A Realist, An Idealist, or a Pessimist?

I can be very negative because of my depression. It makes me think in worst-case scenarios and negative outcomes. Many people would call me a pessimist because of this. They would say I view the world with a ‘glass half-empty’ attitude. Many people who don’t know me very well would probably say that I have absolutely no optimism. That I can’t view the world as anything but negative, and while that might seem true, I know that when I’m not consumed by my depression, I can be a very optimistic person. I have the capability to view the world as ‘glass half-full’ and to be excited about events. Unfortunately, my depression consumes that person, leaving behind a pessimist.

I like to consider myself a realist when I’m in a depressive state.This seems less negative than considering myself a pessimist. A realist, however, is a person who tends to view or represent things as they really are. I don’t necessarily do this. While I say that I am a realist, I still view things more negatively

In all actuality, when not consumed by depression, I would probably fall more under the definition of an idealist. An idealist is a person who represents things as they might or should be rather than as they are. An idealist is often a visionary or impractical person. I dream of a world where there is no cruelty or injustice. A world where everything is fair.

Instead my depression turns me into a pessimist. A pessimist is defined as a person who sees or anticipates the worst and is disposed to be gloomy. I can have a very negative attitude and believe that nothing will work out for me. Often times it seems like this belief is true, but my therapist says that it could be a self-fulfilling prophecy. A self-fulfilling prophecy is a prediction or belief that causes itself to become true due to the feedback between belief and behavior. In simple terms, I’m causing these beliefs to come true because of my attitude or behavior/

So then, am I a realist, idealist or pessimist? I think the answer is that I can be all three. I can also be an optimist depending on the situation. It depends on my mindset, my beliefs, my moods and my behaviors.

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2015 Mental Health Awareness Month Speech

I would first like to begin by giving a trigger warning. I will be talking about mental health and depression and I realize that this may be triggering for some people. If that is the case, I would advise you to leave for the duration of my speech. Also, please note that the pastors and I will be available to talk about this subject after church (event).

Before I get started, I would like for all of you to imagine your worst day ever. Your alarm didn’t go off, so you barely have time to get ready. You struggle to get the kids ready for school. Your car won’t start and you’re late to work. At work, or if you’re in school maybe someone starts digging at you about a project, they’re making fun of you or yelling at you. You start thinking about all of the things you have to do, at work, at home and everything in-between. Do you remember how that felt? (Ask for opinions from audience.)You felt anger, sad, frustrated, lost, lonely, down, stressed, overwhelmed.  That is essentially how someone suffering from depression feels on a normal day.

How would I know? My name is Talia Malon and I know that I seem like your normal, average 20-something year old. I look healthy, however I am clinically diagnosed with depression and anxiety. I also have avoidant personality disorder tendencies. I have been in therapy for over 4 years and I was only recently discharged from an outpatient treatment program for mental health.  I’m here to talk to you about depression because May is Mental Health Awareness month (mental awareness is important) and I want you to understand mental illnesses. I want you to understand that I wake up fighting a battle everyday whether I am at work, at home or out with friends. Each day may be a battle where I am under siege for every waking hour but I am determined to win this war, because there is only one other alternative.

Depression is defined by the Mayo Clinic as, “a mood disorder that causes a persistent feeling of sadness and loss of interest…. It affects how you feel, think and believe and can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems.” While this definition works for the health institutions around the world, I find that there is an easier and more forthright definition. “Mental illnesses are diseases. Depression is a disease.” It is a disease of the mind and it’s not easy to physically see unlike cancer but nonetheless, it is a disease. “This disease affects approximately one in four adults” (NAMI). You can die from it. People have died from depression. The most recently notable, would be Robin Williams. The coroner’s report may say suicide, but honestly he died from depression. “Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the US and more than 90% of those who die by suicide had a mental disorder” (NAMI).

Trying to explain depression is like trying to teach physics to preschoolers; it’s virtually impossible because depression affects everyone differently which makes it so hard to describe. It’s hard to explain the numbness you feel, the uncaring, sadness, frustration, loneliness, worthlessness, etc. But what I can tell you is that depression lies. It’s like a bully, but it is able to reach into the darkest places of your mind and use it against you. .It magnifies every negative thought I’ve ever had about myself.  And it does so continuously. I won’t just ‘get better’ one day. It’s a continuous struggle between me and my brain. My therapist at Linden Oaks calls it a committee. This committee is my depression. It’s sitting in the back of my mind constantly, so I have to be careful because I know that there is something self destructive in me. Martha Manning, clinical psychologist and writer says, “Depression is such a cruel punishment. There are no fevers, no rashes, no blood tests to send people scurrying in concern, just the slow erosion of self, as insidious as cancer. And like cancer, it is essentially a solitary experience; a room in hell with only your name on the door.”

Mental illnesses are also invisible diseases. You can’t tell by looking at someone whether they have these diseases or not. Often times, we make split second decisions about a person without speaking a word to them, without knowing them at all. We don’t know if they are suffering from bipolar disorder, anxiety, depression or any other illnesses or issues, but we have already judged them based on their looks, their behaviors and their actions. I feel that this is an issue, because honestly, people with mental illnesses can’t help the way they think. As an individual with depression, there is something chemically wrong in my brain that affects my thinking and I cannot fix that on my own. As Trisha Goddard, a British actress and TV personality said, “Cancer is not the worst thing I’ve faced – that was depression. With depression, nobody brings you flowers, and the doctors can’t operate and tell you, you’ll be free of the disease within weeks.” (and she would know, she has suffered from both)

So what can you do? You can be part of a support group for someone with mental illness. You can help them and be there for them. Ask them how they are doing and really mean it. Sometimes there is nothing that will make them feel better. Sometimes there are only  things that will make it worse. You can not ‘fix’ them or cure them of their mental illness anymore than you can cure a person of leukemia. I feel that it is best understood in the words of one of my supporters. “I support Sara fully, no matter what. Even though I have feelings similar to hers, I still have trouble remembering that her thoughts of worst case scenario are not by choice.  I get frustrated talking with her. I get angry sometimes and just want to explode. But I take a moment to remember how I’ve felt and how she must feel; a million times worse. I take solace in knowing that I can be there for her. No matter what. If you know someone with depression, take the time to educate yourself. Listen to them, no matter how frustrating it can be, and give them a shoulder to cry on.  Don’t bother asking them what’s wrong because they probably don’t know. Just let them talk. Be their supporter. You could be the only motivation they have to do anything.”

Coming here to speak to you today is the first small step towards my ultimate goal.  These are the first steps as I try to start a non-profit organization for education, awareness and tolerance on mental illnesses.  I have named this foundation ADAPT; Advocates for Depression Awareness, Progress and Tolerance. I felt that this name was fitting because when you make the decision to be the supporter of somebody suffering from a mental illness, you have to adapt. Depressives also have to adapt as they try to cope with their illness. Both sides have to adapt their viewpoint and adapt how they interact with others.  Educating yourself and becoming an active supporter of someone with a mental illness may save a life.

In closing, I would also like to encourage you to take care of your mental health. It is just as important as your physical health and it can be anything from taking a break from life and going for a walk outside to talking out a troubling situation with a friend to getting therapy for even a couple of sessions. I encourage those with depression to keep holding on. You are not alone and this may be the hardest fight of your life, but it is also one of the most important. We are here for you. Please visit my blog for more information on depression, how you can help and how you can find help. Thank you.

 

The Word “Should”

While in therapy, we talked about the word ‘should’. Because of this discussion, it is my honest belief that ‘should’ is one of the worst words in the English language. The word should is defined as used to indicate duty, propriety, or expediency. I think it’s easier to say that the word should most often is used to place guilt or blame. We say someone should do something because that is our opinion however our opinion, while it might have some weight based on our relationship with that person, can’t be the deciding factor for someone to do something. Instead, should is used to indicate blame or lay guilt if the person doesn’t do what we say they ‘should’.

A good replacement for the word should, is like or want. “I would like you to…” rather than “You should…” By replacing should with like you are stating your opinion rather than placing blame or guilt. I’m not saying that the word be removed from our language entirely because there are some instances when it is appropriate to use. However, when it is used to place guilt or blame, it can hurt or harm another person.

So lately, I have been attempting to remove the word ‘should’ from my vocabulary. It’s proven harder than I thought. In just writing this post, I’ve had to rethink how to word sentences because I would normally use the word ‘should’. But this exercise has taught me that is important to think about what you say before you say it. You never know how what you say may affect another person.

 

What Makes A Hero?

What makes a hero?

Today’s world is permeated with superheroes. Every year, there’s a new movie about Iron Man, Superman, Captain America, etc. And while I enjoy these action movies as much as the next person, lately I’ve been considering; what makes a hero? You have the general trait of saving the world. Most of the superheroes are people who find themselves with powers beyond those of a normal human and they use these powers for the good of humankind. Of course that is all fantasies and comic book. Superheroes can’t exist in real life. Can they?

I choose to believe that there is a superhero inside of each of us. Whether it’s helping a stranger or volunteering. It may be the smallest act but eventually all of those acts add up.

Superheroes aren’t perfect. They make their share of mistakes and often those mistakes are bigger because of who they are. We make mistakes too, but we’re also most often given the chance to fix those mistakes.

Heroes are everywhere in everyday life. They can be the person walking down the street or the coworker down the hall. Mental illness is an invisible disease. The smallest act of kindness can make the biggest difference to anyone who is struggling or having a bad day.

So who do you want to be? Your average, normal person or a superhero? Because they come in every shape and size and you can be a hero.

Control

“We first make our habits, then our habits make us.” – Charles C. Noble

We all have a desire to control our lives. We feel helpless when we feel like our lives are not in control, and the problem comes when we can’t let go of that control. The only thing we can control is our behaviors and actions. We can’t control other people, certain situations and their behaviors. Anxiety comes from the worry that we have because of the uncertainty of our situations. By letting go of our need for control, we can find some peace within our lives.

We have a number of choices when it comes to letting go of control. We can accept people as they are and let go of our need to ‘fix’ them. We can let go of the ‘victim’ role within relationships. Be strong enough to get your emotional needs met. Let go of your ‘shoulds’ for people and yourself. Should implies guilt and shame. Read more about Should here. See other people as having wounds, not faults. Realize that the only ‘failed’ relationship is one that you didn’t learn from. Often failed relationships are helpful life lessons. Choose to see the love and the good in other people and yourself. We also need to let go of a thirst for approval, super competitive-comparative mode (comparing yourself to others) and relying too much on other people.

You can understand more about yourself and where your need for control comes into play, by asking yourself two questions. What are three unhealthy habits in your life? And what are you willing to do to break these habits?

In the end, you have to remember that all we can change is ourselves. “It is as it is.” So if you’re having trouble remembering this, ask yourself these four questions:

  1. How much control do I have? What is outside my control?
  2. “It is as it is”. I’m not agreeing with or giving up on it, but I can let it go for now
  3. If I can’t change the situation, can I change the way I think or do about it?
  4. What can I do that is within my control?

 

My Social Environment

I don’t do well in social environments in fact, I downright suck at them. I always feel awkward, like I don’t fit in. I never feel like I’m part of the group, but just hanging on by my fingertips.

Social environments have always been hard for me. I didn’t thrive, socially, in school. I usually had one or two close friends and many acquaintances. I remember times when I would be chasing after the popular group of girls, wanting them to accept me but never being accepted. This hurt, but I never considered it to be my fault. When I was younger, I just accepted it as status quo and I was ok with that. I had friends elsewhere and I never had to worry about having friends to hang out with.

As I grew older and entered high school, I never found my niche. I was involved, with my classes, with choir and theater, but I never quite fit in. It was the same story, feeling like I was on the outside looking in. I was never invited to events unless it was a group thing and while this bugged me every once and awhile, I was too busy for the most part to care. I may not have felt like I fit in but I was involved enough not to care.

College was a disaster for me. Everyone thought I would thrive in a college environment, at this point, I feel like I did everything but thrive. I feel like I crashed and burned. I had many issues with roommates and by the time I left college 3 years in, I hadn’t made any serious friends. In fact, the only thing I had done throughout college was lose friends. As I said, not a good experience for me.

Today, I have 2 friends, one of which is an ex-boyfriend while the other is my current boyfriend. I don’t know what they see that no one else can be I’m grateful that they do. My social environment still sucks. I don’t really get out, but then again I don’t enjoy doing the things normal 20-year-olds do, like drinking every weekend. But I do want to have fun. I want to hang out with people and do things, I just can’t find the people to do things with and I don’t even know how to go about meeting people at this point. I wish I could make friends but my depression makes that nearly impossible, so maybe if I get better, my social environment will change for the better.

My Story Part 8

This is a continuation, part 8, of my daily journal of life after outpatient treatment for depression, and anxiety. Please click for Part 1Part 2Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, and Part 7.

Part 8, Day 1:

I’ve been so tired lately. I have a feeling this job is starting to take its toll on me. Working overnights and sleeping during the day is harder than I thought it would be. My new puppy has been driving me crazy lately. She won’t listen to me at all! It’s very frustrating and on top of being tired all of the time my patience is at an all time low. I need a break.

Day 6:

I’m nervous about this upcoming vacation/wedding. Things are tense with this side of the family, so it could be an interesting trip. The BF and I are killing two birds with one stone by going camping instead of staying at the hotel. It gives us a little  more room, more privacy, and this way I get to bring the new puppy with. Hopefully there is no bloodshed at the wedding and everyone is on their best behavior

Day 12:

The wedding/camping trip went very well. My cousin (the one who got married) and I had an interesting heart-to-heart and he told me that he only wants me to be happy. Of course, he and I were more than a little drunk when this occurred. I spent most of the reception getting drunk but had a lot of fun. I caught the bouquet, but I’m definitely not the next person getting married. That would be my other cousin. Unfortunately, I can’t go to his wedding because I have to work. I’ll be working 10 days in a row now because of this vacation and my next trip. This could be interesting.

Day 18:

I’m heading to my grandparents’ house this week. They live on a lake and I love it up there. It is so peaceful. Plus, being born a Pisces, I love the water. It’ll be fun spending the ‘weekend’ during the work week with my boyfriend in a place that I love. I am a little worried because sometimes I get cornered and have to discuss (or receive someone’s opinion) about a topic I would rather not talk about, but all in all it should be nice. When we get back, I’m going to help my best friend with his fundraiser and meet his new girlfriend. I’m a little worried about that, but then again, I worry a lot anyway.

Day 23:

The trip was amazing although the weather did not cooperate. We (the BF and I), ended up going to a couple of wineries because the weather was bad. This brings our total to 15 wineries in 3 months!! Good thing it’s something we like to do! We had nicer weather on the last full day before we left. We spent the day on the beach. My puppy wasn’t very happy because I wouldn’t let her out of her crate, but she had just gotten spayed and I didn’t want to risk infection. When we go up in 2 weeks, I’ll let her out and see what she does in the water. I have a feeling she’ll love it as much as I do!

The fundraiser was an interesting day. He ended up not needing my help which made me feel useless and unwanted. Plus, it seemed like I was ignored by everyone there like I was the plague. I felt like a social pariah. I met his new girlfriend and she seems nice, but I don’t think she likes me very much. Of course my BF says ‘you only said two words to her!’ but some things you can just feel. I hope this doesn’t cause problems between me and my best friend!

Please stay tuned for Part 8. Here are the links for Part 1Part 2Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, and Part 7.