Category Archives: How To

Hope is a Candle in the Darkness of Depression


Photo by PhotographyCourse on Unsplash

 

I’ve written about this before, but it bears repeating. The season between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day is my favorite time of year, but also seems to be a time when I struggle with my depression and anxiety, and sometimes suicidal ideation, the most. That’s not to say they don’t rear their ugly heads throughout the rest of the year, and that they magically disappear the second week of January each new year, but they seem to be the most difficult to deal with at the end / beginning of each year. I’ve noticed this pattern for about the past 6 plus years… about the time I entered my forties… my fifth decade of life…

Maybe there’s a correlation. Even though I’ve been less fearful, more relaxed and forward-thinking in my forties than in my twenties or thirties, still, my body seems determined to remind me that I am growing older, not getting younger. Perhaps growing older also has more negative affects on our mental health than we’d like to think…

While there’s life, there’s hope

Even with all of the emotional angst that hits me this time of year, I try to remind myself daily that while there’s life, there’s hope. My mother said those words to me many, many moons ago, probably referring to something else, but they have stuck with me these many years, and have become a sort of mantra.

Remember that people, no matter how well-intentioned they are, will let you down. It’s part of the frailty of being human. We are all just a bit selfish, and sometimes – more so that we may wish – our selfishness causes us to be unfeeling toward others who mean the most to us. The best thing to do in this case is remember that you are also guilty of this from time to time, and strive each day to do better, both for yourself and for those you love. Be the best friend, parent, spouse, partner, sibling you can be. You can ALWAYS do better. Relationships take WORK. Everything worth having takes work. And have HOPE that others will also strive to do better.

Whenever I consider the event(s) that led to my mental health issues, it leads me to thinking about the event(s) that resulted in the mental health issues of friends and colleagues. And then I feel a bit of shame for my angst, because some of them endured much worse and/or longer-lasting trauma than I. I mentioned this once several years ago to a colleague. Her response is another that resounded with me: It’s not a competition. Each person’s story and mental health struggle is valid.

Candles in the darkness

Photo by Hilde Buyse on Unsplash

The point is, no matter how bad things get inside my head, my brain, I’m still alive, and while I continue to fight the depression and anxiety and suicidal thoughts, I can have HOPE that someday I’ll win the war. Until then, I take my medication like clockwork, try to remember to count my blessings, do something just for me each day, and find at least one thing every day that’s positive.

Some things that have helped me and may help you also:

  • Listen to the music that brings you joy.
  • Read the book that makes you laugh.
  • Dance while no one is watching.
  • Call the friend who always loves and encourages you.
  • Pray.
  • Hug someone who always gives good hugs.
  • Journal.
  • Take a long nap.

These are all candles in the darkness. They keep me going. One little, tiny candle in the midst of my darkness offers hope that there are more candles nearby, just waiting for life. And they remind me that while there’s life, there’s also hope that things will be better tomorrow.

2 Comments

Filed under Anxiety, Blogging, Depression, Emotion, Friendship, Holidays, How To, Life, Mental Health, Musings, Real Life, Relationships, Survivors, Thankful, writer, Writing

I Challenge You to be Respectful in the Face of Conflict


Did you know that it’s possible to be friends and/or maintain positive connections with someone even when you fundamentally disagree with each other about how to do life? If you’re friends or colleagues who keep in touch outside of the work place/space, then there must be something you like or admire about each other. Perhaps you like their ability to tell a story if they’re an author or perhaps you like their sense of humor or you admire their experiences or their ability to see the good in everything.

These are all reasons why I have rarely ever unfriended or unfollowed anyone on social media, and why I’m careful about who I do friend or follow. About half of my social media contacts are colleagues in the literary and/or academic fields, and in the ideals most important to me – Faith, lifestyle, fundamental freedoms, and yes, even politics – we rarely see eye-to-eye.

But that isn’t reason enough to turn my back on them. I love the diversity – intellectual, physical, spiritual, emotional – of my friends, family and colleagues. I don’t seek to agree on every topic with all of my connections. That would be disastrous to my growth as a person of intelligence and reason. People who seek to befriend and network only with those who agree with them are severely shortsighted and, dare I say, foolish. I’ve been persecuted and denied for my beliefs and opinions, and refuse to do that to others, as long as we’re able to preserve a mutually respectful connection. I maintain constant vigil on my conversations to ensure that I remain respectful, even in the face of disagreement.

I did recently unfriend someone on Facebook and unfollow another person on Twitter. The former Facebook friend is someone I know in real life, someone who’s company and conversation I’ve enjoyed on multiple occasions. What I couldn’t stomach and refused to make excuses for any longer was their constant disrespect and vitriol (talk about hate speech) toward my conservative friends. All of whom I’ve known longer than this individual. It got to the point that some people were questioning whether they should unfriend ME because of this person. Which quickly raised my anxiety level. I made the decision to unfriend this person for my sanity and to save my other connections; one person wasn’t worth further endangering my established network.

I don’t have a problem with debate and disagreement, especially when I’ve posted something encouraging it on my page, but I DO have a problem when you can’t keep a civil tongue in your head, and post a hateful, mean-spirited word vomit on my page. Especially when said words are uttered (or written) by someone who is supposed to be mature. An adult. At least according to their chronological age. If nothing else, dealing with people should teach you that you draw more bees with honey (respect will get you further than truculence).

To me, descent into name calling and hurling insults is something that we learn to rein in somewhere about the time we graduate from high school and realize that the rest of the world doesn’t operate that way. Or it shouldn’t, anyway…as our minds and bodies mature, so should our conversation and ability to disagree or debate with courtesy and civility.

The person I unfollowed on Twitter is an author I’ve followed for years. Someone who’s books I’ve read for years. I will probably continue to read their books. But their constant foul-mouthed and hateful comments against the current presidential administration – and that’s ALL they have been tweeting about lately – were triggering. This person has the absolute right to think, feel and say whatever they want, just as I have the absolute right to unfollow them so their vitriol won’t continue to blow up my Twitter feed and make the blood vessels in my eyes burst.

Here’s what I believe – what I’ve always believed (well, at least since I hit mid-twenties and actually began to THINK and not just ACT or REACT) – and have found to be true in 8 out of 10 cases (because there are always those who cannot sustain a relationship when they disagree on fundamentals). Treat others the way you want to be treated. AKA: The Golden Rule. And it IS golden. That’s it. Well, with a healthy dose of humor thrown in for good measure. That’s the secret to gaining and maintaining friendships and connections across dissenting views on lifestyle, religion and politics.

No matter how my connections respond – whether they love me or hate me, or something in between – I have to stay sane, be true to myself, be able to look at my reflection in the mirror every morning and every night. I have to be able to sleep at night and wake in the morning. I have to be able to meet my Maker with a clear conscience. Treating others the way I wish to be treated, with a side of humor, even – maybe especially – when we disagree, ensures that I can do all of those things.

Everyone has something to give. Everyone is unique. Everyone has something about them that makes them special. Everyone has a story to tell. I encourage you – I CHALLENGE YOU – to focus on those things, the qualities you first admired most about them, and let the rest go.

Leave a comment

Filed under Anxiety, Friendship, How To, Humor, Life, Mental Health, Musings, Real Life, Relationships, Stuff, writer

Don’t be Quick to Accuse; Research First


 

Photo by Alex Iby on Unsplash

 

Jumping to conclusions is, I believe, part of being human. However, this doesn’t mean that you need to RESPOND with that jump to conclusion without doing your homework first to be sure that your “jump” isn’t going to land you in quicksand.

Don’t be so quick to make accusations without researching a problem, issue or situation and gathering all the information you can to make an informed, adult decision – and therefore, appropriate response. By making accusations and judgment calls instead of asking questions and seeking evidence, you may damage or even destroy a relationship, whether personal or professional. And along with that, the level of trust that existed in that relationship may be difficult to regain.

Now, people who know me well may say that I’m the pot calling the kettle black. But if those same people are paying close enough attention, they’ll realize that in most cases, I don’t just throw out accusations or spout off without doing some thinking and research first. When I DO respond to a person, or situation, it’s with some facts to back up my position.

I have a temper, and historically, have been quick to judge and offer my often unsolicited opinion (well, I still do that, but it’s usually from a place of experience and knowledge instead of just wanting to hear the sound of my own voice). I also am about as far from “politically correct” (an oxymoron, if I’ve ever heard one) as you can get and still be somewhere in the realm of “tact.” In the past few years though, I’ve been striving more to consider the thoughts and feelings of my fellow humans (you’re welcome), by applying The Golden Rule to my responses and opinions.

In case you’ve forgotten the meaning of The Golden Rule, it’s simply this: to treat others the way you wish to be treated.

Here are a few things that I’ve learned to employ that help me with this:

  • I write out my “rant,” either in the notes on my iPhone or in a Word doc on my computer. This helps me word vomit my feelings and jumps to conclusions without need for editing or considering how harsh or sarcastic my language. I know that THIS version will NOT be shared with anyone, so I’m free to be my most instinctive self in this medium.
  • I pray about it. I know that praying should be first, and quite often it is, but there are times that I’m so angry or so hurt or offended that my default engages…my default is to write. So often I pray while I’m word vomiting. Whichever comes first, I usually do both.
  • I “vent” to my mother. Sometimes this venting session is immediate, sometimes it’s after the word vomit, if I need a voice of wisdom. I thank God daily for my mother! She’s been my sounding board for years, and I trust her more than any other human on earth.
  • If there is research to be conducted or education to be obtained (the issue is political or religious or scientific or some such), then I research multiple sources across the spectrum so that I at least have an idea of what I’m talking about. If there is no research to be gathered (it’s a personality conflict or difference of personal opinion with a co-worker or a friend, etc.), then after the word vomit, praying, and sometimes after the venting session to my mother, I’ll sleep on it.

I’ve discovered that all of this is important to my mental health. Recently I’ve discovered that if I don’t set boundaries with people, when my knowledge and experience are challenged (I don’t mean that people are asking my qualifications, I mean they are flat-out accusatory or demanding something I’ve already stated is either beyond my abilities, or impossible within a certain timeframe), I experience mini panic attacks. I HATE panic attacks! And the more birthdays I have, the more often these mini panic attacks happen if I don’t set proper boundaries. Therefore, the older I get, the less nonsense (“nonsense” as defined by me) I’m willing to put up with, the less compassion and tolerance I have for peoples’ drama (“drama” also as defined by me), and the more bridges I’m willing to burn.

These are all reasons WHY I employ the above steps before responding in most situations. As much as my knee-jerk reaction is to flood my social media and text messaging with hurricanes of sarcasm, virtually burn bridges both personally and professionally, the part of me that’s still in touch with reality in those moments realizes that by giving into those thoughtless reactions, I will end up marring my integrity and (mostly) good reputation. And my integrity and spiritual and mental health are more important than the momentary satisfaction that comes from a hurricane of sarcasm.

 

How about you? What methods do you use to avoid knee-jerk responses and less-than-thought-out reactions on social media or in private emails or text messages?

Leave a comment

Filed under Anxiety, Emotion, Family, Friendship, How To, Life, Mental Health, Real Life, Relationships, Research, Sarcasm, Writing