Tag Archives: depression

Send in the Clowns

I think the saddest people always try their hardest to make people happy because they know what it’s like to feel absolutely worthless
and they don’t want anyone else to feel like that.
—Robin Williams

I have been thinking about this irony quite a bit lately.  Most people think I’m a very happy, successful person who is well-adjusted and lives a good life. Some are shocked that I’ve had major challenges in my life.

I always try to make people feel a bit better about their mood or circumstances because I’d never want them to feel the terrible way I do inside most of the time.

What I find is that I’m left with no one to listen to me they way I listen to others. There are a number of people in my life who only contact me when they need something; advice or an ear, etc. Then, they are gone once they’ve gotten what they’ve needed. It is hard for me to make real friends despite my outgoing personality because they tend to be one sided. As anyone would, I tire of that quickly.

I find that I spend a lot of time alone. I am able to do so many things that most of the time I do not need to ask for help. Recently, I realized what a lonely life I really lead. The irony is that I’d really like to be involved with people who care about me. I’d like to have an inner circle that I could count on. It is strange how much I can make other people feel good, but I am alone; in my solitude with my nagging thoughts and there is often no one to comfort me.

For the 4th of July weekend, I visited a part of my family that I was estranged from for a long time. As I talked to my father’s only remaining sibling, looked through albums and watched my cousin interact with the family, I began to see patterns that have lasted generations. I haven’t even taken it all in yet, but I noticed the anger and the violence and the destruction. There may be one person on my dad’s side that is still married to their first spouse. Even those who are married are not in healthy relationships. I saw the way my family cuts people down and makes them feel small. I saw the vindictiveness and the way that the anger has turned inward on each person who lets their anger loose on someone else. I watched how they just struggle to find reasons to keep staying alive. I thought to myself how familiar it all is.

Everybody in my family has a broken piece in the unit; a missing father or husband, an angry man, a passive agressive spouse, co-dependents. I don’t think we even realize that we’re actually grieving that loss. It all comes out in wierd ways that we try to use to manage how close or how far away we keep you from knowing that pain. It’s like no one told us we could share the burden. 

I simultaneously draw people close and push them away with my humor depending whether I think they could handle the grief. I’m lonely because I learned that I cannot rely on people to stick around even if they promise forever or unconditional love. I cannot let them share my grief because to open it up with someone who will not stay by my side through thick and thin is to do nothing different than I’ve always done. Because I always get the same result, I don’t know how it feels to share with someone who actually keeps their words and doesn’t leave. I would very much like to know that feeling.

Here’s the thing, you can’t believe something else is possible if you’ve never experienced it. My experience is a lot of pain. I would like to be loved by someone who would let me stop being a comedian. In the meanwhile, I make people laugh because I don’t want them to come close to feeling the pain I do.

With love from aneternaltraveler 😉

Assault of the Mind

Today was another day of waking up to a roll call of my failures and shortcomings.  All before I even opened my eyes.

Sometimes, I stay paralyzed in this state for a good 15 min. while I get the shit beaten out of me.

At some point, another dude shows up and says, “C’mon now, it’s not that bad.  I love you & we’re gonna be ok.”  I have to hear this repeated over and over in order to release the physical paralysis and get up.

Tired Before I Get the Day Started

Do I have to get out of bed?
Do I have to get out of bed?

Needless to say, this is an extremely exhausting way to begin my day. Often it will take me until afternoon to start feeling ok.  It makes it hard for me to focus on the things I set out to accomplish.  Often, I’m too exhausted to do much else after just managing these assaults all day long.  This, of course, folds back on itself creating “proof” that the asshole in my head just might be right after all.

Of Two Minds

Wait a minute!! Who's in charge here?
Wait a minute!! Who’s in charge here?

Research shows that the conscious mind averages about 40 bits of information/secondapproximately 1-3 events at a time. The subconscious mind however takes on an average of 4 BILLION bits of information/secondso literally THOUSANDS of events at a time!!!

If these two were in a fight to get the message across the fastest, who would you put your money on to win?? If you said the subconscious, congratulations…you’re a little richer.

If you are one of the many people out there, like myself, who have jumped on the “law of attraction / affirmation” bandwagon in order to feel better about your life, you may have also noticed that it’s not quite cutting the mustard.  Why not?  Well, I’m glad you asked 🙂

First, we read all these books or watch the videos and we “think” Aha!  I’ve got the secret.  Soon, after much practice…we say something like…wait a minute, it’s not working.

That’s where the gurus typically tell us that we are not trying hard enough and we are affirming our negativity.

Try harder!!
Try harder!!

I don’t know about you, but there is nothing more I hate than someone telling me I’m failing because I’m not “trying hard enough”, especially when I”m giving everything I’ve got.

I believe that’s both unfair and unhelpful.  It gives you absolutely no insight whatsoever.  To make some headway (pun intended hehehe), first you have to understand a little bit about the purpose of the conscious and the subconscious parts of the mind.

Conscious vs. Subconscious

Conscious –  uses logic & reason, anything you CHOOSE to do, past & present, filter for your belief system (the judge/bouncer)

Subconscioususes emotions, involuntary actions, always in the present, core of your belief system and memories

Let’s use an example.  Based on my experience of being bitten by a big dog I trusted, my subconscious has stored a memory of the event and a belief that ALL big dogs are dangerous and I should stay away.  When I see a big dog my conscious mind is alerted by the subconscious that there is danger and it logically chooses to avoid contact to keep me safe from perceived danger based on my belief system.

Now, let’s imagine you try to create a conscious affirmation that “ALL big dogs are safe” because you’re tired of being scared.  Hmmm…it isn’t working.  Well that’s because your conscious mind says these words and then dutifully checks in with the subconscious belief system and learns that the subconscious says…hell no.  So basically, you can say all you want, but if the subconscious says bullshit, all bets are off.  You are still afraid of big dogs.

The Powerless Feeling of Positive Thinking

In my own life, without realizing it, I’ve habitually and chronically adopted some beliefs deep down that prevent me from achieving what I say I want out of life.  This is really demoralizing and depressing.

You start to get pissed at yourself because, you’ve tried to convince yourself to believe differently through affirmations and you’ve failed.  You start to think well maybe I really am useless, messed up, broken, etc. So now you’re basically afraid AND feel like a failure.  Cool.  So much better. Thanks.

If this sounds familiar, first of all take a deep breath.  You’re not the only one who has tried the power of positive thinking and felt at your wits end.

It is enormously helpful to understand that, you simply cannot consciously do what you subconsciously don’t believe without creating a moral dilemma.

That is the whole basis of the conflict, misery, and discontent you feel inside.

When these “two minds” are aligned we can be successful, when they are not we are in conflict with ourselves and others. PERIOD.

If you wonder why you say you want to do one thing, but seem to quit before you start, or half-way through, or lose it after you get it, this is why. It is almost impossible for us to achieve a goal if we hold subconscious beliefs that are in conflict with that goal. Your subconscious mind will find a way to sabotage you at some point in the process.

Any time the conscious is distracted or offline the subconscious takes over the reigns of control.  So, that’s why I wake up to the jackhammering sound of my subconscious every morning for a while until my super slow conscious comes back online to get me up and going like a good project manager.

Your Head is Like an 8-Track Player with One Tape to Play

Most of us have heard about the “tapes” that play in our heads.  This is another way to approach talking about the subconscious mind.  Sometimes, it is really hard to tweeze out the messages that are constantly replaying in our minds because they play so quickly.  If your’e lucky you have great positive messages playing, but for many of us, that’s not the case.  Today, I wrote mine down immediately after my conscious mind got me up.

I’m going to share them with you because, I have a feeling you might think you’re the only one this is happening to and you’re cracking up.  You’re not alone.  I can’t promise that you’re not cracking up ;p

You little worm...
You little worm…

Here are the ramblings of my subconscious (my tapes) that I hear every morning and whenever I feel insecure and my conscious can’t keep it under control.

Why don’t you just kill yourself?  You always take on more than you can handle.  You know you are going to fail, so why do you even try? Sooner or later you’re going to be homeless and living on the street.  Nobody loves you.  Nobody cares about you.  You are insignificant.  Fucking loser.  You can barely keep it together.  Why do you even bother getting up day after day? You are not good enough.  You are not smart enough.  You’re a fraud. You suck with people.  Nobody would ever want to be your friend.  Everyone see that you are a problem.  If they don’t see it yet, give it time.

Whew!! I read these aloud and began sobbing uncontrollably half-way through.  Day after day of waking up to this barrage of abuse.  Knowing it is lying just beneath the surface of my consciousness threatening to undo me with the right trigger, makes it damn hard to get much out of life.

What do your tapes play?  See if you can write it down and then read it back to yourself.  How did you feel?

Prolonged Exposure Therapy?

I recalled reading about a “prolonged exposure therapy” developed by U. Penn psychologist Edna Foa to help veterans with PTSD.  It has been enormously successful, but it works contrary to the way most of us deal with trauma (by avoiding talking about it or discouraging survivors to dwell).  Basically, this therapy encourages you to talk about it /tell your story over and over until it minimizes or eliminates the PTSD entirely.  If we don’t talk about things, they don’t magically disappear.  They fester.

Prolonged exposure therapy is now also being successfully used to help survivors of rape and sexual assault to deal with their PTSD.  It has been shown to be more effective than conventional therapy.  After exposure therapy, 83% of these girls no longer had the diagnosis of PTSD vs. 54% who received conventional supportive counselling. Even their depression and daily functioning improved significantly with exposure therapy.

It got me thinking about how the tapes we play in our heads operate in our lives in a very similar way as PTSD in that they both can take over your life and belief system to negative affect.  Ultimately, in both situations a trauma has occurred that has affected your belief system AND is making life unmanageable.

Could a version of this “prolonged exposure therapy” help us to manage our crippling fears and beliefs that negatively impact our lives so that we may move past the trauma and towards creating the life we really want to live?

Experimenting with Conscious Exposure to Subconscious Tapes

Step 1: I decided to begin by recording myself saying all the messages I hear on my tapes in the same mean way I hear them everyday.

Step 2: Then, I played the recording over and over and over while I visualized someone outside of me saying these things to me/about me.

Step 3: Each time I listened, I rated my emotional reaction on a scale of 1 (least affected) – 10 (most distressed).

Step 4: When I need a break, I either go to a safe place in my mind or I get up and go to another room to create a sort of “environmental reset”.

My theory is that I “know” somewhere deep inside that the things on these tapes are bullshit….somewhere beneath the trauma and the entrenched belief system.

I hope that by courageously facing the fear of hearing those words and feeling the feelings that go with them head on, I can get to the point that I recognize it as false, reject it as untrue, and desensitize myself to the emotional terrorism I feel day after day so I can have my whole life back again with a much better belief system.

Then maybe we can talk affirmations 😉

 

– With love from aneternaltraveler 😉

 

Think of Your Fear Like a Wet Suit

2013-2014As I go into the new year I’ve committed myself to an attitude of gratitude. However, that also means that there is a transitional phase from negative attitudes and mindsets that have to be managed. It’s a little like a corporate takeover. A lot of sorting out to do before it all settles down again. Oh how nice it would be to have my very own “Easy Button”!!

Today I noticed that I was feeling really tight in my chest and down in mood. I tried telling myself to stop it, but that didn’t work. Then, I tried closing my eyes and breathing, that didn’t work either. What gives??

As I searched for answers, I remembered what I wrote yesterday about using “LAG” as my new conflict management style and I thought, maybe this will work for conflict within me as well.

LAG is an acronym for a conflict management style I created to help me create the life I want to be living. It stands for these three steps in the process: “Lean-in”, “Accept”, “Go on”. I’ve started applying it to situations where I am in conflict with others and today I learned it could also be applied to internal conflict.

LAG: Step 1: When I “Leaned-in” to the feeling, my mind fought very hard to run away. It did not want to focus on the ill-feeling at all. I kept saying to myself, “Stay with it”. “You are safe”. I kept breathing in and out to stay calm. When I breathed in I said, “breathe in”. When I exhaled, I said, “breathe out”. That kept me better focused.

When I felt less flooded, I asked myself, “What are you feeling?” “How would you describe it in one word?” The answer came – “I feel rejected”.

I thought, ok. Now we’re on to something. The feeling has been identified. I had no idea until this moment how often I actually never knew what I was specifically feeling. It was just “bad” and I wanted to avoid it and get as quickly as possible to good. That’s all I knew.

It makes sense now why my internal conflict never got resolved as it arose. Negative feelings just kept building up until I began to feel helpless and hopeless in my life. I felt like a prisoner who was put on this earth to do her time. As if I were chosen to be unhappy, while others were chosen to have a fulfilling life. I have felt powerless in my own life for a really long time.

LAG: Step 2: “Acceptance” – I said to myself, “thank you for sharing that. I accept that you feel rejected. That must be very painful. How can I help?” Much nicer 🙂

??????????????????????????????????????????????I waited a bit for an answer and then seemingly out of nowhere, an image of myself on a beach wearing a zippered wet suit popped into my head. The suit felt tight and constricting. My skin felt clammy. I could smell the salty air, hear the waves lapping onto the shoreline and felt the warmth of the sun on my face. I just stood there and took it all in for awhile.

A few moments later, a guiding voice spoke to me over my shoulder.

“What if I told you your pain of rejection could be removed at any time you chose?”I said, “Shoot. I’m all ears”. He said, “Unzip your wet suit and let it fall to the ground. Walk forward and feel the warm grains of sand between your toes. Look behind you and see your pain balled up and lying on the ground. You can pick it up anytime you want and suit back up or you can leave it there and go for a swim in the ocean and clean off all the residue that it left behind”.

LAG: Step 3: “Go On” – I decided to walk into the ocean and swim. It felt good to get the suit off. I kept swimming until all the residue was gone and I felt refreshed. I found myself smiling and laughing again. I felt lighter.

After taking myself through the process, I now understand why my initial attempts to deal with the feeling that arose didn’t calm me down. By flat out telling the feeling to STOP, I was completely ignoring and avoiding it. Then, with zero tolerance or acceptance, I wanted to flush it out with my breath without taking a moment to understand its purpose for being there. Very rude of me actually!

I looked back at the wet suit on the shore and thought about how I don’t have to wear outfits just because someone else thinks they suit me well and I can take them off at any time.

In more practical terms. Let’s say you are in fact being rejected by someone or a group of people. Do you have to feel ashamed of yourself and wear your feeling of rejection like a full body wet suit sponsored by, “THEY REJECT ME”? No, not really.

And here’s the kicker. You can still acknowledge to yourself that they reject you because they very likely may not like you or want you around. It happens.

You don’t have to treat yourself like a reject.

That’s where most of us end up in major pain. When we agree with another persons opinion of us, we are subconsciously feeling that other people know us better than we know ourselves. We give them permission to change us to become what they say we are, what they limit us to. This is the express lane to pain, depression & loss of self.

it's not personal

Instead, you can just accept that they do reject you and that it sucks.

Remind yourself that other people’s opinions of you are none of your business.  YOU are not a failure because of this.

You are still that same awesome, talented, special person with so much to offer this world no matter what other people say.

People who try to make you feel bad about yourself are really unhappy people. Believe it or not, it is NOT personal at all. They are just showing you how bad they feel inside. Something in you reminds them of a quality they wish they had inside but they don’t know how to achieve it.

Pray for them. Acknowledge that they are in pain. But under no circumstances do you let what’s going on in them define who you are. It’s separate.

Instead of carrying their load as if it were your own, bless and release them.

You just may not currently be with a person or a group that honors your gifts in the best way. It’s just not a good fit. Focus your energy and talents on honoring yourself and surrounding yourself by people who do honor you.

You’re already good enough as yourself.

Happy New Year and lots of love from aneternaltraveler 😉

Exercise is NOT Optional

Yesterday, I had a very low day.  Nothing seemed to be ok in my life.  I couldn’t find my gratitude, my progress or even a tiny ray of sunshine.  Today I realized what may have happened.  I cannot miss a day of exercise.  It’s not optional for me.  It’s a necessity for my mental well-being.

I think without really naming it, I’ve struggled with depression for a long time.  I’ve had a hard time throughout my whole life maintaining a consistent baseline with my mood.  I’m already an emotional person who’s equally analytical. So, in a nutshell, I feel deeply and I analyze it ’till no stone is left unturned.  Adding depression to this just ups the ante and puts a pretty negative light on the picture.

Coming home and feeling amazing after exercising today, I started to take serious notice of this phenomenon.  Yesterday, I didn’t exercise and felt really depressed.  Today, I exercise and feel great???  This relationship between whether I exercise and my mental state has WAY too much of a correlation to be a coincidence.

Exercise is Good for Your BrainSo, my analytical side kicked in and did some research.  Turns out, there are a number of studies that show this correlation between exercise as a treatment for mild to moderate depression.

recent research shows that exercise may be one of the best treatments for mild to moderate depression.  “Every day, there is more and more evidence,” says Harvard Medical School psychiatrist John J. Ratey, MD, the author of Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain. ” – By WebMD Feature”  Read full article…

Huh..well you don’t have to convince me!  I’m living proof of it.

If it can do this much for someone with depression, imagine how it could change the life of someone without it.  How could your life change by giving yourself the gift of just 30 min. of vigorous exercise a day? Image

I’m under no illusion that exercise alone is going to make my life all better.  I realize that I’ve got a number of things to figure out before I feel like my life is on track.

But you know what?

I think that the odds are in my favor that it’s gonna be a whole lot easier to come up with solutions when I don’t have to simultaneously try to lift up a heavy black cloud from my head in order to think clearly.

And I’ll take those odds any day.

With love from aneternaltraveler 😉

Distracting Yourself from Your Unhappiness

I was perusing the blogs at Tiny Buddha and I ran across a post called: Create Your Life: Having Nothing Can Mean Having Everything, by . There was this one line she wrote that really stood out to me and made me pause to reflect on my current circumstances:

 Life can get so busy, and often when we don’t like where our life is, we fill it with things to do so that we don’t have to think about our unhappiness.

I thought about how much my life has changed since my divorce,  how dissatisfied I feel with chronically finding myself in ill-fitting jobs, and the fact that I wake up everyday feeling like I’m an actress in someone else’s life.

I’ve poured myself into improving my house because it’s the one area where I feel like I am rewarded for my efforts.

But when I read that line, it hit me like a ton of bricks that I’m almost done transforming my house.  What will I do with my unhappiness then?  Will I continue to find distractions or is the time coming where I’ll have to face it head on and make some serious decisions?

As the questions formed in my mind, I felt the cold knife of fear tear through my chest.  These past few years all I’ve done is react to trauma  in survival mode. I’ve been picking up the pieces, “patch-working” my life together with the scraps I found lying around and losing my faith in hope.

I feel like the romantic I once was is buried under the harsh realities I’ve faced. I’ve experienced major trauma before, but somehow this time it has left me afraid, a little less bold in risk-taking, heavy.  

Maybe my unhappiness stems from feeling like I’m trying to make due with what’s in front of me instead of creating something that’s uniquely mine.  I believe that’s why fixing up my house appeals to me so much.  I start with a vision of what I’d like it to be and take the steps to bring it into reality.

With my house, my vision is clear.  With my life direction, it is not.  And I’m running out of house which means I’m also heading right into the fog that is my life.

It seems like I’m going to be left with only 2 choices: 1) face the unhappiness or 2) find another big distraction.  No matter what I choose, I have a feeling I’m about to arrive at a defining moment in my life.

Have you ever come to a crossroads like this in your life?  Tell me, what did you do?

With love from aneternaltraveler 😉

Don't Give Up on Yourself!

Image

Recently I was in a car accident within a couple of weeks of accepting a brand new job.  I was T-boned on the drivers side and my car was totaled.  I suffered a concussion and sprained my neck.  The doctor told me that because I worked out so much, I got away pretty lucky because my body could sustain the impact better than someone who wasn’t so physically fit.  Still, I had a lot of healing to do.

Leading up to this, I was working out 6 days/week at that time doing a 6 week to shred program (Jim Stoppani’s 6-week Shortcut to Shred…highly recommend it). I was studying to become a personal trainer.  I felt amazing physcially, mentally and emotionally.  Even though my life was hardly in any kind of perfect working order, it felt manageable.

After my car wreck, I couldn’t work out for awhile so that I could heal completely (doctor’s orders).  That was really tough.  I felt like I lost another part of myself.  I continued to work both of my jobs with some days being 13 hrs on my feet.  I’m typically a very highly energetic person, but I was wiped out.  My energy was at an all time low point.  

At some point I think I just gave up on myself.  I stopped working out completely for almost 3 months and ended up on the couch more nights than I’d like to mention ordering delivery.  Sometimes, I’d skip dinner completely and just order 3 pieces of chocolate cake.  It felt like I had no time or energy anymore to do the other things that were important to my well-being.  I just worked and ate, rinse and repeat.  I felt terrible. I had really let myself go.

Today I made up my mind to hit the gym and get started again.  Hell or high water I was going directly after work.  I packed my gym bag the night before and threw it in the passenger seat on my way to work to remind me. I took the advice I give others – even if it is just 20 min. it is better than sitting on the couch.  Do something.  You’ll feel better.

So, I jumped on the arc trainer for 20 minutes.  I still felt ok, so I eyed up the weight area and said longingly, well I guess I could do a few curls. Aerosmith was blasting in my ears and kept me going. Before I knew it I had been there over an hour!!  

As I was driving home, I realized how good I felt in my body and mind again.  When I arrived and set my things down it was chore time. Suddenly, all the little chores that have been pissing me off for the past few months seemed easier and faster to get done.  The dishwasher was emptied, clothes put away, cat litter box scooped, cats fed, dinner made, mail sorted all within less than an hour.  

Sometimes in life, we get so busy that we give up the things that made us feel good.  Sometimes we can let one bad event snowball into a whole bunch of other bad habits. We stop taking care of ourselves and hope we can function on an empty tank.  WE CAN’T!! But you can pick yourself up and get back on track.  One day at a time. Small steps.  You’ll get there again. 

Hitting the gym was a huge part of my life.  It made me feel good in every way.  I released the stress of the day so it didn’t pile up into the next day.  Releasing endorphins helped me relax.  I was physically stronger.  Life went smoother and I could think clearly. Frankly, I was a whole lot more pleasant to be around too!

So when YOU think about giving up those good habits that keep your tank full, think again!  Take care of YOU first and everything else will fall into and out of place.  What’s meant to be there will stay and what you’re meant to let go of will fall away.  

Personally, I got a really good wake up call today and I’m going to keep working out.

What will you do to take care of yourself better ?

Thanks for stopping by…be good to yourself.

— Don’t just be a follower, be a leader.  Leave a comment and start a discussion. — aneternaltraveler