I Just Want It To Be Over

“I just want it to be over.”

A sentiment I hear on repeat, from all walks of life, from the left as well as the right. From men, women, non-binary, White and POC.

“I just want it to be over” …but it’s not. It’s not going to be for a while.

Wishing for difficult moments in time to be over is natural. It’s human to try to escape suffering. That is what our brains are made for. Itch? Scratch. Uncomfortable? Adjust. Sad? Distract. It’s as if we are addicted to the pursuit of not feeling negative feelings. This addiction blinds us, though, to all the potential joy we could be experiencing. Right now.

Here are two reasons you are robbing yourself of joy when you wish for now to be over and the future, surely full of awesomeness, to be here now.

1. When you wish for something to be different, you are shifting out of acceptance. This is a topic I talk about often, but here is another reminder. Acceptance is essentially acknowledgement. This is what is. When in acceptance, we are not condoning, being “okay with,” or embracing anything. We are simply acknowledging life as it stands. In this space, there are feelings. All the feels, but we’ll get to feelings in a minute.

When you step out of acceptance, you step into either aversion or attachment. Aversion says “I don’t want what I have,” while attachment says “I want what I can’t have.” Can you feel the instant ache? These are the places we experience suffering. “I just want this to be over” is a deeply painful cross between these two points of suffering. I ache to escape what I have and long for something not possible. Oye. Is it any wonder we’re suffering so much?

2. You can’t block out one “type” of feelings. Therapist bias here, but feelings can’t be broken down into types. Feelings are feelings. If you try to block out sadness, you block out joy. If you try to block out anger, you block out peace. You cannot pick and choose. You are either numb to feelings or open to experiencing them. And no matter how long or how much you try to hide from feelings, you can never escape them. They’ll pitch a tent and wait for you to open your door for other moments. This is why grief can snowball. Often, when we lose someone, we lose everyone we’ve lost before them all over again because we’ve mistakenly believed we could shelve our experience.

How much easier would all this feeling stuff be if we just thought feelings were… feelings? Not good. Not bad. Not desirable or undesirable. Just that – a passing emotional experience. Just as waves are not separate from the ocean, our experiences are not separate from ourselves. The ocean never fears that the current wave will last forever. The ocean doesn’t try to block out certain waves or believe it is this current wave. They simply arise, move through, and return to the ocean. You could have embarrassment or jealousy arise and, instead of losing your peace of mind by resisting, believing it is who you are, or falling prey to thoughts about its permanency – you could choose to get curious and lean into the experience. You might find when you do this, feelings are juicy. They’re fascinating. Exciting. You could feel child-like awe about them. Suddenly, all feelings are awe-some.

“I just want this to be over.” Okay. But engage with this intentionally. Finish the thought: “I want this to be over, and I know it isn’t and that I cannot control that. So, instead of sitting in the discomfort and allowing it to be temporary, I’m going to consume, distract, numb, or stuff my feelings and turn this difficult time in my life into a long-lasting suffering that will take me years to unpack. But, that sounds like future me’s problem.”

If it feels ridiculous, you’re doing it right.

Sometimes we have to be a little ridiculous with ourselves to see where we’re getting stuck. 2020 has given us a ride, and from the look of it, we’re only halfway through. We can’t fast forward. Can’t numb out until it’s over (ever seen Click?). 2020 is giving us an opportunity to tune in. To greet the grief and overwhelm – both ours and in our communities. Sit in discomfort. It’s good for you. If you’re comfortable, you’re not changing. We often have to look for opportunities to get uncomfortable to create change.

Not this year.

Lean in. Reach out for help. Try not to wish your life away. If you’re reading this, you’re alive. Look at your family, your friends. Whisper to yourself, “we’re alive.” Breathe it in.

D

Balance Darkness with Light

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Can you believe it? You’re halfway there! We’re starting this week having spent the last month working on our diet, exercise, meditation ritual, and sh*it owning process on our path to moving through depression. What’s next in store for you? You betcha. It’s time to unplug.

I’ll admit, this is a little bizarre timing with the whole Facebook scandal thing. Or perhaps it’ll just be that little bit extra motivation. Let’s talk about, though, why you don’t need a scandal to unplug.

My guess is that you’ve heard that use of electronics can increase your risks of depression and anxiety. It’s even more dangerous for teenagers and young adults.

There’s no shortage of people out there asking us to unplug more often. There’s also plenty of cartoons depicting just what it does to us. Like this from the NY Times about how phone use is impairing intimate relationships:

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You can take a handy quiz they have set up to check how your relationship with your phone is. Believe you me, the irony of you reading about less electronic use on my blog is not lost on me.

I could spend a lot of time explaining to you the ways in which overuse of electronics is harmful to you. And you probably know most of them already. Here’s a personal example.

I recently decided to give the whole Instagram thing a try. I know, I’m behind. Let’s blame it on me being old. But let me share with you what I’ve found.

It’s starts off innocent enough. You just want to connect with people and share fun stories. Then likes come through, follows, comments. So you check out their pages, like some things, maybe search through hashtags. Suddenly you’ve lost a half an hour, maybe more, to doing nothing but scrolling through endless pictures. But posting is fun, especially since it gets your creative juices flowing with both photography and writing. Soon life becomes little moments wanting their pictures taken. Then more likes, comments, follows. More searches. More time lost. So you try not to use the app, but find yourself still picking up your phone more than you need to. Or thinking of the next time you’ll have a few minutes to peek through, promising yourself you won’t spend more than five minutes…

After a week of using Instagram, I noticed several things. For starters, my sleep sucked. I had a difficult time falling asleep every night that I checked it. My attention waned, as my ability to stay present in the moment was snatched away by wondering. My work suffered, as little moments that could have been spent well were wasted away. It didn’t take long for me to realize that I couldn’t keep it up. I remember the struggle when Myspace came out. Then Facebook. It sucks you in.

Oh man, and streaming services? Forget it.

Excessive electronic use, whether through phones, computers, TV, tablet, or what-have-you, is hurting your mental health. Recent research has also shown that social media is especially damaging and increases the risk of suicide in teens who use it more than 5 hours per day. Think about what it does to our kids’ brains to spend all day every day on tablets at school. It’s how we teach them now. Here are some other ways electronic use is disruptive:

  • Incomplete and often unrealistic expectations. Many people post more about the things that make it appear as though they have a great life, family, body, etc.
  • Avoidance of feelings. It can be terrifying to open up and let feelings have space, and infinitely easier to quiet them with a quick distraction.
  • Internet is the perfect marketing scheme. It only shows you what it thinks you want to see. So if you’re depressed, you’re probably going to get more suggestions on the topic or relate to others online who are also in a dark place. Like parents get a lot of parenting links in their ads and “sponsored posts.” Or if you click on political support things for this person, you’re going to see more positive things about them and more negative about their competition.
    • You can’t get out of depression by feeding it more depression. You need to balance your exposure to the darkness with things that bring you light.
  • It eats time. Time that you might feel you don’t have in order to eat right, exercise, meditate, spend time with friends, keep up a clean house, etc. If you have time to check your social media, play games, or scroll through something, binge watch something, then you have time to take care of yourself.
  • Dangers of anonymity. Cyber bullying is real, and it’s not just for teens. Just read any lengthy comment feed.
  • Getting overstimulated. It’s important that the brain has both excited times and relaxed times. Electronics are like little strobe lights. You need downtime too.

I hear a lot of “good” reasons for people to be on electronics.

For example, it’s how I keep in touch with people! It doesn’t have to be. Did you know that your brain does not experience the interactions via snapchat, instagram, facebook, etc as social interaction? Face to face, real social interaction and emotional intimacy is vital to your ability to thrive.

Oh, it helps me relax or blow off steam! Actually, it helps distract you. Which is not the same thing as coping. Distraction can be a useful skill, but it cannot be your only skill.

Remember last week’s assignment of letting go of excuses.

So why don’t we stop? It’s called addiction. Addiction, simplified, is compulsive use despite harmful consequences. The way I describe addiction is simple: it starts with using something to avoid having to feel, be alone with ourselves (or our thoughts), or like reasons. It’s an escape. Of course, in some cases it becomes its own beast.

Does that sound like something you might do? Like perhaps taking a “break” from one electronic device by using another?

I get it. Electronic, and especially phone, overuse is pervasive. I dare say it’s the most common form of addiction, and it’s not just in our country.

What are we to do?

Well, let’s be honest. Computers, including those mobile and miniature ones we keep in our pockets, aren’t going anywhere for now. When it comes to helping our mental health, it’s important that we’re using them responsibly. Here’s a place to start.

Danielle’s 10 Do’s and Don’ts:

  1. Pay attention for how much time you’re on your phone, including using various applications. A tech way of doing this is through apps like Moment.
  2. Don’t spend your time with others on your devices unless absolutely necessary. Hint: it’s hardly ever necessary.
    • Here’s a fun game: Phone Stack. Whoever picks up their phone first pays the bill.
  3. Do look for opportunities to enjoy life around you. If you’re waiting for something, engage people around you in conversation. If you’re outside, take a deep breath.
    • You can also do the 5-4-3-2-1 exercise. 5 things you see, 4 things you hear, 3 things you feel, 2 things you smell, and 1 thing you taste. You can switch the senses up to match where you are.
  4. If you use an app too much, delete the app and access it through your internet browser. Or turn off notifications. Or limit yourself to a certain number of minutes on that app each day. Or make it so you have to enter your password each time you want to use it.
  5. Stop electronic use at least an hour before bedtime. Do something neurologically soothing in order to help transition yourself into sleep.
    • Examples of activities: Stretching, shower/bath, reading, journaling, coloring, meditating, etc.
  6. Carve out time for quiet reflection. This can be praying, meditating, a bath, or a walk outside. Make time to not only be with yourself, but allow space for your feelings. If need be, turn on music instead of TV.
  7. Make commitments and stick to them. Like no phones at dinner or only checking a social media app once per day.
  8. Read real books. Like the ones you check out from the library, where you physically turn each page to read it. They even smell good.
  9. If you must distract, do it with quality, light promoting content. Like The School of Life, Happify, or Calm.
  10. Pay attention to what you’re pumping into your psyche. Is it positive? Violent? Dramatic? Loving? Competitive? Twisted? What do different shows and media do to your psyche? Ever watch tattoo shows and want a new tattoo? Or cooking shows and get on a cooking kick? Hint: Media affects you.

You can do this. Less time in virtual, more time in reality. Your mood, relationships, brain chemistry, social life, and spirit will thank you.

What’s one way you can find balance today?

See you next week for our talk about sleep? You’ll already be a step ahead if you quit with the bedtime electronics.

Take care out there,

D

Done Defending Depression

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It’s week three! So far in our journey together, I’ve asked you to start getting more exercise to help you foster a better connection with your body. I’ve also asked you to start using meditation and mindfulness skills to support that connection with yourself. If you’ve been doing both of these, it’s time for step three.

(If you haven’t started the other two, go back and start there!)

Yep- it’s time to own your sh*t. What does this mean? Well, it means a lot. So let’s dive right in.

Depression is a thick, sticky, exhausting mud that can feel overwhelming to sludge through. When we’re low, nothing sounds good. We feel like we can’t seem to get anything done. The mere thought of getting off the couch can feel like three days worth of energy. With this, comes a lot of beliefs. Skewed beliefs can be one of the most debilitating symptoms of depression.

“I can’t…” I can’t seem to get on top of my to-do list… so I just won’t do anything at all.

“It won’t work.” I just know it.

“I’ve tried.” It might have been just that one time, but it didn’t work.

“What’s the point?” What’s the point of cleaning up? It’ll just get dirty again.

“I’ll get to it later.” Later sometimes comes, right?

“I can’t do anything right.” This current situation is just one of many examples I could probably come up with if I tried.

“I’ve always felt this way.” I was born depressed and I will die depressed.

These are just thoughts (as we talked about last week) – they needn’t be believed. Each of these thoughts can feel so justified inside in the darkness of the moment. Yet we might find that when we express them out loud, others don’t seem to understand. Heck, sometimes when we hear them out loud we don’t understand them.

Owning your sh*t is about letting go of defending depression. It’s time to remove “I’d do that, but I’m just so depressed,” from your internal repertoire. Depression is already skilled at coming up with excuses, it doesn’t need your help. What it needs is a parent (you) to come in and help it learn how to take accountability.

One of my favorite ways to look at how we treat ourselves is to imagine how we would respond if it were a child we were interacting with instead of ourselves. If a child came up to you, tearful, and said “I can’t do anything right,” or “I tried to make it better once, but it didn’t work,” what would be your response?

“You’re absolutely right, kiddo. Life is hard, and you should just give up right now. It won’t ever get better, and if you tried just once and it didn’t work, now is probably the time to quit. Especially since you can’t do anything right.”

Uh… no. I like to think that if a kid comes up feeling desolate and lost, we offer a little more than that. We (hopefully) would listen to the kid, empathize with their experience, and ultimately tell them they’re amazing and that though life can be hard, it’s worth fighting for. Then we’d help them come up with a way to both express those feelings and take tangible steps to improve things.

Right? So why don’t we do this with ourselves?

It’s time.

Look around your life. What looks like depression? Does your house, work station, car, refrigerator, social calendar, thought process, relationship, or outward appearance look messy, chaotic, or neglected? Does it look depressed?

At some point you have to decide that living the depressed way isn’t good enough- that you deserve better. It’s time to do something about it in the same way we would encourage a kid to. We acknowledge not wanting to do something, having our bodies feel like lead, and our fears that we won’t be good enough. Then we challenge them.

“I can’t.”  – Yes, I can. I am a survivor. I am capable and strong.

“It won’t work.”  – I’m worried it won’t work, but I don’t know what will happen until I try.

“I’ve tried.”  – It takes perseverance and commitment to change things. Trying once won’t be enough. I’ll need to keep at it and experiment to find what works for me.

“What’s the point?”  – The point is I, as much as everyone else in the world, deserve love and happiness. And that starts within me.

“I’ll get to it later.”  – Or I’ll do it now, because otherwise things will pile up and I’ll feel weighed down.

“I can’t do anything right.”  – Except for the following three examples of times I’ve done something correctly in my life. 

“I’ve always felt this way.”  – Nobody ever always felt anyway. Both the good and the bad come and go, it’s the fluidity of life. It’s what makes life precious and beautiful.

If you think you can or you think you can’t, you’re right. – Henry Ford.

In order to let go of defensiveness, we have to do its opposite: take accountability. This can be a wildly painful process because it requires that we lean into our fears in order to prove them wrong. We must stand steadfast and brave against the tides of depression trying to take us down. Depression has a cryptonite – it’s called courage. And it has an achilles heel – it’s called self-love. Feel the waves of depression try to hold you back, then do those healthy and loving things instead.

What is a tell for depression in your life? How can you take steps to change that today?

You deserve a happy life. You can do this.

I’ll be over here holding hope for you until you can feel it for yourself.

Until next week, be kind and gentle with yourself.

D

p.s. This is hard work. If you need help, find a counselor near you. If you need immediate help, contact the National Suicide Prevention Hotline1-800-273-8255.