What About The Symptoms?

Sometimes I have too many thoughts in my head that I’m just not able to get them out in a cohesive way, so I’m experimenting with video (I can only talk about one thing at a time, I hope!).

So while showering this morning I remembered how showers weren’t always easy or enjoying for me so I thought I would share in this video.   I’d love to know what other symptoms people have noticed. Everyday things that may be easy on good days, but almost impossible on rough days.

Even the Enlightened Fear the Stigma

From my understanding buddhism is one of the worlds religions that is accepting of everyone. It is inclusive of all races, backgrounds, economic statuses. It does not overtly exclude those who struggle with life challenges and it does not impose a specific lifestyle that excludes modern science or medicine.

So I am saddened that just a few weeks ago, here in Canada, a devout buddhist teacher, author, and community leader, who had a loving family, supportive community and access to modern medicine, still feared the stigma attached to his mental health diagnosis, particularly when he was struggling to manage the symptoms.  Micheal Stone passed away July 16th in the hospital after an apparent overdose.

For people who have never experienced this kind of stigma personally, it is almost impossible to understand it.  It is like asking someone who is completely color blind to see the color purple.  They can really want to and try as much as possible, but it is really just a guess.

So the next time someone shares something about their mental health, a passing thought or a deeply personal revelation, please pause and thank them for being brave. Don’t say you understand, you likely don’t, and that’s ok. Thank them for trusting you and honour that relationship in whatever way you are able.  Because the stigma is real, in all walks of life. Mental health conditions don’t discriminate based on gender, or religion or socioeconomic status.  They can affect anyone, at anytime.  And although we now have a huge array of services, medications and treatments available, they are not always available at the right time or place for everyone.

To learn more about the passing of Michael Stone:

https://www.lionsroar.com/official-statement-on-passing-of-michael-stone-released

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Are You Worthy?

I thought I had a positive sense of self, that I was a relatively confident person. But when I really examined my assessment of worthiness I discovered that I was in fact confident in the skills and abilities that I possessed, not in my inherent self worth.  I felt confident in what I could do or the impact I could make. But when it came down to ‘just me’,  no work history or personal exaplanation as to what I’ve accomplished or where I’ve been or what I’ve been through, I realized I didn’t feel very worthy at all. When I feel striped of all those details, which can happen when you are sick (physically or mentally) it is much harder to believe in our worth as a person. What am I contributing? What difference do I make? Who am I supporting or helping?

When my heart is in my throat, my face is hot with blood rushing to my cheeks reacting to the anxiety I’m feeling and I can’t think of the words I want to use, I don’t feel very worthy. Or when my body feels so tired and heavy I don’t have the strength to get out of bed and have a shower, I don’t feel worthy of much.

Should we just accept this? You a worthy only when you are making a contribution. Who defines contribution? Where do we draw the line?

I’ve come to believe that people do not ‘earn’ their worthiness, it is a gift just like being born is a gift. We all have various skills and abilities, strengths and weaknesses. But none of them define our worthiness.  We are worthy because we were born.

Worthy of what you may be wondering?

Worthy of living a good life. Worthy of being treated with respect. Worthy of trying new things and not being punished for failing. Worthy of love, giving and receiving it. Worthy of living a life that fills you up in whatever way that means to you. Worthy of your opinions and your feelings. Worthy of making your own choices and the freedom to change your mind.

So if worthiness is all these things and it is a gift that all receive from birth, why do so many of us feel less worthy than others?

It is my wish that we all feel worthy, regardless of mistakes we’ve made or our weaknesses as humans. But how?

For me I needed to start by reminding myself.

“I am a strong and worthy person”

This mantra was said to me as a teenager and always stayed with me.  When I’m feeling vulnerable or inconsequential, I will repeat this to myself. Or at the end of writing in my journal, I will write this.  But even this was not enough when my depression was at its worst. Depression and anxiety play with our minds and tell us things that are not true. So if you are depressed or anxious, please see this as a reminder of your worth. Not because of what you’ve done, or any other worthiness criteria, but just because you are you. Yup, that simple. We are all worthy of a good life, whatever that means to you.

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What Is Fun For You Is A Nightmare For Someone Else

We can’t always predict or even imagine how our actions may affect someone, somewhere.

What is fun for one person can be a nightmare for someone else.

Fireworks are like that for me and my husband.

I love them, always have.  I remember being no more than 10 and begging my Dad to drive to the next village on a rainy evening because they always had fireworks on Canada Day. I didn’t care about the rest of the festivities, but the fireworks were special.
I even remember when I was first married and lived on a military base and what seemed liked hundreds of couples and families gathered on picnic blankets on the golf course to watch the fireworks.
But after his tour Afghanistan, fireworks were never the same.
It seems to be ok if he is ready and watching for them, he even enjoyed them at Disney World as he was ready and watching for them.  But when we are in our living room and all of sudden we here a huge bang, his brain immediately goes into fight or flight mode. Even when he knows there are likely more of them to come, if the noise is different from the last, or seems closer, louder, or anything different from the last one, his brain goes back into panic.
Someone without PTSD might still be startled for a second or two, but would quickly realize what the noise was (because it was Canada Day, or New Years Eve) and would quickly go back to whatever they were doing.
Unfortunately, for many veterans with PTSD, their brain goes into a primal mode and prepares for battle. This is obviously takes much longer to recuperate from.
I should be used to this after 14 years, but its not easy.
Our daughter jumps too, but not because of the noise, but because of seeing her father panic (literally like a bomb has gone off).  This definitely takes the fun out of fireworks for us.
So although we can’t always predict how our actions may affect others, we can try to be aware and respectful. If you know your neighbour is a vet, maybe let them know if you are planning on setting off fireworks. Or maybe just go and watch the ones put on by the town and away from residential areas.
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