Saturday, 5 April 2014

Wellness







Recently I have been focusing a lot on my overall wellbeing. As I'm approaching the end of my school year, and therefore finals, stress is mounting. Times like these it's easy to forget to take care of ourselves, though they're also the most important times to do it. Here are the top three things I have been to look after myself lately.




1. Meditation


The past couple of weeks, I have started a guided meditation program with Headspace, which I've been doing (almost) daily. I first read about this web site/ app on Lulu's blog Berry Diaries. I've been really wanting to get into meditation, but often my body and mind both become restless, and I give up before really achieving anything. So starting with a ten day program of guided mediation for ten minutes a day was a perfect way to ease into it. I've now moved onto Take 15, the next program doing fifteen minutes for fifteen days, and am very excited!

2. Exercise


My current schedule is probably the most inactive one I've ever had, and my body was definitely feeling the difference. At first I was hesitant to join a gym, but eventually decided it was too important not to. I've actually become one of those people who enjoys working out. It's amazing how much better I feel when I'm more active.


I also recently attended a yoga class at Blue Cow Yoga. The class was physically challenging yet relaxing, and I just overall got a good vibe from my surroundings. If I could afford to continue after the first free class I definitely would! (And if you can I would definitely recommend them).

3. Writing


I have been keeping journals for many years. It is always a great way to check in with myself and sort out thoughts that seem blurry and confusing as long as they're only in my head. When I notice that I haven't been writing for a while, it is always a sign that there is something wrong and I need to check in with myself.



How do you take care of yourself in times of stress?

Monday, 24 March 2014

Spring

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After my vacation I was worried that so much time in the sun would make returning to chilly London feel unbearable. I was pleasantly surprised that the winter I left had become spring in my absence.

At the beginning of spring, I always feel like I'm waking up from a long nap. Winter is tedious. Winter makes me want to stay cuddled up in bed all day. But every morning that I wake up to a sunny day I find myself unable to stop smiling. It may be a notoriously rainy city, but there's nothing quite like a sunny spring day in London.

Friday, 14 March 2014

Chumbe Island Coral Park

My access to pictures from my time in Tanzania is limited right now but I couldn't wait to start sharing my experiences, so I'm going to start with out last day.

Just off Zanzibar, the Chumbe Island is a nature reserve with a protected coral reef sanctuary. The sand is soft and white, the sun bright (I have a lobster red back to prove it), and the water all shades of blue and teal.


Upon arriving we were greeted with fresh juice and shown to the bungalow which would be our's for the day. However there wasn't much time to settle in before heading back to the water for scuba diving. 

The coral and many different fish and sea creatures took my breath away. Much of the time I was practically swimming amidst a school of fish. I didn't have a waterproof camera, so sadly I can't share any pictures, but I can very highly recommend going scuba diving if you get the chance! 



After reluctantly leaving the water, we headed to lunch, where a wonderful table with all seats facing the ocean was waiting for us. It was the perfect way to sit back and really take in our beautiful surroundings. 

Once our bellies were full there was just enough time for a quick nap on the beach before our nature walk.


We learned a lot about the island, from the old coral which makes up a lot of the land to the coconut crab which briefly poked out of it's little rock cave to greet us.

But my favorite part was the view from the top of the light house. Getting to the top required going up a pretty extreme number of stairs, but it was definitely worth the climb.




A few hours later, I was sitting in the airport with fresh sunburn and a few lingering grains of sand still between my toes. We all wish we could have stayed longer, but Chumbe Island was a pretty perfect way to end the trip.

Monday, 3 February 2014

Grandpa




  

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/07/us/burglars-who-took-on-fbi-abandon-shadows.html?_r=0

Even after losing my grandpa late last year, I continue to learn more about him, and be amazed by him every day.

Sunday, 26 January 2014

Guest Post: Dominate Depression

Hi everyone, apologies for such a long absence. Lately I haven't been feeling as inspired to blog, so I thought better to give it a break than to continue with awkward and forced posts. I also haven't been keeping up with comments much, so if you're a new reader please say hello again so I can meet you and check out your blog! 

Today I want to share with you a guest post by TJ from Dominate Depression, where he shares his own personal experiences with depression, and his journey to recovery. If you've suffered from depression yourself, or are just interested in learning more, I would highly recommend reading through his site. 

Since I have written some about my medication recently, and how I have mixed feelings about it, I asked TJ to share his journey with antidepressants. Here is what he wrote: 


I suffered from depression for 11 years.  I was always a little against medication, because I also used to abuse illegal drugs because of my depression.  So I was anti-drug.

When my best friend that I knew for nearly 17 years died, I was alone and depressed.  I decided for one year I would do whatever it takes to cure my depression, and if I failed I would kill myself.

The first thing I tried was antidepressants. And the first thing I learned was that it was very easy to get antidepressants.

Being Prescribed Celexa

I went to see a psychiatrist.  She asked me about my symptoms.  After a few minutes, she told me a about a couple of antidepressants.  I picked one.  She wrote the prescription.  I was on my way.  

I took my first dose of Citalopram, or better known as Celexa.  I felt affects within days.

I started instantly feeling better, started writing poems, creating songs, and overall just going crazy with how much better I felt.

Without getting into too much detail, my libido also went through the roof.  Actually probably was too high.  Was freaky how it affected my libido.

Anyways, I felt good.  I wanted to go do stuff, like play guitar up in the mountains with friends.  So I did.

It was a weird sort of feeling.  It was as if I was OK, but my emotions weren't really full and rounded.  I simply felt fine, but I'm not sure I felt much, if that makes sense.  Like the feeling you get for the rest of the day after you ride the most intense roller coaster.  You feel good, but nothing really affects you anymore.  That's sort of how being on antidepressants felt.

After about a month and a half, the effects started to wear off. Hmm… That's weird.  So I went back to the Psychiatrist.

Upping The Dose.. Over And Over Again

She assured me that it was normal for the effects to start to wear off.  We increased my dosage, and I was on my way.  She was super friendly and basically would prescribe me whatever I wanted.  All is good.

So we upped my dosage.  The same things that happened the first time (increased energy, libido, etc) happened once again and I was fine.  Yes.

Except after another month or two, the effects started to wear off again.  Back I'd go to the Psychiatrist, and we'd increase the dose once more.

This went on for a while until all a sudden my dose was so high that I lost it.  I stopped sleeping, was super confident, got a ton of work done, and started talking to every stranger that walked by.  I went to the mall and asked every woman for her phone number.  I was ecstatic.

Then I crashed, and wondered what the hell happened.  So I went back.

Taking Other Medications To Counteract The First Medication

I had to see another psychiatrist this time.  The first one had moved on to another institution.

This new psychiatrist said that since I had a manic episode on antidepressants I had bipolar.  He started telling me how cheap Lithium was.

I remember telling him that I had researched Lithium before and didn't think it would work well with my chemistry.  My father had taken it and it really messed him up, and it just didn't feel right.  I tried to persuade him to let me try something else.

I'd ask a question and he'd refer to Wikipedia to give me an answer.  I wanted to try Lamotrogine instead.  He told me that Lithium was only $4 a month at Walmart and Lamotrogine was too expensive.  He wrote me a prescription for Lithium and sent me on my way.

The second day taking Lithium I had severe anger.  Some drunk people pulled up to me at a stop light and started saying something.  I leaned out of my car and yelled, "F#$* YOU I'M GOING TO KILL YOU" and when the light turned green, I veered out of my lane to start chasing them.

They got away, but my plan was to run them off the road and pull each one individually out of the car and assault them…  This is coming from a person that has never had road rage in his life.

I stopped taking Lithium and began to seriously consider whether or not I should be on Celexa.

Going Cold Turkey

One day I decided that since I was still depressed on Citalopram that I should probably stop taking it.  So I did. 

I walked into my internship and was so out of by the afternoon that people were looking at me with serious looks and wondering if I was ok.  I said I had to leave and started walking home.

Halfway home I started crying.  The pain was so intense it was unbearable.  As I got inside my house, I fell down on the floor and started staring at the ceiling.  I kept telling myself, "You've got to get up TJ.  You've got to get up."  It wasn't until 2 hours later that I was able to get up off the floor.

I had to resume taking Celexa to function.  So now I was depressed AND dependent on a medication that if I stopped taking would destroy my life.  Things were looking grim.

Using Nutrition and Supplements To Get Off Celexa

I started reading everything I could in Barnes and Noble about depression, as I had a half year left until the deadline I set for suicide came.  One concept that I read that never occurred to me before was that depression was often the result of vitamin, mineral, and amino acid deficiencies.  Not only that, but people were supposedly coming off of their antidepressants with no withdrawals.

I started slowly weaning off of Celexa while taking 5-HTP, B-Vitamins, Fish Oil, and L-Tryptophan.  I still experienced some withdrawal symptoms, but within a few weeks I got off of Celexa completely.  I actually felt like I was high a few times and would get lost just laying in bed listening to random trance music.  I felt pain all over that was hard to describe, and overall just felt spaced out.  It was like my brain was doing a deep reset of itself, except my brain was stuck somewhere in between.

I got the "zaps" which lasted for weeks afterwards and was one of the creepiest things ever.  I had always read about them, but you really can't describe what the zaps feel like until you experience it.  


Even after not having any withdrawal symptoms at all and feeling completely normal I'd get the random zap.  It just kept happening.  I sort of accepted I might have the zaps forever.  Then I remember about 2 months after quitting antidepressants realizing, "Hey, I haven't felt a zap in a while."

Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Flashbacks: Hailstorm in India


Lately there haven't been many things happening that I've felt inspired to blog about. So today I've decided to share the story behind this photo, which is one of my very favorites.

It was taken towards the beginning of a 30-day backpacking trip in India (I've posted about this trip before here and here). This is the view that followed an intense rain and hail storm.

The storm took us by surprise. The sky had given us minimal warning of what it was to come. Luckily the last of the group had just joined everyone on lower ground near where we planned to set up camp for the night, but the weather did not hold out long enough to put up our tents, or any other sort of shelter.

The rain cam down hard, quickly joined by large pieces of hail. We huddled together under the minimal protection provided by the trees. We had to take turns helping to protect our packs long enough to get out more layers to avoid hypothermia. Many of us were shivering. The ground was muddy and slippery. As someone who has never been very good at dealing with the cold, I was feeling fairly panicked.

When the rain finally showed the first signs of letting up, we jumped at the chance to get our tents set up. We could only do one at a time, with some of us holding the rain flies above others setting up the tent so they would stay dry. As the rain continued to slow, we focused on warming up, some huddled inside sleeping bags, others running laps around the camp.

And when the rain finally stopped, this is the view that greeted us.

The experience which had started of as scary and very stressful became one of the most beautiful sights I've ever seen.

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Brunch in Philadelphia



Since I'm headed back to Philly in a couple weeks, I thought I'd make a list of things I wanted to make sure to do while home (the Philly version of my London To-Do List), however as I started writing, it quickly turned into a list of my favorite places to eat brunch.

Brunch is the best meal anyway, so I was happy to change the post to focus fully on where to eat it.

1. Jones
In addition to traditional brunch foods, they've got amazing comfort foods like matzoh ball soup and mac & cheese, as well as more original dishes like seared tuna tacos. Regardless of which route you take, you really can't go wrong here.


Sabrina's is an adorable cafe with a few locations around Philly. They do an awesome cream cheese and lox (smoked salmon) platter, which I'm tempted to order every time I'm there. But I do have to mix it up with some Challah french toast sometimes!


The Trolley Car Diner is a staple of Mt. Airy, one of my favorite neighborhoods of Philly. They have been there for many years, and are actively involved in the community, advertising several ways that they raise funds for the neighborhood on their web site. You'll get classic diner food, friendly service, and if you're not completely satisfied after you can always visit the little ice cream shop they run just outside. 


The theme of this restaurant is chocolate. They have tons of incredible sweet options on the menu: many different kinds of hot chocolate, milk shakes, chocolate cocktails, sweet waffles, chocolate fondu, and more. However if you're not just in the mood for sweets, there are plenty of delicious savory options too. Personally I love their omelets, but you can also get bagels, paninis, and many more fantastic brunchy meals.