Personal Articles

Siblings with Severe Mental Illness: An Evolving Relationship

Sunday, January 25th, 2015

Siblings with Severe Mental Illness: An Evolving RelationshipThere is an undeniable connection between siblings. You came from the same family and grew up in the same environment. There will always be a shared past between siblings, whether they are close or not. But when your sibling is diagnosed with mental illness the personal history and the things you had in common can seem to disappear.

Life seems to stop and be consumed by their illness. An intangible connection can be seemingly swept right off the page. Something that therapists never told me was that one day I would just be happy to take what I could get.

Do Comfort and Adventure Have to Be Mutually Exclusive?

Saturday, January 24th, 2015

Woman Outdoors Looking Away

“Which do you prefer, adventure or comfort?” I was asked recently, matter-of-factly, as if the two were mutually separate entities, and I, given the option to choose only one.

I closed my eyes and I wondered. Now, at the age of 53, I see clearly that my answer is remarkably different than the answer I would have certainly given in my 20s.

“I am seeking comfort,” I shot out too quickly, “…and adventure,” I added, clearly coming across as someone who has trouble making decisions.

What Does Treatment-Resistant Really Mean?

Saturday, January 24th, 2015

3 Tips for Dealing with Anxious ThoughtsIn his book Economic Warfare: Secrets of Wealth Creation in the Age of Welfare Politics author Ziad K. Abdelnour writes, “One of the hardest decisions you’ll ever face in life is choosing whether to walk away or try harder.”

I face that decision every day.

Twenty times a day.

Several times an hour.

That one line contains the kernel of so much of my struggle, which is why I pray the Serenity Prayer every five minutes or so:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,

The courage to change the things I can,

And the wisdom to know the difference.

Isolation and Depression During a Long Winter

Friday, January 23rd, 2015

Isolation and Depression During a Long WinterWith an Arctic blast bearing down across the U.S., I know I’d like nothing more than to cozy up inside with a blanket, some tea and my warm little bulldog. Then again that’s always the thing about January. It’s not until the end of February when I’m depressed and moody that I realize I’ve been isolating myself.

Depression loves to get me alone, just like a bully. Away from my friends and family for a couple weeks and surrounded by white winter clouds, I become an easy target for doubt, boredom, self-deprecation and loneliness.

Anyone who suffers from seasonal affective disorder (SAD) knows the pattern, but those of us with depression may not be so in tune to how the weather is affecting our mental health.

Emerging From the Other Side of Depression

Thursday, January 22nd, 2015

fortressThere’s a great e-card that reads: “Dear whatever doesn’t kill me, I’m strong enough now. Thanks.” It was the second most-liked item I posted on my Facebook page. The first was a quote by William Gibson: “Before you diagnose yourself with depression or low self-esteem, first make sure you are not, in fact, surrounded by xxxholes.”

Friedrich Nietzsche was responsible for the line, “What doesn’t kill me makes me stronger.” I’m not sure I believe that, given the long list of names of extraordinary people who ended up taking their lives in desperation. Sometimes the pain of severe depression — the hopelessness that is its constant companion — simply becomes too much to endure. Having visited the doorway to suicide for periods of time that lasted months and years, I understand that.

Your Identity Versus Your Stuff: Letting Go of Things to Find Yourself

Wednesday, January 21st, 2015

Your Identity Versus Your Stuff: Letting Go of Things to Find YourselfIt’s long been said that the things you own end up owning you. They fill our lives and take up space. We buy new homes just to accommodate all this stuff. How come it always seems like we’re getting more and more stuff? And why is it so hard to part with?

A lot of us have things in our house that we have never used, haven’t used in years, or have no use for to begin with. Oddly enough, we tend to avoid asking ourselves, “Is this thing important? Why am I hanging onto it?”

Of course, I have stuff on the brain. I’m packing my Brooklyn apartment to move across the country to California (as I described here). The trip is part of an emotional journey to see if it’s possible for a person to learn to be laid-back. I think letting go of a lot of useless items is a good place to start.

Maybe Your Comfort Zone Isn’t What You Think It Is

Monday, January 19th, 2015

20 Calming or Invigorating Mini Meditations to Practice Every DayWhile thinking outside the box and transcending fear has long been praised, I recently read a book excerpt arguing against getting out of your “comfort zone.” Instead of pushing your limits, author Meghan Daum suggests embracing our limitations.

“I am convinced that excellence comes not from overcoming limitations but from embracing them,” she writes in her book The Unspeakable: And Other Subjects of Discussion.

It seems interesting, but it brings up another important question: Is your comfort zone even what you think it is? Are we embracing a lifestyle where we are both satisfied and competent? Or underneath do we feel we are missing out on something?

Introversion Versus Shyness: Drawing a Line in the Sand

Saturday, January 17th, 2015

Sarah Newman and her French Bulldog KeatonI’ve heard these two words used interchangeably, perhaps because being introverted often goes hand in hand with staying home a lot. But there is a big distinction between the two. If you don’t recognize that, social anxiety can take control of your life.

I used to use introversion as an excuse. It was an excuse to avoid parties, an excuse not to make new friends, and an excuse to bury my face in my phone in new social situations.

I’m Not Psychic: The Cold, Hard Truth about Catastrophizing

Wednesday, January 14th, 2015

difficluty-making-decisionsThere’s something about the year rounding out and a new year begun that makes me feel there are endless possibilities in the coming year. As exciting as that is, it also feeds the beast of anxiety inside me. While personal history has taught me that change usually brings joy and happiness to my life, my anxiety says it’s going to be a disaster and that everything that can go wrong, will go wrong.

That’s my anxiety. It’s not based on reality, experience, probability or usefulness and yet it comes to mind and runs the show. It makes me hesitant and tightly wound. I’m so busy waiting for the bottom to fall out when I do something new that I miss a lot of the great things happening right in front of me.

What It Really Means to Be in the Present Moment

Tuesday, January 13th, 2015

medication-adhd-treatmentThese days we often hear touted the importance of being in the present moment. We’re told that the “now” is all that exists and if we’re not here “now” then we’re not really living.

This makes a great deal of sense to me. Oftentimes, I find myself distracted by thought about the future. Or, I replay past experiences in my mind, often unproductively.

Being in the moment frees us to experience life more fully, which is a good thing. But might this edict have a shadow side? Like any rule or declaration, it has limitations and is prone to misunderstanding.

Working Out of a Creative Slump, Literally

Monday, January 12th, 2015

Working Out of a Creative Slump, LiterallyMore often than not the advice I’m given when I hit a creative slump is to do more creative things. Make a collage. Write in my journal. Draw or doodle. Read a book or watch a movie. Find a new way to reorganize or rearrange my workspace.

But when I’m not feeling creative, creative fixes don’t sound appealing. The more things fail to sound appealing, the less I do and the bigger the slump. It seems like it will never end, and I start to wonder if maybe I’ve already had all my best ideas.

Hitting a creative block leaves us lost and bored. It can make us doubt our abilities, our choices and our livelihood. You just don’t feel like yourself.

No One Is Successful to Spite You: Being Happy for Others

Saturday, January 10th, 2015

No One Is Successful to Spite You: Being Happy for Others

“If you look to others for fulfillment, you will never be fulfilled. If your happiness depends on money, you will never be happy with yourself. Be content with what you have; rejoice in the way things are. When you realize there is nothing lacking, the world belongs to you.” – Lao Tzu

Have you ever found yourself in a funk about something and you weren’t sure why? Maybe your coworker just got a raise, your sister just got her Masters degree, your brother just bought the most lavish house or your friend is moving away to start a family in the suburbs. With all this great mojo going on around you, why can’t you seem to be happy yourself?

Being happy for others may not come naturally for everyone. After all, we all have a competitive spirit. But when you find you’re able to feel happiness simply because others are happy, you gain a fresh perspective on life.

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