The F Word

silence

There are words in the English language that make me cringe. For example, the word varicose makes my skin crawl. Scabies is another word that makes me want to take a bleach bath because I find the sound of it to be so disgusting. I have a love-hate relationship with the word weenus – part of me thinks it’s fun to say, while the other part of me can’t stand it. Yes, weenus is a real word…a part of your anatomy, in fact…go look it up.

There is another word…the F word…that absolutely scares the living crap out of me. We all know the F word. We all struggle with the F word. Some go their entire lives without experiencing the F word. Certain people don’t know how to express the F word. Others don’t know how to ask for the F word. It is a terrible and powerful word. It’s absence can cause relationships to end, while its presence can change the world. In the end, every single one of us must embrace the F word.


Forgive (Verb): “Stop feeling angry or resentful towards (someone) for an offence, flaw, or mistake” (n.d.).


Why is the concept of forgiveness so difficult to wrap our brains around? The short answer, I believe, is that is requires us to let go. We as humans like to be in control. We like to hold onto things and to own them, which allows us to feel in control of our world. It’s easier to be angry and know what’s going on than to be vulnerable and face unknown emotions.

angry

According to Thesaurus.com (n.d.), which pulls its list from the 2013 Roget’s 21st Century Thesaurus, some antonyms for forgiveness include: condemn, accuse, blame, sentence, charge, and punish. Ouch. Those are some heavy concepts. When I think of the opposite of forgiveness, I think of a festering resentment that is seeping into the deepest corners of my being. It is a disease – a disease that will likely be fatal if left untreated. I like how the Mayo Clinic describes what happens if forgiveness is withheld: “If you dwell on hurtful events or situations, grudges filled with resentment, vengeance and hostility can take root. If you allow negative feelings to crowd out positive feelings, you might find yourself swallowed up by your own bitterness or sense of injustice” (Mayo Clinic Staff, 2017). Oh…and guess what can happen if you hold onto a grudge? You can “become depressed or anxious” (Mayo Clinic Staff, 2017). Seems like an important detail, so I’m just going to tuck that away for future reference.

Although the list of situations resulting in a need for forgiveness are too numerous to count, in my world there are only two main types of forgiveness. Those two type are forgiveness of others and forgiveness of self. I personally think the latter is much more difficult for a number of reasons. Before I get into those reasons, my stream of consciousness is telling me to turn left at the fork in the road. In case you were wondering, left takes us to the topic of forgiveness of others.

Saying F You to others.

At some point in our lives, we have all been hurt by another human being. The fact of the matter is that many things in this world hurt because this world is ugly, but some things cause significantly more pain than others. For example, if someone snatches up the parking spot I had my eye on and then flips me the bird, I may be less likely to hold a grudge than if a significant other were to cheat on me with someone else. Two uncomfortable situations with two vastly different resulting pain scales.


Grudge (noun): “A strong feeling of anger and dislike for a person who has treated you badly, especially one that lasts for a long time” (n.d.).


Look at the parts of speech for forgive and for grudge. A grudge is a thing. It’s alive. It’s feeding on your resentment and thriving on your anger. Forgiveness is an action. You can’t passively forgive. It is a conscious decision that must be acted upon. In a Psychology Today article, Dr. Alex Lickerman says, “To my way of thinking, forgiveness involves recognizing that the person who harmed us is more than just the person who harmed us… At its core I believe forgiveness is an acknowledgement that a person who’s harmed us still has the capacity for good” (2010). I mean…wow. I can’t say I’ve ever really broken forgiveness down to the point that I see one broken person acknowledging another broken person. Forgiveness has a lot in common with namaste. We are looking at someone who has wronged us and saying, “Hey…I’ve messed up plenty of times before too. I owe it to both myself and to you to find peace with this situation.” You are looking past the wrongdoing and seeing the humanity that surrounds it on all sides.

humanity heart

What’s more, “as you let go of grudges, you’ll no longer define your life by how you’ve been hurt” (Mayo Clinic Staff, 2017). Speaking from personal experience, there is something so degrading and humiliating about being hurt by another, especially if it is a conscious act on their part. There have been times in the last few years when all I can see in front of me is the action of another, and how it drastically changed my life forever. Infidelity is a big one. Finding out that my husband of several years had been actively cheating on me with the same woman for nearly all of those years made me feel like a character out of the movie Honey, I Shrunk the Kids or Antman. Tiny. Insignificant. It’s hard not to see it as a reflection on yourself when someone carries on in a way that they know is going to cause irreparable damage to the relationship, not to mention the wellbeing of the souls involved. But what he did to me does not determine who I am as a person. It certainly has no bearing on my worth as a woman, as someone’s potential partner, or as human being. Likewise, I would argue that is has no bearing on his worth as a man. I would certainly think twice about being his partner, but he is human and no less worthy of forgiveness than me.

The important thing to remember is that forgiving someone doesn’t mean you have to let them hurt you again. If you want to give them another chance, more power to you. But forgiveness does not mean turning a blind eye and painting a target on your back so it’s easier for them to hurt you next time. You do not forgive at your own expense, but rather for your own sake. “There is great value in mastering the skill of forgiving but not forgetting,” says author Dr. Kurt Smith, “Taking good care of ourselves requires regular forgiveness of others. Remember, we do it for us, not for them. And we don’t obsess, but we don’t forget, either, so we can take the valuable life lesson with us” (2014). Always forgive, but guard and protect yourself too.

guard

I remember sitting on the couch next to my soon-to-be ex-husband after finding out about his secret “other” life. We were sitting in silence because…really…what is there to say at that point? When life as you know it ceases to exist, it’s hard to find any words. I remember looking at him and saying, “I forgive you.” And in that moment, what took my breath away was that I realized how deeply I meant it. I can’t even begin to describe the weight that was lifted. I still grieved. I still hurt at a depth I had never experienced before and will hopefully never experience again. But I was at peace. I forgave and moved on with my life, making sure he was not part of it so that I could heal and find out what I was truly made of. I still haven’t found out what I’m made of, by the way, but each year seems to chip a little more of my façade away and I’m starting to catch glimpses of who I am.

Saying F You to yourself.

This. This is the hardest task of them all. I was able to forgive my ex-husband and the pain got easier because he was no longer in the picture. Out of sight, out of mind. But when it comes to forgiving ourselves? There is no escaping ourselves. There is no running away from our thoughts or self-abuse. When it comes down to it, “it’s easier to forgive others. After all, they don’t live in your head, reading you the same old riot act” (Lawrence, 2003).

We have all done things we are ashamed of. We have all hurt other people, whether we care to admit it or not. As someone with a self-proclaimed guilt complex, it comes as no surprise to me that “difficulties with self-forgiveness are linked with suicide attempts, eating disorders, and alcohol abuse, among other problems” (Breines, 2012). Figuring out how to forgive ourselves is kind of a big deal and may have hefty consequences.

As with any good apology, I think the best place to start is to say “I’m sorry.” And we have to mean it. A truly heart-felt apology is one that acknowledges the pain and suffering caused. We may have apologized to the other person, but we also need to apologize to ourselves. I feel this is important because it is the first step in recognizing that, yes, you screwed up big time, but you are human and will only poison yourself by starting a long term relationship with self-hate and regret. I find the following statement incredibly encouraging in my own battle to forgive myself: “Importantly, self-forgiveness need not be all-or-nothing. It’s a slow process that may not result in a full release of negative feelings or an exclusively rosy view of oneself. Rather than being a form of self-indulgence, self-forgiveness might be better seen as an act of humility, an honest acknowledgment of our capacity for causing harm as well as our potential for doing good” (Breines, 2012).

For years I have had the unhealthy perspective that I have been paying an ongoing penance for wrongs done to others in the past. I have accepted each bad or painful thing that has happened to me as karma’s way of making sure justice is done. Combine that with my knack for overthinking, a raging guilt complex, and a depression streak a mile wide. Probably not a healthy outcome. I’m working on it. I have reached out to specific individuals I have wounded in the past and expressed sincere apologies. I felt better after doing that, but still have been unable to reach the point of fully being able to accept my human flaws. In the meantime, I try to do my very best to never cause that kind of pain again.


The emotional impact of withholding forgiveness can be devastating. If we refuse to forgive someone else, it can cause bitterness, anger, and maybe even a sense of entitlement. If we refuse to forgive ourselves, it can cause our self-worth to plummet and may take away our fragile belief that even broken people can make a difference. I have to remind myself on a daily basis that the good I do now is for the sake of the here and now – I am spreading love and goodness to those around me in this moment, not because I need to pay for my past sins. This is life…not some purgatory. Forgive others so that you may live without bitterness. Forgive yourself so that you may see your own worth and then spread love and joy in a world that so desperately needs some TLC. Go on – don’t be afraid of the F Word.


Resources

Breines, Juliana. (2012). The Healthy Way to Forgive Yourself. Great Good Magazine. Retrieved from https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/the_healthy_way_to_forgive_yourself

Forgive. (n.d.). In online English Oxford Living Dictionaries. Retrieved from https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/forgive

Grudge. (n.d.). In online Cambridge Dictionary. Retrieved from https://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/grudge

Lawrence, Jean. (2003). Learning to Forgive Yourself. WebMD. Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/balance/features/learning-to-forgive-yourself#1

Lickerman, Alex. (2010). How to Forgive Others: The freedom forgiveness brings. Psychology Today. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/happiness-in-world/201002/how-forgive-others

Mayo Clinic Staff. (2017). Forgiveness: Letting go of grudges and bitterness. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/adult-health/in-depth/forgiveness/art-20047692

Smith, Kurt. (2014). 4 Reasons to Forgive but Not Forget. Psych Central. Retrieved from https://psychcentral.com/blog/4-reasons-to-forgive-but-not-forget/

Thesaurs.com. (n.d.). In 2013 Roget’s 21st Century Thesaurus (3rdEd.). Philip Lief Group.Retrieved from https://www.thesaurus.com/browse/forgive

Cover photo credit: Pexels.com

Other photo credits: Unsplash.com

Battered Self Syndrome

crying

Trigger warning: Abuse

Disclaimer: I have never personally experienced domestic violence, which means I can’t even begin to understand what these women (or men) go through on a day-to-day basis. I hope and pray that anyone who is experiencing, or has experienced, domestic abuse does not take this post as demeaning to your circumstances and experiences. I am not trying to compare my own struggles to yours. It is the concept of a specific thought pattern I am considering.

Anyone who works in emergency medicine or emergency response (ER, fire and EMS, police) can tell you how devastating a mental illness known as Battered Woman Syndrome can be to its sufferers. This form of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is often seen in women who experience “sustained and serious domestic abuse” (Gotter, 2017). The reason this illness is so devastating for any woman is because of the “learned helplessness that causes her to believe she deserves the abuse and that she can’t get away from it. It many cases, it’s why women don’t report their abuse to police or avoid telling friends and family what’s really going on” (Gotter, 2017). So many women stay with their abusive partner until they end up disabled or dead, despite urgings from family, friends, and often emergency responders and hospital staff. Many people would be quick to judge and say that these women are too weak to leave. I would argue that they have a strength no one else could even begin to fathom. It’s like any mental illness – until you yourself have experienced it, there is no way to truly get it.

I have a paramedic friend who once told me about a woman he ran calls on regularly. Each time, he showed up on scene to find her beaten and bruised in some new and creatively explained way. Each time, he transported her to the hospital and urged her to seek help…to press charges…to get away. Finally, he ran one last call on her and was the one to call a physician for pronouncement and time of death. That woman haunts him to this day. In some way, he feels responsible for her death. He was unable to save her, even though he was technically by her side for each new gruesome injury. The reason he was unable to prevent a very preventable death is because only the woman herself had the power to change her circumstances. Due to her mental illness, she refused to press charges time-and-time again. She always went back to that place of torment.

abused woman

I see many similarities between the mentality of that woman and my own struggle with anxiety and depression. The difference is, I am my own abuser. If my thoughts could be transformed into physical blows to my body, I too would likely end up with fatal injuries. Human bodies are resilient, but can only sustain so many beatings before the internal damage is just too much. The same applies to the human mind – we can only take so much before sinking into despair and reaching the point of giving up. It just becomes too difficult. Would it be unfair to say we also suffer from a sort of PTSD? From Battered Self Syndrome?

According to Jennifer Rollins, an MSW and LCSW-C, “a variety of factors could contribute to people developing an abusive relationship with themselves. One might be internalizing emotional abuse that you experienced from someone else and unintentionally re-enacting it through your own inner critic. Another might be having an intense fear of judgment from others, so one subconsciously wants to ‘beat them to the punch.’ Additionally, having a trauma history, or struggling with an eating disorder, depression, anxiety, or self-harm can all contribute to developing a very harsh inner critic” (2018).

For me personally, I am certainly my own worst critic (to put it mildly). I take self-criticism to a whole new level. From how I look physically, to the words I speak, to my own internal thoughts and emotions, I have nothing good to say about myself to myself. The more anxious I get, the more cutting my remarks become. As my remarks get uglier and uglier, I in turn become more and more discouraged and continue the vicious loop until I can barely face the world. At that point, I have officially convinced myself that I am worth nothing, can contribute no good in this world, and that I’m better off hiding under my covers like the scared and hurting soul that I am.

Psychologist Brett Steenbarger (2017) describes emotional self-abuse as “something more subtle” than domestic violence that happens between two or more individuals. The reason it is so subtle, he says, is because we often “don’t recognize the emotional violence, the self-abuse. That lack of awareness perpetuates the self-destructive dynamic.”

In the same way that women return to their abusers, we continually cycle back to our malicious thoughts about ourselves. The difficult part is that it is literally impossible to get away from ourselves, even for a few seconds. If we don’t learn to control our negative and degrading self-thoughts, we will push ourselves to the point of hopelessness. Again, much like a battered woman, friends and family can try to help, but it all must ultimately start with us.

mission

 The hardest part for me goes back to that hateful task of recognizing that I have worth. I deserve to be loved, both by myself and by other people. I recently participated in a core value exercise with a large group of work colleagues. We started with a giant list of character traits and behaviors, then did various processes to narrow that list down to the top five traits that drive us. My core values are listed below:

  1. Act with compassion
  2. React with empathy
  3. Offer loyalty
  4. Seek ways to make a difference
  5. Radiate open-mindedness

I was proud of this list! It really encompasses the way I try to behave towards others. But then the lady asked for volunteers to read a couple of their values. Everyone else had values related to other people (such as my “react with empathy”) and at least one or two related to self (“find joy in…” or “seek peace by…”). I realized that I created my core value list with 100% of my focus on other people, leaving no room for valuing myself. Yes, each point can be turned inward, but that was not intentional. Instead of reinforcing my core values, this exercise reinforced how little regard I have for my own heart, mind, and soul. Naturally, instead of being a positive source of enlightenment, I started to beat myself up for not loving myself enough.

put yourself down

From time to time I think about something a church small group leader said to me twenty years ago (Linda, if you are reading this – your words will be with me forever!). I remember that I made some disparaging comment about myself and she actually snapped at me! “Don’t talk about my friend like that, young lady!” It completely caught me off guard. At first I thought she didn’t realize I was talking about myself and that I had made a rude comment about another individual. But then she explained, “I wouldn’t let anyone else talk about you like that. I’m not going to let you talk about yourself like that either.”

be quiet

What a simple concept, yet it blows my mind every time I think about it. If I would never in my wildest dreams tell someone else the things I tell myself on a daily basis, why do I find it appropriate to talk that way to myself? Here’s the thing, though – we usually don’t have someone else championing that cause. 99.9% of my self-abuse is all internal. No one else hears it, which means no one else can protect me from myself. The only way to protect me from myself is to practice self-compassion and self-kindness.

Dr. Kristin Neff, as quoted by Brown (2010), defines self-kindness as “being warm and understanding toward ourselves when we suffer, fail, or feel inadequate, rather than ignoring our pain or flagellating ourselves with self-criticism” (p. 59). Right. Easier said than done. I know I’m not just going to wake up tomorrow and stop emotionally abusing myself. It’s BATTERED SELF SYNDROME, people. It wouldn’t be such a problem if it was easy to reform my way of thinking about myself. Jennifer Rollins says, “If your current emotional default setting is harsh self-criticism, it will take some time to rewire your neural pathways to make the self-compassion response feel more natural” (2018). I’m trying to break a lifelong, learned behavior. Breaking bad habits is no walk in the park. But it is a worthy undertaking. Robert Taibbi, another wise LCSW, reminds us that “it will take time for the new brain connects to kick in, for the old brain-firings to calm down, for new patterns to replace the old. Don’t beat yourself up for slip-ups or use them as rationales for quitting. Take it one day at a time” (2017).


In closing, I think it’s important to note that breaking myself out of this cycle of self-abuse will not only improve my own emotional and mental health, it will also have a ripple affect – “when we’re kind to ourselves, we create a reservoir of compassion that we can extend to others” (Brown, 2010, p. 61). If I truly want to love others, I must first love myself.

So what say you? Would you like to join me in my battle to overcome Battered Self Syndrome? Only I can do it for me. Only you can do it for you. But together, we can make it happen.

Namaste.

be kind to yourself

References

Brown, Brene. (2010). The Gifts of Imperfection: Let go of who you think you’re supposed to be and embrace who you are. Center City, MN: Hazelden Publishing.

Gotter, Ana. (2017). Battered Woman Syndrome. Healthline. Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/health/battered-woman-syndrome

Rollins, Jennifer. (2018). Are You Emotionally Abusing Yourself? You can learn how to treat yourself more kindly. Psychology Today. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/mindful-musings/201803/are-you-emotionally-abusing-yourself

Steenbarger, Brett. (2017). When Frustration Becomes Self-Abuse: How we can undercut – and rebuild – our own success. Forbes. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/brettsteenbarger/2017/03/26/when-frustration-becomes-self-abuse-how-we-can-undercut-and-rebuild-our-own-success/#792b118e30b5

Taibbi, Robert. (2017). How to Break Bad Habits. Psychology Today. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/fixing-families/201712/how-break-bad-habits

Photo credit: Unsplash.com

The Lotus List

lotus

I believe God sends us people, songs, quotes, etc. exactly when we need them. I recently had a conversation with a friend during which I began to dredge up some of the things that will forever exist on my Coulda-Shoulda-Woulda List. (We all have that list. If only I would have tried… I should have done… Instead of choosing this, I could have chosen…) Even as I was speaking, I knew it was a pointless exercise, but I couldn’t help bemoaning that I didn’t act on a certain inkling at a specific point in my life. This friend wisely reminded me that “time is linear” and we can’t play those games with ourselves – every moment, regretted or cherished, brings us to where we are at right now. Every choice, and each unique outcome, helps mold us into who we are and who we will one day become. It was the kick in the butt I needed to fold up that Coulda-Shoulda-Woulda List and toss it over my shoulder. Naturally I went back and picked it up later (chronic anxiety…duh), but I slipped it in my pocket for future reference instead of reading or studying it just then.


Regret: “Feel sad, repentant, or disappointed over something that one has done or failed to do” (n.d.).


It’s true that we all have regrets. I think if anyone says they have absolutely no regrets, they should probably regret lying. When I was young and dumb, I used to arrogantly say that I would live my life with no regrets. After well over a decade of making adult choices and facing the humbling consequences of said choices, I have realized that living without regrets is an unrealistic goal. I would be better off setting my sights on facing those regrets, living with them, but not letting them control me. While mulling over these things, I was again slapped upside the head with words I needed to hear:


 “Reflection is necessary, but dwelling is an issue. When reflecting, remember how it felt, what it was like, but don’t stay too long there because that dwelling opens the door for regret and disappointment, which then leads to longing and depression.” – Amy Thompson (a kick ass woman I am lucky enough to call a dear friend)


It’s like my other friend had a conversation with Amy and said, “Hey…say something to Amber about regret. She needs it right now.” What a beautiful thought that it is okay to reflect on our struggles, on choices we perceive as incorrect, and our experiences that came about because of our choices or the choices of another. But not dwelling on these things? I mean, come on… you’re talking to a an olympic gold medalist in overthinking, over analysis, and anxiety. If there is one thing at which I’m a pro, it’s dwelling on mistakes. Amy hit the nail on the head by saying that focusing on mistakes, or simply looking back more often than forward, delivers us into depression’s waiting arms while swaddled tightly in a cloak of shame and self-loathing.

After dwelling on the fact that I dwell on things too much, I’ve realized something today. Rather an epiphany, really – see Amy…good things can come from dwelling too long! Maybe not. ANYWAY. What I realized is this: I cannot value my personal growth from struggles if I cannot love my mistakes as well. Wait…what?! You mean that minor mistake that kept me awake for three nights straight? Or the big mistakes that led to three failed marriages? I’m supposed to love those?!

Yes and no. I’m not saying that if you are actively making a bad decision you should stop, take a selfie to celebrate the moment, and then hang the framed photograph on your living room wall. I’m not saying you should make decisions without any real thought because either way it will lead to growth. I’m not saying you should consciously make bad decisions to see what kind of profound, existential awakenings you have as a result. I’m also not saying that when others make bad decisions that negatively impact or even hurt you, that it’s okay to stay in that situation or relationship because you will grow through it.

What I am saying is that hindsight is 20/20. We can look back on our choices, at the fork in the road where we went left instead of right, and say we made the wrong choice. We can also look back and say there would have been less pain if we had gone right instead of left, but we don’t actually know that, do we? All we know for sure is that we made a choice that forever impacted the direction of our life and it will ultimately make us into a more beautiful individual if we only embrace the challenges and grow.

This is a nice segue into showing off more of my new ink (I have to give ink credit to Johnny Tracey at at Elysian Ink in Des Moines. He’s an amazing artist!). I absolutely love everything about the Lotus flower. Not only is it breathtakingly beautiful in nature, it’s symbolism is moving.

8C8D3491-F5E0-4175-941B-824EB0D258DC

In Buddhism, the Lotus represents enlightenment and spiritual awakening because “the wetlands flower begins life as a seed in muddy riverbeds, and must rise through muck before blossoming in the sunlight” (Mind Fuel Daily, 2018).

When we are in the grips of depression, an anxiety attack, a divorce, the death of a loved one, or any other emotionally traumatic situation, it’s difficult to picture surviving at all, let alone seeing beauty in the end. The Lotus reminds me that in the dark times – in those moments when I am surrounded by muck – it takes perseverance. It takes patience. It takes courage.


Perseverance: “Continued effort to do or achieve something despite difficulties, failure, or opposition” (n.d.).


My question to myself is this: when a regretted decision leads to painful experiences that in turn break me and make my soul a little more beautiful, can I appreciate the new me without also saying a prayer of thanks for the bad decisions? Can a decision actually be called “bad”…? I have regrets. I have lots of regrets. However, I am who I am because of what I could have done and did not. Those regrets are a gift in disguise. Maybe that Coulda-Woulda-Shoulda List should be renamed the Lotus List?

I leave you with wisdom from the Skin Horse.

Namaste.

velveteen

 

References

Mind Fuel Daily. (2018). Symbolism of the Lotus Flower. Retrieved from https://www.mindfueldaily.com/livewell/symbolism-of-the-lotus-flower/

Perseverance. (n.d.). In Merriam-Webster online dictionary. Retrieved from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/perseverance

Robinson, Katie. (2017, Apr 28). The Secret Meaning of the Lotus Flower. Town&Country. Retrieved from https://www.townandcountrymag.com/leisure/arts-and-culture/a9550430/lotus-flower-meaning/

A Message to All the Buttercups

buttercup

I think we’ve all been told “Suck it up, Buttercup!” a time or two in our lives. Lucky for the rest of the world (a.k.a. the three other people who might read this), my insomniac brain finds true life-enrichment in analyzing things like pop culture catch phrases in the middle of the night. In a terrible world full of terrible things, perhaps we need some alternative phrasing. It’s time to have catch phrases for those of us who live in the real world where “sucking it up” isn’t always the answer.

Cough it up, Buttercup.

When I would get sick with a respiratory infection as a kid, I remember my mom always telling me, “Get that junk out of there! Keep coughing it up! Better out than in!” Along those same lines, why do we take expectorants for bronchitis and pneumonia or feel better after throwing up food from the sketchy diner down the street? Because the sooner we get it out of our system, the sooner we will begin to heal! The same goes with emotions or thoughts that play off of our mental illnesses. Better out than in, folks!

I personally am so afraid of imposing on someone else or being a burden that I end up bottling up my stress and fears to the point that I begin to implode (metaphorically, of course…if I literally began to implode I would have bigger issues to worry about). I know that everyone has their own crap going on. Who am I to self-schedule an appointment on someone else’s mental and emotional calendar? Everyone else deals with their life concerns on their own…so should I…right? WRONG. I am only just now learning the freedom that comes with opening up about my struggles. How is anyone supposed to help anyone else if we never know of the hurt or pain until it is too late? Don’t let shame hold you back. And you never know…opening up about your struggles may actually earn you a “Me too!” instead of a “Suck it up, Buttercup.”

Draw it up, Buttercup.

(trigger warning – depression/suicide)

I know better than many at the moment how terrifying it is to not remember why you keep breathing. We all have reasons, but at times those reasons can become unclear and fade just outside of our mind’s visual field. We know they are there, but can’t remember what they are. As soon as that happens, we have just lost our footing on a very slippery slope.

Let me interject here that I personally don’t believe that suicide is inherently selfish. The people who say it is have probably never been close. To be at the point of suicidal ideation is to be at the point of complete and utter despair. Depression removes our ability to make rational decisions. Suicide is a plea for release from the agony that life has become at that point. That doesn’t make it right, but I would also argue that it doesn’t make is selfish either. I beg everyone to think long and hard before saying that to anyone. It only adds to the shame, which may cause a slide down a whole different slippery slope that has the same end result.

My suggestion to anyone out there who feels that they are losing sight of their reason to keep breathing is this: Tell someone. And not just anyone. It has to be someone you trust – someone you know will answer the phone every time or come to you in your hour of need. Draw up and sign a Contract for Safety. Come up with a plan to help prevent theplan. If a written document is a bit over the top for your taste, draw up a verbal contract. Sit down with your person and tell them you need their help. And be transparent in explaining why. They need to understand the urgent nature of your request. So long as you go to the right person, you will be amazed at the support and empathy you receive.

not a burden

Give it up, Buttercup.

(trigger warning – abuse)

There is an extremely scary word that we all must look in the eye multiple times throughout our life: Forgive.

It is extremely difficult to forgive others who have caused us pain through physical, mental, and emotional abuse. Even harder still is forgiving ourselves for mistakes we have made in the past or for actions we took as the actual abuser. I have been the abused. I have also been the one causing intense emotional pain and trauma. If I cannot forgive my abuser, I cannot move on without being eaten away by bitterness, rage, or hate. If I cannot forgive myself, I will never experience life with peace and joy. If I can do neither, I will quickly slide down one of the slippery slopes mentioned above. (see how these all tie together?)

“We have all hurt someone tremendously, whether by intent or accident. We have all loved someone tremendously, whether by intent or accident. It is an intrinsic human trait, and a deep responsibility, I think, to be an organ and a blade. But, learning to forgive ourselves and others because we have not chosen wisely is what makes us most human. We make horrible mistakes. It’s how we learn. We breathe love. It’s how we learn. And it is inevitable” (Unknown).

Forgive. If you are unable to do anything else, do this.

Grow up, Buttercup 

(trigger warning – tough love here)

Take responsibility for your own actions and feelings. The world is cruel, but it doesn’t owe you anything. It is never going to pay up for hurting you, so stop expecting it. Once you are able to forgive yourself and others, you will be able to put aside any sense of entitlement that is holding you back from experiencing love with a clear head and heart. Remember that “sometimes we are responsible for something not because we are to blame, but because we are the only ones who can change it” (Feldman Barrett, 2017). When I realized that life is cruel and then we die, I realized I am wasting the good moments by wallowing in the bad moment. I have to choose to change how I feel and react to the negative moments so I can still experience the good moments. The caveat to this is that it has to be an ACTIVE choice – this is not a one and done choice. If you take it one day at a time (one minute at a time if you have to!), it can be done. Draw strength from God and your faith (whatever that faith may be). If I can do it, so can you! Tomorrow I may need the encouragement from you when I forget how it’s done.

Wake it up, Buttercup.

None of the above can be accomplished without the others. But if you actively work on each one – survive, forgive, and changing your attitude – you will begin to see an awakening within yourself. You will see peace. You will see confidence. You will realize that you are worthy of love, worthy of grace, and worthy of respect. Once you realize your own worth, the other pieces will hopefully begin to fall into place. Thank you to my very best friend for reminding me that self-love and self-worth is necessary before we can accept love from anyone else. Once we learn to value who we are as perfectly imperfect individuals, we can demand no less from others. Let’s elevate our self-worth together and make this world a better place!

 

Reference:

Feldman Barrett, Lisa. (2017, December). You aren’t at the mercy of your emotions – your brain creates them. Retrieved from