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My first professional headshot minus the joy @2004

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My second picture @2008…the sparkle is trying to come back

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Recent headshot @July 2016 My eyes show that joy has returned and I am grateful.

 

 

I’ve waited a long, long, long time to take another professional headshot. And I had to come to grips with why–after all, I am checking off some great career bucket list items (to the tune of a 3-book series plus more). I had to ask myself why I didn’t want to take a new photo and could just settle with an old, outdated one (the one in the middle was taken in 2008).

Somewhere down the line, I decided that a picture is so one-dimensional. You can look at the smile and hair and make-up and just make up a story about that person based on what you see; you can decide that all is wonderful in the subject’s world. And it’s just not the case. And, in some pictures, like the smaller one above, which was taken at least 12 years before the larger, current one, you can see that there is no sparkle in my eyes. Well, I can see it. I was in the middle of some tough times–even though I needed a professional quality headshot for some great work I was given the opportunity to do. But to me, that picture captures my sadness, my confusion and my depression. Sure, I’m smiling, but that smile doesn’t fully capture who I know I am. It shows a repressed version of the me I’ve grown to know and cherish. It doesn’t show my natural exuberance. To me, it shows that life hit me–hard! I don’t see joy in my eyes, I see the weight of the issues I was carrying; I see the reminder of the numb feeling I couldn’t quite figure out. But then I look at the one I took just this month (July 2016) and I see the sparkle back in my eyes. I know this photo has been touched up a bit–and quite frankly, I’m totally okay with that–but even in the raw footage, I saw a glimpse of joy and happiness reflected in my eyes, the window to my soul. The joy does not just come from all of the exciting things happening to me right now, but from years of praying and pushing and pulling and fighting to be whole again. It’s a process, but I’m thankful for the journey. I have learned so much—and clearly have more to learn—and I have picked up some empathy and compassion for people struggling.

So, if you find yourself where I was in the first headshot–dulled by life yet still smiling for a photo–I encourage you to keep going. It didn’t happen overnight–and even now I’m not always tuned into that exuberant high–but God has helped me rekindle joy and has returned just a bit of sparkle to my eyes. I am thankful. It feels good to be joyous again.

“The greatest results in life are usually attained by… common-sense and perseverance.” –Owen Feltham (according to my July 2016 wall calendar!) Keep going, my friend!

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Mom and I celebrating my graduation from Dillard University in the glorious month of May…some 24 years ago

This time last year—as I struggled to get work done as I entered my 1-year-anniversary as a full-time freelancer/entrepreneur—I visited my therapist for a tune up. I’ve been a long-time supporter of sitting down and talking to a paid professional—whether you’re feeling blue or depressed, planning your next career move or marriage, or you just need some perspective. Therapy has helped me with grief, loss, transition, good changes and more.

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My Happy Light is one of the ways I get ahead of seasonal depression.

 

It’s that time of year…darkness comes earlier, the days are shorter, and if you’re like me, you feel like you sometimes just want to hibernate like a bear and sleep the entire winter away.

But, since I’ve been around the block a few times and am committed to living a healthier emotional lifestyle, I’m trying to get ahead of what can be seasonal depression. Some of the things in my tool kit include:

Turning on my “Happy Light”–it gives me more light on dreary days–especially now that I work at home much more.

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family_1Kayla_princess

…reflecting on what I’m learning as I turn 43 in a few days (this has been a challenging task to keep up with!) One of the themes of this week: Where has the time gone? (Look at lil K at about 6 weeks at her first outing…and now, at 3.5 years old! It feels like just a short time–well, most times it does! We have to learn to love the moments…

 

August 24: There are just some moments where you sit back and watch and realize that the years are truly short; days might seem long, but then you look up and it’s another year…or 11 years later. That’s one of the many thoughts that ran through my head today as I watched my best friend and her husband host a block party.  (How in the world did we get old enough to really host these things?) I smiled as I watched her very handsome 11-year-old son sit and talk with my husband—it feels like only a few short years ago I watched my college pal worry if her little shaking newborn was okay ( my mom said he needed to be swaddled!). How did this little baby get to be 11? How did my friend’s 9-year-old get to be a surrogate big sister for my 3.5 year old (big sister pushed my girl on a bike, big sister  helped my Kayla  in the jumping jack and took pride in having a little kid to show around). Wow! Wow! Wow! I’m reminded today to enjoy the moments…the crazy ones, the hard ones, the great ones…because we’ll look up and it will be 11 (or more) years later. Enjoy this moment!

August 25: Today was an excellent day! I was especially touched at the simplest yet kindest gesture at church. A woman wanted to share something with me about parenting. She leaned in and purposefully grabbed my hand and spoke softly into my ear. Awww, refreshing and reassuring. I appreciate her gentleness and care in how she said those words…even more than the words. It’s hard for me to take advice sometimes…but I so appreciated that she took the time to make sure I understood her words were meant with gentleness and sincerity. Oh, if we could all deliver messages like that maybe our words would be better received. I’m learning…

August 26: I am so looking forward to a little break this week and weekend. Kayla is out of school so we will hang out a bit at the end of the week; I will then journey to New York to see my other bestie. I need a break. It’s so nice to have something to look forward to—this helps me keep going. I must learn to plan treats and things to look forward to—whether big trips away or small lunch breaks. Looking forward to something helps!

August 27: Staying the course regardless of the signs we see is so important. On this weight loss journey, I’ve been weighing in each week. For the past 2 weeks, I have stayed the exact same weight. Now, this is a good thing when you’re not trying to lose, but when you’re working out, tracking what you eat, trying your “almost” best, it can be frustrating. But, this week, I stepped on that scale and was down a significant amount (for a woman about to be 43!) It showed. My hard work was not in vain. And in life, I’m learning things work like that silly scale. Sometimes our hard work and effort do not show on the day we expect it to (or in the way), but if we don’t get discouraged, keep doing what we know works, evaluate what isn’t working, we can do it. I look forward to another loss soon…but I will also learn to keep working regardless of what one system shows as progress (or lack of) and know that I am making progress. We’re going for progress, not perfection, says one of our weight loss counselors. Amen!

August 28: I celebrated a friend’s graduation from seminary today…a few months later than we initially planned, but we celebrated all the same. It put me on the way back machine from when I was in her shoes—a mere 10 years ago. Seems like a very long time, yet such a short time. Again, weird how time does that to you. My heart goes out to her as she stands at a crossroads—filled with decisions and emotions. I, too, had many of those same feelings…and I’m thankful that 10 years later I am still moving—even when the path seems unclear. Walking by faith—especially when the path seems unclear. Learning…

August 29: Kayla and mommy jumped rope today. Oh, the life of a carefree child. I love it. And jumping speed rope is a great cardio workout. Whew. I’m thankful that although I had postpartum cardio myopathy (yep, heart failure), I am here to jump rope with my child (and live to write about it!) Thanking God! Thanking God! Thanking God!

August 30—I got a treat today! I got to visit with my cousin. She shared stories about my grandmother and her mother, who were sisters. It was nice to hear more about my grandmother and the “good old days.” I was reminded even more that there is nothing new under the sun. We’ve got to share our stories to help those coming behind us.

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I’m seeing in color. I am living in color!
For anyone who has dealt with depression, you probably have more than an inkling of what it means to see in color (and to just see gray).
When I am depressed—especially for a prolonged period of time—things seem gray; unclear, uninteresting, dull…like I just want to go to bed. Even things I normally love take a whole lot of energy to complete. I once sat with a publisher client on the other side of a mirror at a focus group. The group was discussing Black women and Bible reading habits. Now anyone who knows me knows that those two subjects alone can keep me talking and thinking and excited. But, I sat behind those mirrors, looking at women getting excited about a possible project and I ate M&Ms. (those are focus group staples, by the way).  I wolfed those chocolate candies down probably three by three and just wished for the focus group to be over so I could go back home and sleep. My mom was sick at this time and I probably sensed her death was close, but I had been pretty down a few months before this time. The things that once seemed exciting to me were just not. Continue reading

How can you help seniors with depression?

How can you help seniors with depression?

I know I’m guilty of not always remembering the trials and tribulations senior citizens (usually those over 65 but sometimes younger) may encounter. But depression among seniors is a reality.

Consider this:

  • You’ve retired or been forced to stop working because of illness, a lay off or downsizing, etc.
  • You want to retire but are afraid of the financial ramifications (or the healthcare costs).
  • If you are retired, you don’t necessarily get out of bed at 6 a.m. anymore to go to an office filled with people (even if you don’t always like the people you work with, co-workers really are a family, a social network of sorts)
  • If you are retired, you are probably on a very fixed income. I know those of us who work are on fixed incomes, but we can do things to make more money (work overtime, get bonuses, get other jobs/sources of income.) But retired seniors are often relying on checks from pensions and social security, praying hard not to have an incident that requires more than their monthly budget.
  • As a senior—especially in this country—you are probably taking some form of medicine and the small print probably lists depression as a side effect.
  • If you’re not taking care of a loved one, you may feel as if you are not needed.
  • If you are taking care of a loved one, you may feel worn out, burnt out, saddened because of the loved ones illness.
  • You could be mourning the death of a loved one. You can feel like a burden to your relatives, even your own adult children who have commitments of their own.

Yes, depression among seniors is real. So how can you help?

Think about the seniors in your life and find ways to include them in your activities regularly. Invite them over for dinner, cook a meal and eat it with them, take them to a restaurant, or pick them up for church.

Share life with them. Share stories of your kids, give details about your day. In other words, treat them like you treat any other friend. Share with them.

Remember to also treat seniors with respect and not like they are children. In fact you might ask their advice or ask them to tell you about a time they had to deal with an issue you’re dealing with. They may enjoy sharing wisdom with you.

You will be blessed and so will your senior.

How do you help the seniors in your life? Leave a comment and share.

Happy New Year (2013!)

The first full week in 2013 was an incredibly good week for me…and I want to share what I’ve learned from it and why I may be feeling so good. Continue reading

I can be honest...most of my weight gain has been a result of emotional eating.

Naming your emotions and what causes them

 

Do you ever suddenly feel sad? Angry? Down? One thing I’ve learned to do…and still need to practice doing…is naming my emotions. If I begin to feel out of balance, I try to think about what has occurred recently. Did I have a troubling conversation a few moments ago? Did I read an article that tugged at my heart? Did I just try to balance my checking account and realize I have much less than I thought? Did something flash across my mind to make me worry?

 

Clearly naming the emotion and naming the situation that prompted the emotion doesn’t change the situation, but it can help you figure out what’s bothering you. And it could help you address the issue, pray about it specifically, or decide to not let it affect you (if possible).

 

On my journey to  flee emotional eating, naming my emotion is especially important. It helps me think a few minutes before I grab something sweet and really access the situation.

 

What strategies do you use to name your emotions?

Certainly, birthing little Kayla was a major life change...but how do the little changes impact depression and our well-being?

Sometimes I underestimate just how much change can feed into this emotional journey…sometimes prompting feelings of sadness, the blues and in some cases (usually with a few other prompters) depression.

 

And this goes for good and bad change. I think we really underestimate the impact of good change because it’s “good”…a wedding, a baby, a new job, a new house, a move, a new chance. I’ll never forget the sweet HR director at my first full-time job. She reminded me that I had just finished a graduate program, moved to a new city and started a new job in a month’s time. “That’s a lot of change,” she reminded me. She then encouraged me to give myself some time and mental breaks to adjust to all of this positive change. She was basically saying that it would be okay to feel out of sorts for a while.

 

So recently, about 18 years since that conversation with the HR manager, I experienced “good” change. My 2-year-old started going to daycare 3 days a week; great! But this also meant, I had to change my daily routine; I had to get her ready, prepare snacks for the long commute, and prepare myself to deal with Kayla more hours of the day (no doubt in traffic). I was tense and I was hoping Kayla wouldn’t feel abandoned. I also had to deal with Kayla’s original sitter’s sadness over the news that she’d only see Kayla once a week. I had to leave work 30 minutes early so that also put more pressure on me to get to work on time and to not take too long on lunch time errands and to focus a bit more instead of hanging out at the proverbial water cooler (and I love to chat!)…that’s a lot of change and new pressure!

 

Oh, did I mention that with my new schedule, my 35 minute bike ride before work is probably not possible…I’m going to have to figure out how to get my longer exercise days in when I don’t take Kayla or change to the 8 minute Billy Blanks tape (not a bad option…I just have to incorporate it into my mindset)…and missing workouts can make my stress grow and cause  me to miss that endorphone high. Then, add a doctor’s appointment to this…and my week was totally off and I felt it!

 

Change happens…often! And we have to remember to allow our bodies, minds/emotions to adjust. And the first step is recognizing that change has occurred…even good change!

 

How do you recognize when “change” is throwing you off?

Depression: When you feel better, do better….
And when you don’t, take the pressure off of yourself and sit down.

Ever since I’ve come out of the closet about depression (right around my 41st birthday in September 2011), I’ve become the depression queen  Not a title I was vying for like my beloved Homecoming Queen title of 1987 (yep, Homecoming Queens get depressed too…and since no one cares about that title after high school, why not slip it into a blog post…shamelessly)

Anyway, as Depression Queen, my friends—and sometimes just acquaintances– now tell me more and more when they think they are down, blue or fighting depression. These discussions help me reflect on depression as a whole and my depression in particular.

So here’s another nugget I’ve recently reflected on while helping a friend.

You know there are just some seasons in this life when you can do more. You have the energy and the will to organize those closets (ha! I’ve been wanting to do this forever…and two apartments later, I think I’m on the road to organization). You might decide to take up a hobby and can actually stick with it. You want to get out, you want to try a new recipe; shoot, you just might want to date and post your profile on match.com (another shameless plug for those of you who know my story!)

But then, there are times where just thinking of any of those tasks can send you into a tailspin. When I was in the middle of my depression state—the foggy, numb kind– getting out of bed to catch the #4 bus to head downtown (only a few miles from my house) was a major chore. If I got to work, I could consider this day a success. If I turned in my work on time, proclaim it a gold-star day. Thankfully, I worked in an environment with flexible deadlines. And quite frankly, my past work had proven I did make deadlines and I did do my work well so my bosses were generally less worried about my ability to deliver. This is where over achiever syndrome pays off; people know your ability and if you just do minimal work, you can still “fake” it for a minute and still look like you’re achieving something.

Of course, the high achiever syndrome does have a down side; you have to lower your own personal standards for yourself…and that can be hard and troubling and our biggest hurdle. Looking back, I know my work wasn’t my personal best during these years; perhaps I didn’t think of many new ideas and just completed the necessary tasks. But you know what, that was okay for that stage of my life.

So, that’s why this post is titled: when you feel better, do better. (just like knowing and doing better). But when you don’t feel well, lower your standards. Figure out what HAS to be done and do it. The other stuff (like the closet) will be there when you feel better. And trust me, organizing a closet won’t feel so painful when you’re healthier (Right now, I actually enjoy reading and trying to implement the helpful tips at container store.com).

Take a moment to go easy on yourself—it could help you get better sooner.

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