DO YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE?

For those of us who suffer with mental illness… I think one of the biggest problems is that we do NOT know who we are… We are so busy trying to figure out why we can’t seem to fit in… and this takes up ALL of our TIME and ENERGY.

Well… let me tell you… YOU are SPECIAL… there is NO ONE else like YOU… You were created with your own unique gifts… gifts that the world is waiting to discover and see…  This is not a commercial trying to sell you on buying something you really don’t need… IT IS THE TRUTH…. WE are ALL SPECIAL and UNIQUE… we ALL have things within us that ONLY US can do.

Learning to find our unique giftings is the KEY to finding our purpose… and I don’t care who you are or where you come from… YOU have UNIQUE gifts.

This world revolves around DRAMA… and the world is VERY JUDGMENTAL… There is so much pressure on all of us TO BE SOMETHING… and so many people fall into the trap of trying to be something they are NOT! There is STRENGTH and FREEDOM in ACCEPTING that we are who we are…. JUST AS WE ARE… with all the good… the bad… and the ugly… Everyone has all these sides… we are no different.

My challenge is to rise above all the labels that society places on me… and to SHINE MY LITTLE LIGHT… in my own little world… There is a saying… Bloom where you are planted… You may not be able to change the world… but you can change the world of someone you know… your neighbour… your family member… your workplace… your hang out place… all the places you belong to… You have a special invitation to make something nicer… happier… brighter…  by smiling… giving a compliment… doing something nice… Small things matter… they really do matter to someone who is hurting… someone who is having a bad day… someone who is losing hope… YOU have the power to change a bad day into a beautiful day… Discover what you are good at… and you will find that it helps you even more than it helps someone else. 

~ Momma Bear

Momma Bear’s Coping Strategies

You just slip out the back, Jack…Make a new plan, Stan…You don’t need to be coy, Roy

Just get yourself free

Hop on the bus, Gus…You don’t need to discuss much…Just drop off the key, Lee

And get yourself free.                               Song by Paul Simon

If you know and remember the lyrics to the above song… You will NOW have this tune in your head ALL DAY… ( You’re welcome! LOL)

Well then… I want to cover the topic of “coping strategies”… This is going to stretch my thinking because I have never really thought about this before… As I am just beginning to start writing for this blog… I am realizing…It is going to be a challenge for me to talk about a great many things because I am so used to going through my illness alone.

One thing I do know is that you need a PLAN… and that plan needs to be put into place BEFORE you get really sick…because when you are down and out for the count… due to whatever cycle you go through with your own mental illness… it’s too late by then to MAKE a plan… What I mean by this is… as far as depression goes… there are ups and downs… and then there are DOWNS… I am assuming that it is the same across the board for most… if not all mental disorders… 

The purpose of making a plan is so that things become easier… and remain SAFER for the one who is suffering… It’s similar to wearing a medical alert bracelet… It lets those you are close to become AWARE that you are ill and this is what you need from them…( without having to explain… over and over again )… In the past… I have not had a plan… but I wish I did… and today… I am in the process of making one.

A plan should be written in something that is easy to carry around… ( a notebook… a journal… )… there needs to be a copy of it that will be easy for you to turn to when things get really bad for you. You can even write and prepare a list of things you want people to know and have it photocopied and ready to give out when the time comes. If you are like me and work things out alone… the list is not necessary… but the plan still is.

In another blog post… I will talk about how to make a complete plan from beginning to end… For now… I want to move onto coping strategies.

Oh my goodness… this is a topic that is so important… especially because so often… I feel like life SWEEPS me away without warning… That seems to be how quickly an episode of severe depression washes over me… I never seem to see it coming until it is too late… and BANG… I am out for the count… and UNDER.

It is at these extra low times that coping strategies are most IMPORTANT… they are often our life-line to keeping our head above water.

I am going to name a few that work for me… and I would like to keep this list going so it can become a resource of ideas for others to use. 

Ok… so… here is my personal list..

Listening to instrumental music… especially soft jazz… I specifically listen to music without words because I can just listen to the music without paying attention… I usually lie down on the sofa with a comfy blanket and my dog.

Sometimes I even manage to fall asleep ( which is a very good thing ).  

  • Note… listening to heavy metal or rap music ( or any other music that is loud and filled with negative energy )  is NOT the therapy I am talking about here. This is why I specifically listed instrumental… Many of the lyrics in these different styles of music are filled with anger… swearing and severe violence. This is counter-productive to the goal of coping. 
  • Please don’t send me messages telling me BUT I like this kind of music… LOL… I’m sure you do or else you would not normally listen to it… however… this coping strategy is about relaxing and allowing your sick body to absorb healing… It’s not party time.. It’s relaxing time.

Laughing every day… as often as I can… This can be a very difficult task… especially when suffering with a severe bout of depression… so this is when that plan I talked about comes in very handy… Get a user friendly list of places you can visit on the internet that will give you a quick and instant dose of humour… this is no different than your favorite play-list of music… except… it is your play-list of laughs. I’m sure you have heard that laughter is like medicine… over the years of many very low times… I can testify that HUMOUR has been my “Saving Grace”. Whatever tickles your fancy… whatever makes you smile and laugh… do it… listen to it… watch it… play it again… By taking the time to do this… you will make your day that much easier. Even if you don’t FEEL like laughing… Just do it. 

Laughter can come from many places… your favorite cartoon… your favorite meme… your favorite comedian… your favorite silly song… your favorite joke… your favorite funny memory… It truly is an individual thing… It is proven that a good belly laugh releases the “happy” twins ( dopamine and serotonin )… These guys are our FRIENDS… Seriously… these are the guys you want hanging around… LOL

Sleeping… Sleep is my #1 friend when I am down low… and thankfully the medication I am on ( quetiapine fumarate ) gives me a good solid 10-12 hour break from suffering… Not everyone can afford this luxury but I tell you… un-interrupted periods of sleep are very important during the process of healing… It strengthens us… restores us… and allows us to get re-balanced. 

I strongly believe that emotional trauma and lack of sleep are key reasons that many who suffer with mental illness SELF MEDICATE… ( alcohol… drugs… shopping… pornography… gambling… etc… etc… ).

Avoiding Drama… I avoid drama at all costs when I am feeling well… but when I am sick… I absolutely lose patience with a great many things… ( I know this about myself )… so… I simply shut down on the NOISE level of life. For me… this means staying away from SOCIAL MEDIA… including the news… It saves me so much stress… This might not be the answer for everyone… but it certainly is for me… When I am at my lowest of lows… I simply shut down… on everything that is NOT important… or necessary. 

Our i-pads… i-phones… lap-tops… can be wonderful and most convenient… but they  can also be very time-consuming… emotionally consuming and energy draining… When we are sick… we are in need of preserving our energy and RE-CHARGING… just like our phones… Our minds need to rest.

I realize my list is not very long… but those are the things that work for me…

I would like to add that there is one VERY IMPORTANT thing that is NOT on my list.

Sadly… I have never learned to depend on ANYONE for anything and so I truly have suffered alone for most of my life… 

I am talking about having that ONE person or small group of persons… who you can be totally honest with about where you are AT… This person is someone who will instinctively know WHAT you need… they will respect you for where you are at… and will “in love” make small decisions for you during your dark times that will be for your good. Things such as coming over to check on you… even if you say NO… Ironically… you will notice that when these people do come over… they are NEVER a burden or bother… they never come in judgement… and they never come demanding something… They simply come to make sure you are ok… and have everything you need. 

If you are lucky enough to have one of these people… I encourage you to just LET them IN… They are PRECIOUS.  I say this because this year… I actually experienced this for the first time ever… between two people… I was checked on and ensured that I had everything I needed…It made a huge difference in the comfort of my life… and I am most grateful for both these people in my life… Also… it is important to THANK these “angels” in your life once you are feeling better.

Please let’s keep this list going… Share what coping strategies work for you. We want a pool of resources here for people to have. 

~Momma Bear

Small Acts can have HUGE Impact

Let’s take a moment to think about the last time you did a small act of kindness for someone… How did you feel? Sometimes it can be as simple as saying Good Morning to someone, not realizing they were having a tough morning, sometimes it can be buying a coffee for someone in need… These small gestures can seem so insignificant, but what we may not know is just how much of an impact something so small can have. In a single moment, with a simple sentence, you have the power to change someones day.

One of my favourite video’s I have seen over the years is a Ted Talk by Drew Dudley, titled Everyday Leadership, he goes on to explain how a simple exchange can have a huge impact https://www.ted.com/talks/drew_dudley_everyday_leadership?language=en

I like to rewatch this video a few times a year as a reminder, not only to do things for others, but to also say Thank You to those who have given me those moments. It truly is amazing to think something as simple as saying Good Morning to the one you didn’t realize was struggling can totally turn their day around.

Remember friends, be kind to one another…

Lady D

Forgiveness

There are two sides of forgiveness… Those we NEED to forgive and those we NEED forgiveness from. 

We are only in control of those we NEED to forgive… I can testify very painfully that there is nothing I can say or do to convince my son to forgive me… This blog is something that comes from my daughter and I learning to understand each other and to FORGIVE each other… For as much as our story has a happy ending… the story of my son and I does NOT… and that is a reality that I have had to work very hard at accepting. Sometimes I think I have arrived and other times I know that I still have a long way to go. Anyways… I have placed this pain I have in a box… and I try NOT to look at it… I have however dealt with it BECAUSE I had to… in order to move on with my life… I had to FORGIVE myself. 

Forgiveness is sometimes misunderstood… It does NOT mean we have to forget… or pretend that nothing happened… and it does NOT mean we even have to allow the person who hurt us back in our lives… It simply means we AGREE to BEGIN the process of letting go of all the pain… It is not an immediate action… or I should say… it does not have immediate results… Forgiveness is a process… very similar to grief… time does heal the MEMORY… but we have to be WILLING to let it go. 

The reason that forgiveness is so important to mental health is that it FREES up much needed energy… For anyone who suffers with the pain of NOT being able to forgive someone… they will tell you… IT consumes a lot of time… we spend a lot of time dwelling on the fact that we have been hurt… Not because we want to be victims but because it quite simply HURTS… and we often cannot understand. Let me tell you… I have been there… many times… and I still have trouble with forgiveness… I think it is because I am so sensitive… and when I get my feelings hurt… they seem to stay hurt for a very long time… Another thing that happens is that I totally shut down and completely remove myself away from the person who has hurt me… That is fine when the person lives in another town or city… but when the person is close… it makes for a difficult existence. I have also been there.

In this last year… I have come to truly RESPECT the act of FORGIVENESS… I now see it as a VITAL part of my emotional well being… I no longer feel the need to hang onto and cling onto things that other people do to me… or say to me. 

I’m not saying it is easy… but it is getting EASIER.

The hardest person to forgive in all honesty has been MYSELF… Oh my goodness… that has been a very long and difficult journey indeed… and I STILL have a very long way to go in that department… however… I am on the right path… and I know this because I am beginning to live without guilt and shame. 

Forgiving someone sets us FREE… so that we can move on and continue growing.

Lady D here… Forgiveness is indeed the key to being free, it most definitely is not easy at times, but it is imperative for us to learn to forgive in order for us to grow and thrive. As Momma Bear said, forgiveness does not mean you need to allow the person back in your life, though sometimes forgiveness allows you to, depending on the circumstance. I truly feel blessed that Momma Bear and i have been able learn to love and accept one another, it wasn’t easy at times, but we did it, and I am so incredibly blessed to have Momma Bear in my life, and I am so glad we are able to do this Blog Journey together.

Welcome Back

Hey Folks! Lady D here, my apologies for the long break.

I have been on a bit of my own journey lately and really struggled with being able to write. It is much more Momma Bear’s gift than mine, but yet I have so much I would like to share with you all.

Its been quite a journey the past year and a half, and although I thought I had come to terms with the craziness in my life, I realized that I most certainly have not dealt with some of the hurt I have experienced. Instead I threw myself full force into work…See although I have anxiety, I seem to be able to deal with it most of the time without it affecting my day to day life… Or so I thought… instead I have realized I just pushed aside the emotions and went full force into work, and silly me thought that I had sort of “dealt” with some of the trials, but I have come to realize that I most definitely have not dealt with anything.

Like many of you can likely relate to, I don’t deal with my emotions well, and I certainly am not good at being vulnerable, it scares me. Instead I seem to convince myself that I am totally fine…However, there is a great deal of strength that comes from dealing with your issues instead of pushing them aside….Let me tell you, they do eventually catch up with you, and when they do, its tougher to deal with months…or years later than it would have been just to deal with it at the time.

Life is such a blessing in so many ways, and I am blessed enough that when I get in these “ruts”, it serves as a reminder to take a step back and really evaluate where I am at and how I am truly feeling. It reminds me that perspective is important. It reminds me that sometimes I need to remember the things that bring me joy, and happiness, or to start looking for what new things bring joy. Its not always easy, and sometimes getting out of the rut takes much longer than other times. Sometimes, we need to consider professional help, and other times we need to just work at shifting our perspective and working through the emotions and challenges, depending on the season.

Life is short…We really don’t know how long we have, so it is important to learn to live a more balanced life. To learn to love ourselves where we are at…To be patient with outselves, to learn to grow and prosper and not stay stuck in the pits of our emotions. To remind ourselves that we are WORTHY, we are LOVABLE, and we are UNIQUE.

Understanding & Accepting Your Diagnoses

Well… I have to say… I have been an extremely slow learner when it comes to taking the responsibility of learning what my mental illness was all about. I’m talking about 35 years SLOW…. LOL

All my life… I have simply accepted that I suffered with Severe Chronic Depression… Many years later… I was re-assessed in a psychiatric ward… and was given a further diagnosis of Dysthymia.

I am not sure why I did not ask questions or do my own research… Maybe I was just too sick to bother or care. I think part of that answer is that I was in such a deep and dark pit… that I truly did not have the energy for anything extra except trying to survive. 

A year ago… I had what I am going to call a “controlled” nervous breakdown… When I say that… I mean… I was not hospitalized… my meds were not changed… I did not tell anyone that I was spiralling down a black hole… I just shut down… I completely shut down… and stopped participating in life.

I had one friend who I confided in… someone I would email on a daily basis… Someone who was in the same dark place as me… Fast forward to a year later… I can see the beauty was that we carried each other through a very terrible time. We sort of kept each other going… making sure that each of us was safe. It was like being in the desert and only having one glass of water… Somehow we just knew what to do to make sure the other got what they needed. I am very grateful to this friend… She is my best friend… and has been for the last 10 years…

Anyways… I have learned so much in this last year… Because I was in a place that I had never been before ( I had never completely shut down on life before )… I really did not know what to do to get out… For months… I just stayed there in the dark… and I woke up each morning… counting the hours until I could simply go back to sleep. One day ran into the other… and this lasted almost 9 months… I am not sure what it is that changed… But I remember simply not being able to take it anymore… I knew something had to change… That is when I guess you can say… I came to the end of myself… I finally said ENOUGH… I was so tired of being sad… so tired of hurting all the time…. I was simply SICK and TIRED of being SICK and TIRED.

From that point on… things for me began to change… and they began to change quickly… I took the time to look up the definition of Chronic Depression and Dysthymia… and I finally understood what it meant… It was like the lights being turned back on… It gave me a starting point to work with… and from that I began to understand that there were REAL and RELEVANT reasons WHY I was not coping with life… I suddenly wasn’t this awful FREAK anymore… I was legitimately someone who was ill…. with an invisible disease that others could not see.  Oh the relief I felt… 

After this… came the courage to slowly look at my life… to look at all of it… at least all the parts I could remember… I came to see that many parts of my life are gone… as I cannot remember a great many things… I think that is a gift actually… I don’t try to force memories… and to be quite honest… I really don’t want to know… I don’t want to remember… because I know it was NOT GOOD. 

What was left was the knowledge that due to my traumatic childhood… I was unable to develop normal and meaningful relationships with people in the world.

This was another lightbulb moment for me… I knew that if I was going to live the rest of my life OUT of my STUPID PIT… I was going to have to face and deal with the relationships I had with my mother and father… This was the KEY to all my other problems. Those two were the hardest and once I dealt with those… I truly believed I would be set FREE.

In the last three months… I am happy to report that I have done just that… I have FACED and ACCEPTED the trauma of my life… and I have FACED and ACCEPTED both my parents… This was perhaps easier for me to do because both of them are deceased… I did not have to face them head on… but I was able to put them both at REST where they belong. 

At this point… I would simply like to ENCOURAGE anyone who is reading this to take an honest and full look into your own mental illness… Understanding what you have is IMPORTANT because it is the KEY to learning ACCEPTANCE… You can’t change it… I am still sick… but because I understand the terms of my illness… I am better able to understand what that means for me…. And that means that I am better equipped to fight the battle that lies ahead.

~ Momma Bear

Self Discovery

DO YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE?

For those of us who suffer with mental illness… I think one of the biggest problems is that we do NOT know who we are… We are so busy trying to figure out why we can’t seem to fit in… and this takes up ALL of our TIME and ENERGY.

Well… let me tell you… YOU are SPECIAL… there is NO ONE else like YOU… You were created with your own unique gifts… gifts that the world is waiting to discover and see…  This is not a commercial trying to sell you on buying something you really don’t need… IT IS THE TRUTH…. WE are ALL SPECIAL and UNIQUE… we ALL have things within us that ONLY US can do.

Learning to find our unique giftings is the KEY to finding our purpose… and I don’t care who you are or where you come from… YOU have UNIQUE gifts.

This world revolves around DRAMA… and the world is VERY JUDGEMENTAL… There is so much pressure on all of us TO BE SOMETHING… and so many people fall into the trap of trying to be something they are NOT! There is such STRENGTH and FREEDOM in ACCEPTING that we are who we are…. JUST AS WE ARE… with all the good… the bad… and the ugly… Everyone has all these sides… we are no different.

My challenge is to rise above all the labels that society places on me… and to SHINE MY LITTLE LIGHT… in my own little world… There is a saying… Bloom where you are planted… You may not be able to change the world… but you can change the world of someone you know… your neighbour… your family member… your work place… your hang out place… all the places you belong to… You have a special invitation to make something nicer… happier… brighter…  by smiling… giving a compliment… doing something nice… Small things matter… they really do matter to someone who is hurting… someone who is having a bad day… someone who is losing hope… YOU have the power to change a bad day into a beautiful day… Discover what you are good at… and you will find that it helps you even more than it helps someone else. 

~ Momma Bear