Category Archives: mental health

Some legit reasons men just won’t commit

This is the season for many to become serious about relationships, and Valentine’s Day is one of the most high-pressure days for men in the Western World. Ladies, it’s easy to become annoyed and frustrated with your man when he refuses to commit, but there are often some valid reasons for his cold feet. While I am not a relationship expert, counselor, or qualified professional, here are some legitimate laypersons reasons as to why men are not prepared to commit to a serious relationship.

What Have I DoneOnce bitten, twice shy: when a man is deeply wounded in a previous relationship, scars exist. Even if there’s been a so-called “rebound,” it’s not uncommon for a man to want to take his time, or even never fully commit. While most who have come out of a damaging relationship or brutal breakup are encouraged to take some time to themselves, the desire to jump back in to avoid the “lonely bug” can be too great to resist, but with that comes a fear of repeating past mistakes.  This is especially true of relationships where one or both sides were abusive.  Healing time is needed.

kate-winslet-ned-kiss-zA torch still ablaze: guys, we’ve all been there – that woman we once had the strongest feelings on earth for, be it a friend or lover, and then our hopes are dashed. That one “who got away” is the stuff of best-selling love songs.  We try to get past her to move on to someone better.  Still, the fire smolders, waiting for any perceived breath of fresh of air to rekindle it anew, and set our hearts ablaze yet again.  Teensy problem with that; we meet a truly wonderful and committed woman, and that particular little fire still burning in our hearts needs a different fuel for combustion. Until that fire is put out, a new flame cannot hope to burn steady and bright.  The man in your life needs time to put the past behind him, and sometimes a “walkabout” of sorts is needed.

Bachelorhood just feels good: for many men, being single is a great thing. After all, there is nearly zero accountability, zero need to change and almost no risk. By jumping into a committed relationship, the notion of having to actually work with someone, compromise and change oneself for the better ensues. That’s scary enough, but combine that with the idea of children, pets or meeting family, and it feels like a sensory overload most men just are not ready for.  Time won’t cure this one; only maturation will.

yellingUnreasonable expectations: ladies, here’s where it gets unpopular. It’s very easy for women to decide they want a commitment from a man who is, honestly, just doesn’t want it. It could be any number of reasons, but the fact is some men just around ready for commitment, and some never will be. The worst situation of all are men who commit for the wrong reasons, such as custody of children or financial reasons. These almost always devolve into explosive and dangerous breakups.  Communicating expectations is key here, but even the most thorough communication may result in an ending.

Ultimatums: Any self-respecting man, or woman for that matter, will walk away from an ultimatum to be committed. If you tell your beloved “if you won’t commit, I’m out,” you should expect to be alone, period. To give any significant other an ultimatum to commit can be regarded as holding someone hostage emotionally, even if the person being held hostage is the ultimatum giver. Once you’ve gotten to the ultimatum point, the relationship is likely on borrowed time.

Finally there is Superstition: this is the one reason some men use and it’s based on the notion that Valentine’s Day commitments, proposals and such are bad luck. Now, that being said, it’s easy to have serious regrets about saying “yes” in the hoopla of the day. It’s even more common for a woman to not want to let her man down by saying no to that diamond ring. Many relationships which escalate on this day often fail down the road, so many men are skeptical about the validity of proposing in any way on Valentine’s Day.

Some of us just won’t be good commitment material, and sometimes it’s a matter of feeling “they can do it, why can’t I?”  We’ve all been there, and some of us grow out of it faster than others.  So ladies, cut your man a small break if he’s unable to commit.  Let him tell you in his way, in his time but, be aware, some men really aren’t ready to take that big leap. Be kind, compassionate and loving, but firm. Don’t let him hold you hostage, but don’t hold him hostage either. Compassion and love goes far further than demands and frustration, and the commitment which can result may be the best thing you’ve ever known.

A word about why American politics are so f—-d up.

Warning: this post may be offensive to everyone on earth. Better to close it now and get it over with.
Since the inauguration of Donald Trump as President, protests and riots have swept across the nation.  The new President has signed executive order after executive order, and the country is more polarized than ever.  The more I look at things, the more I can see the origins of a lot of these issues and it comes down to a saying by the late pro football coach Vince Lombardi:

“Winning isn’t everything, it’s the only thing.”

Somewhere along the way, both the left and the right decided that their way was the not only the right way, but the only way to run things.  Instead of being open to new ideas and practicing moderation, extremism took root, aided by the absolutism made fertile by talk radio hosts, many of whom have turned out to be, themselves, outright hypocrites.  Both left and right pointed the finger at each other, decrying the other’s way as “evil” and “corrupt,” tossing about buzzwords like “income redistribution,” “globalism,” “market freedom” and “indoctrination.”

In the end, both sides are guilty of fomenting national discord for the sake of their own ambitions and avarice.  Both extremes are akin to fans of opposing teams in the Super Bowl who use the exact same offensive and defensive strategies.  The only differences are the cities represented, team colors and the one massive variable:  personalities.

This year’s Super Bowl is a great example. New England’s Tom Brady is a person who draws absolute reactions.  You either love him or you hate him.  You either admire his guile for exploiting lax rules enforcement with “deflategate,” or he is a cheater.  For Atlanta, you either love Matt Ryan for his stoicness in games and his ability to heave the ball downfield with stunning accuracy, or you hate him for his occasional post game showboating and arrogance or the demands of owner Arthur Blank.  Long story short, team affiliation and cults of personalities determine the fan base.

America’s political landscape is much the same way anymore.  It’s no longer about “what’s right for America.”  Rather, many citizens have become so fed up with the demands of either side, their rhetoric, and the approach to life their supporters take, the “win at all costs” attitude has permeated American politics.  You either love Donald Trump and what he espouses, or you loved Hillary Clinton.  Anyone who isn’t on the side of an extreme allegiance is a gutless moderate, or an independent who is immediately picked apart for which side of the ideological aisle they most identify with, regardless of if their heart is good.

We are no longer a nation which compromises for the good of all; we are a country obsessed with winning and being “right,” even if being right means may the good of the nation be damned, so long as our side prevails.  We no longer see shades of gray, or the empty spaces in between the argument where facts get lost in the name of victory.  It is now black and white terms:  good and evil, order and chaos, life and death, left and right….and zero in between allowed.

Both sides are guilty on this one.  The far right has pushed gun rights, the far left gun restriction.  The far right pushes free market and free will as the answer to everything, while the far left pushes government as the solution.  Both sides point the finger at each other when something goes wrong.  A great idea is only a great idea of our side came up with it.  If one side comes up with a truly great idea, the other side will do everything they can to stop it, and vice versa.  Why?  Because it wasn’t their idea. They can’t take credit, so they want no part of it.

This is where our nation has been taken. Compromise is death.  Bipartisanship is evil.  The left will destroy the rights of all.  The right will destroy the rights of all.  They are both the same, but they are different.  The left wants people to be lifted up, but so does the right.  The only difference is the means it happens and who at the very top benefits.  It’s old money family rivalries on a global scale.  The same monster with two heads and the same master manipulating both heads, in this case the people are the brains inside the heads, to fight each other.

But why?

Did it not occur to anyone here that if a world leader with access to nuclear weapons gets into a pissing match with another world leader with nuclear weapons in this age of “pride before prudence,” things could end VERY VERY BADLY? This is not the old Cold War era where world leaders understood the concept of mutual assured destruction. In this era where all that matters is winning, regardless of the cost, MAD isn’t really so crazy anymore.  It’s considered “acceptable risk.”

That said, here’s something think about:  all the protests and guns on earth won’t mean shit if there’s nothing left to protest or no one to kill. Yes, people are angry at each other and there are powerful people making a ton of money off pitting us against each other, but do you really think any of them give a damn about YOU when the mushroom clouds start rising? They already planned for this years ago.  At the risk of sounding like a conspiracy theorist, anyone who thinks those in position of true power haven’t found some way to gain from a world atomic holocaust are sadly mistaken.  They get to rebuild the world, only the way they see fit.

We can stop all this madness, but we need to focus on what we see happening, not the rhetoric being said or the memes being posted. Focus on what’s real instead of what is imagined. We still have a judicial system and civilian control of our military. I know people are saying we need to strike “just in case.” What is that going to accomplish? To all of you wanting a civil war to settle it all, do you really think that dying for SOMEONE ELSE’S CHECKBOOK is more important than the ideals espoused in our Constitution and Declaration of Independence, because I guarantee you that most of your radio and television pundits and commentators, liberal or conservative, couldn’t remember the Bill of Rights, much less which state first ratified the constitution.  They CAN, however, remember their bank account number and safe combination, easily.

Those want to die, or are okay with friends and loved ones dying, to impose their worldview of America on everyone else, are EXACTLY the sort of danger George Washington spoke of in his farewell address. We need to take a long hard look in the mirror as a nation, stop worrying about who is offended by who said what and what injustice was committed by people long dead, and instead focus on the injustices being committed right now, against us by each other. We need to look at our current immigrants who may not have gotten here legally, but are law abiding otherwise and a great source of tax revenue.  We need to look at our homeless and see how much of it is true laziness and how much of it is actually mental illness which, once treated effectively, can unlock the minds of potential geniuses.  We need to feed our hungry children so they can feel compassion and grow into compassionate adult instead of bitter children in adult bodies vying for the power they never knew in youth.  We need to help our veterans who our leaders have come to view as similar to sanitary napkins; something to absorb political blood in photo ops and rituals, but disposed of once they’ve outlived their usefulness.  We need to address the reality that racial tensions exist not so much as the result of what happened over a century ago, but the mistrust formed between races because of old fears turned into old wives tales, which have in turn become cultural norms.
Finally we need to remember and accept that assimilation does not mean elimination.  A people can become law abiding productive citizens without being forced to abandon their cultures and customs.  Immigrants should have to learn our language, history and abide by our laws but should not be required to abandon their heritage and culture in their own homes.  

Yes, there will always be those who wish to harm us, but we should never do the work for them, and our current political climate is doing just that.  We are truly doing our enemies’ dirty work.  We can, we must, learn to listen to the better angels of our nature.  That is what a “more perfect union” is about, after all.

A misconception about “friend-zoning,” and what can be done

I recently read a post about the dreaded “friend zone” and saw some genuinely caustic remarks from both men and women about they are tired of hearing this term.  One man said the old refrain of women are not “just machines you can put a few tokens in and hope sex comes out.”  While this is a truism, these gripes and calls to stop using this term and it’s more aggravating related “family zone” slang actually raises a counter argument few want to consider:

This isn’t about sex; it’s about a sense of frustration with people going after the “wrong” instead of the perceived “right.”

Let’s face it; we all make this mistake at some point.  There’s that man or woman who we befriend, get to know and, somehow, absolutely fall head over heels for and take a chance on pursuing it.  For whatever reason, the feeling just isn’t mutual.  Whether it is as basic as a lack of physical attraction, a deep seated fear of wrecking a good friendship, or something  much deeper which makes a relationship impossible, one thing is certain.  This situation absolutely sucks. 

It’s a perfect lesson of “life’s not fair,” but fairness is still essential in one regard, and this is a matter which many who are tired of hearing the term “friendzone” don’t want to admit.

It’s not about sex; it’s about feelings.

Let’s be real; if a so-called “friend zone” situation was just about sex, it wouldn’t hurt near as much.  It would be a mere ego bruise; yes, a deep one in some cases, but still just ego.  The reason these situations hurt is that emotions, however misguided, have been invested.  Yes, said emotions can border on obsession, and sometimes people have a right to be nervous about the person whose unreturned affections have become stronger than expected, but in most cases, the person who was “relegated” figures out a way to deal with it, even if that means being whiny about it or removing themselves from their beloved life for a while.  Pop culture can spin it all they want; a genuinely painful friend zone experience is not about sex.  Making it about sex is little more than a tacit dismissal of the validity of someone’s feelings, and often that’s a defense mechanism to assuage guilt or anger at oneself.

Sorry to say it, but we all do that.  If you need proof, just remember how badly you bad mouthed that ex from your last really bad breakup.  You likely bitched about him or her to your buddies or girlfriends.  They were the devil incarnate.  Your BFF was likely ready to throat punch them when it was all said and done but, eventually, you burned through those emotions like a fire in a paper factory.  It’s human nature and everyone who’s been hurt does it.

There is, however, a huge difference between a “friend zone” and a break up.  In a breakup, there was a relationship of some sort which had a romantic element.  In a “friend zone,” somehow a seed of expectation was planted in the mind of the heartbroken.  That expectation is never realized, and it causes an emotional reaction due to rejection.  Whether it was justified by the actions of their beloved or a delusion of sorts, the heartbreak is the direct result of this unrealized expectation.  There is one other thing we all need to face (those who have suffered the friend zone bug recently really should pay attention here):  being “friend zoned” is, at a fundamental level, rejection.  No amount of rationalization or justification can dismiss this.  Still, rather than statement of moral judgment, it is simply defining the core issue, that many friendzone heartbreaks are actually not the result of the lack of attraction, but a much deeper issue – the insecurities triggered by this feeling of rejection. 

For those of you tired of feeling “judged” for “friendzoning” someone, it’s time to face an uncomfortable truth:  there are expectations leading to the feelings of rejection which can, in fact, be created by the person doing the rejecting.  Regardless of how much one denies “leading them on,” sometimes a behavior by the rejecting person creates the expectation, however unintentional .  It could be something as simple as habitually flirtatious behavior, or something as easily misread as an invitation to dinner.  That seed of expectation, if identified early, can be corrected to preserve the friendship prevent an awkward or painful situation.  One other thing to consider; those are well aware of their behaviors, whether it is the rejected or the one rejecting,  tend to become most defensive when called out about it.  This is not to say someone should apologize, but a means to understand the “why” of the heartbroken – granted, some folks have conditioned  themselves, out of necessitiy, to be dispassionate towards those whose hearts they break, but that comes with this territory.

Let’s be clear about one thing before going any further; this is not giving those who disrespect rejection a free pass.  Being hurt is one thing; griping to friends or family is natural and a part of life, but to retaliate in any way which causes physical harm to the rejecting party, or causes them fear of such, is not acceptable.  Those who engage in this sort of behavior need to seek immediate help.  Those who are heartbroken and considering self harm as from rejection also need to seek help.

Regardless of what people may think, those who choose to cope by talking to friends and family, even if it means complaining about the situation, or the person involved, are doing something which is quite healthy.  It is a means of humanizing the person for whom an unhealthy or unrealistic expectation was centered around.  Sometimes it means distance and isolation from that friend, but one fact remains, and it’s one which people who are tired of hearing this term need to come to grips with; a real “friendzoning” is not about sex, but genuine heartbreak.  Sadly, in the extreme case, the friendship must be ended for both parties own good.

To those who have been on the “zoning” end, do you and your friend a few favors, especially if you truly respect them and your friendship.  Give yourselves both time and healthy space to heal.  Show you care, but be detached enough that you can explain things in a healthy, compassionate way which doesn’t reopen the wound.  If that person can’t get you out of their head, encourage them to seek help or, at the least, ask mutual friends to help out.  Also, be gentle, understanding and forgiving.  That friend is suffering a deep wound, and it often takes a long time to heal because their confidence has been shattered.  Above all, never talk to them about your romantic or sex life.  That’s literally akin to giving a suicidal person a loaded gun with the safety removed.  Let them heal, be supportive (even if at a distance) and please remember the prime rule of karma; what goes around does come around. You’d want that friend to be just as caring and tender with you, right?

I’m no expert.  Just speaking from experience, and I hope this helped out a few folks who are either suffering with rejection to struggling with the “why me” question about how someone can feel that way about you when you don’t feel the same way.  The heart wants what it wants but, fortunately, that feeling is often fleeting, even if that fleeting moment lasts longer than expected.  Remember, what you put out is what you get back.  If you put out respect, caring and tenderness, it ultimately gets returned.

What those without long-term careers understand 

The current economic climate may look bright, but millions of people are discovering their jobs are, in fact, disappearing before their eyes.  Many who are in professions which are high demand are having little trouble finding work, but that is the exception rather than the rule, and not everyone has the mental, emotional and physical aptitude to be in medicine, law enforcement, engineering or information systems.  For those of us who don’t possess those skills, the job hunt can be a daunting one and careers can be hard to build.  Here are some things those of us who have not been able to enjoy long term careers understand:

Any change which makes us stronger or wiser is good, regardless of the pain involved.

It’s always a battle to prove ourselves:  like it or not, many folks who aren’t able to create long term careers find ourselves in situations where we are constantly having to show our value to an employer. We have to scrap for everything and have had very little handed to us.  We truly earn our keep.

Our “black book” has only a few trusted connections:  people with long term career generally enjoy tons of connections and develop relationships with several influential decision makers.  For those of us who don’t have this, networking becomes about who we can trust instead of who can get us ahead.  The people we know will “come through” mean more than someone who promises the moon, but can’t deliver.

Hobbies often add to our value:  some of us write, some draw, some sing.  We all have one thing in common – we have a hobby, an interest, which rounds us out makes us a valued commodity.  Our outside pursuits are often determined by what they bring to the workplace and how they can make us feel more comfortable in our job and keep us relaxed and centered.  Many folks with long term careers become “the job” and don’t deviate from it; for those of us whose career experience is diverse, it’s our outside interests, not our careers, which define our sense of self.

We RARELY get shackled by the “golden handcuffs”:  we all know that person who had the chance of a “dream job” but committed the cardinal sin of personal finance:  they became reliant on bonuses or overtime.  Those of us without long term careers learned something around the third or fourth new job – anything over BASE is “found money.” You never, ever rely on it.  That sort of mentality is a sanity killer and burnout guarantee.

We can relate to many different types of people:  being in one career for a long time has great stability benefits, but it also makes it difficult to relate to someone who doesnt speak your “professional vocabulary.”  I know several people in long term careers who do not associate with people outside their work much, simply because others don’t “get” their job or understand the myriad jargon they use.  It’s sad, but true.  Those who don’t have long term careers learn how to relate to many different people from different professional backgrounds.

We adjust to change more effectively:  those of us who have not been in one career our whole lives tend to accept change much more readily because we know change is a constant.  It’s life.  When a career is the same for long periods of time, upheaval can be very traumatic and it can even wreak major emotional and mental havoc.  Those of us with multi career lives are able to “shift on the fly” with relative ease.

Finally…

We are not married to our job:  loving your job is great.  Having a profession which gives you satisfaction is beautiful.  When you feel tired or burned out, career satisfaction is no longer relevant.  It become a just another paycheck.  Service oriented jobs are a chore, and professional work is all about the benes and the scratch.  Those of us without long term careers can bring a sense of perspective to others because we don’t allow our work to define us, we define ourself through who we are and what we love.

I hope this post offers some solace to those without long term careers.  On a personal note, I had felt that not “finding my place” in the career world was a detriment, but I’ve discovered these factors actually make me a very strong person from a career standpoint.  I found it healing to write.  Comments are always welcome.

When a World Series loss becomes a profound personal win

Every once in a while, you have one of those moments that’s a real eye opener.  Tonight was one of those moments.  I was watching the World Series and it was the seventh inning.  I was rooting for the Indians and they were losing.  Of course this brought a flood of negative memories to the surface.

I had moved to Cleveland in 1997 when I first got married.  I had run from people and places as much as I was running to someone.  I had been marginalized, or I felt that way, anyway.  I also felt abandoned, left out and completely alone.  Those I cared for had mostly gone their separate ways, were dealing with new relationships or jobs, and I felt like the last man on the battlefield.   It was as though life was passing me by, and I was squandering opportunity after opportunity.  It felt like the universe was completely against me, and it just rather I go away. 

More important, I was deeply, deeply lonely.  I’ll spare the details of that final year in person at my college, but suffice it to say my marriage was the result of a broken heart (from many factors, not just one or two) and a severe loneliness combined with an “I don’t care” attitude.  Tonight, with every strikeout the Indians took, with every run the Cubs scored, those feelings of failure and isolation flooded me more. It felt like I was reliving that awful time in my life, full of heartbreak and emotional devastation, all over again.  By the seventh inning it was 6-3, Cubs winning.

The feelings between 1997, when the Indians last made the series and lost, and now span everything from depression and defeat to anger and rage.  I made a great many mistakes in those intervening years, and hurt too many people to list.  Honestly, I would just as soon forget much of the last twenty years ever happened, aside from a few brief times, which maybe total to about five years in all.  It hasn’t been rosy, peachy or sugary sweet.  But then again, marriage is never that way – it’s real, gritty, down dirty and often fucking painful as hell.

Along the way, I did a lot of things I’m not proud of.  I won’t go into detail but let’s just put it this way:  if I could do it all over again, i either would have left my marriage six months in and spared us the trauma, or my time on this earth would have ended around December 1997.  As it stands, suicide had been considered several times over the years, but I always backed away.  The pain was great, but my fear of what may – or may not – lay beyond gave me pause.  Still, I honestly felt like I had missed out on so much.  I spent much of my twenties just surviving, my thirties attempting to make up for my foolishness in my twenties only to repeat the cycle years later.  I never had a truly “wild” or “finding myself” phase.  It was like I never learned from my mistakes.  I was afraid of being alone and more afraid of what my family and friends would think.

As I saw the Indians losing and felt all those awful memories hitting me, I was wondering if it was related to the people and places of that time, and then I realized, after I started writing, it was actually how I felt about myself.  I felt like I was a total failure in so many ways, but I really wasn’t.  It was a feeling of being incomplete because of my college education and my debt load and never truly finding a career fit, along with living in the past trying to relieve past glories and correct old defeats.  I was letting other rather irrelevant things symbolize an entire narrative, and it was tearing me apart.

My furry little lifesaver, Annabelle.

I started to realize that this world had a plan for me, and that this world was beautiful, when my cat Annabelle came up to me with a shoelace and wanted to play.  I asked myself how such a beautiful, gentle creature could love someone like me.  But she meowed and wanted daddy to play with her.  That’s when I realized it:  she loves me for me, the real me.  Once that hit me, I began to feel better and cheered up a little bit.  The world seemed a bit less cruel. The mean spiritedness, coated in the euphemisms of “getting real” and “no sugar coating,” seemed to just not matter.  Even the Indians losing didn’t matter; what I cared about was this sweet cat playing with her daddy, a deeply flawed and failed man she somehow found the ability to see the best in.  At that very moment, the World Series didn’t matter anymore.  Those feelings of loss, humiliation, and ostracism in my final days in college, and like I was a total failure my two years in Cleveland, evaporated as I pulled the shoelace Annabelle held in her teeth.  The World Series, at that moment, And truly was just a game.  My cat, at that moment, was my world, and a beautiful, colorful one at that.  Then something else began to overcome me, a realization of sorts.

The gears of my life which were stuck in place for so very very long we finally, at long last, beginning to turn again.  I was feeling myself, after 20 years of feeling stuck in the past and dining on losses of all sorts, moving forward!

It’s very easy for us all to get caught up in our own shit and not care about anyone else.  It’s extremely easy to give up on certain family and friends because they don’t fit in a nice, neat little box that is our life narrative.  It’s easier still to give up on everything and just not care about people and become bitter and angry.  It’s a defense mechanism we have and for some of us, it’s the only thing we can hold onto because life has dealt us one cruel blow after another.  Even if a person right now doesn’t seem to have too many issues, we have no idea how childhood problems or abuse or family issues or even genetics contributed to their current state of mind.  Tonight I recognized a feeling, accepted it for what it was and, by writing this blog, healed just a little.  Still, it was incredibly empowering to do so, and I have a sweet little calico cat to thank for helping me do it.

And, by the way, the Indians lost to the Cubs in 10 innings, after a rain delay, and that’s okay.  They got further than 15 other teams in the American League, and I’m further ahead now that I identified a trigger and effectively accepted it.  I’d call that a “win-win.”

A new, and off-the-wall, approach to life, love and finding happiness

When you open up part of who you are to the world, you often forget who you are.  It’s so easy to forget that some of our best allies and supporters come from out of nowhere, and those who we’ve counted on to be in our corner when it counts the most are the people who we learn we can’t count on at all.  It hurts, it sucks and it’s part of life.

johncoffee
Why not live everyday like it deserves a great cup of coffee?

When this happens, what do you do?  Can you whine and bitch and moan about it?  Sure, but you’re likely going to isolate yourself even further.  Why not simply look at everything as a lesson?  That gets old too, huh?  Well, maybe it’s time to take a very different approach to life in general.  How about for once we just look at life as though it’s one day before we die each day?

It’s a crazy idea, yes, to be sure.  We see death and tragedy each day, but what if, for once, we simply take the concept of death and realize that it could happen at any moment in life?  Seriously, we could walk outside and someone driving a car loses control and smacked into us.  We’re road pizza and gone.   Maybe we drop from heart failure, or the building we’re in explodes?  What did we do up until that moment?  Did we run scared?  Did do everything in our power to avoid being hurt?  Did we play it safe our whole life in everything we did because it was expected of us?

It’s a balancing act, but there comes a point where you simply have to say “screw it.”  You have to live, and realize that the depression you’re in may not be a choice, but the way you take it on sure as hell is.  The problems you have with money may be the result of past decisions, but this is the now, and we can figure out a way to fix it.  Easier said than done, of course.  Talk is cheap, and this blog is written talk.  But the point is this – did the point I made get you to thinking?  If you answered “yes” then life, for the briefest of moments, just opened to you in all its glory, all its options, regardless of how few.  This post is intended to do many things, but there is one above all – get everyone to think and, by extension, offer some hope.

photo
Or worthy of a eulogy written by “Weird Al” Yankovic?

Think about your life for a few seconds; don’t ask yourself anything, just think about who you are and think about how great it would be to be remembered for living your life as you would on your last day on earth.  Think about all the fun, crazy, off the wall things you would do; all the wild, nutty and fun things you would say, and the person you knew you could be on your last day on earth.  Guess what?  You can do it because this is your last day on earth.

Unless, tomorrow is, and so on and so forth.

Get the idea?

Sure, we all have responsibilities and bills to pay.  There are societal norms we must adhere to so others aren’t hurt, and that’s fair and right.  We can’t just say “whatever” to legitimate obligations but, beyond that, we sure as hell can learn to live life not “out loud,” but with the mentality of “last day on earth” or, as my dad loved to say before taking pictures “smile!  World ends tomorrow!”  I used to think he was being his usual bizarre morbid self, but now I get it!  He was trying to tell me something all along – to live as the person I am, but do it like tomorrow was my last day on earth.

If there’s one way I want to be remembered, that’s how it is.  I may not always have a great day.  I may be grouchy, depressed, sad or pining for that lost love, but I’ll be doing it with every ounce of my being.  Like Billy Joel’s song “I got to extremes,” I’ll be living my life through my loving, my writing, my friends, my family, my food, my personality…the way I’ve always wanted to; as me, only like I’m gonna die tomorrow.  I want to be remembered for those corny jokes, the weird comic strips I draw and the crazy stories I tell, the people I loved and always found a way to make sure they knew it, and those who I loved to annoy because, well, it was fun!  Most of all, I want to be remembered for being the one person who threw the occasional thought-provoking concept out there.

article-2688184-1f8af8bd00000578-511_634x433
Or even memorialized in a Monty Python sketch?

Honestly, there’s no other way for me, and I’m gonna have a blast, even on the bad days when I just wanna sleep and flip the world the bird, because I know I’m being me.  Those of you who choose to join me, you’re in for one wild ride for however long my heart keeps beating.  The second it stops, I’ll be grateful for the moments I had with you all.  That, of course, means this blog will get a LOT funnier and more serious at the same time, so get ready for a roller coaster ride.

Time to live not like I’m dying, but like tomorrow is the end…because you never know.

Mental Illness and Platitudes: like oil and water

helpinghand
A hand up is difficult to give someone with mental health issues.  In the end, it is appreciated.

It’s easy for someone with mental illness to feel forgotten, abandoned or tossed aside.  Such conditions as borderline, bipolar, cyclothymia and OCD can be a complete drain on friends, family and loved ones, causing them to peel away.  The problem comes when someone tries to reach out for help and all they are offered are what amount to platitudes; quotes and statements which sound like something out of pop-psychological television program, or a glossy picture book which grace the table of one trying to appear erudite on mental health.  It is a case of the supposed cure being far worse than the disease itself.

 

The reality for someone who is either suffering in silence, or has come forward to seek help and is in the deep mines of their own minds, is that such statements and quotations feel like salt being rubbed deep into a wound.  The intention of such platitudes may be good, but they often come across as insensitive, hollow, and “one size fits all.”  With that in mind, here are five platitudes which many who are dealing which such issues often hear, why these are so hated, and how to reframe them into something far more effective and positive.

If you are in distress, please call 911 immediately if you are considering self-harm.  If you feel unbalanced or unable to successfully govern your emotions, please check out the MentalHealth.gov for links for immediate help.

Platitude:  “Be grateful.”

Why people with mental illness hate this phrase:  It smacks of hypocrisy.  It’s easy to say “be grateful” when someone else is hurting and you are enjoying your life.  After all, people who are doing “well” are perceived by those who aren’t as insulated from life’s ups and down, whether or not it’s true.  Like it or not, that is the perception and being told we need to be grateful for our blessings is like telling someone who just put their dog to sleep “at least you can go out and get another.”

Good reframe:  Rather than telling someone to be grateful, spent a moment talking to them about their hobbies and interesting.  Sometimes they will be reminded they are a great cook, or a wonderful writer, or make beautiful art.  They may remember they have a knack for always catching the biggest fish, or looking super hot in a cocktail gown.  Whatever it is, find that thing and expand the conversation, then remind them “hey, you know this is something I wish I could do.  I envy you.”  Even though you really don’t envy them, the fact remains they know they can do something somebody else can’t is a huge confidence boost.  Take that and build on it.

Platitude:  “That’s not your journey,” or “you can’t compare yourself to another.”

Why people with mental illness hate this phrase:  We live in a society in which comparison is a part of life.  For many with mental illness, obsession or seeing certain (not all) things in absolute terms is a part of life.  Whether others want to believe it or not, we compare ourselves to each other all the time in our daily lives.  Hiring practices, impressions of attractiveness, competing for mates all bring comparisons into play.  It’s no wonder people with mental illness compare their lives to those of others all the time.

Good reframe:  When your friend starts telling you how great your life is compared to theirs, ask them a question about something interesting that happened, even if it was a few months back.  It could be something as interesting as meeting someone famous, or getting to go somewhere you’ve never been but, because of their life, they can go.  Tell them how you wish you had gotten a chance to do that.  Ask them what it was like.  Be gentle, be kind, and be genuine.  A person with mental illness, believe it or not, can almost always seen through a veneer.  Show you are really interested.

Platitude:  “You really need to stop living in the past.”

Why people with mental illness hate this phrase:  There are those people out there we just want to throat punch – folks who either can easily separate the past from the present.  These are the folks who can choose to forget stuff they did that we regret and beat ourselves up over the same.  The fact is, one of most common triggers for mental illness episodes are thoughts of yesterday.

Good reframe:  This requires being able to identify the trigger in its early stages.  Once the road down memory lane is being traveled, it’s difficult to stop.  Now, if you have just turned onto it, you can make a statement of “you know, that was so long ago and we are both so different now.  Why don’t do…” and suggest a fun activity, preferably physical, for you to do together.  The endorphin release combined with mindfulness, helps the brain re-calibrate itself.

Platitude:  “You really need to seek help.”

Why people with mental illness hate this phrase:  chances are, we’ve already begun seeking help, or are waiting for our insurance to kick in, or have to see someone with a waiting list.  “Seeking help” is often code for “Take a pill” or “talk to a therapist and everything will be better.”  Most people do not understand that mental illness doesn’t cure with a simple pill – it is an overarching healing approach which takes months, sometimes years, and on occasion, entire lifetimes to achieve.

Good reframe:  Express that you’re concerned over them not taking care of themselves or not being themselves.  Don’t be judgmental, but notice the little things, like their appearance or lack of energy.  Point out that counseling is not a death sentence or a social stigma, and that having a mental illness is nothing to be ashamed of, but that you are willing to face it and admit it is true strength.  Be careful how you word this, though, because it can also sound like a stupid platitude.

Platitude:  “You need to love yourself first.”

Why people with mental illness hate this phrase:  Thankfully, this particular phrase is starting to experience a bit of a backlash.  It’s a statement which suggests that when one does not love themselves, one is unlovable, and that’s just a falsehood.  It is possible to love someone who does not love themselves, but it takes incredible patience to help that person because they need to choose to love themselves as well to avoid harming those who care about them.  This can create a toxic relationship in which both are drained and left resentful of each other.  With professional help, many can get to the point where they can love in a healthy way, even if they don’t love themselves as others believe they should.

Good reframe:   Rather than saying this, simply be a friend and spend time with them.  Let them know they are loved and appreciated.  Some folks never get it and really do need professional help, while others are just stuck in a rut and need reassurance.  It all depends.

Our experiences are what guide us in our daily lives and, contrary to popular perception, there is no one person on earth who truly has it “all together.”  We all have our good days, our bad days, our time in the sun and, eventually, our time in the darkness.  For every sunset there is a sunrise, and yes there is a season for every person, no matter how brief.  Awareness and mindfulness are essential tools, not empty platitudes, for anyone with mental illness who wants to get better and recover.  Focusing on the now and having friends there to help are more valuable than any material asset on this planet.