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Masks

On my way to work the other day I started thinking about how we have to wear masks around other people. It came to my mind because I was hurting deeply and could not wear a mask. I decided that for that day I would let people see the face forged in hell. The hell that comes from decades of fighting with your thoughts and emotions, from the torture they put you through at times.

The frustrating part about masks is that the reason we wear them is because others expect us to wear them. Why do they expect it though?

They expect it because when we do not wear them, they see that not everyone’s life is rosy. They are forced to see that there are people who suffer just to get through a day. They are forced to see that things they take for granted are a struggle for others.

It shatters there fantasy world where people who are depressed can just will it away and “get over it”. They also think that people who are depressed are just being dramatic or feeling sorry for themselves. When we don’t wear those masks they are brought face to face with the reality year exists.

So they expect us to hide behind the masks so THEY don’t have to be uncomfortable or “inconvenienced” by our pain. When we don’t wear them, we are the ones who are vilified. We are told that we need to put on that mask for their comfort. We can be going through hell, but that is not relevant to them.

I remember once a few years back, I was having lunch with some friends. I don’t remember the whole conversation, but I remember saying something like “not everyone’s life is a rose garden.” One of my friends later told me that was one of the things they liked about me, that I kept the group rooted in the real world. I don’t know if anyone else felt the same way or not. This was about five or six years ago, yet I remember it clearly.

Maybe it is just me, but don’t you think there is a problem with society when we are expected to wear these masks so as not to “inconvenience” them or make their life “uncomfortable”?

Posted from WordPress for Android

Edited: October 10th, 2016

Maintaining Positive Mental Health

Maintaining a positive mental health is a lifetime commitment. Even if you reach a point of recovery, you still need to maintain that commitment, you have to keep working at it. If you stop working at it, you can relapse. Recovery is not a cure, rather it means you have learned of ways to manage the symptoms in your life. Recovery means you have found a way to take control of the symptoms instead of letting them control you. It means you have found a way to take control of your life.

You still need to be aware of what influences you bring into your life and surround yourself with, you need to make sure that you do not let yourself fall into bad habits and avoid toxic people and situations.

The good news is that even if you relapse, you already have the skills you need to return to a state of recovery. Once you learn the skills, you always have them. They can be hard to connect with at times and we may feel like we no longer have them, but they are there. During these times, we do not need to relearn the skill, we just need to remember how to connect to them. We need to remember we do know the skills, we know how to use them and we know how to use them to help ourselves. It is only the connection we have lost.

Edited: April 14th, 2015

Upcoming…

It has been too long since I have posted anything new. Unfortunately, the last ten months or so have been insane for me. My wife was in and out of the hospital and in a nursing home recovering from physical injuries from October 2013 until July 2014. She is finally home and things are starting to settle down, so I should have more time to write; especially, now that I have replaced my kindle that I lost on the metro a few months back.

I have a few ideas for new posts and wanted to share them with you. Here they are, in no particular order:

 

  • Masks – every day we have to wear “masks” in public. It can be difficult, painful and even dangerous.
  • GISHWHES – This year I took part in GISHWHES, created and run by Misha Collins. It was a very interesting and fun experience. For those who may not be familiar with GISHWHES, it stands for the “Greatest International Scavenger Hunt the World Has Ever Seen”. It was an amazing experience and a lot of fun.
  • Change – Recently my work location moved, from a federal office to a corporate office. This has started me thinking about how things change in life. Whether it is “good” change, “bad” change or just plain old every day “change”, we still have to adjust and deal with it.
  • Words – A few thoughts on the importance of words and their impact on people. I will talk about how words can be uplifting and how they can be destructive.
  • Connections – Throughout our lives, we make connect with people, animals, and even objects. What do these connections mean and how do they affect our lives.

Edited: August 17th, 2014

My Reflection

Today on the way home from work I was standing in front of the door on the Metro. As I stood waiting from my stop, I saw my reflection in the window. What I saw would be upsetting to most people, maybe even triggering to some.

The following may be triggering to some as I describe what I saw looking back at me in the window in the next two paragraphs.



What I saw looking back at me was death. My eyes were empty, vacant, hollow, sunken and dark. There was no happiness, joy, or hope in them. They were full of pain, sorrow, loneliness and exhaustion. There was no glimmer of life at all.

Then I saw my mouth. There was no smile, not even a small one. The corners were turned down. Not only could I see my mouth, but I could feel the expression on my face. I could feel my facial muscles being pulled down. It was like I had five pounds weights on either side.

The sad part is I wasn’t really feeling depressed or being judgemental. I was just observing my own reflection. It would be like me looking in the mirror and noticing I had dark hair or that when I smile I have a simple on each side.

It is amazing the toll the last few months have taken on me.

Posted from WordPress for Android

Edited: February 27th, 2014

Relationships

RelationshipsDuring the best of times relationships can be complicated, at the worst of times they can be a disaster. I do not mean just romantic relationships either, I mean any relationship. We struggle at times with our relationship with ourselves. Regardless, unless we plan to move to the mountains, live off the land and become hermits, we will have relationships with people.

While becoming a hermit may sound appealing to some, the problem is that humans are, by their very nature, social animals. Regardless of of we admit it or not, we all need and long for the approval and love of other people, even if it is just one person. From the very first day we have needed the love and caring of others, just to survive.

If you think about it, there is a mental health condition called anti-social personality disorder (ASPD). This means that being anti-social is a personality disorder and that being social is considered the “normal” behavior in people. Please keep in mind that ASPD is considerably more complex then described here. This is a gross  simplification of a very real and serious condition.

I was recently thinking about a relationship I had with someone I used to work with and how complicated it seemed. As people, we got a long time and liked each other, in different circumstances we may have even developed a true friendship. As co-workers we had a mutual respect for each other, but at the same time frustrated each other. While I cannot speak for them at times I had a very negative view of them, almost to the point of pure hatred of them.

This is just one example of a complex relationship with a person that I have had.

How do you handle and resolve all the parts?

One unhealthy way is splitting, where we see the person in extremes depending on how they treat us at any given time. In the above scenario, I feel comfortable saying I was splitting.

One of the things that makes relationships so difficult, at times, is that it involves someone other than you. You need to factor in their thoughts, feelings and opinions and act accordingly. You need to understand their feelings as well as your own. You need to distinguish between how they may feel about you in the moment versus how they truly feel about you and see you.

Take the example of a couple who just had a bad fight. During that fight they may have said things like , “I hate you” or called you any number of profane names; however, they do not mean it, they are just angry with you or hurt at the moment. The reality of how they really feel is often the opposite of what they say during the heat of an argument.

You will find that the better your relationship with yourself, the better your relationships with others will become. The reason for this is that when you have a good relationship with yourself, you understand your emotions, feelings, wants and need as. You are comfortable in your own skin.

The better you are able to relate to yourself, the better you can relate to others. You can use what you know about relating to yourself as a building block on learning to relate to others.

Once you can relate to others, you still need to act on that ability. You need to use that understanding to treat people in the appropriate manner. Probably the best advice here is the “Golden Rule”, do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

Edited: August 20th, 2013

It’s all about Control…

generic-remote-control-shallow-focus-300x225The other day I wrote about an event that turned my life upside down and left me in a really bad head space, complete with suicidal ideation. You can read about it here if you like.

The event left me in a tailspin all weekend long. When I was heading to work Tuesday morning I was still spinning. This situation was a case where radical acceptance by itself was not enough.

From the very start I was able to accept the situation, but it still left me extremely depressed. I couldn’t change the event, but I needed a way to control my life. I knew the alternatives from the start, but did not like any of them. The middle path seemed as destructive as either extreme. I also knew there was no way to talk to my wife about it and have a positive outcome. I felt trapped and life I had no control of a big part of my life.

In typical Jason fashion, I thought about almost nothing else the entire weekend; however, this lead to the beginning of a plan by Tuesday morning, Tuesday plan that would put me back in control of my own life. I immediately started leveling out.

Tuesday morning I shut down my Facebook account temporarily. Facebook makes situations like this more difficult for me. I think it is because it distracts me. I also started thinking about how I might be able to implement the middle ground, if I could get me wife on board with it. I still could not talk to my wife about it. However, I remembered a few conversations my wife and I had about situations related to the middle ground in the past, conversations she initiated. This gave me a sense of hope, but I still could not safely broach the subject myself.

I remembered that my therapist knew someone who handled both could counseling and was well versed in the interest at the heart of the problem.  The next thing I did was call my therapist. I confirmed my appointment with her. I explained the situation I was in and asked if she could get me on the schedule weekly for the next month or so. She told me that would not be a problem. Finally, I asked her for the contact information for the doctor she knew.

Coming up with the plan and starting to implement it has turned things around for me. It has helped me take back control of my life.

Edited: July 13th, 2013

Identity

identity-640One of the things people, myself included, struggle with is maintaining a healthy and stable identity. In this article, I am going to talk about healthy identities.

Having a stable identity is only one part of the equation, the other, having a healthy identity is equally important. Establishing a stable identity is an important step in healing from mental illnesses like borderline personality disorder, but if that identity is not healthy, it is still a harmful situation.

I have personally had problems with my identity over the years. While I have developed a stable identity the last few years, it is still not truly healthy.

In my case, the fact that I tie most of my identity to a single aspect is what makes my identity unhealthy. I tie most of my identity to the role of caregiver/protector. When you tie your identity to one thing, any challenge to that aspect of your identity risks destabilizing you. The bigger the challenge, the bigger the risk, the bigger the effect on your stability.

Recently, I had a situation at home that left me frantic. I was left in a position where I had to leave my wife alone at home in as potentially unsafe situation. There is a lot to the situation, but the bottom line is it was a challenge to my role of protector and caregiver.

With my identity tied so heavily to this single aspect, it had a massive impact on my stability. It took every trick I knew to prevent breaking down, and it was still a fight for me to stay stable. Had my identity been more diverse, the impact of a challenge to the one component would not have been so devastating.

Edited: June 21st, 2013

I am not Atlas and Neither are You

Do you ever feel like the mythical Greek Titan Atlas, who was condemned to support the weight of the heavens on his shoulders in order to keep the heavens from touching the earth once again?

It is not a pleasant feeling. While everyone feels this way at times, a bigger problem arises when we start feeling like this every day. Eventually the weight begins to crush us. When it starts crushing us, we need to find a way to shift the weight or when possible lighten our burden. The number of ways to accomplish this is as vast and diverse as the number of ways that the problem can occur. There is no one right way.

Here are a few ways that have worked for me.

Lighten the Load:

Stepping back and looking at what you have going on in your life and evaluating the importance of each item in your life is an effective technique. Next, determine if any of the things that you can live without. This should immediately lighten your burden.

A few years back, I had to employ this technique. I was working full time, taking care of my injured wife, taking care of our apartment and cat and going to graduate school.  My job is very stressful and requires me to commute three hours a day, round-trip. I was dysregulated almost every day and getting worse each day. I was engaging in frequent self-harm and each day my depression grew worse.

Something had to give and soon; otherwise, I would have wound up needing to check myself into a mental health treatment center.

I knew I was not about to give up my wife or my cat, I love them both too much. I was stuck at the apartment until the lease was up which was months away. I love my job too much, am paid well, have good benefits and work with good people. I was not about to give that up.

That left graduate school.  I had wanted to get a Master’s degree for years, but I could never figure out the right concentration and degree to pursue. Then finally, a year earlier, I figured it out. I applied and I was accepted. I was so excited. The thought of dropping out scared me. I was worried I would feel like a failure for quitting. I agonized over the decision for months. Then I finally realized it was either graduate school or my mental health. I came to peace with the decision when I realized the stakes, and realized I could always go back to school later when things calmed down.

Once I made the decision, I just felt so much weight vanish.

If you cannot lighten your load for any reason, then another technique to use is:

Share the Load

If you cannot get rid of anything, then look for someone to help you with it. Reach out to family, friends, support groups, anyone that can help. Build a support network. Ask for help. Nothing in the ‘rules’ says you must do everything yourself. Let people know you are overwhelmed.  Remember, you are not Superman/Superwoman.

For example, a few years before I started dating my wife, I was getting ready to enter a relationship that I knew would be difficult at times. One of the first things I did was to reach out to my family and closest friends to start building a support network. I explained the situation to them and told them I would need their help at times.

The final technique I want to discuss is:

Shifting the Load

I am not sure if “Shifting the Load” is the best name for this, so if you have a better one let me know.

If you cannot find anyone to share the load, I know not everyone has friends and family they can trust or rely on, then look for ways to shift things around in your life.

There are two ways to do this. The first is to look for ways to adjust your schedule. This allows you to spread the load around more. If you can adjust “when”, it can make life easier. If you do not need to do everything at one time, it will allow you some down time to breathe, relax and detox.

The second may sound counter intuitive, but look for MORE things to do, BUT they need to be things that help DISTRACT you or give you some form of SAFE and ENJOYABLE outlet. For example, take up a new hobby or if you have hobbies you have neglected, start engaging in them again. The key here is that whatever you choose, it cannot be something stressful. If you join a club, do not take on any responsibilities with it, just participate in it.

Edited: June 5th, 2013

Physical Health and Work

A recent email from Amanda at My Dialectical Life on treating a physical illness to reduce your vulnerability to emotional mind, is the inspiration for this article. This article stems from a conversation that I had with Amanda after reading the email. I have found Amanda’s daily emails through My Dialectical Life to very helpful and inspiring. They have helped turn my day around more than once since I signed up for the service.

Taking care of your physical health is very important to your mental health. When you are physically sick it reduces your ability to cope with daily stress factors, makes controlling how your react to things more difficult, and makes you more emotionally reactive. The more sick you are, the worse it gets. Unfortunately, a lot of times we neglect our physical health because we worry that if we take time off of work to take care of ourselves that it makes us less of a person than the people around us because we are sick. The past week I have been dealing with a bad case of bronchitis. I have had to figure out what the best course of action for me was. Do I take time off or do I go into work? How do I balance my health with my need to make money so I can take care of my wife, cat and I?

Personally, I worry about the following things:

  • What if I am out and people need me, will things come to a grinding halt?
  • <insert manager> will be pissed/I am going to get in trouble

 

It is difficult for me to deal with the thought of having too take time off to be sick, I think it is partly rooted in the way I brought up. I was raised with the basic concept that unless you are “dying” you drag yourself into work, because you made a commitment to the people you work for and work with and you should take that seriously. So, I think that plays into how I deal with things. What makes it so hard for me is that I am the only source of income for my wife, cat and I, so if I lose money we are in trouble. It takes about 1/2 of my monthly take home pay to cover just rent.

Over the past few years I have started to get better with handling these situations. I used to only really take time off if I was pondering going to the ER or running the bathroom for one reason or another. I once went to work with pneumonia, not realizing what it was at the time. I had had a really high fever, was coughing up a lung and was in agonizing pain. I originally thought the pain I was in was because of a pulled muscle from coughing as much as I was at the time.

The way I look at, or try to these days is to run through the following “checklist” (in no order), mostly subconsciously and quickly:

 

  • How sick am I? (e.g. Is the bathroom my new “best friend”? Should I be considering going to ER?)  => this is about the only one where if I say yes, I am definitely staying home

 

  1. What do I have going on at the office? Can they get by without me for the day? (e.g. Important Meetings, period in the project where I play a crucial role, etc)
  2. How much time have I missed lately?
  3. How much vacation time do I have?
  4. How many days are left in the pay period (only important if I do not have enough vacation time)
  5. Who am I working with (Do they have young kids? Is it someone I have a good relationship with and would be worried about putting in a bad spot?)
  6. What are my bills like this month? (Do I have higher than usual bills? Do I have extra expenses? etc)
  7. What is the weather like?
  8. How productive will I be?
  9. If I am on the fence, I may ask my wife what she thinks I should do.
  10. If I am at the doctor’s I will ask them if I should go into the office the next day or stay home. I figure they are trained and know what they are talking about, so I trust their judgement. It also absolves me of any ‘blame’. It allows me to say that I was doing what my doctor advised me to do.

I also weigh things like:

If I stay home I will probably feel better tomorrow and everything will be fine the next day vs. If I drag myself in to the office, I may get worse and miss more than just a day (this is where #8 comes in). This also costs me less money in the long, and is better for everyone involved.

I think to myself that, hey other people get sick and THEY call out; therefore, it is OK for ME to call out. I have as much right to be sick and stay home and take care of myself as they do. They are no better than I am, I am just as human as they

I also look for compromises/middle ground like:

Are there enough days left in the pay period that I can make up the hours by working late/not taking lunch/staying late?

Do I feel well enough that I can work from home, but too sick to go into the office physically and/or do I have something contagious?

Can I go in and leave early to accomplish something important but then go home?  (this really comes into play if I am in the center of something or have an important meeting)

I also will send an email to my teammates letting them know I will be out sick, but if something crucial comes up that they need my input for right away they can call me; otherwise, I will deal with any questions when I get back in to the office. This prevents me from feeling like I am abandoning them by providing them with a way to get in touch me if they really need me.

When possible, I also “delegate” things to other members of my team. For example, if I am the primary author on a document, I may ask one of the other people to take ownership of it while I am out to make sure it gets done on time. This also helps with mitigating the feeling of letting people down.

I think that is everything, at least everything I can think of right now. I am getting better with this, I think my wife being in the physical shape she is in from the accident and other health issues, has forced me to change my approach. I have to always keep in mind that she needs me healthy both physically and mentally. I cannot afford to take the same careless risks and disregard for myself that I could when I was single.

Edited: May 13th, 2013

No Fair, You aren’t Fighting Right!

I do not know how I got on the train of thought, but on the way home today I started thinking about a breakup I had a few years ago. It was a relationship that neither of us wanted to end at the time, but life circumstances required to happen.

This particular breakup stands out  for several reasons. The one of importance, for this entry at least, is the way it played out. One exchange that I remember well was when one of us said, “Not every breakup has to be a bad one.” The response from the other person was “this is the only bad breakup I have ever had because you are not playing by the rules!”

You see, there was no fighting back and forth, one of us was able to stay grounded thankfully and not cause the situation to get worse by fighting back. They were not playing by the rules.

When you have need for things to always follow a “set of rules” and something or someone changed those rules it can cause at the very least a state of confusion if not total panic. It leaves us scrambling to either force things into the mold of “it MUST happen like this” out trying to adapt to the new situation.

On some level, we all crave structure and an unchanging set of rules in our lives. Unfortunately, life is not that nice at times. We get thrown into situations where the usual rules do not apply and we are forced to adapt.

These days, with all the changes in the world, it is even more important to learn to adapt to new rules. Learning to adapt is a key learn to learn. If we learn to adapt, It reduces out stars and anxiety when things change.

If you are wondering, we got through the fact one of us was not playing by the rules in a positive way. We ended the relationship, but without invalidating the whole thing. We were able to end it with the good memories and  positive image of each other intact.

The conversation ended positively. While the ending of the relationship tore me apart, I left knowing we both had those memories intact. Knowing that brought me some sense of happiness.

I wanted her to walk away with the good memories intact, so she would have them for the hard times. Something she could remember and hopefully something that would help her get through them. I knew I would always hold them special and remember them when I was feeling alone and scared.

Edited: April 24th, 2013

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