On suicide – An open letter to Wentworth Miller

I watched this speech from 2013 by Wentworth Miller for the first time yesterday and it has touched me in a very unexpected way and I felt compelled to share it. Suicide has been high on my radar recently and after a couple of coincidences this week, like happening on this video and reading Tim Ferris blog about his experiences, I feel it’s time to talk about it here too. But first, here’s the speech:


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Dear Mr Miller,

I want to thank you for speaking out in 2013 at the HRC about topics that were no doubt incredibly difficult  and painful to address. Finally it felt like someone was speaking my truth about how I have felt for a large part of my 44 years…I & me are a large part of my vocabulary while we, us or community are still not. I hadn’t made the connection to my childhood situation however – being thrown into self-dependence and having to have maturity levels far beyond my years at a very early age on my own has left me constantly feeling alone and lost within a sea of family, friends, colleagues and acquaintances. We are not the same but like you, I struggle with a sense of community – also of mixed race, religion, born in a country where I was a foreigner, moved to my home country where I continued to not fit in and now two countries later … I still do not feel like I belong…anywhere. “I have no home” is something I frequently say when asked where my home is. What I crave the most is community – a sense of belonging but I have yet to find it. Your speech has made me realize that this lack of community could be a story that I continue to tell myself rather than actual reality – that there probably exists, somewhere out there, a group of people that would readily accept me – if only I’d ask. I just need to find them. Or rather, that I need to start speaking my truth where I am and see who sticks around. It’s hard because I’m scared. I thought I had my shit together and yet there are still things about myself that I hide. You have inspired me to speak more truthfully and this is something I will try to do more of starting now. I recently starting talking about my childhood wounds in public, of my constant companion depression and I’ve alluded to suicide but not openly discussed it. There were many suicide attempts, especially in my teenage years and early twenties, though few people knew – like you, it was less of a cry for help (even though that was a part of it) and more of a desire to get the hell out of this painful place. A result of hopelessness and a loneliness that believed no one cared. I thought I was better but when I thought about suicide last summer, less than a year ago, I realised that I am still in its grips even though I have developed many happiness tools and habits that help me emotionally day to day. When Robin Williams killed himself, I understood. So many people questioned it but I just got it. And this is what worries me – I have two huge reasons for not killing myself … I do not want to make that part of their childhood story. I want to break the cycle (after watching my mum try to take her own life throughout my own childhood) and so far, I am doing OK, but I now realise that I really do need a community to help me stay strong and for this realisation, I thank you. I need to bring we and us into my world. And I need to be more open about my sexual orientation rather than talking around it, especially for my kids. I never felt accepted by the lesbian & gay community where I was because there was always the belief that “bisexuals were just sitting on the fence pretending they weren’t gay” – times have changed a lot in the last 20 years so perhaps this has too. Time to come clean and see what happens. Time to find a community that knows my secrets and invites me in with open arms. And if I can’t find one, I’m going to start one – where each of us is loved and worth loving, scars and all. If you know nothing else, know that your speech has touched at least one person (but no doubt many many more). My gratitude knows no bounds. Thank you thank you thank you Mr Miller. 

Tipxo

We only see what we choose to see

Yup.  This post is going to sound too simple.  I know it is but well, here goes anyway.

Have you ever noticed that when you’re looking to buy a new car (or anything else for that matter), or if you were pregnant that you suddenly noticed that more people had that new car (or … ) or that more women around you were getting pregnant?  I have noticed this phenomenon before and had always wondered about it – I realised that it wasn’t really true but that I was just noticing these particular things because I was focused on them but never knew how to describe it properly until a couple of weeks ago when I was doing some research for this blog.  This thing that our brains do actually has a name!

So, what if we just focused on the good stuff for a while? Stuff that makes us smile? Would we start seeing more good things? I’m going to do this – will you join me? Even if it’s just for one weekend? 

On being alone

It’s a bit like the chicken or the egg discussion as we could go around in circles about being alone.  Having people around us to support us helps us deal with our depression but often it’s something that makes us feel so alone and shun any social contact whatsoever.  I am lucky to have come out of that cycle and have a lot of family, friends and acquaintances in my social circle these days so I am never actually alone.  Having said that, I often still feel very much alone but I look around me and there’s just too much evidence to the contrary which helps me snap out of it.  I also have developed an arsenal of personal tools I reach into when things get bad. But I was thinking about the days when I truly did feel alone…many many years ago when this all started as I hit puberty.  It was a very difficult time, especially as I was still figuring out who I was as a young teenage girl, recently moved into a new country. I really felt truly alone as I had left all my friends behind and well, my parents just weren’t my friends.  I would spend days alone in empty houses (it’s seriously suprising how many houses for sale are left open) crying and contemplating suicide. I even made some feeble attempts with a knife but well, it hurt and I couldn’t go through with it.  Not that anyone noticed. Ever. Looking back, it’s fair to say that I spent a lot of my developmental years both mentally as well as physically alone. I had some friends at school but I wasn’t allowed out so I didn’t have the strongest of relationships outside of school and after I moved out of home, I was incapable of making great social connections as I hadn’t really learned the art when I was younger.  I always preferred my own company as it was so much easier to just be myself with noone else around! Unfortunately this is a bit of a negative loop to live in – humans are not designed to exist alone.  We’re not.  No matter how much I tried to convince myself, I simply was NOT better off alone.

Through sheer good fortune I met my first real love in my early 20s who taught me what it meant to love someone unconditionally. Who hung on as I tried to push away (sometimes kicking and screaming) and stuck it out with amazing willpower until I began to learn that I was worth loving and that someone actually loved me.  Not the person that they wanted me to be but the person that I was. It was a wonderful 5 and a half years (we had ups and downs of course but mostly ups) and I learned a lot about myself and I still thank this person to this day for opening me up to loving honestly and fully.  It was a huge eye opener and changed me forever – it allowed me to foster loving relationships and social support in my life for which I could never be grateful enough. So now, at the very least, I have a great deal of evidence that I am not alone, which helps, a lot.

Having said that, I still often do feel alone.  It’s one of the reasons that I started this blog I think. Because my biggest issue is that while I have many friends, there are few who know who I really truly am. I am not the happy go lucky person that they think I am. I am often battling with this thing called depression and it takes a great deal of mental strength just to get out of bed sometimes. I often feel like I’m living a bit of a lie … pretending to be someone I’m not and that if folk only knew then they wouldn’t be my friend anymore.  It’s a crazy way of thinking (because I know that it isn’t true) and my goal here is to start talking about this.  Talking more and more so there is greater awareness that the person next to you, who seemingly appears to have it all, may also be struggling with a mental illness. That you’re not alone.  There are a lot of us it’s just that there are social expectations that don’t allow us to openly talk about it.  I want to start the conversation…I’m starting here but I hope, one day to start it in the “real” world. One day, to just be open and matter of fact about it.  To talk about it like I might talk about my dry cuticles in the winter time.  Like it’s just something that is happening that I need to deal with – without any of the social repurcussions that come with it. Without the hush hush tones of “she’s crazy” whispered behind my back.

So, let’s talk.  Say hello. Say whatever you need to.  Let’s stop being alone.

With love,

Tipxo

Things to help you get up early (/ sleep well)

Sleep makes everything a little bit easier I find (or just think about how tiredness makes everything harder, if that makes it more obvious) and getting up early to get things done in the morning is a habit I started a couple of months ago and I’m really enjoying this newfound productivity so have to recommend it!

Here’s a nice graphic someone posted on Plague recently – take a look and try it & let me know if it helps any.

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That voice in your head

Yeah. THAT one.  You know which one I’m referring to alright. Mine tells me that nothing is good enough. I can never be happy enough. I’m fat. I’m dull. I’m not the best mother.  I’m not earning enough money. I’m in the wrong job etc etc blah blah blah. I have to admit, since having kids that I have done a whole lot of research – about parenting, about teaching and learning best practices and I have realised (not just from books but experience) that there is NO handbook for the “best” parenting. There just isn’t. No matter what the “experts” say and try to make you pay good money for (there’s a crazy amount of resources out there) – no one way suits everybody. Now, don’t get me wrong, there are many great parenting resources out there BUT these need to be used as a starting point, as a guide, rather than considered the bible of parenting, as it were. Every child is different (this became blatantly clear when I had my second child!) AND every parent is different.  So, sometimes, as mothers, we just need to trust that what we’re doing, with great love, is the best way forward. Isn’t it funny how so many people feel like they need to add input into what’s already a really difficult transition into being responsible for a whole new human being?!  Like they know.  Granted, mothers of many will be able to tell you about the practicalities of caring for a baby but the emotional side – well, that’s up to you.* 

I now remember back to being pregnant with my first – it was absolutely THE BEST time of my life – I cannot remember being that happy for that many consecutive days, ever – before or since! I had an easy pregnancy and truly loved that the voice in my head stopped for a while – no more “don’t eat that, it’s fattening”, “you look terrible in that outfit”, “you should be doing this or that” … it all just stopped.  I was busy doing and being exactly what and where I should and it all just stopped.  Curious, huh?  I think also that pregnancy agreed with the chemicals in my head and gave me a lovely boost of the thing that I generally seemed to be in shortage of. The thing that my pregnancy made me realise though was that the voices in my head – well, simply put, those negative voices aren’t me. I am generally a rather optimistic, happy go lucky kinda gal…(except on the bad days when I want to curl up and sleep forever) so WHO was in my head then?! Funnily enough, during my parenting research I also found a book that warned that the way we speak to our children will end up being the voice in their heads so we should be careful about what we say.  AHA!  Lightbulb moment – the voice that often I hear is not mine – it’s my mother’s voice. Oh my. What a revelation.  Since then, I have been very conscious about listening to myself and trying to seperate the “real” me from the voices of other people (now, let me just say, it’s not all bad – some of the voices in there are also positive influences!) – it does take time to understand who you are and also to CRAFT the person that you want to be (yes craft – who you are is YOUR CHOICE in the end) but for me, it’s been a task of great worth. I still hear those negative voices but more often than not these days, I manage to catch myself and remind myself of my inner beauty and value. My head is mine and I’m only letting in the influences that I want in there.  My mother still has the ability to say things that get in there but it’s now a lot easier to let them sweep past me and over my shoulder than for them to land and stick. And for my children – I do my utmost to ensure that my voice is one of reason, of encouragement and of deep deep love. And when they’re old enough, I will teach them about this too.

So, who are the voices in your head?  Are they really you or someone from your past?  Are there any voices you’re ready to ditch for good?

’til next time,

Tipxo

* An important side note here to those of you who have just had babies – post natal depression is very real…it can hit anyone regardless of past history so know that you are not alone and that there is a lot of help out there.  Go ask for help – you are not expected to deal with it by yourself, especially not while trying to deal with the general upheaval (& ridiculous lack of sleep) a new baby brings into our lives.  GO. GET. HELP. Go speak to someone. If not for yourself then for the little one. Do it.

No feelings at all

W Quote

A short post from me  today as life got busy as it tends to do but I’ve been thinking a bit about feelings. I am searching myself and wondering how I feel today but there’s nothing – I’m not particularly happy nor am I feeling down … it really is that I am feeling nothing.  Is this worse than feeling down?  Of course not but now that I think about it, most of my life is really more like this.  Sometimes the downs are low but usually I just feel nothing. And well, I don’t really know how I feel about that, hehe.  Perhaps it’s just a normal way of existing and my expectation that I need to be feeling something all the time is misguided. I really don’t know.  But it’s just come to my attention so am going to sit with this and contemplate it further. See if it gets me anywhere.

I also started my daily gratitude project this year but the last week has been challenging as I haven’t easilly found anything to be grateful for. It’s been a whole week of blah & meh. Even my yoga sessions have left me feeling nothing except maybe confused. Usually yoga elicits a state of bliss and at the very least,  I come out feeling good. But this last week, nada.

Time to dig deeper and write more and try to understand it.

Do you ever feel this way? Does the above quote hold true or is it naive?

With love,

Tipxo

Self-sabotage & Self-awareness

So I wrote a post last week about the things that help me manage my depression … the goal being to share what helps me, in the hope that it helps you recognise or even just start to pay some attention to what helps you.  Self awareness, I think, is a big step towards managing that constant companion that some of us carry around in life.  It got me thinking about self-sabotage … something I am rather good at, even if I do say so myself! I absolutely know what helps me feel better but I seem to avoid doing those things – it’s a bit like keeping away from the sugar when I’m trying to lose a few kilos … it seems so much harder to avoid when I’m focused on avoiding it. But why? Why do I seemingly sabotage my own efforts to be happy {or insert pretty much anything good for me here}?

No, I don’t have the answer(s).  Not yet (if ever), but I have started observing my patterns and trying to change, mainly because the strain of little kids has had a negative effect on my mood swings (which have been progressively getting worse) and mainly because I want to figure this out for my kids.  Not only so that they have a (mostly) “happy” mummy but also so that I don’t make the same mistakes my mother did – the things that she did moulded me into the person that I was, which I am still trying to undo, 20+ years of self work later …

So, back to the question, why self-sabotage?

Food / weight is a big one for me so let’s look at that.  Why do I continue to put things in my mouth that aren’t good for me?  Is it the positive associations of being soothed as a child by “sweet treats”? * Is it my fear that when I’m slim (aka in my head “beautiful”) and my life remains the same that I’ll have nothing left to blame it on? Or is it my husband’s theory that I like to have a safety cushion (in the form of a nice fat outer shell) in case the world tries to hurt me? (I not sure about this but it is an interesting observation on his part and one to consider.) I have yet to figure this out entirely, but what I have done is try to stop myself when I reach for things to understand what it is I really need. I consequently drink a lot more water and take a lot more naps these days in place of eating just by stopping and asking myself if I’m thirsty or tired. Simple observation and self-awareness has helped my relationship with food a great deal, as well as my body image and the self-sabotage occurs less often.

Besides the food thing, there are other ways that I self-sabotage (most of which have to do with my self-confidence) – after many years of introspection, I can safely say that some of it has to do with my childhood, where I often felt alone and simply never good enough for my mother’s love – one of the first things she still says whenever she sees me is that I’m fat.  I read somewhere once that the “voice” we often hear in our heads are usually our parent(s) and I have no doubt that my negative self-love had a lot to do with what I heard as a child. From this I have decided to try to give my children the gift of confidence in themselves, their voice and their abilities.  I’ve done a lot of work on myself over the last two decades or so and have gotten to a point where I am generally comfortable with the woman I am and have really understood what I have to offer.  Where my skills lay and where they don’t.  I’ve stopped trying to make my mother happy (I’ve realised that it’s an impossible and pointless task – we can’t make other people happy, it’s entirely up to them) and focus more on making myself happy. Doing the things that make me smile, regardless of what other people think.  I have tried to simply find my tribe, as it were, of people who love who I am and what I do and leave the critics behind. I realised, at one point, that I kept making the same mistakes over and over again – trying to gain the respect and “love” from all the wrong people.  All the people who were never going to give it, who were never satisfied with me – these people were simply a representative of my mother’s love that I kept chasing, for years. When they ignored me or criticised me, it just fed my self-hatred and self-sabotage kicked in.  It was a viscous circle that I finally stepped out of a few years ago but still occasionally find myself repeating. When I catch myself, I look around me – at the people who love me, my family and friends, at my successes (rather than focusing on the bad things) and try to look outward (as it helps me remember how lucky a life I lead compared to many others in the world around me) and most importantly, try to get back in touch with my inner voice.  The one that is truly mine (not my mothers) and it reminds me that there is one person that absolutely adores everything about me and loves everything that I love, and that person is me.  While other people can bring me happiness, it really is up to me – I am in charge of my happiness and loving myself is the biggest step towards that. And it’s also the biggest step away from the self-sabotage that creeps in.

Do you self-sabotage? How so? Do you do anything to try to keep it at bay?

With love,

Tipxo

* My mother used to do this – I realise now, as a mother myself, that she didn’t have the tools to soothe me herself – she never learned about this growing up and did what she could.  I no longer blame her, which in itself is a huge step forward. I’ve also learned not to make the same mistake with my kids.

The big black dog (OR things that really help)

Another video for you today – I hadn’t intended on two videos in a row but well, I really liked this one I saw the other day.  It reminded me of the things I know (and often do, when I remember) that really help my depression.  I suspect that you also know the things that help you, even if its only deep down in the back of your brain, but I hope that this encourages you to bring them back to the front and perhaps put them in place when you’re feeling the “black dog” get bigger again.

I was lying in bed thinking about this and well, I guess I should preface all this by saying that while I am anti happy pills, I am not trying to discourage anyone from taking the steps that help them. I just prefer to manage and have been using a natural approach for many many years.  If it’s all new to you then take your time to figure out what helps you best.

So, some of the things that help me:

1. SLEEP!!!  Tiredness makes everything worse.  ALWAYS.  I’m a former insomniac but I’ve stopped resisting sleep and now embrace it in a big way (having little kids definitely helps you appreciate any sleep you can get!). I could go on (there’s probably a whole blog post worth of sleep tips I could share) but simply put – aim to get enough QUALITY sleep every night. Enough depends on you but listen to your body and just do it (for me, if it’s a quality sleep then I’m good with around 6 hours but if it’s a restless night then 8 or more is what I need!)

2. EXERCISE!!! Ugh. I hate the word. BUT some form of physical activity will help…even if you just go outside for a walk for a few minutes (preferaby in the sunlight – more on this later).   WHY?  Nature’s own happy pills, that’s why, in the form of a seratonin (and other good stuff – very technical I am) boost. Actually, if you’re having trouble sleeping, exercise usually helps with that – at least I know that it helps me sleep better! 10 0r 15 minutes is usually enough.  I’m sure you could squeeze that into your daily routine – just make it a priority for feeling good. (Before you say anything, I know that this is HARD.  Who wants to exercise when depressed, right? I know all about that – I’m just at a point at my life now where I schedule it in and also have the ability to listen to my body.  It, in no uncertain terms, tells me that I’ve been neglecting myself and I go do the things I know I MUST to make it better.  Mind over depression, as it were.)

3. Get some SUNLIGHT – I know, it’s hard, especially in the winter months (hence my recent daylight lamp purchase) but sunlight also boosts your seratonin.  No excuses here, get yourself some form of sunlight, stat. (Besides which, our bodies need it to produce Vitamin D – necessary for many things but it also boosts your immune system so if you get sick often then sunlight is the key.  Or eating more fish for Vitamin D – I’ve been observing those Scandinavians and they know all about this stuff but I digress.)

4. Remembering the good stuff.  Things that really make you smile.  If this is hard, take a moment to sit down and write some of these down.  Dig deep and look for them.  Truly happy events.  I’m lucky – I have some pretty BIG ones in the form of the birth of my two kids…just writing this takes me back there and the joy is indescribable.  My wedding day is also pretty high up there and I’ve been lucky to have had two wonderful loves of my life BUT if I go further back before these things happened there are still happy memories.  Like the day I got my dog for my 12th birthday…he was so tiny he fit on the palm of my hand…it was such a beautiful moment.  Go back to your childhood if you have to, before all of “this” started (I don’t know about you but I was always very happy until puberty hit) and find some happy memories to pull up when you need them.

5. Massage.  Or anything else that pampers you.  I like getting a massage.  For some reason it makes me happy.  Literally. Go get one. you deserve it after all that exercise!!!

6. Eat right.  Another blog post I think about the effects of food on my mood.  But simply put, step away from the sugar (including those white carbs) & stimulants to “help” you.  They don’t.  It’s a viscious circle.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I love my morning coffee and never say no to chocolate but it’s about moderation rather than extremism.  Too much of anything can be a bad thing.  So, be aware of what you’re putting in your mouth. Keep a food/mood diary for a while where you log what you eat and how you feel – the results just might surprise you!  (Like, I have observed that I am a b*tch when I have my post sugar dip – truly awful…”keep away people” type of nasty!  Eek.)

7. A meditative practice.  No, I don’t mean that you need to ohm your way to happiness or anything, what I really mean is stopping to look inward and listen to what your body is telling you. This has helped me recognise early when my depression starts to take hold (it happens in waves for me and comes and goes) so I can put in place all the things that I know help minimise it.  It has also helped me separate my depression from me.  I am not depressed, I just have a chemical imbalance that makes me feel depressed. I have chosen yoga because I like it, it helps me center my thoughts and it’s exercise and kind of a form of massage (I like to be efficient and it ticks a few boxes!), but this really could be anything…art, baking etc … find something you can focus on that centers you.

8. Last, but definitely not least, cuddles.  Yes, that’s right, cuddles.  I’m blessed to have to little cuddlers at my disposal on a daily basis.  Even if they don’t hug me, I generally steal  a few cuddles every day.  I have become quite a hugger and every friend I meet gets one on meeting and one on departure.  Do not underestimate the benefit of a hug. Physical contact helps. I also used to find that patting my dog helped me feel better – perhaps cuddling your pet might also help, now that I think about it.  But, try to get a hug or two into your day. I think it’s OK to say “I’m feeling a bit down today, may I have a hug?”.  The thing is, most people secretly love hugs and are likely to give you one (I’m not suggesting that you ask strangers or anything – let’s just start with folk you know first!) – for some reason we’ve just all got a bit weird about it. And when you hug them, close your eyes and really experience it.

I know you’re probably laughing right now but hey, that’s also a good thing, right?!

Well, I think I have waffled on enough this morning.

Are there any things that you do to help lift your mood and make the big black dog smaller?

With love,

Tipxo

2014. My year of GRATITUDE.

Well, I’ve just joined #oneword365 with my word of the year, which fits in nicely with my #365daysofgratitude2014 picture project I started over on Instagram. Funnily enough, I hadn’t heard of one word prior to today (even though it started in 2009!) but it’s something I seem to do each year – set an intention using one word, so joining them and perhaps finding my “tribe” seemed like an apt thing to do.  This one word a year thing actually all started when I joined Susannah Conway’s Unravelling course a couple of years ago, but I digress …

So, why have I chosen gratitude this year? Because I have decided to kick this depression to the curb (as they say) and finally get on top of it in a more structured way AND I saw the video below that seems to confirm that an attitude of gratitude could possibly help my cause. I’ll try anything that works (except going down the route of prescription drugs – more on that later), so here I am. Let’s see how this experiment pans out.

 

Reflecting back on my word for last year, simplify, I can honestly say that it does help to set some sort of intention for the year ahead. I’ve never been great at keeping resolutions (I mean, is anyone, really?) but one word – well, THAT I can do. Mostly. And my 2013 was filled with simplifying. My home, my life committments and mostly, the stuff swilling about in my brain. It’s helped me feel much lighter and led to a great deal more happy days so this year’s word is all about taking that momentum and moving forward with it headlong into positivity! I’ve always been good at being thankful and reflecting on the many blessings in my life (hey, you don’t get through 30 years of depression without remembering the good things) but this is about conscious gratitude…and also, saying thank you to the folk around me that have lived with and loved me through both the good and bad times.

Time to stop my babbling for a while and go snuggle in bed with the hubs but I leave you with the question:

If you had to pick one word to set your intention for 2014 – what would it be?

With love,

Tipxo

PS I also finally bought one of those lights that are supposed to help with S.A.D – told you I was getting serious about this! 🙂