Tag Archives: alone

“Depression is a friend, not my enemy” by Conor Cusack

Have a look at this amazing blog on depression, written by Irishman Conor Cusack. Conor bravely, honestly and perfectly describes the pain of depression. The most amazing part of this article is when he calls depression his friend, not his enemy. He admits that:

“Once or twice a year, especially when I fall into old habits, my ‘friend’ pays me a visit. I don’t push him away or ignore him. I sit with him in a chair in a quiet room and allow him to come. I sit with the feeling. Sometimes I cry, other times I smile at how accurate his message is. He might stay for an hour, he might stay for a day. He gives his message and moves on.”

Emotion welled up in me as I read his words. Conor believes that depression is “a message from a part of your being to tell you something in your life isn’t right and you need to look at it.” I agree.

It’s so important to sit with how you’re feeling, to ask yourself what’s needed for you to be able live an authentic life, and to really listen to yourself even when all you want to do is run away.

If you would like an insight into how someone with depression is feeling or if you would like some reassurance that you’re not alone, this article is a must-read.

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Broken Windows

Since injuring my back at the gym on Sunday, I’ve had to take it easy. This means not doing my usual workout routine. And it’s been hard. I joined the gym in January and, while I signed up because I enjoy exercising and sweating and being healthy, I’ve also delighted in toning up, wearing tighter outfits and having people tell me that I look amazing. Who wouldn’t, right?

Part of me knew that I shouldn’t put too much value on my physical appearance. It’s dangerous attaching how good you’re feeling to something so transient. And another part of me told myself to relish it while it lasted. Which may also be saying something about an unconscious belief that good things don’t last very long. But that’s another day’s work (or blog post).

So, I haven’t been able to hit the gym this week and I noticed my mood dipping a little. I started wearing looser clothing as though I’d gained weight in just a few days. Another reason for feeling out of sorts was that I’d been, quite literally, stopped in my tracks. I had to accept the situation and understand that these things happen for a reason. There was a learning here somewhere (lots of lessons, in fact) if I were to cease feeling sorry for myself long enough to go looking.

Gretchen Rubin writes about the “broken windows theory” of policing, which holds that when a society tolerates minor crimes such as broken windows, graffiti and drinking in public, people are more likely to commit more serious crimes. Rubin suggests that this can also be true on a personal level. These are the signs of disorder that make you feel out of control and overwhelmed. For me, they are not leaving the house all day, not getting my class preparation done and not exercising. Rubin says that enforcing small signs of order makes us feel more in control and happier.

The theory makes sense and it’s great to get things done and to look after yourself. However, this does not mean being rigid. Sometimes, we have to let go of control or we’ll end up miserable. Life happens. We cannot base our happiness on how we think we should look or on how much exercise we feel we should be getting. If we have too many “broken windows” and those shattered panes are destroying our inner peace, we need to look at building the inner peace and self-love and to hell with the windows for a while.

This week, I’ve been watching TV series GirlsThe main character is a 24-year-old writer who’s carrying a bit of extra weight. She gets lots of men and struts around naked. The more I’m watching, the more I’m used to seeing a fleshier actress. This goes to show that the more exposed we are to skinny celebrities, the more we believe that this is the way we all should look. It’s refreshing to watch a show where the characters’ appearances are a little more normal. Even the sexiest female character has a bit of belly and often doesn’t wear a scrap of makeup. And she’s still a beauty. A natural one.

In one of the episodes, leading lady Hannah admits that she’s just like everyone else, that she wants to be happy. That she feels alone. And that she’d been trying to control the way things happened and how she was feeling. Isn’t that why we do what we do in life? To feel happier, less alone and more in control? Why we diet and exercise? Why we purchase new clothes and cut our hair? Why we study for exams and work? Why we save money and buy houses? Why we search for partners and start families?

But beneath the need for happiness, connection and control is a longing for love. And where better to begin than with yourself? Just because. No only-whens and only-ifs. Unconditional love. If you had that, you wouldn’t need to do anything, have anything or control anything. It wouldn’t disappear as soon as your job or relationship ended. It wouldn’t crumble when you gained weight or grew older. It wouldn’t elude you until you had a house and a successful career. It would be a part of you always. It is you. You’ve just forgotten. It’s already there. And it strengthens with use. Today, instead of going to the gym, I choose to exercise my unconditional love. It’s tougher than any workout but the reward makes it so worthwhile.

im not beautiful like you

Belief in Something Bigger

I’ve always believed it but I’ve regularly forgotten. I’ve become caught up in work and study, fun and flirtations. I’ve felt down and alone, angry and frustrated, or self-centred and invincible. But, every so often, I’m reminded. That there is something bigger than me out there, something omnipresent, something powerful… That I am being looked after. That I am here for a reason. And that I have a purpose. That my creation, in itself, is miraculous.

It’s normal to question, to doubt, to fear, to rage against and turn our backs on a God that would allow pain, suffering, poverty, disease and loss. But I just know, without really knowing how I know, that there is something higher, something mysterious, something beautiful behind all of it.

I’m currently on my third cold of the season and I haven’t been able to do all the things I want to be doing. One day, I was completely fed up and annoyed with myself. I wondered what the point of my life was if I didn’t have the energy to do anything. When I confessed my thoughts to a good friend, he replied: “Every life is worthwhile.” Those four words stirred something deep within me, and my eyes filled.

Yesterday, my father proudly presented me with  a leather-bound copy of The Bible. Today, lacking the strength for a walk, I started from the beginning of this holy book. My hands tingled as I turned the pages. These ancient scriptures are full of the wisdom of the prophets. After reading about how God created the heavens and the earth, I gave myself an acupuncture treatment and lay back to the soothing sounds of Deva Premal, Krishna Das and Jack Harrison. As I relaxed, I realised that I was looking after myself. This means that I love and care about myself. Which is exactly what I should be doing with this human life I’ve been given.

I don’t think it matters what you believe or how you connect with the peace and joy of the universe. Whether you pray or meditate, whether you follow the teachings of Buddha or Jesus, whether you read the Torah or the Qu’ran, whether you take communion or commune with nature. You have a soul. You are a brilliant being of light. And you are loved. No matter what you practise or how you think you have sinned, be gentle with yourself. Remind yourself of your connection to everything in the universe. Let the love and light and blessings in. You deserve them.

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On the floor

The last time I ventured to the pub was about three months ago with my then boyfriend in the Donegal Gaeltacht, where the most outrageous thing anyone did was speak English. The last time I got drunk was about six months ago with an old college friend, when we had Thai food with our wine and spent the following day blaming the takeaway for the annihilation of our insides (as you do). And I can’t even remember the last time I set foot inside a club. Does watching self-proclaimed guidos fist pump on Jersey Shore count?

And you know how when you haven’t done something in a while, you wonder if you could even remember how to do it? It’s part lack of energy after a recent flu; part rawness after a recent break-up; part fear- I think I’ve put on weight, I don’t have anything nice to wear, I don’t remember how to small-talk; part sense- memories of extreme exhaustion after a 7am finish, a night spent hugging the toilet bowl (it was a night on the tiles all right!), hangovers so bad you rue the day alcohol was discovered. Damn you, rotten fruit! And part downright laziness at the thought of having to choose an outfit, do the hair and makeup, and stand around in heels all night. Effort. I think I’ve developed a mental block.

But after three weekends in a row of calling over to my mam’s for chips and a two-hour sentence of The X Factor, where the most daring thing I did was drink tea after 11pm, I think it’s time I worked on my social life.

I’m told I need to get out there (code for showcase my talents- I have a large chest- in order to date around). But do I really want to find a man in a swirling sea (maybe I shouldn’t have had that last Cuba Libre) of checked shirts and shark-like smiles? It’s dangerous choosing a partner when you’re both sporting beer goggles (Why do they call them beer goggles anyway? Goggles help you see. They should be called beer shades. Because they blot out the light. But I digress. I do that when I try to avoid an issue.)

On the one hand, I’m not bothered with all the pretending that goes on on a night out… fake tan, false eyelashes, concealer… pretending that everything’s funny, pretending that this club doesn’t suck rear end, pretending that you can walk in those heels and that your feet aren’t burning… Plus, I don’t want to get so drunk that I lose the following day (or my mammy’s chips).

On the other hand, I miss dancing to the latest Rihanna number, making an effort with my appearance and being told it’s paid off by a random hottie (even if he is hauled outside by the bouncers three minutes later for being too drunk) and cackling at dirty jokes with a gaggle of mates.

I don’t have to drink too much (famous last words). My eyelashes and tan (or lack thereof- I didn’t have a sun holiday this year, okay?) will be real. And I might wear flats. Who’s with me?

Images: http://myspace-fusion.com/graphics/photography/index.php?page=6; http://willberwillberforce5333.wordpress.com/tag/willber-willberforce/page/159/; http://bahalwan.de/gallery/fashion/MicheleWaldmeyer/

Featured Image: http://2812photography.wordpress.com/2011/08/25/dance-floor/

Bloody Valentine

Valentine’s Day is like an extreme form of Marmite. Either you can’t get enough of it or you would rather slit your throat with a rusty nail and fling yourself into shark-infested waters than deal with this sickly sweet 24 hours. Some of us can pretend the day doesn’t exist, and ignore the large red love hearts blazing out of every shop window. Others cannot banish the day from their thoughts, because their enthusiastic other half would not let them away with it, or because they feel devastated about being alone on this loved-up day.

Recently or pathologically single folk presume that everyone else is gushing with love and romance on this spring day. They imagine couples walking hand-in-hand by the water’s edge, gazing into each others’ eyes, whispering sweet nothings, sharing plates of spaghetti, and surprising their partners with enormous crimson cards, sparkling jewels, holiday plans, and maybe even a diamond ring.

The unwilling half of a couple experiences equal amounts of dread and disdain in the run-up to this marathon of mush. They know that if they don’t have something wonderful planned for their partner they are liable to lose a limb (or another highly prized body part). For the sake of their own sanity (and physical well-being), they trudge to the gift shop, buy the first card that grabs their attention, and grudgingly “surprise” their loved one with a bunch of flowers and the piece of jewellery that they were ordered to purchase.

A number of years ago, a friend and I held a quiet protest on Valentine’s Day. Instead of sobbing at Love Actually on the box and checking the post every five minutes, we decided to replace the celebration with one of our favourites- Hallowe’en. We rented horrors, munched on treats, and sipped red wine. We were screaming so much that we didn’t have time to dwell on being single. And after watching The Ring, we were just glad to be alive.

For whatever reason, I’ve been single more often than not on Valentine’s Day. And it doesn’t bother me. It’s just another day (apart from the fact that card companies, florists, restaurants and the like are a lot richer afterwards). I don’t have to think about buying presents, writing cards, or making dinner reservations. And I have more money to spend on myself.

“To love oneself is the beginning of a life-long romance.” Oscar Wilde

This year, instead of moaning about my single status, bitching about the shortage of romantic Irish men, or dissing the festival for being a “money-making racket” and an “exercise in soulless commercialism”, I am learning more about love. Recently, I have come to the delightful conclusion that I am loveable. I am getting to know myself more. I am discovering what I like in life. I have started doing the things I want to do. And I am thoroughly enjoying the process.

If you don’t know or love yourself, how can you love another, let alone believe that anyone would love you? There was a time when I looked at love dubiously. But I was confusing real love with romantic love.

"In real love, you want the other person's good. In romantic love, you want the other person." Margaret Anderson

Romantic love is often based on neediness and selfishness. You desire the person as a possession, as a tool to make you feel better about yourself. However, I’m beginning to see that there is another kind of love that speaks of balance and respect and sharing.

Once you know who you are and what you want from life, if you are fulfilled in what you are doing and treat yourself with love and respect, you are ready to move onto the next phase. And this is where love for another human being becomes possible. When you enter into a healthy relationship, you bask in the best parts of yourselves, and you accept and love the other bits too.

Relationships can be challenging. As Thomas Moore writes in his book Soul Mates, a struggle occurs between the soul’s need for attachment and the spirit’s need for freedom. When our partner seems distant, the soul becomes insecure and wants to hold on. When our partner clings, the spirit feels trapped and restless.

"A healthy relationship needs to create a balance between spirit and soul, expansion and constriction, freedom and commitment." Anodea Judith

So, this Valentine’s Day, if you’re part of a happy couple, do something nice together. Laugh and embrace. Remember the excitement of the first sparks of your romance. And celebrate the growth and intimacy that has developed since then.

And if, like me, you’re single, be thankful that you have this time and space to work on your self and your individuality. Love and accept each and every aspect of your being. Learn what makes you smile. Observe what fills you with passion. Witness the many ways in which you shine.

 

Images: Google

“You’re making me feel bad”: true or false?

Do you have (at least) one person in your life who constantly makes you feel bad? He/she passes hurtful remarks, criticises, or makes fun of you. I’m interrupting this transmission of self-pity to bring you a very important newsflash: The other person is not the one making you feel bad. You are doing an excellent job of that all on your own.

"No one can make you feel inferior without your consent." Eleanor Roosevelt

Everything you sense has to go through a filter system in your mind before it can have any effect on you whatsoever. You control this. Therefore, you are the one who allows yourself to feel bad. If an insulting remark is something that you already believe about yourself, then you’re more inclined to be sensitive about it and it’s more likely to hurt you. If, on the other hand, your friend tells you that you look like a luminous yellow dinosaur, it won’t rattle your confidence because you know for a fact that you don’t resemble an extinct vertebrate wearing a hi-vis vest. That’s ridiculous, you snigger. What is ridiculous is when you internalise other equally silly comments.

People can only make you feel bad when you’re already feeling bad. Or when your good feelings are based on something so shallow and transient that they are all too easily snatched away. Having said that, there are some people who are more skilled than others at resurrecting those negative emotions that you’d prayed were long-buried.

Let me tell you about a childhood friend of mine. Simone and I met in play school. She was imaginative and hilarious and fun. Even though I moved town a couple of years later, we continued to have regular sleep overs. We phoned and wrote letters and emails,  sharing all our teenage and early adult experiences. I thought she’d be a friend for life. In my mid-twenties, however, I began to realise that she was making me feel bad.

She sulked and gave me the silent treatment any time I couldn’t hang out with her. Her brilliant sense of humour was often at my expense. She insulted me with witty remarks and gave me back-handed compliments. She once told me I laughed like The Whirligig Witch in Fortycoats and, when I pouted, she told me I should be happy ‘coz the Whirligig Witch had magic powers. Then she snorted: “You kinda look like her too…” When we holidayed together before college, she announced that I’d lost “soooo much weight”, like I’d been previously obese. She complimented me on my new hair style, adding that she’d hated it after the last hair cut. She regularly told me how “awfully tired” I was looking. And consistently poked fun at my “dumb blonde” tendencies. She’d often say things like: “Why do you and I put on weight so easily?” or “How come we never have boyfriends?” (I didn’t even bother pointing out that I was two sizes smaller than her and I had been MARRIED.) She called me a “swot” for studying and “boring” or “Little Miss Perfect” when I wouldn’t indulge in food, cigarettes and alcohol as vigorously as she did. She frequently bitched about my other close friends and even my family members. And any time I landed myself a fella or started making a success of my life, she totally withdrew from me.

It’s scary that it took me so long to realise how bad I was feeling whenever I was around Simone. And I’m not blaming it all on her. I’m sure that some of the things I took to be insults were benign comments or jokes. I had always been super-sensitive and I clearly cared what she thought, otherwise it wouldn’t have bothered me. Some people just aren’t as tapped in to others’ feelings and they blurt things out before they have time to censor them. Or they honestly believe they’re being helpful when they inform you that you look like you haven’t slept a wink in days. But, oftentimes, when someone puts you down, it’s because they’re feeling so miserable about their own lives that lashing out at someone else makes them feel marginally better.

Simone’s father had a habit of “affectionately” calling Simone, “my little fattie”. Her three older brothers teased her incessantly. A particular favourite taunt was: “No fear of you ever getting pregnant! If you look ‘contraceptive’ up in the dictionary, there’s a picture of your face!” And much later, I found out that Simone’s mother had tried to commit suicide when Simone was only nine years old. Simone and I have since drifted apart. I don’t know if she’s grown into a happier woman. I hope she still laughs as much as she used to (preferably not at anyone else’s expense).

If you have a multitude of Simones in your circle of friends, here’s what to do:

1) Speak up!

Confront the person about their behaviour. They may be perfectly unaware of how they’ve been acting. However, blaming them for how upset you’ve been will only get their backs up, so, instead of snarling: “You did this!”, try: “I felt hurt when…” This will help them to see things from your perspective without making them feel as if they’re under attack. This mature approach may even gain you some respect. And when someone respects you, they’re unlikely to mistreat you.

2) Second chances

Everyone deserves a do-over. Perhaps your friend or loved one has been going through something difficult recently, which would explain their hurtful behaviour. If you’ve had the talk and they’ve apologised, the ball is now in your court to give them an opportunity to get back onside.

3) From a distance

The trick to all of this is not to allow anybody to affect you negatively. Unfortunately, with certain people, this can be extremely difficult. Especially if it’s a parent or lover. In delicate cases like these, the only remedy is distance. You are not strong enough yet to come out of an altercation with this person uninjured. You don’t need to put yourself through that right now. Just be gentle with yourself and work on your confidence, so then, if you decide to go back for round two, you’ll be well able for whatever they throw your way.

4) Cut your losses

If, like me, you’re no saint, there’s only so much you’re going to be able to take before you snap. And this may not be a bad thing. You’re not doing them any favours by accepting that kind of behaviour. Maybe losing you as a friend will be enough of a wake-up call to prevent them from sacrificing any more relationships. And if you’ve had to distance yourself from most of your so-called friends, don’t worry if you’re feeling a bit lonely. You will now have more time and space to meet like-minded people. People who will enrich your life and appreciate your friendship.

5) Build yourself up

Once you start believing in yourself, and recognising that you’re wonderful, you’ll probably notice that people won’t get at you as much. They will sense your strength and won’t even consider trying to annoy you. After all, bullies only pick on those they deem to be weak.

6) Observe

When you remove yourself from a situation emotionally, it can have no negative power over you. Instead of getting hurt or angry, observe the person with interest. Contemplate why they might be behaving this way. If they’re sulking, let them. Like a spoiled kid, they want to get their own way. So, treat them like the child they’re imitating and ignore them. Don’t let their tantrums dampen your spirits or poison your enjoyment. Detach from their negativity and recognise that their mood is not yours.

7) Have fun

Once you reclaim your power, you may even begin to get a kick out of observing others’ silly behaviour and letting them know that you know what they’re playing at. I know a farmer, who’s fascinated by human behaviour. He always manages to show people what they’re really like. It’s almost like he carries around a magnifying mirror and whips it out when the person least expects it. He walked into a room once, where a cranky, old lady squinted sourly at her visitors. She only ever had time for gentry. She looked down her nose at this country man and sneered, “Who might you be?” Without missing a beat, he answered, “I’m an alien from outer space.” This rendered the woman speechless. Instead of passing her usual judgemental remarks, she had to really think about what had just happened.

8. Understand

In Chinese medicine, when someone is feeling angry, resentful or frustrated, their liver is said to be “in excess”. When they lash out at somebody else, this releases some of the excess, making them feel better.

If you find that your loved ones are trying to put you down regularly, it is saying a lot more about them than it is about you. Perhaps, recently, you’ve started to put yourself first, you’re learning to say “no”, and you’re becoming more self-assured. Your loved ones may fear that you’re going to outgrow them completely. They’re terrified of losing you. If they keep you in your box, like a pet rat, you’re not going to go anywhere. So, if your husband tells you your bum definitely does look big in that, or scoffs at your decision to go back to college; instead of vowing to only consume celery and lemon juice for the next month, or beating yourself up for being so stupid as to even consider giving education another shot, recognise that he is simply threatened by your new-found confidence. He’s probably scared that you’ll go off with another man in your new skinny jeans and FMBs, or he may be positive that, once you hit the library with your smart, sexy lecturer, you’ll suddenly realise how dull and uneducated he is.

When you find yourself feeling bad because of what other people say or do, you need to take a long, hard look at why. Do you still care what others think of you? When someone puts you down, think of it as a test. You are being examined on how much you really believe in yourself. If one snotty remark can fling you into a spiral of self-doubt, your self-esteem is weak and in need of a work-out.

If a compliment makes your day, an insult will crush you. Stop giving all of your power away. Don’t wait for others to validate you as a worthwhile human being. Believe in yourself, your strength, your talents, and the miraculous beauty of your body and spirit. Nobody can make you feel bad. Nobody can make you feel good either. The power is, and always has been, in your hands. Do with it what you will.

10 metre jump into the sea!

Attachment: Loved ones, identity crises, and negative thinking

This is a big one. Attachment affects every area of our lives. Some of us believe that if we weren’t attached to people and to things, we’d have no reason to be here on this earth. But letting go of attachment is the biggest lesson we have to learn. The biggest hurdle to overcome. And once we do this, we will be free.

It is our attachment to people, to things, to ideas, and to our thoughts that keeps us stuck and causes us endless amounts of pain. Initially, the severance of these attachments may also cause pain. After all, these shackles have had us chained for many, many years. They’ve prevented us from moving forward but it’s all we know. Then, one day something happens that breaks these chains and sets us free. There is a new world out there, bright and exciting and pain-free. Do you want to join me on this magnificent journey? Here’s how.

1) Awareness

First of all, it’d help if you could figure out what it is you’re attached to. Once you recognise your self-destructive patterns, you can do something about it. In the following sub-section, I’ll discuss the different things we become attached to.

a) image

If you’re attached to your external image, prepare to be saddened, disappointed, angry and depressed. An attachment to how you look will lead to pain and suffering every time you break out in pimples or gain a bit of weight. Hair loss, sagging skin and wrinkles will cause you to sink into a spiral of self-disgust. However, if you can let go of this attachment to your image, you’ll soon realise that there are more important things in life than how you look on the outside. Your spirit is beautiful. Allow it to shine.

b) other people

We become attached to our parents, friends, other halves, and to our children. We believe we couldn’t live without them, and we understand that they make us whole. If you feel this way, I have two words for you: Uh oh! People leave. People die, move away, or move on with their lives without us. Relationships break up. Children move out. Friends drift away. This is a normal part of life. But if you’re too attached, you’ll find it very hard to survive a loss like this. First, work on becoming whole yourself, then any relationship you have with another person will be an added bonus to your already full and healthy life. Their presence may enhance your experiences but their absence will not diminish you as a person.

c) identity

Many of us fall into the trap of defining ourselves by our job title, our gender, religion, social class, and even by our taste in music. This is dangerous. And this is why many people commit suicide after a job loss. Lately, many Irish people have become extremely disillusioned by the child abuse scandals in the Church. We were once a very Catholic country. Now, we are losing our attachment to our religion and this isn’t a bad thing. For the breaking of attachment creates an opening for more understanding, acceptance and inclusion.

Who are we without our identifying labels? For a short while after letting go of attachment, you may feel lonely, lost and confused. Confusion is a good thing. It means you are questioning life and your place in the world. Sit with it. You may think you’re lonely, lost and confused when in fact you’re now free and open and alive.

d) thoughts

The attachment to our thoughts is what causes us most pain. We think: I am fat, I am useless, no one loves me, life is difficult. When we attach to such thoughts, we believe them to be true and we live them. We manifest our own reality of hardship and self-hatred. But we don’t have to attach to such thoughts. We can choose to view things in a different light. When it’s raining, for example, you have a choice. You can attach to the thought This weather is awful OR I love the sound of the rain.

The death of a loved one is probably the most painful thing any of us will ever go through. And even at that, we have a choice as to which thought we attach to:  They are gone forever. I’ll never love again. I miss them so much. Life will never sparkle without them OR I am so lucky to have met such a wonderful person. They taught me so much about life and about myself. I will always remember the love we shared. And I will bring what I’ve learned from them with me on this fascinating journey of discovery.

2) Do nothing

You’ll be glad to hear that you don’t have to do anything at all. The more you fight against something, the more it fights back. You are now aware of how you’ve been behaving. So, allow this awareness to wash over you. And the rest will take care of itself. Eckhart Tolle wrote the following in his marvellous book, A New Earth:

“How do you let go of attachment to things? Don’t even try. It’s impossible. Attachment to things drops away by itself when you no longer seek to find yourself in them.”