Friday, January 18, 2019

Out of the Darkness Overnight video

Hello, friends! This Out of the Darkness Overnight 2019 promo video just came out, and some of my teammates and I are in it.

This video makes me tear up. I don't know if it has that effect on other people, but it really gets me.

I'll be walking the Overnight in Boston this year, and I am already excited.


My voice is the first voice you hear, and as soon as the video began I was like, oh wow, that's me! And then my next thought was, man my friend Cynthia in college's boyfriend was totally right and my voice really is high and shrieky.

I forget about my voice, because honestly, how often do you hear your own voice?

I mean, except in your head, over and over, repeating phrases like, "Put on your socks." and "Please brush your teeth." and "For the love of god we do this every single day why why WHY is this a conversation?!?"

But though I get sick of the sound of my voice, since I rarely hear it outside my head, I forget that I have never liked it.

There's not much of anything to be done about it, but it's true. I would like it to be lower. I'd like it to be more interesting.

When I have a bad cold and both of those things happen, I wish my voice would stay that way. But in the scheme, this is small.

Also, hi! Happy New Year!

I have a New Year's post written in my head but it hasn't made it into cyberspace but if I can get it up before January ends, I'll consider it a win.

Monday, December 24, 2018

So you run and you run to catch up with the sun

(sorry it's a little cattywampus) 
I have started a Christmas post over and over, and it keeps ringing false.

Not because I'm not of good cheer. I'm of good cheer!

But this is what I think I want to say.

Last year underlined for me what a gift one's time is.

I've felt the time squeeze since I had children, but I hadn't thought about time as a gift.

A friend asked what was something you learned about yourself in the last year? And I loved this question. It really made me think.

I turned around and asked it of others. The responses were so interesting to me.

I've kept thinking about it, and one of the things I realized was this: just because someone asks for my time doesn't mean I have to give it to them.

I can say no without guilt. Because my time is limited, and I do not have enough of it to spend with people I truly love, or doing things that bring me joy.

Nobody automatically deserves your time. I mean, unless they're paying you to do a job, or you're responsible for their health and well-being.

Your employer and your children or whoever else's well being you may be responsible for deserve your time.

Everyone else gets it as a gift.

I have come to believe this.

Sometimes, when I've been sick or when I am really, really busy, I don't have enough time for Nick.

Like leading up to the holidays, when I stayed up late to finish trimming the tree or making calendars and photo books for grandmothers.

I would get the kids fed and get them to bed, and then start working.

Genuinely, I didn't have enough hours in my day to accomplish all I wanted and needed to accomplish. Because you can get done the obligations, but that often leaves very little time for the wants.

And my husband gets out of sorts when I don't have enough time for him. Not perfunctory time--genuine quality time. It quickly becomes problematic in our relationship.

And obviously, a big part of why I married him is because I enjoy spending time with him. But when time is tight, he gets the short straw. String? Shrift?

(You know that though I love any and all language, I am exceedingly terrible at those expressions. Like kicking yourself in the foot. It's still an image I enjoy, plus I'm opposed to gun violence, although I suppose if you are going to shoot someone, fair's fair that it's your own food.)

Anyway, when time is tight, he doesn't get enough of mine. It is not that I don't love him. Of course I love him. I just don't have time to focus on him.

My boss came into my office the other day and asked if there was anything I needed. And I said, "TIME! I need more time!"

Sometimes there just aren't enough minutes for everything.

And so time is the gift I've given all of us this Christmas. I have given this to myself most of all.

I deliberately didn't invite anyone for the holidays. You know that I am an inviter, and at one point Betty told me to stop meeting people at bus stops and inviting them for Christmas dinner.

That was the year we had 40 guests, and it became a pot luck dinner, with people eating in shifts because there wasn't enough room. It was exhausting. But it was also joyful.

If someone has no place to go, my inclination is to invite. I don't want anyone to feel alone.

This year I bit my tongue. In multiple instances.

Because what we need most, what I crave most, is time together, with no guests and no obligations.

Time with people I love is my favorite gift.

Tonight we are going to get Indian take-out and have family game night. We may or may not make cookies.

Tomorrow we can stay in our pajamas all day if we want. And then in the evening we are going to the house of dear friends to exchange gifts and enjoy treats together.

I love Christmas. I love the lights and the treats and the sparkles and the joy of sharing. I love the hopefulness and surprise and delight.

So this is a Christmas post, though we say happy holidays in our card, because I like to say it that way. We have no war on Christmas, and I am a Christmas lover. (We do have a war on mice, because apparently if you have one mouse, you have more, and that makes mice, and that is something we really do not want to have. But this is a whole nother story.)

But I feel no need to Merry Christmas anyone who doesn't celebrate Christmas. I feel no need for any coffee company to have Santa cups or whatever.

If you celebrate Christmas, then Merry Christmas! If you're celebrating holidays of whatever type, or not celebrating but enjoying some days off, happy holidays!

Whatever you're doing, I hope you're having a delightful time.

I wish sparkly joy and love to all of you.

Dig and be dug in return.

Love,

Lisa

Friday, December 07, 2018

Remember when you were young, you shone like the sun

I don't exactly know what I want to say, but some version of this: yes, holidays are a time of joy and giving and getting and sparkle and friendship and joy.

They're also a time of frenzy and exhaustion and loneliness and hard memories bubbling to the surface when you least expect it.

We're over-scheduled, because 'tis the season! We eat too much sugar and drink too much alcohol or caffeine or both. We don't sleep enough, because there's so much to do do do!

I don't know what to do about any of these things but try to schedule better, and be more deliberate. And also maybe acknowledge the frenzied overscheduliness of the season, reminding myself that it is temporary.

I just recently learned to remind myself that "nothing is forever" in yoga. Oh, and now I do yoga. I don't know what kind. People always ask if you do yoga, and then they ask what kind.

I used to say no, but now I do, and I do it at the Hilton and so I call it Hilton yoga.

Although the truth is I always had my own version of getting through temporary discomfort. For as long as I can remember I've told myself that I can do anything, no matter how hard or miserable, for at least 20 minutes. Sometimes up to a year.

I should add, however, that I now try to incorporate happiness into my life. And now that I know that joy is attainable, I'm less inclined to do something miserable for a year just for my resume or whatever.

Because you know what my dad's advice of just do it for a year for your resume taught me? To be unhappy for longer.

But I digress. I may have even digressed from my digression.

My point is this. We look beautiful in this photo, don't we? Julie and Emily at Tellchronicles make everyone beautiful. I've not seen a single photo where their subjects don't absolutely glow.

(And I am trying very hard not to pick on my flaws because I see them. Oh, I see them.)

But back to the delightful, seemingly effortless photo.

Please, don't be deceived.

Prior to the photos, to get to us to that point where we are all smiling and looking overjoyed to be together, I had to beg, and I mean beg edging into threats.

I begged and threatened my husband and my children to get in clothing. Not even clothing they dislike. Their regular clothing.

My son was wearing a grey fleece hoodie--the one he wears daily--and still, I had to cajole.

Nick, who prior to the photo shoot was not remotely interested in a photo shoot. was sitting in the dining room doing work while I was running around doing my makeup, doing my mom's makeup, trying to convince India on her outfit, begging Jordan to put on his clothes.

We were on the verge of late, and I was flustered and frankly, angry. Why was it all on me?

Why why why am I the only person in our house who cares if we have family photos with our entire family in them? Because ordinarily, we have photos of a motherless family. And they're rolling their eyes all, Mama's taking another picture.

I wanted ALL OF US to be in the picture. And I was going to have beautiful family photos THIS YEAR if I had to STAB someone I was related to in order to do it.

We were verging on late and Nick and I were bickering, and it was all stressful.

We finally met up with Emily, and she started working her magic, and suddenly, it was fun. For everyone.

And so what you don't see, when you see the happy family, the perfect tree, or the scrumptious meal on a fancy table, is the background stress and fighting and insecurity and feelings of loss.

You see the beauty, the perfection. And maybe a little piece of you wonders if you measure up.

This cannot be just me. I know it's not just me. So I am saying this to you (and me).

Of course you do measure up to whatever standard might be in your mind, because it's internal. There is no universal measuring stick that you have to stand next to.

You're wonderful. You, just as you are.

You may be tired, so very tired. You may be short-tempered. Your pants might be tight. You may not be all that well organized. Your house might be a mess.

And still.

You are a beautiful human being. You're smart, so smart, and funny. You have a different perspective from everyone else, because though all humans have similarities, nobody else sees through your eyes. And that's delightful.

You're kind, and kindness glows.

You are amazing, and you are loved.

Sugar is nobody's friend, but it sure is delicious. Sleep is critical. Alcohol is actual poison, but it certainly is fun sometimes.

The holidays are a giant dollop of wonderfulness smothered in whipped cream and topped with sprinkles and one of those long wafer straw cookie things with a marshmallow crammed on top and then lit on fire.

They are everything all at the same time, and that time is right now.

As with everything, they will not last. These moments are fleeting, for good and bad.

If the holidays are hard, that's OK. If they're too hard, and you think you could use some help, good for you for recognizing this. You are not alone in this, ever.

I see your glow, and you are incandescent.

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Together together, and thankful

One of the things I am thankful for is all of you.

I'm lucky I began blogging when I did.

I started out heartbroken, single, depressed (clinically, as it turns out), and in need of a tremendous amount of support. Way more than my friends could provide.

And I processed things on the blog that I was working out in therapy. Or I told funny, weird stories, and got insight and support from you.

If you've been with me for a while, you know all these things.

I felt very isolated, no matter how many people were around. Because I believed they were all happy and fine.

And I was not.

Putting my struggles and my fears into the world on this blog and hearing that they resonated with others was incredibly powerful.

I wasn't alone. And I wasn't aberrant.

---

I blog less and less now because life takes over and because I lack a community of bloggers. DC had a great blogging community when I started.

Last month I celebrated my 12-year blogaversary without notice.

Nick and I were both away for work last week, when we would've gone to the Tabard Inn, if we could manage, and cheersed 11 years of meeting. I didn't even post about it.

As I said, life takes over.

---

This morning Nick realized that last week was our anniversary. He said, "Last week, 11 years ago, we met. And then you went to Mexico with Jen for Thanksgiving."

I said, "Best Thanksgiving of my entire life."

He rolled his eyes.

Maybe not best, but most fun. No family dynamics (as this was back when my nuclear family was still intact), no cooking, lots of sunshine. We read books and swam and drank cocktails. We showed up at Thanksgiving dinner on the resort.

And then, if I'm not mistaken, we resumed our cocktail consumption and then went to bed with our books.

I don't wish away my family, but I would say that since my children developed the ability to say, "No!" I have not had a conflict-free day. I've not had a single day at home where I didn't have to convince at least one person do to something.

That something ranges from eating breakfast to brushing teeth to settling down for bed.

I am not saying there aren't upsides to children--of course they are charming and delightful and hilarious and full of joy and wonder--but let's be honest: they are also relentless and exhausting.

---

For years I hated Thanksgiving, not because I am opposed to gratefulness, but because I was already well into my slide into winter depression.

I was already eating every sweet I could get my hands on. My clothes were tight. I cried a lot.

And then there was Thanksgiving, with the forced gratefulness and its endless piles of carbs and sweets, and the darkness of night at 5:00 pm.

---

Now I have medication, and distance, and perspective. I try regularly to think of things for which I am grateful. I ask my children at dinner.

Because apparently just the act of searching your brain for gratefulness changes your chemistry for the good.

---

I have to make a pie this morning. I've never made pie.

Maude says to use vodka instead of part of the water, to make the crust flaky. In fact, she sent me her mama's cousin Gail's recipe for chocolate pecan pie.

Betty is going to help with the crust. Crust intimidates me.

Vodka will likely help with this. 

---

I have many,  many things to be grateful for in this life. And I'm in a place where I can recognize the ways in which I have been blessed.

And I'm in a place to give.

I think for so many years I just needed so much. My ability to give was limited because I was so emotionally limited.

Years ago, when Maude and I were in California, someone was trying to friend me. I can't remember who this was, but someone new was on the edge of my life. And it was clear they were going to take a lot of time and energy.

And Maude said, and I believe this is verbatim, "You only have time for one high-maintenance person in your life. And that person is me."

Which was, at that point, absolutely true.

---

At this juncture, I have four people in my life who truly need me on a daily basis.

There is give and take, to be sure.

But sometimes there is way more take. Sometimes I am all gived out. Sometimes I get tired and crabby and whiny. Sometimes I get resentful.

And sometimes I haven't even realized it yet, but Nick does, and he suggests I take a break.

---

I have many, many people I love. I have a safe, comfortable, interesting life.

I'm thankful for many things in this world And I want you, my (in some cases invisible) friends, to know that I'm truly grateful for you.

Thank you for being a part of my life.

Big hugs and lots of love,

Lisa

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Cross post: Suicide, a Survivor’s Guide

Sometimes you meet people and you are instantly friends. This was the case with my dear friend David. He wrote this for his blog, and graciously allowed me to post it here.

Tl;dr version - We do not talk about suicide and mental health nearly as much as we should. It is critically important to speak up about this - so to that aim I am telling my story 10 years later and ways I've learned to stay sane. If you need help call The Trevor Project (1-866-488-7386) or NAMI (1-866-488-7386).
Me pretending to be "happy"

Suffering is one very long moment

A decade ago I was "happy". I put on a veneer that everything was going well when just below the surface I was raging like Mount Vesuvius and as stable as the San Andreas fault. I didn't have an outlet for that pressure, it broke me and I tried to kill myself. In the past I've been vague and skimmed the surface about this because it is painful, deep, and emotional and honestly, because I still feel ashamed about it to this day. I'd allude to it as "about to give the ultimate sacrifice" or "in the past I went as far to create a suicide plan". The only other time I've written about this it was clinical. Only 5 short crisp sentences stating what had happened with a link to the Trevor Project. The fact that I tried to kill myself is a dark secret I carry with me and don't talk about because I'm partially afraid of how much one night nearly destroyed everything. I don't focus enough on the fact that I've had 10 years that by all rights I shouldn't have had. It is important that we speak uncomfortable truths and secrets and so today I will. Reading through my story it is amazing to see the power of hindsight. Things I thought were the end of the world seem trivial now but when I was in the midst of this darkness my view was distorted and it is only with a decade of time that I am able to see more objectively. Please forgive any typos as this was painful to write and harder to revise.

My Story

  • It was the fall senior year at the University of Utah - 2008 I was in DC for an internship and hadn't met anyone else in the program
  • I'd transferred to the University of Utah after being kicked out of BYU for "struggling with my sexuality". I hadn't yet admitted to myself I was gay. I'd lied to my parents and literally everyone about why I wasn't at BYU anymore.
  • On the flight to DC I finally said the words "Maybe I'm gay" to myself. In that moment every question I'd had over the years clicked into place. I'd felt incongruous with the world around me and finally I had an answer as to "why"
  • 30 seconds later I realized "Shit I'm also Mormon" - hence the major conflict
  • I spent the next semester figuring out what being gay & Mormon actually meant. I came out to the other gay kid in the program and he introduced me to my first gay bar which incidentally I have now outlived (RIP Town Danceboutique!). I went on my first dates, learned how fleeting yet fantastically meaningful a relationship could be, went to my first gay-friendly bookshop and realized that it is just another bookshop albeit with larger self-help & fiction sections and a flag out front.
  • I also dove headlong into researching everything biblical and clinical on homosexuality. From the original Greek version of the Bible that Paul's epistles would have referenced to the latest research on twins where researchers were looking for the "gay gene".
  • On any given week I would go from looking for a "cure" to my problem to instead looking for religious text that said I was normal and loved. I researched conversion therapy and the only reason I didn't sign myself up for electroshock aversion therapy was because y research showed it was effective only 5% of the time and even then the effects of the "cure" lasted less than 5 years.
  • I did all this because I felt like my soul was being split in two. Saying that doesn't do it justice and I lack the talent to describe it myself. The closest I've found to how I felt can be found in the play Angels in America when the Mormon housewife is having a mental break because her husband is gay. She is told:
"God splits the skin with a jagged thumbnail from throat to belly and then plunges a huge filthy hand in, he grabs hold of your bloody tubes and they slip to evade his grasp but he squeezes hard, he insists, he pulls and pulls till all your innards are yanked out and the pain! We can't even talk about that. And then he stuffs them back, dirty, tangled and torn. It's up to you to do the stitching."
  • This is how I felt as a gay Mormon. My entire life had been ripped apart and I was left to do the stitching up and in the process had to decide what I kept and what was left behind. Would I keep the gay bits or the Mormon bits.
  • This is how I thought, in a binary. I couldn't do both and so I had to pick one. Faced with the choice to leave all you've ever known and throw it aside for all eternity or reject this new thing that for the first time made your life make sense. Two roads diverged in front of me and I had to choose. But my thinking was almost always on what I'd be giving up. On the negative. Rejecting family and eternal life with them or rejecting happiness. Even in that time of choosing I could only see the negative of those choices, not the positive and definitely not a possibility that there was more than just a binary.
  • So it was with this constant question in my mind that every day during my lunch break I'd take a walk through the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery & American Art Museum just a couple of blocks away. I'd wander through oblivious to most of the art because I couldn't see the beauty or the happiness in any of it. I was going to find a quiet place to think and work through this problem. I felt so weak for not being able to "just fix this" that I told no one. I just put on a smiling face, wrote my thoughts in journals, and kept white knuckling through it.
  • That meant the cycle between "I'm going to be gay" or "I'm going to be Mormon" went from a 10-day cycle to a 7 day to a 4 day to a 2 day cycle. I started flip-flopping my position on everything so much that I couldn't do anything but get myself to work, get through the day, and then focus on this. It consumed everything I did. Finally I "broke down" and started looking for help from other people.
  • I started participating in online forums for other gay Mormons working through this on both sides of the coin. I reached out to YouTubers who had told their coming out stories. I went so far as to break down and tell my Dad when he was in town and then a month later just a few days after the bitter-sweet election of 2008 where Obama won and Prop 8 passed I told my Mom I was gay.
  • Let me tell you that it is not easy telling Mom that her baby wasn't everything she thought I was going to be. After I told her I thought things were going to get better. I went from having no support network to having a couple of people I could lean on. Or so I thought.
  • Just 2 weeks later I still faced with this binary choice of which half of me had to die so that the other could live. This morning I reviewed my journals from that time and this quote stood out
“I feel as if I'm in an endless cycle that will keep me depressed then happy the depressed, etc until one side either the Church or gay breaks and gives UP. If this continues I will break and kill myself, I can see it coming ... ... If I can't break this cycle before next year I will need to commit myself to a psych ward”.
  • That's where my head was at and one day things clicked into place in my brain and this seemed like the answer I'd been struggling to get to. Why be the one to choose when I could let Jesus take the wheel and have God tell me what I needed to do on the other side of the veil.
  • It was in that moment that I really had decided to do it but I was so mad at myself for making that choice that I decided to vent my frustration and blow off some steam by practicing some of my fencing kata. I didn't have my swords so I took an old broomstick, went outside, and started through the motions to try and calm myself but they didn't work. So instead I started to fight the imaginary foe that was a big tree nearby but it wouldn't budge.
  • I hit the tree again & again & again & again until I had destroyed the broomstick and my hands were stinging and numb from all of the reverberations.
  • I picked up the pieces, threw them away, went upstairs, and cleaned up my hands not feeling any relief. In the bathroom I opened up the medicine cabinet and noticed the bottle of Lortab leftover from my wisdom teeth removal. So I took one for the pain.
  • I tried calling Mom but couldn't get ahold of her so I reached out to my online community and posted about how I was feeling. I don't remember if it was a goodbye note or just an obvious cry for help. After writing that I tried calling Mom again and this time left a voicemail.
  • In it I asked her to call me back, told her I loved her and needed to chat, and that "If you don't hear from me, it's not your fault". Then I hung up and emptied the rest of the bottle of pills down my throat.
  • I got a call from one of the guys in the online group and he did everything you are supposed to do in that situation. He tried to get my address by claiming "he wanted to send me a postcard" but I told him no he'd want to send an ambulance.
  • I remember lying in bed trying to forget about this world protesting against this guy’s attempts to get me help and something I was saying on the phone triggered my roommate into action.
  • My roommate came over and asked me what was going on. I stumbled my way through it without really telling him much except about some of the pills. He went to ask our other roommate for help.
  • In that moment I ran out of the apartment, took to the stairwell and went up a few flights of stairs and hid in the laundry room just wanting to die.
  • The police were called and they searched the building until they found me and took me to the hospital. It just so happens that I was found by one of the gay cops on the force who, on the way over, shared his story with me and telling me I’d be okay, that it gets better ... he didn’t understand.
  • In the hospital bed I remember the nurses saying I was having issues with my sexual identity and me internally raging that they didn't get it. I knew I was gay that wasn't the problem. It was that I was also Mormon and no-one understood what was going on.
  • They took me to the psych ward for observation and counselling. I remember they wouldn't let me have my headphones to listen to music for fear I'd use them to hang myself. I met with a shrink who wanted to talk to me about how it was okay to be gay and how "in here all the problems of the world are on the other side of that door. In here you don't have to worry about the pressures outside." I stared and him and realized he didn't get it either.
  • The cop didn't get it. The nurse didn't get it. And now the shrink didn't get it. And worst off I hated being in that ward. It was for crazy people and I wasn't crazy.
  • I eventually got to talk to my mom and heard how panicked she was by my voicemail the next morning (she had gone to sleep early and hadn't heard the phone ring) and how she and my brother had tried to track me down.
  • I met with the shrink again the next day and this time he realized that the demons I faced came inside with me and that keeping me in the hospital may not be the best for me. Part of this was helped by me internally believing and thus truthfully telling him and everyone around me "After going through this I can promise you I'm never going to try and kill myself ever again".
  • I believed that lie. I made them believe it too until they let me out. What they didn't know was that in my head the key word was "try". Like Yoda's advice "Do or do not, there is no try" I knew my next attempt would have no calls, no room for error, no witnesses, just a note safety pinned to my shirt. Even hearing how my Mom panicked when she got my voicemail didn't shake this resolve.
  • Somehow I convinced everyone of this lie and got out of psych ward in less than the 72 hour observation period and ended up back at my internship.
  • I went back to the old cycles of gay or Mormon but they were back to their 10-day cycles again. I had 3 weeks left on my internship before I went home and I knew that before my 20th birthday in March - if not sooner - I'd be dead. I was past choosing, I had decided. I was full on planning how with several situations as to how I'd do it.
  • Then after only a few days home I woke up to a primal scream from my mother yelling my name. Instantly the adrenaline coursed through my system and I was awake and downstairs. She couldn't find her husband and he had left her some disturbing voicemails. We went looking for him and listened to more voicemails that made it clear he had was going to kill himself. We figured out where he'd gone and when we got there we discovered the police had already been there and taken him to the hospital. He was alive.
  • It was only then sitting in the hospital waiting room that I realized had been given a gift. I was able to experience first-hand what my Mom went through when she got my voicemails. The panic, the feeling of helplessness, the primal fear coursing through her veins. I got to see how my attempt had fractured her.
  • In that moment it became clear that for the first time that this suicide attempt wasn't just about me. It wasn't about what half of me had to die, which binary I chose, or how I killed myself. I finally understood how it would have deep, life altering ripples through everyone around me.
  • It would take the pain I was feeling and not end it, but amplify it and share it with everyone around me - forever changing their lives. Even writing this I can only imagine how these two attempts may have changed my Mom’s behavior when it comes to sleeping near the phone, and we both made it out alive.
  • I am extremely grateful to have had that experience but I got lucky. Far too many people don't get that and are thinking to themselves "I'm never going to try to kill myself again". That is why I had to share my story because far too few talk about this.
  • In the last decade I have been able to do some incredible things including living in 4 major cities, going to grad school at Oxford, working for Google & L'Oreal, seeing dozens of amazing musicals that touched my soul, help countless other gay Mormons stay alive and find meaning. I've met incredible friends whom I've shared my life with, traveled to almost 20 countries, been on incredible adventures and so much more.
  • Has it been all rainbows and sunshine - HELL NO! There have been struggles and pain. Loss and rejection. Frustration and fury. But in the end I have been able to hopefully do some good in this world.

We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars

In order to push back the demon I had to make it about other people, not about me. But sometimes the stress brings me closer to that demon’s grasp and so I’m grateful for tools I’ve put in place to help make sure I never get anywhere near this demon again. Here are some of the ways I work to stay mentally sane. They work decently well for me but your mileage may vary.
  1. Get physical - Even if it's just for a walk or a run let alone a gym session or a full on competitive sport. Activating my body activates my mind and helps me stay sane.
  2. Talk meaningfully with the inner ring in your life. - Your inner ring may be just 1 person or a handful, but the family and friends you tell just about everything to you should speak to regularly and meaningfully. Sometimes all I need is a quick check in with how their job hunt or move or travels are going but I know that - when shit hits the fan - I can call on them to help get me out if my head. When I find myself realizing my inner ring has shrunk because people drift or move on, that is a warning sign to heed.
  3. Find and embrace stories. From novels to comic books, business books to TV shows, movies to video games, or from the people around you. Find a way to hear other stories. They don't have to be about struggle or mental health and please I hope they aren't! Stories allow us to find our own moral lessons and learnings based on how we - in that moment - interpret them. When I find myself finding only melancholy meanings in stories that is a warning sign and so I look for something different.
  4. Change your routine. We are creatures of habit. We take the same commute to work, go to the same shops, order the same food and in the process form patterns and routines. When my routine becomes a mental rut something as small and simple as taking a different path to work or going to a different gym gives me perspective and gets me out of my own head. It reminds me that I need to get out of my mental health rut as well.
  5. Shut off the news. The news alert the other week about RBG falling down and breaking 3 ribs set the mood for half of my office and made everyone a bit more on edge. I stopped getting most alerts so that I could avoid the rapid-fire cyclical anxiety of news. Unless your job demands you have CNN on at all times then don't. Reclaim your time.
  6. Change your music. Over the last decade I've seen how the music I listen to amplifies or dampens a mood. If I'm feeling down and listen to melancholy music I feel worse for longer. Putting on music with a brighter beat or more calming message works. It may take an entire playlist or two but it works for me.
  7. Explore a new culture. This one is huge for me. Be it through going to try new food at a local Ethiopian place or flying to Portugal (which I’m doing in a few hours). Seeing how a different culture responds to the same stimuli forces you to change your perspective. Travelling especially does this as you go from “they say elevator wrong” to " they say elevator differently and that's okay”. While a lift and elevator are small examples experiencing this reminds me to not think in a binary of wrong and right but to find a way to make things work best for me.
  8. Learn a new skill. When we only do what we are good at doing it is easy to see ourselves as failures when we fail at some new challenge. In reality we just haven't experienced it or practiced it yet. We can build resilience by failing often in small and controlled ways. The best way I know how to build this is by trying something new. I went to Costa Rica and spent a week at surf school. I originally thought “yeah, I can do that!" Newsflash I could not. I got up 1 time for about 10 seconds and failed again and again. While I may not have actually learned the new skill I did learn how to fail and be okay with that as long as I keep trying.
  9. Journal. Writing things down with pen and paper in a quiet spot gives you perspective and lets you empty your anxiety onto a page instead of keeping it bottled up in your head. If I spend 5 minutes each morning with my iced coffee writing 10 lines about the shitty thing Karen from finance did helps me be more mindful during the day.
  10. Reflect. Spend a day a week different from the others. Don’t work, don’t stress, just set it aside. If I can take it and go to the park for a picnic, take a stroll, or go to an amazing choral church service I find it helps turn the release valve and give me a mental break. Often I’ll take my journal and write until I can’t write anymore thus combining a few activities.
These 10 things work well for me and help me stay sane because they try and slow down the crazy and give me perspective. If you are having a hard time know that you are not alone. You are not flawed. You are human. We live in a crazy world and so I’ll leave you with the best description about anxiety & depression I’ve ever heard. It comes from a dear friend who was asked by his doctor where anxiety came from. He described it best when he said;
“I mean the brain evolved to pick berries out of bushes, chase antelopes or whatever, and run away from lions, but now I have a computer in my pocket that talks to satellites, i live in a brick box, and will probably live 70 years longer than nature intended, so that probably has something to do with it."
If you are having a crisis please reach out to The Trevor Project (1-866-488-7386) or NAMI (1-866-488-7386). If you need someone to talk to I am happy to help out as well.