Anxiety And Depression On The Range

Deconstructing a lifelong pattern of negative thinking.

In addition to stories of our adventures, I sometimes like to talk about some of the other challenges I face. Following is a somewhat metaphorical account of the way I see anxiety and depression and one way towards wellness.

Always there.

I’ve written from time to time about the fact that I suffer from chronic anxiety and depression. I’m accustomed to their constant presence. Anger is supposed to be the base emotion beneath them.

They run like a background program on a computer in my brain and haunt me to a lessor or greater degree at any given time.

Like an overly thick wool blanket they drape heavily over my soul.

All I see is cast in shadow: my perception tinged an ugly grey. I struggle to part the dark material to get a glimpse of the world but the fabric is too heavy and dense. I’d like to take a pair of scissors and cut the cloth wide open and rip the mantle into two.

But these sad things have not been content only to cover me: they have grown into every fiber of my brain. They have curled around every neuron and imposed themselves into every synapse to form a mosaic of gloom. They’ve woven themselves into my grey matter – making us one.

I might have been infected in utero or before. Perhaps I was assigned the burden of these mental disorders in order to learn lessons I didn’t learn from a previous life (if you believe in that sort of thing). Nothing like a walk in someone’s else’s shoes to learn empathy. Was I not kind to someone at some time in the past?

However anxiety and depression came to inhabit me – they have a stranglehold.

I want out. Rather, I want them out but the growth is so thick I have to be careful in extricating them. Too fast and they might notice what’s going on and tighten their grip – perhaps around a vital organ.

The first step I made was to see them.

The shadows had assumed their position so carefully, I was completely unaware of their existence. Disguising themselves well, I accepted them as a part of myself.

The sunlight grew ever dimmer over the years; too slowly for me to notice. Like shades drawn down in tiny increments – imperceptive as the advance of the hands on a clock.  Suddenly it was twilight. Where had the day gone? It was just dawn!

Then the day came when I saw through a tear in the shroud.  Light. I had finally seen something radically different and in that glimpse, I knew there was something else I could feel.

I wanted more. The gig was up. Awareness of what I was missing drove me to face my oppressors. I could now see them.

I could now call them by their names.

Knowledge is a powerful thing but a lot of work would be required to peel back the years and layers of self deception that had formed my paradigm.

I became aware of the effect my negative thinking was having on me. I had a moment of clarity one morning when I saw for the first time, how absurd it was to spend my time in such a state of mind. It was pointless. It ate away at my energy and left me feeling drained.

But I was comfortable being miserable. That’s all I knew. Anything but being pissed off felt dull. I believe am addicted to the dark side.

I started to pay attention and when I began to fall so easily into the range of self-defeating thoughts and emotions I have come to know are grouped together, I stopped myself. Anger is an emotion of pride and it isn’t easy to quell. I had to ask myself why I wanted to hang on to it with such ferocity. What made spite so attractive to me?

I’m learning to recognize the moment that electrical impulse zaps down that familiar path towards self-loathing and despair and I’m jumping in with affirmations such as “this is made-up – it isn’t real” or “this is nothing but an old lie I believed”.

I question myself and do my best to replace chaos with reason. The amount of mental effort is tremendous and it doesn’t always work but I fight the fight when I’m strong. I put my sword down in times of vulnerability and cry.

But I’m making progress.

The very writing down of my thoughts and feelings is a gentle sawing away at the chords. Tight knots are loosening – nerve strand by nerve strand.

Like the way they insinuated themselves sneakily into my world, I’m methodically undoing my old ways of thinking and building new neural pathways that serve me rather than break me down. I sew up the old rotten holes left behind – hopefully for good. I carefully rip the seams apart one by one so as not to destroy the host.

It’s a process, and not an easy one. It requires discipline and a desire for a better, happier life.

What you believe is reality so change what you believe.

Anxiety and depression may forever be a part of my physical makeup but I’m using the tools of awareness and mental discipline to take control. I believe that I can change now. I try to pay attention and I say “NO” when the heaviness creeps in. I am now on watch.

Today, for four minutes at a time – maybe ten – twenty, I decide what is allowed to flourish in my head. The results might be imperceptible like the motion of the hands of the clock but I believe there will come a time when depression and anxiety will become a threadbare remnant of the past.

 

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Photo by Elias Tigiser on Pexels.com

Reading The Slingshot Balls

Decoding the universe through marbles.

I believe some activities put the brain in a meditative state and when I go out to look for my lost slingshot balls, I often find myself in a sort of trance.

I think the universe or God or the Tao – take your pick – speaks to us in symbols so if I apply that to me looking for the balls, I come to a few conclusions:

They’re hidden but that doesn’t mean they don’t exist (or do they exist only when observed)? You can walk past one and not see it only to have it become visible when you turn around and look at it from a different angle.

What we see depends on our point of view. I believe that is a fundamental precept of the universe.

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Is this force one thing viewed from an infinite number of perspectives? Has God created us to experience time and space through ourselves? Am I full of shit?

 

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My daughter once said to me “if you want to know what’s going on in your subconscious, take a look around you”. That makes sense if we create what we think.

I believe everything already exists at the same time but we see only what we choose to see – like tuning the dial on a radio.

Looking for my slingshot balls helps me to access frequencies I don’t normally use, therefore, slingshotting must be Godly.  🙂

 

 

Meditation and Mushrooms

It’s not what you think.

In my quest to better myself and my life, I’ve decided to take up meditation and in my husband’s quest for mushrooms (no, not psychedelics), he stumbled upon a whopper.

A Giant Western Puffball eight inches in diameter weighing nine pounds.

It looks eerily like a human skull and it’s now in my freezer.

I’ve known about puffballs for years and have collected and cooked them but I had no idea we had these enormous masses growing in the Pacific Northwest. They are edible and taste and feel much like tofu from what I’ve read.

We put it on Craigslist.

As for meditation, I need to learn how to shut out the gunshots as my neighbor is target shooting.

I’m interested in rewiring my brain and apparently meditation helps to accomplish that.  I previously saw it as a “hippy” thing to do but there’s research now that shows it’s super effective in changing for the better.

Meditating temporarily disengages your mind with the subconsciousness making it easier to replace negative with positive attitudes.

I’m starting off with short intervals that I can do while the neighbor reloads.

Oh My – My Underthings Are Showing

Melting snow reveals a disaster area.

Nature’s petticoat of snow has finally lifted to reveal an unkempt, half-awake landscape; much like my husband’s face in the morning when he first wakes up.

We are officially in the “before the pretty green things begin to grow” and the “cover your blemishes with snow and forget about it until Spring” phase. In other words, the place looks like shit.

Little bits of garbage that strayed from trash bags are all over the place, mud has replaced snow, and everything’s a general brownish color. But you know what? I love it! The snow is gone, the snow is gone, the snow is gone, the snow is gone! 🙂

That means mushrooming, gardening, gold panning, huckleberry picking, trash hauling, and spring cleaning – yay!

A sense of renewal and expectations for the coming year are at the tops of our minds. No more frozen hoses, frozen batteries and frozen asses. The sun will now take over the task of keeping things warm.

One of the upper springs.

We’re using our solar panels again. We missed the height of the sunny season when we installed them last year so we’re very pleased to see we can run most things all day on sunshine alone.

Spring fever is upon us and thank God! We have a bog that used to be a driveway but I’ll take that in lieu of four-foot snow drifts.

Today I am grateful as I pull on my rain boots to slog through the mud to pick up trash.

Happy Spring!

 

The Winter Garden

A poem.

The Winter Garden

Silent and still, the garden sleeps.
Crooked fence posts stand sentry, starkly contrasted against the brilliant landscape.
A single glass totem sits, tilted and topped with snow. Temporarily forgotten.
Barbed wire sags lazily, resting in wait of it’s required vigilance.
Remnants of ragged twine dangle loosely, motionless.
Brittle and greyed corn husks defy the authority of the commanding white mantel, escaping it’s grip by inches, in denial of their demise, unaware of the life they shield at their feet.
Folding topography of ripples and mounds an intimation of the graves of last year’s remains.
Tatters of tomato vines and pea plants leech nutrients into the soil, preparing a bed for their progeny.
Seeds slumber under the shimmering arm of winter, sheltered from harm.
Life quietly awaits instruction from the Almighty God to resume.

Wood Gathering: A Poem

At night in the woods.

Disclaimer: This is kind of a cliché poem but I had fun writing it.

Air sharp as glass, ice scraping flesh

Breath escaping in frosty plumes

Feet frozen, struggling up hill to the place where the wood lies

Snow glows bluish, dark shapes fracturing it’s crust, frozen in escape

Stillness, snow holding tightly to all sound but the travelers

Constellations assume their poses, looking back through time with patient curiosity, eyes extinguished for millenia

Flashlights swing right to left and back, searching

Pausing, putting down the wood bag; catching breath

One stands watch while the other sets to work

Listening; sharp crack, blade falling

Wood rending under blows

Load bundled, nervous glances; fears better left unvoiced

Back to light, too far away

Not too quick, not wanting to look behind

Home close, steps quicken in urgency

Silent reassurances; nothing is there

A sound from the darkness, wood flung aside, clattering

All thoughts of fire forgotten

In flight, flashlights abandoned

Stairs, porch, door flung open, in

Dawn brings light, safety promised

Door opens, cautious glance

Long shadows cast by an early sun reveal clawed tracks in the snow

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A track my husband found right outside of our trailer last winter after hearing howls “like out of a movie” nearby.

I’ve Lost My Marbles

Cosmic meaning in slingshot balls.

Little white marbles – four hundred of them – lost.

Slingshot balls.

Out into the trees, into the ditch, under layers of pine needles and behind clumps of dirt. Like gold, they quickly find their way to the deepest recesses where I can barely see them. When I run out, it’s time to forage.

One day while I was wandering around looking for the balls, the act of concentrating seemed to put me into a trance. I became contemplative and wondered if the universe communicates to us through symbols and if so, could I learn something from rambling around looking for marbles?

What if each ball represented a truth? Then the following might apply:

  • They are sometimes easier to find in the darkness rather than the light.
  • The harder you look for them the more they seem to elude you.
  • Sometimes they are right in front of you and you don’t see them.
  • Sometimes you walk right over them only to spot them when looking from a different perspective.
  • Some get buried in the dirt but they still remain visible if you look closely enough.
  • They are all around you but you don’t always see them.
  • They seem to appear magically in front of you with the right frame of mind.
  • Just when you think you’ve found them all there are always more.
  • Although they seem lost forever, they are there, somewhere. Or are they?
  • Are they there when observed and gone when not?
  • They are more visible with an open mind.
  • Some travel farther than others.
  • Picking them out of the pine needles can hurt.
  • You can drive yourself crazy looking for them in the snow or you can be patient and wait till Spring when they will reveal themselves.
  • Where the hell do the ones I never find go? Does some gopher have a living room full of them?

Do you think I’m crazy? 🙂