Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for August, 2012

I am so pleased to give you a glimpse into the making of a very wise and insightful writer, Lori Deschene.  Ms. Deschene  is the creator of the inspirational website, Tiny Buddha, and has built a huge community of followers of her daily blog posts that inform, inspire and help so many.   She is the author of the book, Simple Wisdom for Life’s Hard Questions and has recently compiled her wonderful posts into a 5 ebook series.

 

1.   What has enabled you to get to some of the most fundamental concepts of the human condition – pain, meaning, self-love, to name but a few – and write in such a beautifully simplistic way that resonates with us all?

Well, first, thank you!  I’m glad to know my writing does that, and it’s especially flattering coming from you because of how much I admire you and your work.

I generally explore the issues I’ve dealt with, and I try to do so with honesty and self-awareness so that I really get to the root of those fears and struggles.  I think that’s the difference between writing that’s compelling and writing that isn’t.

Anyone can write about pain and self-love with a sense of authority or removal, but what really resonates with us is recognizing our own feelings and fears in each other.  That requires a willingness to be vulnerable.

On the other hand, vulnerability can be terrifying; but it also facilitates a strong sense of healing, understanding and connection.

As for simplicity, I usually write about everyday experiences and find the larger lessons in those.  I think we sometimes forget the little things are the big things – I know I do sometimes.  So I strive to shine a spotlight on those.

2.   Going through your own personal difficulties, as you share so openly throughout your writings, has given you an ability to help and connect deeply with others.  What personal qualities have contributed to this gift of reaching so many people in such an authentic and vulnerable way?

I’d say my emotional rawness is a big one.  I am highly in touch with my feelings, which is probably why I do so many creative things; they need an outlet!

There was a time when I didn’t appreciate that I feel things so deeply (likely because I assumed deep feelings had to go hand-in-hand with over-sensitivity, which I’ve since learned isn’t true).  Now I see things differently, because it’s that range of emotion that enables me to feel for other people.

Compassion and empathy are big ones, and they come from recognizing myself in others.  I think the other side of that is that I want to receive compassion and empathy.  I want people to see themselves in me, and appreciate our connectedness.

3.   You have incredible wisdom as revealed in your written words.  How, in your youth, have you gleaned such priceless wisdom?

Thank you!  I’ve gleaned wisdom the same way I imagine we all do:  I’ve hurt, and I’ve tried to learn from it so that I hurt less – and as a result, hurt other people less.   

4.   What are a few really important factors in creating a good life despite one’s struggles/difficulties?

Mindfulness–  focusing to the best of our ability on what’s in front of us, instead of dwelling on what happened yesterday or worrying about what might happen tomorrow.

Connection–  letting people in, sharing our struggles with each other, and enjoying each other so that our struggles don’t consume our lives.

Forgiveness/self-forgiveness – letting go of feelings of bitterness and resentment so we can create room for peace and joy.

5.   How can we examine and observe our own lives so that we can live in a more conscious and rich way?

I think it’s about finding a balance between examining and just being. I say this because, as a writer, I have a tendency to overanalyze.

At times, this has served me well, as it’s helped me understand myself and learn about what I need to do to be happy.  At other times, I’ve gotten too caught up in my head, trying to figure everything out, to really appreciate what was right in front of me.

To create a balance between self-reflection and action, we need to be mindful of how we spend our time so that we devote some of it to contemplative activities, like meditation and journaling or blogging, and some of it to engaging with the world. 

It’s about creating space to learn our lessons and apply them – and also allowing ourselves room to be, explore and play in ways that enrich our spirit.

6.  Your books are sprinkled with tips and show us different and new ways of looking at things.  Please highlight one from each of these 5 books.

Tiny Wisdom: On Self-Love

Stop justifying your feelings.  This is a reminder that helps me when I judge my emotions and then feel as though I need to explain them to other people – as if I’m not allowed to feel sad, frustrated, or anything else I might be feeling other than happiness.  When we accept our feelings, it’s a lot easier to work through them and let them go.

Tiny Wisdom: On Happiness

Recognize we choose what we see.  There’s a lot going around us at any given time, far too much to take in all at once.  We can focus on everything we think is wrong with the world, or we can recognize everything that feels right – and in doing so, increase our odds of creating and attracting more of it.

Tiny Wisdom: On Mindfulness

Cling less and enjoy more.  I wrote this post about my experience in Las Vegas.  Surrounded by opulence, I recognize a stark contrast between that world and my own modest home and lifestyle.  I’ve realized, however, that we can’t fully appreciate beauty if we’re trying to hold onto it all.  We have to let go of that need to cling to fully enjoy what’s in front of us.

Tiny Wisdom: On Love

Treat people how they want to be treated.  We all know the old adage “Treat people as you want to be treated,” but this disregards the fact that we’re all different – and we all want to be treated differently.  When we consider the unique needs of the people we love, we’re better able to be there for them in a way that really helps; and we teach them to do the same for us.

Tiny Wisdom: On Pain

See the good in the bad.  Research shows that people who identify lessons from painful events are able to move on more quickly because they can see their experiences as somehow useful, as opposed to victimizing themselves.  If we can see the good in the bad, we can grow not in spite of it, but because of it, and improve our lives and ourselves in the process.

Lori has graciouslyoffered a free give-away of her new e-book series to one reader.  If you would like to enter into the read-away random pool drawing on Wednesday, Aug. 22nd at 10 pm (EST),  please share ( in the Comment section) an insight or slice of wisdom that helps guide and shape your life.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

“Recovery (and I’m not a huge fan of the word because I don’t think one ever truly recovers from mental illness but rather learns to manage it) is not about the light at the end of the tunnel, but realizing that there is light – even if it’s just a tiny bit seeping into the tunnel – and you’ve got to grasp it.”

I love this quote by Andy Behrman.  There’s so much right here in this one sentence.

Most struggles and problems in life are not ‘recoverable’. We don’t recover from, we integrate into our lives and {attempt to} manage them. 

Are there any human conditions, struggles, problems that are ‘fixable’? 

Addicts are ‘in recovery’ forever.  They are not recovered.  It is an ongoing condition that must be maintained and managed on a daily basis – one day at a time, as the mantra states.

My daughter, Nava, manages her permanent ostomy.  She has her life and her health back with it, but it’s a life life-long daily maintenance regimen.  (And by-the-way, she’s a natural at incorporating it into her life in a most matter-of-fact way and positive way.)

We manage the pain and sadness that loss brings.  Does one ever ‘recover’ from the loss of a child?  Does one recover from the sudden death of a young spouse? …from the death of a parent during their young years? … from the fall-out of a bad divorce?  

With time we learn to integrate loss and steer it towards new territories.  We try to build new frontiers using pain and hurt as our compass. 

We eventually come to see that there is a tiny bit of light seeping in and we try to grasp it.  It’s not about waiting till the end of the tunnel, for we need little hints of hope and light to hang onto along the way; it’s about stepping tentatively through the darkness and adjusting one’s eyes to the bits of light that gets into the cracks and crevices of our soul.       

We’re managing.  We’re grasping. We’re hanging on and watching those clouds part.  They always do.  There is light. 

Thanks for stopping by.  Please share by tweeting or facebooking.  And sharing your thoughts (in the comment section) is greatly appreciated.   

Read Full Post »

My close friend’s nephew took his own life last month.  A few days later a person by the name of Andy Behrman tweeted me that he has a ‘rebuilding’ story.  I read some of his articles and got the goose-bumps.  Here was a person who had ‘come’ to me in the immediate aftermath of the horrible news of the suicide of this twenty year old student who had a heart of gold and a mind filled with demons.

 Andy Behrman – mental illness;  nephew – mental illness. 

Andy Behrman – bipolar disorder;  nephew – various diagnoses, bipolar having been one of the more recent ones. 

The message of synchronicity was loud and clear –get this story out there.  It’s another chance for more education and awareness of a silent killer. So in memory of my friend’s nephew, I post this interview in the hope that it may provide some help and hope to the silent sufferers(those with the condition and those affected by it).    

Andy Behrman is a writer and mental health advocate.   Through his speaking and writing he promotes awareness around the stigma of mental illness, suicide prevention and overall good mental health practices.  His memoir, “Electroboy: A Memoir of Mania” is electrifying.   

  1. Please shed some light on the condition of bipolar and what it feels like.

My initial response to this question is that for me, bipolar disorder made me feel like “King of the Hill”, but I was always scared I would lose this feeling.  It is a roller coaster ride of euphoric highs and desperate lows.  I exhibited much more mania than depression.  I felt invincible during my manias and I was extremely productive, outgoing and the life of the party.  But at the same time I felt like I was walking a tight-rope without a net underneath me.  I was involved in drugs and alcohol, was overspending, racking up huge credit card debt, and was sexually promiscuous.  And I wasn’t aware of any of the consequences of my mania, which is why I became involved in an art counterfeiting scheme which landed me in prison.

Although during my manias I felt very much in control, in retrospect I know that I was very much out of control. I was flying from New York to Paris to Tokyo and constantly on the move.  I wasn’t sleeping, I couldn’t sit still and I was delusional.  There were times when I really thought I could take over the world. 

My depressions, which came very infrequently, were not the depressions typically associated with “the blues.”  Mine were violent and rageful periods which lasted very briefly.  For me, bipolar disorder relied quite a bit on my “racing thoughts” and acting on them.  There were days I would wake up, have no idea what my plan was for the day and simply act on one of these thoughts –i.e. fly to Paris, buy a new wardrobe, contemplate a run for Congress, think about new business ventures.

This is a serious illness which is finally in the limelight.  When I was diagnosed more than twenty years ago nobody had heard too much about it.  I had never heard the term ‘bipolar’; it was referred to as ‘manic depression’.  People were not yet out of the closet with this disorder and they were definitely not speaking about it in public.  In fact when “Electroboy” was published, it was one of the first accounts of this illness and definitely the first written by a male.  People regarded me and my illness as my being ‘wild and crazy’ when in fact I was out of control and scared to death for my life. 

Bipolar disorder destroys lives every day and people with this condition take their lives at a high rate.

  1.  How can this be managed to enable someone to live a functional and good life?

Bipolar disorder can be reigned in and managed in several ways, but it must always start with the proper diagnosis.   It is extremely tough to diagnose and I was misdiagnosed eight times by eight different doctors.   One reason for this is that I ‘presented’ myself to these doctors when I was depressed (usually agitated or angry) so they didn’t see the mania.   And why would I want to see a psychiatrist or therapist when I was on top of the world?  So I was just as much to blame, although many of the doctors never asked the right questions about my behavior when I wasn’t depressed  (I believed mania was my natural state.)

After my diagnosis, it was critical to find the right medications, to stabilize them and to stay on them, as many patients have the tendency to go off them after their condition stabilizes.  I tried more than 40 different medications in various combinations and was unsuccessful.  I then opted for electroconvulsive therapy (ECT).

 It’s important to point out that many people don’t like to be on medication because their ‘highs’ are dulled and they complain of being uncreative.  But in general, if you’re working with both a good psychiatrist and psychologist (and I stress the need for both), taking your medication, are aware of your sleep pattern and the absolute necessity to get good sleep at the right time, and maintaining a healthy diet and exercise regimen, one can manage with this insidious illness.

  1. What personal qualities have helped you carry on and move in a positive direction?

I suppose I’d have to say that I’ve been able to move forward and work my way through bipolar disorder and return to being productive because of my perseverance and drive.  From the moment when I realized I was ‘stuck’ in my mental illness and when I finally realized I wanted to get better, my ability to acknowledge both my illness and the challenges was helpful to me.  I’ve also managed to maintain my sense of humor throughout my entire battle and this has been critical to staying well.   I just can’t explain how important it’s been having a sense of humor through some of the darkest hours of a cruel illness.

  1.  Was there a moment, epiphany  or thought that helped bring you to a better place mentally/psychologically, or did it evolve?

I think after I had spent time in prison for my involvement in my art forgery case, was locked in my apartment under house arrest and underwent nineteen rounds of electroshock therapy, I realized I had seen the lowest points anybody could see and I didn’t want to be living on a monthly disability check and be confined to my apartment forever.  For the first time it seemed limiting, which may sound like the wrong choice of a word, but I was caged inside because of my illness.  When I realized that I wanted more –  a career, a relationship and to explore the world again as a stable human being – I knew I had to strategize to take steps to get well. 

  1. What are/were your day-to-day coping skills that keep you afloat?               

Back then I had basic coping skills which included medication regimen and seeing my two mental health professionals regularly.  That was almost all I was capable of doing.  As I started getting better, I realized I could add a coping skill to my program as I was ready.  Some of these included things as basic as showering every day, eating three meals and snacks, exercising, focusing on a sleep schedule, keeping order in my life, making career plans and coming up with goals so that I could be financially independent again.  Oddly, I rely on these same skills today.

  1. What keeps you going and moving forward?    

For starters, raising two daughters, five and seven, keep me going and give me reason to keep going.  At the same time, I don’t want to discount the fact that I’m quite driven and want to create another work about mental illness more important than “Electroboy”, which will be helpful to people suffering with mental illness.  At this time I’m not sure exactly what that is, but I know I haven’t written my last book on the subject since I have much more to add to the discussion.  And finally, just living life, whatever happens on a daily basis – spending time with family and friends, meeting new people, seeing new places and enjoying every day keeps me going.

  1.  In general, how have you managed to rebuild your life?

That’s a great question because sometimes I’m shocked that I wasn’t just another statistic and didn’t end up dead.  I’ve relied on maintaining discipline and structure and worked closely with my psychiatrist and therapist, as well as doing so much work in group therapy.  But I think in general, I’ve always had the philosophy that recovery (and I’m not a huge fan of the word because I don’t think one ever truly recovers from mental illness but rather learns to manage it) is not about the light at the end of the tunnel, but realizing that there is light – even if it’s just a tiny bit seeping into the tunnel – and you’ve got to grasp it.

 

  1.  What advice can you offer for someone struggling with mental illness ?

For starters,realize you are not alone.  Twenty percent of the population is struggling in some way.  That’s a huge number.  And in addition to not feeling alone, there’s no reason to be ashamed.   If you had diabetes, there would be no shame.  You’d just learn how to manage living with it.   Next, find a good doctor with whom you can work, which can be very difficult considering the system is critical.  Finally, when you’re ready, sharing your story both with friends and family can illicit something you never imagined: support.

Thank you for reading this important piece.  Here are a few other links:

http://causes.msn.com/mental_health_month/?section=infographic#section=infographic

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t7ELkrfuq9g&feature=related

http://bipolar.about.com/b/2011/12/22/where-does-my-mental-illness-end-and-where-do-i-begin.htm

http://www.disabilityartsonline.org.uk/electroboy-andy-behrmann

Read Full Post »

%d bloggers like this: