depression

How to Pull Yourself Out of the Darkness

How to Pull Yourself Out of the Darkness

How often do we really pay attention to what our bodies are telling us? I have always been one to overexert and push myself way beyond my limits, and unfortunately it hasn’t been until lately that I’ve really started to listen to my body. No matter how much it may make me feel like I can’t do this or that, I know that I am not shirking my responsibilities, but I am doing it for my better self. Also, it’s important not only for my physical health but also my mental health. As someone who has dealt with/is dealing with the darkness of depression, I often forget just how fragile my mind can be. Did you know, for example, that stress alone can be harmful to your physical body? It actually weakens your heart, causing many problems, the most common being a heart attack. But that barely scratches the surface—hair loss, loss of appetite, weight gain, and fatigue are all symptoms of stress.

As of late, I have been experiencing all of this. On top of all that, I have also been very tempted to go back to my deepest, darkest days, to go back down that rabbit hole and revert back to my old habits that I thought were helping me but I know were only making things worse. I find myself going through the same thoughts, which I’m sure I’m not alone in thinking: What do I do? How do I make it stop? And wanting it all to just go away. For all the times I have said these things to myself, one thing I always reminded myself is that I’ve come this far. I made it through so much worse. Yes, I still feel pain and sadness, but I see the light; no matter how faded, I see it. I  remind myself to think of all I have fought for—personally, and emotionally.

All that being said I wanted to share how I climb out of my darkness, my hole.  It’s a rough fight, I won’t lie. I often start very small and go through the things I feel thankful for. For me it helps to not actually think of myself, but to think of all the other people in the world and all the things they might be going through. I recently had a conversation with a homeless person that left me almost angry with myself for having these feelings. Here was this wonderful man before me with not a touch of sadness in his eyes. He was living a better life than I was at that moment and I was ashamed to be thinking less of myself.

I often also think of all the other horrible things that are going on in the world that haven’t actually touched me personally. I guess you could say I try to make myself feel small in this large, large world, and that gives me a sense of space to allow myself to breathe again. After I don’t feel so surrounded and suffocated, I think of the personal things I have fought through in life, even if little. I get up every morning and realize I have two legs to stand on and am thankful for that. Despite the mental health and stress issues I face, overall I am healthy. Again, those are just the little things I think to myself that I know will mean something to me; everyone is different, and you may have a different perspective to take. When being thankful doesn’t seem to work, I turn to meditation. There are so many different kinds of meditation out there that you are bound to find one to help you. I have done multiple different ones and now seems I have a different variation for every mood.

Finally, something else I truly find that helps is an escape. If you can, try and get away for either an hour or maybe even a weekend. Thanks to my wonderful sister, I am often allowed to escape to her house across the country. Being with her and back home gives me time to myself and time to reflect on all the things that have been piling on over the months. I also love being in nature to reflect, calm, center, and strengthen myself. I highly encourage going out in nature to those who are struggling to find a way to feel like themselves. Go for a walk, go camping even. If you aren’t really an outdoors type, maybe just sitting on your porch for a little while can help.  “Me time” is always beneficial, and even though being alone with your thoughts can be scary, it may surprise you to learn what you can overcome on your own.

Lastly, I want to express how important is to talk to someone, be it a friend, a parent, professional or even me. The true path to healing has to start somewhere, and it doesn’t have to be a path you walk alone.

Posted by Jude in Hey Jude, Reflections, 0 comments
Jude: To Love Others, We Must First Love Ourselves

Jude: To Love Others, We Must First Love Ourselves

Hey, everyone!

It’s that season again; you may have already seen the ads on TV and radio. It’s engagement season! This might come as a shocker, but I loathe those ads. Yes, I am happily engaged at the moment, but that is not why I dislike these ads. To me, they put the focus on the wrong kind of love.

Back in the day, I was not always the happiest of people. I had just been dumped by my boyfriend, with whom I’d had a very serious relationship, and the only other person I cared about lived across the country. I wanted more than anything to be with the guy across the country; he was my best friend, and we talked all day, every day. He meant the world to me. But after a while, the distance became too much and he shut me out.

Around the same time, my parents began to put more and more pressure on me about what I should do with my future. With no plans to attend college and no summer plans, I began to doubt myself. I often felt that I could never live up to my parents’ standards. I also was trying to forget about the boy back home by trying to date. To little surprise to me, it just didn’t work. I constantly felt like the backup plan or the one who came in second.

Between not meeting my parents’ expectations and the constant rejections I received, my self-worth became basically non-existent. I truly believed I would never be good enough for anyone, not even on a miniscule level. These emotions and poisoning thoughts led to a much deeper part of my depression.  Granted, I feel it is important to say that I obviously worked through all of these issues and am much better now. However, I won’t lie—it took me until about two years ago to truly accept myself and to love myself.

I want to express the importance of really loving yourself, and to help you understand and feel that you’re not alone in feeling like it may take you a while. The best, most honest way I can advise on how to reach that level is by starting small. Keep a journal and remind yourself of one thing you do love about yourself, or even just like. Today we live in such a crazy world where everyone is constantly judged and being judged, and it is hard to find and reflect on the positive. Every time I found myself thinking or saying anything negative about myself I would try and be like; “But I guess I do like this.” It began there.

After years of doing this, I finally was able to start sticking up for myself and accepting that I am not perfect, but I am imperfectly perfect in my own way, as we all are. I often draw on the fact that I have survived the darkest of my days and sure, a day might seem bad and get me down, but not only have I been through worse, but tomorrow is another day. Every morning is a re-do for a bad day.

I finally arrived at my peak love for myself a few years ago while doing some personal reflection in the desert. I realized that if I’m not happy with a situation, I have the power to change it. Not only do I have that power—I deserve the change! It was a moment of epiphany for me. I was filled with such a wave of relief. I could suddenly see my future for the first time, and I was happy with whatever was in store. I truly knew that I deserved to be happy, and I actually felt that I loved myself.

Because of these new feelings, I was able to change so much in my life. Because I am able to encourage myself, I have more confidence. When I finally got through to this stage in my life, I felt like everything changed for the better. Loving yourself is often hard; we are our own worst critics. However, once you accept and learn to love yourself, your entire perspective on things changes for the better.  

I like to tell people to take a day and just do some reflection on yourself and your life—really take the time to think and process. Sometimes I feel like we don’t allow ourselves to do that, and that is a roadblock on the path to loving ourselves. As cliché as it may sound, it really is true that to love others, we must first love ourselves; personally, I used to hate that expression, but I can now see the truth in it. No one wants to be around someone who constantly turns down compliments, even the little ones, and who always has a negative outlook. They carry a sort of dark cloud around them and no one wants to be engulfed in that darkness. You may not notice your cloud because you’re so accustomed to it, but it affects the other person any relationship, and at times can make them doubt themselves. You can apologize and tell them, “It’s not you, it’s me,” but that still doesn’t eliminate the problem. Eventually the two people lose interest in pursuing the relationship. Or the one trying gives up because they simply grow tired of putting all the energy towards what they might call a lost cause. It’s a heartbreaking experience for each party involved and doesn’t help either person’s well-being.

All this is to say that no matter what the engagement ads tell us, loving yourself is the most important thing you can do. Take the time to practice self-love. The chain reaction that follows is a blessing we all deserve to experience!

Posted by Jude in Hey Jude, Reflections, 0 comments
Insights on The Paradox of Rational Depression

Insights on The Paradox of Rational Depression

It seems obvious to me why we call insights “pearls of wisdom.” Pearls form when an irritant intrudes on a mollusk, and the mollusk coats it with nacre until it becomes smooth, shiny, and valuable. In the same way, ideas enter our minds and niggle at the back of our consciousness until, over time, our minds polish them into something valuable.

My most recent pearl of wisdom intruded on me during a coaching session in August, when I expressed how hard it felt to do something, and Curious asked, “But does it have to be?”

At the time, that cued a weepy, defensive meltdown—I didn’t want to hear that the extent of my difficulties could possibly be my fault, because I already felt bad enough about them. But like a speck of dust in an oyster, his question stuck, and in the few months since then my mind has kept turning it over and over. Do things really have to be as hard as I make them?

Here’s the answer I’ve come up with: No. But also, sort of…yes.

I don’t hide the fact that I struggle with depression (in fact, sometimes it’s hard to get me to shut up about it). Thanks to prescription medication and a therapist, who is a goddess among men, I mostly have my depression under control, but sometimes it still sneaks up and ambushes me. For the most part, my depression manifests as a drop in mental capacity; I am no less capable of rational thought than on my good days, but everything, including thinking, becomes ten times more exhausting.

When I’m not depressed, I can recognize logically that I possess the capability to deal with the difficulties in my life, and I can act on that realization. If I have an unexciting project due, I know that I can (eventually) make myself complete it whether I want to or not. It’s like rolling a big boulder: not always easy, for sure, but possible with the proper application of force and willpower.

One of the most maddening aspects about my state of mostly-under-control is what happens when I hit a downswing. On my down days, I can still reach that logical realization of my own capability, but acting on it becomes a task of Sisyphean proportions. Completing my project is still possible, but overcoming my apathy becomes not only a much larger task than before, but often a downright repulsive one—when I’m super depressed, the idea of going back to functioning as normal feels physically uncomfortable. I still possess the ability to roll my boulder, but now I have to shift it uphill through knee-deep mud.

And yet, if I just got the right leverage and pushed harder, I could overcome that obstacle, too, right? Maybe I just don’t have enough resilience.

The problem in this case, as eloquently as I can describe it, is that when I am depressed, I am simultaneously Sisyphus (Wikipedia) and the muddy hill. The obstacle is my own brain chemistry, and while there are things I can do to optimize my brain chemistry, sometimes my brain throws me for a loop anyway.

Hence, what I think of as the Paradox of Rational Depression: I can always control how I respond to difficult situations…except for the times when I also can’t.

In both cases, all I have to do is apply the proper force and willpower, but during a depressive episode, the parameters change. The sort of thinking that would make a problem less stressful on a good day won’t always work on a bad day. However, I know that no matter my mental state, I always have the option to plot a new course or grab a bigger lever. Sometimes it’s just easier to stop pushing my boulder and wait until the mud dries up. There are choices available to me.

Everyone, to some degree, has an aspect of their life in which they get in their own way. I wish I could share the answer to this paradox and how to apply it to your own life, but I don’t yet have all the psychological and emotional tools I need to solve it (although between Curious and the goddess of therapy, I have a pretty good support team to help me get there). This is something I plan to keep working on, but if I discover any pearls of wisdom that are polished enough to share, I’ll post updates.

 

What is your Sisyphean task? Do you need help getting up your hill, or have suggestions for how to get out of your own way? Let us know at hello@protagonist.life!

Posted by Calligraphie in Reflections
What I Have Learned from Frustration

What I Have Learned from Frustration

“How does that person view this?” That question has been on my mind lately. The more people I interact with, the more that question seems to come up. And, more importantly, the more relevant it becomes.

I work as a project manager for a software company by day. This puts me in touch with many different people—those who work within the same company as me, and also a number of our customers. Now, as a project manager, I need to understand two sides of an equation: on the one hand, I need to be conscious of my what my company wants, and on the other, what the customer wants. My job is to “be an advocate for the customers I work with” and the process has taught me a lot.

Occasionally, my internal team has been frustrated because we have done everything we can (and more) for a certain customer, but the customer is still unhappy. Circumstances like these have prompted me to start being more conscious of what others may be dealing with. In one case, a customer receives a ton of pressure from their executives, which was why it felt like nothing we ever did was good enough. I had a discussion with them about that feeling, where I was completely open about how my team felt. Our frustrations coupled with the feedback we were getting was not doing good things for morale, let me tell you!

During that conversation, I was reminded of the importance of perspective and the lenses through which each of us view the world around us. We choose some of our own lenses, consciously or not, while some lenses are chosen for us. Our elders, mentors, and bosses all have their own lenses too. The only difference there is that they have the influence and ability to impress those lenses onto others. Now, when I say that some lenses are chosen for us, I mean just that—like it or not, we have to look at things in certain ways because others want us to see them that way, whether the reason is money or some other influencing factor.

Let’s get back to my story. As an outcome of the conversation with that customer, they were perfectly willing to discuss morale not just on my side, but theirs as well. We outlined the criteria needed to achieve success and could then go pursue it. As I write this, that customer and I are still not out of the woods yet, but just having that understanding has gone a long way! My team and the customer’s team are both more focused and able to communicate better because we took a moment to understand each other’s “lenses.”

Lately, I’ve talked with a couple people about depression and anxiety. I’ve had the good fortune to have my life enriched by people who deal with these conditions, from whom I’ve learned a lot. I consider these to be lenses that we don’t get to choose—be they yours or another’s. As far as my limited understanding goes, these chemical imbalances choose our lens for us and can create quite some misunderstandings with folks who are less considerate or empathic. The biggest lesson to come out of my relationships with my friends and colleagues with depression or anxiety is one of patience. Personally, I live in a clockwork world of logic and almost Swiss efficiency, and I must admit that when something does not have logic to it, I end up extremely frustrated, mostly because I want to be able to help, or at least to understand. The second biggest lesson is that sometimes others just want to be heard without judgement or fear.

My intent with this post is not to confuse business with serious matters like depression or anxiety. My point is that we could all benefit from a dose of consciousness in our day-to-day lives. As our attention gets pulled in more directions by technology and information continues to move faster than ever, it is easy to lose sight of one’s own needs, much less those of others. Next time you catch a look of disgust aimed your way or feel that you don’t really understand where someone is coming from, give that some thought. Chances are, things can be straightened out with a little time and an ounce of patience.

Posted by Curious in Reflections, 0 comments