Gratitude feels like this

There was rocks and rain being thrown inside the truck yesterday. I couldn’t stop feeling wet and getting lumps stuck in my throat.

I’ve had some rough days. I’ve had friends tell me that they don’t believe my symptoms are real. I’ve had many change the subject immediately after asking how I’m doing. I’ve had some people straight up ignore me when I’ve asked them directly for something small (simply sharing a post – nothing more). I’ve had people talk condescendingly me towards me for not wanting to try a remedy without discussing it with my physician first, telling me I was giving up or not willing to get better by trying different things. It wasn’t that I wasn’t willing, but I wanted to ensure there was no (or limited) risk that my doctor might have known about before trying it. If he felt there was no harm in trying, then I’m all for it. I’ve had people mute me on social media because they’ve said they just don’t care.

Some of those things  I can chalk up to not being about me. Some of those things are limiting factors on the other person’s end, or awkwardness towards the situation, or just not knowing what to do or say. Those are things I understand, and I have no problems with.

But some of the other comments, actions and inactions hurt, and they were difficult not to take personally. I managed it, eventually, but that initial reaction felt like an icy cold slap to the face, and it stung when it came from a small handful of people I have known for a long time and I thought cared. That they didn’t is actually ok – they have things of their own to worry about, and they have their own agendas. Me expecting them to look out for me is my problem, not their’s, and I don’t typically expect things from others. I was (and still am) feeling extra vulnerable, and was grasping onto things that weren’t mine to hold onto. (I’ve let those things go. I was feisty, nervous, sad and didn’t fully have awareness of my overabundant emotions at the time. I’m human.)

But then, everything changed. And those small handful of people who I had allowed to drive me deeper into a downward spiral are suddenly muted by the huge outpouring of love and support from so many others, and from some people I don’t even know.

Seriously, universe, you have some amazing people in you. And as much as I often question the direction of humanity, this lesson has taught me that there is more kindness than there isn’t. There’s been tears and feels, but they’ve been good (if not complicated) ones.

It’s been weird for both my husband and I. Admitting to needing help is hard enough. Especially publicly. Taking help is a whole other matter. As mentioned previously, I’m one to give things away. I love it. So when people have been buying product, I’ve been wanting to give them gifts with their order, as I always do. Jess, the superhero who has taken over selling my products, has slapped my wrist numerous times for that. I gave her complete control over all of the inventory, selling, discounts and everything associated. And she’s been rocking it, without the discounts. She’s selling things better than I ever did.

We’ve both shared that we’re better at selling other people’s products than our own. At markets, I’d sell my neighbours products easier than mine. It was fun, and they were appreciative. They’d be quiet about their product, and strike up conversation a little, but wouldn’t want to be pushy with sales and allow the customer to browse. I’d pop my head over, grab my favorite product from the table (which would change with different customers) and start asking them questions about it, and commenting on the things I loved most about it. I was also sincere about it, which I truly believe made the difference.

Most of the time the customer would buy one of whatever I was oohing and aahing over.

I excel at retail sales when I have fun with them. At the sports store I used to work at, I’d focus on the customers in front of me, and not focusing on making specific sales. I worked the quietest shifts, but always had the highest sales, because they were my focus, no matter what they were looking at. My specialties were the people on a budget – because I could relate the best with them. It was amazing how much some of the other associates took advantage of people, and it never impressed me. We got commission at the time. I’m glad that practice has been ended since I worked there. The managers loved those associates for selling the high ticket items, but then they didn’t have the highest average sales.

“They are so cute, and anything has to be more comfortable than these. Where did you get them?”

I remember one elderly gentleman had come in to pick up his shoes he had on hold, and I couldn’t help but pry. He was there to purchase the newest, greatest Nike Shox, which retailed for the great deal of $299 at the time. The associate that had helped him previously convinced this man that these shoes would help his knees stop hurting while he was in the garden. The man was on disability and in pain, and he was desperate for relief.

They were basketball shoes, meant for a basketball court, with crevices in the soles where dirt could pack into and compound, rendering the “shox” useless once dirt got embedded in there. He obviously had crippling arthritis in his hands, and the work to clean the shoes in order to keep the dirt out from those areas would add to the list of things he shouldn’t have had to do.

I downsold him to a reliable, comfortable, supportive pair of $60 New Balance shoes, and gave the associate the sale for those.

Oh dear, did I ever cause a kerfuffle. The other associate complained to management, who had to reprimand me for stealing a sale even though I didn’t take it myself. The associate was also reprimanded for the unethical sale. 

I didn’t make friends there. Apparently ethics doesn’t belong in retail sales, and I’ve always tried to live up to a strong code of ethics for the benefit of others. I could not in good conscious let that man pay for those shoes without feeling guilt, and to this day I do not regret my decision to downsell him those shoes. He came back to see me personally and thank me, as the shoes actually did help reduce his pain while in the garden. This was the kind of thing I worked for. 

I had the lowest amount per sale, however the highest total monthly sales for my department, because there were customers that refused to see other people due to my honesty. They simply wouldn’t deal with the other associates in my department, and would ask for me specifically. The managers had to deal with fires often from disagreements on fairness. No one could control who the customers wanted to buy from, however, and there was nothing that could be done about it. I was always on time, I didn’t steal sales from other associates, I found associates to pass customers to in other departments and I treated everyone fairly. I was isolated from the others, but it wasn’t a big deal to me. I was there to work, not to make friends, which wasn’t the same attitude that many others had. I didn’t mind.

When it came to my own products, however, I was no different than those other quiet handmade vendors. I’d converse, talk and answer questions, but didn’t want to come across as over zealous, so didn’t push sales. And I’ve never done so poorly selling products as I did my own.

That’s not to say I did poorly, mind you – but I didn’t have the same exuberance about it as I did selling other people’s products.

It was never for lack of confidence in my products – while sure, I’ve made a few mistakes and bumbles (seriously, what company doesn’t), I’ve always loved the things that I’ve made and have been proud of what I’ve  done. I think the issue lies more in the self, in asking people to pay me for the things I do. As much as I’d try to talk myself up that I’m worth what I ask for, I think deep down, I didn’t believe it myself and it came across that way. Or, not that I wasn’t worth it so much as just wanting to enjoy what I was doing without worrying about the monetary aspect behind it.

Which makes for TERRIBLE business practice.

I was quiet yesterday, and my husband noticed. My feelings were strong – and confused. I was elated by the outpour of support from so many people, while dreading taking their generosity, while grateful for it, while sad that those I thought would be more supportive disappeared, while humbled and embarassed, but proud of reaching out instead of falling into further trouble. I was also glad to have the thought of business off my mind, while sad to be letting it go.

Emotions are complicated and hard, man. But I’m ok. I’m more than ok. I am so, so blessed to have such amazing people in my life.

But gratitude and love win. Every time. And that’s how I’m feeling right now.

Plus exhausted beyond reasonable comparison. The last few weeks have taken alot out of me, and I don’t feel like I’ve given myself the proper chance to rest and catch up. And the more tired I am, the less I sleep, and the worse it gets. And today I’m definitely in a huge energy deficit, and I’m just staying in bed. I’ll take a break from that to do a small yoga practice and move some blood and tissue at least a little, but I don’t think I’ve got much else. And that’s ok. I don’t have anything I need to get done today, and nothing pending, and anything that’s on my to-do list can be put aside for another day.

This is where my boundaries and self care kick in. I’ve pushed myself here and there, mostly to see how my body would respond. It’s little experiments to know how far I can go and what activities I can do. Sadly, it’s not nearly what I’d have hoped for, but I’ll take what I can.

My MRI is on Saturday, which is faster than anyone expected. If the MRI comes back with issues, I’m being sent to a neurologist. If it comes back clean, then a rheumatologist. 

We’re narrowing things down, finally, and I’m looking forward to finding a better normal than I’ve had recently. It’ll still be awhile, but it’ll come. I have faith.

But in the meantime, I feel so grateful for everyone who has helped us, and I’m excited for the day that I can pay it forward again.

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Won’t you be my neighbour…..

Hello, world. I’m writing to you today with an extremely heavy heart. I’ve been shouldering many things, and I’m starting to wear out. Friends and family are having troubles with jobs and confidence, people are finding offences where none are due, and others are lashing out to reap benefits that aren’t owed to them.

Mr. Rogers taught us about being friendly neighbours to each other. Smile. Wave. Offer your help. Ask for help. What ever happened to those lessons? Did  they get forgotten when he passed? What’s happening, world? Where’s the kindness, understanding, gratitude and compromise?

We are all allowed to feel the way we do, no matter what we are feeling. We’re allowed to be angry, be sad, be happy. Sometimes, however, the reasons for our feelings aren’t always what we think they are. It’s good to take a moment to pause and listen, a pause to consider different angles and possibilities. Someone said something that angered you – what was the part that angered you? Did you feel they were accusatory? Or were they perhaps correct in their comment and offered another perspective that you didn’t want to see or acknowledge? Is your anger truly at them, or is it at yourself to mask the denial that, deep down, you know is true? When you feel something, before acting on that feeling, first ask yourself WHY you feel the way that you do. Sometimes, the answer might surprise you.

A little while ago I wrote about my neighbour and the misadventure of cookies. That one little act of returning cookies filled me with dread and with confusion, and it was difficult to shake off. It made me cautious and wary. Unfortunately, I was right to listen to my gut instincts in this situation – my intinct warned me to be cautious. While it ends up that the recipient was unable to eat said (overlysweet) cookies, which is the reason they returned them, there are more issues that have grown that now involve protective services. I don’t know their story, but there is a communication issue both between us as neighbours, as well as between them as a couple, and those issues have spilled over into our lives for the worse.

This one is for you, neighbour. Despite your insults, your anger, your hostility and your vengeful nature towards us, I forgive you. I don’t respect you. I dare say I have a hard time loving you or even liking you, but I forgive you. You are lashing out because you are filled with anger. The world can be hard to live in, and you have not yet figured out that you are owed nothing from the world. People grown up feeling entitled to an easy life, to easy money, to easy pre-paved paths, so when things don’t go quite right they feel  insulted and upset watching others walk a different path. Perhaps one that they’d rather be on instead, but can’t seem to find their way there. You make the world what it is, and sometimes that’s a hard lesson to learn. I hope, one day, that you do learn that the world is at your fingertips, for your own sake and happiness. There’s so much good in it, and you can choose to make it better. We all can. We can all do better, see better, and treat each other better than we are. Kindness doesn’t cost a thing, but the bully attitude could cost us the entire world, if we let it.

I choose not to let it. While you do everything you can to try to hurt me, I’m not going to retaliate. I’ll protect myself, for sure. We took the steps needed to protect ourselves and opened a file with the RCMP, but I’m not about to cause the same harm to you as you are doing to me. Hopefully one day you’ll thank me for that, when you realize that the reasons for your anger towards me were for the choices you have made, and never had anything to do with me except that we live next to each other.

This is the power I have – and no one else has that. And I’m finally able to take control of that power and use it for better things. Thank you, dear neighbour, for allowing me this much needed practice. There are other areas I need to apply it, and you’ve helped to give me that strength.

We can do better for each other. Please, do better for each other. Sometimes actions aren’t actually meant for you but, unfortunately, you’re in the way of the real reason and get the full force of the attack anyways. And that’s where I am right now – in between anger  and confusion and stuck in the middle of a battle with himself.

And I’m not going anywhere.  The battle will eventually move on.

Be kind. Always be kind, and choose happiness.

Seasonal Affective Disorder

S.A.D. – a story of the blues

Coffee

It’s that time of year that many people have already been feeling the harrowing affects of winter. The cold, dark days make waking up “bright eyed and bushy tailed” seem impossible. Your eyes feel heavy. You put your coffee in the fridge and put socks on your hands. Who knows what happened to your mittens…. and you can’t get over this inexplicable sad feeling.

Seasonal Affective Disorder, commonly known as the “Winter Blues”, affects many people during the short, dark days of fall and winter and comes in many forms. Sometimes it presents with decreased motivation and trouble getting up in the morning. For others, it could be general malaise, or feeling bummed. And in extreme circumstances, it can have the same symptoms as non-seasonal depression and psychiatric conditions. Indicators include irritability, easily brought to tears, difficulty concentrating, increased sleep, decreased general activity and socializing, a craving for carbohydrates and sugars – which also leads to weight gain and overeating. Less frequently, symptoms may include poor appetite associated with weight loss, insomnia, agitation, restlessness, anxiety and violent behavior. It affects many people, many of which are unaware that their behavior has changed. While some generally feel “down”, others are incapacitated by it and are unable to function. It generally begins in the fall and continues into winter months, but has been occasionally known to carry into spring and summer.

SADSeasonal affective disorders were identified as a treatable condition in the 1980s, thanks to the collaborative research efforts of Norman Rosenthal, Al Lewy and Tom Wehr. They also discovered the benefits of light therapy to reduce or prevent symptoms. Due to our distance from the equator and our short winter days, Canadians are more likely to be affected. Those most at risk include women, are younger, live far from the equator and have family histories of depression, bipolar disorders or seasonal affective disorder. SAD is often difficult to diagnose, as it can transpire with other disorders and can easily be missed.

Those affected most by seasonal affective disorder have difficulty regulating serotonin, which is a neurotransmitter connected with balancing mood. There may also be an overproduction of melatonin, which is a hormone that causes sleepiness in response to dark conditions. This internal “clock”, which responds to light and dark changes, is a 24-hour cycle in the physiological processes of all living things and is known as “circadian rhythms”. As winter days become darker, melatonin production increases which causes sleepiness and lethargy. The combination of decreased serotonin and increased melatonin has an impact on circadian rhythms. For those suffering from SAD, the circadian signal that indicates a seasonal change is timed differently, causing the body to have difficulty adjusting to these changes. Due to decreased sunlight and increased time spent indoors, there is also less production of vitamin D. An insufficiency of this vitamin is associated with clinically noteworthy depressive symptoms.

The effects of the winter blues can be reduced and minimized using various treatments, many of them over the counter or self regulated. These efforts are especially effective during the darkest days surrounding winter solstice (December 21st) and include light therapy, negative air ion therapy, exercise, cognitive behavior therapy, vitamin D3 increase, aromatherapy and other holistic approaches.

There are medications that can help balance serotonin activity, but attention needs to be given to the possibility of adverse effects. Light therapy, however, shows great potential in reducing the symptoms of SAD and minimizing the effects of the winter blues. Also known as phototherapy or Bright Light Therapy (BLT), light boxes emit full spectrum light that imitates the effects of sunlight. Using light therapy for 20-60 minutes every morning can help balance the effects of our short winter days. Light therapy does come with adverse affects as well, however not as severe or common as some of the prospective medications. Light therapy is also not ideal for those on medications with photosensitizing effects, such as lithium, melatonin and certain antibiotics.

Studies show that low levels of Vitamin D are associated with depression. Vitamin D deficiency is typically caused by inadequate dietary intake or lifestyle matters, such as little outdoor exposure to sunlight. From November to February, those living 33 degrees north of 30 degrees south of the equator are unable to produce Vitamin D due to limited natural light sources, and because of this, many people affected by SAD have deficient levels of Vitamin D. Research recommends that taking 100,000 IU daily beginning before winter darkness may improve symptoms. Most Vitamin D labels will suggest taking 3 pills of 1000 IU daily. Adverse reactions from doses of more than 50,000 IU per day are rare, but not unheard of.

Counselling can also provide help and support to those affected by SAD and has proven to be as effective as using light therapy each morning. Counselling takes a different approach by breaking down problems and negativity and helping people change the way they think. Other solutions are available to help ease symptoms and include exercise, meditation, mindfulness and yoga, as well as diet changes to reduce the intake of sugar and increase vegetables, proteins and raw (unprocessed) foods. There are also an increased number of studies that prove that aromatherapy can have a positive effect on mood, as well as regulating neurotransmitters – including the ones directly related to seasonal affective disorder.

In an article published by researchers at Xiamen University, China, it is noted that: “Most studies, as well as clinically applied experience, have indicated that various essential oils, such as lavender, lemon and bergamot can help to relieve stress, anxiety, depression and other mood disorders. Most notably, inhalation of essential oils can communicate signals to the olfactory system and stimulate the brain to exert neurotransmitters (e.g. serotonin and dopamine) thereby further regulating mood.” (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23531112.)

While studies show that there is a correlation between clinical depression and a reduced sense of smell, seasonal affective disorder presents the opposite in regards to olfactory sensitivity. Those who suffer from SAD have an increased sensitivity, especially in the right nostril, which indicates that they may be more responsive to aromatherapy treatments. Many studies are available that show the efficacy of aromatherapy to help ease the symptoms of depression. Lemon oil has been a proven antidepressant as well as energizing agent. It reduces anxiety and boosts serotonin and dopamine, two neurochemicals that are greatly reduced with seasonal affective disorder. Other essential oils that positively impact dopamine and/or serotonin include clary sage, atlas cedarwood, eucalyptus globulus, bergamot and orange. For more stimulating oils, consider black pepper, grapefruit, jasmine, lemon and rosemary.Happy

Please consider drug interactions before using aromatherapy to help reduce symptoms of seasonal affective disorder. A few essential oils could lead to contraindicated side effects. If you are unsure, please contact your physician or certified aromatherapist for more information. The best way to apply aromatherapy is simply to smell it. You can use a diffuser set at 30-60 minute intervals for 2-3 sessions a day, or use a personal inhaler tube for on the go.

Want more information on how to fight the winter blues with aromatherapy? I’m now offering one-on-one consultations. Please contact me for more information.

Disclaimer

None of the statements or ideas listed on this website should be used to test, treat or diagnose health problems or diseases. This information is not meant to be a substitute for the advice provided by your own physician or other medical professional. The information on this website is intended for educational purposes only.

References

Mood Disorders Association of Ontario. How prevalent is SAD? Mood Disorders of Ontario, Toronto, Canada

Influence of season and latitude on the cutaneous synthesis of vitamin D3: exposure to winter sunlight in Boston and Edmonton will not promote vitamin D3 synthesis in human skin.
Webb AR, Kline L, Holick MF
J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 1988 Aug; 67(2):373-8.

Vitamin D vs broad spectrum phototherapy in the treatment of seasonal affective disorder.
Gloth FM 3rd, Alam W, Hollis B
J Nutr Health Aging. 1999; 3(1):5-7.

Robert Tisserand, Essential Oils and Seasonal Affective Disorder

Seasonal Affective Disorder: An Overview of Assessment and Treatment Approaches