Friday, 27 February 2015

Why I’m Glad I survived.

We make choices in life all the time, from the moment we wake up (and begin a series of snoozes) to those last seconds before drifting off to sleep at night.

In moments where I felt bereft of options, I was dead sure (pun intended) that the choice to disappear from life was the only one there was for me.

I can say with a 100% certainty now that regardless how recurrent that thought was; it was never going to be the right choice. But that obviously wasn't always my line of thinking.

I didn't want to live, but I also didn’t really know how to live. I didn’t even know myself. It was like living within a stranger who couldn't do anything right and who I absolutely loathed.

I don’t need to embellish further but I’m here today and I’m pretty happy in life, being alive and I’m excited for my future.

I’m glad I survived because:

  • I have learnt more about myself in my recovery than ever before and grown as a person as a result.
  • I have a wonderful family.
  • I have people who care about me.
  • I have my whole life ahead of me.
  • I know now that change is possible, anything can happen and ruling out all further potential in life makes no sense to me anymore.
  • I get to grow up and figure out how to be a functioning adult.
  • Life has so much to it, in every aspect. It has beauty and experience and opportunity for everyone. I get to see all of that.
  • I get to see sunsets and mountains and the sea.
  • There’s a whole world out there I haven’t visited yet
  • I could travel if I wanted.
  • I could learn to drive, or take up a new hobby.
  • My dogs are fun and gorgeous and good at cuddles.
  • I get to meet people everyday and engage with them.
  • I get to work and learn and earn.
  • I get to meet such incredible people on a similar journey.
  • I get to write and share my ideas.
  • I know how to look after myself better.
  • I get to experience so many other emotions than sadness/numbness/anger.
  • I get to laugh and cry and feel.
  • I’ve overcome a lot and things I thought impossible before are within my reach more and more.
  • I get to go to gigs or listen to music or read books.
  • I get to listen to people speak and hear inspiring stories.
  • I get to see other people grow and live their lives and see their stories unfold.
  • I get to speak about hope from an honest, wholehearted belief in it.
  • I get to hear bad dad jokes and make awful puns :-)
  • I get to buy nice things or browse the shops.
  • I get to read poetry and meet people who like it too.
  • I get to be heard.

Most importantly, I'm so glad that now;

I get to live.

Monday, 23 February 2015

For The 50-Somethings

It's never too late to find a happier you!

I come into that category of 50 somethings and have just embarked upon a journey of "Who am I?" and "What do I want?"

My life as a child was difficult; my parents fought all the time. So I tried to please both of them. I tried to be the peace maker, I came between them to stop the arguments.

Then my father died when I was a teenager. My mother was so wrapped up in herself and her grief that we kids just had to carry on. At 19 I was diagnosed with reactive depression.

Life continued - I married, had children, worked and continued on the road of concentrating on others. Some of my children are/have gone through emotional distress, and all of my time and energy has gone into supporting them, completely forgetting about my own needs.

Now however, they have grown up, are doing well by themselves, and once again there is just me and my husband, or for the greater part of the day - just me! And I am feeling lost. I don't work at the moment, my kids are grown up and once again depression creeps into my very being!

But, last Friday, I found Hope.

I have decided to start taking control of my life.

There is so so much in the world that we all deserve but the biggest things are to be happy, be content and be your own best friend.

So all you 50- somethings (or whatever -something you are!) stop thinking 'Ah it's too late', or 'this is my lot', or even 'you can't teach an old dog new tricks'. 

Change is there, it is possible, you just have to open your mind, body and soul to it.

Don't just settle, because we all deserve more.

Sunday, 22 February 2015

Inferiority and Guilt versus Admiration and Learning

Many of us have read, heard or perhaps seen a biopic of someone whom has overcome hardship to succeed in the face of adversity. We learn of people like Louis Zamparini and Nelson Mandela and Oprah Winfrey and we think of how inspirational their stories are. But some of us don't stop there. We might also believe that these are inherently "better people" than us and consider ourselves unfairly lucky that we have not experienced the same hardship as they have.
I could go into a detailed explanation of what my own mind has done with such potential inspiration in the past. I could outline how I managed to sap many such stories of their power to motivate me, by over-analysing my own circumstances to the point that I "deserved" whatever difficulties I experienced because I'd had it "too easy" thus far.
But I won't.
Because that was rubbish.
Now, I hear of wonderful people who tried and "failed" (whatever it even is to fail) and tried again...and again and again as necessary, to achieve a goal, and I think "Wow, people are so strong. I am a person, like any other. There fore I am strong." I also think about how grateful I am for my blessed life. I remember that there is no point whatsoever in me depriving myself in an effort to "balance" the universe. It doesn't work like that.
If I wish to "pay back" for how fortunate I am, the best way I can do so is by appreciating my own gifts, talents and the people and experiences that make me happy. Enjoying my life is my right. I do not have to earn it.
And as for the people who have worked hard to earn the comfort and contentment - and possibly riches and fame - they achieved in the end, I can look to them as models whose example I might follow in different ways in my own life. I can admire their courage and hope and believe that, if the need arose, I could display the same strength and determination.
The bottom line is: People are special and powerful and unique.
You are a person, so this applies to you too, whether or not you choose to believe it.
You are brilliant.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Mid-week Motivation

Sometimes we all need a little bit of encouragement, am I right? So on that note;

Saturday, 14 February 2015

Self-Love on Valentine's Day

Me, Myself and I; the most important trio in my world. They say the key to happiness is self acceptance and self love- and I'm working on it!

Three or four Valentine's Days ago in a group therapy session, the facilitator gave us all teeny-tiny notebooks (I think they were covered in hearts) and tiny little bubble wands- pink and red! We had to write something nice about ourselves in the notebook. Now don't get me wrong; I loved the notebooks. But I did NOT love the idea of writing nice things about myself. I would have much preferred to write a list of grievances à la 10 Things I Hate About You! I probably cooperated, (likely) through gritted teeth and forced smiles.

But now I can genuinely say some nice things about myself and show myself love. I wish I could write sonnets and revel in verbose proclamations of love; but I'm not there yet. It's all about progress I guess! I'm sure next Valentine's Day I'll like myself a bit more.

Dear Me,  
I love that you're kind.
I love that you always give things a chance.
I love that you don't quit easily.
I love that you're creative.
I love that you get excited when you realise you've got mail.
I love that your hail smells nice.
I love that you have twelve pink nail polishes.
I love that you care about animals.
I love that you sing along even when you don't know the words.
I love that you respect your elders.  

How about you write some things you love about yourself. If you can't stretch to love- try a list of things that you like about yourself. If you can't stretch to things you like about yourself- try a list of things you don't hate. Baby steps are ok!

Come on, you know what to do.

Saturday, 7 February 2015

The Size of Your Life

Numbers were never really my thing. I never had the slightest bit of interest in math in school and I thought for sure that upon leaving, mind-numbing calculations would have little prominence in my life. 

So when I realized the extent to which I was using them day to day, I just couldn’t understand it. If I wasn’t frantically counting calories, it was the pounds in my weight, endless estimations to try to change the number. Shopping trips would either be ruined or enhanced depending on the digits jumping out from potential new clothes. A walk was a challenge to achieve x amount of miles in x number of minutes. 

My meals were numbers, my clothes were numbers, my entire worth became based on a number. 

This kind of fixation can be different for everyone. We can be notching up negative numbers of anything - habits, rules, time, things we don't like about ourselves, things we're not good at etc.

And where do all these miserable measurements get us? Does it all add up to any sort of happiness?

I can tell you that it doesn’t, because it becomes never-ending and really all it is doing is putting our focus on something incredibly insignificant.

We are more than the sum of a bunch of numbers. We're made up of so much more substance, potential and authentic character than we realise.

The focus needs to shift and instead of wasting time counting what doesn't really matter, we could start totting up all the little things that make our lives what they are. It’s time to put less importance on the size of our difficulties and more on the size of our lives. Why not start to count;

Good moments in the day: Begin to take notice of the little moments that help you get through everyday. Maybe it’s a five minute extra snooze in bed, getting a seat on the bus, an amazing cup of coffee or just someone smiling at you as they pass. When you start to appreciate each of the seemingly irrelevant moments,  even your average days won’t seem so bad.

What we’re grateful for: How often do you take stock of all of the great things in your life? Why not sit down and come up with ten things you are grateful for each evening? There is so much to be grateful for that too often goes unnoticed. Particularly on challenging days, it’s refreshing to sum up what we have and are truly appreciative of. Make it all count.

What there is to look forward to: Sometimes we can fixate on the countdown to 5pm or the highly anticipated minute when Friday finally arrives, but why not make more to look forward to in each day, even before 5pm rolls around. Create more small boosts of enjoyment throughout your day that will break up the monotony and give you something worth working towards.

The number of achievements we’ve made throughout the day: Do you give yourself any credit for each of the little steps you successfully take each day? We can overcome a lot throughout the day without even really noticing. We might down play it as a mere necessity or something that’s taken for granted but really without having completed certain steps, we’d be much worse off. Even if you’re just acknowledging going to work or reading a book, it’s important to give credit for what you have accomplished each day. Some days even getting out of bed is worth giving yourself a pat on the back.

Life is made up of a sum of people, lessons, experiences, interests and so much more. Everyday we fill twenty four hours with a range of activities, thoughts and achievements. It might not feel natural to start counting all the little positive things but why not try it? Why not begin to look around and notice what is adding up to equal where you’re at right now. We might realise that there's some scope for subtraction and adding more life enhancing things in.

It’s interesting to find what makes the size of your life larger and discover a way to keep multiplying your enjoyment in life. It could be certain people or passions or hobbies. Looking at ourselves as a number that we want to continuously shrink makes our whole outlook smaller or seeing our lives as a sum of negative experiences. It’s too general and blinds us to everything else that enhances our experience. There’s a whole world out there with the potential to enhance the size of our lives.

Tuesday, 3 February 2015

Try creating a head-space you don't want a holiday from!

First I'd like to open this post with a quote:

OK, now on to my point: How often have you wanted to run from your life? How often have you been so desperate to pack everything up and move far, far away? Well, if you're anything like me then you've probably packed your bags a good few times. And spent even more time daydreaming (as money doesn't grow on trees and all that!) about this elusive alternate universe.

I'd always imagine that it would be different once I 'got away from it all'. I would stare into space and imagine a magical version of my life, where suddenly the bars on my little negative mind would turn to dust. I'd be free of those pesky shackles. I'd walk with a spring in my step, and hum.

But then I'd get away, and realise someone had packed my negativity and despair into my carry-on.

I've sat in a bath as big as a small pool in a 5 star hotel in Las Vegas and just cried my eyes out. I've sat fully clothed on deserted beaches in Hawaii; too self conscious to wear my togs in case a stranger turned up and saw my body.

I think what I've learned over the years is that you can run, but you can't hide. The only way to truly escape the dark place in your head, is to learn to switch the lights on. The only way to permanently escape those suffocating thoughts, is to actively work on changing them. The only way to feel the freedom one so desperately desires when they fantasise about 'getting away' is to work for it. And to work hard. And to not give up.

It's been almost a year since I had my big weep in that bath-pool in Vegas. And what a year it has been. I think I worked pretty hard this year. And have been rewarded for the energy I put into changing my thoughts. I don't have that deep urge to escape anymore. I realise that if I try to escape my mind by physically escaping the country- nothing happens except that I cry in fancier bathrooms. My mind comes with me- everywhere I go.

I'm not yet free, but I know what I have to do. I have my passport. I have the directions. I just need to keep moving; I need to keep working on creating a head-space that I don't want to escape.

It's time we all learn the value of a staycation.

Sunday, 1 February 2015

Sunday Suggestion

Good morning!

It's Sunday, it's a beautiful day. And guess what? Today has potential. 
Every single day when you wake up, you have the power to set your day up and entertain a world of options for how it's going to play out. 

My suggestion for today is to think about the following questions throughout the day:

Does this serve me?

If I play the tape out - how will this go?

There's so many habitual behaviours that we engage in when we don't feel ok. We might over-analyse, hold grudges, compare, harm ourselves, numb ourselves through behaviours, think negatively, push people away etc. 
Quite often we do it just because we've done it for so long that we don't even question why. That's just 'what we do', 'we can't help it', 'we lose control', 'what else can we do?' These actions might offer some kind of solace or relief, but in the long run, do they serve us? Will this action help or hinder my day?

You are in control of your life even if you don't always park your bottom in the driver seat, the option to do so is always there. You can change how your day goes at any time. You can STOP the minute before you do something destructive and say This will not serve me, I'm not doing this.

But, I'm not going to play it down - it is challenging and it takes practice. 
Start by just allowing those questions come up and see what answers you have.

I remember on 'bad' days, my music choices, my entertainment choices, my behavioural choices, my attitude - all of which negatively impacted both myself and anyone who came near me. I would plunge into a world of depressing music - because they 'get me' in my woe - I would snap at anyone trying to communicate with me - because they don't 'understand'- I would get caught up in behaviours, take my angst out on myself - because I hated myself..
It became routine, it became a vicious cycle. And it never made anything better. It kept me stuck, destructive and isolated.

It wasn't just one day that I decided to stop, but I started thinking about those questions and why I was doing what I was doing and still sometimes I'll ponder them in my day to day decisions.

We get something out of everything we do. Even if what we're getting is punishment to ourselves, it's something we think we deserve so it still serves that purpose. 

We need to shift that way of thinking and realise that if we don't think this behaviour would serve a loved one, it's probably not such a good idea for us either.

Think of what you would like to be doing, all of the things that could actually serve you. Think of your day as the bursting box of potential that it is.

Get into that driver seat and start steering.