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.

Another Walk-In Session

Hey guys, remember this incident: Walk-In Therapy Session That Bombed? It was the first time ever after a year of sessions at CAPS that I had ever had a somewhat negative experience with a therapist.

Now, this is not a reflection of the therapist’s skill or personality but rather my incompatibility with her and how I wasn’t able to relate to her. And of course, the last post that I’d written all those months ago had been written while I was in a lot of distress.

Today, after a rough session with S, I couldn’t stop laughing hysterically. I could barely contain myself in class and kept bursting out in laughter – it wasn’t anything funny at all. I just found everything “funny”. It was less humor than it was just pure stress.

I think the session had triggered a lot of instability in me – stuff that I’d been trying to keep in check for a week now. And it was just stuff that I’d not been able to deal with for the past week because of how I was just literally going to school, going to work, and then sleeping. I didn’t have time to process my sadness, pain, anger, dismay, despair and so on. So when I saw S today, everything just came out all at once and it was not only difficult to contain, it was also difficult to stop the dam once it had started gushing water.

I sobbed through the entirety of the session, stopping only to laugh hysterically when I related an amusing incident to S. I had told him, “Here’s something I wanted to bring up that I feel you would find very amusing… So yesterday, as I was in the middle of the anguish over being divorced, your voice popped into my head – there was no prompting or anything at all. And in the same tone and same voice that you would use, the you that resides in my head said to me, “Jules, what would it be like if you didn’t see X and Y for a while?” I don’t know why that suddenly came up but it was apt”

Before I could continue any further, S and I were in fits of laughter. His laughter made me laugh even harder. He was definitely very amused.

“It’s ironic because I was just about to ask you the same exact thing! I guess you do know what I’m going to say to you or how I’d react to certain things!” (PaperDoll, this!! It reminded me of our conversation – I pointed out to S your wisdom and he nodded, agreeing with you that yes, he’ll be giving me less quality attention if I keep seeing him so much).

Anyway, that little laughing fit that we both dissolved into helped me regain some stability before I walked out of his office. But after that, when I was alone again, I started laughing again, loudly and hysterically. It happened off and on, of course. It wasn’t like I was just walking around just laughing the whole time.

I knew that the laughing wasn’t quite right. I knew that because it was the same kind of laughing fit that I’d had back when my paternal grandfather passed away. My father drove us to the funeral home and on the journey, I couldn’t stop laughing. I was joking and laughing – even when the coffin entered the furnace. My father was enraged by my “disrespect” and snapped at me. I was hurt – he didn’t understand just how anguished I was over my grandfather’s death. He didn’t realize just how badly I was hurting inside. I couldn’t control the laughter though – I didn’t know why I was laughing so hard myself. It was the same kind of laughter that I had today.

Deep down, I wanted to sob. I wanted to keep sobbing. I was in so much pain. But instead of sobbing, I laughed. I think I lost my marbles this afternoon/evening. I couldn’t take the stress any longer, perhaps.

I was confused with my reaction so I decided to give CAPS another visit. As I skateboarded there, I kept laughing off and on. I almost couldn’t keep quiet while I waited to be seen. D said to me, “Don’t worry, Jules. We haven’t forgotten you…” I laughed hard. And then I said, “Oh it’s ok. I’ll just fade into the background” to which D responded with, “I guess we have new wallpaper!”

Then, the therapist that I hadn’t had much success with the last time walked out and greeted me. I was hoping that it would be somebody else. I took a deep breath and just decided to give her another chance.

She asked me as I sat down what had brought me in. I explained to her that I was concerned about my uncontrollable laughter and how I felt like I was losing my mind. I wondered if I was having a nervous breakdown. She said to me, “Oh well you were happily talking with that person over there so I thought to myself, ‘Wow, she seems pretty happy… Why is she here for a walk-in?'”

Just moments before she came out to greet me, I was talking to a friend of mine about some things (he had come in to CAPS to provide moral support to his friend and I just happened to have been there) and we had been laughing over those things. Sure, I must’ve looked just fine.

I told the therapist that I wasn’t okay and that I am just very good at pretending. I felt a little annoyed that she would say that, to be honest. But I also realize that I do fool people very well. The only person I can’t fool is S because he knows me. This therapist didn’t. Publicly, I’m very well put together. I’m successful, I’m intelligent, I’m extroverted, I’m confident, I’m goofy… All the things that you would associate with someone who has their life together and who is happy. I’m none of that – I just pretend like I am because I not only don’t trust people very well, I am also paranoid that people will judge me or not want to be around me if they knew who I really am.

I explained to her how I’ve been almost delirious all afternoon. I couldn’t figure out why I was the way I was. I realize now that she’s a more action-based therapist. She doesn’t really let me explain or rant or vent. She just wants to know what brought me in so that she could give me a list of things I could do to overcome how I was feeling. Perhaps this is a different approach to therapy? I don’t know.

I didn’t have as negative an experience this time though because her action-based style was what I needed this time. She noted that I was very anxious – I kept tapping my left foot on the floor. And she said that I seem to have a lot of nervous energy. So she suggested that I do some relaxation techniques. I told her that I’ve tried but nothing has ever really worked. She said, “Have you ever tried relaxing each part of your body as you think about them and breathe through them?”

I said that I had heard of such an exercise but had never really attempted it. She suggested that we do it together. I internally groaned because the socially anxious part of me didn’t like the idea one bit… But I gave her a chance.

We then spent the next 10 minutes doing the mindfulness exercise together. By the end of it, I did feel more relaxed and the nervous tics were gone. She encouraged me to practice this technique every day and to remember what that feeling of relaxation was like so that I could have a basis for comparison the next time I did it. Before I left, we chatted a little about the Peer Educator program.

I left this time, feeling less judged, and actually felt like I was helped. It also allowed me to learn that how she administers therapy is just very different from what I’m used to with S (and a few of the other staff members). Perhaps there are others who benefited from her more aggressive action-based style. I certainly don’t like it very much myself and prefer S’ patient, kind yet firm style of allowing me to vent and express myself.

At least this therapist got me to stop laughing though. I felt more stable and more grounded when I left CAPS than when I had entered.

Anxious Thoughts

I have an important post about therapy that I want to write but I haven’t had the time amidst all the courses and work that I’m doing. I’m also headed to a Peer Educator’s retreat for the weekend, to learn how to be a good Peer Educator and to support the campus non-academically.

So I’m just going to write this short post about my anxiety that has been wreaking havoc in my life lately. Since I’ve been suicidal and severely depressed, my anxiety hadn’t really showed itself but since school started, anxiety has been taking over my daily mental head space and has been pushing me closer to the edge each day.

I try to combat it by distracting myself with self-care and coping strategies like skateboarding, hanging out with people, studying, and so on. They’ve helped some but S noted that in doing so, I’m not acknowledging that I’m anxious – that I’m not allowing myself to feel the entirety of that feeling, which then makes it come back with a vengeance the next time.

I get what he’s saying but if I allow myself to feel the anxiety, wouldn’t I devolve into a panic attack mess? I don’t know… I haven’t yet really allowed myself to be anxious.

This morning, I woke up with the anxiety that I am just no good if I can’t do 15 credit hours. It just sank in on Thursday that I am doing 15 credit hours. I feel so overwhelmed by the fact that I have 5 classes on top of my 2 jobs, and my responsibility as a Peer Educator.

So I texted my close friend, C, and suggested that maybe I should drop the Server Side Programming for the Web class. We both take that class together and I miss being in the same class as C (he’s way more advanced than I am now despite the fact that we both started together in Spring of 2015). However, at the same time, having 2 already very intense “weed-out” classes is stressful enough without having to add another class that I barely know anything about into the mix. As it is, due to my lack of experience and knowledge, I am having to study HTML and CSS outside of class just to be able to learn the PHP and SQL that I’ll be learning in this class. Every time I think of school latey, I just want to break down and cry.

I feel thoroughly overwhelmed. I know that dropping this class will be good for me – it’ll be a healthy thing to do, right? But at the same time, see the doubt? Anxiety is telling me that I’m so behind. That I’m not going to graduate in time to get a good job because the market will be flooded by the time I finish. That I’m just such a loser for not doing 15 credit hours and beyond. That I was able to do that in previous semesters.

I try to tell Anxiety that I didn’t have extraneous circumstances in the past – I wasn’t divorced, I wasn’t questioning my sexual orientation, I was moved out and living alone, I wasn’t stressed about my finances, and I wasn’t so severely depressed. At the moment, it’s not helping. I know I have to practice the mindfulness technique that S had taught me – that is, to sit down quietly, visualize a river flowing calmly while leaves float by, put my thoughts onto each leaf, and let the leaves and thoughts float by.

Damn, why is it so hard to deal with this?

Never Too Late

I’ve been seeing this link float around for a while now but never wanted to click the link because I was afraid of what I would see. (That was why I used to avoid TED talk videos like the plague as well).

I know it’s something that maybe no one can understand or get but my depression makes me afraid of change; it makes me afraid of recovery and it forces me to always want to be depressed. I know it sounds crazy and counter productive. It was a hard truth for me to admit. That’s why I avoid watching motivational videos. I’m afraid that they’ll motivate me to change and I’ll want to.

I’ve been having a hard time and I go back and forth between negativity and positivity as the part of me who wants to be better fights the part of me who doesn’t. El who gets my texts and messages every day can attest to that intense mood swing from good to bad.

This morning, the part of me who wants to be better won and I watched this video. It may not be a huge deal for most people, but this was a small victory this morning and it was a victory I needed because I’ve been so down lately. Watching this video made me cry and like the people in this video, I hope to not have to write down my biggest regrets. I hope that I will remember to wipe the slate clean every day and start over.

Maybe this is something that you need to watch too. I’m glad that I did.

Never Late

Here’s the video if you don’t want to go to the website:

Life Lesson From Star Wars

As someone struggling with mental illnesses, Star Wars actually allows me to relate to the characters pretty well. In Empire, I related to Luke’s character – it could’ve been me walking into the cave in Dagobah, it could’ve been me having all that anger in me, it could’ve been me choosing between Dark and Light.

I never thought of it that way until my psychologist pointed it out – he made me rethink my stance on the franchise and I gave it a chance a week ago. If I hadn’t, I wouldn’t have watched the new movie.I wouldn’t have learned so much about myself either.

The Force is like mindfulness – choosing the Light side is harder and it also means putting in a LOT of effort, energy and commitment towards change and resilience. Giving in to the Dark side is easy, just allow your anger to control you. Just let your mental illness take over and do whatever it wants. It’s so easy.

Daily, I choose the Light side – sometimes I fail and I let my anger, depression, anxiety and ADHD take over so I get the struggle Luke had to go through. I get why it’s so hard for someone to become a Jedi. Overcoming oneself is perhaps one of the greatest challenges someone can have. And I also get why Anakin became Vader. We could all be like Luke in the cave, seeing our faces under Vader’s helmet but I’m reminded that like Anakin, Luke had a choice to make and he made a choice to overcome himself.

Turns out, it’s our daily choices that shape who we really are, not our pasts.

Here’s a link to an article written by Dr Ali Mattu on mindfulness and Star Wars. It’s a very interesting read and very insightful!

Mindfulness is the Essential Psychology of the Star Wars Universe

7 Cups

So I’ve been pretty down the whole day today – I think it’s probably because of the stress of finals. I have 3 art pieces due on Monday and I work doubles for the next two days and a lunch shift on Sunday. That means that I will have little to no time to finish the art projects.

I think I allowed myself to be overwhelmed by the negativity and ended up being quite depressed the whole day. I tried to question myself why I’m feeling so sad but found no answer.

I tried self-affirming and couldn’t get anything positive from it – in fact, I started feeling angry as I told myself affirming things. Not quite sure why…

Then I tried clicking on to the “7 Cups” website. I’ve heard of this site before in the past but never really looked around.

A couple of questions popped up and after I answered them, a “Growth Path” appeared for me that took me through 10 steps of growth filled with mindfulness activities and guided meditation.

I am actually feeling a little better than I did before I started the exercises. So thanks to that, I wanted to post this site on my blog for anyone who might either need such activities to help them through the rest of the day or for anyone who might just need someone to talk to. It’s free and very user friendly.

Here’s the link: 7 Cups

I hope it’s helpful for you as it was for me.

An Example Of A Good Day – Brief Post

Today had been an example of an extremely positive, good and stable day. It’s the kind of day that I want to have everyday despite feeling terrified of it and still wanting to cling on to feeling sad.

I will definitely write more later as I have a lot of reflection to do – both on this day itself and the therapy session that I’ve had – but for now I’ll leave you with this.

image

As some of you know, I’ve been attending a series of mental health awareness workshops held on campus called the “Lifesaver Mental Health Series”. Today’s session was on “Cultivating Resilience”, co-presented by the Coordinator of the Office of Health and Wellness Promotion (HWP) as well as the Assistant Director of Outreach and Partnership of the Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS). I really love these two people, despite only knowing them for the short time during these sessions. They’re well informed, friendly, passionate and just really fun to talk to.

I had an amazing time learning about resilience and learning this really important life skill. I hope that I can keep practicing it and I can help share this with others so that we can all learn to be more resilient in life!

In another post, I’ll talk more about what I’ve learned and how you can also learn resilience.

The only sad thing is, this was the last workshop. I really enjoyed having conversations with people about mental health and hearing other people’s opinions and ideas! I am super interested in getting more experiences like these in the future and I hope to be able to have a chance to share so that others can be helped too!