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Gratitude Attitude

I’ve got a gratitude attitude and it’s changing my life. I began a New Year’s resolution this2d4d8e2 year of writing down three new things I’m grateful for everyday. It’s now almost March when most of my resolutions have expired for weeks now but not this one. It starts my day off by being thankful for the gifts I’ve been blessed with. It’s trickled into my daily routine and I think about gratitude throughout the day now instead of just in the mornings when I journal. My New Year’s mantra is to live happy, joyous and free and so far it’s been working. The biggest and lasting changes are the ones that seem so small because they only take five minutes out of my day. They have been anything but small. These changes I’ve been making have impacted my levels of happiness and I hope this rambling helps someone else to make some small five minute changes to their daily routine.

 

Mindfulness prompt

Stop what you’re doing and focus on something for 5 minutes. It can be a candle flame, your breath, anything just don’t judge. Try to focus on the object or your breath and think about the facts. My breath is cool coming in and warm coming out. The flame is orange and flickering from the ceiling fan. After you may want to jot down some thoughts and feelings. Practicing this 5 minute mindfulness meditation can greatly improve your ability to focus on the now and let the past and future stay where they belong!

What the Hell is a Life Purpose and How Do I Get One?

Trying to find our life’s purpose is an itch we sometimes can’t scratch. I believe that each soul is reborn with a life purpose, to live and to grow. We are all blessed with10354676_729412857139260_3935983813007601861_n a journey through life to learn and give back. Each of us have a different path to learn whatever it is that we are meant to learn. For some of us this journey is much more difficult, frustrating and chaotic full of pain and suffering. I believe that it is all for a greater purpose. A reason that is carried out in part by the choices we make and the other part is destiny. I came to this conclusion after reading many books on life, spirituality, countless self help books and websites on how to discover your life purpose and answer that itchy question, “Why am I here?” I believe that everything I’ve gone through was so I could help others who are suffering. I couldn’t learn the knowledge I have today from a book. It didn’t pop off a page or come from a college education. It came from the experiences I’ve had living through it and then coming full circle back from a life that wasn’t worth a thing to a life I am slowly becoming proud of.

I hope one day I can do more but for now I share my story openly and honestly. I am grateful to have learned everything I’ve experienced so that I can help others. I feel like a light bulb was switched on in my brain and I woke up one day saying, “Oh, I get it now!” There are compassionate people in the World that were born compassionate, I was not one of them. I was a self-centered addict and I cared nothing for my fellow human beings I only cared about getting high. Today I live a different life and I believe I was put on this Earth in this lifetime to help others like me. I have goals today that revolve around helping other addicts, in particular women who get trapped in the vicious cycles of addiction and abuse. Many want to get clean but don’t know how. From my personal experience many of the women I’ve met become “stuck” in living situations that are dangerous and unhealthy and certainly not conducive to a recovering addict.

My life purpose came to me literally over night. I know if I had figured out what it was before I was ready I would have run the other way. That’s why I believe the reason I could never quite scratch that itch was because I wasn’t meant to until the time was right. I’m not anywhere near ready to jump in the saddle just yet but it sure does feel good to finally feel life has a direction. Everything that’s happened in my life has prepared me for my life’s purpose, I just wasn’t ready until the day it literally popped in my head like a light bulb turning on. My conclusion is each of us has a life purpose which is a gift and a blessing. I know I wouldn’t have appreciated my gift if it had been given to me. I appreciate the work and suffering I had to endure to uncover my life’s purpose. Today I have gratitude in my heart for my journey and I believe everyone can have that feeling. Each of us is given the challenges we must overcome on our journeys to uncover that purpose. Just by looking at what types of things you’re interested and the types of experiences you’ve had can show you where you should turn next. Ask yourself what things make you happy? What kinds of work are you drawn to? What experiences have I had that could benefit others and ease their suffering? The answers to these questions may give you guidance on your journey to discover your life’s purpose. Love & Light ~Amy~

The Fear Toolbox

Fear is an ancient defense mechanism we all have and is a useful emotional state for some occasions. We don’t need fear as much as our ancestors did and our bodies take fear to an unhealthy level causing stress. So many reactions happen so quickly when the body responds to fear; harmful chemicals are released, rapid breathing and decreased oxygen in the bloodstream, increased heartrate and in some cases it becomes a full blown panic attack. Fear can cause us damage if it isn’t managed properly.

I put together a toolbox some time ago to give me a place to go where I could physically touch something in the box and use it to keep fear, stress and the blues at bay. Things that I love to do like listening to music so I keep an old pair of earbuds along with paper and pens for journaling my feelings. I have a small sketch pad with some soft pencils, a book and other little trinkets that remind me of an activity I can do to keep myself calm.

I don’t however recommend burying your fears. Unhealthy fears need to be confronted and dealt with depending on the severity. I work with a therapist to help me with my fears but I only see her for an hour the rest of the time it’s up to me to utilize the tools she gives me. I brought this idea of keeping a toolbox to her and I think it helps the therapist understand the client better. The things people would put in their toolbox says a lot about the person and what sorts of things they enjoy doing with their spare time.

Stopping the Cycle of Negative Thinking

I ask myself this question all the time. Am I just surviving or am I living? Surviving life is getting your basic needs met such as; oxygen, food and shelter. Living is functioning at a

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Start right now you can change one small thing today to get you closer to your dreams & goals.

much higher level of consciousness and experiencing life instead of just surviving it. For example people who are living their lives experience love, happiness and change. Living life is not always peaches and cream.

Steve Martin starred in a movie called Parenthood in the early 90’s and the little old grandma used rides as analogies for life. She didn’t like the merry go round, it doesn’t do anything it just goes around. The roller coaster was granny’s favorite it goes up and down. Life is like a roller coaster and there are scary drops downhill, slow suspenseful climbs to the top and sharp turns just like life you can’t see what’s on the other side of the dark tunnel but in the end it was worth it. Life is like that unless you’re protecting yourself on the merry go round, safely tucked away in your home, never leaving, never talking to anyone or answering the phone. That was my life for nearly 4 years. I’m terrified of the roller coaster but I so desperately want to ride. I always find an excuse and go back to the merry go round. That all changed last year when I started to read about negative thinking and thought patterns.

Negative experiences can bring about positive change but for us merry go round riders we can’t see it that way. I used to have tunnel vision when I was faced with a negative situation or a situation that hasn’t occurred I would play it out in my mind and imagine the worst case scenario. In recent studies brain scans show that experiencing a negative situation and imagining a negative situation produce the same chemical reactions in the brain. This is also true for positive experiences. Sometimes the most challenging, scary experiences can force a person to change for the better such as being fired from a crappy job or being evicted from a run down apartment. Sometimes a person is forced to change and possibly land themselves a higher paying job or an improved living situation.

If we can look at a seemingly negative situation and stop the cycling of negative thought patterns we can change the way our brains react to negative stimuli. The way that I practice this is I write down a few negative situations. Then I write out as many positive outcomes as I can and use them to replace the negative thoughts. For example a man looses his job washing dishes at a restaurant making minimum wage. Now a positive outcome could be he didn’t want to wash dishes for the rest of his life anyways so loosing the job forced him to get a better job that he enjoys doing and pays more then his old job. Then when he begins to think of all the bad things that could happen before he gets a new job he can take out his list and replace the negative thoughts with positive ones.

It takes 21 days or 3 weeks to break a habit or start a new one. When you catch yourself in a negative thought cycle break it by thinking positively or just focusing on your breathing anything that works for you to break that cycle. With practice it becomes habit and soon it becomes automatic. You can physically think your way to changing your thought patterns.

What Does Real Freedom Mean To You?

Freedom to me is being myself without worrying about what anyone else feels or thinks. This is my life 10362644_797644780292484_6521160478769021477_nand I want to live it the way I want to. I will not be held back by social norms I do not agree with. I will parent my kids to the best of my ability. I want them to grow and be themselves with the best guidance I can give them. I will not wear a mask for you or you or you. No one owns me. I make choices, both good and bad. I learn from my mistakes. I learn from other’s mistakes. I am done with living my life under the pressure of approval from people I don’t even want to be around. I am who I am, love me, hate me or somewhere in between, I don’t care anymore.

I am living my life on a painful path of recovery from not just addiction but many other complex memories, traumas both physical and mental. I have done many negative things. Many negative things were done to me and it has prevented me from growing in positive directions. In fact I didn’t grow in any direction, I remained stagnant, frozen in time, frozen in pain. I could not even look at my own reflection for more than a second or two. I continued to fall deeper into the dark places inside of me.

I am not a bad person. I am worth something, I am loved and I am capable of loving. I have trouble accepting it, being loved; it’s hard for me to believe why anyone would love me, until recently. I have broken down walls, I have reached out, and I have become stronger and defeated many of those demons from my past. There are more monsters  to conquer and they snap at my heels as I walk ahead creating a life I want without thinking what others would approve or disapprove. I am not willing to sacrifice my happiness to be something I’m not.

My mask is coming off and the walls are coming down. I believe in myself today. I can become somebody, I can learn to love myself and rid myself of those negative voices telling me I’m not good enough, I’m not pretty enough, I don’t have what it takes, all I do is hurt people, I’m bad and worthless. I don’t let anyone in because they’re better than me and if they know me they’ll hate me, leave me and hurt me. Some of those voices are from my past keeping me down from experiences with people who I feel sorry for today. I can forgive by putting myself in their shoes and trying to sympathize what it’s like to live inside their own mental prisons. It’s not easy but it’s how I cope.

Every day I write down very specific things about myself that I love and that I’m grateful for. Everyday I write them down and really believe what I’m writing. I’ve set a rule of 3 for myself. Three new things I’m grateful for every morning. What 3 small things will I do today that will improve my life for tomorrow? What 3 things do I love about myself today? How can I truly love others if I don’t even know how to love myself? It’s my greatest goal; to learn to love myself and break free from the almost impenetrable walls I’ve built around myself throughout the years. 

We don’t know what today, tomorrow or the future will bring but I’m breaking down walls for the first time in my life and I’m not following other shadows, I’m in front with the sun warming my face and my shadow’s behind me. I make my future with the choices I make today; it’s as simple as that. What are you going to do today that will lead you towards your dreams? What are you going to do today to change your path? Are you truly happy? What do you love about yourself? What can you offer to this life? Try to answer a few questions every morning, any questions that you feel you need to work on and stick with it. It takes 21 days, that’s 3 weeks, to break or gain a habit. I decided to take 21 days to learn how to love myself by telling myself every morning, “I am a strong, intelligent, funny woman. I love the person I’m becoming today.” Change your thoughts, change your future.

 

Overcoming Our Victim Mentality

I had a few thoughts on how my victim mentality holds me back and feeds my fears. I jotted down some ideas on how to tumblr_m8ldhwWWXN1rs2jc9o1_500fight back and get out of the victim mentality that keeps me sick. I hope some of these goals I’ve set for myself might help others.

  1. Stop using any form of “victim speech” in your vocabulary whether its through your internal thoughts or how you communicate with others. Victim speech is like the negative ways we refer to ourselves, feeling everything is our fault, assuming negative outcomes without rational proof. Irrationally blaming others or getting angry at situations that are no ones fault and you have no control over are also part of the victim mentality. Make a choice to think before you react or make conclusions. I try to stop for 5 seconds and focus on my breathing and massage my hand between my thumb and forefinger. It’s the web at the base of the thumb and its a pressure point. It seems to work for me to center myself. It’s a process and takes practice but eventually it will be second nature.
  2. I made a goal to walk in nature at least once a week no matter what season or temperature it is. This is great for anyone and everyone because we aren’t talking about scaling mountains, camping and roughing it. We’re talking about visiting a nature trail nearby or a state park with paved trails for those who can’t get through a dirt trail. I think even spending some time alone in the woods just sitting somewhere near a pond or river, walking where there is no path through an open field, anything you can imagine just get up and go just once a week. Taking in all of nature and focusing only on what’s happening right now using all your senses, how does it feel, smell, sound, taste, using all of it and take it in. This is mindfulness, no past, no future just now and the sensations of now. It’s a great way to relax and renew yourself. Start slow and easy, just go and experience your surroundings!
  3. Make a goal every 7 days. It doesn’t have to be something huge in fact it probably won’t work if it’s a huge goal. In a victim mentality we set ourselves up for failure and disappointment and we don’t even know we’re doing it. We set large goals that are impossible to achieve in such a short period of time. Every 7 days set a small goal such as walking in nature once a week. I shortened my to do lists and instead of writing them daily I’m going to try to do them weekly and then I edit the list into 2 columns; what’s necessary and what is a want. I’ve tried it before and it helped so much but I didn’t follow through and I’m back to making daily unrealistic lists of things I’ll never finish in one day. So using a realistic to do list for the week is manageable, less stressful and simplifies you’re to-do’s.

This is just a few suggestions that I am attempting and I’ll be able to measure my success at achieving small, manageable goals, reducing my victim mentality and it helps me feel stronger when I see I am accomplishing something. I hope some of of you can use this post or parts of it to assist you on your journeys as well. ~Love & Light~

Let Fear and Change Be Our Motivators Not Our Prisons

A smart man once told me that if I’m not uncomfortable, I’m not changing. Change and fear are the strongest motivators of my behavior these past few years. I’m afraid I’ll hurt someone’s feelings or I’ll do something wrong, say something wrong. Fear and change have become my prison.

I’m beginning to make some changes, small ones, that help me get out of my comfort zone once in awhile. I don’t stall as much as I used to looking for any excuse not to leave the house. The last year or so has been the worst depression I’ve ever been through. I have become practically a shut in. I don’t leave and I don’t answer the phone. As these occurred in combination with increased panic attacks, another back injury and intense therapy I shut down almost completely.

Then I’d get a rush of energy for about a week or so and burn out trying to get everything done that I’d let go for months, become depressed over it and sink again. Sleep was my very best friend and depression gives me plenty of that. I had become completely paralyzed with fear. There is no one reasonable fear I can give that has gotten me here. In fact the best I can do is say the big bad world hurts and it hurt me so I’ll just stay in here thank you very much.

Unfortunately as wonderful as that sounds to those who know what I’m talking about eventually we realize its not normal. I had read somewhere that its not a mid life crisis when we get to an age and realize we haven’t done anything or reached any of our dreams, its a mid life unraveling. A therapist can help in this process by unraveling all the layers we’ve built up around us, our belief systems are even challenged, things we thought were real were perceived, its a very difficult process. It is a painful, depressing process but it has to happen to get to the gooey center and learn to deal with negative experiences, loss, pain and suffering in a more healthy way. That’s a heavy journey to recovery but it’s great news for anyone who feels lost in their mid life. There’s hope for a more meaningful life if the person is willing to do what they need to.

Of course everyone is different and everyone’s path is different but change and fear I think, are the two enemies that imprison people when they should be teachers and motivators. Maybe if we take baby steps out of our comfort zones we can start to see the light at the end of the tunnel. I’m beginning to take small steps and I am not going to hide anymore.

It’s The Little Things We Do Everyday

Dreaming big and having wonderful goals is a great way to live your life with purpose. Having dreams and goals are meant 10615460_987105427972079_3166106223138650893_nto be achieved. They create a path of smaller goals to be accomplished in order to reach the larger ones. It’s the things we do everyday that bring us closer to our dreams or change them as our lives change while we’re on our path. The challenges in life that seem to place you further from your goals and dreams may be a lesson. Watching and being mindful helps us to see the lessons and challenges if we look hard enough.

Each day I look at a list of my own approach to my days  It keeps me on my journey and helps me use my senses and intuition to recognize the lessons and what they mean and the adjustments I need to make for tomorrow. Here my list you can use to help see your day, your path, journey and life and where you can examine the areas that need to be checked.

Daily Guide for Growth

  • Blessed Be my Goddess is Helping Me!!

~Review these questions daily~

  1. What have you done for the Earth today? Did you live Her will or yours? Can you do something for Her right now?
  2. Did you wake up with gratitude in your heart? Did you give thanks and pray for Her will this morning?
  3. What can you do or have you done to reach a goal today? Take baby steps each day to work towards YOUR bigger picture.
  4. Visualize everything done today that you wanted to get done. Are your to~do lists realistic? Or are they from a perfectionist’s point of view?
  5. What did you absolutely love about today? What was your favorite time today? What moments did you have that felt productive and moving towards larger dreams and goals? What small moments had importance in your day?
  6. What was your least enjoyed thing today? What time of day was most stressful or upsetting? The most peaceful? The most productive? Exciting?
  7. Are there areas of your day that can be improved on tomorrow? And not just adding things but subtracting things as well. Stop being so hard on yourself!! You don’t have to be perfect because you are perfect just the way you are and the way things are right now is the way they are supposed to be. Baby steps to reaching our goals. If the house is a mess it didn’t get that way overnight so a few 15 minute intervals of decluttering and cleaning is a very successful day!!
  8. What did you do for yourself today? If you haven’t done anything for yourself today what can you do right now for yourself? Stop everything and do something for you! Go for a hike in nature, meditate, Listen to some music and dance, take a hot shower, paint your nails, write a poem, draw a picture, read a book for fun! Do something wonderful for yourself right now!!
  9. Write in your journal about how you feel, the different moods experiences and progress to keep track of what works and what doesn’t. Try to reach a goal by spending just 10-15 minutes a day on the baby steps to reach a bigger goal.

Hopefully you can use this example to write out your own daily questions to help guide you and remember stumbling is part of life. We are not perfect and we need to look at our day and decide what to do the following day to improve or learn from what didn’t work today. Lessons are everywhere and so are the teachers. We just have to look with an open mind and heart.

~Blessed Be~

Surviving Mental Illnesses

Mental illness is so challenging for everyone, not just the client. The family, friends and the therapist are all involved Hamster-Wheel-Skull-X-Ray-T-Shirt-Teewith the client, the symptoms, the good, the bad and the ugly. Many psychiatrists do not spend hours with patients anymore, understanding them, their symptoms, coming up with proper diagnosis and treatments. Now the system is dysfunctional and the psychiatrists goes by the therapist’s recommendations and prescribes medication according to the therapist’s treatment plan, session notes and recommendations. That’s what they do, 15 minutes with a patient in these overbooked clinics for the poor, disabled and the mentally ill that can’t afford a private doctor. The therapists are fresh out of school. Filled with dreams of helping people and making a difference but with 80-100 cases and just a half an hour to 45 mins every week or other week they see how the mentally ill are treated and they see the problems with the system but they’re young, inexperienced, overworked, underpaid and frustrated. The burnout rates can be high especially in busy inner city clinics who need their youth, their new insight and passion. After months of seeing how the system works therapists leave and get other jobs and sometimes in completely different fields.

From a patient’s point of view, I feel the same frustration. I’m on an assembly line and a lab rat. Try this combination, oh you had suicidal thoughts and ideations? Let’s increase your dose 50 mgs. Fortunately I didn’t take it and walked away. Finding a psychiatrist that could help me with my bipolar disorder, anxiety disorder, PTSD and panic attacks was no easy task because I am disabled and on medicare and medicaid so I had to go to a clinic. In two years I have had 5 different therapists at two different clinics because the therapists leave their jobs just as progress and trust were building and we were starting to make progress. Then like a good little rat, I get back in my wheel and start running and working hard, wanting so bad to get better but just as I get to that point were I’m not circling around and around going nowhere, things start to smooth out and become clear again. Progress begins, things start to get better and my therapist informs me that they’re leaving. I get back in my wheel again.

I am in a new clinic now. I’ve been there for a few months now. It’s still an assembly line but with a great therapist and some insight I am now making real progress. What’s different now? My way of viewing the situation. If I break my leg a doctor puts a cast on it and 6 weeks later all better. With behavioral and psychological problems its not so easy. The brain is so complex full of chemical reactions that affect our behaviors and thought patterns but we’ve barely scratched the surface of understanding the brain. When painful experiences are expressed in disordered thinking and behaviors they can be diagnosed and in a perfect setting might be treated with the right medications and live a quality of life they didn’t have before.

Human beings are unique and our responses and behaviors are unique, our thoughts and the way we view our environment. Mental illness cannot be treated the same way with each patient the way a broken leg can because the patient has to work towards change. If the patient isn’t taught how to change they will continue to suffer. Change is a terrifying concept to a mentally ill patient. Once trust is established and progress is being made it is a delicate relationship and to uproot it before the patient is ready can have severe consequences and the mentally ill get trapped in a system that fails them over and over.

The mentally ill are difficult to deal with. Therapists hear horrible stories and know the “why” it’s the “how” that is so hard. If there isn’t enough time to figure out the “how” and get the patient to begin to take steps towards change then the cycles will continue. Our current treatments are not working. The structure, the caseloads, the burnout rates and the compensation are not nurturing to patients or the therapists that work with them.

Being on both sides of the fence I know what it’s like to go home and worry about a patient or client. It is very hard to learn how to leave the cases at work without hardening your heart. I know for me, I have to work harder then ever to establish report with my therapist and get to work. The clock is ticking before I have to get back on the wheel and the only way to stop it is to beat it with change. Such a big scary word but the true path to surviving mental illness.

 

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