Giving Yourself Time

For over a month now, I’ve been having a tough time getting past my mental roadblocks. Even knowing as many ways as I do to conquer those roadblocks, and even getting advice and suggestions from friends and coaches, I’ve had trouble shaking the blocks.

For a while, I tried forcing my way through. I sat here at my computer writing stories, blog posts, and articles, but my heart wasn’t in them and so neither was my effort. Mostly, they were poorly written, and sometimes I was convinced I wasn’t saying anything anyone would want to read anyway.

When you have depression, as I do, it really gets in the way of anything resembling living. I felt like I was in a deep pit with no way out, and at times I wasn’t sure I wanted to find the way out. That darkness and lack of much of anything eclipsed the part of me that cares and wants to be better.

To some reading this, that probably sounds like a cop-out. A lot of people believe that all you have to do to get past depression is decide you’re going to get past it. To some extent, that might be true. For example, on the days when all I want to do is hide in bed, I still manage to get up, shower, and put on actual clothes that I could wear out of the house. I don’t always make it out of the house, but I could if I chose.

But depression is an illness, and as with all illnesses, overcoming it isn’t only a matter of wanting to. It isn’t just a matter of getting off your butt and going for a walk in the woods or on the beach, at least not for all of us. It’s a lot of effort, and sometimes just making that effort is so exhausting you can’t do anything else.

Because I was struggling so much, and because it was affecting my work, I chose to step back for a while. I stopped worrying about doing blog posts and social media. I didn’t write any articles or do any Facebook Live videos. I needed to go into hibernation mode until my mind and body were ready to come out of it.

As I write this, I’m looking out the window at sunshine and a bright blue sky. And way more snow on the ground than there ought to be when tomorrow’s the first day of spring. This is the second blog post I’ve written today. For the first time in over a month, I’m feeling hopeful and positive, and I want to do things. I’m coming out of the self-imposed hibernation and starting to live and work again.

I’m not going to get down on myself for needing that time to regroup. I think most people, regardless of mental health, have times when they just need to step back and take care of themselves. The past month or so has been one of those times for me. And that’s okay.

Tomorrow…

Friday, February 23, I’ll be speaking at the Provincetown Public Library about acceptance and being true to oneself. I’m a little nervous about it; this will be the first public presentation I’ve done in over seven years! But I’m also looking forward to it.

If you’re in the Provincetown area, I hope you’ll stop by. My presentation begins at 3pm. I’m hoping to have it recorded, at least bits and pieces, so I can share it here, and I’ll blog next week about how it went.

Imposter Syndrome

Imposter syndrome is basically the belief that any success you have is a fluke, and that the people around you will figure out you’ve just faked your way to where you are. You downplay your accomplishments and find plenty of excuses why those accomplishments don’t really mean anything.

I found a great post about imposter syndrome recently, so rather than rehash it, I thought I would share: “Do You Suffer from the Imposter Syndrome? by Cindy J. Holbrook.

Others Don’t Define You

Sometimes it’s easy to get hung up on what other people think of us. We try so hard to be what we think others want us to be, or do what we think they want us to do. We try to avoid being judged, but we’re all human, and not judging or being judged is nearly impossible.

But the thing is, other people’s opinions of you aren’t the ones that matter. Even the opinions of those closest to you don’t matter as much as your opinion of yourself.

Things others have said to or about you in the past might have contributed to how you view yourself in the present, but you don’t have to let others thoughts and words define you. You have the power to create yourself as the person you want to be, and no one can take that away from you unless you let them.

Look at yourself and see what’s really there, not what other people tell you they see.

Being Happy With Yourself

There isn’t anything wrong with wanting to change things about yourself. All of us go through times when we recognize the need to change, and life is an ongoing process of growth and change anyway.

But when you decide you want to make a change, first take a look at what you’re changing and try to accept it, or even be happy with it.

Being happy with who you are doesn’t automatically mean there’s nothing to change. It just means that you’ve chosen to recognize that you are a good person with good qualities, and that you’ve chosen to love and accept all parts of yourself, whether or not you want to hold onto those parts.

The first step to making a positive change is to have a positive reason for wanting to do so. If you’re trying to change something about yourself because you don’t like it and don’t want it, you might not be as successful as if you want to change it because you see something better waiting for you on the other side of the change. “Don’t-wanting” the way you are now puts your energy into staying that way, even if that isn’t what you intend, whereas wanting something different will put your energy into the new thing.

Even the aspects of yourself that you want to change are part of what makes up you as a person. You as a person deserve love and respect, and so do the things you want to change, even if they aren’t going to remain part of who you are.

Accept Your Past

One common piece of advice I’ve heard and seen from many sources is to let go of the past. Stop letting it affect you and define you, and move beyond it.

I completely agree with that, but I believe that before you can let it go, you need to accept that it happened. That doesn’t mean being okay with everything, and it definitely doesn’t mean liking everything that’s happened to you. It means simply saying, for example, “Okay, that did happen. It sucked, and it caused me harm, but it happened.”

Your past doesn’t define you, but things that occurred, and more importantly how you handled them, does contribute to who you are, in both positive and negative ways. We build strength by living through and living beyond certain things. We might have gained compassion for others who are in similar situations. Everything that happens in your life, whether good or bad or somewhere in between, adds to the person you are.

If you try to let go of your past by pretending it didn’t happen, as some people seem to do, you’re not only rejecting the events. You’re rejecting a part of yourself. The part that went through those events and rose from them.

You can definitely learn how to stop being affected and defined by your past. It’s desirable to do so, because you are the person you are today, not the one you were then. But there’s a difference between not being affected and defined by your past, or denying it altogether. Part of accepting yourself, even when it’s painful, is accepting the negatives of your life.

Medication

I take several medications every day. And I’ve had several people tell me I shouldn’t take them.

I understand that some people are severely overmedicated nowadays, and sometimes medications have side effects that are worse than whatever they’re supposed to treat. For some people, not taking medication would be right move.

But not all alternative treatments work for everyone, and some don’t work at all, just as not all medications work for everyone. In my opinion, unless you’re a medical professional (including holistic medicine, depending on training) of some kind, it isn’t your place to tell someone else they should or shouldn’t be taking a certain medication or following a certain treatment plan. By all means, at least if asked, tell others what works for you, but don’t tell them that *they* have to do something just because it does work for you.

It’s even more unfair to shame someone for taking medication that, for all you know, might be saving their life. I have severe depression, and I take antidepressants. I have tried other means of managing and treating the depression. They did not work, and in one case nearly landed me in the hospital. The medication I take works, and I can honestly say that it helps keep me alive.

Whatever works for you in treating medical conditions is fine, but please don’t take it on yourself to tell someone else they’re wrong about what works for them. That goes for people who are on medications as well; medication might work for you, but that doesn’t mean other people don’t successfully manage or treat their conditions with other methods, and that’s okay too.

Childhood Dreams

 Most children have the power to dream. And some of those dreams are pretty elaborate. Dreams of who they are, and of who they want to be when they’re older.

Some are fortunate enough to have parents or others who encourage those dreams, no matter how improbable they seem. (How many people actually get to slay real dragons?) But many times, well-meaning adults tell children, “That’s just a silly dream. You can’t really become that. Why don’t you be a (fill in the blank) instead?”

In my opinion, dreaming is a way for children to explore the world. Having daydreams about their future lives helps them learn to believe in themselves and in the probable and improbable. So what if dragons don’t really exist? A child who wants to slay dragons might become an adult who, as a lawyer, helps imprison criminals who hurt children. Not a literal slaying of a dragon, but definitely the ending of something harmful.

Some of the dreams that adults say are too unrealistic are completely realistic with work and belief. Becoming an actor, a musician, a writer… any of those are things that a child could easily become if they take the time to learn the craft, and are willing to put in the time it takes to build a career. They aren’t the “traditional” ways of earning a living, but that isn’t a reason to discourage a child from them. It’s a reason to help them find ways to make it happen.

Instead of discouraging children from their dreams, it would be wonderful if adults encouraged them. Even the unlikely ones. Let children reach their own conclusions about whether they can actually fulfill those dreams, instead of telling them they can’t.

I Admire…

…people who aren’t afraid to speak their truth and share it with the world.

As a transformational speaker and coach, that’s what I’m trying to do. But I am still on my journey of opening up and allowing myself to believe I know what I know, and that it’s okay to share the things I know.

Growing up, I was a “pleaser.” The one who tried to do what everyone else around me seemed to want or expect. I didn’t usually dare to say what *I* wanted, or what I believed, because doing so wasn’t necessarily safe. Sometimes it was far safer and easier to just stay quiet. Not that I enjoyed staying quiet. I knew I had things to say that others needed to hear. I just didn’t necessarily believe I should be the one to say them.

One of the hardest tasks in my journey has been letting go of what others might think of me, and just being who I am. Accepting oneself can be difficult at the best of times. When one has been taught that they’re unacceptable, it’s an even harder fight. I’ve learned over the years that not everyone is going to like me, and even those who like me as a person might not like what I have to say, and that’s all okay. They don’t have to like me or my truth, just as I don’t have to like them or theirs.

It isn’t about being liked, or about what others find acceptable or true. My truth might not be true for everyone, and that’s okay too. It’s about liking and accepting *myself* and what I have to say, and knowing that even though not everyone will be happy with it, some will be helped by it. And that’s why it’s important for me to allow myself to speak, because there are still others who need to hear what I have to say.

Accepting

One of the best New Year’s goals I can think of is to accept yourself. It’s something some of us have a lot of difficulty with.

What are the things about yourself that you have a hard time accepting? Try looking at those things in a different way. Take the time to focus on the things you do like about yourself. All the good qualities you have, because I guarantee you have them.

(Right now, I’m having a hard time accepting that I’m having trouble writing this blog post. But I’ve written a lot of other posts that are better, and that have helped people, so I’m going to think about those instead of how much I’m struggling.)

We live in a society where too many of us are taught to look at our flaws, and others’ flaws as well, instead of looking at all the positives about ourselves and others. How much better would things be if we could stop being harsh about ourselves and others, and be kind instead.

Almost everyone deserves kindness and acceptance. We deserve good things. So be good to yourself.