On Mindfulness

Being aware and present doesn’t mean what I thought it did.

When I first started on my current path, I had a small idea of what mindfulness was. I studied meditation. I sucked at it. I was struggling to find my way in life. My personal relationships were full of toxicity. I felt lost.

My understanding of mindfulness was shallow. The equivalent of stop to smell the roses and appreciate your surroundings. As much as that is a wonderful thing to do, mindfulness goes beyond taking a walk.

Being aware is harder than you would think.

Many have had a childhood where they were taught to ignore. Adults speaking was none of our business. A person being hit, particularly a child, was to be ignored. We don’t want to make trouble. We don’t want to get involved. If you see something that cannot be explained, we were told that we were imagining things.

Unteaching yourself these habits takes a lot of work.

I had to become aware of my emotions and accept them. Chastising myself for being angry, afraid, or anxious was only making me feel depressed and hopeless. Allowing fear to consume my happy moments was slowly destroying me. I was so afraid that if I was happy, my life would explode into chaos or possibly end. I sincerely believed that I did not deserve to be happy. I saw myself as a waste of life.

I had internalized negative things that had been said to me as constructive criticism. It took a long time to identify those thoughts and feelings. Through building self-awareness, I was able to find the root of these destructive thoughts. It took time to remove as much as possible and counteract them with more positive thoughts about myself.

Mindfulness is a type of magic.

Through awareness, we are allowed to change our perspective. This doesn’t only apply to our inner selves. Those of us raised with casual racism are constantly challenged to become aware of those thoughts inside of ourselves. We must change these in our own minds in order to affect change in our society.

Mindfulness makes you a better friend and partner.

Awareness of the feelings of others is necessary to maintain relationships. Simply existing and occasionally acknowledging other people is counterproductive. Be present when conversing. Try to focus on the other person’s words instead of thinking only about what you will say next. Apply this to what you know about this person. Allow yourself to accept their perspective. Understand that their experience is valid. There is no right or wrong way to live life as long as no harm is being done.

For many this seems like common sense.

I want to tell you that close minded people do the opposite of mindfulness. They do not accept any perspective or experience that is not their own. They impose their philosophies on those around themselves. They shun their emotions and ignore the sensibilities and sensitivities of others. Many of them are unaware of what they are doing, imo. That doesn’t mean that I must expose myself to them.

Take time when you are not trying to sleep. Look inside of yourself and allow yourself to see your inner world. Think of your friends and family. Examine your emotions and experiences.

These practices will open up a world of possibilities.

I suddenly found that I had choices that I didn’t know existed. I stepped outside of the framework of my previous life. I finally saw a way out of the patterns that I had been living. My dreams were suddenly possible. I was able to reach the stars. Compared to the life I had caged myself within, I had entered outerspace. I’m much happier amongst the uncharted paths.

Success is what you decide. Be aware. Be present. Enjoy your life for as long as you live.


Chronic Pain is an Endless Challenge

When dealing with chronic pain associated with degenerative conditions, it seems like there is a constant need to redefine what normal pain is. This seems like it should be easy. It is very confusing sometimes.

Often, I find myself sitting down and assessing myself. First thing in the morning, I have to take inventory of myself. I still have a bad habit of hopping up to my feet. I should know better by now. I’ve managed to hurt myself, mostly sprains, by doing this. The pain normally stops me from accomplishing this maneuver. I find myself falling back to a sitting position instead of falling flat on my face, or worse. If I am distracted though, due to long practice, I can push past the pain and can cause myself considerable damage.

Morning pain is different from afternoon pain and evening pain.

At the end of the day, I need to make a determination as to whether today was better or worse than the day before. I also need to take stock of my achievements for the day. If there was anything of note in regards to symptoms, I take notes for my doctors. If there is a particularly downward trend from day to day or week to week, I make an appointment with the appropriate doctor.

Sometimes, I have to sit and think “This is my new normal”.

Luckily, my daily pain has been reduced between medication and physical therapy. That doesn’t mean that I am cured. I am functional about 4-6 hours a day. That’s all that I can expect at this point. I haven’t given up. I’m still working my way through the gambit of tests and specialists. I feel like I’m closer to understanding what is wrong and even some of the causation.

On that point, I want to say that we all must be alert when taking medications. Simply relaying your symptoms or side effects to your doctor may not be enough. I am so sensitive to medication that as a young woman I was bullied by medical professionals into believing that I was causing the symptoms of side effects because I had read the pamphlet in the packaging and convinced myself that I was experiencing them. Psychosomatic symptoms. I remained on birth control pills until I was anemic, vomiting every meal, and so weak that I had a hard time standing. I thought that it was my fault. Once I stopped taking them, I improved greatly. I still had problems with my digestive system. It took months and ulcer treatment to overcome it. I have more recently had a similar experience with lamotrigine. DRESS is a serious side effect that does not affect everyone. It is mostly an issue for children and the elderly. I won’t go into the entire litany of possible symptoms. I want any one reading this to understand that you don’t have to have severe or every side effect of a medication before you may be in danger. The cumulative effect of taking some medications can be devastating to your body. Do your research before accepting any medication. It does not make you a bad person to take the paperwork from the doctor and decide to ask for alternatives. A doctor who refuses to treat you because you ask questions and want to be informed is not a good doctor for you.

I’m still recovering. Every day feels like it is different and maybe it is. Luckily it is always improving.

Good Luck. Fight Hard and Never Give Up.

How To Find Peace

This is different for everyone.

Peace is the result of living your life responsibly. This means accepting responsibility for your actions. Living deliberately. Considering your actions and words before putting them out there into the world. Being Self-aware is an important component of this lifestyle.

I can’t tell you how to reach peace. I can only tell you what worked for me.

1. I Looked At My Relationships

I recognized that I was alone. I had so many regrets and perceived slights against me. I was broken and suffering. I decided to try to put behind me the people who had treated me poorly. I reconnected and sought reconciliation with people with whom I had experienced disagreements.

I found that some people are toxic. I also found that forgiveness of others doesn’t mean they are absolved and doesn’t mean I have to accept them back into my life. This helped me move on from these concerns. I now knew who was friend and who was foe.

2. I Looked At My Surroundings

Where was I? I knew that I needed to feel secure. In order to be at peace, I needed to know that my residence was my own. I had to know that I could not be asked to leave or have it taken from me. So I used my 401k to purchase my home with cash. No mortgage. I only needed to pay my taxes. No longer was my living situation left to the whims of others.

3. I Work at Not Internalizing

This is a lot harder than you would think. I had built up a habit of repression. Anything that was unpleasant was immediately pushed down. Bad memories were “forgotten”. I decided to deal with my feelings as soon as they manifested instead of internalizing. I am not always successful although I do my best to address disputes and disagreements when they occur rather than letting grievances build up. I would rather lose a friend today who is unable or unwilling to accept me as I am than to hoard up bad feelings. Creating personal suffering for yourself is not a HEALTHY sacrifice for a relationship of any kind.

4. I Looked To Make Changes

I defined what I wanted my life to look like. Then I identified what needed to change. It is a constant process. Every day I take at least one step forward. Sometimes that’s as small as eating a wholesome meal. Other days I’m organizing art events.

5. I Stopped Blaming Myself

I no longer see myself as a failure for being sick or needing to take care of myself. It is not my fault that I am sick. I do not need to hide it from myself or others. Pretending to be well takes more effort than is necessary. I can accomplish more by directing that energy elsewhere. I accept myself as I am.

My journey isn’t over. These are the steps I have taken so far. Perhaps they can help others get closer to finding peace and happiness.

Be Safe. Love Yourself. Be Patient.

Identifying Douchebagery

We have all been treated to mistreatment at some point in our lives. This can come from any quarter as we have many relationships that we deal with on a daily basis.

How do you identify someone that is having a bad day and when you are being systematically douchbagged? I have some tips.

Listening to the words they use is the most important part. Certain phrases and attitudes are common in emotional manipulation. 

A person having a bad day that says something inappropriate will use sarcasm, make biting remarks about your parentage, tell you where to hang your hat or stuff parts of your anatomy. They may apologize and explain that it is in fact a bad day or they are in a bad mood. They may have consecutive bad days and will attempt to hold back from lashing out as much as possible.

A person who is a douchebag will use personal knowledge to strike out at you. They will make digs at you that are designed to hurt. Perhaps they are having a bad day. That doesn’t give them the right to attack you in order to make themselves feel better. It will happen once in a while early in your relationship. Over time, these incidents will increase. You will find after these things happen, you will be told that you misunderstood and/or that you were at fault for the incident.

Once you have identified the difference between a cranky person and a douchebag, you should work to remove the douchebaggery from your life. It is important to your personal well-being to distance yourself emotionally from people who are looking to make themselves feel better at your expense. You are worth more than that.

Remember that anyone who is able to tear you down has a level of power over you that is inappropriate. Love yourself enough to walk away. 


Embrace Healthy Relationships, Eschew Toxicity

Maintaining Healthy Relationships is very important for everyone and more so for those dealing with illness of any kind.

Toxic situations can make you more sick than you would have been otherwise. They can create a cycle that can be used to perpetuate abuse. As you become sicker, you are made to feel like you are more and more of a burden to your abuser. They then create a sense that you need them. That you would be unable to sustain your existence without them. Abusers make you feel like you have to accept the abuse and you Don’t!

It is well-documented that stress exacerbates chronic illness.

Healthy relationships that affect you positively can help to alleviate stress. The people in your life should be supportive. Even if they don’t help you in your day-to-day activities, they are there to help you when you need to talk to someone. Healthy relationships help you feel better about yourself and your situation. Obviously this means that the people in your life need to accept that you are ill. They are then supportive of your needs when you don’t show up for things or you need help getting up the stairs to the next Pub,

Not all positive relationships are drama-free.

Friendships and romantic relationships alike require work. The efforts to maintain a healthy relationship is stressful at times. It’s important to recognize who your friends are as opposed to people that are there to hang out once in awhile. All friends come with baggage. As you would expect them to accept yours, you should be willing to accept theirs. Don’t take their troubles on as your own as you have enough. Set clear boundaries with your friends. Be supportive of your friends as you would want them to be supportive of you.

Toxic relationships have an uncomfortable edge to them.

It’s important to realize that when people joke they aren’t always joking. When they make hurtful remarks towards you, take them seriously. When someone tells you who they really are believe them. You will not be able to change those individuals Minds or hearts. If someone is constantly giving negative emotional input, you should distance yourself from that person. You have enough to deal with.

When someone is blatantly abusive, put them out of your life.

Ghosting can be very effective in this situation. If someone is hurting you physically, emotionally, sexually, they need to not be in your life. You should seek help in this situation to put this person out of your immediate circle. The less access that they have to you the better your life will be. Abusers don’t change. Sometimes they will stop abusing for short periods of time so that you will feel comfortable and stay. Unfortunately the abuse will start again as soon as they feel that you aren’t going anywhere. Particularly if they have worked at isolating you from everyone that you know that may assist you in leaving.

Being “Alone” isn’t the end of the world.

Not having a romantic relationship is not a bad thing. Living with family is not shameful. Sometimes being single or alone is healthy for you as a person. It gives you time to collect yourself and get to know yourself. After abusive relationships you need time to heal. You need time to reflect and to do things that you enjoy without someone else’s input. This allows you a break from having to listen to someone else’s constant opinion being voiced as you go through your daily activities. The silence can be overwhelming. When you stop listening for that other voice, you start hearing your own thoughts. That’s when the real healing can start.

Dealing with chronic illness on your own can be daunting.

This is where friends and family can help you out. You have to ask for the help which can be hard. In the end, you’ll know who your real friends are. Everyone else falls away when you need real help.

It is all worth it to find your inner self. It is empowering to know that you can do it on your own with a little help from your friends.

Anger is Natural

To be angry is not an unnatural or shameful emotion.

We are allowed to feel negative emotions. It is common in abusive situations to be constantly reminded that you as the abused are not allowed the luxury of anger, sadness, or outrage. You begin to repress. This abuse is insidious. It changes you from the outside in. It becomes second nature to smile or laugh when terrible things are happening or being discussed. Particularly if these things involve you. Your abuser only resents your laughter when they feel it is directed at them. I personally laugh or cry when the pain becomes overwhelming. When I become angry, it is the same. I prefer to laugh.

According to science, laughter helps us feel better.

Laughter releases endorphins just like crying. It also releases opioids into our system. It’s hard to fathom that our body can make itself high on laughter. That’s not just for funsies. It helps us tolerate pain as it is our natural painkiller, no outside assistance required. [1]

Anger should be seen as a positive emotion.

Anger tells us that something isn’t right. If someone treats you in a way that makes you angry, you should be able to speak to them about that fact that they have made you angry. You should be able to discuss the fact that their behavior was not acceptable. If they react in an inappropriate way, it’s time to consider finding a new friend. Not everyone can accept negative feelings. That’s not limited to external people. Many people cannot accept anger within themselves. It makes it possible to find yourself in toxic situations in which you accept mistreatment out of guilt over feeling angry. You are allowed to feel anger. If you accept it as valid, you will be in a better position to stand up for yourself or simply remove yourself from unhealthy situations.

Irrational anger isn’t always so irrational.

Sometimes I wake up angry. Some days I get angry when I think about things that have happened. I’m completely entitled to my anger. My brain is constantly trying to deal with trauma. I used to cry. Now I get angry. Sometimes I’ll laugh. Therapy and medication is the difference between overwhelming and manageable emotion.

Be gentle with yourself. If you are angry, there’s probably a good reason.

Don’t dismiss your anger. Don’t be ashamed. Face it and address it as best you can. A diary may help. Sometimes writing it out leads you from one thing to another through stream of consciousness. It can be very therapeutic.

Remember to practice self-love, self-acceptance, and self-care this weekend.

[1]Laugh so you don’t cry: how laughing kills the pain
By Scicurious on November 8, 2011

Accepting the You of Today

We’ve all changed over the course of our lives. Besides the obvious physical changes as we grow, we learn and change emotionally and psychologically.

It can be hard as we become self-aware to accept ourselves as we are today.

We tend to romanticize some parts of ourselves or our lives as we remember them. This is natural thing that can take on very dark tones when you can no longer revisit that time or those circumstances as time passes. It can lead to depression, self-loathing, and self-destructive behaviors.

You can redefine your idea of yourself.

Talk with others and get a realistic view of who you were at the time that you feel you were the awesomest. The fact is, you probably weren’t that awesome. You were human. Who did human things, just like you do now.

Knowing who you are today is the most important part of the process.

Therapy can help you know yourself better. Keeping a diary and being aware of your actions can make self-reflection easier. Try to be honest with yourself without being cruel. Know your limitations. When you can do this daily without whitewashing, making excuses, bargaining, denial, or otherwise rewrite events to suit yourself you know that you’ve entered a new phase of life.

There is nothing wrong with making a mistake.

That moment doesn’t define you. It’s the other way around. You define it. You put a little plaque under that memory that says “oops!” And you move on. That’s it. You’re ok. You didn’t turn into the worst thing since Ted Bundy because you made a wrong turn. Accept it and keep on trucking.

It’s the same with whole episodes of your life. You are not defined by a limited period of time in your life. If you have changed behaviors, hang outs, friends, past-times… You aren’t the same person. If you feel shame, give yourself a break! Stop the guilt trip. Look at your life as it is now. Know who you are today. Accept yourself as you were and know that you are now someone new.

The YOU of tomorrow will thank you for your kindness and acceptance.