World Kindness Day

World Kindness day is November 13 and World Kindness Week begins the Monday of the week with November 13. After the events of the last few years, and the many years crammed into 2020, kindness is needed now more than ever. There are a couple of Buddhist sayings that always come to mind when speaking of kindness. The first is, ‘Be kind whenever possible. It’s always possible.’ And the second is, ‘Be kind to all creatures. This is the true religion.’ Kindness is the quality of being friendly and considerate. There are many who believe kindness is a weakness and these are the people who would do harm to others.

When someone is kind to you, it can lift your spirits and put a smile on your face. What happens to you if you’re kind to others? Some benefits for a person who is kind to others include elevation of dopamine levels in the brain, which make us feel good. It can also include the feeling of emotional warmth leading to a healthier heart, reduction of inflammation slowing the aging process, reduction of emotional distance helping couples feel bonded, and contagiousness that often sets off a pay-it-forward ripple effect. There’s one important message I have for everyone regarding kindness. Always be kind to others and always be kind to yourself. That last part is harder than people think. Be kind.

James Pack is a self-published author of poetry and fiction.  Information about his publishing credits can be found on his personal blog TheJamesPack.com.  He resides in Tucson, AZ.

World Mental Health Day

In 1992, the World Federation of Mental Health established World Mental Health Day. In almost 30 years, knowledge about mental health a grown a great deal. The biggest goal for this day is awareness. Even today, there are many people who don’t understand the vast mental health issues people struggle with every day. Even the most recognizable disorders such as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) still lack awareness in the general public. Worst of all, people with no medical or behavioral health training claim to know about these disorders and spread false information.

I use this blog and others to share my own experiences. I share my first-hand account of struggling with PTSD and how I learned I had PTSD with two goals in mind. First, I want to bring awareness to people who know nothing about mental health issues. Second, I want others who experience the same things to realize they’re not alone. Many people suffer from poor mental health and don’t realize it. And many have no means to seek help. They may not have insurance. They may not have the means or ability to access medication. They may be afraid to take medication or think they don’t need any.

Help spread awareness about mental health by sharing your story. Only share what you’re comfortable sharing. I have found it helpful to talk about my experiences. It was one step I had to take among many to begin the path to healing. I’m still healing and still have a long way to go. Never give up. Never surrender.

James Pack is a self-published author of poetry and fiction.  Information about his publishing credits can be found on his personal blog TheJamesPack.com.  He resides in Tucson, AZ.

National Cheer Up the Lonely Day

Tomorrow (July 11) is National Cheer Up the Lonely Day. With social distancing, isolation, and quarantine, this holiday is important now more than ever. I’m certain many people have never heard of this day. The holiday was founded by Francis Pesek. His daughter, L.J. Pesek said he “was a quiet, kind, wonderful man who had a heart of gold. The idea came to him as a way of promoting kindness toward others who were lonely or forgotten as shut-ins or in nursing homes.” July 11 is also Francis Pesek’s birthday. I have yet to find any other information such as when Francis was born or what year the holiday was founded.

Autophobia is the fear of being alone. While many may not have the full-blown phobia, everyone at one time or another is afraid of being alone. For me, I’ve feared people would leave me which added to my insecurities and caused me to drive them away. I created my worst fear. When one feels this way, the smallest gesture can have the biggest impact. Sending a short message, an email, or letter can brighten their day. On social media, tagging a friend or sharing a link or post in a direct message (DM) can bring a smile to their face.

Remember, if you spend most days having conversations with several people, that doesn’t mean everyone else does. You may be the only person one of those people talks to for the entire day. There was one time a couple years ago when I went an entire week with no contact or conversations with anyone outside of work. I felt ignored and unwanted. I know others have felt this way. It takes little effort to remind people that you care about them. It’s also important to not assume someone is lonely because they spend a lot of time alone. Don’t jump to conclusions. Just tell them you care about them.

James Pack is a self-published author of poetry and fiction.  Information about his publishing credits can be found on his personal blog TheJamesPack.com.  He resides in Tucson, AZ.

Pride Month

June is Pride Month. It’s about being proud of who you are and your sexuality, whatever it is. Homosexual, heterosexual, bisexual, pansexual, demisexual, asexual; it comes in all shapes and sizes. The point is being proud of who you are. I identify as demisexual. This means I cannot reach full sexual arousal unless I have an emotional connection with the person. I’m not going to go into further details in this post. 

June is also PTSD Awareness Month. May was Mental Health Awareness Month so we’ll continue spreading awareness. June 27 is PTSD Awareness Day, and I’ll share more about that around that time. I have PTSD from various traumas I’ve experienced since childhood. This also caused me to have anxiety and depression. I have spent the last few years attempting to overcome some of my issues. I succeeded in some places and failed in others. 

The biggest thing for me is to no longer feel ashamed of having a mental illness. And to no longer feel ashamed of past transgressions. I’ve made many mistakes. I’ve lost people I cared about because I wouldn’t face my problems. I won’t feel sorry for myself anymore. I ask that everyone have pride in fighting against a mental illness. Be proud of the progress you’ve made. The point of Pride Month is to love yourself. So, bring awareness to your community and be proud of everything you’ve overcome.

James Pack is a self-published author of poetry and fiction.  Information about his publishing credits can be found on his personal blog TheJamesPack.com.  He resides in Tucson, AZ.

7 Ways I Changed from Hunting the Good Stuff

I spent some time in the Arizona Army National Guard. They had started a program called Master Resiliency Training (MRT). Arizona had one of the highest suicide rates among soldiers. They sanctioned this program to help soldiers “overcome adversity.” The Psychology Department of the University of Philadelphia created the program. After a few years I had forgotten a lot of the training. One thing stuck with me though I never practiced it. It was called “Hunt the Good Stuff.” A simple exercise of writing down three good things that happened to you that day before bed. And writing why those things were important to you.

I remember a Major telling everyone about when he first heard about this exercise. He thought it was stupid. His instructor told him to try it. What did he have to lose? The training went for three days. He noticed by the second night of “Hunting the Good Stuff” he was sleeping better. This Major also had two young daughters whom he didn’t know how to connect with. One night at dinner, he asked his family to tell each other three good things that happened to them that day. His family started doing this every night. His daughters start talking about their good things before anyone else. He was able to learn about and connect with his children with this exercise.

Over the last couple years, my life has had many ups and downs. After so many things chipping away at my resolve, I grew more depressed and negative. I got so negative that someone close to me told me they didn’t want to be around me anymore. That was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I felt I had hit rock bottom. My job offered six free counseling sessions and I took them. I started a “Hunt the Good Stuff” journal. I still have a long way to go but I’m 1000% better than I was. That was five months ago. This one exercise has done more for me than I ever imagined. I wish I had started doing it sooner.

1. When I Look for Good Things, I Find Them

When I first started this exercise, it felt daunting. I wasn’t sure if I could find three things to write in this journal every day. I had to think for a few minutes. The more often I did this, the easier it got. I used to get angry and sad because my mind autopiloted into negative thoughts. When I sat down and thought about the good things, I always found good things. Perspective and attitude do play a role in one’s mindset. Reflecting on something good, no matter how small, every day has helped to change my way of thinking.

2. Others Noticed a Change in Me

It took several weeks before someone said anything. My sister mentioned noticing a huge change in me. A better change. My coworkers noticed too. One of them wanted to take photos for a work Instagram. I joined in and enjoyed being in the photos. I overheard someone say they had never seen me smile so much. Coworkers were happy to see me when I went to work. They were excited to work with me that day. Positive thinking has led me to enjoy the people I work with even if I don’t enjoy the job itself. 

3. I Gained More Self-Confidence

I talked with a coworker about some of the things I had been doing since I felt my life had fallen apart. I mentioned my counseling and “Hunting the Good Stuff.” I thought she would say that she noticed I was happier. But what she said surprised me. She noticed that I was more confident in myself. I never would have guessed that would be a result from positive thinking. It makes sense. Being positive had made me act sillier and have fun without the concern of what others might think. I can’t remember the last time I was like that.

4. My Attitude Changed; I’m More Positive

As expected, positive thinking has led me to see the world in a positive way. I don’t always assume the worst from people. I rationalize things differently. When someone says they forgot about plans we made because they didn’t put it in their calendar, I understand. I’ve done that too. Before I would assume, I wasn’t important to them and that’s why they forgot. Sometimes people get busy and it has nothing to do with me. I don’t make plans as often now, but I don’t get upset if things don’t go to plan.

5. I Changed How I Talk to Myself

One of the things I started along with “Hunting the Good Stuff” was a positive affirmation. The person I was close to who didn’t want me in their life anymore gave this to me. I repeat the phrases, “I like myself. I love myself. I deserve good things.” I once repeated these words over and over for about 20 minutes. This helped but writing three good things every day helped too. My internal monologue has changed. I don’t call myself stupid when I make a mistake. I don’t say negative things to myself as often. It’s still there now and then, but less frequent.

6. I Sleep Better

It doesn’t work every night. Some nights I’m still restless or only sleep a few hours. But overall my sleep has improved. I have dreams more often. Fewer nightmares. I sleep longer and deeper. I don’t always feel energized, but I don’t feel drained upon waking up anymore. I give myself a couple hours in the morning before work. I allow myself time to ease into the day. This has added to my daily productivity and attitude when going to work. Most of the time, I can go to sleep at the time I want to start sleeping.

7. I Enjoy Things Again

I used to have a general crabby disposition. Even when I used to enjoy something, I didn’t show much enthusiasm. I find myself feeling good after doing things. I go to movies alone and reflect on having a good time with myself. If I go to a party, I socialize for a bit and enjoy some food. I walk in with no expectations and walk out having had a great time. I get more reading and writing done because I enjoy doing it more. 

I’m surprised how much this one activity helped change my perspective on life. I still have hard days where I have to force myself to find good things. The last few weeks I’ve moved from at least three good things every day to four good things every day. More and more days are having five to seven good things. As of writing this, I’ve been practicing this exercise for over 150 days. That’s five months. I may never get back the people I lost when I was negative and depressed. But I will do everything I can to not make the same mistakes twice.

The good stuff is always out there. You just have to look for it. Happy hunting!

James Pack is a self-published author of poetry and fiction.  Information about his publishing credits can be found on his personal blog TheJamesPack.com.  He resides in Tucson, AZ.

The One Thing That Keeps Me Going

More and more people tell me to do what makes me happy. Writing makes me happy. Whether I’m writing a poem, a short story, a novel, or blog journal post; writing makes me happy. Lately it doesn’t feel like anything else makes me happy. Nothing really. Sometimes coworkers make work fun but it’s not something that makes me happy. I mean truly happy like this is exactly what I’m supposed to be doing with my life. Something I feel within my soul reminding me why I’m alive and why I was born. Writing is the only thing that has given me that feeling.

I look back on things I’ve done and things I thought I enjoyed. I feel everything led me to this point. Everything made me who I am; who I’m supposed to be. This realization comes with one fear. I believe I’m supposed to be alone on this journey. Every experience, every encounter, every person I’ve met; it feels like it all is telling me to let go of everything and pursue this adventure alone. I don’t want to be alone. I’ve always felt alone. Why would the Universe tell me my journey is a lonely one?

I’ve heard people say writing is a lonely craft. That’s not true for everyone. Most writers have an editor. Sometimes it’s a close friend. Sometimes it’s a professional who becomes a friend. Some writers have a core group of people they trust to read the early drafts of their work. I’ve tried and failed to find this. People express interest but not much else. When I approach them with my work, I think they’re surprised like they didn’t expect me to follow through. So, I write five different drafts until I feel satisfied and either self-publish or submit to online magazines. I get many rejection letters.

Everyone says that is the life of the writer. Even the great writers had many rejections. Add those rejections to the personal rejections in life. I mean finding the courage to talk to your crush and getting rejected. I mean trying to make new friends and then they disappear and ignore all your attempts at communication. I mean the rejection one feels everyday added to rejections that say your writing isn’t good enough. All those hours you spent improving your story didn’t improve it enough. Rejection on top of rejection on top of more rejections. Not including rejections from childhood that stay with you.

Many writers struggle but most have a support system to help them keep going. Family and friends who tell them not to give up and keep at it. Never give up; never surrender. I don’t have that support. I share my writing and most people ignore it. I share a cat video, and everyone loves it. How do I keep going? The only answer I can think of is writing makes me happy. Nothing else in the world brings me that kind of joy so the rejections don’t break my resolve. I know I’m depressed when I’m not writing.

Writing gets my emotions out. Writing releases my thoughts so they don’t bottle up. It’s therapeutic. But it’s not enough. I’m seeking help but I still need a support system. I need friends and family. I gave up on my family years ago. I keep trying to find new friends, but I don’t think they want to put them time in on me. Maybe I’m too much for them. Maybe they think I’m a basket case. Maybe they don’t care about my writing or if I’m alive or dead. I’d have given up by now if not for writing. Sadly, writing has yet to help me pay the bills. I guess I’ll keep writing until it does.

My Mind Still Thinks I’m in Danger

When you grow up with an anxiety disorder, you don’t realize what kind of skills you’re developing. At an early age, I learned how to distinguish if someone was a bad person or not. Are they friend or foe? Growing up on the south side of almost any city will cause you to learn these skills willingly or otherwise. It was easy to see if someone was drunk, on drugs, or a mugger. I now avoid homeless beggars with a practiced indifference because I learned how to present myself in a way that projected, “I’m meaner than you. Fuck off!” It didn’t matter if I was meaner or not as long as they thought I was.

What happens when you integrate into everyday normal life where you have fewer threats? I don’t feel like I belong anywhere. No one around me went through similar struggles or battles. They lived a happy childhood with parents who didn’t verbally or physically abuse them. They have issues they are dealing with, but they have a support system to help them get by. They aren’t sitting at home alone rocking back and forth in an attempt to comfort themselves. They can make a new friend at the snap of a finger and not question someone’s trust. They can walk into a crowded room and thrive while I’m looking for exits, avoiding everyone, and trying not to hear and see every little detail in the room.

I can talk to anyone. I can jump into a crowd and find someone to chat with. I’ll know after a few minutes if I can get along with someone or not. I can make a new acquaintance. I rarely have the desire or energy for this. And close friendships? That part is hard. It takes so long for me to trust someone enough to let them in. Most people don’t stick around that long. I think most don’t want to. Some people, I see them as they are. They’re not bad people but they’re not good people either. I don’t want those people in my life. Other people drift away on their own.

I have no support system. I’ve never been close with anyone in my family. If I manage to find someone I can talk with more than once, they become my best friend for maybe a year or two and then life pushes us in different directions. Sometimes I wonder if the only reason certain people talk to me as often as they do is only because I always start the conversations. If I didn’t contact them, would they eventually contact me or not at all? Most of the time, the answer is not at all.

Maybe my standards are too high. Maybe I only meet selfish people so caught up in their own bullshit they can’t see me. Sometimes it feels like they see everyone except me. I want to be seen and heard. I want to feel close to someone, but I can’t be close to just anyone. I can’t let someone in fast enough. All I can do is sit back and hope someone eventually wants to make the effort. I’ve made the effort multiple times for multiple people. I feel I’ve always gone above and beyond and get nothing in return. I don’t do it for praise or status. I do it in the hopes that someone will do it for me. Karma. Treat others the way you want to be treated. I want to be treated with kindness.

Different Types of Panic Attacks

This is not a scientific post. There are no references cited. This is solely based on my own experiences. Depending on my mood, emotions, and sensory stimuli, I never have the same kind of panic attacks. There are many factors that combine to bring on an attack. There are other instances where the same situation causes no panic. It’s unpredictable. Even which kind of attack I will have is unpredictable. I have identified three kinds of attacks I’ve had, each one a different form of panic. There could be more, but these are mine.

Normal Apprehension as Panic

These are the normal things that cause anxiety for anyone. Things like stage freight and public speaking, talking to your crush for the first time, or doing anything for the first time. On occasion, I get so worked up I can’t do the thing. Sometimes, forcing myself to keep going works and I get stuff done. This doesn’t always work, and I abandon all hope until the next time around. Not everyone has issues with this sort of anxiety, but those of us with anxiety disorders struggle a little more than others. This is the easiest type of panic from which to come down and doesn’t ruin your day.

Fear as Panic

Anyone who feels their life is in danger will have a slight panic attack. This is a normal reaction to danger. What do you do when you’re lying in bed, nothing is happening, and your heart starts racing? What do you do when you feel like you’re in danger, but there’s no danger around you? This type of panic attack is the most unpredictable because it can happen anywhere, anytime, and with no probable cause. This is also the most difficult panic attack to get over. I think it’s because the lack of a cause creates more anxiety.

Anger as Panic

This is the one I struggle with the most. It doesn’t happen often, but it’s never fun when it does. Usually, when my senses are overwhelmed, and I have less control than I’d like, I get frustrated. When this happens, I have to move around and handle things within my control to calm down. When I can’t do this, and I feel things are not being done the way they should, I get angry. I snap at others or have an attitude when I don’t need one. It used to be a lot worse, but as long as I don’t allow myself to get frustrated, I can avoid this kind of panic.

With all three of these panic attacks, I have the same symptoms; pounding chest, the shakes, irritability, and the need to avoid all humans. Sometimes the attack and symptoms last a few minutes where other times they can last for hours. I’m still learning about mine and figuring out how to avoid having them. I try to avoid stressful situations. Easier said than done. If I can’t avoid them, I focus on things I can control, even if all I do is rearrange furniture. It keeps me focused and I can avoid getting too angry or having to leave to catch my breath.

When Family Makes You Feel Alone During the Holidays

I know I’m not alone when I say I don’t like the holidays. Everyone has their reasons. Family gatherings always reminded me of or created more bad memories. I moved away from home to get away from family. It never felt like family. Living on my own, and no family, watching everyone else enjoying the holidays with their loved ones; this only reminded me of what I didn’t have. For a few years, I didn’t have friends around the holidays. If I could, I worked on Thanksgiving and Christmas. Working was better than feeling lonely at home.

As I got older, I developed a kind of family with some friends and coworkers, but this took a long time to build. I had a place to eat on Thanksgiving. I had someone to exchange gifts with on Christmas. After a while, I realized this new family was only a step up from my biological family. It’s difficult feeling alone when you’re surrounded by people; people who are supposed to be there for you but never notice you because they’re trapped within their own mind and problems. Sometimes you can’t find people you click with. People vibrate at different frequencies.

Moving on, getting older, once again I thought I had found a family. The harsh reality that I’ll never be a part of the family as I would like to be is just as painful as feeling like nothing around my other family. I know I have people who care for me. I know they would be there if everything was falling apart. But people who care for you can still make you feel alone or not important without meaning to. There’s no malicious intent. They’re going through problems too. Other’s feelings are forgotten when you’re caught up in your own.

If I can, I still work on Christmas. There are too many unhappy memories around that holiday. At the moment, I’m trying to decipher how much fault is mine in dealing with anyone else. Do they inadvertently make me feel unimportant because I make them feel that way? I’ve started looking back at myself every time I feel wronged. I have to be careful otherwise I’ll fall into the habit of assuming I deserve poor treatment. When do I start assuming I deserve happy memories during the holidays? When do I feel like people want me around for the holidays? This year wasn’t bad. Each year gets a little better. 

How Do You Keep Going When You Don’t Feel Important?

It’s a regular thing that happens every few weeks. One bad day turns into a bad week and everything has you thinking negatively. You question all your life choices. You wonder why you can’t find that job or that person or that purpose that makes everything perfect. Everyone you know is dealing with their own problems and you get so self-absorbed you forget about their problems and they forget about yours. They have their own struggles but it’s hard not to feel you’re not important to them. It’s hard not to feel like a burden on them.

Some people only listen to your problems, so they can share their problems. They’re not actually concerned. Sometimes you just need to vent, and everyone thinks you’re just complaining or yelling or angry all the time. You have to tell them you need to vent before they’ll accept your ranting. This frustrates you and stops you from talking to anyone else, about anything. You push yourself away and wall up your emotions and feel no connection to anyone. You no longer feel important to anyone or yourself. This is when you have to play a trick on yourself.

When all feels lost, that is the moment you have to remind yourself of the people who do care. The people who’ve been there for you before. Maybe they aren’t there right now, but that doesn’t mean they’ve abandoned you. They have their own struggles and sometimes they need reminding that they’re important. If you feel like a burden on someone, thank them for all they’ve put up with in the past. Thank them for still being a part of your life. Make sure they feel appreciated and they will never see you as a burden. And return the favor. Don’t take and never give.

What if you honestly don’t have anyone you can turn to and don’t feel comfortable talking with a stranger? You still have to force yourself to find those happy memories. Remind yourself that bad things happen in between all the good things. If you’ve had a bad week, a good week and a great week are on the horizon. Distraction can be helpful too; reading a book, watching a movie or TV show, video games, etc… All these can help alleviate those feelings. They won’t go away. They never do. Those feelings don’t define who you are, and you should never let them control you.

I wish I knew these things when I was younger. So much of my life was spent worrying or feeling negative that no one cared for me. The truth was no one around me was telling me that I was important or needed or wanted. That’s a hard cycle to break once it starts rolling. If no one in your life is telling you those things, you need to find new people. Each and every person is important, but only certain people can see you as important. Not everyone has that gift of seeing.

So, how do you keep going when you don’t feel important? You make yourself feel important. If you feel important (without being egotistical), others will feel you’re important. The first step is being important to yourself and changing the way you think about yourself. Easier said than done. It’s taken me nearly 20 years to figure that part out. I still struggle with it from time to time. Writing stories and poetry helps me get my thoughts out and prevents them from bottling up inside. You have to find something that helps you get thoughts out before they bottle up. Don’t let them fester inside you.