Self talk

I’ve done it for years, and I have noticed others too. Self talk, the gentle encouragement, or the talking of oneself off a ledge, so important a coping tool for depression sufferers and those with anxiety.

It’s usually done silently for fear of being discovered by those around us. We fear being judged or avoided for being a nutbag. Today I view self talk as a sign of great strength. I was asked on social media, “What’s something you miss from childhood?” and I was surprised to learn by reading the first few responses that there were people who had nothing good to say about their formative years. One person had been adopted, another abused, both potentially severe traumas for young people. I miss most the encouraging words I received from my folks, my sisters, my teachers, and friends. I think that gift of encouragement in the form of talking me through challenges, led me to the practice of tapping into my inner messages. These are the most private messages sent to yourself when stressed or faced with some important task.

“What the hell have you done?”

“What gave you the idea you could do this?”

“Nobody knows how really scared I am right now..”

All of these types of messages, the self talk in our own heads, have to pass through your ear gate. In his book “Attitude is Everything,” Keith Harrell defines your ear gate as the source of entry of power or the lack of self esteem that people encounter throughout their waking life. I had the great pleasure of seeing Harrell speak at a seminar for professional skills trainers sponsored by AchieveGlobal. Harrell was one of the most dynamic motivational speakers I have ever encountered. He took his audience through a range of emotions, at times bringing us to tears with the power and truth of his message. I’ve hyperlinked his Vimeo story in case you need a lift in your day. It’s about 17 minutes long, but worth every second of your time investment, and it explains the importance of guarding your psyche from negative messages that we may let past our ear gates.

Self talk has helped me to dig myself out of a very deep and lasting depressive episode in my last 4 years. I’m now getting ready to re-enter the workforce and I am using self talk to help me regain the great confidence and love for public speaking I once enjoyed. Please give your impression of the value of self talk, and also your thoughts about one of my favorite people, Keith Douglas Harrell.

Journaling

It’s your life, how much do you know about it?  In your latter years will you think back on what must have been your golden era and wonder how you filled your days?  What were your priorities?  Who was important in your life past, and what about those thoughts that occupied your waking mind?

Journaling has been a therapeutic outlet for depression sufferers since the 1960s because the written word, the expression of those ideas that may not have fully formed, when penned to paper they take shape and are memorialized for your own thought, reflection, and action planning.  Journals have been steamy diaries, the hiding places where secret wishes, unexpressed passions, and the final resting place for the “if only” bucket list of a phase of life is waiting.

Today it seems with social media, modern day people are much more visible to the cosmos, expressing snippets of thoughts, favorite memes, or whole diatribes about injustices, rants, and opinions.  The blog, a view into the life of the author, is like a personal FaceBook journal, a place where your cordoned off piece of the internet is like a comfortable kitchen space or perhaps a man cave in the home.  The artwork, the furniture, all reflecting the tastes of the author, but formatted expressly to be seen, evaluated, and publicized for sharing with others.

Sharing for mental health

I began blogging a month ago like someone begins a road trip with just the idea of heading south, or west.  No GPS, timeline, no schedule, just the idea I’d like to go somewhere, and I don’t feel like going by myself.  With the driving idea that I had a message to share about near death, walking dead depression, I felt as though some of my experience might map or resonate with others.  The altruistic hope was to prevent other people from losing their grasp with natural gifts like sleep, the emotional unavailability for family, and functional sanity, things I have lost sight of periodically over the past 10 years. Nobility is not my best quality, but as I explained in a former post, it turns out that humans are wired to be social, and to care about others.   I share for mental health reasons, both for my own and for others to evaluate, possibly enjoy, or maybe to ponder.

I wonder how many people glance at these entries do have some thoughts, but end up stifling their urge to offer an opinion.  Missed opportunities, the chance to form a bond, receive feedback, or to see another person’s perspective are priceless compensation for a blogger.  Assessing one’s potential value, or in business terms “final results” of your cordoned off piece of the cosmos is important and provides meaning or purpose.

I would enjoy having some connection to those of you making the journey with similar or even complementary experiences to those I’ve shared with you here. If you have comments, an idea, a perspective, affirming or constructive, please do share it.  Imagine how good you’ll feel enriching the understanding of others, and putting your mark on what could turn out to be an original work of art.

 

Ridding the soul of hate

“Hate begets hate,” a central theme in a great movie “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” is a great cinematic message for the world.  Celebrated at the Golden Globes and a box office hit, this movie was a great wakeup call on many levels.   If you’ve read my posts, you know I enjoy great films, and this one is destined for a place in cinematic history.  I promise not to spoil the film for anyone, but one of its  many messages is about hate being like a cancer, and ridding the soul, replacing hate with love will lead to renewal, achieving life goals, and by extrapolation leads to a lightened depressed state, and reclaiming precious energy.

Many times in my most depressed moods I’ve beaten myself up for allowing my life to pass me by, dropping out of sight of beloved people, being emotionally unavailable, and for feeling so helpless about how this took place.  All whilst I schlogged through wet concrete trying to function and hiding my battle.

Hate of oneself or hate of your situation can happen at different junctures in your life, or at least it has in my life.  Resilience is that coveted ability to bounce back from setbacks, something that we depressed, anxious people wish we could do. Resilience is a learned skill.  Do you ever stop and think about resilience role models you’ve known?  Have you gained resilience by watching the example of others?  When you receive a setback in life, whether it’s a flat tire on a workday morning, a medical diagnosis like high blood pressure, or being laid off your job,   these events require our mindfulness, our concentration, and some degree of resilience in order to function.

As I look back at my life, the largest portion which is behind me, I cannot ever remember myself as being someone who is effortlessly resilient, able to recover quickly from setbacks and dust my butt off to get right back into the game.   Nope, rather than bounce or spring back like an employer might expect, instead I choose to re-think the event, brood, fret, lash out behind closed doors, blame & curse others.  Only after this cycle is complete, it is then that I feel myself begin to plot my return.  The loss of perspective is my depression.  The period of time I need in order to process the setback is the refractory period, the gathering of great resilience.

In “Three Billboards,” the main character Mildred Hayes has endured months of unimaginable angst awaiting her small town police department to locate the culprit who brutally murdered Mildred’s daughter.  Horrific circumstances that would shake the mettle of the strongest soldier, but Mildred reflects, she broods, and then one day she summons the strength and the resources to take effective action.  The movie is too real for many of us–we feel like we’ve been in Mildred’s shoes, hopefully in much smaller bursts of bad times.  We see her life backward and forward in time, dealing with phase-of-life circumstances like divorce, physical abuse, single parenting teenage children, alcoholism, all amid a backdrop small town of people who are also dealing with their own set of life circumstances.

Finding resilience through mindfulness

I’ve been so fortunate in my life to have known strong, selfless, mindful people.  I have a faith that tells me it’s no accident that I have crossed paths with great, principled role model people because we were supposed to teach each other, or learn from each other in order to get through this life mostly intact, and without a feeling of being totally alone in our struggles.  Lost perspective is regained when we step out of our own grudges, setbacks, and bruised feelings of being slighted. We need to pause the DVR of life and make certain our energy is properly focused, our efforts carefully prioritized.  We have to be number one in our own list of priorities before we can teach, coach, or be a help to others. How do you amass resilience?  Do you take time for reflection, mindfulness, and getting back to functioning again?

 

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.

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.