Sunday, May 15, 2016

The Shade Tree Choir: Depression Survival: Boredom Has Been Good To Me

The Shade Tree Choir: Depression Survival: Boredom Has Been Good To Me: Boredom Has Been Good To Me “Let us endeavor to live so that when we come to die even the undertaker will be sorry.” ...

Depression Survival: Boredom Has Been Good To Me

Boredom Has Been Good To Me

“Let us endeavor to live so that when we come to die even the undertaker will be sorry.”

Mark Twain

Rebecca Anhalt, founder of Healthy Mind Better Life, wrote a blog July 31, 2015, titled “Can Boredom Trigger Depression?”

In her blog, Rebecca quoted J. Eastwood from his article in Sage Journal, “The Unengaged Mind.” Eastwood stated, “Boredom is wanting but being unable to engage in satisfying activities.”

Eastwood wrote there’s an inability to connect to internal and/or external stimuli. Anhalt described the results of a loss of connecting to external stimuli can be loneliness and hopelessness. She described it as nothing in our environment holds our attention. A loss of internal connection can make one feel disengaged from thought processes. Anyone with a history of PTSD may uncover suppressed, negative thoughts or situations.

Being unable to connect may lead to negative thinking or unhealthy attitudes. Some negative thinking may be: Black & White (All-Or-Nothing) thoughts, overgeneralization, unreasonable expectations of ourselves, jumping to conclusions and blaming others. I smiled reading these because many are part of my character.

I agree with Rebecca Anhalt when she wrote that boredom could also lead to positive experiences. Creative juices might begin to flow or we might find purpose in life.

Boredom has been good to me and I have found purpose in life because of it. I seek out projects, new life experiences and look for the deeper meaning to life. It’s probably my liberal arts education in undergraduate school that has led me to a lifelong learning process. I love to learn new activities. I sometimes counteract the wave of depression by looking for new hobbies to learn, stories to write or pictures to draw.

Experiencing new events improves my self-image and re-affirms a belief that I can achieve anything I set my mind to accomplish. In some cases, these activities offer an adrenalin rush.

In my book, PALS: Part Two, there are short stories about catching alligators by hand at night in the Florida swamps, having lunch with guerrilla fighters from Nicaragua and rafting some dangerous waters around America.  Experiences that fill me with the adrenalin rush help me combat my life-long clinical depression. I feel alive when I am in those situations.  

In my book, The Shade Tree Choir, Krame pressed his nose to the dust-covered screen in his bedroom window that hot July night. He made himself a promise nobody would ever again hurt him and one day he would get away from his abusive home life. He became focused and succeeded in achieving anything he set his mind to do. I am Krame. That book is about my childhood.

I am better at some things than others. We all are. I am not good at golf but find it fun to play and to learn new techniques – like how to properly hit a ball into the woods. And of course, it’s fun to learn new ways to cheat without getting caught. I don’t keep score and people I play with know I don’t take the game seriously. I enjoy learning all I can about fishing. I throw all the fish back that I catch. Someday I wish I would catch more. There was a time I studied and learned how to white water raft. Two of the several places I rafted included the Grand Canyon and the Gauley River in West Virginia. The motto for the rafting company on the Gauley is, “Where Nobody Hears You Scream.” Trust me, people heard me scream.

I took horseback riding lessons that led me to cattle drives and eventually working cattle on horseback. That experience further led me to writing and performing cowboy poetry. After years of travelling America and performing my cowboy poetry, I was given the honorary title of the Cowboy Poet Laureate of Tennessee. Our governor and General Assembly gave this honor to me.

Boredom led my childhood friend and I to open a clothing store selling second lines of blue jeans. We called our store “Sons-A-Britches.” That experience led me to sell T-shirts to physical therapists in America. I printed the spine on the back of the shirt and on the front was printed, “Physical Therapy, The Backbone of Rehabilitation.” I did that for a short time. I became bored with it.

I was a co-owner of a hospital supply business, a B&B and owned a speaking company based on a book I wrote about stress management. I read an article one Sunday in the Miami Herald about a lady who wrote a book on that topic. I remember thinking how I taught my patients stress techniques and could also write a book. It didn’t stop there. I created a company where professionals could receive continuing education credits by attending my classes.

One day I was bored and wondered what my next project might be. Quiet time offered the ideas to flow into my head and I produced two training videos that I sold in America. One was how to safely move patients and the other was how to prevent back injuries for the equestrian. That video allowed me to write articles for several international journals.

I believe that if we are quiet and let our minds relax there will be doors of adventure that will open. I learned how to make soap, pottery, simple jewelry, baskets, woodworking and stained glass. I recently started teaching myself to draw.

From Sketchbook to Scrapbook, is the name of a book of art my sister and I created together. We don’t sell it. We made it for our own personal enjoyment. It was the first thing she and I ever did together. That was the best part. We did it for ourselves. We did it for the enjoyment.

I have written many books in a variety of genres and am now working on a couple children’s books. In addition to writing the books, I am doing some of the artwork. I write for only me. I draw for only me. I do these things for my personal growth and often because I was bored.

I think the neighbors down the street are happy I learned to play my saxophone and play it only for me with all doors and windows shut. I especially like it when the coyotes sing along when I play. Playing my instrument is like golf. I enjoy it but am not very good.

When was the last time you jumped up and started to dance? When was the last time you let that little kid out and had some fun? I love to be spontaneous and try to suck the marrow out of life. It’s one of my methods to control my depression. I am attaching a link below to give you an example of being a kid and doing something totally out of character. It’s called, “Reggae-Rap by Old White Guy.”

So, I challenge you with this thing called boredom. The next time you might be bored or hit with a wave of depression maybe relax and see if doors of opportunity open. Go sit in the woods, along a river or on a cliff and let the wind do its thing with your mind. You may find a new adventure.

My drawing at the top of this blog represents two things to me. The mosaic pieces show there are many methods to treat your depression. One of those for me is to draw. Secondly, I believe we are all made of those mosaic pieces from life experiences and each of us is a beautiful piece of art. I plan to add many more to mine before I am finished.

Some Links

Sunday, May 8, 2016

The Shade Tree Choir: Depression Survival: Trees

The Shade Tree Choir: Depression Survival: Trees: Trees The cool breeze blew across my face that Mother’s Day in May of 1956. The wind lifted the branch I straddled high atop that huge ...

Depression Survival: Trees


The cool breeze blew across my face that Mother’s Day in May of 1956. The wind lifted the branch I straddled high atop that huge evergreen tree as I rode my pretend horse. I was lifted toward the clouds and back down to the reality of earth. The seeping sap stuck to my tiny hands and I knew I wouldn’t fall.

Two hours earlier I sat at my uncle’s desk next to a stack of magazines I had collected from the rack next to his favorite chair. I stood on my tiptoes and lifted the scissors from the container at the far end of that massive wood structure. I glanced at the scotch tape dispenser and smiled when I opened the second drawer on the right hand side of his desk. I took a piece of typing paper and laid it in front of me. All the tools I needed were at my disposal for the creation of the grandest Mother’s Day gift ever made.

I was slow and precise when I printed each letter at the top of the paper with my pencil. Word by word came to life until it was finished. The title read, “Why I Love My Mom. Happy Mother’s Day. David.”

I turned page after page seeking the best pictures that would bring a smile to my mom’s face. She didn’t smile much and that was my ultimate goal, I suppose. My gift was to brighten her day. I cut as many pictures as I could fit on that piece of paper and carefully arranged them. I bit my lower lip to help me concentrate while I pulled and tore scotch tape that would secure each piece of my artwork.

My out-stretched arms held my masterpiece before me and I was filled with pride. She would love it. And she would love me. I cleaned the area and put everything away. I didn’t want to get caught destroying magazines and getting yelled at again for making a mess.

The familiar smell of alcohol filled my nostrils when she turned and belched toward me. She set her can of Hamm’s beer on the kitchen table when I interrupted her conversation with my aunt. “What now? What do you want?”

“Look what I made for you. Happy Mother’s Day, Mom.” I said when I handed her my gift.

My smile ran away. My nose stung and my eyes filled with water. I blinked and refused to allow tears to drop down my face because of her reaction. “That’s it? That’s why you interrupted me?”

I can’t remember what I did for the next many minutes. It was some time later when I lifted the trashcan lid in the kitchen to throw something away. There before me was a crumpled piece of paper that made me stop and pause. A Hamm’s beer can was on top of the paper. Beer stains made the pencil marks run across the page, but I could still read the words, “Why I Love My Mom.”

And so it was, I ran away to that place of comfort at my uncle’s house. I climbed to the top of the tree in his front yard. I rode my horse and I cried. I was seven years old. That was some sixty-years ago.

I find solace in the forest and in the mountains sitting on cliffs that hang over the valleys far below. Nature has a way with calming my soul. For it is amongst the trees where that little boy inside me finds comfort.

Today, on this Mother’s Day, I think I shall go to the woods and be still.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

The Shade Tree Choir: The Shade Tree Choir Depression Survival: Insomnia...

The Shade Tree Choir: The Shade Tree Choir Depression Survival: Insomnia...: The Shade Tree Choir Depression Survival Insomnia and Depression “ Get up and come with me!” Dad said as he jabbe...

The Shade Tree Choir Depression Survival: Insomnia & Depression

The Shade Tree Choir
Depression Survival

Insomnia and Depression

“ Get up and come with me!” Dad said as he jabbed his index finger into the left side of my chest.

He pulled the covers off, and I was startled when I realized it was morning. I also was embarrassed because of my erection. It’s perfectly normal for little boys to wake with an erection when they have to pee. I tried covering myself with my hands the best I could when he shoved me down the steps to the living room and past Ma who was sitting smoking. She had heard it all but neither said nor did anything to save me.

“Get down those God damn steps right now!”

“Please not another beating, please,” I thought to myself.

He shoved me to the second room of the 150-year-old basement lined with limestone. His right arm flung in the darkness and he found the chain for the 40-watt light bulb that provided more shadows than illumination. There, at the far end of the cellar, was the doorway hiding the steps that once led up to the backyard and was now entombed with the new patio cement.

“Get your ass in there and do not come out until I tell you to. Do you understand me?”

I nodded my head and entered the cramped space. The metal latch locked me in and quickly the shadows were replaced with total darkness. It was 7:30 in the morning.”

“The Shade Tree Choir”
David Nelson

I was eight years old when that event happened to me. I was locked in the space until 10 p.m. and then forced to return to my bed in the upstairs hallway. I had not eaten nor had any water in over thirty-six hours. Six decades later, I can close my eyes and feel his finger in my chest.

My entire life I have had difficulty sleeping. I don’t know if the psychiatrist who treated me a long time ago for PTSD and clinical depression was correct. Her theory was that maybe I have a deep fear of being awakened by something that might harm me. I don’t know if there is a genetic factor or other physiological cause of my insomnia. Scientists and behavioral clinicians have differing viewpoints about depression. Truth is, nobody knows for certain.

Another truth is that I have clinical depression, sleep apnea, insomnia and restless leg syndrome. According to the Restless Leg Syndrome Foundation, 40% of people with Restless Leg Syndrome suffer from depression. Nobody knows for certain if sleep deprivation can spark episodes of depression or the other way around. I can only tell you about my experiences with sleep loss and the relationship with my other diagnoses.

Exercise is an excellent method to combat depression. When I wake exhausted because of two to three hours sleep, the last thing I want to do is go to the gym. I force myself to work out three or four times a week. My sleep pattern dictates the intensity level of the workout. I no longer snore and I enjoy those infrequent nights of eight hours sleep, thanks to my C-PAP machine. I had a sleep study years ago and have used my machine ever since. I control my restless leg syndrome with medications and no longer jump, hop and kick while sleeping. I try not to take naps during the day. I know that caffeine in the afternoon can hinder my sleep pattern, as does alcohol in the evening.

My physician treating me for sleep apnea refuses to give me sedating, anti-depressant medications. He says research shows there is potential to suppress breathing and worsen my condition. I did attempt medications for depression and stopped them. I gained some forty pounds and my personality changed where I experienced no emotion at all. I likened it to being flat-lined. I have lost twenty-two pounds on my way back to “recovery.”

I no longer go to the car wash in the middle of the night and then wax my truck under the floodlights in the driveway. I no longer take three-hour drives while the rest of the world sleeps. I smile to think I might be getting better. I know better. Instead, I work in my office. I experience some of the best creative moments writing or drawing between 1 a.m. and sunrise. I have always been that way and suspect it shall remain such.

Symptoms of depression vary from person to person. The following is a list of the most common symptoms. Some depression patients have only one of these, while others may have some, most or all:
·       Feelings of hopelessness, helplessness and sadness
·       Thoughts of death or suicide
·       Loss of interest in things that were once pleasurable
·       Concentration problems
·       Forgetfulness
·       Loss of libido
·       Changes in weight and appetite
·       Daytime sleepiness
·       Loss of energy
·       Insomnia

It’s one thing to read a list of symptoms. Here is a real account of what life can be like for someone with depression. I received this from a friend two days ago. He is a high-functioning member of society and successful. Depression knows no boundaries.

“Nothing feels good, nothing sounds fun, nothing tastes good and I can't sleep but I never want to get out of bed. My teeth hurt from grinding them, my joints ache, it feels like someone is sitting on my chest and I have randomly started crying about 7 times today. All I can think about is my failures, my losses and how any effort I've put into life has been for naught. My brain races through every disaster in my life and tells me that it's all my fault. It tells me I've failed my friends and family; I failed my mother; I've failed as an artist and musician. I've become the very thing I promised my youthful self I would never be. This is depression. I hide it well, but this is what consumes me and millions of others behind closed doors in the darkness of our imagination. When people ask me how I am, I usually lie and say I'm great, or good, or not bad. When really I'm thinking about horrible ways to end it. I didn't choose to be this way, but I will choose to fight it. Just remember, not everyone has the support system I do, or the education I have received. If you know someone with depression, bipolar or anxiety, please reach out to them today and join their fight. Much love to those who fight with me.”

Suggestions for your consideration:

·       If you experience ideations of suicide immediately call 911. You are not a weak person. You are someone who needs immediate medical help.
·       Demand a complete physical including a cardiac stress test. There is a correlation between heart disease, insomnia and depression.
·       If you snore or kick your legs while sleeping demand a referral for a sleep study. You too may have sleep apnea and/or restless leg syndrome that can be treated.
·       No caffeine past noon.
·       Limit alcohol to one ounce for women and two ounces for men before bedtime.
·       Hobbies that require deep concentration may help you sleep better. For many years, I created stained glass artwork and now have a new hobby. I am teaching myself to draw. When I get into the “creative zone”, I have no time for the pity-pot attitude that can hinder my sleep.
·       No matter how tired you are during the day try to get some exercise. Gretchen Reynolds with the NY Times reported on a study from McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario about the benefit of a one-minute all-out exercise. The article was written in the NY Times on 4-27-16. The study found a one-minute routine that is as effective as a forty-five minute workout of moderate exertion.  
·       Try purging negative thoughts before going to bed. For me, writing stories, poems or lists sometimes helps. Communicating with your spouse can be another method of release.
·       Write down all the positive things you did today. Try writing all the positive characteristics about yourself. Learn to love yourself. One of my other Blogs covers this topic. (4-23-16)
·       Try to manage stressors in your life. I have written other blogs on that topic that you can read. (5-19-13)
·       I mentioned in previous blogs about trying visualization, deep breathing exercises and playing CDs with sounds of nature or music you find relaxing to help you get to sleep.
·       Lastly, buy any of my books and read for a few minutes before going to sleep. I had to throw that in there and sit here with a smile. It’s good to find humor in life.

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The Shade Tree Choir Book Trailer