Tuesday, November 10, 2015

A Day in the Life: Calm, Collected, and Wracked with Anxiety



 Everyone know how it feels to be stressed!
 A lot of people know how it feels to be anxious. And some know what it's like to be a walking paradox: to be a calm, collected, logical, practical, and methodical person. As well as a person with semi-severe GAD, or Generalized Anxiety Disorder (which can stem into Panic Disorder). I happen to have OCD as well, which is the first-born child of anxiety. (And what OCD - Obsessive Compulsive Disorder - actually means is a whole separate discussion.)
 Although I was pretty sure I knew what anxiety was, I asked Dictionary.com to define it for me. Of course I found the definition was a set of feelings: 1. distress or uneasiness of mind caused by fear of danger or misfortune. 3. Psychiatry. a state of apprehension and psychic tension occurring in some forms of mental disorder. Synonyms are fear, foreboding; worry, disquiet, and apprehension. Antonyms are certainty, serenity, and tranquility.
 But that wouldn't have been hard to figure out. In fact, most of us know exactly what that feels like! And I wouldn't be afraid to call some of you worry-warts. Most all feelings come from a set of beliefs held, consciously or subconsciously, which create a certain attitude, which sets the stage for exactly what you feel at a certain time. Sometimes people need to look at the facts, and then just look on the bright side. Maybe it's just my personality type (INTJ on the Meyer Briggs, if you're wondering) but I'm a huge believer in in discovering and taking control of one's own beliefs, thoughts, and attitudes, not to mention their actions. But sometimes, things can't be controlled.
 Being a matter-of-fact person, always looking for the questions and the answers, shunning touchy-feely emotions, and usually wondering why people are the way they are, I always struggled with the unrealistic fears in my head. The thoughts were not my own. They flooded in, and most of the time, I didn't know what I was afraid of. Other times, there were specific fears (although I don't know if they would count as phobias), and would flash into my frontal cortex so quickly I didn't know where it came from.
 Example: as a child, I was a free spirit, adventurous, and a bit of a dare-devil; "afraid of nothing," I would say. Running across our half-acre lot (which feels like miles, when you're 7 years old) full of grass and trees, I had a thought - a pervasive thought, which I thought everyone had, and didn't categorize as anxiety. What if there were holes underneath the grass, but I couldn't see them, because the grass covered them up? What if I were to step right into one, and twist my ankle. I wouldn't have been the first time I've twisted my ankle. In fact, I'm pretty tolerant of pain. But that thought flashed into my head that whole day, and my brain re-played the feeling of falling, twisting, excruciating pain shooting up my leg, and maybe not being able to walk. I kept running, and in a couple of days, I had passed on from that specific fear. But more would come.
 It gets worse when you get older, because everyone - including yourself - expects more of you. Driving a car? Visions of loosing control, crashing, hurting myself and others, etc. Managing a retail store? What if I forget my work shift, show up late, tell a customer the wrong thing, forget to lock the door at night, etc. Online College? Not smart enough, didn't choose the right major, fail a test, fail college and waste thousands of dollars and years of my life and people will know I'm a failure, etc.
 The thing about clinical anxiety is the sufferer knows how ludicrous of the thoughts that cripple him are. The thing about anxiety is that it it isn't something you can control.
Sarcasm at its finest


 For me, I don't think it is the circumstance or substance that scares me. I'm NOT afraid of spiders, snakes, heights, tight spaces, falling, roller coasters, scary movies, crowds, awkward questions, being poor, global warming, not looking good, dying alone, cruel or unusual deaths, speaking to large groups, trying new things, pain, or not being loved. I'm logical. I'm independent. I've already been though a lot and come out on top. I'm intelligent and analytical. And I'm scared to death!
 But is it fear, or is it something else?
 Obviously fear is the most common feeling associated with anxiety. They're almost synonyms, after all. But medical researchers are forever theorizing on what I call "cause, effect, and side-effect."
 Example: until recently, the "cause" of depression (something I also struggle with) was thought to be an imbalance of brain chemicals, namely serotonin. This conclusion was drawn because serotonin is commonly called the "feel-good" chemical, and pharmaceuticals promoting optimization of serotonin seemed to help. However, is low serotonin the cause, the effect, or a side-effect of the real cause? We still don't know, but now we know that neurogenesis (the initiation/creation of synapse connection, allowing proper nerve communication in the brain and rest of the body) in the hippocampus (part of the brain) may be why these drugs were working. Serotonin may be a side-issue. An important one, but perhaps just one of the many things effected by the "cause" of depression. Especially because low serotonin is associated with OCD, but individuals with OCD are not necessarily depressed.
 Personally, I believe anxiety is agitated by an overly active brain. For me, this is why I sometimes have anxiety that seems triggered by chaos and stress in life, and why, at times, there seems to be no trigger at all.
 That is why I believe that someone with anxiety can be calm, collected, responsible, and logical. Fear may only be a symptom, like a high fever is a symptom of many illnesses. It simply tells us that something is very wrong! Indeed, there are other symptoms. Shortness of breath, pounding heart, isolation, tingling/numbness, tremors, slurred speech, inability to concentrate, the constant "buzz" in the back of the mind, tunnel vision, cold sweats, stressful dreams, inability to sit/stand still, constantly tense muscles, insomnia, headaches/migraines. I know what all of these feel like. I've lived with them for years. Yes, I take medication. Yes, I breathe, I rest, I avoid sugar, caffeine, and artificial sweeteners/colors, and a whole host of things that can make it worse. Not, it doesn't always work.
 I'd like to break the stigma surrounding anxiety disorders. Not just GAD, OCD, Panic Disorder, and Depression, but Social Anxiety, Phobias, PTSD (Post-traumatic Stress Disorder), SPD (sensory processing disorder), Bipolar, Schizophrenia, Eating Disorders, Autism (and other spectrum-related disorders), ADD and ADHD, and even Downs Syndrome. Plus all of the mental disorders that I don't know about, or wouldn't have room to list here.
 Remember that we have a lot to deal with. What is easy for you may be nearly impossible for us. That doesn't make us weak. It makes us strong! The "obvious connection" may not be correct. Depression does not mean lazy and pessimistic. Anxious does not mean delusional and spastic. Just like blonde does not mean dumb, and religious does not mean fanatical.
 A day in my life includes a lot of obstacles, but it also includes a lot of victories.


And, just because I thought this was funny... ;)


Tuesday, October 13, 2015

A message from everyone with Depression: Believe Me!

A short letter by Michaela Johnson



 I don't complain.
 I take responsibility for myself.
 I can conquer, push through, ignore, or straight-up deal with a lot of gut-wrenching crap, and you'll never know. My body could be silently screaming in pain, and you'll see me smile as I open the door for you, and offer to carry your groceries to your car. I could be dead inside, apathetically watching my vitality drain from my spirit, and still go about my day as if life were made of sunshine. I don't do this to deceive you. I'm merely coping. I don't say this to garner your pity. I don't want pity. Because people have enough hurt of their own to worry about without me adding to their emotional burden.
 I'm aware that there is a prideful way of wanting to be the strong rock for everyone to lean on, while victimizing one's own self by needlessly stuffing down their own emotions. That can be sadistic and egotistical. I don't view myself as a rock. I don't need affirmation from being needed. I'm not a beacon of light. I am a person with strengths and weaknesses. And, as Robin Williams said, "I think the saddest people always try their hardest to make people happy. Because they know what it's like to feel absolutely worthless, and they don't want anybody else to feel like that."
 I'm not a nice person because I believe it will make up for my own struggle, or because it distracts
me, or because I think that's how I'll get into heaven. I'm naturally an optimistic, practical, ambitious, no-nonsense person with a sense of humor. I don't quit just because something is hard. I'm independent, and I'm quick to offer help. I'm not saying this to make you think much of me. It is true that a good attitude can make terrible situations more bearable - or even slightly humorous - and render daunting tasks do-able, or even enjoyable.
 Why say these things? Because it puts pain in a new perspective. Or at least it gives you a different view of mine:
 If I tell you that something hurts, it is because I've tried and tried to help myself, and I can't. And when I tried to ignore it and move on, it hurt too much to allow me that. If I tell you something is hard, it is because it's just about impossible, and for once I don't see a solution, and I'm at my whit's end, delirious with the struggling. If the small things in life get me down, then it's because I'm too exhausted by fighting the big ones. If I say I'm tired, it means I don't know how the heck I'm going to drag myself through the day, just like the hundred days before it, but for real this time. If I'm brutally honest, it either means I trust you, or I simply can't go on without falling apart just a little bit.
 I need you to believe me when I state how I feel. I'm not being melodramatic, I'm not PMSing, I'm not over-reacting. As obserd as a feeling may sound next to reality, it is my reality. I already know it is obserd, but I'm stuck inside of a sick, obserd, and dying world that only I exist in. Science shows that a medically depressed person's brain is anywhere between 90-25% active compared to a non-depressed brain. I'm alone in my head - my worst enemy - and am not given a fighting chance.
 Depression has been called "the worst cancer" because it is a slow demise of one's very spirit, until death is either inevitable, or invited as a relief from the sleepless hell. A hell that no one sees. A hell that is poo-pooed, pitied from afar, or viewed by the "strong" as an unfortunate vice of the weak.
 What would you say to someone with a mental illness? Pull it together? Think positive? Make better choices? Get help? Believe me, working harder, working smarter, working less, working alone, or working with others are not always choices one has. Everything is hard. Everything is work. Work without meaning, working without end, without reward, without a goal, without desire, without motivation, and without the strength to even carry out the task at hand. A "good attitude" will only get you so far, especially if it is your only resource, and this too under the cruel spell of depression. Believe me, I would do whatever it takes to take care of myself, to carry a job (or two), to go to school, to volunteer, to invent, to love, to take care of other people, to better myself and the world around me. I would do all these things in a heartbeat, if only I could!
 Please believe me when I say I am tired, struggling, afraid, or depressed. If you do not believe me, or treat me as if I need a nap, an attitude adjustment, a prayer for more faith, a multivitamin, or exposure to the "real world," don't expect me to waist my breath, energy, and hope on asking you again. Because I needed that breath. I needed that energy. I needed that little bit of hope and courage just to make it another day.
 I'm not asking you for advice, pity, a savior, a "get out of your brain jail free" card, or even understanding. I'm asking you to believe me. If I say I am struggling, my head is not above water, it is below, and I'm fighting my way to the surface with half a brain, half a life, and half a will to reach the top. I've made it this far. Do you still think I'm weak?



Wednesday, July 8, 2015

10 Things Depression Has Taught Me


Everything in Life is a Lesson. Sometimes those lessons are avoidable, and sometimes they're inevitable. Sometimes you can see the benefit immediately, and sometimes the reason escapes us, even if we're looking for it. While Depression is not a lesson I would wish upon anyone, (and if I could wipe it out completely, I would,) it has grown me as a person.

 Often I wonder how much farther I would have traveled in life without the bricks in my head weighing me down. Who would I be today without the burdens? But I have come to believe that I would not have traveled much farther at all; not have accomplished anything greater, though I may have accomplished more things. Why? Because I've learned the lessons the hard way. Personal experience, when we allow it to become a mentor, is the greatest teacher of all, because that is when we pay attention, and truly connect with the truth.

 While there are good days and bad days, and a lot of in-between days, these are 10 of the things Depression has taught me:
  1. Ask for Help - Even healthy people shouldn't go through life alone. Why should you and I? I've been blessed with people who care about me, but working up the courage (and energy) to admit that I couldn't do it by myself was one of the hardest things I've ever done, but one of the most necessary. Things will go on how they always have unless something changes, and I'm convinced that the significant, momentous change it takes to heal is not something I was capable of myself.
  2. I'm Weaker than I'll admit, but Stronger than I know - It takes a strong person to live life broken. It takes a stronger person to admit it and get help. After a while, it is too hard to keep picking up the pieces of a broken mind and heart. I don't know why I thought I still could, or why I insisted on doing it alone, but looking back, I'm shocked I was still able to.
  3. My Feelings don't Define Me - A friend brought this to my attention, and while I wasn't able to do anything with it at the time, it resonated in my mind. When depressed, I feel like I'm weak, lazy, irrational, impracticable, unmotivated, frustrated, broken, immobile, stuck, etc. All emotions are valid emotions, but they don't define my me. "Stuck and broken" may describe my current life, but doesn't define me as a person.
  4. There is Always Hope - Always. No matter how it feels. I don't say this because I had an amazing breakthrough and am living the dream and have no more problems. I say this because there is a future, and the future is inevitable. This fact used to scare me. Now it comforts me.
  5. Priorities - Even on my worst days, not all of me was lost; my mind was numb, but I could still think. And when little or no energy is left to utilize, you quickly find out what makes you move. And then on the better days (when you've finished picking up the pieces) you know where to start. I know I have to be careful with how many projects I take on, and just as careful with the nutrition I put into my body. While I may not be wholly functioning some days, I at least start with what I need to.
  6. God is not a Taskmaster - God likens His relationship to the Believers both as a parent, and as a marriage. A good parent loves their children no matter what, and are there to care for them when they're sick. A good marriage isn't a contract, but a relationship, "til death do us part." And the Bible doesn't demand deeds, but requests one's heart, and that leads to compliance to His guidelines. I've fallen deeply in love with my Savior, not because I can feel deeply, or perform well, but because He is a good "Father," and a good "Husband."
  7. Compassion - It is frustrating to not be able to do the things I know I should do, and to not be able to "snap out of it." From the outside, there's no apparent reason for me to be depressed. It has given me a fresh set of eyes to see the pain of others, and truly be compassionate. This doesn't excuse one's behavior, it simply validates the feeling. After all, everyone just wants to be understood, right? 
  8. Some Things Really Don't Matter - looking back over all the things I wanted to do, but didn't, I see that some things really should have been done... and some things really didn't matter. The world did not end, I didn't die, people didn't get mad, and most people didn't even know. After gaining weight, my skin breaking out, and letting extra-curricular things slide, I was a bit shocked to find out that people still liked me.
  9. I Found Out Who Cares - Some friends are needy. Some people just want you for what you're able to do for them. Some people want a good show. When you're not able to provide those things, you find out who your real friends are. But be careful: Don't push people away and then expect them to keep knocking on your door. Be open and honest to whatever extent you can. Otherwise, they may not know or understand what is going on, and why you don't feel like spending much time with them.
  10. Health is the Most Important Investment - Without my health, what do I have? Sure, I can muddle through for quite a while - it is possible - but exhausting one's resources actually makes things worse in the long-run. Self-investment is so very hard for a person who struggles just to brush their teeth or shower, but it can start with asking for help from someone you trust. It can start with adding in one vegetable a day, or turning off your devices an hour before bed. It doesn't fix everything, but it is a start. Because how can you invest in anything or anyone else if your primary investment (yourself) is depleted?
Know someone who struggles with Depression, but not sure how to relate? Read my recent post A Little Bit of Light for some insight. 

Friday, June 5, 2015

Marketing your Weaknesses (and why it works)



 Gone is the day of bowing to the Almighty Professional. We've come out of the age of "Schooling = Salary", and entered into the day of the Self-made Man. We've burned out the Baby Boomer's 9-to-5, and are a-blaze with the "4-hour work week." Entrepreneurs are everywhere, and unless someone is dying or being sued, they often look for the been-there-done-that, rather than the PhD. Technique trumps Tough, and White Collar has to recons with "e-collar."

 In fact, the lower you've been, the weirder you are, and the greater odds you're up against, the more fame, success, and wealth you stand to gain.

Why?

  1. You Stand Out - who grabs your attention, the guy jogging on the sidewalk, or the guy jogging with only one leg? There are thousands of athletes, thousands of businessman, politicians, massage therapies, coaches, dog groomers, you name it. What makes you one in a thousand?
  2. People love the Underdog - Who do you cheer for, the athlete who runs a 3.5 minute mile, or the one-legged athlete who runs? The greater the pit you've climbed out of, the great the crowd that gathers to marvel at your victory.
  3. Trust in "the authorities" is seriously waning - People have doubted lawyers and politicians since the beginning. Now they're doubting professors and doctors. Next it'll be scientists and commercial farmers. The more "official" you are, the more skepticism you gather.
  4. People readily Relate to you - having a story, scar, or Achilles heel will act as a magnet to those with the same story, scar, or Achilles heel. Have a "dent?" Congrats, you're human like the rest of us.
  5. It's New and Exciting - you'd be shocked at how many people are rich and bored. Drop a couple hundred on the newest device? Sure, it looks cool. Drop a grand or two on an e-course? Yeah, it had a neat title. Drop several thousand on a vacation? Why not, never been there before.

I'd be willing to bet that employers pay more attention to how you answer to your "greatest weaknesses" than how you answer to your "greatest strengths."

Why?

Because your Weaknesses ARE your Strengths...

...if you leverage them correctly.

The ability to hone your "weaknesses" to work for you instead of against you is essential.

 Being unorganized and unfocused could be a "side-effect" of a creative mind. Instead of ignoring these less-than-desirable counterparts of your strength, use them to enhance your strength: people who are "unorganized and unfocused" are usually so focused on one thing that other things fall by the wayside; so busy puting ducks in a row in their head that their personal environment is scattered around them.
 The good news is that one can broaden their scope to include the rest of their life within the scope of their strengths... or should I say weaknesses. They're really just different sides of the same coin.

 It can be done, but it takes some innovation and creativity, and most of all, bravery. Because it's so much easier to put up a facade and hide behind everything in life that brings us face value.

Epic Examples:

Those who struggle themselves help others win
  • Gina Devee, a multi-millionaire coach and founder of Divine Living, helps other coaches get off the ground. Why? She shares her story of coaching failure: massive credit card debt, not enough in her bank account to order Dominos, and unable to find a single client in Los Angeles, even after offering her services free. All this after acquiring a master's degree in psychology, and after working in the white house. She had something to offer, but nobody took a bite. And through her story of defeat and victory, she has made a fortune helping people who were in the same exact spot she was. Her weakness? Poor business and marketing. How's that working for her now?
  • Rebel Wilson, a successful and well-known Australian Hollywood Actress, is overweight. I judge not in saying so, because she says it herself. She sings off key, too. And that's why she's brilliant. She markets her size and voice, even though socially unacceptable, and wins big because of it (pun intended). I'm not condoning an unhealthy lifestyle, nor flaunting one's body, but it just goes to show that even a perceived weakness can become a great asset.
  • Joni Eareckson Tada is a talented and well-traveled artist, Founder and CEO, author of 50+ books, radio host, and has been awarded multiple awards. She's also been interviewed on Larry King Live and ABC News Tonight. This would be a boast-worthy bio for anyone, but even more amazing for Joni because she's accomplished these things after her diving accident in 1967, when only 17 years old. This left her a quadriplegic, meaning she was confined to a wheelchair without use of her arms or legs. Unable to swim and ride horseback like she used to, and totally dependent, she even contemplated suicide. But through her literal weaknesses, she learned new skills. Placing a paint brush in between her teeth, she started to paint. And paint she did! In 1982 she married the love of her life and is still alive today!
Joni Eareckson Tada painting

My weakness {just one of them}

I get discouraged when I don't see results immediately. That is indeed a weakness, as it breeds impatience, discontent, and a quitter's attitude. Striving to find resolve, I've become a fast worker, learning efficiency and organization.

Because of this, I'm building a blog on productivity and overcoming perfectionism. Hopefully I'll integrate that into my Wellness Coaching Business (wait for the big reveal this fall)!


 So what is your "road block" to success? What is your marketing/business conundrum? Better yet, what is your "worst weakness?" How do you plan to leverage them to benefit you?

Friday, May 22, 2015

A little bit of light

Springtime.
 Full of new beginnings, happiness, and cookouts. And maybe a little recovery and
warmth and meaning. If you've ever lived in a Northern region you understand what it's like coming out of stormy, zero degree F weather. Or if you've ever been clinically depressed, you have a good idea of what it's like too.

 Light and darkness, warm and cold. Stark opposites have an interesting relationship, you see, because darkness and cold really don't exist. They're just the absence of light and warmth, just like black is the absence of color, and white is the presence of all color.
 So much so, that living in darkness is kind of like living in... nothing. Sure, there are other things that live in the Land of Nothing. Other people, beings, and sometimes the occasional feeling - usually negative - but that cold, dark world of Nothing is still a lonely place to be, despite its population. Why? Because connection takes energy, and energy requires light. Atoms and cells and plasma all shooting about, bumping into one another, marrying and giving in marriage at such a dizzying rate it hurts to think about.
 But, after a while of wandering about, looking for the magic portal to the Land of Sunlight, energy drains, it this land becomes home, and you settle into a little corner - if one is to be found - and wish that those up-landers would stop taunting you with their endless stores of light and beauty and energy and abundance. They expect you to participate in those sort of things, and they expect you to enjoy it, see, but it all takes so much effort. And it's hard enough just staying warm.

Related Blog Post: {Hyperbole and a Half: Depression, Part II} << lots of insight

 I hope that this isn't too depressing for you, but this post is rather about that very thing: Depression.

 And before we get too far along, I think I must make a disclaimer:

 Yes, I know about depression because I've lived it, on and off, for several years. But no, I am not suicidal. In fact, I have a pretty amazing life that I truly enjoy. Most days are pretty awesome, and I make it a habit to explore all the things I'm thankful for on a daily basis. But that is one of the points I'm trying to make! You can be an energetic, connected, and fullfilled person Monday through Friday, but take off during the weekend to visit that deep, dark Land of Nothing (and oh, I wish it were that easy to predict)! Sometimes I wonder how many people in society - that I know personally - walk lightly in their step but heavy in their heart. How many people do I judge because of their attitude or lack of productivity or means of coping, when they're only a little further down the hole than I am. I know, it's raw and ugly, but it is true. And I think that enough people suffer from Depression that it is something that should be talked about, because there are so many misconceptions about it.

 What Depression is NOT:

  • a mere feeling of sadness following an sad event. Example: "Oh, that movie was so depressing, I'm sad now... let's go get some Starbucks!" Nope.
  • chronic pessimism. How much optimism does it take to get up and go about your day and simply keep living when your brain says there's no point and no hope? How much optimism does it take to appear happy when everything inside hurts? An insane amount that most people cannot even fathom, nor contain.
  • a way to get attention. While it's true that depression is extremely self-centered, us folks in the Land of Nothing really don't want your awww-you-poor-thing sympathy. Sometimes our subconscious will get a little brave and ask for help in embarrassing or annoying ways. It's ok if you don't understand; we're still trying to figure it out ourselves.
  • something we can snap out of. You don't tell someone with cancer to "just stop mutating your own cells. That's sadistic, ya know. Sheesh." Um, yeah, we know. We also can't help it.
  • overcome with positive thinking. Thinking is hard. It takes energy. Thinking is discouraged in the Land of Nothing. I'm sure it's very nice getting up with the sun to meditate and sing about happiness, but there isn't any sun down here.
  • something that's easy to describe. Land of Nothing? Really? Yeah, it's the best analogy I could come up with.
  • something that can be predicted. In my own experience, depression seems to have a pattern of recurrence that is unbeknownst to me. 2008 was a dark year. This past winter was tough, but not consistent. Some days good, some days bad, sometimes for weeks on end. Why? Dunno.
  • self-hatred. I know that many people who are depressed have self-hatred. But that is usually either because of negativity around them or because they think they should be stronger than the depression that's holding them down. Remember, emotions can't grow in the Land of Nothing, they can only visit. Personally, I haven't had any self-hatred for years. Only frustration.
I'm sure I missed a couple things that don't describe depression. Please comment below with more. 
The Brain: action vs non-action; something vs nothing

The Frustration

 Depression has been described as drowning, but being able to see those around you still breathing. There comes a point where you wonder, "what is so wrong with me that I can't seem to do what everyone else thinks is so basic?"  Seriously, even hygiene is hard. 

*sigh* 
"can't I just put my hair up today instead of brushing it?  If I brush it half-way then put the rest in a bun will people notice? Oh... tomorrow I should shower. I hate showering! Do I have to shower? Yes, I have to shower. Why don't I want to shower??"

 Depression is very self-centered. I say self-centered instead of selfish because it's not something that I want for myself, or take pleasure in. It's like being locked in your own head, but it's not your own anymore, and you can't find the door going out.

The Problem with "Solutions"

 From supplements to medication, exercise to social involvement, there are a hundred and one solutions that are given by well-meaning friends, family, and "experts." The thing is, "doing" takes effort! I know that exercise, sleep schedule, various therapies, artwork, proper nutrition, probiotics and other supplements, medication, sunlight, affirmations, and positive relationships help. I know the 5 habits of the most successful and happy people. I've read the blog posts. I've written the blog posts. I I know what I could be doing different. The common denominator in all of those solutions is action; it all takes energy. More than that, it takes wanting to be energetic. Motivation and Depression are not synonyms, nor are they friends.
 It takes more energy asking for help than it does to not ask for help.
 It takes more energy explaining what is wrong than pretending everything is fine when it's not.
 It takes more energy to figure out the next step than it does to sit in silence,
 It takes more energy to get out of bed than it does to stay put.

The body aches, the heart flutters, headaches pound, limbs grow cold, and muscles go weak. The path of least resistance becomes the only path. And unless you think that sounds lazy, think about how
much energy you'd have left if every. single. thing. you. did. took massive amounts of exertion, focus, and willpower. When it hurts just to think about doing something.

 Personally, in my years of on-and-off-again depression, I've never been suicidal. There have been times when I wanted to be dead, and even spent a lot of time thinking about it, but I never wanted to kill myself. Because being alive takes more energy (presumably) than not being alive. 
  
So what kept me going?

 To avoid at all costs a trite answer, I'd have to say... I'm not sure exactly what kept me going. Why did I keep performing at work? Why did I struggle to keep my apartment clean? Why did I enroll in IIN schooling? Why did I try?
 I don't know. But I have some theories:

  • I had some good days in between. I know I would've gone off the deep end had I no chance to revive myself, even for the short days or hours I had of it.
  • I believed in hope. As muddled and hopeless and confused and exhausted as I was, there was something that said "there is a future." Even if I didn't think it was bright. Even if I thought it would be the same as today. Sometimes my future seemed daunting and I didn't want to face it. But I knew there was a future.
  • I knew God. Cliche', right? But just like any other relationship, it runs deep, even when strained or disconnected at times. But I want to stress that my relationship with God differs from any other relationship in that it doesn't depend on me. God is the giver, I am the recipient. It's grace! So in a "do" centered world, when "doing" is hard or impossible, God is a strong rock, even if I'm too weak to stand upon it.
  • Wonderful friends and family. I hate to say it, but I really didn't care at all to connect with anyone, and would even purposefully disconnect from those closest to me. Relationships are hard work! But just knowing that there were a handful of people who would still like me, even if I went stark raving mad - that is priceless. 
  • Healthy food. While a good diet is not always enough to cure illnesses, it can help. I cannot begin to imagine how things would've turned out if I ate the typical American diet of sugar, chemicals, and feedlot-raised meats. Although healthy diet was insufficient, it might have helped keep me afloat. (But I do understand, making healthy choices is very hard sometimes. I just didn't have enough money to buy pre-packaged convenience.)

How do you help someone with Depression?

 Oh, that's tricky! Often one doesn't even know that someone is depressed! Even if they're close. My own mother didn't know, though I suspect she knew something was different than normal.
 I'm not a psychiatrist or a therapist. I don't know what to do, because mental illnesses are not logical. Being an aspiring Wellness Coach, I know what ailments are caused by, and what can potentially help. But the science of the mind can be boggling.

 But here are some things not to do:

  • Push yourself into their personal life. Believe me, if you do this, we will push you out... forever. Being "pushy" includes being emotional concerned about our "mental state" or wanting us to "talk it through." Prying in does not make you look like a caring person, it makes you a dangerous, carnivorous space-invader and energy-sucker.
  • Assume as if you know what it is like. "Oh, I know it's hard, but I know exactly how you feel. When my cat died last year I was so depressed I just watched netflix for a week." You've not only insulted me, you've checked yourself off the list of people I would ever talk to willingly, and that list is already small.
  • Contact help for them. Unless you know that someone is really truly suicidal, DON'T go talking to their parents, teachers, or that friend of your second cousin who's a counselor. EVER.
  • Offer advice. Sometimes, we know what to do. Knowing doesn't help us do. Read above in this post to see why. Also, it tends to be very insulting, even if you were well-meaning, which no doubt you were.

I don't know if this is helpful at all. Maybe if only to help people understand what is is like (from my perspective) to fade away. Maybe it'll show some struggling individuals that there are other people in various corners in that cold, dark Land of Nothingness. Maybe, if you're not ready to utter the word "help," or have fallen too far to want help, you could accept the strong foundation of Jesus. Forget what you've been told about religion, and being good enough, and becoming a typical Christian (whatever that is). Knowing God is about grace; being held instead of holding on. Maybe you're not ready, and that's ok. But I will be praying for you, as are many others.

Hopefully, the light becomes a good thing; energy, hope, warmth, comfort, rest.


The sun simply exists; it doesn't force its rays where they do not naturally go, and it does not cease to shine because it cannot warm all of the solar system. Instead, all planets are drawn to it, and rotate as to expose all parts of themselves to it.

Even a little bit of light can make a big difference.

Be that light for someone!

Ashes Remains sings "Unbroken" 

Saturday, May 2, 2015

5 Free Self-Betterment Hacks

 While it is true that many self-improvement classes, courses, and seminars are well-worth the
investment, there are plenty of ways to bloom where you are planted, using resources that don't cost a penny. It is in those times of not having much expenditure that proves just how creative we are willing to get. Because until you are willing to create your own worth, you may be throwing money out the window trying to pay a coach or course to make you into a savvy, successful person. So... what can you do for free?


1. Connect with People

 You don't have to be calling CEO's or working in the hub of the city to connect with the people around you. And you don't have to be an expert on any matter - or even a particularly interesting person, for that matter - to ask questions. Where do you connect with people? Who do you come into contact in the course of your day or week? Event the Wal-Mart clerk counts as someone. And chances are, if your pickings are slim, there are a plethora of ways you can become involved in your community, and there's no better way to bond than service. Which brings me to the next point...

2. Serve

 Why Service? Other than the fact that it helps your fellow man, it can seriously humbling. Ouch. Nobody likes to be humbled. But in order to become better (the point of self-betterment), we have to realize that we are not "all that," and that sometimes the most unlikely of people will teach us the most profound lessons. Service is also a great way to stretch creativity. Because many organizations are under-staffed or under-supplied, you'll need to find a way to make things work!

3. Write

 Ever have a thought that made so much sense in your head, but then when you tried to explain it, it just wasn't as comprehensive or compelling as you thought it would be? Writing - whether journeling or blogging - is a great way to practice "saying" something until it makes sense, without looking silly
or wasting breath. Go ahead, rearrange the sentence, cross off redundancy, insert a main point, or change a pronoun. Writing un-tangles one's thoughts and organizes their ideas. Even if nobody else sees what you've come up with, you'll go about your day with a clear vision of what you're thinking.

4. Read

 It surprises me how painful a task this can be for some people. But for every boring text book you've had to suffer through, there is a fresh, exciting book just waiting to redeem your opinion of the written word. Find a genre you love! There are so many to choose from. And just think about how many times a day you already read without even thinking about it: facebook posts, magazine titles, road signs, recipes, directions, food package labels, etc. Reading informs us of what we need to know. It can also inform us of what we want to know.
 Once you find an author or genre you enjoy, I suggest slowly branching out.  For every two or three preferred books you read, pick out something new. Like English classics? Try an art book. Like DIY How-to's? Try a short novel. They're all available at your local library.

5. Make Goals

 Anyone can sail a ship, but it takes a captain to steer it in the right direction. Are you in charge of your life, or merely along for the ride? Everyone has dreams, or something they're aiming at, whether they realize it or not. What do you want out of life? What do you want to accomplish? Write it down and then commit. Brainstorm what it will take to accomplish your goal. Make small, time-bound goals that will help you can accomplish right now to bring you closer. If what you want is really worth it to you, you'll make it happen if you have a clear vision of how to get there. And if you've discovered how to be an innovative, creative person on a little, imagine who you'll be with an abundance of resources at your finger tips!

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The Long-term Salesperson {and why so many fail}

A good salesperson matches a persons need to the right product,
nothing more, nothing less

 There's a plethora of sales advice out there, and I'd imagine a lot of it works. But there's a difference between getting someone to buy something, and being a good salesperson. But say, what is a salesperson? Many of us would imagine the smooth-talking fellow who sold you that lemon-of-a-car, or the uncomfortably personable woman promising the supreme superiority of her makeup line. These are people who sell, but I would argue that they are not salespeople.

A Salesperson is someone who finds out what a person wants or needs, and connects them to the matching product or service. Nothing more, nothing less

So if you 1) can figure out what someone wants/needs, and 2) have something they want/need, you can be a good and successful salesperson, ethics and all!

What are 6 steps to a good sale?

1. ASK someone about themselves, and what they want to know.

 Who doesn't like talking about themselves?
Many people struggle with knowing what to ask, or think they need a mental list of questions to pick from, hoping that the conversation doesn't last long enough for them to become depleted of their store. But I have found that genuine Caring and Curiosity - the two "C"s in Success - will take you much farther than any other smooth-talking charisma-machine out there. The only catch? You must be genuinely caring and curious.

2. Find COMMON GROUND

 Finding something you both have in common, or agree on, in order to foster a relationship. Friends buy from friends, and will come back to buy again.

3. Provide Individualized INFORMATION.

Once you get a sense of what this person wants or needs, empower them to make a choice. Remember, knowledge is power, and people like being given both. You haven't spend time gathering information on this person for nothing, so tailor your response for them.
But also remember, KISS: Keep It Short and Simple.  Information is information, and we have
Form a personal connection
altogether too much of it. Don't overload them. The difference is what you give them, and how.

4. CLOSE the deal.

Pressure may close the deal, but Security and Satisfaction (the two "S"s in Success that naturally follow the two "C"s) close the deal and make the customer feel good about it.
People are afraid of making the wrong choice (or getting screwed over by a salesperson), so do what it takes to make them feel secure. And people want the most out of their time and money, so make them feel satisfied. There are a number of tactics to doing this, but just keep in mind these two main desires a customer has, and see how you can meet them.

5. STEP BACK.

This is where so many salespeople fail.
They turn Secure into Stifling, and Satisfied into Suspicious. Yes, form a relationship, but don't expect to buddy up. Make eye contact, give a good firm hand-shake, give your card, and leave them to revel in their empowered purchase!
Even if they choose not to purchase, provide them with a brochure, pamphlet, or some other resource.

6. FOLLOW UP

And you thought your job was done!
Sales - if done right - will be a reoccurring process; that's the whole point! Whether it's calling them, visiting them, or just making yourself available, follow up will make a good sale into a good customer!

And remember, a salesperson is a servant. You are there to serve your business, and you are there to serve your customer. Stay humble in order to be caring and curious; stay confident in order to secure and satisfy.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Walking in the Light {1 John 1-2}



 As a Christian, I'm all too familiar with Paul's lament in Romans 7:15 & 18 "For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate... for I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out."

 I know and live the struggle, and I know that you do to. We know the right thing to do, and we know the wrong thing that we shouldn't do, so why do we so often fall into sin, even when we genuinely desire to do right?
 Although sermons, discipline, and will-power are all very helpful and necessary, I would point to the scriptures to a better way. I call it "Sin Prevention," because that is exactly what it is.

 1 John, chapter 2 starts out with John saying that he is "writing these things so that you may not sin." Since a solution has been offered, I'd like to know what it is! So I looked back at 1 John chapter 1 to see what he expects "little children" able to understand, so that they may not sin.

 In my ESV, 1 John 1 is divided into verses 1-4 , and 5-10. Verses 1-4 are titled "The Word of Life," validating Jesus' Godhood, and God's fellowship with us in the Light (righteousness, i.e. not sinning), which flows right into verses 5-10, entitled "Walking in the Light."

 Truth: Knowing who God is and our position in Him is a prerequisite for walking in the light.  Fellowship leads to Lifestyle.

 Our fellowship, or walk, with God trumps every good intention and forced attempt.
 It is true that families who spend quality time together on a regular basis are much less likely to drift apart, and couples who pool their hearts and desires and energies are safe-guarding against an affair. And sitting at the feet of the Teacher will keep us out of the devil's playground.

 This, my fellow-believers, is Sin Prevention.

 Verses 12-13 in chapter 2 sheds more light on the process when you look at the order of the three statements in them. He writes to them 1. because their "sins are forgiven," 2. because they "know (abide in) God," and 3. they have "overcome the evil one."
 These are the steps one must take to overcome sin.

 What about when we do sin?

 For a passage on Light, John sure has a lot to say about Sin. That's because, in order to experienced freedom from sin in Jesus Christ, it is absolutely necessary to admit in full to the sin, and then we leave the rest to a faithful and just God, who forgives (1 John 1:9).

"But I say, walk by the Spirit and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh" - Galatians 5:16 (see also, John 15:5)

 Feeling stressed or tempted? Abide in Him and walk in the Light. Feeling blessed and happy? Abide in Him and walk in the Light.



{I went over these 2 chapters very quickly, just touching on one of the themes. I recommend reading the whole book of 1 John for yourself. It's only a couple chapters, and daily Bible study is part of your abiding process.}

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Two Thousand Fourteen

Reflecting on 2014

 Heading into year 2015, the web is a bustle with resolutions, motivation, newness and already a few regrets. I usually don't make a big deal out of January 1st. I'm not a party-er, I still worked, and it kind of messed up my week's rhythm (not to be a downer). Plus, all the hype only gives way to disappointment at the first signs of defeated goals. Maybe it's just my easy-goes-it, analytic personality that likes to take it slow and make sure I have the right goals in place and have what I
October 2014
need to make it happen before I embark. But I know that I'm not the only one to become discouraged when progress seems more like a slippery slope than an up-hill climb; one step forward, two steps back. So, sometimes, looking back is helpful, if only to serve as a platform to spring ahead.
 With that bit of perspective, why don't you write down some milestones, accomplishments, or life events that happened in 2014. Then, instead of making resolutions, make a list of things - not even goals, necessarily - that you would like to write on next year's list of simple reflections. Then, if it so behooves you, make your goals and resolutions. This activity has proved stress-free for me, since I refuse to see these lists as defining. They're simply something to bring perspective; something to ponder.
 And with that being said, here is my list of happenings (and not all of them positive) from year twenty fourteen, in no particular order:

  1. Gained 3 more foster-siblings
  2. Started making my own skin-care products
  3. Quit online college
  4. Cut 12 inches off my hair
  5. Colored hair for the first time (highlights)
  6. Re-organized my room and gave away/threw away over half my "stuff"
  7. Started doing henna tattoos
  8. Buried my dog, "Little Guy"
  9. Bought my first car ('99 Toyota Corolla)
  10. Got a pay raise
  11. Discovered the importance of getting enough rest
  12. Lost 2 grandparents
  13. Moved into my own apartment
  14. Started a second job
  15. Made lots of new friends and connections
  16. Turned 20
  17. Started canning veggies and preserves
  18. Started HIIT workout program
  19. Spent time with my older brother
  20. Started sponsoring Manisha from India through Compassion International
  21. Decorated my own home for Christmas
  22. Finally dealt with some hurtful memories in a healthy way
  23. Learned (and learning) that trusting in God brings true joy
  24. Started up writing again
  25. Got glasses
  26. Learned new job skills
  27. Making all food from scratch
  28. Dealt with a bout of unexpected depression
  29. Celebrated Christmas with family
  30. Developed a deeper relationship with my parents
  31. Re-discovered meaningful Bible reading
  32. Enjoying work more
  33. Attended a coaching workshop
  34. Living frugally
November 2014, 20th birthday
 There you go, there's 1 year in hindsight. Of course there's much more that I could have added, had I thought about it longer (that list took me 5-10 minutes), and just a few things that I didn't want to add publicly. And then there's the whole issue of not ending my list on an odd number (darn that OCD). 

 I encourage you to write down at least 20 things that happened in 2014. Comment a few of them.

 And now for my 2015-16 list. These are the things I would very much like to be able to write as life-events in my reflections next year, in 2016, about 2015. (Remember, this list is simply a "whouldnt-that-be-nice." My hard-set goals will be boiled down even farther. That way I won't become discouraged, and I'll actually be able to accomplish the really important ones.)
  1. Planted and kept a garden
  2. Advanced in my careers
  3. Canned all my own canned goods
  4. Became more connected with Christian adults in the community
  5. Started classes on coaching
  6. Read over 100 books
  7. Wrote a devotional booklet
  8. Started singing in choir
  9. Wrote to my sister in the military
  10. Opened up my home for ministry/mentorship
  11. Completely organized my home
  12. Developed better relationship with family
  13. Was able to sell my artwork and song lyrics
  14. Memorized over 100 Bible verses
  15. DIY decorated my apartment
  16. Grew my hair out again
 But as great as some of these would be as resolutions, I think that it is far better to simply focus on becoming a better person, growing closer to God, living in step with the Holy Spirit, and becoming a servant to the people around me. So if it comes down to canning that last jar of tomato sauce or studying my Bible, I had better choose the latter!
 The reason New Year Resolutions so often fail is because we resolve to change our actions or bodies without changing our hearts and minds. And even many Christians, sadly enough, aren't that familiar with Romans 12:1, "I beseech you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices to God, holy and pleasing in His sight. This is your spiritual act of worship. Do not be conformed to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is. His good, pleasing, and perfect will." And even this renewal cannot be obtained by simply trying hard and kicking old habits. This is an act of God. Only He can change hearts and minds and conform them to His own.
 But now that you've reflected, learned, and are on the path to transformation through Jesus Christ, behold, God is doing new things!

 "Forget the former things, do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing!" Isaiah 43:18

HAPPY 2015!