help

Showing up, being seen and seeing how shame serves us.

I woke up to a 3-alarm fire in my little town last night. Heard the sirens as the vehicles rushed past beneath my bedroom window and I figured they were headed somewhere far away.

I checked the local Facebook page and learned the fire was a block away from my little home.

I dressed and went outside into the dark and it was such a thing to experience, the flames were two stories high, as my neighbors wandered around at midnight watching and wondering how to feel.

Everyone is safe and a prominent and beloved local business was burned to the ground and is now gone. The apartments above, homes, also gone.

I thought of impermanence. I felt my ability to embrace how things come and go like this, overnight. The art of learning to let go takes tremendous courage and great skill.

It's a process. And humans need each other for that process.

As this community where I've lived deals with this loss, I'm thinking of ways to share my skills as a good listener to help people process the event and their grief. The loss of this staple business and the impact on the community.

And I feel afraid. I feel afraid to be seen. I've been sort of hiding out here, moving around and not really getting involved or even going out much. It's part of how I've dealt with all my trauma these past few years. It's so far from who I used to be when I used to LIVE HERE AND LOVE MY LIFE. Now it feels so scary and sometimes impossible. It's easier for me to stand in front of a group of people at one of my talks or events in New York than to be standing beside someone getting coffee in this tiny town.

Because the intimacy triggers me. It reminds me of being loved and losing. It reminds me of the things people have said to me that felt invasive and hurtful. It reminds me of feeling invisible when I desperately needed help.

It reminds me of the fearful act of merely being alive.

But all those triggers are the sharp points to lean into. Otherwise, we spend our whole lives leaning away from pain and never fully embracing it. We construct little mental cocoons where we feel safe but never fully comfortable. I lived in one for years. I felt cramped and self-conscious.

So I know how many human beings feel each and every day of their lives, as we confront the fear of being seen for who we are, wherever we are, whatever we do. This never frightened me before which allowed me such great freedom before it was time for me to feel the fear that's fueled by shame. But shame isn't all bad. It actually is a sign that we're awake and we're seeing life as it really is. It's a sign of our potential to evolve, it shows us where we can do more work to be our best self. We just have to keep the shame in check and make sure we aren't using it to work against us more than FOR us. 

It's something only we can shift for ourselves, seeing how shame and suffering limit the light and love we can send and receive. We shift this in service to and with others, coming first from love for ourselves. 

There's so much nuance to navigate to make sure we're not using other people to hide from caring for ourselves. Putting them or work first and saying, "it's love."

Real love never limits as it's unlimited.

So I'll offer to listen or lend my love in other ways to nurture more unlimited love in the world.

If we all started in our local communities, generating ripples where we live and work each and every day, love just becomes who we ARE.

What Happens When You Ask For Help

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  We all know the joke about men not asking for help with directions.

Have you heard the one about the woman who tries to do everything "her way" and then says her husband doesn't help her? The punchline is: "he wasn't doing it right."

Except, it's not a joke. It's what people do.

Men try to figure things out alone rather than ask for and receive help and women...well, they do the same thing. Actually, many human beings do this. 

Why? What happens when we ask for help?

WE MIGHT GET IT

Well, we might just get help, only it might not come in the way we want, expect or anticipate. If we have our sights set on how others can or can't or should help, we miss out on the opportunity to actually receive the help we think we need. Or we do get help and then what happens to our Savior Complex? yikes.

WE MIGHT NOT GET IT

Sometimes we ask and people aren't actually willing to help and that feels like crap. We are stuck in the same situation we were before we asked. Except, there are a few other people we could ask...

WE LOOK STUPID

Or we ask and we think we look stupid for asking. That person thought we had it all together and now they know we don't. That image we stood behind felt so safe and now people know we are a fraud. Freakin' great.

 

These fears or experiences can lead us to think we don't even need or want help.

Somewhere deep down, we may not think we deserve it. Or maybe it is too hard to accept it and it is easier (albeit more difficult and painful) to do it ourselves. If this worked perfectly, it would be awesome. Unfortunately, I know more than a few people who take this stance and then complain. Frequently. That's tricky, right? Nothing bad or wrong there, just...something to see.

*sorry. I'm back. was just looking at that for myself*

Here's what I have learned from asking for help or from working with people who ask me for help: it puts us in a totally vulnerable state of receiving. We all like to look like we are juggling 10 balls perfectly, right? YEAH! What a feeling of power and control. Holy crap, the seduction of that facade is so tempting.

Until we actually come up against our limits as humans. See, we have a limited field of vision based on the experiences we have had. While we might be smarter than the average bear (or person), we still can't possibly know it all. The opinions and perspectives of other people are tremendously helpful, particularly if they have a viewpoint or life experience that relates to ours.

Take my clients, for example. Their life experiences range from many different vocations, races, ethnicities, religions, genders and sexual orientations. What do they share in common? Choosing change. Every single one of them comes up against the fear of change and their own personal limitations. They want to shift something in their lives and that requires a perspective that will be different from the one they have known.

This is something I know really well, having changed my job, religion, my state and neighborhood of residence, gender presentation, sexual orientation, gender identity AND heck, my own damn name and my body! Anything that can be changed, I've changed. And I haven't done this by myself. I've done it by constantly asking for help when I come up against my own limitations or my own ability to see clearly what I could change.

My client who felt stuck in his job? He just needed help changing his definition of what job he "should" have. He was held back by this one idea that required credentials he didn't have. Once we redefined it as something to earn money while he found something ideal, he made the shift.

Someone asked me for help with something intimate the other day. She read me as a guy and it was probably hard for her to ask me, since it involved her body. She overcame the perception of my maleness as a barrier and instead saw me as a person who could help her. And help her, I did. She felt weird, she overcame the fear and she got exactly what she needed.

We all need help with something in our lives. Something we want to change or something that hurts.

We like to think we can do everything ourselves, especially if we are particularly good at DIY-ing other things in life or if we've tried to ask for help before and have been hurt in some way. Shit happens when we ask for help, it's totally true. I tried to ask for help from someone who is this big social media expert and he completely flaked on me. Whatever. Maybe the Universe was helping me dodge a bullet. Maybe this guy had nothing to tell me that I don't already know and that was the lesson I needed.

Whatever the result, pleasant or not, we learn something by asking for help. We learn how to ask, who to ask and when to ask.

Finding the ability to ask for help and seek it from people or places who are ready, willing and able to provide it are essential skills to living healthy, happy lives. It's an art, a practice, not an exact science.

 

What would happen if you asked for help with something in your life today?

 

 

image courtesy another great article on LinkedIn.

Hiding Hinders Healing: What Helped Lift My Depression

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I was sitting down to write a paper for grad school about How We Determine Our Worth and I saw the news about Robin Williams. He allegedly committed suicide after years of battling depression.

I've long considered writing about my own experience with depression but since it felt more situational and wasn't a clinical diagnosis, I felt it wouldn't be as valuable.

And then I realized that was dumb.

My depression was real. I felt it so deeply I wanted to commit suicide multiple times and I expressed those feelings to friends. I wasn't kidding or joking or trying to get attention. I felt helpless and hopeless beyond belief and beyond comfort many, many times.

My depression was legitimate to me, with or without some clinician signing off on a diagnosis or prescription.

I've been able to find my way out from under the weight of the depressive bouts on each and every occasion over the years without prescription medications. I seem to be on a good upswing because the bouts have become much fewer and farther between, lately. I figured that it may be helpful to someone to read what helped my depression so I've decided to push past the thoughts about the depression other people feel and experience and write about mine.

I talked about it. Perhaps one of the toughest parts about depression is speaking about it. There may be fear or shame there because it may carry a stigma implying individual weakness. "Just pick yourself up and move on," people might say. I felt that fear and shame but I still spoke about it. I said it to my therapist. I said it to my friends. I said it to myself. "I feel depressed," I'd say. "I am depressed."

I felt it. Much like talking about it, simply feeling it helped. I allowed myself to be or feel depressed and didn't make excuses or feel like a failure because I was experiencing depression. I knew it was something people feel and I was now feeling it. It sucked and I often wished it would pass more quickly, but I never beat myself up for feeling it and that may have helped me not sink further down. On one occasion this past year, I backed myself into a closet and cried loudly until the tears stopped. I felt a little concerned while it was happening and wondered if calling 911 made sense but on the other side of it, about 30 minutes later, I felt a tremendous weight lifted.

I assessed my current situation and determined that it might be making me feel depressed. It might not be you. It might be your job, your relationship or something else that is not a good or right fit. In more than a few instances, changing my situation profoundly helped my depression.

I ate foods that seemed to improve my mood and (tried to) avoid ones that made it worse. When I ate sugar, my depression came on like gangbusters. What was mildly annoying or bothersome or frustrating one day would become utterly and profoundly hopeless within hours of ingesting too much sugar. I felt painted into a corner by paint that would never, ever dry. "This will be like this forever!" I'd say. And then, I would drink a lot of water and eat more vegetables (especially dark, leafy greens) and the sugar would pass through my bloodstream. The same situation that had me paralyzed hours earlier would feel slightly less horrible. And then, mildly horrible. And then, not so bad at all. I tried to remember this the next time I was tempted to eat a lot of sugar in one sitting but it didn't (doesn't) always work.

I made sure I got sleep, even when it was erratic. Experiencing insomnia brought on by anxiety or depression is hell. I've been through it a few times in the past few years and each time I become incredibly angry. We need sleep to function, it isn't something we can skip on and expect to really thrive. I hated that I wasn't sleeping, especially when I tried everything I could think of to remedy the insomnia. Essential oils. Baths. Not eating or drinking after 8pm. Cool temperature in the room. Blankets. No lights on. Earplugs. God, everything. But I persevered and eventually the circadian rhythms righted themselves and it dissipated. The most helpful thing may have been my tenacity with a regular bedtime, no matter how long I stayed asleep or how many times I woke up during the night.

I wrote about it. I wrote about my depression and didn't publish the blog posts. I got the words out with a pen in a paper journal. I sometimes resorted to drawing angry or sad faces with a crayon.

I listened to music that inspired me in some way. Sometimes it was African lullabies, sometimes it was Disney songs. Sometimes it was cathartic singer-songwriter stuff, in moderation of course. Listening to the suffering of others sometimes helped me gain much-needed perspective on my own situation. Often it helped me feel connected to someone, that person who wrote that song, even if that person was a total stranger who didn't even know I existed. They knew what I was feeling, though, and I felt less wrong or bad or hopeless that I would ever feel anything but those things.

I reminded myself that it might be depression. During especially difficult moments, the kind when I wasn't sure I needed to keep hanging out here on Earth, I remembered that it wasn't total and complete reality that would linger forever. It might be depression, instead, and it might pass.

I remembered my accomplishments. When I felt like I'd done all I could with my life and wanted to pass Go and collect my $200, I reminded myself of what I had accomplished. I considered all I've overcome. I reflected on the lessons I've learned and wondered what else was left for me to experience. "If my life has been this rich," I'd think, "what if there's even more ahead?"

I reached out for help from people I knew would listen. When I was depressed, hanging out or speaking with someone who didn't understand it or have compassion for it made it much worse. Calling someone who didn't judge or condemn it, and even understood it, helped me much more. Even though I don't experience ongoing depression and mine seems to come and go, I still relate to the fundamental quality of it. I remember it. While I hope that all people can find and experience relief from it, I can still hold the space for them as they find that relief. Not everyone can do this. They can't sit with their own feelings and probably can't hold the space for you. I don't spend too much time around these people, anymore.

If you feel depressed or experience ongoing depression, I encourage you to try some of what helped me, in addition to whatever you're doing that helps you wake up and put your feet on the floor each day.