It’s been a minute since I’ve posted something on this blog. I apologize for my absence, but life has been full. Well, it’s been mostly full, and partially lazy. Full in the sense that my youngest was in the hospital with RSV around the time of my last post at the same time my family was in town, then we headed down to Southern California to attend my BFF’s wedding, and then we returned home to prepare for two separate milestone birthdays for my two eldest. Lazy in the sense that I have managed to make my daily naps a priority. My two youngest will only allow this to happen for so much longer, so I feel a duty to myself to embrace any opportunity to sleep. When I haven’t been sleeping, nor tending to my kiddos, I’ve been wondering what I could do for myself to feel more fulfilled in my daily life. Continue reading
The conclusion of my Mental Illness Awareness Series is centered around thoughts and lessons I have learned in the time since the previously shared manuscript was written, which was two years ago. I wanted to touch on some feelings regarding my mental illness, my continued struggle with needing medication, the added benefits I’ve enjoyed from a changed diet and exercise, and the importance of finding the right therapist. Continue reading
Welcome back for Part 4 of my Mental Illness Awareness Series. Today I am sharing the final portion of the manuscript, which you can get background information on at the beginning of my Part 1 post. As explained in Part 2, this was originally written for women with Christian beliefs, particularly Latter-day Saint women. My hope is that you will find this post helpful regardless of your religious background.
I have not made any changes to the original manuscript, which was completed two years ago, making my battle with mental illness close to ten years now. It’s hard to believe I have struggled with this for so long, but each year I have greater insight. I look forward to sharing my current feelings next week, as a follow-up to this final portion of the manuscript. Continue reading
Today I am sharing part two of my Mental Illness Awareness Series, which is the continuation of my journey with mental illness. Background information can be found in my previous post from this series. The short story is that the following is taken from my portion of an unpublished manuscript that was designed to bring increased understanding of mental illness. Continue reading
I have become a bit of a recluse lately, which has left me with far less inspiring experiences to share and a bit of a curmudgeon attitude. I have a list of things I would like to get done, but no motivation to do them. I have a list of activities that would usually make me happy with little desire to pursue them. I feel like I have this unquenchable thirst with my life right now. There’s nothing “wrong,” except for maybe me. I’m definitely unsatisfied with me. It’s not a self-loathing kind of dissatisfied, it’s more of a stir-crazy dissatisfied. The kind of dissatisfaction that makes you want to shake yourself and say, “Snap out of it! We got a life to live!” Maybe that’s why a scripture that was referenced in church today struck me more than usual. As the scripture from the Book of Mormon was first read over the pulpit, the only words that I heard were, “press forward.”
Wherefore, ye must press forward with a steadfastness in Christ, having a perfect brightness of hope, and a love of God and of all men. Wherefore, if ye shall press forward, feasting upon the word of Christ, and endure to the end, behold, thus saith the Father: Ye shall have eternal life. – 2Nephi 31:30
You know those moments where someone says something that’s so simple you can hardly believe you didn’t piece it together before? I can think of one such moment off the top of my head, which happens to be another scriptural reference, this time from the Holy Bible.
Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock. And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it. -Matthew 7:24-27
I remember someone once teaching from this scripture and pointing out that the storm comes upon both people. It doesn’t say that the wise man doesn’t get a storm because he built his house upon a rock, his home simply remains standing regardless of the storm. Well, duh, Sara, obviously. Not so obvious for me, back in the day. I somehow managed to skip the significance of the storm coming upon each of us regardless of our desire to follow Christ. Though, I was certainly aware that I was not living a trial-free life. It was just one of those moments where it opened up a greater understanding between the scriptures and my daily life.
Well, that was the case again today. When the speakers referenced the “press forward” scripture, they each focused on the significance of those words. They pointed out that pressing forward implies opposition. Well, duh, Sara, obviously. But I needed to hear it broken down in that way. I needed to hear that it’s not just about being steadfast in Christ, or having a perfect brightness of hope, or a love of God and of all men (though these are important). Sometimes it’s about pressing forward. It’s about pressing forward so that you can do all those other things that are asked of you. It’s about standing up against opposition in all parts of your life. Ironically, the thing that is standing in the way of me, as of late, is me.
I need to push back on myself. I need to force myself to do something that will edify me or those around me, even if I just feel bored with it all. Honestly, I have this list of things To-Do on my Task List app where I’ve started to ignore the first three items on the list. They’ve been on there so long that I don’t even acknowledge them as things that need completing. It’s pathetic. But it’s not just about items on my To-Do list, it’s about living life to the fullest. I need to press forward against all the many ways that I am holding myself back.
Coincidentally, as I was looking on my website for other posts where I mentioned the beauty of said Task List app, I found mention of it within my post Six Ways to Get Motivated. I’ve been steadily accomplishing items #5 and #6, but it’s time to amp up my game on the first four ways to improve my efforts in pressing forward.
As always, I would love feedback from your personal experiences. What motivates you to press forward against the opposition in your life, whatever it may be? I know, for me, managing to complete a post (I have several unfinished ones in my queue) has actually lifted my spirits this evening. It may be a small accomplishment, but it’s an accomplishment nonetheless.
Okay, so I have sat staring at a blank screen long enough. It’s time to Just Begin. I have a lot of thoughts running through my head and I’m struggling to get them from head to print. It’s an issue that’s been plaguing me for some time. It got particularly bad right after my surgery this past November. My guess is that the anesthesia had a role in the brain fog. But then I got to thinking about how there has been a piece of me missing ever since I had my Stroke of Luck. It’s nothing drastic, but there has been a barrier that I have felt when trying to have thoughts at a deeper level. I’m sure there is a word for it, but, ironically, I wouldn’t be able come up with it anyway. This realization was a secondary reason for me taking a bit of a hiatus on the blog. I stopped liking what I was putting out, because I wasn’t able to transfer my thought process into sufficient words. Honestly, I still feel at odds with my writing, but I also feel that itch I get when writing is the only outlet that can scratch it. So, here I am.
Topics that have been on my mind include: the shame I feel having a mental illness that requires prescription medication, the paradox of motherhood, life on survival mode, humbling myself, making sure I’m making the most out of this time in my life, and my struggle with distorted thinking. Seeing as how the latter is the easiest matter for me to express, let’s start there.
When I started this blog, at the encouragement of a friend, I was telling her how I wanted to talk about all the things I learned in therapy about my distorted thinking. She kept saying that the term wasn’t clear enough and therefore needed some tweaking. So, let me start by sharing what I believe to be the best analogy for distorted thinking. Imagine you have a kaleidoscope with loads of pretty gems in it. If you took the kaleidoscope outside on a beautiful day and looked at flowers, it would distort the natural beauty of the flowers. It would still have its own beauty, since the kaleidoscope was filled with pretty gems, but it’s distorted nonetheless. Now imagine you have a kaleidoscope with coal and dirt in place of gems. How do you envision those flowers looking as you gaze through the kaleidoscope of filth? Now imagine your thought process was continually looking through that same dirt-filled kaleidoscope. That is what my thought process did, for years, with several aspects of my life. I still catch myself battling it, but I was taught methods, in therapy, to recognize and squelch that way of thinking when it resurfaces.
Some people think that therapy is a place they go to for a quick fix or, worse, a place where they can figure out who to blame from their childhood for their distorted thinking or lot in life. I’m not saying that our childhoods don’t have an impact on our lives and who we become, they most certainly do. However, I find that successful therapy is achieved upon acknowledging things that have happened, moving past them, and working, truly working, on the here and now of the problem. Even if there was a source from my childhood for my acquired distorted thought process, what good would have come from placing blame? For me, the solution came in getting to the root of the problem and allowing myself to grow, not hunting down the planter and yelling at them for not planting me in optimal sunlight. I use the term “planter” loosely, not as an analogy for a parent or any one person, but as a source beyond my control. The healthiest way to make emotional progress is to be accountable for your actions, and realize there is no quick fix.
At the time when I was sincerely ready to attend therapy, I had to address the fact that some of what I felt jaded about was not really even happening. For instance, in my mind, any compliment given to me was only out of obligation or a form of manipulation. Somehow I couldn’t take a compliment as a sincere gesture of someone’s amiable feelings towards me. How could I feel good about myself when I wouldn’t even accept that there was good in me? The flip side to this is when, someone really did think less of me, and I automatically took their thoughts as truth. My worth is not dependent on another’s set of ideals, and yet somehow I still struggle to think of it as such. It’s this way of distorted thinking that has left me feeling shame for my mental illness and my use of medications for proper treatment. However, that topic is for a whole other day.
For today, I think the message I want to send out into the world is simply to become aware of distorted thoughts that you may be having, perhaps unknowingly, and try to debunk them so that they do not consume you. Also, don’t let your worth be dependent on another’s set of ideals. And, lastly, progress can be made, but First You Must Begin. This post would not have come to pass, if I hadn’t simply begun and let my thoughts land where they may.
**As a footnote, I’d like to add my advice when it comes to attending therapy. Please don’t assume that if you went once and it was horrible that it will always be that way. I have sat down in front of six separate psychologists, starting as early as 11-years-old, and only ONE proved fruitful in my healing process. Three of those six were so terrible that I couldn’t even bear to go back and sit through that kind of misery a second time. I am a huge advocate of therapy, and I believe each of us can benefit from seeing a psychologist. It is not a sign of weakness, mental illness, nor anything of the like. It is a sign of someone desiring to be a better version of themselves. Don’t be discouraged if you have had bad experiences in therapy. We meet loads of people in our lives, some become friends, some don’t. Similarly we are able to connect with people in their chosen professions and within the services they provide. Recently, I had a dreadful session with a therapist, but I will not let that experience keep me from finding the right fit. While I was previously given several tools to help me with my distorted thinking, I know that I stand in need of a refresher course. Too bad that ONE psychologist that provided me with those saving tools resides in Southern California. WAAAHHHH!!!!**
I truly enjoy reading books with my children. This should come as no surprise after my Read to Your Child post. Picture books with a good message are my weakness. One of my favorites is a Cautionary Tale of Flattery called The Spider and the Fly. On my last trip to the library, I had the pleasure of finding Elephant in the Dark. Prior to reading it, I knew nothing of this book nor the story it was based on, which is commonly called “Blind men and an elephant.” It’s truly a fascinating perspective, and ironically, once I explain the gist of the story, it has several different interpretations.
There are several variations of the story, as I’ve learned from my Google research. Seeing as how the version of Elephant in the Dark by Mina Javaherbin is the one that piqued my interest, I’ll summarize her version the best I can. The story begins with Merchant Ahmad, who brings a mysterious creature back from India. The news spreads in the village and everybody wants to see the creature, but Ahmad is too tired from his journey, and explains that it is too dark in his barn to see the animal at this time. The villagers, not taking no for an answer, decide to sneak into the barn and take a look for themselves. One by one, they go in, and each of them touches a different part of the elephant (a tail, a tusk, a trunk, etc.). Since they each only touched one part of it, they come back out reporting the creature was like something completely different from what another person had declared. Then it reads, “All day long they called each other names and fought to prove each other wrong. Into the night no one listened, but everyone shouted and shoved.” Then, the next day Ahmad awakes and takes the creature to the river, which we now see is an elephant, but the villagers are still too busy fighting to see the creature appear. The last line reads, “And no one noticed they each knew only a small piece of the truth.”
As I finished reading Elephant in the Dark, I concluded that every adult needs to read this book. My Facebook has become so cluttered with who’s right and who’s wrong, that it’s disheartening. I realize you already heard my rant on this topic in Accentuate the Positive, but this book just brought it to the forefront of my mind again. It also reminded me of this quote I read by the US Secretary of Agriculture and 13th President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Ezra Taft Benson. He said, “Pride does not look up to God and care about what is right. It looks sideways to man and argues who is right.” Religious or not, the idea that being right is more important than the whole truth gets us nowhere as a society.
Sometimes I feel bad that I don’t have an adamant opinion on all things. Starting this blog made that more evident in my life. I knew if I had a more extreme opinion on a matter, I could draw a larger audience. Shock factor sells, right? At first I thought I was just too ignorant to form an opinion on hot topics. Then I realized, it’s that I can see where others are coming from, for the most part. I’m not perfect in this way by any means. But I would like to believe that I don’t just go into the barn, feel one part of the mysterious creature, and assume I know all based on that single instance. I have opinions on all sorts of things, don’t get me wrong, but I also understand that it’s my opinion. Some of my opinions have facts to back them up, some don’t. The last thing I want to do though is ever express my opinion in such a way that demeans somebody else’s viewpoint. I don’t want to fight about who is right. I’m okay with learning more about the whole creature. But, I’m also okay with being considered wrong in someone else’s eyes. On that same note, I’m also okay being wrong in my own eyes. For me, it’s not about who is right, but what is right. Because of that thinking process, I’m not afraid to learn more. I want to understand the whole creature. Period.
I love one of the interpretations of this story, made into a poem by Rumi, a 13th-century Persian poet,which Elephant in the Dark is based on. Rumi’s poem ends with, “If each had a candle and they went in together the differences would disappear.” I think of that line and wonder what our world would look like under those circumstances. I imagine, as it pertains to this story, we would all be unified in understanding it was an elephant, but we would still have our opinions on the creature. Perhaps one person would find the elephant ugly, and another would find it breath-taking, but both would agree it was an elephant. Neither person needs to be wrong in their feelings towards the elephant. We can respect differing interpretations of the creature, while simultaneously agreeing that there is a greater truth that there is no disputing.
Oh, how I hope I was able to express my feelings on Elephant in the Dark and it’s greater meaning. The concept was over my toddler’s head, as I read the book to him. But, I’ve found myself reading it over and over on my own. There is much to take away and ponder about this story. Take a moment and reflect on the story, if you have some time. I would love to hear other’s feelings on the matter.
It’s probably no surprise that a family of six with a single income can be strapped for money at times. It was one of those times recently, and I was feeling stressed about it. I had a prayer in my heart to find some guidance, and it wasn’t long before I was inspired. I had the privilege of hearing Gary E. Stevenson give a talk during General Conference. In his talk, he expressed his agony over all of his inadequacies, and then said, “I received a distinct impression which both chastened and comforted me: to focus not on what I can’t do but rather on what I can do.” While he was speaking in terms of his personal insecurities, my mind quickly applied this to our financial situation. Then, as the week progressed, I saw how I could apply it to every aspect of my life. Having a can do attitude is one of the ways I’m striving to accentuate the positive, as I wrote about last week.
This is not a ground-breaking idea. We’ve heard variations of this same concept countless times. I’m sure I’m not the only one who needs reminders of simple truths, then finds them lying in plain sight. When I was in therapy years ago, I would have these “ah-ha” moments and come home to tell my husband about it. He would respond, “Isn’t that the same thing that I’ve told you for months?” I would respond back to him, “Yes, but she somehow said it differently and it clicked.” Or perhaps it’s just my belief in the “two makes it true” theory? Who knows? The point of the matter was that THIS quote clicked, and I’m going to share how all-encompassing this concept really can be.
My weakness is eating out. Oh, how I love it. A good cheeseburger is practically therapy for me, and so much more affordable. But when money is tight, nothing is considered affordable, is it? So, instead of feeling glum about not eating out, I thought about how awesome it was that we had enough money to get all the groceries we needed. I began to think about how cool it was that I had dishwasher detergent already, so I didn’t have to hand-wash my dishes. The more time that went by, the more opportunities I saw that I DID have in my daily life. I could take my kids to the park and play. I could go to the library and check out as many books as I wanted. I could go on a walk with my friends. There was so much that I could do!
Then, I went and did something dumb. Well, it wasn’t dumb at first, it started out quite awesome! My daughter was the “Super Hero of the Week” at school and each day provided something special for her to either share or do. Friday was “Bring a Buddy to Lunch.” Guess who got to be that buddy? And guess who COULD be there for her daughter? That’s right – me. Lunch with my second grader and playing with her on the playground was the awesome part! I happen to love going on the swings, so I made a point to get some swing time in. The thrill of being so high that I go above the bar is the real highlight for me. I was feeling pretty proud of my skills. As I was slowing down, I underestimated how high I still was from the ground. It should be noted that I do not normally jump off swings. I’m a wuss that way. I totally thought I was lower when I made the leap off the swing. Oh, how wrong I was. I landed unsteady, stumbled a bit, spun around, realized my fate included landing on painful wood chips, and fell flat on my back. All I could do was laugh. I was mortified. I’m pretty sure only my daughter and a couple of kids saw me (or at least that’s what I told myself to keep intact whatever bit of my ego I had left). My sweet daughter helped me up and brushed all the wood chips from me. Thankfully, it was time for me to go, and I was able to escape my embarrassing moment. Unfortunately, I could instantly tell that I had injured my big toe. So, you see, it all started out awesome until my one dumb move came into play.
I quickly began cursing myself and realized that I had a painful situation on my hands (or more literally, my foot). Walking became more and more arduous, as the adrenaline of the event wore off. That’s when I fell into the wicked trap of “can’ts.” I began to focus on all the things I could not do with the injured toe (like those walks with friends that I mentioned above that I could do even with low funds). How grateful I am that the quote above was still fresh in my mind. I decided to focus on all the things I could still do instead. The most important of them being that I could still get down with my boys and wrestle that night. I could still sit to fold laundry the following day. I could still kneel for bedtime prayers with my family. There were so many “cans” left that didn’t involve pain in my toe.
I’m finding that a can do attitude truly is a beautiful way to look at life. It doesn’t need to be used simply as a source of motivation, it can be used as a method of comfort. I suppose that’s the difference I found in Stevenson’s quote versus any other variations I had heard prior. What I can do does not have to be limited to achieving goals or benchmarks. A can do attitude can be a pulse check to all the good that already exists in one’s life. I know that’s the affect it’s had on my life these past couple of weeks. It hasn’t always been easy to avoid thinking of the “can’ts,” but it’s amazing the level of peace I feel when I recognize how many more “cans” are in my life. I even got to thinking about how this month’s First Friday Find: Zach Anner was another great example of a can do attitude in motion. He may very well be the epitome of this way of life.
Honestly, it’s been pretty fun to acknowledge all the things that I can still do despite tight funds and a sprained toe. I really have a lot going for me. So, the question is, what CAN you do?
Lately, the amount of negativity in the world has left me unsettled. Social media and the news being the biggest irritants on the matter. Surprisingly, neither of those were the source, when I became truly fed up with this issue. The other day, I saw a bumper sticker that read, “Not a Liberal.” Simple statement, right? Not much worth fussing over. However, I was struck by the verbiage of that remark. Why say, “Not a Liberal?” Why not state that you are conservative? My takeaway was that this driver is so against being liberal, that he would rather state how much he is not liberal, rather than celebrate what he is supporting of in life. I see no benefit in shaming another point of view to state the beauty of your own. This is the way life seems to be delivered to us now. We’re given news through a series of one liner blurbs that either leave one feeling great about who they are or shaming them for their opinion on a matter. Why can’t we simply “accentuate the positive,” as Gordon B. Hinckley states in his book, Standing for Something: 10 Neglected Virtues That Will Heal Our Hearts and Homes? As much as I would like to copy and paste the entire chapter, Optimism in the Face of Cynicism, from this book, I will refrain. But, oh, what beautiful things we would see in our world, if people took the time to nurture the ten neglected virtues mentioned.
The concept of focusing on the positive first struck me when I was kneeling in prayer with my husband years ago. He was saying the prayer and asked that our children be protected from harm. Perfectly normal thing to pray for and I echoed his words in my heart. However, I began to realize that when he asked that they be protected from harm, my mind drifted off to the terrible harms that could potentially come their way. When it was my night to pray, I began to switch around the wording to ask that our Heavenly Father watch over our children or keep them safe. Omitting the word “harm” kept my mind in a more positive place. I do the same with my children now, as we kneel in family prayer and it’s my turn to say the prayer. I ask that they all have sweet dreams and get a good night’s rest. Whereas, when my children pray, they ask that they not have any nightmares. We want the same thing, but the manner in which we present it makes a difference, I believe. One of my daughters will sometimes even pray that, “no fires will burn our house down and no bad guys will steal [them].” I want to be fire free and kidnap free even more than she does, but those words trigger dark images in my mind. Our words have a great impact on our attitudes and outlook. Such a simple change in verbiage can either lead me to greater peace or greater anxiety.
This topic of optimism is so far-reaching that I don’t intend to wrap all my thoughts into one post. Tonight, I simply wanted to encourage us all to contemplate how we are approaching our daily activities and experiences. Are we expressing ourselves in a negative manner or potentially conjuring up negative thoughts by the words we use? Are we stating who we are by stating who we’re not? I’m a Christian woman with the understanding that we have a Father in Heaven, a Savior, the Holy Ghost, and then Lucifer standing on the opposing side. I don’t give Lucifer the privilege of crediting his name by saying, “I’m not with Satan.” Instead, I say, “I know my Savior lives and loves me.”
A relevant and real life example of the change we can make in our approach is how the city of Roseburg, OR handled the recent mass shooting at Umpqua Community College (UCC). The community asked that the gunman remain anonymous. Instead, the focus was shifted to Chris Mintz who was noted as a hero for having been shot seven times, as he was rushing the UCC shooter. This is a tragic event that I cannot comprehend enduring nor do I intend to discuss further. I simply find the action of accentuating the positive virtues of one man, in the face of calamity, as admirable and inspiring.
I’ve learned that changing the wording of my prayers has brought me greater peace. I no longer use verbiage that amps my anxiety or lets my fears take over. Now the goal for me is to understand where else in my life I may be expressing myself in a negative fashion. As I sit here contemplating where I can improve on this matter, I’m reminded of the quote by Tom Peters that I shared in Musings of a Mom, “Celebrate what you want to see more of.” Perhaps it’s time that I see how I can uplift my children more by accentuating the positive rather than focusing on the negative?
As I mentioned, this topic of optimism could infiltrate so many aspects of our lives, and tonight is not the time for that. Tonight, I close with a plea for each of us to accentuate the positive! If you have an experience where you made this shift in your own life, I would love to hear about it in the comments below!
If you’re new to my site, let me briefly explain what First Friday Find is about. Every first Friday of the month, I like to share an app, website, or idea that may not be widely known. I don’t get any incentives from any companies or individuals that I mention. I simply like bringing goodness into others’ lives. It’s a fun way for me to share things that have either helped streamline my life or lifted my spirit. This month is a find that brought about the latter. One of my friends is seriously the funniest woman I have ever met. There has never been a time when speaking with her that I have not laughed hardily. So, when she posted a link on Facebook to Zach Anner’s video on YouTube with the comment: 1. I want to be friends with this guy. 2. I don’t think I have laughed this hard, ever. This is no small statement. 3. I love people who don’t take themselves too seriously. Made my day! I knew I had to check it out. Zach did not disappoint, which is why this month is First Friday Find: Zach Anner.
The first video I saw of Zach Anner’s was the one that my friend had linked to that was called Baby Steps – Workout Wednesday #2. I’ve watched this one several times and I laugh equally hard each time and am simultaneously inspired by Zach’s uplifting words and positive outlook on life despite his challenges.
On Zach’s YouTube About page, he says that he, “makes videos for your enjoyment and [his] embarrassment.” I would definitely agree that it is for our enjoyment, but I would add that it is for our edification. I’m reminded of the quote by Michael P. Watson, “Strong people don’t put others down…they lift them up.” In my mind, Zach Anner is one of the strongest men I know. He has uplifting words to share in each of his videos.
I thought about including more links here, but it’s hard to pick out my absolute faves. Instead, I’ll stick with sharing his High Five Friday #1, which is a great example of him lifting others. I mean if he can dish out a high-five for someone going Vegan, he’s definitely doing his best to make the world a better place. Seriously though, the person that deserves a high-five on this Friday is Zach Anner! May we all learn to live life with as much humor, determination, and optimism as this man does!
And that, dear friends, is our First Friday Find: Zach Anner.