Tag Archives: mental health

Depression’s Effects…

The topic of suicide has come up a lot lately. A couple of years ago, when I started writing, I told myself I wouldn’t write about it. I decided it was something best laid to rest. I never wanted to revisit it. I had attempted it numerous times. Why should I be ashamed of it? There is a shame, guilt and sadness attached to it. It’s not easy to recover from it and it’s no longer my reality. However, I recently had a change of heart and decided to share a little bit on it. It’s not easy to write about it either.

In the many years I suffered from major depressive disorder, there were times when I had happy and upbeat moments but they didn’t last long. I would sink back into the reality of why I became depressed in the first place. It seemed to be a never ending spiral. I did attempt to hide my depression and PTSD from my children. I didn’t want them to have this bleak view of life. There were many good things in life to be grateful for, and I wanted them to see the bright side of life. However, they struggled just as I did to reach those bright days. On numerous occasions, I sank into very dark thoughts and in my despair just wanted to die. I would call a suicide hotline and they’d tell me all the reasons I had to live for. It sort of angered me to tell me to think of my husband or my kids or my family and friends. What if I didn’t have those people to live for, who would I live for then? I know this may sound dark, but if I were alone, would it be okay to go ahead with and suicide? Many people think it’s selfish for a person to take their life, but what if it’s selfish to ask this person to live in their dark despair? They wouldn’t want to if these other people were able to lift them up!

I could never presume to know what someone is going through in their darkest hours, that would make them want to give up because I know it’s different for each person. I do know that it’s a dark space, more like a hole that’s covered in dirt, it’s like being buried alive. There is no tunnel with a light at the end. Who would want to go there? Not many people will dare to tread the darkness searching for light. When I was in this state, I was very lost and alone. I didn’t think my wanting to die or my death would be a selfish act. I thought it would be a great relief. I thought it was an act of love and mercy for those alive if they didn’t have to see me living in this state of living death.

I really didn’t think of the pain I would cause others if I had succeeded, yet I know now, they’d be living in this perpetual state of depression and sadness. It takes a long time for someone to come out of this state though. Medication can help but sometimes it only causes it to linger longer. In my case, it wasn’t just depression but extreme anxiety that I wanted to escape from plus the memories I kept reliving. I hated having flashbacks and just wanted them to stop. I now see that the memories were there to help me heal.  Anytime, a painful memory comes up, it’s only service is to heal, ultimatly to set me free, not to shame, guilt or hurt anyone. The more I resisted these memories, didn’t face the feelings, or allow myself to grieve, get angry, or whatever, the more they persisted.

It’s not exactly something to go through alone either. It required the assistance of a therapist, counselor, understanding friends and family. It took a lot of people to walk through the valley of the shadow of death in order to get me through the other side. It takes the person who is in the light, who has hope, who knows life is worth the struggle and worth living to keep you going. It takes a lot of strength and courage to keep going when you just want to give up.

People with mental illness are not weak, they are the strongest people alive because they live with these images, voices, memories, hallucinations, and extreme emotions, yet continue anyway. They hold on to their humanity, keep breathing, keep reaching for the light, keep trying over and over again despite what life throws at them. They are a beautiful and loving reminder that people are strong, yet they are also fragile, that everyone is important, everyone has a purpose, everyone brings meaning into this world, and to treat each one with kindness.

We all have a breaking point, which is why it’s important to love yourself. If I’m tired, I rest. If I’m sleepy, I go to sleep. If I’m bored, find something fun to do. If I’m hungry, I eat. If I need to talk, find someone to listen. If I need a hug, ask someone for one. Balance my life with work, rest, and play! If I’m working and not laughing enough, find the joy. There’s nothing wrong with asking for help. In fact, it’s imperative to ask for help and not try to be the lone ranger. Life is meant to be lived in community with others.  When the dark clouds descends at times, it helps to have someone who is above them.

Life is worth living and it is beautiful. Look at all of nature, it is a symbol of life, breath, and renewal despite the changing seasons and what appears to be chaos at times. I take in the breath of life each day. I allow myself to breathe deeply knowing that whatever is going on, it will pass. The seasons change. Engage in life mindfully.  Be in the moment. Do things that brings joy.  Just breathe.

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In The Driver’s Seat

Many years ago, I was in such a mental state that someone had to drive me to my counseling appointments. The therapist was about an hour away and sometimes it was a very distressing appointment and I was in no condition to drive home so she made a rule that someone had to drive me. I had forgotten all about that period in my life until recently when I’ve been driving people here and there, and all over the place! Suddenly, I remembered and thought, “I’m in the driver’s seat now!” It was a wonderful aha moment of recognition. Of course, I’ve been there for a while now, but something in my soul wanted me to recognize how far I have come.

There are many people who choose to ride in the back seat for various reasons. Yet, it’s important to know regardless of who is driving, you’re still in charge of your life, you still get to choose the path, and the means of getting from one place to another. Yet there are those who idly sit by and let someone else dictate what they are going to do with their lives. Maybe it’s a parent’s dream for you to be a Doctor, Lawyer or pro basketball player, but you want to have nothing to do with those things. It’s okay to choose a different path
for yourself.

I love to tell people, your past does not define who you are today. It doesn’t define who you are becoming or where you’re headed either! Everyone can choose at any moment who we’re going to be, right now, today. We don’t have to be bound to our past decisions and choices. We also don’t have to believe or do everything our parents did. It’s my life. It’s your life! Make it a good one!

Fear and Bullies

When I was little girl, I was afraid to let my foot hang over the edge of the bed. I was afraid of whatever was under the bed would reach up and grab it and drag me under. I was also afraid to go in the closet at night and I slept with the light on. I didn’t like seeing any dark shadows! As an adult now, I can see how fears can grab hold of me and take me under! It makes me afraid to speak up or to let myself be seen. Lately, the theme of overcoming fears has been coming up a lot. Fears of the unknown needs to be illuminated. I’m not saying there are no real dangers out in the world, I’m just talking of the unknown ones. Nowadays, if I’m afraid of what’s in the closet, I’ll go in there and make friends with it. I go in there, turn on the light and see that there is no monster!! I turn off the light and see there is nothing there. The monster was all in my mind. I created it with my fearful thoughts. If there is anything I’m afraid of, I go find out what it is. I make peace with it and “it” really is just fearful thoughts that try to get the best of me. I encourage each one to not be paralyzed by the fear of the unknown. If something or some place is dark, turn on the light. Illuminate it and see it for what it really is. Don’t be bullied by fear of the unknown.

Speaking of bullies, that’s exactly what they do, they instill fear and terror in their victims. I recently saw a movie about bullies. It helped inspire this blog post. I had my share of bullies growing up. Many kids are teased and picked on for being different. They are made fun of if you have a disability, too short, too tall, too round, too thin, too smart or not smart enough. The list goes on and on. I was a sensitive child.  I had many fears of the unknown but many of them were based on actual monsters in the form of a bully. When people are made fun of because they’re different it hurts to the core and a person can develop all kinds of fears, withdraw from society, have an inferiority complex, depression, anxiety and on it goes.

I was very sad and lonely as a child. I cried a lot and I felt everything deeply. I still feel everything deeply. Some of us are hardwired that way. Some people said I was too shy, too thin skinned or needed to toughen up. Yes, the world can be a harsh and cruel place to live in but I don’t believe becoming hardened is the answer. No, because there are so many people in this world who are different. There are no two people alike. We all have strengths and weaknesses. No one needs to be ashamed of themselves for being different and not fitting in with the “normal” crowd. I would submit that the world is what needs to change. Those who are different don’t need to adapt but the world needs to adapt to them. The world can learn to be kinder, gentler, accepting and loving to those who are different or tenderhearted. The world can learn to be at peace and accept everyone and live at peace with all peoples. It all starts from within. It starts with our hearts and accepting those who don’t look like you, talk like you, act like you, or think like you do. No more bullies!!!

Showing Up

When I used to struggle with mental illness, I felt very lonely. Besides my counselor, I didn’t know very many people who understood what I was going through. Sometimes it was self imposed isolation. I avoided people because I didn’t trust them. I worried about triggers and being judged. Now, many years later and I no longer have those problems. I show up for life and I’m not lonely. Today, I know that if there is no one around me, life still shows up. The sun still rises. When it goes down, the moon greets me and the stars twinkle brightly that there is life and there is hope for me. The leaves on the tree cling or fall. The water flows or is stagnant but it’s there The flowers bloom. They’re saying, “We are here!” At times when feeling utterly alone or lost in our head, it’s important to get outside and notice nature. Notice who shows up. Is it the sun or the moon? Is it the snow or rain? Is it the wind? Is it simply the ground on which you stand? And to cement the idea you re not alone, speak with nature with a hearty “hello” and “thank you!” It makes a difference because no one is ever truly alone.

While on the subject of feeling lonely, I might as well say that there are others who are lonely as well. When I was struggling with mental illness it’s true there were some who didn’t understand. And some I just didn’t trust. I didn’t need to expect everyone to be too busy for me and not understanding. Some are not too busy and are understanding. If someone is brushing me off, I understand now that they are not the ones for me. It doesn’t mean there isn’t anyone. It’s just that one person. I didn’t need to give up on people.

There is another element to this. Someone out there is depending on you and me to show up. Someone who is accustomed to seeing you whether happy or sad. It lifts their spirit to know you are alive. They want to hear and know about you during the good and the bad times. These are those precious few to hold on to and seek out. They are there but sometimes I was so caught up in my own stuff, I didn’t notice it. We learn, grow and heal within the context of relationships and community. Interacting with others is important as long as they are the right ones. I personally try to seek out positive people to hang out with. I take a positive attitude everywhere and smile at others so they know they are not alone. We all need to show up for our lives. There is only one me and one you. No one else can do what I do or you. I’m one of a kind. Oh and I am awesome at being me, too! No, I’m not a perfect person but I’m perfectly me.

Natural Life Cycles

One of the most surprising things about my recovery is that I recovered! It’s not that I don’t experience depression or anxiety, they just don’t dominate my life and I no longer need medication. I’ve noticed there are many factors which contributed to my healing. Yes I did lots of therapy. I learned to coping skills. I learned to meditate and laugh!! I also believe there is a natural life cycle at work here. I outgrew those old coping mechanisms. I no longer need to dissociate or be disconnected. I healed the painful wounds which tormented me for years.

In my observation I’ve noticed life frequently calls upon us to learn and grow. Think about it. There was a time when I was an infant. I learned to crawl, walk, and then run. There are things one must learn before proceeding to the next level. Many times, when I was struggling with my mental health, I just wanted to be done with therapy. The more I got better, the less patient I was with the process. I wanted to run to the head of the class! My therapist office was no longer acceptable to me. I wanted to be out in the world to explore and be part of society. These are natural life cycles.

When you allow yourself to learn, to grow, expand your thinking, get out of the box, discover something new about life and nature, you automatically shift yourself into another mode. The old mode and way of thinking is out dated. It’s time for an upgrade! At one point, children leave their parents home when they are ready to live on their own and make a living. These are all natural life cycles as is letting go of old ways of doing things. It seems like everyday I am challenged to let go of something old, to see something or someone with fresh eyes to embrace or create something new. Being stuck in the past, and not moving forward creates a cycle of disappointment and sadness which leads to anxiety about the future or how things are going.

Mostly, I am challenged to be gentle with myself as I walk through this life as I recognize there are cycles to everything. Think about the seasons. There is winter but spring and summer are on the way! It’s important to recognize what cycle I’m in so that I do not lose heart or give up but to keep going. But you know it took me many years to learn this! I was 46 years old when I finally learned to love, respect and honor myself which includes accepting myself. I’m here because I want to inspire others to know this is an important part of learning to navigate the natural cycles of life. It begins with loving yourself and recognizing the cycle of life you’re in so that you know where you are and where you’re headed or if adjustments need to be made. It’s all good when it comes from a place of love. Change is good, and natural!

Clarity!

I’ve been working on a new book about being crystal clear. It took me a long time to get to this place. There have been many moments of revelation or aha moments over the years, but nothing too dramatic until I got very serious about it! Part of it is because I was so ill and dysfunctional. What if someone had told me what they did to get clarity? Would I have cared or listened? Perhaps I’d say, “You don’t understand!” Or, “You don’t know what I’ve been through!” Even better, “You don’t know what you’re talking about!” It’s my general response, because let’s face it, I’m an expert on me, myself, and I! At least, that’s what I thought. It’s not that I couldn’t hear anyone else’s perspective or opinion, but I wasn’t open to it. I could hear it, but easily dismissed it. I had many excuses for my condition, and couldn’t accept that someone else might know another way to help me heal.

My husband and I have been driving up the Mississippi River these past couple of weeks. We’ve seen the power of the river. It has served as the livelihood and the devastation of many people for many years. I see how people used the river to help their business, and then fought it as it flooded their towns. People put up sand bags, levees and took different tactics to save themselves. It was heartbreaking to read these different stories of the devastation many times. However, they survived! Those who didn’t lose their lives or move away rebuilt them! They adjusted their course. Built their houses on stilts or took other measures to protect themselves when the river overflowed. The river is constantly changing.

The world is constantly changing, growing, evolving and shifting. How could I possibly stay the same??? Yet, that’s precisely what I did for many years. I allowed my past to define my present. Very silly! I allowed myself to live in a mental and spiritual rut which kept me very sick. I lived in fear of people who had hurt me in the past when they no longer had power over me.

I didn’t give myself permission to be happy because I had always been sad and depressed. Not only that but I didn’t feel worthy to be happy. The world was scary and dangerous! You can’t control a river but you might be able to contain or work with it. You can’t control other people, but you can shine your light and be an example for all to see how to shine their own!

Treat yourself with love, respect and dignity so others can see how to to do it as well! I love to ask questions to get myself and others thinking to come up with their own answers. Asking questions helps to gain clarity. What needs clarity so you can change and adapt to the changing times? How can you be part of the solution and not the problem? What needs clarification?

Hello world!

This is my other blog!  I share my wisdom and stories a bit unrelated to my book Dear Sophia, Love Yourself!  Okay this might sound corny but you know my name is Sophia which means wisdom in Greek.  I feel this great unspoken pressure to be wise.  Yet it comes very natural and flows freely from my pseudo version of spirituality.  I’m probably going to share things you might not have wanted to know me.  However, it will at least sound wise most of the time.   I actually graduated from the SHK, but I didn’t stop learning and I find myself learning on a deeper level and new understanding of things I learned long ago.   For those who don’t know SHK is School of Hard Knocks!  You might find this hard to believe but I am sort of a wizard of wit and wisdom, hence the reasoning behind Sophia’s Wizdom!  I have no plans to quit my day job and become a comedian nor guru.   I just happen to believe I have lots of insight into many things and I happily volunteer my time to share it with the world and my faithful readers.    It may appear I’m full of myself, but I’m actually quite meek and humble.  I’m not trying to brag here, but just rest assured, I have several humble badges.   I share stories of love, joy, laughter and tears.