Adult Mental Wellness

When I was 9 years old, I experienced my first panic attack, and at 27, my last. Decades later, I can say I have been through the gloom of depression, the tension of OCD, the turmoil of ADD/ADHD (not just in myself, but in others close to me as well). I have weathered countless storms and personal battles that have driven me to find a way to a deep and lasting peace that I believe is fully achievable by anyone who truly wants a way out of the hell.

The human soul in turmoil is the epitome of hell. I have a fireproof rope-ladder that can help pull other souls up out of the flames. But you must climb onto the ladder, to be rescued….

That’s where some people throw in the towel. They either won’t reach for the ladder, or they won’t step onto it, or they step back off it as they’re being lifted out of the pit. Being rescued isn’t for those who secretly enjoy being mentally unwell. There is attention to be garnered, if you’re mentally unstable. There is a lot of help that can be received from others (rides, handouts, assistance with all sorts of things in life), if being in the negative limelight provides you with a sense of importance and worth. Being a perpetual “victim” can have a lot of rewards. But peace isn’t one of them.

The answers I have found that have removed the ball-and-chain from around my ankles, I have fought for with every ounce of my being. Those answers have required the ongoing investment of my time, my energy (even when I felt I had nothing left to give), my money, and have many times required sacrificing time with my family and friends.

I love to share what I have learned, and I will freely share it within my coming blogs. If even one person grabs hold of that rescue ladder and stays with it all the way out of the abyss, up into the glorious realm where there is Peace of Mind, then my efforts will have been rewarded. I ask you only this: as you find strength and peace, turn and, in whatever way you can, offer the rescue ladder to others, too.

Peace, my friends. It’s all about mindset. It matters (deeply).

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A couple of weeks back, a pilot of a commercial airliner, while in flight, experienced cardiac arrest and died. With the assistance of his co-pilot and the jet’s built-in autopilot system, the plane was fortunately guided down safely onto the tarmac without incident (so skillfully, in fact, that the passengers were surprised to learn about the events upon landing).

Autopilot serves a great purpose when it is needed. In our daily lives, our own built-in autopilot system allows us to carry out umpteen routine tasks without having to think critically through each and every step. But occasionally, the autopilot can get stuck in the “On” position in my life, and I find myself with the realization that I’ve been functioning for the last 10 minutes, lost in thought or “daydreaming.”

One of the most common reports of children with ADD/ADHD is that they are constantly “off in another world” when they should be completing the seatwork their teacher assigned. In adults and children with ADD/ADHD, getting “side-tracked” is commonplace. Staying on task is a huge task in and of itself, because the autopilot keeps grabbing the controls out of the pilot’s hands and taking the jet off in a different direction.

But those dealing with ADD/ADHD are not the only ones who are frequently lost in thought. People who are under various stresses in their lives are also very prone to “zoning out.” Anxieties of all sorts consist of turning thoughts and concerns over and over in the mind, regarding the past, the present and worries about the future. While attention is on those thoughts, it cannot at the same time, be directed to the task at hand. The result is that you are robbed of the joy of expeiencing the beauty of the details of life. Unaware of what is happening in the world around you at that particular moment, you miss out on life. A walk outside is just that: a walk. A drive to work is the same old, same old. Soon, pretty much everything in your day is dull, routine, humdrum, and gets to be downright depressing.

Indeed, Depression holds captive your life in a similar way. Thoughts are turned right off, there is a deadening of mindfulness, a retreat deep into the cloak of self. Joy is found in few, if any, places.

The common thread here, lies in the loss of mindfulness, a lack of intentional, mindful awareness. Being mindful of everything happening in my world at any given moment is what enables me to experience new and fresh facets of life that energize and inspire me. As I sit and write this at this moment, two stunning yellow finches have just touched down outside my window. As I study their depth of colour, I realize one is a male and one is a female. They are so tiny! So precious. I am delighted by them. In my past, when deep in anxiety or depression and living in a perpetual state of unawareness of the many goings-on in the world right around me, my mindset would have prevented me from noticing how spectacular these two adorable little birds were.

Mindset matters. I will have a whole lot more to share about mindfulness in the future, but for now, if you are wanting to gain back control of your thoughts, to disengage the autopilot mechanism that may be robbing you of the moment by moment joys to be had in life, then know this: mindset matters. Deeply.

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When I was young child, I was playing at my mother’s feet as she was ironing. Curious about what she was doing, I stood on my tippy-toes and reached out to point to the iron. She quickly and firmly cautioned me to not touch the blazing hot appliance. Taking her words into little account, I continued reaching and put the palm of my hand flat against the iron hotplate. I remember little after that besides the searing pain that seemed to torch through my entire being!

To be sure, I had a mind of my own. How often my parents must have longed for the ability to control my thoughts! Likewise, parents of teens are constantly wringing their hands because they cannot control them. They have minds of their own.

But which of us doesn’t have a mind of our own? Our minds wander, slip, slide and careen all over the place at times (granted, some much more than others!). Life events happen like curves and bends in the road, and the car veers off it’s course as the road becomes rough, sometimes landing on its side in the ditch. One thing after another starts going “wrong.” It’s not supposed to go this way!

But life unfolds as life unfolds. As obvious as this may sound, with the eyes of Forrest Gump you will see how profound this reality truly is. Life is filled with good things and bad. Often labels are assigned to occurrences that judge them “good” or “bad.” What one person sees as good, the other may see as bad. It is not universal.

A friend of mine just lost her job. At first, I could sense her downheartedness at this “bad” event. But as she is one who is given to working through trials in her life, sure enough, within about a day or so, she began examining the event from a different perspective. Before long, she saw the amazing opportunities that this “good” occurrence had provided for her!

Some people have learned to train their thinking, such that when they encounter something that initially knocks the wind out of them, they can then, within a relatively short period of time, stand back and wait and watch for all the good that will eventually come from it. Faith often has much to do with it, but faith alone does not always magically train the mind to take a fresh look at the bigger picture.

What happens when our usual ability to “re-think” a situation and find the good in it, doesn’t work? Thoughts that headed south continue to spiral down, down, down, in some kind of a vortex….pulling down, down, lower and lower. Energy is sapped. Numbness sets in. It’s happening again. Oh no! Not again!

Everyone deals with stress, but not everyone is chronically anxious, frequently and deeply depressed, or perhaps panicked by the fear of the recurrence of a certain feeling or thought.

Let me say this: whether you have general Stress, extreme Stress, chronic Anxiety, Major Depression, Panic Attacks, OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder), or any other affliction that is impacting you at the level of your mind or your emotions, you are not alone, and you are not a freak. And there is help.

Today I invite you to take the first step towards greater peace of mind: to the doorstep of happiness. But before I do, I want you to think of an Olympic athlete. Did that person get to win the gold medal by just learning about the sport one day upon rising out of bed? No! They trained for it. And how did the training begin? Perhaps with stretches, and then some push-ups (oh dread!), followed by some laps around the track.

Or take the renovation of an old house, for example. It’s disheveled and in need of much repair. Do you just start patching and repainting and putting a new addition onto the old, off-kilter structure? Not if you want the changes to be lasting. You’ll start with the foundation, and get it straightened first. It’s a big job, and requires a lot of concerted effort. But it’s the only way, if you want the house to be solid and stable.

So while the following may seem dumb, mundane, and useless to do, if you are really serious about wanting to gain control of your mind, you’ll start at the beginning, at the foundation, where everything you build on from there will be lasting, solid and trustworthy.

A Simple Mindful Awareness Challenge

So here it is: If you have a quiet place you can go to, it will help. If you feel comfortable doing so, close your eyes. Are you breathing? Good. I thought so. Can you feel your breath going in and out? Feel it right now. Feel it go in; feel it go out. Focus on your breath. Stop reading for a moment, and just be aware of your breath. It’s always with you. Everywhere you go, your breath will be there to focus on. If other thoughts pop into your mind while you are focusing on your breath, just gently replace the thoughts with the thought of your breath. Be kind to yourself if your mind wanders again and again. Don’t scorn yourself for those other outside thoughts that keep popping in as you’re trying to focus on just your breath. Simply and lovingly replace those thoughts with thoughts of just your breath.

If you can do this exercise for 5 minutes today, you have more than achieved success. If you can do it for 10 minutes, that’s wonderful, too. If you can do this exercise several times a day, all the better. But do it lovingly. If you can only manage 2 minutes before your other thoughts dominate, do not be harsh with yourself and call yourself names. You are a wonderful success in doing any of it at all. Love and accept every attempt you make.

Until next time, my friends, Peace.

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Singer-Songwriter, Dan Hill

In a recent MacLeans Magazine article (October 14, 2010), Dan Hill (“Sometimes When We Touch”) shares openly about his and his family’s experiences under the care of Mental Health professionals.

Dan’s transparency and vulnerability, as he once again steps out from behind the curtain of privacy and self-protection, helps to further strip away the stigma that still surrounds the topic of Mental Illness. More people than we could ever know deal with some form of challenge in mental health and wellness.

I encourage you, if it is within your comfort zone, to take a small step out and share this article with someone you think may benefit from hearing about how real Dan is, in his article, Me and My Shrinks.

Here’s a wee excerpt:

“You’re in serious trouble,” Dr. Tony concluded when I finished my rambling narrative. His voice gaining volume with each pronouncement, he continued, “Your emotional development stopped once you hit puberty. You’re selfish, spoiled, and entitled. You think ….”

Read the article in MacLean’s Magazine… and also visit Dan Hill’s page on Facebook….

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Imagine being born without arms.   No arms to wrap around someone, no hands to experience touch, or to hold another hand with. Or what about being born without legs? Having no ability to dance, walk, run, or even stand on two feet.   Now put both of those scenarios together: no arms and no legs. What would you do? How would that effect your everyday life?

nick-vujicic Here’s Nick Vujicic, a man with no arms, no legs, and one incredibly inspirational attitude. Take a look at his outlook on life (see video clip below):

For more on Nick Vujicic, visit http://www.attitudeisaltitude.com.

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A certain amount of fear is a healthy thing to possess. It functions as an early warning sign to prevent us from entering into harm’s way. Unfortunately, [read: Paralyzed by Fear…]

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When Jon Kabat-Zinn’s Full Catastrophe Living popped into my Amazon mailbox, the title didn’t just pique my interest; it reached out and grabbed me by the throat! [read: Full Catastrophe Melt-Down …]

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A dark time will come in everyone’s life when it will feel like there are no answers to the meaning of life and the pain that is sometimes experienced. [read: What is the Meaning of Life?…]

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Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) are terms that are often confusing to people, as the phrases are frequently used interchangeably. What do they mean, and is there a difference between them? [read: ADHD vs ADD…]

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It all began when I was 9 years old and I choked on a piece of meat. [read: Panic Stricken…]

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It’s January. Christmas is over. New Years is past. [read more: Every Winter Do You Feel SAD?…]

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If you are a perfectionist at heart, chances are you may have an issue with organization. [read more: Getting Rid of Clutter in 5 Minutes…]

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How important is inner peace to you? [read more: Symptoms of Stress and Anxiety…]

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As the parent of a child with special needs, I soon discovered that my child was not the only one with the special needs. [read more – Special Needs Parents…]

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Yesterday my husband and I had the privilege of attending a memorial service to pay honour to our friend, Wayne, who lost a 20 week battle in ICU against a Superbug that ultimately claimed his life. [read more – Murphy’s Law…]

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