Spring Cleaning the Mind

The sun is shining; the temperature is getting warmer (to my liking above 70 degrees) and I have resumed my warm weather goal which is to be outside on every nice weekend. Usually, this is the time of year when people start to reassess and declutter,  for me, that is a must-do with my mind.

Winter has always been my most disliked season, I hate the cold and could never seem to get warm, the early sunset affects my sleeping habits negatively and I am very sedentary. I literally do the human hibernation with the exception for work and grocery shopping, I am inside under the covers. If I should do a self- diagnosis, I would say this winter I was struggling with seasonal affect disorder or exhibiting mild depressive symptoms.

My mood was taking a severe beating these past couple months and it was an immense struggle to use the cognitive interventions i.e. doing therapy on myself 🙂 . So here are my issues: I tend to ruminate on everything. I am solution oriented so when I see problems, then my mind goes to town on finding the solutions. I was ruminating on health issues in my family, being a good daughter, work, finances, my relationship/connectedness with the people in my life and feeling way too involved in people’s lives made extremely easy through Facebook. Coupled with the winter season, the struggle was real!

In the pursuit of practicing good mental hygiene, I decided to make some changes by spring cleaning my mind. Two weeks ago, I decided to cut back on Facebook. This is my only social media connection and over time, I noticed how much time I would spend going through my news feed to see what’s new – marriage, pregnancies, family moments, travel, bitter politics etc. It was all there being absorbed every time I logged on. Frankly, I am happy for other people’s happy moments but I started to notice how much I would compare me and my life even for things I never wanted or in which I have limited interest. Travel has always been a big thing for me so when I see old friends (people with whom I have no real connection besides social media) on vacations, I find myself being a little jealous “I should be doing that.”

After my cutback, I definitely noticed a mood change for the better. Two weeks of not being bombarded by people’s lives-fake or real-felt really good. Sadly, last night, I intended to do a quick Facebook check but it lasted over 1hr and the moment I was off, I noticed how much that clutter of seeing everyone’s stuff put me one step back. Behavior modification: I will not close my account right now but I will restrict how often and how much I view. If someone has something important to tell me, then they have my phone number or can messenger me; so everything else is irrelevant because that information was not intended for me.

Mind Spring Cleaning: I want to help fix things or give good guidance to the people who are closest in my life; hence, the reason why mental health was a draw. I will always be a good listener and I have ridged boundaries when it comes to work but not so much for friends and family. I take on their stuff as I perceive it to be an issue and want to reach out to help as much as I can. It is the desire to make sure I am doing my part as a good friend or family member or coworker when the person expresses a problem. However, it is very draining and extremely tiresome because I have my own stuff that I am also addressing but I am not getting that level of investment from others into me. Sure! so I tend to be the listener than the sharer which makes things lopsided. Sure! so I tend to have a barrier in place that limits my desire to share. Sure! so I think it is my responsibility to fix my own stuff. Behavior Modification: I can listen and be in the moment for the person but I will limit how much I take on mentally. Everyone has their own lives and it is not my job to carry their issues with me to the extent it is too much for me. If God is still listening, then I hand it over in prayer and put their stuff on the shelf.

Mind Spring Cleaning: I have certain expectations of myself and I transition them to the people around me. I wrongly expect certain things from others and when they do not come through then it leads to a sense of disappointment and often times feelings of hurt which leads to increasing my relationship barriers. Behavior Modification: I only have control over me. I have decided to adjust my expectations to whatever the person chooses to give. This will improve the relationship I have with the people closest to me. I need to be more aware of when I am starting to ruminate on the situation that led to feeling disappointment, hurt and frustration and redirect.

That is as much as I can work on right now. I am only one person and as a single, I am taking care of everything by myself which includes everything related to me and some issues related to other family members and my aging and ill parents. The reality is I do not have the mental closet space to fit other people’s stuff. It is my responsibility to take care of me in the best way possible. This is not to say that I will neglect my role as friend or family member but I need to limit how much I choose to carry with me.


Love ThySelf

The news has been chock full o’ goodies lately. It is just another day for suicide-murder suicide-more suicide and more murder suicide. Now, one of the things said about suicide is that it is a selfish act. The people who commit suicide were only thinking of themselves and not about the people around them. On the contrary, people intending and completing suicides were thinking about people around them. In fact, they allowed the people around them to have an extraordinary amount of influence in addition to what they perceive people were thinking about them.

In the past, it was my responsibility to anticipate whether someone might be planning on suicide or murder. Luckily, I had never encountered anyone who was homicidal but every other person had suicidal thoughts and a few had real plans and a select few attempted. Wouldn’t you like to have had my job! So, what exactly do the people with self-harm thoughts have in common-they do not love themselves enough.  Flashback moment: In college, one of my psychology major smart as a whip classmate hung himself in the dorms. Why? He was thinking about how someone else affected his life. He had potential and a bright future ahead. The irony of a psych major with so many problems that he resorted to suicide. So there we were, a bunch of psych students led by our practising psychologist teacher scratching our heads saying “why?”

It has taken a few years to fully understand what it means to not love yourself enough to end ones life. Even though I get it, I still do not get it. What I do get is that life can be very overwhelming to the point of losing focus and becoming very myopic. This generation has become a generation that has lost their way, loss their identity, loss their meaning and is confused. This generation is heavily dependent on other’s opinions for validation. With social networks and more access to world communication, everyone’s identity is heavily dependent on a ‘dude’ who lives across the country that s/he has never met. There is a trend of young kids posting videos on Youtube asking strangers about their opinions of their looks. There are too many kids  and adults killing themselves based on someone else’s opinions that they have internalized.  Very rarely do middle-aged and older people kill themselves because of ‘peer pressure.’ By that age, they don’t give a f*** (for emphasis) what other’s think. By then, they have realized how much you spent your life caring about s*** and is now trying to make the most of the small overlooked blessings God granted each morning they opened their eyes.

I use to tell my depressed clients that they needed to be selfish. What I meant by being selfish is taking the time to look at yourself, examine yourself, address the problems with yourself, accept imperfections in yourself, attempt to make repairs one at a time to yourself, come up with various solutions, then go out live life, make choices, and enjoy yourself.  All of this was a step process. The usual resistance to all of this were clients who would remind me what so and so thought or might have thought or could think this… and then it all started the two steps backward and one step forward dance. One of the major reminders to clients when they did something they did not think they could do was “Did it kill you?” “No” “Did the world come to an end?” “No” “So, then tell me exactly what were you afraid of?” The response would usually be a smile. My usual recommendation “to continue.”

The world mistakenly believes that we live in a selfish and somewhat narcissistic environment. However, I challenge that to say  people do not love themselves enough and so they use things to mask that distress. To love one’s self is not an inherent nature. There was no coding on the X chromosome.  Loving one’s self is a daily practice, a daily endeavour or a daily struggle. Life can be quite shitty and unpredictable and disappointing and in those instances individuals internalize things so personally and become susceptible to what you think the world perceives of you. You become susceptible to what one silly person says and there goes your life-downhill to the point of suicide or at least a thought.

Teenagers and fragile personalities (each person is there at some point) need to understand that there is not one human being who has everything together all the time. Hint: celebrities, politicians and even the world of reality tv is showing the perpetual drama in an average person’s life. Yet despite the “all have sinned…” fact, people still find the time to be talked into hating themselves so much they want it all to end and soon. So, the issue is if we love our neighbours as we (supposedly) love ourselves, then you can understand why the world is in such dire straits.