whims + courage with Tania Wojciechowski

For Tania Wojciechowski, "The courage comes pre-packaged" with whims. If there's fear, it might not be a whim. Whoa. For me, this brings us to the essence of whim-finding. Whims feel good. And, as Tania says here, "If it doesn't feel like a whim, it may not be the best thing for me." Tania goes on to talk about how following a whim led her to co-found and produce a creativity retreat for women, twice (!), in another country. 

Tania runs Manusmade: create your sanctuary, a business and concept rooted in getting out of your head and into your hands. Tania invites us into discussion at The Harvest Table at Manusmade. She is a home stager and created a series of organizational videos based on the Marie Kondo book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up this year: her video demonstrating decluttering clothes using the Konmari method currently has nearly 30,000 views.

Whims and courage: a perfect pair.

Depression: There Is So Much More To You

Flower Girl by Flora at  HappyDoodleLand  on etsy

Flower Girl by Flora at HappyDoodleLand on etsy

In the summer of 2012, I started writing about depression. Ultimately, I wrote thirteen articles that were published monthly at the online magazine Scoutie Girl.
A part of it includes my experience with a long, dark episode of depression. But mostly, my goal has been to remind myself of good things to do and help others to help us when we’re unwell: something I couldn’t do when I was down.
The first full week of October 2015 encompasses Mental Illness Awareness Week in Canada, so I thought, why not republish these? So, here they are. Where possible, the articles exist as they did in 2012-2013, with links to originals.

Depression: There Is So Much More To You

When I first started talking about writing this series on depression, I was nervous. I mean, it really was a kind of “coming out.” But it felt like the right thing to do. I mean, if I can’t find some way to talk about what I went through, if I can’t share some of what I’ve learned with others, what would have been the point?

A good friend asked me early on, “Do you really want to be known as ‘That Depression Girl’?”

Well, no, of course not; there are so many other parts to my life. To each of our lives. But if carrying the label of “That Depression Girl” for a while means that I can share some of what I went through, then I’ll deal with it.

When we go through something big — say, a medical diagnosis and all that that involves — it changes us. For me, depression became that thing that was ever-present in my life. It was the thing to deal with, to treat, to eat and exercise for, and to connect spiritually around. And there was a time when I didn’t really believe that depression isn’t the only gig in town. It isn’t. I also write, edit, plan events, ski, swim, love, bake, sew. . . and the list goes on. Everything feels better when I feel better. And feeling better, though it took focusing on who I am and how I operate, and needs tending, became reality.

Remember that when you’re unwell, it is possible to start feeling better.

You might not move completely on from your symptoms, and you might have to attend to continuing to feel good, but you are so much more than a diagnosis. Remember this.

You are so much more than a diagnosis.


I am writing this because I had an experience. I am in no way a medical professional. I had an experience, and I have learned a lot from it, and that’s the foundation of all of this.


Note:

If you are in crisis, follow this link to find someone to call.
Simple Mayo Clinic depression self-assessment 
Mental Illness Awareness Week

This article originally appeared in July 2013 at Scoutie Girl.

Depression: How To Talk To A Loved One Who Is Unwell

Empathy by  Vicky Alvaraz  on etsy.

Empathy by Vicky Alvaraz on etsy.

In the summer of 2012, I started writing about depression. Ultimately, I wrote thirteen articles that were published monthly at the online magazine Scoutie Girl.
A part of it includes my experience with a long, dark episode of depression. But mostly, my goal has been to remind myself of good things to do and help others to help us when we’re unwell: something I couldn’t do when I was down.
The first full week of October 2015 encompasses Mental Illness Awareness Week in Canada, so I thought, why not republish these? So, here they are. Where possible, the articles exist as they did in 2012-2013, with links to originals.

Depression: How To Talk To A Loved One Who Is Unwell

You are well. But a loved one has come to you, delicately (or not-so-delicately) telling you that she has been feeling depression symptoms.

What do you do?

To begin, consider that it probably took a lot of courage and strength to, first, admit that there was something wrong. And then, to get help in determining exactly what is wrong (she may still be in this process). Next, talking about it can be quite difficult. Being your kindest, most compassionate self is the best place to start.

Say, “I’m so sorry to hear that.” Tell her, “I care for you.” Say, “I’m so happy that you said something.” Ask, “Is there a way that I can help?” and (because she might be feeling overwhelm and not know the answer to this right now), “Will you tell me when you know how I can help?”

You care, so, do not say, “I was wondering when this would happen,” or “This is all my fault. I should have ___[fill in the blank]___.” It’s not going to help anyone for you to say, “Have you tried looking on the bright side?” or “I know just how you feel,” or “Why don’t you go for a walk? That always perks me up.” It’s no time for blame, declaring, “If you hadn’t been in that relationship/ moved away/ quit working out, you’d be fine.”

Now is the time to turn up your best listening skills. Hone your open-ended questioning talents.

Ask, “How does it feel?” and really listen to the answer. Even if you have an experience with depression, or feeling “down,” your loved one is having her own experience, which might not resemble yours at all. Try to be open to hearing about where she’s at right now.

Ask, “Have you talked to your doctor?” and follow up, asking what the doctor (or other health professional) has said or recommended. Ask about a treatment plan, and about how your loved one feels about participating in it. Show interest for her care. Offer rides or other support. Ask if she is eating well. Offer to bring food over; or better yet, tell her that you will bring food over, and if she doesn’t feel like answering the door that day, agree on a place where you will leave the food. And then do it.

Remember that this is not about you.

Your loved one might exhibit behaviors that are not normally expected or acceptable to you (like not answering the phone or door). Know that she is unwell. She isn’t intentionally being mean to you. Try to be your best generous self while she gets better. Make yourself available to her when she reaches out. It’s not going to be easy, and it’s likely harder for her as she recovers from what’s going on in her whole self.

She will be tremendously grateful that you stuck around to see her through this.


I am writing this because I had an experience. I am in no way a medical professional. I had an experience, and I have learned a lot from it, and that’s the foundation of all of this.


Depression: How To Talk To A Person Who Is Unwell

Umm. notecard by Nadiah Kimie at  nukilan  on etsy.

Umm. notecard by Nadiah Kimie at nukilan on etsy.

In the summer of 2012, I started writing about depression. Ultimately, I wrote thirteen articles that were published monthly at the online magazine Scoutie Girl.
A part of it includes my experience with a long, dark episode of depression. But mostly, my goal has been to remind myself of good things to do and help others to help us when we’re unwell: something I couldn’t do when I was down.
The first full week of October 2015 encompasses Mental Illness Awareness Week in Canada, so I thought, why not republish these? So, here they are. Where possible, the articles exist as they did in 2012-2013, with links to originals.

Depression: How To Talk To A Person Who Is Unwell

You are well. Not a problem at all (well, give or take. . . ), but you hear a rumour that your colleague is “off her rocker.” “Crazy.” “Having a nervous breakdown.” “On ‘stress leave’.” Actually, he has been depressed.

What do you do?

For starters, curb the euphemisms and slang, and start thinking that there might be a medical diagnosis; that there might be more going on than you could possibly know about. Second, consider that the person is going through something that she might not fully understand herself. Third, find compassion and let that guide you.

No one wants to feel like a jerk and say the wrong thing.

Or, be in the situation of wanting to say something but being struck dumb by fear and saying nothing.

Here are some scripts that can help.

What to say to a colleague who has been away from work and you have heard has been unwell.

Say, “Hello.” You might be surprised to hear of the number of people who get tripped up right here.

Say, “It’s good to see you.” He has probably heard “How are you?” so many times by health professionals that he has started answering it truthfully, instead of our western custom of replying with, “Fine, thanks.” Unless you have a friendship that supports honest conversation and you truly want to know details, and are prepared to hear him kindly, leave the “How are you” for now.

Alternatives to “How are you?”

Most people who have been ill dread this question. There is that moment where we think, “Does she really want to know? Or is this the ‘social’ version where I say ‘Fine, thanks?’” It’s confusing. If you’re looking to engage after, “Hello,” try these instead.

“How was your drive in today?” (Or bus ride, or walk.)

“How is today?” (It deflects the topic from them, and they can go anywhere they want with it.)

“How is your dog?” (Or cat, or goldfish.) Pets, and talking about them, usually make people happy; pets give a lot back and don’t need too much from us.

The point here isn’t the answer to the question, it’s that you’ve just made some effort toward social interaction with someone who is trying really hard to be a part of healthy society right now.

What to say to a colleague who has “come out” to you as unwell and is recovering through mental illness.

Say, “I’m happy to have you back,” and “I’m sorry that things have been tough.”

Ask, “Do you know of something that I can do to help?” Perhaps helping them to have a quieter workspace might help them to concentrate. Maybe planning more “social moments” (like coffee breaks, if your group doesn’t normally take them together) will help them to better feel a part of the workplace. Invite them to things that you normally would, even if you know that they might not want to come. It’s possible that just having you know that they’ve been unwell (and your kind reaction) will help them to feel better about being back.

Know that you will be putting in more work than you would with a colleague or friend who is well.

And even if it doesn’t look like it, know that she is putting in a lot of work to be there with you too. Expect (and respect) that she might not have a lot to give back to you right now. It will come, though. She will remember you as someone who was kind to her when all of her effort went into just showing up.

What are your alternatives to “How are you?” How else have you shown your support for a colleague who has been away sick? Let’s keep talking about it.


I am writing this because I had an experience. I am in no way a medical professional. I had an experience, and I have learned a lot from it, and that’s the foundation of all of this.


Depression Recovery: How To Keep Feeling Good

Red Tea Pot (cropped) by Risa Salsberg of  ediblepoetry  on etsy.

Red Tea Pot (cropped) by Risa Salsberg of ediblepoetry on etsy.

In the summer of 2012, I started writing about depression. Ultimately, I wrote thirteen articles that were published monthly at the online magazine Scoutie Girl.
A part of it includes my experience with a long, dark episode of depression. But mostly, my goal has been to remind myself of good things to do and help others to help us when we’re unwell: something I couldn’t do when I was down.
The first full week of October 2015 encompasses Mental Illness Awareness Week in Canada, so I thought, why not republish these? So, here they are. Where possible, the articles exist as they did in 2012-2013, with links to originals.

Depression Recovery: How To Keep Feeling Good

You’ve been down that long road. You have survived feeling slow all the time, mental confusion, low mood, sleep problems, and inability to make your body move. You found your way out of the rabbit hole. Your body and mind are working well again, and for the most part, you’ve been feeling pretty good.
So. . . what now?

Now, you stay the course.

It’s glib of me to have written that, and I know that it takes focus to follow. Keep the following points in mind, even though you’re feeling good now, and it will be easier to stay the healthy course.

Structure. Find a way to keep the good habits in your life and routine.

Meds or alternative therapies. Are you feeling good? Then stick with your professionals and their recommendations. It sounds counter-intuitive, but maintaining professional care when you’re feeling good can be preventative.

Good food. Sure, it has been a while since caffeine has brought you flying up and right back down again. But do you really want to start a cycle like that? It’s probably a good idea to still avoid it for the most part. And it seems easier to eat packaged foods sometimes, but whole foods are going to feel so much better.

Exercise. It is good for all of us. And it feels good.

Faith. It feels better to make a connection.

Friendships + social groups. These are the people who can help you to feel better, through anything that’s going on.

Talking about it. It’s the twenty-first century: people are not sent away due to mental illness anymore. Even though it’s not commonplace conversation (yet), when you’re feeling good is the time to let others in on what it has been like for you. And maybe you can make it just a little bit easier for someone who is currently going through something, just by opening the lines of communication.

Ultimately, good self care is important to every one of us (try googling “self care ideas.” I did, and came up with 181 million hits). I believe that attentive self care is critical when you have already dealt with compromised health. Pay attention to your early warning signs. Know exactly what they are, and cut them off at the pass. Treat what needs treating. Set yourself up for success in good health, and celebrate in feeling good!


I am writing this because I had an experience. I am in no way a medical professional. I had an experience, and I have learned a lot from it, and that’s the foundation of all of this.