Mental Wellness pt. 2

You may have noticed that I’ve been MIA from Wellness Wednesday for a few weeks. In fact, the last Wellness Wednesday wasn’t even written by me. It was Gina’s article on mental health. This is because I’ve been taking some time to take our own advice and work on my own personal mental health.

While I haven’t yet been to a therapy session as Gina suggested, (although I am interested!) I have taken some time to ponder the areas of my life that I’m most unhappy with, and how I can correct them. Unfortunately, no amount of soul-searching will bring my dad back. However, this doesn’t mean the rest of my life also has to suck. I’m over being miserable. I’m tired of spending any portion of my life unhappy, especially 33% of it. Life is way too short.

So I quit my job.

The job itself wasn’t so bad. Sure, it was tediously boring and completely unfulfilling, but I loved the people I worked for and 90% of the people I worked with. I enjoyed the math parts of my job and I learned a lot more about cars and the glorious DMV than I ever expected to know. However, what I really couldn’t tolerate was the drama that accompanied the job.

Before working in this office, I was an EMT for a private ambulance company. I distinctly recall a shift my 19-year old self worked early in my career there. It was the first time I had ever worked a cardiac arrest and I was alone in the back of the ambulance with just my knowledge from the 3-month training course I had just recently finished. I can still remember every detail of doing chest compressions on the frail body of my 80-year old patient, the sound of his ribs cracking, the tears streaming down my face and the terror of knowing that this man was dead and my best efforts would never be enough to bring him back.

That’s about a quarter of how dramatic this God forsaken office is.

If there was no existing drama, drama was created. The pot was constantly being stirred.

The drama and gossip were not always about me, but when it was, it was often related to my personal life and family. Even when it was about the other girls, it upset me to know my friends were being spoken of with such disrespect and a lack of professionalism. It created an environment of bitterness and stress. I felt that I was constantly walking on egg shells, desperate to avoid finding out that I had been the most recent topic of catty gossip. I began thinking it was in my best interest to remove myself from the situation.

After consulting my sister, boyfriend and closest friends*, I decided that no amount of money was worth the dread and elevated blood pressure I was experiencing daily. I only have a year left until I become an RN, so I thought it may be in my best interest to spend my energy on school work and enjoying my free time – not worrying about the pettiness of a toxic work environment.

I will be going back to a restaurant where I worked part-time last summer. While I am taking a pay cut, I look forward to the new opportunities for happiness that this job will present. After the hell that my family and I have lived since 2015, it’s about time I begin my search for happiness again.

I’m certainly not suggesting that everyone who reads this should quit their jobs… but please remember that this is your only life. You don’t have to spend it trapped in a miserable job. There are always other places hiring. You never have to stay in a toxic relationship, even if it’s with a manager or coworker.

 

*To Gina, Matt, Other Gina, Kevin, Jacqueline, Tara and Alexa – Thank you for reminding me that my happiness is worth way more than the $2/hour difference and for supporting my decision to leave.

**To my mom – Thank you for not at all thinking this was the right decision, but not making that big of a deal out of it 🙂

Mental Wellness

Hey guys its Gina! So you may be wondering why I didn’t do a Gospel Monday this week . . . and it’s because I forgot. But I asked Sam if I could take over Wellness Wednesday this week, so prepare for some serious wellness.

Yesterday I went to see a psychologist. I am a firm believer that everyone should go to therapy. If you’re sad, angry, or stressed, therapy can bring relief. If you’re going through a major life change, like moving away from home, starting a new career, or adjusting to a new life without a loved one, therapy can ease the transition. And if you’re totally happy with no conflict in your life whatsoever, you should still go to therapy, because who else is going to listen to you talk about yourself for a whole hour?

A lot of people have told me that their experience with therapy sessions have been awkward; one person told me about a psychologist who sat in a chair with a pen and paper staring at her, expecting her to monologue for the entire hour-long session. While I’m sure that’s exactly what some people need, that didn’t work for my friend, and it definitely wouldn’t have worked for me. So, if you don’t hit it off with your new psychologist on day one, try another! Psychologists — and medical professionals of any kind == are people, too, and not all people mesh. You wouldn’t choose your best friend or husband based on a list of people who happen to accept your form of insurance, so don’t lock yourself into a long-term relationship with some rando from the internet, just because they have “PhD” next to their name.

Anyway, I only went to one session and have done shockingly minimal research on the effects of seeing a psychologist regularly, so I’m not even going to pretend to be an expert for the sake of the blog. I just know that after one session with my brand spankin’ new therapist, I felt calmer and kinder than I have in a very, very long time. She even offered me new ways to look at the relationships I have with friends and family that help me to be more understanding of the people who have seemingly abandoned my family and me.

In today’s culture, we romanticize poor mental health. We listen to sad music when we’re already sad, just to truly wallow in our own self pity. And how many teen movies are there with a protagonist who suffers from a mental illness and doesn’t even consider seeking professional help (though, depression, anxiety, and anger all disappear when the protagonist is presented with a love interest)? Just look at how popular “13 Reasons Why” has become. Our culture is fascinated by mental illness.

But there is no glamor in living a life you don’t absolutely love, and there is nothing cooler than mental health.

Oxygen Masks

My dad passed away in October, and I can’t remember a single thing that happened in my life from October to around May. I know I got a 4.0 in both the fall and spring semesters, but I can’t even remember what courses I took. When I finally snapped out of my head enough to go out with my friends again, I realized I was pushing everyone away. I had a problem in every single relationship I had, even my relationships with my mom and childhood best friends. Every time a friend complained about work, school, or drama, I snapped at them, wondering who the heck they thought they were to complain to me. Every time my mom asked me to do something small around the house I snapped at her, wondering why she didn’t appreciate how much weight I was already pulling around the house.

Then I realized, if there was something wrong with everybody I know out of nowhere, the problem was probably me.

One of my best friends from high school started dating an incredible girl during my blackout period, and since most of my friends are guys, I naturally latched right onto the new girl in the group and started spilling my life story on her. One night when I was explaining to her why I cut off ties with some really great people, she said probably the smartest thing ever and it stuck with me ever since:

When you’re on an airplane and the flight attendants are going through the safety protocol, they show all the passengers that bright yellow oxygen mask. They show the passengers how to strap it on, and they explain that air is flowing even if the bag doesn’t inflate. But the most important part of that whole spiel is that you must always make sure your own mask is secured before assisting someone else.

By taking a break from everyone and giving myself a chance to regroup and fix myself, I was just securing my own oxygen mask before I dragged someone else into my crashing plane. Whether it’s just a break from people for a while, a little R&R, or full-blown therapy, you need to take time for yourself before you bring others into your life.

Last Sunday, I was a guest worship leader at United Methodist Church in Center Moriches (aka I just sang a few songs, but “guest worship leader” sounds way more grownup). During the message, a woman spoke about how we are all created in God’s image, and whenever we sin or make a bad choice, we distort the image of God.

From October to May of this past year, I was a mess, and the little bit of God in me was very distorted. There was slim to no chance anyone could see even a fragment of God in me. Still, I expected other people to be the perfect picture of God untainted to me. It was a huge step for me to realize that I had to fix myself before I could fix others. Even now, my oxygen mask isn’t fully secured. But at least I’m aware of it, and now I know the rules.

PS thank you Amanda!!!

Running – For People Who Don’t Run

I am not a runner. In fact, I am a hater of all things running-related. However, a few months ago, I stupidly signed up for a Tough Mudder with Gina and a friend/coworker.

Fear not, loyal readers. It’s a half-length Tough Mudder, which means I will most likely survive with minimal lasting injuries (except for my pride), as opposed to the unavoidable death which would no doubt await me if I attempted the full event. 

With this race rapidly approaching, I – your friendly, neighborhood out-of-shape wellness expert – have compiled a few tips to help running suck a little less.

1.       Get an app – To prepare for this and other running events I have done in the past, I find that it is easiest to use an app like Couch to 5k. It is overwhelming and exhausting to both your body and your mind to try to run 3+ miles after a lifetime of running 0+ miles. Couch to 5k and programs like it provide audible instruction, alternating between running and walking – progressing weekly until ultimately, it’s all run, no walk.

2.       Get an audiobook – I like music as much as the next person who kinda likes music… but sometimes I feel like there is no song on earth that can distract me from the physical torture that is running. No rock, rap, death metal or Mariah Carey can drown out the voice inside my head telling me to go home because this really really sucks. I had a theory that this was because it wasn’t mentally engaging enough. I figured if my office plays music while we work, it probably isn’t a big enough distraction to prevent us from crunching numbers. There is a reason that offices have radios and not TVs – because TV shows have story lines and story lines are much more distracting than a song could ever be. So, I put my theory to the test and tried listening to an audiobook (Gone with the Wind, if you were wondering) while I ran and found that I was able to run further and longer because I was less focused on the burning in my legs and the boredom of running past the same houses for the 3rd time that week. After all, your brain usually quits long before your body physically has to.

3.       Get outside! – Related to my last point, running can be boring AF. Don’t make it any more monotonous than it needs to be. Get off the treadmill and run outside! Running in a nice area on a beautiful day is almost cathartic. There is nothing better to help you decompress after a stressful day at work than gasping for air. Also, if you’re training for a race, running in conditions similar to the conditions of the actual event is extremely important. I made this mistake once before – I trained for an early spring event all winter by running on a treadmill inside my nice, warm gym. The actual run was held outside on a 45 degree morning with whipping wind. Needless to say, I did not do well. My lungs burned for a week. Seriously.

4.       Get a foam roller – This is seriously the best thing I ever did. The first time I tried to get into running, I ultimately quit because of terrible shin splints. I did everything I could think of – ice, stretching, different sneakers, changing my running form, changing what surface I was running on – and still, I could not get rid of the tearing sensation in my shins with every step I took… whether during a run or in the days that followed a run. Until I bought my foam roller. I ended up buying a fairly expensive and bumpy one, but at the time, they weren’t as common as they are now, so I didn’t have much selection. However, I have noticed them recently in Target for much cheaper and with varying degrees of bumpiness. For anyone who has no idea what I’m talking about, a foam roller is a tube that you roll on your muscles, kind of like a deep tissue massage, to break up areas of tension. Since I started rolling and intensely stretching after every run, my recovery is much quicker, and my shin splints are non-existent. Trust me, it’s worth it.

I hope my cynical comments about gasping for air, running sucking, etc. didn’t discourage anyone from adding running into their lives. What I should have said is that running is challenging. Because it is – mentally and physically. However, I also think it’s worth it. There’s no better feeling than running past the place you had to stop [to pass out] yesterday. It’s kind of like cardio, lower-body toning, and therapy all in one.

Here’s a weird picture I took in 2015 of me and my homie, ~The Foam Roller~

New York’s NASCAR Home Track

Last Saturday night, I gathered up a bunch of my family, and we headed over to  Riverhead Raceway for Fireworks Night.

Working at a car dealership has its perks. Since a few of my coworkers race at Riverhead, they hooked me up to sing the National Anthem at the Raceway from time to time. Saturday was one of those times. Because I was doing the National Anthem, I was able to go behind the gate (I keep calling it backstage because I don’t know what it’s actually called!) and see some pretty cool stuff, like a guy underneath a car and the Raceway’s mascot without its head on. When it came time for me to do the Star Spangled Banner, I got to ride down to the track in one of the coolest cars I’ve ever been in. According to Sam, it was an El Camino, but all I know is that it had an all red interior and strawberry air fresheners so it smelled red too! How cool is that?

Anyway, after that whole ordeal (complete with a burnout leaving the track), the races started. My family doesn’t go to the races very often, and I’m sure everyone around us could tell when it came time for the Figure Eights. I pretty much chewed my finger nails off watching one of my good friends go through the intersection of the figure eight, and Sam screamed even when there were no other cars around.

In addition to the usual races, Riverhead Raceway also had a whole bunch of adorable little kids race Big Wheels right on the track. They even interviewed the winners as if it was a regular race. So cute!

With fireworks and a demolition derby that night, I was up way passed my bedtime and wasn’t even dozing off in the stands. Scroll down for a whole gallery of photos from Saturday night, and see if you can find time to head to Riverhead Raceway this Saturday night; word on the street is it’s gonna be a good one!

Sam vs. Deb

Good morning and happy Fourth of July, my friends! Hope you’re all enjoying this lovely day (probably) off from work, and I especially hope you’re enjoying America!

On a completely non-holiday related note: Are you ready for my realest post yet? Because here it is. The story of how I fired my nutritionist, the lessons I learned from her and, most importantly, the lessons I learned from my experience with her.

Maybe I should preface this by saying I didn’t actually fire her. I’m just ignoring her calls and not making a next appointment. This is most likely not the most mature route but it’s easier for me, and as I am the main character of my life and this blog, that’s all that matters.

My early experience with the nutritionist was positive. It was exactly what I had hoped for. She gave me meal ideas and stressed the importance of having snacks to prevent myself from making “hungry decisions.” Genius! I love snacks!

We barely even discussed the celiacs because I know what has gluten in it and what I need to avoid. If I ever wasn’t sure, there’s tons of apps and good ol’ Google to help me figure it out.

Life was good, but, alas, joy in this life seldom lasts.

As we went a few months of seeing each other weekly, I began to feel that she was reaching for topics to discuss in order to continue our weekly meetings… and her weekly payments. I started to feel like I was being ripped off. Not only was I paying a $35 copay for a half hour appointment, but she also insisted I buy a powdered vitamin supplement through her for $80 a month. I guess the $7 bottles of vitamins from Target aren’t good enough? It was exactly like the time I got roped into the dark and terrifying world of Shakeology (but that’s a post for another day, I guess). The nutritionist insisted that I would feel more energy after taking them for a while, but I don’t. (Also, this is disturbing, but I was basically peeing highlighter green after taking the vitamins, indicating that my body was not absorbing them. What a waste! ……although, it was kinda cool….)

So much of what I had wanted from seeing a nutritionist was to help me transition to all natural foods and away from artificial supplements. I’m no longer interested in protein powders, Shakeology, “greens” and, of course, powdered vitamin supplements.

And then…. The worst part… she wanted to get to the bottom of my food obsession. I tried to tell her I just like food. I’m from a long line of good cooks and, where I come from, food means love. Is this healthy? No! But there are much worse vices to have. Like crack. At least I don’t do crack.

That’s my logic at least. Deb, on the other hand, assumed and insisted that my love for food must have come from some emotionally traumatic experiences or even… the dreaded ~repressed feeling~

So, she assigned me self-help books about learning to love your flaws… but jokes on her because I don’t have any. Really though, I tried to tell her that I’m quite cocky and confidence is certainly not my issue.

Next, we tried meditation to get to the root of my issue (again, the issue is just that I love food). Meditation is not for me. I like yoga, I can do yoga. But meditation is just not my thing. I just can’t seem to settle myself down enough. I’ve tried every guided meditation on YouTube, every Tibetan Singing Bowl and Shaman Drumming video, every candle on Long Island and still, my mind wanders (not to bad or stressful thoughts, just curiosities. Like, why can’t dogs walk with socks on? Or, who would win in a fight – a pack of wolves or one lion? The important stuff.) I like to think it’s because I have a big, strong brain that can’t be tamed.

I’d like to reiterate that my experience with Deb wasn’t all bad. The tip about more frequent snacking has allowed me to avoid hunger and make food choices with my brain instead of my stomach. This has helped me to steer clear of gluten and also make healthier choices all around. I feel much healthier now and my conversations with her have encouraged me to take control of my life again, make time to exercise, trust my intuition and put myself first.

However, my newfound intuition is telling me that it’s time to branch out on my own and not spend all my money on crappy vitamins and weekly copays to discuss meditation with a nutritionist.

Escalator to Heaven

For those who don’t know, I teach eighth grade religious education at my local parish. This morning, I was going through my notes from this year’s religion classes, and I found a little scribble in the margin of my Gospel print out: “escalator to heaven?” That day, my topic for the class had been our duty as Christians to help others find Jesus. I tried to explain that in any relationship we are in — whether its a friendship, romantic relationship, or even a parent-child relationship — our primary goal should be to help the other get to heaven. I remember trying to discuss this with my religion class, but spring fever had already hit them hard, and honestly, I’m still not sure if any of them understood what I was trying to say. So, hopefully this makes sense! If not, you have my permission to send me an angry email.

Obviously, we are responsible for ourselves and our own choices. Eve’s experience in the garden showed us that neither temptation nor peer pressure is a valid excuse for disobeying the Word of God. But, if all your friends are going to go out and sin until the cows come home, is staying home that night enough to obey God? Is sitting on your couch while your friends are all out breaking Commandments willy nilly okay? I don’t think so.

Led Zeppelin has a Stairway to Heaven. But stairs are exhausting. Build an escalator to heaven. Make it easy for others to seek and find God. Better yet, become the escalator yourself! Make it so that all people need to do to reach Jesus is simply latch onto you. Deliver people safely to God and His ways.

Ask your friends to volunteer somewhere with you, or ask if they’d like to come with you to church. I find a lot of my friends made their Confirmation in eighth or ninth grade and treated it as a graduation from religion class, never to set foot in a church again until their wedding day. But our faith is one of constant growth. Nobody ever graduates or retires.

Don’t allow your friends, parents, sisters or brothers to lose their relationship with God as they age. Promote that relationship. Screw Led Zeppelin’s stairway to heaven; nobody wants to take the stairs when there’s a perfectly good escalator right next to them. Be the escalator.