Showing posts with label Crisis. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Crisis. Show all posts

Thursday, December 7, 2023

How We Can Use Hardship to Build Our Resiliency

silhoutte of a person sitting at the end of a long plank or walk way looking out towards a beautiful sunset

Most of us are aware of the popular saying that “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”, which was shortened from the original saying penned by philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. Nietzsche, who is a fascinating philosopher to study, argued that while life’s suffering provides an opportunity for growth and building strength, the ability to build strength from suffering comes from existing strength within someone. This is a view that has been told and retold throughout written history before and after Nietzsche.

This all aligns perfectly with a renewed outlook on the saying “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”. Perhaps you have seen this new perspective tweeted by @rkkaay that has been shared around the internet:  

“Your trauma made you stronger. No, my trauma made me traumatized, it made me weak, gave me sleepless nights and memory loss, it gave me feelings I’ve never wanted. I made myself stronger, by dragging myself out of a dark place and dealing with consequences that weren’t my fault”.  

I absolutely love both perspectives of how hardship and trauma provide an opportunity for building strength. It is ultimately, within us where the true strength lies and is activated by trauma. The trauma is merely a trigger signaling to us to build from the trauma experience. By viewing life's hardships in this manner, the power is restored to the individual. It is not the trauma that holds power over us, it is we who holds power over the trauma. This is an incredibly vital understanding for processing trauma, particularly if the trauma has led to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

As a rare disease patient whose medical experiences led to the development of medical PTSD, I realize firsthand how powerless and helpless PTSD can leave one feeling, especially when combined with depression. It can become completely crippling to one's efforts to participate in normal daily functioning.

Not only can recognizing that the ability to grow and build from trauma lies within oneself instead of externally be life-changing by itself but also identifying and acknowledging where the growth shows itself in one's life as well. When we build from our inner strength through hardships, there are common perspectives or understandings that many of us adopt or learn. These new understandings are quite powerful in themselves as well.

Empathy Not Sympathy

It can be difficult at times to empathize with others and their experiences when we don't have any experiences to help us relate to another's. Many confuse empathy with sympathy; however, they are drastically different. Sympathy is a feeling of pity for another and their experience, it stems from a desire for us to not have the same bothersome experience of someone else's with a motive to not feel the discomfort that thinking of another's experience triggers within us. Whereas empathy is compassion for another's hardship with relation and understanding of their experience without any underlying motive about our own feelings but rather a focus on their feelings. When we experience a trauma, it broadens the realm of life experiences we encounter and by doing so, it allows us to build our empathy for others and their hardships. While one hardship may not be exactly the same to another person's hardship, our ability to relate progresses and based off our experiences we can find compassion for that of another's even when they are on the surface very different. When we relate to one another on a deeper level, we can provide and receive support from one another - strengthening our social connections. And strong social support in turn increases our resiliency to hardship.

Community Building

This is why community is so important for one's well-being. Often times, especially for men, the notion of being completely independent to the point of not allowing any help or support from another person whether it's physical, emotional, mental, or financial becomes romanticized and striven for by many. However, in reality, such extreme independence can negatively affect one's mental health as it leaves one vulnerable to feelings of shame, guilt, worthlessness when support is required. When these conflicting beliefs and feelings are not resolved, the dissonance can lead to new hardships created by a maladaptive attempt to stop the contention resulting in chemical dependency or substance abuse, for example. We see this struggle between what one believes they should be as a hyper independent person and the reality of requiring some type of support most often among men and individuals in careers that emit or require a presentation of unusual strength physically and mentally, for example military and law enforcement. These are also fields that provide unique experiences that the general population is not subjected to in most cases. For these reasons, community building of those with similar experiences becomes even more crucial and when psychological conditions and maladaptive behaviors occur that require a higher level of intervention and such communities can be very helpful.

I've experienced the need for such a specific type of community in my own medical experiences as a child and teenager with an ostomy and as a rare disease patient. Attending The Youth Rally and UOAA conferences were life changing in their own rights for me as an ostomate - I was able to meet and develop lifelong friendships with others of my own age who also had ostomies. And through the online rare disease community, I finally found the connections I so desperately needed as a child who didn't know anyone else outside of my family with my rare diseases.

I learned over the last two years in my metaphysical classes that receptivity to the support of another is not just about us receiving from one another, but it is also about the other person who is wanting to give. By receiving their support, we are giving them that opportunity to give, to grow themselves, to increase our social bonds to one another. As a giver, it can be difficult to receive from others and I try to remember this now when someone is wanting to give to me.


As I finally learned self-care in 2022 and after many trial and error attempts, I've learned how to also maintain self-care now, I have a new appreciation and understanding of self-care. Self-care is difficult to learn or achieve when we are in a survival mode but eventually, our minds and bodies will force us to learn self-care if we want to improve our mental and physical health. This is another difficult task for a giver which can be bred through hardship as well. My own medical trauma led me to want to give to others to help them through theirs and so I often gave more of myself than I had to give and once I stopped living in survival mode, my mind and body let me know it was time to learn self-care. Part of self-care is managing our energy and health needs to protect ourselves from burning out or causing more harm to ourselves. Like any habit we want to create, we can start small and build upon that starting point. We won't learn self-care in one fell swoop, it's a learning process just like the rest of life.

Building Appreciation

A common negative thought pattern that we all practice at times is discounting the positive and focusing on the negative. We do this also when we practice all or nothing thinking, black and white thinking. Both of these cognitive distortions make it difficult to appreciate the good, the positive in experiences and in life in general. An attribute of resiliency is the ability to practice appreciation and gratitude. Some days this may be harder than others but at the end of the day, being able to step back and find something to be grateful for even on the hardest of days can make the difference in reducing the hold of depression. This is not to say that positive thinking or gratitude are a cure all for depression, but they are healthy coping mechanisms that can be employed during hardships to help us decrease the mental toll of a difficult time. When experiencing a chronic hardship, such as with chronic illness, a person has two paths they can choose to take - either it can become so difficult to appreciate the good moments because one is so bogged down by the fear of the next let down OR the good moments can be savored and reflected upon with fondness and deep appreciation. Personally, I find great joy in relishing the good moments, savoring them and appreciating them in all their glory. When we have chronic pain and we do an activity without resulting in a pain flare, that's something to appreciate. When our doctor's appointment or test results are good or better than we anticipated, that's something to appreciate. When we remembered all of our medications without missing any of them, that's something to appreciate. The beauty of appreciation is that appreciation doesn't have to be for something huge - it can be for literally anything. And when we find moments of gratitude, we are building up our inner strength.

Gaining New Perspectives

As we develop each of the previously discussed skills and healthy coping mechanisms, we can begin to gain a new perspective, a wider perspective. When we feel pinned down by a difficult time, our view of the situation at hand can quickly become hyper focused and narrowed creating tunnel vision. Negative thought patterns will arise during tunnel vision as well and depending on the narrowed view we are taking, we may become overwhelmed by feelings of hopelessness, stress, defeat, fear, anxiety, etc. When we notice such moments, it is important to engage in behaviors to help widen our view once again and looking at the situation from a different viewpoint. In the midst of a crisis, or what even feels like a crisis, this can be challenging. Taking a moment to pause, to avoid rumination, regroup with the larger picture in mind and consulting with others are all small steps that can drastically change one's view on a difficult situation. For example, when my last surgeon said that there wasn't anything else for him to do about my chronic, debilitating pain that developed 2.5 weeks after my gallbladder removal, I was overcome with a brief period of depression and utter devastation. After I cried my heart out for hours and probably took a nap from exhaustion, I awoke with a new perspective on my pain and was able to devise a new plan of action for finding out what was causing my pain and for any possible effective treatments. It was with this wider view of the big picture that I was able to draw upon my inner strength to carry me through the next 6.5 months that it would take to obtain a diagnosis and effective treatment plan.

I struggle with catastrophizing potential future events, fixating on the worst-case scenario I can possibly imagine. This is a cognitive distortion that I continue to work on in my EMDR therapy and stems from my medical PTSD. I am becoming better equipped to identify when I am catastrophizing potential future events and exploring a new perspective of moderation, reducing my all or nothing thinking in regard to my fears. The more that I am able to practice this, the more I am gaining a new perspective on life, my future, and how I can cope in healthier ways.

Ultimately, we get to choose how we are going to respond to hardships in life. Responding and reacting are two different things. Reaction is that knee jerk reaction without any thought involved, however, responding is when we take the time to decide how we want to respond instead of automatically going with our initial gut reflex. Learning how to respond is part of healing and building upon the strength within ourselves that can be shown to us through difficult times. For even appreciation can be given to a hardship for the opportunity it provides to grow, for revealing what may not have been visible to us previously. Until that time, when facing a difficult moment and awaiting to come out on the other side of it, we can engage in daily practices to keep us above water while we are navigating those periods. 

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Bullying and Chronic Illness

bullying and chronic illness  life's a polyp

Living with a chronic illness is an intense stress and burden upon one's self and when it is coupled with resulting medical trauma, it is a recipe for mental health concerns regarding adjustment and coping. When you add a young age and bullying to the mix, it can be disastrous.

I always thought that my morbid death orientation and twisted sense of humor stemmed from the medical trauma I endured as a child. I was partly correct. During my own soul searching, I had an epiphany and realized my obsession with death didn't really exist until I was bullied during my 6th grade year - two years after my first surgery.

I had my first surgery at the end of my 4th grade year. Over the course of a year I would survive 5 surgeries and a near death experience and develop PTSD. Far from the expected two surgeries I was scheduled to have to place a temporary ileostomy and then reverse the ileostomy with a jpouch by the end of the summer break. I was home schooled during my 5th grade year due to my unstable health and frequent hospitalizations. As I prepared for my 6th grade year, I was malnourished and my doctors diagnosed me with relative anorexia. I was placed on a weight gaining diet and began to stabilize physically. As I recall, I was beginning to mentally survive as my PTSD was calming down with the reduction in medical procedures. I was adjusting the best I could to my unexpected ileostomy that was believed to be permanent. However, I was anxious to start back to school, particularly as 6th grade meant middle school - a new level without a transition and I had lost contact with the majority of my grade school friends during my year of absence. I wasn't psychologically ready for this change and I pleaded with my parents for an alternative. My parents opted to transfer me to a different school district that still held 6th grade in the grade school to allow me time to acclimate to returning to public school. In the end, this was a great decision as I would come to enjoy my school district and experience a challenging education with fantastic teachers that would prepare me well for college and a large group of close friends who supported me in my future health issues during my high school years. Unfortunately, this end result would require me to survive a very difficult time first.

My 6th grade year started off well. I was the new kid in school and painfully shy. I had no sense of fashion or style. I wore baggy pants and long, oversized t-shirts frequently to fit my level of comfort with my new body. I was uncomfortable wearing anything that might give away the presence of my ileostomy. I was introduced to a group of girls and was accepted. I managed to make several friends and all was going well.

That is, until winter break ended and I returned to school to find myself shunned by everyone I knew except for two girls - who were not in the circle of girls who orchestrated the shunning. Unfortunately, I didn't have classes with these two girls very often if at all and so I was left to myself the majority of the time. I was bullied relentlessly for the remainder of the school year. The bullying was led by two girls in the previous circle of friends I had enjoyed. I was never given an explanation for why my previous friends had shunned me and told others in our grade to shun me as well. I began to spend my recess in the classroom with my home room teacher as it was lonesome to play by myself outside everyday and one of the girls would often hit me in the head with objects such as hand sized rocks or hard plastic lunch boxes. My days were spent simply trying to survive so that I could return to the safety of my home.

The combination of this bullying with the medical trauma I had experienced within the previous two years was too much for my childhood self. I was no longer able to maintain coping and I became consumed by hate and anger. I was angry at my classmates for bullying me, at my parents for my disease, health, and for giving birth to me, and at my medical providers for my ileostomy and near death experience. I no longer was learning to cope and adjust to a life with an ostomy. My coping mechanisms became an obsession with death - my own death and the death of those I despised. Quite frankly, I became suicidal and homicidal. I prayed for my death and the death of others everyday for hours while fantasizing about our deaths, planning and plotting how I could bring about death. I had opportunities I could have taken to enact my devious plans. And yet, my health saved me and others from myself.

I managed to stay out of trouble during adolescence thanks to my health. My health made me timid in many ways and helped narrow my chances for typical adolescent mischief. I was too often ill or felt inhibited by my health to partake in high risk behaviors or activities. This inhibition coupled with my logical mind kept me from harming myself or others. Not only did I joyfully envision the demise of myself and others - I also envisioned the repercussions of such devious actions. Knowing the likely consequences that would occur if I acted upon my devilish desires kept me from harming anyone.

FAPVoice Bullying
Survey Results
The effects of bullying was far reaching for me that could have resulted in disaster for myself and those around me as well as their loved ones if it wasn't for my own ability to logically think through my thoughts. Unfortunately, this isn't the case for everyone who is bullied. Far too often individuals are completing their suicidal or homicidal desires causing great devastation. In the age of technology, bullying is growing, reaching vast audiences and victims.

FAPVoice launched a survey to determine the prevalence of bullying among their community members. I was heartbroken to read the stories of others' experiences. It's become common to hear about bullying within schools. I didn't expect to hear about bullying within the work place or from medical providers and family though in regards to chronic illness. I was particularly bothered by the story of one individual who felt bullied by her family and medical providers due to her medical decisions.

The sad fact is that we can encounter bullying anywhere and from anyone. But there are things we can do. We can stand up for ourselves and for others. We can reach out, understand, and educate.

Consider joining forces with anti-bullying groups and campaigns, such as No Bullying - a global source for education and support to stop bullying.

Regardless of your age, your place, your role or your avenue. You can make a difference.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

You're Not Lost: How to Find Yourself When Life Takes a Detour: Amy's Story

guest post life's a polyp

This is a guest post by Amy Oestreicher

Sometimes, the best way to find yourself is to just get lost. When you don't know where you’re going, the world can be a scary place. That’s what drives our to-do lists, our calendars, our goals and our life plans. I know this all too well, as someone who had a minute-to-minute agenda, planning and plotting every major milestone in my life from birth to bachelor’s degree to Broadway debut. But sometimes, life takes a detour. Something that a 2016 yearly planner can’t always account for.

What’s a detour? Google has an answer for that:
noun 1. a long or roundabout route taken to avoid something or to visit somewhere along the way. "he had made a detour to a cafe"
verb 1. take a long or roundabout route. "he detoured around the walls" A detour, according to its French origins, literally means a change of direction.

I, however, have my own definition of a detour:
A detour is a curve in the road of life, a bump in a path, a big sign in the middle of your trip that says, “sorry, you have to go THAT way.” Nobody expects a detour to happen in life. It’s what happens when we think we have things planned and all figured out…and then we’re thrown a curveball.

A detour is many things – unexpected, a nuisance, difficult, hard to grapple with, frustrating, – but it can be beautiful. Sometimes, we can’t appreciate how beautiful our detour was until we’ve made multiple twists, turns and deviations in our “set-out” path. Sometimes, we can’t realize the beauty of our detour until we spend a bit of time traveling it – we need to give that detour enough time to form a story of its own. After all, every good story comes from a detour. What would be so funny about a forum if “A Funny Thing [never] Happened on the Way to the Forum? (It’s a musical, FYI.) By sharing our stories, we make sense of our “detours.” We reframe our “derailments” as the intricate pathways that make up who we are today. When we tell others about our detours, we become travel partners on these journeys with no straight path. When we know we’re not traveling alone, that road becomes an adventure. Who can say they’ve never had an unexpected glitch in their life-plans? That’s a detour.

What detours force us to do is explore new opportunities. When we can’t go in the direction we anticipated, we’ve got to switch gears and adapt. We have to resource inner strengths that we never knew we were capable of accessing. When we achieve the “unthinkable”, we discover who we really are. Even still plagued with wounds, scars, and some medical issues that haven’t been resolved, I’ve found beauty in the detours. If I took away all of the setbacks, hurdles, frustrations and detours, I wouldn’t be who I am today. Telling my story made me realize the true beauty of my detour. That’s what makes me a Detourist.

What’s a Detourist? A detourist travels along detours – simple enough. But in addition, a detourist embraces those unexpected routes as opportunities for growth, change and self-fulfillment. I’m living proof that a detour can lead to unexpected blessings. As a detourist, I look for the upside of obstacles. I welcome the unexpected change in my “thought-out” life, and see what opportunities may arise.

Because of my ten-year surgical marathon, I’ve written a one-woman musical about my life, Gutless & Grateful, I discovered the world of mixed media art, I've met amazing people, discovered incredible new experiences, and have been through the worst to make room for the best. Starting a Movement How do we make the best of a detour? Sometimes, we just need to hear that other Detourists have navigated their paths triumphantly. What I’ve experienced is, the more inspiring stories we hear about Detourists turning an obstacle into an opportunity, the more empowered we are to transform our own lives and have confidence that when life DOES surprise us, we’re capable of getting through anything. #LoveMyDetour Now, I want to inspire people to flourish because of, rather than in spite of challenges.#LoveMyDetour aims to encourage growth and healing by sharing our stories; to transform communities by inspiring people to open their minds and reframe their view of “detours” into a new direction for life. That’s why I’m spreading #LoveMyDetour around the world.

With that in mind, I’d like to leave you with six ways to love your detour: 1. Savor the element of surprise. Straight paths are boring. 2. Find one beautiful flower along the path and name it after the detour that led you to it. 3. Keep traveling to see where it leads. 4. Find a new friend along the path. 5. Use it as a chance to locate your internal compass. 6. Put the pedal to the metal and take the best road trip of your life! So how do you get un-lost? You know how you realize you're normal once you realize NO ONE is normal? Well you get un-lost when you realize were all detouring together. If we keep going, we're not lost. We're Detourists. Thriving Through Detours #LoveMyDetour is a campaign inspiring people to flourish because of, rather than in spite of challenges. #LoveMyDetour aims to encourage growth and healing by sharing our stories; to transform communities by inspiring people to open their minds and reframe their view of “detours” into a new direction for life. “Detours” have created the most scenic surprises in my world. Now, I envision a world where “detours” in life are everyday blessings. The road is open with open possibility, with voluptuous curves, with wandering wonder. Safe travels, Detourists!

 Learn more about creating compassion through our detours at

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Let The Fire Burn

let fire burn life's a polyp

The last seven months have been an incredibly difficult, transformative, and freeing period that is truthfully just starting. For when such a process begins, it can't be confined to a mere few moments in time - not if you submit yourself to the process. For when you submit, the transformation truly begins and it can become a lifelong, marvelous journey.

I fought a new bout of depression this year; that old friend of mine that likes to seep into the depths of my mind and heart and squeeze my very life in its cold, dark claws as it whispers to me, gently bidding me to join its ranks of peace and tranquility. A peace only found in the abyss of death, where there is absolute nothingness. A nothingness that consumes you to the point that there is no pain, worry, or grief. It's a peace that I once was honored to experience briefly and so it calls to me, reminding me of a time long, long ago.

But as I struggled against its calls, strong though they may be, I resurfaced. And not only did I resurface but I found a new appreciation for my life, for my time on this earth. I found a strength within me I never knew was there. A strength that is greater than that which I harness for and through my health battles. A strength that is beyond the physical. All my battles have primarily been against the physical realm. Fighting for my physical life, my physical body against the physical effects of my rare disease and the tolls it takes on me.

I have been pushed past my breaking point yet once again, only this time it wasn't because of my health. I was thrown into a fire and though the flames continue to surround me, I am beginning to see the traces of smoke filtering in amongst the flames. In being pushed to my limit by multiple individuals and situations this year, I'm being transformed and am continually finding new limits, horizons, and restrictions to break. I am by no means done with this personal growth, this new found freedom. The flames continue to do their busy work of burning my outer layers to allow my soul within to shine and to shine brightly. And thanks to these flames, I am happier with myself and more free than I have been in years.

These flames schooled me in dealing with what life and others may throw at you and how to stay afloat. I'm learning to let go and not worry. To take care of myself rather than waste my time and energy on worrying about how others are going to affect me. That is not the same as no longer caring about others. Rather, it's a freedom from the restraints we often allow others to place upon ourselves.  No longer allowing others to control us and our actions and moods.

Instead of trying to figure out what life will be like and what the right direction to take is because of someone else, try setting your own life goals and going after them with tenacity, intensity, and fierceness. No longer letting another control your life's direction will break you of the restraints and life will realign. You will become focused. With that focus, you will discover what is most important to you and establish your own standards for living. Finding yourself, what you deem important, and the satisfaction of independence in your pursuit will lead you to intense happiness and freedom. Levels of which you wouldn't know when you allowed yourself to cower to the standards of others rather than your own.

Realize you can and you will survive on your own without others. I never thought of myself as an independent woman until this revelation was nearly forced upon me. I became overfilled with strength and pride with such a powerful revelation. A lot of us see ourselves as independent solely on our ability to financially provide for ourselves without assistance from another. Although this is a caveat of independence, it doesn't end there. There is so much more to being independent than simply being financially independent. Do you feel able to survive the loss of those dearest to you? I've survived the death of countless individuals I greatly loved and admired but what about the physical loss, the emptiness that can be summoned when we lose someone physically and emotionally though they remain living? My world felt as though it was crashing in around me with such non-death losses. I felt as though I had lost a part of me and perhaps I had in the process of giving a part of me to those I have loved. When forced to the brink though, you will learn you can survive any loss regardless of the severity and difficulty. This doesn't mean you become cold-hearted. Far from it, you simply are able to harness your inner strength rather than solely relying on the strength of others.

No longer care what others think of you. When you lose respect for someone, that person's opinion no longer means anything anyway. Don't waste yourself on those who have already lost your respect. Cherish those who are true to you - those who are supportive, loving, caring, and there with you through the brightest and darkest times of your life - not those who try to create dark times, tear you down, harm you with their malicious intent and manipulations, leave you without explanation. Don't let yourself succumb to the power of others, especially when it is a harmful power. You don't have time for that nor should you.

Don't take the dangerous, personal issues of others on as your own. People will attempt and succeed at betraying, manipulating, deceiving, and harming you. The reasons for others to inflict such pain on another is deep seated within them. Stop trying to decipher the reasons behind their actions. Their reasons don't need to make sense. Their reasons are just that, theirs. Not yours. Do not take on more pain simply because another is engaging in harmful behavior towards you.

Do what you've longed to do but was too scared to commit to previously. There is immense freedom in letting your inhibitions go and doing what you've always wanted to do. Perhaps you refrained yourself because you worried about judgment from others, didn't consider it proper, or didn't think you had it in you to attempt much less complete. Forget that and jump in. I've learned that there are personal challenges our spirit is drawn to for whatever reason. Your spirit gravitates you toward such challenges and won't let you forget about it - even if you bury it for years under fear and inhibitions. If you feel that unceasing tug, your spirit is speaking to you. Sometimes it speaks to you softly, the action may be small but it appeals to you at a deep level. Other times it screams at you out of no where, forcing your attention even if you remain refrained. Let your shield down, accept a self challenge, and let yourself be free.

Whatever the source is for your fire, it will be a long process of adjustment and coping as your outer layers become scorched and the pain sears your soul. Turmoil presents itself with a variety of emotions and stages, often sending you bouncing back and forth amongst them all repeatedly before you are finally able to find your footing enough to begin to walk a more level path through the flames. As the outer layers begin to crack, forcing you to think your mind will crack as well you will want to speed along the process and jump to the end simply to lessen your pain. It's okay that this is a lengthy process for it is through this lengthy process that you are provided the opportunities to discover more about yourself, healing and freeing yourself from the captivity of the world. The pain will be unbearable at times but the rewards of true independence and freedom are vast. Let yourself fully feel all your emotions. Surrender to them as you claim the strength that lies deep within your being. Strength you had yet to harness before and burst from the flames as the warrior you were destined to become.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

A Deadly Duo

depression and anger life's a polyp

I lay on the cool, hard floor; resting my head upon my dog's shoulders, tears stream down my cheeks, and wrap my arms tightly around his neck. I cling to him for dear life as I contemplate my own life. I'm home alone and no one is due to come around for hours. Thoughts race through my mind consumed by depression.

I enter the kitchen and there he stands facing the window, his back to me. We stand in utter silence, not even able to hear the usual sounds a house tends to create. He makes no acknowledgement of my presence, perhaps he doesn't realize I'm standing behind him. My mind races in the mix of my depression and my anger.

We all have fleeting thoughts inspired by death, whether it's a mere moment of thinking "I'm done, just end it all" or brief anger inspired thoughts for harm to another as simple as "I'd like to hit your car with mine". These thoughts dissipate as quickly as they appear and in the flash of a moment they're forgotten as our mind shuffles around our thoughts, storing some, discarding others, entertaining a few. However, when our mind begins to fixate on such thoughts we know there is more going on within us. I recently shared my own battles - past and present - with depression and anger and the struggles of living with these friends.

Depression and anger are the perfect deadly duo. Depression isolates us from others and activity, burying us in pain and apathy, draining us of life. This is why there are precautionary statements for risk of suicide with antidepressants and as a warning sign for our depression lessens, our energy increases and we suddenly have the energy to carry out that suicidal intent and plan we've been mentally preparing but previously didn't have the energy to complete. Anger on the other hand tends to be a mask for deeper anguish, it behaves as a coping mechanism...creating barriers between ourselves and others and within ourselves. With anger we always have an excuse to push others away and to not tackle our underlying issues. Anger gives us the peace of displacing attention from what is really bothering us onto other issues, typically minuscule and fleeting.

Depression and anger, that blissful pair, remind me of a quote from the character Dr. Sidney Freedman from the TV series M*A*S*H  when he states "Anger turned inwards is depression. Anger turned sideways is Hawkeye." Interestingly, Hawkeye combats the Korean War in his own rebellious, authority defying, snarky style and at the end it becomes too much for him to bear and he is institutionalized. No matter how hard we fight, how much we rebel against the atrocities of life we witness and experience, at some point we will find our breaking point if we don't take the necessary self care precautions to protect ourselves from harm - physical or mental.

There are moments in our lives that serve as an alarm, a distress signal. If we ignore this alarm, we may face detrimental long lasting effects. Our alarms will vary from person to person, some need very loud alarms and others require little prompting.

I have endured bouts of depression over the last 20 years and it is triggered periodically, particularly after traumatizing experiences. As college classes resumed after spring break vacation, I returned to school and although my body was present, my mind wasn't. Being around others, away from the safety of my home, and the stimulation of a busy environment overwhelmed my psyche as it attempted to recover itself from a traumatic experience the week before. I was unable to function at work or school until my mind could recoup from my recent trauma and address the issues at play affecting me. Had my professors and myself ignored the distress signals of depression, crying episodes, hyper vigilance, and severe anxiety my acute stress disorder could easily have progressed into post traumatic stress disorder with long lasting negative effects. Instead, we heeded those alarms and with assistance I obtained the professional care and help I needed to resume a functioning daily life.

My family and friends joke about my temper and the subsequent venting meltdowns that occur until my anger becomes smoldering rather than fiery. I have experienced extreme anger beginning after my first round of surgeries and complications. I was angry about my health, ostomy, and life changes. I developed post traumatic stress disorder and depression, I coped with these diagnoses through anger. I was surprised when a co-worker chased me down a hallway shaking a small bag of tortilla chips offering them to me as consolation and to calm my fiery temper down after a meltdown. Being chased with chips served as an alarm to me and I realized that I needed to work on my temper again.

When depression and anger combine forces, we are left fighting against ourselves and the world. Depression and anger work together in magnificent synchrony to isolate us through withdrawal and creation of barriers in an effort to destroy us from the inside out, feeding off of each other and our experiences of trauma, pain, and heartache. We begin to lose ourselves amidst the battlefield of depression and anger, we begin to say and act in ways that are not like us as we are pulled harder and fought over between this duo. This is a wake up call to pull back harder and break the grasp of depression and anger so that you may escape and return to yourself. If we don't, we are pulled closer and closer to death whether by our own hands, worsened health complicated by the depression, anger and stress that is evoked, or through risky situations we may place ourselves within due to reckless behavior. Breaking free is not easy but it is doable.

Your psyche wants to protect you, pay attention to the alarms. Take it a moment at a time, seek out counseling and reach out to friends and family. Also check out these other free support resources.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Life Lost

life lost life's a polyp

The loss of life isn't anything to be taken lightly, whether it's naturally or by actions of one's self or others. I've shared before in previous posts how chronic illness warps our minds and perception, even in the realms of death. I was reminded of these effects when I heard about Mindy McCready's suicide last week and listening to the negative outlash toward her decision, I felt defensive of her. She endured a lot of pain and difficulty during her life, she was in a spiral of despair and although I cannot speak for her motives, I am not first led to believe her decision was of a selfish nature as many label anyone who has suicidal ideations, attempts or completion.

One thing I've learned during my journey with chronic illness and my time with friends of similar circumstances, is that we really can't judge what others are going through. This is primarily campaigned when discussing invisible illness but it's also in regards how life affects one's mental health, especially when chronic illness is involved. One of my best friends committed suicide, the pain of his chronic health issues became too unbearable for him. Although I deeply grieved for him, I couldn't be angry with him for his decision. I understood his decision too well, I too experienced health misery so great in my life that in a spiral of depression and pain, I longed for nothing more than peaceful death and for several years was suicidal myself. It is this personal understanding that I'm in favor of euthanasia, if solely of the individual's decision without manipulation or exploitation. I am not of the mindset that we are only given things in life that we are able to handle, there are experiences that way too heavy on the body and the psyche that are unthinkable and far too damaging. Those who are able to survive such experiences, I applaud them. However for me, there are several events that I would rather seek that eternal peace than to endure such experiences. Each person is different and so is each experience - but we can all empathize with the turmoil, the despair that another feels if only we try. Instead of blaming someone for their decisions or their desired intentions, let us be there for them and help them through the darkness the best we can.

I do not say such things to cast gloom on the hearts of others, but merely to remind us of empathy for the suffering others experience and to bring insight on their decisions. There are many examples of individuals who commit suicide as a manipulative exploit, to hurt others and for their own selfish gains. But there are many who are simply so hurt themselves or threatened with heavy pain - physical or psychological - that the only peace the individual is able to see is within death.
We need to support one another and any individual with suicidal ideations or plans most often are receptive to support, if only asked about what they're experiencing. Sometimes we miss the signs of how deeply hurt someone is, how close they are to the edge. We cannot blame ourselves if we miss those signs, but we can arm ourselves so that we may be better prepared.
Please visit Suicide Awareness Voiced of Education for information on suicide, warning signs, and ways to help and support someone experiencing such deep turmoil and perhaps together, we can bring more back from the edge.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Break in the Storm

life's a polyp

In the midst of a large storm, beyond obvious concerns of physical and possessional safety, I found myself repeatedly concerned with bowel safety. Making silent appeals to the universe for the power to stop flickering and remain on without further difficulty and for the weather to remain mild enough that we may remain at home without danger to ourselves in fear of not having access to a restroom.

Do you ever find yourself with such concerns?

When growing up, our home had a well rather than using the town's water and everytime the power went out, so did our ability to use the restroom. If we had enough weather notice to suspect power interference then we would fill several gallon buckets of water in order to restock the toilet tank. Depending on the length of the power outage I would then be forced to flee to city to stay with relatives.
Even to this day, in spite of having access to city water, I still find myself worrying about power outages in relation to restroom access.
Or the fear of the house becoming so damaged from a severe storm resulting in leaving the property or becoming trapped in the house and injured like so many that are viewed on the news channels. Think of the additional injury of being found in a compromising situation due to SBS or other health issues brought on by crisis situations or fleeing for safety without adequate accomodations or when necessary.

Perhaps these are silly or irrelevant concerns to others, but to us with our lives constantly being assaulted by health concerns and bathroom habits, is it a surprise that even during times of potential crisis that we concern ourselves with the most basic needs?