True Blue

I have written a lot things about the art of being happy, and read 10 times more than what I’ve wrote. The conclusions that I had drawn to in the past were what had worked for me. What works for me is due to my life experiences and meeting with the right tool at the right time.

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In the past all I used to hear was CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy) was the way to go for anxiety and/or depression. Now it’s mindfulness. Although I believe that these suggestions are coming from the right place, I have to ask when a suggestion is made for someones mental health is it one size fits all? We have to use the toolbox provided to us, and know which one is the best for which person and which situation.

The Toolbox I have so far:

  1. Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) – This is used to help a person understand that it isn’t necessarily the situation that is upsetting. It is the person’s interpretation of that situation of that situation that is causing the stress/anxiety/depression. Please read more here. Some great grounding questions from Tara Brach:
    • “What is true now?
    • What is asking for attention?
    • What is asking for acceptance?”
  2. Mindfulness – This is all about being in the present moment, and reconnecting with our bodies, sights, smells, touch etc. For example when we are in the shower we are actually in the shower, and not thinking about the meeting we have later on. With mindfulness we are able to bring ourselves back into the present moment. This helps us notice our thoughts as a “good” or “bad” thought, rather than becoming emotionally invested. This is normally achieved by meditation.
  3. Flow – Some theorist state that to question whether you are happy, means that you are effectively not happy. If you are happy you are in the flow of the world. For example if you are playing the piano (painting, listening to podcasts, reading etc), you are not thinking about money troubles or if you are hungry. You are simply in “flow”.
  4. Nature – I cannot put into words why this works, but being outside makes me feel peaceful. When I don’t see a soul and I’m out on the hills, I oddly let my thoughts wash off me. I often think that the more effort you put into your happiness, the more you will get back.
  5. Less interaction with Technology – Anyone will recommend that you should have social media timing locks on your phone (you can access this in your settings). Turn your sound and vibration notification off if you can (trust me you will still see it light up). Leave your phone out of the room if you are watching a film. Do you ever look up and realise you have just spent half an hour on instagram? That’s time you will never get back.

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Some of the above might not work for you. But that doesn’t mean you should completely give up. There are other areas you can try (such as counselling, peer support therapy e.g. mind or frazzled). Keep trying till you find one that fits. After a while you might be like me and just not give a fuck….But in a good way

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I of The Storm

I have a block of memory missing from my brain. Doctors, therapists and friends say “it’s your body protecting you from a traumatic event”. It’s not that simple to me.

The charred memories I have, are like me watching a movie of a fake twin sister. It’s haunting and unsettling. – But it Happened

I watch my minds eye look in the mirror, and touch the bruises on my neck. It looks like me, but it doesn’t feel right. – But it Happened

I remember the police officer telling me that in court they were going to make me look like a liar (because I couldn’t remember). – But it Happened

I remember him coming into the club and refusing to leave, whilst I had a restraining order. – It Happened

I am just about coming to terms with the flashbacks, the non linear story line, the feeling of not being present. Part of me wants to open pandoras box, and sit and watch what happened to me from end to end. I am scared if I did, my pandora’s box wouldn’t have hope in it.

I have been scared to write to this because I don’t have a solution. Which is always my issue, I search for perfection.

 

Ghost of a Good Thing

When you have depression perfection seems like nirvana.

This is pretty close to perfection right?

  • Having 2.4 children.
  • Immaculate house
  • Be in the presence of Dave Grohl
  • No money issues
  • Boss that isn’t a dickhead
  • …Colleagues that aren’t dickheads
  • Having a loving, passionate, safe relationship

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When we don’t have this we feel either society nags, or own internal poor mental nags us at 3am. A growing list of things we don’t have. Or things we could have. (A could or should list). Depression is like an abuser. It will single you out at the dead of night, and make you feel like you should feel ashamed. Instead of sheep, you will go to sleep counting these worries.

The biggest piece of advice I can give is to talk to someone about it. As no one has all boxes checked. So they will be more understanding than you think. For the people that listen, always just listen. Never compare. Just because you might have had it worse doesn’t give you the right to invalidate that persons experience.

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I’m not here to say “Don’t worry about it”. As we both know… that doesn’t fucking work. I’m here to say, we are all imperfect. We will all die with unfinished to do lists, and it’s the journey that makes us happy not necessarily the achievement.

To quote Theodore Roosevelt “Comparison is the thief of joy

I Could See for Miles, Miles and Miles

Focus is everything to me. It can be my worst nightmare or my greatest asset. Without focus I am at the mercy of my emotions. When I’m on top of my emotional rollercoaster it almost feels like I slip into a rhythm:

Don’t think just write

Don’t think just reply

Don’t read just write

Don’t read just reply

Pure emotion flies by

I don’t know what I said, I don’t know why.

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Focus to me comes in ways that I never thought would happen 10 years ago.

At work I shut off email notifications at work, and I’m completely immersed in some geeky spreadsheet, with music playing in my ears. My mind isn’t wandering because I’m totally involved in that task. I don’t feel a sudden pang of stress because emails (or as I like to call it “other people’s to do lists”) are flooding in.

At home I write, and my brain doesn’t have the capacity to think about anything else other than writing. (Not that I’m happy, sad or hungry). Whether that’s journaling or getting something down for this. Or once a week I trail run. Although I have prodigy in my ears throughout most of the run, I pause “smack my bitch up” and take in the view. Being able to live in the silence, and be thankful that I have this time to take in the beauty that is around me. Years ago, I would have done anything to distract myself from the silence. I would have picked up my phone and scrolled through facebook. It’s strange that the one thing I was so scared of, is my salvation.

The silence used to be full of my anxious thoughts:

“You’re not good enough”

“You’re not pretty enough”

“You made a mistake there”

The silence is finally a place where those thoughts pop like a bubble. Outside I can see for miles, and miles and can see past these thoughts into the future. Where they don’t matter.

 

Rechargemas

I used to think Christmas was something was something you had to endure. The forced smiles of greeting uncle knobheads, and having families cross boundaries like they are doing the hopscotch. I used to feel inadequate that I wasn’t an exact blue print of everyone else. That the same things didn’t make me happy anymore. I don’t drink wine, and I don’t “do things for the gram”.

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So yeah, I did something. I spent the first Christmas on my own. At first I was thinking, “Oh God I’m going to be so lonely, I’m going to cry so hard I’m going to spend Boxing Day building an ark”.

Well it was fucking fantastic. I had a day free from social media, free from noise, free to go trail running (which gives me so much peace and inner calm), free from the shouting, free from the fake smiles. I was free. I have now renamed Christmas, Rechargemas.

I don’t think I want to go back. What I’ve learnt is:

  • Boundaries: Have clear boundaries with families. Don’t let them “should” all over you at Christmas.
  • Challenge: Challenge what “should” happen at Christmas
  • Permission: Give yourself permission to say “No”
  • Well Being: Your Well being is number 1 at Christmas
  • Communicate: Let your family and friends know you need quiet time at Christmas.

(Taken from the Mental Health Foundation)

Challenging the norms is the only way that people can feel that isn’t shameful to want to do things differently. That it’s ok, to not be an extrovert. That it’s ok to take some time for yourself, to recharge. That it’s ok to be yourself. Especially at Christmas.

Give Up

I feel that society feeds off telling you that you don’t have enough of one, or the other of these two things:

  1. Money
  2. Looks

Money… Well… More money more problems? We can all go for the rat race, piss off Brenda who sends a few too many “as per my last email” messages, and get that promotion. At the end of the day, that anxiety of ensuring you are heard in every meeting… There is a ceiling to that self actualisation. Or you can just go full gold digger. But let’s facing… always letting the other person win in a fight. That’s going to be demanding!

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Society will tell you, that you need to cover those spots. You can’t wear that old t shirt that you love. You can’t wear anything too outside the box (God forbid we stand out from our preformed tribes). We can’t have tattoos and shave our heads… Or can we? I’ve lost track of what is cool and what isn’t now. This endless checking leaves me feeling breathless. I can almost feel the anxiety of being on the podium of social stardom. Waiting to get knocked off by the next fashion blogger who thinks pink fluffy socks are the next big thing.

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If we feel that we don’t have the looks, then we sacrifice parts of ourselves until we are on par with the person with good looks. I’ve walked on that balance beam, given away my pride, my dignity and my safety. Until I felt like I wasn’t myself anymore. I had to ctrl-alt-delete after that. It almost felt like tetris. I’d won but I’d lost a line of myself. It took a lot of lost walks and long drives to find myself again. But I did, and now when I get up to that moment, my body freezes (like a spinning wheel on a computer). I just breath and reboot.

 

Bunny in a Bunny Suit

Something happened to me today. I remembered a ghost that haunted me as it was/is a true reflection of me. This woman’s face had a poker smile that would fool most, and when she thought no one was looking it fell, and I could see her true feelings of despair, loss and pain. When I saw it, it hit me so hard. My emotions were sailing on tranquil waters, no one warned me of this huge iceberg tearing my insides apart. I had an overwhelming sense to help, and the feeling of wanting to wallow that pain with her. When your wallowing in that indescribable pain, its like wallowing in shit. The small things like what clothes your wearing, when that works due, don’t matter anymore.

You see, after you’ve been through this, you start to give less of a crap about perception. As you know things aren’t always as they seem.

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In these times relationships matter more and more. They are your anchor into reality. At first I didn’t want that anchor, I just wanted to disappear. So my thoughts would disappear too. I don’t mean about every single person you come across. Those relationships that matter, and that bring out intensity around your emotions. The people that you immediately think about in the face of adversity.

The most important is taking that time out to be by yourself. I don’t mean finding the perfect wall light from Wayfair to go by your bed. I mean finding that time to put your phone down and learning to quiet your mind. I fought this quiet time, because I feared it unleashed pandora’s box. I feared it wasn’t the answer, and if it wasn’t then what was?Each time I go outside and sit in simplicity I feel more alive. This place brings breath, and light. If we all came to this place more often then what a world it would be.

The Past Don’t Ever Quit

They should sell my feelings to an anaesthetist, because I can feel numb for days. Nevertheless I continue to drive round in circles on ring roads. Some days I run into people who so wild they cannot be tamed. Their emotions tear out of them so hard that they have to drop the mask other people hold up. These people keep me, themselves and others around them alive.

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My parents told me I should be ready for greatness, and I was ready to go toe to toe with anyone to take that away from me. I would scream and lash out like a baby whose had candy taken from it. Slowly I realised this rat race of the job, the marriage the house isn’t what it’s cracked up to be. People walk around in this numb facade asking what car you have, where you live. Soon enough I realised I wanted out of this coma.

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Now whenever I’m upset about losing something materialistic (a job/an item) I think about these questions (A New Earth)

  • “Do you realise you will have to let go of x at some point?
  • How much more time do you need before you can let go of it?
  • Will you become less when you let go of it?
  • Has you who are become demonised by the loss?”

More often than not, if whatever it is doesn’t matter in 5 years, then it doesn’t matter at all. We cling onto old birthday cards, valentines cards, awful memories and make room for them in our minds. Note they are there before you do a spring cleaning of your mind.

Literally: “what was I thinking”?

Where is my mind?

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Perfection is something that I have battled with for a long time. Whether that’s people pleasing, or finding the absolute perfect life solution to some life road block. This always leads to listening to that static in my head. The noise is incessant and never ending, it follows me like my shadow through meetings, and into my bed at night. I tuck myself in and hear the whispers of: “well you should have done it this way…you could be missing out on this”. The static after a while becomes deafening.

I’ve taken an extract from ‘The Wisdom of Sunday’s’ to illustrate the mind:

“The mind is like an ocean. (Sometimes it’s calm, and sometimes it’s like a tsunami.) To try and befriend it at the top of its waves is like trying to put a plate on water. Instead you must drop down underneath your anxiety/anger. You will then find awareness that understands this anxiety. Compassion arises out of this that will understand the interconnectedness. After all we aren’t out of our minds, we are out of our awareness.”

Our static is the top of the waves, and we all converse with them every day. In the end a gentle awareness and understanding of the static can help lessen it. For example, my static would say “this guy left you because you’re too boring”. However, if I drop down underneath I can see that this is just anxiety trying to draw me in. Like a bubble to be popped I acknowledge it stops (after a lot of practice).

One great way to check that you aren’t in the static is to check:

“The next time you are in the shower… Are you really in the shower?” (A Wisdom of Sundays).

When you are showering, are you thinking about a great punchline of an argument you had last week? Or how your workday will go that day? If you are in the shower, learn to be there… Feel the water on you, watch the water flow around the plug hole, wrap yourself up in a nice fluffy towel afterwards. Learn to just be.

The one big realisation I have had is that no one is making me feel a certain way. I choose to let that be a part of my static. So the only person standing in my way of getting away from these thoughts… is me.

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Take Time & Find

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This quote always sits with me as it:

  • Drives me to question my pain
  • Drives me to question people’s intentions
  • Drives me to question my intentions
  • Drives me to question what is true here
  • Takes away my fortune teller mindset

I don’t believe in a man that sits above in the clouds and watches over me. But I do believe in fate. As I was writing this blog, and struggling for a good week of what to say (I was also at a low for a while). I stumbled across this passage from Michael A Singer and it put it all in perspective for me.

“Imagine if you have a thorn that directly touches a nerve. So much so, that anything that comes near it causes a disturbance. You have two choices:

  1. Avoid anything that touches that thorn
  2. Take it out”

Michael A Singer

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We all try to build our lives around our thorns. Whether that’s relationships, social lives, working lives. If anyone goes near our sore spot, we do what we normally do in pain. We lash out, or we run away. Fight or flight. Our thorns then become someone else’s thorns. Our lashings out then become someone else’s bad memory (or their thorn). It’s like the least fun game of Chinese whispers.

If you feel that someone has touched a thorn, relax and lean away from it. Give your body space to push it out itself. Try not to get involved with your brains “you aren’t good enough” chatter. That isn’t you talking. That is your fear. Soon your brain will have a moment of clarity around that thorn. That moment in peace… It’s so hard to describe… It’s like I finally feel connected even though I’m the only one there to experience it.