The Power in the way we Think

Posts tagged ‘transformation’

Love your body

So often we are bombarded by images and words about ugliness. We are lead to believe that we are inadequate and unworthy because of our appearance. We got (or get) bullied at school for wearing glasses or for having a few extra folds of skin and fat, or for having a birthmark on our face or for stuttering or for having stretch marks or … for a whole range of other things. We get bombarded by messages that say we MUST buy certain things in order to change who we are to be acceptable. Skin-care and makeup and surgery and clothing and accessories and whatever else you can think of.

We learn to hide ourselves from others and to fear being who we truly are. We become afraid of being judged and work hard to prevent it by buying into the messages we hear. We buy all the things we can to cover and mask ourselves. We cover up the small scar above our eye that told the story of when we fell off our bike at the age of 9. We get liposuction to rid ourselves of the fat that remains on thighs that have carried us through the hardest moments in our lives. We get our tummies tucked. Tummies that have carried precious children inside and allowed them to grow and to be nourished. Or tummies that tell the stories of how we have overcome years of abuse to be the healthiest we have ever been in our lives. We buy gym memberships to punish our bodies for being 5 kg larger than the person next to us. We buy gym memberships and hire personal trainers to smash us into the ground to rid our bodies of those extra 5kg. 5kg that protected us from the bullies or 5 kg that protected our babies or 5kg that enjoyed a little extra cake as we celebrated a major milestone in the lives of the people we love the most. Or 5kg that marks the journey of us mourning the loss of the person most important to us.

We do these things over and over and over again for years and expect to feel better about ourselves and the person we are becoming. We disconnect ourselves from the world. We disconnect ourselves from ourselves. Our mind becomes separated from our bodies and they operate independently. While we are busy cleaning or walking or whatever, our mind is busy thinking about how ugly we are or how inadequate we are or how we need the next best thing to repair the hole that was created 20 or more years ago.

The hole that nothing can repair. It seems that no matter what we try to do, no matter what we buy, no matter which gimmick we get sucked into, it doesn’t work.

You’re right. It won’t work. Because you don’t need a gimmick.

You cannot repair a hole, a disconnection between mind and body, with the next quick fix. You’re looking for a solution full of hate. A solution that is, in itself, flawed.

The idea of a quick fix (marketed to keep you buying products and designed to keep you feeling inadequate) repairing an emotional injury is ludicrous.

An injury of hate and inadequacy and unworthiness requires a solution of love, worth, and meaning. You need to feed the injury the emotions that it is missing.

There are no quick fixes that will ever work.

The only way to repair a disconnection is to reconnect. To get your mind and body talking to each other. To get them doing the same thing at the same time. Here are some key things I have learned about reconnection in my life.

  • Acknowledge the story. Each “inadequacy” on your body tells a story about who you are. Those 5kg (or 10 or even 70kg) served a purposestory to tell at one point in your life. They may have protected your heart from the impact of abuse or they may have nourished and helped your children grow. Or maybe they supported you through years of grief. Your scars tell a story. Whether physical or emotional, the stories behind those scars have made you the person you are today. They got you through. They strengthened you. They supported you. To deny them is to minimize your spirit. To deny them is to say they mean nothing. And that is the furthest thing from the truth, when without them, you wouldn’t be who you are. So acknowledge the scars, whatever they look like. Send them love and gratitude for helping you get to today.
  • Years of disconnect, abuse and hating yourself cannot be undone overnight. It takes patience and practice to reprogram your mind with messages of love, self-respect and support. So be patient with you. You deserve it.
  • Surround yourself with a support team of people who believe in and practice unconditional acceptance. You deserve it. Include a team of professionals you can trust, to help you heal from the hurts. It’s worth it.
  • Wean yourself (at your pace) from the quick fixes.
  • Let go of any guilt you may have about needing the quick fixes. Even they serve their purpose. Sometimes they start you on your path back to connection and self-love. Mine have, and I am grateful that I had those tools at the time I needed them. It’s ok to need them; it’s ok to use them. When you no longer need them you’ll begin looking for new tools that will serve you moving forward.
  • Send love to your body. Spend time regularly exploring it. Get to know it. The bumps, the bruises, the cellulite, the scars, the stretch marks, the bony bits. Run your fingers over your skin, observing the imperfections. Try to remain mindful of the experience. Remember the stories behind each imperfection. Forgive yourself. Love yourself. Pamper yourself. You deserve it.
  • Use physical exercise to help you reconnect. When you’re walking, observe and feel the way your legs move. Feel the aches of being on your feet. Feel your arms swinging by your side. Observe the things around you. Notice the ground under your feet. Notice the path. Notice the flowers or the grass or the water or whatever it is you see. Observe your body as it navigates the terrain.
  • Learn to listen to your body and what it needs. Learn the difference between the signals that say “I need to rest” and “I know you want to stop but that is your mind giving you false signals. Your body can do more and you’ll feel a huge sense of accomplishment if you can learn that you can do more than your mind thinks it can”.

One thing is certain in all this. You, and your body, are worthy. Worthy without conditions. You deserve unconditional love and acceptance, simply because you were born.

This video by Mary Lambert sums up this core message nicely.

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Self-Esteem

bowl of self esteem

Self-Esteem is a “respect for or a favourable opinion of oneself” according to dictionary.com.

The second part of this is probably the easier to explore, so let’s look at it first. A “favourable opinion of oneself”. To think and believe highly of yourself. To know that you are worthy. To understand that you have skills and talents that the world would miss if you weren’t in it. To understand that you deserve love. To love yourself, and every part of you. Even the parts not usually “acceptable” in society – the flabby bits on your body, the tendency to say things without thinking first, or even the habit of procrastinating on doing the things most important to you. Whatever it is you hate about yourself.

Let’s have a look at the first part. A “respect for oneself”. Do you respect yourself? Enough to stand up for your rights? Enough to walk away from people who mistreat you or take you for granted? Enough to create and enforce boundaries? Enough to take the actions necessary to protect your time, energy, space, body, emotions and spirit? Do you respect yourself enough to find and follow your passion? To share your special gifts with the world? Enough to allow your unique and wonderful spirit to soar?

I believe all of these to be the most important things we can do for ourselves. I have personally discovered that without them, one lives a half-life. We simply exist, instead of live. We experience dissatisfaction, negativity and often self-hatred.

Self-esteem is multi-faceted. It is complex. It’s dynamic and changing. It will fluctuate as things happen in your life. Your sense of self as a child was certainly different to when you were 20. And that was certainly different to what it is right in this moment, here and now.

Are you happy with the way you feel about yourself right now? Do you believe in yourself and your abilities? Is there anything about yourself that you would like to change? Is there anything you’re unhappy with? Your size? Your appearance? Maybe your finances or the way you speak to your family? Your education or employment?

Whatever it may be, the chances are that the answer is not in fixing the things you’re unhappy with.

If you learned to love and accept yourself unconditionally, you’d look at the world differently. You wouldn’t need to shed weight to be lovable. You wouldn’t need to change your body to be beautiful. You wouldn’t need to get a better job or earn more money to be worthy. And you wouldn’t need to stop speaking without thinking. Instead, it would simply be one of the little quirks to love about yourself.

Self-love and unconditional acceptance would allow you to feel free. To feel centred and whole and complete. You would naturally allow your spirit to soar, you would eagerly follow your passions and show the world your unique skills and talents. You would generate and send out love to those around you. And you’d tackle challenges with faith and surety that everything will turn out exactly the way it is meant to.

This month’s focus will explore all of these issues. We’ll talk about boundaries, accomplishments, spirit, skills, unique talents, purpose, beauty and more. If you would like to read about something specific, please comment below, on our Facebook or Twitter feeds, or flick us an email at mindseteffect@optusnet.com.au, and we’ll endeavor to meet your needs.

 

 

The importance of self-care

refresh your mindset

When I think about self-care I can’t help but think about its opposite. What happens when we don’t take care of ourselves? When we go through the day without taking down-time? If it’s only for one day the effects are probably minimal. But what happens when it’s day after day, week after week, or even year after year?

I’ve met people who go through their lives on such high alert that when I suggest they try taking 10 minutes to do nothing, the thought of it has them freaking out! And if they try to actually do it, they feel restless, anxious, upset and lost!!

And then you get people on the other end of the spectrum, like me, who constantly give all their energy away. By the end of the day they have nothing left, and their bodies shut them down. They literally can’t move off the couch until it’s time to crawl into bed.self care fill cup

So what’s actually happened for someone who experiences these states? It’s highly likely that they are stressed. Many people believe that stress isn’t real. That it’s some made up condition. Let me rebuff that myth.

Stress is very real. It is a physiological response to some kind of threat. It’s an instinctual event that happens automatically. You do not control it, it controls you. That is, the body response is in charge. You can however manage your response and minimise its impact on your body and your life.

Glenda from Healthy Stories recently wrote a fabulous article about stress and how you can recognise when you’re in its midst. Check it out! It also has some great tips on how you can work with your body and lessen the impact stress has.

http://healthystories.com.au/2014/07/stress-free-life-stress-management-strategies/

self care possibilities

I think the most important thing you can do with this information is to figure out what is going to work for you. We are all individuals and every single body is different. And that means we all need different strategies to help us feel calm and centred.

worth taking care ofI know what it’s like to live in a constantly stressed body. I have lived it for a decade or more. My mind and body were completely disconnected from one another. It’s taken me a while to even figure out that what I was experiencing had the name “stress”. Working out how to reconnect my mind and body has been quite the task, and the process continues. I have taken time to rediscover how my body feels during and after exercise. I’ve taken time to discover how my mind and body feel after some guided visualisation and mindfulness practice. I’ve discovered many different things about myself. I’ve explored, tried some things out and learned a whole heap. I continue to learn. I have discovered that I really like who I am. And when I take time to regularly look after myself, I function much better during the day, I am much calmer, happier and more peaceful, and I love who I am.

Can’t ask for much more than that, right?

Are you prepared to embark on your own journey of exploration?

Take Care of You!

You are worthy. Simply because you exist.

By definition, the fact that you are alive, that you breathe the air, that you walk this earth, is enough reason to justify your worthiness.

There are no conditions on this.

No “I can only be worthy if everyone likes me”

No “I can only be worthy if I please everyone in my life”

No “I can only be worthy if I work myself to the bone”

No “I can only be worthy if I take care of as many people as I can”

No “I can only be worthy if I do favours for other people”

No “I can only be worthy if …..” (insert any other idea your brain gives you)

When we put conditions on the way we love ourselves, we restrict so many things in our lives. You end up doing everything you can to please other people or working so many hours you never get time to yourself. Or taking care of everyone except yourself. Or doing things for other people to the extent that you never get time to do the things you enjoy. (Insert any other condition your brain conveniently provides).

Those conditions come about for a variety of reasons. Most of the time we receive certain messages and our beliefs about ourselves are formed by listening to them. They can be subtle or they can be said outright. We hear and interpret the words and we learn to say them to ourselves. We believe them.

Here are a couple of facts:

Those messages are always untrue. The words we use sound true. The emotions attached to the words feel true. However, they always lie. Always.

There is no justification.

The truth is indisputable.

You are worthy of being taken care of.

Simply because you are alive. Simply because you were born.

take care of you mindseteffect

30 Things to do to Yourself

The other day I came across an article that listed 30 things that people needed to stop doing to themselves in order to feel happy and fulfilled. It proclaimed, “when you stop chasing the wrong things you give the right things a chance to catch you”. You can see the full article here if you’re interested.

The thing is, the language used in this post is worded in the negative. Don’t do this, don’t do that. When I read things phrased in this way I often end up wondering what I CAN do if not the things listed. The brain cannot tell the difference between them. If I told you to NOT, under any circumstances, think about a red car, I’m willing to bet that the first thing that comes to mind is a red car.

So, when we tell ourselves NOT to do something, our brains literally block out the “NOT”. Have you ever tried to tell a child not to run on wet concrete? I bet they run faster! Have you tried telling a child not to eat the chocolate bar in the fridge? I bed the next time you walk by, the chocolate bar will have disappeared and you can see smears across his or her mouth. If you want a child to follow your instructions, you need to tell him/her what TO do, rather than what NOT to do. Walk along the concrete. Eat the grapes (and put the chocolate bar out of sight).

So, I decided to rewrite it. And rephrase it. Let me know what you think:

  1. Spend time with happy people who support you – spending time with people who drain you is tiring! Find some silent presencepeople will stand by you when you’re at your worst.
  2. Face your problems – Yes, it’s hard work. Every person on the planet finds it challenging to face difficult situations. We are built to flounder. To feel emotions such as sadness or hurt. To stumble. Learning and adapting helps mold us into the person we are meant to be.
  3. Be truthful with yourself – it really does help you make those adjustments and to step up when you face difficulties.
  4. Put your own needs first – you are special too, and you deserve to be taken care of. Allow yourself to follow your passion and do something that matters to you.
  5. Be your true self – allow yourself to be who you really are and you will naturally attract the right people who love you.
  6. Allow yourself to move forward and take new opportunities.
  7. Make friends with failure – you learn so much more from getting things wrong than getting them right. Every success has a series of failures behind it. Every time you fail, you get closer to success.
  8. Let go of past mistakes – mistakes help us find the things and the people who are right for us. Every error teaches you something and prepares you for the things that are right for you. Right here, right now, you have the power to shape your future.
  9. Allow happiness to find you – the things that satisfy us are totally free. Take note of the little things and allow them to fill your heart with joy.
  10. Look for happiness within yourself – looking to others for your happiness is fraught with danger and opens you up to being controlled by the other person’s moods. Create your own stability and own your own power for happiness. It starts with what is on the inside.
  11. Be prepared to go after what you want – you can’t make it to your goal unless you take the first step. Take some risks. Make decisions and take decisive action on what you want.
  12. Allow yourself to grab opportunities outside your comfort zone – it’s common to feel uncomfortable when
    found on art.com

    found on art.com

    opportunities present themselves. You may not feel ready, but you don’t have to be. Feel the fear and do it anyway.

  13. Fall in love for the right reasons – there is no need to rush. Allow it to happen when you’re ready, not when you’re lonely.
  14. Be open to new relationships – even when old ones didn’t work. There is a purpose for everyone you meet. Some are to teach you what you don’t need in your life.
  15. Run your own race – when you compete with others you do yourself a disservice. Competing takes you away from being your true self.
  16. Count your blessings – you always have something that is worth feeling blessed for. Why would you bother keeping track of someone else’s blessings when you have your own?
  17. Be prepared to get back up when you fall down – life is full of challenges and falling down is inevitable. When you reflect back on those moments you’ll often find they led you to a better place or situation.
  18. Let go of grudges – allow love to fill your heart and let the hate go. When you hold onto grudges you end up hurting yourself more than the person it’s directed toward.
  19. Raise your standards – if you keep your standards above those of the people around you, your heart will always be full.
  20. Give yourself permission to make your own decisions – if you listen to your heart you will always know what to do. There is no need to justify or explain yourself to others.
  21. restTake a break – especially when you feel like you don’t have time for one. The perfect time to take some breaths is when you feel the most stressed.
  22. Find the beauty in the small moments – the best parts of your days will be the small moments. Enjoy them.
  23. Enjoy the imperfections – nothing is ever perfect. It doesn’t exist.
  24. Embrace challenges – some things are not easy. Especially the things that mean the most to you. Embrace the challenge and work for what you want.
  25. Allow yourself to cry – it’s ok to fall apart sometimes, you don’t have to suck it up all the time. You don’t need to have things going well all the time. Crying is cathartic and healing. It gets rid of toxins in your system and cleanses your emotions.
  26. Take responsibility for your life – and your decisions. When you blame others you allow them to control you. Own your power by owning your decisions and actions.
  27. Choose what you do wisely – trying to be everything to everyone will very quickly drain you of your energy and burn you out. Make your choices based on the things that are most important to you.
  28. Let go of your worries – at least some of them. Ask yourself if this situation will matter in one year. What about in three years? Or five? If the answer is no, let it go.
  29. Focus on what you want to happen – rather than on what you don’t want to happen. By doing this you train your brain to look for the opportunities and the blessings.
  30. Be grateful – find 5 things each day that you are grateful for. You’ll soon find yourself inundated with the beautiful blessings in life rather than the missing links.

gratitude breathe it in

Leonie’s journey with Bipolar

It’s been several days since the last post was published on Kate’s life with Bipolar Disorder. Leonie has the same diagnosis and the other day she spent some time telling me of her experiences. Leonie’s story is one of suffering and sadness. And it is also one of strength, perseverance and triumph. She has taken her illness and the darkness it produced, and has found a way to use a variety of strategies and to create the light of her life. As always, if reading Leonie’s story triggers your own illness, please speak with your mental health professional or call Lifeline on 13 1114.

Leonie was first diagnosed with depression in 2003 and was prescribed an antidepressant. This led to a psychotic manic episode, which was followed by a period in hospital a month or two later. Even though she was heavily sedated and experiencing delusions, she clearly remembers the moment she left the doctor’s office after hearing him say the phrase “it seems likely you have bipolar”.

When she shared the diagnosis with a close friend from her early university daLeonie bipolar think in my headys, she was told, “hindsight is 20/20”. Other friends and family agreed. Leonie had been living with bipolar since she was a teenager. Fast forward to 2003 and much of her life had masked the illness.

Leonie gave birth to a son in 1998 and a daughter in 2001. In September 2001, when planes hit the World Trade Centre in New York on 9/11, her daughter was two months old. Leonie remembers her prevailing and repetitive thought was, “how could I have brought my baby into such a brutal world?” Her general practitioner realises now that she was living with post natal depression at the time. In fact, she lived with it following the birth of both children.

With friends living in the state next to the World Trade Centre, and a 2 month old baby, 9/11 hit Leonie hard. Her existing depression led to her spiraling further into the illness.

Leonie bipolar saying

Not quite that simple, Leonie’s transformation has taken many years

She returned to work part-time at the beginning of 2002 and found it very stressful. She ended up on indefinite long service leave. She felt unsupported, confused and lost.

Then, in January 2003, when her daughter was 18 months old, she looked up to the air conditioning duct in her house to see flames. She got herself and the children out and by the time the fire brigade arrived smoke was billowing from every orifice of the house. While most of the damage was confined to the roof cavity, the rug where the children were sitting when the flames were first seen was burnt by a molten air conditioning vent that had fallen. Leonie became fearful of staying in the house, and also fearful of leaving it at the same time. How much turmoil and confusion she must have been feeling at that time!

While Leonie was taking a shower one day in June 2003 she distinctly remembers not being able to work out why she was in there or knowing what to do next. She couldn’t work out how to turn off the water or grab a towel. She managed to call a friend, who gave her instructions to “hang up, don’t move and pick up the phone when it rings”, after promising to help. Together they dressed and breakfasted the children and took them to day care. They made a doctor’s appointment to see her General Practitioner and went with her friend’s support a couple of days later. Leonie was diagnosed with depression and prescribed Zoloft, an antidepressant. Within a month Leonie experienced psychosis, which is apparently a common result when that type of antidepressant is prescribed to someone with bipolar.

The 5 years between 2003 and 2008 were very bleak for Leonie. She spent most of the time severely depressed, with a few severe manic episodes. Christmas 2008 was very bleak. A few months earlier Leonie experienced a manic episode involving some friends, which affected their friendship in a negative way. Whilst attending the Christmas assembly at her children’s school she experienced a full-blown panic attack. She felt like the worst mother in the world and completely demoralised.

Leonie began thinking about suicide as an option so her family would no longer have to feel the shame she felt she brought on them. She felt they would be better off without her. Even though her husband and mother knew she was low, she hid the extent of it from them.

By this time her file at her mental health centre was an inch thick. Between 2003 and January 2009 she felt like the mental health professionals came through a revolving door.

Leonie bipolar difference 08 v 13

Bottom: 2008, Top: 2013

The day that produced the turning point came when she saw one specific psychiatrist in that very long line of professionals. She walked in the door at her lowest ever point and was asked to tell her story yet again. The thought of rehashing all the pain and suffering was unbearable. Two minutes in, the psych was on the phone asking for a bed in the closest inpatient unit.

Leonie was in hospital for a month so that her new doctor could observe her closely as he fine tuned her medication. She felt lucky that she had finally found the right fit with a mental health professional. He was intuitive and understood her well.

Leonie bipolar stand up 8

She was out of hospital another month before another manic episode hit as a result of coming out of such a low. Bordering on psychotic again, she ended up in the emergency room with police hovering for most of the day while waiting on a bed in the inpatient unit. For another month, her doctor once again monitored her closely as he readjusted her medications. Leonie remains on these same medications to this day.

Career wise, traveling back in time briefly, in about 2005/6, Leonie was working 2 days a week as a teacher. She struggled because she was so depressed. Despite her then psychologist strongly suggesting that she submit a medical retirement, she resisted. The thought broke her heart. In a job that she had previously loved, she felt that she was unfit to do that work forever. But she couldn’t bring herself to submit the paperwork.

Leonie bipolar plans

Leonie’s doctor discharged her from hospital at the end of May 2008. She experienced one minor depressive episode which lasted approximately a week. At that point she participated in her second, 10-week mindfulness course. By October of that same year she was once again doing 2-3 days of casual teaching each week. She chose her schools carefully as she made these tentative steps, but felt like she had her life back.

The entire year of 2009 saw her regularly working 3-5 days per week (at various schools). In the final term one school invited her to work 3 days a week for the rest of the year. In consultation with her team of professionals and close family, by October she decided to go back to full-time work.

At the beginning of 2010 she began her new job, a position she retains today. At first she didn’t tell anyone at her work about her illness due to feelings of shame and fear of judgement. But after she felt she had proven her wellness, she received incredible support from her boss.

Other than one minor and short-live depressive episode in 2012, which included anxiety attacks, she has been free of mood swings. While she doesn’t consider herself “cured”, and she will be on medications for the rest of her life, her condition is now successfully being managed. She utilises a team of professionals.

Leonie Bipolar

The joy after conquering a long-held fear of going down a huge water slide

Psychiatrist, Psychologist, General Practitioner. She combines medications with regular mindfulness training and sessions with her psychologist. She has made significant changes to her lifestyle by exercising and eating healthily. She now gets adequate sleep after discovering that the lack of it contributed to her manic episodes.

Leonie also calls on the support of close family, colleagues and friends. She feels blessed to be a part of a wonderful circle of social support. She now knows, thanks to this amazing support, that she no longer needs to keep the secret and shame.

Leonie feels that the key to beginning her path to wellness was to find that one professional that she could really connect with.

Leonie bipolar xmas 2013

Christmas 2013 and Leonie’s new way of being

Kaye and BPD

Please join Kaye as she shares her story of living with Borderline Personality Disorder and other mental health concerns. Please be aware that her experiences may trigger some emotions for you as you read her story. If you find yourself triggered, please take care of yourself and seek support. If you need to talk with someone please call Lifeline on 13 1114.

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My name is Kaye and I am a 38 year old married mother of 5 beautiful girls. Like most people, I have a story, one that I am not always proud of but it is mine just the same.  Also, like many people, my story involves a long term battle with mental illness, suicidal ideologies and self-injurious behaviours. In the hopes of reaching one person and making them feel that they are not alone, I would like to share my story with you all.

story to tell

My childhood consisted of a rather insecure family unit, my father died in a tragic accident just after my third birthday and my mother never really recovered from this which left her looking to fill her own void, and in doing so she never really noticed how affected I was by the instability of my family or that I desperately craved her attention and affection. My mother eventually settled down with a man who was wonderful to both her and us kids, however this all changed when they had a baby girl who passed away at six weeks old from SIDS. From then on, my stepdad would beat my mother severely and he would do it in front of us. This continued from the time I was about 7 years old right up until I was about 14 years old. My stepdad decided at that point, that for things to change, he had to leave as my mother would not leave him because she loved him.

I thought that this event would make my life better, but it did not… in fact it got worse. I was constantly feeling hopeless, helpless, worthless and sad to the point that I began to see suicide as my only way out. I also began to burn myself with cigarettes to try and squash the emotional pain and replace it with physical pain.  I pushed away all the friends that I used to enjoy being around, I stopped going out or leaving the house, I couldn’t eat and I slept endlessly but still felt tired when I did get out of bed. I started seeing a psychologist and was given numerous medications by numerous doctors, so I used them alongside alcohol to slip into that beautiful world of carefree serenity, where the pain and the hurt could not intrude.

sad sun face

Naturally it didn’t take long before my first suicide attempt because I found that I needed more and more medication to reach that happy place. It was all just too much. This little venture landed me in a psychiatric unit on a 72 hour court order, for observation and investigation. I hated the hospitalisation but there was also a sense of relief for a while, relief that I was safe from myself and the demons that seemed to be growing stronger inside me every day. I was released two weeks later and continued to see my regular doctors as well as a psychiatrist who prescribed me much more medication! I was having the time of my life slipping in and out of consciousness on the chemical cocktails I was provided with. Eventually after ending up back in the psychiatric unit after another suicide attempt, I was diagnosed with what was called manic depression and borderline personality disorder with dissociative tendencies. I had no idea what this meant and I honestly did not care, all I knew is that I was getting worse and nothing mental health self harm personalityseemed to help me.

Eventually I married and had 2 daughters but the marriage lasted less than a year and I was devastated. Now I was on my own, battling the breakdown of my marriage, my own monsters were rising up to greet me again and on top of that, I was responsible for two little girls. I tried so many things to squash the bad thoughts and desire to self-harm and over medicate. I tried working but I couldn’t get out of bed. I found that socialising was too demanding and extremely tiring; I just wanted to curl up into a ball and die. Then I decided to try study but I couldn’t concentrate and pulled out with only one module left to complete a diploma in counselling (yeah, ironic huh?). No matter what I tried, I found a reason not to follow through with it. My ability to self-sabotage appeared to be endless. Again I fell back into old habits and began to over medicate and self-harm. But I did manage to quell the urge to attempt suicide.broken mirror

When my girls were 5 and 7, I remarried. I found a man who seemed to be everything I had always wanted in a partner, he was honest, caring, reliable and he had the same values and beliefs around marriage and commitments as I did. The honeymoon didn’t last long though, our relationship became volatile and there was so much fighting, name calling and eventually physical threats. However, I hung in there, determined to make it work because I didn’t want another failed marriage and I desperately loved him. My instability began to show again and the old habits returned in spades, adding to the stress on our marriage. On top of this the 3 daughters I had with my husband all had special needs and one in particular was very difficult to handle. Again I started drinking and over-medicating so it was no surprise when I was admitted to the psychiatric ward again. This time I was determined to make the most of it and sort myself out. Luckily I was being treated by a psychiatrist who really looked at my mental health history and took the time to study what I was doing and what he could do about it. When I was released, he arranged for my medication to be supplied to me on a weekly basis from my chemist and he also kept in close contact with them to make sure that I was picking it up regularly. This man really cared about getting me on track and keeping me there. Things seemed to pick up a little after that. My demons still stirred but I finally had a doctor I trusted and who I believed could help me. I also found that I had a growing support network for my kids’ special needs, which helped all of us to cope.

A few years later I suffered what my psychiatrist said was a psychotic break after my marriage hit the rocks in a big way. I don’t recall what happened or anything that I did, but I ‘came to’ in hospital with both my arms bandaged from wrist to elbow and 2 police officers guarding me. This resulted in almost 3 months in the psychiatric unit and over a dozen doses of ECT. I was well and truly a mess this time and my demons were having a ball. It felt like my mind had split and I was two people fighting with each other inside my own head, one trying to tell me to keep fighting and the other telling me to just succumb to the endless abyss of what I am sure was insanity.  It is difficult to put into words what I felt or thought but the one thing I can say is that I was so close to giving up and letting the darkness swallow me forever. I had nothing left; I was so empty and was in constant pain. I didn’t want to leave the ward, I didn’t want visitors and if the phone rang, I just let it keep ringing. Social interaction was just too much, even having to exchange words with the staff and other patients was exhausting. I think it’s fair to say that that was the lowest and blackest point in my life.living with BPD

Eventually I returned home to try to resume some semblance of a life, but I wasn’t living, I was simply surviving. It took me a while to realise that surviving for me at that point, was living. If I didn’t focus on surviving I would end up dead, so I just kept surviving from one day to the next. My husband and I continued to try and work through our marriage and we kept going but things were never the same and neither was I. It is now just over 2 years since that breakdown and I am still surviving, one day at a time and sometimes one hour at a time. My demons constantly lurk in the recesses of my mind and I still have the eternal inner battle with myself over living or dying. I continue to take my medication and see my psychiatrist and psychologist regularly. With their firm support and the overwhelming love my family and friends have given me, I have redefined my life and have set myself some goals and a back-up plan for when things get rocky. I am currently studying a university degree in human services and I struggle with it every single day. Not just the workload but with the urge to self-sabotage because I feel that I am not worthy of doing something with my life. Whenever I think about throwing in the towel, I think about why I am doing this. I want to help others like myself who may not be as fortunate as I was in finding a support network that works, or someone that cares. I want to make a difference to them and help them to see that they are worthy and they can be and do whatever they want to do. Everyone deserves that and I intend to tell them so!

Mental health has seeped into every aspect of my life; personal, social, occupational and otherwise. I think the scariest thing about my illness is how my own mind can and has, betrayed me. This demon has twisted my thinking, taken my self-respect, left me powerless and torn me to pieces but it has also given me something. It has given me strength and purpose. No matter how vicious my illness has been, it has not beaten me yet and I am determined not to let it.

overcoming adversity

Resolutions

resolutions comic

At the close of one year and the beginning of the next many people pledge that they will “change their ways”.

Lose weight, stay organised, join a gym, give up sugar, start a business, take better care of family, save money.

In the last few days of December most of us make the resolution to “make it happen”. For the first few days or weeks, or even months, you go great. Then stuff happens and everything falls over. You end up feeling like a failure and start believing that you’ll never be any good at anything.

The following year you repeat the same process. And again the following year. And again. And again and again.

You create a pattern of: set resolution, go well for short period, fail, beat self up, repeat.

And within a very short space of time you hate yourself because you can never do anything right.

Sound familiar?

What if you could change your patterns, achieve what you set out to do and feel great about it?

Here are some tips that may help:

WIN_20131231_195349 (2)

  1. Find your passion – you’re much more likely to achieve something if you are emotionally invested in it. So choose something that you can get excited about! If joining a gym and working out on weight machines, treadmills and rowers has you almost falling asleep with boredom, don’t go near it! But if your aim is to get fitter, and you love football, consider joining a team in your community. If it’s not something that really gets your juices flowing, forget it! Seriously. It’s not worth the angst you would put yourself through.
  2. Don’t try to do everything at once – losing weight AND saving money AND staying organised AND being a better parent AND giving up sugar AND quitting smoking. I’m exhausted just thinking about all that! You’ll overwhelm yourself with new things to do and adding it all into an already full weekly schedule puts you behind the starting gate even before the horse is out of the stable! This stuff needs to work FOR you, not against you! Our brains can only hold a limited amount of information at a time, so don’t try to cram too much in there at once.
  3. Take the word “resolution” out of the equation – like diets, they just don’t work. There seems to be a societal smart goals explainedmindset about them. Instead set goals. And set SMART goals. If you really want to achieve them, make sure that they are (S)pecific, (M)easurable, (A)chievable, (R)ealistic, and (T)ime based. Let’s say we use the example in point 1. Your overall aim is to be fitter. You love football and decide to join a team. So, you could set a goal of being able to run the length of the field 5 times without stopping during practice, by February 1, 2014. This goal is very specific. You’ve stated exactly what you’re going to do. It’s measurable. You can count 5 laps of the field. Achievable and realistic? That depends. If, right now, you find running 50 metres difficult, you might like to adjust your goal to something more achievable for you, such as running 2 lengths in 1 month. Or extend the time frame to 3 months. However, if you can currently run 3 lengths without any problems, another 2 lengths inside a month shouldn’t pose too many difficulties. Time based? This one is pretty self-explanatory. You put a time frame around the goal. So running the 5 lengths within the month. Or 2 months. Or however long you think would be realistic for you. Plan it out, and make it work for you. If you don’t think it will work within the constraints you have in your life (other commitments like work, family, managing a house and so on), either adjust it so it does fit, or drop it entirely. It’s not worth the angst.
  4. Create a plan – break your goal down into manageable steps so that you know how much work you need to do to reach it. Start from your end point. For example, for the “run 5 lengths of the field” goal in 4 weeks (Jan 1 to Feb 1), you can break that down. You would need to run 2.5 lengths in 2 weeks, and 1 ¼ lengths in 1 week. If you know that, you can assess whether it is realistic and then plan your training so you can reach each weekly goal. There is a saying that goes something like, “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail”.
  5. Reward yourself – let’s say you’ve set your SMART goals, created a plan and scheduled in the steps to reach them. Plan in some rewards for yourself at regular intervals. For example, if you want to lose 15kg in 6 months, set yourself up some smaller goals in there. When you reach 5kg, treat yourself to a new haircut. At 10, maybe try a massage as a reward for all that hard work. And at your biggest milestone, a new wardrobe! You’ll need new clothes by then anyway, right? Whatever rewards you choose, plan them in advance and schedule them in. And use rewards that excite you!
  6. “What if?” scenarios – plan in some strategies for when things get tough. Because they certainly will! Things don’t always go smoothly. Kids get sick, extra bills crop up. Stuff happens. Accept that and go with the flow. The key is to not allow a few hiccups to derail you. So what if your child has to have emergency surgery and you end up sitting by the bed eating vending machine food for a week. What is more important to you in that moment? Being there to support and love your child, or getting into the gym at 5am? Life happens. So your goal is delayed a couple of weeks. Big deal. You could try minimising the impact by calling in a few favours from family or friends and asking them to provide you with some healthy, quick meals while you’re at your child’s bedside. But even if the contingency plan doesn’t happen, don’t stress it. A few weeks out of the rest of your life should not be a big enough thing to derail what you are passionate about. It’s much more important to keep your stress levels down so you can deal with the crisis at hand and then, once you’ve recovered, get back to your plan, revise it, and keep moving forward.
  7. Be flexible – things change. Priorities change. Obstacles crop up. You need to be flexible enough to go with the flow and readjust things as you need to. Don’t allow a few obstacles to dictate how you live for the rest of your life. YOU are way more important for that.
  8. Get very clear on why – you need some clarity on why it is you want to achieve your goals. What values do you have good stuff always worth the work it takesthat the goals you choose help you meet. For example, if you want to be a better parent and you decide that you will schedule a weekly “family night” (whatever that looks like for you), ask yourself why. Why is a family night important? Maybe because you love your family and you want to strengthen the bond within the family unit? Whatever it is for you, get very, very clear on it. Write it down, display it. Have it in your face every single day as a reminder (see point 10 as a creative way to do this).
  9. Remind yourself that you are worthy – of the time and effort it takes to improve yourself and your life. Of the reward you will see at the end when you have achieved what you set out to do.
  10. Create a vision board – I published a post back in July about how to create a vision board. They can be an amazing way to keep you focused and remind you of why you are doing what you are doing.

Note: The more excitement there is, the more likely you are to stick with it. So, find your passion and go get it! Feel free to share your 2014 goals and strategies! I’d love to hear them.

Looking at your purpose

As much as I like reinventing the wheel (well, new messages to people anyway), sometimes it would be detrimental to the message and what people may get from it. I would be doing people a disservice if I reinvented too much stuff!

So, when I found this article I thought it would be best to simply pass it on as it is, and just add my opinion 🙂

Have you ever wondered why you are here on this planet? What you are supposed to do with your life? Have you felt like there must be something more? Have you felt dissatisfied with your current life and frustrated that you don’t seem able to pull it all together and find a true passion for what you are doing?

Would you like to be able to feel completely comfortable in your own skin and with what you do? Would you like to feel like your life flows easily? That things happen with very little effort? To feel like things are going so well that nothing can go wrong?

Obviously there are times when things go wrong and this can be really sucky (and yes, that is a technical term!) I am a firm believer that if you are doing things that you LOVE, that you are passionate about, the feeling of “wrong” will be minimised.

This article was posted to a page I belong to on positive psychology. The author, Dr. Susan Biali, poses some questions that you can ask yourself to help you figure out what your purpose is. I love that she notes, right up front, to be gentle with yourself and go in with curiosity and no pressure to figure things out immediately. I totally agree with this. The more pressure you put on yourself, the less likely it will happen. You can’t rush this process. It will happen at the perfect time for you, when you are at a point in your life that you can open yourself up to see where your place is. If you aren’t ready, the opportunities won’t appear. Or more accurately, you won’t recognise them for what they are.

You can find the complete article from Dr. Susan Biali here, with a bio on her. Also, take a look at one of my previous posts here. I talk to teenagers about trusting that they have a place in the world, even if they don’t feel like they belong. Even though it is targeted at teens, it is equally applicable to anyone feeling like they don’t belong.

The rest of Dr. Biali’s article is below. I love how she tells her own story and how she has worked with each of her suggestions. I encourage you to let each sit with you as you consider how it fits with your life. Be kind to yourself.

life without purpose

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Purpose is very unique, a phenomenon that’s so individual that I believe only you can actually know it or figure it out, though others can certainly help provide input and guidance.

Before we get into a deeper discussion of this, I want to encourage you to release and let go of any pressure you might be feeling around the topic. Connecting with and living your purpose is a beautiful journey that typically unfolds in mysterious and surprising ways. It’s not something to be forced, or something to actively worry about “having to” find. I like to think of it as a treasure hunt, a perfectly paced adventure with your eyes and heart wide open.

All you have to do is decide to be open to this area of your life, and be willing to take whatever steps or inspiration call to you. I’m convinced that if you do that, you can’t go wrong, and you won’t “miss it”. Be curious. Enjoy the process. Marvel at life and its richness as you go along.

I smile indulgently now when I think of myself “way back when”…though really it was just a decade ago. I used to lie on the couch and read my favourite books by inspirational authors such as Wayne Dyer (I went through a huge Wayne Dyer phase!). These authors talked all the time about purpose, about everybody having one.

I was so frustrated that it felt physically painful. Though I found hope and inspiration in the writers’ lofty words, and something about this concept of purpose connected very deeply with me (I couldn’t stop reading about it), I was filled with fear that somehow I was that rare human being who didn’t have a purpose.

I was used to life disappointing me and somehow thought that I would be disappointed by this, too – that I’d somehow be left out of the loop, kept out of life’s inner circle.

Today I am continually amazed by the opportunities presented to me, worldwide, to help others live more fulfilling lives. Given what I do now for a living, do you see how hilariously ironic it is that I once despaired at having no purpose?

So, no matter what your thoughts and beliefs are around this concept, or what your thoughts and beliefs are around yourself and the value of you and your life, prepare for life to have some delicious, marvelous surprises in store for you in this area.

finding your purpose“Seek, and you shall find,” as the proverb goes.

Your purpose doesn’t at all have to be something BIG, either. The value of your impact on others and on the world has nothing to do with its scale.

There’s a saying I learned while living in Mexico: “Hay gente para todo.”

This means “there are people for everything”, and refers to the fact that in order for our world to function, we need people living and contributing at all kinds of different levels. If we each could find and inhabit the sphere where we’re supposed to be, and contribute what we were made to contribute, what a beautiful world it would be!

There is a lot of distraction out there that can cause people to miss the purpose of their life, and my goal is to help you see past the noise.

Not only are there the typical day-to-day distractions out there (the pressure to buy stuff; mind-numbing entertainment; addictions to food and other habits; chronic busy-ness that doesn’t give us time to think and reflect and live purposefully) but there are also distractions that come in the form of other people’s expectations and preconceived ideas about what a worthwhile purpose or contribution looks like.

Our society has very specific ideas about which callings are worthy and appropriate, which can confuse and distract. For example, when I first started telling people that I wanted to be a health and wellness educator and a dancer instead of working as a regular doctor, people would respond with guilt-provoking criticism.

“How can you quit medicine?” they would say, shaking their heads. “There are so many people who need good doctors, especially female doctors.” One person even accused me of stealing government funding that had contributed to my education!

I still use my medical education to benefit people, many more people than I ever could have helped by working in a clinic, yet the way I am doing this in the world doesn’t fit most people’s understanding of what doctors do and how they contribute to the world.

So how can you identify your purpose?

It may not be obvious and may be something that gradually emerges and takes form over years…you may even have several layers or aspects to what you are here for. journey for purpose

Here are some thoughts that may help connect you:

1) What do you love to do, that you would do even if you don’t get paid for it?

My true career or vocation is directly tied to my purpose, though the way you make your living does not necessarily have to have anything to do with why you are here. What is so you that you would just have to do it, no matter what?

2) What do other people say you’re really good at?

Be careful of going in a direction just because others think you should. That said, it’s a good idea to pay attention to the way others compliment you. Is there anything that you’re particular good at that people tell you that you should do professionally, or do more of?

People often tell me that they feel better, uplifted and energized, after spending time talking with me. Not too surprising then, that I now spend my life and even earn my living encouraging others and helping them improve their lives.

3) What is the one thing you want to experience, or do, or accomplish, before you die, so that on your last day on earth you feel satisfied and have no regrets in that area?

I often ask this of coaching clients, and the answers are always interesting and revealing. For me it would have been writing a book, and becoming a dancer (but really the book is the one big thing). The fact that this contribution in writing is so important to me helps confirm what is my greatest purpose.

Sure, I do lots of things such as speaking, coaching and media work, but I know in my heart that the writing is the core. It is the one thing that no matter what, I need to keep on doing.

What is that thing, for you? Don’t worry if you don’t have an answer yet. Keep asking the question, and keep your eyes open for clues that will come your way. Because the answer will show up, in perfect time. I promise you that.

 purpose bliss

Discovering those emotions

If you’re anything like me you’ll have a history of hiding your emotions because they often don’t feel very nice. When our emotions feel unpleasant, every instinct we have tells us that we need to get rid of that feeling. So we do everything we can to avoid it. We distract ourselves, self-medicate, or even push the emotion deep down inside. Anything so we don’t have to FEEL it.

load breaks you

Because FEELING it would HURT. And it often hurts like hell!

That said, we are a part of the human race. And humans were designed to emote. To experience those emotions, to feel their intricacies and diversity. Happiness, sadness, grief, shock, trauma, joy, excitement, anxiety, stress. Whatever it is, our mind and body are meant to feel them. Our brains are made to protect us and keep us functioning. When our life’s experiences give us things that shock our system out of whack, our brain will kick in and attempt to rebalance.

Sometimes our experiences can leave us quite confused. The impacts of our day-to-day lives can creep up on us. We go through our days, doing what we need to do, taking care of our families, working, and just generally living. And stuff happens. We push those things aside because we are busy doing other stuff and it’s not until later that the impact of those events will show up. And by then our bodies and mind are likely so overloaded that we can’t pinpoint exactly what it is we are dealing with. We can’t label the emotion, we get confused with it all and it adds to our feelings of overwhelm.

And yet through it all, you WANT to sort through the emotion because you know that it will help you to change the way you deal with the stresses in your life. You have plans and goals to create the life you want to live and the confusion is getting in your way. You get frustrated and it complicates things even further.

Sound familiar??

So what can you do to manage it all?

Have you ever noticed that when you are angry your hands clench, your heart beats faster and your muscles get tighter right through your body? This is a physiological reaction to the emotion. Our bodies will feel these kinds of sensations with every emotion we experience, regardless of which one it is.

Sometimes it can be easier and less confronting to manage these physiological sensations rather than attempting to identify and examine the emotion itself.

Muscle tension. Racing thoughts. Racing heart. Churning stomach. Shaky limbs. Shallow breathing.

body scan pose

Whatever the sensation, one of the best things you can do with it is to slow yourself down.

  • Take 5 – 10 minutes out of your day to sit quietly with yourself.
  • Breathe in deeply until your lungs can’t take in any more air, hold it for a second or two, then slowly let it out until there is no more air left. Repeat for as long as it takes to feel your heart rate slowing a little.
  • Continue breathing normally, noticing the rise and fall of your chest and/or ribs. Maybe place your hand on your ribs or chest to help you focus on your breath.
  • Tune in to your body and pay attention to it. Beginning at either your head or toes, slowly scan each part in order. Look out for any aches, pains or sensations that may be there. Maybe wiggle or move each body part as you reach it, noticing how it feels.
  • When you find something, simply pay attention to it. Don’t try to change or alter it in any way. Notice any shape it may hold. Whether it is moving or still. Note what it is made of. Is it transparent or solid? Is it heavy or light? What colour is it? As you continue to pay attention, notice any changes that may occur to it. Does it get stronger, weaker, smaller, bigger?
  • When you are ready, gently move on to the next body part and repeat the process.
  • If you find yourself being distracted by your mind or losing focus, know that your brain is simply doing its job. Be kind to yourself and gently refocus on the attention to your body and the task at hand.
  • Once you get to the other end of your body (head or toes), pay attention to your entire body at once and tune in to everything at once. For a few seconds allow yourself to sit with it and then refocus on your breathing. Taking your time and breathing at your natural rate, spend a couple more minutes simply focusing on your breath.
  • When you are ready and in your own time, become aware of the room around you. Slowly bring yourself back into the room and open your eyes. Have a stretch if you want one and rejoin your day. How do you feel?
  • You might like to play some relaxing music as you do your body scan to help you stay focused.

breathe

If you find it difficult to avoid being distracted and you have an apple product (iPad/iPhone/iPod) or an android tablet, you may be able to find an app to guide you through the process. The variety in these will likely be equal to the number of apps, so if you get one that you don’t really like, keep trying them until you find one that you resonate with.

This kind of body scan will hopefully help you to become more aware of what is happening inside your body. You may find that it becomes easier (after a while) to give those emotions a label. You may find that the feeling of distress and confusion/overwhelm eases somewhat. And you may find that you feel more settled and grounded as you practice regularly.

Just one word of caution. When you first begin using this technique, it can be a challenge to retain your focus. Your brain is designed to keep you in the state it is used to. It is doing its job. If you have someone (or an app or CD) to guide you through the process it can help until you get used to it. So when you get distracted (cause it will happen), be kind to yourself and gently refocus on the task. If you get frustrated when it doesn’t work, you will likely end up feeling worse and will give up.

Treat yourself with the kindness you deserve.

worth taking care of

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