Posted in Life Lessons

Elusive Panacea & Tragedy

Today’s post is in response to WordPress’s Daily Prompt: Panacea.

All humans can agree that our world is full of difficulty and disease, but the concept of something that would cure all of our ailments and mend all of our troubles seems like the beginning of science fiction novel where the reader will immediately begin wondering: what’s the catch?  If there were a solution that fixed everything, wouldn’t we have found it by now?

I think panacea is an idealistic illusion. It’s something that everyone would want, but would require sacrifices we would not be willing to make. I imagine that the necessary sacrifice would be our individuality. It’s both what makes us human and what prevents us from reaching a panacea.

The tragedy that happened in Texas this Sunday killing more than two dozen is something that could have been prevented. If you’d like to debate that fact please do so elsewhere, I won’t be engaging in that conversation.

I’d instead like to focus on one of the reasons why these events keep recurring in America while other countries like Australia effectively ended mass shootings decades ago.

When it comes to reforming gun laws many Americans immediately think of something being taken away from them. Beyond that initial fear they are paranoid about what the government will do after reforming gun laws: the possibility of more of their ‘freedoms’ being ‘violated’. The concern for life is immediately eclipsed by our need for individualism and we fall back into the same pattern: tragedy > outcry for gun reform > outrage at possibility of gun reform > no reform > tragedy.

We’re trapped in this stubborn cycle and there doesn’t seem to be a way out. I know I’m not alone in feeling so hopeless and helpless. What can we do about it? I can’t lie, I’m normally not one to call my representative directly unless all the information is laid out for me (after writing this I looked it up, it is SO easy through Call Your Rep). I have tried to boycott companies before, but have gotten lazy. I found a list of companies that support the NRA for boycotting, but most of them aren’t relevant to me.

What can we do about it? We can stop fighting each other on social media. The change we need isn’t going to be coming from the comments section of a news article or from an insightful post shared to your followers. We aren’t getting any closer to a solution when we rip one another apart. Instead of sharing your fury online, share it with your representative or share it with the companies you support. Leave your social media for funny memes, cute pictures, and compassion.

Will we ever find a panacea? No, but we can always do better.

 

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Posted in Free Time Fun, Life Lessons

How to Get Shit Done When You’re Depressed

I do not want to do ANYTHING when I am depressed. The alarm clock in the morning is a startling reminder of another monotonous day that I did not ask for, but am forced to suffer through in order to remain a loosely functioning human being. I spend the entire day fantasizing about being back in bed under the covers, surrounded by cats, staring blankly at the wall. I dread the moment when my eyes close and it begins all over again.

It’s times like these I can give myself credit for continuing to shower regularly. Seriously. When my entire body and mind are weighted with this miserable fog the simplest of things become major successes: getting out of bed, completing chores, and making it to class are just a few.

So, what happens with bigger things like event commitments, social gatherings and creative projects? Cancelled and stalled. And guess what failing there does? Deepens the depression. It’s a vicious cycle. My therapist has been challenging me to go through with things. She encourages me to acknowledge the physical pain/mental fog and keep moving forward despite it. I was resistant to this, how would it work? What if I go and am more miserable than I was before? How can I be around people when I feel so broken?

I now know why she wanted me to do this: going through with it makes me feel so strong. Yes I am miserable. Yes I would rather be in bed. Yes the first thought that crossed my mind when I woke up was death. Yes everything sucks and probably will still suck tomorrow…. BUT THAT DIDN’T STOP ME!

On Halloween I wrestled with the Chicago MudQueens! Tonight I am going to see The Used at Aragon Ballroom. Tomorrow morning I’ll be doing yoga and attending a free wellness seminar on the Mag Mile. Sunday I’m gathering with a group of dear friends for our annual Friendsgiving. If you had asked me about these events two weeks ago I would not have been excited. I would have felt overwhelmed, anxious and stressed. It felt like too much, but it doesn’t anymore.

Not only does my strength and confidence grow with each plan I make and keep, but I can experience these moments of blissful relief from the heaviness that comes with depression. There are moments where I am filled with incredible peace, happiness, and gratitude. I’m in awe of how simultaneously I can experience soul crushing sadness and heartwarming joy.

As it is with many of my topics “doing it anyway” is not news. Psych Central has a great post that goes over some helpful Strategies For Getting Things Done When You’re Depressed. The one that resonated the most with me is to make decisions for yourself, not to make decisions around your depression. If you’re looking for a longer read on this topic check out Get It Done While You’re Depressed by Julie Fast.


P.S. Thank you to my talented friend Danielle McKay for spending a few hours of her Saturday night covering the basement at Reggie’s with plastic wrap and painting my face. Didn’t it look amazing?!

Posted in Free Time Fun

Another Mood.

I am still riding out a bout of intense depression and couldn’t muster the strength for a real post. Instead I started playing with words, words beginning with the letter o. I challenged myself to create a poem with o-words expressing my current state of feeling. I think it turned out quite nicely and maybe the positive spin here is that even if I feel like garbage, I can still find some fun playing with words and expressing myself.

OVERCOME

overwhelmed openly observed

obviously obfuscating outcome

obscured oxygen oozing organism

obnoxious obsession overact

opposite outlook ominous

obtuse obtrusive offensive

odd obscene outcast

Posted in Life Lessons

Am I Doing Friendship Right?

Without exception every single day in our digital age we need to interact with other human beings. Most times the people we interact with aren’t even the one’s we care about. When we finally get to those we love we need to listen, respond, follow up, make plans, keep plans, check in…. it can be daunting. I constantly find myself asking the question: Am I doing this right? 

I frequently worry that I’m not doing enough and the reality is that I’m probably not. I’m an introvert by nature so it’s difficult enough for me to approach people in general, let alone keep up with the delicate process of building and keeping a healthy relationship. I forget to call, respond to texts, make plans, or worst of all if I’m feeling extra anxious or depressed I’ll cancel plans last minute. Should I just face the fact that I’m a bad friend?

Often I wholeheartedly agree that I am a bad friend, but today I’m going to take a stab at playing devil’s advocate: maybe I experience friendship in a nontraditional way. Don’t get me wrong, most of the behaviors described in the last paragraph are destructive and have/will continue to damage relationships. And I can understand why.

At least once a year I go through an outgoing phase where I make tons of plans and try to connect with lots of people. Inevitably I am faced with last minute cancellations and unanswered calls or texts. I try my best not to be hurt, but I am and in that moment I understand exactly how I make others feel when I cancel plans or fail to return messages. It sucks, but things happen and sometimes plans fall through or people get distracted.

Maybe sometimes we’re all bad friends, so instead of focusing on my failings I can focus on how I can be a better friend, but how does one go about leveling up in friendship? I know that I’m a broken record, but it seems the answer lies once again with mindfulness. Sophie Dembling asks some good questions in her post for Psychology Today:

“What is our role in creating intimacy in our relationships? And what roadblocks might we put in our own way? In what ways do you feel you “can’t” contribute more to the relationship?”

Dembling’s questions should get you started on a good path. Instead of evaluating relationships in your life piece by piece, start thinking about relationships as a whole, the elements involved and how they function.

Another reason we fail to connect with our friends is because we are just too busy. Life moves at hyperspeed now and sometimes there isn’t enough time to take a breath, let alone remember to reach out. The tips in this Fast Company  article are clear and seem easy enough to implement, particularly practicing random acts of kindness.

I’ve thought about bringing the Pen Pal tradition back with friends it’s harder to meet up with so we still have a space to connect that isn’t as easy to tune out of like social media or texting. Will I ever get to it? Maybe, maybe not, but at least I’m trying!

If you’re curious if you might be a bad friend check out this article from Vincent Nygen that goes over eight different warning signs.


This is a side note on how grateful I am for the friends that I do have. Yesterday was hell for me. My mood plummeted and I couldn’t seem to stop crying and pull myself out of it. I was insecure about all the relationships in my life, questioning everything I have ever done… I was so ready to call it quits. My bestie texted me later that day to tell me she was there for me and it brightened me up enough to make it through. I don’t know what I would do with that woman, but once the appreciation wore off the insecurity that I don’t reciprocate enough and don’t deserve her friendship began to consume me again.The dark cloud of doubt, sadness and insecurity threatened to stick with me today, but another observant friend was determined to snap me out of it and she succeeded:

20171026_133606

I’m 100% sure I do not deserve this awesomeness and it’s so tempting for me to feel guilty that she went out of her way for me when I’m not worth it, but I keep telling my brain that is not the way to receive this support and love. I am so grateful and glad to have her in my life. I am excited to see how our friendship will evolve over the next few decades and will do my best to spoil her and the other friends in my life with my own random acts of kindness ❤.

Posted in Life Lessons

#MeToo: What is it DOING?

This past week we have been bombarded with reports of harassment and assault that were buried in favor of preserving the power of manipulative, coercive, dangerous, and abusive individuals. As both a reader and someone who can relate it left me feeling really helpless. There were all of these reports and minimal action. Action that only occurred after it was clear the public wasn’t going to let the trauma Harvey Weinstein inflicted be swept away with the next headline.

Enter Alyssa Milano’s poignant tweet, continuing what Tarana Burke began:

I think she knew before putting it out there that almost every other women alive (if not all of us) has at one point or another experienced some form of sexual harassment or assault. I don’t think she knew how powerful #MeToo would become and neither did I, but then it started spilling over into every form of social media I used. There was/is no escape from the thousands of women who share similarly painful stories.

For a while I debated whether or not I should join and post the two words uniting so many. Leave it to Nikki Nigl’s ABOUT WOMEN to give me the answer I needed. She posts a question of the day every single day and for her 701st question she asked the group how they felt about the #MeToo movement. Some women struggled with what I did. They wanted to speak up too, but did not want to deal with inquiries on the incident from well meaning friends and family. Others felt it was pointless, what was the point of us confirming what we already knew? Others felt that it was important to expand the movement to men who also experience sexual harassment and assault. Others felt it was important to keep it as something for solely women. I appreciated every single one and chimed in myself:

It’s forced me to confront a lot of my own feelings on the matter. Never spoke a word of any of it, mostly because I blamed myself and made excuses for them as I had seen other women do my entire life. As far as change, I think it will help some women find their voice with the support of other women. Even if it’s as little as me realizing I have to stop blaming myself for something that was never my fault and that so many go through, isn’t that worth it?

And then I posted it. I waited anxiously for the world to crumble around me, but it didn’t. Instead I saw more posts, more strength, and more collective healing through confirmation. What’s next? I don’t know, maybe nothing, but I’m hoping this conversation we’re having will lead to some sort of revolution that will change the way women in our society are treated.

 

Posted in Free Time Fun, Life Lessons

Comedy Can Be Cathartic

Pain is often expressed through art. We can point to exhibitions of torment across almost all mediums, but comedy is an area where it’s still uncomfortable to explore difficult topics. There’s a social understanding that certain topics are off limits. If a comedian speaks about loss, suicide, or their own mental illness there’s a chance that the joke is going to be met with awkward silence.

One reason is that the joke might not be funny (haha). More likely, though, the audience tensed up as soon as the subject matter was announced. We’re conditioned from a young age that these topics and feelings are meant to be worked out internally and go unspoken, but that isn’t healthy. There are many comedians that have been making efforts to add these ‘dark’ topics to their comedic routines.

I’ve mentioned Paul Gilmartin’s Mental Health Happy Hour (MHHH) in a previous post on podcasts and it’s worth bringing up again. No topic is off limits. People of all ages (over 18) and backgrounds come on the show and talk about the really dark things they have thought and experienced. And there’s laughter! A term of theirs I love is “awfulsome” and it’s something that is truly soul-crushing, but looking back on it there’s something kind of awesome about it, even if it’s just the riotous laughter that sometimes happens when one reflects on life experiences.

Anna Akana is a former guest of MHHH and one of my top five favorite humans. Her younger sister committed suicide at age thirteen and Akana actively advocates for suicide prevention. Whether it’s through skits on her YouTube channel, her larger creative work like Riley Rewind, or a regular part of her comedic routine she challenges us to talk about suicide and the darkness we can easily be consumed with. She has a book out called So Much I Want to Tell You: Letters to my Little Sister that I cannot wait to get my hands on during winter break.

Maria Bamford is my hero. She is an established stand up comedian, an incredible voice actor, and she’s the star of Lady Dynamite, a Netflix show she stars in that’s loosely based on her life experiences. Bamford has bipolar two and is open about her struggles with hypo-mania, depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, and her recent hospitalizations. On the show she whirls though dark lows to vivid surreal highs and everywhere in-between. It’s one of the first pop culture representations that has found a way to joke about mental illness without making mental illness the joke (if that makes sense). It’s also the hardest I’ve ever laughed, possibly because of how close I can relate. I’m grateful I’ve had the opportunity to listen to and watch someone with a similar diagnosis be so raw and honest.

I think what I’m getting at here is that pain no longer needs to be a solitary experience. If isolating during your troubles helps you process, that is amazing and I am not trying to take that away from you. I’m merely suggesting that there are plenty of people out there who don’t necessarily want to be alone while they are in pain or going through something, but have been so culturally reinforced that it’s something they need to do alone. You don’t need to be alone, we can suffer together and find the laughter in the lows.

Posted in Free Time Fun, Life Lessons

Hour of You

I challenge you to spend one hour each day in November focusing on your dreams. Why? In conversations lately I’ve been running into people who get themselves stuck in the same situation that I find myself in now. There are so many things that we WANT to do, but when we get home from work/school/social obligations we readily let go of those things we hunger for and settle for the quick escape that presents itself instantly in the form of television, movies, and social media. It makes me wonder what we could accomplish if we spent the first hour we got home tuning into ourselves.

You might be wondering what that looks like and I don’t have an exact answer for you. For me it’s going to be writing as my dream is to one day be a published author. Here are some questions that will help you determine how a daily action can bring you closer to achieving your dreams: What are your dreams? What is a goal that you have wanted to accomplish, but never had enough time for? What are your values and morals? What do you want your life to look like in 5 years? In 10 years? What’s something you’ve wanted to do that you never allowed yourself to believe was possible?

If there isn’t anything you want to work on that’s fine, but you should still take an hour to be present with yourself. Spend some time meditating, go for a walk, journal, the options are endless. Who knows, maybe when you’re taking this time a desire or passion that you weren’t aware of might present itself! For more on the power of connecting with yourself check out this interesting read on Wired written by Robert Wright: How Mindfulness Meditation Can Save America.