Politics-free zone!

That statement is as much for me as it is for you. I’ve had enough. When I went to church choir the night after the election, our director Pat declared right away that it was a politics-free zone, and I immediately felt lighter. So I’ll take her method.

I’ve been away for almost four months, at least off here. Before that I skipped for 3 months. My last post was remembering the life of my grandmother, Edith Swenson, whom I still miss every day. Christmas will be hard this year, I already know. But I also wrote in that post, “I’m on the verge of something. I can feel it.” Turns out, I was right!

At that time, I was unemployed, grieving, and uncertain about whether I’d be able to stay in Minnesota. The day afterwards, I got a call from the Rochester Post Bulletin, asking me for an interview for a reporter position at Agri News. After freelancing for several months at Agri News, a full-time position opened up, and I was offered the job at the end of July. I started there Aug. 1. It has been quite the ride. I take trips around southeast Minnesota and northeast Iowa and connect with farmers and agribusinesses about what’s a big deal in their world. Many of them ask me if I’m a farm kid, to which I tell them, “No, I’m from Seattle.” It’s quite a departure from the bubble I grew up in. Even when I was at Luther, I didn’t think about agriculture much. But I’m grateful to be a reporter in this field, because there are so many issues people don’t know about. It’s important to know where your food comes from. It doesn’t come from the sky – it requires great effort on the part of many people. I’ve gotten so much valuable experience already, writing 3-4 stories per week, as well as creating the pages in Adobe InDesign. I usually take my own photos, too.

The coming week is a big opportunity. My boss, the managing editor of Agri News, is going on vacation (I’m really happy for him!), so I will be doing the whole paper. I have until Monday afternoon, but I want to stay on top of it, so I’ve already created templates for all the pages. I’ll be writing two stories, and I’ll get a few from my coworker Lisa as well. Otherwise, I pull agriculture-related stories off the AP newswire. I’m excited and have a good feeling about this.

I’m also excited because my parents are coming here for Thanksgiving. I haven’t seen them since July. The visit is quite needed. We’ll be hanging around here and probably going to the Twin Cities too. It’ll be my mom’s first time visiting here since she helped me move in back in January 2015. We’ll go to a restaurant somewhere for Thanksgiving dinner – I do not have the space or the energy to prepare that giant meal. If anyone has any suggestions for a good place to go, either in Rochester or the Twin Cities area, do let me know!

Speaking of space and energy… I’m learning quite a bit about how much of that I need. I’ve had some difficulty with anxiety and depression over my whole life, but more pronouncedly since August. That was when I started to acknowledge it for what it was, rather than pile blame on myself for not being tough enough. I started taking an anti-depressant and a birth control pill that helps with emotions. Both are working well so far. I can’t drink alcohol while taking the anti-depressant, but the sacrifice is worth it. I’ve also started seeing a therapist here. I go every other week, and every time I come out feeling lighter and more energetic. I’m not embarrassed that I’ve sought help for mental illness, and I’ve been open about it on social media for quite awhile now. I appreciate all the support and advice you’ve all sent me.

Meanwhile, I’m still learning how much stimulation I can handle that won’t trigger anxiety or depression. This goes both for real life and social media. I fit the definition of Highly Sensitive Person almost to a T. It’s biological and neurological. I can point to many times since I was little where my sensitivity has come out. I can’t bear to watch two people fighting with each other, or a parent having difficulty with a small child at the grocery store. So you can probably guess why I’ve had enough of politics. It also means that I have to spend enough time alone to recharge from getting so stimulated from life itself.

This weekend, I volunteered at church with Family Promise, a program that helps families in transition. They stay at local churches overnight. This week, we had four families with us, all single mothers. One had three children, one had four, and two had one each. The children were so fun and energetic, wanting to play tag and hide-and-seek constantly. By the end of Saturday night, I was shot. I couldn’t form a coherent sentence. I left, got home and cried. My energy was gone, and all that was left was depression. That was in combination with a stressful workday on Friday and working on Saturday as well. I just ran out of gas. I feel bad because I wish I could have been more present with the children, but I just had nothing. That’s what overstimulation feels like. I knew when I fell into that funk that I would snap out of it, like I have every single time. But it still sucked. I’m still recovering from it. Knowing what I can handle requires some planning on my part, and I never took into account how much energy this week would need. I stayed up late recording election results on Tuesday night and didn’t sleep. Plus, my job is tiring on its own. As I learn more about what it means to be highly sensitive, I’m working on finding these balances. I am working on being kind to myself. I am not going to solve all of the world’s problems on my own, nor can I understand them fully. People are complex. My goal is contribute to the world in the best way I can. If I’m not healthy, I can’t do that.

This week has been hard because at times, I’ve felt like my mental health progress has been knocked back a couple notches. But that doesn’t mean I can’t get back to where I was. I don’t need to live angry – I can live joyfully, in spite of it all. So, let’s all take a few deep breaths, and walk onward in the light of the Spirit.




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