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.