I'm Nikki, a creative old soul who loves tea time, tip-toeing through gardens, mounds of books, swaying to records, watercolors, sunset walks with our three yorkies, and star-gazing with Paul. This blog carries snippets of my life with just us two (five with Rusty, Lucy, & Ethel) - I hope it brings you happiness as you snuggle in with something warm and delicious and begin reading. Enjoy, friends!

the blog!

If I had to choose:

Nurture: The Next 6 Months

It’s been just about six months since I began getting help for my depression and anxiety. I had just come back from Walt Disney World with my darling cousin — a place you would think would cure whatever was going on with me, but it didn’t — and I was desperate for help.

I’ve written about my depression and anxiety in past posts (here and here), but at the time it didn’t really register that it was something I needed to take care of. I’ve been experiencing depression and anxiety practically my whole life; I just never knew what it was. As I’ve been going through this process, moments in my childhood have come back to me and right away I recognize the symptoms of depression and anxiety. It’s been fascinating. But this time around, it didn’t go away.

On December 21, I remember suddenly feeling odd. I went from my office to the living room and buried myself in Paul’s arms, just repeating, “Something’s wrong with my brain. I don’t know what’s going on.” And it never stopped, becoming so severe by Christmas Day that I was afraid to be alone with my thoughts. I began to crumble, completely falling apart from the person I thought I was. I was literally becoming a shell of myself and since then, I’ve been slowly trying to rebuild myself from the inside out.

It has been a slow process, and it’s still slow, and it’s probably going to continue being slow. But, I’ve accepted that.*

I’ve been given the gift of time, freedom, and space to work through this. I’m not teaching anymore**, Paul found a much less stressful job that he really enjoys, and is also currently waiting to see his published book in print (more about that in another exciting post!), and thankfully, this new pace of life is working well for both of us. I’ve been able to spend the last six months slowly becoming me again. I’ve shed layers, built new ones, discovered much more about myself than I ever thought, and for the first time last night, I wrote in my diary that I finally love myself. Friends, I don’t think I’ve felt that way since I was a kid. It’s been incredibly freeing to be able to say that.

Every now and then, I notice a change in my thoughts, my behavior, my reactions, my actions, etc. From January to the majority of May, I was in fight mode. I was constantly battling my thoughts, trying to be patient with myself then getting mad at myself for not “getting better,” feeling worthless at times, losing hope, and then getting stronger to continue to fight. It’s been exhausting to say the least. I fought to be able to sit in my office and paint. I fought to not be tired (is that even possible?). I fought to be able to sit outside without guilt. I fought to stop caring what others thought of me. I’d sleep the majority of the day following another long exhausting battle with my thoughts. Although I was progressively getting better, I was always exhausted from the constant fighting.

For the last three to four weeks, however, there’s been a shift. I thought I didn’t need therapy every week, and then after so many weeks of feeling like the ground was caving in again, I went back weekly and it’s been a game changer. I don’t think I’ll ever stop going to therapy. I also figured out a helpful way to view my thoughts and emotions without getting mad or annoyed with myself: I picture my emotions like the Disney Inside Out characters! I don’t use them all, just Anxiety, Sadness, Happy (I switched out Joy for Happy), Logic (I don’t know if this was a character, but I felt I needed it), and Anger. This all might sound odd to you, but it’s been a huge help in processing my thoughts and emotions. (Feel free to try it and let me know what you think. :)) I don’t see those emotions as enemies anymore, but rather Anxiety and Sadness are just little kids (and also best friends) who need to be heard and taken care of, and I’m finally listening.

Just those two things, plus the months of hard work and my support system, have created a shift in this process. My creativity is slowly coming back, my patience isn’t going away as quickly, I haven’t lost hope in three weeks, and I’ve grown confident in my ability to handle my emotions and thinking. I haven’t been depending on others as much (besides my therapist) and I’ve been able to get out of uncomfortable situations by simply going inward, hearing my emotions and what I need, and then not feeling guilty or like a disappointment by actually doing what I need. Often times what I need is separation and a quiet place (preferably the garden, otherwise our bedroom or a solo walk) to organize my thoughts. Sometimes I need warmth*** so I take a bubble bath or cuddle up with a heating pad and my Mickey Mouse stuffie. And sometimes I just ask Paul to rub my arm.

However, any time I miss a family event or something of that nature due to anxiety or just feeling off, I still feel like a disappointment or am worried people will be mad at me, and then I feel low for a day or two. For example, I just had to miss my cousin’s Candidacy Mass along with visiting my wonderful dad on Father’s Day — needless to say I didn’t feel too good for the past couple of days. It’s still something I’m working on, and I’m so glad they all constantly remind me to never feel that way. Someday it’ll click. :)

I’ve recently come upon a couple of illustrator’s blogs (Anne Butera and Nicole Cicak), something that is definitely helping get my creativity flowing. They’ve also given me the motivation to focus more on blogging, something I’m very excited to get back into. One of the things I enjoy about Anne**** (besides the fact that she gardens, watercolors, has dogs, drinks tea…) is that she chooses a word to help guide her through the year. So, instead of a New Year’s goal, it’s a word. I really like this idea, and although we’re six months into 2024, I am just feeling alive again and would like to choose a word for the next six months.

As you could probably guess from my title, the word I’m choosing is Nurture. I’ve spent enough time battling it out with myself, my depression, and anxiety. Going forward, I will focus on Nurture. There are many things I want to Nurture in these next six months:

I want to Nurture myself and continue listening and self-soothing, attending therapy, and leaning on others when I need it.

I want to Nurture this blog. Writing is who I am (I profess my love for writing in this old post) and although the sparse posts don’t support this, my blog brings me so much joy. I always feel good after writing, and this blog is no exception.

I want to Nurture my garden. Accept it, weeds and all. Tend to it, talk to it, cut from it, eat from it, not rush things, and not be upset if everything doesn’t get done. There will be more springs and summers, if the past is any indication.

I want to Nurture our home. Because of how scary this year and parts of last year were, this house wasn’t very comforting as 2024 began. It housed too many bad memories. But now that I’ve been seeing it as a safe haven instead of a place I want to escape, I want to love it even more. I want to find beautiful things at antique stores to decorate with. I want to fill it with delicious smells coming from the kitchen. I want to paint, redo some things, and make it a place that fits us in this new chapter.

I want to Nurture my art. I used to think I’d be able to still get a calendar out in time for 2025. I no longer believe that. I want to Nurture my art by taking online classes, playing in a sketchbook, trying new things just because, and painting what I want to paint. It’s too easy to think of my art as just money — how can I sell this? Will people want to buy this? — instead of simply painting for me. I need to create, it’s in my bones. So, instead of focusing on how to make money, I’m giving my creativity the time it needs to get reacquainted with itself. It’s been on the back burner for far too long.

I want to Nurture my marriage. Now that our days are not spent constantly keeping me from losing hope, and our mornings aren’t filled with me sobbing in his arms, and our nights aren’t always filled with my ruminating thoughts and anxiety, Paul and I have been able to enjoy life again. It’s just us two and I wouldn’t have it any other way. This has been the darkest moments of my life and his, and we’re coming out of it stronger, happier, with more knowledge about each other, and with more understanding of each other’s brains and how they work. If we were best friends before this, I don’t know what we’d call ourselves now? Bestest best friends?

And that’s where we’re at, dear friends. The pups are snoring as they sleep next to me, I hear we have a tornado watch for the area (my dad loves this weather), the air conditioner is on (I’d much rather have the windows open but it’s so. muggy. out. Ugh.), candles are lit, and I have Disney instrumental music playing from the kitchen (a song from Up is playing right now). I might go check on the garden again and then I’ve got laundry to put away.

I hope you’re all doing well and that you’ve been enjoying your summer so far. And I also want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for always being here. I’ve been writing on this blog for 12 years and some of you continue to stop by even when I take long breaks. Thank you, thank you, and thank you.

Hugs and love to you.

*With my depression and anxiety, one day I can feel totally confident and strong, accepting all that’s happened or might happen. Other days I lose hope and want to escape. Lately, there have been more strong and confident days, but the other ones still slip in every now and then. When that happens, I lean on Paul, my mom and dad, sister, girlfriends, therapist, puppies, diary, the garden, and what’s left of my strength.

**I went back to teaching in January, thinking it would help with my depression and it only exacerbated it. I sadly had to say good-bye one more time. I’m also not renewing my license. Teachers in Minnesota need to renew their license every four years and must have at least 125 hours of professional development, including specific courses/topics. I have the hours and I’m not renewing. Call me crazy, but I know I’ll be stressed over the next four years trying to figure out how to get the next 125 hours without being in a school. If I want to go back to teaching, I have no doubt that I’ll find a way

***I’ve learned that warmth and touch are huge for self-soothing. I think the touch is from when I was little. If I was sick, my mom would sit on the couch while I laid down and she’d rub my head softly with her fingers while serving me peanut butter toast. I loved it. (And still do.)

****Another thing Anne does in her writing is use these asterisks instead of derailing the flow of the writing above. I’m notorious at going off on tangents, so I really like this approach.