Tag Archives: mental health

Hope

Hope.

Hope is the difference between despair and acceptance.

Without hope we cannot expect to move forward — we cannot even see that there is a place to move to.

If you believe that there is no possible (or impossible) way for progress, for improvement, for the ability to “get better,” there is little motivation to put forth effort in change, since change seems unrealistic.

It’s amazing how the tiniest spark of possibility ignites a fire of hope. It spreads to your perception, your beliefs, your motivation, your efforts.

hope

Hope shines a light in the dark corners of yourself. It, “invites the possibility.” It shifts, “NO,” “NEVER,” and “CAN’T” to “MAYBE.”

And “MAYBE,” though not as enthusiastic as “YES!” shifts your perception of the world around you enough to encourage the mightily important, “TRY.”

With hope we can try. We can see possibilities. We can move forward. We can change, learn, grow.

With hope there is a future, potentially better than the present. And we can choose to try the best we can.

National Suicide Prevention Day

Today, September 10, 2012, is National Suicide Prevention Day. 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).

1 of over 200 signs created in response to why you should call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Click on this picture to view the others.

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.

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 calling 1-800-273-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.

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.

Avoidance & Distraction

The act of avoiding something or distracting yourself from something can be very useful in tolerating painful events or emotions when you can’t make things better immediately. This can be a subconscious action but often works best when consciously decided.

When we’re feeling distressed, distracting ourselves with other activities, thoughts, emotions and sensations can allow our focus to shift from a negative, stressful place to a place that feels more tolerable. The same can be said for avoiding distressing events, people, tasks, etc.

However, if we constantly avoid and distract ourselves from things that cause us distress, we inadvertently give those things more power and allow them to appear bigger, scarier and more stressful than they may really be (see On Vulnerability). This can also lead to unintentional inattention in other areas of our lives (see Procrastination).

Avoidance
Noun
The act of keeping away from, keeping clear of; preventing from happening

Temporary use of avoidance and distraction as coping skills works well, but they shouldn’t become a “way of life”. If we constantly avoid and distract ourselves from things that cause us distress, we never allow ourselves the ability to work through them and, hopefully, overcome them.

We also might be missing out on some very pleasant experiences that just happen to accidentally get overlooked.

I’m not saying to be reckless. Or put yourself in the way of obvious danger. But if you constantly distract yourself from feeling negative emotions or experiencing potentially distressing events, you’re doing yourself a disfavor.

Distraction
Noun
The act of drawing away or diverting; separating or dividing (such as one’s attention)

In order to ever truly live fully, we must at some point face the things that distress us. I know you don’t want to hear that. I don’t want to either. I’d much rather go on believing that if I avoid it, if I distract myself from it, if I pretend that it doesn’t exist that it cannot effect me.

But it does.

Think about something you’re avoiding. Start with something small – a paper you need to write, a task you need to complete, a phone call you’ve been putting off…

Just thinking about it, I can feel a knot in my stomach forming. A sickish, uncomfortable feeling. It’s much easier to avoid or distract myself from thinking about it. The sickish feeling goes away. I can breathe easier and go about my day.

Until the distressful thing comes up again. Someone mentions it. My mind wanders to it. I’m confronted with it face to face. Now, the sickish feeling is worse. The know in my stomach has grown.

I can keep avoiding it seemingly forever, distracting myself to better tolerate the feelings. But it still exists. And it will keep popping up, often at horrible times, the sickish feeling constantly growing.

Avoiding something makes it easier to tolerate, but it doesn’t make the distress go away. At some point you need to face the thing(s) that causes you distress.

When you choose to do so is your choice. So is how. And how much. But as long as you avoid it and distract yourself from it, it’s still there. And it will still cause you distress.

Is There a Bigger Picture?

Recently it seems wherever I go there are people having a tough time. Having difficulty making ends meet, finding jobs, paying for all the expenses that somehow creep up at the worst possible times. Struggling with sicknesses, addictions, chronic illnesses like fibromyalgia, deep depression and other mental illnesses.

People are working their asses off at jobs they don’t enjoy, that they aren’t appreciated in or compensated for. Racking up large debts to pay for secondary educations with the foresight that there may not be careers available to them when they graduate.

Parents who are stressed out from all of these things and still need to find a way to hold it together to be the moms and dads their children not only require but also deserve. Losses of jobs and houses, and lifestyles and dreams. Losses of people, expected and unexpected, but felt just the same.

Religious arguments and politics. Social injustice. Internal feelings of inadequacy; of lacking. And an overwhelming feeling of despair and disappointment.

It all leads to, let’s be honest, feeling like shit. Feeling like the world is on your back. That bad things just keep happening and will just keep happening. That no matter what you do, it isn’t enough. It will never be enough. It might make you start questioning what the “bigger picture is.”

Is there a bigger picture? What is the point of all of this? And will it ever get any better?

I can tell you this, I don’t have the answers and I won’t try and act like I do.

Or rather, I don’t have the answers for you.

However, I have found the answers for me. Right now. In this moment.

Is there a bigger picture?

Do you want there to be? You are the captain of your life, whether you feel like it or not. In this moment, the bigger picture for me is this: Much of life has been beyond difficult, filled with trauma and tribulations and shit stacked so high against me that at many points I couldn’t see around it.

To be honest, my current life isn’t really any less difficult than it has ever been. But the bigger picture, for me, is that I can’t see having gone through all that I have and survived to just let my life be wasted. For me, the bigger picture is a trap. Looking too far in the future (or the past) blinds me from looking right here in the present, which is the only place I am truly capable of being in.

What is the point of all of this?

You know, I’ve mulled this question over since I was, at minimum, 15 years old. I haven’t ever come up with a definitive answer mainly because there isn’t one. There is no one answer to this question. The point of “all this” is whatever you want it to be.

Do you want to be the wealthiest person in the US? In the world? Do you want to discover an unknown entity or invent the world’s next innovation? Do you want to be the best parent you can be to your children? Do you want to be happy?

The meaning of life is vastly different for each person. For me, in this moment, the point of “all this” is to do the best I can. Right now. With the knowledge and resources and abilities that I have right now. And if tonight when I go to bed I realize that the day didn’t go as I had hoped or planned or even liked, well then tomorrow I will get up and try again.

Will it ever get any better?

At various times throughout my life I have been in places that, regardless of what anyone said to me, I would argue that no, it will never get better. I could point to the current place I was in (which was horrible). I could point to every past place of agony and depression and anger and despair. As if to showcase my evidence of how much everything is shit and always was shit and always will be shit. But, you know what?, complaining and arguing about how much my life sucked didn’t do anything other than allowing myself to sink down into it even more.

So, right here and right now, let’s lay it out. Life sucks. Life is hard and sometimes it seems like horrible things will never stop happening to us. Fair assessment?

Now let it go. Really. Putting the majority of your attention on all the things that are shitty, it doesn’t help you. While you’re busy getting stressed and upset about all the things that, right now in this moment, you can’t change you are missing out on all the wonderful things that are right there.

Sometimes all you can do is keep moving. Just keep waking up and doing the best you can. Just keep swimming as it were, like the fish in Finding Nemo.

Sometimes you need to change your perspective. To acknowledge the bad and let it go. To choose to focus on the positive things you do have in your life. To be grateful.

Are bad things going to keep happening? Yes. And good things too.

I Walk Down The Street

Many years ago in my life I was in a situation that I didn’t like. I was a teenager, struggling not only with being a teenager but also with some serious mental health issues. I remember at the time feeling like I was doing everything I could and being extremely frustrated that, despite my efforts, my life did not change.

At some point during this time period I was given this poem:

I think the first time I was given it, I didn’t even read it. I was given this poem on several other occasions as a teenager. Eventually I read it but, seriously?, this person is stupid! Just don’t walk into the hole, right?

Later, as an adult, still struggling with many of the same issues that plagued me as a teenager, I was again given this poem.

Reading it, I understood that the person in the poem wasn’t actually walking into a hole in the sidewalk. It was a metaphor. And it made a lot of sense.

The title of the poem, “Autobiography in Five Chapters” is aptly named. I won’t dissect the poem because, like most poetry, each person interprets it in their own way. However, I will discuss the implications to change.

Change really centers on a few things. First, we must realize that there are things that we cannot change and that we have no control over. Next, we must be aware of our own actions and behaviors and acknowledge them as our own choices and responsibility. And last, we must desire and have the courage to make different choices.

It’s obviously an over simplified description of a life-long, complex process. As a teenager I viewed my life much as the second verse in the poem. I continually made the same choices and was surprised that I was in the same place. It simply wasn’t my fault.

With time and a lot of effort to be more aware of my choices and responsibility for those choices, I shifted into a viewpoint somewhere in between the third and fourth verses in the poem. I made the same choices and ended up in the same place, but I wasn’t surprised anymore and I knew how I had gotten there. Eventually I was able to avoid the choices I had made out of habit. And by doing so avoided the outcome.

At present, I’m very much present in the fifth verse of the poem. I’m making new and more aware choices. I realize that those choices are mine to make and, if I don’t like their outcomes, I am always free to make a different choice.

There are parts of life that are out of our control, that we cannot choose and we cannot change. But the majority of our lives and things come directly from choices that we ourselves make. We are in control of those choices and any change we wish to make for ourselves. So often we lose sight of all the choices we (unconsciously) make and all the choices we can make, by focusing too greatly on the few we cannot.

Someone once told me that there are always choices, and they were right. It’s your life. It’s your choice.

Moments

Moments.

That’s all we have. That’s all we ever had and will ever have.

Good moments. Bad moments. Moments that seems so insignificant at the time that later down the line we find ourselves replaying in our minds. Moments that make us feel something. Anything. That let us feel alive, if only in that very moment.

We’re all kidding ourselves to think otherwise. It truly isn’t about the grand picture, the sum of it all. It’s about the very little tiny times, scattered amongst the sea of monotony and sameness.

We don’t ever remember the majority of our lives. All the times spent sleeping or driving or working. We don’t keep those. We don’t keep the moments of repetition or status quo either.

And as quickly as we have them, as soon as we acknowledge their presence and grasp them with both hands, they slip away just as fast.

All we have is moments.

I know I keep writing about moments and being mindful, but  it’s because its important! And honestly, it’s easy to forget.

Building on yesterday’s post, The Myth of the Perfect Holiday, I want to continue to focus on slowing down and being mindful.

Mindfulness (or being present in the moment) is being aware without judgement — of life as it is, of yourself as you are and of other people as they are — in the present moment, here and now.

Whatever your attention is on, that’s what life is for you at any given moment. Focus on the negatives in your life and that’s what your life is for you. Focus on worries, that’s what your life is. Focus on gratitude and positives and, you guessed it, that’s what your life is for you.

deviantart: trancestor

Take just a few seconds to recall a moment you have really valued. Maybe it was a special time with a loved one. Or an experience you had in nature. Perhaps it was time spent with a child or a pet. Or a time you reached an accomplishment or supported a friend in need. Think about this time (write it down if you wish) and take the opportunity to focus on what really matters.

It’s so easy to get lost in life, swept up in the rush of emotions and movements. Take the time to be in the moment, whatever it might be, because it’s really all we have.

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.