Changes coming …


Next week I’m going to be combining this personal blog with my creative experiments blog. I realized I only keep up on one of them at a time so it makes sense to me to combine them at this point.

The content will still pretty much be the same as what’s on this site, but there will be a bit more art, creative writing, and poetry. I call the things I do experiments because it feels more like playing than making finished art. Whether it’s writing, photography, or my new watercolor hobby, it’s just fun to mess around and experiment with genres and media and words.

I’m going to go through the posts on this blog and add them to the other one so everything will be in one spot. The other blog will be the official one, and this blog will point to the new one, so if you see a new domain name when you visit this blog, no worries. You’ll be the right place.¬† ūüôā

Currently the other blog has numerous photo postings. I’m going to sort through those a bit so other topics are more easily accessible. Most of the photos have also been shared here, I believe, so they may look familiar.

If you want to get a head start and maybe change your bookmarks or subscribe/follow¬† the other blog so you’ll be ready for the changes, you can find it at:

http://debitaylorhough.com

From what I can tell from this blog’s stats, there aren’t many folks who are still actively following this blog. So I think switching to the other one makes sense as there are more subscribers and followers over there.

Okay. Here we go. Onward and upward! ūüôā

~Debi


Latest Watercolor:

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First Spring Photos


I’ve spent quite a bit of time inside learning to watercolor this winter due to the unusually cold weather. But now that Spring is here and it’s much warmer, I’m looking forward to taking myself out on local “photo safaris” again.

Fresh air, sunshine, nature, beauty, and a favorite hobby all rolled into one. The perfect combination for my mental, emotional, and spiritual well-being.

Here’s a¬†sample from¬†yesterday’s sunset photos at Dash Point Park and Pier in Federal Way, Washington.

 

Storytime: Kitchen creepiness


Several weeks after my dad installed a new sliding door between our kitchen and laundry room, I heard my mom laugh. A good, solid belly laugh. I ran to see what could be so funny. Mom was nearly doubled over, pointing at the far end of the room and stuttering between sobs of laughter, “It’s Satan! HAHAHA! It’s Satan!”

I looked where she was pointing, but I saw nothing out of the ordinary. Yellow walls, a new door, turquoise and copper cannisters, a goldfish bowl on the counter by the sink. Nothing that could earn the title of Satan.

She laughed harder. “You don’t see it, do you?”

I looked at her as she removed her cat’s eye glasses and wiped tears from her eyes. The laughter seemed less hysterical now, but quiet chuckles still shook her shoulders. She leaned against the countertop and looked back at me, laughter still lurking in her eyes.

“Oh, gosh. You must think I’ve gone crazy.”

Um, yes. The thought had crossed my mind.

“Look at the new door, Sweetie.” She walked over and began running her hand over the grain of the wood. “Look. Do you see the two horns? Here are the eyes. Here’s the pointed beard. Do you see it?”

I looked at the door as if I were looking for shapes in clouds.

And then, suddenly, I saw him. Satan’s head took up the entire door. His horns branched from his head at the top of the door. His beard just touched the bottom. I had a brief momentary shudder. The face was frightening. And then I laughed. I laughed at the humor of finding the Prince of Darkness looking out of our kitchen door as if it were a portal from the Underworld. I also laughed with relief that my mom didn’t have a straightjacket in her future.

After that day, whenever a new friend came to our house, I would take them to the kitchen so they could meet Satan. I’d trace the wood grain as mother had done, describing the facial features, one by one. And then, suddenly, that magic moment we’d been building toward. Recognition. They saw him! Sometimes a scream. Oftentimes a shudder. Many times a hand clamped over a mouth. Always horror in their eyes.

My friends didn’t like to come into our kitchen or sit in the dining room where they had a view into the room. It’s understandable, though. Satan lived in our kitchen door.

[Sadly I don’t have photos of Satan in the door. I guess people don’t think to take photos of their kitchen door. Or at least my family didn’t.]

 

Mindfulness …


One of the most important parts of DBT (Dialectic Behavior Therapy), is learning to practice mindfulness.¬† Mindfulness is sort of buzz word these days. and I’ve discovered different people can mean different things when they say they practice mindfulness, so I’m just going to explain what I mean by mindfulness which I think is pretty close to what DBT means by it, although it’s always possible to misread things when you have so many ideas bombarding you from the media and various self-help outlets.

Since DBT’s main purpose is to help people regulate their emotions, mindfulness plays a key part. in that process.¬† It allows a person to stay grounded in the moment, to stay in touch with each moment’s reality, and by staying in touch with the here and now, helping us take time to breathe and gain control of emotional reactions.

Goals of Mindfulness (in DBT)

  • reduce suffering (we can’t reduce life events, but we can reduce our responses to life events which can alleviate some of our suffering)
  • reduce anxiety, tension, stress
  • increase control of your mind by decreasing worrying, overthinking, ruminating

At this point you may be asking, “What is mindfulness?”

My short definition is that mindfulness is intentional awareness of the present moment.¬† It shouldn’t be confused with mindlessness (or emptying the mind).¬† It’s a matter of focus to keep you grounded in the here and now.¬† Observation is the goal, not relaxation.

There are a lot of mindfulness practices that are taught and even apps to help lead people through the process of being mindful.  One of my favorite parts about practicing mindfulness, however, is that can be practice anywhere at any time.

  • washing dishes
  • listening to music
  • walking
  • housecleaning
  • painting
  • hobbies
  • bathing
  • weeding

I remember a popular book in the 70s called Be Here Now.  The title is basically the whole idea of mindfulness.  Be here.  In this moment.  Fully experience it.

Choose one of the items on the above list and next time you do it, take a couple of deep slow breaths. Then focus on your body’s sensations.¬† Are you washing dishes?¬† Feel the warmth of the water on your hands.¬†Does it feel good? Is the water too hot?¬† Too cold? ¬†Feel the sensation of bubbles on your lower arms.¬†Does it tickle?¬† Do they feel soft? ¬†Smell the scent of dishwashing liquid.¬†What smell is it?¬† Lemon?¬† Orange?¬†Listen to the sounds of the water running into the sink from the faucet.¬† Is it a soft trickle?

If you find yourself being distracted by thoughts or emotions, just acknowledge the thought/emotion, and focus on your breathing and other sensations again.¬† The goal isn’t to never have your mind wander or never to experience emotions or never have thoughts.¬† The goal is just be mindful of the present moment.¬† I’m washing dishes.¬† The water is warm.¬† I just had a thought that I need to pick up popcorn at the store.¬† I refocused my thoughts back to the dishes.

The purpose of practicing mindfulness throughout the day when you’re not under stress or feeling strong emotions is so that when you actually are in heightened emotional state, the skills will have become almost second-nature through your on-going¬†practice of the skills.

Every week in our DBT classes, we practice at least two mindfulness activities together.¬† Last week we did a mindful eating activity.¬† A bowl of snack items was passed around, everyone chose one, and then we proceeded to mindfully eat our item.¬† Mine was a small wrapped chocolate candy bar.¬† We were to look at the food item as if we were an alien from outer space who’d never seen it before.¬† What did¬†the wrapper¬†look like?¬† Was it shiny?¬† Dull?¬† What colors?¬† Where there designs on it?¬† What did the wrapper feel like?¬† Smooth?¬† Ridged?¬† What was it like opening the wrapper?¬† What did it feel like?¬† Did it make a sound?¬† Did you smell anything?¬† Take the candy out of the wrapper.¬† What does it look like?¬† Smell like?¬† Examine it thoroughly like you did with the wrapper.¬† Take a tiny bite.¬† Don’t chew or swallow.¬† What does it feel like in your mouth?¬† Smooth?¬† Hard?¬† Rough?¬† Does it melt in your mouth?¬† Allow yourself to slowly move it around in your mouth, and when ready, chew and swallow, also noticing the processes of chewing and swallowing.

So that probably seems like a long even just to take a single bite of a candy bar.  It actually only took about two or three minutes.

When we did this in class last week, I’d arrived at class a couple of minutes late, I’d had a stressful morning, and I was even a bit out of breath from walking quickly into the building from my car.

After doing the mindful eating exercise, I realized I was calm and ready to be fully engaged in the class.  Mindful eating grounded me in the moment, and allowed me to focus on something so intently, that it gently pushed aside the stresses of the morning.  My breathing was calm, my mind felt focused, my felt grounded.

It was such a simple thing, but it worked wonders.¬† I knew about the idea of mindful eating, but I’d always thought of it as a trick for eating more slowly and thoughtfully to use as a dieting technique.¬† Now I see it can also be used as regular mindfulness technique to bring down¬†heightened emotional and¬†physical stress-related responses.

As I share things I’ve learned and experience through DBT classes, I’ll probably return to this idea of mindfulness frequently, sharing examples of various ways it’s proven helpful to me.

Thoughts?  Questions?  Have you had any experience with mindfulness practice?

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I found help that’s actually helpful …


When I was at my lowest low several years ago, I began seeing a personal counselor for moral support and to have someone to talk to who had expertise to deal with the difficulties I was facing.  Since the emotions I was feeling at the time were so strong, she recommended I attend a DBT class (ie: Dialectic Behavior Therapy) to gain some fresh skills for handling my overwhelming (and sometimes suicidal) emotional reactions to an on-going crisis in my life.

Since DBT was so helpful to me, I thought I’d take some time on this blog to share some of the insights and skills I developed through the program.¬†A number of followers of this blog and my Facebook¬†page have expressed interest in hearing more about my experiences with DBT.

DBT is¬†a six month program taught through mental health clinics which can be taken twice.¬† I’m on my second time through.¬† Soon it will be a full two years of DBT classes.¬† Wow.¬† It feels like it’s gone by fast.¬† I’m gaining further insight this second round of classes, but I’m also seeing how much I’ve grown in my ability to implement and understand the skills I’ve learned.¬† The group I’m in meets once a week with a required weekly meeting with a personal counselor for follow-up in using the skills.

A quick overview of DBT:

It was developed in the 1980s by psychologist Marsha Linehan, originally to treat patients with Borderline Personality Disorder.¬† Since that time, DBT is being used for people with all sorts of emotional regulation issues.¬† Everything from suicidal ideation to depression to Bipolar mania.¬† It’s useful for anyone who reacts strongly to emotional stimuli in ways that negatively effect their lives.

In my case, I’d become so overwhelmed with sadness, that life felt unbearable and utterly hopeless.¬† I was surprised to discover that even an emotion like sadness could be regulated with the right skills.¬† Prior to DBT, I was frightened to start crying, because I thought if I started, I’d never stop.

The main topics covered in DBT are:

  • Mindfulness
  • Interpersonal Effectiveness
  • Distress Tolerance
  • Emotional Regulation

I’ve personally found the Mindfulness and Distress Tolerance sections to be the most helpful.¬† I’m sure it’s different for everyone since we all deal with different issues and emotionally triggering events in our lives.

My plan is to start going through my notebook from my DBT class and writing about various insights I’ve had through the program.¬† I can’t share the entirety of the class due to copyright issues, but¬†I can share my personal reactions to the units and the teachings.

There are a variety of books, workbooks, and other resources on DBT and I’ll probably be recommending some of those as we go along.

If someone you know is struggling with overwhelming emotions, or difficulties working through strong feelings, feel free to let them know about this blog.¬† It won’t take me six months to get through my thoughts on the topic, so don’t worry.¬† I’ll probably share¬†a post once or twice a week for about six weeks.¬† Maybe less.¬† Maybe more.¬† ūüôā

And here’s yesterday’s watercolor project.¬† Spring is coming!

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