Confronting Our Fears

blackhole-lead

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.

vIf0lAD

I love the expression on this kid.

Reclaiming the Stigma

five-easy-garden-plants-grow-seed-1-seedlings-300x147

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

images

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.

The Body and the Mind

buddha-quotes-4

 

There is a direct correlation between our mental and physical health. Stress, anxiety, and depression can have a direct effect on your immune system, sleep patterns, and much more. Those of us with depression can tell you that physical health is usually just put on the back burner. However, by paying attention to your body, you might be able to give yourself just enough of a boost to begin picking yourself back up again.

 

The Foods We Eat

9a4ad1039a94f499973e757ff6ead890.jpg

Yes, junk food is convenient. Yes, cooking requires some effort. It’s not that hard though! All you have to do is wake up 15 minutes earlier in order to enjoy a healthy breakfast. That’s it.

Processed foods contain a lot of sodium and sugar, causing us to feel spikes in energy and mood. We feel drowsy. Snack a little. Feel better. Then crash. You will notice that this doesn’t happen when you opt for healthier snacks, rich in vitamins, fibre, and protein.

We can go on and on and on about the recipes you can choose. There’s hundreds all over the internet, grouped by dietary restrictions, preferences, etc.

Do you feel hungry a lot? Ask yourself if you are getting enough protein. Do you feel drowsy? See if you are getting enough vitamins D and B12. As vegetarians, we usually have a bit of deficiency in these vitamins as well as iron.

A good way to keep track of your diet is logging the foods you eat. The app that I would recommend to do this is: My Fitness Pal. It gives you a goal caloric intake amount for the day as well as a recommended macronutrient amount. You can easily see if you have had too much sodium, fat, or sugar in one day.

Just to clarify, the goal is not to eat less but eat better.

 

Physical Activity/Exercise

Exercise-border-clipart

Going old-school with clipart!

I know that I have touched upon this one before. Living a sedentary lifestyle affects both your mental well-being as well as your physical health. I know there are a million reasons that you could give me about not adding activities to your day: you are tired, you have too much to do, you’re too stressed, there’s no time, etc etc.

Here’s the thing. You don’t have to work out  for an hour a day for seven days a week. That’s just not practical. Do whatever you can. However little it may be. Start with half an hour, three days a week. You can even split that into two 15 minute sessions. Go for a brief walk, ride a bicycle around your neighbourhood, join a sports team.

This movement allows you to have more energy, increases your mood, and allows you to unwind for a moment. Give it a try. What do you have to lose?

 

The Importance of Water

Many of us who have tried to lose weight find that we aren’t losing as much as we would have thought. Sometimes, the culprit is water retention. If you don’t drink enough water per day, your body will think it’s being dehydrated and will store the water for future use.

Dehydration is another cause for feeling tired. Especially in the mornings. You have just spent roughly 7-8 in bed, without a drop of water. Yes, you are thirsty. It’s such a simple solution that it almost sounds ridiculous, but drinking a glass of water in the morning will help you feel a bit more alert.

 

Time to Unwind

cup-hot-tea-1.jpg

Above all else, make sure you give yourself some time to unwind. Do something that eases your mind. It could be something as simple as listening to music, reading a book, or taking a bath. In the pursuit of juggling a healthy lifestyle, your career, your family, and whatever else you have going on in your life, make sure you do this to avoid feeling burnt out. Take a break. Breathe for a moment. Then, tackle everything once again.

 

The Bigger Picture

These little, tiny things may actually improve your mood over time, but it does take time. Understand that some days will be easier than others. Forgive yourself for not following through on everything and strive to do your best. I know that some of you may be thinking that this is stupid or that this will not help you. It does. Just have patience.

 

Above all, be the best that you can be!

Understanding the Endless Cycle

Many liken depression to a disease or an illness. The only difference is that unlike a medical disease, the “cure” for depression is subjective. It requires constant work. As I have stated before, the only way to “beat” depression is to change the way you think. With a little bit of effort, this should be somewhat achievable.

Have you ever had a day that started out so well, only to have it fall apart within the following few hours? You were feeling okay; great even. Then, something suddenly happens. You hear a passing comment that reminds you of all that is wrong or see something that sends your mood tumbling down again. It happens so easily. So quickly.

Untitled2.png

This is where you must step in to break the pattern.

 

Understand the Emotion

The first thing that you must do is to recognize what you are feeling in that moment. Is it loneliness? Anger? Guilt? Fear? Whatever it is, make a note of it. Describe it. Add as many details as you can.

Why? 

By unleashing the emotion out on paper (or on your phone or computer), you make it tangible. It’s no longer something lurking in the back of your mind. You can see it there in black and white. It has now become easier to deal with.

 

Stopping the Downward Spiral

There are a few things that you can do to prevent yourself from sinking. Here are some of the tried and tested methods that have worked for me in the past.

  1. Talk to Yourself – this gets as easier with practice. Just have a simple discussion of why you feel this way. Try to see if there is something that you can say to make yourself feel better. If it helps, imagine that you are talking to a friend instead. What would you say to them if they were in your position? After all, it is generally easier to give advice to someone else.
  2. Create some Affirmations – This is just a fancy way of saying “be your own cheerleader”. Repeat things that you need to hear. It will seem silly at first but stick with it. It can be something simple like, “I am strong”, “I am loved”, “I am better than this”, “Everything is fine”. Repeat them. Say them in front of a mirror if you can.
  3. Take a Step Back – We normally get so caught up with the future, wondering why we don’t have a million dollars or a fancy house or a better life (this is just an exaggeration). Look back. What have you overcome? What steps are you taking now? Are you doing anything to help yourself? If yes, then now is the time to appreciate that effort. Reward yourself. You are not the same person that you were a year ago.
  4. Talk to Someone – because after all, we all need to vent every now and then.
  5. Surround Yourself with Positivity – okay, that was cringe-worthy. I agree with you. Basically, try to see if you can plant these little reminders around your everyday life. Get a poster with a motivating quote, set your desktop background to something that makes you feel inspired. The possibilities are endless. When you feel down, use it as a mood boost.

For instance, here are two things that I own with

Untitled

I have a daily planner with this right on the front. It’s a basic quote, but sometimes it can be a helpful reminder. I happened to find this at Hallmark while searching for a birthday card.

 

Untitled1

It reads “A certain darkness is needed to see the brightest stars”. Yes, it may be a bit of a cliche, but the galaxy background in the back with this quote seems to work! For all of you Canadians out there, I got it from Chapters.

Over time, it will be easier to prevent yourself from entering another depressive cycle. These are little things are doing something even greater – training your mind.

 

Going Forward 

Take a look at the list of emotions/situations that are causing you to slip further down. Is there something that you can do today to ease their power? Make a plan for yourself. Tackle it by slowly chipping away at the feeling.

What the hell are you talking about?

The goal is to give your positivity some fuel. If you are working on tackling the problem areas, you are able to appease the little voice in your head that is telling you that everything is wrong. You now have proof of your achievements.

For instance, if the emotion is loneliness, think about what you can do to add social activities to your calendar. Take a class, start a hobby, see if there are events in your area. Just try to put yourself out there. When that nagging feeling returns, you can tell yourself that you have made strides to have a richer social life. You may not be where you want, but you are getting there.

 

We are taking this one baby step at a time. There is no need to rush into anything.

82FXzMN

The Self-Harm Addiction

Many have been down this road. Maybe out of curiosity, out of need, or even out of desperation. There are many ways to harm yourself and all of them leave ugly reminders on your skin of what you felt. The common misconception is that this act is only performed by moody teenagers as a way to draw attention to themselves. This is not true at all.

For those of you who have never self-harmed, I implore you not to try.

 

The Function of Self-Harm

So why do people harm themselves? The main reason is that at the time, the person is going through emotional distress. It serves as a temporary means to alleviate some of the pain that you are feeling, bottling it up for another day. For some, it allows you to get on with the rest of the day, unburdened by our feelings. Anything to feel a sense of calm. Even if it is short-lived.

 

The Addiction 

When you injure yourself, you release endorphins that allow the pain to be temporarily subdued. It’s a simple reaction. This “high” is addictive. What starts out as a last resort becomes a primary instinct. It becomes a ritual of sorts. Further down the road, you will find that you are not satisfied until you see the sight of your own blood. It’s maddening.

The worst part is that it reminds you of your grief constantly. You see the damage that you have inflicted upon yourself which reminds you that things are not okay.

No one wants to continue to cut themselves or harm themselves in any way. Yet, we allow ourselves to succumb to the vicious cycle.

20170823_094318

Taken years after my last self-harm incident, these are the less dramatic scars that I carry. They now serve as a battle I conquered

 

Stopping the Cycle

There are some methods out there about what to do. Some are practical and others … not so much. I’ll list them all anyways and include my observations when testing them. Please test them for yourself as your experience may differ.

  1. Draw on your skin in red – The theory is that the red ink will convince your mind that it is blood. By witnessing the ink (and mimicking the act of cutting), the need to self-harm will pass.
    My experience – This didn’t work for me. I needed to feel the pain component associated with the act. Plus, I felt silly covered in red ink.
  2. Holding ice cubes in your hands – Go to the freezer and pick up some ice cubes and squeeze them. It should allow you feel pain without actually harming yourself.
    My experience – This too did not work for me. The primary reason was that a freezer was not easily accessible during the times when I did self-harm.
  3. Breathing Exercises – Take a few deep breaths and try to calm yourself. Try to centre yourself back into the present moment. This is supposed to allow the urge to self-harm to pass.
    My experience – this was partially successful. I was still left with feelings of anger and grief that lingered. It was also dependent on the severity of the urge.
  4. Remove the Usual Tools Used – If there is a typical instrument that you normally use to self-harm, get rid of it. Ensure that it is nowhere near you. The inconvenience should prevent you from causing injury.
    My experience – It was partially successful. I was good at replacing tools, though.
  5. Write it Out – Grab a piece of paper and describe how you are feeling. Go into as much detail as you can. Once this is done, throw the page out.
    My experience – It was successful (the times that I could do this). It allowed me to release the emotion and physically (and emotionally) attempt to discard it.
  6. Listen to Music or Distract Yourself – Pretty straightforward. Listen to something that you know calms you down. You could also take a moment and browse a website, or preoccupy your mind. If the distraction is successful, you should have forgotten about the urge.
    My experience – This was not too successful, but it depended on the severity of the urge. Sometimes, I found myself too distraught to focus on a new distraction (if that makes sense at all)
  7. Go for a Walk or Exercise – Being physically active is another way to release the pent up frustration and sadness that you feel. Exercising also another way to release those endorphins that you may experience while cutting.
    My experience – the times that I could do this, it was very successful. I recommend going for a walk in a scenic area (if there is one near you). Being around nature tends to be calming for me anyhow.
  8. Punch a Pillow or Scream into a Pillow – This is another method to release the anger and frustration that you may have bottled up.
    My experience – this didn’t work. It made me feel childish.

 

These are just some of the methods that I have come across. If there are others, please feel free to let me know! If you have tried any of the above methods and have had different experiences, you can go ahead leave a comment.

Or, if you prefer to remain anonymous, just send me an email. I will update the post with the information you provide.

Please remember that this moment will not last forever. The effort you put in now will be well-rewarded in the future. It takes some time, but you will feel better.

mpVv5jY

Redefining Belief and Reigniting Hope

Belief is a powerful tool. It has the ability to shape your actions, mold your words, and reshape your life. It allows you to breathe when you need it most.

Before we continue, I just want to make it clear that I am not referring to religious belief. 

Even if you are a religious person, please consider the alternative view that I am presenting.

So what are you talking about?

I am referring to belief in yourself. Just hear me out because believing that you will change, that things will get better and that you will be stronger is more important than any other advice that I (or anyone else) can give you. After all, only you can make change happen.

You may be at a point in your life where you believe that this is an impossibility. There has been a string of poor decisions, insecurity, and doubt. This is the past you. The actions that have been taken cannot be undone. It is in the past, where it belongs. We are now looking onward.

We are constantly evolving by nature. We are required to adapt, to change, to grow. I want you to ignore all that you may have said or done because that person is no longer you. What you experience today may not endure into the future.

In the words of Ms. Lauryn Hill from the song, “Everything is Everything”:

“What is meant to be will be.
After winter, must come spring
Change, it comes eventually”

I apologize for quoting a song, but it’s Lauryn Hill.

 

How do you instill belief in yourself?

One thing that works is having a conversation with yourself. It doesn’t have to be in public. Just tell yourself that where you are today is not where you want to be in the future. Talk through your goals (if you don’t have any, try to come up with a few). Imagine a happier life.

Every now and then, talk to yourself in the mirror. Tell yourself that you are going to be strong today. Nothing is going to bring you down today. Today, you feel great. Tell yourself anything that you need to hear.

Think of it this way, if your child is in pain, what would you say to them to make them feel better (no, it doesn’t have to be your child, it could be your friend, a close loved one, etc.). You wouldn’t let them suffer.

A funny thing will happen. You will begin to believe your words. It doesn’t happen right away and you will still have bad days, but, you will see just a bit more positivity shining down on you. And isn’t that worth the effort?

I dare you: Go to the bathroom. Right now. Stand in front of the mirror and tell yourself that you feel great and that you are strong. Add in any bit of encouragement that you need. You aren’t fat. You aren’t stupid. You aren’t too thin. You are beautiful.

Did you do it? If so, good job!

vIf0lAD.gif

 

Taking Charge

You must learn to take responsibility for your part in whatever happened in your past. This is a vital step. Whatever happened in your past, whatever caused you to be where you are, there are actions that you have taken to aid your current predicament.

Wait. How does this help me? This is just making me feel worse! 

By taking responsibility for your part in whatever happened in the past, allows you to gain control. You are back in the driver’s seat. What could you do differently now? What did you learn? Are there things that you are doing now that you can change?

Don’t use this to assign more guilt to yourself. Analyze the actions as if they were done by another person. Always remember to be kind to yourself while you do this.

Example:
This is a situation that many of us may find ourselves in. My parents had a vested interest in the career path that I should take. I felt compelled to listen to them and alter my plans to make them happy. This went on for a long time – sacrificing my happiness for their expectations of me. 
I blamed them for putting me in that position. I blamed them for my failures because after all, it wasn’t what wanted to do. It fostered a feeling of resentment. 
Looking back, I realize that I never truly had a long, open, discussion of what I wanted to do. I just went with their plans because it was what I thought was expected of me. I could have changed that. 
That action was taken because I was naïve. I didn’t think that I had the power to change the situation. Now, I do. I can speak to anyone who has expectations of me so that I don’t fall victim to their plans. 

In a similar manner, you are in charge of you. Try to retake control.

 

The Function of Hope

Hope allows us to carry on. It paints dreams of the future. Endless ideas of what can be. What is possible to be.

Once you have instilled some semblance of belief in yourself, hope will naturally enter your life. Hope is a by-product. You will be able to shift your mind ever so slightly so that you can welcome positivity. You may even be able to look at life with new eyes. See the beauty before you.

I apologize again. I realize that I am getting carried away. But I have faith that you too can experience the joy that this brings. Even if it is momentary.

eJHILvL.jpg

Reaching Out and Seeking Help – The Basics

 

At some point during the course of a particularly bad depression spell, we get the notion that perhaps we are not able to handle this on our own. I want to tell you that you are right. Don’t handle this on your own. You don’t have to.

Yes, yes, I understand that you are independent and that you have handled it thus far. I also understand that maybe you don’t have a strong network of people to lean on. You may also think that you are the pillar that must be strong for the others. Every person is allowed to feel vulnerable. Everyone needs a shoulder from time to time.

 

Understanding the Professional Options

There are two types of professionals who deal with depression – psychiatrists and psychologists. A psychiatrist is able to prescribe medication to help alleviate some symptoms while a psychologist focuses more on behavioural changes. Both serve their purposes. Feel free to speak to a family doctor to determine which option is best for you (based off of budgetary concerns, insurance coverage, etc.).

BE CAREFUL! Not all therapists are built the same, but sometimes the cheaper therapist may not be the right one for you. Understand that it happens. You are baring your soul to someone that you don’t know well. The relationship is based off of trust. Trust that they can help you. Trust that they will not judge. Trust that things take time. Just because one person doesn’t work, doesn’t mean the others won’t either.

There are also other psychologists that subscribe to alternative methods. They may ask to analyze dreams, hypnotherapy, and other non-traditional treatments. The end result should be that you are now better-equipped to handle everything. If this works for you then it works. I am just stating that there are these type of people out there too.

A lot of the suggestions they give sound silly at first (at least that’s what I found), but there is a point to it all. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and be yourself. With the first psychologist I saw, I withheld a lot of information. I was guarded. I didn’t question what they were telling me. In turn, I became frustrated and my symptoms became worse. The psychologist/psychiatrist will not know what to treat if you do not tell them what is wrong! It’s difficult, but, push through it. Talk to them about your concerns if it helps.

Turning to Family and Friends

This option can be a double-edged sword. Some people are amazing and they may be able to offer the support that you seek. Some … not so much. I know that some of you out there don’t wish to burden a loved one, but they are there for you. Your true family and friends are always with you in their own way.

Note: I use the word “Family” to describe people that you have welcomed in your life that are the closest to you. This does not have to mean blood-relatives.

Things that may happen:

  • They may become concerned about your well-being. That’s normal! Besides, you may need someone in your corner ensuring that you are taking care of yourself.
  • Some (the negative influences) will switch this situation and make it about themselves. What they did wrong. What they would have done. Why did this happen to them? (You are now imaging someone who will behave like this. I advise not to turn to this person … at least not right away).
  • Some will then open up about what they are feeling. That’s okay too. Just remember that it is okay to think selfishly every now and then. You don’t always want to be reminded of all the bad things in the world.
  • You realize that maybe having someone listen is enough (sometimes).

Sometimes an unlikely person may become someone a trusted confidante. You never know until you find a way to trust another person.

 

Support Groups

Yes, these things still exist! Sometimes, this can be beneficial but it depends on you. What you tend to do in these types of situations.

Some people can share their experiences and find comfort through the small community environment. They are able to offer you suggestions on what you can do and share information about what works for them.

Some people remain more closed off. It may seem overwhelming at first, opening up to new people. Sometimes you hear stories that make you feel worse because they may be going through something worse (in your opinion).

Personally, I try avoiding this. BUT that’s just me. In these situations, I don’t voice my issues, rather I try to listen to everyone and help them out.

The experiences are different for everyone. There are so many factors involved with this option. Feel free to try this out and as stated before, if one doesn’t work for you, it doesn’t mean that the others will not work as well.

 

With all the options available to you, you do not have to suffer alone. Try them out. You never know until you try.

If you feel as if no one is available, feel free to drop me a line. You can email me directly at: a.harkness002@gmail.com.

Have a lovely weekend! We are nearing the end of the summer so go out and enjoy it!

The Question of Identity

questions-light

Sometimes, we are so consumed by our depression that it begins to take over our personality and sense of identity. This, in turn, exacerbates the symptoms. We begin to feel lost and trapped. Most who have not been through something like this, do not realize that this part also affects us.

There’s no wonder why this happens. If you feel a loss of energy, low self-esteem, and the inability to focus on a consistent basis, it is only natural that things in your life begin to feel out of balance. Old interests begin to feel bland. Everything around you begins to seem monotonous.

Breaking the Spell 

I like to think that depression works as a horribly-crafted alarm that acts as a call to change. Something is preventing you from being who you are meant to be. Could it be your job? Your living situation? A career path you’re working towards? Dropping out of school? Keep this in the back of your mind. Don’t answer this just yet.

Identity is a funny thing. You are not meant to answer the question of who you are. If you are in search of this, understand that you will never fully know. It’s a constantly evolving answer. Therefore, it makes no sense to stress about not knowing what you like, who you are, and who you are meant to be. These questions are just too big.

So are you trying to tell me that I’m supposed to ignore my life?

Not necessarily. Stressing about who you are doesn’t help you understand you. All it does is give you another source of anxiety. The only way you can begin to rediscover yourself is by trying new things. It may sound cliché. I would have thought so when I was in your shoes. Just bear with me for a moment and pretend like this thought doesn’t make you want to roll your eyes.

Rediscovering You

Think back to your past. What things made you happy? Do you remember a hobby that you used to enjoy? Were you ever a part of a group that you thought was fun? Try getting involved in that once again. Don’t worry about looking silly or feeling out of place. Most people don’t even notice.

A good website to look into for this is Meetup.com. This site lists groups for like-minded people within a certain distance of your city. There’s so much variety on here that at times it begins to seem overwhelming. This website also does something important: allowing you to try new things without worrying about what your friends say or do. This is for you and you alone.

Learn to play an instrument (more and more adults are beginning to do this so you are not alone)! Begin writing again! Start experimenting in the kitchen! The possibilities are endless!

Hopefully, you will begin to feel a slight twinge of … dare I say, excitement?

This sounds a bit too good to be true. How does this help me?

One thing that you have to keep in mind is that you will feel boredom while immersed in your new-found hobby. That happens every now and then. I mean, we are human after all. Just think of how this new hobby/sport/interest makes you feel. What are you getting from it?

This is supposed to serve as a means to pick at the broader question of what you are missing in your life. Maybe you find a new career path. Maybe you realize that the people that you live with are detrimental to your mental health. Maybe you find new friends to lift your spirits.

 

Here is something that I heard that has always stuck with me. If you are afraid of doing something, whether it be going back to school or putting yourself out there when trying something new, it usually means that this is important to you. You do not want to risk failure or losing something. Let this fear guide you by taking the leap.

For example: I knew that the degree I chose was not what I wanted to do. I needed to find something new. I had so many fears about going back. Will I be too old? What about my financial situation? These questions still bugged me but I knew that this served as an investment for my future (not speaking in monetary terms but in overall well-being).

You are worth the risk.

So, don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone. Challenge yourself. Dare yourself if you have to. More importantly, have some fun!!!!

life-begins-at-the-end-of-your-comfort-zone.jpg

And now I leave you with this cheesy quote ☺