The Importance of Forgiving Yourself

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Your cheesy quote of the day.

Another common trait of most sufferers of depression is the way that the past seems to haunt over us, shrouding the present. We are reminded about the things we have not yet accomplished, the things that we shouldn’t have done, and the things that have been said. The guilt and regret are debilitating.

So, why are you doing this?

Simple. This is the first step that you must take in order to fully accept yourself.

 

The Failures

The “failures” play an interesting role. The first thing I would do is to assign a different word to the things that go wrong. Most of the time they just impede your progress. They give you an opportunity to figure out what isn’t working. Things that you perhaps didn’t really want to do. They are more like harbingers of opportunity (yes I know, that was very optimistic even for me, but just hear me out).

Real World Example: I was a straight “A” student who ended up going to college to become something that would allow me to make money. The goal was to make enough to live a comfortable life and then figure out what to do. However, when I got to college, I starting doing poorly. Eventually, I gave up trying. It was hard. My family didn’t understand or approve. This was my moment of choice – stay with the career path I had decided on or discover what it is I want.

That’s all life is in the end – just soaking up lessons so that you can live the life you want. Sure, the example I gave may sound trivial, but it shook me to my foundation. In the end, that’s what these turning points do. Please, take a step back and truly analyze the thing that has been haunting you. Is there a lesson buried in there? What is it? What changes can you make?

 

The Casual Mistakes

Have you ever gone through a day and realized that you said something that you weren’t supposed to? Gotten someone’s name wrong? Tripped or spilled something on yourself? These are pretty universal experiences, I assure you. However, when you are plagued by depression, they eat away at you more than they ought to. They are on replay in your mind.

Take a moment after these blunders occur and take a deep breath. It happens to everyone. We are all human and being human is a messy process. Smile, even if you don’t feel like it. In your mind, take that moment and imagine that the moment is tangible. Crumple it up and toss it away.

Learning to laugh at these small mistakes helps. Truly, it does. Don’t laugh at your “stupidity”, laugh at the action itself. Think about it this way: if a friend was to do the same thing, you would probably make a joke (if not, then you are a much kinder friend than I am and kudos to you). Also, anyone in the vicinity can no longer make fun of you because you are making jokes about it yourself. You strip the onlookers of their powers to bring you down. This situation is now under your control.

 

So, How Do You Forgive Yourself?

Write it out on paper or talk about it (especially if they are larger concerns). Tell yourself that it could happen to anyone. Tell yourself the truth – you reacted that particular way because of your circumstances and the limited knowledge that you possessed at that time. You only know better now because you have more information. Don’t worry about looking crazy. This is for you and you alone.

If it helps, talk to someone, especially if you feel as if you victimized them somehow. You may be surprised to learn that it didn’t really affect them that much. We are all social creatures. Conversations keep us all together. They have the power to heal relationships. If you don’t believe me, give it a shot. Sure, at first there may be raised voices and hurtful things that are said. However, that’s just a temporary reaction that our biases bring out. After they pass, things become better. Just stick with it if you value the relationship.

Work towards your better future. This is the best way to allow solutions to present themselves.

And most importantly, grab onto that slim sliver of hope and never let it go.

 

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Life on the Sidelines

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Most of us are familiar with the feeling – feeling left out of a group, always observing things from what feels like a distance. Being shut out. So, what do you do? You probably try to ignore the glares, suppress the old wounds, and keep your head down.

This is harder to combat than others. Especially those of us who are of ethnic backgrounds and different sexual orientations. Basically, anyone who is not amongst the “status quo”, you have probably experienced this.

The Depression Factor

Depression skews our world-view (yes, I have stated this numerous times before too). It gets to the point that we perceive ourselves to be shut out even if we are ignored unintentionally. By keeping silent for the remainder of the interaction, we shut ourselves out. The other person cannot possibly understand what we are thinking. They don’t know why we’re quiet or why we have decide to walk away. This is not to say that people never intentionally ignore people. That happens too.

We have a decision to make in moments such as these. We can succumb to our own insecurity, allow our depression to take hold, and retreat. Or, we can take a moment to gather our wits, and see if the situation can be resuscitated.

Speaking from experience, the latter is much, much better. Yes, it takes courage and it takes all your will-power. However, your efforts will be rewarded. Maybe not in the way that you intend, but nonetheless, you can gain peace of mind. At least you won’t subject yourself to future regret.

 

The Loneliness Factor

Yes, being on the outside sucks. You are in a group of people and you feel alone. Maybe, you walked into this feeling alone to begin with. Maybe you walked into this knowing that you don’t know anyone. Seeing a sea of unknown faces is daunting to anyone.

I am not trying to undermine anyone here. I know we are all capable adults and we all know how to talk to people should push come to shove. However, we forget that these people may also be nervous or anxious. Just because someone emits a confident exterior, does not mean that they are natural social people.

Take a moment to speak to someone. Start with a greeting or small talk. Yes, yes, you know how to do this. So, why am I saying it? Because you need to actually try it! What’s the worst that can happen? They walk away? I’m sure you can handle one person walking away. They were probably a jerk anyways. Nice people don’t do things like that.

 

The Lasting Effect

Usually, we are not aware of this, but when we leave a social situation, feeling invisible, we may find that we have buried some of the residual feeling. If left unattended, these emotions build up. They grow and grow and grow. After a while, it takes longer to recuperate because partially we want people to look at us and think that we are strong, partially because we don’t know how to deal with it.

So how do you deal with it?

The answer is so simple that it sounds stupid. Talk. Start a light conversation, casually mentioning that you felt left out. Frame it in a way that it doesn’t sound accusatory. In confrontational settings, most people will defend themselves to no end and they may even show aggression. To avoid this, try to practice what you are going to say. Make sure you use words that are ensure that you are not blaming the other person.

You may just find out that the other person had no idea. They may apologize or they may not. Either way, it’s out in the open and now you know that their intentions were not malicious. And isn’t that worth it?

 

Happy conversations, everyone! I’ve got your back!

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Confronting Our Fears

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Yes, that’s a black hole. Cliché? Perhaps.

 

Let’s face it. We all fear something. It could be something small and tangible or something large and subjective. Sometimes we are unaware of it (or choose to ignore it). Either way, fear plays a major role in what we do and how we think.

 

Identify the Fear

This step is not as simple as it sounds. What is that one thing that acting as your barrier? What is the thing that you are lacking?

Here is a list of fears and possible consequences of living with them (the following are just examples. If you can’t identify with the examples, it does not necessarily mean that this isn’t your misconception):

  • Love – something happened where you fear intimacy from another human being. You are not in a relationship and every time you get to the point to go on a date (or a blind date), you consciously or subconsciously do something to push this person away. OR, you go on dates and realizes that no one is good enough to officially date
  • Success – the limelight is daunting. You are forced to be in the center of attention. Things are going well … too well. Sound familiar? This usually causes people to purposely work less than stellar. You avoid opportunities.
  • Failure – something happened where now you no longer feel that you can fail. You probably take on more than you can humanly do. Anything that helps. Every time that you do something wrong, you are faced with debilitating anxiety.
  • People – I know what you’re thinking – what??? This means that you fear being around too many people, their judgement, their eyes. You isolate yourself. Meeting someone in real life gives you anxiety.

 

Now What?

So, now you know what it is that makes you tick. What do you do now? Confront it.

This is subjective. There’s no way that’s possible. 

Actually, there is. You have to force yourself in situations gradually to react better and better each time. Notice that word in red? This is me telling you that if it does not happen right away, it’s okay!! You are doing something major here. Be patient and stay with the baby steps. Learn to accept failure, try to put yourself out there, ask for more in your current life!

Here’s a little moment of truth. Just like depression, fear is a strong thing. The shadows of both things may follow you. However, if you know what to look out for, you know what you can do to overcome it.

How?

It’s difficult to say specifically what to do because it is different for everyone. This is why it may be a good idea to just force yourself into the situation and do what you can to move forward. This could be a slew of ways:

  • Meditation
  • Being your own cheerleader in the mirror
  • Practicing what you are going to do and what to say
  • Expect the worst (or expect nothing) and surprise yourself
  • Carrying a token to remind you to be brave

I can go on but I know that we all have things to do.

 

Fear and Depression

Fear and depression go hand in hand. I know, so shocking. I’ll wait for all of you to gather the pieces of your mind back together (I wish there was a sarcasm font). Here’s how it works. Depression’s job is to keep you down, prevent you from flying high. Fear acts as a barrier, keeping you from moving further. Together, they are a dangerous combination. And people wonder why it’s so hard to overcome depression.

Tackling fear allows you to push the barrier back. The more you tackle it head on, the further back it goes. Take risks. Do something that you wouldn’t ever think of doing. In the end of the day, experiences like these make the best stories. So, if anything, do it for the memories.

 

Real World Example

One of my debilitating fears is failure. I had to be the best. I had to be unique. I had to be successful. Why? I was afraid of finding myself in the same situation that my parents were in (sorry, mom). Speaking of parents, they forced high standards upon me. Then, life happened.

I started doing poorly in school. My friends were slipping away. My finances were a joke. It all summed up to my greatest fear coming true.

So, I redefined my expectations and my definition of “failure”. Failure no longer means some strange situation that circumstance had brought upon in the past. To me, failing at life means ignoring every opportunity and not at least attempting to do what I want. Failing means not working towards my dreams.

That’s just me. This definition can, and probably is, different for you.

 

So, go out there. Conquer your demons. Show them who’s boss! I believe in you.

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I love the expression on this kid.

Reclaiming the Stigma

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As we move through our lives, we are left with a stark reminder of the way we felt and what we went through. Misunderstandings don’t always end when our depression symptoms ease. Having an open and honest discussion about it today still causes people to feel uncomfortable. No one knows what to say. We are exposed to sideways glances, confused looks, denial of, and avoidance of discussing what it that’s right in front of them.

It shouldn’t be difficult to accept. The number of people that go through this is staggering. It only makes sense that everyone is informed about what to look out for.

 

For Depression Sufferers

Keep the discussion alive. This is how we all learn. Remember that the more we can share about our experiences, the more it can benefit others who may be going through similar situations. It may also help non-depression sufferers to fully understand what is happening to us. Having someone – even just one person – listen to you makes all the difference.

Remember another thing as well. Not many are given the opportunity to confront their lives and actively change it. For some, they wake up years and years later, realizing that the path that they have chosen is unfulfilling. Many follow through with change later in life. I applaud those who do. It takes courage. They are fighting for their happiness. This is your chance to work towards that goal as well. Reclaim what you want. Now that you are facing your worst enemy (yourselves), you can brush off the opinions of everyone else.

 

For those who know someone going through this

First, we still wish to be respected. Silencing and downplaying our unhappiness will not help us at all. The best that I can advise you to do is offer support. Ask the person what they need from you. Opening up to someone is a difficult thing to do. This person has amassed all of their courage to come to you. Don’t dismiss it. Listen. Most of the time, we aren’t really seeking solutions.

Be aware of the following warning signs:

  • Self-isolation – the person no longer has the desire to socialize, spend time with friends, or leave the home
  • Decreased motivation – jokingly or not, the person constantly says how they are too tired to do anything. They don’t want to do anything requiring an exertion of energy (of any kind). They are exhausted by performing at the bare minimum levels, unable to focus on anything.
  • Changes in mood (mood swings) – they are quick to anger or get irritated, often without warning (as far as the other person is concerned. Internally, there are reasons aplenty)
  • Changes in diet – so this is harder to detect. Basically, watch for overeating or undereating
  • Insomnia – if someone complains about prolonged restless nights, it may be a sign of depression
  • Jokes about suicide – several jokes about this could be an indication that the person is trying to gauge your reaction. I know that this is becoming more common-place (which, for the record, I believe harms actual depression sufferers) but it is still worthwhile to start a discussion.
  • Self-harm – this goes beyond your common wrist-slashing. There are so many ways to inflict harm upon oneself. If you notice peculiar scratches, cuts, or bruises talk about it. For instance, I used to keep a safety pin tied to an elastic band that I wore around my wrist. I would use the safety pin to inflict harm (it was a stepping stone into actual cutting). Something like this could be prevented by questioning it.

 

P.S.:  I would like to sincerely apologize for the lack of posts as of late. I am actually still on vacation! The opportunities to sit down and just write something are so scarce. I will try to make more time and get the information out as best as I can. Thank you all for your patience!

 

The Expectations that Define Us

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We have all had to listen to advice about who or what we should be. We are taught how to act, how to think, when to speak, what to do. For some, this has been ingrained in our very being, shaping us into who we are today. It’s embedded into our subconscious minds. We take into account what these people’s opinions would be in every action that we take, losing our independence of thought.

Sometimes, the expectations can act as a motivator.
Example: “I can’t stay at this job for too long because there is no upward growth. My spouse/friends/parents know that I have potential and I need to do something more to prove them right.”

Sometimes, however, it’s more harmful.
Example: “I can’t quit my job and start my own business because I have a good job now. My spouse/friends/parents may think of me as a failure who wasted all of my money on a pipe dream.”

 

Letting Go

Learning to let go of what other people think of us is not always easy to do. We place so much importance on some of them and for some, we would do whatever it takes to keep them in our lives. It’s understandable why we listen. We forget that we don’t have to. They’ll still be here … at least those who are actually there for you will still be here.

Take a moment to understand what you want. What you desire. What your dreams are. Understand them without prejudice and without restraint.

So how do I ignore them? I can’t hide what I want forever.

Sometimes, the simplest solution is the best one. In this case, talk about it. I would also advise you to take a step towards achieving your dream and then starting the discussion. Why? You won’t be as easily deterred. Now, when I say “take a step” towards this dream, I mean research. Investigate. Plan as much as you can. Act as if you are already on your way. What can you do now to get going without tarnishing what you currently have?

 So, I plan. But, they may still think less of me! They say I’m wrong. What then?

That does happen. Hear what they’re saying but take the advice with a grain of salt. If it doesn’t work for you, thank them, but disregard it. You are in charge here. You know what’s best for you. The rest of us are just doing what we can for you with the information we have.

The Lesser Known Truths

Fact #1: people will talk regardless of what you do. That’s just the way we are. We gossip. Someone could be a saint, supporting numerous causes, but did you hear about the rumour of their drinking problem? Wasting charity money on something like that.

You can’t change people. All you can do is change yourself (yes, another cliché, I apologize).

Fact #2: people get bored. If you stand by your actions in their entirety, people will eventually leave you be. Something that has their interest today, will be forgotten tomorrow. So, who cares if you took a chance on yourself for a change? What if your risk was rewarded? What if you could have the life that you can proudly call your own? This is about you, not them.

Fact #3: our loved ones will support us in their own time. If they disagree with you now, give them time. If they truly love you, truly care about you, they will come to accept your decisions. Patience is key. 

Fact #4: sometimes, it pays to be a bit selfish. Fight for what you want. Determination is vital when trying to achieve success (I use success here as a term not to define monetary wealth but in terms of your overall happiness). Yes, sometimes it may seem difficult to do this especially if you have a family of your own. However, the dynamic changes when you are happier. Things come together. 

 

The Difference Between Positive and Negative Opinions 
We all have to have to be able to handle criticisms, but we have to be able to distinguish the helpful and harmful ones. 

Helpful criticisms allow you to grow. They shine a light onto things you may be lacking or other problem areas in your life. They contain information on what to do next. Harmful criticisms, on the other hand, do nothing more than attacking your person. They just lower your spirits by saying what is wrong but not offering anything that you can learn from.

Evaluate them. Ignore the harmful comments and save the helpful ones. Most of the time, the purveyors of the negative opinions are the ones who may need to be removed from your life. It’s just not worth the energy it takes to keep them around.

Either way, listen to what is being said and then determine whether it’s useful to you or not. Regain control. Rise above the expectations and be your own person.
So go out there and live for your better tomorrow!

The Human Condition

I am going to take a bit of break and instead talk about the bigger picture.

Humans. The product of millions of years of evolution; the surviving descendants of several extinction events. We have come from a long line of ancestors that knew nothing more than war and famine. Here we are today. There are new problems, new challenges, and new trials that we go through.

In the last thirty years, we have worked hard to instill a sense of equality. We have done a lot to shed light on the problems that the non-status-quo face. It is becoming easier to be honest with who and what you are. Some parts of the world have more work to do than the others, but progress has been made. Progress is a great thing. It is another source of hope. Hope that we will one day stop quarreling over trivial things – the colour of your skin, your sexual preference, your religious beliefs, etc.

If you are against LGBTQ rights, concerns that people of colour face, and acceptance of alternative spiritual/religious beliefs, I hope that one day you realize that there is nothing to fear. We are all the same. In the end of the day, the details don’t matter. They never did.

It’s like saying that you hate someone for having a certain blood type.
Type O blood? That’s just wrong! No blood type should be a universal donor! I don’t care if my friend is bleeding out on the table and urgently needs blood. I am against it! 

See, it’s silly. Like blood types, the other aspects cannot be helped. It’s a part of someone’s identity. Who are we to deny the identity of another human being?

Every single person that walks the earth has their own struggle. Their own history. Their own insecurities and fears.

So, before you learn about your place in your religion, your community, your side of the debate, learn what it is to be human. We no longer need to worry about survival of the fittest. In today’s world, we have tools and medicine and technology that does this for us. Instead, we need to be able to work together. Think not only of what is good for ourselves, but for society as a whole. For humanity.

Believe me, we are getting there.

Ignore the toxic few. Their lessons are yet to come.

All I ask is that you offer kindness. Because you never know who needs it the most.

For those of you who are ostracized for being who you are, stay strong. Know that you are loved. Know that one day, this too shall pass.

I apologize for my ramblings. This just needed to be said.