Jul 24

Positivity Experiment & Conclusion

The Age of Medicine

Lately I have been struggling with almost every aspect of my life, including my mental health. I have been on depression and anxiety medication for 17 years and I know from all experience that: 1) Medication issues (such as not getting the correct medication on time) can take about 6 months to fully show up and can take even longer to settle back down, and 2) that medication is a helpful tool, but doesn’t take the place of work.

A little over 6 months ago there was a serious of pharmacy issues and I went without medication for about four days.. Then the same thing happened about three months later, but this time I was off medication for about a week. Both occasions were just long enough that some short term problems happened, but I know from experience that at 6 weeks I’ll have another mood swing and at 6 months I’ll really have a period of issues.

I am fully into “that period” and, gosh, the world does not seem like a friendly place. I feel (illogically) isolated and fragile. The normal weirdness of human behavior seems hostile. The other day someone made a comment in the grocery store and I burst into tears. I didn’t even know that person, but their comment hit me HARD.

The Science of Happiness

A few years ago “The Science of Happiness” was on PBS. I remember being particularly struck by portion that talks about an experiment where a group of people were assigned to say three position things to themselves every day. One of the participants was a young man who was currently “unemployed” and was using his time to take care of his extremely young daughter (“unemployed” is in quotes because I would argue parenthood is a total JOB as is employment hunting.)

Initially, he talked about his frustration with his job search and how he was “only” taking care of his daughter. But after a few weeks, he said he noticed that he was feeling better about things. He noted that the job search continued, but that he was taking pride in how well he could change a diaper and how much more connected to his daughter he was feeling.

Breathing Should Be Fun

Last weekend was pretty uneventful around Chez Choate (blissful, really…) and I had time to “sit down” with myself to really think about what was going on.

Another thing that has been going on the last few months is that my breathing has really deteriorated. As of last week I have finished a period of tests and examinations; the good news is that there is nothing obviously wrong with my lungs, the bad news is that I am empirically not breathing as well as I should be. At this stage in the game, we’re talking about management, not fixes.

I need to loose weight, and as much as I WANT to do that, I’m constantly bombarded with the feeling I can’t do it. I am a stress eater, and too much is going on!

Happiness Experiment

So last weekend I sat down and thought about what I could do. I’m depressed, I’m not breathing well, and I’m still feeling lonely from my move.

While I didn’t (and don’t) have answers, I decided to see if a week of my own “happiness experiment” could put things into perspective. So I decided to post three positive things I did each day on Facebook for a week. Here are my posts.

Facebook Posts

Sunday (July 17)

I have been struggling with… well… everything. So, this week I’m going to try an experiment.

Each day I’m going to post three positive things I did to take care of myself and/or did well at.

For today (Sunday):

1. I took Key to his dog training class. I got a workout and he got a lot of cheese. Win-win.

2. I did food prep for myself for the week. I may not do perfectly this week, but I will have healthy choices available.

3. I spent the morning relaxing by sleeping in and then going on a bird watching drive. It is okay that I spent a couple hours for myself instead of getting things done. It is okay that it wasn’t a hike.

Monday (July 18)

Experiment, Day 2.

1. I rode my bike to work and took the dogs for a long walk. I hit my FitBit goal of 10,000 steps.

2. I painted.

3. I returned phone calls in a prompt manner.

Bonus: I did not throw myself on the ground and shriek like a toddler when my boss changed her position and agreed with me just because someone else pointed out I was right in the first place. Total height of professional behavior.

Tuesday (July 19)

Experiment Day 3:

1. Attended weight watchers meeting, hit FitBit goal, rode bike to work, walked dogs. [Took care of physical self.]

2. This one won’t make sense to anyone not there. When someone came to me and showed me something they had done, and I (very crankily) thought “why?” what I said was “That’s gorgeous. You did a good job.” They glowed. [Kind to others.]

3. I worked hard all day: I lead three meetings (very scary) and attended a training. [Faced fears, conscientious.]

Wednesday (July 20)

Experiment Day 4:

Today was a hard one. Everything I felt that was good, I wanted to put a “but” in back of it. But that’s the experiment. Just see the good stuff.

1. I finished two books last night (counts since it happened after last post.)

2. I signed up for an online painting class and I painted!

3. I handled a difficult talk. And that’s all I’m gonna say.

Thursday (July 21)

Experiment Day 5:

Another hard one today.

1. I feel like I acted like an adult all day. ALL day.

2. I followed through on a physical/health issue; while the result have not been what I wished for, I feel good about pursuing it this far and getting the answers I have received.

3. I attended a creative class.

Friday (July 22)

Experiment Day 6:

1. Hit my FitBit Goal.

2. When I left, my desk was clean for Monday.

3. Disengaged from at least one illogical conversation.

Saturday (July 23)

Experiment Day 7 (the end, conclusion tomorrow)

Today’s is really hard for more as I’m feeling depressed and physically sore.

1. I took the dogs for a long walk.

2. It could be said that I faced my fears. I didn’t do well at it, but I did face them.

3. I have made a good enough friend that she admitted that she didn’t have a very good time either.

Experiment Conclusion

Working on this all week, I do see trends and was able to make a few decisions.

First, I made an appointment to see my (long-term) therapist. I made to go back to regular counseling for a while.

Second, I am really doing better than I thought on the exercise portion of weight loss.

Third, objectively speaking, three of my five work days were stressful (literally… FULL OF STRESS) and one of my weekend days was hard. I need to SCHEDULE more time for recovery.\

Finally, it’s hard to say good things to myself. SO many times this week I thought “hey, put that on your list” and a voice would come and say “but, you really didn’t….” or some other thing to cancel it out. I need to work on this. I’m going to try to find a way continue the process in a slightly less public way (not Facebook.)