Tag Archives: Mental Health

Powerless

You can take care of yourself. You can check on your people. You cannot force anyone to get the help he or she might need.

When you suffer from a mental illness, it’s like a fog that cannot be lifted. You can’t see the way out. Or sometimes, you can see the way out but it’s too daunting to rise above. Nothing in the world can motivate you. While I’m not a trained mental health professional, I can attest firsthand that no one can pull me out of my current state. It’s entirely up to me.

I’ve learned over time through trial and error what to say to people, how to talk about what I’m experiencing and how to rise above my anxiety. It can happen in hours or can take weeks – every instance is different. While you can’t see it or perhaps even notice it, I know its always there. You don’t need to treat me differently, however I do appreciate a general awareness.

And this is the situation when you’re diagnosed and openly talking about it.

Imagine seeing someone you love so sick that they don’t know they need help. This is often the case with addicts. Because they are debilitated by the disease, they are unwilling to seek treatment. So what do you do?

For starters, we’re not mental health professionals so we can’t and shouldn’t walk around diagnosing people. Instead, we can:

  • Remove any judgement we have about the person or his/her situation. Because the truth is we don’t know what’s going on inside his/her mind, heart, soul, etc.
  • Be open and receptive if/when the person reaches out. Try to make the time to connect with them and take their concerns seriously. Listen, hold space and do not preach.
  • Pray and if that’s not your thing, send positive vibes out into the universe for that person. I firmly believe in the power of pray or good vibe sending. It can make a difference while bringing a sense of peace to a tumultuous situation.
  • Keep taking care of yourself. Yes, I’m saying it again because it’s that important. Running yourself ragged worrying about someone who isn’t ready to accept help isn’t going to help. It’s actually going to make the situation much worse. If you need to, talk to someone about what you’re experiencing as the loved one or caregiver of someone with a mental illness. Support groups are another resource that could offer perspective on a pretty shitty situation.

Honestly, it sucks being powerless and unable to help those you care most about. Talking about it and setting boundaries helps and yet, there will still be times when it sucks. I’m giving you full permission to hate on it, let it suck, whatever. But, you cannot stay in the suck. Remember you can only control your reaction to the situation. Choose that reaction wisely.

I hope this month’s posts gave you some insight into my views on mental health. It’s only by continuing the conversation that we can remove the stigma.

Showing Up…Uninvited

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” – Fred Rogers

I always want to be the person helping and have been since I was a kid. My role as big sister lends itself to my helpful nature as well. I like adding value and if I can make someone’s life easier in the process, win-win.

I’m also intuitive and an empath (they usually go together), which makes me sense things before they happen. I have a weird ability? to think I know what people need before they say it. Handy at times, detrimental at others. It’s only through reflection, discernment of my own intuition and detachment that I’ve learned to manage my helpful, somewhat fixing ways. There can, in fact, be too much of a good thing 😉

Couple last week’s post with my ‘I know what you need, allow me to help you’ attitude and you can imagine the predicaments I’ve gotten myself into. Yet, there are times when invading personal space and challenging others’ perspective is necessary. How do I know? It’s a feeling, one that I’ve learned is different from my own desire to serve. When it’s about the other person, I feel it in my gut versus feeling it in my heart when it’s about me. I’ve practiced cultivating this awareness with lots of silence and creating open, honest relationships, where people keep me in check. Thank God for them!

I still get anxious at times when I know I need to invade personal space. Fear of the unknown or an adverse reaction is real! I also know my friends, the ride or die tribe, want honesty, want challenge, want help. They want me in their corner for the good, the bad, the messy and the chaotic. A few ways I’ve learned to show up:

  • Invading personal space is not just for anyone. This holding a mirror up for another person to see themselves is recommended for relationships built on a strong foundation of trust and understanding.
  • Timing is everything! The middle of the work day isn’t always convenient. As the invader (ha!), it’s important to ask permission…is now a good time to talk about ________? Do you want my opinion or an opportunity to vent without judgement? How can I help you in this moment? Receivers of the invasion must be honest and share their true feelings, not what they think their friend wants to hear.
  • Typically, when you’re checking in on someone or calling them out on their shit (both are important), there will be emotion. Don’t let that freak you out. Our strong friends usually have the strongest emotions. Let them release, be their soft place to fall.
  • Trust your intuition. You know what your person/people need. Sometimes it’s a hug, sometimes it’s simply your presence, sometimes it’s driving meatballs to their kid while they’re traveling. Go with how you feel, not what you think. My go-to question is: How am I serving this person in this moment? It helps me to tap into that gut place of knowing.
  • Above all else, no one is broken, you’re not fixing anyone or anything. Pain and suffering are part of the human condition. A cornerstone of my coaching program (CTI) is holding people naturally creative, resourceful and whole. When you look at this kind of situation from the NCRW perspective, you’re showing up to hold space, not put pieces back together.

One of the promises of friendship (or any relationship really), is to be there no matter what, especially when your friend isn’t 100%. Everyone needs someone looking out for them. How and what you do is different for each relationship, in each situation. Don’t be afraid to show up unapologetically, without hesitation or preconceived notions.

Kelly Clarkson’s new song Broken and Beautiful sums it up perfectly. While I’m not in love with the word broken, I do think the verses tell the story of what most of us need.

Check on your Strong Friends

When you describe someone as strong, what do you mean? There are different representations of physical strength: Running a marathon, push-ups or burpees (my least favorite exercise), hitting any number of yoga poses, childbirth, the list continues.

What about mental and emotional toughness? Not as easy to identify, right? Perhaps it’s someone with a level of resilience, the friend who’s been dealt a series of less than optimal hands and still shows up with a smile. They’re the friend who always figures it out. When you ask if they’re okay, they’ll reassure you with an “of course” or “yep, all good.”

Very nonchalant and never wanting to draw attention to themselves, our strong friends are often our soft places to fall. They’re our first phone calls for the good and the bad moments life throws at us. Because they can handle it. They always have, they always will, right?

Until they don’t. Until our strong friends are so depleted they can’t function. I’ve watched my strong friends lose themselves and I myself have experienced this. Here’s the thing, were all strong in our own way. Strong isn’t a one size fits all adjective. And as the song goes, we all need somebody to lean on.

We’re not supposed to do life alone. I, for one, know I don’t want to do life without my tribe. Asking friends for help (not misusing or disrespecting boundaries) is part of the human condition. Thank God for that! Imagine how terrible life would be if there weren’t other people involved!

Together, we need to redefine strong. Strong is being vulnerable, showing the full range of emotions, not just the ones that are comfortable. Strong is articulating what you need, even if you’re not sure what exactly that is. It’s showing up as you are, perfectly created, for the moments of pain, grief, anxiety, addiction and sadness.

Check on your strong friends. Better yet, check on your tribe. You will not and should not have the answers. That’s not the point. You are there to invade personal space and remind your people they’re not alone in this ever winding journey called life.

How do you invade their personal space without pissing anyone off? Check back next week for some ways to start.

Extra Measure of Grace

May is Mental Health Awareness so I’ve decided to write a series of posts highlighting what I know about mental health. While I’m not a trained mental health professional, I do believe that the only way to remove the stigma associated with mental illness is to talk about.

The challenging part of these issues is that they’re unseen and hard to articulate symptoms as many vary by person or develop over time. Regardless, it starts with you and generating a self-awareness about what you’re experiencing.

Showing yourself grace and compassion is essential as you work through whatever you’re experiencing. I’ve learned to label the energetic dip I experience as the recovery zone. This typically occurs after a period of high energy expenditure, like overly busy times at work or gearing up for a holiday. It also happens to me after bouts of increased anxiety. I become overstimulated, peak and hit a valley that’s challenging to come up from.

Some label this as burnout or high functioning depression; only you can name it to tame it. This place isn’t just low energy, its exhausting, a place where everything is hard and where you can see the way out but aren’t sure how to get there. It’s a place that’s necessary though it can be lonely as I’m the only one who can climb my way out.

This will likely look different for each person – it should! These are not cookie cutter experiences or solutions. When I’m recovering, here are a few ways I return to my steady state.

  • Generate an awareness that I’m there. A few indicators include not being able to fall asleep, lack of motivation to do anything, more snacking and a quicker temper.
  • Flow with the tide. There’s no magic bullet to pull me out. I feel the feels aka cry at every commercial and don’t force myself into doer mode. It’s very much about being in order to restore my own energy.
  • Love thy self, hard. This should have been the first commandment. I increase my self care where I can – exercise, binge watching, reading a book. I *try* to speak to myself the way I’d speak to my best friend, with care and compassion and give myself an extra measure of grace.
  • I let go of others’ judgement. *Insert eye roll here.* This is the hardest part for me. People hear recovery or burnout or depression and generally become helicopter friends. That’s not what I need. Support from a distance. Know that if someone you love is in this season, they have the resources they need within to recover. Walk beside them, not behind them pushing them along.

This is a season, a moment, not a place I’ll live forever. I’ve learn to accept my internal wiring and know I’ll come out the other side stronger. I’ve also created more routines that help prevent longer periods of recovery – things like daily exercise, meal prepping, monthly therapy and massages. I believe I’ll always experience this and find it to be a restorative process.

How do you show yourself grace when struggling mentally or emotionally?

New Body, Who Dis?

Confidence: Hard to explain, easy to lose and connected to most everything we do. Confidence is elusive, one minute we’ve got it and then with the swipe on a social media site, it’s gone. Or maybe, you’re like me and didn’t know real confidence until adulthood.

I’ve been on this get healthy journey since October. Until you forge this path for yourself, you won’t have any idea how much of an impact it makes on your mental and emotional health, in addition to your physical health. It wasn’t until recently that I realized I’m not just shredding pounds but an old identity.Identity

I’ve been overweight for as long as I can remember. I was never picked first for a team during recess. I couldn’t do a sit up or push up during the physical fitness challenges in gym class. I’ve wore a size 16 since I was 12 years old. I could never share clothes with my friends. I’ve always thought of myself as big: bigger in size and in personality. Loud, talkative and dramatic, I often saw my personality as a liability, likely because others told me that, both about my physical appearance and about how I acted. I’ve defined myself this way since childhood and suddenly (ok it feels like suddenly) all of that has changed.

 

With each pound dropped, I’ve found this confidence that’s been hidden inside. I present my point of view during meetings with authority. I find myself flirting (!!!) without a care in the world. I check myself out in the mirror and practically dance down the street to work. At my core, I’m the same person, with the same values and sarcastic wisecracks. But I feel different, like a new world has opened up to me.

I’m slowly starting to shed this old, big identity. It’s really hard to rewrite this script, to look in the mirror and finally like the woman I see. And it’s even harder to stop thinking that my personality is too much. It might be for some and that is on them, she says as her voice shakes. One foot in front of the other, one day at time, I’m building this new, more positive identity.

Presenting at TWN panel

Presenting at the Temple Women’s Network panel in my new Banana Republic outfit!

A big step in this process was to go shopping. I always hated shopping because stores wouldn’t have my size or the dress I loved looked terrible. Avoidance was a key strategy here. It took an alumni event for me to go buy clothes that actually fit. What a feeling to buy a size 12, to love how I look in spring dresses, to buy clothes in Banana Republic…I can’t even describe it!

It took 27.5 years to truly understand what it means to feel confident. Goes to show you that it’s never too late to transform an old identity into one that is more self-serving. Getting healthy has not only changed by physical health, it also improved my mental and emotional well-being. It really has been a mind, body, soul experience that I’m happy to share with others.

Starting the Conversation

For those who don’t know, May is Mental Health Awareness Month. An entire month is dedicated to these debilitating diseases that impact approximately 57.7 million Americans over the age of 18. The first step is truly generating that awareness and starting the conversation.

The problem we face today is the stigma around mental illness. It should be treated like any other disease. Just because the symptoms aren’t always visible doesn’t mean they aren’t real. Anxiety, addiction and others paralyze people in ways that are indescribable. Unless you’ve experienced it, you should not judge.

I apologize if this post sounds like a rant; that’s not my intent. I know too many people who suffer in silence from mental illness. Mental health is just as important as physical health and people should realize that. Without your mind, you’re just a body wandering around. Talking about it will ultimately help save lives.

Over the weekend, a Temple alum and successful professional athlete, died at the age of 25. The cause of death was confirmed as a suicide yesterday. This was someone who had everything going for him. What could have possibly been that bad?! We will never know. If he only would have talked to someone and been vulnerable enough to admit something was wrong, could that have saved his life?

kindnessI think about him and others and wonder: If we as a society embraced mental wellness more, would people suffering be more comfortable talking about it? Today, I am inviting you to start that conversation with me – share experiences, offer advice or just listen. The quote to the left is our reminder that you just don’t know what people are experiencing. Approach your day with empathy and a smile – it could change someone’s world.

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