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.

Y’all Are Crazy, and That’s Okay

Having a mental illness is a lonely thing.

Like most people, we want at least someone with whom we can talk. We want a friend to cry with, or even laugh with. We need a deep connection with another human, to feel loved and validated.

Unfortunately, we have a few things that get in the way of socializing.

Many of us are scared. We have trust issues. When we feel hurt, we feel very deeply and wish to avoid feeling that way again. Often, we’ve had a bad experience of someone breaking a promise or shying away when we shared how we think. Heck, a lot of us have a bonafide diagnosis from a doctor that we have social anxieties.

Besides the hurt and fear, we avoid people for their own benefit. We tell ourselves that we are flawed and unsafe. We justify our anti-social behavior with statements like, “I know I’m a downer,” “No ones talks to me at parties. They can see, in my face, that I’m no fun,” and “If they really wanted to be around me, they’d talk to me.”

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Those reasons and that voice are hard to work with, but our health and mental stability need to fight against them. I mean, did you know that human connections were rated the most important thing in a happy life?

So stop beating yourself up. Seriously. I’ll tell you why:

  • Most people are some level of crazy. They may not be certified, but they have issues. I can’t tell you how many people I talk with who have experienced some angle of what I have, if not the whole enchilada.
  • Even though you are crazy, what are you gonna do about it? I’ve tried starting over, but the person that is me always shines through. I am what I have to work with and I accept that.
  • Crazy people have options, like crazy-people doctors and crazy-people medications and crazy-people blogs. There are even …crazy people groups that meet and talk crazy together. It’s a blast.
  • You are you, and are a work in progress. Just think: are you still crawling around and stuffing car keys in your mouth? NO! You did that as a baby, silly. Now you are older and know better. You are knowing better every day.
  • The future will be better. The future will be even betterer if you keep moving forward -even if all you can manage is a shuffle.
  • If all else fails, there is chocolate.
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I have a few friends. Of those, a few have mental health challenges. Some struggle with depression and social anxiety like I do. One has panic attacks. Another is schizophrenic. A mutual acquaintance is bipolar.

Sometimes when I try to plan a get-together, a friend flakes and doesn’t show up. Sometimes I have a terrible week and have to cancel on one of them. Since we are all in this not-sea-worthy-at-all boat together, however, we get it. If not, we talk about it. We hug. We pull out the chocolate.

I need people. I need understanding. I need connection. So do you. Plus, your challenges and perspectives mean that you are more understanding and empathetic than other people.

I mean, we may all be crazy, but that’s okay. We’re as human as the next person and our needs are just as valid.

You are worth it. I promise.

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Photo Credits:
Sayo Garcia
Ethan Sykes
Anita Austvika

Resolutions Undefined

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It’s that time again, time to list resolutions for the year ahead, defining a “new” start, a “new” year, a “new” you. Well, pardon me if I say, forget that noise. Don’t get me wrong, I believe setting goals and working toward them is healthy in all aspects of life, however I do not believe success or failures of your “list” should ever define you. Life has unexpected events, twists and turns, hardships and successes, and we are not given the play by play of what the next chapter will bring, so while we strive to be better every day, let us strive to accept who we are as enough.

That list, and whether or not we stop even looking at it in a week or in a few months does not define you, and is not the judge or jury on your track toward living your best life, but it can be a reminder. For me, I will be making a list of goals because I feel it’s important to visualize our dreams, but in the process I will also remind myself that this list is only a guide on the path of continuing to be the best version of me for the present moment of each day, and not a list that defines me, because while…

I will make healthier and realistic choices for me, my weight/body type, food choices and gym time do NOT define me;

I will make smarter financial decisions for me and my family, my wealth or material things do NOT define me;

I will strive to turn my “job” into my dream, my title does NOT define me; and

I will make attempts to forgive myself and those who have hurt me, my past does NOT define me.

These reminders not only allow me to see what does not define me but what does, and that is the love in my heart, the kindness I share and the peace in my soul. I am enough, and I wouldn’t trade this me for a “new” me any year, because this me is pretty darn awesome no matter where I am in the journey of this life.

You are enough, every little quirk, every scar, every smile, every choice and every piece that makes you, you. Set your goals for you, work to accomplish them for you, but always remember what truly defines you.

Reflecting on 2018, I am grateful for every lesson, fear overcome, goal reached, and connections made and look forward to each in the year to come.

Much love and happiness for the new year!

Lisa J.

Follow the Clues to Find the Light Inside

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The light. You may ask what I’m talking about, but what you may not understand just yet, is that you have the answer. The light, the spark, the fire within is something you have the means and ways of tapping into, you have the ability to not only find but let blaze your path intended for you in the world. As early as childhood you’ve been given clues, like breadcrumbs, as to how your light is defined, what incredible gift you possess, and how to share it. You know those clues that at one time may have been labeled as annoyances or stages or phases.

That time you doodled all over your notebook and failed that geometry test, the obsession with colors and paint, the music that played over and over in your head, the voice that would come out sometimes only in the shower, being compelled to help animals, people or bugs, the speech you gave that brought you to tears, the engine you took apart and put back together over and over just because, the way your heart was pulled to the outdoors in nature, or the pages and pages of quotes and stories in the hundred journals you have from family and friends.

Whatever it may be, whatever pulls you to your center, your truth, what makes time non-existent, that “thing” you do that drives you, gives you reason, makes you smile to your core is it. You may not recognize it quite yet, or you may have known since you were three years old, or you know, and you just don’t know what to do with it, but that my friends, is your light. That light is your passion, your gift, your reason and a beat so loud in your heart that you should not, you cannot, ignore it.

Still don’t know what I’m talking about? Ask yourself, ask what your passion is, and close your eyes and really listen to that quiet but strong voice, and the answer will present itself. We are all incredible humans, but our biggest issue is that we forget just how amazing we are from the inside. We hide from our truth, we push aside the possibility for the practical, we fear, and we question, and we lose the entire meaning of why we are here. We are here to share that light, that gift we all are uniquely created with.

I implore you to open your eyes, your heart and listen closely. Follow the clues down the path of what is meant to be for you, and as you walk toward your truth the more that is revealed, embrace it and share it. This is it, this is the time for you to live each moment, love every day and fill the world with kindness and compassion, do that, your way and the only way you do best. You have choices in this life, choices that are hard, easy, scary, sad, happy, choices that can change your course, but if nothing else, choose You, your truth and choose to shine the light from inside so that when you leave this earth you leave knowing you knew Love.

Much Love,
Lisa J

Mental Health Matters

In my last post I talked about the importance of living in a way that promotes the positive, that celebrates the good, because frankly people / this person with mental illness NEEDS that.  That extra dose of sunshine that sometimes we just don’t get. Over the course of the last few weeks, for my sins, I have in South Africa been engaged about our National Health Insurance, about the provision of services, particularly mental health services.  Ok, I just read that back and laughed out loud.   Literally. No, we don’t have a great frame of reference.

In the one meeting a healthworker suggested that another strike be held to demonstrate what they thought.  What they believed.  Now as I’ve become increasingly Bipolar, my ability to have a poker face has become near to completely impossible, and I showed my disgust.  I mean, isn’t the basic premise of working in the health system that you’d rather not have people die?  That patients needed to stay alive to be treated, and when they did, you’d offer them the best possible service that you could manage within your constraints?   Wouldn’t that be what anyone wanted to do?  I’m not a healthworker, but I thought that was important.  That I wouldn’t want the healthworker I’d need when I was vulnerable to not be there, on strike, or otherwise predisposed.  And that’s pretty much what happens to people with mental illness whether the clinic / hospital is open or closed.  We don’t receive services because sometimes we don’t know we’re ill, sometimes we’re pushed to the back of the row, or triaged as “ok” unless you were slightly more important i.e. dying from a suicide attempt.  Awesome.

From everything I listened to – another person calling our health system – in a conference – Schizophrenic.  I stood up.  I said please don’t say that.  That’s racist to me and everyone who has a mental illness – who my good people – will exceed the number of people living with communicable diseases in the all to near future. Unfortunately.  So I have a better idea.  Let’s start a new conversation.  Let’s start a loud and proud new narrative that brings about fundamental changes to the mental health system the world over.  Let us find the money to provide the kind of mental health services that everyone needs at some point in their lives.  Because actually, people with mental illness in the world are no longer a minority.

Because as much as I have witnessed crumbling health systems, I have also witnessed political will, harnessing of philanthropic interest, a new energy to change things, make things that exist better.  And I firmly believe that where there’s a will, there’s a way.  And not only that, but that we can do it with kindness.  That we can smile.  And we can make mental health – for everyone – matter.  Be part of those who support us as opposed to those who don’t. I am 4 M’s Bipolar Mom.

When We Take Our Nose Out of Our Book, We Learn to Change Our Story

This articles talk about changing your story & writing your happy ending.We are all human, and no matter our upbringing, family, education, or life choices, we all encounter struggles, heartache and negative influence, and its so very easy to fall into the trap of overlooking the beauty, kindness, gratitude and love that not only exists in this sometimes unrelenting world, but in ourselves.

We, as humans have the tendency to stick our nose in our own book, and we inherently believe that the script of what others portray on the outside is their actual truth, when in reality, “faking it to make it” is the game they play just as well as you. There were many times in my life that I would assume the perfect life existed in everyone’s else’s story, there were princesses and handsome princes that didn’t have the fire breathing dragon that burned me on more than one occasion. I would hurt so deeply that I couldn’t even imagine that anyone would understand. It’s true, parts of my story were difficult yes, but that is what I was missing, it was only part of my story.

Negativity and believing everyone else had a better chance, better job, better ability, better life kept me from picking my head up out of the book of lies I was telling myself. I believed in the incomplete scripts of the world, and it took a giant sword to pierce my heart to wake me up. A few years ago I witnessed and felt a giant loss, a loss that makes you rethink life itself and force me to rewrite my ending. That loss taught me that everything is not always as it seems, pain, heartbreak and struggles do not discriminate, and our perception is not always reality. Most importantly my biggest lesson was that life was way too short to have my face shoved in my own book.

So I picked up my head, I started to see things more realistically, I practiced every day to silence the inner narrator so I could truly see the reality of the beauty, kindness, gratitude and love that existed around me and in me. Amazingly, once I opened my eyes to the fact that although everyone’s story is different, we are all trying to write the same happy ending, and my world exploded with new people, new experiences, new moments and a new story, and it was a story I was excited to live. Suddenly it wasn’t hard to see the good anymore, and the more good I saw the more it came into my life.

Life can write us some insanely difficult chapters, it can test our strength, path, purpose and faith, but those hard times, those times when you think you just can’t do it anymore, are the foundation of who we are, but it is not the whole story. How we overcome and how we choose to live through it can be the highlights, but we must remind ourselves that the good exists, that the unimaginable is possible, and we can live a script so exciting, so beautiful and so loving that it may feel like a fairytale. We just need to look up from the pages of who we think we are and see the reality of what we can be. All of us dream of the storybook fantasy, but reality is, none of us are living it, so be kind, surround yourself with people reading the same book and choose to write your happy ending.

Much Love,

Lisa

Ideas to Ease Depression

Since this is the first post of 2018, I wanted to talk about a familiar subject, but in a different context. I have written before about how role-playing video games are one way that I use to ease my depression symptoms. It is at its most important in my own life between the months of November to March when the seasonal component of my depression is at its strongest.

What we know about depression is that it is one of the most common mental health problems that we see today. For me, it has been a major part of my life since I was a teenager. The most common way that doctors treat depression is through medication.

In my experience with anti-depressants, they can be effective at easing my own depression symptoms. The problem is over time they before less effective. Over the past ten years, I have changed to a new anti-depressant once a year.

It gets worse for me when I am in a long depression cycle. In one tough year my psychiatrist changed my anti-depressant medication three different times.

Medications are an important part of the process of easing depression. But you can do things that you can do that are outside the realm of medication that help ease depression. It can be is as effective as medication.

Sleep is a major part of if your depression worsens or gets better. One thing I have learned is not to oversleep or take naps. I never take naps so it is never an issue for me. The expert in my life tells me all the time that naps are counterproductive. It can worsen your depression because staying in bed while depression is consuming you is a bad thing.

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That leads to another important “rule of thumb.” I have written recently how staying in bed for three straight days was helpful, but it made me fall deeper into the depths of my depression. This is a gray area. Staying in bed feels good in the moment but in the long term, it could mean more days of feeling worse. That is why out of all the advice I can give, this is the hardest to do.

I had to make the decision to finally get out of bed at the start of this week. Since then I have been able to ease my depression by getting back to what I love. Writing.

One of the worst parts of my depression life is that when I am depressed I tend to go away from a healthy and balanced diet. Eating right, according to every one of my doctors, is paramount to easing depression symptoms. When I skip meals or even go a day without an appetite I know my depression is getting worse. For me, this is a sign, and eating is so important to living. Eating right as a part of my mental health plan isn’t always synch, when I am depressed I tend to skip meals. When I finally start eating regular meals again, I can tell the difference.

It pays to be kind to yourself.

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I struggle with this the most when I am depressed. When I am lost deep in my depression I tend to feel like the only way out is to push the limits. I try to write all day in hopes that I will feel better in the end. It never works because I am not being kind to myself.

After my latest bout with depression, I decided to read. I opened up my favorite collection of Edgar Allan Poe written works and I read my favorites. The Raven. The Purloined Letter. I got lost for a few hours in my favorite Poe poems. It felt good to do something that I love. The next day when I went back to writing I eased into it. Only wrote on my blog. The next I worked on a chapter. By mid-week, I was back to writing in a normal schedule, but when I reached my limit, I walked away for the day.

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Find ways to be kind to yourself by finding things that you love and do them. If a bubble bath makes you feel great, do it. Listening to some great music over the last couple days was helpful in easing my depression to a manageable level. You can read a book. Allowing yourself moments in your day of downtime can mean all the difference. It pays to be kind to yourself.

The last thing that I wanted to talk about is self-acceptance. I have learned over the past four months of writing this blog that when you believe in yourself, it changes your perspective. It sounds cliche, but don’t let others define who you are in this life. In my own life, I have learned to accept who I am with my illness. No one is perfect and for so long I thought I had to be to have success.

It’s a false thought. I have lived through so much anxiety and depression since starting this blog. Yet, I still find a way to connect with my fellow bloggers. Every day that I accept that I am a decent person despite being Bipolar, means I am more comfortable in my own skin.

I believe that we all have something to offer in this world. If those of us in the mental illness community start respecting ourselves and those like us, it could mean that we can finally start to strip away the stigma that surrounds us. It starts with accepting who you are in this life.

Always Keep Fighting.

J.E. Skye

 

Photo Credits:

unsplash-logoPatrick Tomasso

unsplash-logoHernan Sanchez

unsplash-logoAnnie Spratt

unsplash-logoAnthony Tran

Let’s Talk About Our Bellies

Let’s talk about bellies.

Specifically, our lady’s bellies. Now, I’m not trying to put guys out, nor their bellies; but I am a lady, and I can only speak and write about my own belly and therefore, my generalized assumptions of other ladies’ bellies. But should you – a dude – find yourself inspired by these words, please share them far and wide with your dude-bellied friends.

As I stuff my face with an office danish I nonchalantly just stole, I am reminded that summer is almost here, and so is our ridiculous obsession with the long-sought-after “summer body.” The problem here is that once summer arrives and we’re confronted with bikini weather, we’ll haul ass back to the gym to start furiously working on looking presentable.

Repeat after me: “Summer is coming. I have a body. Therefore, I WILL have a summer body.”

All of this obsessing has got to stop, but before I tell you why (like you don’t know), I am going to empathize. One summer a million years ago, I went back to the motherland for a couple of months to see family, sneak some booze, party it up with my girlfriends like only a few 16-year-old’s can do…you know, regular summer stuff. This happened to be the one and pretty much only summer where I really expanded. Growing up, I was a skinny girl. I didn’t know to be proud of it, because I had never battled weight problems, so the idea of being skinny and gloating about it never really crossed my mind. When I started to develop, I started noticing that getting boobs wasn’t going to come without a disclaimer, and before I knew it, that damn muffin top started to rise like yeast. Along with it came other weight gain in uncomfortable areas, and I think that was the first time I discovered how God-forsaken chaffing was. So, when it was time to vacation like a boss and squeeze myself into a bikini, I hit that proverbial, teenage wall – nothing fit and I look like that can of biscuits when you pop the lids on either side. What I didn’t know was that I was still growing and developing, and although I ate like a raccoon, I was simply at that stage of girl-hood where I had to sit with my awkwardness for a little while longer.

My mom was always skinny, as well. She grew up eating like a linebacker, never gaining a single pound. Contrary to me, she owned every piece of that spotlight, and she made sure you knew it. My mom is, by nature and her own choosing, a brutally honest and loud little beast. She has never cared whether her words will lift you up or bury you, and that’s something for which I’ve both admired and resented her. That summer of bikini-not, she made sure I knew where extra parts of me were growing, whether I wanted to hear it or not (I didn’t). Regardless, I began to look at my body as something apart from who I thought I was, like some alien life that took a different route somewhere and started to grow all wrong. I didn’t know anything about eating healthy or God forbid, moving my body and sweating out the crap I ate. All I knew was that I was somehow fat, and that fat needed to go. Immediately.

I dieted. I failed. Oh God, I failed so many times. I hated the way jeans made my belly puff out in the front. I hated how every shirt I used to wear back when I was skinny was now a dooming reminder of a body I used to have. I hated how I bought and picked my outfits based on how much coverage there was to hide my problem areas. And I absolutely hated how I subconsciously hid my belly in pictures when I was at the beach or anywhere where my belly was exposed. I remember pictures of me with my hand on my belly, trying to stand taller in hopes that this will make me look skinnier. And that summer was the breaking point – I came home to my mom’s honest demand – lose weight. It was like a punch in the throat.

Nowhere in my teenagehood did I understand what it meant to be healthy. I never looked at my body as my own, as a living, breathing part of me that only thrived when all parts of me were on track – mind, spirit, soul. The words with which I described my body were mean and cruel and rarely ever honest, but I never stopped myself from saying those things. And so my body took the hits. I remember my lowest point, sitting on the toilet in my bathroom, pinching my belly in my hands and physically yelling at the fat to go away.

If only I knew then what I know now, right? But life doesn’t work that way, and nowhere in our span of time and Universe does a life of a teenage girl work that way. Now, I’m not here to write you a happy ending, where I got some sense and started eating right and doing yoga and losing weight and loving my mom’s brutal and loud honesty. In fact, the reason why I wanted to write this (for so long, by the way) is because everything I later learned as an adult and a yogi has led me to the point of returning to my younger self to tell her (and you!) that:

Our bellies are sacred. They are the seat of our power, our love, our connection to ourselves, each other, our world, and our purpose. They are not meant to be cut down, chiseled into, or shrunken in order to fit jeans, stereotypes, or fear-based expectations. Allow them to grow with nourishment, rise and fall freely with breath, and give life to children, ideas, and even your damn self.

When I went through my yoga teacher training, I was constantly reminded that my belly was where God lived. And because I believed that God existed, I believed She was very much like me – at heart, still some teenage girl with her belly in her hands, trying to grow into her awkward body so that she could finally believe in her wild, overwhelming spirit. And little by little, I stopped pausing in mirrors on the way to try on a bikini, hoping that if I walked a little straighter, my belly would not show. I cut that shit out. I didn’t have time for it. What I had time for were ideas. What I had time for hid in lunchtime sessions of writing and booking trips to Nepal and Mexico and opening my heart so wide to my everything so that I could finally start that book I’ve been meaning to write. I believe in all of these things, because I can feel them, one by one, in my belly – that same belly that puffs out when I eat a danish I stole; that same belly that knows things my mind simply cannot. I trust that belly now more than ever before, because it’s where the seat of my power is, where I can surrender to a knowing that is far greater than any logical knowledge I could learn from a book. It’s the place where I connect my ground with my spirit, two fingers above my bellybutton that I pierced back in high school. I never want to lose or pinch or yell at that sacred space again.

Our bellies give life, whether that’s in the shape of our stories on paper or our children in cribs. Don’t hide it under a tunic or under a sheltering hand. It’s something to behold, something to honor and celebrate. It’s unique to us, and us alone. It shouldn’t be stereotyped or insulted or manipulated to look like someone else’s. Why wish to have anyone else’s power when you can have your very own?

Take care of it. Take care of yourself by acknowledging that you are strong, capable, healthy, flawed, and a standing representation that you will never back away from your own potential. Your duty to yourself is not to explain or justify your body – not even to yourself. And I could say something cliche like – you are perfect just the way you are – but that’s a lie. You’re not perfect. You’re a mess, nine times out of ten, who is trying to keep it all together without overdoing it on wine on a Tuesday morning; but you’re also a badass, divine creation in a meatsuit of a body, destined for much bigger things. Never let a day go by without reminding yourself of this one, true fact.

 

xoxo