Tag Archives: purpose

The Demon

Yesterday was World Mental Health Day. I considered posting on social media about my own mental health journey. But I decided against it. What if my housemates/family/extended family read it? 

Revealing my deepest darkest demons could work against me, I feared. So I kept silent, ashamed of what I’ve been through.

But today, a sadness overwhelms me. So many gorgeous, creative, fun people come to the conclusion that the only solution is to die.

I pause in remembrance of these people and all they had to offer the world. And this blog post starts bubbling up inside me. And when that happens, I have to stop everything and write.

I was a sensitive child, one who thought and felt deeply. I still do. I grew up to be extremely insecure- lacking confidence and filled with fear.

I had my good times of course, periods when I felt and looked good. When I excelled at school and college and when I was prolific in my writing. When I enjoyed hanging out and partying with friends, flirting with men, holidaying on Greek islands and adventuring across continents.

But the demon was always lurking, only a scratch beneath the surface. Ready to remind me that I wasn’t good enough, that I’d fail, that there was something wrong with me. That I’d never be fixed.

Brainwashed by this beast, I hated myself and wished I were different. I’d try to be normal but my version of normal was an unattainable, unsustainable perfection. I’d push and compare and question myself so much that I’d eventually be spent, both physically and mentally.

Devoid of energy, I’d withdraw. Afraid to show my face. Feeling as ugly on the outside as the inner voices that belittled me and held me back.

In my teens, I developed an eating disorder and in my late teens, I was put on antidepressants. I stayed on medication for years, hoping to feel better, do better, be better.

But my low self-esteem brought me to people and situations that reinforced my opinion of myself. I gave up hobbies, left jobs, dropped out of college and went on the dole. I didn’t believe myself capable of anything more.

depression

At 22 years of age, I met the man who would become my husband. He begged me to stop smoking and drinking alcohol. He asked me to dress differently and not have male friends. He convinced me to start practising Islam. He wanted me to change my name and wear a headscarf.

I knew I couldn’t succeed at my own life so why not take on a new identity? Losing myself in baggy robes was a relief. Maybe I could be saved.

The relationship was tumultuous. He wanted a completely different wife. Here was yet another example of my inadequacy.

After we got married, I hit a really low point. I was so agitated, I wanted to bounce my head off the walls.

I took a few days off work and when I admitted to my boss that I suffered from depression, she fired me on the spot. I didn’t contest it. I wasn’t able for anything. I wasn’t able for life.

Family and friends marvelled at how I wasn’t fulfilling my potential. I was academically clever and I won awards for my writing. I was attractive, articulate and athletic. Yet I consistently doubted myself and gave in to the negative self-talk.

Time and time again, I’d make a decent stab at living in the real world. But before long, I’d wear myself out, self-sabotage then crawl into a hole for another while. I simply couldn’t handle grappling with the monster in my mind AND being a functioning member of society.

In those moments, I honestly believed that I’d be better off dead. I felt lost, alone and so broken that nobody could get through to me. Nobody could love me out of the chasm.

It’s taken me many years of highs and lows, hard work and self-care to get to where I am now. I’m proud to say that I’m doing well.

I’m living on purpose and helping others to do the same by sharing what I’ve learned. I’m showing people that they’re not alone, that we all go through hard times and that there is a way (there are many ways) out of the demon’s stranglehold.

The monster is still only a scratch beneath the surface. When I don’t practice self-care, when I’m not true to myself or when I have a few too many drinks, I tunnel under to where he’s waiting for me. And then, despite all the personal development I’ve undertaken, I can still be hypnotised.

Thankfully, I always catch a glimmer of light and I pull myself back out again. Then I shine that light on the monster and ask him what he wants. I understand where he’s come from and I listen to what he tells me. He’s not as scary as I once believed.

The purpose of this blog post is to tell you that I know how it feels – I’ve experienced the craziness and the desperation to make it stop.

What I’m trying to say is that you’re not alone. How you’re feeling right now won’t last. Nothing does. You will feel better. You’re worth fighting for. Look for the light because it is there.

hand-reaching-up-to-light

Images: Google

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The Fear

One of the biggest things I’ve struggled with over my lifetime is fear. Over the past few days, I’ve examined this fear and I’ve discovered that it has many, many layers.

There is fear of making mistakes. Fear of doing it wrong. Fear of failure. Fear of getting into trouble. Fear of criticism, disapproval and rejection. Fear of my own feelings. Even fear of happiness in case it were to disappear.

Fear of not being good enough. Fear of not being talented enough, competent enough, confident enough, pretty enough, slim enough, and the list goes on…

Fear of losing hope. And fear of having hope because I’m bound to destroy it.

As I shower this morning, I realise what’s really lurking behind all this fear. It’s fear of being found out. Found out to be stupid, incapable, ugly, unlovable.

And so this fear has prevented me from going for jobs, moving abroad, writing a book, staying in relationships, opening up to friends, and telling people that I like them. In short, fear has stopped me from putting myself out there.

Once I make this discovery, I can logic it. What is it about stepping out that I’m so afraid of? That people will discover that I’m human? Scared? Imperfect?

Aren’t these the things that I love and admire in other people? Don’t we feel more connected with other human beings when we realise that we’re all the same? Real and brave and frightened?

If I can accept others for how they are, why do I resist doing the same for myself? Why are my standards and expectations for myself so ridiculously high? Is it because I don’t like myself enough or is it because I like myself so much that I want to be the best that I can be? Interesting because this desire is actually blocking me from doing just that.

Over the Christmas, I read Marianne Williamson’s A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of A Course in Miracles. Once I delved into the first chapter, I was hooked. Marianne speaks about being paralysed with terror. She writes:

“You’d think we have some compassion for ourselves, bound up in emotional chains the way we are, but we don’t. We’re just disgusted with ourselves, because we think we should be better by now. Sometimes we make the mistake of thinking other people don’t have as much fear as we do, which only makes us more afraid. Maybe they know something we don’t know. Maybe we’re missing a chromosome.”

This really resonated with me. I forget that other people feel fear too. Everybody does. We just don’t hear about it all that much. We think that other people just get on with it. They do and they grow and they succeed.

And I compare myself unfavourably with the whole human race. I neglect to focus on my own courage and achievements, which are many.

I dismiss my own journey and instead listen to the family members and neighbours as they comment on So-and-so’s flourishing business and Thingymajig’s promotion and new home and Yer-one-down-the-road’s wonderful partner and family.

“They’re doing so well”, they gush. And I hate myself a little more. I see other people’s highlight reels on Facebook and I wince in self-judgement.

Last night, I lay in bed reading Oprah Winfrey’s lovely book What I Know For Sure when I had an Aha moment. Oprah speaks about her fear of seeming arrogant. She writes:

“In some ways, even my weight was my apology to the world – my way of saying, ‘See, I really don’t think I’m better than you.'”

When I was younger, I was teased for being “posh” and using big words. I was also teased for having a rather large bosom for a 13-year-old. And I was beaten up because a girl’s boyfriend fancied me.

After those experiences, I was careful with my language and I tried not to appear full of myself. I changed the way I behaved depending on the group of people I was with. I didn’t flirt. And I made sure not to do anything too different so that I could avoid unwanted attention.

When other people were miserable, I downplayed my contentment and instead broadcast my difficulties. You see, I’d say. I’m not a threat. So you can like me.

Now that I understand where all this fear comes from, I have a choice. I choose to no longer allow fear to immobilise me. I want to take risks and move forwards and flourish. And I understand that I do love myself. I’ve just been confused about how to show myself this love.

From now on, I’ll love myself when I have the courage to shine. I’ll love myself when I’m gasping with fear. I’ll love myself when I do. And I’ll love myself when I am.

The trick is to understand that we all feel fear. Our bravery lies in our ability to push forth anyway. In Oprah Winfrey’s words:

“Sometimes moving on terrified me. But it always taught me that the true meaning of courage is to be afraid, and then, with your knees knocking, to step out anyway.”

keepcalm-o-matic.co.uk

keepcalm-o-matic.co.uk

Happy

Yesterday evening, I watched a documentary called Happy. This film explores what makes people happy. It was a welcome reminder of what happiness really is and all the ways we can work on and maintain happiness in our lives.

Interestingly, our genetic makeup determines 50 per cent of our happiness. Some of us are just born happier! Circumstance (where we live, our job, life events) only contributes 10 per cent towards our happiness. So we have a whole 40 per cent to work with. We have the power to boost our own happiness. It’s a personal choice. And one well worth making.

So because it’s always good to be reminded of how to be happy, and especially coming up to Christmas, I’m going to share a few of the best ways to promote happiness.

1. Gratitude: Recalling all the things you’re grateful for really makes you appreciate all you have. I’m currently keeping a 30-day gratitude journal where I write 10 things each day that I’m grateful for and the reasons why. Afterwards, I read them aloud. So by day 30, I’ll have 300 wonderful things to read. I’m only on Day 6 but already I’m feeling the change in my mood and my energy. And it’s making me more aware of the abundance of things I have to be grateful for as I go about my days.

2. Compassion: Caring for others is guaranteed to make you feel good too. Try completing a random act of kindness. Give a stranger a free parking ticket, donate clothes to the homeless or volunteer to work with the ill or the elderly. Helping others unites you with your fellow man. Doing meaningful things with your time fills you with a sense of purpose and pride. Another way of bringing compassion into your life is to do a Loving-Kindness meditation where you focus on sending love and kindness to yourself and to others. This form of meditation has even been known to help with depression.

3. Flow: Do things that bring you into a state of flow. When you’re in flow, you’re totally in tune with what you’re doing. You’re present. Time stands still. For some people, this could be painting or playing piano. It could be scuba diving or upcycling, surfing or sewing. Uncover your passion, get your creative juices bubbling and enter the flow.

4. Dopamine: Dopamine is a hormone that acts as a neurotransmitter in the brain. In simple terms, it’s a feel-good chemical. We release this chemical when we perform rewarding activities like eating and having sex. However as we age, this hormone is produced less and less. The good news is that the more we show our bodies that we need this chemical, the more our bodies will continue to make it. It’s like a muscle that gets bigger the more we exercise it. Aerobic activity is great for stimulating dopamine release. Interestingly, if we work out in novel ways, even more dopamine is released. So instead of your usual jog, sign up for The Color Run. Rather than hitting the gym, go rock climbing or white water rafting. Replace walking around the estates with a hike to a spectacular location.

5. Mix it Up: Following on from the previous tip, another way to prevent yourself from sliding into monotony is to change things around. Take an alternate route when you’re walking your dog. Try out a different café. Attempt a fresh recipe from that book that’s been collecting dust ever since you received it three Christmasses ago. Join an adventure club. Attend a Meetup outing and make new friends. Travel to a destination on the opposite side of the map. After watching Happy, Bhutan is now on my bucket-list. Bhutan is a place located on the slopes of the Himalayas that officially uses Gross National Happiness as an indicator to measure quality of life in holistic and psychological terms. Now that’s my kinda country!

As you can see from the list above, the road to happiness is simple. And it’s free. In fact, once our basic needs are met, money does very little to increase happiness.

Happiness is sharing a meal with your loved ones. Happiness is laughing over a latte with friends. Happiness is being present with your children. Happiness is being astonished by the beauty of nature and the miracle of life. Happiness is when you realise  just how rich you really are.

All is Well

In his movie The ShiftDr Wayne W. Dyer speaks about the first nine months of our lives. He points out that, in utero, everything is taken care of for us. We don’t worry about how we’re going to look or what we’re going to do when we leave the womb. We simply are. We are in total surrender.

Dr Dyer then puts forward this theory: If everything is looked after for us while we are in our mothers’ bellies, who’s to say that the same doesn’t hold true throughout the rest of our lives? So, when you’re worried about money, your career, health, children or love life, take a step back and let go of control. Release your ego’s expectations of how you think things should happen. Everything is unfolding exactly as it should. This does not mean that you give up. It is the opposite of giving up. It is trusting that all is well.

I came across this quote recently by an unknown author: “Everything will be okay in the end. If it’s not okay, it’s not the end.” And Florence Scovel Shinn wrote: “Replace fear with faith.” I remind myself regularly of these two quotes. Some people think that faith and surrender are too passive, even stupid, that we have free will and need to take action in order to survive. I believe that once we, as Florence Scovel Shinn put it, replace fear with faith, we become more aligned with our true potential and purpose. Grievances, hardships, mistakes and disappointments no longer have such a strong hold over us. We have faith that we are loved and that all is well. Thus, we are stronger and more confident in our quest to live life fully and to fulfil our destiny.

We were born as human beings onto this planet and we are an integral part of this magnificent universe. However, soon after our birth, we began to doubt our perfection. We started to question our self-worth by filling our minds with fears, worries and insecurities. We have removed ourselves from the present moment and insist on living out of the past and the future. We don’t believe that we will be okay, that we are okay. Yet, we trust that the animals, trees, plants and flowers are okay. They grow and feed and reproduce without worrying. They have all that they need when they need it. And when they lose their leaves or wilt or even die, we trust that it’s part of the natural process. New leaves and flowers appear. Saplings bounce out of the earth. Why should we doubt that this does not apply to us as humans?

We are a perfect creation of God. We were born out of pure love. We are pure love. What we call evil or sin is just a movement away from God, away from love. And God loves us regardless. It is this unconditional love that we need to accept. This trust that all is well. This surrender to the wisdom, beauty and omnipotence of the Universe. For once we surrender, we can truly appreciate and enjoy each and every moment.

all is well

Fear of rejection: being burned by the fire of desire

Have you ever wanted something so bad but been too afraid to go for it? Have you allowed opportunities pass you by as you looked on helplessly? I’ve cried tears of sadness, confusion and frustration over things I haven’t had the courage or the confidence to pursue.

For me, a fear of rejection has always paralysed me. I would grieve someone before confessing my feelings for them. I ‘ve struggled with a lifelong delusion of not being wanted or loved. I doubted my right to happiness, fulfilment and even a space on this planet.

In my early twenties, if I was in a busy café and there were people waiting to be seated, I would become agitated and hurry my coffee because I clearly thought that I didn’t deserve a place as much as these strangers did.

"And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom." Anaïs Nin

I assumed that I’d never be lucky enough to experience true love or enter into a functional relationship. I had obviously come to the conclusion that I wasn’t worthy.

I remember a time not so long ago when I was talking to someone I was interested in romantically. As he spoke, I just wanted to reach out and touch him. But I didn’t want to scare him away or make myself vulnerable. So I just smiled and nodded and slapped back the desire, turning it into something that had to be suppressed, a flame that had to be quenched for fear of burning myself.

I could never let a guy know that I was interested in him as the fear of rejection was too great. I couldn’t handle another confirmation that I was unlovable. And so I was left with all these feelings and nowhere to vent them. It was a lose-lose situation. I was either denying myself the pleasure of getting with a wonderful man or losing myself in a fantasy world of misinterpreted hope, where it was possible that, one day, I’d ride into the sunset with a man who had absolutely no interest in me, sunsets or riding.

I often marvelled at the courage of some of my friends who were confident enough to ask men out. One friend told me that, on a night out, she simply grabbed a guy’s face and kissed him. I delighted in her story but the thought of doing something similar caused me to shut down in terror.

I would rather wait to be asked out. However, I recently realised that this meant giving my power and freedom of choice away. I neglected the possibility of selecting whom I wanted to date. I have to admit that this is an area I still need to bring awareness to. I don’t know if I’ll be shoving my face into a man’s any time soon but I’m working on it.

This process begins by noticing the magnificent light that shines brightly within me. I’m awakening to my life’s purpose. I now appreciate my talents and quirks and I’m finally recognising that I am fun and interesting and lovable.

If you are full of desire for something but are too terrified to pursue it, ask yourself why. What is it that you want? What are you afraid of? Sit with the answers you give yourself and the emotions that this will bring up.
You may even realise that you’ve built the person/state of being/trip/job up so much that the reality of acquiring said item would be a lot different from the scenario your imagination is creating. The thing you want shimmers before your parched soul like a spectacular mirage.
 

"Without awareness of bodily feeling and attitude, a person becomes split into a disembodied spirit and a disenchanted body." Alexander Lowen

 

You may also identify that you’re feeling starved of affection, approval, success or enjoyment. Try giving yourself these things. You don’t have to wait until you’ve got a promotion/date with Mr I-think-is-Right/airline tickets for an African safari. Embrace the wondrous nature that is right on your doorstep if you would just open your eyes. Treat yourself to some self-love, understanding and compassion. Talk to yourself. Become your new best friend. Respect the inner strength that has taken you to this point in your life. You are a survivor. You don’t need to be wearing a power suit or a wedding ring before you can deem yourself worthwhile. Delight in the miracle of your very existence.

That’s not to say don’t go for what you want out of life. Set up your own business. Ask your crush out. Plan an exciting trip for your upcoming holidays, be it backpacking around Southeast Asia or rediscovering Ireland’s coastline.

And if you get knocked back, be gentle with yourself. Then congratulate yourself on your courage and determination. Recognise that this particular path is not going to take you to your desired destination and simply change direction. As you release the fear, the baggage you’re carrying on your journey will become lighter. And when you no longer have to lug that heavy weight across your shoulders, you’ll be free to look up and notice the magnificence of your surroundings.

This song resonates with me as I can’t imagine being able to vocalise these lyrics to someone I cared about. Yet…

Images: ninjabetic.com; briandunlop.com; amazingdata.com