Don’t Know What to Say? Sometimes Silence Is Golden


nest

I am a big fan of social media. First, it keeps me connected to those I love in times of isolation, and second, it allows me to speak the truth about Mental Health. In 2011 a diagnosis of  major depression, panic disorder and Generalized Anxiety,  set me up for some major time off work. This is when I became an advocate for myself and a voice for those with  mental illnesses who find it difficult to express themselves.

Remember, the journey to recovery is a unique spiritual, medical, physical, and/or psychological experience to be taken by the individual affected. In other words, what works for me, may not work for you, so when reading my post, please take that in consideration. Never, over the years, have I declared my way best (a fix all) yet, sharing my journey seems to resonate with some of my readers going through similar experiences.

Lately, I noticed awesome memes scrolling down my FB news feed, describing « what NOT to say to someone with depression, anxiety, PTSD etc ». I started sharing these, adding my own over the years, however, someone asked me just recently, « what DO I say to someone who is suffering in the moment? » Then it came to me. Sometimes the best thing to say in a moment of crisis is absolutely nothing. Sometimes, body language speaks louder than words:

I am here for you.

Be there. Sit there. Hold their hand. If they shoo your hand away, it may be because their anxiety is so strong they do not want to be touched. You may ask : « what do you need?  Often, I reply : « can you please get me a glass of water and sit with me? »

Often we sit… Once my daughter came  next to me and started breathing deeply, cuing me in the rhythm of deep breath and eventually I end up following, inhaling and exhaling together as I come down from a shattered morning.

Little gestures are HUGE

Just a few weeks ago, my good friend Diane came to pick me up to go shopping. As I entered the car shaken and immersed in anxiety, she said, in her awesome Dianish way : « Hey Chickie, hows it going? » I just sat there, silent as tears welled up. Then I answered:  « Not good, not good at all » . Diane immediately took my hand as I wailed on about this and that and that and this.

I kept  repeating « I’m sorry, so sorry for …. » (I felt like “here she goes again with the tears!’)

« Never be sorry for being YOU » she replied.

The feeling of knowing she was there next to me, rubbing my back, validating my feelings, and just really looking at me with loving eyes, helped me relax.

Comfort was all that I needed.

I will tell you one thing about most peeps with mental illness : We often feel like we are a burden to others. Especially when in a seemingly downward spiral that lasts more than a few days. So when in doubt, please just hold space for us, sit and listen.

That day, Diane blew me away. I have (and I am telling you the truth) never experienced a friendship so unconditional, so loving which allows me to be who I am and it is OK. In other words, there is nothing to fix about me. I am whole, and loveable just the way I am, even with my panic attacks, quirks, and sillies.

The power of a hug.

Silence can be golden, physical touch is too.  Feeling often alone I often  seek hugs, yet, there are times, that is isn’t possible. So when a person comes along and holds us in a big bear hug, this often melts away all tears or even better, allows us to cry in the safety of loving arms.

Did you know: In a study on fears and self-esteem, research published in the journal Psychological Science revealed that hugs and touch significantly reduce worry of mortality. The studies found that hugging — even if it was just an inatimate object like a teddy bear — helps soothe individuals’ existential fears. “Even fleeting and seemingly trivial instances of interpersonal touch may help people to deal more effectively with existential concern,” lead researcher Sander Koole wrote in the study. “Interpersonal touch is such a powerful mechanism that even objects that simulate touch by another person may help to instill in people a sense of existential significance.”  (source: Huffington Post)

Just this Christmas, my family was visiting (I had not seen my dad in a year) and it was time for them to leave.  Since I was the cook and host, I felt like I didn’t have much « quality time » with my dad. Although we speak every single day on chat, having my « daddy » around is always precious. It bring up feelings of comfort and protection. However, when it came time for him to leave, my heart melted into a big pile of mush, and for the first time since I was around 10 years old, I started to cry. The sorrow I felt was deep, and I wanted to run to him and wrap my arms around him and not let go.

Then, as fast as my dad turned around and said bye, I felt 2 arms around me, comforting me in silence.  It was my brother. The one who always seems to want to say the « smart thing to fix me » but he didn’t. He just hugged me until my dad was down the stairs and out the front door.

Silent and loving.

What a gift.

So, in answer to the question… What DO you say to someone in crisis :

« I see you, I hear, you and I validate you »… and that can all be said with no words at all.

Bell-Lets-Talk2TODAY IS #BellLetsTalk Day.  For every tweet, Bell will donate 5 cents towards mental health initiatives. Please tweet this with the hashtag #BellLetsTalk !

Demystifying the Path of Depression


Walking the path of depression is probably the best gift Spirit has given me.  The opportunity for growth is extreme. However, not everyone goes through depression the same way.  It can take some longer than others to heal.  There is no magic pill anyone can take to rid themselves of this mental illness. You cannot “snap out of it” or “make it go away with positive thinking” and as my friend Mel Horrod cleverly said this week in a conversation about demystifying depression and it’s stigma:

Just pull your socks up’, was something I heard over and over again when I was ill. I couldn’t even get the socks into the washing machine, let alone put them on and pull them up!

Humor aside, many, including me (at one time) have judged another suffering from this, at times, debilitating mental illness, and made assumptions on how they are not doing enough to heal themselves.  Well today, I know this is bullshit!

Even as I continue the healing process myself, with my meds and therapy, there are still others who think they have the “magical cure” and now I am speaking up.  Don’t get me wrong, when others offer advice, I know it doesn’t come from dark place, comments and advice are often well intended in order to help the person with clinical depression, and even though their words are coming from a place of love, sometimes, words, just make it worse.

Now, let me reiterate, that there is a HUGE difference between being depressed, and actually having a diagnosis of clinical depression. When I google:  define depressed this is what comes up:

de·pressed/diˈprest/

Adjective:
  1. (of a person) In a state of general unhappiness or despondency.
  2. (of a person) Suffering from clinical depression.

  Don’t let depression define you!

   Know the difference!

Synonyms: dejected – sad – despondent – low-spirited – downcast

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Courtesy of taram.carbonmade.com

Everyone gets “depressed” every once and awhile, however, not everyone suffers from clinical depression, bipolar disorder, or any other disorder in the mental illness spectrum.  It is important to know the difference and act accordingly.  No one wants to suffer alone in silence!   Yet, the pains, aches, and overwhelming thoughts can be very scary.  One wants to chase them away…

Yet, in order to heal the pain, you must feel the pain!

So, read as many self-help books you want, post 1000 post it notes in your house with positive affirmations, listen to up-beat music, however, this is not the cure for depression, and this is where many of us get frustrated.  Sure these are all tools, and I use them all the time, but, there are times, when all I want to do is cry!

Why can’t I be happy like everyone else?  ITS NOT FAIR!

Because, you cannot will yourself to be happy when clinically depressed.  It just doesn’t work!  Oh.. yes, on some days it can, but others, one just has to wrap themselves up in a cosy blanket with all their favorite books, journals, music and maybe even a stuffy or your trusty cat or dog, and just be.  Feeling those emotions are painful, yes, letting them well up without pushing them away is the most challenging part.. You’d think it is torture!! Yet, this is the best way to heal.

Surround yourself with cheerleaders

Take clinical depression seriously.  Have tons of cheerleaders, those who have been through it, or those who really want to listen without telling you what to do.  Also, have a therapist you can trust, yes I know they cost money, but if you cannot afford one, keep calling help centers or community centers near you until someone listens!! Do not take NO for an answer.. and if you are too weak to do so, ask your “go to” person to help!

The dreaded “pill” 

Medication is an option only you can decide.  I was totally against medication for years.  I have a son who has ADHD, and trust me, I tried everything before resorting to giving him meds, now he takes his dose of Concerta every day, but only when he is in school.  For me, the meds came when I found this most amazing Therapist, she eased me into the idea for weeks, without giving me an ultimatum.  The decision had to come from me and me only.  I was very afraid of medication since I had a bag experience with Paxil 11 years ago, and I was afraid of negative side effects.  So I started taking low doses gradually increasing month after month.  Right now I am on 15mg of Celexa, and its working just fine.  I have no idea if I will have to take the pills for 1 year, 2 years or all my life, what I know for sure is, the pills have created a bridge between the darkness and the light, and I see the benefits now.

The journey is your own, and yours only.  No one can tell you what is best for you only you know in the deepest part of your spirit.  Listen to that, and if depression is numbing that part of you, and you cannot hear what it is saying… be still.. it too shall pass.  I am not saying to only hear what you want to hear, there are times when one needs to be shaken’ up a little!  Yet for this, there is a time and place.

In the Arms of the Angels

If I had only one wish when everything was dark, and I felt alone in the world, and sometimes I even feel this today. I would have wished for a loved one to come, sit, read a book and NOT say a word when my tears started to flow.  I would have loved a hug, a snuggle or a pat on the back… The presence of the person, not the “advice” is what I would have needed at the time, and there are days, like yesterday, when I felt that too.  Yet, I am so blessed to have those friends, who in spirit, came to me every day, and offered me love and support.  I have a mom who still calls me every night a 7!  A dad who comes when I call, and I don’t call him enough.

I have my angels! My guides and my spirits!

I felt those loving warm arms of my late grandmother, and the warmth of my spirit guides whispering in my ears.

Love, in fact, is what held me tight… without love there would have been no light… Just like today, when I saw a glimpse of the sun, after days and days for rain and cloud, giving me just a tad of rays to brighten my day before the clouds rolled over it again, the love I received, even in small doses, the self-love and care I gave myself, I know there is more to come.

There will be sun, but there will be rain, and there will be storms, tornadoes and rainbows!  Just that when depression hits, it is the storms that envelop us, so please, just be there .. just be.  No need to cheer me up.. no need to “fix” me.. just tell me “I love you” and all is well.

Because, in fact, I love you too, and if someone you love is depressed, now you know how you can help.  Read them a story, offer to wash their hair, get them flowers, cook them a dinner, or just curl up with a book and watch them sleep..  Its is the most loving thing you will ever do!!

Wishing you love and light today!! 

Kim

In the Spirit of Depression


In Part IV in my series on depression. I thought it important not only to share my truth, but to continue the conversation about mental illness, thus helping one another find tools and ways to ride the waves every single day so none of us, whether you are depressed or living with someone who is, feels alone.

*note Part I in series starts here

I discovered, throughout this whole ordeal: my separation, my move, my past relationships with friends and family, that I had to learn to be my own best friend. Most importantly, I also had to deepen my relationship with the divine:  The divine in me, the divine in you, and  the divine in the Universe. This, is a task of great importance for me. To rely on something bigger than I, to surrender, to KNOW that I am not alone in this world. You and I, together, can find solace in knowing we are loved and supported.

Finding some sort of Spirituality doesn’t make depression go away. It does however, give you a chair so you can sit down and be with it while it is there.

– Mel Horrod

In the past, from a very young age I was always longing for someone to constantly be here to comfort me.. to be my security blanket… Where this feeling of incessant insecurity came from, I do not know.. Was it my parents separation, my father not always “being there”, the bullying at school, the feeling of being ostracized and not being part of the “in crowd”? This lead to bad eating habits and the constant urge to want lose weight over and over. Whatever brought me to today… whatever caused this person, who I am now falling in love with, to hate herself to the point of not even wanting to look in the mirror… is not of utmost importance (healing the roots are), yet, acknowledging that the path I have taken has led me to today has fired my critical urge to want wellness.

What I know for sure, is that I am a worthy and loveable human being. I know this!! right? But do I 100% feel this in the core of my being. I do not feel I am there yet.. and this is where I am going.

Which brings me to the subject of Spirituality. My spirituality has been there since the age of 4 (that is the earliest I remember). I believe 100% (this is my truth) that without the belief in God (this is my term I use to describe this amazing unlimited source I can tap into) I would be dead! Without my belief that there is spirits, Angels, sprites, light, Gods and Goddesses watching over me, I would not be of this earth. It is this belief that I am not alone which carries me through these troubled waters.

I also believe the divine works through people. Real people! I have surrounded myself with those you support 100% my well-being and detached myself from those who don’t. This is part of my spiritual path towards wellness, which also includes medication and therapy. Spirituality alone will not cure me, however, it has taught me to be aware and be there for myself in such a loving way.

In their book, The Mindful Way through Depression: Freeing Fourself from Chronic Unhapiness, the authors state in their introduction:

“Depression Hurts: It’s the “Black Dog” of the night that robs you of joy, the unquiet mind that keeps your awake. It’s a noonday demon that only you can see, the darkness visible only to you”. (p. 1 Williams, Teasdale, Segal and Kabat-Zinn)

Part of my spiritual path is to practice Mindfulness: The authors describe Mindfulness as:

“The awareness that emerges through paying attention on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally to things as they are.”

To me, this could mean during a panic attack to stop and focus on my feet touching the ground until the wave passes. Being mindful and grounded, instead of trying to “fight” the panic away is a tool I used often, which is, in fact, surrender and acceptance.

“Knowing others is wisdom, knowing yourself is Enlightenment.”

Lao-tzu

To sum up, my faith in God has been, and still is, a major part in my recovery. My understanding of the God in me, has brought me to here and carried me during the very painful times. My gratitude, for all that is and all that will be, creates a bridge for me to cross when times are tough. I am happy and grateful for this gift of depression, because it allows me to go inward instead of searching outside myself thinking I need to be fixed (no need to fix something which isn’t broken).

Even though I am battling depression now, I still choose happiness every day. Do I feel happy every day? NO! Do I feel happy in some moments of my day? YES! because I choose it.. because I know it is there, and I accept when it is not.

Remember we cannot chase away the blues when one is clinically depressed, however, we can use all the tools available: Medication, therapy, friendship, diary writing, mindfulness, and yes God whomever you wish him or her to be!

I leave you with this video of Jim Carrey as he explains how sprituality has helped him with Depression and Bi-Polar disorder.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KfWN5EW5eo4

Love and light

Kim