I’m Done Writing This Blog!

good people“I’m done writing this blog,” I said to my wife, like I do after pretty much every post. I have two little problems working against me, you see:

First, I have what you might call high expectations about everything. When I am exactly like a mixture of Mother Teresa, Jesus, George Washington, and Brad Pitt, I will be satisfied. Actually, I probably won’t. I’ll find some reason to think I could’ve done better…probably something to do with lying about chopping down a cherry tree.

Second, I’m a wee bit oversensitive, sort of like a burn victim with open wounds walking through a forest of pine trees. I know I’m supposed to be manly and what not, but my childhood sports were gymnastics, tennis, and golf. You do the math. I take everything personally, like when a dog barks in my direction and when a couch doesn’t seem to want me sitting on it.

So as you might expect, I put a lot into these blog posts and almost always feel a sense of let down for some reason or another. Sometimes it’s because Taylor Swift doesn’t write back, and other times it’s because my post, which I thought was really great, failed to have the same viral effect as that white and gold dress from a few weeks ago.

But then people blow me away with their generosity of spirit.

For example, we just got home from a vacation provided by a former student’s mom, simply because she has a saint’s heart and thought my family might need a getaway. She also threw in gas cards to get us there and back and some spending money for our time away. Thank you, Betsy! We had an amazing time.

Or this: When we got home from our trip, one of my sister-in-law’s friends had sent me a simply spectacular gift – a book and a dvd, both intended to encourage me not to give up on God just yet. And with it was one of the kindest notes I’ve ever received, especially from a stranger who lives on the other side of the continent (California, if you’re bad at geography). The note affirmed my willingness to write openly about the rather personal shit I choose to share, and it also told me, gently, that quitting religion doesn’t have to mean quitting spirituality altogether.

I used to think that it didn’t “count” to be spiritual if it wasn’t the Christian variety, but these days, thanks to beautiful people like Jessica (my sister-in-law), who has recently helped me feel like forging ahead after a particularly tough setback, and to her friend DM (not sure if she wants her full name shared since this post will probably go viral and break the internet), I have have a teeny, tiny shred of hope that I might be able to find a spiritual life that doesn’t divide people into the Lost team and the Found team. See, I’ve always wanted to play for both teams! (Get your minds out of the gutter, people. This is a serious post.)

Many others have also reached out to me and kept me going with this blog, and I wish you readers had the attention span for me to mention them by name. Not to mention that free vacations and tangible gifts are encouraged in future gestures of gratitude, and I think it’s important for me to send that message with some tough love.

But seriously, I’m not kidding when I say that this time of darkness has indeed shown me that there are some damn Good People in this world. I used to feel like I had to believe that there were no such things as “good people” (blame Presbyterians for this…and Baptists). But there are! Go figure.

So, to all of you who have reached out to me, please know that your words of encouragement really do keep me going. That’s not hyperbole in any way. And to Betsy and DM and Jess, you are amazing souls, and my world is a better place because you exist. Thank you!

 

 

Before you go:

**If you’re a reader (and care about my recommendations), I’ve created my own Amazon store with suggested readings here.

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A Life Changing Question (with Podcast)

life changing question

 

 

Please check out my new podcast feature at the bottom of this page! Now the post…

 

 

After Riley died (see previous post) I felt completely numb. I had comforted the friend who had the devastating fate of finding Riley unresponsive in his apartment bedroom. I had hugged his broken-hearted mom many times. I had even spoken at his memorial service. Not once did my eyes well up or my voice break through all of this. I felt callous and guilty. I tried to tell myself that I saw this tragedy coming, so I had been ready. I tried to tell myself that, at the end, Riley had been so miserable that he was better off, despite what the rest of us still selfishly wanted. But nothing made me really feel the pain of losing a close friend, a kindred spirit.

Finally, after three weeks of numbness, I cracked. I’m not like an actor who can choose when these emotions will come or how strong they will be. The Mexican restaurant in Dunwoody was far from an ideal location for this needed release, but that’s where it happened. Sitting in a booth with a long-time, very close friend – one of about three people on earth I have ever completely fallen apart in front of – I shed a tear…my voice broke…and I fought back sobs for forty-five minutes.

My friend Mike had never seen me like this despite all of the times we had gotten naked in front of each other…all the times we had stripped bare together. No, no, I fear that the dirty minds out there might be misreading my completely appropriate, non-sexual metaphors. You should be ashamed.

Let me try again: Mike had never seen me cry despite fifteen years of pretty much telling each other about every up and down and deep, dark secret. He had seen my anger and plenty of sarcasm – my two preferred ways for letting pain seep out. But this was different. Mike sat there in respectful silence and said the perfect words of comfort: “Tim, we’ll figure this out together. Obviously, you’re hurting, and I’m here for you. I’m with you in this.”

We sat awhile longer as I tried to compose myself, and then Mike went and changed my entire outlook on myself…

“Tim, can you think of anyone you know who might feel what you’re feeling right now?” he asked.

I responded with the anger I had been feeling at losing someone who got IT: “Yeah, my friend who just died.”

Then he asked me a life changing question: “Tim, what would you tell him if he was feeling what you’re feeling right now?”

Clouds parting…beams of light…eyebrows raised at how much easier it suddenly felt to give myself some grace. In the span of time it took to pose that one simple question, I felt I had been given a new lease to love myself and care for myself despite how depressed and hopeless I felt around that time.

Would I ever tell Riley he needed to suck it up and keep moving forward if I knew he felt like I did right then? No, I’d tell him to take a few days off and see how he felt. Why couldn’t I make the same decision for myself without feeling guilty…like I was failing somehow?

Would I tell Riley that he’d be failing his family if he needed to call time out for a bit, spending some time alone or playing the music that was his only escape? No, I’d tell him that the best version of himself is what he owed his family, and by insisting on forging ahead on the current collision course with disaster, he was certainly not doing his family any favors. I’d tell him it was okay to be weak and to hurt and to be exhausted. I’d tell him it was okay to love himself and to get better.

Mike’s question was raised six months ago now, and I still think about it all the time. Through my mindfulness meditation practice, I’ve also been given some similar images to hold in my mind as I practice self-compassion:

One option is to call to mind a moment when your child seemed particularly vulnerable and those I’d-do-anything-for-this-child instincts took over. By imagining yourself as that very child, you can begin to feel a softness toward yourself just as if you were watching your child try not to cry after falling off his bike. You’d look at the quivering lip and say, “It’s OKAY, little one! It’s okay to cry. I know it hurts; let’s go get an icepack.” You’d hug your child and comfort him/her. (Well, I hope you would!)

Or imagine your own self at a moment in childhood when you felt particularly vulnerable, wishing someone would tell you it was going to be okay, wishing for mom or dad to pick you up and wrap you in comfort and safety. Then return to that moment and be the Adult who parents that hurting, scared child who is still inside of you…inside all of us.

If you’re like me, being tough on yourself comes rather naturally. Why can’t you be more like so-and-so, Tim, and just let things roll off your back? Why can’t you be less of a roller coaster to live with? Why do you insist on thinking about unanswerable questions incessantly? Stop, dammit! What the hell is your problem? Everyone else seems to be handling life’s realities waaaay better than you. Get it together, Tim!

But I’d never say those things to my children or to my friend, Riley, especially if I could look inside their heads and hearts and see the angst raging in them that I feel inside myself so often. I’d just want to sit with them, to let them know they’re not alone…ever. I’d want to say, “I’ll keep sitting as long as it takes because I love you. We’re in this together, all the way to the end.”

So why don’t I say the same things to Tim that I would say to Riley?

What I’ve learned in the past six months is that, when I do practice self-compassion – and I don’t think you are likely to improve much unless you take the time to actually practice – my entire outlook on my struggles changes. By being kinder to myself, I end up being more loving and patient with others. I become more honest about how I’m feeling, less ashamed to admit it. Oddly, I even feel more hopeful that the rough seas are survivable. The water may even become calm someday.

But if it doesn’t, Tim, you’re still valuable, and I still love you, always.

 

 

If you listen to the podcast, I’d love your feedback! Leave a comment below with thoughts and suggestions if you have them.

 

 

Also, if you’d like more Mike Edwards wisdom, take a look at his blog, especially if you like to hear someone express very non-traditional theological views. Enjoy: http://mikeedwards123.wordpress.com/

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Riley, We Haven’t Forgotten You (with Podcast)

Riley 3Six months ago, the world lost someone whose life was a testament to the power of perseverance. His name was Riley Sisson; he was 25-years-old; and he was my friend. But I’m being self-serving…More importantly, he was a son, a brother who cherished his sister, a friend to just about everyone who was interested, a kinder-than-normal soul, a former college athlete, salutatorian of his high school class, one-time Prom King, and now I’d like to mention once again: he was my friend.

Riley died of OCD. Sure, the death certificate says it was an accidental overdose, but Riley’s addictions were symptoms of the often-invisible (because people hide in humiliation), brutal, life-sapping disease that is woefully misunderstood – OCD. The World Health Organization lists it as one of the top 10 most debilitating diseases on earth. I’m going to keep telling people this until I’m blue in the face (pun ALWAYS intended). I’ll sound the drum for my own sake, but more importantly, I’ll do it for Riley, whose attempt to get just a tiny, fleeting glimmer of relief from the raging storm inside of his head lead directly to his death.

Please do what you can, when you can, to help me raise awareness of the reality that OCD is a torturous disease of the brain that takes away even the possibility of peace for its sufferers. It leaves parents without their children, sisters without their only brother, and it has left our world without the compassionate, gentle, and wise Riley Sisson.

When Riley died, he was in graduate school seeking a master’s in psychology. He said to me many times that the only way he knew how to turn his OCD into something positive was to become qualified to help others navigate its relentless torture. Now, I am NOT one who believes that terrible and tragic things happen SO THAT something good can come of it (we can talk philosophy/theology on this one at a later time). But, the fact is the bad things do happen, and while all of us who are left living in the aftermath of a tragedy would love a rewind button more than anything else, our only actual option is to hope we can somehow find the strength to make lemonade out of Cosmic, Rotten Lemons.

Riley’s bold and beautiful mother, Margaret, is actively showing the rest of us how to make lemonade. I met Margaret over the phone when she got in touch with me after reading my book. She only had one agenda – to meet someone else who understood the mayhem of OCD. She reached out to me based solely on her I-just-have-a-hunch-we-might-do-each-other-some-good instinct that most of us ignore all too readily.

Margaret kindly insisted that I join her and Riley at the Obsessive Compulsive Foundation’s summer conference as it was in my own hometown of Atlanta. For Margaret, the people at OCF had become her brothers and sisters who spoke the language of OCD, around whom she could speak openly and honestly, even if it came from misery’s need for company.

I, on the other hand, would prefer to reject others before they get the chance to reject me, so I avoided places like conferences. Who wants to walk into a room full of strangers and feel like an outsider? Who wants to feign interest in getting to know new people when I’m actually scared of new people, scared of rejection? Who wants to see all the evidence of people who are much farther down this same road than I am, people who have already achieved the results that I can only hope to get some distant day in the future?

Not me. I’d prefer to just spare myself the possible letdown and keep judging people while I stand outside in the rain with my defensive walls securely around me, thank you very much.

But Margaret dragged me in graciously, and she continues to do so, helping me grow more and more comfortable taking the same sorts of risks she takes in “putting myself out there” despite the fear of rejection. But I’m not the only one Margaret is drawing into this much needed sphere of advocacy. A couple of years ago the OCF awarded her the “Hero Award” for her work raising support and awareness for this cause. If you know Margaret, you’re not surprised by her tireless, gracious, persistent insistence that the mental health world pay better attention to her son…and now, tragically, to his memory. When she received the award, she told her son and everyone else that it was all for Riley. She was “just” a concerned mama wanting to protect and nurture her boy.

Today, Margaret is carrying on Riley’s legacy through a foundation she’s starting called “Riley’s Wish.” If you like being in on the ground floor of things that WILL become something world-changing, I suggest you head to the Facebook page, like it, stay tuned, and ask Margaret how you can help.

If you’re not one of the Margaret Sissons of the world, what with endless motivation and energy, it can be hard to know what you are supposed to do in the face of the inevitable losses we experience on this earth, but I happen to have an opinion on everything, and this situation is no different. So, a few suggestions for all of us who want to help make the world a kinder place in some way…

First, many of you didn’t know Riley, but I assume you know someone who has lost a loved one. Maybe it was a month ago, or maybe it was ten years ago, but I’ll promise you this: By letting the survivor(s) know that you have not forgotten their beloved, you will add a bit of hope to this world. It seems to me that when someone dies, especially a young person, the ultimate desire of his left-behind, grieving relatives is to keep him alive through fond memories and hearing his name spoken aloud. This is why they start foundations in their child’s honor, but eventually, inevitably, they start to feel like others have moved on; they feel embarrassed to still be hurting so much. So I suggest that you consider reaching out to someone today who is hurting from a loss – even one that happened a long time ago. Trust me, your friend is still hurting every day, and the best ointment for their wound is you taking the time to say their lost one’s name, to remember her aloud, to keep him alive in some way.

Next, I want to encourage all of us to make a habit of these small acts of kindness. My initial “challenge” at Riley’s funeral was for people to simply “do something…but be sure to keep doing it.” If you keep the action small and tangible (at least to start with), you might actually make a new habit out of it. You’ve probably been having those nagging hunches that you “should” do x, y, or z for so-and-so for a while now. So go do it. Follow that hunch! Then put a weekly or monthly or yearly reminder in your Apple Android G5 2.0X, and bug yourself regularly to keep making this small improvement to someone’s world.

If you’re like me, you’ll never do anything if the goal is to solve the Israel-Palestine conflict or to put Google out of business with your new idea. Start smaller…maybe call that grieving sister or heart-broken son once a week. Remind them that, while others may have quit asking how they’re holding up, you never will. And don’t fret – the Israel-Palestine thing, most likely, will still be around in a few years after you’ve worked up your stamina.

I took my own challenge and set a reminder to stay in touch with Margaret at least once a week in some way. Sure, I’ve missed a few, but the reminder is there, every Monday. I don’t need it at all anymore because we talk more than once a week these days, but I plan to leave it there just in case (Sorry Margaret – you’re stuck with me!). Six months after Riley’s death brought us even closer than we were, I now consider Margaret among my very best friends.

The one thing that we are ALL capable of doing, and doing regularly, is simply letting someone who’s hurting know s/he’s not alone. Yeah, you may fail. Who cares?

Just try. And keep trying.

People need to know they are not alone, and you can change someone’s world.

And as Margaret is fond of saying, if even one tiny tidbit of goodness comes into the world because of him…Riley would be so pleased.

 

 

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In Defense of YOU: Self Compassion

Shake the dustMy friends, I feel like writing this post as a letter to you, whoever and wherever you are. It just feels right based on what I have to say today. Today I want to tell you to have “self compassion” and watch what happens. I’m not very good at this, but I’d like to be, so this letter is to me, too. So give me a minute to defend YOU, and me…to tell you why we should practice compassion toward ourselves. The entire essence of this can be boiled down to this simple question:

Are you trying?

I mean in life…are you trying to be a good employee, spouse, friend, parent…I suspect you are not only trying but trying damn hard in fact. I know I am. So what more would you ask of yourself than to try your best? Would you berate a child who tried and tried to hit a baseball or learn the alphabet but couldn’t quite get it? I hope not, but if so, please consider some therapy.

As a parent I can say that nothing is more endearing than to watch my kids TRY. In fact, it’s even more endearing when they keep trying despite “failing.” It makes me want to wrap them up in my arms and make sure they know damn well how proud of them I am, even if they never “succeed” at this particular task.

Why shouldn’t I treat myself the same way?

I read recently (can’t remember where) that the best people on planet earth are probably not the ones we think of as Good People. The best people are probably the people with horrible internal battles who keep on fighting to grow, to stay alive, to learn to love. This reminded me of one of my favorite poems called “Shake the Dust,” by Anis Mojgani. It’s a “spoken word” poem meaning it’s meant to be performed rather than read, and it’s about as beautiful a message as there is in existence. Take 4 minutes and watch it. If you regret it and can tell me that with honesty, I’ll buy you a new puppy. But while you’re listening, I’ll bet there will be one particular line that will stand out to you. Just listen and I’ll continue below…

 

Did you hear it? The line that you can’t help but pay attention to I mean? No, it’s not “shake the dust.” It’s this one:

“This is for the celibate pedophile who keeps on struggling…shake the dust” (I suspect about 42% of you skipped it and are now going back to watch it. I’ll wait here…).

So have you ever thought about that? That there are such things as celibate pedophiles who keep on struggling against their monstrous urges every day, never giving in to this life-shattering crime. Maybe these are the best people on earth. But the beauty of this poem is not that it includes such people but that it spans the gamut from “fat girls” to “celibate pedophiles.” That’s quite a gamut! Whichever category you resonate with, what better, more profound message is there but to acknowledge your own inherent beauty and goodness, to shake the dust and be proud of who you are? I can’t think of one.

Maybe, just maybe, plain old people like you and me are at least passably good people for getting up in the morning, putting on a brave face as we go about our ordinary existences fraught with endless emotional paper cuts, broken brains and bodies, and the failures we’re embarrassed to admit make us cry in private. But also filled with the simple success of saying something kind when you want to shoot someone the bird…the two-steps-forward-one-(or 2 or 3 sometimes)-step-back dance of a romantic relationship that some days doesn’t feel all that romantic…the daily dilemmas of wanting to be a perfect parent when you are confronted daily, even hourly, with quandaries no one prepared you for in school.

So I’ll ask again: Are you trying? If you answered yes, then cut yourself some slack, give yourself the pat on the back that your boss should’ve given you, treat yourself to dessert without berating yourself for the extra calories. Tell yourself what the narrator of one of my favorite mindful meditations tells his listeners at the very end: He says, “You’re doing the best you can, and that’s enough.” You are doing your best, right? Well, that IS enough.

So shake the dust, my friends, and know that in your humanness, you are never alone,

Tim

 

*You probably know someone who needs to shake the dust. Share this with them. Or just give them a call. Or a hug.

**People often ask if it’s okay to share what I write with others, as if I am trying to keep it private. Uh, yes, it’s okay since I do publish this on the interweb. But really, I’d be most appreciative if you share this blog (or post) with others. Who knows where it will lead? Thanks for your help!

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Shame: Coming Out of the Closet

ashamed15 years ago, after 20+ years of fighting my raging mental battles, I finally found myself in a psychiatrist’s office…a place for “crazy” people, according to yours truly. I was embarrassed to be there in the first place. And then he went and opened our session with this question:

“Do you have any secrets?”

I panicked. I had spent my entire life trying to keep the torturous thoughts inside of me a SECRET. Now someone I had just met wants me to tell him these very secrets? Uh, that’s a hell, no, sir.

So I did what any good people-pleaser would do and started making up secrets so he’d feel like he was getting somewhere:

“Hmmm, well once I got a pedicure, and I sort of liked it.”

He didn’t blink. I needed something more sordid for this wizened shrink.

“I used to be a woman.” Blank stare from him, so I added, “A-and I have four other families in different cities.”

Still only a subtle I’ve-heard-worse grunt. Man, this guy is tough, I thought. I decided to try a few lies about drug use.

“I smoked pot in the 60’s with Bill Clinton AND inhaled his second-hand smoke. Now I sell heroine to elementary school kids.”

He was unfazed, almost bored.

“Tim, you can be honest. C’mon, out with it!”

(For you gullible ones: The above secrets, sadly, are fictitious, and I didn’t actually say those things to him, but I felt damn uncomfortable, that’s for sure. What follows is more along the lines of factual.)

“What is it, Tim? Go ahead. You won’t shock me,” he urged.

“Well, er, um, this is tough to say…”

And then I told him the things I was so deeply ashamed of that I felt I was literally in danger of hell for even having the thoughts in my head. Are you wondering what those secrets were? Well, despite the fact that people tell me I’m “raw” and “deeply real,” I, too, have stuff I’m only willing to share with my closest of friends…stuff that I’m still trying to get the guts to say out loud to someone.

Don’t worry; you don’t need to call the police; I haven’t killed anyone (for a long time, at least. Is last week a “long time” ago?). All of my shameful secrets exist almost entirely within the confines of my head – the thoughts that barrage my brain with crippling fear and anxiety…thoughts everyone supposedly has from time to time but they don’t spend the next 10 years obsessing about what it means about them that the thought even wandered through.

When I published my book a few years ago, people told me how brave I was (they still do). But here’s the truth about my book, paradoxical as it may be: I was so ashamed of what I was about to share that I was convinced I would be judged and/or rejected. By everyone. Honestly, it wasn’t even something I wanted to do as much as something I needed to do. I’ve often used the well-known phrase “coming out of the closet” because I imagine that my feelings and fears were probably much like someone who feels s/he has lived a lie his/her whole life and finally has no choice but to admit his/her sexuality in their mid 30’s. By “coming out” you are choosing authenticity over pleasing people you love most, who love you most. You’re admitting: “My need to be honest is so overpowering that I’ll risk complete abandonment to honor this need of mine.”

Thankfully, and to be entirely honest, this still sometimes surprises me three years later: People have been gracious, kind, and thankful to me for coming out of MY version of the closet.

Since I published my book, I’ve had a lot of people “come out” to me about a variety of things – a secret abortion in a conservative Christian family, latent-but-lingering homosexual desires despite being married-with-children, sexual abuse as a small child, drug problems, and of course mental health problems. These “confessions” have come from people who range in age from their teens to their 60’s, but what is always constant no matter the age or the circumstance is this:

SHAME.

Shame is the demonic offspring of guilt. Guilt is about something. Shame is an identity. It’s the sense that we cannot be separated from the Shameful Thing. It’s as attached as our eyeballs and belly buttons.  If we start unpacking the layers of shame, it can cause us to wonder if this particular onion is growing two new layers for every one we peel off. Eventually we aren’t ashamed about something so much as we are just plain ashamed to exist and to be who and what we are.

I won’t pretend that becoming open about your shame will solve all of your emotional problems. To be frank, when I first started telling people honestly about my internal battles, it was as hard as anything I’ve ever faced. It’s still not easy. People don’t know how to react or what to say, and if you’re like me, you assume that the blank look on their face means they’ve just put you into a mental file folder with child-molesters and gang bangers (what’s a gang banger anyway?).

Who knows? Maybe that is what they’re thinking, and I will not blow sunshine up your skirt by claiming I’m immune to the pain that can come from the blank stares or weak attempts at sympathy.

But telling someone the things you’re ashamed of is for YOU, not for them. That’s why we should share our shame. Not with everyone but with someone.

So let me offer some cheap advice (please send me $15 if you read the following advice. I said cheap, not free): Whether you want to write a book or just tell your most trusted friend, you’ll be doing yourself a giant favor to come out of whatever closet you’re in. Tell a friend, a family member, a therapist…shoot, you can even email me about it if you’d like to. That’s why I write this blog – to let you know that you’re not alone. And no matter what your secret is, you’re NOT ALONE.

You see, even if no one on earth shares your particular source of shame, everyone, if they’re honest, can relate to the confusion and persistent pain of being human. Even if they won’t admit it. This is my soapbox, and I’ll keep shouting this forever: We are all confused, struggling, hurting, ashamed, but also beautiful, majestic, powerful, and profound HUMAN BEINGS. Watch the news for 2 minutes see the horrors that humans are capable of. Then again, hold a baby and you’ll get a sense of how transcendent we are. And BOTH of these are true of ALL of us.

To fully embrace the human experience we have no choice but to acknowledge the good, the bad, and the ugly about ourselves. Failure to acknowledge and explore even the dungeons inside of us will only allow those demons in the dungeon to creep throughout the rest of our human houses called bodies, forcing us to put extra layers on the outside of our houses so we become an impenetrable fortress. We go from wearing a little makeup to cover the pimples to wearing a full-fledged mascot’s uniform…something that looks more like Elmo than whoever’s inside the costume.

But if you’ll take off the makeup before it gets as thick as a mascot’s costume, I hope and think that what you’ll see is that your secrets aren’t quite as damning as you feared. And little by little, you will start to shed the skin of shame…and once you get started, you might just start finding the Real You worth showing off from time to time…or always.

And finally, if you’re looking for some beautiful encouragement along these lines, I’ve re-posted Anis Mojgani’s spectacular poem called “Shake the Dust” below. The four minutes of your life it will take to watch might be the best 4 minutes of your day. In the spoken-word poem, he encourages everyone from “midnight cereal eaters” to “fat girls” to “celibate pedophiles” to “shake the dust,” which I take to mean this: Stand up, keep fighting, keep devoting yourself to having compassion for yourself in whatever battle you’re fighting. And WHATEVER battle it is, no matter how dark or dirty, your growing and healing process can only begin when you come out of the closet. Not to everyone, necessarily. But to SOMEONE.

PS. I have no job and only 3 skills: writing, talking, and over-sharing. Thus, blogging and being an advocate for mental health issues is how I’d like to solve the no job problem. People often ask if it’s okay to share what I write with others, as if I am trying to keep it private. Uh, yes, it’s okay since I do publish this on the interweb. But really, I’d be most appreciative if you share this blog (or post) with others. Who knows where it will lead? Thanks for your help!

 

Scroll down to see “Shake the Dust” and a couple of interesting links regarding shame…

 

Anis Mojgani performs “Shake the Dust.” This is worth watching every day:

 

More resources:

Here’s a great web page that examines shame in a more clinical sense…great resource:  http://www.emotionalcompetency.com/shame.htm


Post Secret
– an entire website dedicated to letting people share their secrets. I’m torn as to whether this is a good thing or not because the person “shares” the secret but still remains anonymous…and probably very ashamed. I think the sharing is good, but it needs to be done in real time, even face-to-face to start the deeper healing process. Still, a fascinating site.

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From Ann: How to Take Care of Yourself So You Can Help Someone with Mental Illness

Family 10Hello,
My name is Ann. I am Tim’s wife, #1 fan and biggest supporter. I am the mommy to our 7 year old daughter and 4 year old son. I am a daughter, a daughter in-law, a sister, a sister-in-law, an aunt, a niece, a friend, an employee, and a neighbor. I too deal with anxiety and depression, as well as a lingering issue with body image. While I will always proudly be these different parts of myself, especially a wife and mommy, something happened to me last week that I want to share.

I came undone.

For the last two years, I have been in crisis mode. It’s hard to know how to help someone with mental illness, and frankly, Tim’s unstable and fragile mental health have been an ever present worry and fear. Most of the time, I have pulled on my big girl panties, put my head down and carried on. Not last week; a tiny hole in my armor appeared and kept growing until all my armor was stripped away.

That’s when I gave in to my anger at God for not reaching down and fixing Tim’s brain. I gave in to the mental, emotional and physical exhaustion that have been looming but continually getting pushed away. I realized I had isolated myself from friends and my children’s schools in order to work more hours.

I was my last priority and I couldn’t function that way anymore.

You have probably heard this information countless times, but the advice from the flight attendants really should be followed, whether you are on an airplane or simply doing life. Put the oxygen mask on yourself first, help the others around you second.

I am working on making some changes in how I prioritize myself while supporting, partnering and living with my husband who has significant mental illness.

I meet with my therapist once a week.
I am blocking out 15 minutes each day to walk the dog.
I am also blocking out 15 minutes each day to sit and read in the quiet of my home when my children are at school.
I make plans to have coffee or lunch with at least one friend a week.

I’ll be honest, I just decided on these within the last week, so I haven’t quite worked in numbers 2 and 3, but I did make time for 1 and 4!

If you care for someone with mental illness, whether a spouse, a child, a sibling, a parent, a friend or a neighbor, please consider how you can better prioritize yourself in the midst of your reality. Take care of yourself for your sake, but also for the person you so desperately want to be well.

Until next time…

 

 

PS. Friends, as you may know, life in the Blue family has taken some unexpected turns of late. Most important of all, Tim is still trying to figure out a new, sustainable career path, preferably one that puts some food on the table. Obviously, I love to write, I love to speak (link to page), and I love encouraging people. Please consider doing two favors for me: 1. For some technological reason I don’t understand, having “followers” increases a blog’s traffic. If you rely on Facebook for these updates, it would help me out for you to sign up as a follower (all the way at the bottom of the screen or on the home page). All you do is provide your email, and you’ll get an email when I post. That’s it…no other agenda or risk to providing that information (and I won’t sell it, I promise). If I’m going to be use my blog as a springboard to further writing and speaking, frankly, I need the publicity (embarrassed-to-be-asking-emoji-here). 2. If you know of a place that needs a speaker related to mental health, spiritual struggles, or just general encouragement, please let them know I exist. Or if you know of a website, magazine, or newsletter where my writing my fit, I’d love your help with that connection, too.

At the very least, I hope you’ll keep coming back and finding encouragement from this blog…that’s my main hope and the reason I’ll keep doing it even if nothing more than that comes of this adventure.

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