Winter and mental illness

I have a mental illness.

I’ve mentioned this before, but I don’t really like to talk about it. Not because I’m ashamed, or afraid of what people might think of me. I’ve long since stopped caring about that. I don’t discuss or dwell on my mental illness because it brings me down.

It sucks, there’s little I can do about it, and running through all the ways it affects my life is an exercise in self-abuse.

But this winter…worries me.

I’ve never really noticed a seasonal component to my mental illness. Some people struggle once the weather turns cold, but I don’t. Or, at least, I didn’t.

I’m worried things will be different this year.

Since I took up photography, I’ve been getting outside more and more. I’ve been taking long walks with my camera, stalking flowers and trees, and loving every minute that the sun beats down on me. I’m loving it so much that it’s hard for me to describe just how awesome being outdoors has felt, without sounding like some kind of deranged hippie.

And that’s great, of course, but it’s the flip side that bothers me. When the weather’s been rainy and nasty, my mood’s gone alarmingly downhill.

Every day of gray skies and drizzle this year has found me on the couch, tired, and miserable. Without the sun above, I feel like I’m six feet below. It’s an awful, relentless feeling that I can still work around for a day or two, but a whole season?

I already hated winter, but for purely practical reasons. It’s cold, wet, and “shoveling snow” ranks right up there with “lumbar puncture” on the list of things I never want to experience again. This winter, though? It feels like it’s going to be double-plus ungood.

So, I’m writing a list of things I can do to keep my mental illness at bay this winter, or at least dial back the dread. It’s not a given that things are going to be shitty once the snow’s on the ground, but having a set of activities to help keep my brain happy if they do sounds like a reasonable precaution.

Things I’ve put on it? Watching movies I’ve been meaning to see. Reading books I’ve wanted to read. And yes, getting outside, despite the ice and cold, is also on there. Meditation and a deeper commitment to what you might call my “spiritual” practice appears as well.

I’m still working on the list, still trying to fill it out, but just getting it started has made me feel better about how I’ll handle my mental illness this winter.

So, if you’re struggling too, why not make your own? If you do, leave a comment with what you’ve chosen to put on it.

We could all use some new ideas.

Wednesday Wupdate

It’s Wednesday again, so let’s continue the tradition of me hurling a bunch of gibberish at you about how my week’s been going. Think of these Wednesday updates like the “merchandising” restaurants do, where instead of throwing out their old, gamy food and taking a loss, they turn it into the “Chef’s Surprise” special.

Only instead of suspicious seafood, it’s my life.

That Instagram thing is going well.

“Broken and Beautiful.” I took this photo last week while walking through a local park.

I’ve somehow made it to three thousand followers on Instagram. That’s…really awesome. People seem to like my stuff, I’m often one of the “Top Posts” for my town and many of the hashtags I toss my stuff in–it’s cool. And to be honest, I kinda needed something like this to happen.

I hear a lot of artists rattle off the line “create art for yourself, don’t worry about what other people think,” but I’ve yet to personally meet any artist who isn’t secretly a needy little victim of impostor syndrome who desperately craves the approval of others. Myself included. I don’t need much, but I do need a little love from people who aren’t related to me before I can mentally say: “Okay, I am actually kinda good at this.”

Alex is a teenager today.

I foreshadowed this on Monday, but my daughter turns thirteen today.

It’s kind of freaking me out.

Changing priorities.

Despite the sleep and family health issues last month, things have generally been going well. There is the looming threat of winter and how that’s going to affect my mental health (I have a post about this sitting in my Drafts folder that I’m hoping to get out soon), but overall? I think I’m in a better place today than I’ve been in quite some time.

Which means that I’m starting to re-evaluate some of my priorities. Projects I’ve had kicking around, things I’ve been “meaning to do,” habits I’ve wanted to change–now that I no longer need to just live day to day, I’m taking some time to organize and plan.

If this smells a little like vague-posting, it’s because it is. Even I’m not sure what “organize and plan” means here, or which “priorities” I’m really talking about. I just know that I’m staring down the barrel of some hard choices as to what I’m going to focus on, versus what I’m going to kick to the curb once and for all.

Once I figure out which is which, I’ll let you know.

Humpday Humpdate

Well, it’s Wednesday, I’ll give it that much. Honestly, though? The days are just sort of blending together for me recently.

I mean, at any given time, one of exactly the following thoughts is going through my head…

  • I’m tired.
  • I’m sore.
  • I wish Lexi and Sloane would admit that they’re meant for each other, and what ever else happens, they’ll get through it if they just focus on that.

Yeah, Grey’s Anatomy got its hooks into me a while back, and I’m too far gone to care.

Anyway, apart from the above, and my shockingly consistent use of Instagram and Twitter, here’s what’s been going on…

The quest for new gear.

I’m slowly getting the cash together to pick up some new photography gear. And when I say “slowly,” I mean it. Being a responsible adult sucks, and since I’m still considering photography a hobby at this point, it’s pretty much dead last in my budgeting process.

That’s okay, though, because I honestly don’t know which sort of gear I should pick up first. I’m torn between lights (so I can work indoors when the weather is hideous), a new lens (probably a zoom telephoto for wildlife), or a filter or two for my existing lens (so I can do long-exposures in full sun).

My gut says “go for a new lens,” but my experience says “you will not go outside during the winter, so buy some lights.”

The news can fuck right off.

For those of us who aren’t stupid or sociopaths, the world kinda sucks right now. I won’t go into the specifics, both because you probably already know them and because this blog is already enough of a downer with all my “I’m tired”-themed ramblings, but…yeah. Things totally blow right now.

Not too long ago, I made a daily habit of reading 50 to 100 news articles across several reputable sources, but as of today the number is basically zero. And I’m fine with that.

Beyond the pure, elemental basics of survival, my first three priorities are family, photography, and my health, and lately I barely have enough energy to handle those.

Not my job.

Related to the above, my patience with people has reached an all-time low, and my willingness to deal with shit that’s not in my job description is next-to-none. For instance: I’ve hung up the phone twice this week when the person on the other end couldn’t answer a yes-or-no question.

Other Person: “Thank you for calling [Insert Store Name Here], this is Rick, how can I help you?”

Me: “Hi, do you have any [Insert Item Here] in stock?”

Other Person: “We actually have a sale on [Insert Other Item Here]. Are you look–“

Me: *click*

Some people might find that rude, whereas other people don’t want to hear a story when a simple “yes,” “no,” or “I’m not sure, let me check,” would suffice.

Anyway, that’s how my week’s going.

Good times!

Slack and Woe

Well, my streak was bound to end sooner or later. Haven’t published a blog post since Thursday, only barely touched the socials, and I’ve done almost no work for, like, a week.

Mostly, I blame the weather.

Here in my corner of the world, we’re basically getting week-long streaks of mid-fifties temperatures, gray skies, and rain, broken up by maybe a day here and there of “partly sunny” sixties.

This isn’t exactly what you’d call “ideal” for a person whose mental state has somehow become incredibly dependent on the weather in recent years, and who’s just set walking and photography as the twin pillars of all his stress relief.

So, my last couple of weeks can basically be summed up by the following conditional…

If the weather forecast looks like crap, I will watch Netflix and maybe get half an hour or an hour of work done on something. Otherwise, I will grab my camera, go outside, and walk until my feet and legs beg me to stop.

What I really need at this point is a good four or five day stretch of solidly good weather so that a) I’m no long bogged down by whatever this environmental depression-esque mood thing is, and b) that I don’t feel like Mr. Sun is so rare I have to throw everything else aside to embrace it like it’s the last time we’ll ever see each other.

Not sure when that’s happening, though, so here, have a Buddha.

 

Movies

Shortly after writing my whole, “Bad at Fun” post, I decided to start setting aside some time to just chill and watch movies. I’ve been trying to do this every day–and mostly succeeding–but man…it’s hard to sit still for two hours. I keep having to stop my mind from wandering off, or getting all anxious about All The Things that I “should” be doing.

I’m getting past all that, though, mostly be turning the whole “movie watching” thing into a task, in and of itself.

See, the American Film Institute has this list on their site, of the “100 Greatest American Films of All Time,” and it turns out that I’ve watched a shamefully small number of them. At least, in recent memory.

When you last saw a movie 30 years ago, and can’t remember the first thing about it, does it really count as being watched?

So, I’ve started watching the movies on that list, more or less in order, whether or not I’ve seen them before.

And by treating it like a to-do list, I’ve managed to keep at it pretty steadily!

I’m pretty sure this isn’t the healthiest approach, and probably works against my long-term goal of learning to “just chill,” but it’s what I need now.