Chocolate

They say that people who eat chocolate every day are happier. I am starting to believe it. I have never been a chocoholic. In fact, I have never really liked eating a ton of junk food or sugary food. I splurge every once in a while, but then I get sick of it and just want to eat fruits and vegetables for a few weeks. But I have discovered that a little bit of chocolate can really help offset a depressed mood.

There are times when I just feel heavy. Nothing bad happened that day. There are no reasons for me to feel down, but I do. I feel so heavy that I don’t want to go on. I don’t want to do anything or try anything. I don’t want to go outside or go to work or eat food or read a book or draw a picture or anything. I just want to curl up on the floor and forget about everything and pretend like the world doesn’t exist for a while.

Recently when I had an anxiety attack, I ate some chocolate and it seemed to help calm me down a bit. I remembered that today when the heaviness returned and life seemed almost unbearable. So I had a piece of chocolate, and it helped. I mean, I wasn’t jumping up and down or smiling or laughing or anything, but the heaviness eased up. I felt a little lighter, a little more able to bear the weight of life, a little less isolated from the world.

Depression is such a difficult illness. There are things that help, and you get better, and you have hope, but sometimes it just doesn’t go away. I have chronic depression. I don’t ever remember a time when I wasn’t depressed. The longest I went without long periods of depression was one year, and I still had moments of depression within that year. I described depression to a friend once as pain that grips you, and some days it grips you so tightly that you can barely breathe, and you feel so weak and heavy for no describable reason.

So, no, chocolate won’t cure your depression. But maybe it will help. And when every day is a battle for your life and you feel like you don’t want to fight anymore, anything that relieves the burden in the slightest is a blessing. So eat chocolate, eat ice cream, eat pizza, do whatever makes you happy, because life is too short to not feel better.

Depression Doesn’t Mean I’m Not Happy

I want you to know that depression doesn’t keep me from being happy.¬†I know that sounds like a contradiction, but when we remember that depression is simply a mental illness, or in other words, sickness that occurs in the mind, it makes sense.

I have an undiagnosed medical condition that has prevented me from being able to eat normally. Although it can be serious at times and it means my eating habits widely differ from those of most people, I am overall fairly healthy. The same is true with my mental illness. Although I may have long periods of darkness when I see little light or hope in life, I am overall happy.

In fact, I am one of the happiest people I know. Even though I think about suicide sometimes, even though I still struggle with desires for self injury, even though I sometimes cry for hours at a time for no real reason, I am incredibly, undeniably happy.

Here’s the thing, life is incredibly difficult. There are hard things, painful things, things that make you want to cry or scream or even stop living. But there are also beautiful things, amazing things, things that make you want to jump up and down and shout for joy and sing your heart out.

I feel those things, all of those things, the good and the bad. Because I have autism, I feel the world around me more than most. Because of depression, I feel emotions within me more than most. Because of my life experiences, I am more acquainted than most with pain and beauty, suffering and peace, destruction and ugliness.

So I struggle with the noise inside of me. I struggle to reconcile the explosions of joy that I feel with the craters of hopelessness that I experience. I struggle to make sense of this beautiful, crazy, heartbreaking world we live in.

But I want you to know that though the depression returns, though my suicidal thoughts may not disappear, though I wade through depths of darkness and hopelessness, I am happy. My depression does not leave me desolate. I still have joy. I still jump up and down flapping my arms because my body cannot contain the excitement of my happiness.

Yes, I may be depressed, but depression does not always equal sorrow. I am still happy.

Julia’s Rules for a Happy Life:

These rules are individual to me. They have been developed and revised over a lifetime of experiences. Although they can be applied to anyone, I believe that we each discover our own path to happiness. Make your own rules to happiness, but feel free to use my rules as a starting point or to get ideas.

1. Don’t put off a good thought.

This is a combination of a few of my favorite quotes and philosophies. “Never suppress a generous thought.” “Never postpone a prompting.” And “write down the thoughts God gives you right away.”

2. Don’t watch, read, listen to, or do anything that you wouldn’t be comfortable thinking about in the temple.

Sometimes this one can be hard because a lot of good movies, etc have bad parts to them. But I try my best to stick to wholesome recreation.

3. Separate yourself from your anger.

When someone does something that upsets me, I try to stop and think about it before I react. I try to see things from their point of view before  letting my anger out.

4. Don’t wait until you have the time or energy or peace of mind to help someone.

Be kind when you are broken; be patient when you are in pain; reach out to others when you are lonely; listen to others when you are hopeless. You find yourself by losing yourself. We will never have the perfect circumstances to help everyone. So we must choose to help when it’s not convenient.

5. Always take the time to be grateful.

This one is pretty self-explanatory. I have a lot to be grateful for. I just have to consciously think of those things every day.

6. Surround yourself with positive influences. From music to movies to people, do not allow negativity to occupy your time.

This includes news and current events. While it is important to be informed, I can get dragged into depressing thoughts if I get too many details about negative current events. If I want to stay positive, I have to consciously decide to avoid any unnecessary negativity.

7. Remember you are the same person when you make a mistake as when you do good. You do not lose worth or value when you mess up.

I’m still working on this one. I’m still trying to remember and remind myself of my worth. But as hard as it is, I keep reminding myself. I am that same person. I am not worthless. There are people who love me, which means I am lovable, which means I must have something inside me worth loving, and if they can see it, I can believe it.

8. See the goodness in people. Even when they hurt you, try to see them as God sees them.

We are all looking for the light. Some of us just lose our way before we find it. Try to help them find that light rather than stepping into their darkness.

9. Don’t be afraid to be sad sometimes.

Pain, heartache, fear, sorrow, and disappointment are all part of life. It’s okay to acknowledge them and live in them every once in a while. The sadness will not last forever. It’s just part of the journey.

10. Don’t worry about what everyone else is doing. Worry about what you’re doing.

I especially apply this when I’m driving. It’s easy to see other people passing me or cutting me off, but if I focus on me, I’m less likely to take it personally or get upset by it. Everyone is fighting their own battles. I cannot control their actions, but I can focus on what I am doing and how I am behaving.

Hating Myself

I never really realized or thought about how much I hate myself until this last week. In fact, up until I started this project of changing how I see myself, I thought I loved myself for the most part. I thought it was just depression or bad days that brought thoughts of dislike.

So I asked myself, “why do you hate yourself? What about you is so wrong that you would want to kill yourself to get rid of it?” And I discovered a couple answers.

One, I don’t think about myself as a person. I think about myself in terms of deeds. So, when I look at my deeds overall, I feel like I’m a pretty good person. When I look at my individual deeds though, I can either feel amazing or completely horrible, which explains why I think of suicide so much. You wouldn’t want to kill someone you love, but in those moments where I mess up or I am misunderstood or I am not proud of how I acted, I hate myself.

Two, I feel like I can never give myself what I really want. I will never be enough for me. Because I have autism, I cannot communicate in a way sufficient to adequately express myself. I simply cannot talk to people and make friends in the way I have convinced myself that I should be able to do. I have gotten better, but it is not enough and will never be enough for the ideal I have had in my head of how I should be.

Three, I do not forgive my mistakes. I forget about them sometimes, but I do not forgive them. When I say something that could be taken in the wrong way, I replay in my mind the times when someone misunderstood my innocent communication to mean something that I did not intend. I have convinced myself that these offenses were my fault even though it was a misunderstanding. And when I do something completely normal, like say hello to a friend or send a text asking how someone is doing, I convince myself that it is wrong and that I am wrong and that I should not burden someone with my presence.

That is why it is so hard to believe the good things people say about me. How could they be true with this depth of self hate that I feel? How could anyone think positive thoughts towards me when in the very act of doing something good, I am insulting myself for my incompetence? How could I be thoughtful or kind or considerate when I told myself not to do that act of kindness or service because I was not worthy to perform such a deed?

It is not going to be easy to change this dialogue with myself. It is not going to be easy to convince myself to see past the images of worthlessness that I have established in my mind. It is not going to be easy to allow myself to be human. But… I am going to try.

I am going to try because someone else sees the good in me. I am going to try because people love me and want to see me happy. I am going to try because life is too short to hate yourself. I am going to try for me because it’s about time that I feel loved.

Drink Quickly

“Cup your hands and drink quickly.”

That’s the advice my therapist gave me last week. Sometimes happiness is fleeting. It seems to slip through our fingers like water. But if we want to drink it, we have to do our best to hold onto it.

Depression is an ongoing thing for me. I go through periods of depression that last from a few hours to a few weeks or even months. Sometimes those weeks and months string together over years so that small respites of days or hours are gulped down like chugging water after making it through the desert.

Unfortunately, chugging happiness doesn’t exactly fill your needs every time. But it helps. It helps you get to the next respite, which helps you to the next one and so forth. My life has been a series of chugging happiness to make it through the next desert.

I feel very fortunate to be going through the current desert of difficult circumstances after having spent a good year or so in an oasis of plentiful water. I remember telling my sister how happy I was and that I just wish everyone could feel that way. I couldn’t get through saying that without crying because it was such an amazing feeling of pure happiness and joy.

Right now is a respite from the last few weeks/ months of depression. I don’t know how long it will last, but I plan to cup my hands and drink quickly while I can.

Hope Givers & Hope Seekers

I have been very blessed in my life with a lot of hope givers, which is a good thing because I am a hope seeker. People often call hope givers optimists and hope seekers are sometimes labeled pessimists. Although hope givers are optimists most of the time, I think of hope seekers as more of rehabilitating or recovering pessimists. We are pessimists trying to find things to be optimistic about. We often label ourselves realists because it feels closer to how we feel about the world. We want to see the good in the world, but we can’t pretend to see good when we don’t.

Anyway, I’ve been thinking a lot about the hope givers in my life. I have had so many people in my life that are hope givers. These are the kind of people that you just want to be around because they make you feel good about yourself. You can’t leave their company without feeling better in some way. These are the people that you want around in good times and bad. They will make a bad day better and a good day memorable.

Unfortunately, hope givers can also be the ones that we don’t realize are struggling. They radiate such positive energy that we may not realize the extent of their pain. Like Robin Williams, they bring hope and joy without letting us see the depth of their despair.

Through this blog I have realized that we are all a little more hurt than we let others see. We all probably need a little more love and hope than we receive. And we could all probably use a little more friendship and compassion than we are offered.

I don’t know if you can go from being a hope seeker to a hope giver. Not that hope seekers don’t give hope. They just tend to give it in the midst of their hope seeking rather than as a result of just being hopeful. I am definitely trying though. I am trying to become more like the hope givers in my life. In the meantime though, I hope people can find some hope through my hope seeking.

Buying Love

In the past two years, I have bought over 250 movies, 50 games, and 100 cds. From the outside it may seem like I have a spending problem and even I myself would wonder why I wanted to buy all this stuff.

I’m not a stuff kind of person. In fact, prior to the last 3 years, I never spent any money on things I wanted. I would only spend money on food and necessities. So a sudden surge of shopping habits did not seem to make sense… until… I thought about what I was buying.

What I have realized is that I do not buy any of this stuff for me. I buy it because it might give me a connection to other people. In my family and most families, there are a few things that bring everyone together. While growing up these things were games, movies, food, gifts and music.

So… That’s what I shop for. I buy all of these things because I crave what has historically come with them for me. I crave the love and family and happiness and friendship and interaction that these things brought to me.

Don’t worry though, I won’t become a hoarder. See, I’m not connected to anything I buy. In fact, I couldn’t care less about them. I mean, sure I’d be a little sad if they were all destroyed in a fire, but even that would be okay because it’s not the stuff that matters to me.

I only buy stuff because I want other people to enjoy it with me. There are a few things I buy for myself to improve myself and learn something, but mostly I’m just trying to buy love. I know money can’t buy happiness, but it can buy stuff that facilitates interaction and community, which can help me be happier… So that’s almost the same thing, right?