A few of my favorite things

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Hey there.

Here I am, nestled between my seafoam sheets while attempting to do some homework, and all I can think of is you. My readers are always on my mind. You are always on my mind. 

Remember watching “The Sound of Music” as a kid? We watched it on the regular at my house. 

There I’d sit, wearing my favorite silky nightgown, singing with Maria and the Von Trapp children about raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens. 

I related to her. I, too, liked brown paper packages tied up with strings. Everything she sang about seemed happy, magical even. 

Then, one day, in the midst of my depression, I realized what a lie that was. That merely thinking of a few of my favorite things wouldn’t make me feel bad anymore. 

Story time.

I was wandering through the aisles of Deseret Book on an errand with my mom that summer, when the title of a book caught my eye. I can’t remember the exact name, but it had something to do with LDS women and depression. Glancing in my peripheral to make sure no one was watching, I picked up the book and began to read. 

The author asks the reader to imagine they are accompanied by the love of their life in a breathtaking Italian town, surrounded by vineyards and beautiful architecture. Then, she asks them to imagine them feeling completely apathetic to the situation. 

This real-life experience is how she described her depression; losing complete interest in even the most enticing activities.

I couldn’t have related to a person more than I did at that moment. 

I had been in such a dark place, not even reading Harry Potter (my favorite thing in the world) brought me happiness.

A couple of days later, I was driving home from work when I heard these lyrics from a Regina Specktor song.

“Some days aren’t yours at all. They come and go as if they’re someone else’s days. They come and leave you behind someone else’s face. And it’s harsher than yours. And it’s colder than yours.”

Regina, I hear you girl. But it’s got to stop.

I didn’t want to feel apathetic anymore. I wanted to feel passionate. Joyful. Loved.

So although participating in fun and simple activities didn’t work right away, they helped. 

Today, I created a list of 10 of my favorite things. I dare you to try them.

  1. Go into nature. One of my favorite quotes is by Albert Einstein, and it says, “Go deep into nature and you will understand everything better.” I was living in Russia when I first read that, and my little apartment was surrounded by the most gloriously tall trees I’d ever seen. When it turned warm, I’d go outside, lay on a lawn chair, and just stare at those trees. When I returned home to the beautiful land that is Utah, my mom would drive me up to a hiking trail, and we’d spend the morning hiking through God’s most glorious creations. It may not have been a quick fix, but I’m telling you, I felt God in those mountains.
  2. Spend some time with your pet. Remember when you begged your parents for your pet, and now you’re all grown up and too cool to spend more than five minutes a week with it? That was me. Yet, some days, I’d just sit outside with my cat Lizzie. I’d talk to her, she’d purr, we’d soak up the sun together. Sometimes animals understand better than the crazy humans do. 
  3. Do something you loved as a child. Painting? Dancing? Hopscotch? Do it. I love asking children what they like to do. They do everything. My nieces are artists, singers, dancers, soccer players, and anything else you can think of. I was also those things when I was their age. You know what I am now? Me neither. I don’t care if you still can’t draw a horse. If you loved it then, chances are you’ll secretly love it now.
  4. Don’t just “pin” it. Raise your hand if you’ve spent hours pinning recipes, DIY projects and quotes on Pinterest. I’m definitely guilty. Last summer, I made the picture at the beginning of this post for my wedding reception. Do you know how I felt after having making one of my “pins” a reality? Like a Pinterest baller. Creating>Pinning. Big time. 
  5. Meditate. Meditating has been one of my favorite things to do since high school. If you’re anything like me, your brain is constantly wired, thinking about a million different things. When I was in the height of my depression, most of those things were negative. Meditating teaches you to control your thoughts and love your mind. 
  6. Go to an old folks home. If you feel like nobody has it worse than you, head on over to an assisted living center. There, you’ll see people who really have it bad. You know what else you’ll see? You’ll see Midge with some tubes up her nose, sitting in the same arm chair she has for the last 6 months, wearing a diaper and thinking of her deceased loved ones. And you know what she’ll be doing? Smiling. From personal experience, I have seen people who are worse off than this, smiling the day away and giving compliments to everyone who walks by. It’s a real humbling experience. A necessary one. 
  7. Facebook stalk yourself. How many times do we find ourselves browsing through other people’s pictures, noticing how pretty they are, how much fun their last vacation was or how many friends like their statuses? It happens to me frequently. And during those times, I have to stop looking at other people’s happiness and look at my own. I scan through the pictures and posts of Megan Christensen and I see pictures of an amazing experience in Russia. Family vacations, life-long friends, and the greatest family I could ever asked for. Because guess what? You’ve had trials. But you’ve also had a good life. It may not seem like it, and it may be less fortunate than a lot of people. But I know somebody loves you, and I know you’ve had many, many blessed nights in your life. 
  8. Write a letter. Not an email, not a text, a real letter. Write it to someone you love, someone on a mission, or a stranger. Who doesn’t love mail?
  9. Read “The Fault in Our Stars.” This beloved book found me at a time I needed it most. It will hit you hard in places you didn’t know you could feel. It’s especially good for depressed victims, because it teaches the most beautiful perspective about a girl who has been where you’ve been. And then some. And if you’ve read it before? Read it again. I read it every June. 
  10. Watch your “blankie” movie. This is what me and my husband call our favorite movies. Not the most recent Nicholas Sparks type of movie. The movie that’s been through the years with you. The one you had to get on DVD because your VHS is so worn out. For me, it’s You’ve Got Mail. There’s not a character I can relate to more than Kathleen Kelly. The sassy, passionate, book-loving heart who works hard to keep something she believes in. 

I can’t guarantee that doing these things will heal you. But I guarantee at least some of them will make you feel something. And it’s a good feeling.

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Liz’s Story.

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Authors Note: This is the beginning of a series I’d like to write about other people’s experience with mental illness. I so appreciate Liz, her brave heart and her willingness to share her story with fellow sufferers. If you’d like to share your story, email me at meganannmarsden@gmail.com, and we can set up an interview.

During her ninth grade year, when most girls were spending their days shopping with friends and taking drivers ed, Liz Erickson was coping with severe depression. 

After experiencing her mother’s death at age 12 and enduring physical, verbal and emotional abuse from her autistic sister, she felt unpretty, unloved and unintelligent; but she figured everybody felt like that.

Her depression went undiagnosed for ten years.

Throughout that decade, Liz’s depression led to eating disorders and thoughts of ending her life.

It was during her time living in Salt Lake City that she hit her peak.

“I just completely lost it,” Liz said. “I felt like my brain wasn’t my own. I was fearful for my own life and I was scared of my own self.”

After telling the doctor she thought she might have depression, he gave her a blue packet to fill out, which would help him assess the severity of her mental illness.

She described filling out that packet as taking the worst test in the world, because it meant admitting she was broken.

After diagnosing her with mild-severe depression and anxiety, the physician put her on several medications.

“The medications worked for about six weeks, but then things got worse,” Liz said.

During a second visit to the doctor, Liz was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, which frustrated her, since she felt like the medicine was the cause of this second diagnosis. 

Just when things couldn’t get worse, she was in a car accident, which totaled her car.

“I was physically fine, but I didn’t know how much it was going to change me,” Liz said. “I had started a new job and a new school, and my body was literally shutting down. The left side of my body shut down. My arms wouldn’t work and my hands wouldn’t open.”

It was then that she sought the help of a neuropsychologist, who diagnosed her with a third mental illness: Conversion disorder.

While most patients who experience anxiety fall into the 60th percentile, Liz fell into the 90th percentile, which led to her brain converting her mental pain into physical pain, sometimes even temporary paralysis. 

If she did not get better, there was a risk of permanent paralysis. 

The healing process meant regularly taking medicine and attending group therapy, but the medicine only made it worse.

One night, when she felt the weight of the world pressing hard upon her shoulders, she overdosed on her medication. 

It was at that point she decided she needed to get better, and the medication could not be a part of the equation. 

With the approval of her doctor, she decided to ween herself off her medication, but the results weren’t pretty.

She knew she had to get better, though, so she decided to counteract the medicine by training for a triathlon. 

“The exercise gave me so much confidence in myself,” Liz said. “When I started doing things I never thought I could do, I started to think ‘Wow, I’m a lot more awesome that I thought.’”

It took less than one year for Liz to get off her medicine.

Though she was doing much better, she still experienced hard times. 

One of her coping mechanisms was to create daily victories for herself.

Her victories were small, but productive, such as getting out of bed or changing her clothes.

She also made it a habit to pray daily, even if her prayers were as simple as “Thank you for keeping me alive today, amen.”

Liz said The Lord was the number one instrument in her healing process, though she couldn’t always see it. 

“I think I was angry at God for the longest time, but once I started getting better, I saw His hand in everything.”

Liz experienced frustration with others when they would tell her that if she would just read her scriptures she’d be fine, she’d be happy. She tried doing that, but she wasn’t feeling better, so she figured she was a bad person. 

“It wasn’t until a bishop in salt lake said ‘lets get you better’ that my testimony really strengthened, because finally someone heard me. I was sick and I needed to get better,” Liz said. 

Author’s final note: It’s been fun for me to see Liz at church during the last few months, because happiness radiates from her skin. She has found the love of her life, whom she is marrying next month, and she always has a contagious smile on her face. Liz reminded me of the importance in seeking professional help. If you feel like you are in need of someone’s help, never hesitate to find a nearby psychologist. After all, like Liz says “the medication treats the symptoms, but the psychologist treats the underlying diagnosis.”

 

Liz’s Story.

Standard

Authors Note: This is the beginning of a series I’d like to write about other people’s experience with mental illness. I so appreciate Liz, her brave heart and her willingness to share her story with fellow sufferers. If you’d like to share your story, email me at meganannmarsden@gmail.com, and we can set up an interview.

During her ninth grade year, when most girls were spending their days shopping with friends and taking drivers ed, Liz Erickson was coping with severe depression. 

After experiencing her mother’s death at age 12 and enduring physical, verbal and emotional abuse from her autistic sister, she felt unpretty, unloved and unintelligent; but she figured everybody felt like that.

Her depression went undiagnosed for ten years.

Throughout that decade, Liz’s depression led to eating disorders and thoughts of ending her life.

It was during her time living in Salt Lake City that she hit her peak.

“I just completely lost it,” Liz said. “I felt like my brain wasn’t my own. I was fearful for my own life and I was scared of my own self.”

After telling the doctor she thought she might have depression, he gave her a blue packet to fill out, which would help him assess the severity of her mental illness.

She described filling out that packet as taking the worst test in the world, because it meant admitting she was broken.

After diagnosing her with mild-severe depression and anxiety, the physician put her on several medications.

“The medications worked for about six weeks, but then things got worse,” Liz said.

During a second visit to the doctor, Liz was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder, which frustrated her, since she felt like the medicine was the cause of this second diagnosis. 

Just when things couldn’t get worse, she was in a car accident, which totaled her car.

“I was physically fine, but I didn’t know how much it was going to change me,” Liz said. “I had started a new job and a new school, and my body was literally shutting down. The left side of my body shut down. My arms wouldn’t work and my hands wouldn’t open.”

It was then that she sought the help of a neuropsychologist, who diagnosed her with a third mental illness: Conversion disorder.

While most patients who experience anxiety fall into the 60th percentile, Liz fell into the 90th percentile, which led to her brain converting her mental pain into physical pain, sometimes even temporary paralysis. 

If she did not get better, there was a risk of permanent paralysis. 

The healing process meant regularly taking medicine and attending group therapy, but the medicine only made it worse.

One night, when she felt the weight of the world pressing hard upon her shoulders, she overdosed on her medication. 

It was at that point she decided she needed to get better, and the medication could not be a part of the equation. 

With the approval of her doctor, she decided to ween herself off her medication, but the results weren’t pretty.

She knew she had to get better, though, so she decided to counteract the medicine by training for a triathlon. 

“The exercise gave me so much confidence in myself,” Liz said. “When I started doing things I never thought I could do, I started to think ‘Wow, I’m a lot more awesome that I thought.'”

It took less than one year for Liz to get off her medicine.

Though she was doing much better, she still experienced hard times. 

One of her coping mechanisms was to create daily victories for herself.

Her victories were small, but productive, such as getting out of bed or changing her clothes.

She also made it a habit to pray daily, even if her prayers were as simple as “Thank you for keeping me alive today, amen.”

Liz said The Lord was the number one instrument in her healing process, though she couldn’t always see it. 

“I think I was angry at God for the longest time, but once I started getting better, I saw His hand in everything.”

Liz experienced frustration with others when they would tell her that if she would just read her scriptures she’d be fine, she’d be happy. She tried doing that, but she wasn’t feeling better, so she figured she was a bad person. 

“It wasn’t until a bishop in salt lake said ‘lets get you better’ that my testimony really strengthened, because finally someone heard me. I was sick and I needed to get better,” Liz said. 

Author’s final note: It’s been fun for me to see Liz at church during the last few months, because happiness radiates from her skin. She has found the love of her life, whom she is marrying next month, and she always has a contagious smile on her face. Liz reminded me of the importance in seeking professional help. If you feel like you are in need of someone’s help, never hesitate to find a nearby psychologist. After all, like Liz says “the medication treats the symptoms, but the psychologist treats the underlying diagnosis.”