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You Are In Integrity

“You are in integrity when the life you live is an authentic expression of who you are.” — Alan Cohen

 

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Ask for Help

 

“Asking for help does not mean we are weak or incompetent. It usually indicates an advanced level of honesty and intelligence.” — Anne Wilson Schaef

I’ve received a lot of help lately. Most from my dearest friend and some from people I never imagined I would receive so much of their time or efforts.  I don’t like to ask.  I’ll spend more energy talking about how hard it is for me to ask, than the energy I’d expend simply asking for what I need.

Many of us may have grown up in isolation and with shame being constantly reinforced the way I did.  Help began to feel like a luxury reserved for other people.  I thought I didn’t deserve it.   I thought I should be able to handle everything.  I failed to realize just when I needed help, because I’m so accustomed to living life in a “crisis mode.”  I tell myself that my concerns and problems aren’t important enough to bother somebody with.  Then, when life becomes really complicated, I blame myself for feeling overwhelmed and almost unable to act.

But we all deserve help.  We deserve all the help that we may want and need, whether it’s a ride to an appointment or for someone’s shoulder to cry on when we’re sad or upset.  We are worth the time, effort and concern of others – not because any of us is different, but because we are the same.

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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.

Survival – In These Times?

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“Mere survival is an affliction.  What is of interest is life, and the direction of that life.”  — Guy Fregault

I know people who, when you ask them how they are, will say automatically, “I’m surviving.”  They say it with a bright, brave smile, as though they’ve battled tremendous odds and come through, bloody but unbowed.  They seem to imply that life is a grim, unfair business.  But in reality, their lives seem easy and secure.

There are others I know with real problems – illness in the family, financial worries, job insecurity and more.  These people might greet you with a smile and bring to the simplest exchange an energy and liveliness that sends you away refreshed.  Such people have the gift of life and share it abundantly.  Like the ninety-seven-year-old woman with thirty-nine grandchildren who greets each one of them by name and has a story and a joke for every one of them.  She lives in their memory as a force of love and vitality.  Her immortality is there, in the love her family bears her.

Each day can bring as many joys as sorrows.  When we are patient and find the courage to invest the best of ourselves, we can truly live and not just survive.

Willingness is Like Faith

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“The readiness is all.” – William Shakespeare

Willingness is like faith.  We know it’s real because we experience it, but we can’t define it.  Nonetheless, the sense of humility, surrender, and peace that accompany willingness are our indicators that it is real, indeed.

A recovering addict who recently finished treatment told this story: “I was walking downtown and I got at least three offers to buy drugs and have sex.  I said no.  My willingness at that moment was to say no.”

We move forward often without knowing where we’re going.  But in those rare, shining moments of willingness when we conform our will to the Universe’s, we see our direction clearly.  And we are transformed.