On depression, photography and mindfulness

For a long time I have had struggles with the constraints of depression.  The way it just sneaks up on you sometimes and threatens your overall well-being in a matter of days.  Sometimes the overwhelming sensation of falling, like Alice going to Wonderland, just takes too long to subside, and the journey may seem long, dark, ominous, and bleak.  Then there was the longest battle I’ve had with this dark side of humanness: two years of depth, with a lot of prayer, a lot of support from my husband (who really made an attempt to understand what was happening to me), and the determination to take that daunting climb out of that underground cave.  I went from studying the effects of the Stanford Prison Experiment (of which I felt my circumstances were similar to), to having a collection of positive quotes and even studying a textbook on positive psychology.  I’m not crazy about taking pills for any condition, especially if I am aware of alternative methods, such as proper psychotherapy and psychiatry skills, so whatever I was prescribed was short-lived and really did not have the effect on me as the doctor felt it would. Only I knew what I needed and I sought it out as vigorously as I could.  Still, I was not completely out of the hole.

As I began feeling physically better (I was suffering from a severe case of gouty arthritis on the knees), I wanted to go out more, to socialize more, to change my perspective more.  Slowly, but surely, that is what began to happen.  My husband and I moved from one place to another and the change was exactly what the imaginary doctor ordered.  We went from an overcrowded and loud city to a rural paradise that only God Himself can create.  I was born and raised in the city, but my heart and soul were meant for the countryside.  My husband and I still struggled, but the environment was set up to be able to surpass the struggle, or at least go through it with a much clearer mindset.

We arrived in rural upstate New York toward the end of July and was very surprised with what I saw.  Of course this was not my first time traveling from the hustle and bustle to an absolutely serene countryside.  But it had been a few years passed for me, and my body, my mind, and my soul and spirit welcomed it with such wide open arms.  The air was cooler and cleaner and everything was so green.  In fact, we were in Greenville, NY, part of Greene County.  No lie.  Oh and we lived right across the road from a creek.  But I digress.

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Basic Creek, NY 81 (West), Greenville, New York 12083 (Original photo by Yvette Roman)

That August, my husband bought me an HTC One M7 smartphone and I loved the equalizer on it very much when it came to listening to music, but, little did I know the larger role this phone would play in the upcoming months.  As the summer months turned into fall, which then turned into winter, I found myself falling again into the throes of darkness.  This time I decided to take a proactive approach to this situation.  During previous studies I had encountered several ways to fight the battle against depression, including but not limited to, eating well, taking supplements, daily exercise (even simple walking), meditation techniques, and mindfulness.

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This tractor was just sitting there, near the bank of the creek. Greenville, NY (Original photo by Yvette Roman).

According to Wikipedia, mindfulness is ” the intentional, accepting and non-judgmental focus of one’s attention on the emotions, thoughts and sensations occurring in the present moment, which can be trained by meditational practices…”. (See Mindfulness).  Wildmind.org also defines mindfulness as ” … the gentle effort to be continuously present.”.  (See What is Mindfulness).  Wildmind also states that “in mindfulness we’re concerned with noticing what’s going on right now.”  So, I took that very seriously and began searching for ways to practice mindfulness by noticing what’s going on here and now.  I decided that it was time to take whatever I’ve learned so far about battling depression and putting it into action.  I will take up photography.  So I did.  With an HTC One M7 smartphone.

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I love barns and sheds. They have such character! Greenville, NY, along NY 81 East. (Original photo by Yvette Roman).

Because I also have a physical disability (arthritis) I decided that walking, not briskly, but at a leisure pace, fulfilled the physical exercise portion of the no more depression workout, and allowed me to also take in the scenery with a different eye.  And I saw everything!  The sky, the bare trees, the old pickups nestled in their parking space, a field tractor near the creek, the snow, the sun, the signs….everything.  I attempted to learn what I could about my smartphone camera: ISO, shutter speeds, special effects, macro, etc.  It was a little frustrating at first.  I was seeing everything around me with a different set of eyes for the first time and I had an innate desire to capture what I saw with my eyes on digital film.  It wasn’t working out.  But mindfulness isn’t about rushing into anything, it is about being present in the moment, sort of like living in the moment.  So I learned a new craft, slowly.  I became better in my photography as time went by.  I learned more about the technicalities of photography in general (there is so little out there about smartphone photography techniques).  I joined Facebook photography groups.  I even created my own photography group entitled, Nature Photography. (See Nature photography. This is a private group.).

This is the center of town, near the cross streets of NY 81 (going east/west) and NY 32 (going north/south). Greenville, NY

Today, I still consider myself an amateur photographer and I photograph when the opportunity strikes (always!).  I still haven’t upgraded from my smartphone to a digital camera but that’s okay.  I still haven’t learned fully about other functions and ways to manipulate the way photos come out.  I try my hardest to publish my photos in its original content, meaning no special effects and no editing, like the one shown above.  I think and feel that my photos reflect their honesty that way and can also be seen differently and more creatively if naturally blurred or if the environment is naturally two-toned.

Basic Creek, overpass view, facing southwest. Greenville, NY
Car bridge facing Red Mill Road, off of NY 81. Greenville, NY (Original photo by Yvette Roman).

There are many ways to fight the depression monster: one is learning something new, another is practicing mindfulness, yet another is watching what foods you put into your body.  I searched Google for many, many days trying to find creative ways to do things and new things that I can learn to do. So, if you find yourself having a blah moment, suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder, depression, or anything that clouds your mind, first seek the advice of a physician.  Second, do some research.  Third, do something new and different.  The list can continue from there.  Live your life now, my friends, not tomorrow.  And if you have other helpful links, please feel free to share.

I am grateful for you and I hope that you live in the moment.

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At the boardwalk headed toward the beach, Kure Beach, North Carolina. (Original photo by Yvette Roman)

Gratitude journals

I don’t know how everyone else might feel about having to write down everyday, morning and night, into a gratitude journal.  A gratitude journal is similar to that of keeping a diary.  However, in this particular journal, one is to list or talk about all of the things that one is grateful or thankful for each and every day.

I remember the days when I used to keep a diary.  In fact, I still have one-subject notebooks teeming with random notes, quotes, ups and downs, that occur to me every so often.  It’s hard to keep up these diaries.  With a gratitude journal I find that it is also a little hard to keep up with.  I try to find things to be grateful for on an everyday basis:  the birds singing in the morning, the ability to see the sun rising, the ability to hear the mighty ocean waves roar and crash into the edge of the beach, learning photography (a daily challenge), learning new crafts (I just finished my first wood chip carving…yahhhh!), being filled with gratitude toward family and friends who have been there for me when I really thought no one would be, etc.

While there are soooo many things to be grateful for, it still is a challenge to remember to write them in a journal every morning and every night.  Those of us who are accustomed to keeping journals in general usually keep a generalized journal and input everyday feelings, thoughts, and activities that can either happen during the day or during the week.  Some of us lead extremely busy lives, whether it be working outside of the home or as a stay at home parent.  Still some just reach out for the bedside journal when negative thoughts and feelings arise and we feel that we have no one to talk to, so we spill all of our innards into this journal.  So then, how do I manage a gratitude journal?

According to www.oxforddictionaries.com, the definition for gratitude is “the quality of being thankful; readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness”.  Therefore the focus of keeping a daily gratitude journal is to be more in tune with the positive aspects of life, of thought, of feelings, of people, of circumstances, of faith, and of everything in general.  To be able to open up this journal daily and re-read previous entries should provide a feeling of accomplishment, of the fact that we, as human beings, living in this world filled with peril, can actually still see it as a beautiful place.  That other human beings, not so well known in the media and social circles, are actually kind, gentle creatures.  To see that one can also be as kind and appreciative in almost any situation, no matter how bleak it may be.

I guess that it is well worth my time and energy to write daily entries into my gratitude journal.  No one else has to see it.  No one else has to know about it.  It’s between me, myself, and I.  Managing it shouldn’t be difficult and being grateful shouldn’t be difficult either.  Stopping for a moment to help another, to pay it forward, to say thank you, to wash a dish…those are the little moments of gratitude that can be immortalized on paper.  Those stacks of notebooks can contain immense volumes of gratitude that no other individual can steal from me.  A gratitude journal can serve as a constant reminder that, no matter where in the world I end up, there will be a whole host of individuals who have positively changed my life and a record of how I was able to pay it forward.

Of those things and more, I am grateful.

Hello world!

Hi there!  This is my very first post.  Here is where I will put my thoughts on many, many things, and will add photos I’ve taken myself.  I’m known as wsdmwthn.  I hope that you enjoy what you see here and, please, feel free to add constructive criticism, if necessary.  Be respectful and I will always be respectful in kind.

I hope to see you again real soon!

Wsdmwthn