Blog for mental health – no more stigma

mental health, blog for mental health, mental illness, depression, loneliness, isolation, alientation, lonely feelings, full of life, dying of loneliness, bored and lonely, stuck, friendship, connection, well, ill, suicide, suicidal, feelings, emotionsI pledge my commitment to the Blog For Mental Health 2013 Project.  I will blog about mental health topics not only for myself, but for others.  By displaying this badge, I show my pride, dedication, and acceptance for mental health.  I use this to promote mental health education in the struggle to erase stigma.

After five family bereavements in 14 months, I had a melt-down in 2008 which had a serious impact on my business, on friendships and work relationships, on my finances and my whole way of life. It resulted in a huge change – leaving the country and starting a very different life in Europe. The peace and clarity of the mountains gave me back the ability to think, but it took years to reach the point of being able to go back into the ‘real’ world. For many reasons, I wouldn’t turn the clock back as, despite the bad bits, I have learned so much and found so much good in the process. I would only wish to undo the damage I unwillingly caused to others.

This blog is a major route to putting something back, to sharing what I’ve learned and, maybe, giving people some new options to getting out of deep ruts.

Two good ones to read:

Knocked over by a feather

A canvas of the minds

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Attention and intention

Full of life, banish loneliness, be a good listener

Is this the face of a good listener? Would you like to have her as a friend to talk to?

One crucial thing to understand is the way we connect with others. It’s not enough to be in the same place as other people. You can be in a crowded room, a busy station, a park full of people, even in bed with your spouse… and still feel lonely. In fact, it can feel much worse – to be close to others but be shut out, shut off from them, invisible. Sometimes you feel that even if you yelled and screamed, no-one would hear you.

Sometimes even if you’re in the middle of a conversation, you can feel that your companion has drifted off, distracted by something else or just daydreaming. They’re not listening to you any more, and when you prod them, they are startled as they pull their attention back to you.

“Sorry, I was miles away…”

Not very flattering, is it? Is what you were saying so boring?

Who knows what was going on in their head. Maybe they were terribly worried and couldn’t concentrate. Maybe they saw something fascinating over your shoulder. Maybe they’re exhausted after a hellish day. Maybe they’re shallow and selfish and need a slap…

Ignore that last bit – it’s how it makes us feel but it’s almost certainly not fair.

We’ve all had it happen to us… but have you ever been guilty of it? Not listening, not keeping your attention focused on what someone is telling you?

Being a good listener is a great way to connect: here are seven points of a listener.

banish loneliness, be full of life

Are they listening? Are they people you’d want as friends for their kindness and empathy?

1. Keep eye contact as much as possible; keep your eyes on the speaker’s face, at least.

2. Listen with all your senses – more is said with body language and tone of voice than with words.

3. Don’t interrupt. Don’t argue. Ask questions to get clarity, not to interrogate.

4. Stay close but not too close – don’t invade the speaker’s personal space unless invited.

5. Let your body show your interest; lean forward just a little, don’t fidget, but nod your head to indicate you hear them and understand.

6. Listen with empathy. Don’t criticise, and don’t judge – not even in your head.

7. Be kind. The speaker will feel your kind intention.

Do you know how it feels to have a good listener to talk to? 

Are you a good listener?

 

50 vital questions

From Occupy Ottawa’s Facebook page, here are some questions for you. They might be easy to answer if you feel strongly, but some of them will be tough, and more will make you think very hard. Perfect Sunday musing.

These 50 questions have no right or wrong answers because sometimes, asking the right questions is the answer.

1. How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you are?
2. Which is worse, failing or never trying?
3. If life is so short, why do we do so many things we don’t like and like so many things we don’t do?

take what you can use and let the rest go by

take what you can use and let the rest go by (Photo credit: harold.lloyd)

4. When it’s all said and done, will you have said more than you’ve done?

5. What is the one thing you’d most like to change about the world?
6. If happiness was the national currency, what kind of work would make you rich?
7. Are you doing what you believe in, or are you settling for what you are doing?
8. If the average human life span was 40 years, how would you live your life differently?
9. To what degree have you actually controlled the course your life has taken?
10. Are you more worried about doing things right, or doing the right things?
11. You’re having lunch with three people you respect and admire. They all start criticizing a close friend of yours, not knowing she is your friend. The criticism is distasteful and unjustified. What do you do?
12. If you could offer a newborn child only one piece of advice, what would it be?
13. Would you break the law to save a loved one?
14. Have you ever seen insanity where you later saw creativity?
15. What’s something you know you do differently than most people?
16. How come the things that make you happy don’t make everyone happy?
17. What one thing have you not done that you really want to do? What’s holding you back?
18. Are you holding onto something you need to let go of?
19. If you had to move to a state or country besides the one you currently live in, where would you move and why?
20. Do you push the elevator button more than once? Do you really believe it makes the elevator faster?
21. Would you rather be a worried genius or a joyful simpleton?
22. Why are you, you?
23. Have you been the kind of friend you want as a friend?
24. Which is worse, when a good friend moves away, or losing touch with a good friend who lives right near you?
25. What are you most grateful for?
26. Would you rather lose all of your old memories, or never be able to make new ones?
27. Is is possible to know the truth without challenging it first?
28. Has your greatest fear ever come true?
29. Do you remember that time 5 years ago when you were extremely upset? Does it really matter now?
30. What is your happiest childhood memory? What makes it so special?
31. At what time in your recent past have you felt most passionate and alive?
32. If not now, then when?
33. If you haven’t achieved it yet, what do you have to lose?
34. Have you ever been with someone, said nothing, and walked away feeling like you just had the best conversation ever?
35. Why do religions that support love cause so many wars?
36. Is it possible to know, without a doubt, what is good and what is evil?
37. If you just won a million dollars, would you quit your job?
38. Would you rather have less work to do, or more work you actually enjoy doing?
39. Do you feel like you’ve lived this day a hundred times before?
40. When was the last time you marched into the dark with only the soft glow of an idea you strongly believed in?
41. If you knew that everyone you know was going to die tomorrow, who would you visit today?
42. Would you be willing to reduce your life expectancy by 10 years to become extremely attractive or famous?
43. What is the difference between being alive and truly living?
44. When is it time to stop calculating risk and rewards, and just go ahead and do what you know is right?
45. If we learn from our mistakes, why are we always so afraid to make a mistake?
46. What would you do differently if you knew nobody would judge you?
47. When was the last time you noticed the sound of your own breathing?
48. What do you love? Have any of your recent actions openly expressed this love?
49. In 5 years from now, will you remember what you did yesterday? What about the day before that? Or the day before that?
50. Decisions are being made right now. The question is: Are you making them for yourself, or are you letting others make them for you?
How did you do? Have any of these questions prompted you to make even a small change today?
What questions would you ask your family, your friends… and the people you dislike or who make you angry?

Social animals

The point about the Ventura Boulevard story below is not that I met an old film star. It’s that the meeting was entirely due to her efforts to engage me, despite my aloof antisocial attempts at rejecting her.

What does that tell us? That she was lonely for an English voice, perhaps, for contact with her mother country, despite living in the US for most of her life. That I felt safer in my solitary bubble than risking a rejection myself, and that hiding behind a book was a defence against the imagined pitying and derisory looks from the staff and other customers? I’ve I’m really, really honest, yes. I was 35 and still conscious of my solo state, still secretly hankering after The Perfect Man and a life of bliss, even though I knew that Mr Perfect didn’t exist and even if he did, wouldn’t have been remotely interested in Miss Flawed Neurotic Mess. And that even if he were, the chances of a blissful life of love and laughter were like Bhutan – remote.

As for Nancy – if I had the chance again, I’d have asked her (very rudely) about the Hollywood life, and whether it is as bleak and lonely and empty and soul-destroying as so many say it is. I’d have asked her why she was so happy to talk to someone who wasn’t an autograph hunter, who knew about places she remembered from her childhood (she probably wouldn’t meet too many people in Los Angeles who’d heard of these small English towns), who was happy to talk about ordinary things.

We want connection with happy memories as much as present-day events; finding someone who can link us back to happy times makes us feel good. We want people to like us for ourselves, not for a reputation or a persona. We want to be valued for what’s inside us, not our outward appearance – that goes for the beautiful and the plain. Most of us want to be liked, don’t we?

Maybe random meetings are the best of all, when we’re away from our usual haunts, when there are no expectations, when people take us as they find us, when what you see is what you get. Allowing ourselves or persuading ourselves to smile at a friendly overture and welcome a casual invitation – or make them ourselves – may be our way in not just to new friendships but to a better appreciation of ourselves, as Ruth says in her comment.

Do you agree? What experiences have you had that support this or refute it?