live and in person
@ Ironside Fitness Silversprings
Saturday, December 13th @ 11:30 – 12:30
A Free Class that will help you manage, maybe even ENJOY your Holiday Season!
Draw for PRIZES
Join Certified Life Coach Jennifer Washington,
live and in person
@ Ironside Fitness Silversprings
Saturday, December 13th @ 11:30 – 12:30
A Free Class that will help you manage, maybe even ENJOY your Holiday Season!
Draw for PRIZES
Quite often my clients inspire my stories here. I share them when I feel they are universally relate-able and in the hopes that it will help and or inspire you, my gorgeous, intelligent reader. The following is such a story;
‘My client’ was sharing with one of her very good friends, over lunch how her husband blah, blah, blah…insert plain old complaining. Nothing horrible, vile or incomprehensible. Just everyday whining and complaining about all of the things her husband was not. Eventually, ‘my client’ began to hear herself and what she understood was that she was wishing that her husband would behave more like her.
O.k. I confess. When I say ‘my client,’ I mean me!
As I tuned into this awareness, yet another voice (what?! You don’t hear voices?) chimed in with “but, what about all that he does, that you don’t do?” Then, the voice proceeded to give me a laundry list of items – laundry being one of the items! – that my husband does do.
My points in sharing this story are:
1) Maybe you can relate? When we are criticizing someone or something, there is always the side of the ‘other’ guy that we aren’t considering.
2) Others (your husband, child, friend, mother) are NOT supposed to be like you. You are good at what you do, and they are good at what they do, that's how we all have our special place! (see: Strengths & Weaknesses)
3) Talking to others is a great way to get feedback, either from the other person, or your own inner self, if you can be aware of what it is you’re really saying.
4) It always feels better to be generous, especially in spirit, than it is to criticize. Giving the ‘other’ guy the benefit of the doubt, or his due credit is also better for your emotional, mental and even physical health.
To demonstrate to ‘the voice’ that she understood the point, 'my client' filled the car with gas and washed it.
I would be thrilled if you would let me know if you can relate to this, or if you have any questions or comments. I love to hear from you.
It’s been 5 years since my children left home. At the time they both moved away, I had what I thought was a rather large display of emotions. I went to my room and cried for an hour. Then I got up, washed my face, got dressed and proceeded to try to get on with normal life. I had no idea that it would take me 5 years to do that.
Casually dropped into recent conversations one woman told me she is struggling to do her bookkeeping, since her husband died 2 years ago. Another tells me she left a long-term abusive partner, her family and her country, but she is doing well now, working at a minimum wage job. Another lady told me she too recently left an abusive relationship and is currently homeless, but things are working out. And more tell of their childhood abandonment, divorces, infidelity, a frightening diagnosis etc. with the ‘but I’m fine’ disclaimer on the end. I see their pain, like I see their eye colour. I wanted to put my arms around each of them and tell them,” it’s ok, you can stop acting ‘normal.’”
If you have recently overcome a big life change, are currently experiencing a big life change or you have had several big life changes that you never had time to properly adjust to, here are some ideas/suggestions that I have found helpful.
1) Acknowledge that your identity has changed. I was no longer a mom with kids at home. That lady I met is no longer someone’s wife. When the way you identify yourself gets changed, your normal has been permanently altered.
2) Stop behaving ‘normally.’ I wish someone would have given me permission to do this. Instead of expecting yourself to behave like you always have, stop and take stock of what is absolutely necessary for you to do. Pay the bills and your rent/mortgage – keep a roof over your head and buy groceries regularly – keep yourself alive. Sleep. Everything else is optional. If you have not grieved your loss properly, everything that is not surviving is added pressure and weight upon you. There will be time to add back ‘options,’ just not right now.
3) Process the change and what it means to you. Talk- Hire someone to listen to you, phone all of your friends and family. Write - I used a journal to write many, many pages as my way to process my emotions. Cry, scream, dance, run - do whatever it takes to get it all out.
4) Mark the experience: We used to have rituals and rites of passages for life events. Through my writing I realized I needed and wanted something to mark this experience. I held a ceremony for myself one day, not that long ago. I did some research and gathered some items that were meaningful and significant to me. I used the items to honor my mother and grandmothers and my experiences as a mother. I then honored the grief I felt about this chapter of my journey ending. I then sent out intentions and prayers for the new, next stage of my life. This helped me tremendously.
The definition of ‘normal’ is: conforming to the standard or the common type; usual; not abnormal; regular; natural. Are you conforming to someone else’s idea of what you should be doing, how you should be behaving? Maybe it’s time to make your own definition of normal.
I notice that I and most of my clients automatically assume making changes will be hard? I certainly assume in order to lose weight, for example, I must diet and dieting means restriction and therefore, equals ‘hard.’ Or, quitting smoking, getting in shape or getting a new job leads to the automatic assumption that these things are difficult and require much work and the whipping of ourselves into shape.
For fun, because I really like having fun, I began a wee experiment on myself. I began my experiment by just asking; what if “it” (whatever I’m considering) wasn’t hard?
I have a ton of reasons and a boatload of experience that tells me how hard change can be. I have tried changing my eating and exercising and my mind set using the rules of others and lots and lots of effort. And I was right, it was hard.
Just allowing myself to entertain the idea that it might not be hard, shifted something inside of me. As I move throughout my day, I ask myself the question about choices I make. Is choosing a really good green salad over a piece of pizza hard? I actually allow myself a moment to imagine how I will feel eating the salad and how I will feel after eating the salad. Then I allow myself to imagine eating the pizza and then imagine how I will feel after I eat the pizza. And weirdly (!) I choose the salad, because that’s the ‘feeling’ I want to have. The same with exercise. I don’t call it exercise any more. Physical activity is just part of my day, like drinking water. So I ask myself, what kind of movement would feel good right now? I consider 2 to 3 types of activities. Then I imagine myself doing them and what I will feel like afterward. I almost always choose to go outside. It turns out I LOVE fresh air and moving around outside. Some days it is a run, some days it is a bike ride and lots of days it is a long walk. And miraculously, once I get out there, it quickly becomes easy – not hard (!) to move and keep moving.
This has led to asking ‘the question’ about everything. What if choosing happiness wasn’t hard? What if going to work, saving money, creating something new, deepening a relationship wasn’t hard? This has caused me to have a lot more creative ideas, because I have shifted out of automatic thought and behaviour patterns and have opened up to possibilities.
Do I always choose the ‘better’ option? No, I don’t. Because I am realizing that the ‘good/bad’ label we put on things is not necessarily what is right and true for me. Sometimes, pizza really is a great choice for me! The key point is the consideration, the entertaining of the choices, the leaving all options open-no judgments. Also, if I out and out tell myself I 'can't' have something, then my inner defiance hops right up to take over. The days that I have the pizza, because I really, really want pizza, I don’t want anything after that. I feel satisfied and end up feeling that I have honored what my inner self really wants. Some days my body wants rest and I don’t go outside. I may stretch instead or lay on the couch.
Simply allowing yourself to consider that change may not be hard opens you up to possibilities and opportunities that you didn’t notice when your main setting was on auto-pilot ‘change-is-hard.' I hope you give it a try. It may even lead you to enjoy change.
I’ve written about depression; My Mental Health Struggle and about Melting Down in the hopes that it will help others to navigate these situations or at the very least, feel like they are not alone if they happen to be experiencing these things. At the very core of our beings exists an Essential-Self. Some would call it the inner child or your true spirit. It is this inner core self that is making itself heard during a melt-down or crisis experience. It is not a bad thing!
We learn early on that our survival is tied into getting the help and attention of others. As babies we quickly learn what will and will not get out needs met. As we grow, we learn to moderate our demands with coos and smiles, progressing to pleases, thank-yous and yes, ma’am/sir. Somewhere along that learning curve we began to believe it was more important to get others to love us and give us attention than it was for us to love and attend to ourselves. We learned to sacrifice our core wants and needs in order to make others happy, which we believed was the surest way to get others to love us. If I can make you happy, then I will deserve attention and love, is our reasoning.
If you have been really, really good at prostituting your core self’s desires for the love, validation and attention of others, like I did, sooner or later your inner child will ‘awaken’ screaming and yelling and generally throwing a shit-storm tantrum – like mine did! I call it The Epic Shit Storm of 2010.
Your inner child is not a brat, but it is a child. Mine, I’ve discovered, is a princess who adores very sparkly things like tiaras and fancy shoes. Your inner child is subtly or not so subtly demanding your attention and she/he will never go away. You may successfully subdue your inner child throughout your life time, but it will cost you.
Signs You Have Been Ignoring Your Essential Self
Chronic pain, always fighting sickness or an inability to lose extra weight: Your essential self is on a work-to-rule-your-body campaign. If you feel that your body is against you and trying to slow you down or stop you, you are right. It is!
Outburst of Inappropriate or unusual behaviour.
Passionate Language: Your inner child loves swear words!
Ongoing sadness, depression, anger or anxiety.
Generally unable to ‘control’ yourself the way you are used to.
You, a usually nice, ‘normal’ person, may begin to have outbursts of bad or out-of-character behaviour or use of ‘colorful’ language (internal as well as external). You may find yourself thinking rude things in your head and then berating yourself for being ‘not nice.’ These are signs your inner child has gone underground. Some would call it your shadow self. It is not another self, it is your innocent inner child in pain from neglect desperate to get your attention by hijacking you.
How to talk to and or hear your inner child
First of all, your inner child needs to feel safe before it will venture out and trust that you are ready to listen to her. Remember, you have been shushing her for a while. Simply begin by giving your essential self some choices. What would you like to eat? What would you like to wear? Where would you like to go? What would feel fun right now? Know that your inner child/essential self does not 'speak' in words. Those things that 'seem' like a good idea or look good on paper, may not necessarily be what your real self desires. The essential self uses body sensations, images, pictures, emotions, etc. It takes a bit of practice to know when you've made a connection with your true self.
Tools to use when talking to your inner child/essential self:
*Body/mind connecting meditations or breathing exercises are great for getting relaxed enough for you to hear your inner knowings, or nudgings.
*Body compass. This is where you rate questions or activities using your body’s responses. Usually an expansive, open feeling means a ‘yes' or 'like.’ And a tightening, closed feeling means a ‘no' or 'don’t like.’
Your inner child will give you images in dreams.
*Dreams are picture metaphors from your inner self and can be a source of great information. I love analyzing dreams, especially the epic, seemingly-significant ones. The dreams you can’t ‘shake’ in the day and the particularly scary ones seem to hold the best information.
*Non-dominate hand interviews. Write out a question for your inner child using your dominate writing hand, then switch the pen to your non-dominate hand and just begin moving the pen on the paper, squiggling even, just to get the ball literally rolling, with the intention of letting your inner child respond. I find it takes at least 3 or 4 questions before the inner self gets going. Don’t edit yourself.
You don’t necessarily have to let your essential self ‘take the wheel”, but you do have to take her along for the ride and ask her where she wants to go and or what she’d like to do. The goal is to eventually let your inner child choose the ‘what’ and then find creative ways to use your “acceptable” social skills to solve the how. Eventually you and your essential self can make larger and larger decisions in your life that will lead you to being in charge of loving yourself and fulfilling your desires.
I’ve learned that I have to allow my Inner Princess to say whatever she feels like saying. I write it out, no editing and then we discuss what is appropriate to act on. She also gets to say no to absolutely every option first and then she will consider certain possibilities. She likes to feel she’s the ruler of all things before she graciously allows me to move forward.
Questions and Comments are greatly encouraged. Especially the ones from your inner child! :)
Weaknesses are what make you weak. Strengths are what make you strong. Danielle LaPorte
One of the most freeing ideas that was ever delivered to me was this one. I spent a lot of my adult years trying to overcome my many, many weaknesses. That was a lot of spent energy that could have been directed toward creating amazing things using my strengths.
Our culture, society and certainly advertisers place much emphasis on our weakness because they are our vulnerabilities. We will certainly buy a product if it could possibly, maybe, make us feel better about something they are making us feel bad about. Weaknesses are not to be confused with obstacles. Obstacles truly do make us stronger and prepare us for living in an expanded place. Weaknesses have a purpose and it is not to make us feel bad about ourselves.
I have a client who works in the finance department of a large oil company. When she came to me for coaching, between contract jobs, she was wondering if she should be entertaining other possible career options.
“Well,” I began, “so numbers, calculations, spread sheets; these things light you up?”
“NO!” she adamantly exclaimed. “I struggle with the framework incessantly. With each new contract it’s like I have to learn everything from the bottom up each and every time. I forget everything and I can’t even apply what I did before in the same job but in this new place.”
Having trouble remembering certain types of information is actually a very big clue and all my Life Coach bells began ringing.
“You mean to say, that you have had this career for 25 plus years and you still struggle with its application?” I was trying not to sound incredulous.
“Yes, it is one of my weaknesses,” she explained.
This is excellent information to have. If you are struggling to nail down exactly what your strengths are, knowing what your weaknesses are, is certainly a great starting point.
My client had spent the better part of her adult life working to overcoming her weakness. She was understandably very tired.
What really lights her up is interior decorating. She loves to paint rooms and co-ordinate upholstery and drapery fabrics with pillows. She said she could even see herself working in a chain box store and loving it, if she could work in the area of interior decorations. That’s how you know it is one of your strengths. The idea of doing it gives you energy and optimism and even physical strength.
She is currently working another contract job in the finance department, but is taking interior design classes in her spare time.
Sometimes hitting on what really lights you up can take a bit longer and require more of a search, especially if you’ve been forcing yourself for many years to do things that you don’t love.
You can apply this weak/strong awareness to other areas of your life as well. Think relationships. Are there people around you who bring out the best in you? What about those who drain your energy? Even food. Once you start to pay attention, you will notice that some foods definitely make you feel great and others that make you feel like, well, you know, not good.
Take some time to tune into your physical state during various activities. You are designed a certain way and the things that make you weak and the things that make you strong are clues to help you figure what really is best for you.
I'd love to hear about your discoveries!
I always enjoyed the first back-to-school writing assignment, which was some version of What I Did On My Summer Vacation. I won’t regale you here, with all of my summers’ activities, but I will tell you of one adventure.
While at a mountain resort, I determined that I wanted to go on a particular hike that was mapped out on our resort literature. With my husband, our picnic lunch, some water and the folded up the trail map, we set forth. The directions posted at the entrance to the trail were a bit confusing because it also indicated the golf courses’ directions. We stood at the entrance debating which arrow we were to follow. Finally, my husband, who is a much better navigator than I will ever be, picked the path we would take. I was not fully convinced this was the path, but again, I trusted my husbands’ instinct. We were in the forest, on a trail that paralleled a gorgeous river and circled a mountain. It was beautiful.
About 30 minutes into the trek, that I estimated should take about an hour to the designated picnic site and then another hour after that back to the start of the trail, we encountered some logging men. They assured us that we would find our picnic site, as everything ‘circled around’ in their words. We continued along, conversing and observing and generally enjoyed the quiet.
We eventually came upon a sign indicating the picnic site we were looking for was ‘that way,’ so we happily continued along. As we rounded each successive bend, we became increasingly dismayed at not finding the anticipated site. As we kept walking we both knew we were not where we thought we were and alarmingly, we didn’t know where we actually were. After 2 hours our trail emerged onto a major road. As we flipped and turned and scoured our trail map once again, trying to determine where in the heck we were, a small truck driven by an elderly man accompanied by his wife thankfully pulled over to inquire if we needed help. Yes! I practically yelled. We were indeed a long way from where we wanted to be and they kindly offered us the tailgate on their truck to transport us back 15 Kilometers! to our resort.
I love to look at these kinds of things as metaphors and mine them for meaning, direction or purpose. What I came away with from this little adventure is as follows:
1) Consult Your Own Inner Compass: I did not check in fully with my own GPS (my ‘knowing’) at the very beginning. I was not convinced we picked the right trail. I assumed that my partner knew better than I did, so I deferred my trust onto him, instead of further checking things out for myself. (No blame-I chose!)
2) No One Knows Your Path: People along the way will tell you what you want to hear, or about their own path; we did not inquire fully when we met the loggers, we spoke in vague terms and their answers were what we wanted to hear. Instead of showing them our map and asking them if they could tell us where we were, we kept going.
3) Beware of Signs & Wonders: If you’re on the wrong path, even the signs are wrong. Because we thought we were on the right path, we assumed the signs along the way were pointing us in the right direction. They weren’t. They were for that trail, not the one we had on our map-the one we thought we were on. Again we interpreted the signs to mean what we wanted them to mean.
4) It’s Never Too Late To Start Again: As soon as we suspected something wasn’t right, we could have turned around. At any point in life, one can turn around and start over! And, if you are willing to persevere, eventually you will find your way.
Like life, we had the choice to a) start over, using the information to not repeat the same trail, b) get proper guidance from someone who actually walked the trail or c) stay where we were. All of the choices are valid. I could go further; even the wrong path can be enjoyable and beautiful; Is there really a wrong path? Feel free to submit yours! In this case, we were hot and tired and feeling quite defeated (and embarrassed!), so we ate our picnic lunch and had a nap.
If you enjoyed this, please share, comment or pass it on! Thanks!
Last week I wrote about the signs/symptoms of a life meltdown/awakening (Melting Down.) This is the ‘what to expect next’ portion.
I remember discussing dark feelings with someone who was, at the time, in the obvious throes of depression.(Read about depression here) She asked me; “when will I feel better?” I replied, ‘you will know you are feeling better when you no longer wake up wondering when you will feel better.’ This next step is much the same. You won’t know you’re in it until you gradually become aware that you are no longer in deep pain and confusion. You will be surprised to find yourself experiencing hope. Until that happens, you are still in your meltdown phase.
The signs that you’re coming out of the meltdown:
1) The Return of Hope. In the meltdown phase it is common to have really ‘bright’ ideas, but they are usually accompanied by a manic/desperate feeling. You’ll think that quitting your job and investing in clown school is an awesome, thrilling idea because who hasn’t always wanted to see the world with a traveling circus?! This too shall pass. The ‘real’ hope feels more like a delightful, bubbly idea with actual possibilities. Where entertaining any idea or possibility before felt painful and extremely difficult, ideas will now seem doable and even a little exciting. You have now stepped one toe out of melting down.
2) Things Inspire You. Again, where before you saw only doom, gloom and no change in your future, you now start entertaining creative ideas. Flipping through the channels and seeing a decorating show might prompt you to consider painting your room a sunny yellow. Seeing a jogger go by might give you the idea to stop eating chips and dip for breakfast, lunch and dinner and maybe buy a new set of running shoes.
3) You Change Your Look. This is not an insignificant action. When you change your hair and clothing style it is a true mark that you are now entering the next phase of your transformation.
While these are all clear indicators that you are moving forward in your life, caution is still your friend. These changes that you are instigating are going to be transitory. You will like yellow today but not tomorrow. Your drastic change to your hair will thankfully grow out, because you will exchange it for something a bit more manageable once you become more settled. These are all signs to help you gauge where you are in your transformation.
When I started to emerge from my ‘dark night of the soul,’ I was very happy to discover an inner peace that had been absent for a very long time. Yes, new things were possible, but I was no longer in a hurry or feeling desperate. I became much more observant and tuned into what I really, really liked and what I really, really didn’t. I used these much welcomed and very helpful tools to begin the process of making my life better.
If you want a life different than the one you had before (read: not repeat destructive patterns), it is extremely important to set new thoughts and behaviors in place at this stage of the game. You cannot get different results if you do not do things differently (see the definition of insanity). Again, trying new things is very valuable. Get a mentor, counselor, Coach. Take classes, experiment with new ideas and practices. Use your new found inner delight to lead you on. How do you use your inner delight? If what you are trying does not feel delightful, move on!
If you know someone who would ‘get’ reading this, please! Pass it on.
If this, or any other of my blogs is ‘speaking’ to you and you would like to chat, please call me 403-764-0062 for a free consultation.
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It was like a window blind suddenly snapping open and the harsh, glaring light of reality assaulted me. Everything, every thing that I had built my life on shattered right before my eyes. That is how I describe my (meltdown) awakening. It also the best thing that’s ever happened to me. I am still building and re-building; that is life and it is an ongoing process, but this time the process is based on my true self, not my ‘should’ self. I’ll explain more on this later.
I know many people who are experiencing their own ‘awakening’ and I know how excruciating it feels. I really wish that someone had explained to me what the ‘H’ was happening. Since then, I found some people and learned some things that have been very helpful. I will share what I’ve discovered in the hope that if you are going through it or you are with someone who is, you may find some understanding and comfort.
The first big help was coming to the understanding that this was happening to me, I did not choose it. Like the transitions from babyhood to toddler, to child, to adolescent to adult, these meltdown/transitions are built into the life cycle. Secondly, I discovered there were things that helped this process and things that hindered it! Resistance and denial are the two biggest blocks I repeatedly hit my head against!
The likely ‘ages’ of meltdown/transition and the way they’re commonly experienced are:
29-33: Identity breakdown – you are not who you thought you were.
41-43: Old pattern breakdown – what worked before doesn’t work anymore
50-52: Old wounds &/or unresolved issues – Life isn’t fair/not what you thought it should be
50-62: Revising authentic self – becoming more of who you need to be.
(Note: unexpected events in the form of deaths, accidents, divorce, winning the lottery, changing living locations; anything that knocks you out of your current existence can trigger this process.)
Each transition has its own unique characteristics but there are tools and behaviours that can assist the overall processing in any meltdown situation.
Meltdown Managing Strategy Steps (MMSS)
1) Surrender Early. Your immediate desire will be to work really, really hard to recreate what was lost; to rebuild the life that just blew up. You can’t. You are no longer who you were before and that life is not there to go back to.
2) Lay Low. When your life or view of your life is suddenly dramatically altered, your survival instinct has been triggered. You are in fight, flight &/or freeze mode, feeling your environment is no longer safe. Your number one priority is to rest and take care of yourself. Because your anxiety is causing your stress level to increase you will require more rest than you did before. Trust me. Take that nap. Functioning rationally is greatly reduced when you are stressed AND exhausted.
3) (F*@k) Let Go of What People Think. This is your journey, it is messy (picture the birthing process – it is intense, miraculous, but it ain’t pretty.) Your real people – the ones who really ‘get’ you, will make space for your process. Remember Dr. Seuss “the people who matter don’t mind and the people who mind don’t matter.”
4) Blame On. You will go through the stage of blaming everything and everyone for your current misery. If it weren’t for your mother, your husband/wife, boss, church, circumstances, God (!) __________ (fill in the blank) your life would not be its current mess. This is a necessary step of the process and potentially the most destructive. Hang on, spew it out, and process it all. While you are in doubt about yourself and everyone, don’t make any major decisions.
5) Take the Opportunity. Get help. Got to counseling, take classes, read books, get a coach, talk about it! If something doesn’t feel right, or good, or like its working, move on to something else. This is the perfect time to work through and let go of emotional/mental/psychic baggage and explore other ways of being before you begin your life rebuild or heaven forbid (!) engage in new relationships.
My ‘should’ self was made up of all of the beliefs I had absorbed about what a good girl, wife, mother, daughter, friend, employee, citizen, etc. should be. I collected and studied and incorporated everything I ‘thought’ would make me happy, everything that was ‘supposed’ to be good for me. When I-that is the ‘real’ me, my true me, the me I was born as, woke up, I realized that I was all of the things I was ‘supposed’ to be and I was miserable. I was in deep, deep emotional and mental pain.
I got help. I asked, I searched, and I researched, I talked. So many people helped me. There was love and resources all around me. I was and am so blessed. I am so grateful for all of the experience, for all of the people who surround and hold space for me. I’m so grateful I’m continuing to build and live my life as my authentic self. If my realization had not occurred, or if through heroic effort, I somehow ignored it, I am positive I would be dead now. But, I guess, in a sense, I did die. I have been re-born.
So, to anyone who is experiencing an identity/existential crisis of any kind, or if you are involved with someone who is (believe me, it affects you too!), please, please, please believe my promise, you will be o.k. You will be better. This too shall pass and you will be glad.
Part II next week – how to know when you are through this first part!
The tragic death of Robin Williams has prompted me to want to talk about my own struggle with depression, in case it is helpful, in any way on any level to someone who reads this. Mental, emotional and/or psychic pain is just as real and as debilitating as physical pain. Anyone who has experienced any of these anguishes understands this. The most misunderstood part, in my opinion, is the life cycle of this kind of condition. Picture falling off a cliff and breaking your leg. You’re in critical condition. You are evacuated, hospitalized, treated and eventually your injury heals. Then you go back on the same cliff and fall again. You would hopefully learn or eventually be forbidden from walking that terrain. Or safety barriers would be erected to protect future walkers. It is much harder to determine where the mental/emotional ‘cliff’ is in the life of someone with mental pain or illness. Is it the environment? Is it lifestyle? Is it hereditary? It may or may not be all of these things, but it is in the individual’s inner landscape. It is this inner landscape that can be very difficult to navigate and change.
Mental, emotional and/or psychic pain is just as real and as debilitating as physical pain.
There is a history of mental illness in my family. There is addiction. There is depression. There’s eating disorders. And that’s just the stuff on the surface. I’ve had my own journey with depression and emotional suffering. During the deepest, hardest part of my illness I felt such a stigma surrounding medication and about getting help. Discussions about me and what I needed were excruciatingly painful and definitely added to my suffering. There was debate within my own family, among those closest to me about how to help. I assumed, and maybe wrongly, that my church thought the answer to my struggle was more prayer, more devotion, more clearing of ‘evil’ in my life. My doctors – I had several over many bouts – were not unanimous in their decisions about proper treatment. One was completely convinced that medication and medication for the rest of my life was in order. One later on was very, very reticent in giving his prescription, almost disapproving. My kind, helpful friends suggested various ‘natural’ remedies or ‘herbal’ medications. My own sister was adamant that medication and medication right now was necessary in order to be able to function and to prevent a descent into a life threatening condition. I felt shame. I felt I was being a bother. Each time, I denied it was as bad as it was. In my case, the onset of my ‘episodes’ were so gradual that I would be firmly entrenched in darkness before I realized it was happening again. My life would become more and more difficult to manage and my anguish about everything was crushing.
I have since experienced many permanent changes to my inner, mental landscape. Beginning with the help of medication and then adding counseling, I educated myself about my ‘condition.’ I discovered and practice mental exercises and practical cognitive tools. I’ve made permanent and important changes in my thinking about myself and the world at large. I have pleasantly discovered that I have choices and that I choose what I make things mean. I make healthy lifestyle choices. All of these have contributed to the changing of my inner landscape – eliminating or avoiding potential ‘cliffs.’ Consequently, I am medication free. Am I saying these are the answers for everyone? Has it been easy? Has it been quick? Is my life perfect? No, absolutely not. It’s been my personal journey. The ways to navigate one’s inner landscape are infinite. I know for sure it helps to talk about it. I know for sure that the pain, if not totally stopped can at least be eased, and in a way that is not tragic. Will my depression return? I sincerely hope not, but if it does, I will recognize the signs and I will reach out for all the help that I can.