In A New Venture, A Familiar Fear, I talked about being afraid of learning how to teach an online class. I tackled the learning process one step at a time and finally graduated from the sandbox to officially teaching. I recently completed the first week of the online class and so far it is going well. There are a few things I’m not sure about. I still need to look over cheat sheets when accomplishing some of my responsibilities but overall it’s going well.
I have been reminded that worry just sucks much-needed energy. In addition to the new teaching experience, I have been on an adventure for the last few weeks. I got the amazing opportunity to be a volunteer counselor at a retreat for women living and serving in Europe. After the retreat, a friend who also volunteered at the retreat, joined me for a bit of travel. The entire time has been one of puzzle pieces being put into place a step at a time. I am so thankful for the experience. Two reminders in a row not to waste time fearing the unknown. I might not know what’s on the other side of the wall, but that’s ok. I’ll find out when I need to. Life is best lived in the moment we are in versus worrying about the moments to come. 🙂
If you want to be truly free, you must let go of any attachment you have to how others respond to you. What?! Yes! If you do things in order to receive accolades, approval or acceptance, you are setting yourself up for an unhealthy bondage. You will never please others all the time. Your opinions and theirs don’t always match up. Your execution might not be what someone out there was thinking it should be. If other’s approval is your goal, you are doomed.
I’m not saying just go about your life doing whatever the hell you want without regard for how you might be affecting people around you. That’s called selfishness and I am not talking about that. I am talking about the part inside of us that is crushed when we don’t get any likes on our Facebook post, the part that gets gloomy because no one noticed the trendy outfit we’re wearing or our manicured lawn.
Many of us are motivated to do something so others will notice and that is misplaced motivation. It’s extrinsic. Healthy motivation comes from within. Sure, it feels good when others give us a compliment but that cannot be our marker for our achievement.
Set goals for yourself because it will feel good to you to achieve them. Wear the outfit because you feel awesome in it. Care for your lawn because that’s how you like it. When you notice you are doing something for the stamp of approval from others, stop. Pause for a moment. Recognize what you are doing. Remind yourself you are putting your sense of accomplishment into the hands of others. That is a place it was never meant to be. Take it back.
I’m an advocate of boundaries. Through boundaries we define who we are, what we like, what we don’t like, what we find acceptable and what we don’t. It’s important to know who you are. It’s equally important to remember we are responsible for ourselves and responsible to treat others with kindness. We must allow others to have the views they have. If you demand other people adopt your views, you’re trying to take away their boundary.
It’s fine to disagree with people. We live in a country where we actually have that right. Here are some phrases that might help with speaking your view while honoring another’s right to hold a different opinion:
- “That is how you see it. My view is…”
- “I understand you have a different opinion. My opinion is…”
- “That’s your perspective. My perspective is…”
Notice there are no “buts.” When you speak your opinion avoid using any blaming, shaming or criticizing words.
I’ve noticed, not just in the last few days but for quite some time, how vitriolic people have gotten in their disagreements. Professionals and leaders sound like mean-spirited children. Telling people their opinion is stupid is not only unkind, it does nothing to bring people to a place of seeking to understand where each side is coming from. Pick any debate right now, there are many, and look at the way people on opposite sides speak to each other.
I am a marriage coach. I help couples who are in crisis learn new ways of communicating with one another to help bridge the chasm versus pushing one another farther apart. As I look at the dialogue going on in the news and on social media, I keep thinking, “If you all would get some training on effective communication strategies and do some work healing the wounds of your past that show up today as venomous hate, the country would be a much better place.” You might not agree with me. That’s ok. You get to have your view and I get to have mine. 🙂
I think the worst parts of depression consist of apathy and listlessness. They suck you into a downward spiral so powerful it seems like there is no way out. It wouldn’t matter if there was a way out because you have no energy to get out. It’s such a vicious cycle because you are simultaneously miserable and don’t want to feel that way one more second.
I have a tremendous amount of compassion for those who live under a cloud of depression day after day after day for months, even years. I only experienced weeks of intense depression and just a few hours of not-going-to-live-anymore depression. Those hours were the worst of my life. I called out to God in the deepest part of my depression. My depression didn’t go away in that moment, just the desire to act on my thoughts of ending my life. I was still in a heap of tears and misery but I began the hard work to get out of it. My depression was situational but my situation didn’t change over night.
Once I was out from under the worst part of my depression, I made a decision to do something different. To stop swirling. It took a few months before I was completely free of the spiral. I found the steps that helped me or maybe they found me. Here’s what I did:
- I listened only to Henry Cloud and John Townsend’s Solutions CD’s. Filled with information about how to take control of my mind and my life.
- I saw a mental health professional weekly.
- I shared my pain with trusted people.
- I got out of bed and walked every day (or close to it). Sometimes I walked a few times a day.
- I soaked up God’s love messages to me through the Bible. If you take that book’s overall message cover to cover, it is really about relentless, non-judgmental love and freedom.
- Every time I felt a wave of depression I would describe it to myself, usually aloud. Kind of like this, “I feel that familiar surge of black, life sucking poison trying to take me down like the black spider-man suit. It’s really sadness. I feel the hot tears pouring out of my eyes, they get cooler as they roll down my cheeks. I feel a heaviness in my chest. I’ll let this be here for now.” Then after a few minutes I would take a deep breath and think about good things in my life, “I have good in my life. I have a few friends who really care about me. I have a roof over my head, food to eat and gas in my car. The sky is a beautiful blue.” I would then go outside, look at the sky, feel the air on my face, take a few more deep, relaxing breaths and then ask myself what I needed to be doing. Tasks that needed my attention. Then I got busy. Some days I would go for a walk, even while crying and talking to myself like I just described a few sentences ago. I did this over and over again for weeks. The sadness began to lessen. I didn’t feel it as strongly or for as long in the ensuing grief sessions.
Unless your depression is clinical depression caused only by a physiological issue, there is usually at least one experience that needs to be grieved lurking underneath the depression. It’s like a wound. Sometimes wounds get infected so intensely you might need antibiotics or the infection will rapidly multiply and can even take your life. The infection is the depression (unprocessed grief). The wound is from a painful experience: death of a loved one, loss of a job, end of a relationship, a disaster, witnessing violence, and abuse are a few depression causing experiences.
The best gift you can give yourself is that of processing your grief. If you are experiencing depression, it would be worth it to work with a mental health professional to find out what might be going on beneath the depression. Sometimes we don’t think painful aspects of our past can be involved in our current depression. Just because something happened a long time ago and you thought you were “over it”, doesn’t mean it can’t be affecting you today. Grief has an interesting way of lurking quietly below the surface for years and then barging its way back into your life in a most insidious way.
If you’re looking for a mental health professional, try PsychologyToday.com or Theravive.com to find one near you. If you are experiencing thoughts of suicide and need someone to talk to, call the National Suicide Hotline 800-273-8255. They also have an online chat option. If you intend to take your life, call 911 or get to an emergency room immediately.
The further I walk down this journey of life, the more I realize life is just plain hard and people are messy. Somehow I thought life was easy, people were uncomplicated and almost everyone was nice. I remember the first time I realized people are complicated and mean, I was 23 and managing my dad’s hotel in Aspen, CO. A guest treated me horribly. It was because I was on the other side of the counter (like the other side of the tracks). The man talked to me as though I was sub-human. I was in disbelief and a tiny crack began to form in the protective layer of shellac I had poured all over the messiness of life so I wouldn’t be aware of it.
The shellac comes in the form of stories we create. We force everything that goes on around us into that story. At some point, though, the story begins to disintegrate and when it does, we melt into a puddle along with it. It’s healthy to melt. In that space, we are able to experience life as it really is instead of in some story we created. While the story might feel good, it doesn’t actually serve us well as adults. The story keeps us pouring lots and lots of shiny shellac over the pile of crap that exists in reality. It’s just polished poop.
When we take the shellac off, we can deal with the icky parts of ourselves and the world around us. We can be sad and hurt. We can grieve. We can be with others who embrace reality, too. And this is the place where healing happens: aware of our own issues, knowing others have issues and being vulnerable with each other. No more stories! No more polished poop!
Note: Sometimes when we let the shellac dissolve, it’s too much for us to bear and we feel as though we are falling apart, like the bottom has dropped out from beneath us and we’re in a free fall. If you are ever in a place like this, please seek out the help of a Mental Health Professional. You can also call the National Suicide Hotline just to talk with someone, whether you are suicidal or not: 800-273-8255
Just like you, I need to fill up my tanks. I need to enlist self care. Part of my self care is receiving encouragement and guidance from others. For the past few years I have been learning from Molly Mahar. She is a coach who offers a variety of online trainings. I appreciate her honest approach to life and tapping into all the amazing abilities we have. I could keep this to myself but I want to spread the word about Molly.
So often in our culture we hoard info and stuff for ourselves, fearful that if we share, someone might pass us on the ladder to success. I believe there’s lots of room on that ladder. We all have something to offer the world and I’m not going to stand in the way of another’s steps up the rungs. In fact, I’m going to help, even if it’s for someone who is farther ahead than I am or will pass me.
Oh sure! there’s a selfish part inside of me who wants to keep people down, but I don’t want to feed that part. That part is mean, self-centered and greedy. So I’m pushing past that and feeding the part that wants to embrace and share and love! There was a bit of bait from Molly: a contest for the ones who get the most people to sign up for her course. I’m more motivated by the desire to share Molly’s wisdom than winning a contest 🙂
I signed up for Molly’s Courage Council. If you’re interested in tackling your blocks to moving forward, take a look at Molly’s course. It starts September 11. Click here to find out more!
I was informed of an occurrence in a loved one’s life that sucked a bit of life out of me. At this point I will not be telling you the details. It’s not my story to tell. While I was alone with the new information, I started to cry. I cried for the person. The wave of tears left me for a moment and I began to think about my ownership in the situation. Years ago I had an affair. It was a conglomeration of the worst decisions I have ever made in my life. It hit me that while my loved one dealt with their own pain, I was oblivious to even the slightest changes in this person. I was so self absorbed at the time, so consumed with my own pride and selfishness, I missed a very pivotal time in history.
As another layer of the negative ripples of my affair surfaced, I felt deep pangs of regret and remorse. Tears flowed again followed by heaving sobs. It felt good to cry and purge the anger and disappointment. I was driving to Aspen to visit family and attend a Board meeting. While crying, I wondered if other travelers noticed I was crying. Instantly I “looked” at myself with an expression of “OMG! Are you kidding me?!” This is the very pride that tripped me up with my affair: I was being noticed and it felt good. Here I was crying about my selfish choices and thinking all about myself yet again! Ugh!
I am a God-believing person, so I took this to Him. I poured out my frustrations with this prideful, selfish side of me and begged for help to stop. Then I enlisted a useful thought-stopping technique:
- Each time I noticed myself making something all about me, I told myself to stop.
- I looked at the beauty all around me to get my mind off of me and on to something else.
- I audibly spoke a narrative of what I was seeing. You can say it in your head if people are around but it’s most effective if you say it aloud.
It helped. The focus on myself stopped. That time. Not too much longer, it happened again. Cracking up at this behavior, I said, “STOP!” and went through the process again. Now, every time I start that pride-filled thinking, I use the Stop Technique. It’s been several days and I haven’t needed to use it. I will again, I’m sure, but for now I seem to have reached a respite from the “all about me” thinking.
It’s important to understand the underlying issues that contribute to why I wondered if people were noticing I was crying. It’s an issue from my childhood (no surprise!). I was the fifth out of six children for most of my childhood. My parents were ultra busy running their hotel. I was not noticed. I was not special. I think there’s a careful balance necessary between letting our children know they are important and noticed by us without creating self absorbed children who think the world begins and ends because of them. Confident in who they are, not arrogant and entitled. I’m working on being confident, not arrogant or chastising myself (the opposite of arrogance and equally unhealthy). It’s a crazy pendulum swing I find myself on at times. I’m thankful techniques exist to ground myself back to truth and reality!
I’ve realized that my post about joining the staff at the Concordia University Irvine Townsend Institute may have led some to believe I am moving and closing up my private practice. I am only adding a responsibility, not reducing others. I will continue to work with couples and individuals through my counseling practice, Journey Forward in lovely Lafayette, CO. I will continue to work with couples as a Smalley Intensive Marriage Coach, I will continue to write my blog and books.
Within the book realm, I’m eagerly awaiting the final piece of artwork for my current project: The Journey Forward Workbook: Daily Steps to Achieve Emotional Balance, Healthier Relationships and a Life You Can Love. It’s a coloring book/workbook that breaks down the basics: awareness, processing thoughts and emotions, creating new neural pathways, self care, boundaries.. I’m super excited about this project and can’t wait to get it published and into your hands!
For those of you who wondered about what I am doing, that’s it 🙂