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I Choose to be Happy

Five little words have been making such a difference to me as of late. I’d always thought affirmations were a little silly until I found the right ones and I decided how to ingratiate a few into my life. One of my favourite affirmations is as follows:

I Choose to be Happy

It seems too simple to make a difference. Had I been told to do this at my deepest, darkest points of depression I likely would have scoffed, rolled my eyes and been irritated, feeling like my mental state was being oversimplified, misunderstood. I likely would have cried and called it a bullshit solution.

In many ways I would have been right. Maybe it was too soon for me. Perhaps this mantra is something to work up to with a therapist or Doctor or maybe there comes a time in recovery when one can finally see that happiness can be a choice. If you can bring yourself to believe it sooner or even just pretend to believe it, fake it til you make it as the saying goes, you might be able to speed up your recovery.

It’s easy to be beaten down by the tumult that insists on messing with us all. Some times are worse than others but there will always be tumult and irritation about. So why not choose to look for happiness and positivity in spite of tumultuous times?

Choosing to be happy doesn’t mean sunshine and roses everyday, all day and to ignore all problems and potential conflict. No, Choosing to be happy means laughing and finding the humour, sometimes even in the face of adversity. It means smiling for yourself not because you’re, supposed to, but because there is a lot of good in the world if you choose to see it.

Choosing to be happy means finding as many reasons to belly laugh as possible. It means surrounding yourself with people who make you happy and who you also make happy. It means seeing opportunities for negativity and choosing to tackle those opportunities with a different attitude.

The trick, for me, has been to embed the message, I Choose to be Happy, into the everyday so I can’t help but remember it.

Here’s a list of some of the ways I’ve embed the phrase into my days so I see it enough and make it so memorable I can’t help but begin to hardwire this notion into my brain.

– Write it on sticky notes and leave them strewn around your home and office.

– Turn the phrase into a daily appointment on your calendar so when it pops up the reminder is there and the happy circuit is again reinforced and helps rewire the brain. This method has been particularly helpful to me.

– When you come across the phrase where you’ve written it down say it out loud. Hearing the phrase instead of just reading it engages another sense and reinforces the idea again.

– scrawl it across white boards and mirrors. Place it everywhere and anywhere you might catch even a subliminal sight of it.

– Make an effort to do one or two things that make you happy everyday.

– Be creative – even if you insist you, “don’t have a creative bone in your body.” Trust me, deep down you do, it’s just a matter of finding your creative style; maybe you decorate cakes, or create recipes, or love interior decorating, creating model train terrain or you’re actually great at drawing but you’re too stuck try… unstuck yourself, unfuck yourself! You can do this, use your creativity to find activities that make you happy.

– Create a space you’re happy to live in. You don’t have to spend big to redecorate. Sell or give away what you don’t want and spend time browsing thrift stores and garage sales. There’s something satisfying about finding the perfect items at a reasonable price and bringing your unique treasures home.

Admittedly I’m not perfect. I have times where depression and negative emotions take over and I can’t help but cry and write bad poetry. Sometimes it feels like the bleakness and black will never leave my tired bones.

This photo reminds me that sometimes things must fall apart to fall into place. I could have been sad this flower lost a bloom but I chose to be happy about how lovely it looked. I couldn’t have placed it better if I tried😊

As the saying goes, this too shall pass. I find myself drawn out of the depths of depression a lot easier now that I’ve finally found tools that work for me. It’s been a long, hard road fraught with out-patient care, multiple psychologists and psychiatrists and nurses, medication changes, being suicidal, long stays in the psych ward, and, most recently, coming to terms with the end of my marriage.

I’ve found myself a soft place to land and truly begin to heal and figure out who I am and what I value most. It turns out I value kindness, empathy, belly laughing, honesty, integrity, my friends, family, and unbridled happiness, to name just a few.

This is just one of many techniques out there and I’ve had good results over the past year since I really started working on healing emotionally, building self-confidence, finding independence, growing inner strength, loving myself as much as I love others and finding happiness.

I’d love to hear if any affirmations work for you, perhaps some examples and alternative ideas💚

K


Sometimes Things Are Just Things

It took my Grandfather years to downsize because he couldn’t part with his furniture. He’d come to so cherish his dining room suite because it had belonged to his parents and was gifted to him and my grandmother once they’d married and begun their own family.

I think he’d infused, confused, misplaced, the deep love he felt for his mother, who died when he was still a young man, into the furniture. The table and chairs didn’t replace his mother though. He couldn’t claim they loved him back but he couldn’t part with them because of the power he gave them.

I’ve been just as guilty, hanging on to pieces of my mother as though they’ll bring her back. The most important parts of our relationship are stored in my head, my heart, not in her opal ring or the wall hanging she made in a circular weaving class. These things don’t love me back but they make me feel closer to her in a way she didn’t intend. I gave these things their power over me. I gave them that intense hold that’s so often born of grief and good intentions.

Things can turn evil if we give them too much power, too much of ourselves, if we let them hold us back.

I’ve been listening to a lot of Dresden Dolls and Amanda Palmer’s solo work lately and her song, The Thing About Things, on her new album, There Will Be No Intermission, has had me thinking of the power we give things and how we often let what we own own us.

I’m down to one last thing I thought I was saving for the daughter I don’t have. It’s hard to let go. It’s hard to admit that my grad dress will never be pranced around in during dress-up or altered to fit my little girl as she goes off to a formal dance. It’s hard to admit that I’m not going to have a daughter the way I always thought I would. It’s just a dress. I’ve given it the power to bring me to tears about something that doesn’t exsist.

I’ll be working on letting things go, taking back the power I gave each piece. Taking back the power these things were never meant to have. Within my heart and head I have the real power to keep my precious memories safe.

Do you find you hang onto things? Have you ever given meaning or power to an item only to realize it’s how deep it’s got it’s claws in you? How do you go about letting go of things? I’d love to hear any comments you have.

K

Witnessing Suicide by Train – Part One

WARNING This is about an actual suicide by freight train I witnessed so please read with caution because it’s sad and gruesome and there’s no silver lining. I’ve changed names, times, and locations to protect the witnesses as well as the suicide victim and his family. I’m also pretty sure this was kept out of the media so as not to encourage others.

Sunday morning and the air is soft like spring, the sun warming our faces. A close friend, I’ll call Jane, and I are walking, coffees in hand as we do most days. We’re Still comfortably ignorant of the life-changing event waiting for us as we trudge along.

We stop to stretch as a freight train goes by and we begin to cross once it’s safe. We start to speed up as we notice another train is rumbling towards us in the distance. Once we’re across the tracks we notice something isn’t right.

What looks to be a man is walking robotically calm toward us along the tracks, train behind him, white shirt leaping out in contrast to the dark coloured Engine and cargo behind him.

Jane and I stand back from the tracks, both straining our eyes to see better and discussing the situation, wondering if we’re both seeing the same thing. As it all draws closer panic begins to set in. He can’t possibly be on the tracks!

As the scene draws ever closer to us it becomes obvious he is on the tracks, freight train bareing down on him and he is unflinchingly, eerily calm. He just continues plodding forward, radiating all I can describe as despair.

The train whistle is blaring, breaks are squealing against tracks, we’re both screaming, watching in suspended horror as he’s hit, thrown up almost casually at a right angle like a ragdoll.

Suspended animation snaps back into real-time and adrenalin combined with crisis instinct kick in for us both. Jane is calling 911 and I am running, slipping on the oversized loose gravel, knees skinning, hands scrapping. If there’s any chance to help I want to be there.

A man, I’ll call him John, who had pulled up to a stop just after the impact is running with me soon, I fall and wave for him to keep going as I stagger to my feet and keep running.

Reaching the tracks I begin running parallel to them, checking quickly under the freight boxes. I’m hoping desperately he’s still walking on the other side. Maybe he dove out of the way and he needs first aid or maybe he’s not dead but needs to hold someone’s hand as the last of life leaks out… maybe. I’m willing him to be alive, begging time not to take him as I stumble forward.

Coming upon John, who’d run faster than me, seconds after he arrives where the majority of the young man has landed, Shaking my hands out I will myself to move forward to take in the scene, I quietly whisper, “he’s dead?” Although I already know the answer in my heart, because it’s breaking.

John is moving in closer, quickly checking for a pulse but soon he’s shaking his head, tears springing to his eyes, “There’s nothing we can do, he’s dead.”

Soon we’re hugging each other tightly, strangers no more. Next I’m staring at the victims chest, hoping he will suddenly start breathing, but I can see every bone in his chest looks broken beneath his bare skin. His white shirt was torn off upon the impact from behind. He will never breathe again.

Stepping back from our embrace, we introduce ourselves. It seems an odd formality given what we’ve just witnessed together. John and I step closer toward the victim and he says softly to the deceased, “I hope you find peace at last.” And there is nothing else to say.

There are things I may never tell about what I saw. It’s too horrible and too graphic to lay at the feet of another, but I will never be able to unsee the carnage. It’s seared in my memory with all the raw harshness of a branding iron.

Sirens begin to sound in the distance, coming towards us from every direction. Soon fire trucks, police cars, and ambulances are crowded round the intersection.

We both wait close to the body as more and more sirens converge at the site. Soon we can see the Engineer, looking broken and defeated, coming towards us with a police officer.

Prior to him seeing the body I tell the Engineer I saw he did everything he could and it wasn’t his fault. I utter how sorry I am and ask if I can give him a hug and I can feel the pain we both feel comingling as we embrace, a dreadful stew of horror, the stuff of nightmares.

I tell the police officer I’m a witness, as does John we and assure him we’ll stick around and give statements. I shuffle through the heavy, rugged, gravel, back to the intersection where a crowd has gathered.

As soon as the First Responders close in on the young man dead on the tracks he is reduced to paperwork and clean up. This is what they do and part of how they cope, I realize they see horror like this and worse every day and I am grateful for their vigilance and sacrifice.

As I reach the crowd I’m swept up in a whirlwind of chaotic emotions of the people who’ve stopped to see if they can help. I appreciate their determination to assist but all I really want is to fall into Jane’s arms so we can cry and mourn together, but that is not to be just yet.

Those in the crowd who weren’t witnesses are soon shooed away by those first responders, no doubt used to getting rid of crowds and securing areas.

Us witnesses stick together, trying desperately to get whatever help we need. When a statement sheet is passed to me I latch onto it like a drowning victim finally clutches a floatation device. Something to do helps.

Taking a deep breath I stare at the empty page and whisper to myself, “OK Kim, you know how to write. Do that.”

So I focus on writing, the feel of pen on paper, the weight of the pen in my hand. This is what must be done right now so I take comfort in the familiar sensations and write. My statement is long and wordy but I don’t care, it made a good distraction.

Eventually, we exchange numbers with John and part ways. An EMS worker drives Jane and me to our separate houses. Soon I’m alone and I break down in the shower, crying, keening, hurting for that young man on the tracks and the horror in my head.

Jane finds out through reliable sources that it was a suicide and not an accident for sure.  Even though we knew this in our hearts and heads

we are overwrought with emotion, hugging and crying the more we find out. I’m not going to give any more detail about who he was or his reasoning because I want to be respectful to his family and friends.

By staying busy my hope is I’ll be able to block the horrible images that plague my mind. When there is space to fill and nothing to fill it with I just see the whole thing over and over on repeat in my mind. I will talk more about this when I discuss PTSD specifically in Part 3.

I hope reading this account hasn’t been too much to bear but we need to talk about Mental Illness and how awful and real and tragic it can be. We cannot keep shoving this shit under the rug because it’s “uncomfortable”. Fuck Uncomfortable! We need to talk about mental illness and death because it happens all the time. Bringing mental illness to the forefront is likely to help prevent this from happening to so many others.

My point was not to shock but to share so that others might know how tragic suicide really is. And I’ve been there, so close to taking my own life. I’m glad I’m still here, still writing and painting and learning to hold space for the deceased in my heart rather than just seeing his final moments.

In parts 2 and 3 I plan to discuss the issues of suicide and PTSD. I will write these as soon as I can but please be patient as I’m struggling with concentration right now and still trying to come to grips with what I’ve seen.

If you have questions or comments please feel free to post in the comments section or, should you have something more private you’d like to share with me feel free to use facebook messenger or my email addy is kim@trefor.ca.

All my love to you dear readers. Hold you’re own loved ones tighter, talk about how you feel, do whatever it takes to not have anyone end up like that poor man on the tracks❤

K

2019 is Starting & I’m Not Sure About it

I haven’t written in a long time. My personal life is going through some dramatic changes. I’m not comfortable talking about these changes in detail as there are others affected by this situation and I don’t want to risk hurting feelings or having something I write misconstrued and misunderstood.

Let’s just say I feel my life is changing rapidly and I’m struggling each day to keep up with the evolution. I’m finding strength I never knew I had. I’m going to keep going.

2019 is going to be a hell of a ride but it’s my ride and I can help shape it with grace, empathy and loving kindness along with assertiveness, an awareness I’m not always at fault and a refusal to give up.

I guess if I had to make a resolution it would be this;

2019 will be the year I face life fearlessly, and love and care for myself as though I’m my own child.

I wish the same for all of you.

Happy New Year

K

Inspiration is Everywhere

Every artist finds themselves feeling uninspired once in a while. For example, I’ve been drawing tree women for months and, while I love my girls, I want to shift my focus and work on something else. Here are 5 ways I’ve been looking for new inspiration and a refreshed point of view.

Here’s a brand new drawing I created from a combination of colours I’m drawn to right now, some twisted trees that came to mind, and a figure pose I found on Pinterest, I then altered her hair, clothing, and overall aesthetic. Yeah, creativity!

  1. Go for a walk or look out a window and study what you see. It may look like just more trees, or other houses, or a parking lot but if you look closer there’s so much more going on. People are coming and going, lights twinkle at night if you’re in a city, stars twinkle if you live somewhere rural. There’s so much to see and ponder. It might not happen all at once but if you listen closely there’s inspiration everywhere you look.
  2. Relax. Relax. Relax. Putting pressure on yourself to produce new art is unlikely to make things happen, although my next point will directly contradict this point, it just depends on what kind of person you are. Both techniques often lead to new and exciting, quality work.
  3. Set a reasonable deadline and stick to it. For many people having a deadline to keep them working towards something. Personally, I am motivated to write by deadlines to some degree but when it comes to drawing I put less pressure on myself. As long as I practice every day I know I’ll get to something fresh and exciting in the near future.
  4. Look for inspiration in your immediate surroundings. It may sound strange but check out the shadows that cross the different rooms in your house throughout the day. Look at the shapes and design of your furniture and decor. Then ask yourself how you can incorporate some of these shapes into your work.
  5. Pinterest is a great source for inspiration. Never directly copy anything, unless it’s just for practice and not to be shown as your original work. I have files for figure inspiration, faces to draw, shapes, illustration style, trees, water, and more. Any time I’m looking for something to practice or if I want to draw a Trump cartoon, I head to Pinterest and pull out the picture I want to use. When I’m feeling uninspired I scroll through and add all sorts of new ideas to my files and soon enough I’ve found several ideas to combine and add my own twist to in order to create something exciting and new.

I hope these few ideas for finding inspiration are helpful. Using your creativity is a great way to cope with pain and mental illness, I know this first hand, unfortunately. Creativity is by no means going to solve all your problems but I find it to be an integral part of my path to coping with chronic pain and mental illness to the best of my ability.

Please let me know if you have any special techniques you use to stir up your creative juices. As always, I love to hear from you.

K

I’m Not Doing Enough… Really?

I often beat myself up for not doing enough. Sometimes it feels as though the world is passing me by like I fell off the treadmill and can’t seem to regain my footing.

What if there’s another way? What if the treadmill isn’t the only way to get around in life? Is it a little scary to forge my own path? YES. But I don’t have to let fear stand in my way. I can be brave.

What if I choose to see it that the world isn’t working faster or harder than me but that we all do things at our own pace and that’s ok.

Occasionally I wonder, if I were a stronger person would I be able to cope with the pain and thrive? I’ve heard stories of others who prevail and cope with mental illness and chronic pain, like superheroes sent to taunt me with their power to overcome the very things that hold me back. Is this really the case though? or am I simply not as appreciative of my own work over that of others.

Why shouldn’t I value my own accomplishments and efforts in the same way I value the work of others? What would happen if I chose to value myself for just being me?

Lately, I’ve been focusing on challenging my negative thoughts. Therapy has taught me to check out the assumptions I make to see if my logic holds or if I might reconsider.

If I check the assumption that, “I’m not doing enough.” The first thing I notice is the ambiguity of the word, “enough”. How much is enough?! Who the fuck knows. What I take away from this analysis is that I’m mustn’t base my goals on nebulous ideals.

If I look at the word, “doing,” next and check my assumptions out something interesting occurs to me; drawing, writing, yoga, housework, visiting Drs, planning creative works, pacing myself so I can manage to have the energy for visits with friends and family, playing with my cat… I am doing quite a bit when I look at all these items.

Now if I go back to my original statement, “I’m not doing enough,” I can see this statement for what it is. It’s a thinly veiled put-down that assumes my value is based on physical output and monetary accumulation alone.

The statement is also judgy and unfair. I’m essentially telling myself I’m not good enough and because I’m not good enough, I’m worthless. That’s a pretty shitty thing to tell myself right?

Imagine if I called up a close friend with chronic pain and mental illness and said, “dude, I’ve got to be honest with you, I don’t think you’re doing enough.”

I cannot even imagine saying such a thing to an enemy let alone a close friend. If I wouldn’t say such a thing to a close friend why the hell would I say it to myself? I have to allow myself the same empathy, love, kindness and caring I’d show anyone else, otherwise, I might as well punch myself in the face every morning.

Sadly, I’d have to punch myself in the face a number of times throughout the day as that’s how often I’m making negative comments to myself, about myself. I want to be done with treating myself this way. I need to be my own best friend and train my brain not to hurl insults at itself. I need to teach my brain that I am enough, that I have worth and I’m worth valuing.

I know it’s going to take time to, literally, change my brain but I’ve already noticed my inner voice growing stronger and more loving. I’m the only engineer I’m allowing to rewire the circuits of my mind, fuck your iron rings, I’m best suited to this job.

I can change my thinking if I continue to build confidence in myself slowly but surely, celebrating each small victory rather than waiting for someone else to change things for me all at once. If I take charge of the change I want to see I’m pretty sure I’m more likely to end up happiest with that which I’ve changed.

Are you playing an active role in building the future you want for yourself? What small changes can you make right now? What’s your ultimate goal for your future and will the changes you make move you closer to it?

K

A Worthy Distraction

When the going gets tough the tough find a good distraction. Be it chronic pain, acute anxiety, crushing depression, or a plethora of other physical and mental maladies, I find distractions frequently help stave off the worst of it.

I first read about using distractions to help with acute anxiety in Feeling Good by David D. Burns, which is a great read and the ultimate primer for Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). CBT is a series of coping methods and a common lifestyle addition for those dealing with anxiety and depression as well as many other psychological disorders.

Feeling Good: The New Mood Therapy

Some CBT recommendations have worked well for me and others haven’t. At this stage, having been in therapy for so long, I use a variety of techniques from many different therapeutic modalities. I find it has been helpful to draw close as many helpful techniques as possible and distraction is one of my favourites.

For me, when I’m at home and in a lot of pain, anxious, or depressed, I use many distraction techniques to get my mind off the whatever is causing me grief. I find drawing, the more complicated the subject matter the better, while also trying to focus on a tv program to be extremely helpful. If drawing isn’t something that would work for you, fear not! The world is full of distractions, there’s something for everyone.

Other distractions to try are as follows, but the sky is the limit, keep trying different techniques until you find a few that work for you:

  • Listening to podcasts
  • Listening to music
  • Painting
  • Knitting or crochet
  • Woodworking
  • Jigsaw puzzles
  • Phone a friend
  • Colour in a colouring book, there are so many beautiful and unique choices on the market right now.
  • stretching and gentle yoga
  • Household tasks like; sweeping, dishes, dusting, and so on
  • 5-7-5 Breathing – breathing in deeply for a count of 5, then exhale slowly for a count of 7, then continue the process by breathing in for a count of 5 and so on.
  • Fidget spinners can be helpful or if you have a small brain teaser or puzzle you can carry with you
  • Crossword puzzles, word searches, logic games, sudoku are great as they can easily be used at home or carried with you on outings
  • Going for a walk
  • meditation
  • Watch a tv show or a movie you enjoy

I’m sure, once you start trying different distractions you’ll come up with even more ideas and find a number of distractions that work for you.

One thing to keep in mind, especially for those with chronic pain or other chronic illnesses, is to be sure to pace yourself. It might help to set a timer when doing something physical, then switch to a quieter activity, and so on.

It can be tricky not to overdo it if you’re having a panic attack and you suffer from chronic pain, for instance. I tend to pace during panic attacks and if I go on too long with this I will end up with a chronic pain flare up and that just makes things worse.

I encourage you to get to know what activities work for you and why. I’d love to hear what tactics you use and further suggestions for distraction as I could not possibly offer an exhaustive list.

K

Gaming Addiction – Freakin Mental Monday

Watch as Another Freakin Athiest and I co-host our weekly show regarding mental illness. We discuss Gaming Addiction and it’s placement in the new DSM and with the WHO. We also spend time discussing what defines addiction with regards to gaming.

If you’re looking for more info regarding possible gaming addiction and recovery ideas check out http://www.gamequitters.com