Blog Archives

See Yourself as Changing

 

“The absurd man is he who never changes.” — Auguste Barthelemy

Lately, I find myself feeling sick and tired being me, because it seems I am always the same, never-changing.  My emotional life often seems like a treadmill, never varying in its fantasies or rituals.  I haven’t acted to alter things, I’ve only acted out.  And in acting out I am driven by a compulsion to repeat actions that gave me little pleasure and no joy.

I am beginning to realize that the same feelings come up all the time and throughout the course of each day.  I find myself thinking or saying, “Everything’s just the same.” Or, “I’m just not getting anywhere.”  My day-to-day life seems about the same; nothing dramatic has happened, nothing special is going to happen.  Inertia.  Despair.

If I look around at others; in my community, in groups and check things out, I may be able to see more clearly the changes that have taken place.   Yes, I begin to become aware that “Alan” is different, and less negative, and “Justin” is energetic and outgoing.  Change may take place slowly, but it does happen.  For sure.


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Get Rid of Fear and Anxiety – Be O.K. with YOU

“Perhaps the most important thing we can undertake toward the reduction of fear is to make it easier for people to accept themselves; to like themselves.”  — Bonaro Overstreet

I was going about my life when suddenly; I became aware that I was feeling anxious, uncomfortable and insecure.  But what I feel underneath is afraid.  Even when we’re not conscious of it, fear can drain our concentration, deplete our confidence and manifest behaviors that aren’t typical of us.

Everyone feels afraid; it’s a part, even an affirmation of being human.  Fear can be a healthy, energizing response in some situations – such as when we take a risk or strike out in a new direction.

When we’re fearful, it can be reassuring to remember that, in the end, success or failure isn’t what’s important.  If, in any situation, we do the best we can and learn from our experiences, then we’ve nothing to fear.  Still, when we’re feeling fear, it’s important to know that the people who love us will go on loving us.  Sometimes, we may just need to hear someone say, “I know you can do it; I have faith in you.”  Then, fearful or not, we move forward, our fear balanced by faith and our willingness to try.


What Are We So Afraid Of?

Anxiety, Fear, Ignorance…

 

“Nothing in life is to be feared.  It is only to be understood.” — Marie Curie

Fear usually comes from ignorance and it paralyzes usually only as long as we stay in the dark.  For many of us, fear is often free-floating anxiety that overtakes us inexplicably and pushes us toward unaccountable actions.

Anxiety and fear have causes, and if we are brave enough we can explore them and put the bogeyman to rest.  We can’t always do it alone however, because we need to hear some reaction to our insights and hunches about where our fear comes from.  We can often find our true selves in the shared struggles of another person, or in the words given back as we tell others about our fears and hopes.  Most of us have been alone too long with our feelings trapped inside.

I have striven toward understanding, however long and painful the journey may be.  For those like me, we need to remember as we go that we are accompanied by good and loyal companions.  Every step we take can be a yard won back from fear as we become familiar with the new and uncharted territory.  Think and speak your way out of ignorance and fear, accepting the companionship of others along the way.


Discovering Our Uniqueness

“The search for a new personality is futile; what is fruitful is the human interest the old personality can take in new activities.” — Cesare Tavese

Complete these sentences and if you’d like include your answers in my poll:

Hard, isn’t it?  It’s usually easier to come up with five awful things about ourselves.  Yet, knowing who we are and being able to state it is a good exercise in self-esteem.  It feels good to be able to make positive statements about ourselves and our uniqueness.  We get a new sense of identity, especially when we take the risk of telling someone else about ourselves (Feel free to take a look at my page titled “This Boy’s Life – All about Me” which is this exercise at a much more detailed and intimate level). It’s the small things, our preferences and idiosyncrasies that add color and substance to our personalities.

The longer we work on ourselves through personal growth, or recovery, the more we enjoy our unique combination of qualities.  We begin to feel “comfortable in our own skin.”  We can start by affirming them to ourselves often, “I am unique. There is only one person like me.  I am worthwhile, competent and lovable.”  We can focus on ourselves, not in grandiosity, or self-centered ways, but lovingly.  Getting to know ourselves is an adventure, one we can enjoy each day.

The Innocence of Children

 

“Childhood is the kingdom where nobody dies.”  — Edna St. Vincent Millay

Children feel themselves all-powerful in an infinite world.  Nothing disappears, nothing passes away.  In our earliest days, our pleasures were limitless and timeless.  Reality was only an obstacle to gratification.

In our drama, we often remain fixed in a similar pleasure-oriented world.  We don’t like it when someone says “no” to us.  We sometimes try to manipulate reality to suit our own purposes. We may look upon others as objects of gratification.  In our fantasies, we often recreate the omnipotent, timeless world of childhood, where we are in total control.  Our pleasures know no boundaries.

We need to stay childlike and full of wonder, but at the same time, we must put away those childish fantasies.  We can be creative, without believing ourselves immortal or invincible.  We can return to the kingdom of our earliest days without playing the little tyrannical ruler.

Remember the uniqueness of our own childhood and leave behind its self-centeredness.  Love of others and love of life is the antidote to the narrow circle of our dysfunction.


Suicidal Thoughts: Strength to Continue and Endure

 

“In the darkest hour the soul is replenished and given strength to continue and endure.” — Heart Warrior Chosa

In the depths of our misery, some of us hated ourselves so much that we didn’t believe we deserved to live.  Some of us had this idea planted in our minds when we were children.  Some of us had lives that didn’t seem worth living.  Some of us were suffering so much that we were willing to do anything to rid of what we thought of as our miserable life.  When things are so difficult in life and it seems there is no other solution to our problems, some of us turn to thoughts of suicide.

How do we go on when we can’t any longer?  Very gently.  We use everything we can to help us stay alive; the thought of a beloved child, a special friendship, time-out from our normal life, or turning ourselves over to our spiritual source.  When we feel suicidal, we may not care about anything; we feel alienated and isolated.  But we’re not.  To even keep breathing connects us to life; breathe in and out, slowly. If we open ourselves to the fullness of the moment, from this most basic act our connections expand infinitely.  We’ve only to hang on, one minute at a time, and reasons to hope again will come.  Life is precious because it was given to us by our Higher Power who loves us unconditionally.


The Mother of all Depressions

It was the “Mother of all Depressions.” For four days I was unable to get out of bed. I couldn’t eat. I didn’t care about anything. I wanted to die. Really; I found myself hating my life so much that I began to think putting an end to it was the answer. A tape with the obscene mantra, “I hate my life, I hate my life, I hate my life” began to play in my mind. The last time I felt similarly was one dreadful July 4th five years ago, when I found myself being admitted to an Adult Psychiatric Unit.

Experiences can sometimes begin to feel familiar to that time five years ago.  Questions from family or friends about drug use, an uncontrollable anxiety over issues that later seem to end up as the small and minor challenges of a life in hyper drive. Family members and friends have no idea how to handle the evil, bitchy side that comes with depression. We fight, scream, cry and make threats. The choices I make when depressed are often not at all healthy and incongruent with physical or emotional well-being. Sometimes, the thoughts inside my head secretly struggle with the ways close friends have changed and seemingly moved on with their life.  I may feel my life, in comparison to theirs, isn’t moving.

When I’m depressed, I want something; a pill, a hit of dope; SOMETHING that will stop my ability to feel. I will listen to recorded pipe organ music for hours and hours on end. The music of Bach, played on a pipe organ usually relaxes me. Those in my close inner circle have involved themselves with attempts to get me to do something to pull myself out of that dark evil place and back into the light. With each attempt I often hand them some bullshit line like, “Sure, I’ll get up and take the dogs for a nice long walk” or, “Yeah, and I’ll eat something.” What did I actually do? I went back to bed, but only after laying some feigned guilt trip about how much I may have missed them lately and how terrible I feel for the things I do that drives them away.

My pathetic actions give them yet another glimpse of how capable I am of beating the fucking shit out of myself for the ways I have hurt them in the past. Sometimes, family and friends threaten to close our relationships.  “I have forgiven you and you should take a look at what you need to do to forgive yourself” a close friend once said.  When this friend said that to me I began to know how familiar my interactions with them could feel. It seems I can be a cycling, emotional train wreck seeking solutions or fixes to my problems, from them.

Gradually, I have found myself coming around, getting back into the light of life and feeling better.  A combination of things has worked.  I began years ago writing or journaling about thoughts and feelings I experience, being as honest as I possibly can be with myself, in my personal journal. This process of sharing has become so comfortable to me, that I often write these same thoughts and feelings in a blog that anyone can read online. I read from many books that have sustained me through some tough times of painful personal growth. I pray.

From loved ones, I have received many gifts: words, though sometimes harsh, have raised my awareness of my behaviors. Love and “big momma type” hugs are a tactile way of feeling alive. Time spent sharing experiences or in quiet contemplation with other loved one’s travelling on a similar path of personal growth brings connectedness, and dilutes feelings of isolation.  The last gift from loved ones has been their understanding and patience.

Tools learned in earlier cycles of depression are known to work and avert another “Mother of all Depressions”:

  • Heightened anxiety is a precursor to thoughts that are not totally based on reality
  • Understand self forgiveness
  • Accept the way people change and move through life; we all must do the same
  • Do not compare your life with anyone else’s
  • Be grateful for the loved ones who have stayed by your side and reach out to at least one of them early on in any future cycle of depression
  • We can learn to re-frame situations and experiences which may trigger negative thinking
  • None of us are ever alone.  We will never be alone

I read a blog that inspired me to begin sharing my journey away from depression. I have linked to it below.  It was blogged by “Hope Despite Depression” at blogspot and is titled “Grateful for Depression?”  http://hopedespitedepression.blogspot.com/2010/11/grateful-for-depresson.html

May we never allow depression to consume ourselves as much as it has in the past, ever again. May we begin to see our life experiences in different ways.

Reading Between the Lines

vital-signs

 

I’m walking down the line
that divides me somewhere in my mind
on the border line of the edge
and where I walk alone

Read between the lines what’s
fucked up and every things all right
Check my vital signs to know I’m still alive
And I walk alone

Green Day – Boulevard of Broken Dreams Lyrics

Too often, I find that I am superstitious and interpret signs that appear in life in negative or hostile ways.  Because I don’t believe in myself, it is then that I tend to think that fate is against me.

But life isn’t for or against any of us.  If we are attentive, we will see many signs of promise during each day; signs of promise, signs of goodness, and signs of beauty.  If we trust ourselves and the Universe, we will know how to interpret the world and use it to do good things.

Sometimes, we may be unsure of our next step or even our general direction in life.  If we are patient and alert to the world around us, we will pick up on the many hints and clues that will help us on our way – a telephone call from a friend, a warm hug, a chance encounter, a job offer, a word of advice from a special loved one.  When we are ready, we’ll know how to respond and what to do.

One thing we can learn to be sure of: in this world of signs, we are not alone.  We don’t want to believe in a hostile fate, do we?  The world is good and we can find our way in it by being patient and learning to read the signs.

The handwriting on the wall may be a forgery.  — Ralph Hodgson


A Moment of Awareness is a Moment of Grace

My inside, listen to me, the greatest spirit,

The Teacher, is near,

wake up, wake up!

Oh, friend, I love you, think this over

Carefully! If you are in love,

then why are you asleep?

— Anonymous

I know when I have met a challenge in my life; when I become suddenly aware of new knowledge. It’s as if a light goes on, and things suddenly make sense. One friend of mine refers to this as “a blinding flash of the obvious.” It’s important to take such a moment of awareness seriously; it is a cue that a lesson has been learned and that it’s time to move on.

In the past, not trusting myself and not in touch with my connectedness to the Universe, I relied on unhealthy ways to make sense of my life. The more I used intellect and will to manage and run my life, the less I accomplished.

A moment of awareness is a moment of grace. It’s as if the Universe gives us a wonderful gift, and we can turn right around and say, “So that’s what this is all about!” Receptiveness to such a moment gives us the willingness to trust where we have been and the strength to go where our life calls us next. I will always cherish the awareness in my life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Prayer and the Spiritual Journey

Prayer is our humble answer to the inconceivable surprise of living.”                   — Abraham Heshel

Prayer can mean to some, “a conscious contact with God as we understood him,” which is important in one’s recovery or quest toward personal growth.  There are many ways to pray and each of us has a style that uniquely expresses our spirituality.  Meditation or even the singing of a hymn are examples of any number of ways in which people pray.  Once we open ourselves to the Universe and the concept of something out there larger than ourselves, we can get comfortable with our own way of praying.  It may mean leaving past ways behind.  Maybe we’ve been used to prayer that relied only on words.  Perhaps we used to pray for what we wanted, making sure we told God precisely what was best for us and everybody else.  Or maybe we didn’t pray at all because we didn’t know how to, or were afraid.

I remember growing up in the Lutheran church, Missouri synod and having to attend confirmation class every Saturday morning, grades 6 through 8.  I still remember our pastor teaching us “how to pray.”  According to this pastor, we first had to tell God how sorry we were for all of our sins, original (sin that comes along with every human) and those we knew we had committed. Then we were to humbly ask for God’s forgiveness.  Next we had to praise God; tell him how wonderful we knew him to be and how much we loved him.  Finally, we could ask for what we needed, with the understanding that only God knows what is truly best for us.  Lastly, we were to thank God for all he has done for us and that which we hope for him to do in the future.

No other song, no other prayer, no other piece of liturgy is so well-known and loved in my Unitarian Universalism church home as “Spirit of Life” by Carolyn McDade.  In six short lines “Spirit of Life” touches so much that is central one’s need to communicate with our Higher Power: compassion, justice, community, freedom, reverence for nature, and the mystery of life. It finds the common ground held by humanists and theists, pagans and Christians, Buddhists and Jews, gay and straight among us.

Spirit of Life, come unto me.
Sing in my heart all the stirrings of compassion.
Blow in the wind, rise in the sea;
Move in the hand, giving life the shape of justice.
Roots hold me close; wings set me free;
Spirit of Life, come to me, come to me.

Thankfully, we don’t need to worry about how to pray; the Universe shows us how.  We must however, be willing to move from the everyday world to a place where it is just the Universe and us. It is an exciting part of one’s spiritual journey to develop new ways to pray, trusting our relationship with the Universe to deepen the experience.  What matters most is that we give ourselves to it.  When our prayers are from the heart, we know it, and are at peace.