I Choose to be Happy

Five little words have been making such a difference to me as of late. I’d always thought affirmations were a little silly until I found the right ones and I decided how to ingratiate a few into my life. One of my favourite affirmations is as follows:

I Choose to be Happy

It seems too simple to make a difference. Had I been told to do this at my deepest, darkest points of depression I likely would have scoffed, rolled my eyes and been irritated, feeling like my mental state was being oversimplified, misunderstood. I likely would have cried and called it a bullshit solution.

In many ways I would have been right. Maybe it was too soon for me. Perhaps this mantra is something to work up to with a therapist or Doctor or maybe there comes a time in recovery when one can finally see that happiness can be a choice. If you can bring yourself to believe it sooner or even just pretend to believe it, fake it til you make it as the saying goes, you might be able to speed up your recovery.

It’s easy to be beaten down by the tumult that insists on messing with us all. Some times are worse than others but there will always be tumult and irritation about. So why not choose to look for happiness and positivity in spite of tumultuous times?

Choosing to be happy doesn’t mean sunshine and roses everyday, all day and to ignore all problems and potential conflict. No, Choosing to be happy means laughing and finding the humour, sometimes even in the face of adversity. It means smiling for yourself not because you’re, supposed to, but because there is a lot of good in the world if you choose to see it.

Choosing to be happy means finding as many reasons to belly laugh as possible. It means surrounding yourself with people who make you happy and who you also make happy. It means seeing opportunities for negativity and choosing to tackle those opportunities with a different attitude.

The trick, for me, has been to embed the message, I Choose to be Happy, into the everyday so I can’t help but remember it.

Here’s a list of some of the ways I’ve embed the phrase into my days so I see it enough and make it so memorable I can’t help but begin to hardwire this notion into my brain.

– Write it on sticky notes and leave them strewn around your home and office.

– Turn the phrase into a daily appointment on your calendar so when it pops up the reminder is there and the happy circuit is again reinforced and helps rewire the brain. This method has been particularly helpful to me.

– When you come across the phrase where you’ve written it down say it out loud. Hearing the phrase instead of just reading it engages another sense and reinforces the idea again.

– scrawl it across white boards and mirrors. Place it everywhere and anywhere you might catch even a subliminal sight of it.

– Make an effort to do one or two things that make you happy everyday.

– Be creative – even if you insist you, “don’t have a creative bone in your body.” Trust me, deep down you do, it’s just a matter of finding your creative style; maybe you decorate cakes, or create recipes, or love interior decorating, creating model train terrain or you’re actually great at drawing but you’re too stuck try… unstuck yourself, unfuck yourself! You can do this, use your creativity to find activities that make you happy.

– Create a space you’re happy to live in. You don’t have to spend big to redecorate. Sell or give away what you don’t want and spend time browsing thrift stores and garage sales. There’s something satisfying about finding the perfect items at a reasonable price and bringing your unique treasures home.

Admittedly I’m not perfect. I have times where depression and negative emotions take over and I can’t help but cry and write bad poetry. Sometimes it feels like the bleakness and black will never leave my tired bones.

This photo reminds me that sometimes things must fall apart to fall into place. I could have been sad this flower lost a bloom but I chose to be happy about how lovely it looked. I couldn’t have placed it better if I tried😊

As the saying goes, this too shall pass. I find myself drawn out of the depths of depression a lot easier now that I’ve finally found tools that work for me. It’s been a long, hard road fraught with out-patient care, multiple psychologists and psychiatrists and nurses, medication changes, being suicidal, long stays in the psych ward, and, most recently, coming to terms with the end of my marriage.

I’ve found myself a soft place to land and truly begin to heal and figure out who I am and what I value most. It turns out I value kindness, empathy, belly laughing, honesty, integrity, my friends, family, and unbridled happiness, to name just a few.

This is just one of many techniques out there and I’ve had good results over the past year since I really started working on healing emotionally, building self-confidence, finding independence, growing inner strength, loving myself as much as I love others and finding happiness.

I’d love to hear if any affirmations work for you, perhaps some examples and alternative ideas💚

K


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Sometimes Things Are Just Things

It took my Grandfather years to downsize because he couldn’t part with his furniture. He’d come to so cherish his dining room suite because it had belonged to his parents and was gifted to him and my grandmother once they’d married and begun their own family.

I think he’d infused, confused, misplaced, the deep love he felt for his mother, who died when he was still a young man, into the furniture. The table and chairs didn’t replace his mother though. He couldn’t claim they loved him back but he couldn’t part with them because of the power he gave them.

I’ve been just as guilty, hanging on to pieces of my mother as though they’ll bring her back. The most important parts of our relationship are stored in my head, my heart, not in her opal ring or the wall hanging she made in a circular weaving class. These things don’t love me back but they make me feel closer to her in a way she didn’t intend. I gave these things their power over me. I gave them that intense hold that’s so often born of grief and good intentions.

Things can turn evil if we give them too much power, too much of ourselves, if we let them hold us back.

I’ve been listening to a lot of Dresden Dolls and Amanda Palmer’s solo work lately and her song, The Thing About Things, on her new album, There Will Be No Intermission, has had me thinking of the power we give things and how we often let what we own own us.

I’m down to one last thing I thought I was saving for the daughter I don’t have. It’s hard to let go. It’s hard to admit that my grad dress will never be pranced around in during dress-up or altered to fit my little girl as she goes off to a formal dance. It’s hard to admit that I’m not going to have a daughter the way I always thought I would. It’s just a dress. I’ve given it the power to bring me to tears about something that doesn’t exsist.

I’ll be working on letting things go, taking back the power I gave each piece. Taking back the power these things were never meant to have. Within my heart and head I have the real power to keep my precious memories safe.

Do you find you hang onto things? Have you ever given meaning or power to an item only to realize it’s how deep it’s got it’s claws in you? How do you go about letting go of things? I’d love to hear any comments you have.

K

Inspiration is Everywhere

Every artist finds themselves feeling uninspired once in a while. For example, I’ve been drawing tree women for months and, while I love my girls, I want to shift my focus and work on something else. Here are 5 ways I’ve been looking for new inspiration and a refreshed point of view.

Here’s a brand new drawing I created from a combination of colours I’m drawn to right now, some twisted trees that came to mind, and a figure pose I found on Pinterest, I then altered her hair, clothing, and overall aesthetic. Yeah, creativity!

  1. Go for a walk or look out a window and study what you see. It may look like just more trees, or other houses, or a parking lot but if you look closer there’s so much more going on. People are coming and going, lights twinkle at night if you’re in a city, stars twinkle if you live somewhere rural. There’s so much to see and ponder. It might not happen all at once but if you listen closely there’s inspiration everywhere you look.
  2. Relax. Relax. Relax. Putting pressure on yourself to produce new art is unlikely to make things happen, although my next point will directly contradict this point, it just depends on what kind of person you are. Both techniques often lead to new and exciting, quality work.
  3. Set a reasonable deadline and stick to it. For many people having a deadline to keep them working towards something. Personally, I am motivated to write by deadlines to some degree but when it comes to drawing I put less pressure on myself. As long as I practice every day I know I’ll get to something fresh and exciting in the near future.
  4. Look for inspiration in your immediate surroundings. It may sound strange but check out the shadows that cross the different rooms in your house throughout the day. Look at the shapes and design of your furniture and decor. Then ask yourself how you can incorporate some of these shapes into your work.
  5. Pinterest is a great source for inspiration. Never directly copy anything, unless it’s just for practice and not to be shown as your original work. I have files for figure inspiration, faces to draw, shapes, illustration style, trees, water, and more. Any time I’m looking for something to practice or if I want to draw a Trump cartoon, I head to Pinterest and pull out the picture I want to use. When I’m feeling uninspired I scroll through and add all sorts of new ideas to my files and soon enough I’ve found several ideas to combine and add my own twist to in order to create something exciting and new.

I hope these few ideas for finding inspiration are helpful. Using your creativity is a great way to cope with pain and mental illness, I know this first hand, unfortunately. Creativity is by no means going to solve all your problems but I find it to be an integral part of my path to coping with chronic pain and mental illness to the best of my ability.

Please let me know if you have any special techniques you use to stir up your creative juices. As always, I love to hear from you.

K

I’m Not Doing Enough… Really?

I often beat myself up for not doing enough. Sometimes it feels as though the world is passing me by like I fell off the treadmill and can’t seem to regain my footing.

What if there’s another way? What if the treadmill isn’t the only way to get around in life? Is it a little scary to forge my own path? YES. But I don’t have to let fear stand in my way. I can be brave.

What if I choose to see it that the world isn’t working faster or harder than me but that we all do things at our own pace and that’s ok.

Occasionally I wonder, if I were a stronger person would I be able to cope with the pain and thrive? I’ve heard stories of others who prevail and cope with mental illness and chronic pain, like superheroes sent to taunt me with their power to overcome the very things that hold me back. Is this really the case though? or am I simply not as appreciative of my own work over that of others.

Why shouldn’t I value my own accomplishments and efforts in the same way I value the work of others? What would happen if I chose to value myself for just being me?

Lately, I’ve been focusing on challenging my negative thoughts. Therapy has taught me to check out the assumptions I make to see if my logic holds or if I might reconsider.

If I check the assumption that, “I’m not doing enough.” The first thing I notice is the ambiguity of the word, “enough”. How much is enough?! Who the fuck knows. What I take away from this analysis is that I’m mustn’t base my goals on nebulous ideals.

If I look at the word, “doing,” next and check my assumptions out something interesting occurs to me; drawing, writing, yoga, housework, visiting Drs, planning creative works, pacing myself so I can manage to have the energy for visits with friends and family, playing with my cat… I am doing quite a bit when I look at all these items.

Now if I go back to my original statement, “I’m not doing enough,” I can see this statement for what it is. It’s a thinly veiled put-down that assumes my value is based on physical output and monetary accumulation alone.

The statement is also judgy and unfair. I’m essentially telling myself I’m not good enough and because I’m not good enough, I’m worthless. That’s a pretty shitty thing to tell myself right?

Imagine if I called up a close friend with chronic pain and mental illness and said, “dude, I’ve got to be honest with you, I don’t think you’re doing enough.”

I cannot even imagine saying such a thing to an enemy let alone a close friend. If I wouldn’t say such a thing to a close friend why the hell would I say it to myself? I have to allow myself the same empathy, love, kindness and caring I’d show anyone else, otherwise, I might as well punch myself in the face every morning.

Sadly, I’d have to punch myself in the face a number of times throughout the day as that’s how often I’m making negative comments to myself, about myself. I want to be done with treating myself this way. I need to be my own best friend and train my brain not to hurl insults at itself. I need to teach my brain that I am enough, that I have worth and I’m worth valuing.

I know it’s going to take time to, literally, change my brain but I’ve already noticed my inner voice growing stronger and more loving. I’m the only engineer I’m allowing to rewire the circuits of my mind, fuck your iron rings, I’m best suited to this job.

I can change my thinking if I continue to build confidence in myself slowly but surely, celebrating each small victory rather than waiting for someone else to change things for me all at once. If I take charge of the change I want to see I’m pretty sure I’m more likely to end up happiest with that which I’ve changed.

Are you playing an active role in building the future you want for yourself? What small changes can you make right now? What’s your ultimate goal for your future and will the changes you make move you closer to it?

K

Freakin Mental Monday

Hey Everybody,
I’m trying something new to spread info & awareness about mental illness.
I’m co-hosting a show called Freakin Mental Monday on the Another Freakin’ Athiest Youtube channel.
Tonight we’re talking depression symptoms & revealing our own struggles with depression.
Join us live at 6pm MDT & you can ask questions & comment in real time or watch it later when you’ve got time

Chronic Pain Fog

For the past month or so I’ve been wanting to write multiple blog entries. Ideas swirl round my mind, but like wily minnows, they slip through my fingers as I try to grab hold. I’ve only managed to spit out one or two blogs since my birthday at the beginning of August.

I write down drips and drabs and scribble notes on tiny scraps of paper or in one of a million notebooks and diaries. When I can think clearly it all comes together and my fingers fly across the keyboard and I can see the pattern building, the web I’m going to weave.

I suppose I haven’t really been slacking off too much. My focus has just temporarily changed to something a little less fun. I might have known, as I’m new to web design, “easy to use,” would mean, absolutely not easy to use if you’re a Luddite and the last time you learned web design was in 1998. I’m afraid those skills are just a titch out of date.

Luddite or not, I’m proud to say I’ve been working on a new website for my blog, as you may have noticed. http://www.perkreations.com will eventually also hold tons of easy to access mental health material. In addition, I plan to use the platform to showcase some of my art and offer cards, prints and originals for sale.

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This is the new logo I created for PerKreations. I’d love to hear what you think.

I use art, especially, as a coping mechanism when I’m in pain. I believe in pushing through the ugliness of art, that’s how you get to the good stuff. I usually manage to do this with drawing as I do it in a reclined position, on a heating pad.

Having said that, if I’m standing at an easel trying to paint it’s hard to push through anything when pain makes me feel I’ve a mind full of marshmallows, shakey hands, and a yucky sweaty face… these pain symptoms aren’t to be pushed through as the consequences will be incredibly painful and I don’t want to create a full-blown flare-up. In cases like this, I must put down my brush and come back to the easel after some rest.

The trouble with pushing through chronic pain is for many sufferers there is no end, just worse. The symptoms I mentioned, shakey hands, marshmallow mind and a sweaty face are just a few of the indicators I get that I’ve reached the end of my tether. Others may get rashes from the pain, experience swelling, feel cranky, irritable, anxious, depressed, guilty and more. Everyone with chronic pain is different and we all have our ways of coping and signs of overdoing it.

If I go out one day and run an errand, write or work on my site a bit,  go about the chores needing to be done to keep the house somewhat clean, then, even though I’m feeling sore and exhausted, I go out for dinner or meet a friend for coffee, I will pay for “pushing through the pain” with even worse pain that renders me useless for several days after.

I suffer from disc problems in my low back, hip issues, nerve pain and arthritis in my left leg, I also get sciatica pain. All of these pains sing to me in different tones or sometimes as a hellish choir. Some pains whisper one moment, then yoddle a moment later. As in, “Oh Fuck, my sciatica is yoddling!”

Sometimes it feels not too bad and is well managed with medication, knowing my limits and stretching. Sometimes the pain increases for no reason at all, sometimes it’s related to stress, and sometimes I overdo it. The trouble is the, “overdo it,” line isn’t always in the same place so it’s confusing as hell to figure out what’s too much and what’s too little. My body continually moves the goalposts on me.

I do not have pain-free days, I do not have pain-free hours. This is just how it is and over the past 12 years I’ve become better at handling the pain as well as anxiety and depression.

One particular thing that holds me back is pain fog. It limits my capacity to concentrate, stay calm, remember things, it’s as though all the different pains are singing a horrible, no good, very bad song in my head and if I have to think or focus on something complex like writing or decision making, I’m useless.

So, my website is coming along, although slower than planned. I am writing, although slower than I’d like. When the pain is bad I turn to my heating pad and create art to eventually have available on my website.

Do you experience pain fog? What’s it like for you? If you don’t have chronic pain had you heard of pain fog or brain fog? If you have any questions I’d love to hear from you dear readers.

K

 

Aging Greatfully

If you’d asked me a year or so ago what I thought my future might look like I’d have stared into the distance, my mouth opening and closing as if to speak, like a fish out of water. Then I’d have begun to cry and looked around for an emergency exit or a way to tunnel out of the situation. I felt I was so useless and defective that I didn’t deserve a future.

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Truthfully, my days of being suicidally depressed aren’t far behind me. I still have bad days and good but I no longer wish to be dead rather than alive and for that I am grateful.

On this, the morning of my 39th birthday, I am still unsure of my future but it doesn’t vex me so much as it used to. Instead, there are many things I’m grateful for.

In the name of starting my new age in a positive way, I want to list off that which I’m grateful for. This is not an exhaustive list, nor is it in order.

I’m greatful for:

  • My husband, who makes me laugh and offers love, understanding and a shoulder to cry on when I need it most.
  • My Dad, for being so gentle, loving, kind and funny as hell.
  • The 34 years I had with my lovely Mom. I wish we’d had longer together and I miss her every day, but we made the most of the time we did have.
  • Chocolate.
  • My cat Rafe. He may be new to our little family but he brings us so much joy, laughter and love. It’s hard to imagine how we lived without him.
  • Feminism, I hope someday it won’t be needed but until then I will keep fighting for equality.
  • Extended family on both my husband’s side and my side are warm and loving, they make me laugh and offer such kind words of encouragement. I honestly am an incredibly lucky girl to have such a wonderful family.
  • The existence of both shaken margaritas and vodka martinis with extra olives and my ability to consume one or the other on occasion.
  • My friends for being such kind, loving and loyal pals. I may not have a huge group of friends but I wouldn’t trade the friends I have for anything. They challenge my mind, they open my heart, they value my opinion, they encourage me and remind me of my strengths and self-worth.
  • Having fucked up more than a few times and still made it through – to what, I don’t know, but making it, “through,” surely speaks to my resilience
  • Making visual art, as it has opened up a whole new world for creative expression. I feel joyful and excited just thinking of future artistic possibilities and how much I love the act of making the art I’m making right now.
  • Wine, especially buttery chardonnay and old vine California Zinfandel. Yum!
  • The people I’ve met through my pursuit of increasing my art skills. Theresa Grasby of Grasby Art Studios has become such an incredible friend and mentor. I also cherish the fun relationship I have with the Grasby family members who also work at the studio, the other instructors and other painters. Everyone has such inspiring, energetic, humorous and kind spirits. They all inspire me to paint more and to keep pushing myself.
  • Having the luxury of not having to worry about having basic needs like food and shelter met.
  • Now being able to say melodramatically, “I’m cusping on 40!”
  • Having access to universal health care (thank you Tommy Douglas). Our system isn’t perfect but what we have is so much better than many have access too.
  • Coffee, as it’s a substance I adore. I like it black, just like my soul.
  • This blog and the catharsis and sense of purpose it has brought me.
  • Having additional health insurance which has helped me find access to many different Dr’s and other medical professionals for help with my injuries, my struggle with mental illness and my chronic pain journey. I continue to be granted most of the care I need and for that I am grateful.
  • The word, “fuck,” and speaking it as often as I can, cuz it’s fun to say and it’s one of those miracle words one can use to jazz up any sentence in need of jazz or it handily provides satisfying emphatic emphasis in a way no other word can.
  • Having so much love in my heart I wish to spread around and having the opportunity to do so.

What are you most grateful for? Do you enjoy celebrating your birthday or, like me, are you a little apprehensive about aging? I’d love to hear from you dear readers.

K