What Do You Do When You’re Fighting the Blues? Three Strategies That Help Me Every Time

I took a few comp days off work to savor the colors and smells of autumn. My plan was to return to a teeny cabin in Seward to write and relax before the first snowfall.

I envisioned this.

And then I woke up.


Snow continues to fall on this 23rd day of September in Anchorage, and is accumulating in great quantities, and not far behind comes the bitter cold and constant darkness that marks Alaska’s winters. It will be May before  Alaskans can leave their homes with simple shoes and a thin overcoat again.

I have  lived in Alaska for more than 44 years of my life. You’d think I’d get used to it, right?

Sadly, I do not.  Seasonal Affective Disorder pulls me in like it does so many others, and by April, I hardly recognize my darker personality.  Sleepless. Sluggish. Snappish.

Fortunately, I’ve found a few things that have helped.

1) I become deliberate about what I watch on television and read.

For example, right now, I’m reading The Paris Wife, a well-written novel about Ernest Hemingway’s first wife.  It’s a dreary read, and had I known winter was making an early arrival, I’d have started with Justin Halpern’s I Suck at Girls. Much funnier. And I re-read my favorite post on zenhabits.org called  Gett Off Your Butt: 16 ways to get motivated when you’re in a slump.

2) I exercise outdoors.

I’m no marathon runner, but getting my heartrate up while ingesting a little vitamin D is my best antidepressant.

3) I stay connected.

It’s so counter-intuitive when I’m low and want to shut myself off from humans. But being with friends, family, being with my blogging community is critical to pushing through the funk.

What do you do when you’re fighting the blues?

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Is it Loneliness or Love? Why Do We Cling to Relationships That Are Bad For Us?

The Way You Treat Yourself Sets the Standards for Others-Sonya Friedman

It’s been years since I have worked professionally with women in abusive relationships. I  miss connecting with women and finding out what’s important to them, hearing their stories of strength and survival.

I got my chance. Some weeks ago, I received an e-mailed invitation from Michael Weinberg of Wizpert to join his crowdsourced compilation of blogger expertise. So I did it. I signed up and can be found at http://wizpert.com/lizbethmeredith.

Now, a few times a week, I open a space in my schedule and offer an ear. I keep hearing a familiar trend:

Dear Liz,

I just learned my boyfriend is married after a wonderful year of dating. He didn’t tell me. I found out through a friend. Now he’s stopped calling me. How can I stop missing him? I wish he and I could talk. I wish I didn’t miss him.

Dear Liz,

My boyfriend knows my first relationship was violent, so he never hits me. Usually he’s good to me, but then he calls me names. Once he told me to step into traffic and kill myself. I don’t understand. I don’t feel safe. How can I save this relationship?

Dear Liz,

I’ve been dating a coworker briefly that my family objects to. I’m in graduate school. My family doesn’t like that he has tattoos from head to toe, and that he’s never looked beyond work at the local grocer. I wish they weren’t so judgmental, so I’m going to take a break from my family. He’s moving in with me now. I do worry that intellectually, he doesn’t keep up with me and doesn’t value what I do. How can I be less judgmental? Am I wrong?

I’m left to wonder why we as women are so committed to twisting ourselves into a pretzel in order to maintain relationships that are not good for us.

Are we still so financially dependent?

Is it the biological clock, quietly urging us to go forth and make babies that trips us up and helps blind us to the realities?

Then I look back into my own youthful dating experiences, and remember the desperation with which I clung desperately to dysfunction after my violent marriage ended. The marriage and family therapist who was two-timing me. The humorous alcoholic Prince Charles look-alike who no-showed for half our dates.

Truth be told, it wasn’t until I was an older woman, financially more secure, and with zero possibility of further procreation that I made consistently better choices based on knowing my worth.

What do I want young women to know?

Dear Young Woman,

You are special. You have a unique contribution to bring your world. You deserve to be treated well. You deserve rich lifelong friendships. Hobbies.  A career.
I hope you like yourself. Self-esteem is something that fluctuates like weight, but is your responsibility and yours alone to manage. Low self-esteem won’t cause you to be a victim of emotional, physical, or sexual abuse, but it will put you at risk for staying in it.
Things can get better with time.  You will learn that you may fall in love with someone  who is bad for you, but as an adult, you will choose what you know is right above what your emotions dictate.

Beware of the date that wants all of your time right away. Who keeps you away from family and friends. Who begins to work on killing your feelings of self-worth with small putdowns about your character and your abilities.

If you’re feeling confused or downright depressed, do reach out. You are not alone.

A relationship can be a wonderful thing, but it will never be everything. It cannot fulfill all of your needs.

Do take the time to get to know you. Set your goals for yourself. Who do you want to be? What qualities do you want to bring to a relationship?  Then and only then, when you know your own value will you be able to define what qualities you’d like your partner to have.

Take your time. Discriminate. When seeking a partner, you’ll need to be comfortable searching for a person who shares  your values and goals. You are worth it. And keep in mind that there are far worse things than being alone, like being lonely and undervalued while in a relationship.

If you put a small Value on yourself, rest assured the world will not raise your price. Unknown

What advice would you give a young person in search of a relationship?

A site I like- Loveisrespect.org

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Finding Your Other Half/ Cheryl Strayed and Other Lost-and Found Sisters

I would like more sisters, that the taking out of one might not leave such stillness– Emily Dickinson.

Today, I got a Facebook message from a friend sharing the story of Wild author Cheryl Strayed finding her long lost half-sister as reported to the National Public Radio.
I’m a sucker for stories about reuniting with long lost family members.
For those of you who haven’t had the chance, I encourage you to read Wild, an adventure-filled and unforgettable memoir. One reader of the book recognized that she and Strayed share a father, and sent her a message online. While the sisters have continued communication online for the past couple of months, they haven’t made plans to speak by phone or meet.
Shortly after reading the story, I got a text from my adult daughter who had just been found by her 12 year-old half-sister from Greece on Facebook. She was thrilled, and they communicated online back and forth, exchanging email addresses, favorite colors, hobbies, and hopes.
Both of my girls lived in Greece for two years in 1994, when their non-custodial father abducted them on a visitation and disappeared.  
Did you know about me was one of the first questions my daughter was asked by her sister today.

I asked the same question of my newly-found younger sister in 1985. She and I were also separated by a parental kidnapping, and I found her and my brothers with the help of a lawyer when I was 20. Did you know about me?

My younger sister and I /2013

In other words, is it okay if I intrude on your life?  Can you please put aside why we didn’t grow up together and move forward? Would you be willing to create some space for me in your future?

It’s a vulnerable position to be in when you’re reaching out to a newly located loved one, no matter what the reason was for the initial separation. But it can be the start of a wonderful new beginning.  It was for me. I  sure hope it will be for them.

Do you have family members you’ve considered re-connecting with? What’s prevented you from doing it?

Thanks always for your commenting and sharing.

Feasting for Fiji and Pack for a Purpose/ How Increasing Literacy May Impact Domestic Violence

At work, I just wrapped up my part of Feasting for Fiji, our second annual fundraiser to support  Pack for a Purpose create a library in a remote village. Our event pairs juvenile delinquents with some dynamic probation and detention staff to host a barbecue for community partners. 

Children in Lao village with the books last year’s fundraiser bought them.

Education and freedom from domestic violence have been inextricably linked (in my mind) for a long time.

In the spring of 1991. I was a year out of my marriage. I food-stamped and pell granted my way to college and took a Literature of Appalachian Women class where the late author Sidney Saylor Farr came for a visit from her post at Berea, Kentucky.

After giving a reading from her book MORE THAN MOONSHINE, Ms. Farr told us the story of how she married at age 15 in rural Kentucky. Her older husband dominated her.  When she raised money to get her high school diploma by ironing shirts for the pastor’s wife, her husband beat her. Later, just on the brink of taking her final exams,her husband threw her books in the trash and set it on fire. Undeterred, Ms. Farr said she wrote the school and said her books had burned in a fire.

Author Sidney Saylor Farr (center)

Sidney Saylor Farr finished her education, left her husband,  and kept moving forward, eventually becoming a staff member at Berea College and an author of four books. 

As a domestic violence advocate, I experienced a sharp increase in the number of calls from university professors requesting pamphlets for students around the time of finals week. “Her boyfriend lurks in the hallways,” one told me of her student, “and she can’t concentrate on her schoolwork when she’s worried about his reaction to her possible success.”

Super creepy.

What is it about an education that so threatens a controlling partner or an oppressive government?

An good education will: 

  • Challenge the student to question authority.
  • Increase opportunities for self-sufficiency.
  • Build self-confidence.
On a global scale, children of women in developing nations who have completed primary school are 40 percent less likely to die before the age of five (Plan, ‘Because I am a Girl: Girls in the Global Economy’ 2009).

Is an education a guarantee that a person will not be abused in their lifetime by an intimate partner?

Absolutely not. But simply having an education can provide a way out of the hopelessness and isolation that accompanies abusive relationship.

Would you like to support your community’s efforts to increase high school graduation rates?
Google your town/city’s name and the word literacy and see what you come up with.
Are you planning a vacation overseas? Consider helping Pack for a Purpose fulfill their mission. It’s a great way to make a lasting connection.

And finally, if you’d like to take a free online course from a top university instructor, go to www. coursera.org. It’s a fabulous resource.

Thanks always for stopping by. Feel free to Like my author page at https://www.facebook.com/lizbethmeredithfan