Dealing with getting worse

When the leaves fall and the sky starts crying many of us just want to hide and cry as well. Autumn is known for causing depression. But it is even worse, when it coincides with us failing to keep moving towards our vision. Because then all we can do is crumble. And in a matter of days we are back to the very dark places we thought we had left behind for good.

We don’t talk about it, because we are ashamed of ourselves, for not keeping up the good work. For breaking the promises to ourselves. Again. We keep telling the people around us, we are fine, because we do not feel entitled to feel bad. And with us not telling how we actually are, we detach from the people around us. And just like that our entire lives become empty and cold.

We find ourselves having a tinnitus again. Find our feet tickling until we loose all feeling in them. And then we may realize that we have been not taking our medication properly for weeks. Our sleep starts being interrupted. Dreams haunting us. We keep being tired, even though we know we are getting enough sleep.

And we blame ourselves for all of it. We start hating ourselves for letting it all slide. We try to get our lives back on track. Try to focus on our visions. Try to do that homework that we have been putting off. Try to get out of bed. But nothing can stop the sadness inside us. And we know one thing: Even though we try. Even though we try to push away all the negativity, the moment one single thing goes wrong, we will fall. We are fine. For now. But there is nothing we can do to stop the sadness. To stop the cold. To stop the loneliness.

But even though we know we will fall at some point. We keep fighting. Some of us do for the ones close to us. Some do, because they do not want to admit, that they have issues, that they need to address. And some just don’t see the point. I tried to deal with it. I tried to make it go away for good. I know it won’t.

Sometimes life is not about making everything perfect. Sometimes life is about making it through. Sometimes it is about keeping the darkness at bay rather than destroying it. It cannot be destroyed. It will not go away. It will linger beneath the surface and break through at some point. All I want to do, is to make sure it doesn’t destroy me when that point comes. And at some point that has to be good enough.

But how can we make it through? It is a matter of balance in attitude and mindset. For one we have to dump perfectionism. And on the other hand we cannot give up. We need to get stuff done. We have to keep making progress.

We have to get rid of perfectionism, because if we don’t we will never be happy with our progress. And we will keep beating ourselves up.

And we need to figure out what is the most important thing to do. We need to not get overwhelmed. What we do does not have to be perfect, it does not have to be a huge task. But it has to be something. This is what makes sure, that once we feel like working towards our visions again, we don’t give up immediately because the things we did not do pilled up.

Getting motivated may be difficult, but we can, by remembering the recent things that we are pleased with or proud of. And then it is just one step at a time. Living every day a little better than the last one.

Disrespect.

I think I may have finally found the reason I cut. Or at least a mayor corner piece of that puzzle. I do not claim that it is the same for everyone. In fact I am pretty sure it is not. But I know that my core-issue is an issue many have and even though not all of us may develop self-harm as symptom working on it leads to a happier life.

When I got into therapy my goal was to find out, why I cut. Find out, what was “wrong with me”. I think my therapist was actually on to it. She said “there were just so many forces” driving me to do things which lead to me not knowing what I should do. I think the forces around me, the field of tension I was in however only brought out, what was really the issue. A lack of respect for myself. I actually realized that talking to a friend.

As long as we are not under pressure. As long as we are not tested, we just live our lives. But when we are put to the test and we need to do the right thing there are two key steps to success. First we need to know what we want. And usually that is not the thing that feels right. It is the vision we have for ourselves. A vision, that we created, while we were not in that field of tension. And then we need the courage and the strength to respect ourselves enough to act upon that vision.

And that is where I failed in the past. I did not respect myself. I was faced with decisions, I did not want to make. And I did not have the strength to make the right choice. So I turned against myself. I did not cut, because I hated myself. I cut, because I was trying to find an exit in a disorder. I was trying to escape accountability for my choices. And the fact that I did that, makes me be ashamed of myself, which is truly not helpful in building respect.

And I still get the triggers, when faced with though decisions. Which is exactly why I need to practice to respect myself. Respect my feelings, my emotions, my limits. My priorities. My vision. My values.

But I think this can be learned. When we are aware that we do not respect ourselves, we can do something about it. And I find that it is mostly recognizing, that we are more than good enough. Because trying every day to come one step closer to our vision is the very best anyone including ourselves could ever ask of us. The version of us, who is trying to become the best version of us is the best version of us. I have said that before: we cannot expect us to be perfect, when we wake up tomorrow. But we can make tomorrow the day we become a little better.

And if we hit a wall which we inevitably will, we can remember to respect that limit of ours and try again later. We do not loose at life, because we fail at something. We loose, the moment we stop trying. We are right on track even if we just try to try.

And the best thing about respecting ourselves, and acknowledging how we feel and respecting those feelings is that it makes us more confident. And it will lead to us being respected by others. Because when we respect ourselves, when we feel comfortable with ourselves, and every part of us, we will automatically demand respect.

I am not saying that we should not take responsibility for our actions, because we feel bad. I think sometimes all we need to do is try to feel a little better, try to get through a though patch, because we cannot improve ourselves, as long as we feel like the world is ending.

The journey to peace (roll credits *ding*) is not a simple one. And doesn’t end after a few weeks. And sometimes even if we think we are at peace, if we are not careful we might loose that peace. But the journey is one that we are all on. Everyone. Not just someone who is suffering from a mental disease. We all have to choose whether or not to take one more step towards peace hundreds of times every single day. We can all respect ourselves a little more.

I am so very glad I figured this one out. Because I can finally stop blaming my issue on other people. I can finally take responsibility for my cutting. Because its source is my own doing. But that also means that I can change it. And knowing this is so empowering. It is like the torch in the darkness.

I want to focus on what I want more, than I focus on what I don’t want. For one simple reason: if I focus on what I want, I focus on my vision, I focus on respecting that vision. Respecting myself in that way. Because I have known who I want to be for a long time. I just failed to become that person most of the time. Which is alright. But that will change. One step at a time.

Self-respect is not egoism. It is taking care of ourselves, and becoming the best version of ourselves, such that we can be there for others. Because we cannot do that if all we can think about is the blade. This is why self-respect is important for everyone: We are part of this world. And when we become better, the world does with us.

Hope and Pain

I realize how volatile I am. How my emotions swing from me loving from the bottom of my heart. From being the girl on top of the world to being sad, pushing everyone away. Hating.

Deep inside me the sensation has grown that I cannot be helped. No matter how many amazing people I have around me, who want to help me. And no matter how much I wish they could help me. They cannot.

This goes hand in hand with the fact that forcing someone to therapy will never do any good. We have to accept the truth at some point. We have to get better ourselves. And we have to walk this path alone. No matter how much we may fear loneliness. The only way out of the pain, is through more pain. And I am not saying, we should all give up hope. Because there is a way out. But it is not as easy as we keep thinking. And we are more alone than we like.

When there is no one there to help us, we have to help ourselves. No human being can take away our pain, no matter their efforts. All there is left to do is for us to be courageous enough to embrace the cold of this sickness and to realize that we are our only way out.

But there is one thing that all those people trying to help us can tell us: We are worth the efforts. We are worth it, even if we cannot believe it. We may not be understood. We may be in the dark. We may be exhausted from all the mood swings that throw us all over the emotional map, but we cannot give up. Because if we do, we are insulting everyone who ever tried helping us. All their efforts are in vain if we stop fighting.

Sometimes that thought is all that keeps me going. All that keeps me from grabbing a blade. Because in a world where every single thing we believe in, every single thing we feel, can become the total opposite in the blink of an eye, the blade, its impartial cold and the pain it causes becomes the only constant in our lives. Becomes certainty.

And certainty is all we long for. And when we loose faith in the people who are close to us. In the people who believe in us. When the emptiness swallows our trust, we seek comfort in the cuts. A friend once told me to put up pictures everywhere. To remind me of the people who believe in me. The people who I do not want to disappoint. Hoping that this will keep me from doing it. However all it does is it makes me feel like I already am a disappointment.

And I know that everyone who does believe in me will contradict me. But I cannot just stop feeling a certain way. I am aware that this is one step of getting better. But when it comes to getting better, sometimes every single step feels like running a marathon. And yet: we are the only ones who can run it.

So all we can do is hold on to the believe that there is a way out, even if it feels like it is going to take everything we’ve got. And sometimes even believing that there is a way takes everything we’ve got. But it is crucial to getting better. Realizing that we are the only ones responsible for what is happening to us. Realizing that we are the ones to change something, if we do not like it the way it is now.

On our way to getting better, we have so many people who wish to help us, but can’t. Well, their faith in us. Their pushing us to get better, may be the thing that gives us the will to heal. May be the thing that empowers us to run that marathon that the next step is.

Memories and their impact on us

Determinism. According to Wikipedia “Determinism is the philosophical belief that all events are determined completely by previously existing causes”. I like to hate on Determinism. Why? Because I had a very good friend who used it to justify anything. And even though he denied it, it felt to me that he was not taking responsibility for anything. To this day I still remember. And I remember that I have chosen to not use Determinism to be able to do whatever I want. But I also know that our past and our circumstances have an incredible impact on us.

This is just one example. I will always associate Determinism with that friend. And I will always remember the conversations we had about how we hardly have any free will and how helpless and sad that made me feel. But it is not the only thing that I associate with Determinism. Because I have seen that point of view, I was able to make up my own mind. And Memories are a perfect example, for how our past is part of us, but not what defines us.

We have memories. Maybe we associate a song or a movie with a certain person or situation. And every time we get confronted with said song or movie we remember. But the thing is: if that memory pains us we can do something about it. We can reprogram our brains to associate the movie or song with something else. It is like we are overwriting the memory. It is called learning. And yes, we may never forget anything that once was correlated with that song or movie. But that is actually a good thing. This memory is part of us. And we learn something with everything we experience. But just because we do not forget, does not mean that we will always remember that certain person or situation with the particular song or movie. And it will definitely not make us loose ourselves, just because the song was played in the mall.

When we look into our past, we will find things that we consider mistakes. And there is no use in denying anything. Just because we wish something never happened, we cannot simply forget it. Those memories are part of who we are today. And coming to terms with those things means admitting our mistakes. Sometimes even regretting them. But we cannot dwell on them. Because our past does not define our future. Our past may be an explanation to certain things, but do not let it be an excuse. We must learn how to rewire our brains such that we do not suffer an emotional reaction every time we think of certain chapters of our past. (Don’t get me wrong, emotional reactions are nothing to be ashamed of. But there are certain times, when we’d rather not show them, because they would be plain inappropriate.)

We cannot deny our past. But we can decide how we react to it. We can decide what we take from it. We can decide how we want to live right now.

I do not know if some day I will not feel triggered every time I run across a craft-knife or a classical razor-blade. But I know that I have not cut in a month and that this is something I can be grateful for. Every time I see those blades I can remember the pain of this world. And I can be grateful that I have experienced some of it. Because it means that when I say “I understand, what you are feeling.” I am not lying. I know that my cutting has given me a totally different approach to addiction and I dare say I understand it better now. And if all it did, was teaching me how to be less judgemental, I am grateful.

I do not deny that I have the urge to take a blade and just run it over my skin, especially in the evenings. Especially when I am alone. But whether or not I do is not predetermined. Just because I have cut in the past, does not mean, that will do it again in the future.

A totally different aspect of memories is, that I believe it is, what ties us to people. Because if we could not remember, we would never get close to anyone. We would never learn to value or fear the people in our lives. And this is important to keep in mind, when we want to interact with people. When we wish to get close to someone. Sharing memories is probably one of the strongest bonds there is. And the friendships that can grow from those bonds is precious beyond words.

Forgetting someone we share a lot of emotional memories with… I do not think it is possible. We come across people in our lives, that we may wish to forget. But chances are we will never get them out of our heads. Because we do not simply forget memories. We can do the same as with anything: Reprogram. But we will never really forget. And I wish I could say I am okay with that. And some day I think I will be. Everyone who we across will teach us something. And we do not want to forget those lessons. The pain will fade with time. But the memory will stay. We will remember. And thinking about it is beautiful, because sharing memories with someone we may not engrave our names in their heart (huh this line is cheesy) but we will engrave the lesson that we taught them in their brain. Which is worth so much more.

All in all: we cannot forget our mistakes. We cannot forget people. But we can choose our future. We can choose to learn from the past. And to not make the same mistakes again. And this way even when we cannot get rid of the painful memories, we grow. We learn to understand the world and ourselves. And those memories will keep the lessons alive. This is forgetting is not even that desirable. We want the pain to fade. I get it. I really do. And it will fade. But there is no need for us to fight the memories. Fight our past selves. We just need to have the courage to accept who we were and who we are today. And then we can decide who we will be in the future.

The Good Place: Surrounding ourselves with Positivity

It has been a few months since I got hocked on to The Good Place. In just a few months it turned into my absolute favorite show. It is about a self-centered woman who accidentally ends up in the good place which is pretty much heaven. In order to not be sent to the bad place she tries to become a better person and earn her place in the good place.

This in itself sounds like a perfectly enjoyable piece of television, but this is not the reason I write about it on this blog. The show made an actual impact on me. Not only was able to laugh from the bottom of my heart, but I became more positive. Because all those bright pictures and all that happiness that is constantly shown in the series made me happier. In addition to that it discusses several philosophical concepts which allowed me to straighten my view of the world a little more.

But it was when I listened to The Good Place -The Podcast- that I suddenly realized one thing: All these amazing people who work on The Good Place have one thing in common: They radiate appreciation and happiness. The producers, cast members, directors, writer, everyone is aware of what an outstanding piece of art they are creating and they are grateful to be part of it. One of them once said in awe : “This is our job!” Meaning they can almost not believe, that their life is so perfect.

I find this so very inspiring. It means that working towards a wonderful life is not in vain, but it also means that appreciating one’s life the way it is, is possible and a great source of happiness. And here’s another thought: If we hate on what we are doing on a daily basis, we will never become great at what we do, because we keep avoiding it.

There is one other thing: The shows we watch and the people we surround ourselves with have an impact on us. If we watch dark movies all the time, we might get nightmares (has happened to me before) but if we watch happy TV shows, we will be a little happier in our own lives as well. And surrounding us with happy people, or just spending some time listening to happy people talk, can inspire us to be happy. It makes it easier to be positive day after day. And being positive does not only affect us. As I said before: positive people have an awesome effect on their surroundings. And if we are positive, we can make our friends and families a little happier.

That is why I think trying to be happy, surrounding us with happy shows, music etc. is worth it. It makes us and those we love happier.

Happiness: An elaboration

Here’s the thing: We all strive for happiness. But I think the term “happiness” is overused and therefore without meaning. So let’s have a closer look. I have found there are three kinds of happiness:

  1. Momentary emotional happiness: excitement
  2. Long term emotional happiness: base level happiness
  3. Rational happiness

Excitement is the kind of happiness where someone is jumping up and down in joy, because the happiness cannot be contained. This kind we experience, when we for example see something pretty, or when we get a phone, or dress. It is the kind of happiness, that lasts for minutes, hours and in rare cases for a day or two. And it needs a trigger.

Base level happiness is way less outgoing. It is a state where a human being is content and no matter what happens in one’s daily life, we trust, that it will be alright. And while of course, we get mad or sad from time to time, we still have that underlying happiness and peace to keep us from letting the negative emotions get to us. It is however an emotion, because we feel happy at the core, even if we are going through a though patch.

Rational happiness is tricky: This is when we do not feel happy. We may even feel sad, but we know that we have no reason to feel that way because our life is more or less very good. It is when we keep telling ourselves, that we are fine. When we try to feel better, because we cannot see the reason for not being happy.

How do these affect our mental health and how can they be utilized?

Excitement is, what we get, if we are depending on someone or something for our happiness, this is why depending is an issue. Excitement can keep us from becoming base level happy. While it really only makes us momentarily happy. And that’s how we develop addictions. We feel happy for a bit, then it goes away and whatever it is that made us happy: we need it again. That can be drugs, alcohol, shopping, sex and watching TV or even things that we would not typically be viewed as potentially addictive like studying or reading or playing with a pet.

The problem with excitement really is the dependence, which again only occurs, if we are not happy on a base level. Let me explain: There is nothing wrong with having a glass of wine to loosen up once in a while. But we have a problem if we do not feel comfortable when we are sober anymore. This also ties in with my latest post about relationships: of course we get excited about our relationships. And of course we experience happiness beyond description. It is natural and great as long as we do not depend on that to make us happy. Because excitement is not base level happiness, which is really what makes us happy in the long run.

Rational happiness is what many of us have. We nourish it by practicing gratitude and by focusing our mind on the good things in life. It is what we can experience even when we are at our lowest emotional state. This can lead to frustration. Because we feel bad, but we know we should be fine. And we start faking. We start hating ourselves, for feeling down for no reason. It can also lead to us questioning if we are actually bad or if we make ourselves miserable.

On the bright side however rational happiness can help us tab into base level happiness. Because we can actively tell ourselves that our lives are good. And if we tell ourselves often enough at some point we will believe it. Of course we need experience to back this up, but in essence that is how it works.

And finally there is base level happiness. And I have hinted at it a lot: it is what we want to achieve. Because the others are either not emotional or they are to momentary. Both of them can help to achieve it. Because with excitement we can experience why we are happy. And rational happiness helps us to preserve that excitement. Helps us see, why we are actually happy. So in essence base level happiness is what we get when we combine excitement (pure emotion) with rational happiness (pure rationality). But there is another aspect to it: and this is the longevity of base level happiness. And this is what ties happiness to positivity and awareness: We experience the calm of this happiness, because we stopped searching for happiness outside our lives. We stopped thinking: “Once I do this or that life will be better.” or “Once I get this or that, everything will be easier.” and instead started loving what we are doing on a daily basis.

To start doing that rational happiness can help. It helps to identify the nice things. And then we can start feeling that happiness. When we go to bed, we can look forward to getting up because we can go do our jobs. Whatever that may be. At this point there is one important realization: We are not getting up, for our alarm clocks. We are getting up, because we chose to. Because there is a day awaiting us. And it will be an awesome day. And sure, there will be moments, when we wish we could just walk away, but isn’t there a reason, we are not walking away? Are we not sitting through that meeting to get ideas on how to improve? Are we not trying to understand that mathematical formula to be able to solve problems later on? And are those goals not what we genuinely want?

This is the beauty of base level happiness. It allows us to be happy with our life for the sake of our lives. It makes us independent and self-confident. And it gets us through the rough patches, because it is not only the exciting things in our lives, that we love, but also the constants: the things we do on a daily basis. And even if these things fork (Good Place equivalent for f*ck) us up hard, we trust that it will be alright. Because when it comes down to it, we chose them for a good reason. In my experience this makes life so calm. We stop thinking about what others think of us, because we are content. The fear just goes away. And deep down we know that when it comes down to it everything is just fine. We stop hating ourselves, because we are living the life we want to live.

How the heck do we achieve base-level happiness?

Create a vision of yourself. A vision of our lives. I elaborated on this in a previous post. When we start doing what we want to do, which is exactly what happens when we start working towards our vision, we can love what we are doing, even when it’s hard from time to time. And the other point is to enhance the other two kinds of happiness. For example: get a hobby that we love doing and gets us feeling good. And of course, enhancing rational happiness by trying to make our mindsets more positive.

Noticing how independent we actually are, because at any point in our lives we have the possibility to just walk away. This means, we do have the power. Even if we are fighting some sort of mental illness, we can still walk away. We can still choose what our life looks like, which is really all we could ask for isn’t it?

Emotional Intelligence: Curse or Gift?

No feeling understood can be the source of great pain. It is a symptom for many mental diseases, such a Borderline Personality Disorder, Bipolar Disorder, Social Anxiety and more. Not being understood leads to the loneliness that we humans dread so much. Feeling a bit lonely from time to time appears to be a normal part of life and nothing to stress out about. It is not like anyone who ever feels lonely has a serious mental issue. But when is feeling lonely an actual problem? When is the pain that it causes too big to be ignored? Being honest I think this has a lot to do with how the individual experiences the loneliness. But at the point, where it seems that the isolation starts to swallow everything it is definitely a problem.

Now, where does this all-threatening loneliness come from? Throughout history there have been brilliant minds such as Van Gogh who suffered from severe mental disorders and loneliness and yet were extraordinary personalities. And we see a pattern: many artists showed this issue. But why artists? Is there something, that makes artists different from other people? Something that makes them lonely? I think there is.

It is “emotional Intelligence” and I am honest I do not like the term. It is the ability to “see deeper”. Yeah, what the heck does “see deeper” mean. It means, that an artists sees connections that others don’t. And this is why that person can be an artist in the first place: As an artist, we do not define the world newly (though some do create worlds), but we find extraordinary connections between ordinary things in life. We shed a new light on the existing world.

But this “seeing connections that others don’t” is making artists lonely. Because we think differently. The way we perceive the world is different. We feel the world differently. And often times, we cannot explain why. We are not able to tell, why this beautiful sunset moved us to tears and the people around us do not understand. We keep asking fundamental questions. We challenge reality day after day. This is what cannot be understood. Why ask the same questions over and over. Why do we see connections between separate things in reality? And sometimes, we do not even know why we just happened to know what is going on in another person. We do not know how we could find the right words to comfort them. But we probably just saw those subtle hints in the world around us and without even realizing what we were doing, we followed our “Intuition” and did the right thing.

I am throwing around words like intuition and emotional intelligence and some might still not know what it is and say that these are not scientific concepts. Well no, they are not. But intuition and emotional intelligence in essence is the ability to make connections between things. And because it is something that not everyone has to the same extent it can make a person lonely.

But there is a bright side to it: in many sciences making connections between things is crucial for progress, which means that people with high emotional intelligence have a higher probability of understanding science faster. Note that it is only the the likelihood that is affected, because it is possible, that someone has high emotional intelligence and is great at human interaction, but has problems with math, because those two fields are so different.

However if we have high emotional intelligence, we have at least some area in our life, where we see connections that others don’t. This allows us to be better in that field than other. And this is a fact that we can draw energy from. We may not always be understood. But in turn we are allowed to have a deep understanding of the world, which I personally find overwhelmingly beautiful.