Left to Pick Up the Pieces

There can only be one thing more nightmarish than hell itself, and that is to lose a child to  suicide. Gut-wrenchingly sad and tragic that a young life is lost. Gut-wrenchingly sad and tragic that the person has felt such emptiness and despair. Gut-wrenchingly sad and tragic that someone could feel so lacking in hope, so consumed with mental pain and anguish that this was even considered an option. And yet for their own family, who are left somehow to pick up the pieces, the consequences of this act can be so viscerally devastating, it is akin to a nightmare without end. Is it a selfish/revengeful act? An aberrant impulse? A distorted  or dysfunctional thought?

Family 2013 268While the tortured soul focuses completely on their inner world, of thoughts and feelings, they fail to realise the contagion of misery and desperation will afterwards infect the rest of their closest allies, their own family or friends. How does one face the world and continue with life, after the loss of a close family member or child?

Many lives have ended here
Many lives have ended here

The strength humans display in the face of this kind of tragedy, is nothing short of awe-inspiring. To bury one’s own child is heart-breaking, but to experience a child who deliberately ends their lives is completely unfathomable. How do people get over such an act? How do they lift themselves out of the depths of  misery?

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And now, this week we have a man appear to conceal a mental illness and commit suicide on a German aircraft, taking 150 innocent lives with him. Not only that, but he has also taken his own family’s normal life and that of the victim’s families, on the path to a living hell, that is only just commencing. These people have to pick up the pieces of their own lives, and continue on, somehow.

Last week, a young boy from Australia drove a car filled with explosives into an army base, intending to cause maximum death and destruction and in the process, killing himself. A selfish act? A nutter? A kid with nothing to live for? A criminal? A sociopath?

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I don’t have an answer. I don’t have a magic solution. Perhaps there isn’t one.  Each case of suicide is different, and each individual is different. Every socio-economic group, every ethnicity can be affected – no one is immune. But it is cowardly and selfish. The most selfish act imaginable. Australia, the egalitarian vanguard, has the highest rates of youth suicide in the world.

And so Life cis a roller-coaster. It is unpredictable, full of hard times and challenges, and if you are so blessed, many good times too. For some of us, success doesn’t happen and when life becomes too overwhelming, we feel like quitting, or we might feel like ending the pain, yet there is always Hope, waiting, watching, willing us to believe that things will improve. There is always Hope.

Can we stop suicide?  What can  we do:

We can be there to comfort and support our loved ones and our fellow man and woman.

We can make an effort if others appear stressed or unhappy.

We can appreciate every moment we have with each other, no matter how bored, tired, hungry, frustrated we may be feeling.

We can encourage others to seek help and reassure them of our support.

We can speak up, without shame, to others, when need dictates. Secrets kill….

And We Can  Listen to each other!

Reach out to one another – There is always hope!

Take a break – and relax!

Every person is a child of the Universe and has every right to be here.

Remember, “Everything, like the weather, passes.”

A final word from Marc: Whatever you believe to be true about yourself and life in the long-term becomes your reality.  Your beliefs are ingrained patterns of thinking that you build up over a lifetime.  They are habitual ways of processing the world around you.  If those beliefs don’t work in your favor, you can change them.  How?  In the very same way the negative beliefs formed in the first place – via repetitive thoughts that you accepted to be the truth.  Ingrain new beliefs by consciously choosing and repeating messages that lift you up.

Something sobering to ponder about.

If you need help or wish to talk to someone:

beyondblue.org.au

kidshelp

Lifeline

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Do You Fit In? Anxiety, Emotions and Friends

Do you sometimes feel misunderstood, or like you just don’t fit in? Is socializing painful or something you avoid? Is mixing at a party or large group a torturous experience?

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If so, you could be suffering from social anxiety? People suffering with this are often introverted by nature and feel that they are constantly being judged negatively by everyone around them. As such, they find it difficult to make new friends or maintain relationships.

These people are often drawn to online friendships, as the cyber world can be anonymous and much less threatening. Without the need for eye contact or body language, contact with others  over the net, can be much less overwhelming on the senses. The written word on its own, can be tolerated by someone with social anxiety, as it can give them the time they need to choose their words carefully and to be sure to express themselves in a way that would not be perceived critically. For this is what someone with social anxiety feels every minute of every day: that they are being negatively judged or critically perceived by others. For some, it destroys everyday life and  they are confined to the only place where there is no anxiety, the sanctuary of a solitary existence at home.

Although there appears to be  a genetic basis to social anxiety and its evil partner depression, there are a number of behaviours that can be un-learnt  just as easily as they  are learnt as a coping mechanism for anxiety.

As a result of these thoughts and anxieties, people with social anxiety have few friends and find making new friendships very difficult and not just because of trust issues. Their fears and negative thinking can render them vulnerable to friendship with toxic people, who in turn, erode their self-esteem and self-concept, even more and it feeds into a vicious circle.

Relationship gurus, such as Marc and Angel, list some common toxic behaviors to social interactions which is useful information for those who have social anxiety and who may wish to improve their social interactions:

1.  Taking everything too personally. – People are toxic to be around when they believe that everything happening around them is a direct assault on them or is in some way all about them.  The truth is that what people say and do to you is much more about them, than you.  People’s reactions to you are about their filters, and their perspectives, wounds and experiences.  Whether people think you’re amazing, or believe you’re the worst, again, it’s more about them.  I’m not saying we should be narcissists and ignore all feedback.  I am saying that so much hurt, disappointment and sadness in our lives comes from our taking things personally when it’s far more productive and healthy to let go of others’ good or bad opinion of you, and to operate with your own heart, intuition and wisdom as your guide.

2.  Acting like you’re always a victim. – Another toxic behavior is persistent complaining that fuels your sense of victimization.  Believing you’re a victim, that you have no power to exert and no power over the direction of your life, is a toxic stance that keeps you stuck.  Working as a life coach with people who’ve suffered terrible trauma in their lives but found the courage to turn it all around, I know that we have access to far more power, authority, and influence over our lives than we initially believe.  When you stop complaining, and refuse to see yourself as a hapless victim, you’ll find that you are more powerful than you realized, but only if you choose to accept this reality.

3.  Obsessive negative thinking – It’s very hard to be around people who speak incessantly about the terrible things that could happen and have happened, the slights they’ve suffered, and the unfairness of life.  These people stubbornly refuse to see the positive side of life and the positive lessons from what’s happening.  Pessimism is one thing – but remaining perpetually locked in negative thoughts is another.  Only seeing the negative, and operating from a view that everything is negative and against you, is a skewed way of thinking and living, and you can change that. Seek out positive people and look out the way they perceive obstacles and problems in their life.

4.  Lack of emotional self-control. – An inability to manage your emotions is toxic to everyone around you.  We all know these people – those who explode in anger and tears over the smallest hiccup or problem.  Yelling at the grocery store clerk for the long line, screaming at an employee for a small error she made, or losing it with your daughter for spilling juice on the floor.  If you find that you’re overly emotional, losing it at every turn, you need some outside assistance to help you gain control over your emotions and understand what’s at the root of your emotionality.  There’s more to it than what appears on the surface.  An outside perspective – and a new kind of support – can work wonders.

5.  Cruelty (or lacking empathy and compassion). – One of the most toxic behaviors – cruelty – stems from a total lack of empathy, concern or compassion for others. We see it every day online and in the media – people being devastatingly unkind and hurtful to others just because they can.  They tear people down online in a cowardly way, using their anonymity as a shield.  Cruelty, backstabbing, and hurting others for any reason is toxic, and it hurts you as well.

6.  Needing constant validation. – Last but not least, people who constantly strive for validation by others are exhausting to be around.  Those men and women who get caught up in the need to prove their worth over and over and over, and constantly want to “win” over everyone around them, are unintentionally toxic and draining.  Know this.  Overly-attaching to how things have to look to others can wear you out and bring everyone else around you down.  There is a bigger picture to your life, and it’s not about what you achieve in the eyes of the masses.  It’s about the journey, the process, the path – what you’re learning, how you’re helping others learn too, and the growing process you allow yourself to participate in.

What can you do to help someone/be a friend to someone you suspect has Social Anxiety? 

  • Be alert to when they attempt to join into conversations and listen to them with consideration, and without judgement.
  • Be aware that although they might appear rude and abrupt, they would never intend to come across in this way, and it is often their lack of social experiences that make them withdraw, or be incapable of responding appropriately.
  • Accept them the way they are, and always remain positive whilst empathizing.
  • Invite them to social outing without pressure, such as small groups situations or in a situation that they would not find threatening, such as stopping by their desk each day for a quick chat.

Something to Ponder About

Anorexia – Beauty is more than skin deep

I am thirteen, and I hate myself. Hating is easy, but love takes courage. Courage I hope to have some day. For now, I just take each day as a gift. That is why they call it the present, a cliched expression says….

But this is not where my story starts, for I am the product of many years where I have cultivated the darker side of my personality. The thoughts, the distorted perceptions don’t flourish overnight; they  slowly sneak up, unnoticed, all the while sucking the life out of  my soul. Yet they are all of me.

They call it anorexia, an eating disorder. Yet it is nothing to do with my stomach, I feel it in my head, and in my heart. Do not judge me. I want to be judge, and jury.shadow3

My past haunts me, and is me. I am broken, but this is where I feel safe and whole. I feel in control of my body. Or am I?

People, such as this girl with anorexia, have complex problems, and strive for perfection and control that is difficult in an imperfect world. We all are imperfect, in many ways, we all fail, yet everyone still has a rite to be here and to be accepted without expectations.

Beauty is not just how you look on the outside. Can you make the world a better place? Can you make people feel good about themselves? Can you help others?  People like this are 100 times more beautiful than the cover girl on the fashion magazine. Inner beauty never needs makeup, or fad diets, or a stick thin body.

As Steve Maroboli writes:

“Get off the scale! I have yet to see a scale that can tell you how enchanting your eyes are. I have yet to see a scale that can show you how wonderful your hair looks when the sun shines its glorious rays on it. I have yet to see a scale that can thank you for your compassion, sense of humor, and contagious smile. Get off the scale because I have yet to see one that can admire you for your perseverance when challenged in life.”

Laurie Halse Anderson says:

“Food is life. And that’s the problem. When you’re alive, people can hurt you. It’s easier to crawl into a bone cage or a snowdrift of confusion. It’s easier to lock everybody out.
But it’s a lie.”

Hating is easy, but love takes courage. Courage I hope she will have one day. For now, she  takes each day as a gift. That is why they call it ‘the present.’

Something Serious to Ponder About

Are You OK?

Charlotte Dawson’s tragic death, reminded me of a recent campaign that highlighted the issue of mental illness, primarily depression and suicide, in our community. The R U OK? Foundation is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to encouraging all people to regularly and meaningfully ask ‘are you ok?’ as a support to colleagues and those who may be struggling with life. They aim to get people talking, by one person initiating a natural conversation that could change the way the other person is feeling or thinking. It won’t necessarily cure or solve a problem, but it may be an opportunity for us to show work colleagues/family/friends that someone cares, and who doesn’t want to feel that they were listened to?

How often do we hear comments following a suicide such as: “I thought they were fine; He seemed to be doing well /he was really happy; as if this was a total surprise. And maybe it was, so R U Ok? is a great way to identify people who are seemingly, “doing fine”, but are, in reality, suffering inside before they take any drastic steps.  It gives them an opportunity to talk, if they so wish, and may avert the downward spiral of their negative thinking.

R U OK?

Four steps were identified in the R U Ok? conversation:

1. Ask R U OK?

Start a conversation somewhere private

Build trust through open and relaxed body language

Ask open – ended questions: How, what, when, why, where, anything that does not generate a Yes No response. Paraphrase their answers so you are not firing off one question after another. You don’t want them to close down because they feel they are being interrogated.

2. Listen without judgement

Give them  time to reply

Avoid suggesting how they ‘solve’ their problem

Don’t trivialize what they are feeling

3. Encourage Action

Summarize the issues/ Paraphrase their comments

Ask them what they plan to do *** – don’t tell them what to do

Urge them to take one step towards that solution

4. Follow up ***

Put a note in your diary to call them in one week

Listen without judgement again

Ask if they’ve managed to take that first step

*** These aspects are particularly important, as they can galvanise the person into actually taking that first step, and not just thinking about it.

N.B. If they deny they have a problem, it might just mean that they are not ready to talk about it yet. so check in with them again soon. And remember… It is ok to say, “I’m not OK.”

BOUNCE BACK

The acronym BOUNCE BACK can also help individuals counteract negative thoughts.

B ad times, like bad weather, does pass. It doesn’t last. Things can always get better. Stay optimistic

O ther people can help if you talk to them. “I’m really not feeling ok”

U nhelpful thinking makes you feel more upset

N obody is perfect – not you and not others

C oncentrate on the positives (no matter how small) and use laughter (Laughter really is the best medicine!)

E verybody experiences sadness, hurt, failure, rejection and setbacks sometimes, not just you. They’re a normal part of life, don’t personalize them.

B lame fairly – how much was due to you, to others, and to bad luck?

A ccept what can’t be changed (but try to change what you can change first)

C atastrophising exaggerates your worries. Don’t believe the worst possible picture.

K eep things in perspective. It’s only one part of the spectrum of your whole life.

Mental Illness, depression, anxiety in the modern world is on the rise. Generalized Anxiety Disorder is the most commonly presenting mental illness in the world today.

R U OK?

Something sobering to ponder about.