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Rites of Spring

I arrived in Alaska, like many people do, in the spring. It was April 29, 1997. My roommate Fred and I got off the plane sometime between 10 and 11 pm. It was not dark, but not light. It was weird. Today it feels less weird.

After twenty odd years I am getting the hang of it. Spring begins with snow. Last week, it snowed everyday, for most of the day. Then it melts and there is trash and dirt followed by neighborhood clean up days. Neighborhood clean up days are followed by the arrival of the pirate regatta. No boats, just tents of men from somewhere else set up in the city greenbelt.

They are indeed pirates. They steal anything that isn’t nailed down. They’re mostly snowbirds, taking advantage of the warmer weather to live the wild rule free life afforded by stolen bikes, cars and the checks from unlocked mailboxes. Your trip to Anchorage would not be complete without a visit to the unsanitary dwellings of these scallywags which are conveniently located right off the Chester Creek trail, only 10 minutes walk from the myriad of downtown gift shops also waiting to rip you off.

But besides the arrival of flocks of humans we have the birds. First come the gulls, ducks, geese, swans, and grebes. I saw my first arctic terns of the season today. I have not seen a bear yet but they have been seen by others. They are probably watching me right now.

No green. In case you are wondering. Tiny buds on trees, but the bloom will happen soon. Maybe in a couple of weeks and it will be overnight, instant spring. Dandelions will pop up along with rhubarb. Perhaps the pebbles which kept my car from skidding in the winter will finally wash away instead of spitting tiny stars onto my windshield. One can only hope.

On the subject of rites, tomorrow is Walpurgis night. You may pray to St. Walpurgis to protect you from the partiers who build bonfires to keep away scary folks who gathered at The Brocken. Why gather at the Brocken? Why at Chester Creek? Who knows? Here is a photo of The Brocken Spectre, a optical illusion which surely had something to do with the fears surrounding it. Apparently the shadow of a climber can cause this.

800px-Solar_glory_and_Spectre_of_the_Brocken_from_GGB_on_07-05-2011

By Brocken Inaglory, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=15799557

I have yet to see a Chester Greenbelt spectre but I will keep my eyes peeled.

I have my rituals to keep away the spectre of the spring blues, different from the winter blues in that they are more agitated and hateful instead of hopeless and sleepy, I walk, attempting to see the tiniest bit of spring. I ride my bike. I try to do theatre in the spring to remind myself of joy, art, and that I am not dead yet. I will be performing a small part in Anchorage Community Theatre’s production of The Giver starting this week. The pay as you can preview is this Thursday at 7 pm. We play Thursdays through Saturdays at 7 pm and Sundays at 3 pm for three weeks. All the actors are talented and committed, the crew is extraordinarily creative and it’s a very meaningful show. You can purchase tickets here:

https://www.actalaska.org/tickets

If you are not familiar with the play, it looks like Anchorage in the spring – very gray. The Giver is a thoughtful examination of rules, sameness, safety and the erasure of history for the greater good, or not so good. There was a movie made of it with Meryl Streep and Jeff Bridges. Here’s a trailer.

The play is simpler but that makes it even more frightening. One doesn’t need an orchestral score and movie stars to be shocked at how close we are to a dystopian future. Just like I don’t need to be bowled over by flowers and warmth to know it’s spring. Come by and check it out. You won’t be disappointed. Happy spring!

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Painting as an anti-anxiety/anti-depressant

Sometimes blogging makes me think too much and I need a break. Sometimes exercise is impossible due to injuries. The Salvation Army has saved my butt during several dark Alaskan winters by sponsoring an arts and crafts project called Transformed Treasures.  They give participants $50 worth of Salvation Army coupons in order to transform 3 items from their stores and then they are auctioned off in the spring. I have completed my three just in time to start rehearsals for a show.

As an unmarried woman without children I am conscious that I can not make my job or my blog or my home or my hobbies my life. I am an amateur at everything. Many people frown on this but it is my credo that if I stop loving something I should take a break from it. If I feel that something is taking on too much significance in my life, in that I am making it more important than my recovery, then I need to step back.  Obviously I can’t give up on everything. That’s what depression wants, so I have lots of alternative interests.   As an over active person, painting allows me to sit down and pursue something that has much more process than endgame.

In the past, I have painted sneakers, (trainers for you Brits) and  lamps in tribute to women artists. This year was just a fun bit of steampunk and Doctor Who. I have never painted reverse on glass so this was a great process of making mistakes and living with imperfection. Everything used was non-toxic. I especially liked aging the letter holder with acrylic paints added to watered down isopropyl alcohol and applied with a hand pump sprayer. What fun, and it looks like mold and patina.

Here is the distressed steampunk letter holder. The internet is great for finding old bills of lading and dirigible pictures to decorate with.

distressed steampunk letterholder Jcullinane Transformed Treasures

Old School is new school again. Get off line. Write notes and letters.

Here are my Doctor Who plates. Who knows why I love this show so much? The multiethnic cast? The great British actors? The broad themes of human struggle and humor that echo the original Star Trek?

DoctorWhoDarlekplateJcullinanetransformedtreasures.jpg

I’m not really sure if there is a market for a Darlek dinner plate. I believe a child or diehard adult fan would appreciate it. It looks a little angry but perhaps angry dinner plates can be a new thing? It’s therapeutic to make something that speaks to oneself and hope that the spirit moves someone else. Even though it is not a terribly original idea, it’s still an odd one and I am proud of that.

The first piece I made is the Tardis plate which is a bit rough around the edges as I was just learning to paint on the reverse and get the lettering right.  But it does have transparent windows which are cool.

DoctorWhoTardisplatejcullinanetransformedtreasures

It looks like the Tardis is falling rather than flying but she often does that. I believe it will be a nice plate for fish sticks and pudding dip.

I’m happy to be giving these away.  I just hope I spelled everything right. If not they don’t have my name on them. I feel a bit less anxious but that could also be all the chocolate I’ve been eating. Bon Appetit.

Impress your friends with a winter ice cream treat!

Got some friends held hostage by Trump’s demands? Host an ice cream party with your neighbors/community and find out what they need help with! Could be a group temporary loan, some sneakers for their kids or a ride to the doctor or church. Ice cream and commiserating also help if financial resources are unavailable.

Here in Alaska, WE LOVE ICE CREAM! Baked Alaska is basically an imitation of melting permafrost! But have I got a treat for you!  I served it last night after running/jogging a ridiculous 5k in zero degrees. It was such an Alaskan experience. They lent me used Ice Bug shoes to run in, just in case I wanted to purchase some later. Icebugs are shoes with screws in the bottom and they were absolutely outstanding.  I usually just wear strap on spikes but they constrict my shoes and also fall off randomly on bumps.  I am scared to see how much these Icebugs cost but was assured by a friend that they also have a guy at the store who will just drill some spikes into any of my old running shoes.

There was no real group start at the race. People just moseyed off and we followed them hoping we had the right turn around spot since there were only about 20 of us running in the dark. The cocoa and the free tee shirts from runs which happened 10 years ago were appreciated.

Anyway here is the ice cream.

icecream

This is what you do to make it even more delicious. Make some mini pancakes. Put  this delicious ice cream on top and drizzle with maple syrup. You could serve these at a restaurant and charge $8 and people would be loving it. But then I am someone who can eat a pancake anytime of the day.   I guess I would call this a  “Maple Heap”, ( you could even sprinkle chopped up maple sugar soldiers or put a Canadian sugar Maple leaf on top).   Perhaps marketing it as a “Vermont Landscape” – Maples and cows or “Over the River and through the Woods?” How about a classy French name like “Un Miracle Erable?”

The taste is like Christmas morning or Apres Ski in New England.  I don’t recommend it in the summer as it would be too sticky but you could eat it while watching “White Christmas” or “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

If we fed President Trump one of these he would forget about his damn wall for a minute and say, “Outstanding!”   If he ate a couple of gallons he might even pass on to eternity.

We eat lots of ice cream in Alaska because of the fat. I am skinny but I like to have a small roll of fat on my stomach just in case I need to avoid being the first one in a group to freeze to death. I would rather not be cannibalized but if I must be at least let me have something besides bone and sinew for my friends to feed on.

It is refreshingly cold today as well. Minus something. Nothing impressive. Minus twenty is the threshold for no physical exertion if unnecessary.  We are not there yet.  Tomorrow I go back to work from my mini staycation. It has been a great chance to meditate on my post holiday Seasonal affective disorder and my positive response to increased outdoor time and exposure to friends. I highly recommend these to anyone with emotional fatigue. And ice cream!

 

Why eat ice cream

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  1. Because Donald Trump does not make ice cream.  No I meant “does” make ice cream but “does not” make it or sell it for outrageous amounts in Alaska where I live. He “doesn’t” make it personally so I can see how what I wrote might  be unclear or misconstrued. Please see   http://www.trumptowerny.com/ice-cream-nyc
  2. Because we can no longer process alcohol, are taking the highest dose of our prescribed anti-depressant and were totally unprepared for the potency of modern day marijuana. Resistance is futile.
  3. There are just as many flavors of ice cream, if not more, than there are of Oreos. If  only the flavors existed that did when I was a child I would not eat as much.  We ate ice milk. It was not as creamy or fluffy as what people eat today. When people are poor, they will eat horsemeat. Japan has a horsemeat ice cream but I can not imagine it is for poor people. It’s for people like me who need something to feel brave about, to laugh over a bowl with a few close friends and then vomit. It’s a crazy adventure – and the meat is even raw! I would eat ice milk again rather than horsemeat or breast milk ice cream. Well, maybe I would try them once. https://www.stylist.co.uk/life/recipes/top-10-weirdest-ice-cream-flavours/37558
    ice cream neigh
  4.  It is generally considered sad to eat ice cream alone for dinner but given the alternatives – yogurt, expired tofu, carrots, it’s a viable choice. Also it’s a better choice than actually telling people how you think you really feel when you’re exhausted after work. Believe me, you won’t be telling people you’re exhausted, that’s not the way it works. That’s why ice cream was invented.

5.  When it’s hot outside, ice cream makes you sticky and thirsty!

6.  Ice cream is served in hospitals so it can’t be that bad for you. Unless you are on the renal diet, the heart diet, the gall bladder diet or the lactose intolerant diet because ice cream is trying to kill you.

7.  I can congratulate myself when I purchase a half gallon of ice cream rather than an absurdly priced pack of ice cream novelties or a fancy creation from an ice cream shop. Oops, I just found out that Carl’s Jr. has a Hostess Ding Dong Ice cream sandwich. I wonder if they are still open at 11 pm?

https://www.dairyfoods.com/media/photos/86-12-new-ice-cream-novelties-and-other-frozen-novelties

8. It’s always nice to support your local ice cream truck. Except when it plays a racist song.  https://www.npr.org/sections/codeswitch/2014/05/11/310708342/recall-that-ice-cream-truck-song-we-have-unpleasant-news-for-you

9.  It’s okay to eat ice cream to stop someone else from eating the last of it.

10. It’s a nice thing to eat under a pile of chocolate sauce. I could eat just the sauce, and I have before, but I feel better about eating them together in public.

If you haven’t seen enough to convince you to have some ice cream right now. Take a look at these:

https://www.cookingchanneltv.com/recipes/packages/best-summer-and-grilling-recipes/summer-dessert-recipes/photos/the-craziest-ice-cream-creations-ever

https://abcnews.go.com/Lifestyle/giant-milkshakes-drawing-huge-crowds-york-city/story?id=36376855

 

 

Crazy things I must do in order to keep alive

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  1.  Find joy in life even though it is not fair and I have been given much more time and gifts than I possibly deserve.

2. DO NOT read the news everyday.  Make small talk or change the topic with  people who dwell on catastrophe and politics.  I can never correct all the damage done by my people and my culture but I can make my own personal amends. I do not need to be sold on the right path. Remember that this path is not likely to be approved by my family, workplace or any major sponsor!

2. Dance everyday even though I am a terrible dancer. This includes the cage dance I was invited to do at the playground downtown. Thank you, Schatzie Schaeffer I had almost gotten to  9 pm without a healthy pole dance.

3. Remember to let my glasses fall into the port-a-potty once in awhile. I did this at The Three Baron’s Faire and immediately plucked them out. I should have let them sit there a bit and taken a photo.

4. Don’t expect my roommate not to eat my ice cream when he gets up with the munchies. Don’t expect him to replace it either. It is a losing battle and not that important but I can buy ridiculous flavors which might gross him out like mango-turnip crunch with chia.

5.  Do write, to keep in touch with friends and to let out my hopes and fears which as the song says are “baked into a beautiful pie.”

 

6.  Keep on riding the unicycle even though I bruised my rib and can still feel it when I go to bed. I may be a sensitive person. I cry easily and I want people to like me but I am not giving up yet. As one of my therapists told me, “don’t fire yourself, let them fire you.”

7. Wear the clown nose when I am driving, except when I have to sneeze.

8.  Always stop for unicorns.

unicorn.png

Anxiety woman survives another Anchorage “winter”

I use the term “winter” quite loosely as it has been an unheard of 40 degrees F most everyday this week.  The Fur Rondy sled dog races were abbreviated from 30 miles to 3 as the dogs are mushing through slush brought in from the local snow dump. I biked to the fireworks tonight. I have done this before bundled up like a blimp but today I wore fingerless gloves and a light jacket. Note the lack of hats on these festival goers.

hats

You would think we Alaskans would rejoice in the warmth and lack of snow but instead we are MISERABLE!  It is darker when there is no snow to reflect the small amount of light we get. Also there is no skiing of any sort and now the skating is also impossible. Biking with studs and running with cleats are my fallbacks.

So here is how I got through this pseudo winter.

  1.  I paid no attention to the presidential campaign.  Sure, I laughed at some Trump memes on facebook. Especially the one my friend Luke posted of the entire library staff wearing a familiar hairdo.

2.    I didn’t force myself to blog, as I would have bored you to death with my petty problems and horrible anxiety about my new job. It is a pretty good job by the way but like most people I feel I am doing a horrible job when I start something new. Unlike most people, my mind exaggerates it to a life and death struggle and I accumulate as many stress related diseases I can manage to contract at one time.

3.   I did a play. It was an awesome opportunity as I only was onstage for two minutes so I had plenty of time to either be anxious or remind myself that I was having fun. One way I have fun is trying on hats. There’s no better place than a theater for outrageous hats.

fluff

Is this not one of the best hats ever? My costume was pretty cool too. I was playing a dead alcoholic in heaven. The play was Kurt Vonnegut’s Happy Birthday Wanda June. You can’t find it on the internet because he hated the film but the play is hysterical.  Here’s another winning hat:

viking

I realize this is not for everyday wear but Easter is coming up.

By the way, this particular theater, Cyrano’s in Anchorage, has a lovely anti-anxiety poster backstage.

nix

When I catch myself thinking just how bad I could screw up, I remind myself that Richard Nixon just made things worse for himself by being all tense. Must have been very difficult to deal with getting impeached. If I lost my job or got kicked out of a show at least it wouldn’t be the biggest story of its day.

Here is some lovely headgear I wore today.

hairn

I am working at a nursing home. My costume was a 60’s waitress uniform. Our African American history celebration fell to me as the sole activity staff working on Saturdays. I came up with a successful theme – The Integration Cafe ( like a much nicer place than the Woolworth’s where the black students were not served.) Since we had already used up our entire budget for the month, all we needed were pies and a bit of ingenuity.  Everyone was encouraged to sit by someone they didn’t know well, I served pie and ice cream shakes ( we already had the ice cream and the milk!). We watched an excellent film on the music of the civil rights movement, followed by  someone who had prepared a solo and a spontaneous sing-a-long of songs from the movement. I had library books on The Harlem Renaissance, The Tuskegee Airmen and such on the cafe tables and photocopies of famous and not so famous African American pioneers.  Can you tell I am proud! I’ve come a long way from hating myself completely! The singing helps. Also the family members and friends of the residents who helped out. I feel like I am part of a team now.

So I have to remind myself that I can always try on a hat. There are many people to help out if I only ask. There is always chocolate and I don’t have to beat myself up for eating it when I’m anxious and depressed because very soon I will have A DENTAL PLAN!!!!

 

 

National Depression Screening Day and other fun tests you can take!

Tomorrow, Thursday Oct 8th, is National Depression Screening Day. I took my test early to avoid the rush. Even though I take antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs and attend a support group, I screened positive for moderate depression and severe anxiety. The good thing is that I am unemployed, single and I live in Alaska so I can blame some symptoms on my circumstances.

I used to think these tests were bullshit. Once, before the internet,  when I was teaching at an alternative school, I took a break on the playground to call a depression hotline. It was not a suicide hotline, just for depression. I  had no health insurance at the time.  The lady said I did not have depression. I had never been diagnosed with depression so I was just really pissed off and frustrated but figured it must be something else. Later I found out I have a common combination of anxiety and depression. It took a psychiatrist and some alarming symptoms to get me to try medication. Like most people I would rather not have to take meds but I had exhausted the other options – already exercising an hour or two a day, journalling, counseling, SAD light, mindfulness, 12 step and things just kept getting worse. At least now I know that half the know it all negativity in my brain is bullshit! ( There apparently is a National Bullshit Awareness Day for those of you who are interested.)

I took a bipolar test today as well and it was surprisingly accurate, just like my psychiatrist is. It said I needed 7 symptoms in one category, (shades of DSM) and that I needed to have have gotten into trouble for some of these symptoms.  I only had 6 symptoms and have never gotten in trouble because of them.  Most of these symptoms, like having a lot of energy, not wanting to sit still, talking too much or too fast, according to my shrink, are  attributable to my anxiety so that made sense.

Why take such depressing tests? Because I can see that sometimes I am doing better than other times. I can get perspective. I often take silly facebook quizzes like “What kind of dog are you?” or “What Doctor Who Character are you?” so why not a mental health screening?

Maybe you would like to try some of these alone or with a friend.  It is not normal to worry about things all the time. It is not normal to blame oneself for everything or to blame other people. Most of the time it’s just life.  I am renewing my perspective so that I can see worry as a sign for self care rather than a reason to run away or confront something that should be best left alone.

Here is a link for the simple mental health screenings I took:

http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/mental-health-screening-tools

So what if you come out positive? It’s just information. Did you know that depression can be a side effect of other diseases as well? It may help to discuss these results with a health provider.

Now if you want to have fun with a friend or with your best friend, ( hopefully yourself), here are some other quizzes I love

http://www.buzzfeed.com/chelseamarshall/what-kind-of-dog-are-you#.qg6ov5vYA

I am a Corgi!

http://www.gotoquiz.com/results/what_sci_fi_character_are_you

This one is fun because it uses the way-back-machine. I got:

Doctor John Robinson, who like me, is Lost in Space

Doctor John Robinson, who like me, is Lost in Space

One more:

http://www.buzzfeed.com/joannaborns/quiz-what-food-matches-your-personality#.gggG6V6XR

I got ice cream! I will probably have to take another quiz to find out what flavor.

Just trying to balance the humor with the angst! Let me know how it goes!