Of Being Happy and Mindful

I am happy today.

I am so happy that my anxiety, and depression are temporarily gone from my awareness. It’s different.

Something else is different too.

For the first time in my life, I am not afraid to say that I am proud of the fact that I am happy. I don’t have to make excuses and downplay my happiness, like I’ve always felt like I had to in the past. I could never tell people positive things about me because of how afraid I am of others judging me for being happy as a depressed person.

In group today, I told Jenny and Brandon that I love them so much that it hurts me tremendously to see them both in the darkness, still struggling to climb out of the pit of depression. I told them that I felt really sad that Jenny have been victim shamed so much in her life that she can’t even bring up the topic of sexual assault or even believe that women are right to talk about their survival with her significant other, and that Brandon felt that he can’t feel okay with who he is. I recognized their pain because I was just a few months ago, steeped in it. I’ve been through all the shit, and muck, and though I still visit the pit from time to time, I’ve also been spending a lot more time in the sun lately.

I told the two of them (because only 3 of us attended group today) that I didn’t want them to misunderstand me – that for a moment, I didn’t want to tell them how I felt because I was afraid that they would judge me as ‘hypocritical’. I felt hypocritical because back when I was in the thick of depression, many supportive people have told me that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. That there is hope. At that time, I had scoffed at every single one of them and in my mind, had resolved that none of them knew how I felt. I refused to believe them because I didn’t think that they’d understand. That no one would.

Now I’m more stable, and can cope with my difficulties better. And I suddenly realized that I now know what those well-meaning people had been saying to me. I knew now that they weren’t just saying words to make me feel better but rather they really believe it.

I said, “I decided to say what was on my mind anyway even though a part of me felt like a hypocrite but I trusted… Or at least, I hoped that you two would get what I was saying, and where I was coming from. You both have seen, and experienced me at my lowest. You know how much I’ve struggled. So I hoped that you’d hear my message and see it as coming from someone who did go through shit and who did do all the hard work to come to this sunny side. And it is my hope, I am so so hopeful that you two can feel this way too because it hurts me so much to see you two struggle. I want so much good for you guys!”

Of course, I cried. I got very emotional and I explained that I didn’t know why.

T offered an explanation, “Jules, when you said all those things to Jenny and Brandon, I could tell that it came from your heart. That you genuinely wanted good things for them. And in saying those things, telling them that their issues are valid, that they’re worthy to feel the way they do despite what others have told them, is also in the same way, self validating. You were also talking to yourself, Jules. You told yourself that you were worthy, and that you were valid…”

What he said struck me. He was right. I was validating myself too. And that’s why I got emotional. I still have trouble telling myself good things without crying. It’s so emotionally impactful for me that I can’t do it without the tears.

Later, I shared with Brandon how I’ve been able to climb out of the pit – it was that I had built a support system around me who would remind me from time to time that I’m doing well, and that I’m heading the right direction. I told him that it’s all and well to be able to self validate, but to also receive such recognition, and encouragement, is huge. I told him that I felt so much stronger now because I have recognized who my people are.

I then told him how much of a privilege it’s been for me to watch him grow, and to see how much he’s grown. He used to be high strung, philosophical, cold, distant, and so stressed out. Today, he sat there with an even temper, and was able to participate in the conversation without even once going to the philosophical arguments. He was vulnerable, and allowed himself to be, and he was accepting of all the feedback he was given. I felt so proud of him. When T asked me how I felt towards Brandon, I said, “I feel so good. I feel so privileged to have seen such a huge change. It makes me extremely happy that you are reaching that point, and are working so hard yourself. I feel so much affection for you right now. It’s almost like you’re my little brother, and you’ve done so much good work!” I wanted him to know that his hard work is being recognized. It made me feel so happy to be able to say that because not only did it impact him, it also rebounded and hit me with the fuzzies.

Just before group, the Director of the Office of Health and Wellness said to me,

“When you learn to love yourself, those who love you will come back around to you. You don’t have to acclimate to others. You are a square trying to fit in a round hole. You’re not meant to fit!”

The Health and Wellness Promotion Coordinator then added,

“Those who are for you can’t go. Those who are not for you, can’t stay”.

Those two things have changed my life today. The words reverberated through me and I felt the anxiety that has been holding me back all this time ebb away. I was so afraid of losing people, and losing good times, that I was willing to settle for mediocre just so that I don’t have to rely on only myself. When I heard all that, I learned that I could let go, and the world will still revolve… And somehow, that helped me let go today.

It helped me stay uplifted, and positive.

So much so that I went and watched Power Rangers at the theater by myself. I was giddy with excitement because I felt like a child again, and Power Rangers was one of the more positive aspects of my childhood. I remembered how hopeful, and strong I had felt every time I watched the show. Watching the movie today reminded me of that. I also felt that the interaction between the characters to be similar to what I’d felt for Jenny, and Brandon today. It felt good. They feel like family.

I also was able to learn that when I love myself, it makes me love my partner, Cherie, even more than I already do. It made me secure in our relationship, and I am not worried about a thing right now. I confessed to her, and to group that my relationship has been going well – despite some fights – and it’s been going on so well that I have consciously caught myself thinking, “Wow. This is going well. Now what can I screw up so that I can go back in the pit again? What can I do to make it so that I feel depressed again?” I’m so used to being in the dark that being in the light feels strange, and uncomfortable. I know that now.

Today has been one of those really mindful days for me. I’m just so aware of my life, my speech, my actions, and my feelings. I don’t know if it will last or not, but I am hopeful that even if it doesn’t, that I’ll be able to handle it and turn the negatives into good growing experiences.

Thoughts From Therapy – #85

S and I talked about what I did on Saturday at the event. I was filled with trepidation as I recounted what I did (for context, read this: Strange Social Behavior).

I was nervous because I was afraid that I’ll lose S; that he’ll be afraid of me and pull away. I didn’t want him to feel those things. I also felt bad because I felt like I had acted inappropriately.

Continue reading

Weathering The Storm

I have a post that I wrote last week that hasn’t been published because it’s only halfway done. It’s probably the only hopeful post I have because since then, my life has taken a turn downwards. 

At this time, things are looking bleak for me and its hard for me to not wallow in the filth of extreme sadness, loss, and negativity. 

My adult self knows that I will get better and knows that I’m strong enough to weather this storm, but my teenager and child selves are terrified, sad, grieving, angry, and bitter. 2 against 1. It’s hard then for me to get back up and stay standing. 

The adult has been reaching out for help and support. She’s trying to show the young ones that they can do it. That I can make it past this seemingly perpetual pain. It’s an uncharacteristic move for me – to allow myself to be vulnerable and to ask for help. It’s also uncharacteristic because my tendency is to always withdraw when I’m in anguish – like the dog that’s injured that hides away to deal with its wound by itself. 

Thankfully, people have been reaching back and supporting me. If I didn’t have this support system, I don’t know how I could still be here because if I’m still struggling so much when I have support, imagine how much worse I’d be without… 

I wrote a group wide message to all my coworkers at the restaurant to tell them what I’m going through. I wanted to be transparent with them and I wanted their help and support because they’re the people I see the most. I was not surprised by the people who did respond and who wrote me kind messages because I knew that I’ve found a group of people who are loving and caring. I was touched by their words and their kind gestures. 

One of my managers even gave me a hug the next time I went to work and gave me a heart-to-heart talk. He assured me that he has my back and that he truly thinks that I’m an amazing person who is strong enough to get through this rough patch. One thing he said really stuck with me. He said, “It speaks volumes about your strength that every single shift I’ve worked with you, you’ve never once showed anyone that you were in any way struggling because you’re always so positive.” 

There it is again. Strength and resilience. Multiple people have told me that I have it. I believe them now. I know I have it. If only the younger selves could recognize that too. 

Some people told me that everything I’m feeling right now is valid. That I should allow myself to feel those feelings because like S said, “the path to healing lies through the anger, and all the negative feelings”. He explained that if I just side step the feelings or suppress them altogether, I will keep myself in the depression. So, I’m going to let the teenager and the child feel what they need to feel – the teenager with her angst and anger, and the child with her pain, rage, and fear. 

I’m expecting things to get worse for me in the next few weeks. I already hurt so much that I can’t imagine hurting anymore but I know it’s going to get worse. So many things are changing for me. It’s difficult to try and grasp on to anything because I constantly feel like I’m slipping but I’m trying. 

I’m trying. 

What I’ve Learned From 2015

I’ve stopped making New Year’s Resolutions years ago because I realized that if I want to change something about my life, I shouldn’t have to wait until the new year to do so. So now, whenever I’m unhappy with something and I make the decision to change, I change it then and there.

What I have started doing since last year though was write down all the things I’ve learned from the year that I could look back at and reread in the coming year. I have found that that exercise not only helps me be more grateful for everything that has happened but also allows me to refocus my energy on the things that did work and dump the things that didn’t.

Here are some things that I’ve learned this year – I’m bolding words to make it easier to follow the main points. Also, they’re not listed in any order. I’m just typing as I go:

  1. When someone (almost always, it’s not a person I’m very close to) asks me for my opinion on something, they don’t really want to hear it. All they really wanted was for me to agree with them and if I don’t, then they get upset and will try to defend their choices and the reasons they decided on those choices. So, the next time someone asks me for my opinion, unless I can trust that they want my opinion, then I’m not going to share it. It’s a waste of time and energy. I’ve spent countless late nights talking to some people who had asked me for my help and opinion to be shot down every single time. Not only was that an exercise in futility, it also hurt my feelings and sense of self-confidence.
  2. Writing and Drawing (or any other creative pursuits) saved me from myself and my depressive episodes. Just a few days ago, writing on this blog helped me overcome my desire to self-harm. So I’m going to keep doing this as much as I can.
  3. I am not bad at math as I’ve been led to believe all my life. In fact, I’ve fallen in love with it. Though I still don’t understand a lot of it, I do like it enough now to want to stir up the same love in others. I also like it enough to pursue a Minor in Mathematical Science! I learned that math isn’t all that hard as long as you work hard at it and have good teachers. I was thankful that I did have good teachers.
  4. Depression and Anxiety lies because they want to keep me in the dark with them. They tell me that I’m not worthy, that nothing I do is ever enough and that I will never be better. The worst part is, I’ve learned that I not only believe them, I’m also addicted to their abuse.
  5. I’ve learned to overcome my own misconceptions about people with disabilities and mental illnesses because I myself became a part of that community of people. I learned that everything I knew about this community were false and that I had been blinded by what the media tells me to believe about this community. In fact, I’ve learned that I’ve not found a more supportive and kinder group of people than those who have mental illnesses and disabilities!
  6. If I don’t speak up and advocate for mental health, people will continue to be ignorant. I hear many ignorant statements about mental illnesses daily – especially when people find out that I’m mentally ill. It has spurred me on to want to keep talking and writing about it. I’ve recently also realized my purpose in life – that is to share my life and experiences to others so that they may also be helped.
  7. I learned who my real friends are and made some new friends that I hope I’ll always be able to depend on and trust.
  8. I’ve learned what empathy really means and am still learning how to show empathy towards others as well as speak emphatically towards others when they are in need of a shoulder to lean on.
  9. I’ve learned that psychotherapy works and I’ve learned to put my trust in my psychologist. I’m still resisting him because of point #4 where I’m still addicted to my depression but I know that he’s there to help me. I’ve overcome my skepticism about therapy and how talking can really help a lot.
  10. I learned that my expertise in art seems to be skyline drawings and working with ink. I’ve produced some pieces that I’m really proud of and that’s saying something because I’m usually never proud of my own work.
  11. I am stronger than I ever thought I was. I slipped into a major depressive episode sometime in the end of August and am now crawling out of it. It had been 4 months of pain and suffering in which I had started self-harming and my suicidal thoughts went to extremes, but now that I’m starting to come out of it, I realize that despite it all, I’m still here. It proves that I can go through the same pain and suffering again and still emerge on the other side. I realize that it all sucks but despite the pain, I’ve learned so much about myself and my own resilience.
  12. Resilience can be learned and cultivated. Practicing resilience is a daily affair and the more I do it, the easier it is for me to accept other people’s differences and to not allow myself to get too worked up over things that I can’t control.
  13. Going to see the on-call psychologist is not a reason to feel ashamed and that asking for help when I need it is not a reason to feel like I’m a burden to others. It’s something I need to continue to affirm – that it’s ok to ask for help.
  14. I can physically relocate but unless I process and deal with the issues that made me relocate in the first place, the memories and thoughts will always continue to haunt me wherever I go.
  15. It’s never too late to change. It’s never too late to learn new things. It’s never too late to change my career trajectory. It’s never too late to go back to school. Going back to school has made the hugest difference in my life!
  16. I have an amazingly loyal, loving and kind husband who is always there for me despite how shitty I am towards him some days. He has told me yesterday that my happiness is the only thing that matters to him and that he’ll do whatever it takes to make me happy.
  17. Quitting sugar isn’t as hard as I thought it would be – it is possible to cut down on the amount I consume and still feel okay. In fact, it feels better than ok because I’ve lost almost 30 pounds since I started cutting out sugar and physically, I feel better than I have months ago!
  18. Star Wars isn’t a bad franchise when JJ Abrams rebooted it and it is actually a franchise that has characters that I really relate to. The Force is like a metaphor for my own life and I’m blown away by how mindfulness is a prevalent theme in the series. I’ve since watched Star Wars: The Force Awakens 6 times now!
  19. I still need to figure out how to overcome myself and slow down my thoughts when I’m overwhelmed because I’ve learned that nothing really seems to help. I thought that having temporary tattoos or bracelets or visible reminders of my struggles would help but they really don’t. Not even the self harm wounds and scars help me slow down. It must be the ADHD impulsivity overcoming my more rational mind.
  20. Every day is a new day to try again. If I fail the first time, I get up and I try again.

I’m sure there’s more and if you let me, I’m gong to keep writing so I’m going to stop at 20. These are 20 things that I’ve learned about myself this year and I hope that I will not only carry all these lessons forward but also learn new ones!

If you’ve read this far, wow, that’s amazing. I usually don’t have the attention span to be able to read long posts and I admire those of you who do and are able to get this far through my ramblings. You have my gratitude for your attention!

Happy 2016 and may this year bring you lots of new opportunities and lessons!

How Can I Deal With Stressors?

What do you do when all you are feeling is hopelessness?

How do you cope when you feel like you can’t talk to anyone – either because you don’t want them to worry or because you feel that no one understands or because you feel bad that all you talk about with people are negative things and you’re scared that they’re sick of you?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m feeling better than I have in weeks, but I still am stuck in this cycle of hopelessness and keep feeling like I’m on the verge of quitting everything. I am definitely thankful that I was able to talk to S again after our session but I still can’t cope with stressors.

He said to me, “Baby steps” as I left his office and I recognize that I am still not that far into therapy to be able to figure everything out. Yet, why do I keep blaming myself for when I can’t cope with things?

I don’t feel sad per se. I feel more lifeless than sad. Sad is easy to fix. Sadness is not my depression. Mine is the loss of the will to live and the loss of vitality. I don’t know how to stop my self-sabotage.

UPDATE:

My coworker who struggles with depression himself saved me today. All he did was ask me how my birthday was and he was open to hearing my answer. Just one person can help pull you out of the pit of negativity sometimes. I really don’t think he knows how much he’s helped me.

Lessons From Painting

Painting is an exercise in letting go for me. It’s teaching me that it’s ok to let go and that when I let go, I just need to go with the flow and deal with the consequences as they come.

I was painting my “warm colors” composition when I went a little over zealous with the black paint and now my painting is turning out to not be what I want it to be.

However, I’ve learned from past painting experiences that it’s the works that didn’t turn out the way I want that will end up looking the best. I also realized that when I control my strokes too much, that the work turns out too serious and rigid. There seems to be less heart in my work when I control things.

I’m hoping that through these painting exercises that I can learn to apply similar principles in real life. I sure need to let go a little more and just enjoy what comes instead of gripping so hard to things I can’t control.

Perhaps I’ll have less panic attacks that way.