Connections in this heavy life

Nine years have passed since my life was shattered by depression and anxiety. Tonight, as I sit here typing on my laptop, it's hard to imagine how someone could be suffering so deeply that suicide could seem like the best solution. But nine years ago, I felt the pull to end my life. The pain was too heavy, I couldn't see a future. My world was a mix of meds, doctor’s appointments and therapy appointments. Repeat, repeat, repeat. Just trying to get out of bed in the morning was a monumental feat each day. I couldn’t see hope. I was blinded by my depression. I thought maybe it would be easier to just stop living.

Fortunately I didn’t sit with those thoughts alone for too long. I was completely ashamed of having those feelings, but something inside me begged my heart to tell my husband and my parents. And so I did. They fought like hell to get me back from the ledge. I do know how lucky i am to have the support system which surrounds me.

It was during that time my dad suggested I take a part-time administrative job to pass the time and give me something to do while I worked on getting well. I was hired by an overly-confident, condescending VP to manage his calendar and other secretary work. His management style exacerbated my anxiety. I dreaded going to work three days a week, although I made several friends in the office who made it tolerable, so I stayed.

 

Bertie was my angel when I was there. A soft-spoken, slim African-American woman in her fifties, I’d take breaks just to walk by her reception desk and chat. She’d invite me to pray with her, the worn bible always in her purse, pages marked. I know she could sense my unease. Sitting beside her with my hands folded in my lap and her gentle voice reciting psalms and prayers, my breath steadied. I felt loved and noticed.

 

This week I learned of two suicides in our local area: one a young, prominent veterinarian, the other a 19-year old girl with a beautiful smile. News circulated today about a mother suffering from postpartum depression and anxiety who took her baby’s life and then her own a few weeks ago. Then the Lafayette shooting in the movie theater where it’s been reported the gunman had serious mental health issues. And of course the Sandra Bland story. So much sadness. So much lost.

 

My heart breaks for the families and friends of these victims of mental illness. We have so much work to do.

You may not be one of the 25% of Americans who live with a diagnosed mental illness. But chances are extremely high that someone in your life, someone you love, does live with a mental health disorder.

 

So what would happen if we would pay closer attention to the people around us? Be open to noticing when a friend is struggling and extend a supportive listening ear and a hug. Or help that person into counseling if you suspect they’re not taking care of themselves the way they should be.

 

In our day-to-day activities, even simply looking people in the eye and smiling can make a huge difference in someone’s day. You might be the only person who noticed them. We’re so attached to our devices that we barely look up anymore and connect with the people in front of us. I’m totally guilty of it too, but we can change.

I know it seems unfathomable to think that someone would choose to end their own life. But when your entire world collapses on top of you, and you cannot muster the strength to pry it off to start over, giving up feels like an easy way out. Let’s connect as a society so that people realize their lives are worth living. Don't underestimate the power of extending a hand to someone in need.

Happify yourself!

Happify Pioneer Badge

 

I attended Listen To Your Mother DC yesterday and it was another incredible show. At the after-party, I met up with several cast members from last year's show, as well as had the opportunity to meet some of this year's lineup. It was really fun to get to know such intricate, intelligent writers. The stories from the show were so moving, funny, and touching, it was an honor to be in the audience listening {and drying an eye from time to time}. As we chatted over a carafe of yummy sangria, the conversation turned to blogging and I ironically found myself mentioning how I don't really enjoy reading blog posts when the writer is reviewing a product.

And here I am writing my own. Funny how things come around, right?

I like to think this is a little different though, in that I wasn't provided a bunch of free loot in exchange for writing a review on my blog. I wasn't given anything, in fact, except this cute little button to add to my blog. I simply happen to enjoy this site and wanted to share it with my readers. I believe it has an especially positive impact on folks like me who live with some form of depression {or have struggled with it in the past}, because they may experience psychological benefits from participating and learning the science behind what creates our happiness.

{I am not a doctor, by any means. I have though, read about the positive adjustments we can make to our moods by learning and then doing the activities that make us happy. I very much believe in the science of happiness, and therefore, I believe in Happify. Please, read on to find out why.}

Several months ago I was contacted by one of the Co-Founders of Happify via Twitter and was asked whether I'd like to join on as a Pioneer. Happify is a NYC-based company with a vision of bringing the science of happiness to mass market in an entirely new kind of way. They created an exciting new social network product which uses media, interactive activities and games, as well as social connections and comment features which allow users to form daily happiness habits while at the same time "meeting" other like-minded happiness seekers. I was curious. My issue was with the number of social networks which I was already using: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Vine, and Instagram. I can barely keep up with them all as it is, and wasn't sure I wanted to add another one into the mix.

But who wouldn't want to learn more about how to increase their level of happiness each day while enjoying a little break from our everyday reality? Sounded like a Win-Win.

So I signed up and immediately jumped into the site to set up my profile and get started. It's very user-friendly and you determine how you will make the most out of the product, as you choose which "Happiness Track" to develop that set of happiness skills for specific life situations. You can switch between tracks if you get bored, and when you finish one you earn medals to show your progress in that happiness area. Members of the community are able to "Like" each other's posts and comment back and forth, creating a wonderful sense of community of like-minded individuals.

I admit, it's a bit of a challenge to stay immersed in another social media outlet, but it's one that I enjoy and feel as though I'm benefiting from the time investment I've been putting into it (about 5-10 minutes a day, a few times a week). By participating in the Happify community, I find that I'm stopping to notice the little moments of happiness in my life more often, I'm seeking out activities in my real life that boost my happiness, and I'm able to adjust my outlook on life daily in general in order to allow happiness to rise to the top more often.

I'm noticing that I'd rather spend time on Happify versus Facebook, and I like this trend.

Anywho, if you're interested in checking out Happify, they've provided me with a link so that my readers could sign up to try it out: www.happify.com.

Give it a try! I think you'll find that you're increasing your happiness with each click. Hope you love it as much as I do.

 

Happify_BML

 

Disclaimer: I was not provided any products or gifts for writing this review. The opinions expressed are my own and have not been influenced in any way. 

 

Mental Health Awareness Week

This week is Mental Health Awareness Week. Back in 1990, Congress established the first week of October as such, given NAMI's efforts at raising awareness for mental health issues. I didn't even know until tonight when I was googling mental health ideas in order to come up with something to write about tonight in this post. I guess that speaks a bit to how "aware" the public is about mental health in our society. I read an article recently in the Washington Post about how the mental health of many Americans has been dwindling due to job loss which leads to extended unemployment and feelings of despair and helplessness. I have definitely been there myself in the past. As I read the article, I found myself checking things off that I agreed with - there were so many. How when you first are laid off, you are so sad. Then you feel a sense of excitement as you eagerly start your job search. Then as the weeks and months go on, you start to feel depleted and discouraged. I can totally see how it could lead to severe depression. The article went on to talk about how, even when these people realize that they are in need of mental health services, they no longer have health insurance so they are not able to get the help they desperately need.

I hope that our government can get it together and provide these services to our citizens in need while they are in the midst of trying to find employment during this challenging economic time. I pray that these individuals have a strong support network through family and friends, to help them through this difficult time. And I hope that the holiday season and the new year brings new jobs to those in need.

Edited to add: My husband just asked me to look at the Facebook page of a friend of his (an acquaintance) from high school. She had apparently posted some weird status updates lately and he thought it looked like she might need help. He and I have been so immersed in my mental health issues for the past six years that when something like this comes up, it throws up red flags to both of us immediately. I was almost in tears reading her words. It seems to me she is suffering and is trying desperately to reach out for help from anyone. I begged him to call a few of his friends to see if anyone knew someone who could help her. He's still working on it. I hope that somehow he'll be able to reach someone who knows her and can step in before something tragic happens. Life is worth living and I pray that she'll be able to see that.

He was able to reach one person who knows her, and that person is having lunch with another person who knows her. He asked her to call that person to explain what we've read on Facebook to see if they can help. He's also going to send her a message to ask if there is anything he can do to help. It's the least we can do.