When Was The Last Time You Thought About Your Mental Health?

mental-health-poster

Click photo for Positive Psychology article. Please share freely.

Posted in Mental Health, Recovery | Tagged , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Benefits of Falling in Love in Recovery

love_benefits-of-falling-in-love-while-in-recovery_andy-wright

If you are in recovery, go ahead and fall in love. Your life may depend on it.

___

Recovery wisdom says that we shouldn’t fall in love in the first year of recovery. The idea is that you need to focus on yourself because the crazy-love feelings will hijack your recovery.

Falling in love should be the goal of recovery, but who you fall in love with, that is the million dollar question.

I think this is only partially right. Falling in love should be the goal of recovery, but who you fall in love with, that is the million dollar question.

Love and recovery

In a previous post, I wrote,

The greatest way to feel love, to become more open, is to love others. There is no other way. Only as you learn to love others will you learn to love yourself.

Honestly, love is not something I like to write about. Because everything you say feels like a cheesy-greeting card. So what I want is a recovery greeting card that says something like this.

Love is annoying. It is not inspirational, not flowers and sunshine, and it’s not found in team building exercises. Love gets under your skin and sounds like your kids when they whine in your ear. You can love a cause, your partner, your kids and your family, and you can love your work. But you can’t love a T-Shirt or cereal or TV shows because these things won’t love you back.

Love is found in the mud of life. It’s in the hard work and the dusty corners. Love is in the messes and the dirty clothes. Love is in the scraped knees, the sweat and the tears. Love is a feeling backed up by a thousand hours of hard work.

Love is messy and damned hard work. Love will take you to your personal edge and then it will throw you off the cliff. Love wakes you up in the middle of the night and asks you to clean up the mess that someone else has made. And you do it.

Being in love is not heaven. Sure, love is patient, it is kind, and it is selfless. But love is found when you speak your mind when you’d rather shut up and it is not the stuff that they sing about. Love is persistence, especially when you don’t feel anything remotely like “love.” Love is when you grit your teeth through the hard stuff, the good stuff.

You can’t drink it, inject it or snort it. But you need it if you want to survive. And love is worth it all.

Love will interrupt you when you are writing about love. Love will call your name when you’d rather just lay low and chill. Love will get mad at you and on occasion, it will even swear at you. Please don’t take it personally.

You will know you are well along your recovery when you can love yourself. And how do you learn to love yourself? Begin by opening up, being vulnerable, love other people and you will begin to love yourself.

You can’t drink it, inject it or snort it. But you need it if you want to survive. And love is worth it all.

I’ve had it up to here bein’ where love’s a small word, a part time thing, a paper ring. Johnny Cash (Solitary Man)

If you enjoyed this article, you will also enjoy the first article in this series on healing: 5 Ways That Will Help You Let Go of the Past and also To Heal, You Must Become the Art.

I write articles about wellness, leadership, parenting and personal growth. My hope is to deliver the best content I can to inspire, to inform and to entertain.

Sign up for my blog if you want to receive the latest and best of my writing. If you enjoyed this piece, please share it.

Keep it Real

Photo by Andy Wright

Posted in Recovery, Mental Health | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Hello God, I’m Busy Right Now So Please Leave a Message

 

samsung-phone_dear-god_sean-macentee

“Hello God, You have reached the voicemail of SMSwaby.

Unfortunately, I’m busy right now. You can leave a message at the sound of the tone. I will respond within two business days, but please recognize that I have been very, very busy lately. If you want to speak to me, please speak louder than everything else that I’m listening to. Or you can leave a message and I might get back to you. Otherwise, I will call you back when I need something from you.

P.S. Please sign up for my blog if you have a chance. And remember, “Likes” are always appreciated.”

Keep it Real

I write articles about wellness, leadership, parenting and personal growth. My hope is to deliver the best content I can to inspire, to inform and to entertain.

Sign up for my blog if you want to receive the latest and best of my writing. If you enjoyed this piece, please share it.

Photo by Sean MacEntee

Posted in Humor, Spirituality | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Don’t Hate Your Past, Embrace It

anchor_dont-hate-your-past-embrace-it_david-feltkamp

How can you let go of the past by embracing it?

___

Things have happened to you that cause you pain. You may also have done other things that cause you pain. How can you embrace what pains you, the anchors that seem to bring you down?

In a previous article, I wrote

Your past got you to where you are today. It has given you both vulnerabilities and strengths. It has given you gifts, and one of the greatest gifts is that you still have life left in you. The past is with you to remind you that yesterday’s heights can be today’s starting point.

Every anchor has a purpose

Ships need their anchors when they want stability so they can load and unload. They know when is the right time to lower the anchor. If you drag an anchor around with you all of the time, you will never feel free.

Your past can be a part of your potential and our pain can be part of your new meaning. Your past can become an important part of your life, a good part of your life when you embrace it.

Your past can be a part of your potential and our pain can be part of your new meaning. Your past can become an important part of your life, a good part of your life when you embrace it. Often this begins by listening to our pain. Listening to pain is a little like listening to the wind. You know it is there, you can feel it, but it is silent.

First, we listen and then we allow ourselves to feel. Know that it may be difficult to feel. Feeling is about allowing, no honoring yourself to listen and perhaps even give voice to what you feel.

How do you embrace your past and allow yourself to feel? 

The greatest way you can let go of old memories is by creating new ones.

Not hating the past means more than accepting. It means loving the past. The past has made you who you are. Hard things may have happened, but these are mere moments. Your lifetime is a million miles of new moments where you can live the life you want rather than the life that was thrust upon you.

If you enjoyed this article, see the first article in the series on healing: 5 Ways That Will Help You to Let Go of the Past.

I write articles about wellness, leadership, parenting and personal growth. My hope is to deliver the best content I can to inspire, to inform and to entertain.

Sign up for my blog if you want to receive the latest and best of my writing. If you enjoyed this piece, please share it.

Keep it Real

Photo by David Feltkamp

Posted in Mental Health, Recovery | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

5 Ways That Will Help You To Let Go of the Past

swinging-monkey_healing_martin-thomas

Do you have trouble letting go?

___

I have a problem with hanging onto things too long.

One summer when I was a teenager, I went with a friend and his family to Kalamalka Lake in British Columbia. On the lake, there is a spot with a high cliff face and an overhanging tree swing. My friend is a natural thrill-seeker and he couldn’t wait to show me the swing.

The thing scared the crap out of me. But rather than saying “no,” I lined up behind my friend. After he successfully launched into the water, it was my turn. So I grabbed onto the rope and did what I knew to do: I held on. 

The funny thing is the past is not a thing, like my rope. You can’t touch the past, so how can you let go of it?

Gravity did the rest, the rope swing went out over the lake and then it carried me back, crashing into the tree. I quickly decided to give it a second try, both because of embarrassment and determination. This time, I let go at the right time and plunged into the black water.

Forgetting how to let go

That day on the lake, it was as if I forgot how to let go. Stress can do that to you. You feel pressure, so you grab and hold. We learn this habit early on. Children have their stuffies, their blankies, and their favorite toys. We hold onto whatever makes us feel a little comfort. Sometimes we hold onto stuffie, a rope, or other times we hold onto the past.

The past can be memories, trauma, emotions, areas of pain, disappointments and it can be a combination of these. The past is ever-present with us. The funny thing is that the past is not a thing, like my rope. You can’t touch the past, so how can you let go of it?  

The past is nothing more than a collection of yesterdays, the moments that made up all of our life until now. We can no more return to it than we can predict the weather. The past is like wind blown across our faces – close at one moment and then it disappears in the next.

Where you are broken, you leak. You leak small bits of your soul, just like you leak drops of crimson when you scrape your knee. So you do what comes naturally, you hang on because it makes sense. The only difficulty is that you will eventually come crashing back into the tree.

The past is gone, but we make a mistake when we ignore its influence and its power. The past is a paradox – something fleeting, something untouchable, something gone can also wield a tremendous amount of power over us. At this very moment, you and I are both leaving and grasping: leaving the past and connecting with the present.

Healing involves both letting go and picking up

Letting go and grasping are part of the same action. If you or I struggle to let to, we will also have a hard time picking something up. Makes sense, if your hands are full you can’t really pick something else up unless you begin to fill your pockets. Then eventually you find yourself so full of baggage and past moments that things will not work too well.

Most memories fade, but we often have sticky memories. Trauma, hurt, pain, disappointment can be hard to let go. In a way, we hold onto these moments because they are precious. Where you are broken, you leak. You leak small bits of your soul, just like you leak drops of crimson when you scrape your knee. So you do what comes naturally, you hang on because it makes sense. The only difficulty is that you will eventually come crashing back into the tree.

At least that’s what happened to me.

Letting go is never a violent act. It is slow and requires trust. Trust yourself. Trust the rope. Trust the water.

It is a paradox: we no longer need the past and we will always need it. The past provides us with memory, with learning and wisdom, and it can fuel our character and new growth. The past can also be an anchor and it can hold you back. The best use of the past is to learn that yesterday’s heights can be today’s starting point.

How can you learn to let go of the past?

1.Embrace it, don’t hate your past. Your past got you to where you are today. It has given you both vulnerabilities and strengths. It has given you gifts, and one of the greatest is that you still have life left in you. The past is with you to remind you that yesterday’s heights can be today’s starting point.

  • Trying to force it back down or force it away will just make the negative memories stronger.
  • When you are ready, you can breathe and listen to your past. Letting go is never a violent act. It is slow and requires trust. Trust yourself. Trust the rope. Trust the water.
  • If you have difficulty sitting with your past and listening to whatever it may say to you, this is where getting a counsellor will help.

2.Love other people. The greatest way to feel love, to become more open, is to love others. There is no other way. Only as you learn to love others will you learn to love yourself.

3.Enjoy your life. Life will go by quickly whether you hold onto the rope or whether you let go. It’s more fun when you live with open hands. My wife has to remind me to enjoy my life, because I still hang onto things a little too long. You can only hang onto one thing at a time:  enjoy the life that you have because it contains gifts meant for you. Each moment contains gifts like the sunrise, laughter with a coworker, appreciating nature, small successes, giving or receiving compassion, enjoying music, taking a walk, or doing what you enjoy.

  • When you accept that you deserve joy, not merely suffering through, this can change you. You deserve more than your pain, your past, or your hurt. You deserve now.
  • It will take trust to enjoy your life. I would never have known the joy of falling into a lake without letting go. Sure I was scared, but I did it. And I smiled.

4.Close your eyes and dream. See yourself as the person you want to be, living the life you want. I’ll say it again, “The best use of the past is to learn that yesterday’s heights can be today’s starting point.” New things begin in your mind as you dream. The life you live each day is a living out of your identity.  And that begins in your dreams, in your imagination.

You act, and feel, not according to what things are really like, but according to the image your mind holds of what they are like. Maxwell Maltz, Psychocybernetics, p. 34

5.Know that healing will leave scars. Scars are gifts. They are like seals. They seal out infection, germs, and disease. Scars protect us from pain. Scars are gentle reminders that we are being protected.

The danger in writing about healing is that it is easy to assume there is one way to heal. Truth is, you need something and the next person may need something else. You may take what feels like a lifetime to heal while the next person may heal differently. Be gentle with yourself, each person has different needs.

You and I grow as we are willing to loosen your grasp.

Your past is not your enemy. Fighting to suppress your past, that is the enemy. You are more than your past and greater than any mistakes you may have made.

If you enjoyed this article, you will also enjoy To Heal, You Must Become the Art and Fear and Recovery: What You Can Do When Fear Has You Fenced In.

I write articles about wellness, leadership, parenting and personal growth. My hope is to deliver the best content I can to inspire, to inform and to entertain.

Sign up for my blog if you want to receive the latest and best of my writing. If you enjoyed this piece, please share it.

Keep it Real

Photo by Martin Thomas

Posted in Mental Health, Recovery | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Fear and Recovery: What You Can Do When Fear Has You Fenced In

fence_fear_johas-bengtsson

Each decision is an opportunity to experience life in a new way; to learn and grow, to find out who you are and what you would like to do in this life. Each path is strewn with opportunities – despite the outcome. Susan Jeffers, Feel the Fear, p. 114

This is taken from a recent journal entry. This is what it is like to live with anxiety and panic attacks. It’s raw, real and pretty personal but it gets to the heart of how fear can affect you and how difficult it can be to stand up to your fear. But it’s possible, and it is a fight worth every ounce of energy you’ve got. I hope this resonates with you and encourages you to continue your journey of recovery.

___

Fear. It has me.

It shrinks me, fences me in, poisons my mind and steals my confidence. It has me living a lesser life than I should.

Fear. It has me?

My anxiety, my panic attacks are fear feeding upon itself. Fear capitalizing on a captive audience.

Fears about what other people think of me, of seeming stupid or fat or awkward or lonely, of making no valuable contribution, of being ignored, of reaching the end of my life with nothing but nice experiences and nice things, of intimacy, of vulnerability, of really talking, of being “known” and then being rejected, being “seen” and being disliked, of change, and things moving too fast, being left behind, and being an outcast. And fear of fear. My anxiety, my panic attacks are fear feeding upon itself. Fear capitalizing on a captive audience.

Fear. It has me.

The medication doesn’t work. It won’t give you back your life. You may feel less panic, but your fences are still smaller.

The medication doesn’t work. It won’t give you back your life. You may feel less panic, but your fences are still smaller. The medication creates an extra window so you can see your world and feel less trapped. You gain a new point of view, but you still have to reach for the doorknob.

Fear. It has me?

The only push back is to not give in. The fears come, but you don’t have to let them win the day. Do the scary thing, the “scares-the-hell-out-of-me” thing. Like talking and speaking up. It’s that, or you shrink.

I suggest that you do something that widens that space for you. Call someone you were afraid to call, buy something for more than you ever paid in the past, ask for something you have been too afraid to ask for before. Take a risk a day – one small or bold stroke it will make you feel great once you have done it. Susan Jeffers, Feel the Fear, p. 43.

If you enjoyed this article, you will also enjoy Breathe into the Bag: Gender and the Anxiety Gap and 13 Ways that Anxiety is Your Superpower.

I write articles about wellness, leadership, parenting and personal growth. My hope is to deliver the best content I can to inspire, to inform and to entertain.

Sign up for my blog if you want to receive the latest and best of my writing. If you enjoyed this piece, please share it.

Keep it Real

Photo by Jonas Bengtsson

Posted in Mental Health, Recovery | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Weight of Living: Mental Health and Faith

church_mental-health-and-faith_david-howard

A healthy mind is a healthy soul.

___

Mental health and faith can feel like two separate worlds. For many people, they look at life as either spiritual or physical/mental. Mixing the two is like trying to mix steak and Kraft Dinner. They just don’t seem to fit. But this is not healthy, because a healthy mind is a healthy soul.

The phrase “Mental Health” does not appear in the Bible. Yet to ignore our mental health would be a huge mistake in our development as a person.

Love the Lord your God with all your heart, your soul and your mind. Jesus, Matthew 22:37.

Why did Jesus say it this way?

He didn’t say, “Love God with your body, your brain, your hand, and your foot…” These are body parts and on their own, they are empty of life. By saying “Love God with your heart, soul, and mind” he asked each one of us to love God with our very emotions, our thoughts, our dreams, and our passions.

The weight of living and your faith: 10 Things to consider

10.Your faith can help you cope with your stress and your pain.

Did you know that you can also use your faith to avoid. There are times when I have prayed about my situation rather than talked about it or took the action that I needed to take. Sometimes, our spiritual life can be a way to avoid what we need to do. Rather than taking action, we pray, or we read, or we journal.

I highly recommend the book, “Emotionally Healthy Spirituality” by Peter Scazzero. You can find the book at Amazon or at any bookstore.

I became a Christian in my teens and some time after I remember having a medical checkup. I don’t remember why I was seeing the doctor, but during the check up he asked me if I was depressed. I lied. I told him I was fine. I lied because I did not want to be a bad example and I thought it was unspiritual to be depressed. I didn’t understand that you can’t pray away your mental health. 

9.Yes, you and I should practice spirituality, but being too spiritual may not be a good thing.

It’s easy to overly spiritualize something like health. Some of us have no difficulty wearing glasses or taking an aspirin, but we draw the line at taking an antidepressant. Sometimes we conclude that if you take a pill for your mind that you won’t be yourself anymore. Taking an antidepressant or any other medication won’t make you less of a Christian.

8.God wants us to love Him with all our heart, mind, and soul, but sometimes this can be very difficult.

When your mind races, when you are chronically anxious or depressed, or when you hear voices, or when you find yourself continuously focused on your pain or trauma – it makes loving him very, very difficult; maybe even impossible. God won’t judge you for getting the help you need. A healthy mind is a healthy soul.

I have experienced depression since I was young. Some seasons of my depression have been particularly crushing and others were not as dark. But each season of depression has taught me more about myself, my family and about life.

Here is a link to an article I wrote about Depression: Four Questions that will Change Your Mind.

When someone you know is in the middle of a dark season, please don’t say to them, “Just think of what you are learning.” That’s just not what they need. It can take a while before a person is ready to learn from your experience.

Imagine if a friend of yours were facing surgery. It would be unwise to say to them, “Just think of what you are learning!” Be sensitive.

7.Talking and being vulnerable can change your life.

Sometimes you need your friends, other times you need the help of a professional. Your pastor can be a fantastic resource, but there are times when you need a different kind of help.

Should you go to a counselor who might not be a Christian? I have gone to both Christian and non-Christian therapists and I’ve had good and bad experiences with both. Remember that counselors and psychologists have an ethical obligation to respect and give space to our spiritual and religious traditions. It is a personal decision and getting the kind of help that fits with who you are is what you want.

6.Your baggage is not any worse than the next person.

Your baggage is not worse, it’s just different. But if you are hard on yourself about your mistakes and your stuff, you heap shame onto your soul.

Shame is toxic to your depression, your anxiety, your trauma, or your emotions. Shame is like a set of lenses that become superglued to your soul. They color your world, making it so difficult to speak up, open up and just talk. You sense judgment everywhere and you have no freedom. God wants you to love Him and to love yourself.

Don’t ignore your baggage, acknowledge it. But hold onto hope rather than shame.

For more about shame, I highly recommend watching this video by Brenee Brown on “Listening to Shame.

5.Let yourself be loved – by people, by God and perhaps even by yourself.

Let yourself be loved, despite your pain. Despite your trust issues. And despite your trauma. When we internalize an image of a loving God, that love heals. If we sense a load of punishment, judgment, and unworthiness, it will eat away at our mental health and create a negative emotional life filled with shame.

If you find it a challenge to experience love, you can pray about it. But if it persists, this is where professional help may be needed.

4.Love God with your mind by giving it a break.

Your mind, your emotions, your identity, and your imagination need more than going to church. Our mind needs a Sabbath.

Jesus disappeared a lot. Sometimes he prayed, sometimes he talked, other times he listened, and sometimes he just walked. Maybe it’s time to give your mind a break and take it out for a walk?

3.Not everything that your mind does is spiritual.

Some anxiety is a genuine disorder and some of it is just anxiety that will pass. Sure you and I need to trust God and let go, but if you have cancer, you need to get some treatment.

If anxiety or depression is chronic or crippling, you likely need some treatment. If your anxiety or your depression is more situational (it comes and it goes), you may respond well to prayer, meditation, breathing exercises, and physical exercise.

If you would like to understand whether your anxiety is chronic or more situational, follow this link.

And remember, be sensitive, what works for you may not be what will work for another person.

2.Stand proud.

Faith has a number of mental health benefits: It is a huge coping skill for when you struggle; being involved in your faith will make you less likely to use drugs or become alcohol-dependent; and you will also live longer. If you are a believer, your body will actually respond better to medical treatments.

One thing to remember is that having a faith that is rule-bound and self-critical will actually be harmful to your mental health and overall well-being. It is love that heals, not religion alone.

Experiencing depression and anxiety have made me more empathetic, more caring and better able to support other people who suffer. For more, see this post “Depression Will Make You a Better Human Being.”

God can, and will, use your pain as a way to encourage and support other people. He can take something powerfully negative like trauma and dark, difficult moods and help you to reach others who face similar things.

1.A church that is sensitive to mental health is a healthy place.

Healthy churches invite people who suffer depression, anxiety or traumas to feel accepted and at home.

You may not know what to say – but you can ask “What can I do?” and then listen. You can watch if someone suddenly isolates or becomes gloomy and avoidant.

One of the greatest ways you and I can love God is through the practice of listening to one another.

Getting the help that you need won’t make you less of a Christian, less faithful or less human. Your life will open up and you will change in ways you never imagined.

The Weight of Living

The title for this post is from a song by Bastille. The song reminds us that the Weight of Living that we carry, our depression, or anxiety or traumas, they do not have to always be this way. We can leave it behind.

This post is adapted from a talk that I did at my church on faith and mental health. Remember that this and any article on mental health are not a substitute for medical advice or Counselling. Please see your doctor and get the help that you need for your mind, your body, and your soul.

I write articles about wellness, leadership, parenting and personal growth. My hope is to deliver the best content I can to inspire, to inform and to entertain.

Sign up for my blog if you want to receive the latest and best of my writing.

Keep it Real

Photo by David Howard

Posted in Mental Health, Spirituality | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment