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In the midst of the fire

(Trigger Warning: This post references suicide and depression. If you need help please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.)

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My favorite priest once gave us an analogy. He said to us that someone once told him that people who are depressed with suicidal tendencies feel like they are standing in a burning building with flames all around and the flames are growing bigger and bigger, closer and closer. They can’t run through the fire, the flames will engulf them. They stand on the edge, waiting for the moment the flames die down, but sometimes the flames move so close that they cannot escape them any longer and the only way out is to jump. The jump isn’t designed to hurt anyone else or even themselves. The jump is designed to escape the fire that is all consuming. People jump from burning buildings. We instinctively search for an escape from the pain that we know has the potential to destroy our lives. Sometimes the pain is physical. Sometimes it’s mental. Sometimes it’s both.

I think what’s important here is that we must seek help. We must do something to remove the flames, to put out the fire. Mental health is so important, but so gravely overlooked. It is underfunded, under researched, and services are nowhere near what they should be, but they do exist. Help is out there. And it’s important to remember – you know those moments when we are sick with a virus or an ailment where we are in so much pain we can’t move, we can’t take care of ourselves, we can’t get things in order on our own – that’s what it’s like when a mental health issue takes over. It’s not that people don’t want to fight it, it’s just that it seems impossible to do on our own. We have to create support. We have to care about one another. We have to remove the “why can’t you just get over it, we all have problems” mentality and move towards caring about one another and ourselves again. Treat people well. Be good people. Help one another. That’s what we are here to do.

It saddens me tremendously to lose someone who provided so much joy, love, and depth to so many through his work.But thankfully, those things live on. And hopefully we can strive to give those things to those around us – share in the joys and the sorrows, spread love and hope. We all have something to offer. Let’s offer it all with love.

“525,600 minutes, how do you measure the life of a woman or a man… how about love?” – Rent

All day long I see people, including myself, with something to complain about. We have a problem. We need someone to blame. Life, everyone’s life, is full of imperfections. It is full of unforeseen bumps, walls, bruises, breaks, tragedies, etc. And it’s full of readily known, easily seen bumps, walls, bruises, and breaks, and in some cases tragedies, as well. None of these, however, are easy for us to deal with. Not on a deeper level. They are things that require time. Sure some are easier for us to process, but to deny that they affect us, to deny that there are residual scars, is simply as stated, denial. It is ultimately unhelpful for all of us.

One of the things that I’ve seen numerous times recently is this statement, “I wish we could return to the morals on which this country was founded.” The statement seems well enough at first glance. But ultimately it is pining for something that never existed in order to blame everyone else for the problems in existence today and tag them as different. It is different, we are different, and that’s why things are the way they are. In reality, we are not all that different. In fact it is how much we have stayed the same in many cases that causes the issues that we have. See, our country was founded on the premise of religious freedom…if you were a protestant. It was founded on morals that included drowning, hanging, and burning females who might be perceived to be a witch. It was founded on denying any human rights, respect or decency to anyone who wasn’t white – as was obvious with slavery and the treatment of native Americans . And to denying a majority of rights, respect, and decency to those who were white, but happened to be poor or a female. You were allowed to murder someone for stealing from you with almost no civil process. It was common practice to allow abuse and mistreatment of women, children, and anyone who wasn’t a powerful (not in the physical sense here) white male. It was founded on the idea that anyone who strayed in any way from the ideas set forth by the males around them could be considered a heretic. It was a time when they believed and practiced the idea that God felt them to be the only worthy members and it was okay to kill, steal, and manipulate their way into power. And the law of the land was much more in line with “an eye for an eye” than a democratic justice system.

Maybe we should go back to the times before this. Perhaps the Renaissance, that was a good time right? Sure our country wasn’t founded then, though it was “found” by a tyrant. Back when we (a human we, here) were crusading around, killing people who thought any differently than us. Taking their land, their money. “Screaming convert or die.” Burning people, hanging people, raping women and children. No? What about the Dark Ages? Should we go back there? What time in history is it that we should return to so that we can find these uplifting morals that I’ve heard so much about?

In truth, those morals are present at all points in time. There are people, probably the majority, who want to do good. Who want to be good. What do we measure a life in once it’s gone? In love? In hate? In blame? What do we measure it in while we are still living? With what do we measure our own lives? If it is not love, then, this is what we have to blame for the way that things are going. If we aren’t learning to love, ourselves, others, and teaching ourselves and others to be better people every day, helping one another rise up, then today will remain just as it was, yesterday, and last week, and even back in the good ole days when this country was founded. It is those who adapt who survive. It isn’t the strongest, or even the smartest, it is those best able to adapt. And it starts with a drop. Just one. One person to start measuring the year, the day, the minute in love, and this ignites the spark.

–It’s been a long time, and this was a bit long – my apologies.

When the heat is on

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I took Jack walking today, and we ended up out during an extremely hot point in the day. Originally there were lots of clouds around, but when we arrived they had all disappeared. We walked a little bit, and took even more breaks. He had a wonderful time, and I watched all the runners and cyclists as they rode around.

From all I could see the heat was pretty stifling. I remember when I was younger how much more energy it took to play games in the afternoon instead of in the evening. It didn’t stop us from playing, but I would dare to say that most of us held our stamina longer and made better decisions when we weren’t trying to win games in the oppressive heat. And this is true of many situations.

Sometimes we have to push through the heat. Sometimes there are no other options. But there are more times when if we would just wait it out and let the heat die down, even just a degree or two, it makes all the difference. Having the patience to not try to fight the fire is hard. We don’t know how long it’s going to last or what it might burn up in the process. When we are standing back and just watching from the sidelines, that urge to do more tends to kick in. We feel like we just have to do something. We have to fight through it, and make things happen right now. We have to stop it. We have to fix it. We can’t just sit there.

But patience is a virtue. (at least that’s what they say). And in reality, in a large number of cases if we decide to take on the heat, to run into the fire, we end up only feeding the fire. It billows up. The problems grow. Now everyone is at risk, when before we were in a position to do something once the heat died down. We have to be willing to wait it out. To have patience. To remain calm. To remain in control. We have to make sure that we only fight when necessary and that we are equipped to do so. Whether you’re shouting or quiet, whether you are explaining it away or searching fervently for the answer, if you are standing in a fire you are no match for the fire. Without the right gear, without a spare supply of oxygen, without other people helping you to work to put out the fire, you’re simply standing in the fire. And that heat, those flames will quickly consume you. You won’t know which was is up, much less out. No one will understand what you are saying. But if you stand outside, you wait it out and let the heat pass, suddenly the path has been cleared for you. So don’t buy into the fury. Don’t listen to the hate. Don’t participate in storms that will only get you clobbered. Stand your ground. Know your goal. And wait for the path to clear.

Day 31 – Reflecting on the challenges

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I began this month trying to figure out what I could use this blog for. I decided since it was mental health awareness month to use it to write things that are related to mental health…but in particular posts that were encouraging to people so that the posts could help boost our mental health together. I hadn’t written in a long time, and I was trying to find a way back into writing. And trying to stretch my own capacity for creativity and writing.

And today when I was thinking about the challenge that I had put forth for myself, to spend a portion of each day doing something that was focused at helping others and helping myself by growing, I realized that I had accomplished more than I thought I would this month. This month was full of trials and tribulations that I hadn’t expected at all in my personal life. And this blog really has served to help me sort out those issues and helped me find people who have similar problems in their lives.

What I also thought about today is how important it is to reflect upon our challenges in life. I’m not sure that I’ve really reflected on things in this manner before. Normally if I look back on a challenge it isn’t usually with the notion that I’ve passed the challenge. I have a tendency to dwell upon the challenge as something that I wish hadn’t happened, and don’t look at the fact that I have made it through, and I am continuing to make it through. I am usually just frustrated by the challenge itself in general. In my head I know that we all have challenges and that we can and should learn from them, but when we look at our own instead of at other people’s it’s a lot harder to tell where the challenge begins and ends, and whether or not we’ve actually overcome or accomplished anything. But in reality we have all overcome and accomplished things because of and in spite of our challenges. And I think taking the time to look at them in that manner is necessary to our well-being. We have to be able to look at ourselves and see the good things, see the accomplishments (even if at first we feel they are minimal at best), see that we are survivors, so that we can remind ourselves that we are achievers.

When we know who we are, we can know where we can go. And I firmly believe that we can go anywhere we want to go. In fact, we will go wherever we want to go, because that’s the way things work.

(just a note, I’m not stopping the blog, just reflecting on this month)

Day 30 – Growing to our highest height

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While outside playing with Jack yesterday I took a picture of an oak tree. We have lots of water oaks along the coastline in Mississippi and some of them have grown to huge sizes. They’ve survived for centuries, storm after storm, year after year. And I started to think about how that happens.

People mention building your roots a lot. In order for a tree to grow it has to anchor itself in first. But I think sometimes what we overlook is just how root systems work in trees. They grow down to form an anchor, and then they spread themselves out. They branch out in all directions creating the right amount of support for the tree itself to branch out in any direction it needs to. As we grow in life, we can’t just grow in one direction. We are multifaceted and complex. We have multiple talents, multiple needs, multiple areas we are capable of sharing in, of growing in. We have to make sure that we are tending to all the different areas in our life in order to grow as high as we can grow.

When a tree gets injured on one side, those branches can start to whither and die. The whole tree can end up weakened, because it’s no longer in balance. So the tree starts to regrow that branch whenever possible. New life will emerge from those areas that we’ve left untended, even when they were areas that were hurt. Whether it’s because we ignore those areas simply because we have so many things we need to focus on, or if the areas are damaged from things that have happened in the past, the chance for regrowth exists. And not only does it exist, it is necessary for us to find our balance again. For us to thrive again. We have to make ourselves as strong as possible in order to weather the storms in life, and to do that we have to pay attention to all of our branches.

Sometimes when we let things constantly eat away at one part of our life, it finds its way into the other areas as well. Inevitably we end up unhappy, unfulfilled, and unsatisfied. We get lost. We don’t know what’s wrong because so many areas are now at risk, and finding the source of the problem is hard. It’s easy for poison to find its way in when we can’t find the wound to close it. So it’s extremely important to begin paying attention, looking at ourselves and really realizing what needs to be done to help us feel whole again. They are not voids that can be filled by others. They are things that exist within us.

We have the chance to do great things and be great people in even the smallest of ways every day. We have the chance to grow ourselves with every sunrise and strengthen our roots with every sunset. Every branch we extend outward has the chance to touch someone. To help create fresh air and breathe new life, without do anything other than functioning at its best. By weathering the storms we have the chance to help someone else do the same. We just have to grow ourselves in all the different directions we can. We have to allow ourselves to be human, to be people. To have faults and weaknesses, but not let them overcome us, because we all have many ways to grow.

Day 29 – Having the courage to try

Last night I watched “We Bought a Zoo.” And in it he says, “all you need is 20 seconds of insane courage…” And that made me think about all the people I knew who had something to say about the movie. So many people said it was just what they needed. They were thinking about major changes in their lives and they needed something to happen. It’s funny how so many of us feel that way. That we need something to happen. There needs to be a change. We aren’t where we want to be, and we aren’t sure we are getting to where we want to be either. In life it’s quite easy to lose track of where we wanted to go.

Circumstance can be to blame much of the time, but it’s circumstance that we have created for the most part. We want to believe something can still happen. And when we see it happen for other people, we believe it again ourselves. But we need constant reminders. Most of us see something, get inspired, but never take the steps to follow through. We tend to look over just how much it takes to take a chance. To just go for it. To go for all that we wanted. A lot of times we opt not to because we don’t want to fail. Because if we fail at the things we really want, then what does that mean? What’s left from there? And it goes a lot deeper.

Unfortunately for us, taking the easy way has a tendency to become the hard way. Because easy has a tendency to couple itself right up with unfulfilled. And maybe it’s easy at first to live that way, because we still hope and there’s still time. But time moves much more quickly, and what we find when we look back is chances not taken. And the mundane of the everyday and unfulfilled gets wearing. We have reasons we do what we do. We have reasons for the things we don’t do as well. I’ve studied psychology for a long time. I’ve counseled people. I’ve consulted. I’ve spent the better half of my life helping people, even in a non-professional level. People have always come to me for help. I never understood why when I was younger. Even now, I’m not always sure. But it always seems to work out.

In life we have to have an understanding. We have to have a reason to believe in ourselves. We have to have the skills to look inside and understand ourselves. Because society has a tendency to tell us things that are untrue. The people closest to us, even our closest friends and family don’t always have our best interest in mind. That means it’s up to us to care enough about ourselves to learn how to get to where we need to be.

Today my book was “officially” released. In paper back and in e-book format. In certain book stores who were willing to take a chance. And at this point in time when I’m surrounded by chaos, and lots of bad news, I’m not sure what to do with that. I was told I needed to tell people it was out, so I guess I am right now. But I don’t know if this is how I’m supposed to do it. It’s hard, because I knew how important it was that I don’t waste anyone’s time. The reason I wrote the book that I wrote, and not a “quick fix” book as was suggested to me, is because the message that’s in the book is important. Transformation takes time. Changing your life takes time. But it starts with one day. It starts with knowledge. It starts with taking the moment to say, I’m going to try. I’m going to jump in. I’m going to have insane courage. And the book tells you why you should have that courage. It tells you why you are worthy of the things you need. It tells you how to breathe again when it’s dark and frustrating. It tells you why you should make it through. It tells you how to start changing your life, piece by piece. And why your life can and should become the amazing life you wanted, no matter what has happened in the past. It tells you how to forgive, how to let go, how to move forward. All the things that are too long to write in a blog. And it tells it well.

So what I’m  saying is I hope everyone has the courage to try. Try to become the person you want to be. If the book can help, take a look. If you know someone who needs a life change or just wants an entertaining read, or needs a graduation gift, tell them to look. It’s worth the time. It’s worth the information. And it’s worth taking the chance to try. The read is easy. The information is good. Nothing I’ve ever done has taken more courage. And it’s terrifying. So even though you don’t have to, if you want to share the message. If someone needs help, lead them to it. We all have somewhere we need to go. We just need a little guidance sometimes in getting there.

And if you bought a zoo already, or have a story to share, let me know 🙂 We all have multiple things to contribute. We all have things to make life worthwhile. So why not share them? Why not have the courage to try!?

Amazon:

Between Fear and Love

Barnes and Nobles:

Between Fear and Love

Day 27 – When we don’t have any more to give

Today may be a little short. I have had a few family members diagnosed with cancer, and lots of turbulance happening all over the place this weekend. The month in general has been just a major rush of highs and lows from all different angles that I’m still trying to sort out. I’m not sure what else I have to give. I’m somewhat thankful for the writing on here, because it’s nice to have a place to focus my thoughts, but I’m seriously overwhelmed today so, here’s what I have to say.

Throughout the day we’ve been sitting around a lot thinking and talking about old memories. That’s the thing that sickness can do. Particularly when the prognosis is just up in the air. It’s brings to light the fragility of life. And there’s been a lot of that around here lately. With my family and friends and in the news in general. I find myself staring a lot, with no particular focus. Which can happen anyway. I’ve always been a drifter in my mind. I was never great at paying attention in class. But in this case it’s frustrating, because I want to focus. I want to figure things out. There are things I need to get done in my life. Things I need to get in order and determining what needs to happen matters. Determining what I need to do is important. And as each day passes the importance grows.

We all have those things that we feel pressing us. Those things that we know we want to do. And we know that there is a time frame on them. We know that the moments we have to do the things we want will pass us by if we don’t act upon them. But we also have to take the time to figure out what needs to be done when. And take the time to not let things consume us to a point where we are ignoring the other things that are important. And that includes appreciating the time we have to spend with the people who are important to us. The time to just let it go for a few moments and know that it’s okay to just be. We have to allow ourselves to be human. To have more than one pressing need. To have a multitude of things that matter. And a complex web that we have to weave. It has to be strong. It has to hold our weight. It has to have a number of stops and crossroads. It has to have alternative paths to get to where we need for safety, which may be a different place at different times itself. We have to be people. Fallible people. And we have to let others be the same. A lot of the time that’s where the good memories arise from. That’s what we learn from. We are just people. And there is greatness in that. Even when we are overwhelmed and our minds drift. When we can’t get it all right. We are still doing something good. We are still trying, even if it ends up wrong. Great things can come about, even if we don’t think we have any more to give.

Day 15 – How to live the dream

I normally don’t watch Glee, but I watched part of it tonight. I used to be in choir so I’m a fan of chorale singing, but on the show tonight they went to Nationals. The thing that I like most about these moments in shows… the end of the singing shows, and this one as well, is that someone’s dreams are literally coming true at that moment. There is still tons of work ahead. It may not pan out the way they had hoped, but at that moment in time they have achieved something they’ve only dreamed of achieving. The closest I’ve ever come to this is when I was 14 or 15 and playing softball, and the team I was on won the state games (it used to be known as the junior olympics here). I remember singing along to “We Are the Champions.” I remember that overall feeling of how fantastic it was to finally be at the top, to be the winner, for things to have finally gone right.

Those moments don’t last, but they can certainly be moments to strive for. I was a state champion. That can’t be undone. It’s good to achieve things in our lives. It’s good to dream. Speaking in mental health terms, a mind that has hope and is capable of readily dreaming is more open to opportunities and more likely to actually achieve their dreams. They are more likely to report being happy in their lives, and they believe that life has something to offer. Dreams matter. It’s hard to feel fulfilled if we aren’t trying to do any of the things we really want to do. It doesn’t matter how big or small. If we don’t give ourselves a chance then the battle is already lost. And it affects every area of our lives.

It’s hard not to give up. It’s hard not to give in. It’s hard to figure out what’s really worth fighting for. It’s hard not to believe what other people say. But it’s hard living with yourself when you give up. It’s harder than overcoming. We have to make ends meet. We have to survive. But we have to find ways to do more as well. Time is scarce, and is completely irreversible. We are truly on a one-way track. It’s never too late to try. We have to find ways to make our contribution feel worthwhile to ourselves. We get a new chance with each new day. And every day we have something worthwhile to offer. What dreams do you have?

Day 14 – Catharsis

Today I’m just sharing about what it has been like so far writing again. I started out writing this blog this month because it had been so long since I had written. I wanted to see if I could still write, and I wanted to see how it could help shape my mental health practices to start back up. It really has been a nice stress reliever, considering how stressful life has been lately.

Writing for me has always just flowed. There is something in the connection of my pen to paper (my preferred method) or even now typing on a keyboard that just works. By that I mean the things that swirl around in my head at a rapid pace throughout the day have the capacity to be released in a somewhat meaningful manner. There is something unique that happens for me whenever I start to try to unfold all of the things I didn’t know that I was thinking. And sometimes upon review I even surprise myself with what was going on in my head.

I don’t speak well. Words never form properly when I try to get my point across using words. If I even start to speak too loudly, something in my wants to cry, which makes no sense. So I’ve never been good at yelling in arguments, which is fine for me as it’s not my preferred method of communication anyway. There is a disconnect that happens when I try to say the things I want to say. While there is a complete connection that seems to extend beyond me when I try to write the things I want to write. Even the things I don’t want to write just flow out of me when I’m writing. In a sense I feel more brave when I am writing. In another I feel relieved. It’s as though I am able to voice my concerns to the universe and have them displayed in a manner that makes sense, instead of a manner that fails to be comprehensible.

I’m quite glad at the moment that I did start writing. Even though I’m a little concerned that I have no clue what I will write about from here on out. It’s hard to be too deep constantly. And it’s difficult to find the lines between what I feel is worth sharing and what isn’t. We all have things that flow for us in our lives. What are some of yours??

A journey through May, Mental Health Month

In an effort to be more productive with this blog, I decided that since May is “Metal Health Month” I would try to write something every day that in some form or fashion has to do with mental health. It’s interesting to me having studied psychology for as long as I have to see how the public field divides around mental health. There are those who are adamant about mental health and the help that can be derived from the “industry.” And there are those who despise its existence all together. I often have the argument presented to me, “If I am starving thinking good thoughts isn’t going to save me.” And while this may be true, as mental health isn’t physical food it does still play a role. The way we think, our habits, our mindsets they make a difference in just about everything. And perhaps if one is starving something as intangible as hope may not feed them, but it may give him the faculties to hold on until help arrives or to devise a plan on his own.

To doubt the importance of that which we cannot see is to doubt the importance of that which we can. Our physical existence is dependent upon our mental existence. We live in a world where perception is reality. And our perception, all that we perceive in life allows for our existence. Neglecting it is rarely beneficial to anyone. And working to better oneself in any form, including our mental health is what makes life a life that is lived.

So this is my initial blog to start off “Mental Health Month.” I’m not good at coming up with things to write every day. But I am going to do my homework and try to figure out something to say that is worth saying each day to provide a positive, encouraging look at living life through a mental health lens. Any ideas are certainly welcome!

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