TV Therapy

At the first of this month, I had the flu — a vicious, stop-you-dead-in-your-tracks-for-a-week-flu. After making its way through the school system in our area last month, this flu found its way into the workplace. Several people passed it around where KR works which meant that he inevitably brought it home to me. I’m still coping with that lingering exhaustion and annoying cough, but I finally feel human again.

Since I wasn’t up for anything else, I began binge-watching Gilmore Girls on Netflix. Although it seems familiar, I don’t remember ever having watched it when it was on TV, probably because it started during a time period when I didn’t even own a TV, let alone watch TV.

First, let me say, I love this show! Great cast — the chemistry between all of the characters flows so well from the very first episode that I can see why it stayed on-air for 7 seasons, simply fantastic acting by everyone involved in its production. As is so often the case when I find a TV show I actually like, I can’t get enough. The theme song is perpetually stuck in my ever-obsessing brain, trying to work out the nuanced chord shifts so I can learn to play it on the piano.

Last night, I got to Season 2: Episode 21, “Lorelai’s Graduation Day.” The last 5 minutes of that episode was an incredibly emotional exchange between the daughter, Rory, and her mother, Lorelai, after Rory missed Lorelai’s college graduation ceremony as a result of impulsively skipping school to visit Jess in New York. Alexis Bledel’s (Rory) convincing performance was so emotional for me, in fact, that it triggered a flashback and moved me to tears.

Bizarre how something so seemingly random and unrelated like a TV show can trigger emotion in this way and cause memories to flood back into awareness.

It triggered how felt in April ’98 — all the emotions of guilt and shame and disappointment in myself for hurting and disappointing my husband and family as a result of my own inexplicably impulsive behavior for which I still, to this day, struggle to find a rational explanation. That emotional pain is still so fresh and raw as the day it happened. It triggered the memories of trying to explain to other people what happened when I, myself, didn’t understand. It triggered the self-deprecating memories of how I admonished myself for being so irresponsible.

Despite the unexpected trigger in last night’s episode and everything it brought up for me, I made the connection quickly — in that moment. I was able to identify a triggering moment, able to recognize I was having a flashback, in the moment it was happening. For the past 19 years, a triggered moment meant a varying amount of dissociated awareness, an inability to remain present. Depending on what the trigger was, it was only later — after hours or days or weeks or sometimes, even months later — that I could connect something triggered me and left me reeling in overwhelmed emotion or completely numb.

Last night, I remained present. I recognized I was having a flashback. I identified the trigger immediately. And I self-soothed by allowing myself to cry and “feel” the emotion while reminding myself, “This is just an echo of your past. You already survived it. Everything is okay.”

This was a first.

For me, this is huge.

Wake Me Up

When I get scared or angry or even sad, I freeze. I dissociate or depersonalize (derealization?) or simply become so numb to all emotions and experiences that the void of emotion creates a suffocating darkness. Then, I retreat. I isolate and ruminate, seek out silence to soothe my fears and calm my emotions. This may sound counter-productive to some, but this process is beneficial for me as a highly sensitive introvert. The time I take to retreat allows me the space to re-balance my energy and find peace of mind again. Nature hikes, meditation, yoga, and creativity, all give me that space.

I sincerely believe that every aspect of life is directly affected by our spiritual well-being. We are after all a spiritual being of light (energy) taking on the material manifestation of the physical body (matter), having a “physical” experience (life). Looking at it from this perspective, it only makes sense that we would need to take time and space to re-energize. What exactly do you call sleep if not a period of rest or restoration and relaxation? Meditation has helped me immensely to tame my troubled mind into blissful slumber, yet I’ll admit that hypervigilance has made sleep much more difficult for several months, now.

I had most of this post written out prior to the events of the weekend. With Saturday morning’s argument still on my mind, today’s edit makes this a much lengthier post than I intended. Consider it a “mind dump.”

I can understand why KR is so angry all the time. I can, but his refusal to take responsibility for his own actions and behavior that influence our relationship is the caveat that prevents me from trusting him completely and may very well be the deciding factor that ends our relationship once and for all. Unfortunately, I’ve considered this possibility for the last 3 years. It was the driving force that sent me back to counseling.

In all three long-term relationships I’ve been a part of as an adult, I haven’t given up on those relationships without a fight. I’m loyal. However, at some point, even I have to admit defeat when the relationship becomes too toxic to warrant saving. KR and I are at that point. Our paths are diverging. He’s on a path of self-destruction and entitlement — one that demands more of me than I have to give. He refuses to acknowledge the beauty in life or the spiritual connection that is quite literally fueled by our emotions and our physical existence for such a brief moment in time. He would rather avoid emotion altogether until it’s at a breaking point and avoid self-reflection to a point of blind denial.

KR wants me to change who I am to suit his needs, never mind my own. His perspective is that he has been the one to make all of the sacrifices while creating a “stress free” environment for me to work through my issues. He can’t even see that his behavior and attitude are precisely what cause me so much stress and discomfort. KR’s behavior has only become increasingly hostile and aggressive despite my very best attempts to defuse the situation and be emotionally supportive. I fully recognize, understand, and admit my personal responsibility for my own behavior and reaction to triggers where I struggle to cope.

I fail to see how to compromise in our current situation. Maybe that’s my own blind spot, but our differences seem too great to reach a mutual balance.

My experience described in the first paragraph is becoming increasingly apparent, like awakening from a nightmare only to drift off asleep again. So much of the time I feel like I’m coasting through life, watching a movie rather than living my life. Too often I’m triggered into this state, triggered out of this state, then, triggered back again without any awareness of how I got there. Or, maybe, I’m triggered deeper into this state rather than out of it. I’m struggling to remember a time when I didn’t feel lost in the fog. The vague awareness of events beyond my control and even life’s mundane day-to-day complexity only seems to fuel the hazy mist.

Other than brief moments of clarity when I’m either jolted back into the present moment through intense emotion (like Saturday’s argument) or curious awe (mindful hiking), I’m not so sure I have any control over this at all. I’m not even sure if I could learn to “be” any other way. This has been my experience of life since early childhood. I learned by age 5 that the only acceptable way to approach emotion was through independent suffering — unless it’s joy or happiness, then, by all means, share away.

It’s like layers and layers of emotional distress compartmentalized my brain as if by changing the channel on a TV. I know it’s a coping mechanism, but I don’t know how to recognize the moment it happens or how to bring myself back to being fully “awake” — if ever there was a time I was.

KR hates that I’m like this, doesn’t understand it at all, refuses to accept me for who I am and how I cope with life. His resentment is a little too obvious even in this dazed awareness. These past few months have been difficult. Anytime my mental health declines, I stop expressing myself to others. My natural inclination to retreat and lick my wounds, so to speak, prevents me from seeking help from others. I’m at a point of resignation. My own fatalistic attitude these days provokes a sense of helplessness that steals my confidence on a good day, let alone after (at least) 5 months of despairing depression.

KR’s attitude for the last few months, my inability to meet his expectations, the pressure I feel to “change” who I am and how I relate to others despite painstakingly doing my very best to be good enough, let alone the recent obvious triggers of the election, the Gatlinburg wildfires, and this argument with KR — all of this interferes with my ability to accomplish anything other than surviving.

What I need from him is patience. What I need is his compassion. What I need is KR’s understanding that I am coping to the best of my ability and don’t always have enough energy left-over at the end of the day to help him cope with his seemingly miserable life. I’m doing the best I can just like KR is. I’m sorry I cannot fulfill his every sexual need and desire; but sometimes, a lot of the time, I need extra space and time to soothe the broken parts of me.

Reflecting on these past 3 years, as my current counselor prepares to relocate, ending our time spent working together, I’m struck with the opportunity to start over again. I don’t say “opportunity” lightly. Worry and fear are facing early life abandonment issues while sadness and disappointment are mourning the loss. And anger, well, anger isn’t even available at this time. She’s off pouting in the “quiet space” of my brain — a beautiful, picturesque scene of my creation that maybe I’ll explain in a future post.

Getting back to my counselor’s departure, I realized during our last session, I immediately avoided what he told me and changed the subject entirely. After realizing what I’d done (this so rarely happens), I managed to bring the conversation back to him leaving. He explained more and scheduled my next appointment with a new counselor; but right before I left, he told me, “You’re going to be fine. I know this. All the many personalities in your head know this.”

I shut down — I mean really shut down. I didn’t even have the presence of mind to say, “Goodbye,” or to thank him for his time spent working with me.

Why do I do this?

This particular instance was partly triggered by the prospect of a major change in counseling and losing a trusted counselor, but also that phrase, “All the many personalities in your head.” With great care and conscious effort, I’ve avoided referring to the complex parts of myself as “personalities.” Despite internal arguments to honestly explore the depth of compartmentalization that separates traumatized parts from functional parts of me, prior counseling experiences taught me to guard the language I use to describe my experience with mindful diligence, i.e. don’t draw too much attention to my fractured psyche or its influence over my life except in its most abstract form.

I regret not saying, “Goodbye,” or “Thank you.” It would be a good opportunity to practice closure if I were to ask for one more appointment with him. I’ve had very little of that in my life. Too often I either run away when a counselor gets too close or the counselor gives up out of frustration. After 8 counselors, you’d think I would have figured this out sooner.

My case manager did, however, text me to let me know I could continue seeing my counselor at the facility where he’s relocating (in nearby McMinnville) which is roughly the same distance away from me as the facility where I receive treatment now. I hadn’t thought of that possibility.

Why does it seem like all roads are leading me to McMinnville these days?

Starting last year, every time I tried to drive to Savage Gulf Natural Area or Stone Door to go hiking, I got lost and ended up in McMinnville. This happened at least the first 3 or 4 times I went to either place, either getting lost on the way there or lost on the way home. Recently I discovered a yoga center in McMinnville that I visited for the first time on January 7th. More on this in a future post as it was a spiritually significant find for me. Not meaning to sound too hokey or New Age-y, this visit to the Isha Institute inspired a renewed “hope” that I haven’t felt since I lived in Hawaii. And then, finally, my counselor relocating to McMinnville.

Coincidental, synchronistic, or causal connection? Whichever way I look at it, I most certainly cannot deny that the Universe is trying to get my attention.

At this point, though, I worry indecision will leave me paralyzed in fear of making the wrong choice or unable to make a conscious choice at all, which too often is the case. I’ve given the matter of choice in how I respond, choice in how I behave, and choice in which emotions to feed a great deal of thought and come to realize and recognize the importance of me taking back my “choice” in determining the healthiest manner I can possibly cope.

I would really like that to include a more conscious and efficient use of my time.

 

Inevitability

Toxic sludge ahead… read with caution.

I’ve been waiting for the other shoe to drop, expecting it. Expecting it doesn’t make it any less terrifying to live through. Tension has been building for months, and it finally came to a head on Saturday morning. It began as usual, a result of fighting off KR’s advances after he came to bed very drunk, waking me up….

I finally jumped out of bed, completely exasperated from the exhaustion of so little sleep lately and the futility of my failed attempts to reject his advances. We had sex 2 mornings in a row. Quite seriously, the physical soreness of my genitalia prevented me from even considering a third morning of this. I jumped up out of bed out of sheer overwhelm. My denial of his most basic need, of course, infuriated him to no end. The yelling began. As if the act of aggressively slamming the bedroom door just wasn’t enough, he kicked the door open again, breaking the door frame, sending pieces flying across the room, to yell some more.

I knew sleep was no longer an option, so I followed him into the living room to endure yet another one of his lengthy tirades, berating my character and demanding that his needs be met. Fighting dissociation and realizing I was in a losing battle, I recorded the entire 3 and a half hour argument.

According to KR, I make him feel unattractive by refusing his “desires.” I don’t understand the scope of KR’s sexuality. He told me that before we got together he was dating and having sex with 3 different women, going from one woman’s house to the next — at the same time; and it was almost enough (I didn’t know about this). And apparently, these 3 women were okay with that. He expects from me: sex 3 – 5 times per week, random blow jobs throughout the week, and anal on special occasions — at the very least. He says I haven’t dealt with my issues well enough to allow him to do the things he wants to do to me. In his opinion, I’ve neglected my responsibility to come to terms with my past and accept that he is not like my rapists and that I actually want the same things KR wants. I’m responsible for his inability to sleep because he’s so horny. He’s the one who is compromising everything — his needs, his beliefs, everything. I’m unwilling to compromise. If he’s working an 8 hour shift, he should be able to come home to dinner prepared for him and a blow job at the very least. He can’t talk to me about his needs without it turning into an argument because I’m so unwilling to compromise. I’m lazy. I don’t fulfill KR’s needs. I take too long to complete the simplest tasks.

That’s just the first 40 minutes.

I can listen to no more of that recording tonight.

My chest hurts. My heart is beating so fast. Panic and hopelessness and despair combine telling me:

My boundaries don’t matter. My emotions don’t matter. The physical pain I feel from sex doesn’t matter.

I. Don’t. Matter.

Only KR’s needs matter. I have to be the one who submits. I must comply. The only thing KR should have to worry about is going to work and keeping a full-time job to support us. I’m responsible for everything else — making sure he’s up for work on time, his happiness, his needs, his desires, everything that has to do with our home and finances, all the errands, the chores — everything.

Why is this so overwhelming for me? Why can’t I just behave like a normal human being?!

I don’t deserve peace or safety or respect or love. I haven’t earned it.

My punishment for being so bad IS this life.

know this relationship is toxic. I know I should get out while I still can. I know I have to give KR his freedom to find a more suitable companion.

Yet, I’m FROZEN IN FEAR.

How can I still be this selfish to not surrender my will to his? It’s what is expected of me, after all, as a woman. Right? That’s the message I’ve gotten for the entire 44 years of my life.

Ugh, I only have 2 hours before KR gets home from work. I better hurry if I’m going to get everything done today that needs to be done. Life sucks, and then you die. Accept it.

The lucky ones die early.

 

Home Is Where the Heart Is

Great Smoky Mountains

This past week has been brutal. The wildfires in the Gatlinburg area triggered that sense of helplessness and despair I so often find myself in. I grew up just outside Sevier County. I spent most of my childhood and teens frequenting the many tourist attractions of Sevierville, Pigeon Forge, Gatlinburg, and the Smoky Mountains. So many of my happiest memories are attached to one place or another there as is the case for most of us who grew up in East Tennessee. I worked 2 seasons at Dollywood after graduating high school and again briefly in ’98 — my favorite job of the many I’ve held. I have a strong attachment to that area.

It’s home.

My heart and soul belong to the Smoky Mountains. As a child, I spent many a summer day swinging on my front porch in the foothills of the Smokies, gazing at those beloved mountains off in the distance. That’s where I learned to meditate, though I had no name for this practice back then. The Smoky Mountains taught me to simply “be” and savor my natural surroundings. It may sound silly to those who have never experienced the “spirit” of a place, but those mountains are truly alive. Still to this day, they take my breath away and fill me with peace whenever I return to them, like a mother nurturing her child.

That’s why these wildfires hurt so much. I’ve cried more tears this week — unstoppable, heartbroken tears as I watched a fiery inferno threaten all that I hold dear. “It could have been much worse.” I keep telling myself that, but it does little to assuage the devastation I feel. The only thing that has helped my sadness at all is seeing communities come together all over the state raising money and donations to help with relief efforts. These acts of kindness restore at least some small measure of faith in humanity to do the “right” thing.

As of writing this:

  • The death toll is at 13 people.
  • 15,653 acres were affected by the fires.
  • “1,000 structures were either damaged or destroyed by the fires.”
  • “4,871 people remain without power in Sevier County” as of 8:15 pm last night.

[Source: “Fire death count remains at 13; searches winding down.” WBIR, 2016. 02 Dec. 2016.]

I can’t even imagine the devastation to the wildlife population without immediately falling into a panic and more tears.

The Sevier County community relies on the tourism industry. These fires could have devastating consequences for many people in that area, especially those who lost their homes. At this time, monetary donations would go farther than anything else. Please, consider giving what you can: American Red Cross.

I’m not giving up and neither should you.

I, quite seriously, feel like I’m losing my mind. I’m back to questioning whether I’m alive or dead. Nothing feels real, so I’m going with the latter. What if I’m the only person who knows we’re all dead and trying to work out our past life’s traumas? All of this talk of moving on is meant to push us into the next life — reincarnate to try again in a never-ending cycle of life and death.

I’m really struggling right now.

I feel like I don’t belong here, like an alien stranded on some strange — very disturbing — planet that’s about to veer off course into its sun. Half the population is creating hell while the other half of us are simply trying to connect the dots, prove there’s a better way to deal with suffering. Progress based in love and compassion is our only way forward. Hate and exclusion moves us backward to repeat past mistakes over and over again. Everything seems so black and white, good or evil, positive or negative. Polar opposites. The balance is teetering on the brink of destruction and each side keeps rocking the boat.

Chaos is winning.

I feel lost. I feel like nothing more than an observer, silenced by overwhelm, suffocating from too many triggers, buried alive under so much hate. I’m “out of my mind.” I feel like I’m experiencing all of this out of my body, lost and untethered, with no desire to bother coming back. Content to watch the world crash and burn, taking my soul with it, I mourn for our planet as much as myself as even she has lost the will to live.

The rape of our planet’s resources is the perfect metaphor for the crushing disappointment in humanity to defend and honor the female population.

What chance do women have in a barbaric patriarchy that treats us like objects to be used for their sick and twisted amusement?

This election and its aftermath left me in a state of shock and dismay. To say I’m disappointed in its outcome would be the understatement of the year. I find myself fighting dissociation, that familiar numb disconnect fueled by a desperation to survive the suicidal ideation triggered by the events of the past few weeks. I’ve had nightmares for at least the last 3 nights in a row. The flashbacks are intense, invasive and graphic memories causing severe panic. KR, trying to be helpful, took me to buy pepper spray. It was a sweet gesture; but knowing my freeze response when I feel threatened, I would never get the chance to use it.

In response to a comment someone left on a link I shared on Facebook, I wrote:

As a direct result of Trump’s language throughout his campaign and that leaked video, every time I see that man’s face come across my news feed or hear another ignorant thing he says, I feel triggered. I know, that’s *my* problem to deal with; and I’m coping to the best of my ability. However, I associate Trump’s face with every man who ever sexually harassed me, with every man who ever sexually assaulted me (grabbed or otherwise touched me inappropriately), and with the men who raped me.

THAT is what Trump represents for me. Half of the voters in this country validated his words and actions JUST by voting for him. I accept the fact that Trump won this election, but acceptance does NOT mean I have to tolerate his hate speech. Acceptance does NOT mean I condone his behavior or validate his twisted beliefs. Acceptance is NOT approval.

What I’m feeling isn’t “fear.” It’s disgust — not just for Trump but also for the 47% of Americans who voted for him, who condone the behavior of a bully and sexual predator. Disgust and contempt.

And that is what all of this boils down to. I’m not usually so open about my private struggles under my “real” identity. I was taught from an early age not to burden others with my problems, especially not family; but this election sparked an unbridled rage within me to speak out that I’ve never felt before. I broke down after writing that response.

I called RAINN’s support line for, ya know, support. I was transferred to an organization out of Murfreesboro, TN. I told the woman who answered, “I think I need to talk to someone.” She seemed annoyed when I gave my reason for calling. I immediately regretted having reached out to a total stranger for help. I thought, “I must be wasting her time over an issue that took place over 18 years ago.” I felt weak for allowing the political climate to trigger such a strong response within me. She took my name and phone number and said someone would call me back.

I’m still waiting 4 days later to “talk” to someone.

could have called any other crisis line; but I chose RAINN because I thought, “They’re trained specifically to deal with issues of this nature.” Right?

I never wanted to be a part of Trump’s reality, but I am. I have been for a long time. Men, who think they can grab a woman’s private parts because… they can? Consent means nothing to a sexual predator. It was bad enough that someone running for our highest office here in the US bragged about this type of behavior, but for that same man to actually become President of the United States?!

It’s not just a slap in the face to anyone victimized in this way. It’s like being sexually assaulted and raped all over again.

No. I’m not okay.

A lot of women are struggling today with these same emotions and triggers as a result of this election. Know that you’re not alone. I know from experience, too often it feels that way. I’m still searching for the emotional support and connection to people who understand what I’ve been through, but…

I’m not giving up and neither should you.

Peace Versus Fear

“So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself –nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance. [Emphasis added.]” — From Franklin D. Roosevelt’s First Inaugural Address delivered on March 4th, 1933.

What is the opposite of fear?

My counselor asked me this question during our last session. I guessed fear’s opposite to be bravery or courage. Thinking about it a bit more, one must experience fear to be brave or courageous; thus, bravery and courage are an action resulting from the emotional state of fear, not fear’s opposite.

I can’t think about fear without also thinking about the current state of affairs in the United States. This year’s election campaign is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever witnessed. People have themselves worked up in a frenzy over it — most certainly for good reason given the idiocy we’ve come to tolerate; but politics is a mere distraction meant to divide people through their fears. Fear is a powerful weapon. It’s been used since the beginning of time to divide, conquer, and enslave. Politics is its current manifestation — a competition, a game of manipulation, that preys upon the insecurities and weaknesses of the public.

It’s a game, not meant to test the merit of its competitors but the virtue of its spectators.

I don’t understand what “need” competition fulfills in those who compete or even those who choose to watch (not just in politics but sports or any other form of competition). If we, as humans, moved past that rivalry and antagonism, perhaps we could finally move toward cooperation and teamwork for the sake of, you know, actually getting shit done. It’s that cooperation and teamwork that unites people — a prerequisite for promoting a “civilized society.”

I’m guessing some people don’t want that. I’m sure there are some people who would love nothing more than to see everything collapse into a state of anarchy. I get it. Chaos is stimulating. It’s action versus inaction. It’s something different. It’s scoffing at a broken system, demanding it to change to suit some arbitrary need.

Except — everything in the Universe is like a finely tuned machine that eventually balances out and follows a pattern despite chaos.

Anarchy is like a deep-seated anger or tantruming 2-year-old.

If you subscribe to Robert Plutchik’s theory of emotion, anger is the polar opposite of fear. Anger is certainly in abundance during this election season, but that anger is more appropriately fueled by fear. Isn’t anger comparable to the fight response of fear? Isn’t “hate” a form of anger and thereby also an extension of fear?

The next time you start to use the word “hate” use instead the word “fear” because that is what it really is.

“The biggest thing you have to fear is not a terrorist or a shooter or a deadly home invasion. You are the biggest threat to your own safety.” — Neil Strauss, from Rolling Stone’s, Why We’re Living in the Age of Fear

Thinking about “fear,” I imagine a feral cat or deer or even a black bear. Where I grew up in East Tennessee, deer and black bear sightings were fairly common, especially in the Smoky Mountains. Past and present, I’ve had ample opportunity to watch wildlife as it’s a passion of mine. Watching wild animals’ behavior helped me understand my own behavior as much as other people’s behavior. Go anywhere near a wild animal, startle it, and you’ll witness raw fear in its purest, most instinctual form. The wild animal will either freeze, run away, or attack — same as any of us when we’re in the emotional state of fear. Yet, if you observe a wild animal from afar in perfect stillness and quiet calmness, that same wild animal will remain perfectly at peace, content in its environment.

This leads me to believe the opposite of fear is peace — calmness.

do-not-feed-the-fears

During the last 8 years, I have worked diligently to maintain a simple, safe and secure, peaceful environment to benefit my mental health. That is what I need. Perceived threats [see: The (Only) 5 Fears We All Share] — whether real or imagined — cause life to feel out of control, chaotic, and full of fear.

Fear and anxiety have been constant companions throughout my 44 years of life. Fighting fear requires all of my energy just to maintain that level of balance I need to nurture my mental health. Fighting fear is the equivalent of avoiding it — whether through distraction or numbing or denial of its existence. Fighting fear is an unconscious coping method/defense mechanism that takes over, subconsciously stating, “This feels bad. I don’t know what this is. I must avoid it.”

Fighting fear is action without exploration.

Accepting fear is the opposite reaction, requiring conscious action. Accepting fear leads to peace, a state of freedom — the opposite of fear. Accepting fear is the equivalent of consciously choosing to acknowledge, “I am scared” or “I am anxious.” Accepting fear is exploring my state of fear to gain understanding which allows me to validate the emotion. Accepting fear soothes, comforts, and nurtures the soul.

Accepting fear consciously acknowledges, explores, validates, and nurtures; thus allowing you to move from a state of fear into the state of peace. 

Living in a constant state of fear is exhausting. Fighting, fleeing, or freezing all seem to take on the same avoidance characteristics. Each serves a purpose, and none is either right or wrong. They’re reactions to fear and still methods of coping. For me, it’s a persistent, never-ending battle to cope with fear and anxiety. I’m still learning to recognize and remain “conscious” when I find myself in these states of emotion (or any state of emotion, for that matter). I’m convinced it takes a lifetime to master.

My advice for anyone facing these same challenges:

  • You’re NOT weak. Fear and anxiety are normal responses, especially in precarious times such as these. Above all, remember that. Go easy on yourself.
  • Practice living in this present moment. Conscious awareness is key. If you find yourself depressed, you’re living in the past. If you find yourself anxious, you’re living in the future. Now is really all that matters.
  • Turn off the TV. Get off the internet. Take a break from media. That shit will drive you crazy! It’s all about moderation and balance. Go for a walk out in nature, spend time with friends and family, do something that lifts you up rather than brings you down. Give yourself space when you need it.

Seek out moments of calm. Moments of calm are practice for the emotional state of peace. 

Tips from around the web:

  • “A calm, balanced frame of mind is necessary to evaluate and understand our changing emotions. Calmness ideally is a baseline state, unlike emotions, which arise when triggered and then recede.” — Atlas of Emotions
  • “The goal… is to separate real threats from manufactured ones. And to find a balance where we are not so scared that we’re making bad decisions that hurt us and our freedom, but not so oblivious that we aren’t taking steps to protect ourselves.” — Neil Strauss, Rolling Stone’s, Why We’re Living in the Age of Fear
  • “When we let go of our notion of fear as the welling up of evil forces within us—the Freudian motif—and begin to see fear and its companion emotions as basically information, we can think about them consciously. And the more clearly and calmly we can articulate the origins of the fear, the less our fears will frighten us and control us.” — Karl Albrecht, Ph.D., Psychology Today, The (Only) 5 Fears We All Share
  • “The question isn’t whether or not we experience fear in our lives (because we all do and always will for as long as we live); the more important question for each of us to ask and answer is how we can move through our fears in an honest way so that they don’t stop us from being who we really are and going for what we truly want in life.” — Mike Robbins, The Huffington Post, How to Move Through Your Fear in 7 Steps

A Tragic Loss

An acquaintance/friend of ours died by suicide on July 29th. I was shocked to hear this when KR told me about it. He was, too. While I had only spoken with this friend a couple of times, briefly, I admired his animated, lively way of speaking and telling stories. I love a good storyteller. He was a good guy with a big heart. KR worked with him up until the middle of May when the friend “pointed out.” For anyone not familiar with the “point system,” a lot of factories in this area use points to discourage tardiness, absenteeism, and other work-related mistakes. If employees get too many points, they’re fired.

This friend was struggling. His marriage ended, and he was left without a home for a while. He stayed with some mutual friends of ours before finding another place to live. Then, he lost his job. Why can’t employers take into consideration major life changes like a divorce? Divorce is a huge stressor. Being homeless is a huge stressor. Losing a job is a huge stressor. I can understand his despair and hopelessness because I’ve been there.

His family didn’t even have a funeral for him — no wake, no memorial service, nothing. A few of us who knew him got together this past Saturday to memorialize his passing. As I listened to the stories everyone shared about him, I wondered what went through his mind before he made that fateful decision. No one will ever know. I can imagine because I’ve been there so many times, but I can’t know. 

It’s a tragic loss when anyone dies by suicide. I feel sad for our friend. I feel sad that he couldn’t reach out to anyone for help. I feel sad that no one recognized his pain. I feel sad that he died so alone in that way. His death is another tragic reminder to me that depression can be fatal. I wouldn’t wish this dis-ease on anyone. As for me, I’m coping with the trigger in the best ways I know how. I chose to draw this friend’s portrait today while wishing his soul my best on its journey. I can only hope he found the peace he was searching for.


If you are feeling suicidal, please, call: 1-800-273-TALK (8255). What you are experiencing, what you are feeling does not have to be fatal. Please, seek help. I know, easier said than done. If you find that you cannot call, wait it out, just wait it out.