As I wrote a while back, I had been hoping to use this year to start working on a project that I’ve had in the back of my mind for some time. My goal was to create a road trip across the U.S., albeit perhaps in pieces, in which I would connect with yoga studios in as many states as possible to teach a one-time class at a reduced fee, and the majority of the money (after that reduced rate for myself) would go to charity. To be honest I’d love to do it all for charity, but I’m not independently wealthy and could not travel across the country for free, so I’d have to at least make up some of that. I was super excited that, even though it might not (probably wouldn’t) fully happen this year, the idea was taking form and it felt like I might be able to pull this off.
Obviously, there’s been a change off plans. There’s no traveling. There’s no in person yoga. There’s no connecting in person with people across the county. And since we really don’t know the course this is going to take, while I could still technically begin planning it, the logistics and details would be foggy at best. It doesn’t feel like the right time to reach out to studios that may be struggling to stay afloat due to lack of in-person classes and ask them to partner for charity. It feels like a bad time to plan travel even if it’s for the future. Everything’s just uncertain right now and it makes for tricky footing.
But I still want to connect with people through yoga and offering support and encouragement and spreading hope. I decided to make a few new signs that felt especially appropriate to the times, combine them with yoga poses, and share them online. I have some other ideas in the works that I hope to share shortly. For now, here are a few yoga poses with messages of hope. Even though we’re all staying home, I’d still love to connect with people from all over the country and beyond. So if you feel inclined to share a sign, or a pose, or a sign and pose, or something else that you’re doing to help spread hope, please share! And if you feel comfortable, let me know where you’re from – let’s see how many places we can connect from, even if virtually.
Tree Pose: “It’s OK If You Don’t Know How You Feel Right Now”.
Dancer Pose (Natarajasana): We Will Get Through This
Utthita Hasta Padangustasana: We’re In This Together.
I know it’s been ages since I’ve written. I haven’t forgotten about this site, and certainly not about Spread Hope Project. I have been in a bit of transition, at least mentally, and my brain has been all over the place. I’ve also been struggling with my depression the last few days, and on and off for a while now, and been trying to work through things, both in my brain, and in my life.
For a while now, I’ve had this feeling of being a bit stuck. I have a lot of things that I care about, that I like, that I’m passionate about, and yet I feel like I’m struggling to find my place, my path. One thing I’m certain of, one thing that I’ve always focused my career and my life around, is that I want to help people.
So recently, as recently as this morning in fact, I sat down and began to think about my experience, my passion, my abilities, and what I feel drawn to, in order to try to make a little more sense of it. And here is what I came up with:
I love travel, I love helping people discover the world, and I have the experience of running my own travel company for 14 years.
I am passionate mental health advocacy, sharing my story, and being able to help those struggling with their mental health however I can.
I am passionate about spreading hope, about letting others know that they’re not alone, and offering them even the slightest bit of light when it seems like the darkness is setting in.
I am a yoga instructor, and and within the field of yoga, I am passionate about using it to help others – both physically and mentally, through the physical practice, but also in giving back through yoga benefit classes and events.
I sat thinking about how these all tied together, at least pieces of each of these, and I thought back to an idea that came about during a twitter chat of fellow chronic illness advocates. Someone suggested that I take my yoga classes on the road, basically a yoga road trip, and tie it into Spread Hope Project. And I loved the idea. I still do. Every day, when I write my morning affirmations, affirmations that I write as if I’ve already accomplished them, one of my big ones is that I’ve reached all 48 contiguous states on the Spread Hope Project road trip (no offense, Alaska and Hawaii, I’m happy to come to you, just don’t plan on driving there).
When the idea of a yoga road trip first took root, of course, like I tend to do with big, exciting ideas, I thought “I could totally do this!” And then, slowly, as I thought about the time off work required, the contacts I’d have to make, the cost of such a trip, I realized maybe it might not happen as soon as I hoped (i.e. ASAP). Still, when I wrote out my affirmations for the first time, that list of things I really wanted to believe I was going to accomplish, it was in there, and it’s stayed there ever since. Slowly, I’ve added to the road trip the idea that, not only could I help people by offering yoga, but that I could turn it into a benefit – and in particular, a benefit for mental health. Each class could be a benefit class, in which I could teach at a reduced rate, and the remainder of the money raised for the class went to mental health organizations/non-profits (to clarify, I’d love to do it ALL for charity, but I honestly cannot afford to travel around the country while working for free).
I realized, in thinking about it further this morning, that this version of the Spread Hope Project Road Trip would truly encompass almost every area I’m passionate about – I would get to travel, and share about those travels, and in doing so, perhaps providing travel inspiration to others. I would be advocating and helping in the mental health area, not only by supporting organizations, but by sharing about my road trip and the organizations it supported on social media and my blogs. And obviously, this would incorporate my passions for both the Spread Hope Project, and helping others through yoga.
I realize this type of a road trip is a huge goal, and I think it’s because of this that I have not brought it more into the light, shared more about my hope to do this, started *really* thinking about how I could make it possible. I realized I was just kind of letting it sit in my affirmations as a “someday”. And so, I decided that I’m not going to do that. I’ve done a lot of the “one day when” thinking lately, and I’m honestly tired of waiting for one day. Instead, I decided that it had been to long since I’d written here, and that this was the perfect post to start doing so again. I decided I wanted to share this goal, to put it out there, not only for a bit of my own accountability, but also to start making some contacts with those that might be interested – yoga studio owners or managers across the country, mental health organizations rooted in their communities that would be interested in partnering for this, and anyone else who is inspired to get involved. I also realize now that I might not be able to make it a full on 48 state road trip – that in waiting to feel like I have the time and money to do that, I could be waiting a lifetime. So I might have to do it over the course a few road trips, or maybe even one-off trips here and there. I also realize it might have to change slightly in the logistical sense. I may need to fly in somewhere and then drive around neighboring states, if that helps me get to each state. But I’m OK with this. I understand that it might not turn out looking exactly like the ideal Spread Hope Project Road trip in my head. But if I’m able to reach people in each state, to spread hope, to support mental health organizations, and to help people through yoga, then I will consider that a success.
As you undoubtedly know by now, because I’ve been posting about it regularly on every platform for approximately the last month, I’ll be turning 40 in less than a week. I’ve been reading quite a bit about choosing theme words for the year, and while I know this feels like something traditionally done at New Year, entering into a new decade of my life seemed like as good a time as any to think about where I want to focus for the upcoming year. Plus, setting these focuses in September allows me to take the New Year, if I choose to use it as a marker like so many do, to assess where I am, and to make any adjustments I feel I want or need. Some people choose one theme word, but life right now (and always) seems so multi-dimensional, and I’ve got numerous areas in which I’m working to grow and refocus, that I thought I’d pick four. Turns out, I ended up choosing five (listed/described below in no particular order except the one in which they came into my head, which we all know is generally haphazard). Also, I didn’t stick to a certain word type (noun, verb, etc). I simply chose what felt appropriate.
1. Intentional. The number of times I find myself checking my social media, getting distracted by something unimportant, letting my mind become a runaway train into the land of “what if” and negative thoughts and so much else, without even realizing it, is a bit startling. I’ll suddenly pause and realize my actions/tasks/thoughts are far from where I planned them to be. So many times on the drive to work or walking my dog, I don’t recall how I got there. To clarify, I’m not sleep-driving or sleep-dog walking. I’m simply not noticing. Yes, I’m noticing the cars moving or stopping in front of me, I’m noticing my dog stop and sit at the corner and making sure it’s clear before we cross. I’m noticing enough to be safe, but I’m not sinking into it. It could be a beautiful morning, sun rising over my neighborhood, flowers blooming, gentle breeze, birds chirping while I’m walking my dog, and I’m going over something in my head or planning my to do list or revisiting an argument or disagreement I had with someone from last week or stressing out over something I can do nothing about at 5:30AM while walking my dog. So my goal is to be more intentional. In my actions, in my thoughts, in my interactions with people, in my being present in the world around me. Social media checking is fine (and beneficial to my business, even). But I don’t want to look up from twitter or IG or FB 30 minutes later and not even recall why I went onto the app in the first place. And I DEFINITELY don’t want to be doing this while in the presence of friends, family, etc, who are actually there with me, being ignored while I absentmindedly scroll.
2. Growth. This year is a growth year for me in numerous ways. I’m growing my yoga business. I’m growing in the writing community, having just self-published my first novel. I’m also focusing on growing personally in numerous ways. I’m working on finding my voice and using it where appropriate (but not to drown out others). I’m working on recognizing dependent and codependent tendencies (revisited shortly here), and adjusting course. I’m learning how to work through parts of growth that can be difficult, triggering, painful. I’m working at recognizing my own faults and missteps and mistakes, and taking accountability, while learning NOT to take accountability and responsibility for other peoples thoughts, words, or actions,which are the responsibility of them, not me (in other words, I’m accountable for me, you’re accountable for you).
3. Non-dependence. I’m not sure this is actually a word, either with or without the hyphen. Originally, I had this as independence, but that doesn’t really explain what I’m aiming for. I already have a pretty independent spirit. I am generally not a conformist, I don’t do things because they’re “cool” or everyone else is doing them. I’m not easily swayed in my opinions or beliefs (other than about myself, and I’m working on that). But, as I mentioned above, codependency (i.e. supporting negative patterns with others by trying to ‘make everything better’, basically) and dependency (believing I’m not good enough/worthy/capable/don’t know enough/others know better and therefore stepping aside and letting others take control, make decisions, etc) are both issues I’ve struggled with for years. So I’m focusing on NOT being those things. On learning those patterns and habits and how I get caught in them, and breaking those cycles. Hence, non-dependence. And to be clear, this doesn’t mean I never accept help. We all have strengths and areas we’re not as strong. I’m not going to refuse to let someone taller than me get something off of a high shelf when I can’t reach because I “don’t want to depend on anyone.” We should all have people we can rely and depend upon when needed. It’s about not doing so at the detriment to myself and others.
4. Reconnecting. Connecting is also my monthly theme for my yoga and wellness business, and you can read about that in my blog post discussing why I chose it. But basically, I’ve become disconnected. My introverted and social anxious nature lends itself to disconnecting from others. Depression doesn’t help when it tells me that people don’t really want to be around me, that I’m a burden, that people don’t actually like me and that they’re just including me or talking to me to be nice. So I’m working on reconnecting with others, and also, examining those connections. Are all the people I’ve been connected to still the people that I should be connected to? Am I hanging on to situations, people, that I don’t need to, that aren’t serving me (or them)? Am I staying around in groups, organizations, etc just because they’re familiar? So I’m doing some re-examining. I’m also working on reconnecting with myself. Knowing who I truly am, deep down. Focusing on my core values, my personality type, my beliefs, my path and goals and dreams, my innate self, and getting back to that person. I’m working on not allowing fear or worry or others’ opinions or values change that (or at least trying not to, as best as I can). I’m learning to be me again. And finally, I’m working on reconnecting with the world around me, especially in nature, through being present. Connecting to the earth, grounding.
5. Letting go. This was a late add, but I realized how important it was. I have held onto SO much. Guilt, shame, self-blame, self-loathing, regret, negative beliefs about myself, fears, that do not serve me. They often aren’t even based in reality, in facts, they’re stories I tell myself. And I can’t ever move forward, ever grow, if I can’t let these pieces go.
And so, as I cross the threshold from my 30s to my 40s, these are the theme words I’ll be stepping into. These are the areas in which I plan to focus. They are not, of course, the only things I’ll focus on, but they will help to guide me when I feel lost or confused or am questioning myself in my decisions and path. They’ll help me to guide myself, both when I come to important crossroads, as well as while I move through every day life.
Thanks for taking this wild ride of life with me. Here’s to 40 more years!
I have some exciting news to share! I’ve been nominated for the Disability Blogger award by Amber Blackburn of The World Sees Normal. I’m super excited and honored – Amber, thank you so very much! And also, a huge thank you to Georgina from Chronillicles for creating this Award. Amazing work you are both doing!
I love the opportunity to nominate and be nominated by peers – after all, I’m really about community, connecting, coming together and award by peers, for peers, offers exactly that. Here are the rules:
Use the Disability Blogger Award logo somewhere in your post
Copy these rules onto your post
Answer your nominator’s questions
Write 5-15 of your own questions (they don’t need to be illness related)
Nominate 5-15 other disability, chronic illness, mental illness, or special needs bloggers
Comment on each of your nominees’ latest posts to tell them they have been nominated
So, Amber’s questions for me, and my answers.
What is the biggest lesson you learned from starting your blog.
I’d say the biggest lesson I’ve learned is that it’s OK to not be OK, and that it’s ok to share this too. I find that so often, when I blog that I’m struggling, having a difficult day, flaring, that far from pushing people away (my concern), I find deeper connection. Often, there are so many people around you (in person, or virtually online) going through similar to what you’re experiencing, and yet each of you feels so alone and isolated. When you share your story, you offer that connection to others, and in connecting, you each are reminded that you are not alone.
What is your favorite way to spend your free time?
With family and loved ones. Activity wise, traveling. I love to travel, and I do so every chance I get, though this year time/money/life have made that less possible. Still, though, I love exploring new places, even if it’s just a new coffee shop in the neighborhood, a new nearby town, something more local.
If you could tell people ONE thing about living with a chronic illness what would you want the general public to know???
That my illness is always there, lurking in the shadows ready to pounce even when it’s not obvious to anyone else. When I have a good day, it doesn’t mean I’m “better’ or that my illness has gone away, or that I’m cured. It means I’m not flaring that day, and I’m feeling better (I have a cycling disorder, so by nature, it changes regularly). But even on my best days, I am always aware of it. Always wondering when it it’s going to get bad again. And so often, even when it seems fine, it’s not. Most days are an effort, and for the few that aren’t as difficult, please, just let me enjoy it without questioning my illness.
Do you prefer sweet or salty? What is your all time favorite treat?
Salty! Sweet actually makes me nauceous and gives me a headache much of the time, so no contest there. Also, I’m borderline hyponatremic (low sodium), so I’m encouraged to eat more salt/sodium. All time favorite treat, hmmm… probably fries or vegetarian nachos!
Why did you decide to start your blog/advocacy work?
When I god diagnosed with rapid cycling cyclothymia, I set out to learn as much as I could about my condition, to connect with others who had the same diagnosis, to find communities. And I found next to nothing. My condition is rare, but I thought surely there were others “out there’ that had this who might also want to connect and be looking for resources. And since they didn’t exist, I decided to create them. I started by blogging, and then forming a closed Facebook group (it’s expanded to mood disorders more generally now), and sure enough, I connected with others also in search of community and learning/sharing about this condition. Eventually, I expanded my advocacy to mental health in general, as I saw the amount of stigma surrounding the topic, and wanted to do my part in combating that.
What is your favorite show or movie currently?
I’m not a big movie person because I have very little attention span for basically anything but reading or writing. Most of the time, I tend to watch shows that are low stress, because there’s enough stress in living with chronic illness and just in life in general, and I definitely don’t want to invite more of it, when it’s not even mine! So I watch a lot of things like House Hunters, Hallmark Channel, Cooking shows, and other such shows that let me relax and unwind without being too intense. I also watch a lot of PBS, and particularly, Call the Midwife. It’s the one of the few “dramatic” shows I like.
So now, my questions for my nominees:
What is your favorite part about being a chronic illness blogger/advocate?
If you could visit anywhere in the world (perfect world, no budget kind of scenario), where would you visit?
What’s your favorite animal? Why?
What’s one unexpected positive thing that you’ve experienced since you started blogging/advocating? (It can be something big that’s happened to you, or something more subtle that you’ve experienced internally).
Mountains, beach, city, countryside, or some other type of geography? Why?
There are numerous forms of self-sabotage. In my last post, I spoke about one of the most frequently-used, procrastination. But sometimes, self-sabotage comes in forms that are less obvious. In fact, sometimes, these self-sabotage disguises itself as downright productivity.
If the below look familiar, you may be unintentionally self-sabotaging.
Your To-do list continually grows, and is never completed.
To clarify, I’m not talking about your “life” to do list. Obviously, there’s always something we “could” be doing, or always some goal we eventually want to reach. But if on a regular basis you find that your daily list is significantly longer than you could ever accomplish, you may be self-sabotaging.
Now, of course if your kid gets sick or your car breaks down, you’ll probably be moving particular items (doctors/mechanic appointments) to the top of the list, and it may well make the time to task ratio disproportionate. But if you regularly don’t finish the key, pre-planned items on your to-do list, that’s another story.
While lists are great, we – or at least I – often use them as a brain dump. Everything I could possibly think I might have to do goes on my list. And this makes it super easy to “get a lot done”, without getting a lot done. For instance, say I’ve had a goal of being published on a particular site, I’ve decided to finally write an article to submit. Except that I’m super afraid it’ll be rejected. If the only only thing I got done all day is write that article, it would be a huge step towards my goal (I can’t control if it’s accepted, but I’ve done all I can). But, if I keep adding small things to my to-do list such as “text this friend”, “add xyz appointment to the calendar”, “order such and such on amazon”, I could end up checking off twenty items on my list, feel incredibly productive, and completely avoid writing that article. I’m sabotaging my own efforts to write that article, despite it’s publication being a big goal. Afterall, my brain subconsciously reasons, if I never write it, I can’t submit it, and therefore, I can’t get rejected.
You’re Constantly “Too Busy”
It’ll please you to know I’m not going to go off on my “why I hate too busy” tangent here. I understand that many of us are running around to make ends meat, especially those with families, who are accounting not only for their own time, but that of others. But, similar to the constant to do list, if you are routinely having to reschedule or miss important appointments, if you’re frequently uttering phrases like, “I haven’t had five minutes to pee” (and literally mean it) or “I’m so busy I haven’t had a chance to eat today”, you may be self-sabotaging by over-committing. Why is this self-sabotage? Because if you have more appointments, meetings, etc than can fit on your calendar, unless none of them last more than a few minutes, it’s virtually impossible that you’re going to get them all done. If you can’t find ten minutes in your day to pee or to grab a quick snack, you aren’t going to get through every calendar item. You’re setting yourself up for “failure”, and that is a form of self-sabotage. It might not be intentional, but it’s still sabotaging your efforts. It leads to constantly feeling rushed, never feeling finished, and that cycle is difficult to break. This can also seriously affect your health.
You’re always in the same stage of the process.
For me, it’s often the planning/brainstorming/ideas stage. For some people, it might be the analysis stage or the final review before going “live”/public/etc stage. For others still, it might be the promotion/marketing stage (i.e. I may get all the way through self-publishing my book, but I’m so scared of getting all ½ star reviews that I never actually do enough promotion to let anyone it’s published).
The point is, we stall with all appearances of being detail oriented and productive. And of course, some stages take a while. Obviously, I would like my novel to be edited carefully before I self-publish it, so I don’t want that process rushed. But let me tell you that for the last year, I’ve been in the “I’m thinking about getting it edited” stage. Let me also tell you that my dad is an editor. And yet it took me over a year to ask him if he’d help me edit it. Because once it’s edited, if I want to publish it, that means I have to move forward towards the publishing stage. Which then means it’ll be out there. Which means people may read it. Or they may not (feels like rejection). And if they do they may hate it (rejection). And I may feel like a total failure because supposedly writing is “my thing”, and yet people hate it. It’s less painful, in the short term at least, to keep thinking about getting it edited.
So if you find you’re spending three times as long on a particular stage of the process than truly seems necessary, and every time you think “OK maybe I should move forward” you find one more thing you need to quadruple check/brainstorm/analyze, review, you may be self-sabotaging.
So what can you do?
When it comes to to do lists….
Create a list of no more than three items that you really want to get done. As in, if you get no other tasks done today, you’ll be happy if you do these three. Remember that all days don’t have to be “conquer the world days”. JIf you’re honest with yourself when doing this list, you’ll know what warrants “making the list” in your current situation, and when you’re adding just so you have something to cross off. Also, remember it’s three max. The more complicated/intense the tasks are, the fewer to include.
After you’ve created this main list, have your “B” list. Basically, if you have a bang up day, get your primary list done, and still have plenty of time to spare, start on these. They’re often items that don’t have a serious time stamp, but need to be done at some point – i.e. you may need to clean the tub this week, but you probably (hopefully) don’t urgently need to clean it today.
Next comes your parking lot list. If you’re not familiar with a parking lot, this is basically your brain dump. In meetings, it’s often items that are off-topic, but you want to address later. It’s similar for the to-do list. This is all those items that you eventually may want to get to, but they’re not necessarily related to the major tasks at hand. The parking lot list is great for those who, like me, get random ideas and thoughts out of nowhere. Something might pop in your head, and you don’t want to forget it, but you know it’ll veer you off course to address now. Both your B list and your parking lot list can live somewhere that you can access if you need, but aren’t in plain sight and therefore aren’t as distracting.
For Your Calendar…
Give yourself twice as long for each appointment as you think you’ll need. Why? When was the last time your doctor was right on time? Or the last time your department meeting wasn’t at some point sidetracked and ran over the allotted time? If you schedule back to back to back meetings/appointments with little breathing room, it’s really easy to get “too busy” if there’s any hitch in the schedule at all. And if one of your appointments or to-do items involves an underlying fear, you could almost go to Vegas with the odds that it’s the one that you won’t have enough time for.
For Both: Set Boundaries….
Set boundaries for things that are really important to you as an overall human being. If it’s absolutely essential to your mental health that you meditate for thirty minutes a day, this item could be one of the three on your list every day. If your spiritual health relies on going to church/service each week, put that on the calendar and make it a non-negotiable (obviously these are barring emergencies/illness etc). If it’s important to you that your whole family sits down for dinner at the table every night, make it an appointment for yourself.
This might seem off topic, but often, we can self-sabotage by being so busy we don’t take care of ourselves. If we’re exhausted because we got two hours of sleep, we’ve eaten every meal in the car for the past week, we feel spiritually disconnected, we are not in a good place for moving towards our goals. And that’s where self-sabotage does its best work. Our fears often magnify when we’re exhausted or anxious or depressed or feeling disconnected from ourselves, and self-sabotage thrives on fear.
What are your dreams? Seriously. I’m asking. Not “what are the dreams that will sound safe and acceptable to my friends/spouse/family.” Not “what are the dreams that I dare to have without really putting myself out there because I’m afraid of failure.” Not “what the dreams that I can have within the confines of logical/rational/paths we’ve been told we must follow.” Not “what are the dreams I can have while still managing to clean the tub and the floors this weekend.” What. Are. YOUR. Dreams?
Here’s the thing. We rarely really offer up the full extent of our dreams up. We’re afraid someone will object, point out that we can’t do it/aren’t qualified, suggest a safer/more secure (financially) option. We’re afraid people will placate us and say “aww that’s nice” but when we want to go for it we’ll get, “OK, realistically…”. Maybe we’re afraid they’ll get thrown in our face. Held against us. “You’re so unrealistic….” and that kind of thing. (Been there? Yeah, me too.).
But you know what? That’s BS.
To step back and clarify for a moment, I absolutely get that because of illness or disability, there are certain things some of us can’t do. And this is not a “you can be anything you want to be” speech, because I get that in some cases, we just cannot. Or maybe it’s not medically safe for us to do so even if we can. My point is that often, we are afraid to speak our dreams because we think others will object, degrade or belittle them, or make us feel badly about them/incapable/etc.
Now obviously, there are certain things that regulations require we can and cannot do. I cannot perform surgery because I’m not a surgeon. If a job requires me to be 6’0, unless I’m allowed to do the job on stilts and am comfortable doing so, I’m never going to do it because I’m 5’0 on a good day. But regulations and legal requirements aside, I’m tired of people putting down our dreams. Yes, we have to feed our families and pay our mortgage/rent/bills. Yes, there are tasks that need to be done like getting groceries and cleaning the house. But there can be some sort of happy medium between your wildest dreams and feeling like you don’t fit in your life because you feel so stifled into logic and tasks that you are put down for dreaming.
So here are my dreams, in no particular order:
Grow Spread Hope Foundation into a viable organization that I can run and grow into my life’s work. I have a lot of love and empathy to give, I have a lot to offer others, and a passion for doing so. I’m particularly passionate about helping support other advocates, and this is becoming an increasingly significant part of SHP.
Incorporate my travel experience, knowledge, business into that. (The how is TBD, but hey, these are dreams).
To not feel alone in doing all this, but to have a “partner in crime” (not real crime guys, don’t worry), or teams to do this with. Because I don’t think this can be done alone, nor should it have to be.
To have farm land and gardens and goats and a Scottish highland cow. And to be able to cook meals from those gardens (not the goats! The plants!) and to be significantly more sustainable.
To have a family and to celebrate large family holidays and gatherings together, all sides of the family. I want to have gifts under the tree and play games together and have our own traditions that we as our own little family start and share with all who celebrate with us.
To adopt a lot of dogs. Shelter dogs of course. To rescue them and have them live long happy lives. And of course be part of our family. (This is long term, since current pup must be the queen bee of dogs).
To publish a book. Hopefully my novel (more on this coming up!).
To be completely loved and supported and accepted for being me. Not me with improvements and changes and this and that. Me. Who I am. It’s not that I won’t grow and learn and change a bit. But I don’t want to ever have to in order to be enough. We all deserve love for who we are, not who people want us to be.
It so often seems we won’t be able to get through it. We doubt our strength, our ability, ourselves. But I like to sometimes play a little “game” with myself, and remind myself how much has changed in the last month, six months, year. Not to dwell on the negatives, but to remind myself that the current state won’t last forever. For example: This time last year, I wasn’t married, I had a different car, a different job, I hadn’t been to Greece. All of those pretty big things changed in less than a year. So when you feel like you can’t get through it, remember, you’ve been here before, and you got through. Even though it may not feel like it, things will change.
Depression lies. It tells us that we are incapable, unlovable, unworthy. It tells us that we’re a failure. It tells us that every negative thing that we’ve ever thought about ourselves or someone has said about us is true. And it is an extremely convincing liar. And it isn’t just as simple as choosing to not believe them, no matter what anyone says. Perhaps keep a compliments notebook (if you’re unfamiliar, it’s a notebook where you write the positives people say about depression makes you forget). Or write bright neon stickies that say “depression lies” and put them someplace you’re likely to seem them when needed. Whatever works for you.
I once remember telling my therapist that I ruined another day by doing … something, I don’t remember what. She looked at me and, basically, asked “Why?”. She further clarified, “Why does something that took up less than one hour make it a bad day.? You have 23 other hours to make it a good day.” And it’s so true. Barring traumatic events, of course, one bad hour is simply that – a bad hour. So instead of blaming yourself and turning a bad hour into two, three, etc, allow it to be what it was, and work on improving the next 23.
It’s Ok to not feel OK. And it’s Ok to admit it. Nobody should have to wear a mask throughout life, simply for having an illness they would never have chosen to have (because who would choose to have an illness?). So on the days that you don’t feel Ok, I hope these thoughts help a little. I know that they have for me. And don’t forget to take extra good care of yourself on these days. You deserve it.
Hi all! It’s been a minute little too long since I’ve posted. Life’s been happening, a summary of which includes the following: a family trip to Spain at the end of June, getting in a pretty nasty car accident and possibly totaling my car (waiting on the official word, and yes, I’m ok), and temporarily going off of my meds (safely, with prescriber help) for personal reasons that I’m not yet ready to share with the world yet. If so inclined on my thoughts on this, you can read about that here. But… I’m back! And with some exciting news!
Today (Tuesday, 8/8), I’m going to be doing a takeover of Savvy Coop’s Instagram account. If you’re not familiar with Savvy, it’s an amazing patient-owned platform for patient advocates, and I’m one of the co-op members, which is super exciting. Definitely check them out on IG, as well as on their website. The takeover is an opportunity to share with others what Spread Hope Project is all about, as well as my insights and story as a patient (ok so it’s more like a full day of psuedo internet “fame”, but close, right?)
So if you happen to be on IG, take a sec, follow Savvy_Coop (and while you’re at it, might as well follow SpreadHopeProject too!) and check out my takeover tomorrow. I’m so grateful to the folks at Savvy for this opportunity!
It’s been a tough couple of days. Even those of us who make it our mission to spread hope have down times – after all, it’s why we know the value of offering hope to others. The dreary weather today, and lack of sleep, doesn’t help. During these times, finding hope can be a challenge. The world looks bleak and dark – both literally, with the storms we’re having today, and emotionally. It’s these times, though, in which hope is particularly essential. So how does one go about finding, and even spreading, hope when depression or anxiety takes a turn for the worse, giving the feeling that there is little of it to be found?
There is, of course, no concrete answer that would work for everyone. We’re all individuals with our own set of ideas of what we find hopeful. But here are a few tips I’ve found that can help me in darker times, and I hope they help you as well.
Ask others.Reach out to family, friends, loved ones and ask them to name a few little, day to day things, that give them hope. Not all of their answers, of course, may apply. But they may help you look at certain experiences or situations slightly differently. Or it may help you seek out their suggestions. One thing I have found in doing the 365 Days of Hope project is that there is a vast array of items, activities, and experiences that represent hope to others, and while I connect with so many of them once suggested, I never would have thought of them as “hopeful” on my own.
Help others. One of the most consistent truths I’ve found is that doing for others, even in tiny ways, makes me feel better. To clarify, I don’t mean doing for others at the expense of yourself. Taking on a coworker’s project when you’re already struggling with anxiety and depression most likely will not have a positive effect. But holding a door, buying a coffee for the person in line in front of you, complimenting someone, or stopping to see if someone who looks to be having trouble is OK, are all simple and free or inexpensive ways to help others without having to give up much of yourself.
Allow yourself to feel how you feel. That’s right – you have every right to experience what you’re experiencing. You have an illness that affects how you feel, and while it sucks, to be totally blunt about it, it’s not your fault and there’s often little you can in the acute stages. So give yourself permission to feel this way. Fighting it often only makes it worse. You then feel bad about not being able to change how you feel, on top of struggling with your illness. That can really destroy hope. So let yourself feel this way, and try to remember that at some point, it will end. There is the simplest of hopes in knowing that you can, eventually, get through this.
Pay attention to your senses. Is there anything at all that helps lift the struggle momentarily? Anything you see that is pleasant or hear that you enjoy? It may even be a smell that evokes a positive memory, or the feel of something soft and comforting. Make note of it. If you can, keep a list that’s easy to reference if needed. These will show you that, even in dark times, there are things that can ease it ever so slightly, if only for a minute. That offers a glimpse of hope. Hang on to those things. Surround yourself with them if at all possible. But at least just know they exist.
We’re almost a week into our 365 Days of Hope campaign, and while we clearly have a long way to go still, there seem to be a few trends based on the suggestions we’ve received so far. It got me wondering – what makes us hopeful, and why?
Now of course, we’re all different and everyone has their own reasons for suggesting the photos they did. Maybe it was to feed their (and our) inner child. Maybe they love the item or activity suggested. Maybe it’s what comes to their mind when they specifically think of hope, based on their life and experiences. So far, here’s what I’ve found.
Flowers. There were numerous suggestions for flowers, gardens, and things of the like. Flowers and gardens make me think of growth – blooms, or buds that will soon become a bloom. They also make me think of warmer weather, and along with it, sunshine. Anyone who’s struggled with SAD can attest to how warm weather, longer days, and sunshine can feel hopeful.
Nature. Nature has a way of taking us briefly, out of that finite moment, and helps us soak in the broader aspects of life. It refreshes and rejuvenates me. Which offers hope.
Childhood fun . From rolling down hills to swinging on swing sets to indulging in treats of our youth, kid-like fun is well represented on our list. My guess is that childhood makes many of us think of a simpler time – without mortgages and busy work schedules and just general responsibility. It was probably the last time many of us felt carefree, or as close to it as we can come. I also had numerous requests from places and items from my childhood, which I think bring up the same feelings.
Family. There were a lot of suggestions based on doing things with family and close friends. To me, this highlights our support systems, which can help us keep hope, or in some instances have hope for us, even when we struggle with it ourselves.
The beach. Let me caveat here that we’re based in the Philadelphia area, with the beach about an hour away. If I lived further inland, it may not be the case. Again, though, I think the beach, and everything surrounding it, reminds people of childhood, family, and vacation (aka a feeling of freedom), all of which, can represent hope.
Pre-technology/pre-internet times. This one is incredibly interesting. There were numerous suggestions for things like reading an actual newspaper, writing in a journal (not a blog), reading a book (not on an app or kindle), mailing a letter in a mailbox, turning off all electronics. Perhaps it’s that, like some of the above, this seems to transport us to a “simpler” time. Maybe it’s that the constant barrage of posts, alerts, emails, and the like make us feel overwhelmed, and pausing from them helps alleviate that.
Doing for others. We have suggestions such as donating to charity and to the food bank, saying hello to a stranger, complimenting someone. These truly hit home. I think many of us feel best when helping others. Whether it’s listening to a friend in need, to a random act of kindness, to just being friendly and interacting with those we’d normally pass by staring straight ahead, there’s a feeling of purpose when we feel we’re positively affecting another human, or even animal.
There were plenty of other suggestions that fall outside of, or in between, these trends. Still, these were rather revealing. As adults, we often feel overwhelmed. We’re in a constant routine of work and life and bills, spending our days with electronics and modern technology constantly at us. We have to always be “on”. If we’re battling a mental health condition or chronic illness, we add to that the anxiety or depression or pain or physical difficulties or exhaustion (and so much else) that come with these. And because of this, feeling loved and safe with our support systems, being reminded of times when things were simpler, where our goal seemed to be to have fun and enjoy life to the fullest, and where hope was as easy as saying hi to someone we didn’t know. Of course, there are exceptions as there are to everything. But these suggestions, and the fun we’re having doing these activities and taking these photos, are a valuable lesson. It’s possible to find hope in the tiniest thing, the smallest moment. And they give me something to go back to when my illness is rearing it’s head (literally, in my case), and I feel so hopeless. Perhaps I can look at these photos, remember these moments, and be reminded of that there is hope, after all.