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Be courageous and act on your passion while dealing with depression.

7 July 2018

Written by Steven R.A. Markin

In my first year of university, I took an English course that was based on writing various academic essays. My prof, George Lyon, loved to talk and often gave us life advice and anecdotal stories that may or may not have pertained to the day’s lecture. Although, I am sure he thought of each topic ahead of time while walking to school in the mornings (because he said so). He is old, but that doesn’t stop him from walking a fair distance and using the stairs (the English building has a lot of stairs). He did have us, one student at a time, recite the FANBOYS out loud and to say that they go after the comma between two complete sentences. He went through all of us more than once. The class was enjoyable and a little ridiculous.

My first essay was a personal narrative, and I wrote about my proudest moment, losing 90 lb in two years (which is ahead of being in university). So, I wrote. My damn, did I write. I gave Lyon everything I could in that essay. I got a B because my grammar sucked, but the content was great. On the back, he scribbled some personal stuff and told me how he wishes I wasn’t so ambitious while writing. That I could use this story and the content for a lot more and that I should write about it later in life. He told me that I should focus on what is relevant by making it succinct and more impactful. (Hemingway said that “all first drafts are shit,” and I think most first-year students say/write too damn much. I know I did, or do?). Lyon singled me out in front of the class to talk about courage and asked me if I minded telling everyone how I lost the weight. I said a little and others congratulated me. I didn’t like the attention, but I loved being proud of myself. And then he went on to talk about Hemingway, which, at the time, Hemingway was one of the few writers I have read much of their work, and I felt a connection.

I don’t know Hemingway, but I have an idea of who he was because of his work, and the documentaries, and what others have said, but his work would be the best indication of who Hemingway was. The man is dead, and yet some of his books are on my shelves and a series of short stories by my bedside. When Lyon mentioned Hemingway after talking about my courage to lose weight, I wanted to be more courageous in life. Although that year I laid on the floor next to my mom’s malnourished and dehydrated and massively over-medicated (the doctor fu*ked up royally) underweight body to keep her calm; and I lost my apartment, got cheated on, worked and took 5 classes, one thing I didn’t do was write like I wanted. I journaled, and that had been the extent of my writing for many years, but I wanted to write a novel.

This idea has been in my head since I was about 16-years-old, or even younger. I told my best bud at the time, Tyrell, that one day I will write a book. He said, “can I have your pen.” Well, bud, you will be getting that pen; even though it has been years since we had last spoken, and I still don’t know if it was because you have a shortage of pens, but I will find you and hand it to you. I am tired of not being as courageous as I can.

Maybe I am looking at writing differently than I should. Perhaps I am making it more important than I should as if this has led me to not writing a novel? But I have someone, someone, whom I have never met, ‘s work, and one day I want someone to have my work on their shelf, or on their floor, or bedside. Even if I never know, or if I too am dead by then.

Is this even courage? Maybe not to you, but I have made this idea so damn important in my life, and I have worked on gaining some skills and tools to work on my writing, and yet, no novel, just hundreds of poems, and tens of short stories, and journals that are scattered throughout my room, and in boxes. But no novel.

Why does writing this novel matter, and how is it more than just a novel? Like you, I have dealt with more than I would have liked to. If you had told me as a kid the situations I would have been in, I would have packed my bags and joined the League of Shadows (sorry – had to make a Batman reference). I experienced life, and I still am. And during these hardships, at some point, or even afterwards, I thought about how I could overcome them, how I can use them. I wrote in my journals, and I used my emotions, the events, and people in my life for in-class stories, and later, in poems and more short stories. I use my writing to cope with life, and my life’s situations are reflected in my work. And may it be 80 000 words (more or less) inside a cover and a back page, that isn’t relevant to me, but what matters is using the hardships in life that I have and am facing and somehow presenting it in a medium, such as creative writing (and in other forms of art) and sharing it. And to further this idea, I believe that sharing personal experience helps others. This can be by relating to the content and formulating a connection, providing information and understanding, or just a damn story that can pass as entertainment.

My life is my unfinished novel, and I am still much too ambitious and wordy. And if I could be courageous enough to sit down, calm down, use the emotions, the events, and the people in my life (past and present) in one way or another “at a typewriter and bleed” (Hemingway), then that is meaningful to me. And maybe to you, or perhaps, you too have had an aching thought of an idea that feels like it is going to destroy you from the inside out if you don’t act on it, then it is time to be courageous and to act on it.

What will I do now?
I already did one thing, I told you that I want to write a novel. I know there are a lot of people who do a lot of talking, but that isn’t me (not us!). I wrote it down, and I am telling people that I want to write my novel, so I feel accountable. And the feeling of just running my mouth without actions isn’t how I want to feel.

Be specific and use details. Just saying that I want to write a novel is vague, obviously. This can mean a lot of different things, so I wrote down in my journal as much detail as I can about the novel I will write. The genre, characters and conflict ideas, and anything I can think of that can simplify the process. I also wrote down the ideal word count. Now, the word count can make it worse, because editing will cut down the number significantly and will be frustrating. Don’t worry about the word count, just write. There will be adjustments. And I did this because it isn’t a short story or an epic novel. 

Make time? Hell no, just do it. No one seems to have the time for anything else, yet we have the resources to work on it during moments that are less hectic. I even bring my damn phone with me to the washroom, and it sits next to me on my bed stand before and while I sleep. There are apps to write in, and if you are too damn tired or out driving or walking to write, well, use the voice recording on the phone for your ideas or to tell the story, and write it down later.

Work on it, and yes, make time. If you are serious about it, and I am a firm believer in writing it down, schedule time throughout the next three days to work on it. I gave myself two 15-20-minute periods a day to strictly work on it (that means no social media or walking to the kitchen to hide in a bowl of ice cream). I did this because that isn’t a lot of time. It isn’t overwhelming. I will do it, and only three days because maybe I will write longer and really enjoy it. Who knows? So, then I will adjust accordingly for the next three days and so on.

Although I have associated writing a novel as a big idea, I am not putting a finish date on it yet. I am going to work on it as I scheduled because I believe that creativity cannot be forced but comes from being active minded. Therefore, if I work then something will happen. No work, then no book. 

Thanks for reading.

Tools that may help:



Moreover,
Search YouTube for meditation music (my favorite is in the link – share your favorite, if you want).

Feel free to share your experience and strategies with depression, or of anything, in the comments below. stevenmarkin.com is my way of reaching out for help, and there is more to come. 


Fund stevenmarkin.com

Your donation goes towards writing, editing, publishing, art supplies, and keeping stevenmarkin.com going. Your generosity is greatly appreciated. Thank you.

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Finding your identity while dealing with depression.

4 July 2018

Written by Steven R.A. Markin

If you are like me, then you have had many changing ideas of who you are and what you want to be throughout your lifetime. I have wanted to be Batman, most of the Ninja Turtles (too dumb to be Donatello), a Ghostbuster, and a writer, and pretty much anything that I have had an interest in. I still want to be Batman, but I don’t think it is going to happen, because, I mean, you have to be Bruce Wayne to be Batman, and I have no idea how to be a Billionaire; so, I am a writer.

I have had quite the imagination and always wanted to be important to people. As life has gone on, life events have inevitably occurred, I have lost more than I thought I could handle, and I have had to learn that being an older sibling and first born comes with great responsibly (almost a Spiderman reference!). I have saved my mom’s life, twice. But I have felt lost, and still do most days, when it comes to what I want to be. My friends are in relationships, working in their careers, and coming home to their spouse and even children (and dogs – I want a puppy!). Which is excellent, and I am happy for them, but what am I doing wrong? Sure, they seem stressed, and when I would ride my bike or go to the gym for 3 hours, I wasn’t very stressed, and some of them were jealous, but I was jealous of them for working towards what they wanted. When asked what I do, I say that I am a writer, and occasionally, someone takes an interest in what I have to say, and this motivated me to learn more.

But I am a time waster. I have been lazy and putting my focus in the wrong direction. In a relationship, I am one of those people who focus on the other person too damn much. I end up losing myself after a period of time because of no longer doing the things that make me, me. Instead of writing at night, as I almost always do when I am single, I will be watching a movie and cuddling. Lovely, I know, and I miss it, but why do I stop altogether? I never stop talking about being a writer, or telling people that I am working on a short story, or a poem, or I am a part of the Alberta Writers Guild . . . Blah blah blah. The thing is, I don’t balance my time well, and I should find time for both the relationship with my significant other and the person I am dating (it’s funny to me). Seriously, there needs to be a balance, time for yourself. Keep working at your craft because saying that I am something gives me (some) purpose and makes me want to work at it.

What gives me a sense of identity, being a writer does, remember? Although I have had many journals, and I have loved creative writing in class, I have had a hard time with words: pronouncing words, understanding words, and remembering them have been a great challenge for me. My vocabulary is quite limited to how I talk if I don’t use my resources, but this also makes my stories more understood to a broader range of audience. In university, I would do rather well with creativity and understanding of the content, but I was significantly penalized because of grammatic errors. I got tired of losing senseless marks. It is hard to say you are something when you aren’t good at being that something, but I am a writer.

So, I went to workshops. I went to plenty, even ones that I already thought I knew about, and I came out with learning something new, even if it were just one thing. (I am surprised how many students do not use workshops that we pay for in our tuition!). I purchased grammar books and read them on my way to school most mornings and during summer break, and re-read them, and again. Boring, I know, but I hated not understanding my craft. I wasn’t good at English, but I am a writer. In college, I won an English Award and on the envelop read Engblish. Sums up my life. Anyway, I worked at learning and gaining tools that helped me identify myself as a writer. The idea of identity provides a purpose for me, and, allows me to look at life in a certain way. I am often listening to others and paying attention to conversations (yup, I admit it), but it allows me to wander through life being more active and listening. I use a lot of what I see and hear, life experiences, in my work (a lot of depressing undertones – haha); although most of my work sits in piles and in journals and in my head (which is a different story), I have plenty to offer. But one thing is for sure, my mindset is that of a writer.

How do I put my identity into practice? I joined a writer’s guild. It is free for students, and when I joined it, I look for others who are involved. I listen to what they have to offer, not so much all of their work because I don’t have too much time to spend, and I look to see what events are being held, contests in magazines, or seminars. I try to be proactive in experiencing as much as I can on writing that not only allows me to gain knowledge of my craft but helps me to see the bigger picture: that having an identity is important to me.

Why is having an identity so crucial for someone who suffers from depression? I don’t know. Maybe because it keeps me active and feeling important. I have spent the better part of this year trying to finish my work, and as mentioned, being included with others who are like-minded. This has given me a lot. Yes, I have come a long way from secluding myself in 2007 (downright isolating myself for nearly 3 years), I am depressed some days, and some days working and even getting out of bed is too much, and then I think of how I feel when I am working on my craft, when I am writing poems or a short story. Sure, I often try for a 20-minute walk to clear my head and if my depression is too severe, I stand outback focusing on my breathing, but something happens, I get an urge to do what makes me feel like me, and that is to write or to do something that is associated with writing. And to be honest, writing has saved my life. Not only just to get out of bed some days, or to help me sleep once I get a lot out of my head onto paper, but without this identity that I have given myself, I would be completely lost and even feeling worthless. I would rather be lost in life but with a purpose (because I am a writer).

Our attitudes towards ourselves and perceptions of life are essential. I don’t believe in being positive all the time. I think this is like lying to yourself, so be honest and real, and just know that you can and will make it through. Do your best to stay true to yourself, find who you are, and learn all you can because we experience life differently, which is exciting to be different, but some people share a lot in common, find these groups if needed. And maybe being different is for a reason: more diversity and more identities, and perhaps even a richer life (not Bruce Wayne rich, but, like, with a purpose).

Tools that may help:



Moreover,
Search YouTube for meditation music (my favorite is in the link – share your favorite, if you want).

Feel free to share your experience and strategies with depression, or of anything, in the comments below. stevenmarkin.com is my way of reaching out for help, and there is more to come. Thanks for reading.


Fund stevenmarkin.com

Your donation goes towards writing, editing, publishing, art supplies, and keeping stevenmarkin.com going. Your generosity is greatly appreciated. Thank you.

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Setting every day little goals while dealing with depression.

3 July 2018

Written by Steven R.A. Markin

Before 2007, I isolated myself in the house because of my depression. It was the only time in my life that I have suffered from agoraphobia and battling it was a prolonged process that I firmly believe I am still fighting.

11-years later, I have noticed over the last month that I have been fearful and struggling again. The physiological components of my depression, and quite possibly yours too, don’t allow for adequate energy to get out of bed, which is a scary thought because I am athletic, and before July, I have spent countless of time exercising. My depression isn’t a state of sadness, I have felt debilitated to my bed, and everyday tasks have become goals.
However, over the course of time, apart from four days where I pretty much just slept on and off for the entire time, I have been achieving these everyday goals that I was taking for granted.

  • My 20-minute walks on the treadmill in the garage, turned into 20-minute walks outside, and then into 45 to an hour-long walk outdoors.
  • From not wanting to eat and hardly eating, to making meals regularly, to now I barbeque and cook for my brother and I, and sometimes my father.
  • Writing a poem or two before bed, to editing, painting pictures, and now writing blogs and working on my book of poems throughout the days and night.
  • And, from hardly working out in the garage for about 30 minutes, to full 2-hour sessions, to bike riding to school and working out for 2.5 hours.

The last point is what I am going to talk about:

I decided I needed a reason to leave the house. I have not been on my bike in over a month, nor at the school gym for about four months. The gym offers cheap summer rates, and it was going to be Canada day, so I borrowed the money from my brother, and tried to get some sleep.
Of course, going to the gym shouldn’t seem like much to most (or maybe I am wrong?), but to me in this mental state was something big. I was afraid. Everything I thought about it, I thought of who could be there, who would say what, and who will think of what. I thought irrational, and this kept me awake for quite a while. The idea, however, was fixated in my mind. I knew that I had to go because I refuse to slip back into my depression and to stay all day indoors.

I woke tired but excited to go to the gym. I knew that going to the gym would be hugely beneficial for me, physically, cognitively, and social-emotionally. Although, I was scared to be around others, and I certainly had no intentions of talking to anyone.
While getting ready, there was a shift in my focus. It was slight at first. I thought of my ex and how she could be there, and I would rather not deal with too much today. I kept thinking, and as I thought, my motivation to go declined. I even got annoyed. My brother has a habit of running the water upstairs. He swears it is to fill up his water bottles and wash things. Nothing gets cleaned, so I am sure it is his anxiety. His cat was whining at the door to get out, and I couldn’t get my hair done right, or find my shirt, or even make my lunch fast enough. I set a time to be out, and I had plenty of time. My heart was racing, and my hands were shaky. My brother talked to me, asking about my night. Then he talked about video games. I hardly contributed because I had one thing on my mind, everything associated with the gym and getting there.

Finally, I left. My brother wished me good luck. And I took my bike out for the first time like I have done thousands of times. I felt light, more accurately, numb. My hands wouldn’t stop shaking, and my head was off. I rode in the community and through the alley to avoid people and vehicles. Luckily the pathway to school is mostly a path. I kept my head down and focused on bike riding. I counted to 3, held my breath for 3, and then exhaled for 6. Then I passed Heritage. It was Canada day, and full of families and families on the bike path are the worst. Often both lanes are either taken up by slow walkers, or by people who do not pay attention, nor know that bikes also use the path. I inhaled for 3, held for 3, and then exhaled for 3. I did this often throughout my 40-minute bike ride. I told myself I could do this, and when my mind thought otherwise, I tried to plan out a light workout. “I can do this,” I kept saying. “Even if it is a light workout, it is a success.” I stopped twice on the path to drink my water, and the second time was the hardest to start peddling again. I thought of too much. I felt exposed outside, vulnerable. I couldn’t do it, and I couldn’t go back through the crowd. I felt stuck, and I wish I had stayed home.

I got back on my bike, and I rode to the gym. Once I got to the school, another large group. There were a soccer tournament and many people. I was anxious and rode the other way around the school. The long way of finding a place to park my bike. I couldn’t make up my mind where to park it. I even thought that someone would steal it (I never would feel like this). Then, I walked the hallways as I have for four years, but with no one around until I got down the stairs in the recreation center when someone greeted me. Maybe my response seemed forced, but I said something – weeks of only talking to my family – I said something to someone else, and I asked for the summer membership. I passed him my money while shaking and stood there anxiously looking around trying to focus on one spot and not stare. Walking into the gym, was one of the hardest things yet, and I did it. There was hardly anyone around. I did my workout, kept to myself, and went downstairs where it was busier. My legs shook, my hands vibrated, my heart raced, and I was in panic mode, but I did it.

This event may not seem like much, and I get it. But to me, I left the gym proud of myself; although nearly passing out, and the shaking lasted for hours afterwards, I felt pride. My brother was proud, and so was the rest of my family.

Steps that helped me:

  1. I started off with a small idea, such as in the garage for a short period.
  2. I pushed myself throughout the week to extend this time, and I started to enjoy it.
  3. Then my plan grew to go to the gym, which involved a lot more, but after going for walks, and enjoying working out again, I kept this in mind throughout my panic attacks.
  4. In my head, I focused on breathing (inhaling for half the duration as an exhale with a hold; 1:2 ratio),
  5. I tried to encourage myself and concentrate on little steps, such as which exercises I would like to do. I kept the plan for the workout very short but ended up adding more because it felt good.
  6. During my moments downstairs, although certainly the most shaking I have experienced in public, I focused on my breathing, but I also thought about creating art. I thought of the painting I have been working on and what I would like to do next. Shifting my thoughts to something creative, helped. The shaking didn’t stop, and I did go back upstairs before leaving the gym, but I felt proud.

I went again today, and the shaking was much less. I did have a rush of anxiety near the end and brought my boxing gloves upstairs to hit the heavy bag. And people were around and watched, but I kept my chin down and focused on the bag. My first rounds, where not smooth, and my breathing increased, but my mind calmed. I kept at it for ten rounds at 1 minute On, 45 secs OFF. I rested on the mat and got out. I may have walked with my head down, but I felt good. 

Tools that may help:

Headphones
Mediation music: Ocean Waves: Calming Sounds
or Books: Unfu*k Yourself: Get Out of Your Head and into Your Life, You Are a Badass®: How to Stop Doubting Your Greatness and Start Living an Awesome Life, and
The Mindful Way through Depression: Freeing Yourself from Chronic Unhappiness
Art supplies: Apple Barrel Acrylic Paint, Canvas panels, Paint Brushes, Adult Coloring Book, Coloured Pencil, 24 Pack.

Moreover,
Search YouTube for meditation music (my favorite is in the link – share your favorite, if you want).

Feel free to share your experience and strategies with depression, or of anything, in the comments below. stevenmarkin.com is my way of reaching out for help, and there is more to come. Thanks for reading.


Fund stevenmarkin.com

Your donation goes towards writing, editing, publishing, art supplies, and keeping stevenmarkin.com going. Your generosity is greatly appreciated. Thank you.

C$3.50

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5 every day little strategies for dealing with depression.

1 July 2018

by Steven R.A. Markin

I am not a doctor, and I have yet to finish my degree, and although I have been diagnosed with depression from a doctor and I speak with counsellors, these strategies are what I use to help me therapeutically to deal with my depression, so that I can live a healthier life. Please make sure to talk to your family doctor because depression is a severe mental illness and needs to be appropriately treated. And what are we without our mind? Like really, fish that can’t leave our beds? (sorry – I make bad jokes, and I apologize because I am Canadian.)

Alright. A list!….

Talk to someone. I am not even putting this on the list. Talking to someone is the single most crucial every day strategy for coping with depression. This has saved my life and keeps me from going in too deep inside my mind. Even just talking to a cat can help at times, and cats can be dinkheads, so maybe talking to a dog will be a better choice? But talking about how you feel, regardless of it sounding like whining or bitching, needs to be addressed. Hell, if you have to cry, let it out. I know that finding someone to talk to can even be what contributes to your depression. For nearly three years, I didn’t leave the house. I felt like I had no one, but I was very wrong. I had four great people living in the same house that cares about me. I just had no idea of how to communicate, and as a teenager, I would preferably have kept it all in, no matter how much it was killing me. Now, I talk to them. Usually about different things, as I am more open with my brother, and I look to my dad for advice, where I know my mom will be more sensitive and sweet about things, and my sister is a savage with the truth. I even have a couple of friends whom I can speak to about anything. The point is, I had to learn that there are people around to talk to, and I felt vulnerable and judged, and like a whiny little bitch for talking about being sad. I didn’t want to be looked at like I am suicidal, or to be continuously asked and watched. But, I needed to get better, so I said, “I need to talk to you about something important,” and we sat down, I looked at the ground and cried, and I was honest about how I felt.

Tip: Go in with a plan and write down, maybe in point form, what you need to talk about, so that when you are talking, you can make sure to address everything you need to.

Tip: one-on-one can be much more comfortable in such an uncomfortable situation. You may even get the best of someone when alone with them.

Tip: this may not be a tip, but know, you aren’t alone, and maybe the person you are talking to needs you too. We are all dealing with some shit, and communication is a powerful tool that (perhaps) we can all strive to use it and get better at it.

1) Walking (Yay, number 1!). what I have learned throughout my time in university is that walking, yes boring-old-walking-that-we-take-for-granted-and-often-choose-to-get-out-of, is hugely beneficial and my number one little everyday strategy to help deal with depression. Go for a 20-45 minute walk. There may be some of you who think this is too easy, and then, there are the others, like I was a week ago: not getting out of bed! Well, walking is a low impact exercise and increases the heart rate and body temperature, so it is also a fat burner – maybe not substantial but perhaps I am getting to you? Most health-related studies for exercises that I have had to listen to during lectures had been based on 20 minutes of moderate walking, and the benefits – freaking endless! We are talking about all aspect of wellness. If we could bottle up walking into a pill and sell it, it would be groundbreaking (pun? – I hope not). We could call it an anti-depressant, a fat burner, meditation in a capsule, quiet time from the annoying husband to think and self-reflect of why you are even with his broke ass, all in one – plus more, and we don’t need to get into all the benefits. There has been plenty of studies done on walking. But to me, there is something about moving while thinking that eventually helps me to feel better.

Tip: get off your damn phone. Keep it in your pocket – the social media or arguing with your spouse can wait a moment. Get away from everything for a moment and think. Yes, thinking can be the issue, but it can also be a tool to help you to understand why you are feeling a certain way. Self-reflection is essential for self-awareness, apparently, and to be honest, being alone can be addictive, hopefully in a good way.

Tip: Listen to meditation music and audiobooks. You may enjoy your 20-45 minute walks, and when paired up with learning or listening to something of interest, well damn, that sounds double beneficial. I listen to audiobooks while I am in the gym, like The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life

Tip: your surroundings matters, so choose somewhere lovely to walk. If there are paths and hiking trails, dog parks, a river, whatever, if you are where I am, it is nice to get away from the vehicles and people.

Tip: get one of those step counter apps. I am unsure which ones are best because I have always been against them, but recently I have needed to go for walks again, so I downloaded StepTracker on my Android. It can be fun seeing and challenging to get a certain amount of steps. Also, Fitbit Charge 2 Heart Rate Plus Fitness Wristband, Black, Large.

2) Sleep. This could be #1, and I know what you are thinking, I am depressed and all I do is sleep, OR, I can’t sleep! Poor sleeping patterns, such as too much or too little and irregular sleeping habits like going to bed at significantly different times can contribute to health-related issues, like depression. So, get some fresh air for 20-45 minutes, maybe work out, and try the other steps I’ll give you. In “Fight Club: A Novel,” (well I remember in the movie) Edward Norton was told to chew on Valerian Root. I found it didn’t help me much, but my ex would fall asleep no problem. I drink Herb Tea Sleepytime and listen to meditation music with just a candle, and the monitor on while I work at night, which helps me to relax. 

Tip: seriously, get off your damn phone about 40 to an hour before when you want to be asleep, and dim the lights. We all probably have heard that lights from monitors affect us, it excites us and interrupts something called the circadian rhythm and suppress melatonin. Well, my problem is mostly scrolling and searching dumb things and liking peoples posts for far longer than anyone should do it, but yet, if I have a book or a journal in front of me, I tend to fall asleep okay. A Red Light Bulb can help.

Tip: try for consistency. As humans, and not Martians, we tend to adapt to routine. If you are like me and going to bed at 4:00 a.m. and waking up at 11:00 a.m., then keep it as consistent as possible. And avoid the never-ending setting the clock ahead.

Tip: melatonin can help if you are in a dim or dark area. Melatonin isn’t a drug, and you can get it on Amazon or in your local drug store (not a drug!). It isn’t going to work so well if you have all your lights on.

Tip: get a comfy Pillow or Super Soft Warm Blanket, or a Mattress if you can afford it. Being comfortable helps us to slumber off. Duh.

3) Be creative. My favourite, pretty colours on a canvas or silly words in a journal.  Being creative allows me to use another part of my brain that doesn’t associate with thinking about who wronged me, or who said what, or what kind of crap I am going through, or money. But when I sit down and put a blank canvas in front of me, I begin to think of what I want to pain. I shift my focus towards art, and I think of the colours and how I want to represent them. This can cause a whole new level of issues, such as being overwhelmed and stressed, but seriously, who cares? Dab the paintbrush and make some strokes. Do it for you. Get messy, and soon the creativity will flow. You must allow yourself to get to that point and often that starts with doing something.

Tip: In my first blog, I talked about giving yourself 15-20 minutes a day to focus on being creative. It isn’t much time, and you can double up, triple up, but the point is, it is a starting point that has mental benefits. If you don’t believe me, take 15-20 minutes and write out a story, a poem, or draw a picture, or paint something, do whatever creative thing you do, and then take a moment and reflect on it. Think about how you felt during that time. Where you sad? Did you focus on what you were doing? Did you use your sadness to motivate your work, as I do? I am already getting to the next step.

4) Write it down. Don’t start a blog – I’m kidding. Write down your thoughts, vent them somehow. This allows times and focus on yourself, but also a reference to improve on and to look back on. I have been writing down my thoughts for most of my life. I have no idea where I got this idea from, but I log how I feel in journals, in stories, poems, and now on my website. I try not to read what I have written, but when I do, may it be years later, I am thankful I didn’t throw it out. And it is even helpful to read about something that I was dealing with. Reading your old logs can potentially also help with what you are going through now.

Tip: have fun with this. You can be creative and write up a short story using two characters, and one being someone who is experiencing what you are, and have them express what they feel, may it be with actions, and dialogue.

Tip: use the voice record app on your phone, or get one. You can log audio entries like a diary. Or maybe going back to being creative, start a website, like I have, to express yourself, or a youtube channel like so many. Let it out and document it. There is a community of us that all need one another.

5) Eat well. I am mostly in the fitness department at school, so talking about nutrition can be a pain in the ass. I am not talking about cutting or bulking (that can be saved for another blog). Each of us is unique, and we can react to different foods in various ways that can impact how we feel. By now, you should probably have a good understanding of who you are and what works for you. Hopefully, you are not just living off of fad diets or some other word of mouth eating habit that you don’t enjoy. Write down on paper or in a Fitbook (or MyFitnessPal) what you have eaten for at least three days, and make sure to include at least one day of the weekend (because we often change up our eating habits on the weekend). Next to each meal, make a little note, may it be an emoji such as a smile or straight face, or sad face to indicate how you felt, maybe even a poop emoji? But get a feel for how you react to food. Play around with it if you are noticing that you are not feeling too great and try to take it out of your daily eating habits. For me, protein bars made my stomach sound like I shook up a pop inside myself, so, I stopped eating them in exchange for something else with the nearly the same amount of macronutrients and calories. And as for dark chocolate, it makes me feel good, even just knowing that I have it makes me smile; however, if there is a chinook (a warm wind in Calgary during the winter), then dark chocolate often contributes to a headache or even a migraine.

Tips: use a free app to monitor your food. I use MyFitnessPal to get an idea of how much I am eating, even if I don’t have a weight goal in mind. I like knowing how many calories I am eating and of what. Tracking macronutrients, micronutrients, water, and even your weight can contribute to making you feel better. There is the idea of having control over yourself and the biological components that are associated with what you are putting into your body. Plus, it can help you burn body fat or put on muscle when you align your eating with other everyday activities, such as resistance training (I am a big fan of calisthenics).

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Feel free to share your experience and strategies with depression, or of anything, in the comments below. stevenmarkin.com is my way of reaching out for help, and there is more to come. Thanks for reading.


Additional Resources in Canada:
https://suicideprevention.ca/need-help/
https://calgarycounselling.com/
https://myhealth.alberta.ca/ ,or the AHS app.
Access Mental Heath 403.943.1500 – 1.844.943.1500
HealthLink Alberta 1.866.408.LINK (5465)

 

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Blog: why am I so damn lazy? I want to be creative.

(826 words) 29 June 2018

By S.R.A. Markin

Why am I so lazy? I spent about 2.5 hours in the garage lifting weights while watching youtube videos on how to paint and about starting my own blog, but when it comes to sitting down and actually painting and actually writing something, I spent an hour or more in the kitchen eating roasted chicken then bouncing a ball at my cat.

Sure that sounds like procrastination, but even earlier today when I was about to write a poem, and I was excited to do so, I took a nap. I was also too caffeinated to sleep, so I laid there with my eyes closed thinking I needed the rest before I did anything that involves my brain. Damn brain. This is a common occurrence for me. Naps before anything.

If you are anything like me, you check social media when you wake up, or when you take a crap (why does my phone have to come with me?), or you spend endless amounts of time in the dark in bed scrolling dumb things that don’t even strike you as interesting during the daytime. I am tired of this, and I am trying to change things, just a little. Maybe you are too?

I am very much interested in being creative. Creativity, may it be sketching dumb things on an app, painting a fat cat (not actually on my cat), writing short stories or bad poems and posting it on my website is all little forms of therapy for me; therefore, I find value in these little things, which is great. But, I need more, and in my mind, I know what I need to do, but I don’t take the time to work on it. I have no problem spending endless time working out, or going for walks, but mental tasks, and it is nap time. For example, I have a short story (just less than 30K words which took me about a month or less to get to – I worked hard), and I have wanted to expand on this story for the past 5-months. I have only re-read it, edit a little, and then sat outside trying not to fall asleep. I feel useless, but when I am in school, and there is a deadline, I don’t procrastinate. I get it done, and I do relatively well. Bs and As (I say this and watch, in the fall I will probably get my first C.) Anyway, the point is, there is structure, and I realize I need to structure myself to get work done. But also, I get my assignments done fast, so that I don’t have to stress as much, and, so that I can do other things like checking social media or writing bad poems, besides the endless amounts of school work (why do they stockpile?).

I advise and don’t take advice from me, (you shouldn’t have even read this far), to change habits in small increments. Yes, we have acknowledged we have an issue, check. Now, let’s do something about it. And no, I am not turning off my phone and ignoring it. I am not my ex (whoops). I am challenging myself, and I challenge you too (sucker!), to set 15-20 minutes a day (use a timer on your cell – if you have to), and focus on one of those creative tasks you have put off. If the timer goes off and you have more to give, give it! Keep going. But remember the feeling of working towards something you have put off. It feels great. 15-20 minutes doesn’t seem like much, and I am not going to do the math and show you how much you can do over a year like this. I don’t do math. But, you have given yourself a little structure that isn’t much, hopefully do-able, and you just put in 15-20 minutes into something that has been sitting there untouched for far too long. If you want to get crazy, add another 15-20 minutes of creative work time into the day. Maybe space it out, such as a morning session and an afternoon? (I don’t know your schedule, you can figure it out), but write down your creative time like a schedule and check it off (we feel great checking things off – and yet – feel like crap when we leave it).

The point is creative time matters and making time for it matters too. I know most of you are much busier than me, and I even said not to take advice from me as I have an hour to waste bouncing a ball at a fat cat, but the feeling of doing the work, is a feeling unmatched (haha it sounds cool in my head). Just do the damn work and stop being lazy like I have been.

My cat laid down, and I am going to lay down next to him. Oh, right. . .

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Reflection of a 31-year-old student #4

 

(686 words) 10 Feb 2018

By S.R.A. Markin

I went to counseling today, and I was told that I could breach the confidentiality and post it online. The counselor also said that she wouldn’t say hi to me when we pass in the hallways unless I say it first. So I guess she won’t be saying hi.
I was asked what brings me in. I said that I am sad. I almost laughed afterward because it sounds pathetic, but I didn’t want to say that I am depressed. If I were depressed (which is a serious mental issue) I wouldn’t even seek help no matter how much I needed it (I stayed indoors for almost three years – my dad says longer).
Whenever I played with my ring or bracelet, she would tentatively watch, so I picked the appropriate times to fidget, wondering if she would comment. And she did. Apparently talking about relationships make me anxious. Who knew?
I assume counselors want something to work with, you know, damaged goods. She asked me if I have witnessed anything traumatic in my life. I said I picked my mom up twice after her ODs, and I have witnessed my mom’s epileptic seizure as a young boy (while alone with her. I had no idea what was happening and yet I removed all harmful objects and put her on her side to seize). Also, my dad knocked himself out cracking his head on Christmas Eve. while skating (again, I was the first to attend – I thought he was playing a game because he was snoring – I was young), so maybe? When I told her that I have been in three car accidents, she seemed more fascinated in that I refuse to drive (like I am terrified to drive and I wasn’t driving in any of them) than me saving my mother’s life. I also told her I was bulimic in my teenage years because I was obese and bullied daily, among other things that I do not need to post (suicidal thoughts?). I sat calmly nonchalantly spewing to some hippy looking lady (with glasses I couldn’t stop judging) shit about myself. (Her glasses looked like cardboard was cut out and spray painted teal.) She didn’t seem too fond that I have overcome most of my adversities. She wanted to know what is wrong with me. I don’t drink, and I don’t do drugs, I eat well, I sleep well, I exercise regularly, I am polite, I am an honors student, blah blah. But, I did need someone whom I have no attachment towards to sit there while I talk. I needed to talk.
And I do have to say this, I am proud of myself. Years ago, I walked out on a counselor after she asked me why I am like my father. I told her to go fuck herself, which I know isn’t responsible, and I love my dad, but I was in an unhealthy place in life. And just like the one before, I didn’t get much from this counselor either. She told me to stop talking to my best friend because we broke up and can’t be friends (which seems judgmental in less than an hour session). And I tried it, but then I called Erin later that night to see how she is. (She hurts too, and I am entitled to being a friend.)
The meeting did give me some good things: directing me towards meditation downloads on a website, and school peer workshops, such as Mindfulness, Happiness and Resilience, Managing Anxiety and Worry (which my brother said he needs) and something about Sleep (we all need!). I will be attending some workshops. I owe this to myself (and I would love to be able to help someone else – even if it were by just listening to them). I am scared shitless to talk to people, but talking makes a difference. Talking has saved my life.
Even if you are sad, tell someone you are sad. It is a start to something that can go a long way. And if someone tells you they are sad, listen.

 

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Reflections of a 31-year-old student. #3

 

(438 words) 13 Jan. 2018

By S.R.A. Markin

I have had some trouble thinking about what to write for this blog series. This week was the first week of my 8th semester in university, and I have been finding it very difficult. Although I have attended all my classes so far, and I have listened and taken notes (I often don’t make many notes), I have had this intense feeling of not fitting in with my peers, and not wanting to be in school. I have sat in the back, or off to the side in the classrooms, and hidden away on the third floor on campus whenever possible.
As for the school books, I have found these difficult to purchase because I am unsure how much longer I would like to continue this endeavor (and yes, I am close to finishing my degree and minor).
I have had plenty of time to hang out with my girlfriend because our schedules allow for us to work out and eat lunch together. Unfortunately, I have been unkind to her, and we have been fighting and trying to figure things out. (I am thankful for you.)
This week has been rough because of me. My perception has changed. Maybe all the stress has caught up with me, and I have not responded well.
The satisfaction of being a student has been predominant for me over the last 7-or-so-years. I am a high school drop-out, and there is no post-secondary schooling at the university level on my mother’s side (although my sister has a diploma!). I went back to college (in 2011), starting from grade 10 material, making the honor’s role throughout all of the terms and completing diplomas in Biology, Chemistry, Mathematics, and English while working. I received three awards during my time there. I then worked for almost two years as a manager before being accepted into university. Here, I have been on the honor’s role (Dean’s List) throughout each term, and I have won one award. I have done pretty well for someone who has had a teacher write in his Jr. High yearbook that “Steven sleeps in class, and thankfully he doesn’t snore.” Too bad I threw out my yearbooks.
The point is, I need to care again. This outlook is unfair to me, and especially to my loving girlfriend who has had to deal with me. She tells me to enjoy life, to enjoy school, the gym, writing, and everything else (thank you, love). And you are right. I do need to enjoy life again because giving up is something I have done before. I don’t mind failing, but fuck giving up.
Thank you for reading.

 

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Reflections of a 31-year-old Student: #2

 

(305 words) 4 Jan. 2018

By S.R.A. Markin

Maybe caffeine and school isn’t always a working combination? But having someone who loves you while in school is.

I would like to be able to relax and not stress out. I am not like that. I sit at an empty staircase away from the busy hallways. My back hurts from slouching and sitting on the hard ground. My face feels greasy and my ears are warm. People walk past and they distract me. I am waiting for my girlfriend whom I just walked to class. We have a class together right after this one. I wish I could say that I am pleased to take the class with her, but I am anxious.

When I started university, I had no friends. I knew no one. My peers in high school either attended much earlier in their lives or not at all. I would find quiet places to sit and read or look at my phone. I would often go for walks outside to cool down, no matter how cold it was outside. In my second year, I would skip the first days to hopefully avoid icebreakers.

Now, I have someone who I am waiting for. She is waiting for me as well. This is our second class taking together, the first was a science fiction class, now we are taking a physical literacy class. I know one day I will look back and be appreciative of having her attend a class with me. I did this with our science fiction class. Why can’t I just learn to enjoy the now?

I will go wash my face, drink some cold water, and try to slow down my breathing. I can deal with the icebreakers. I can’t deal with hurting her feelings and ruining what time I have with her.

I will show up for her.

 

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Reflections of a 31-year-old student.

 

(155 words) 3 Jan. 2018

By S.R.A. Markin

Classes start tomorrow. I am anxious. This is my eighth term in university. Even the gym is starting to get busy. It doesn’t help that it is the beginning of the new year. New year resolutionist. So many will quit, and it will be back to the regulars, and some new ones. Good for the new ones.

We try to train and groups of new student orientation walk and clutter the track. Are these kids not aware of their surroundings? Of course not. Most of them have little to nothing to be afraid of. They walk spread out and in the way just like they will when they take up space in the hallways, and in the classrooms. So many of them will not give a shit because that is cool. Some will, and they will move on. Maybe even to do more great things. 

I will be here. 

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