Posts Tagged ‘mood disorders’

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Do it scared, do it hurt, do it depressed…

December 27, 2010

I am revisiting the notion of not letting fear, pain, depression, anxiety, or any other invisible inward feeling stop us from doing what we feel is the next right or wise thing to do.

For most of my life, I let unpredictable, unreliable inner feelings act as a traffic light telling me what I should or shouldn’t do next.  I was naive enough to believe those feelings and would often shy from important things in my life that needed to be done.  Important things like filing my taxes on time, opening mail, completing a home project, working out, or fulfilling a promise made to friends or family.

Instead, I often felt paralyzed by fear, depression, or anxiety.  Feeling so overwhelmed that the easiest thing to do was to procrastinate the task and escape into sleep, tv, or in the old days of active addiction and alcoholism, I would drink or drug.  None of these escapes were of any value.  I was seldom rejuvenated and the task avoided was still there.

Then one day, years ago, I was listening to some teaching on pressing through fear or other overwhelming feelings.  A simple suggestion was posed, “Why don’t you just do it scared”? 

‘It’ being the task that you would otherwise avoid or procrastinate on.  So I began to think back and ask myself, how many exams did I write in school while scared?  Pretty much every one.  Or when I was starting out my career and doing interviews, how many interviews did I do scared?  Pretty much every one.  And how many sporting events did I play scared?  Again, pretty much all of them.  So I realized I could, and often have, done many things while scared.  So why not continue in this?

How was it the first time any of us walked into a room of AA, NA, Al-Anon, OA, or any 12-step program, scared?  I would bet all of us.  Yet what did we find on the other side of that fear?  Sobriety?  Help? Hope? A new beginning after repeated failures and painful losses?  Yes, absolutely!

I believe  that  fear and other negative emotions are tactics often used by the sick/addicted part of our thinking to self-preserve the sickness or addiction.  Somehow, it is like our unrecovered self has a mind and agenda of its own, and it wants to continue to live and grow.  So it suggests to us that we should remain immobile and avoid certain tasks.  Often, the very tasks that will give us the most growth, recovery, and victory in the shortest period of time.

I post this because I find myself in a bit of a post-Christmas funk.  My mood has been heavy for a few days since Christmas and some things are bothering me.  I am home early from work and I have some financial matters that really need attending to.  And at this moment, my mind is doing everything to avoid these matters.

So my determination was to acknowledge and expose these feelings for what they are by sharing them on my blog, then press past the anxious feelings and just do them.  Which is the next and only thing on my list of things to do tonight. 

If re-living feelings of fear and anxiousness similar to those I felt at many important moments in my life is the worst it can be, then I know I can handle it.  I just need to keep it simple, shut the brain off, turn the body on, and do it.  Scared, anxious, depressed, overwhelmed, or whatever.  It is do-able, even if I am not comfortable.

Ciao.

Chaz

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“…would it not be likely that their lives are crap”?

November 24, 2010

Ever have a momentary experience with a very challenging person? 

My wife went through two of these in the last two days and came home upset as a result.  One was with an irreverent receptionist at a dental office who seemed to fancy herself for her brashness and exaggerated snippy and sarcastic comments, all in the paper-thin guise of humour.  She made derogatory comments about our dental insurance plan and a scheduling question.  My wife was so taken aback, that she didn’t even know what to say in the moment and just left.  You know those experiences?

The other was in a business situation in which someone threatened to diss our name in the profession we are in.  They made some completely unfounded accusations about us hiring someone away from them, when in reality, the prospective employee approached us and offered up this person as a reference.

What’s my point?  In debriefing these disturbing incidents with my wife, the question that begged to be asked was,

“If these  momentary experiences with these people were typical of how they are, would it not be likely that their lives are crap”?

It was only natural that my wife and I thought of several retaliatory comebacks to these people.  None of which we are following through on.  Why would we?  Their behaviours are likely to carry their own consequences far greater than any rebuttal or reprimand that we could give.  And how is it even worth our time or energy?  We have a tremendous number of priorities with family, business, home, and life.  Where does correcting, reprimanding, or telling-off a stranger fit amongst our priorities.  It doesn’t.

The threat to bad-mouth us was in all likelihood benign.  Besides which, who is likely to take seriously such an erratic person.  Especially if this behaviour is typical.  Is it not more likely that if she did say anything, that others would just roll their eyes, and dismiss her comments as more bitterness from a disturbed person.  And we have an otherwise flawless name in our profession.  Do we not have confidence in who we are and what  our capabilities are?  Are we going to be dissuaded by one unbalanced, rude, probably sick person?

And for the dental receptionist, we may simply and calmly either find a new dentist, or calmly describe the episode to the dentist at next visit.  Surely, this will not be the first this dentist has heard of the receptionists tone and behaviour.

"My life sucks and I am making sure it stays this way"!

Can you imagine what the families of these two people go through?  If the families in fact still have anything to do with them.  Their kids, their spouses?  Seriously, if these were just momentary samplings of their behaviours, what must it be like to be them or be around them continuously?  Clinically speaking, their lives must suck.

Recovery has taught me that I seldom need to retaliate and that the behaviour of the foolish and unhealthy will be its own consequence.  My main responsibility is to myself and my family.  I am not the equalizer of the universe.  I am not the messenger to all who for whom I have a distaste.  And if I have anything to say, it will more often be in a calm, collected frame of mind after processing the initial impact of the disturbing event.  In fact, I am less prone to using words at all, I would just speak with my feet and walk away, leaving them to their own self-imposed misery.

This may sound cold, but a much better alternative to investing time and energy into someone you may never see again or who is not looking to change.

Ciao.

Chaz

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Powered by Gratitude

September 17, 2010

In the past 2 years, I have been discovering the amazing depth and power of gratitude. 

I’ve discovered gratitude at levels far deeper than can be expressed by words alone.  I am talking about the gratitude that we live, rather than say.  We express it in our actions by doing and the choices we make on a day to day, moment to moment basis.  We begin to see so vividly that the blessing we have received and recovery we have experienced are truly rare and amazing, that gratitude permeates our subconscious and becomes one of the foundational influences of our entire outlook on life.  We don’t just think about it in our conscious mind, we move to feeling it in our emotions continuously.

The power is that we are far less fearful, far more hopeful, and we discover new energy and motivation in life because we feel grateful for everything, and anxious for little.  We can do and achieve things that we used to fall short of.  Why?  Because the negative thoughts that always stopped us in our tracks are now nudged out by gratitude for each moment, each person, each event, and each physical item in our lives.

On a practical level, I have found gratitude helps me maintain a happy marriage, a fun and functioning relationship with my kids, physical fitness, success in my career, and better relationships with everyone in my life.

Again, why?  Because I have let go of so much self-pity that kept me only seeing the negative in each circumstance.  Filtered through fear and self-pity, I would virtually always see the half-empty glass.  My mind would automatically nit-pick the imperfections in my job, my home, my wife, my family, and my health.  Even if I didn’t say it, I would allow the thoughts in my mind that would then translate into behaviours that limited me.  Or worse, led me to give up.

Gratitude on the other hand, especially when we live it rather than say it, keeps us focused on the half-full portion of the glass.  Gratitude leads us to become excited and energized because of what we do have.  So we make use of the blessing of the half-full part of the glass and build a better life for ourselves with what we do have, rather than remain immobilized looking at what we don’t.

An example on a practical level would be times when I decide to act in gratitude for my wife by doing something as an expression of this gratitude.  This may be rubbing her neck while she works at her desk, or telling her I love her at a time when I don’t normally, or doing some of her share of the household responsibilities, or taking the kids out so she can have some peace for a while.  When I determine to act in gratitude, I am careful not to speak it as well.  I feel I don’t want to taint the purity of the expression.  And by doing, it has such an impact on me and her, that the most amazing feelings in both of us begin to emerge.  And our marriage functions better and better.

Another example is my fitness routine which includes cycling for about 10 kms a few times a week.  Self-pity would have me complain in my head about the cold, the rain, dogs, traffic, sweating, and how hard it was.  Gratitude on the other hand focuses on the opportunity to be in shape, the beauty of the area I cycle in, the fresh morning air, the compliments from others, and the feeling of accomplishment that only comes from knowing I completed a task fully.

When I let gratitude guide my thoughts and express itself in my actions like riding longer or pushing harder, I have better workouts and cycling than ever and get better results, which then fuels more gratitude and more action.

Gratitude expressed only verbally will do some good.  But gratitude internalized so deeply we constantly feel it to the point that it becomes one of our defaults of perspective, then expressed in actions, can take us to new heights in every part of our lives.  It has freed me from so many of the shackles of negativity that limited me.

I encourage everyone to seek gratitude beyond words then act on it.

Ciao

Chaz

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We become what we practice

August 25, 2010

One of the strengths of AA and 12-step recovery is the opportunity to practice over and over the principles of this approach to recovery.  Abundant meetings in most areas make is possible to receive a continual steam of support and input for prolonged periods.

Was this not how we became sick and alcoholic in the first place?  We learned something by observation or experience, we did it once, then repeated over and over for a prolonged period?  Until our patterns of thought and behaviour became so entrenched, they were our defaults?  They were part of who we were.

So why would it not take the same to change?  We practiced thoughts and behaviours of self-pity, escapism, resentment, anger, envy, and potentially a hundred other dysfunctions until they wove together to make up the fabric of who we had become.

I did 90 meetings in 90 days at the same daily meeting.  A lot of people have asked, “Didn’t it get boring and repetitious”?  It would have if I let my old thinking tell me it was.  But gladly, I had some support from those who had travelled the path before me who compelled me to try to learn something new each day.  Even if the same people spoke again and again.

To my utter amazement, they were right.  New gems of truth and enlightenment began to emerge out of the same people at the same meeting day after day.  Why?  Perhaps it was because I was changing.  The repetition I heard was slowly breaking down the walls of my old thinking.  And my follow-through on a daily basis began to establish new patterns that further opened my mind.

Learning through practice and repetition is one thing that has kept me in the rooms of AA for a number of years, even though I can’t get any more sober than I was the day I first sobered up.  It took a long time to weave the old fabric, it is taking a long time to weave the new one.  Practice, practice, practice leads to progress, progress, progress.

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We don’t need to understand pain

July 31, 2010

I used to make painful moments and circumstances in life far more painful by expecting to understand the pain.  I rarely do that anymore.  Pain is inevitable in life.  It just happens.  Nobody is exempt.  We choose whether or not we want to turn it into suffering by complicating it.

I used to complicate pain all the time by reading deep meaning into it while it was happening.  Even though this never helped.  I would want to know all the reasons why.  I would want instant clarity.  I felt an injustice was done on me if God or someone didn’t deliver clarity of reason to me right away.

Today, “it just happens” and eventually passes.  It goes away in time, every time.  So I am more prone to just grit my teeth, focus on something else positive, and let it pass.  The amazing thing is that some clarity or lesson usually follows at some point shortly thereafter.  I “let” more be revealed rather than “expect” it.

And if pain is getting me down, I have the secret weapon of surrender.  I turn it over.  Let go, let God.

Life is way better.

Ciao.

Chaz

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and the “Life Hands You Your Own Ass” Scholarship goes to…

June 30, 2010

I was at a Grad ceremony recently for a relative graduating from High School.  Our family was pleased and proud.  Our Grad won some awards.  It was exciting and precious.  We are so glad they have completed something and are off to a good start.

The graduation was from a middle-class suburban school that requires parental involvement and place high emphasis on academics, athletics, and social responsibility.  Parents sacrifice to get their kids into this school.  We are grateful. 

The procession of students was narrated by an MC who read the future plans for each grad.  At least 75% stated they wished to attend university and seek a highly trained profession such as medicine, law, business, law enforcement, science, engineering, humanitarian or arts endeavors.

There were numerous scholarships from various businesses, churches, organizations and individuals.  All were awarded based on criteria such as academic achievement, sports achievement, community service, leadership, friendship, and representation of the character of God.  Similarly some awards were for ambitious plans to notable universities and degrees.

I was impressed with the level of achievement so many of the kids aspired to work toward.  And of course, this would not be the time or place to state that some of the more painful and unexpected realities of life are likely to impact and challenge these wide-eyed grads as they set forth on their journeys into adult life.

I wondered to myself, would it not be fitting to offer the “Life Hands You Your Own Ass” Scholarship?  Which would consist of a deferred, rather than immediate, bursary to be presented to the first student to whom the bitter realities of life show up first.  The money could be applied to any of, but not limited to, the following:

  • Psychological counselling (for things such as divorce, parental divorce, assault (sexual or otherwise), unexpected pregnancy, suicide ideation, depression, mood disorders, etc.  Invariably, at least 25% will experience one or more of these within 10 years of grad).
  • Divorce legal fee fund.
  • Single parenthood expenses.
  • Legal defense fund for criminal activity including impaired driving.
  • Gender preference confusion counseling.
  • Drug or alcohol rehabilitation.
  • Pornography addiction counseling. 
  • Disability income.
  • Unemployment re-training.
  • Bankruptcy.

Again, a public graduation ceremony is hardly the time or place to state the inevitability of such painful life issues lurking on the horizon for a large proportion of any population.  I suppose the thing that jumped out is the gross degree of naivety that reveals itself when our kids emerge from the protected enviroment and comfort of middle-class, suburban, family supported life.  They are of course setting their best foot forward with the best of intentions as we would hope they would do.

And having the realities of life served up to us is not necessarily a bad thing.  If dealt with, endured, and overcome, they can be the best thing ever to happen to us.  In fact, they would make us better doctors, lawyers, police, engineers, pharmacists, and business leaders.  I suppose I was sensing the overlooked fact that formal education is not the only thing of importance to becoming successful and influential in life.  And that we easily and simply get what we desire the way we expect it.

Life will show up for our grad and all others.  It may in fact, show up bearing the gift of their own ass.  Neatly packaged in a painful life circumstance that may feel like failure, like being robbed, ripped off, had the rug pulled out from under us.

I in fact, would trust someone far more who endured and survived a painful life circumstance than I would someone who hadn’t.  A year of pain will teach us far more than a lifetime of comfort.

Ciao.

Chaz

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Two-speed Chaz

May 31, 2010

I used to have two setting; Elated or Enraged.  There were very few point in between.  Not until I was nearly 40 years of age did I learn that there were a whole range of intermediate setting for my emotions.  One of which was disappointment.

In my pre-recovering thinking, any let down was cause to switch to the Enraged setting.  And manifest this setting by either raging, fearing, depressing, pouting, drinking, or shutting down.  Yes, I am talking about during my adulthood.

Disappointment is that setting just a few notches in from “Normal” that I now switch to when something doesn’t turn out like I hoped it would.  It involves a little pain, which I accept as part of the setting.  But I know now that the pain is never enough to kill me and that it will eventually pass.  So I just let it pass through and if need be, talk to someone which always helps.  I no longer have to switch all the way to Enraged when little to medium things don’t work out.  I have a place to go emotionally that is far safer and becoming very familiar.

In active alcoholism, I wonder how many of us sought to be on the elated side of things, aided by our grandiose thinking and drinking.  And when we weren’t in these elated states, we sunk to some form of dark enraged irritability?  Did we know that a Normal setting even existed?  Or did we bounce back and forth in a bi-polar fashion?

Sobering up limited our options to spend time in what we felt was elation.  We are now available to discover and function in many points on the emotional spectrum.  Isn’t this what most “normal” people do?

Ciao.

Chaz