10 Five-Minute Mood Boosters That Even Work for Me

Don’t you just want to back over her with your car?

Even if, like me, you have a bona fide mental illness that sets your mood dial at a baseline of “fuck everything,” it is possible to turn that dial up to “meh” or thereabouts at least temporarily.  Over the years I’ve developed a list of boosters – quick actions requiring little effort or commitment but providing a reliable return.

Now, a warning, for other neuroatypical types:  These are not miracle workers.  If you’re already in a really bad place, they might make it worse.  “Not only am I worthless, I can’t even get it up for internet kittens!”

We’re talking about good old fashioned shitty moods here, not intense depressive crashes.  If you are prone to the latter you likely know the difference.  Even if you’re a well-adjusted neurotypical, though, I would wager you can use the occasional smack on the ass from Cheer Bear.

Not all of these will work for you, but they may spark off some ideas for your own list; it’s good to add a handful of these to your self-care arsenal, and to vary them as widely as you can so that no matter what situation you’re in at least a couple will be doable.

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Not As I Do

red ball on branch2In preparation both for 2016 and my Magic Words Monthly e-course, I’ve been trying to figure out my Word of the Year for this coming run ‘round the sun.

Usually in December I love doing end-of-year questions, lists, and challenges – I signed up for the latest 30 Days of Lists, started doing Reverb, and all the usual stuff I have fun with before New Year’s. I might not have a great year but looking back on it helps me remember the good stuff as well as what I can take with me from the bad stuff.

This year I’m having a hell of a time doing any of that. I got maybe three lists in when they started making me angry – I couldn’t come up with items for any of the lists. What did I learn this year? What resolutions did I keep? What new things did I try?

Fuck a bunch of that.

I was staring at a list trying to come up with more than two things for it when I realized the problem: this year sucked.

I don’t mean it was tragic, or dramatic, or anything so obvious (well it was, on a global scale, but I’m talking personally). It just sucked. It was hard and painful and somehow incredibly boring and I was dick-in-the-dirt depressed for 90% of it. I didn’t follow through on any of my goals – aside from finishing SHADOWSTORM, which I do anticipate doing by the 31st (first writing, anyway, not the finished book, but that was the idea, so go me), nada. It felt like nothing worked no matter what I tried, and I took zero steps forward, ten steps back.

I don’t even remember what my Word of the Year was for 2015. I’d have to go back through my blog and look.*

It was at the point where even trying to “look for the positive” or make a freaking gratitude list just made me more depressed, because I knew I was just making shit up. I find the cult of gratitude/positivity annoying anyway (I know it works for some people, but a lot of people with mental or invisible illness find it victim-blaming – just another version of “snap out of it!” when it’s just not that simple for a lot of people.), so finally, I gave up.

2015 is pretty much a lost year. I can’t pretend it didn’t happen, but I’m going to do what Disney did with the Star Wars Expanded Universe and make an executive decision as the author: 2015 is officially not part of my canon.

In fact it’s the most frustrating, badly-written AU ever.

I think my Word for 2016 is going to have to be something gentle – I feel beaten down by 2015, and aiming for something too challenging is not going to work. Kindness, perhaps, toward myself, or possibly Naps.

Every year I start out with all these grand intentions, and they tend to go flat the same way everyone’s New Year’s Resolutions do. You know how it goes. Long about February that treadmill’s got socks hanging from it, there’s kale rotting in the back of the fridge (kale can suck it anyway), and that yoga mat…where is it, again?

You know what they say. You gotta walk before you can run, crawl before you can walk, and get out of the fetal position in the closet with your teddy bear and a bottle of vodka before you can walk.

I think the mistake that I make is that I imagine myself as having way more energy than I have. I keep thinking, hey, I don’t have that much going on during the day, surely that’s time to keep an immaculate house, exercise an hour a day, meditate, cook all my meals, and find a job. I’ve got as many hours in a day as Beyonce, right?

Sure. But what I don’t have are cooks, personal trainers, assistants, publicists, maid service, or drivers.

I’m mentally ill, and not terribly stable just now. I’m working on that, medication-wise, but as I’ve said before, the point of meds isn’t to make your illness go away – they can’t do that. They make it so you can get up, put pants on, and help yourself. Some days I can do that, some days not.

Closeup of message stones on white background.

The point of this is, I can’t treat myself like I’m an average person with an average amount of energy in an average body with average social skills. There are a lot of things I’m awesome at, but being a functional adult is not one of them. And every year that I try to pretend, come January, that I’m starting at the same baseline as everyone else, I fail.

What’s funny is I’ve never been that person. I’ve been depressed since at least my teens if not since childhood. I’ve never been “normal” and I don’t especially want to be. Honestly I don’t think I had much of a chance. Yet I keep trying to make myself that way by setting goals that are either way too lofty or just way too intense for where I’m at.

You know what that is? It’s punishment. I’m punishing myself for being screwed up by screwing up then calling myself a screwup. Yet for some weird reason being mean to myself hasn’t made me better. It’s almost as if shame isn’t a healthy motivator. Hmm.

It doesn’t matter what road we’re on or if we’re running or crawling; we have to meet ourselves where we are.

So, I’m off to find a Word for 2016 – and this time I’m going to try to work with myself, not against.

* – devotion


Want to find your Word of the Year, then get deep with it?  Check out my free e-book, Magic Words 2016, and then sign up for my new e-course Magic Words Monthly.  Registration closes on December 31, so join today!

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Metanoia and the Married Spinster

handsIt was such a beautiful evening. A candlelit room, flowers, a tower of chai cupcakes, a circle of loving friends, with me all made up and shiny in red. My two best friends in the world, hailing from wildly divergent spiritual backgrounds, teaming up to marry their girl off to their girl.

I made vows. They were long. They’re hanging on my bedroom wall, which is the only way I have any idea what they say. I think it’s safe to report that in the last three years I’ve broken every one.

Several people have expressed a desire to know how my whole self-love situation has progressed since my self-wedding on July 30, 2011. I want so badly to tell them, and to say now, that it caused a revolution in how I treat myself, that I’ve learned my own awesomeness and am living by my authentic inner goddess truth or whatever.

Not so much.

By the time I lost my wedding ring I probably should have known something was wrong.

I fucked it up, guys. If you know anything about my life these last few years you know it hasn’t been easy. After my psych diagnosis everything became so complicated; then my life as a writer kind of collapsed like a soufflé sitting on a beehive. This year I’ve found myself unrecognizable as the woman who walked down that aisle to Apocalyptica and then did Bollywood-esque moves in a circle while ever so slightly drunk on sangria.

I don’t even dance anymore.

It’s hard to say what went wrong. I could point to individual circumstances, but blaming any one thing, including myself, seems like a cop-out.

I feel like I swallowed a drought. My insides are dusty and cracked, soul parched, silently begging the sky to open up both to green the land and to release the tension in the air. I’m a hungry ghost, wandering the world with my mouth wide open but unable to find satiety. I haunted all the places I used to touch the Sacred; I rattled my chains and howled without a voice.

I’m fairly sure that, looking at 2014 as a whole so far, you could quite accurately say I’ve been having a slow protracted nervous breakdown.

My sincerest hope is that I’ll look back and realize it was more than that – that it was Jungian metanoia, and the rebuilding after the breakdown led to something amazing.

The past few weeks have been much better, but the really shitty thing about bipolar is that you learn not to trust feeling well. You know it’s going to be yanked away from you, whether tomorrow or in a month. You try to enjoy it and do as much living as possible, but underneath is a current of fear and sadness that never goes away.

It’s funny. I decided to self-marry because I was tired of being at war with myself. Not a year later I was diagnosed with an illness that basically means my brain is at war with itself.

Here in 2014, four years after my first novel hit shelves and three years after I vowed to care for myself as I would my beloved, everything I used to love and enjoy, everything that I thought made me who I was, is just…gone.

For a long while I was obsessed with “getting it all back.” For a brief span of months around age 30, I was happy – I didn’t realize it at the time, and it certainly wasn’t perfect, but I really felt like life was functioning on all eight cylinders for the first time in adulthood. Since then I’ve tried to reach back in time and capture that feeling, that person I was, when I was HPS of a coven and had an actual human lover and was dancing and my career was in its infancy so anything, anything could happen.

I’ve realized recently – embarrassingly recently, in fact – that I don’t want it back. At 30 I didn’t want to be 23 again. Why would I want to be 30 now?

And by God, if this last year has served to tear down and pulverize everything I thought I liked about myself and everything that made me who I believed I was, I’m going to make that demolition worth the dust in the air and the pounding jackhammers all night long. One of my life mottos is “Make the pain count.” Life is going to suck, and suck hard with malice aforethought, and you can’t always prevent the suck no matter how “together” you are. What you can do is use the suck.

I’ll stop with the sucking metaphor there, though, because it could go someplace weird really fast.

If this were a two-person marriage, I’m pretty sure my wife would have walked out by now. I don’t say that in a bitter way; I’ve been an inattentive spouse at best and an abusive one at worst. But unlike an ordinary marriage, when one of us treats the other one like crap, the other can’t leave. Try though I might I can’t get away from myself.

It’s that better part of me, in fact, that has kept me hoping – that little voice whispering “Come on, you can try again – nobody’s keeping score but you. It’s going to be okay.” She says she loves me, and she’s not giving up on me. She knows who I can be underneath the rubble of who I have been, but she can’t tell me; I have to figure it out for myself.

That’s how I know wisdom when I hear it: it’s almost always really annoying.

I don’t know how I’m going to make things better. I’ve certainly tried. Every attempt, from the tiniest shift to a tectonic realignment, has fizzled. But I know, deep down somewhere more visceral than my heart, maybe my liver or spleen, that I’m meant to do something really badass with my life, and that the way I’ve been living since the wedding is not it. I don’t know which way to go, or how to start, or much of anything; but I have an inner conviction that I’ve got work to do.

I also still have an awesome wife. And you know what they say: behind every great woman is that same woman, because she had to kick her own ass.

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Free (Hopefully Useful) Download

overwhelmed man asking for help

I’m an absolute fool for nifty little organizational tools, planners, calendars, journals – in olden times (you know, Yore) I would have been the girl in the cave trying to remember how many mammoths we’d been through that month so I could mark it on the wall.

One thing I’ve always thought was cool was the idea of a daily page – not a journal, but a checklist or grid where you can keep track of certain variables in your life.  I used to have a long list of things to check off:  exercise, writing, eating veg, drinking water, calling my mom.  I found that I’m not the only one with this fetish; a lot of bloggers have designed page-a-day systems that you can print out in multiples, hole-punch, and stick in a binder.  Here are some examples, most of which are free:

Pink and grey, sophisticated by Jenny Collier

Purple and green at Desiring Virtue (these are geared toward helping with household chores, so there’s one for each day of the week; Wednesday is Laundry Day and so forth.)

The Daily Page notepad (not free, but an actual physical notepad you can order from her Etsy shop or download digitally)

Design Finch – This page has nine dailies for download, curated from various sites.

Alexia Clare’s Etsy shop has the most adorable version I’ve ever seen, featuring hedgehogs and birds.  It’s not free, but it’s very well designed, and considering you can print as many as you like for that three dollars, it’s not a bad deal at all.

The only problem I found with these is that they aren’t designed very well for people with mental illnesses, even though the idea was a fabulous one.  Often we need to keep track of our symptoms, whether or not we’ve taken our meds, and other factors that the average domestic engineer might not deal with.

That in mind, I made one.  It’s not fancy, but it has check-offs and blanks for a lot of things I think people with brain whimsy might like.  At the very top I put a mood tracker; it also tracks if you’ve had your 5-a-Day veggies, water, caffeine, et cetera; movement; meds; and whether you’ve done anything creative that day.

The grid is scooted over to the right a smidge so it’ll work better in a binder.  You could, I suppose, flip it around and print two per page to use less paper, if you’ve got good eyes and are so inclined.

I’m posting it both in pdf format and as an Excel file; that way you can either print it as-is or, if you have things you’d like to change (say you have different symptoms than the basic three I included) you can.  It’s absolutely free for personal use; the only reason the copyright’s on there is so nobody tries to sell them.  You are absolutely at liberty to do whatever you like with it.  I just thought it was a good idea and that other people might get some use out of it – or it might spark a similar idea in your own head that fits your life even better.  Enjoy!

All-in-One Page PDF

All-in-One Page XLS

(Let me know if the Excel file doesn’t work.  I wasn’t 100% sure it would.)

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