Tag Archive | techniques

GRATITUDE

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“Try to pose for yourself this task: not to think of a polar bear, and you will see that the cursed thing will come to mind every minute.”

This post isn’t really about gratitude. It’s about distraction. How deceiving, right?! Lol

But the word “Gratitude” fits into this post well.

In my recent post I mentioned that I recently experienced a few losses, two of my pets (my parakeet and my cat), and my human friend who lost her life to a heart attack at work… all died unexpectedly.

I have been generally very happy even in the midst of my sense of loss and the sorrow for those lost.  I’m usually good at staying positive even in the midst of stress and negativity. 

Some moments the grief is more difficult than others. A few nights ago, it was hard to sleep. I kept waking up with terrible anxiety. Sleep problems and anxiety are not something I am accustomed to experiencing and I wasn’t completely sure what to do. I rarely have trouble sleeping no matter what is going on. And I rarely experience true anxiety even when something very unpleasant or painful occurs.  Anxiety is a “normal” emotion or feeling most everyone feels at some points, whether mild or severe. It’s not necessarily an indication of a disorder. 

But it’s never pleasant. I think it’s one of the most unpleasant feelings in the world, fear, panic, and anxiety. When I do experience anxiety for whatever reason, it’s usually mild and whether or not it’s mild, it usually ends quickly. Most of us don’t have panic attacks or anxiety that is out of control but we can draw on our experiences with “normal” anxiety and fear and deepen our empathy for people who have any sort of anxiety/panic disorder.

Anxiety should not be frequent and interfering too much with life, sleep, health…or it may be or be becoming a disorder that can be treated somehow. 
 
My anxiety wasn’t out of control or a symptom of any condition; it was just a reaction to my recent losses and I have never had a panic attack. It looks so scary to experience and horrible. And I have much compassion for those who experience them. I don’t want to even imagine having to put up with such horror. 

But when I kept waking up my body/mind was just so stiff and trem-bly with anxiety and a kind of fear and it was just so unpleasant I was desperate to end it(just the fear/anxiety, I wasn’t suicidal or depressed). I looked around my room all groggy and tired trying to find anything that may help me allay my fear/anxiety. It would have been easier if I wasn’t so tired. My sleep was restless and fitful. I thought about getting my earphones and trying to meditate but I was too tired. I tried some meditative breathing techniques which really did help. But I felt I also needed something more. 

I kept drifting off to sleep, having weird dreams, then waking all anxious and fearful.

It wasn’t even really anxious thoughts, it was more physical sensations all over my body. 

It sucked.

Then I looked next to me in bed and saw my gratitude journal leaning against the wall. I was so tired and through my blurred vision because I wasn’t fully awake, I saw the word “GRATITUDE” and noticed something I never really noticed before.

The word “gratitude” has the word “tit” in it. 

And I burst out laughing. 

(Yeah I’m kind of on the immature side.) 

I was so amazed for some reason (that state in the middle of wake and sleep tends to put me in strange, often elevated/exaggerated moods and stuff).

I wanted to tell someone. “Hey! Do you know the word ‘gratitude’ has the word ‘tit’ in it?! It does!! That’s so amazing, isn’t it?!”

The first person I thought to tell was my sister. She already thinks I’m a perv(there’s countless occasions throughout the day she says “omg, Kim you’re a pig!” With much emphasis on the word “pig.” lol)  . And she wouldn’t have been too happy. Which would have made it all the more fun to tell her! But she was sleeping. And I was more than half sleeping, in and out of waking and sleeping.

I began to wonder what other words may be in the word “gratitude” and thought probably not many! But I was wrong! Lots of words began jumping out at me! 

A
I
(I laughed at the fact that one letter words are acceptable to me – but why not?! They’re words aren’t they?! Teachers in school wouldn’t let us use one letter words when we played games like this)
AT
Grade
Trade
Age
Eat
Ate
Aid
Rat
Tar
Grate 
Rate
Guard
Art

And so many more….i wanted to write them all down but I was too groggy. 

So I laid there in and out of sleep with words flashing across my mind, most appropriate words for the activity at hand, some I had to correct myself, even in my sleep/dream state. For some reason I kept wanting to put a “C” in it. 

CAGE
CRATE
.
.
.

And I had to open my eyes wide as I looked at my journal to make sure there really isn’t a “C” in “gratitude.”

There’s not. :-/

For a second I even wondered why “gratitude” can’t be “gcratitude” or “cgratitude”  just to make my little game a bit more impressive.  It was disappointing. 

My sleepy brain is a tad off. But it’s all good! 😀

But for the most part, I did well! 

I was quite impressed with my slumbering brain coming up with words as I had my eyes closed sleeping or almost sleeping. I wasn’t actually seeing the word “Gratitude” with my eyes when I would drift off in my state of fitful sleep but I saw it across my mind as I was mostly sleeping.  

And then I remembered how I loved playing that game when I was a little girl. When I was in middle school, my dad and me would choose a long word and sit on the sofa having a competition to see who got the most words out of it. It was so much fun. We sat there for hours playing at night, making lists, coming up with interesting and fun words. Sometimes I would cheat. But I thought it was so funny that I was brilliant and sly enough to cheat (I actually saw it as a slick skill) and cheat without getting caught, that I would open up and spill my dirty little secret and be laughing hysterically as I was telling it. It never got old, the awe over my gall to cheat and my ability to cheat well. 

I had an electronic navy blue word speller that I was able to put just about any word in and it would scramble it for me and tell me all the other words it can make. I used to set my trapperkeeper (some paper holder thing with metal rings and a design with golden lab dogs) up and hide in back of it. My dad wasn’t as impressed as I was. 

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Then I came back to current reality and realized how distracting myself helped me significantly with the fear, anxiety, and grief I was having some trouble coping with. The fun little activity itself not only calmed my whole body and eased my mind but provoked me to reminisce and stirred up sweet childhood memories which further distracted and soothed me, I even remembered my favorite red denim flare pants and white spice girl shoes I loved to wear on Thursdays(i thought I was the hottest little thing prancing around in those clothes with my cool electronic word speller (there was no cell phone, no computer, no Internet that I knew of back then) ), and realized that I do have lots of happy memories of that age(even though I struggled with depression), and I was able to drift off easy and get a few hours of good sleep. I did wake up achy and still a bit anxious but much better than before.

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One thing to keep in mind is that intentionally, consciously, directly trying not to think of something will, without a doubt, make you think about it more. It’s impossible to escape its bondage when you put your mind directly to not thinking about it. It’s like an inherent contradiction. To try not to think about it, you necessarily have to think about it. Even psychological studies suggest it. I learned about it in psychology classes at Temple University many years ago. 

Ironic Process Theory 

(Here is a great link to read about it:

http://www.apa.org/monitor/2011/10/unwanted-thoughts.aspx

With some tips on how to cope with unwanted thoughts and feelings.)

And I experienced this phenomenon myself whenever I would try to directly take my suicidal mind off of being suicidal. It’s one hundred percent futile. 
But what does work is allowing yourself to feel, think, experience whatever it is while gently distracting yourself by doing something you like/love, something soothing, healing, or something like exercising or other physical activity that is safe for the state you’re in.
Focus on a more pleasant thought and the unpleasant one can melt away. I experienced this then I learned about it in classes. 

Eventually your mind may escape the grasp of whatever it is, for a while. You will be so into the fun or healing activity you’re engaged in.

It may be hard to find the strength or motivation to begin an activity of distraction. When we are so depressed or so anxious, it can be hard to even move or believe that it will really work or believe that we are worth it, but it’s worth that initial effort, that first step. And feeling unworthy is just a delusion that depression can put into our heads. And you won’t know until you try if it will work. Rest is good but it’s not good to sit or lay in bed just dwelling on or obsessing over anxious or depressing thoughts or feelings. Acknowledge the depression or anxiety. It’s ok. Even embrace it. Sit with it. Accept it. Then get moving to help yourself cope.

At the mental health clinic I go to for depression, some therapists give us worksheets to help us cope with different problems. 

Here is a link to various worksheets to help people cope with different problems such as anxiety, ptsd, depression, low self esteem, negative thinking….:

http://www.getselfhelp.co.uk/freedownloads2.htm

They are in pdf files and can be saved and printed out. They are meant to be a supplement to professional treatment if someone has a serious disorder. Anyone can benefit by mindfulness activities and these worksheets but for people with a serious problem, it’s important to seek some kind of appropriate professional help as well. The worksheets are very helpful but are not meant to be the sole “treatment.” Self help techniques (like the worksheets) are great but for true disorders or serious distress, they may not be enough. 

One helpful technique is the “Emergency Bag or Box.” One of the worksheets in the link above is about this activity. 

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When we are in serious distress, it can be difficult to think reasonably and see an effective, safe way to help ourselves at that moment and can be tempting to resort to things that can seem helpful then but really aggravate the situation or are detrimental later. One helpful technique is to keep an “Emergency bag” or “Soothe box” somewhere that is easy to access. 

I don’t have a whole box or bag put together yet. I have things that help me cope with or prevent a depressive episode/suicidal thoughts/urges and help me to cope better with cluster-like headaches. 

Here are some of my emergency or soothe things:

Scented candles, especially tropical scented – they don’t have to be lit
Hot tea
Buddhist Mala beads – they remind me to think of positive quotes and affirmations and are very helpful to me with the headaches 
Gratitude journal 
My six dogs 
Art journal/painting
Scented body lotion 
Positive songs 
Photography – I like taking my own pictures and editing them or writing quotes onto the pics. And also looking at inspiring pics that aren’t mine. 
Quote books 
Stress ball – for coping with the headaches 
Comedy movies 
Positive/self help books
Sharing uplifting pictures or quotes to help others 
Philosophy books/texts – sometimes even when I’m severely depressed, when I read complex, abstract texts, it takes my mind off it for a while and even uplifts me. It can be hard to concentrate but it’s ok, just the process of reading challenging material is helpful.
Blogs – uplifting blogs help me when I’m in a low mood or struggling with physical pain.

The idea is when you are experiencing a crisis or just in a low or agitated state of mind, to go to your box or bag or wherever you have your soothing/emergency objects and mindfully study or use them. What do they look like, feel like, smell like(if it’s safe to breathe it in), sound like, taste like (if it’s something you can taste)…?

If you choose to put on body lotion, for example, carefully tune into the experience. Feel the sensation of the lotion on your body. Is it hot, cold, sticky, soft….? What does it feel like on your hands and wherever you’re putting it on? 

Tune into the environment around you. Use all of your senses and notice the information received by each one. Hear the sounds around you, feel the clothes against your body, taste the air on your tongue…

This mindfulness activity can help you with depression, anxiety, grief, physical pain, and any problem you may be experiencing.  

Another idea is to write yourself an uplifting or comforting note or list. Maybe a list of inspiring quotes or note of encouragement. And put it into your box or bag for when you look into it next. Words by others can be very encouraging and inspiring but it can be especially inspiring to see positive words either that you yourself wrote or ones that someone else wrote that you once shared or felt or agreed with. To know you once felt that way and so have it in you to feel it again. 

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These things help in a psychological way and can also affect brain chemistry in a positive way. We don’t just have to consume things like medication, alcohol, food…to affect the chemistry in the body/brain. Physical/mental activities interact with our brains as well. They can be a great supplement to medication or talk(or other kinds) therapy or both. Sometimes a combination of multiple things works best.  

My heart goes out to anyone struggling with grief, depression, anxiety, physical pain/illness, suicidal urges or thoughts,  or anything.

and someone somewhere knows exactly what it’s like to experience whatever you experience. We’re never alone even when it seems that way. ❤

Much love to you,

Xoxo Kim ❤

On Empathy

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“Could a greater miracle take place than for us to look through each other’s eyes for an instant?” ~ Henry David Thoreau ❤

I have thin, super thin, psychological boundaries but I have learned to handle it well and I see it as a true gift and pure strength. Thin psychological boundaries means I often have difficulty emotionally separating myself and others. When someone suffers either physically or emotionally or experiences pleasure or joy, I feel almost as if it’s happening to me. It literally hurts me, even physically when someone else hurts. And elates me or fills me with sheer joy when someone else is thrilled or elated.  Even if the person isn’t someone I like much or someone I don’t know or even on TV or a fictional character in a book. 

One day a psychic program on TV was on in my house.  I don’t believe in psychic abilities or that psychics are real but it can still be interesting. 
I was sitting on the sofa while it was on and saw parts of it. 
The psychic lady said a lady’s neck was snapped by a murderer in some room in a house somewhere that the psychic lady was standing in and the psychic lady got all worked up saying she has to get out of there because she was so disturbed over what she “saw” and she said she “saw” marks on this lady’s neck and she was holding her own neck and my neck started throbbing and felt all bruised and my head and face started throbbing on the one side, the side where I usually have the cluster-like headaches, and I was holding it the rest of the day off and on! And I felt the dead lady’s neck injury and the psychic’s emotional distress all day. I know it was “empathy pain,” not really something wrong with my neck. Not an actual headache. I was still happy that day, it doesn’t usually overly interfere with my own life.  And I don’t believe what the psychic lady was saying but I believe she may have believed it. Or believed it to some extent. Or is great at acting.

 I felt so connected to that psychic lady, deeply connected. Both of us did not have a neck injury at all but both of us experienced both physical sensation and emotional distress over someone else’s painful situation. I often get “empathy headaches” when someone has a headache. I usually keep it to myself so as not to or appear to be taking the attention or sympathy off of the true sufferer. 
 
There have been occasions I was so overwhelmed over someone else’s pain or sickness I succumbed to my bed for an hour or more. I can handle emotional pain better than serious physical pain so it’s often the physical pain that overwhelms me more when someone else experiences it. Both kinds of pain can be just as bad and painful, it’s just that severe physical pain is more difficult to me. 

It’s ridiculous and a bit uncalled for to have empathy to this extreme. I can still be empathetic without going to this extreme but it’s not my choice. I don’t have it like some people are said to have to the point they’re almost “psychic” like they feel an overwhelming sense of dread then something terrible happens. Or their chest hurts then someone in the room has a heart attack. It’s just when someone is already suffering that I see of or read/hear about, I feel it too. 

Also, unlike with some people similar to me in this way, such as my sister, I don’t feel overwhelmed in crowded places or have to retreat to a place of being physically alone to “recharge” or recover. I can handle crowded places and various people all around me. In fact, I usually prefer it to being alone. I am an extrovert even though I’m very shy around people I don’t know or don’t know well. And I can be around many people and not have to come home and rest afterwards.  I feel energized and uplifted in a room full of people, even if I don’t interact with them in anyway.  Just being physically near people lifts me.

I used to see my extreme empathy as a blessing as well as a curse but now I just view it as a gift. While it can be exhausting, annoying, ridiculous, painful, feeling as One with others can’t be a “curse.”

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I can usually sense people’s true emotions even when they are lying or pretending. I usually catch micro-expressions (the split second facial expression people reveal right before they show a different one – it’s the true feeling before they pretend to feel something else or try to cover it up. If they are angry, for example, anger will briefly flash across the face before they put on a fake smile) easily and can often sense people’s anxiety, elation, or anticipation. Sometimes when one person in a crowded room is extremely anxious I pick up on it even if I don’t know which one it is. I can often sense the overall mood in a room full of people. Whether most people are happy, thrilled, anxious, in a hurry, gloomy….not just see it on their faces but actually feel/sense the energy. 

I also understand situations really well even if I’m not involved or never have been. I can just clearly imagine things happening and why. I have a deep understanding.

I think authors of fiction books need a very developed empathetic ability. I’m not talking about being caring and compassionate but a deep, thorough understanding of how situations work even if they never been in a similar one. An incredibly deep imagination. They have to get in the heads of various kinds of people, even people who are so very unlike themselves, to bring their characters to life if they want them to be of substance, realistic, well developed, and believable. They have to imagine, deeply, how certain situations play out and conjure up the emotions of those who would be in those situations even if they themselves were never in those situations. They have to put themselves in that place. It’s absolutely amazing the skills fiction writers have! I love it! 

It seems that we often overlook their incredible empathy. We often acknowledge their incredible writing skills and even their amazing intelligence, maybe even the fantastic research they had to do for the book’s theme, but look at that empathy! They can write an entire book as if they are that character or in the character’s head! Mind blowing! I don’t see/hear people praising this enough! It’s the same for actors who have to play characters and not just act, but feel, literally (mentally)  become a whole other person! Incredible! 

Empathy. 

 It runs deeper than just caring and compassion. Someone can still be caring and compassionate but not really *feel* or understand someone else’s situation.

And someone can experience a kind of empathy but not feel concern or compassion. For example: I feel the pain of others even just watching movies that aren’t real. There are scenes in movies where a “bad” character is getting hurt like getting hit over the head or something by someone trying to protect themselves or others and I felt like my own body was being hit even when I wasn’t feeling much compassion for the character, even when I was happy when a character was getting revenge.
I have experienced empathy without compassion and compassion without empathy. They often go together but not always.

There are occasions I was empathetic and understanding enough to know something I wanted to say or write to someone would emotionally hurt or infuriate  that person and I said or wrote it to intentionally inflict pain or anger upon the person out of my own anger. I was empathetic in some way but not very compassionate in those moments. My empathy led me to know to some degree how the person would feel and I wanted the person to feel anger or sadness or pain. This isn’t usually a good thing and I think empathy is better used to help heal, not hurt. We also need compassion. 

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Most people have a basic ability to experience empathy; it’s a natural human trait we have that develops as we are growing up. It’s related to compassion. Certain experiences can deepen some people’s empathy. Some are naturally more in touch with theirs than others. And we can learn to deepen our basic empathy into something more. Paying more attention to people and all sentient beings, tuning into our own emotions, drawing on our own various experiences, meditation, trying to better understand, imagining what it must be like to experience something, focusing on the fact that when we suffer or hurt it’s a similar feeling to what others feel when they suffer and hurt…

Empathy isn’t just feeling someone else’s pain but also experiencing another’s joy, happiness, and pleasure.

I have known people who won the lottery, like 100 or 1000 dollars, and I felt like I just won. When I hear of someone getting a new job, job promotion, getting married or engaged, having or adopting a child, getting ready for vacation, I feel it too. The thrill, the anxiety, the anticipation, the sheer joy, the love. I can’t be feeling it exactly how they are as I have my own body and mind/mental/emotional experiences. But I can strongly and deeply sense it.

There’s a definite and deep connection. 

It’s hard for me to get jealous (although I have experienced jealousy and probably will again) of people when great things happen to them when I can bask in the joy and beauty of their experiences almost as if it’s my own. When one person wins, we all win.

I think about things like this often and was recently thinking about it again when I saw the news at work. 

It was startling to see on the news that in some countries people are dying of infectious diseases in the streets.  When they are sick or injured they are left for dead. 

One man of an African country, the man who inspired me to write this post here, was shown on the news laying outside dying of an infectious disease. He was writhing in pain and sickness and laying in a puddle of his own blood, a result of the disease’s progression. 

There were people standing around watching, sure to keep their distance so as not to contract the disease themselves. And then there was the person filming the horror. 

Some moments my empathy or feeling of connectedness is deeper and some moments I don’t feel as connected to what is before me.

The moment I saw the sick, dying man in excruciating pain and sickness, I felt more connected. I felt it with my whole body. A longing to take all the sick, hurting, dying people in my arms so they can feel my touch before they go or before they heal. So they can know someone cares, even if I contract the disease myself. What I felt was both empathy and compassion, a perfect combination. Empathy can inspire greater compassion. 

Imagine laying sick and in pain while people surround you at a safe distance and watch, you’re still so alone. No one will touch you. No one is coming for you, until after you die, to remove your infected, contagious body. Imagine them all staring at you, fear in their eyes, utter helplessness. For some of them, all they can probably think is that they’re glad it isn’t them. Truly, deeply imagine. 

But I felt an instant connection to a stranger across the world, briefly flashing across a TV screen. Someone of a different language, a different country, a different nationality, different culture, skin color, ethnicity.

I have never been deathly ill or left for dead. I never been to his country but still I know that underneath we’re the same.

Strip away all the outer layers of culture and language and color of skin, distance, financial status, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, and other experiences and underneath at a most basic, primitive level, we are One.

Our basic humanness exists the same underneath no matter the color of our skin, our level of education, career labels, class status, our location in the world, financial situations, our various experiences…..these things are important in some contexts, they contribute to different experiences and struggles for different people and it’s not always good or wise to overlook them, it’s important to acknowledge their circumstances(skin color, country, ethnicity, status in other contexts…) so we can get a better idea of their struggles and pain that may be different than our own, but in some cases they are completely irrelevant. Like in the case of raw pleasure and pain, sickness and health, living and dying. 

I’m not advocating for general “color blindness” or anything of that sort, like saying we should all literally ignore our differences such as skin color or class status. That isn’t good either because then we overlook the unique experiences and struggles that someone in a different situation than us may have. 

If we mentally block out or ignore the color of someone’s skin, ethnicity, or other factors or characteristics that are different than ours, in the name of compassion or “all getting along” then we automatically mentally block out or ignore the struggles that come along with those factors or characteristics.
People who say things like “I only have one race, the human race” or “forget skin color, we’re all human or all bleed red and that’s all that matters…” or something like that, probably have very good, loving, intentions but promoting that and living that way is NOT helpful. 
Ignorance in this way, is NOT helpful or wise or a good thing. 
This can contribute to lack of empathy and understanding of people’s situations pertaining to their own circumstances different than ours. 
It’s ok, even necessary to acknowledge diversity but accept it. But in some cases differences are irrelevant. 

Any one of us can be in the position that sick and dying man was in, our country and our money and our education or language or ethnicity won’t definitely protect us against diseases or death. For some people, truly understanding and realizing this in their heads, can deepen their empathy and compassion for others. And it’s just as bad when it’s someone else as if it were myself or someone I know. Just because I don’t know him doesn’t mean he’s a less important person than someone I do know. Or less important than me. It doesn’t mean it’s good to just go my own way ignoring his suffering. 

Some people are more at risk than others because of their location or discrimination they encounter and some have access to better health care but none of us are immune to suffering or pain and dying of disease or injury. And none of us are immune to being targets of cruelty or the indifference of others against our suffering or pain or sickness. 

Another thing I saw recently that disturbed and actually offended me(and I’m not easily offended at all) is people getting all happy over some podcast about *real* murder victims. They were talking about how thrilling it is to watch or listen, how they can’t wait for the next ones, how it’s so exciting, how fascinating! Not once did I see any one of these people expressing sympathy/empathy or compassion or sorrow for the victims and their friends/family. These are REAL murder victims, flesh and blood, like us, like people we know, some of them children, some adults, who were brutally murdered in cold blood, some tortured, raped/sexually assaulted, destroyed and discarded like they were nothing, not characters in a book or movie or story, real people. I understand taking interest in these stories but no one here displayed sympathy in even the most subtle way, not even an underlying hint of concern for those involved in the devastation, expressed in their tone. It was all just pure pleasure for their own benefit of sitting around listening to it and having fun while drinking coffee all warm and cozy at home. It made me cringe.  

I don’t believe for a second that these happy people who “can’t wait” for the next podcasts about homicide victims, these people who are “so thrilled” over victims murdered in cold blood, tortured and thrown away like trash on the side of the road, are horrible people or sadists, or that they aren’t generally loving and compassionate and empathetic. They may not be, generally, any less caring or empathetic than I am. I don’t believe they were taking pleasure in the pain itself that the victims endured.  It’s the mystery and thrill they get to experience, secure and embraced in the comfort of their own safe homes in their pj’s with their cups of coffee.

 But they were too “detached” in my opinion, in this, here, case. It’s complete thoughtlessness. They were too wrapped up in their own lives and pleasure they put up too much of a barrier. So much so, they are thrilled over real murder victims. It hurt me to witness and I know if it were their own friends and family members or themselves abducted, murdered, targets of rape and other sexual violence, it wouldn’t be so thrilling. They wouldn’t be so eager to see what’s next. I can just imagine a devastated person close to one of those poor victims reading that people are sitting around getting off of the violent, senseless deaths of the people they knew and love. It’s dangerous to let ourselves become numb to the real tragedy, suffering, and pain of others. Even when those are people we only see through a glass screen on a tv or voices we hear through a phone, radio, or words we read through a computer monitor. Even just distant echoes of pain that come to us through some invisible radio waves in the air. Those are real people. That is real suffering. 

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I think it’s important to always tune in to our empathy and compassion whether or not we have ever experienced something similar to what someone else has. And whether or not we know those people well or at all. We do know they are someone, someone just like us. 
Like us, they have/had a name, a story, a dream or goal, needs, and desires, love, joy, pain, sorrow, and happiness. 

Let us be happy for those who are well and happy and successful and full of joy and have compassion, concern, understanding, and empathy for those sick, injured, and in pain, dying, grieving, struggling in any way. But we don’t have to not allow ourselves to be happy because other people are struggling. It’s ok to be happy for our own blessings. Gratitude guilt is not necessary. It won’t help anyone or anything. Dragging ourselves down or not allowing ourselves joy, thankfulness, or happiness, just because others are not well will not contribute to overall goodness to the world, all it does is put more unhappiness or suffering into the world. 

And also, one day we may not be as fortunate in the ways we are now so there’s no need to feel guilty anyway just because we are well and others aren’t. As I said, none or us are immune to tragedy and pain. Next week my house can burn down, you may experience the break up of a close relationship, someone we know can die, we can be diagnosed with a terminal illness….But no matter what, there’s always something to be thankful for and happy about, even in pain, chaos, destruction, grief, depression, anxiety, homelessness… 

I think we do need some emotional boundaries but not too thick. A healthy kind of detachment is good to prevent burnout, exhaustion, being overwhelmed…. but not when it’s blocking our empathy and attempts at true understanding to some level. Not when we are so detached we forget the real suffering and pain of others. Not when we’re so detached, we feel pleasure associated with someone else’s horror or painful circumstances. 

It’s great to experience gratitude for our own happy circumstances and everything but not good, in my opinion, to get so wrapped up in it we forget about those who aren’t so fortunate now, in the ways we currently are, or tune out the depth or degree of their pain.

Empathy won’t always cure diseases or take away someone’s pain and it likely won’t help us in one country be able to immediately help someone dying in another country. But it can motivate us to reach out in some way, maybe to people physically near us who appear to be struggling or people we know online, or reach out to write to people with more power than us, like politicians or people in charge of something related to the issue at hand, or ones who have good things happening to them and we can share in their joy, letting them know how happy we are for them, how proud or thrilled for their accomplishments or fortunate situations, maybe to write a comforting message to someone in need, maybe just to share a link with info about a health condition or situation that needs awareness, to bring more awareness to it and help educate more people. And maybe someone with more resources can see what we share or post and help in ways that we cannot yet help. 

Instead of merely thinking “I’m glad it’s not me” or “that could have been me…” and just going about our own lives forgetting the pain of someone else, we can still feel gratitude for our own fortunate situations but extend our empathy and compassion and realize it’s just as bad when it happens to someone else. It’s realistic to expect people to be thankful some tragedy or unpleasant circumstance is not happening to them but everyone is someone just as important as ourselves and our own friends and family and they feel suffering and happiness the same way too.  We can shift our focus a bit – instead of just being thankful we, ourselves are ok, we can focus more on compassion for those who are struggling in any way.

~Hug the hurt
Comfort the sick

Kiss the broken
Befriend the lost
Love the lonely~ 

And when something amazing happens to someone, even if we wish it would happen to us, instead of resentment, we can bask in that person’s happiness. 

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Deeper empathy along with compassion can help decrease all kinds of things, bullying, cyber bullying, unjust discrimination, sexual violence, other forms of cruelty(against all sentient beings), apathy, even wars and stuff if enough people around the world including those in various governments would better tune into and develop their own empathy and compassion.

Empathy & compassion are great for practical purposes but they also are just amazing traits to possess. They make us better for them. I’m no better than someone who is less compassionate or with less developed empathy but I believe it’s better to have those abilities than not. I’m not better than a sadist, a murderer, a psycho or sociopath with no empathy, but I believe those people would be better people than they are now, in another way if they develop their empathy and compassion.

Not everything is just for practical purposes or actions. Sometimes it’s intentions or just what we are, our essence that counts for something and is beautiful. 

Empathy & compassion, especially a combination of both, can inspire and motivate us to act, reach out to others in some way whether just a simple act of comforting words or volunteering time or money for a specific cause or even just inspire us to hold our tongues when we feel like lashing out or motivating us to proactively speak out against someone else’s callousness, which can have a positive effect. 

Let us remember when we see someone suffering whether it’s emotional or physical pain that is the root of it, human or not, that it’s a very similar feeling that we would feel if it were us. This can make it more real to us and motivate us to reach out in some way, even in the most simplest way, a warm smile, a gentle touch, a kind word…even if it’s not similar to what we ourselves would feel, it’s still important to be empathetic and compassionate but realizing how similar we are underneath can help deepen our empathy. 

And let us not be overly jealous of those who are experiencing joy, happiness, and success even if we are not. Let their accomplishments and happiness inspire and motivate us, not contribute to us being depressed or jealous. It’s best for all of us when we are happy for and encouraging to one another. Let’s celebrate each other and bask in each other’s happiness and success and fortunes. 

There’s enough happiness to go around. 😀

Here are some links about Metta (universal love/compassion) & Empathy.

This explains what Metta is, the benefits, and the importance of cultivating an attitude or lifestyle which has Metta at its core.

http://www.wildmind.org/metta/introduction/what-is-metta

Another explanation of Metta.

http://www.buddhanet.net/metta_in.htm

Here, the link below this, is fascinating research on the brain and empathy. Research reveals that when we are happy and things are going well, we are less likely to empathize with those not so happy or well. We are likely to perceive their pain or suffering as less than it really is. When we ourselves are not doing well, we better empathize with others. We are more likely to validate or realize the seriousness of someone else’s pain or low feelings. In fact, we’re more likely to evaluate someone else’s happiness as less than it really is when we ourselves are not happy. I suspected this before learning of this research. I saw evidence of this in certain situations including the happy people in warm, pj’s at home, drinking coffee while being thrilled over real murder mysteries and not expressing empathy, sympathy, or compassion for those involved.

There is good news. We don’t have to make ourselves suffer to empathize with others. Empathy & compassion are not fixed. 
Compassionate and empathetic people can become less compassionate and empathetic (so it’s important to regularly maintain our empathy and compassion) and those who are not very empathetic and compassionate can become more empathetic and compassionate. 
Some suggestions to maintain or develop empathy, compassion, and an attitude of kindness are meditation, routine mindfulness activities, volunteering to help others, meditating/imagining ourselves in pain and knowing others feel that too…

It’s also suggested that vigorous physical exercises can help deepen a person’s empathy. These exercises can feel physically uncomfortable and help us realize more what it’s like for others who are hurting in some way.
Let’s not go overboard and exercise so much it’s unhealthy but a reasonable dose of routine aggressive exercise can be quite healthy, both physically and emotionally. 

It’s important to do all we can to care for ourselves, be happy, be healthy, be grateful, but keep in touch with the suffering or pain of others.  

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-athletes-way/201310/the-neuroscience-empathy

Desktop link to a video for a lovingkindness meditation.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sz7cpV7ERsM&app=desktop

Mobile version of the same video:

http://m.youtube.com/watch?v=sz7cpV7ERsM&app=m&persist_app=1
 
Even if you are already a very loving and kind person in general, you and the world can still benefit by practicing this meditation or ones like it. Meditation is calm and soothing and even if we are already or are naturally very compassionate and loving, we can still experience setbacks and it’s important to maintain whatever attitude or lifestyle we want to generally live. Like working out, we must keep up with it to keep it going strong. 
Even if we are naturally a certain way, we can strengthen it by making it more intentional and consciously applying it or deepening it.
It takes some practice and maintaining but is well worth it! 

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May you be well.
May you be happy. 
May you be peaceful.
May you be loved.
 
Xoxo Kim





On Pain {Norman Vincent Peale}

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“You can be greater than anything that can happen to you.” ~ Norman Vincent Peale

Last night I posted something about my experience with unbearable physical pain. 
It is super long and much longer than I would have liked it to be but I wanted to share much of my experience with the agony to get the point across and express my pain.
I want to thank the people who read/liked it. Thank You so much! I appreciate it deeply. I know most people don’t care to read extra extra long posts and most of my posts will not be that long. 😀 Only when I have a real lot to say all at once. Lol

Here is another post on pain. You don’t have to read my previous post to make sense of this one. 

It’s interesting how an extremely painful experience can humble us, deepen our empathy, allow us to be more in touch with and aware of the pain and joy of the world but it can also go the other way. It can lead some to become arrogant in certain ways with a hardened heart, less empathetic, less patient with those who seem to not have experienced as much pain. It can trigger some people to sometimes regard other people’s problems as trivial or not as worthy of compassion compared to their own extreme pain. I don’t think that reaction is wrong or that all people who think that way are completely heartless or that we should all have the same empathetic reaction, necessarily. It’s just my observation.

I can completely understand how someone’s pain or sickness is so bad the person just wants to scoff at someone whining over something so frivolous it seems ridiculous next to what that person is experiencing. I’m not innocent of this myself on some occasions.

We all react in our own way, ways that are best or appropriate or come easily for us based on our experiences and ways of coping, we’re all different and handle things differently and I don’t try to force people to be a certain way or usually judge negatively for how someone else reacts when it’s not how I would react myself.  

Some people and some things people say are cold, heartless, callous, and outright cruel to others. And I don’t support or promote it but I understand not everyone will understand and care.  And I still embrace them in my universal love. 

My reaction to very painful experiences is almost always deeper empathy or becoming more in tune or aware or being reminded that there are so many others suffering like I am and worse and less who need all the love, compassion, and empathy they can receive. 

I don’t believe that physical pain is necessarily not as bad or is worse than emotional pain. They can both be severe, moderate, or mild, depending upon the kind of pain, the person, the coping mechanisms someone has and other circumstances. 

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I was reading words that inspired Norman Vincent Peale. He inspires me and I want to know what inspired him. 

I am not religious or spiritual in a way that has to do with the supernatural. I am an atheist. I don’t believe in the afterlife. But I find inspiration everywhere, even in religious writings and things that people who believe in some god or gods say. 

Norman Vincent Peale was a very religious Christian man and well known minister and he is known for his work, “The Power of Positive Thinking.”

I came across his words on pain & suffering.

“Pain and suffering have wracked humanity throughout history. Evidence of arthritis has been discovered in the earliest skeletons of the past. 
My friend Lloyd Ogilvie, distinguished pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood, California, once said that he had learned several important lessons from personally experiencing pain and suffering. He found he grew the most spiritually during those ordeals.” ~Norman Vincent Peale

“No one welcomes pain. But, rightly faced, it can bring about great good. And we can triumph over it.”

He writes of Doug Williams, quarterback for the Washington Redskins, and how the man endured hours of dental surgery the day before the 1988 Superbowl football game. Then during the game, he injured his knee. But he still led the team to victory, breaking one record after another.

That is truly amazing!

Dr. Peale states that when we are struck by pain, we often ask the wrong questions, such as ‘why me?’ But more positive and productive questions are ‘What can I learn from this? What can I do about it? What can I accomplish in spite of it?’
There is deep wisdom in this and it’s so very motivational and helpful.

I have never asked “Why me?” I don’t want it to be anyone and it’s not “me” for any specific reason. I just got this disorder. It’s nothing personal against me, not a punishment I deserve. It’s just something going wrong in my body. Why not me? Why anyone? Because it’s the way our world works.

Some people get terrifying and agonizing sicknesses and disorders, both physical and mental, while others are blessed to never know that pain. But we are not victims unless we choose to be or unless we’re dead. To me, the only victims are dead. That’s not to say living people aren’t in despair and agony and are not suffering and do not deserve compassion. It’s to say no matter how dark it gets, no matter how deep the despair is, we can always choose to get up and pro-act as best as we can.

Here are some quotes Dr. Norman Peale loved by other people:

“In times like these, it helps to recall that there have always been times like these.” ~ Paul Harvey 

Yes! If you survived before, which you have since you’re here, surely you will survive again and again and again….when your pain comes in waves or clusters or patterns or just flares, just ride each wave like you’re on top of the world. As the Beach Boys say, catch a wave and you’re sittin’ on top of the world! Oh how easy it is to say and think this when things aren’t so bad but even in pain, sickness, fatigue, depression….it can be done. On a Facebook page for cluster headache support, education, and awareness, I saw this….

“On particularly rough days when I’m sure I can’t possibly endure, I like to remind myself that my track record for surviving bad days so far is 100% and that’s pretty good.”

“It takes more distress and poison to kill someone who has peace of mind and loves life.” ~ Bernie S. Siegel, M.D.

Yup! Physical pain and illness are not depression or a negative attitude. They can contribute to and trigger that but they are not it. They can be separated.  It’s important to keep in mind that we CAN be happy and joyful even in pain. There is still beauty. We may sometimes have to look harder but it’s there. Even with emotional pain, we can train our brains to seek out beauty and some sense of joy even when it’s hard.

“Diseases can be our spiritual flat tires – disruptions in our lives that seem to be disasters at the time but end by redirecting our lives in a meaningful way.” ~ Bernie S. Siegel, M.D.

Again, pain of any kind can teach us, strengthen us, deepen us, and guide us.

“One cannot get through life without pain….What we can do is choose how to use the pain life presents to us.” ~ Bernie S. Siegel, M.D.

This says it all! 😀 Let’s take all of our pain and struggles and use it all to our advantage. 

I found a few things that help me cope with the pain and the psychological consequences of having an extremely painful disorder. One of them is art journaling, writing, painting, gluing, arts & crafts…another is reading positive quotes and other things and sharing them. This also helps with my depressive disorder. Sometimes just seeing a positive quote uplifts me even when I’m not feeling it completely. 
We don’t always have to be or feel positive but it’s good in general to maintain a positive attitude, in my opinion. 
And sharing quotes and happy photos to help others helps me also. I don’t share positive things to pretend everything is good, I share them because it really helps me often and it can inspire anyone who may see it. Also I try to find songs about physical pain to help me cope, there’s one called “Headache” by Frank Black and one called “Touch Me I’m Sick” by Mudhoney. And one called “Novocaine” by Green Day which may be about emotional pain but it can also apply to physical pain.

“Take away the sensation inside
Bitter sweet migraine in my head
Its like a throbbing tooth ache of the mind
I can’t take this feeling anymore
Drain the pressure from the swelling,
The sensations overwhelming”

Don’t I know it!

 And one by Alice Cooper called “Pain” about all kinds of pain. Alice is singing as if he is Pain itself singing. 
“You know me, I’m pain.” 
“It’s a compliment to me to hear you scream me through the night, all night, tonight.” 
“I’m pain
I’m your pain
Unspeakable pain
I’m your private pain”

He also has one called, “The Sharpest Pain” not really about physical pain but still, deep, agonizing pain.

Lol what a gloomy subject to be writing about but pain is part of being alive. Sometimes, even sharp, aching, throbbing, burning, wretched, overwhelming pain.

Much love, hope, strength, comfort, joy, and healing to you who are reading this no matter what your situation is.

Xoxo Kim 😀

Rainbows & Stars

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“When it rains look for rainbows, when it’s dark look for stars.”

So, I stumbled upon this lovely quote today! And it happens to be dark, dreary, and rainy as I write this. Lol My very favorite kind of day!

To me, chilled, dark rainy days are not gloomy and depressing as many seem to feel. I LOVE these kinds of days. They awaken something lovely inside me. I also love sunny, warm, days with clear blue skies and fluffy white clouds! I love it all. All four seasons I am blessed to know all year long.

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I complain about the weather on occasion, I confess. Lol I don’t care much to admit it but I do.  I wish I can say I *never* complain about something as stupid as the weather and I can  say that!  But it would be a lie. Lol And since that truth is kind of relevant to this post, I am here to admit it! ;-D And I’m generally very open and honest about myself. 

There are days it’s hot and I wish it were cold. There’s cold days I wish it were hot or warm(although rarely!). I don’t think there’s ever a rainy day I wish it weren’t raining though! Bring on the rain any day! It’s the same with snow! I love it! I love diversity though so it’s great that all days aren’t rainy or snowy.

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But, this quote is a beautiful and simple reminder to appreciate the things that are going well even in the midst of negativity and pain. Some situations in this life seem overwhelming and unbearable and sometimes it may seem that even if there’s good things, the bad things are currently outweighing the good. But we can’t always change our current situation immediately.

Even if the unpleasant things seem to be more deeper or prominent or frequent than the pleasant things, we can still make a conscious decision to focus more on them when we can’t change the negativity or pain or unpleasantness right away.

This develops and strengthens our habit of appreciating everything we have no matter how big or small or simple. 

This ability is like a muscle. The more we work at it, the stronger it becomes. And even after it’s developed, it must be maintained so it doesn’t diminish. We have to practice, practice, practice even when we don’t feel much like it. Just like if you build your muscles. You can’t do all that work, develop a six pack, then stop and expect it to stay! It has to become your way of life.

It’s the same with positive mental habits. And negative ones too. The more you give in and complain and over-focus on the negativity, the stronger your negative habit becomes and the stronger the hold is it has over you. 

But negative habits can be replaced and overcome!

Of course, we have to tend to and think about unpleasant things and healthy venting is often necessary but we don’t have to dwell on it. 

Even in the throes of tragedy, depression, physical illness, pain of any kind, grief and loss, serious distress, this habit can be cultivated and maintained. It will not cure our problems, take away all of the pain, but it will help us cope and see the sunny side of things or at least see the sunlight seeping through the dark rain clouds even when the situation itself has no sunny side. Metaphors, I love them! Lol 😀

It was also raining a few days ago and I got some photos of the rain! As best as I can with just a phone’s (and a broken phone 😦 ) camera.

I have been feeling my creativity blooming again. I get these “things” every now and again where I’m so incredibly inspired to do something but don’t know what or how. It seems to come more when I meditate more frequently. Or read certain things. Sometimes it just comes out of the blue. I’m currently reading a novel (mystery) about a mysterious painter. I have a feeling it’s inspiring me on some unconscious level! 

I want to create create create! Photos, paintings, poetry, writing….anything!

My wonderful phone (even though these phones break so easily and quickly like inside for seemingly no reason, they are still wonderful phones, blackberry z10) has amazing photo apps which allow me to use bokeh effects, various other effects, and text on pictures, and much more and this sparks my creativity even more. I never thought of myself as creative but I think we are all creative to some extent, in some way, some more than others and some people are more in touch with their creative side. For some it comes so naturally and so easily, it’s ridiculous. (jealous) lol! 😀

But some of us have to struggle hard to find even just a thin sliver of our creativity. (That’s usually me) oh well!   🙂

But I’m so thrilled when I get fun ideas and plans and actually execute them even when they aren’t the most beautiful creations. Creativity is another “muscle” we must keep nourishing to keep it strengthened and maintained.

Even if you don’t feel very creative or have many ideas, you can just put pen or paint to paper or take photos and see what happens! It can become easier and easier and more conscious. And creativity isn’t just for artistic stuff, it can be cresting or finding solutions to problems or anything!

I hope this quote is a sweet reminder for you to look around, look within, look up and always see, feel those rainbows and stars even through the hazy fog and darkness. 

Xoxo Kim 😀

September 21st – World Gratitude Day

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Today, September 21st, is World Gratitude Day!! Yay!! I’m not a fan of gratitude on just certain days but everyday! But it’s great to have a whole day to bring awareness to gratitude. Gratitude can be a fleeting feeling that comes out of the blue every once in a while or when something great happens or around holidays. But it can also be a way of life, a conscious habit, an intentional decision we make each and every day to experience gratitude no
matter what. When good things are happening, when bad things are happening, in happiness and in pain. In sadness and even despair. In joy, laughter, and in tears. Live it and breathe it. It’s life changing. No matter how naturally grateful we are, how easily it usually comes to us or how ungrateful we are, we can choose to consciously live in gratitude, to feel it in every cell of our bodies, in every pulsation of our hearts, in the pores of our skin, deep into the marrow of our bones. We can summon these feelings often after developing the habit of living in gratitude. We can do this by using certain techniques, meditation, gratitude journaling each day writing a list of
things we are thankful for that day or in general, gratitude photography taking a photo each day of something that inspires gratitude in us, making mental lists of all we are thankful for, sharing quotes, reading books on gratitude…

In honor of World Gratitude Day, here are a few beautiful quotes related to the concept of gratitude.

As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.
John F. Kennedy

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.
Melody Beattie

I’m thankful for a pair of shoes that feel really good on my feet; I like my shoes.

I’m thankful for the birds; I feel like they’re singing just for me when I get up in the morning… Saying, ‘Good morning, John. You made it, John.’

I’m thankful for the sea breeze that feels so good right now, and the scent of jasmine when the sun starts going down.

I’m thankful…” ~

Johnny Cash

At any given moment we can think of a list of reasons why our lives suck but at that same moment we can think of a list of reasons while our lives are simply amazing! The choice is ours. Here’s to Gratitude EVERY DAY!!

😀

Xoxo Kim

Living for the simple moments {beauty all around}

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“Underneath your blackest emotions,
far above your brightest wishes,
stands a world for you to hold” ~Samael

I was watching videos about children who suffer with severe mental illnesses like schizophrenia. It’s currently incurable and is a lifelong struggle for them. They suffer immensely and so do their families and those close to them who do the best they can to cope and help them cope.
They suffer hallucinations and delusions, some pleasant and some not pleasant. 
They talk to things no one else can see.
Unlike some children, these aren’t imaginary friends playfully made up for fun, they are hallucinations the brain makes up as a result of an imbalance in its chemistry. It doesn’t function the way most people’s brains function. They literally see, hear, feel things that aren’t there for everyone else and often, they believe they’re real. And to them they are very real.

You can tell a hallucinating person that what that person is seeing, hearing, or feeling isn’t really there and it’s possible the person will know it’s not really there but that knowledge will not make the hallucinations any less real.

That can be an additional stress on someone. Knowing what the person is seeing, hearing, feeling isn’t really there but not being able to make it go away, even feeling the need to respond to certain hallucinations knowing they’re not really there. It can be so frustrating.

Sometimes their mental illnesses provoke some of them to act violently against other people not because they’re bad people but because their brains don’t function properly. Not everyone with a mental illness is violent as a result but some can be. Most aren’t.
In other ways they can be just like other little kids. They like to play, go outside, run around, swing, laugh….

People with mental illnesses, children and adults alike, are a whole person underneath, a person separate than the illness. But sometimes the sickness seems to take over.

It’s a heartbreaking struggle.
 
One of the most inspiring parts of one of the videos I watched is when a little girl’s dad said he has only two hopes for his little girl. One that she stays alive and two that moments of happiness will always find her throughout her days even when most parts of her days are an agonizing battle, he hopes she will always find something to be happy about in the midst of her pain and struggle. 

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This can be viewed in a more negative light like that it’s too bad that all someone has is little moments throughout the day because everything else is just so bad.
Or it can be viewed in a positive light that there are always moments we can embrace to be inspired and joyful, single moments scattered throughout each day that we have, to seize and hold on for. No matter how much pain we’re in.

 It’s a beautiful coping mechanism. Mental illness and physical illness is heartbreaking and devastating but as long as we stay alive and hold onto any little bit of happiness or joy or anything that can make us smile or giggle about, we can make it.

We can’t always hope to be cured or to be generally recovered or to go in remission right now. We can’t always hope that pain will end right now. Some things just won’t be cured and some people will have to struggle most days or everyday just to survive and do basic things. Some people will have severe flare ups every now and again, of an illness physical or emotional that will feel near impossible to cope with.
And even temporary pain or struggles that we know will end eventually, can just seem so overwhelming, so absolutely unbearable. 

But as long as we live and can find those glimpses of magic hidden in the midst of the pain and darkness, we can have something to hold, something to hope for, something that encourages us to keep going, to get out of bed, to move.

The reflection of the sun on windows and signs and water, the blueness of the sky, white fluffy clouds, a steaming cup of hot tea, a funny movie, the depth of inspiration a beautiful song can bring us, a poem, friends, family, animals, photography, books, the vibrant colors all around, random acts of kindness, strangers, hot fudge sundaes, peanut butter, the gentle flapping of butterfly wings, helping someone, funny jokes….whatever touches you in a deep place. 

These things, the simple beauty all around, are always beautiful no matter what our situation is but for some people with certain illnesses or disabilities or in certain situations, they are all we have at the moment. Just moments of simple beauty and joys. Sometimes it’s really all we can hope for, to have solitary moments of joy or happiness or some small sense of pleasure in the midst of our darkness.

And it can be enough.

I know this because when my depression/psychosis is flaring up for hours, days, weeks, months, whether it’s a full blown episode or just some symptoms, sometimes all I can do to stay alive, to find the motivation, the inspiration, the courage, and strength to carry on, is grasp onto all the single happy or joyous moments throughout every day of my darkness & despair. Focus on the goodness that still does exist.

I no longer have long term general depression in the middle of each major depressive episode but sometimes I still have temporary depression or depressive symptoms in the middle of each recurring episode and it can be difficult to cope with. Having depression or any mental illness or pain can feel like a different world than where everyone else is. Even when my depression is not flaring up and I’m not depressed at all, even when I’m happy, there are some occasions I think about it and it feels like I live somewhere else, somewhere that is very different than where people without depression live. It’s like another place, another time, another world. To know I have this dark place I slip into and have lived for so long.
To have random suicidal thoughts and urges that can appear suddenly for seemingly no reason.
It can be a struggle to feel like I’m normal. 
People say there’s no such thing as “normal.”
And that it’s good to be different and “crazy” and unique.
But in some cases there really is such a thing as “normal.” People who always want to live, those who don’t have to battle random or frequent suicidal urges, ones who don’t have unpleasant images and thoughts flashing across their brains, people who don’t have their whole body crushed in an invisible heaviness where they can’t even stand up straight, ones without panic attacks and flashbacks and frequent anxiety, food obsessions, seriously disordered eating habits ….(i don’t have anxiety or panic attacks or body image issues/eating disorders and never have but many, many people do and it’s a serious problem that is very painful for them)
This is normal to not have all this. 
And for people who have any of it, it can be a difficult struggle to try to be regular.
I know people without health conditions like this may not be “normal” in other ways but in this context they are.
And it’s not good to try to force ourselves to be society’s or someone else’s idea of normal while not being true to ourselves. 
But that’s not what I’m talking about here.
Yes it’s good to be “unique” but not when unique means battling violent urges to take myself out for days/weeks/months.
And “crazy” is good when it’s all fun and games and playing, acting funny and silly but it’s not good when “crazy” is a true illness.
It’s not always easy to handle and it provokes pain in me, even when I’m not depressed sometimes. Just thinking about it.
Not always. For the most part I feel and am normal. But it can be a struggle sometimes.

 The psychological consequences of having this condition, even when it’s not currently acting up, are profound and we have to find ways to cope with the pain and struggles and the very fact of having them when we are someone with a mental disorder.

I know I’m not a victim. That’s why I’m posting this, because I have found a way to empower myself and I hope it helps someone else. This life is still a sweet blessing. Just because we have bad things and painful things happen to us, doesn’t mean we are victims.

“We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm and adventure. There is no end to the adventures that we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open.” ~Jawaharlal Nehru

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 I’m alive. And as long as that remains true, there is hope. Even when I can’t feel it.

Sometimes the simple things are lifesavers, crucial parts of my coping mechanisms. 
They are all there is. 

I honor all the brave families and other people for sharing their stories, for sharing their pain and struggles with the world. Mental illness, medication, mental illness in children, specific ways of coping, treatment…are all very controversial. People disagree on the nature of some illnesses, whether or not they really exist, if certain treatments are ethical, the way people handle these illnesses and so much more. Anyone who shares a story like this that reaches a large audience, on blogs, YouTube, tv…, is bound to receive criticism of all kinds, some intended to be constructive, other critics intending to be malicious and inflict pain or anger upon those sharing their story.
There will always be loving supporters and those who just want to hurt.
Anyone who shares their story is brave and strong and deserves love and compassion whether or not we agree with everything they do or say or believe.
The people who share their pain with the world do the best they can the best they know how. 
No one chooses to be mentally ill. We have to take the life we were gifted with, healthy or not, and do the best we can with it, bloom where we’re planted, create a firm, strong foundation with everything we know, everything we experience, everything that is thrown at us.

“Today a new sun rises for me; everything lives, everything is animated, everything seems to speak to me of my passion, everything invites me to cherish it.” ~Anne De Lenclos 

Mental illness, pain, being suicidal…none of these are choices but acting on them is often a choice. Acting negatively or acting positively. Giving in and giving up or finding it in us to keep going with everything we have. We have the choice to do something to better ourselves, to hold on, to inspire, bring hope, consolation, encouragement, and understanding to others. 

I choose to hold on, to keep going, to inspire myself and anyone else I can along the way.

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And I hope you will always do the same whatever your situation is. And if you need reminders every now and again, look for them. Take photos of happy things, write positive quotes and affirmations in a book so you can always look at them when you need inspiration, always remember words, books, things that have helped you and let them continue to help you. Remember an occasion when you were happy and filled with joy and hope and full of life and know you have it in you to feel that way again. If you can’t remember when you last felt that way, then know there’s always hope as long as you’re alive.  The world is full of pain but it’s also full of hope, healing, happiness, love, and possibility. Endless possibilities.

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“I choose to FIGHT BACK! I choose to RISE, not fall! I choose to LIVE, not die! And I know, I know that what’s within me is also WITHIN YOU.” (Mayor Pappas, “City Hall” movie quote)

Xoxo Kim

Social Media – Developing Healthy Skills and Balance

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I received a lifehack e-mail with a link to a list of reasons why social media can be detrimental to our health.

It’s titled, 
You Should Be Aware Of These 10 Effects Of Social Media On You

By Amanda Rife 

http://www.lifehack.org/articles/technology/you-should-aware-these-10-effects-social-media-you.html

Amanda Rife writes:

“Technology is a useful tool, but many people don’t know how to use it properly which can easily become damaging. As much as you may love your Twitter page is it really worth the toll it takes on your health? That’s for you to decide after you read the following 10 ways social media negatively effects your life:”

She brings up some interesting and important issues and great points with some basis of truth to them and I am elaborating and adding my own views about each one, here.

After each number is her reason why social media may be damaging to us. Under each reason is her view and under each of her views is my own opinion.

1.) Reduces person to person interaction.

Amanda Rife writes:
“Not only do you spend less quality time with is people who are physically present in your life, but they will quickly get annoyed by you when you’re paying more attention to an electronic device than them. Eventually the people around you will even stop wanting to hang out with you.”

My view: We have complete control over how frequently and in which ways we use our social media accounts and our phones, computers, laptops, ipads…and whatever else we use to connect to a social media resource. Connecting with people online and seeing people in person are both great and both have advantages that the other does not. One doesn’t have to take the place of the other one. Social media allows us to share photos, statuses, posts..and comment, tag each other in ways we can’t do in person and allows us to meet people and reconnect with people we would have never met or encountered again if not for social media. Seeing each other in person is different than seeing each other through a screen, we can hang out, look into each other’s eyes(if we can see), hear each other’s voices(if you’re a hearing person), have coffee, tea, food together, laugh together… They’re both great and we don’t have to give up one for the other. It’s all about balance. You can put your phone away when you’re out with someone in person and just because you “see” that person online everyday doesn’t mean you don’t have/want to see the person in person when you can. Social media doesn’t control you if you don’t allow it to.

2.)  Increases your cravings for attention drastically.

Amanda Rife writes:

“Posting vague statuses on Facebook to grab others attention could easily become a nasty habit for people who use social media frequently. The never ending competition for likes and notifications can consume you.”

My view: What can be said about this (and other points brought up here) goes beyond the scope of this post. Many of these are deep psychological issues/aspects that are issues that can have posts of their own. Example: What Amanda Rife states here is true for some people. They need “likes” and comments and shares to feel validated and they want competition, to get more love than others. But that’s not Social media’s fault. That’s an inner issue of the individual self. Social media just provides us with the opportunity to get that kind of attention, to get “likes,” comments, shares…and while it’s great to have that kind of attention, it’s an honor to know that people like us and our content and there’s nothing wrong with desiring it, it’s an indication of a problem to feel that we need it to make us feel worthy or important. It’s a sign of a psychological problem that needs awareness and tending to if we become literally depressed or anxious or feeling excessively low to the point it seriously affects our lives if we don’t get attention on social media. I think the inner problem is what needs to be addressed, not just push it under the rug by criticizing or getting rid of social media for it. It may be helpful to lay off the social media accounts if we are the kind of person to need attention to validate us. It may be very helpful to stay off twitter, Facebook, Instagram, blogs…but that psychological problem of ours will still be there and may manifest in other ways if we get rid of our social media accounts. It’s not social media, it’s us. Social media can be our wake-up call, to help us realize we have a problem, not caused by social media, but being triggered by the opportunities it allows. We can then use this realization to our advantage, working on and exploring problems we would have not known we have if not for social media bringing our attention to it.

3.) Distracts from life goals.

Amanda Rife writes:

“It’s so easy to get wrapped up in what’s going on in social media that people will neglect their real life goals. Instead of aiming for the dream job by obtaining useful skills people, especially younger people, tend to strive for internet stardom.”

My view: Again, this is something we have complete control over. We can use the Internet and social media for just the opposite, to inspire us and motivate us to fulfill our goals and even come up with new ones. We can meet people, discover new ideas, and have our creativity sparked by the people and things we encounter through social media. Anything can distract us so we don’t work on our goals, TV, work, laziness, and more, we can get wrapped up into anything and become a slacker, not just social media. It’s great and very effective to manage our amount of time spent on each thing that takes up part of each day, not let one take over everyday.

4.) It can lead to a higher risk of depression.

Amanda Rife writes:

“According to recent studies the more people used social media the more negative feelings they experience, including depression. This could partiulalrly harmful to people who have been previously diagnosed with depression. If you beginning to notice you’re feeling down on a regular basis it’s probably time to take a break from your many social media.”

My view: This is probably for different reasons for different people. I suspect one of the the main culprits is negative comparison. We know how our lives really are, every aspect, every event, every thought, every problem…but with everyone else, we only see what they choose to reveal. Some people only reveal the positive aspects of their lives and keep the pain and problems hidden. For some, this is because they want everyone to truly believe they have The Perfect Life, for others it’s not that they want, necessarily, to be judged as having a perfect life, but they fear being judged negatively if they complain on social media outlets, for others still, it’s not at all about coming off as being perfect but they want to use their social media accounts just for uplifting quotes and happy thoughts, as opposed to using them to vent or disclose unpleasant situations or thoughts. They just aren’t drawn to sharing their whole lives, pleasant and unpleasant. When we are struggling and we see photos, posts, and all kinds of happy updates by people who seem to have it all, this can contribute to us feeling low about our own lives. And if we are prone to true depression, it can trigger an episode or the onset of a full blown disorder. A couple of other culprits of social media contributing to depression are cyber- bullying and friend rejection, people blocking and unfriending others, not responding to requests or comments and messages. If you’re prone to depression, this can be a serious trigger. 

Giving up all of social media may be a solution for some but I think the underlying depression and/or insecurity is what mostly needs to be addressed.

5.) Relationships are more likely to fail.

Amanda Rife writes:

“No good comes out of online displays of jealousy and snooping. It may seem like an easy option when it comes to dealing with relationships, but in reality it does more damage than good. In fact, studies show that the more a person uses Facebook the more likely they will be to monitor their partner, which leads to arguments and crumbling relationships.”

My view: Again, this is not social media’s fault but the fault of the persons involved. It’s how we go about handling our circumstances while also using social media. Relationships and the use of social media are compatible. We have to use our common sense about what is wise to do and not do in terms of social media. Or learn what to do and not to do if it’s not common sense to us. It’s all about our underlying insecurities and issues, not the social media. Social media just provides us with the opportunity to see and reveal all kinds of stuff that can bring out our insanity if we allow it to. We don’t need social media to spy on or stalk people, it just makes it easier to engage in those unhealthy things. If we feel a strong desire or need to obsessively monitor our lover every second of every day , the problem is either us or the lover. Maybe I’m very insecure and my lover is trustworthy. Or maybe I’m not overly insecure but he is being really suspicious and there is some reasonable explanation for my monitoring.

But the true underlying problems would likely be there with or without social media because they lie within us. They are what need to be addressed.

6.) Excessive use of social media stunts creativity.

Amanda Rife writes:

“I can speak from personal experience that social media is the easiest way to stunt, or kill, the creative process. Surfing social media sites, especially Tumblr. in this scenario, has a numbing effect on the mind that’s similar to mindlessly watching television. If you plan on being productive today shut off those apps!”

My view: This definitely has some truth to it and the word “excessive” is the key word here. Nothing is good in excessive amounts, that’s why it’s excessive! It’s also about being mindful and active in all that we do. Mindlessly scrolling through a bunch of mindless drivel thrown about by others is bound to numb anyone’s creativity and decrease our IQ a few points! But when we are mindful of what we’re reading or looking at and fully engaged, our creativity can deepen and we can come up with new ideas. While looking at pics on Tumblr, reading blog posts, Facebook statuses, or anything else, it will benefit you to pay close attention to what you are doing, thinking, feeling, reading. Is it serving you well? Is it inspiring you, motivating you, challenging you? Do you feel peaceful, calm, happy? Or is it just mind numbing stuff you’re surfing through because you feel you have nothing better to do? If so, you definitely have better things you can be doing! Finding something else to read or look at, meditate, tune into your surroundings, the scents, the feelings, the sounds, the colors and textures…your possibilities are endless.

7.) Cyber bullying is alive and well.

Amanda Rife writes:

“People feel too comfortable on the web and say things they wouldn’t normally say in real life. If you’re not the one say horrible things, you’re still inevitably going to be exposed to it. And if you are one of the people talking trash? Cut it out! You’re not as anonymous as you think. With the rampant cyber bullying on the web, people are also becoming more rude off the web as well.” 

My view: This is so true. Cyber-bullying is something we have little control over for the most part. For those of us who aren’t cyber-bullies, we still have to witness it or just really negative, uncalled for comments everywhere. Have you seen the YouTube comments on even the most inspiring, positive, beautiful, uplifting videos?! Good grief, they’re horrible. I rarely even read the comments because they’re so dumb and uncalled for. Internet trolls are everywhere and unfortunately here to stay. I suggest you don’t feed them. It’s what they want. So let’s let them starve. They are people who feel so low about themselves and their own lives so they insist on attempting to drag others down with them.

And it can crush our spirit to see even when it’s not happening to us, personally. Being a witness to uncalled for negativity can be so life-draining. But we can develop habits and skills to not let it get to us to the point it’s overwhelming and leads us to depression or anxiety. We can stand un-buffeted against the negative attention seekers who get off on inflicting pain upon others just for thrills. Focus on your own positive qualities and all the love and positivity you receive and remember as much as it sucks being bullied or being the target of cruelty, it has to suck way more being a bully. To sink to that level, there has to be something seriously wrong. Pay the callous comments no mind, I suggest you don’t respond to bullies directly but when you see it happening to someone, you can write positive things to the person to uplift her/him.

8.) Constantly comparing yourself to others online will make you miserable.

Amanda Rife writes:

“The digital persona people display on Facebook is often much different that what actually goes on in their lives. After awhile you may feel like you know your online aquainences better than you do, creating a social gap. Try to remember that everyone is just as human as you are.”

My view: Like I said in response to #4 about depression, negative comparisons aren’t good. It’s not healthy for us. When we’re comparing ourselves negatively to others we’re either making ourselves out to not be as good or making ourselves out to somehow be above the other person/people. It’s uncalled for. We all have good things and bad things and it’s all about our attitude. We can’t control what other people put on social media but we can control our own attitudes and reactions. Like Amanda Rife says, we are all equally human. Focus on the goodness of yourself. Bask in your own beauty while truly, relishing the beauty of others. 

Let other people’s happiness, accomplishments, success, and beauty inspire you and motivate you, not depress you or trigger jealousy.

If you really feel utterly miserable because of someone else on social media accounts, analyze yourself, think about why this is. Do you feel like you are lacking in some respects? Missing out? Then do something to fulfill yourself. It doesn’t matter what others think. Do what you have to to bring joy to yourself as long as you are not hurting or directly interfering with others. And if someone is trying to intentionally make others jealous, unhappy, miserable, you can unfriend, block, ignore that person and get on with your own life.

9.) Loss of sleep.

Amanda Rife writes:

“The light emitted from your various electronic screens tricks your mind into thinking it’s not time for you to sleep. Getting enough sleep each night is already difficult enough without extra complications. Perhaps it’s best if your phone doesn’t stay with you though the night.”

My view: This is true but has nothing to do with social media itself, really. If we have our phones by our side in bed, we may see the little flashing lights, hear beeping or other sounds, or just be so tempted to check Facebook and other things. Over and over and over. But this has to do with discipline. Self control. Get into the habit of sleeping at night, not playing with phones. If it’s really too difficult, the phone can be put in a different room while going to sleep to make the temptation less irresistible.

After a while it becomes a habit. Then it will be easier and easier to resist until eventually your brain is trained to not think of that phone and Facebook or Twitter at night. 

10.) Lack of privacy.

Amanda Rife writes:

“Between social media websites saving (and selling) your personal data and the whole NSA mess involving unsolicited government access of personal data including email, Skype calls, and so much more it’s very clear that privacy and the internet don’t mix at this point in time. If you post every last thought that pops into your head it could just as easily come back to haunt you in the future.”

My view: This is really very simple. Don’t ever put on social media, anywhere including what you think are personal e-mails or inbox messages, what you don’t want everyone to see. Even if your account is blocked so only people on your list can see, someone, somewhere, can get access to it if those people really want to. Once you put something out there, it’s out there for good, somewhere, even if you delete it and it looks like it’s gone. It can be retrieved. People can get into your e-mail box and any other thing you have on the Internet. Whatever you would never want others to see, keep it to yourself or tell someone in person if you can. Any other way is not safe. But this is a choice. When we put something stupid out there, it’s on us. It’s not Social media’s wrongdoing, it’s ours. Many people don’t realize that when we put something out there into cyber-world, it’s here to stay. They think it can be easily removed because there are “delete” buttons so it’s important to educate people.

Social media itself isn’t the problem. It’s how we use it and perceive it. Social media is limited in its power over us. It mostly only has the power we allow it to have. We can empower ourselves to have a healthy, balanced, positive relationship to social media and those people we connect with online.

We can greatly benefit by developing healthy skills and habits and cultivate a positive attitude about ourselves, each other, and social media. Social media provides us with amazing opportunities and has much potential for great things. We don’t have to give it up to avoid all our problems that arise while using it. It’s ourselves we need to work on.

It’s not the use of social media that is the problem, it’s misuse.

I’m very thankful Amanda Rife brought up these important issues. It is crucial to address them in this age of social media where so many feel that it has a power and mind of its own, where people feel like victims in the face of struggles made possible by social media. Social media is a blessing, certainly not without its negative consequences and distress in some cases, but it’s definitely a positive thing if we allow it to be and use it wisely.
,
Xoxo Kim