Tag Archives: awareness

We Make Time for What We Truly Want

Stop it with all your excuses about, “if only I had more time”, “I’ve got too much going on in my life”, “I’m too busy”, “someday I’ll…”, etc.

Kids, relationships, family, education, careers, health, hobbies, happiness… You will always make time for the things you truly want and all the excuses in the world won’t change that.

I’m just as guilty as everyone. But no more.

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I’ve spent the last year strongly focusing on working on myself and on becoming the person I truly want to be. I’ll spend the rest of my life continuing to do so. I can honestly say that for the first time in my life I truly love myself and who I am.

I am so happy with my life. Not because it’s perfect, because it definitely isn’t, but because it’s mine. And I’m done making excuses.

I truly want to be happy. It’s not something that just happens, despite all my protests that it does. You have to work at it. You have to make time for it. You have to make time for you and the things that you truly want.

I am.

This, and every year, is my year. I am prioritizing and making time for the things I truly want – My kids. My education. My happiness and all the things that fall under that.

Make the time for what you truly want.

Worldwide Suicide Prevention Day 2014

Today, September 10, 2014, is World Suicide Prevention Day (WSPD). Rates of suicide are rising. In 2010, suicide was the 10th leading cause of death for all ages. In 2007, suicide was the 11th leading cause of death for all ages. In 25-34 year olds suicide is the 2nd leading cause of death and among 15-24 year olds it’s the 3rd leading cause of death (CDC).

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Mental illness doesn’t discriminate. In 2012, 4.1 percent of all U.S. adults 18 years and older had a serious mental illness. That’s 9.6 million adults and does not account for the many children and teenagers who also have a mental illness. And yet, our culture stigmatizes mental illnesses.

I am saddened by the recent apparent suicide of Robin Williams. That someone who provided so much laughter and joy to people also experienced such depths of despair is tragic. It’s devastating that his struggle with mental illness and addiction ended with him taking his own life. That he was in such a dark place that he desired death, is heartbreaking. But I can understand that desire.

For myself, that desire to die is fleeting but it can be so strong. Had I not been found and taken to an ER in time as a teenager, I’d be dead. And I immediately regretted the action afterwards. But, even knowing that experience, there have still been moments of struggle and fighting to stay alive. I don’t think our culture talks enough or at all about this struggle. And I don’t think I’m the only one who has felt that way. But the more we don’t talk about it, the more we stigmatize it, and honestly we are losing people because of our lack of discussion on the topic.

So I’m sharing part of my struggle with you all. Because mental illness isn’t something that happens somewhere else. It happens to people you know, your schoolmates, your coworkers, your family, your friends, your neighbors. How many struggle in silence? If you’re struggling with some tough emotions or feeling lonely, don’t hesitate to reach out for help. You can call the Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

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Risk factors for suicide (characteristics that make it more likely that an individual will consider, attempt or die by suicide) include:

  • Mental disorders, particularly mood disorders, schizophrenia, anxiety disorders and certain personality disorders
  • Alcohol and other substance use disorders
  • Hopelessness
  • Impulsive and/or aggressive tendencies
  • History of trauma or abuse
  • Major physical illnesses
  • Previous suicide attempt
  • Family history of suicide
  • Job or financial loss
  • Loss of relationship
  • Easy access to lethal means
  • Local clusters of suicide
  • Lack of social support and sense of isolation
  • Stigma associated with asking for help
  • Lack of health care, especially mental health and substance abuse treatment
  • Cultural and religious beliefs, such as the belief that suicide is a noble resolution of a personal dilemma
  • Exposure to others who have died by suicide (in real life or via the media and Internet)

Warning signs of suicide (may mean that someone is at risk for suicide) include:

  • Talking about wanting to die or to kill themselves.
  • Looking for a way to kill themselves, such as searching online or buying a gun
  • Talking about feeling hopeless or having no reason to live.
  • Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain.
  • Talking about being a burden to others.
  • Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs.
  • Acting anxious or agitated; behaving recklessly.
  • Sleeping too little or too much.
  • Withdrawing or isolating themselves.
  • Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge.
  • Displaying extreme mood swings.

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If you, or someone you care about is struggling, feeling stuck, hopeless or disconnected, there are ways to get help and support. The Suicide Prevention Lifeline is available 24/7 by calling1-800-273-TALK (8255).

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline has also created a partnership with Facebook to make crisis services more easily assessable to those in need. If a Facebook friend posts something that causes you to worry that they may harm themselves, you can now report suicidal content on Facebook. The person who posted the suicidal comment will then immediately receive an e-mail from Facebook encouraging them to call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline  or to click on a link to begin a confidential chat session with a crisis worker.

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The purple and turquoise Suicide Prevention Ribbon symbolizes suicide awareness and prevention and serves as a reminder that suicide is an issue we need to talk about. Download a ribbon avatar and make it your profile picture on Facebook and Twitter during National Suicide Prevention Week (September 9-15).  Awareness ribbons can be found HERE.

Even in the darkest, most desolate moments, YOU matter. Please, please know that there is always help and support.

Empathy

I’ve been reading a wonderful book, “Emotional Awareness: Overcoming the Obstacles to Psychological Balance”,  by the Dalai Lama and Paul Ekman, Ph.D.. It’s essentially a written account of a dialogue between the two of them about emotions and finding balance. 

I’m honestly not exaggerating when I say my copy has at least a hundred post-it flags bookmarking every part I have found to be enlightening, inspiring or something I wish to remind myself about.

In my journey of self-growth and my education as a social work student empathy has become a core value in my beliefs and my life. The easiest way to explain empathy is, “put yourself in the shoes of another”, which gives a basic understanding of it but doesn’t fully encompass the entirety of empathy.

In my reading of “Emotional Awareness”, empathy was described in a manner that I feel really clarifies what it means to have empathy for another. Empathy is broken down into four components or levels:

1. Emotional Recognition
Know how another feels

2. Emotional Resonance
A. Resonate with the same emotion as other’s emotion
B. Feel an emotion in response to other’s emotion without feeling the same emotion as other

3. Compassionate Concern
Relieve the suffering of others

4. Altruism
Compassionate concern and some risk to own welfare when relieving suffering of others

As you can see, empathy involves more than just putting yourself in the shoes of another and resonating or feeling an emotion in response  (though it’s a good start). True empathy involves relieving the suffering of others and, ultimately, taking a risk in doing so.

This may sound overwhelming and complex. We all are capable of relieving the suffering of others. The holiday season provides many ways to do so: Give food to those that are hungry. Donate coats to those without them. Donate your time at a local soup kitchen. Spend some time at a nursing home. Help a neighbor shovel their driveway. Offer to help a friend in need. Request donations to organization in lieu (or in addition) to receiving presents.

Taking a risk in helping to relieve the suffering of others doesn’t need to be complex either. Stand up for someone you see being bullied (made fun of, singled out, etc). Invite someone to join you during lunch at work or school who is being excluded. Speak up and ask what you can do to help in your neighborhood, school, work and community. Advocate for those around you.

Don’t allow yourself to think that you cannot possibly do anything to relieve the suffering of others. You can. It starts with taking a step outside of ourselves and practicing empathy.

From: “Emotional Awareness: Overcoming the Obstacles to Psychological Balance” by the Dalai Lama and Paul Ekman, Ph.D. 2008. Chapter 5, “The Nature of Compassion,” p. 176-179.

Who I Am

I have spent most of my life running away from myself. Who I thought I was. What I didn’t want to be. What I thought I should be. What I thought I was supposed to be. What I wished I had been. Running away from looking at who I am.

I have spent the last few years beginning to take a good hard look at who I am. Seeing myself for what I am – not what others wanted me to be or expected me to be, not who I wanted myself to be.

I’m surprised by how relatively little most people know about themselves. Or share with others what they know about themselves. Or both.

I’m surprised at how difficult it is to strip away the layers to truly see who I am.

And how surprisingly easy it is to examine who you are once you do so.

Who I am is my foundation.

I had to tear down the house and the driveway and the meticulously planted landscaping and the poorly formed sense of myself to find the foundation.

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I spent a very long time thinking, and believing, that I was a bad person. Because I didn’t fit into the molds that (I had believed) other people had created. Because I hadn’t spent the time and energy to examine the beliefs I grew up with and picked up along the way to determine if they were in sync with what I feel to be true. Because I did not accept the parts of myself I didn’t like.

Because I didn’t love myself.

I have analyzed every aspect of myself – why I do anything, what I feel, why I act and react the ways I do, what triggers me, what I value… I continue to do so. Now that I have discovered the foundation, I am beginning to build upon it.

I have accepted that there are parts of myself I cannot change. And I have begun to work on changing the things I can change about myself.

I am learning to love myself. For who I am.

I’m not perfect. I sometimes take steps backwards but, even on my worst days, I can examine and plan for better days using what I know and continue to learn about myself.  I am whoever I want to be and, if I am not, only I can make changes to get myself there.

Are We Doing Enough for Our Veterans?

Today, November 11, is Veterans Day. An annual holiday in the United States honoring military veterans. While it’s wonderful to have a day honoring the brave men and women who have served, and who continue to serve our country, it isn’t enough.

The fight doesn’t end when they get home…

Homelessness, unemployment, disability, substance abuse and mental illness all face service men and woman upon their return. Lack of family or a support system, compounded by inadequate or nonexistent services does not present the honor and respect our veterans deserve.

There are some resources available to veterans. The National Center for PTSD offers information on Post Traumatic Stress disorder in veterans, though they do, “not provide direct clinical care or individual referrals.” Afterdeployment.org, “is a behavioral health resource supporting service members, their families, and veterans with common post-deployment challenges.”

Flickr: finishing-school

Serving San Diego county in California, Veterans Village of San Diego (VVSD) provides comprehensive and innovative services for military veterans and assistance to needy and homeless veterans and their families. Solider On, serving the state of Massachusetts, “assist[s] veterans with both picking up the pieces of their lives and filling in the gaps that public agencies do not address.”

Soldier On’s mission statement declares that, “Homeless veterans need an interwoven effort that provides a safety net of housing, meals, health care, substance abuse aftercare and mental health counseling. They also need job assessment, training and placement assistance. Our mission at Solider On is to offer a continuum of care that includes immediate and long-term housing, treatment and recovery for addiction, food, and clothing, as well as medical, counseling and job-related services.”

“Because government money for homeless veterans is currently limited and serves only one in 10 veterans in need, it is critical that private groups such as Soldier On reach out to help provide the support, resources and opportunities most Americans take for granted: housing, employment and health care.” Private groups comprise a large part of programs providing assistance and resources to homeless veterans.

The story of Herold Noel, an Iraq War veteran suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and living in his car in Brooklyn, is featured in the documentary WHEN I CAME HOME. The film examines the challenges that are faced by combat veterans returning home and the battle that many must fight to receive the benefits promised to them. The trailer is provided below and you can view the entire movie streaming online for free on hulu.