I am not ok

*I wrote this about 6 months ago and have been indecisive about sharing it. My belief in the importance of reducing the stigma of mental illness has pushed me to go through with posting it.

My name is Jalyss and I have depression.

When I was first diagnosed with depression it felt like some big secret. Like a lie of omission if I didn’t tell people. During all of my normal interactions I felt this bizarre compulsion to blurt out, “by the way I have depression!” The past year and a half of my life was finally making sense to me and I wanted everyone else to know why I was the way I was for those 18 months. How the me they knew wasn’t the me I knew. It was important to me that they not judge me on who I was while I was at my lowest. I felt like the label “clinical depression” suddenly justified my struggles and I didn’t realize how deeply I needed that justification until I had it.

My name is Jalyss and I have depression.

The first few days after seeing my doctor and starting medication I told some close friends. “So I guess I have depression after all”. I said it as much to tell them as to convince myself. They already knew, they had been telling me for some time. They were the reason I got help. As the meds kicked in I realized I did in fact, have depression. I didn’t need to convince myself anymore- because things were changing dramatically. And I don’t think anti-depressants generally have that effect on people who don’t have depression…

I needed to tell people. It was a huge thing in my life and it felt weird not sharing it. I am a sharer. I wanted to shout to the world, “Depression meds are great! Please, if you are struggling, see a doctor! Don’t wait!”

I don’t know why it is so hard to see things clearly when you are the one involved. During the time I was avoiding seeing a doctor I convinced two friends to get counseling for depression. Meanwhile my friends pointed out the irony.

Despite having struggled for a year and a half I just didn’t feel “depressed enough” to get help. I didn’t want to overreact, didn’t want to waste anyone’s time. When I used the term depression to describe how I was feeling I felt like an imposter. Like I was insulting people who actually had depression. I also felt guilty for not being happy, so there was a part of me that was still trying to convince myself that I was. Either that or convince myself that being unhappy wasn’t actually that bad. After all, things were better than they had been in the months before, so I would be OK. I just needed to give it time. Be grateful. Be stronger. Suck it up! It would be fine. I was fine.

It took some hard conversations to realize just how fine I wasn’t and how it wouldn’t be fine if I didn’t get help. Untreated depression is possibly not the easiest way to start your marriage.

My name is Jalyss and I have depression.

I have no stigma against mental illnesses like depression. Getting professional help for depression is as sensible as seeing a doctor for a broken bone. I think meds are often an important part of treatment. Depression is not a character flaw. It’s not “unspiritual” or being dramatic. It is a medical condition and should be treated. Depression can be strictly a chemical imbalance, a combination of chemical and situational factors, or chemical changes in the brain brought on by a situation. It can be triggered by severe stress or by nothing at all. You can have a predisposition to depression, it can run in families, or you can develop it with no warning. Depression can be life-long or a one-time episode. Chronic or acute. Debilitating or just really damn difficult. Depression comes in many forms but all forms should be taken seriously. Depending on the type of depression it can be treated with medication, lifestyle changes, or counseling (and various combinations of the three). So with that said I am pro meds! I am pro counseling! I am pro doctors and getting help. I feel these things should be talked about far more to normalize and reduce stigma. Yet…

When it’s you it is so hard to see.

It’s hard to see that having days where you feel like you can’t possibly muster up the energy to speak so you type out conversions with the person next to you, is not normal.

Hard to see that your constant preoccupation with what you have lost is not a normal part of homesickness.

Hard to see that your inability to see any positives in life is maybe not your fault. Not a character flaw. Not just a rough patch.

Hard to remember that crying regularly for no identifiable reason is not normal.

Hard to accept that losing 20 pounds when you don’t have 5 to lose is a problem.

Hard to see that your friend having to create a step by step itinerary for your day that includes “get dressed” and “eat” does not point to the likelihood that you are fine.

Hard to see that when the thought of being alone for any period of time terrifies you.. When it’s hard to remember what it’s like to just feel content, have energy, not be anxious… you are not ok.

When it feels like it will never get better it’s time to take a serious look at your life and ask, “Am I really OK? Do I want to live like this? Is this healthy for me? For my relationships?”

And if the answer is no, it’s time to get help.

My name is Jalyss and I have depression. If you think you might, don’t put it off, don’t try to rationalize or make excuses. Get help, it’s worth it.

According to the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance nearly 7% of individuals will experience depression in a given year. Unfortunately, 2 of 3 people will not actively seek treatment.

*I am currently 2 months on a combination anxiety, depression, chronic pain medication and I feel clearer, happier, more energetic, and more myself than I have in 18 months. I am optimistic that this will continue. Depression runs in my family and mine seems to have been set off by a particularly stressful time in my life.

**I want to say a massive thank you to a few close friends and of course my husband who have been a huge support to me through all of this. From listening to me process to insisting I eat dinner. From making me get dressed to Skype interventions. From prayer to mind numbing Netflix binges. I am immeasurably grateful for you guys.

Comm Board

Practicing Presence

Early last year Sojourners Magazine put out 10 Resolutions for 2015. I know we are a bit past that now, but one of the resolutions has really stuck with me.

“Practice presence: Spend less time with screens and more with books, less time with complaining and more with solving, less time with arguing and more with listening, less time with shopping and more time with being thankful, less time with worrying and more with exercising, less time obsessing about food and more time eating well, less time planning and more time doing, less time scheduling and more time living one day at a time.”

(If you want to check out the other 9, and I would recommend you do, you can do so here: https://sojo.net/articles/10-resolutions-2015 )

In an effort to practice presence during lent I have made 4 changes in my phone use that I have found really helpful.

  1. I am not using social media before noon. This isn’t strictly a phone thing, but it is something that I do mostly on my phone. The first week or so I found this quite difficult but I am now finding myself checking for the first time of the day at 2 or 3 in the afternoon. I do not feel the constant obligation to stay updated or respond to things straight away, which is quite nice.I am using my mornings more productively (and we know how I feel about productivity…)
  2. I have turned off nearly all notifications on my phone. I still have notifications on for text and Facebook inbox messages, and obviously calls, but everything else has been turned off. It is much easier to ignore an app without constant notifications popping up. Now, instead of wasting ten minutes scrolling down my newsfeed each time I check an individual notification I get on and check 10 at once and then have a look at what’s going on. Which means I am not absent-mindedly looking through the same stuff several times.
  3. I am leaving my phone outside of my room when I go to bed … sometimes. Ok, so I’m not perfect here, but I’m trying. I do find that I read much more when I leave my phone out of the room when I got to bed, which is something I want to do. I have found that there hasn’t been a single circumstance so far when I needed my phone during the night. Who knew?
  4. I have cleared my phone’s home screen. I have 4 apps at the bottom of my screen- Calls, texts, emails, and my camera. Everything else I have moved over to a secondary screen. Now when I look at my phone to return a text I don’t end up on Facebook or Pinterest just because I’ve seen them.

Screenshot_2016-03-05-17-49-44

Lest you think I am anti-facebook or holier-than-thou let me say: I love Facebook. I love WhatsApp. GroupMe is great and occasionally I remember that I have SnapChat and I fumble around trying to check my Snaps. I live far away from the vast majority of people that I care about. These apps give me not only the big life updates but also the random day-to-day stuff that make me feel more connected. I’m not trying to replace physical relationships with online interaction; I am doing the best I can to keep long-distance relationships healthy and Facebook, amongst others, helps me do that. Also, it’s just enjoyable.

So why am I cutting back?

I don’t dislike technology we just aren’t very good at using it in moderation. This is my attempt to do so. The average American watches 5 hours of TV PER DAY and research has recently shown that we use our phones twice as much as we believe we do, up to 5 hours a day (http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0139004). I feel strongly about living with intentionality. So rather than spending 15 minutes several times in a day flicking through my newsfeed (yeah guys, I have some time on my hands at the moment) I’d like to shoot out a few personal messages or texts. Instead of playing games on my phone at night I’d like to spend that time reading any of the dozens of books I have but haven’t read. Or… actually sleep. Instead of filling every spare second with something to entertain myself I’d like to feel comfortable with lulls. I find that I actually think about things when I’m not distracted. Sometimes they are important and sometimes not, but the space to reflect on either level has been lost in many of our lives. For some of us it was never there in the first place. Sometimes technology facilitates relationships, productivity, and knowledge; but sometimes it hinders them. I think it’s important that we learn to recognize which effect it is having and react accordingly.

It’s a work in progress but the more I practice the easier it seems to get. I’m just practicing practicing presence. I’m not there yet but so far I like the effects it has had.

I am reading more actual, physical books. I am reaching out to friends and family more often. I feel less distracted in general- better able to focus. Spending less time online makes me feel like my time is my own. I am not controlled by an app that needs to be checked (I know, dramatic, but it is genuinely freeing). I am writing again and spending time thinking- just thinking. Life has more space. Using social media mindfully is helping free me from the distraction of constant connection. I hope to have the discipline to continue in these endeavors of moderation when lent ends.

Today was the National Day of Unplugging. Did anyone try it? Would love to hear your thoughts.

Living and learning and doing my best to love.

My 2014 (in a nutshell)

2014 was amazing.

And horrible.

Exciting.

And terrifying.

Energizing

And exhausting.

2014 was more than I thought I could handle, but here I am, in 2015, so I must have survived.

Between January 2014 and January 2015 I…

Moved from Birmingham to Cardiff

Moved from Cardiff back to Birmingham

Graduated from Wolverhampton with a BA HONS in Conductive Education

Graduated from Crown (online) with a BA in Psychology and a minor in Biblical Studies

Travelled around the UK for 2 weeks with my mom and sisters

Spent 5 months planning a wedding that would be on another continent

Filed for a visa for James

Went on holiday in Devon with James’ family

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Said some devastating goodbyes

Packed up all of my belongings and moved to US

Spent 2 months living and working in Chicago

Spent 2 months planning a wedding that would be in a different state

Spent a week frantically calling senators and congressman, begging for help with a visa that was 4 months late

Cancelled James’ flight and scheduled another

Waited

Barely got a visa

Moved to St Boni

Spent 1 week in MN finishing wedding planning

Got married!

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Spent an amazing 2 weeks with UK friends and family in the US!

Said more devastating goodbyes

Went to Orlando on honeymoon

Filed for the next phase of James’ visa

Changed my surname to Zapfletts (Here’s why)

Moved into first apartment with James

Bought my first Car

Wrecked my first car (rolled. If you’re going to total your car, do it right.)

Car

Chopped my hair off, 16 inches

Started working at MRCI part-time

Started working at MORA part-time

Found a new church

Bought my second car

Got my first full-time job (at MORA)

Spent Christmas with my US family and new husband 🙂

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***

And that’s it! 😛

Which should help explain my blogging hiatus.

I am planning on getting into a few of these points in future posts. Stay tuned.

Mirror Blog

Just a quick post to say:

I’m starting a mirror blog for my conductive education related posts. So, all posts will continue to be posted at Hop, Skip, and a Jump, but only CE related posts will be posted on my new blog here: I Stand Tall. So, if you are only interested in my CE stuff, I Stand Tall is the place for you. Bear with me as I work out any kinks in the new format.

That’s all.

Jalyss

“You never blog anymore…”

Several people have mentioned to me lately that I never blog anymore. I think the longer I don’t blog, the harder it becomes to blog. I do blog though. That is, I start blogs. I have 6 blogs posts started that are currently sitting on my desktop reminding me of how bad I am at finishing blog posts.
Onto the excuses.

SO. MUCH. Has happened this year. The highs have been especially high, and the lows particularly low. This year can be summed up in the word transition, and it has been overwhelming to say the least. I feel I’ve gotten through 2014 by the skin of my teeth, without the slightest bit of extra energy or focus to articulate the happenings here. I have loads on my mind, just can’t get it down.

I’m never quite sure which way I want to go with this blog, ‘personal’ life or Conductive Education (though they are often impossibly intertwined anyway). I am a classic over-analyzer. At any given time I have a million thoughts on the various things going on in my life, which is the only reason I would blog about my life instead of CE. I certainly don’t do it because I believe I am interesting. Having said that, I have two posts in my head that I am hoping to transfer to the more tangible form of a Word Document in the near future. One is very CE, essentially a plea for help from a newly qualified conductor who has, unfortunately, found herself on her own already. The other is just a bit of a debrief of 2014 in all its excitement, difficulty, and generally craziness. So if you’ve given up on the blog, don’t! Life is coming down to a more reasonable pace and I am hopeful that I will be able to post my thoughts here again more regularly.
*One more thought on my poor blogging. I am a perfectionist. This shows itself in many ways, my blog is one. I have high standards for myself regarding the quality of what I publish. I write, edit, analyze, edit, rewrite, etc before posting things. This makes it a bit more of a time commitment than perhaps it should be. I am working on being less concerned with having things perfect before posting, but it’s a process.

Be back soon.

Made it!

So that’s that then! I am a fully qualified conductor!

Still weird to say it. But I am enjoying being introduced to the kids’ parents as a conductor. I am proud to hold that title, I have such respect for conductive education and what conductors do.

It is apparently something of a novelty that I am an American conductor. Although most people seem to think I am English (silly hybrid accent).

My past few months have been … something.

We handed in our dissertations in April. I wrote on the benefits of heterogeneity in conductive groups. I enjoyed the project overall, though it was tough getting it all together there at the end.

dis w han

Just after finishing off my dissertation my mom and sisters came to visit! Which was amazing! I loved being able to show them my UK home and introduce them to friends and James’ family. It was a whirlwind trip with 9 days spread across Birmingham, Cardiff, London, and Stratford.

big ben

Early morning getting to the airport

Early morning getting to the airport

The Villa match was definitely a highlight :)

The Villa match was definitely a highlight 🙂

Whilst they were around we had an engagement/going away party for James and me, which was great. We got lucky and had a beautiful day and loads of lovely friends and family came out.

engagement party

After my family left and I had finished my dissertation I quickly got bored so went back to Cardiff for an extra week in placement at Craig y Parc. Love, love, love Craig y Park (or as Hannah and I affectionately call it, Craggers).

The scenic commute to the school

The scenic commute to the school

After I got back I was soon off again, with James’ family to Devon. We spent several days in a cabin on the coast. So, so nice to get away and relax a bit and spend time with family.

An intense game of pooh sticks. I won :P

An intense game of pooh sticks. I won 😛

Devon

After we got back I headed back to Cardiff for my hen do (bachelorette party) which my amazing housemate threw for me. Was really good fun. We conquered the high ropes course on Go Ape (some of us conquered, some of us faltered a bit :P), enjoyed afternoon tea at Waterloo Tea Rooms (highly recommend!), had dinner and games and hung out for the evening.

The Go Apers.

The Go Apers

hen do

I officially graduated at the end of May. I was able to attend the ceremony which was great! Initially I was going to miss it because I had to be in Chicago for work but fortunately they moved the ceremony up so all of us international students could be there. I am missing my group, we got through a lot together over the past three years. It was certainly always interesting. We have gone our separate ways, one of us to Canada, one to the US, a couple in the UK, and a couple in transition.

Grad

After graduation it was a flurry of seeing people and saying really horrible gut-wrenching goodbyes to close friends who feel more like family. James and I spent the week between graduation and me leaving seeing people every evening. I’m not going to think about it, cause it makes me sick.

Between saying goodbyes and finishing some coursework for my psych degree I packed up all of my worldly belongings into a couple suitcases and a backpack. I flew out on May 30th. A non-eventful trip, which is generally good!

Quite a lot of my life revolves around packing and unpacking

Quite a lot of my life revolves around packing and unpacking

Canada!

Canada!

Upon landing, having traveled for nearly 24 hours, I changed in the airport bathroom and headed straight to a friend’s wedding with my sister. It was a beautiful wedding between two amazing people and I was so, so happy to be there with them. (We were a few minutes late so when we walked in my friend and her dad were standing at the end of the hall across from us ready to walk in! My friend laughed, she knew I was coming straight from England, and motioned for me to get into the sanctuary quick before they walked in!)

ash wedding

Caught the bouquet! Appropriate.. :)

Caught the bouquet! Appropriate.. 🙂

Got home that evening pretty shattered but excited to see my family! Some of whom I had not seen in over 9 months. I got to spend about a week with them. They are just great. While I was home I renewed everything that had expired while I was gone (license, debit card, phone, etc) and sorted some wedding stuff. (I went out once and tried to pay when the waiter ran my card and told me, “Sorry, this card is expired … 8 months expired.” Oops..)

My brother got taller than me while I was gone!! :/

My brother got taller than me while I was gone!! :/

 

Seriously too cute

Seriously too cute

All too quickly it was time to pack up again, this time for Chicago, where I am currently. I am working here for 2 months (living in a hotel!), doing the summer program at the Center for Independence through Conductive Education. So far I’ve done a week and a day and am loving it!

#thesuitelife

#thesuitelife

Yesterday I turned in my final assignment towards my bachelor’s degree in psychology and counseling. So I have officially completed that degree as well. It’s been pretty difficult this year juggling 2 degrees, practical placement, wedding planning, visa applications, and a cross-continental move. I am glad that I am on this side of the transition for a lot of those things at this point.

In the coming months I will be working here in Chicago, sneaking in a few visits home, doing more wedding planning, waiting impatiently for James’ visa to process, learning Spanish (trying..), and hopefully doing a bit more blogging now that things are at a more reasonable pace!

Thanks to all of you who have supported me in so many ways across these three years. Excited to see what the next three hold!

 

Coming soon: 10 Things Conductive Education Has Taught Me.