Favorite Quotes

  • You're not too old, and it's never too late

Monday, April 27, 2015

It's Not All About YOU! (Why helping others helps you)

If you're struggling with depression or low self-esteem or eating issues...whatever your issue is, what do you do to help yourself? What do you do to make yourself feel better when you're feeling down and really battling to get through the days?

My therapist often asks me this question. I meditate. I write. I spend time with my girls. I golf with my husband. I pray or go to church. And most importantly, I volunteer.

I am involved in two volunteer activities on a regular basis, and interestingly, they both involve food. This is not lost on me. Or my therapist. Or my dietician.

I drive for Meals on Wheels once a month, and I serve on the line at a local community soup kitchen. I love doing both of these things. I look forward to when it's my turn to volunteer. I can't imagine my life without these organizations and pastimes. If my Meals on Wheels coordinator calls and asks me to fill in for someone else, I (usually) always say yes. Right away. I know how happy and filled up I will be afterwards. It's funny that Meals on Wheels and the soup kitchen "feed" my soul and satiate me--all food words and images. But it's the truth.

Have you read any research on how volunteering helps the volunteers? It lowers blood pressure, improves mood, it increases endorphins and creates a phenomenon known as "helper's high." For anyone who has ever dealt with depression, you know very well how it leads to isolation. Lord knows, this has been the case for me in the past. When I was depressed, I loved staying inside, by myself, where no one could see me, where I could eat in private and I didn't have to deal with anyone.

But I'm here to tell you, volunteering and getting yourself out there, in the world, among the living really does help. It goes against everything depressed people feel and believe...and that's a good thing! I understand the feeling of, "People are a pain in the ass. They don't get me. I don't want anyone to see me like this. I can't even get out of bed!" but I swear, helping others gets your mind off of you and out of your own head. It's all good, people.

Helping others also lets you see first hand that other people are struggling with life as well. It's not all about you! We all need to help each other. Your helping someone else--even in the smallest of ways--helps you, too.

Driving for Meals on Wheels is one of the easiest ways to help others. You load up your car with the food, usually prepared at a senior center or nursing home, then drive around and deliver the food. I love seeing the people on my route. I've really come to care about them. People often say to me, "I bet they love seeing you and talking to you." They do. As a former nurse, I know that older people are often lonely and enjoy speaking to people during the day, even if it's only for five or ten minutes. I have the same conversations with them over and over again. We always discuss the weather. They tell me about their kids and grandkids. I know this helps them. It helps me, too. Truly, I feel so good, so uplifted after I'm done with my route. So satisfied.

The same holds true for the soup kitchen. And it's not only homeless people who come through our line. The soup kitchen where I volunteer is open to anyone and everyone, so we often feed day workers and landscapers and their wives and children. It's wonderful. We have our regulars there--many of whom are homeless and either drug addicts or alcoholics--and I do love to see them come through the line. I know they're still there, still alive and still fighting.

NEVER do I feel superior to these folks. I only feel like more a part of the human race, the human condition, and that I'm glad I'm there to feed them, talk to them, give them a smile...make them feel like they matter. Because they do.

So if you're depressed or mired in your own troubles and you happen to be reading this, please believe me. Please take the word from someone who has struggled with her own issues. Get out there do something for someone else. You'll be glad you did.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Embracing the Struggle

I've been struggling with a number of things lately. Namely, the two things I address here on my blog: my writing and my eating issues. This picture aptly portrays how I feel at the moment:

Yes, I am an elephant trying to climb a steep hill. I'm hoping anyone stopping by might understand this feeling.

I continue to work on a novel I've been writing for the past seven/eight years. My drive for the story is waning. I just don't care that much about my characters anymore, and I no longer think the story is something worth telling. So I've started on something new, which has given me "life" this past week, but my inner editor won't shut her big trap, and that has kept me from sitting down, "butt in chair" as Anne Lamott says, and writing what I want to write.

I also struggle with blogging, if you can't tell. I don't know how professional bloggers do it--how they come up with interesting subject matter almost every day. Maybe my life isn't that exciting. Maybe I'm not getting out enough and not having enough "adventures." Hmm...I do have an adventure planned for late May, but more on that later.

I've also been wrestling with my food/eating demons as of late. I realize this is a continuous journey and these issues will rear their ugly heads at different times, but it feels like I've done a complete backslide. And this, after I'd been doing so well.

I haven't completely given into my old ways--not of eating--but definitely of how I think.

For anyone with ED issues, please weigh in here, but how hard is it not to let "diet mentality" creep in when it's EVERYWHERE in EVERYDAY life? I can't seem to escape it no matter how hard I try. It's on TV, on the radio, in the grocery store check out lines, in my family and some of my friends. AND...how difficult is it to try and explain to family and friends how you're trying not to think "diet" thoughts even though you need to lose a few pounds? Of course it makes sense...you need to lose weight, so you "should" be on a diet or restricting food, right? But my therapist and dietician say "no." It's hard for me to wrap my head around. I can only imagine what others might be thinking. And that's a struggle, too...not worrying about what other people think when you've done that your whole life. 

My most recent "diet mentality" slip up came a few days ago. I was in the car and listening to a station where the hosts were pushing this new weight loss program that requires no exercise (right up my diet mentality alley...). I came home and researched it and almost called to schedule an appointment. But I knew deep down it wasn't good. It didn't feel "right." So yesterday, I met with my new RD and thankfully, she helped talk me off the ledge. The program can't be good, because if what they promise worked, we'd all be doing it already. How many times am I going to have to learn this lesson? I just get so easily sucked in with diet talk. All. The. Time. 

Thank God for meditation and my supportive family. And friends. And therapists. I need a lot of help keeping my head on straight. So today I'm going to just: 

What else can a woman do? I'm going to work on my writing projects because now that I've blogged, my butt is already in the chair. I'm also going to try and be easy on myself. I hope anyone who's reading this and has the same issues at least knows they're not alone in the struggle. And if you're into meditation, check out this great app called, "Headspace." It's helpful for those who've been meditating a while, or for those just beginning.