• Surviving Social Distancing with Depression

    It’s not a secret that I live with depression. As an introvert, social distancing is great – to a degree. However, being alone most of the time means I’m left alone with the thoughts in my head all day. (I’ve been warned that my mind is a dangerous neighborhood, and I shouldn’t venture there alone.)

    In order to deal with the social distancing aspect of COVID-19, I’ve created some rules to help me manage my depression:

    1. Shower every day.

    2. Brush your teeth twice a day.

    3. Moisturize. Moisturize. Moisturize. Every day. No matter what. This rule has served me well for 40-something years. I’m not going to fuck up my skin now.

    4. Put on fresh clothes each day. PJ pants or athletic shorts are fine.

    PJ Pants!

    5. Put on jeans to walk the dog. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with going out in PJ pants. My PJ pants are men’s medium and drag about 4 inches on the floor. I am not going to destroy them by dragging them around on the sidewalk.

    6. Eat a mostly balanced diet, well more balanced than not.

    7. Open the blinds every day. There is a sun out there.

    8. Do whatever workout Coach David assigns. (I’m training to do my first Ironman in August, and anticipate it will go on as scheduled.) It doesn’t matter if I don’t like it. As Rocky Kees used to say, “I didn’t ask you to like it. I told you to do it.”

    9. Try to talk with a real person each day – by phone or from at least 6 feet away.

    10. No more than 2 Zoom-based events per day. I have enough challenges with the voices that reside in my head. Pumping in too many extra ones will make me bat shit crazy.

    11. When in doubt, wash your dishes. Doing a simple task can make me feel like I’ve accomplished something worthwhile.

    12. It’s ok to do the bare minimum. Every morning, I create a to-do list on my white board. If I only have energy to do the bare minimum, and I need to spend the afternoon taking a nap, that’s ok.

    These are the rules that are helping me survive mostly sheltering in place. Hopefully they’re helpful to you too.

    Legal services are considered essential, but I’m limiting my contact with the outside world, trying to do my part to flatten the curve.

  • Save Aimee’s Farm Animal Sanctuary

    Aimee’s Farm Animal Sanctuary in Gilbert, Arizona is home to 100+ animals (horses, donkeys, cows, alpaca, goats, pigs, sheep, rabbits, ducks, chickens, turkeys, dogs, and cats), many of which have or have had special needs.

    There’s Adorabull, the calf who, last summer, was found abandoned in a ditch, umbilical cord still attached. When he came to the farm, he was so weak and sick he couldn’t even be bottle fed. He had to be tube fed. I laid with him for hours one Saturday morning, dotting on him like his mother would.

    Now, he’s a strong happy cow, who’s able to frolic with the other cows in the pasture. I call him “Addy.”

    Sweet Baby Adorabull

    One of the more recent additions to the farm is a lamb named Grace. Born with a crooked neck, she came to the farm sanctuary all the way from Texas. With cold laser therapy and massage, her head becoming more in alignment with her body. She doesn’t let her disability prevent her from running zoomies around the farm. She’s so cute!

    Grace always looks like she’s smiling!

    This farm is also a healing place for the community – people with various physical and emotional disabilities. Aimee regularly posts on the farm’s Facebook page about the how the farm helps its various visitors. She also offers tours and cow hugging sessions.

    Aimee’s Farm Animal Sanctuary is a healing place for me. My depression and anxiety are always better after spending a few hours at the farm. It’s always calming to visit the farm – whether I’m shoveling manure or singing to animal cuddled in my arms. I happily show up with my boots and gloves asking, “What do you need me to do?”

    I love this place. I love it so much that one of my requirements for my future dream house is that the property has to be closer to the farm than where I live now so I can visit more often.

    I want to help save this farm. Aimee’s landlord recently informed her that he sold the land to a developer. Aimee and the 100+ animals need a new home.

    Thanks to generous contributions and fundraising efforts, Aimee has raised close to $100,000. She’s researching possible properties every day. The more money she can put down for a down payment, the more options available for the farm’s new home.

    Photo courtesy of Aimee’s Farm Animal Sanctuary

    Here’s how you can help Aimee’s Farm Animal Sanctuary:

    Direct Donation

    You can make a donation directly to the farm through their website or PayPal. You can also send money using Venmo (@Aimeesfarm).

    The farm sanctuary is 501(c)(3) charity so all donations are tax-deductible.  

    Smile.Amazon.com

    You’re already shopping on Amazon. When you shop through Smile, you can designate a charity to benefit from purchases that are Smile eligible. You can designate Aimee’s Farm Animal Sanctuary as your charity here.

    If your workplace purchase supplies on Amazon, please ask them to use Smile and support Aimee’s Farm as well.

    The Farm’s Amazon Wishlist

    The farm always needs supplies. Please check out their Amazon Wish List if you want to purchase one of the many things the animals need.

    The farm regular puts out requests for towels and blankets. If you’re cleaning out your linen closet, please see if the farm sanctuary could use them.

    Special for Law Firms: CLEs for Charity

    I want to do whatever I can to help save the farm. I’m offering an hour of continuing legal education  in exchange for any law firm donating $500 to the farm. Yes, some of the CLEs I’m prepared to do fulfill our ethics requirement. If I’m in your city, I can do a CLE in person; otherwise, I’ll present it over Skype or Zoom.  

    Please follow Aimee’s Farm Animal Sanctuary on Facebook for more opportunities to help and updates about what’s happening at the farm.

  • How I Manage Stress

    Yesterday, my coach asked me how I manage my stress. I instantly responded:

    Poorly.

    That’s actually not true all the time. When I feel solid and secure, I can be so confident it’s uncanny.

    I know that feeling.

    I’ve felt that feeling.

    Just not lately.

    Always Been High Strung

    My standard response when someone asks me how I handle stress is, “Not gracefully.” Usually, I find a way to muddle through, but it’s not pretty. I’ve been living with anxiety since I was a wee one – like before age 10.

    For as long as I can remember, my modus operandi has been to have a plan for escape – physically, emotionally, and/or chemically.  A lot of my -isms (alcohol, drugs, eating disorders, and self-injury) were ways to self-medicate. When I got into recovery and took away those vices, I still had to deal with my emotions and life’s challenges.

    Here are some of the things I do lately to manage my stress.

    Sweat

    Starting in gymnastics and now as a triathlete, I workout 5-6 days per week. Working out gives my brain an endorphin boost it needs, and it gives me a break from the rest of my life. There’s not much I can do while I’m in the pool except swim.

    It also gives me a safe way to vent emotions. The day after I got my California Bar Exam results (I failed), my coach had assigned a 17-mile run. I ran one of my fastest paces to date and I got flash of inspiration about how I was going to tell my friends. Pounding pavement for those hours gave me the much-needed break I needed.

    Sweat keeps me sane.

    Lists

    My life is managed with lists:

    • Weekly to-do lists – x2
    • Daily to-do list – on my whiteboard
    • Medication checklists – one for the hooman, one for the hound
    • Workout checklist
    • Program checklist

    If I didn’t have my lists, I’d never keep track of who took which medication or whether I did everything I needed to do on any given day. My stress is related to anxiety and depression, both of which make me forgetful.

    My lists also give me a semblance of control over what I’m doing, which is reassuring since lately I’ve been feeling out of control. There are days I wish I could emotionlessly work through my lists without dealing with my feelings. Thankfully, I have loving people around me who remind me that I’m not a robot.

    I love this photo of Jeff and me from an Ignite Phoenix #17 Speaker Bootcamp. Photo by Brandon Larkin. (Creative Commons License)

    Selective Peopling

    I’ll be the first to admit that I’m an avoidant and an introvert. I’m not a fan of people in general, particularly in crowds or places with a lot of noise. However, I selectively like individuals. These are the people I want to spend time with, and from whom I’ll ask for help. It’s so reassuring to be around and/or text with people I love. They get me.

    Every year, I have my jar on my nightstand and I add happy memories to it throughout the year, and then on New Year’s Eve, I read through them. One thing I noticed when I reviewed the memories from 2019, was that a lot of them had to do with hugging people.

    Hugs keep me sane too.

    Short-Circuit

    On rare occasions, my stress gets so bad that I emotionally crash and burn. I panic to the point where I have trouble focusing and I can barely eat. (That’s how I managed to drop 10 pounds in law school.) When my appetite drops out, that’s my tell that I need to take swift deliberate steps to counteract my stress.

    Sleep

    Sometimes the best thing I can do when stress hits hard is sleep. When I’m asleep, it means my muscles are relaxing and I’m taking deep breathes – two things I need when I’m stressed. (A friend recently suggested I add massage to my self-care routine, probably for the same reason.)

    Stress is exhausting.

    An hour-long nap can make a world of difference.