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It seems like so many people are doing 30 days of something. I’ve done my own stints of 30 days of yoga, 30 days of bicycling, 30 days of meditation, 30 days of poetry, and so on. 30 days sounds doable. And if you can hang in there for 30 days, there’s a promise, implied or explicit, that you’ll come out of the exercise with a new and healthy habit.

Usually there is a hash tag involved. You post a photo, a little blurb about how you are doing and this creates a community of people working together on the same thing. With a group comes encouragement and accountability — that extra push of not wanting to be the “one” who did not stick to it for the full 30 days.

But there doesn’t seem to be a 30 days of mental health thing — something to turn a muddy rutted road into a solid path away from anxiety, depression or whatever it is you feel yourself slipping too deeply into.

petting dog

You know how there are highly functioning alcoholics? Well, I am a highly functioning depressive, which merely means that this is a low grade, under the radar depression. It is a level of the illness that is bad enough so you irritate and frustrate people but not so bad that you are rocking back and forth in the corner of your closet.

I have asked myself over and over, what is this about? Beyond the obvious that there is something wrong with my brain.

Some of these things sound really silly as I write them down, like this one:

  • I thought I was going to get onto this health and wellness committee at work that would have been an outlet for my interest in promoting bicycling and participating in a group activity.

It didn’t happen.

I felt huge, out-of-proportion disappointment over this. Perhaps that shows how desperate I am to be a part of something and have an outlet for the ideas rattling around in my head.

This one is maybe a bit more like conventional disappointment:

  • I thought I was going to get a job that would have put me into a position of working on something I enjoy, with people I enjoy working with, plus learning new things and having new challenges. And the best benefit — feeling useful and like I’m helping people.

It didn’t happen.

petting dog

Loneliness and losing people through distance or death is a common trigger for depression:

  • I haven’t seen my son for over two years and I miss him — a lot. Pulling together travel plans, making flight and hotel reservations, and figuring out all the logistics is something I can’t wrap my head around right now.
  • And my birth mother died. This hasn’t been the kind of losing your mother experience many people my age go through. I barely knew my birth mother. She was difficult to get to know. Whether she had always been that way or not, I don’t know.

I’ll never know.

When she died, I lost possibilities I didn’t even know I longed for. And I don’t know how to process what I’m feeling…

I wish I could be one of those people who when they’ve lost confidence in themselves, take off across country on their bicycle or hike the Pacific Trail, or eat, pray and love their way across several countries and finish their journey with a whole new outlook on life (and possibly a best selling book). But there’s too much that I couldn’t take with me (like dogs and a horse) to go be that kind of person.

All I can be is myself. And right now, I don’t know if being myself is very helpful.

driving car

I’ve read studies and know from experience that the physical act of smiling can make you feel happy. It’s a temporary fix. If you tried to fake smile to feel better all the time, it would come off as pretty, frickin’ creepy.

I made a weird discovery on my own while working through some training games with my dogs. The games require that you get your dog all revved up so they will enthusiastically run to you when you call them. This revving up requires jumping up and down, running across the yard and using that crazy, excited voice you hear parents use with their kids a lot. Strangely, all that goofiness makes me laugh and feel, well, goofy and weird, which is way better than feeling weighed down and sad.

I may feel stupid, bouncing around and sing songing, “Get the toy! Good puppy! Whoo! Whoo! Get it! Get it! Get it! Good puppy!” But it’s a good kind of stupid.

My dogs jump around me and look at me with those expectant eyes that say, “That was fun! What’s next?”

“Good question,” I answer.

I don’t know what’s next. But I am working on a series of photos in the month of August — photos of hands doing what they do in day-to-day life. I believe hands are as individual and expressive as faces.  You can follow my photo experiment in my Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter feeds. If you have any catchy or silly hashtag suggestions for the series, send them my way.

Creating something is usually healing (or at least distracting) for me, so here we go…

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