Tuesday, April 29, 2014


I did the unthinkable.  Tuesday, April 22, 2014 at 1:15 PM was the last time I've had a Diet Coke.  It didn't stop there.  In the last week, I have only had one cup of caffeinated coffee.  Not going to lie, the first few days were pretty brutal.  Not only was I going through caffeine withdrawals, I was working 12 hours shifts and unable to take any type of headache medicine.  I survived and I'm still employed, so miracles really do happen.

If you are friends with me on Facebook, or know me at all, you know that my world has been revolving around caffeinated beverages for a while.  I actually trained my brain to think that it could not function for an entire 12 hour shift without the stuff.  Or, maybe my brain trained me to think it couldn't make it decaffeinated?  It reached a point where I would wake up in the morning feeling like my body was trying to register on the Richter scale, so I figured it was time to do something.

Easter Sunday, I landed back in the ER.  My blood pressure was normal, heart rate was only slightly elevated, and no fever.  Another virus.  My body was doing that metabolic acidosis stunt again, so I received two more liters of IV fluids.  They scheduled a follow up with my physician for last week Tuesday.  The same day I quit caffeine.

It's a beautiful thing when your doctor opens up the door to the exam room, shakes her head and laughs.  That's how you know you're a frequent flyer.  In the process of trying to figure out what is going on, she ordered another 24 hour lab with a list of things I had to avoid for 48 hours before the test and during the test.  So, I decided that if I had to give up caffeine, now would be the time to do it.  And, I did.

I can't say that I've seen or felt any of the benefits of giving up soda and trying to eat better, but it's only been a week.  The body is probably going through a state of shock right now.  Understandable for someone who has a food pyramid that looked like this:        

Monday, April 28, 2014

Monday's Mental Health Moment

Anyone who knows me knows that I love children.  This probably explains why "Kid President" is my favorite YouTube personality.  I adore his outlook on life and could spend all day watching his clips.  If you haven't yet watched any of his videos, take Monday's Mental Health Moment as the opportunity to do so.  Enjoy!

Kid President: How to Change the World

Monday, April 21, 2014

Monday's Mental Health Moment

Let's talk about my favorite topic today: Journaling.

I began writing and keeping journals in elementary school.  I can still remember my first diary.  It was blue and had a cheap gold lock on it.  The key was tiny and bent every time I unlocked the diary.  Eventually, I lost the key and just broke the lock off.  I don't remember what I was writing about in that little book, but I remember using colored pens and practicing my cursive.  Third grade in Mrs. Weller's class, I looked forward to two things: Cursive and Mrs. Weller playing guitar for us.      

Early on, I learned that writing was an outlet and served a very therapeutic purpose for me.  Even though my only publication was in a literary magazine published through my college, I consider myself a writer.  Not a professional writer, but a writer at heart.  I've written fiction, poetry, essays, research papers, a literature review, songs, book reviews, and non-fiction.  Keeping a journal probably my favorite form of writing because I can put whatever I want on the page.  There are no rules.  I can even misspell words, use incomplete sentences, run-on sentences, and not care.  (Not much different from this blog, huh?)  It is something I find to be relaxing and I often write in my journal right before I go to sleep at night.  

What are the benefits of keeping a journal?
(These are just a few of my personal benefits that I have found through my writing.  I'm sure anyone who keeps a journal could come up with their own list of benefits.)

  • It is a tool that helps me reflect on the day before I begin a new one.
  • I use it to set and assess goals.  They say that when you write down a goal, you are more likely to accomplish it.  I have found this to be true.  
  • When I pass on, my journals and writings will be something I leave behind.  I wish my grandparents, great-grandparents, aunts, uncles, and even my parents kept journals.  
  • I've been in many different mindsets and my journals reflect that.  I can look back on my writings and see how many struggles I have gone through and how I came through each one a better, stronger person.  
  • It's cheap therapy! 
  • When I journal, I tend to be more motivated to accomplish things.
  • Eases stress and allows me to vent about whatever I want to vent about.  Sometimes there are burdens on my shoulders I don't want to talk to another person about.  My journal is non-judgemental.    
  • I use my journal as a reminder to stay focused.  To stay positive.
  • It's a record of things I don't want to forget.  

So, you've never journaled before?  How do you start?

First things first, you need a journal.  It can be anything.  A notebook, a calendar (yes, people journal in calendars), a journal, a sketchbook, a photo album.  This is your baby.  Find something that works for you.  My favorite place to find a journal is Barnes and Noble.  They have a huge selection, but some can be a bit expensive.  Try shopping online.  

When I studied abroad in Belize, we had to have a journal.  It was an ecology course, so they wanted us to have sketchbooks instead of lined journals.  In addition to journaling, we were supposed to sketch some of the things we were observing.  This was three years ago and this completely changed the way I journal.  I no longer buy lined journals.  I like the freedom of having a completely blank page to fill.  These are the sketchbooks I purchase and you can find them in a variety of colors at Barnes and Noble.    
8x11 Sketchbook
$9.95 at Barnes and Noble
*As a personal preference, I avoid spiral bound journals and sketchbooks.  They come apart easily and the pages tend to fall out.

I work in Inpatient Behavioral Health and one of my favorite groups to teach is a group on journaling.  Unfortunately, most of my journals are in storage and I don't think I'd be comfortable bringing them to work to show patients the endless possibilities of journaling.  So, I started one that I could bring to use as a demonstration journal and I am having a blast with it!  Here are a few sample pages:

A few things I do in my journal:

  • When I journal about the day, I always put the date somewhere on the page.  
  • What I write (Not always all of these in one entry... just some ideas of things to include):
    • Something that made me laugh
    • Something I learned
    • An event that occurred (a holiday, a current event, a birthday, a storm etc...)
    • Something I could have done differently
    • Something kind someone did for me
  • Write lists!
    • Lists of "Favorites"
      • Favorite Songs
      • Favorite Movies
      • Favorite Places
      • Dream Travel Destinations
      • Favorite Places I've visited
      • Favorite Useless Facts (I have way more of these than anyone needs!)
      • Favorite Restaurants, Foods, Beverages
      • Favorite Summer Activities
      • Favorite Winter Activities
      • Favorite Apps
      • Favorite Websites
      • Favorite Coping Skills
      • Favorite Unhealthy Coping Skills 
      • Favorite Childhood Toys
      • Favorite Memories
    • Accomplishments
    • Goals 
      • Include steps to achieve them!
    • Positive Words to Use More Often
  • Make a page of favorite song lyrics
  • Go somewhere and just make observations of what you see! (At a park, a coffee shop, the mall)
  • Write down quotes that you hear throughout the day
  • Make a page of your favorite quotes from movies
  • Make a timeline of your life so far

I'm sure this is the first of many journaling blog entries I post.  In the meantime, go unleash your inner writer!!  

Monday, April 14, 2014

Monday's Mental Health Moment

I was thinking about thinking.  Do you ever do that?  Well, I went to my trusty little buddy, Google, and learned that the mind can process anywhere between 50,000 and 70,000 thoughts in a given day.  At first I thought, there's no way I can think of 70,000 things in a day.  And then, I thought about this some more.  The last few days I have been paying closer attention to everything that comes and goes through my mind.  Although, I don't have the patience to sit and count every thought I have, I am fairly certain I believe these numbers are accurate.  At least for me.  As I have been carefully observing my thoughts, I decided to share with you what I've noticed.

My thoughts are not full sentences.  Well, unless I'm practicing a conversation I plan to have with someone.  Or, I re-think a conversation that has already taken place.

A mental eye roll counts as a thought, right?

I make sigh, grunt, and groan noises in my head.  (For example: arg, uh, oh, DOH, grrr.)

When I laugh quietly to myself, I actually mentally say "Ha ha ha" sometimes.  

I'm guessing that at least 75% of the "thoughts" that enter my mind in a day are just one or two random words at a time.  

Random song lyrics occasionally pop in my head.  Okay, not occasionally.  Frequently.  Very frequently.  

There is absolutely, positively no coherent flow to what goes on in my head.  If my thoughts were written down in a book, it would never be on the New York Times Best Seller list.  Here's why:

Chapter 1
Just kidding.
Once upon a time....
Chapter 1.  Yes.  Chapter 1.
Where are my keys?
1, 2, 3,4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9... KEYS!  9th pocket.  Always one of the last pockets. Ugh.
Wait.  Snow?
(Will Ferrell pops in my head and he's dress liked Elf)
Melissa.  Focus.
Skip ahead to Chapter 10.  I'll fill in the rest later.
Hm.  I'm shedding.
HELLO, COFFEE!  Mmmm....

Yes, my mind works in goofy ways.  A few weeks ago on the blog I talked about mindfulness.  Our minds are pretty powerful and we spend a lot of time in our 'headspace'.  Sometimes our thoughts aren't always silly, funny, or maybe even pleasant.  It's probably unrealistic to think that all 70,000 of our daily thoughts can be upbeat, but I challenge you to make sure there's more positive than negative going on up there.  It's also completely okay to quiet your thoughts and just let that space be vacant for a moment.  

Monday, April 7, 2014

Monday's Mental Health Moment

Last week Monday was April 1st.  I played an April Fool's Day joke on everyone and no one noticed.  I'll try harder next year.

As I was driving to Barnes and Noble this morning, the Mental Health Monday blog was on the back of my mind.  Trying to come up with a topic to focus on has proven to be a challenge.  I couldn't concentrate on any one thing.  Mostly because I downloaded new music and having my own karaoke party in the car took priority.

When I finally arrived at Barnes and Noble, I walked in with my laptop bag all set to chug some coffee and blog about mental well being.  If you are familiar with the Onalaska Barnes and Noble, you are probably well aware that the folks there are pretty stingy when it comes to wall outlets.  In fact, there is only one in the cafe area.  Of course, someone had herself planted right beside the one outlet, but was not using it.  Typically, this would send the Melissa into a silent meltdown.  The MacBook I have belongs in a museum and has a battery life that lasts about as long as a goldfish out of water.   I handled "my spot" being taken over like a champ.  I ordered my grande white chocolate mocha with a peanut butter cookie.  Then, I walked across the store to a group of tables near a wall outlet and settled in for some hardcore blogging.  

As soon as the laptop had a pulse, Facebook magically opened when I hit the "FB" link on my navigation bar.  After all, Facebook is how all great work is put on the sidelines.  Within minutes, the window cleaners arrived and began washing the windows directly behind my chair.  To my left was a clear view of the register counter and I spent too much time analyzing how the store could be so organized, yet behind the counter looked like teenager's bedroom.  To my right, the International Travel section started whispering to me and a Travel Ireland book was the loudest.  You're Irish, Melissa.  Pick me up.  Read me.  What blog?   

What blog? was right!  I gave up, packed up, and within an hour, I was in a fetal position on the couch in a sound sleep.

That's when it hit me -- NAPS!  Sometimes, you just need a nap.  How someone can crash for almost three hours after a venti (yes, they screwed up and my coffee was larger than I ordered) mocha?  There is no explanation except that sometimes, you just need a nap.

Today's Mental Health Moment Summed Up:

If the opportunity to nap comes knocking, you go to that door with your favorite stuffed animal, flannel pajamas, and your blanket and give it a big hug.