Wahls Adventure: Prologue

It’s been a tough weekend so far.

Yesterday, out of nowhere, I started feeling like there was a ton of heat coming off my solar plexus, and then it shot through my body like I was on fire all over. I could barely breathe (like, I was gasping for air), and in that moment, according to Adam (because I legit do not remember), I had something akin to a grand-mal seizure in the car, hitting the dash and tearing at my clothes before passing out.

I don’t remember getting home. In fact, I don’t remember much of yesterday, aside from being really frustrated when I opened my vape cartridges that Adam so thoughtfully picked up from the dispensary for me, and they were both unusable. So, tomorrow, we have to take them back and get them exchanged.

I remember that we were on the way to the Orland Park indoor neighborhood garage sale, and I’m still pissed that my body made me miss that.  Next year, I guess!

Anyway, the panic attacks and seizures didn’t stop in the morning, or even after I slept. We’ve started keeping a log of my blood pressure, which is kind of all over the place, considering that I am on a high dose of Labetalol.  Today, I keep feeling like Blanka… electric all over, and like even soft touches are too much for me.

blanka

This motherfucker gets me.

Pictured: Blanka from Street Fighter during his “Giant Bomb” attack – electricity coming off of every part of his body

I think I know what may have precipitated the attack, but it’s not the only variable in play.  The day before yesterday, I was sick with stomach flu (fever and all), and I drank 64 oz of Gatorade, followed by a ton of Halloween candy.  The intensity of pain and large number of seizures that occurred within 24 hours made the correlation of sugar consumption to discomfort too obvious to ignore anymore.

So, I finally decided that reading other people’s blogs while hemming and hawing about whether or not I’m willing to go paleo again was insufficient, and I purchased my copy of The Wahls Protocol.

The Wahls Protocol is very different than any other diet I’ve tried before because it has 3 steps to it — basically 3 discrete diets that increase in difficulty to adherence.

Step One: The Wahls Diet (or “What Rachael is going to be starting this week.”)

wahls

  • No gluten, eggs, dairy (except for ghee), refined oils, or processed foods.
  • Sugar is limited to that which occurs naturally.
  • 6-9 cups of vegetables daily (3 cups of leafy greens, 3 cups of sulfur-rich vegetables (cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, etc) and 3 cups of deeply colored vegetables and fruits, such as berries, carrots, winter squash, beets, etc).

Everything should ideally be organic, grass-fed or wild-caught foods, if your budget allows. Mine does not.

This is very close to the paleo diet, but it allows for non-glutenous grains like corn, oatmeal, and rice.  Y’all know I can hang with the traditional paleo diet, but that’s “step 2,” and considering the point of the diet is to maximize the nutritional content of what you’re eating so that you can power up your mitochondria (and hence your whole body), as long as I’m getting the veggies in, while limiting sugar, I think I’m making positive headway.

Honestly, I’ve been through all the tests, and I don’t have Celiac Disease or any allergic reaction to wheat, so the only reason that I’m avoiding it is because it helps force me to find a way to put a vegetable in place of whatever bread product my brain immediately jumps to. So, fortunately, I don’t need to be afraid of cross-contamination like many folks do.

In the past, I think the biggest barrier to sustained compliance on the paleo diet for me has been the All-Or-Nothing mindset. To help ensure that I actually get this done, the only thing I’m going all-or-nothing for is eating the cups of veggies.

I’m trying really hard to shift my mindset from “This is gonna suck.” to “This will help me feel better and is totally worth it.” So far, it sounds like, “This is gonna suck until it helps me feel better.” 🙂

Ah, honesty.  You’re almost optimism.

  • If I eat inflammatory foods, I’m literally feeding and empowering my disease.
  • If I eat the required vegetables and avoid foods that are known to cause inflammation, I’m feeding and empowering my mind and body.

When I think about it that way, choosing any other course of action seems beyond stupid.

Thus, once I’m done with this entry, I’ll be doing some meal planning… because I’m certain I won’t get Henry on board for green smoothie breakfasts and salads at lunch, but I’m pretty sure I can figure out meals for him that use at least some of the ingredients. (I mean, really, that’s definitely part of what makes me shy away from the level 3 ketogenic diet. I’m not sure how I’d do without bananas in my life.)

Adam is totally on board to power up his mitochondria with me.  I really lucked out in the supportive husband department. But he’s also been watching Henry for several hours now while I read and then wrote this. So, I should probably quit blogging and go spend time with them before making the grocery list.

Hope you’re having a good weekend!

 

Have you tried the Wahls Diet?  Do you have any favorite recipes that happen to contain a fuckton of veggies?  Let me know in the comments or email me with suggestions!

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The Things We Cannot See

It’s been a while since I gave myself license to sit down and write. It’s easy right now because I’m sick with laryngitis, and my mother-in-law has Henry.  After the miscarriage (which took an inordinate amount of time to resolve), I ended up having an MS relapse.  Immediately following the 6 days of oral steroids, I am now sick… so, it’s been a challenge to get basic things done, let alone to opine on the finer points of life. That being said, today is World Mental Health Day, and I write extensively about my mental health, so it seemed like a good time to give everyone an update.

The Banal

Recently, I’ve been taking a second look at the Wahls Protocol.  It’s a diet plan that Dr. Terry Wahls used to help her decrease the negative symptoms of MS.  Obviously, long-time friends and readers know that I tried the paleo diet to improve my MS symptoms and found very little relief from seizures, but some relief from fatigue.  Unfortunately, the number of dishes I created by following the diet used up any extra energy.

In the last month, scientists have discovered the brain’s lymphatic system.  This might not seem like a big deal at first, seeing as how the rest of the body has a lymphatic system, but for those of us with MS, it’s huge.  Essentially, this is not just proof of the immune system interacting directly with the brain, it’s the hardware in our bodies that make it possible. It’s literally part of our immune system, and it’s integrated throughout the entire brain… and until just now doctors didn’t even know it was there.

For those of us who have experienced the terrible side effects of MS disease modifying drugs, it’s galling. There’s something terribly unnerving about reading that “The discovery of the central-nervous-system lymphatic system may call for a reassessment of basic assumptions in neuroimmunology.” Essentially, it means that we’ve all been sold insanely expensive, and potentially harmful, snake oil.  It reminds me of how “bleeding” patients with leeches to “balance the humours” used to be a real thing, which is kind of scary if you think about it.

The first mystery these scientists need to solve is how those vessels receive and dispel fluid, anyway.  They already suspect that the flow of glymphatic fluid (That’s the fluid that goes in and out of the lymphatic system within the brain.) may affect folks with Alzheimer’s or other neurological diseases that disrupt sleep… like MS!

The article states that “The flow of glymphatic fluid can change based on a person’s intake of omega-3 fatty acids…”  And that means that aside from the brain-gut connection, we can find evidence to improve our neurological health by eating well here, too.

I already take 750 mg of Mega Red Krill Oil every day for Omega 3 supplementation.  It’s been helpful for lowering my triglycerides, and I believe that its use in conjunction with Vitamin D3 has been more helpful as an antidepressant for me than Effexor or Cymbalta ever were.

So, I’m looking in to Dr. Wahls’s research and am about to start Phase 1, which is simply adding 9 cups of vegetables a day (3 cups of dark, leafy greens, 3 cups of sulpherous, and 3 colorful.) to your diet.

Whether or not I will move forward to Phase 2 (which includes going on the paleo diet again — but this time using the autoimmune protocol), is yet to be determined. I think that it might be too difficult to try to keep paleo/keto with a 2 yr old in the house who basically subsists on Peanut Butter Ritz Bitz, Goldfish, and cookies. (Don’t worry. I offer plenty of fresh fruits and veg too.)

So, for now, I’m more interested in feeding my mitochondria the nutrients they need to produce energy than I am interested in reducing inflammation in my body by avoiding foods that I may (or may not) have reactions to.

The Sublime

With all of that setting the stage — I have to let you know that it has made me think about the bigger picture.

Back when I was living in California, I got the chance to take a walk and chat with Reichart Von Wolfshield — a notable scientist, and a pretty cool guy to hang out with. During our walk, we shot the shit about atheism vs. being a believer in a higher power.  I was very well aware of his staunch atheism, and he was curious as to why I am a devout believer in God.

He wanted to know why, with a lack of evidence, I am so sure that God exists. My personal take is that everything is God — the whole universe and anything beyond — everyone and everything is a part of this higher power, which is part of why we don’t necessarily notice it. It’s too big to comprehend, and it very likely lacks the sort of sentient thought that we would like to attribute to anything that is omnipotent and omnipresent.

My actual response to him that day, however, was that I know that people are very limited creatures — that we can only see part of the visual spectrum and hear part of the auditory spectrum, and that I simply believe that since the concept of God has existed alongside all of humanity, it must have basis in reality, even if we cannot substantiate it yet with science.

The discovery of the lymphatic system in the brain reminds me why I believe in God’s existence — not because it makes me more hopeful for a cure for my ailment (thought it certainly does), but because 2 months ago, we didn’t believe it existed, even though it did, and even though, more than likely, it was present for of all of humanity leading up to now.

I genuinely wonder what we’ll “discover” tomorrow.

Well, *that* happened.

suckitIt’s been 2 months since my last post.  In part, it’s because of the 12 week rule.  I found out in late July that I was pregnant. I found out last Wednesday that I no longer am.

On the one hand, the outpouring of kindness from my friends and family has been heartwarming.

On the other hand, I’m pretty sure that I don’t have full access to that heart right now.

I don’t want to talk with anyone. I haven’t even wanted to blog. I barely wanted to Facebook. I had no idea so many amazing women, who I genuinely care for and love, had experienced this kind of loss quietly or even silently.  The compassion I’ve showed friends who had experienced this was present, but seriously lacking. I had no concept of the depths of emotional darkness and physical pain that come with this experience. I’m finding it hard to emotionally connect with my husband without turning into a sobbing mess, and that is profoundly uncool because I really love that guy.  We started dating 11 years ago today, and I can’t even think of a quirky way to celebrate it right now.

My brain is, of course, doing what it always does when things go sideways (and man-oh-man, do they go sideways frequently!). Idiot brain is rationalizing all the ways that it’s my fault that the baby died (It isn’t.), berating me for those imagined slights (No, brain, I’m not sorry that I went on an airplane.), and then forcing me to find all the ways that the change in direction is positive.

Here’s why my brain believes I “should be happy” about the miscarriage:
(Name the ANTs!  SPOILER: They’re all “should” statements.)

1.) It means that I can pick Henry up again.  He’s at a phase where he wants to be held or touched almost constantly. Pick him up and put him in the stroller. Pick him up and put him in the swing and then push him. Pick him up to change his diapers. Pick him up to put him on the potty for the billionth time, silently praying that he will eventually take a dump in the toilet. Pick him up to put him in the high chair he’s outgrown, because watching him teeter on our kitchen chairs is too much for my anxiety. Pick him up to move him away from distraction when I have to discipline him. Pick him up to take him off the couch when he won’t stop jumping. Pick him up to put him in his car seat to go anywhere. Pick him up to give him hugs, all the time. Pick him up to dance.

2.) It means that I can take the medication I need to help with MS & PTSD symptoms again.  Yes, I’m talking about weed. I missed the help with the pain in my limbs.  I missed the help with anxiety, especially when Nazi-palooza exploded onto the scene.

3.) It means that I can get Henry potty-trained for sure before we introduce more diapers into the mix. A woman can only wipe so many butts per day without losing her mind. I’m pretty sure he’ll be using the big boy potty like a champ in a couple of months. He already pees in it at least 3 times a day.

4.) It means that we have more time to save money. Kids are expensive. This is also not something that I care too much about. But my brain likes to rattle off anxiety about money, since I’m disabled, so it’s counting this situation as a fiscal “win,” in that sort of way that makes me want to smack myself.

5.) It means I can get back to losing more weight. I dropped 10 pounds in the 2 months prior to this pregnancy, thanks to participation in accountability groups online.  I’ve now been under 200 lbs for 12 weeks. Didn’t even gain 2 lbs in 9 weeks. I’m not sure why I’m proud of that. Anyway, the next pregnancy is more likely to remain viable if I can drop even more weight.  It’s even supposed to help with my GERD issues, since that’s being caused by fatty liver. So, hopefully, once I stop bleeding, I’ll also be able to stop wanting to eat my feelings. (I have had way too much chocolate this week. I cannot actually care. I may buy one more clamshell of brookies before the week is over because they taste like what I imagine feeling “good” is like.)

6.) I wasn’t sure I could handle it anyway.  2 kids? They’d outnumber me all day.  Good luck, “Mom.”  At least now, life is manageable.

But all the sunshine in the world won’t change a turd into a flower.

The shitty truth is that we lost a baby we were all really excited to have — even Henry — even his grandparents.  I’ve been bleeding profusely and in sometimes shocking amounts of pain for a week straight. I’m more than ready to be done with it…

I just really hope the next one sticks, when I get brave enough to give growing our family another chance. I don’t ever want to go through this again. I can’t imagine anyone would.

A Learning Machine

A Be-Bot!

WoebotRecently, I started using a chatbot that a friend of a friend programmed.  This chatbot works with Facebook Messenger and is clinically proven to help improve depression and anxiety in as little as 2 weeks. It’s called Woebot.

Since Henry is a big fan of robots, every time he sees my phone light up with the Woebot icon, he gets excited and shouts, “BE-BOT, MOMMY! BE-BOT!” For that reason alone, I’ll keep using it. 🙂

Anyway, I was initially drawn to Woebot because it only takes a few minutes of time per day, and it contacts you, at the same time every day, to keep you doing the work. I was already doing my own thing with Happiness is Homemade, and I’d been considering creating an app to do the same thing on my phone, since printing stuff up and writing things out is occasionally a pain in my butt. I thought I’d check out Woebot to see if creating an app was even worth my time.  (It is, but not because Woebot doesn’t fit the bill.)

Anyway, day before yesterday, Woebot brought up the topics of labels and mindsets.  I was aware that labeling is irrational. It’s an automatic negative thought. I just wasn’t aware of how frequently I still engage in it.  Mindsets, on the other hand, I was ignorant about. (And for a “smart” person, feeling ignorant is mighty uncomfortable.)

Here’s the 10 minute video that Woebot encouraged me to watch.  I strongly encourage you to watch it as well. It could change the way you think about yourself and life in general.

I lived with a fixed mindset most of my life. And, if I’m honest, I’m currently struggling to change to a growth mindset… but the struggle is good.

Fixed Mindsets Waste Gifts

When I was a freshman at Berklee and saw that there were so many musicians who I perceived to be better than me, I stopped trying in earnest to be a performer.

Seriously, the last time I performed music outside of a classroom setting–other than karaoke or singing along at Gymboree– was in high school.  That’s really fucked up for a person who was in all-state choir and regional honor bands all 4 years in percussion, if you think about it. Going to a world-renowned music school should mean you make more music, not less… but should statements are irrational garbage too.

Anyway — I had no idea that what I was butting up against was a fixed mindset. I believed I was “smart” and “a good musician.”  This meant that I couldn’t allow myself to be in positions that could prove otherwise.

When I didn’t do well in my Intro to Film Scoring class, I switched to a Music Business major. When I couldn’t do vocal sight-singing or ear training without playing everything at a piano, I learned every piece at the piano by myself so no one else would know that I couldn’t just sing the songs from looking at the page. My embarrassment was painful and intense.

I cheated myself out of so much growth there because I didn’t want anyone to know that I wasn’t good enough. Truth is: I couldn’t emotionally handle that I needed to struggle so much. I had always needed to work hard at improving my chops, but having to work hard to keep up with a class was foreign to me.  I had always excelled academically. It was part of my identity.

I thought that because music transcription and reading was so difficult for me, it was a sign that I just wasn’t meant for it. I allowed my mindset to close the door on something that I loved.  After seeing the talent that was all around me, all the time, I figured that music, no matter how much I loved making it, wasn’t for me.  And I didn’t even realize I was making a choice.

Music business was easy. It made sense, even if it could be misogynistic, cutthroat, and terribly ageist. So, I stopped making myself do the hard stuff, and I worked on a business plan… and on a ton of unpaid internships for internet radio dot coms that no longer exist. (When I think about how much I could have earned if I were given even minimum wage, it makes me sick at my stomach.)

Fast forward to adulthood and every time I had to face what I perceived to be an unforgivable failure — one that made me question my worth and identity — I became suicidal to the point of needing hospitalization.

The Gift Of Disability

Being diagnosed with seizure disorder caused by MS was a low point in my life, for sure. But I got used to having seizures. I got used to not being able to work a full-time job. I got used to my identity baseline being “not good enough.” And that was immensely freeing.

I decided that since I wasn’t living up to anyone’s expectations (least of all my own), I ought to change my expectations and try harder to make myself proud. And that’s what I’m doing now.

It’s not easy being a mother. It’s not easy sounding like shit on guitar or piano every time I play. It’s not easy learning Japanese on my cell phone or going to the gym 3-5 times a week whether I’m having seizures or not. It’s not easy to play make-believe with my son when I’m as pragmatic as I am. It’s certainly not easy to make myself proud.

But I’m doing the work… so someday, the things that are hard right now might be easy.

If I don’t, it’s like telling myself that it’s okay to be bitter and sad and unhappy with my appearance and life forever. And that’s bullshit. I’d rather choose struggle than familiar misery.

Besides, I won’t have any good stories to tell if I don’t choose worthy conflicts.

What are YOU struggling with today?

Giving Integrated Medicine A Shot

Tonight, I’m seeing a doctor that specializes in integrated medicine. She’s a medical doctor, a chiropractor, and she studied Chinese traditional medicine (acupuncture/acupressure/herbs) too. She thinks she can help me get my current comorbidity status to look a little less fucking scary before trying in earnest for a new party member. 

For anyone who hasn’t been playing along for several years, I’m looking at MS, seizure disorder, hypertension, high cholesterol, obesity, GERD, NAFLD, PTSD, and depression. Oh, and my immunoglobulin is crazy low, but that doesn’t have a name yet… Anyway, I’m trying to avoid type 2 diabetes, lose weight, improve fatigue, and, you know, just generally not die early from lack of exercise, shit nutrition, etc.

They took almost a full pint of blood for the majillion (okay 8 or 9) tests she had me get on Saturday. On the one hand, I’m excited by the thought that someone might actually help me figure out my health puzzle in a way other than just adding more pharmaceuticals to the mix. Feeling better would be awesome, but my pessimistic mind won’t let me believe it’s something that could actually happen.

(I’m actually kind of afraid of how harshly I know my inner critic would judge my present life if I suddenly had more energy. I know that it does shit like that because when I stopped having nearly constant seizures after coming off of Cymbalta and Abilify for a video EEG in 2014, I became suicidal because I believed I had been doing literally nothing but seizing and watching TV for about 4 years. That was an erroneous belief, BTW. I wrote the Tao of Rae and created the Paleo Compendium during that time, and that harsh critic is part of depression. Depression is a motherfuckin’ liar 98% the time.)

On the other hand, I’m really not looking forward to whatever crazy, pain-in-the-ass diet I absolutely know she’s about to put me on. If I were a betting lady, I foresee a recommendation of AIP or Wahls Way… because before she sent me for the tests, she said, “You know, most of your ailments can be traced back to gut health.” *GROAN*

Either diet makes me want to weep because my son’s diet is at least 50% Ritz bitz or cookie bars of some sort — which mean that my diet, for the last year or so, has increasingly become that of “whatever Henry has left over.”  This means major changes for my family. I’m not looking forward to them… but I am hopeful.  And, on the bright side, I’ve got a decent resource already ready for myself.

I’m not entirely sure how I’m going to deal with Henry’s diet in conjunction. I know that I can avoid eating Ritz Bitz, but I’ve also been reading up some on Paleo Mom‘s website, and I’m feeling allllll kindsa guilt over the fact that apples and bananas are pretty well all that my toddler wants to eat in the “fresh fruits and veggies” department.  Hell, half the reason that I feed him the Plum Mighty Snack Bars is because they’ve got hidden veggies in them and all kinds of vitamins and minerals.

I’m just fucking exhausted most of the time, and that’s no way to live. I just don’t know where the energy to clean out chamutz from my house and start exercising more is going to come from. I can barely keep up as it is.

And that’s why we finally got a Care.com account and are looking for a mother’s helper for a few hours a week… but interviewing candidates is another layer of awesome stress, coated in PTSD grossness.

Anyway, Henry woke up early from his nap, so I need to go do things in the other room with him.  How could I stay away from this face?

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All the things.

Argh! So many thoughts. So much going in my brain. Unfortunately, it’s not organized, really, so you’re getting a good, ole fashioned Rae braindump.

I woke up this morning well-rested, which almost never happens. I think it’s because of the new strains of medical marijuana that I’ve just gotten access to. (Harmony for daytime, which is a 1:1 THC/CBD strain, and Mag Mile, a heavy indica that puts muscle spasms down, for bedtime.)  Crazy thing, sleeping well because you’re properly medicated!

Even better, I woke up to find out that “marijuana cannabinoids hold the capacity to literally kill the brain inflammation responsible for causing cognitive decline, neural failure, and brain degeneration. ” {story here}  Put plainly, it means that if you have multiple sclerosis and you’re not using cannabis in some form, you’re missing out on something very helpful for you!

I mean, today I almost feel like a normal person who can get things done, even with a toddler. Almost. 🙂 I’m still blogging instead of doing dishes, so…

Anyway. I think the best thing I’ve done recently has been to really look at some of my worst case scenarios in an attempt to fight anxiety. And really, they’re not so bad.

If Trump & party decide to go full Nazi, Canada and Japan are both making it easier for Americans to immigrate. Sure, Adam and I would dearly miss our family and friends, but we started out in Los Angeles, without any of them.  Japan is lower on the list for us, since we don’t speak Japanese yet, and they’re easily within North Korea’s nuclear radius.

Then again, nuclear annihilation is instant and painless. We all have to die sometime. It’s the only guarantee in life. How great would it be to not worry about death hurting? We’d be dust before our pain receptors got the message. And the afterlife? If it’s actually the brain activity that exists after death, there’s no suffering there either, because there’s no brain.

And can you imagine not worrying about who and what you’re leaving behind, and how they’ll be because it all went kablooey at the same time you did?  WHEW.

I mean, it’s fucking dark to think this way, I know — but I’ve been dark as long as I remember being alive. There’s definitely something comforting to me about going out with the rest of humanity… In a really warped way of thinking, it’s kind of a merciful possibility. Nobody would have to deal with calling ScienceCare or planning a memorial for me. Less stress for everyone! (Dead people can’t stress.)

Of course, I’m thinking about this because the POTUS has some serious mental health issues, and North Korea is actively running tests for a first-strike nuclear program.

Oh, and because I read all of the bullshit linked in this blog entry on Facebook, which is both a good thing and a bad thing.

I took a FB vacation for a few weeks in February, and it was really helpful. It let me know that a huge amount of my anxiety comes from reading news that my friends think they should share… but I had to ask myself whether reading that stuff was making me happy or if any of it was helpful.  And the answer to both questions was a resounding “nope.”

My signal-to-noise ratio was all fucked up again.  I was seeing multiple stories about terrible things that I cannot affect every day, multiple times a day (since the stories pop up over and over and over again when people comment on them). Even though you train yourself to just scroll past, it still takes up mental/emotional bandwidth.

So, these days, I only hit FB when the kiddo is sleeping or I’m killing time in a waiting room or going to the bathroom or something.  Whether or not I read about it, antisemitism, poverty, class warfare, fascism, racism, and sexism are going to exist. I’d really rather spend my time dealing with shit I can affect, like potty training Henry. (Pun very much intended.)

He’s really amazed me, picking up potty training so fast.  He’s doing really good about staying dry as far as pee-pee is concerned, but he hasn’t learned how to poop on the potty yet.  I know we’re getting close though, which is both incredibly exciting and a very tiny bit sad. (He’s a big boy! He’s not a baby anymore.)  We need to pick him up some big-boy undies. Right now, I’ve somehow got him snowed into thinking that cloth diapers are big-boy pants. I know it’s not gonna last long. *lol*

Anyway, if you’ve stuck through this entry long enough to get to this point, you totally deserve a picture… because my boy is beautiful, and he makes me smile. I hope this pic makes you smile too. I took it this morning.

Henry 22 mo

Happiness Is Homemade.

Hey y’all. I wrote a whole entry today, and then I realized that it was full of information that I wouldn’t want a total stranger to read… so I didn’t publish it. I miss LiveJournal and FB’s privacy settings something fierce right now, but I’m also very glad that I’m starting to have more of a filter about what I’m willing to share with total strangers all over the world. It’s an important boundry to find.

I did, however, make something for myself that may be helpful for others, so I’m linking to it here.

Happiness Is Homemade — Daily Worksheet

This worksheet goes through the 4 exercises that I do every day to help me combat my brain’s natural tendency to gravitate to the negative.

3 Great Things About Yesterday requires you to remember good things about the immediate past. I’m a big fan of trying to focus on 3 Great Things that I had no control over whatsoever — like great weather, or getting a phone call from a friend. This exercise is about appreciation.

When I was at the absolute darkest part of depression, my list looked like this:

  1. Still Alive
  2. Not In the Hospital
  3. Adam Hasn’t Left Me

3 Things I Deserve A Sticker For requires you to think about what your day has been like and give yourself credit for doing things that may have been challenging. For a while there, “Changing poopy diapers” was on my list every day. For the last week, “Fighting the urge to check social media” has been on there.  I messed up a little today. :-/ But that’s how growth works — we try our best, we mess up, and then we try again as our best gets better. In any event, this exercise is about giving yourself credit where it’s due.

3 Things I’m Looking Forward To requires you to use your imagination to envision anything positive at all occurring in your future. This can be especially challenging if you’re deeply depressed or you’ve totally embraced nihilism and are just wondering at what moment nuclear annihilation is going to unmake our entire species.

I’ve had to remove the following 3 from my list because it was the same list every day for a long time, though they’re still there:

  1. Having good conversations with Henry.
  2. Henry using the potty consistently, like a big boy.
  3. A future with autonomous vehicles that I can access.

Gratitude Rampage is an open-ended exercise that you can do for 5 or 10 minutes — or more if you prefer. You simply sit there and list (for whatever amount of time you’ve chosen) everything you can think of that you’re grateful for/happy about in that moment.  The practice requires you to think about how you’re feeling in the moment and to not ignore the positive things in your life that are currently occurring.

If you can, print this out and fill it out by hand. Your brain gets more from writing than it does from typing.