Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Find your passion

The other day, Joel Osteen posted this status on his facebook page:
If you are going to fulfill your destiny, you must do what God hardwired you to do. Make sure you operate in a realm where you are passionate.
I still say the guy smiles way too much, but I have to admit, a lot of what he says really makes a lot of sense.

My job is what one might consider a career. I've been doing it for over ten years and I'm good at what I do. It is an honest, challenging job that offers me a chance for advancement and growth.

While that's all true - in reality, I'm a little burnt out. It's stressful work, that is either feast or famine. One minute, it's so slow in the office, I swear I hear crickets; the next, I can barely get out of my own way. There can be a lot of pressure, and sometimes my coworkers are just plain annoying.

Truth be told, if I could quit, I probably would. But my job is also a paycheck - and paychecks are a good thing to have, especially when you also have a mortgage. There are other perks; like a ton of vacation, pretty flexible schedule, and the (limited) ability to work from home.

But I'm not what you'd call passionate about my job. I show up, do what I have to do, and leave. I'm often on auto-pilot, and though there are challenges, I don't really seek them out. While I'm interested in doing my best, I'm not looking to do more than what's expected.

I do a little work for myself that I enjoy, and the writing that I do is pure enjoyment. I do find passion in those endeavors, but not the opportunity to really jump in with both feet. But Joel Osteen's comment about "operating in a realm where you are passionate" also got me thinking about the volunteer opportunities I've recently found.

Those will give me the chance to jump right in. The organizations I'm working with all need help now. I have my first volunteer assignment this weekend, and am already working on a mini-event fundraiser for another organization. I also know that the program coordinator at Big Brothers, Big Sisters has been calling my references, and I'm still hopeful I'll be matched soon.

It got me wondering - maybe I'll find my passion here. It may sound a little corny, but I'm very excited at the possibility I might finally be on a path to finding a true meaning and purpose in my life.

I think we all need one.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Memorial Day


Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Help myself by helping others

So, like I said - it's up to you to help yourself out of a depression. Whether you do it by asking your friends for help, going to a counselor, changing your diet and exercise routine, or adjusting your medication - it all starts with you. No one else can make the decision that you're going to help yourself.

During my whole deep-depression, a fabulous friend suggested that one way to help myself was to help others. Get involved; volunteer.

I thought about it. Then I thought about it some more. The more I thought - the more sense it made. What I need is a distraction; something to take my mind off of how sad I am, and give me a new focus. I need something to keep me busy; a reason to drag myself out of bed (when work just doesn't cut it) and face the day - especially on days when that's the last thing I want to do.

Volunteering does all of those things. As an added bonus - while I'm helping myself, others will also benefit.

But where to volunteer? My friend, naturally, had a few suggestions there, too. "You'd make a good mentor," she said. Now - I don't see myself as a great role model, but she is not the first person who has said that to me. They couldn't have all just been trying to be nice (right?!), so I started thinking that maybe it makes sense. I contacted Big Brothers, Big Sisters - and had an interview and orientation last week. That doesn't guarantee I'll be a match - but I'm excited at the possibility.

[SN: They really need volunteers right now - Littles are on a waiting list. Just sayin'...]

I also contacted a couple of other organizations - Girls Inc. and Upper Hudson Planned Parenthood. Both have some very interesting volunteer opportunities. I've been through the required training at Planned Parenthood and start on my first volunteer assignment in a couple weeks. I'll be interviewing with Girls Inc. later this week.

Why these organizations? My time is precious...even when I'm trying to fill it up any way I can. I want to be very careful about donating time (and money) to organizations that support causes important to me. Empowering girls, and teaching them to be strong, confident women is very important to me. So is encouraging and advocating for proper healthcare, and teaching women (and men) to make informed choices about their health.

Those things are important to me - and these are causes I can proudly stand behind. In the meantime - I'll be so busy, I won't have time to think about being sad.

That's the goal, anyway.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Help yourself

I think it's important for people to understand that depression is really an illness. The one thing I can do to help others understand is to be open about my own struggles - so I am.

After I re-read that post, I got to thinking...I don't want it to sound like an excuse. Just because a person suffers from depression, she's not off the hook when it comes to protecting her own health. I mean, if you have high blood pressure, you don't add salt to your soup, ya know? People with depression have to take care of themselves, too.

Having gone from being worried and/or depressed all the time, to a relatively even mood on the medication, I've become hyper-aware when I'm extra sad or worried. I know, without a doubt, when something isn't right with my feelings or mood or behavior.

How do I handle that? Many ways. If it's really bad, an adjustment to medication might be in order. I prefer to stay away from that if I can. Actually - I've avoided it altogether, and have never adjusted the dosage.

I prefer to sit down and have a heart-to-heart with myself, to figure out what is causing the spike in worry or sadness. Did something happen? Am I hormonal? Can I fix it by eating a little better that week, or exercising more? Maybe I need to make sure to take a break during my workday. Or maybe I need a day off altogether.

What about counseling? I swear, everyone needs counseling. Those that think they don't are usually the ones who need it the most. It never hurts to have someone help you reframe the worry, and suggest ways to cope.

Talk to your friends. They care (if they don't - get new friends). Lean on them. Ask for help and support. You would if you had the flu; this is no different.

Keep a journal. If you're tracking how you feel and when you feel that way, it might be easier to figure out the trigger. You'll have a much better chance of fixing the problem if you understand its cause.

Accept that not everything is in your control. Whether it's God, or the cosmos, or the tooth fairy that you belive in, find a way to be OK with the fact that there are some things you just can't fix - and it does you no good to worry. Concentrate on the things you can control. You won't ever be able to fix how another person feels about you, or the economy's effect on your job, or who in your family is affected by cancer. But you absolutely can control how you react to any of those things.

Listen - I'm no expert. I'm just a 30-something who has been through some things, and gotten to know myself better in the process. These are things that I've done, that have worked for me at different times in my life. I don't think anyone should be embarrassed to ask for help. I also think everyone should be willing to help themselves.

I was. And I'm grateful every day.

Helpful links:


Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Fly like an eagle

I think most people assumed I would have stopped going to church by now. I know everyone assumed I would have stopped after the last couple of weeks.

But I haven't. I like church. I also like its message - even if I don't always agree with what they say or how they say it.

This weekend, our Pastor started  a new series called Guardian. It's about "protecting what's most important." Being Mother's Day weekend, he spoke about how moms (all parents, really) are charged with not only protecting their children, but preparing them to become adults, and eventually parents. 

He read a passage from the Bible (don't ask me which; I can't ever remember, and I don't take notes because I'm too busy listening) about how a mother eagle prepares her nest, protects her babies, and then shakes things up so they learn to fly (I'm obviously paraphrasing). 

Pastor Buddy says that's the Bible's way of directing parents to do the same - protect children, but also teach them how to fly on their own. 

I'm not a parent, and it's not very likely that will ever change, so the message about how to protect my kids was sort of lost on me. But since the whole thing was in the context of the Bible and God's word, it did get me thinking....

If we're all children of God, and He loves us, and is trying to teach us - is it possible that when life hands us an obstacle, that's really God's way of stirring the nest, and forcing us to fly? Are tough times really just His way of teaching us something new, and making sure we're prepared for what's next? 

That's sort of comforting, in a way. Yes, bad stuff is gonna happen; but we already know that's the case. It is nice to think that the bad stuff isn't really a punishment, or because we don't deserve better. It's comforting to think that maybe it's just there to prepare us for something even better. 

And that something better might be just around the corner. All we have to do is learn to fly.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Depression hurts

No, this is not a post about Cymbalta.

People don't like to talk about depression as a disease. They talk about it as a "mental health issue" - something from which a person suffers, just like she might suffer from low self-esteem.

Sometimes it is. Situational depression is a "response to a specific set of external conditions or circumstances." Someone dies; you get depressed. You lose your job; you get depressed. The thing about that sort of depression is you can point to something and say, there's the cause; and you know it's temporary.

But clinical depression is different. It's a constant state of despair, with no real cause - and no end in sight.

It sucks.

But people don't see it as an illness. Many think people who suffer from depression are weak. "If you need a pill to get through the day, don't bother..." is the attitude most people have. "Just get some exercise or take a vitamin; you'll feel better."

No, I won't.

It's a health problem, just like anything else. You take a medication for a thyroid condition, or allergies, or high blood pressure; I take one for depression. Actually, if you want to get technical, I take a low-dosage medication that treats both depression and generalized anxiety disorder. Living in a constant state of worry is tough - and doesn't do a darn thing to help with depression.

I take medication because my body (and brain) can't get me to the "normal" level most others can get to naturally. Does that mean I'm never sad, or worried? Of course not. It just means that without the medication, I see everything as cause for worry and sadness. With the medication, I'm as "normal" as the next person.

Stuff can still make me sad - and if it's really bad, my mind might not know where the sadness should end. I'm just now starting to come out of a terrible period of both depression and anxiety, that was definitely situational.

To be perfectly honest, it was scary as hell. Thankfully, I have friends who supported me. I keep telling them thank you and they say, "Oh, it's nothing; that's just what friends do."

That may be. But I hate to think what might have happened if I hadn't had my friends - or my medication - during the last couple of weeks.

So the next time someone tells you she's depressed, don't shrug it off, or suggest she just get herself to GNC. It might be a bigger deal than you realize.