When to Walk Away

A few years ago, I was part of a group of people I considered friends. I socialized with them. Had online conversations. Told them things about myself. I liked most of them, and I thought it was mutual with at least some.

Then I learned the sad truth. Some of them were not only saying insulting and hurtful things behind my back, they were overtly trying to sabotage my connections with other people. Including my own husband.

I had known that some of the people in the group weren’t my biggest fans, but I hadn’t realized their dislike of me ran that deep until two people, independently, came to me and said, “These people told me this about you and told me not to have anything to do with you.” When I vented to my husband about my pain and anger, he said, “Oh, yeah, they said that stuff to me too.”

Despite knowing there were members of the group who didn’t think so highly of me, and in spite of things a few had said to my face, I’d hung in there. I was determined not to let them “run me off,” so to speak. After all, didn’t thinking highly of *myself* mean not allowing other people to have power over me? Didn’t not caring what others thought of me mean continuing to expose myself to people who didn’t think kindly?

Nope. It didn’t mean any of that. And when I realized how deep the dislike ran, and how much damage some people in the group had tried to cause–and may have succeeded in causing, because I did learn that at least two people I’d tried to form connections with had chosen not to due to what the others said to them–I realized I wasn’t doing myself any favors by staying in that group.

I left. I cut ties even with group members who, to my knowledge, hadn’t said or done anything negative, because I was no longer sure I could trust them. I blocked them on social media. I called it quits.

And I immediately felt lighter, more positive, and more sure of myself than I had in a long time.

We’re often taught that we should keep people in our lives. Especially if we’re “spiritual,” according to some, we’re supposed to keep connections even with people who are toxic to us because otherwise, we aren’t showing compassion or forgiveness. Some of us also come from backgrounds in which we were expected to accept poor treatment without complaint, and even expected to forget it entirely the moment someone said, “Sorry,” even if we knew they didn’t mean it and would only do it again. 

Some of us become conditioned to being treated poorly and blaming ourselves for it, and take that to mean we can’t walk away just because we don’t like how someone is dealing with us.

But that isn’t how it’s meant to be. We are under no obligation to keep people in our lives when we know they’re treating us badly or that they’re toxic to or unhealthy for us. We aren’t somehow more spiritual or evolved because we choose to continue exposing ourselves to people whose actions cause us to doubt and dislike ourselves.

We can walk away from those people. Not caring what others think includes not caring how others view our choices about who to allow in our lives. It includes building a life in which we feel happy, confident, and positive, regardless of what anyone else tells us we “should” do.

No matter who someone is, what their role your life has been, or if they’ve done anything positive for you, if their behavior toward you is hurtful and toxic, you do not owe them any place in your life. You have the right to shut them out for your own sake. That isn’t refusing to show compassion, and it isn’t “unevolved.” You are showing compassion for *yourself*, and evolving beyond a life where you are constantly feeling negatively about yourself due to the actions and words of others.

The time to walk away is when you feel it’s necessary. You don’t need to explain it or justify it to anyone. If you need to have someone out of your life, you have the right to make that choice. 

Rest and Reset

As I’ve mentioned in other blog posts lately, I’ve been taking things a little easier since the pandemic started. I’m not out there on social media and the like discussing RiverEvolutions as much, and in fact have pretty much stopped promoting the business.

This was partly due to a drastic reduction in clients and students, but it was also a conscious choice. At first, I fell into the trap that was circulating all over the internet: “Use this time to build your business, learn new skills, do ALL THE THINGS, because now you have the time you kept saying you didn’t have. And if you don’t use this time wisely, you’re lazy.”
Which, to be blunt, is bullshit. Our world has imploded. Pandemic. Protests. Being told not to leave our homes. Being afraid of getting ill every time we do leave. We’re living through a traumatic crisis situation, and those situations are not optimal times to try to do more than we’ve ever done before. 

They’re times to slow down, be kind to ourselves, and realize that it isn’t that we suddenly have time to do all the things. Instead, our time and energy are being diverted to maintaining our homes and our mental health. And that can take a lot more energy and time than going to work every day and leading our “normal” lives.

When I realized that–something I arguably should have realized sooner than I did, because I have a trauma history and I know what trauma feels like for me–I chose to say, “I don’t have the emotional bandwidth to try to attract clients and students right now. I don’t have the bandwidth to be an entrepreneur. And that is okay.”

As if that point hadn’t been driven home enough to me, last week something new cropped up that is taking even more bandwidth from me. What I thought would be a quick doctor’s visit for a COVID test and strep throat test turned into more tests, including an ultrasound, and the revelation that I have a growth on my thyroid. A growth that, statistically, is likely to be benign–but it might not be.

Over the weekend, I ended up in the hospital overnight after going to the emergency room because I was having trouble swallowing anything, even water. More testing showed that the growth is larger than when I had the ultrasound, which might be because they did a scan that is more accurate than ultrasounds, but it’s still a concern.

Yesterday, I had a biopsy. It will be at least a week before I get the results of that.

So, RiverEvolutions is still here and isn’t going away. I’m still available to do channeling sessions. Chios Energy Healing sessions are limited because I get tired when I do them and I’m overly tired anyway, but because I do not use my own energy for Chios sessions (I use universal energy, which flows *through* me but is not affected *by* me), I am still available for these sessions. I’ve also begun making jewelry and art with stones, shells, and sea glass from the beach near my home, and I’m starting to sell some pieces.

But I’m putting my primary focus on myself right now. On my own health and healing. And on my own rest and resetting. Because you don’t have to do all the things, and sometimes the most important person in your life, and the most important focus of your time and energy, is yourself.

Things Are Shifting

I’m realizing that a lot of things have shifted for me. I’m not sure whether depression is playing a role, or the current health situation (which may be leading to depression, honestly), or something else entirely.

I was still working on my business, RiverEvolutions, when all this started, but I hadn’t had a paying client in months, and I had only two Chios Energy Healing students. A few weeks into the shutdowns, one of my students finished her Level 3 studies!! The other one completed Level 1!

So now I have no students or clients… and to be honest, I haven’t felt horrible about that. I like doing Chios healing, and I like doing channeling, but I was starting to feel very burned out on the constant effort to attract clients while not actually attracting any. It’s been a nice breather not stressing about “am I posting the right thing in the right place.”

I haven’t felt any call to start promoting RiverEvolutions again, and that’s the part in which I’m not sure whether depression is playing a role. Am I not interested in building (rebuilding) the business because it’s just not right for me at this point, or because I’m depressed and don’t feel like doing much of anything a lot of the time? Though it may also have something to do with the business seeming to gain traction during the first 6-8 months (I started really working on it in Nov. 2018) and then pretty much falling flat after about August of 2019. Which does feel depressing.

(For clarity: When I say “depression,” I am legitimately diagnosed with depression, as in a mental health/medical condition. When I say “depressing,” I mean both that it feeds my illness and that it causes me to *feel* depressed as in an emotion.)

This isn’t the first time I’ve lost interest or desire for something. I used to read incessantly. I would read one or two full-length novels in a week. (I remember reading The Stand in under 2 weeks, and that’s a long-ass book!) I also used to write incessantly. But somewhere during my writing career, when I started getting published, I started feeling like I had to spend *all* my time writing. I stopped reading much.

And then my writing career went downhill fast. An incident in my personal life caused me to start feeling panicky about writing the more explicit scenes in my romance novels, and the poor sales started causing me to feel anxious and panicky about writing at all because even if one of my publishers accepted my manuscript, I felt like I would disappoint them by not earning them the money they expected. (I was published by royalty-paying publishers. I sent them a book, and if they chose to publish it, they paid me royalties, i.e. a percentage of the sale price of each book sold. Sometimes they paid me money up front as well. I never paid anyone to publish my books; the publishers took their cut out of the sales of the books just as I got my cut out of it.)

My last published book came out August 2017. Currently, NONE of my novels remain on the market, partly due to publishers closing and partly because I finally gave up and asked for my rights back. I think two or three anthologies, each containing one of my short stories, are still available, but I’m not sure. I haven’t completed anything fictional in at least 2 years. Mostly my writing now is ridiculously long Facebook posts like this one.

Depression definitely played a role in the writing not being a thing. I’m pretty sure it’s playing a role in not doing much with RiverEvolutions right now. It likely plays a role in not reading much, because one effect of depression is that it can cause loss of concentration/focus, so even when I try to read, sometimes I’ll stare at a page for several minutes and not take in a single word. (Though I am rereading The Stand right now. It seemed apropos.) That lack of focus also contributes to my not writing; I’ll start a fictional story but lose interest in it or even forget I started it.

I’m making art and wire-wrapped necklaces with stones, shells, and sea glass I find on the beach near my home. That’s bringing me joy currently, because it’s something that reminds me of summers at my grandparents’ cottage in Nova Scotia, where I could wake up every morning and walk down a flight of wooden steps to the beach. That was one of the few places in my childhood where I felt completely safe and loved, so the connection is wonderful. I’m selling the things I make, but I’m not necessarily *trying* to sell them, lest I end up feeling burned out with these as well.

I think my point in this is partly introspection, but also partly because I know others who are going through a period of “not feeling like it,” or feeling depressed or anxious, or being uninterested in or not having time for things they enjoyed, and I want to say you aren’t alone. It may also be to remind *myself* of all the things I have actually done in my life, because one of the things depression does is try to convince me I haven’t done anything worth noting.

Unseen Effects of COVID-19

Note: This appeared as an article in my May 20 newsletter. I have chosen to share it as a blog post as well in the hope of reaching a wider audience.

In Stephen King’s novel The Stand, about a manmade pandemic ravaging the world, he devotes an entire chapter to snippets about the people who die because of the illness but not *from* the illness. People who are injured and can’t find help because everyone around them has died. People who take their lives because they can’t tolerate the situation. People who are murdered by others whose sanity is slipping due to watching the illness take everyone and everything.

The Stand, obviously, is a work of fiction, and unlike “Captain Trips,” COVID-19 is not manmade. However, there are some similarities, among them the fact that COVID is having unseen, indirect effects.

Most people aren’t wired to spend weeks on end not leaving their homes. Being so isolated, even if you’re staying in contact with family and friends by video chat or phone, is not usual for us, and can have a negative impact on mental health. The constant information, true or false, that is being shoved at us by sources from the nightly news to the conspiracy theorists on social media raises our own fears and stress.

Being unable to get a break from the people one lives with can have a negative effect as well, even if we’re with people we love and get along with. For those who are essentially trapped in homes with abusers, it’s even worse.

The virus that’s spreading isn’t only the illness of COVID-19. It’s the side effects. The stress, fear, and panic. The increased abuse of those who are now unable to escape to school or work. The arguments among even couples and families who usually get along well. The arguments and endings of friendships among those who refuse to listen to facts and can’t find a middle ground on beliefs.

As restrictions are lifted in various areas, some of these side effects might lessen. Being able to go outside again might help people feel less isolated and trapped. But some effects will remain, and lifting restrictions will bring more impacts such as increased anxiety about being exposed to the illness, panic from people who are unable to wear masks due to claustrophobia, PTSD, or other issues but are told they have to wear them, etc. And the issue of abuse is certainly not going away, especially with schools still closed at least until the beginning of the 2020-21 school year.

As we continue to navigate this time, please take care of your mental health as well as your physical. If you are struggling, please reach out for help; likewise, if you are experiencing abuse, seek help if you can safely do so. Talk to friends or family you can trust, or contact a helpline such as the Crisis Textline (741741) for mental health issues, 1-800-799-7233 or thehotline.org for domestic abuse, or 1-800-422-4453 for help in dealing with child abuse. 

If you have the emotional and mental resources to handle helping others, reach out to your friends and family to make sure they’re managing all right. Some people don’t feel able to reach out for help out of fear of being seen as “weak” or “attention whores.” Sometimes all it takes is someone calling or messaging to say, “Hey, I was thinking of you, do you need anything?” to tip the balance from someone choosing to die to them choosing to live. Even people who aren’t at that low a point are likely to benefit from knowing that someone cares.

Too many people in our society (and in my opinion, even a few are too many) live by the basic philosophy of “I have what I need, why should I care about anyone else?” Now is not the time to live that way. Please consider others. Take care of yourself *first*; you know, that whole oxygen mask thing. But if you are able to do so without stressing yourself, please look out for others as well. Let’s all do what we can to minimize the effects of this virus–both the direct effects and the indirect ones.

It’s Fine Not to Be Fine

How are you doing?

When someone asks you that, do you reply honestly, or do you cover up how you’re really feeling? Do you say, “I’m fine,” when you’re anything but?

Right now, a lot of us are anything but fine. As the pandemic continues, people are fearing loss of income. Some are struggling to survive in homes that were unsafe even when they were able to leave from time to time. Some are wondering if they’ll have homes to survive in by the time this is over.

Marriages and relationships are ending. So are some friendships, either because of inability to stay connected or because people are realizing that their ideals and beliefs are diametrically opposed to those of their friends.

It’s a difficult time, even for those who seem to have everything together.

When you answer the question I asked at the beginning of this post, do you say you’re fine? And if so, is it true?

Many of us are taught to cover up the negatives in our lives. We’re told that it isn’t okay to talk about feeling stressed or afraid or angry. We’re told that no one wants to know if we’re having trouble with our finances or our families.

We’re told no one wants to hear if we’re experiencing abuse or other harm.

It’s time to change that conditioning. Right now, a lot of people are not fine–and that is okay. It is okay to talk about the not-fineness. It is okay to say you’re afraid or stressed or angry.

It is okay to reach out for help, whether to people you trust in your life or to organizations or professionals, if you are experiencing harm or abuse.
Even though there are widely different ways of handling the current crisis, and people are experiencing hugely different impacts, we are all experiencing the same crisis. We aren’t all “in the same boat”; far from it. But our boats are all in the same ocean of fear, uncertainty, and crisis.

So speak your truth when someone asks how you’re doing. Speak it so you can get help or support. So you can know you’re heard. So you can know you aren’t alone. Speak it so others know it’s okay for them to speak their truth.

You don’t have to be “fine” right now. Really. You don’t.

(If you are experiencing abuse, please seek help. In the US, contact the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233 or visit their website http://www.thehotline.org. For support and help in dealing with child abuse in the US, visit http://www.childhelp.org or call 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453). You might also receive help or resources from your local law enforcement agency. If you are concerned that someone you know is experiencing abuse, please don’t remain silent or figure it’s none of your business. Reach out to them, to one of the hotlines named, or to law enforcement.)

It’s Okay to Feel

We’re taught that certain emotions are “bad” or wrong. We aren’t supposed to feel them. We’re supposed to suppress them and act like they don’t exist.

The top among these is anger. Especially if you’re a girl, or raised/socialized as one, you’re told to be quiet and “ladylike” and sweet. If you show anger, you’re bad.

This can be common in the spiritual practice world as well. If you’re truly spiritual, so the story goes, you don’t feel anger. You just accept and forgive everyone and everything and feel nothing negative at all ever, because if you do, you aren’t really spiritual.

Bullshit.

Anger, jealousy, fear…all the emotions that some people designate as “bad” are HUMAN emotions. If you’re a human being, odds are good that you feel emotions. Feeling anger is no more “bad” than feeling joy. Emotions are not good or bad; they just are. And trying to force yourself not to feel them often results in just stuffing the emotion down into a little box in your mind—a box that might burst somewhere down the line.

The key isn’t to stop *feeling* emotions. It’s to learn healthy and productive ways to *express* them.

http://start.at/nevit

I was raised in a home where it was not safe for me to be angry. If I expressed anger, I was punished for it, sometimes in psychologically damaging ways. I was told I was a bad person for feeling angry. That “good little girls” don’t feel that way.

In my first marriage, expressing anger was even more dangerous to me, so I learned not to express it to my husband. Unfortunately, that meant sometimes it spilled out onto my children. But more often, I just stuffed it down into that little mental box and convinced myself I’d dealt with it and didn’t feel it anymore.

When I was finally in a place where it was safe for me to express anger, I had no clue how to do so. I had no tools for managing my emotions—any emotions, regardless of what they were—because I’d spent so much of my life trying not to allow myself to feel them. So when something small sparked anger in me, the anger became huge and harmful, with lots of ranting and swearing and punching of mattresses and pillows, because I didn’t know how else to handle an emotion I was terrified to feel.

Note that I am not making excuses. I handled my anger very poorly a number of times, and at times that caused emotional harm to others. I am working to repair relationships that were damaged because of this.

Despite the reasons, ultimately we are each responsible for our own emotions and how we display them, and although I didn’t have the knowledge, skills, or tools to display my anger in less harmful ways, I still take responsibility for how I did display it and the consequences thereof. Part of my healing journey has been repairing those relationships, making amends where possible, and owning my stuff. Part has been accepting myself as a good *person* despite the things I said that I can’t take back, because while I *own* my emotions and my actions, I am not the things I feel and do. Emotions are neither good nor bad; actions can be, but taking a negative action does not automatically make someone a bad person.

It took a lot of work and therapy, but I did learn. I still sometimes get angrier than a situation warrants, but I am now able to recognize when I’m angry beyond what makes sense. I’m able to walk away from a situation that’s causing anger, and sometimes even to say to whomever else is involved, “I’m feeling very angry right now and need to step away.” I go someplace where I can be alone to work through what I’m feeling, and when I feel calm enough, I return to the other person and say, “I’m feeling angry about that thing you did, because it hurt me in this way. I’d like to stop feeling angry with you, so I’d like to talk about this and see what we can do.” It works a lot better.

Feeling emotions is NORMAL. Even emotions we’ve been taught are wrong or bad. Trying to suppress or ignore those emotions can be harmful to us and can lead to them coming up in less manageable ways down the road.

We also dishonor ourselves when we deny our emotions. Many of us who have experienced abuse and trauma have a child self living within our minds, a part of ourselves that became frozen at a time of trauma. In DBT (dialectical behavioral therapy, a technique often used in treating borderline personality disorder and PTSD among other things), that part of us is referred to as the “emotional mind.” In some forms of Witchcraft, it’s Younger Self. Whatever you call it, it’s a part of us, and it’s part of our healing journey to accept, nurture, and work with it. If we’re telling ourselves, “I can’t feel angry, it’s bad, I’m a bad person for feeling this way,” we’re continuing the abuse that damaged us in the first place. We’re taking the words and concepts forced on us by others and internalizing them, and that continues the damage.

Instead, I’ve found it’s far more productive to feel the emotion. To say, “I feel really angry, and that’s okay; how can I deal with this?” Even to express fear of feeling the anger, if that’s present for you. Some coping strategies for anxiety and PTSD can be used for anger as well.

Allowing yourself to feel those emotions and express them in *healthy* ways can help lessen them, and honors you as the awesome human you are.

You aren’t bad if you feel anger. You aren’t “not truly spiritual.” You are human, and you have the right to feel however you feel. You don’t have the right to express those feelings in harmful ways, but you one hundred percent have the right to feel them, and to express them in nonharmful ways. (And if you do express anger or another emotion in a way that’s harmful, that still doesn’t make you a bad person. It still just makes you human. Make apologies, make amends, and get help with learning more effective management strategies if it’s an ongoing problem… but accept yourself as a good *person* who just needs help to learn better *actions*.)

As a final note, if you’re a parent, please teach your children that emotions are always okay to feel, and teach them healthy, productive ways to express them. Show them that they, too, are good people, and that you love them no matter what emotions they feel. Show them how to love and accept themselves even when the anger seems big and scary, or the jealousy overwhelms them, or the fear seems to cover everything else. Let’s break the cycle of people who believe and preach that it’s bad and wrong to feel human emotions—and the people who, because of those beliefs and preaching, believe that *they* are bad and wrong.

Honoring a Need

Today is the third day I sat down to try to write this blog post. And it’s the third day that I looked at my planned topic and my brain said, “Nope, not doing it. Too tired.”

It wasn’t a hugely involved topic. It was more that I wasn’t as clear as I would have liked on what I wanted to say about it, and trying to put words together was resulting in a lot of mental twisting and turning. I’ve also been fighting off a cold (thanks to working in two elementary schools a couple days a week) and, as often happens at a season change, haven’t been sleeping well, so my creativity is not at its peak.

So instead of sitting here forcing the post I’d intended to write, which would have resulted in some half-assing and inaccurate phrasing, and probably in the energetic vibration of “I don’t wanna do this” coming through, at least to those who are sensitive to energy, I chose to write a post about how I’m not writing the post I’d planned. Because I think sometimes we all need the reminder that it’s okay to give our brains a break. It’s okay to say, “I can’t think about this right now,” or “I can’t complete this project this week,” or whatever.

Obviously if it affects your job or interferes with someone else’s needs, you might need to think about it more and maybe do some negotiation or compromise. But the world isn’t going to end because I wrote this blog post instead of the one I’d planned. It won’t end if my post is under 400 words instead of close to 1000.

It won’t end if I take the time to honor what I need.

Sometimes, I think that especially those of us who were brought up to believe we were responsible for everyone else forget that our needs matter too, and that the world doesn’t actually end if we say no to some things. So this is just a reminder for all of us.

And now I’m going to go honor my need for coffee. Because coffee.

I Have a Confession…

I’m human.

You might be thinking, “Well, duh, everyone is human. How is that a confession?”

It’s a confession because sometimes people fall into the trap of believing they have to have all their shit together, or at least had damn well better act like they do. They hide how they’re really feeling. They present a fully-healed, perfect-ish face to the outside. This seems especially true in the coaching and healing industries, where it’s not uncommon to hear “You can’t help others until you’re healed.” So those who want to help others and haven’t finished their own healing *pretend* they have so people will believe they can help.

It doesn’t work that way. Not always. Maybe not even usually. Healing isn’t a thing you reach and that’s the end of it. You make progress. You might be able to shake some of the things that have held you back, and some of the habits and defense mechanisms you’ve developed, but life is an ongoing process, and so is healing.

I grew up with a constant barrage of “What will other people think,” coupled with constant judgment, bullying, and emotional abuse. I tried my hardest to hide all the things that were “wrong” with me so people would like me and wouldn’t treat me like crap. I hid who I truly was because the alternative was to let people actually know me–which would mean they wouldn’t like me, which would mean they might hurt me.

I’ve done a lot of work on myself over the decades. I’ve learned that other people’s opinions of me don’t define me and in the long run don’t matter…but sometimes, I forget that. Sometimes, especially as a healer and coach, I start thinking I have to at least present a fully-healed facade to the world or no one will want to work with me. I bury my struggles so no one will see them and think less of me. Instead of leaning on the people who care about me, I decide I shouldn’t bother them, and just hold everything in until I can’t hold it anymore.

I have depression, anxiety, and complex post-traumatic stress disorder. These are illnesses, and they aren’t going anywhere. There’s no cure. There’s treatment, which is varying levels of effective, and there are management strategies, some of which I’ve learned and some I’ve developed myself, because I know what works for me.

But despite best efforts, sometimes those illnesses flare up, and those are the times I’m most likely to bury things and try to convince myself I can handle everything without help. The demons of screwed-up brain chemistry and brain alterations caused by trauma start whispering to me that I can’t count on anyone else, shouldn’t count on anyone else, and if anyone finds out I’m struggling, they’ll think I’m a whineass. I don’t deserve to be helped, according to those demons. I deserve to feel like crap, and that’s what anyone else would tell me.

Obviously, that isn’t true, but those demons can be pretty damn persuasive.

I have come a very long way in my life. I have done a lot of healing and a lot of work. It isn’t always steady forward progress; most healing isn’t. There will be setbacks and backtracks, and that’s okay. The point is to keep moving as forward as possible, and accept that when the setbacks happen, they don’t equal failure. They equal being human.

Over the past few months, the demons have been especially loud as I’ve tried to get River Flow Healing fully off the ground. This has been due to a combination of the stress of trying to start and run a business, some personal life stressors, and the medication I’m on becoming ineffective, which is a problem because there is a very limited number of medications I can take without adverse reactions. (If you’re someone who doesn’t believe in medication for mental illness, more power to you, but please post on your own venue about your opinion instead of starting an argument here. For me, and for many other people I know, medication is not only beneficial but vital. Nothing works for everyone, everything works for someone. And I have tried treating my illnesses both without and with medications.)

For the past few months, I’ve forgotten to let myself be human. I’ve become convinced that I can’t let anyone see that I’m not fully, perfectly healed, or I’ll never have clients. I’ve shut down and operated on autopilot, compartmentalizing the negative thoughts and emotions instead of managing them.

But I am human. I’m not some magical being who doesn’t experience pain or fear or flashbacks. I’m not here to show others how to become perfect. I started my healing journey at a much lower point and I’ve progressed to where I am now, and I’m continuing to progress, and I’m here to tell and show others how I’ve done it and how they can too. To be a healer, you don’t have to be fully healed. You just have to be more healed than you were, and continuing to work on it.

So yeah. That’s my confession. I’m human. But I’m a human who’s been where you might be, and if you think I can help you, I would love to try.

Perception

One of the things mental illness can do is cause you to perceive things incorrectly. You might think someone has said something they haven’t actually said, or assign a meaning to someone’s actions that simply isn’t there.

That’s something I deal with a lot. Because of people I’ve dealt with in my past, and the resulting PTSD, as well as depression and anxiety, sometimes my brain filters someone else’s actions or words through a distorted lens. I hear something in their words that they didn’t say and didn’t mean, or I believe their actions are for a reason that has nothing to do with why they’ve actually acted that way.

This makes communication extremely important for me. I am usually aware when my thoughts are getting away from me and when my perception is off. In those moments, I can choose to continue with the incorrect perception, and let my thoughts spiral into darkness, or I can choose to go to the other person and say, “I think I’m perceiving this wrong. Can we clarify what you meant?”

That isn’t always an easy choice to make. Sometimes my belief about what the other person has said or done is so strong that my emotions take over. I might be too angry to try talking to them, or might not be able to get the words together. Sometimes I’m afraid to ask for clarification because I worry that the other person will be angry with me for having an incorrect perception. But under the emotions, I know that the only way to resolve the situation is to speak up.

Misperceptions are going to happen. To be honest, I think it’s part of being human, regardless of whether mental illness is a factor. Learning to recognize when you might be perceiving something incorrectly, and learning to communicate and clarify the situation, might not be easy, but it’s important.

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.