Big Life Changes

I made a big life change recently. I quit my job. Despite the fact that it had become a toxic environment and is a huge reason my mental health took such a huge hit this last year it was a hard decision to make because I was comfortable there. There have been several other times in my life where I remained in toxic or abusive relationships because, as horrible as it was, it was comfortable. I think many of us have done the same.

There is a fear of the unknown. Sometimes it is easier to stick with what we know even when it is unhealthy for us. It can be toxicity, emotional abuse, physical abuse, lying, manipulation in all kinds of relationships—work, family, friendship, romantic. We may stay because it’s all we know. We may stay because we feel like we deserve to be abused. We may stay because it’s scary to leave. But there is something better. We deserve better. And we can do hard, scary things.

 In the end, I’m glad I left because it was the right thing to do. Even though there was a time I loved my job and there are people I am going to miss so much, I needed to do this. For my own mental health I needed it. It takes courage to step into the unknown, even when it is going away from something terrible. But I believe we all have courage within us. We can do it. We can take care of ourselves. And we can be happy.

PTSD and EMDR

Back in March I went through an incredibly traumatic experience that gave me Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. I had never experienced this before. Living with PTSD the last several months has been hellish, heavy and dark. I didn’t completely understand what was going on until I started going to counseling. My amazing therapist was the one who recognized the signs and symptoms and why certain things were triggering such horrible and immediate panic attacks.

You know that saying, Time heals all wounds? It’s not true. Time can help, but it doesn’t just end the suffering. I hoped time would help with the PTSD, but it didn’t. I needed something more. Enter EMDR. After even the first session, it started to help. Now, after three sessions and a couple of months of counseling the things triggering my PTSD are no longer affecting me—at all! Sometimes the EMDR can be really heavy, as you dive into those difficult, traumatic events and the feelings associated with them. But it also gave me the tools I needed to recover. It may sound too good to be true, but it is true. It has worked, and I feel so much more light, hope and happiness in my life.

As I have often stated in my posts, everyone is different and what works for one person may not work for someone else. But you’ll never know unless you try. My therapist has said it takes courage to admit you need help and courage to actually get help. I’m glad I had the courage because it has changed my life already. For anyone out there who is suffering from PTSD, there is hope. You have the courage inside of you. I know you do. Give EMDR a try. If it doesn’t work, keep looking. Time probably won’t just heal it, but there are things out there that can.

Learning How to Stop Holding Grudges

Sometimes we learn from our own mistakes and experiences. Sometimes we learn from other’s mistakes and experiences. One thing I learned from someone else was how holding onto grudges and pain from the past destroys joy. I learned I don’t want to hold onto grudges.

There’s this woman I knew who could hold a grudge like nobody’s business. She was the queen of grudges! There were times she would talk to me about things people said to her in high school that really hurt her. She would talk about it as if it were yesterday and still held onto all that hurt, pain, resentment and anger 40 years later! I consistently saw her using up so much energy holding grudges and holding onto things that had happened long ago. I saw how it turned her into this bitter, unhappy person. I realized life is too short and precious to waste any of my time or energy on that. That doesn’t mean I never get hurt or upset, but I let things go and move on. This has helped me maintain a better state of mind and more happiness and peace in my life.

This goes hand in hand with forgiveness and what forgiveness is and is not. Forgiveness doesn’t mean forgetting. I once heard someone say that short of brain surgery there’s no way you can just forget a hurtful or horrible thing someone has done to you. What it does mean is that the original feeling associated with that person dissipates until we no longer feel it.

Forgiveness does NOT mean going back to or staying in an abusive or toxic relationship. The relationship I had with this woman was very toxic and unhealthy. Since getting out of that relationship I am a much happier, more independent and confident person. I think remembering what this person did to me is important in keeping me from going back and getting abused and misused again. However, when I think of this person I have no negative feelings. I never wish anything bad on her. I don’t feel sad, angry or hurt when I think of her, and I even pray for her and those around her. I have forgiven, moved on and also kept my mental and emotional well-being in tact.

Holding on to things can eat away at us and feeds into anxiety, depression and OCD. Talking things out or being able to step away from our own self-interests to look at things from someone else’s perspective are great ways to move on and rid ourselves of grudges. This also helps with forgiveness, which really can do wonders for our mental health.

Finding Peace by Knowing Who You Are

I used to be a dreamer. I had so many dreams when I was in high school—dreams that couldn’t happen where I was. I couldn’t wait to graduate and move away to college because that is where my dreams were going to come true. So I moved away to college and expected all the things that couldn’t happen before to happen. I expected the people to be different. I expected my dreams to come true. But they didn’t. None of the things I had planned, expected or dreamed happened. And I became extremely depressed. So depressed that I decided to take a semester off and move back home.

I remember there was this one day, as I was trying to figure things out, that I finally realized it wasn’t the place, it was me. I just needed to change my perspective and my attitude. So I resolved to go back to the same college with no expectations other than to have fun and be happy. And you know what? That’s exactly what I did. I had fun, and I was happy—very happy!

I recently found this quote by Eckhart Tolle in his book Stillness Speaks that says, “You find peace not by rearranging the circumstances of your life, but by realizing who you are at the deepest level.” Sometimes we think changing our circumstances, like I did with moving, is what will bring us the happiness we’ve been wanting for so long. We think that is what will make all our dreams come true, but I have found that the greatest peace and happiness you can have is by understanding who you truly are and acting according to that—and you can do that no matter where you are.

Coming Back to Hope

There are so many thoughts racing through my brain right now. I hope I can get it all out in at least a semi-coherent way.

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I spent the evening looking for new cars. I came home to an empty house (my kids are with their dad), and I hate the feeling of being here all alone all evening and night, so I went to a movie. It was almost midnight by the time the movie got over, but I just couldn’t bring myself to go home. Instead, I drove around the streets of my home town with the windows down and the music cranked. Alice in Chains, Stone Temple Pilots, Soundgarden are some of the bands that came on the radio. Music from my youth. It was so nice just cruising around, belting out my tunes. The only thing that would have made it better would have been to have someone there with me. I tried not to dwell on that, knowing the loneliness that would ensue could overtake me, and I didn’t want that. Dating/relationships are hard. I think it’s harder now than the last time I was doing it, before I got married. Add mental illness on top of that, and it adds even more stress to the equation. Maybe I’ll talk about that later. It’s one of the things I’ve been wanting to write about, but right now, before my tired mind unravels (like the sweater in that song by Weezer—yeah that came on, too!) I’d like to focus on the idea of hope—again.

Last night I was talking to a friend, who has also been divorced. I told him it had been a year now. I’ve been divorced/a single parent for a year. He told me the first year is always the hardest. “That’s good to know,” I said. “That means I can make it.”

I have hit some of the lowest points of my life this last year, but I have also had some incredible highs. Overall, I think I’ve grown more this last year than I ever have before in my whole life. I was thinking about a saying—the one where you pick yourself up and dust yourself off. I do believe in picking yourself up and continuing on. Sometimes I’ve had to lay in the mud and the muck for awhile before I could do it, and even when I did get up, I had to trudge through with pain, like dirt, still clinging to my clothes. I’ve dealt with some anxiety and OCD again recently, but for the most part I’m still doing really well. I don’t know what the future holds. Right now I can’t try to look too far into it or I’ll go mad. I’m having to live each day as it comes, but I’m doing my best to keep each of these days good.

I guess what I want everyone to know is that you can keep going. Even through the most bitter of trials, the most painful of experiences you can learn and grow and find peace. You can even find happiness. It’s never completely gone. It’s never completely out of reach. Despite my often-times love/hate relationship I have with hope, I always come back to it. I can never completely let go of it. And I’m glad of that right now.

A World of Contradictions

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Life is interesting. And full of contradiction. Society claims they hate the news because it reports so much bad in the world. “We want good stories, happy stories, inspirational stories,” we all say. On the flip side everyone talks about how much they hate social media because it gives a false perception of people’s lives. Everyone posts happy things, like life is never bad. “Show us reality,” we say. “Not your fake happy smiles.” So which one is it? Good or bad? Positive or negative? Depressing or inspirational?

With my blog I’ve found that I get way more views when I post a depressing piece than a happy one. And the happy ones aren’t fake. I’m open and honest all of the time. I’m always me and I always show that. But my posts about hitting low points and showing ugly crying pictures of myself always get more views and more responses than posts about how I’m doing well or how I’m happy and haven’t been dealing with my mental illness.

I’m certainly grateful I’ve gotten such a positive response from readers, friends and neighbors during my difficult times. I’m grateful they have been there for me, prayed for me, loved me and not been scared away. It shows me that people are learning, caring and seeing past the stigma of mental illness that has been around for so long. But people—everyone, with or without mental illness—still need love and support even in the good times.

So we want happy, but we don’t want fake, but we don’t want depressing, but we only care if it’s depressing. And around and around we go. I have no judgments about whether this is right or wrong or makes sense or not. I just find it interesting because it does seem like a pattern of contradictions. Do I keep writing even if I’m happy or should I only share when I’m struggling? What are your thoughts?

Live For These Moments

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This is Happiness!

Not the best picture of me since I didn’t bother to put on makeup this morning, but that’s not what it’s about. Normally, I hate gray, clouded days in the winter – because most days are gray and clouded and gloomy. But today it was somehow enticing, inspiring, so I went out for a walk. It was down-right balmy in the mid-forties for this time of year in Utah! The clouds, the lighting, the snow on the mountains and listening to Renegades by X Ambassadors and Second Chance by Shinedown (yes, I may have sung out loud some of the time because I’m that sort of a person) were exactly what I needed. Nature and music are two constants in my life, things I know I can always count on to lift my spirt and renew my soul. For someone with mental illness and terrible Seasonal Affective Disorder right in the middle of winter, life is all about living for these moments to help take you through to the next.

 

Do You Believe in Magic?

Do you believe in magic? Of course you don’t. You did as a kid, until your parents told you the truth about Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny and fairies and that pot of gold at the end of the rainbow—and crushed your happy, innocent bubble of a magical world. But you know what? I still believe in magic. I’ve felt it swirling through the air of Joe’s Valley, caught between long rays at dusk on golden cliffs. I’ve seen it in the reflection of sunlight on towering pines at Kolob Canyon. I wrote this poem once called Kolob’s Gift.

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Shimmering gold grabs my eyes.
Mesmerized.

Individual needles of pinyon pine
reflecting the streaming sunlight
against the brilliant blue sky.
A treasure worth more than all the jewels
I could ever buy.

 

Magic. I also experienced it once at Bryce Canyon. Most people would probably call me crazy. I call what happened a gift. Let me take you back with me.

In high school I was different—different, weird, an outcast—a freak. Most of the time I was fine with that. I didn’t want to be like everyone else, and I proudly walked around in my tie-dye and bell bottoms, not caring what anyone else thought. But some of the time it did affect me. Some of the time I hated being different, hated knowing that people thought I was a freak. And it made me feel bad about myself. Low self-esteem is a common side-effect of depression. I hated looking at myself in the mirror. I was ugly. I was worthless. I was different. I was a freak. And I hated myself.

The summer between my junior and senior years of high school, we took a family trip to Bryce Canyon. I loved being there. I was a nature girl, a desert girl, a red-earth and green-pines girl. But I was also a very depressed girl, feeling so worthless and alone, feeling like my life didn’t matter.

Our last day at Bryce we took a shuttle ride. It stopped at certain lookouts long enough for everyone to get off, take a few pictures, get back on, then drive to the next stop. The main road comes to an end at a large parking lot with several lookouts so this stop was longer than the rest. Everyone shuffled out of the hot, muggy shuttle and took out their cameras. I noticed a trail disappearing into a cluster of pines and took it, wanting to be alone. It led to a lookout called Yovimpa Point.

I stood there at the edge, next to the wooden fence separating me from a long, steep dive down, and took in the breathtaking view of red sandstone, white earth and deep green pines. A good place to take my last breath. All I had to do was climb over the fence and jump. I could end my worthless life and die in my beautiful nature. All problems solved.

I had just put my foot on the fence when I heard voices nearing me, speaking French—a group of tourists who had been on the same shuttle. I stepped back, suddenly nervous about letting these strangers watch me commit suicide. Not long after, my family wandered down the trail, as well. Plan foiled. Now, I can look back and say I’m glad it was.

When I got home from Bryce I talked to my best friend about what had happened. She gave the generic answers any Latter-day Saint person would give about how I was of great worth to my Father in Heaven and that He and Jesus Christ wanted me to live. It did help—enough for me to decide that killing myself wasn’t the answer.

Halfway through my senior year of high school I decided I was sick of being depressed. I remember this one day, sitting by myself in the dark in one of the practice rooms in the band room, thinking how I didn’t want to be depressed anymore. I wanted to be happy. So I told myself I’d be happy. And I was. I know it sounds simple and easy, and, well, it was. That’s not always how it goes, that’s not always how it’s gone at other times in my life, but that time it did. It was amazing how easy it was to make myself be happy after that. It’s not that life was easy. I still had challenges and faced difficult trials, but it was easier getting through them because I had a better attitude, and I wouldn’t let anything get me down.

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Okay, now let’s fast forward to my second year of college. Some roommates and friends and I decided to go to Bryce Canyon over spring break. One day, we drove to the big parking lot at the end of the road. I quickly took off away from everyone else and walked the trail to Yovimpa Point. I stood alone, looking out at the same scene, though painted white from several feet of snow. After a short time I noticed movement from the corner of my eye. I turned to look, thinking maybe one of my roommates had come down the trail, but no one was there. Odd. I turned, looked out at the scene before me, again, and again, out of the corner of my eye I saw movement. I saw someone. I turned, but no one was there. As soon as I turned back, I saw the person again. But this time I didn’t turn to look because I knew who it was. I knew who was there—it was me. I saw myself—the past me, the one who stood there, thinking about jumping. And in this rush of memory I thought about how much I had changed and grown and evolved in the last two and a half years, since the last time I was here. The most incredible sense of peace, calm, and quiet satisfaction settled over me—just like the pure, white snow settled over the land. A gift to remind me that we don’t have to stand still in this life. We can become more than what we were, more than what we are. And it’s okay to falter, it’s okay to be weak. It only means we have some place to go, that we can make ourselves strong.

So, did I really see myself that day? I will always believe that I did. Was it magic? Am I just crazy? Just different? Just a freak? Well, whatever anyone else may think, I’m grateful—will always be grateful—for that experience and what it meant to me. What it taught me. What have your experiences in life taught you?