Where are the heroes?

I’ve been away for a few days, not feeling very good, a bit blue and pensive. Struggling hard to process the Parkland, Florida shooting deaths.   It is taking a few more days and my best coping skills to shake some of it off this time, though today was a great Tuesday night at the movies watching “The Shape of Water.”  This movie was celebrated at The Golden Globes, and I would not be surprised to see Oscar nominations forthcoming.

I will not spoil any of the movie, but I will comment on what beautiful messages are contained within it.  Most notable for me was the value of having a hero.

Never before in my life have I felt such absence of good leadership, trust, ready role models, and good guys.  I’m reminded of the feeling of an overwhelming aloneness, a cold wave of emotions as though I’d lost the perspective of having wonderfully loving family, supportive friends, health, etc.

I feel like Americans are looking for, and are in need of a hero very badly.  We’re witnessing the daily demolition of social tolerance, compassion for the sick and the elderly, veterans, and overall loss of manners.  We’ve all been subjected to watch the abuse and subjugation of women, the lawlessness of privileged politicians spending mega millions on golf trips, onslaught of unending scandals for spousal abuse, scoffing at security clearances for White House staff, first class airline travel, while the rest of the US tightens an already uncomfortably tight belt, wondering how long it will be so very uncomfortable.

If you’re like me, and in need of a boost in morale, take just a minute and watch young children at play.  Watch the smiles and love in their eyes as they are held and hugged by a parent.  I’m doing my best to remember how that felt. I know at my age it’s a little foolish to wish for a hero, or a hug from Dad.  Maybe being a hero for someone else might be a welcome distraction, even if that means doing so when you don’t feel very heroic yourself; maybe that selfless act will take away my blues for awhile.  Wish me luck….  I need it today.

 

 

 

Getting knocked down

Many times a setback feels like a direct blow to the head. Watching the TV news, listening to the horrific details and watching the very anguished look on the faces of parents and grieving friends. 17 people in Parkland, Florida were killed by an angry and confused 20 year old man. In the state of Florida, he can buy an assault rifle legally, along with smoke bombs and multiple magazines for his AR 15 rifle.

I’ve just been stuck in a nasty mood, funked up by seeing smiling president trump taking photo op pictures with first responders, and even one of the victims in her hospital bed. I’m very sorry for anyone still left with feelings that this dreadful human is concerned for anyone other than himself. He’s a constant embarrassment to the United States, most notably one year ago by signing proudly an executive order making it legal for mentally ill buyers to purchase weapons of mass destruction. In the cover of aftermath of new violent chaos, his administration announced the stripping of funds for the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), and an accounting for the $107 Million dollar budget for his poorly attended inauguration. All of the funds are gone, $26 Million awarded to a no bid contract to Melania trump’s friend.

I know this blog better serves depression, anxiety, and panic, however in my dreams last night, my home was beset by millions of red ants which later morphed into wasps. We live in very tumultuous times. The US is divided by their leader, and our democracy is being sold in Rubles. It fuels my depression to watch the many assaults to my country, and to feel as though I wanna can do nothing about it.

I meditate, I pray that we will soon see the complex and fraudulent dynasty of the trump family exposed for the excess and false royalty it portrays itself to be. In the meantime, if you have positive energy in abundance, please send it to those grieving families who must process huge loss, and accept that our nation values assault weapons over the lives of its citizens, even the young ones. If you’re a voter, please consider making stronger gun laws an issue to explore with your state’s leadership.

Evite: authors, send me your ideas

 

Thank you to those who have read my perspectives on insomnia, depression, and stress.  No one prepares you how to interpret the response or the lack of responses and discourse on works shared via this kind of blog, therefore I’m going to ask.

If you don’t have your own blog but would like to be a guest author here, please send me your thoughts via this website.  I will publish those insights that are in keeping with internet etiquette and the goal of helping others to shorten episodes of depression. Dissenting perspectives are also encouraged and invited.

But if there’s no interest, then I’ll end the site with thanks again to those who followed but offered no commentary.  All the best.

Receiving help

During your life you will likely spend the majority of your healthy years offering help and your energy to others. You’ll have lived through adolescence, you’ll know with years of experience what it feels like to depend on someone to provide for you. But what evolution, growth, and acceptance should evolve inside us as we begin to need help ourselves, and ask for it as adults? Do we know how to accept it? Will our ego allow it?

If anyone wants to understand the depressed mind, know that there is already great guilt associated with a depressed person dragging someone else down. Depression makes even simple favors difficult requests to ask. Depressed people purposefully create distance because many times they prefer to insulate themselves from happy people in the hope that whatever is bothering them, whatever has triggered a new and fresh piece of hell to erupt inside them, will pass quickly. To the depressed, there is a feeling that time slows down. I’ve described onset depression as trying to walk in chest-deep, wet cement, or very thick liquid. Along comes a friend or loved one able and willing to give you some help, and we may want to shoo them away temporarily. They think we’re just moody, and we’re certain we are doing them a favor.

Do you accept help well?

The writing of this question stuck in my throat. It’s so deeply ingrained in my makeup that I don’t know how to ask for help, hence accepting the offers of well-intended friends is also a challenge. When someone offers to help me it’s because I’ve been discovered. They’ve missed my annoying FaceBook posts, or they’ve detected a reduced number of calls, emails, or texts. These caring, terrific humans want to reach out, and I was never shown, nor did I learn well how to accept help on my own, with my dignity still left intact. Why is that? I’ve seen great movies. Anyone who has read just a few of my blog posts know that I enjoy good movies. So why aren’t contrived scenes of precisely measured offers of help enough to let me mimic the actor’s scripted and graceful receipt of help when it has been offered?

One friend suffers such anxiety that even trying to set a day and time to meet for lunch causes him to freeze up. Imagine for him, how tough it would be to allow someone inside his world long and fully enough to explain what would be helpful. These people believe it’s easier in every sense of the word just to do everything yourself, not explaining yourself, and keeping closed the door to the real darkness with which they must coexist. It’s like asking someone on a date for the first time over, and over, never gaining confidence, never gaining acceptance that your friends may want to bring you out of a tough hole if they could.

Friends who are worthy, family that really care… they don’t keep score, and they don’t count the cost. There are loving ways in which they seek a bond with you to demonstrate their entanglement. The entanglement we know is Quantum Mechanics, the proof that humans are interconnected and wired to care about each other. I’m grateful every day for my entanglements, and even for the tough ones, those people who are seemingly cold, or calloused, insulating themselves from my intentions. A long time friend, someone who has been a role model for me once told me the cold ones hardest to love are the ones who need to be shown love the most.

In our lives there may come the day that we can no longer do things for ourselves, independently and with precision. Doesn’t it make sense then to develop some skills around accepting help with grace?

Thoughts, prayers, good intentions are not enough

In this post, perhaps the most potentially powerful and personal of all, I want you to know that your good intentions will only go as far as assuaging your own guilt. If someone you know is suffering severe depression, and you don’t reach out to them, get ready to encounter some deep and lasting guilt. Reaching out can feel extremely dangerous, like crossing over an imaginary line to ask “are you okay?” “Is there something I can do, like just listen?” “I think there’s something troubling you.”

Then wait quietly for your answer.

Practice the waiting if you have to, in front of a mirror. Tell someone else whom you trust what it is that you suspect, and if they have knowledge of the person, they may even participate in this kindness with you. Strength in numbers, the possibility that you may be right, and to perform a mitzvah, a good deed that both you and your subject may long remember are worth the risk. When is the last time that you stuck your neck out, really went out on a limb for someone, risking the embarrassment they might reject you?

I included the link above to the word mitzvah because the very idea captured my attention and stuck with me years after I learned about it. Twenty years ago, I met a very important person in my life, someone who has since often helped me to regain my perspective and shorten a dark depressive episode. Mel was a neighbor who walked into my newly purchased home to introduce herself, and she did it by saying “I almost bought this house, and you stole it out from under me!” The smile on her face and her calming laugh was my introduction to my most cherished neighbor and friend, someone who lived only a block away because I’d in fact been quicker to the draw when placing an offer on my home. Grandma Mel is a blessing. She knows the importance and value of being a good neighbor and I quickly became a member of her extended family. As such I was invited to family gatherings and learned that many of her family members lived all around me. We danced at weddings, we celebrated births and holidays together, and shared a deep love of good food. She was someone who had endured many losses in her life. She and I shared much about our individual lives, serious bouts of depression and lasting darkness, all discussed over her potato latkes, brisket, my Mojitos, or arroz con pollo. There was endless acceptance and love in her heart, and we have remained close friends years after I sold my beloved home. Mel explained the concept of a mitzvah to me. “It’s not supposed to be known that you did it,” she explained, “that would make you a fame seeker.” In her heart were many treasured memories of the people who have touched her life and helped to shape the giving, selfless woman that became my friend so many years ago. She often calls me to ask me, “what’s doing?” as though the mother of six, and grandmother to many didn’t have enough folks to look out for in her full and rich life. She is a shining example for my own approach to helping other people.

Another close friend had called it “putting myself in other people’s circles.” Aunt Bettie was another godsend in my life. She was generous with her time like a mother would be, but she spoke to me like a peer, a friend in whom she trusted and believed to be worthy of her time. Once after a few glasses of wine, she told me “I don’t like everybody; some are just a horse’s ass, and I have to be selective with my time.” I miss Bettie’s warmth and kindnesses almost daily. My best memory of her “circles” comment was getting a few phone calls after some promotion or achievement of mine that had circulated her way, and she’d sing Mister Roger’s “I’m Proud of You” song, all the way to the end. If you got one of those calls it was intended to let you know that you and your achievement meant something to her. The day of her celebration of life ceremony, the venue was packed, and many people stood in the back to share in her family’s loss. Both of Bettie’s daughters took the podium to eulogize their bigger-than-life mother, composed, eloquent, and exhausted from the thought of losing their cherished relationships with Bettie. Kate said “you always knew where you stood with Mom, and she wasn’t shy about telling you.” She continued through the beginning of tears, saying “those of you who knew her also know the I’m Proud of You tradition…” “Come on, let’s all sing it…”. In that room of greater than 200 people, so many joined Kate singing and laughing through their tears.

Why do some of us have the time, the energy, and the chutzpah to risk caring for others? What’s really in it for us?

Until it happens to you

The best idea of why humans extend themselves, why they bother to care about other people is because they receive something in return. In the movie “I Am,” Tom Shadyac set out to learn why we live in such a screwed up world. Why can we live in a modern age, yet still see ancient problems like hunger, ignorance, and apathy still alive and holding strongly? Shadyac instead learned what is right with the world. He proved Einstein’s theory of Quantum Mechanics and entanglement by using yogurt to demonstrate how strong human emotions influenced another living organism, a living culture of yogurt. The energy field within the yogurt detected Shadyac’s mood, and a meter that measured electromagnetic changes detected his feelings when Shadyac thought of his divorce. Further he concluded that humans are genetically wired to care about others, to offer others empathy.

I’m asking you to think about a time in your life when you put yourself out for someone else, and it mattered. Then think about those times in your life when you really felt a need for someone, a friend, or even an acquaintance who could be a sympathetic ear. There is great importance to realize that humans are interconnected, or entangled. There’s a special reward for those who get into the circles of others for good reasons. For Aunt Bettie it meant that she could right a terrible wrong, or tip the scales back toward the middle. She was one in a million, and that crowded room of mourning relatives knew who and what she was. It is my sincere hope to be just a little bit like her always. Her memory will never fade or die as long as I pay forward her empathy and generous spirit.

Good intentions are not enough

Actions matter, more important than books full of promises, or idle words from a well meaning procrastinator. Do it now. Take the risk. Pay forward a kindness that you remember. I hope we’ve all known a Grandma Mel or Aunt Bettie because those are the people who would tell you the truth, even if the truth hurt a little to hear. These kinds of friends can talk you off a ledge. They balance the dark times with a distraction, or a well timed piece of advice. They’ll drive you to the doctor appointment you’ve been dreading without having to be asked. Be one of those people just once and see how you feel afterwards.

Do you ever feel good?

There have been some deep and troubling subjects in the short few weeks I’ve blogged about anxiety and depression.  It would be irresponsible to omit the good times that depressed people do enjoy periodically.  Clan of the Depressed is not a secret society, but my friends, neighbors, and acquaintances have confided in me they’ve also endured depression or at least periods of situational depression in their lives.  I enjoy listening to their stories because each time that I do, I’m struck by how much the storyteller trusts me to share a personal experience from the files of fear inspiring mental illness. That’s a huge compliment, and I’m a glad listener. I sometimes learn different coping strategies, but also how to recognize that a friend might need an ear, or a break from feeling alone in a serious fight.

There are many good times, thank you God. Many times the good ones will provide important perspective for when there may seem to be an abundance of the bad.  Thanks also for the caring people who place you in their thoughts, send you a text message to say hello, or pick up the phone just to chat. I’ve felt like a few of my friends really are on a link with me mentally, almost empathic, and they will intervene at the onset of a depressing event, bad day, or emotional plateau. They can mean the difference between my staying home, to deal with the blahs alone, or an invitation to distract the mind from unproductive thoughts, feelings of uncontrollable emotions, or just abject sadness and time spent trying to get restful sleep.

Depressed people are glad that others do no experience lasting episodes of dark feelings. Few of us would wish that on others.

What is noteworthy about the good times is that they’re like a chronically ill, hospital-bound patient who gets a pass to take a walk in the sun.  It’s like savoring a favorite, delicious meal with friends, a special occasion to be remembered and prized. One important puzzle piece in coping with depression is learning to prolong the feelings of calmness and the walk in the sun.  With practice, and as an exercise in increasing your personal mindfulness skills, we can think about the last time we laughed really hard, and what had been the situation that made us feel like laughing.  We’ve heard these simple techniques before , yet somehow in the moment and lost among the competing emotions that drag us into dark corners of sadness, we have lost perspective on our personal big picture.  We may have neglected rest, exercise, diet, or even compliance with taking medication for the chemical imbalance, the loss of normal process of endorphin uptake.

How are you mindful?

This blog is intended to provide a safe place for an exchange of ideas on a tough subject like depression and anxiety.  We have doctors who specialize in the treatment of mental illness, but often the best advice, or new skills come from simple sources like a google search, YouTube video, or even a blog.  If you have a perspective about living with greater feeling of balance, ideas to stay in the sun longer, won’t you take a few minutes and add voice to others who might need some help?

 

 

 

What dreams may come?

This topic shares the name of a favorite movie starring Robin Williams. In the movie, shot in fantasy genre, Williams’ beloved wife Annie commits suicide, and his character Chris suffers tremendous feelings of guilt that drive him to believe he can save her soul by rescuing her from the pits of hell.  Drastic and unpleasant subject matter I acknowledge, but if ever there was a picture with award winning imagery of what hell might look like, this is it.  For the severely depressed, it demonstrates the vivid dreams that seem to plague us during the dark times. I recommend that you watch the movie “What Dreams May Come” if you’ve never seen it.  It has its happy moments, but more importantly I think it is a clue, like another Williams movie “The Fisher King,” to Robin Williams’ personal battles with major depressive episodes. The hyperlink is the main character’s journey into hell, and the picture at top of this topic is borrowed from the cinematographer’s depiction of purgatory.

Dream studies suggest that when our bodies relax enough to let go of the conscious world we experience freedom that allows our subconscious mind to empty itself of unfinished thoughts, sometimes those troubling aspects of our waking life.

If my own dreams are an indication, there’s plenty of reasons for the vivid and terrifying dreams I’ve experienced for over five years as of this writing. Who knew that someone of average imagination and writing talents could fabricate elaborate landscapes, linked somehow to stimuli from the conscious, waking life? Medications for sleep also warn of vivid nightmares, so please consider reading the micro font printed warnings that come with medications related to sleep and depression if you are troubled by night terrors.

Dreams motivate us to understand what events or conditions might be troubling our souls; dreams can be whimsical fantasies that give our heavily burdened brains a good laugh.  I far prefer the latter, though sometimes I am troubled by nightmares long after they’ve occurred.  Before the depression and in my happier dreams I once wrote beautiful poetry, and poignant stories penning them with my finger on the bedsheet.  Some very creative people value dreams so much that they keep paper and pen next to their sleep space so they can free their minds of waking thoughts to be dealt with later, and to facilitate unfettered dreaming. If a dream provides the basis for needed action, they write ideas and the actions on paper upon waking and before they are forgotten. During the night terrors when I wake and try to go back to sleep, I’m pushed right back to the same scary place that my nightmare had paused just before my body woke up. Self study has taught me the recurring, re-entry at the place of paused nightmares is the definition of obsessive behavior associated with anxiety. Many times I would get out of bed, watch late night, bad TV shows until sufficiently bored enough to give sleep another try.

I’ve read some interesting materials about dreams over my lifetime. There has been much scientific thought given to whether people have dreams in color.  One study concluded that older people, those born during the age of black and white television, tended not to remember color in dreams. Young people claiming their dreams were color-filled remembered pastel shades. Further discussion about dreams revealed that nightmares occur during pre-REM sleep when the brain is less busy, which might explain my tendencies to dream about scary situations or people. Insomnia prevents me from achieving REM (rapid eye movement sleep stage) most nights.

What has been on your mind?

Do you remember your dreams?  Dream researchers in the past ten years theorized that we do not remember dreams, but instead, the waking mind tries to make sense of random pieces of the dream using reason.  Since the real life events in the dream seldom occur exactly as they did in waking time, our logical left brain struggles to relate the imagery to something real, the conscious mind making some sense of a dream in order to move past it.

To those who are reading this blog, when have you taken action based on a dream? Do you value dreaming?  Do your dreams reveal a need to make a change, or provide an outlet for funny thoughts to be expressed?  Please leave your thoughts for others to consider your perspective on dreams.