How will you find happiness when the world is so dark you can’t see, you are so sad you can’t smile, and fear immobilizes you? What if you can’t afford to see a therapist for help? Where do you turn if you don’t want to join a church for “free” counseling? What if you don’t want to use drugs for balance?
For almost two decades I lived afraid, sad and hopeless. Yes there were good and even great moments, but those were short lived and once over I was back to misery again. My life was so awful that most nights and many days I was curled up on the floor sobbing, begging the universe for a quick and easy death, feeling helpless, useless, and ugly. Most people never realized how depressed I was because I hid behind a big smile in public, but looking back my actions must have raised a few eyebrows. My depression started as a child who moved to a different school each year, was bullied and teased, and wasn’t taught how to solve problems. I felt helpless, useless, and ugly for way too long.
It took it’s toll. I couldn’t keep a job, became lazy and unmotivated, felt lost no matter what I did, and stopped caring. Hope and happiness was for other people. I believed all the cruelty from childhood bullies and mean girls. I convinced myself that I was worthless based on all my mistakes and cowardice. I shopped for things that would make me happy’ but never did. I gave up on my dreams.
There are plenty of stories about people who cured or deal with their depression by finding a god or religion to believe in. I did not need to find a god or prophet to change my life. Then again I have never wanted or felt a need for religion or spirituality. I believe that only I am in control of how my life plays out. When I finally chose to make a positive difference, I looked within myself and read lots of books and blogs. I spent hours each day on different theories, ideas, and movements. I read stories of people who overcame tragedy and apathy. I took little pieces from everything and put them together to find inner peace. Our world is amazing and there is so much we can learn. Learning allowed me to grow. Learning was the first step.
The best wisdom I found in my search is so ridiculously simple. (I said simple, not easy.) Simple means uncomplicated and straightforward. Easy means you don’t need to put forth much effort. Simple can be momentous if you are open to learning. The simple truth I learned is this: our universe ebbs and flows. Everything and everyone is continuously ebbing and flowing, therefore life is about riding those flows and surviving the ebbs. I looked at my life and all the ebbs I got through. Some were terrifying, some left scars, but I survived. “Look at YOUR LIFE and all that you have overcome” I screamed at myself. Make a list of everything you were scared of, but survived anyway. Write down the ones that you barely got through, the ones you wish you had solved differently. You are still here! You survived those ebbs. Write down HOW you survived and you will learn valuable tools
Right now is the time to let go of the past. Like quitting meat or smoking you have to cold turkey yourself from past tragedies. The past is never coming back. It doesn’t control you. The past shaped you, but it does not define you. Look at your moments of cowardice, your mistakes, those words you never should have said. Remember the people you hurt, the times you didn’t help someone, and the times you lost your temper. Now write down what you learned from each experience. We make mistakes and that is OKAY! I remind myself daily to move forward and pay attention to what does and doesn’t work. When I don’t pay attention, I repeat those mistakes, and suffer the consequences.
Death, loss. and mistakes have shaped me in a good way. I have learned that we are all fragile, we have no guarantee of living to 100, and we can choose to enjoy each day. Death is a part of the circle of life. You can’t lose if you never had and you can’t grow if you never fail.
A simple way to get through the ebbs and appreciate the flows is mindfulness. Whenever a moment arises where I can slow down and be still, I close my eyes, take a few deep breaths, and focus on my breath, the sounds of people and the city, waves breaking on shore, or tweeting birds. I am mindful for at least 5 minutes. It’s amazing how easily this short “meditation” can revitalize me. At first I would get distracted by my to-do list or negative thoughts, but now I can be mindful and focus. This has been one of the greatest gifts because as I listen I am soothed to know that I am a part of this world. For better or worse there will always be a place I belong. Being aware of our surroundings is important because it reminds us that we are all connected to the world. Be mindful of your senses because touch, scent, sound, and vision are all interconnected. Follow your intuition.
Some people need drugs to change the chemicals in their brain so they can function. Thank goodness for that. You shouldn’t feel bad about taking chemical stabilizing drugs so that you can function. We are all born with different chemical balances so to those who say drugs don’t work. How do you know for sure what someone else needs? For a long time I thought maybe that I would need drugs someday or I would go completely crazy and hurt myself. Instead I was able to change my diet and get active so that my body felt good and my moods stabilized. Taking care of my health was the second step. It takes a long time to change habits. I decided to try my hardest and that involved becoming a vegetarian. As a lover of hamburgers and barbecue ribs, this was tough. Not eating meat is also very inconvenient if you are on a budget and the food choices in your area are all fast food joints. Even the salads have meat! I had to quit suddenly and not slowly go off meat. The first 3 months were the worst. Now 4 years later it is simply a part of me. Reducing the sugar in my diet has helped me from staying clear of that sugar high that is always accompanied by a sugar low. I feel stable when I eat well and move around.
We can be our worst enemy. If we believe the lies and cruelty of others than we are victims. If we change our thinking to what is really true we are survivors. Even if the people around us aren’t saying we need to be better, if you watch TV, listen to the radio or look through magazines you are inundated with messages that “You need this and that to be perfect and loved”. LIES!!! YOU CAN LOVE YOURSELF JUST THE WAY YOU ARE, WITH YOUR FLAWS AND ASSETS. Therapy can be very helpful because it is healthy to share our story, to vent and to have someone wiser guide us. But therapy is expensive. If you don’t have insurance or qualify for free services a therapist is not an option. I researched therapy and learned about Solution Based Therapy. In traditional therapy you search for the root of a problem and spend years doing so. If you know what the root is or at least are pretty sure than you can focus on fixing that broken part. Besides spending years focusing on that negativity won’t necessarily allow you to move forward and live for the future. It is too easy to stay in the past. The past is a memory. Change the way you think and you will see the world differently. Changing my thoughts and attitude was the third step.
To stop feeling helpless I changed my thinking. This was by far the hardest action to take. Seventeen years of thinking I was a victim was hard to change. My first two actions showed me that I already was changing my thinking. So I had to take that a step forward and apply it to not just outside appearance and helping others. I decided to love my inner self with all my flaws, mistakes, and regrets. I also changed how I though towards others. It’s one thing to judge someone on their actions, it’s another to PASS judgement on others. I realize that we all have our own paths to take and mine is no better than yours. I wasn’t being bullied anymore and the last time I was physically assaulted was a decade ago so removing the word victim from my thoughts and actions freed me. I took a leap and became certified to teach self defense. Now I am helping others feel like a survivor instead of a victim.
My pity part is over. Negativity may be a part of life, but I will not let it control my life. Sometimes pessimism is good. We cannot trust every person or every stray dog. Being aware of all aspects of life keeps us alive. We have to be aware of our actions, aware of others, and follow our intuition, but we must also be careful not to let our judgement become so clouded that we are unsure and afraid.
These are the main actions I took in my DIY therapy. Once again these are simple actions, but not easy.
- To stop feeling useless I wrote my first book encouraging girls to be strong and providing them with resources and information to help them do so. I also became certified to teach self defense. I continue to write more books, volunteer in my community, and teach self defense to women and girls. I feel very useful when I write and teach.
- To end the feeling of being ugly I stopped consuming hours and hours of media that told me how I should look and that there was always something wrong with me. No more magazines and TV shows. I remind myself each day that I have only one body and my looks may not be perfect, but they are mine and I am beautiful. I look for and find examples of people who know that beauty COMES from inside, and is not about outside opinions.
This post is not to tell anyone that their choice towards recovery is wrong. I don’t know what YOU need. You are a unique individual with your own issues who must find solutions that work for you. This is a voice for those who want to change their life without a finding a god, paying for expensive therapy, or using drugs. Some of what I shared may help, some may not. Ultimately change is up to you.
Remember this when commenting: RESPECT yourself enough to allow others to be who they are. ACCEPT that others believe differently than you. TOLERATE those differences. Judging someone or their beliefs is as lame as judging them for their weight, skin color, gender, or who they love. We all see and live based on INDIVIDUAL RELEVANCE. Not everyone will like what you write so just deal with that fact. Comments are moderated so if you get crazy with your comment it won’t be published even if it has good points. There is no place for judgement or name calling here. Peace.