Archive | November, 2013

Thoughts From a Broken Brain

24 Nov

Hello there!

It’s kind of snowing outside. I mean, I haven’t actually seen this for myself but there’s about 6 posts on Facebook proclaiming this. And I verified with Weather.com so I feel confident in making this announcement.

I hope your Saturday has been sufficiently productive and/or relaxing.

I mentioned last week that I’ve been having some brain problems. Or what my psychiatrist called a “mental break.” Which seems to be a conglomeration of depression, anxiety and OCD. For weeks after this “break,” last month, I would just cry. For not really any reason at all – or for crazy reasons that I didn’t know why I was thinking them.

I read online that thinking about a giant stop sign helps when you’re obsessing over something. So I would Google image stop signs when my brain was spinning downhill too fast for me to keep up – it’s very hard to think about anything when you’re just staring at hundreds of STOPs.

Which inevitably led to me crying at work…staring at stop signs for 20 minutes. Until my coworkers were like “Are you OK…?”

The first time I told my therapist this, I added “So am I crazy?”

“No, you’re not crazy…” he answered soothingly (seriously though the UMD Health Center therapist they assigned me has the most soothing voice. I want to record it and play it when I fall asleep. Is that crazy?)

“Can you write that down?”

“You want me to write that down in my notes?”

“Yes.”

“Um…sure. Not….crazy….” he wrote.

That helped.

Another thing that’s been helpful with stress has been praying again. Since this “break”, I’ve felt weirdly nostalgic for seminary (my gap year which I spent learning in Israel at an all girls seminary). I told you last week that my life was going on some weird journey – and so far it’s included me connecting back to my Judaism. Praying every morning, being more careful with Shabbat and Kosher.

It started with me finding a book in the UMD Hillel that said COURAGE! on it (I liked the exclamation point, like it was an exciting play). I read it on the train to work just to distract myself from obsessing. But it was all about letting go of anxiety and trusting God. About how all crises help us become better people. It all sounds so Delilah on the radio to me when I say it out loud. Two of my favorite parts said:

“Who asked us to move mountains? Who told us to make long-term plans? No one, if not our imaginations which trouble us with its false problems”

“Only in the middle of a struggle our hidden capacities can appear and grow. The important thing is not to let ourselves be discouraged, but to take heart, no matter what happens during the crises. Then, if we hold firm, we will succeed in transforming all our past falls into instruments for true progress.”

Which, to me said “Who told you to worry about this thing that might not happen? Who told you to freak out about events you have no control over? No one.”

Well, I mean I guess did. Or my brain did. But as a friend who’s suffered from depression and anxiety for a while told me:

“Sometimes our brains are dicks, that doesn’t mean they’re right. You are what you choose to be and do.”

The medication that I’ve been on has helped this problem that has obviously been medical (I’m not suggesting all people with depression just read COURAGE! and be cured. Even my broken brain knows that) But there’s a bunch that I’ve done that has helped the anxiety that wasn’t medical. And I hope it helps you too:

1. The stop sign thing really did help me. Something about seeing tons and tons of those bright red octagons really makes it hard to think of anything else. And then when you’re done looking at them and your coworkers are like “Why are these stop signs making you so sad you weirdo?” you can go back to work. And flip back and forth between the web tabs as needed.

2. My friend advised me to keep a gratitude journal. And write down five things that made me happy/thankful that day. Sometimes it’s hard and my list is like “I didn’t get hit by a meteorite” and “My shoes were comfortable all day” and sometimes it’s like, “My article got a lot of positive reviews” and “I got a 96 on my media law exam.” Either way, taking time to think about the good totally repaints the day. Sometimes when you have an anxiety attack it feels like it dominates and ruins your whole day but when you really think about it, there’s so much else to be grateful for. And there’s some good in every day.

3. Talk to people. I said in my short story that when you show people your scars, they love to show you theirs. I’ve found the same with emotional scars. When I opened up about my anxiety to people, so many started telling me about their struggles and how they coped. People I had no idea suffered from any problems like that. Knowing you’re not alone takes away some of the power of your fears. If others have beaten it then maybe it’s not the worst thing ever.

4. Do something for someone else. Bring in cupcakes for your coworkers. Give a dollar to a homeless man. Hold the door open for a bunch of people. Call a friend for her birthday. Pray for other people. When you stop focusing on yourself and your problems – they fade for a little bit. Plus, being a nicer person makes you feel better regardless. And baking cupcakes will make your boss totally like you more than your coworkers.

5. Ice cream. A lot of f*cking ice cream. (Did you know I had four milkshakes this week?! IS THAT NOT A WORLD RECORD? Call me, Guinness. We’ll set up a photo-shoot)

So we continue on this weird road. There’s been some interesting twists. I don’t exactly know where I’m going.

But I hope this helped someone today.

 

Aside

I have a little Dreidle, I made it out of Turkeys

21 Nov

Hello friends!

I missed you! I’ve missed this. I’ve missed writing for the sake of writing and not for a grade or to fulfill a requirement (as important as that is for my life right now). But I’m glad I have a second to sit here and blog for the time being.

I hope you’ve had a productive past couple of months. I think the last time I wrote it was almost Rosh Hashana and now it’s coming up on “Thanksgivvakah” (BTW, I’m so happy I’m not going to be around in 77,000 years because if I see one more “Recipes that combine Hannukah and Thanksgiving!” or “DIY hacks for your Thankgivakkah party!” I might lead a Turkey rebellion (see what I did there? I combined the rebellion of Hannukah and the fact that turkeys don’t want to be eaten for Thanksgiving – get it?! BECAUSE ITS A COMBO DAY!)

Great! You landed on Turkey! You get to apologize to Judah the Maccabee!

Great! You landed on Turkey! You get to apologize to Judah the Maccabee!

If anything, I’m bummed we combine them this year. It’s like having your birthday fall on well, Hannukah. But it’s fine, we’ll spin the wishbone, light string beans in your Menorahs and talk about how Pocahantas got Holofernes drunk and then cut off his head. It’ll be great.

I’m extra excited for Hannukah this year. And not because the Maccabeats just put out a new video. Which I’ve watched about 47,000 times. But because I’m seeing the holiday in a new light (HA! MORE JOKES!) this year.

We all know Hannukah is about miracles. It’s about the righteous beating the wicked. It’s about a tiny jug of oil burning for 7 extra days. It’s about bringing light into into the darkness that is the winter – and our spiritual winter.

But it’s also about the rededication of the Beis Hamikdash. Compared to the other stuff, the rededication almost seems like an afterthought. I mean, there’s nothing supernatural about cleaning up our holy temple and getting our stuff back together. Even though the name of the holiday alludes to the rededication, *clearly* the other stuff we celebrate is so much cooler! I never thought that the rededication was that exciting. It’s definitely not the main plot of the Rugrats Hannukah special.

Obviously the lesson of that movie was "It's OK to let babies light candles"

Obviously the lesson of that movie was “It’s OK to let babies light candles”

But in fact, it could be the biggest miracle of the holiday. When the Beit Hamikdash was new. It was a novelty, it was exciting. People were jazzed. People were talking about it. I’m sure they wrote all about it the Jerusalem Post.

But that’s to be expected. When things are new, people are gonna get behind it. The fact that the Temple was destroyed and people got jazzed *again* is an even bigger deal than when the Temple was dedicated the first time.

It is SO hard to get back up when something you’re used to gets demolished. It’s SO hard to bounce back from destruction and rebuild. If I was there during those times and saw that the Greeks had graffitied “GOD SUCKS – ZEUS RULES!” on the Aron, I might’ve been like “Ugh, guess we’re just going to have find some other way to serve God. I’m not spending my Sunday squeeging this place. Instead of a Temple, maybe we’ll make like a circus tent. A collapsable one. So if anyone tries to mess with us again, we’ll just fold it up and paint ourselves to match the forest Peeta-style until they can’t find us.”

The only logical conclusion.

The only logical conclusion.

But the Jews didn’t do that. They sighed and got back to work. When life knocks you down (or shifty Greeks) you get back up.

You get back up.

These past few weeks have been really hard for me, you guys. Something bad has happened in my brain. The pressures of school, internship, the wedding combined with a terrible night of combining alcoholic drinks, along with some chemical imbalance and hormonal imbalance has caused some sort of volcano that triggered a panic disorder.

It hasn’t been fun. I have had no experience with mental imbalance. For a while it seemed like my head a very dark place. I was scared to be alone in it. If you know what it’s like to not be able to trust your own mind, you might know what that’s like. For a while i felt hopeless that anything was going to change. That I may be stuck with these thoughts forever.

Thankfully, I’ve gotten a little better after getting help. I’m on a very weird journey right now. It’s hard to explain. It feels like this whole scary experience has been sort of a wake-up call for me. But i’m not sure what it means yet.

All I know for sure is that every bad experience you go through makes you more empathetic. Every scary thing you go through makes it easier to endure the next one. Every fear you live through is another opportunity to laugh at it.

When life knocks you down, you don’t give up.

Whether it’s Greeks, grades, accidents, weather or your own brain.

You get back up. You clean up. You light a match.

And most importantly, you don’t forget. You don’t forget your struggle because struggles make us stronger.

Be a Maccabee, be strong.

Six more days until Hannukah!

Love,

Aviva

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