Perceptions

I once sat in on a communications college level class where the teacher said that when you communicate with someone, there are actually 6 ‘people’ involved in the conversation. There is you, the other person, how you perceive the other person, how they perceive you, how you perceive that they perceive you and how they perceive how you perceive you. That’s a lot going on in one conversation, but perceptions are a huge part of communication. How we perceive ourselves and others can color our views of ourselves, others and how we communicate.

Our perceptions are often not based on reality. What we perceive is often based upon our own personal realities and not based on fact. Our perceptions are colored by our experiences, feelings and beliefs, none of which are the exactly the same as another person’s. Perception is defined as ‘the act or faculty of apprehending by means of the senses or of the mind; cognition; understanding’. Perception is a cognitive act and can therefore be distorted. Cognitive Distortions are thoughts that cause reality to be inaccurately perceived. Please see the article “Cognitive Distortions.”

Perceptions can cause problems because oftentimes one person will perceive something one way while another person may perceive it in another way. This can cause complications and confusion especially when the two people are not actively communicating with each other. Active communication can clear up any issues caused by misperception. By making sure that your perceptions are communicated clearly, and by understanding other people’s perceptions, you can have a better understanding of the world and environment around you.

Perceptions are a fact of life. Everyone is going to perceive ideas, beliefs and actions in different manners based on their experiences. Just because their perception is different from yours, doesn’t mean that either perception is wrong. The world is full of perceptions and beliefs that help us view and understand our worlds. Perceptions are not good or bad, black or white. They are what they are and it is helpful to understand that to better communicate with the world.

 

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The Definition of Success

Success is defined as the accomplishment of one’s goals or a person or thing that achieves desired aims. In this definition, it doesn’t matter what your goals or aims are, you are deemed successful as long as you complete them. The goals could be short term like finishing a book or long term, like going back to school, however you are only successful if you complete these goals.

Our goals change as we grow and change. I know that I started off with one life plan only to be heading in a totally different direction once my depression hit. And while, I’ll admit that I like this plan better than the old one, I’ve discovered that my life rarely ever goes as planned. I find that even my daily plans change constantly which can be frustrating for someone who is searching for stability.

I don’t feel successful. Honestly, I feel like a total failure. I feel like I’ve let down so many people in my life because I don’t have a college degree and it doesn’t look like I’m going to get one any time soon. There are days when I feel successful because I am independent and live on my own, but because I don’t have a degree or a decent job, I feel like my family looks down on me with disapproval and disdain.

I want to be successful and I need to stop looking for approval from other people. I only need approval from myself. Do I approve of what is going on in my life? The answer is I’m not sure. I feel like I’m headed in the right direction with my dream of starting ADAPT, but I’ve had enough plans go awry to know that it might not happen the way I plan.

Do I feel successful now? No. In fact, I mostly feel like a failure, but will I continue to strive for success? Yes. I have to. There is a part of me that is constantly climbing that ladder to success and maybe someday, I’ll be able to look back on my life and say that I’m successful. I know I need to look at my life now, and say that I am a success. I am still alive, I am still fighting and I have new goals to accomplishment. I am successful because I am alive despite a disease that kills so many, but I don’t feel successful. Hopefully one day, I will.

 

I Feel

I feel forgotten and ignored, like the whole world has forgotten or no longer cares that I exist, that I have wants and needs that I would like fulfilled. Forgotten that I’m a real person with feelings and emotions. Ignored like I’m not important enough for their attention, like I don’t deserve their time.

I feel lonely and alone like I’m on the outside looking in. I’m watching the rest of the world hanging out and having fun, while I’m stuck by myself. No one wants to hang out with me or be my friend and I can’t figure out why. I’m like that little kid watching everyone on the playground having fun while I stand off to the side, never invited to play.

I feel lost, like I can’t find my way. I can’t figure out how to get out of this funk that I’m in. I can’t find my way out of my depression. I have tools to deal with the depression but they don’t seem to be working when I’m down. Lost in my own life, trying to find my way, trying to find the next step and failing.

I feel worthless and unwanted, like no one cares what happens to me. I feel like no one wants to be around me and I don’t know if it is my depression they don’t want to be around or if it’s actually me. I feel like if it’s my fault, then I can fix it but nothing I seem to do works. I feel like I’m not worth people’s time or attention. I feel like there’s something wrong with me and that’s why I don’t have friends. I wish there was something wrong with me because then I could fix it and everything would get better.

This is how I feel when I’m depressed.

How to Deal With Being Mentally Ill Part II

So you’ve just been diagnosed with a mental illness. You’re scared, you don’t know what to do and you don’t know what other people are going to think of you now. You feel like you’ve been labeled and this label only makes you feel worse. Don’t worry, I’m here to help. Here are some things you should know.

I’d like to first describe depression for you. Depression is like your high school bully. Except, unlike that bully who is taking stabs in the dark trying to find what to say to hurt you the most, the depression is in our mind and knows exactly what to say. It pulls out everything we don’t like or that we think is not good enough about ourselves and shouts it at us just like that high school bully would. The depression knows exactly which nerve to strike. And while you can walk away from your high school bully, you can’t walk away from your mind and the depression that preys on it.

So you’re probably going to need medication and therapy. This doesn’t make you a bad person. In fact, this makes you a better person. You are doing what you need to do to be healthy. Medication will help fix the chemical imbalance in your brain. It’s necessary just like the treatment needed for cancer and you shouldn’t be ashamed to have a little help. This fight is just as important as fighting cancer, or any other sickness.

Your next step would be to find a therapist. Make sure you find someone that you like and whom you feel comfortable talking to. They are there to help you. Don’t be ashamed of asking for a little help. These are trained professionals who deal with mental illness on a daily basis. They want to help you and they want to help you help yourself. Learn what works best for you. Everyone’s struggle is different. You’ll have to learn of your triggers and warning signs and figure out what coping skills work best for you.

Mental illness isn’t easy. It is a disease of the mind. It is something you might have to work against for the rest of your life, but you are not alone. I urge you to seek out groups in your area for people with mental illness. Depression often makes you feel isolated, so hearing of other people’s struggles will remind you that you are not alone.

And I am here for you. If you need to talk, please don’t hesitate to message me. I understand the struggle you’re facing and how much of an upward battle it can seem like. I am facing it myself, every day. Just remember, you are not alone and you can do this. Win your fight!

 

Self-Compassion

“I don’t think anyone could ever criticize me more severely than the way I viciously criticize myself.”

We are our hardest critic. Sometimes I don’t think I even know what self-compassion is. I don’t know how to be nice to myself. I can be extremely kind to strangers, but I am consistently putting myself down because I don’t feel like I’m good enough. I recently wrote this in a ‘getting it off my chest’ piece:

“I’m feeling frustrated as well. I feel like life isn’t moving fast enough for me, that it’s just dragging by. I feel like I’m going nowhere in life and doing that fast. I don’t feel like a success and I often feel like I’ll never be one and that’s all I want. I feel like I have something I have to prove to the world, and right now I’m failing at it. I want to be proud of myself, instead I find that I want to crawl into a corner and hide. How can I be proud of myself and my accomplishments, when I have depression? I think this is compounded by the fact that when I am proud of my little accomplishments, I get made fun of. I almost wrote ‘silly little accomplishments’, which tells you exactly where my frame of mind is….”

I’m being hard on myself. People tell me that I’m exactly where I need to be, but I feel like I should be somewhere else. I feel like I should be further along with my life. (And there I go using ‘should’ in regards to my life. I swear it’s the worst word in the English language.)

I need to learn to be compassionate towards myself; to give myself a little more credit. I am successful in many ways. Living alone and being independent in my early 20s, is a great accomplishment. Knowing what I want to do with my life and having the courage to work toward, albeit however slowly that may be, is also a success. I need to be nicer to myself, because I know that I am not a bad person.

So why is it I can be nice to others but not myself? Why am I so viciously cruel to myself, when I know I’m not a bad person? In some ways, it makes me better because by criticizing myself, I’m working towards being a better person. But for the most part, I need to be nicer towards myself like I am towards strangers. I’m just as good as anybody else in this world, I just have to believe it.

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Self-Compassion Exercises

How Family and Friends Can Help Those with Mental Illness

One of the many questions I get when speaking is “How can we help those with depression?” I’m so glad to hear people asking this question because it shows that they see, at least partially, the pain that their friend or family member is going through and they want to help. So here are a couple of suggestions I have gotten from friends who also suffer from mental illness.

My first response to this question is to tell the person that you are there for them. Depression and anxiety often make a person feel very alone. But these diseases can also make a person push family and friends away because they don’t believe that anyone can understand how they feel. Showing a depressed person that you are there for them by doing little things like helping around the house, can help that person start their road to recovery.

A friend with depression said this when asked what family and friends can do to help, “Invites back to life. Depression is not living. People should try to push you to resume daily life starting with fun!” She’s right. Depression is not living, depression is only an existence. By inviting a depressive out to daily events like shopping or just taking a walk, you are inviting them back to having a life.

Another way to help someone with a mental illness is to encourage them to seek professional help. Help them find a psychiatrist or therapist that they like. Make sure they are getting to their appointments and taking their meds.

The biggest gift you can give them is being nonjudgmental. They often can’t help the direction their mind is going in. By being nonjudgmental and showing understanding, you can help them stop the rumination which is a big part of depression and anxiety. The best thing you can do is be supportive and ask if there is anything they need.

Encourage them also to get involved with art, music, or anything that allows them to creatively express themselves. Expressive therapy is known to be extremely therapeutic.

It is often the smallest things that can have the biggest impact for a person with depression. Inviting them out to dinner or trying to establish some type of normalcy will help them feel much better about themselves and help pull them from the depression. For us, it’s the small things that count the most.

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Family

Family. Almost everyone has a family, whether they want one or not. Family is usually there for you. They stick by you no matter what and often times they get on your nerves with their constant advice. They always have some sort of input on your life whether you want it or not. Families are there for each other and support each other.

So what happens when you are diagnosed with depression and your family has no clue what to do or even what that means? Oftentimes they try their best to help, but sometimes their ‘help’ consists of platitudes, cliches, or questions that don’t help the situation. This can be frustrating at best and at it’s worst, can actually worsen your depression.

Lately, all I’ve been hearing from my family is you need to stop doing this or start doing that. I want to tell them that all I really need is support not advice. You are not living my life nor are you standing in my shoes, you have no idea what I’m going through. Why is it that my two friends are better support than you are? Instead, I get asked when I’m going to go back to school or when am I going to get a better job. I just want to scream at them “I’m doing the best I can with what I’ve got right now, is that not good enough?”

It’s bad enough that I haven’t been able to succeed at following my own life plan, I don’t need you to force yours on to me. Maybe I won’t complete school. Maybe I’ll never get a college degree, is that such a bad thing? Which is silly because I do want to go back to school and get a degree, I just want everyone to stop asking me these questions, because right now I don’t have the answers. Right now, I’m living day to day, just trying to make it through.

So I’m sure you’re asking yourself, as family, what can I do? Sometimes silent support is the best support. And as tempting as it may seem, giving advice isn’t going to help. Oftentimes, it only makes us feel worse. The best question you can ask is “How are you doing?”, followed by “Is there anything I can do to help you?”. These two questions show your support of the person and allows them to respond in a manner most comfortable for them.

These are the two questions I wish my family would ask me without judgement or criticism. I wish they would stop trying to give me advice, platitudes or asking me questions that I don’t know the answers to. I’m trying my best at the moment, why can’t that be enough?

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