckily the latter always seems to edge out the former. •

 

Mallory Gothelf is a beautiful, strong, fighter, and might I add, very talented writer.  I had the amazing opportunity to connect with Mallory through our very public journeys with depression, sharing our common goals of encouraging others through our suffering, and leaning on each other, as well as others who may be personally battling a mental illness, or are support systems for those who battle mental illnesses.  Her instagram account is a blessing to my life and I’m sure to many more people who can relate to her.  She is currently attending Northeastern University, in Boston, MA, and is defying all kind of odds by achieving her goals in life, in spite of her diagnosis.  She is bravely walking through this very ‘mental life’, full of unpredictability and strife, yet showing the world what the  strength looks like.

I am very grateful to have connected with Mallory and I am so very thankful for her telling her truth on ‘A Mental Life’ blog.

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