Posted in Uncategorized

Brand New Year, Brand New Administration

I don’t usually like to write about politics, but mental health, which is the main focus of this blog, is political.

I found out late last year that one of my children is transgender. When “the one who will not be mentioned here” willfully took away rights for LGBTQ people, it was a tough blow, but the current President is an ally and is even hiring PA’s Health Secretary, Dr. Rachel Levine, a transgender woman, to be Assistant Health Secretary. So, whether you agree with my political stance or not, mental health, especially for marginalized people, is very political.

I have learned so much in the past few months of talking to my daughter (AMAB – assigned male at birth) about her journey. So many parents claim to have seen signs in their young children with their clothing and play preferences, but I didn’t and that sometimes makes me question myself, not her. She is an adult now and will make her own decisions. For the uneducated, the terms that trans people use and prefer have changed drastically over the past few years. Gender is a touchy topic, but it’s a social construct. How you feel about yourself outside, as a male or female, for most of us, “matches” what is between our legs. For trans people, there is a dysphoria there. They feel one gender but inhabit the body of another. Imagine living your life like that!

Many of us dislike certain parts of our body, but our genitalia and our gender are such an important part of what makes us, “us.”

How can you be an ally to the transgender and non-binary (ENBY) community? Easy!

  1. Use the person’s preferred pronouns and if you don’t know, ask!
  2. Don’t make your relationship all about their gender journey.
  3. Support businesses that have space spaces for trans and ENBY people (this includes bathrooms)
  4. Support politicians and other community leaders who support trans and ENBY people.
  5. Teach others the correct terminology and learn it yourself if you aren’t familiar with it. Here is a list. Transgender Terminology – Transgender Trend
Posted in Uncategorized

Manipulation of Children

I usually don’t write about such topics, but I feel compelled to speak my mind and perhaps open up some minds on a subject that has increasingly upset me.

On Facebook this week, there is a viral video showing low-income children talking with an interviewer about what they would like for Christmas. “An X-box!” “Legos!” “Minecraft!” The children got excited, as children do, when thinking about Christmas gifts. Then the interviewer asked the same children what their parents or guardians would like for Christmas. “A ring. My mother has always wanted a ring.” “Shoes!” They seemed equally excited at the thought of their parents or guardians receiving gifts. Then the interviewer told the children that they had to choose. They could either have the gifts they wanted or the gifts for their parents or guardians. Of course, the video showed the children who chose selflessly the gifts for their parents or guardians. I wondered while watching how many of these children chose their own gifts instead, but that’s impossible to know and thus, speculation is futile. Watching the children’s’ faces as they thought they were not getting their gifts was interesting. Some looked sad, some stunned, some seemed emotionless. It could be said that these children had no or low expectations of the situation given their history, but again, speculation.

The interviewer then told the children that since they were so kind, they were getting both gifts – the ones for themselves AND the ones for the parents or guardians. The children explained that their parents and guardians care for them so much that they deserve to get gifts. Family over gifts, relationships over gifts, etc.

So, what’s wrong with this? Isn’t this an innocent, feel-good video showing the true selfless nature of some children? Or, as I believe, a set-up designed to trick innocent children? These kids obviously don’t have a lot. Some may be in foster care (I really don’t know) or some may have led tumultuous lives due to parental addiction. Again, more speculation, but poverty is insidious and often affects families for generations. I feel that putting these young people through emotional turmoil is abusive and manipulative all for a video that will be circulated around social media to make us feel good about ourselves.

In recent years, there has been a glut of videos showing parents telling their children that they ate all of their Halloween candy. Of course, the children become very sad and some cry and some scream. Then after a bit, the candy is then brought out and all is seemingly well. If there was a surefire way to make your children not trust you, this is it. Relationships are built on respect and trust. I’m not saying an occasional teasing is always permanently harmful, but I do know that children remember these actions. I was the victim of “good natured teasing” by a parent who didn’t know better. It’s taken me many, many years to forgive this person and put the past emotional abuse behind me.

Children are not props in an adult’s world. They are future adults who we expect to be good, kind, productive members of society. Their thoughts and feelings are real.
They trust and look up to us, as adults, to show them how to behave in this world. The world is a scary place for a young person, especially now. Please remember that our most vulnerable little citizens are going to be the ones who grow up to be our next leaders, thinkers, and doers.

Posted in Covid-19, mental health, Uncategorized

The risk of selfishness

Since my last post, the world has exploded into the biggest clusterfuck many of us have ever seen. Covid-19 had temporarily made hermits of a lot of us and with that came many different voices. Some of us were suddenly thrust into a world where we had no income. Some found that the situation was made worse with children no longer in school. Others were forced to live life as before, yet facing the threat of contagion, adding to stress. The lucky ones hunkered down at home with their families, even enjoying this time away. Less traffic, few obligations, more time with family, time to work from home made the transition so much easier for some. There was an underlying powder keg of worry, fear and desperation just bubbling below the surface when George Floyd was murdered by police officers in Minnesota at the end of May.

A culture war that had been brewing in the United States seemed to erupt then and it has gotten so much worse than anyone could have imagined. The divisiveness that permeated our culture, fueled by our leaders, now seeps into almost every aspect of our existence as we still struggle to cope with life during a pandemic. People are dying alone in hospitals, yet the mere act of wearing a face covering to protect others has almost become a symbol of who you are as a political person, not just something to be done out of caution and as a respectful way to protect others. The CDC says masks help prevent the spread of Covid-19, but some of our leaders have chosen to amp up their divisive rhetoric by using those acts of caring to promote “their side” and to denigrate, humiliate and bully those who choose to do the right thing.

The murder of George Floyd, Elijah McClain and Breonna Taylor (and others) have ignited a spark in many which has resulted in a new level of caring and understanding of racism in the United States. These sparks have flamed the fire of protests, which have unfortunately resulted in death and destruction. Those opposed to the movements have chosen to rally their sides in opposition. Standing up for the oppressed has never been wrong and it never will be wrong. Jesus always took the side of the oppressed and welcomed them with open arms. Destruction of property, including statues, while understandably fueled by these fires, is merely symbolic. I don’t agree with the glorification of historically terrible people; however, it is important to remember that the destruction of someone else’s property is a selfish act based on anger and rage.

I’m not writing this to shame anyone. I understand the anger.  Somewhere along the line, we are going to have to start looking at our neighbors as people, not as “them” or “us.” It’s not going to be easy and I imagine I won’t live to see it, as I fear the division will worsen and the free for all that has resulted in the “me first” attitude will never be mended. Think about how you want to be treated. Remember the golden rule and do the right thing.

Posted in mental health, Uncategorized

Mental Health Awareness Month

Today marks the beginning of Mental Health Awareness Month.

What, if anything, does that mean to you? How does it make you feel? I tend to feel cynical and jaded at the prospect of another month, another cause. How does the declaration of a month of awareness actually help raise awareness? If awareness is raised, what’s the next step?

I have lived with several mental health disorders all of my life. Unfortunately, I grew up in an era when people didn’t talk about mental health. I knew that my mother had suffered from panic attacks. I found out that my paternal grandmother had depression, but I only discovered these facts well into adulthood. I still don’t feel comfortable discussing mental health with my parents who are in their late 70’s. I believe that sometimes it takes a serious mental health emergency or “breakdown” to open up those lines of communication.

An essential component of awareness is the ability to be able to talk about subjects that may make us uncomfortable. This is where you have to take cues from others. Never discuss another person’s mental health issues unless you have gotten permission from them and always be loving and kind.

I know that many are struggling these days and I’m not exception. I have days in which I tell myself that I’m strong and capable of handling whatever is thrown my way and then like today, I wallow in self-pity, feeling lonely and sad and depressed. I am able; however, to recognize that downward spiral and try not to let it get out of control.

Do what it takes to keep yourself mentally healthy. Talk to a counselor, friend, or spiritual advisor. Exercise, meditation, good nutrition, and the most important thing (I believe) is to shift your focus. Focus on helping another person or focus on something positive after you have allowed yourself to have those down feelings. If you are feeling suicidal, please get help. 1-800-273-8255 is the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline.

Do your part to raise awareness by making yourself a safe place for others to talk about their own mental health without judgment.

Posted in Covid-19, mental health, Uncategorized

Fear

I started this blog to help people like me. I hope that at least one of my blogs has given you comfort, food for thought or inspiration to either continue your journey of self-love or begin anew.

Being motivated by someone else’s inspiration is a great thing; however, it is dependent on the other person providing that inspiration. I follow a lovely man on Instagram who has been through many challenges and is currently facing a health crisis. Through it all, he posts inspirational, uplifting quotes and regularly shows that life and what is going on around him at any given time will not change his journey. There was a period of time when he didn’t post and I worried that perhaps he had fallen into a depression and as I found out later, that was the case. My point is that regular virtual pats on the back and thoughts to ponder can be wonderful tools, but they shouldn’t be  your only tools. Sometimes we have to reach in and dig deep and remember that you are all you have in this world. I’m not saying that to discount the importance of your loved ones, but they are not inside of you, inhabiting your very soul. No one knows you better than YOU.

Much of my days recently have revolved around forming some semblance of normalcy. I expect many of you have similar routines. Whether it’s getting up and working from home, teaching children, or just wondering about groceries, it’s been challenging for many. I barely had time to acclimate myself to my new home before I was “forced” to stay here much of the time. I’m an introvert, but I am definitely not a homebody and it’s been a struggle.

This is entitled Fear because I believe in my heart of hearts that the self-quarantine, the social distancing, missing religious services, not finding toilet paper, all of the the small sacrifices we have made for the past month or so are going to seem trivial compared to what’s next. I hesitate to say that, but I want my readers to be prepared for a world that looks radically different in the upcoming year. It’s crucial to physically and mentally prepare for this and that’s why I am writing such a morbid and dark entry today. Do not allow the government to dictate how you take care of yourself. Please don’t believe your “leaders” when they do not care about your well-being. Keep doing what you’ve been doing, friends. Take care of yourselves by preparing yourselves.

Posted in Covid-19, Me, mental health, Uncategorized

Life now as we know it

It’s been a long six months since I last posted. So much has changed in my life and in the world.

It has been an extremely difficult half-year, full of changes and expectations that were not met. My husband and I FINALLY moved out of the region he had lived for most of his adult life and 10 years of mine. We are now geographically closer to my grown children, my friends, and my parents, but as irony would have it, we now cannot see them. Just as I started to get settled in this new house in a completely new and different setting, life is now on hold.

How are you dealing with the pandemic? Do you have someone to share your emotions with? How has your life been affected? Do you feel that any complaint or gripe you may have is unimportant or unworthy? Friend, your experience is your own and although perspective can be a great tool, it is okay to feel sad, anxious, depressed or any number of emotions you may be feeling. If you’re happy about spending more time with people in your home or happy to be having some time off work, that’s okay, too!

When this new normal actually becomes more normal and celebrities are no longer writing “social distancing” songs and you start to feel impatient, remember that our ancestors had challenging (hard as hell!) periods of time and life does eventually return, though different than before.

I have had to reign in so many emotions lately and allow myself to let them out only at certain times. Along with the isolation of the new normal, there are also feelings of unmet expectations and grief over the loss of everything I left behind when we moved. One complaint that I have is that I no longer have the space for exercising indoors, which is vitally important to me, especially right now. I allow myself to feel pissed, then work on alternatives.

That’s what it’s all about, dear ones. If there is a tiny glimmer of something that gives you hope, grab it and don’t let go. Sometimes you really have to lower your expectations, let go of whatever it is that is keeping you stuck or spiraling and reach for the hope that is out there. I know it is.

Stay safe and stay healthy. We’ll get through this.

Posted in Uncategorized

pining for the past

Isn’t it fun to talk about the “old times?”  My husband and I can spend hours talking about our lives as children and comparing and contrasting our experiences. Often, my memories involve dear loved ones who are no longer with us here on Earth.

Interestingly, some of my best memories are those featuring my children as little boys. A parent never ever grasps the concept that in a few short years, your dependent, adorable and sometimes frustrating children will be grown up. Conversely, as children, our parents sometimes remain stuck in our minds as the middle-aged people we knew in the past.

This kind of reminiscing can be fun and sentimental, but a person can get mired in thoughts of the past, wishing for today to be more like “then” or feeling depressed that those people who played such significant roles in our lives have passed.

I suppose I have always been a forward-thinking person. I never was one of those parents who clung onto my children’s babyhood, saved tons of baby clothes or worse, posted tons of embarrassing kid pictures of them on social media. It’s natural to fondly remember the sweet smell of their hair, their chubby feet or the pride you felt watching them play sports. It’s also normal to remember grandmothers, parents or others.

My forward-thinking personality has protected me from going through life feeling as if the past was the best part of my life and that the future is hopeless. For every pang of sadness knowing I will never bear a child again also comes a hope and plan for a future that is completely different, yet equally satisfying in its own way.

This hasn’t come without sacrifice. I believe if I hadn’t made a huge life change in my 40’s, I might feel differently about the future. Taking my future in my hands and basically creating a new one has shown me that life is not just fate and happenstance. It’s up to you to lovingly and carefully place the past in a fancy box to be opened occasionally. I find that opening that box when I am feeling down is not a good idea.

The past ten years have seen many, many changes and challenges that I did not anticipate. Life seems more difficult now than it did 20 years ago. If we are honest with ourselves, even the rose-colored past had its share of sadness, grief, and difficulties. That’s the paradox. Love the past and cherish it for the memories it holds but don’t romanticize it. Take what was good and see if you can replicate that into your present life. It just might turn out better than you could have imagined.

Posted in Uncategorized

setbacks and disappointments

They’re a part of life. Rarely do plans go as smoothly as you might like. I am usually an optimist and therefore have no contingency plans in the event of a setback or disappointment that either slows progression of a plan or completely changes it. Some, like my husband, would say that my optimist or idealism is akin to me burying my head in the sand while I refuse to believe nothing bad will happen. Ultimately, I have found that no amount of preparation for a setback helps me deal with the emotions behind it.

How do you deal with such things? Does it depend on the severity? Do you get flustered or fall into a spiral of depression and self-fulfilling prophecy?

There are times in which I find myself spiraling. Usually, this happens when I don’t give myself the time and space to feel the disappointment in the first place and hadn’t prepared for the possibility of plans being changed, becoming blindsided.

I was taught that it’s best to push forward at all times. Move on. Plan. This usually backfires in a big way.  I’ll give you an example. Months ago, my husband and I were extremely close to moving to a new home. Ultimately, we decided not to pursue the home while we waffled a bit (mostly me) on the idea of moving at all. When the day came that we had originally had on the calendar as “closing day,” I fell apart. It wasn’t a good day in many ways, but the fact that I had not mourned that dream finally hit me. I allowed myself to be sad about it and eventually was able to deal with things.

Weight loss efforts are most often a series of ups and downs with setbacks occurring regularly. If you think you had a great week but end up with a weight gain or no loss, you have some choices. You can eat your feelings and sabotage further weight loss next week or you can be mad, curse the scale and jump right back into it.

Telling yourself that life is full of unmet expectations, disappointments and setbacks is okay. Falling apart after one happens to you is not the way to deal with them. Give yourself a set period of time to digest what has happened. After you grieve, get angry, curse the world, punch the wall (just kidding!), or blast some loud music, then you can settle back into your routine and move forward.

Posted in Uncategorized

halt! part deux and vampires!

Now that you know about boundaries and how to start making and enforcing them, I would like to talk about something that I’ve experienced and maybe you have as well. There is a person known in self-help circles as an “emotional vampire.” Emotional vampire is a colloquial term for toxic people who drain us of our energy and leave us feeling emotionally exhausted. They have a parasitic quality in that they provoke emotional reactions in others and “feed off” their emotions as well as resources.  (From thoughtcatalog.com)

Do you know one of these? My question to you is this. Is it the fault of the “vampire” or is your fault that your boundaries have not been erected and enforced with this person? Likely, it’s a combination of the two. The answer might depend on the type of vampire you’re dealing with.  https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/emotional-freedom/201101/the-5-types-emotional-vampires-in-your-life

I happen to be very good friends with a “Victim” vampire. She is a very sweet, caring person, but refuses to take responsibility for her life and seems to demand sympathy. I have found that occasionally distancing myself from her and replying to her in an unemotional manner quickly diffuses any further “bloodsucking.” In the past, I allowed myself to get pulled in by her. I always looked for solutions to her problems and even gave her money to help her pay a bill. I have referred her to jobs, messaged friends on her behalf and prioritized her needs above mine.  This went on for about 10 years before I finally realized that I was taking on her problems and they didn’t belong to me.

As a caveat, there is absolutely NOTHING wrong with helping a friend. I am a generous person and I’m also an empath. If I gave money and time to every cause and every person who tugged at my heartstrings, I would be broke and exhausted. I had to keep myself from becoming exhausted and I did feel exhausted after taking on her problems.

I now have boundaries set up with her. I do not respond to her messages if I’m doing something else. I tell her I’m working or going to sleep or whatever. It took a few years and a few of her “emergencies” to finally realize that she would be okay regardless.

Posted in mental health, Uncategorized

Halt!

Hello, dear readers. Today I want to talk about boundaries. The concept of personal boundaries is not a new concept to most people, especially those on the path of self-improvement, or as it’s called these days, being “woke.”  I’m not going to waste too much time defining what boundaries are. If you are fuzzy on this topic, I recommend this book.

This is a great book written from a Christian perspective and even though I no longer consider myself to be a Christian, it was the first book I ever read on the subject and it opened my eyes to a concept that I always felt inside of me, but never had a name for before.

As a recovering codependent, I have to admit that boundary setting and enforcement does not come easily to me. I’m learning. Let me give you an example of a boundary: Suppose you have a very strong aversion to cursing, yet your coworker throws F bombs around on the daily. At first, you might have laughed it off, while inside, you felt like an angry little monster might break free from your body and stomp around, hurling criticism at the offenders. That’s how it always felt for me; you may use any analogy you wish. After a couple of months of this scenario, you wonder why your coworker hasn’t intuited your dislike of the cursing, yet you haven’t said anything to them about it. You might think that they should be able to read your face or just infer from your body language. Wrong!  This is a game that women especially like to play. (Yes, I am one, so please don’t accuse me of sexism) Generally, most women of a certain age weren’t taught how to stand up for what we believe in. We were taught to be accommodating. While it’s great to be accommodating, if your virgin ears have had enough of being assaulted, it is your responsibility to say something. It might be a very scary thing to do. There are risks involved when you take a stance. Your coworkers might deem you a prude or exclude you from conversations.

This is the tricky part. Can you let it go? How important is it to you? What are the consequences? There are some boundaries that are a “must enforce” and there are others that, if enforced or even verbalized, can have devastating consequences. There are ways to verbalize that can save face for everyone involved and those are reserved for situations like the example above. Humor helps and sometimes a heart to heart talk with the offender(s) can do a world of good. It’s likely they had no idea you were offended and if they care, they will make an effort. There are other situations, such as emotional abuse, physical violence, etc. which must be swiftly and succinctly addressed.

The way in which the offender reacts says a lot about that person and your relationship. I want to add a caveat. Sometimes the offender is embarrassed or even surprised when you verbalize your boundaries and your expectations. In that case, they may initially react negatively. Give them time to process.

A note about expectations. A good conversation about your boundaries will also contain your expectations. An expectation is different than an ultimatum. An example (using the example above) could be something like: “In the future, could you remember not to use those words when I’m in the room?” Hopefully, they’ll catch on, remember and change their behavior, but that doesn’t always occur. A gentle reminder may be in order. If they blatantly ignore your requests, then it’s time to reassess.

Honoring your boundaries is something that is not easy for many of us. Often, it’s best to start out slowly. I guarantee you’ll feel better when you live with integrity.