Some words of encouragement

I want you to know that you’re worth something.

I want you to realize that, whatever problems you may be dealing with, you are never alone.

I want you to understand that people, even those you may not realize or talk to every day, are here for you.

I want you to know that whatever may have happened yesterday, last month, last year, last decade, doesn’t affect how wonderful you can make the future.

I want you to realize that you can overcome anything that comes your way, no matter who or what tells you otherwise, including your own mind.

need you to understand that there are good people in this world, around every corner, who won’t judge you, or abuse you, or put you in a place you have no desire to be in.

need you to understand that you are stronger than any self-deprecating thought that crosses your mind.

I want you to know that I know being strong isn’t easy, but nothing worth doing ever is.

I want you to know that no outside opinion of you matters, only the light you view yourself in.

need you to know that people care. I need you to know that I care. He cares. She cares. They care.

I want you to know that there are people out there who, when they look at you, see the sun.

Stay strong.

– Ryan

A Perverse Jealousy

Jealousy is such a powerful emotion. Whether talking about it in the sense of the Christian faith or not, it isn’t hard to see why it’s considered a sin. Personally, in times where I find myself jealous, it overtakes me in a way very few other emotions do. It clouds my judgement – I find my decision-making revolving around what I can do to achieve that goal that I’m envious of. There’s a fine line between jealousy and determination, and for me that gap is bridged when I find myself having negative feelings towards others who have achieved that goal. If I ever find myself thinking lesser of a person because they have something I do not, that’s my cue to take a step back and look at the situation from a level head.

Not that that’s always easy. In fact, it rarely is – it takes such dedication to this way of thinking that a whole form of therapy has risen up around it (mindfulness). It’s made especially hard on the occasions where the person you’re jealous of brings up their achievement or property like it’s nothing. “You bring this up so nonchalantly, but do you realize what I would do to have what you have? Achieve what you’ve achieved? Do you even realize how much of a standard I hold myself to based on what you have?”

Like so many other facets of life, for some reasons our brains often tell us that it’s easier to get bitter over these things, than it is to simply be grateful for another’s accomplishments. Scowl over smile, bitterness over contentment. It’s hard to pinpoint why this is, but there are a thousand different answers from a thousand different cultures, religions, and psychologists. Perhaps it stems from the competitive mindset of first-world countries, or maybe when Adam and Eve bit into the apple of knowledge, human sin came pre-packaged with jealousy.

I could go into the whole “this isn’t the right way to think,” and “comparison with others only leads to bad things” tangent, but I already have in some of my past posts. Make no mistake, I still very much believe in what I’ve said on that topic: comparison does only lead to destructive habits. To be the best us we can be, we needn’t hold ourselves to the standards of others. But I can talk and talk about why this isn’t the healthiest way of thinking, spouting factoids and studies supporting this hypothesis, but the fact of the matter is this: factoids and studies very rarely help us actually deal with these things. Comparison. Jealousy. Bitterness. Whilst it’s certainly important to understand why these feelings come about, in my opinion (and it’s just that), the world would be a better place if we actually focused on how to deal with these problems as opposed to just explaining their origins.

I’ve found myself getting overly jealous and bitter the past couple of weeks. I find myself around this entirely pleasant, enjoyable person, who has nothing but kind things to say to me. nine times out of 10, I find myself being pleasant back, but recently my depression has begun to take over and, instead of exchanging pleasantries both ways, the kindness seems to become one-sided. This individual will be kind to me, and I’m indifferent towards them. I’m passive-aggressively resentful, bitter, and simply angry. All of those negative emotions, simply because my mind tells me it’s somehow easier to resent this perfectly nice person for what they have, rather than be happy for them and realize everybody has different things at different times, as is life.

As I mentioned before, this jealousy overtakes me. I find my mind so occupied with this incredibly useless emotion that it’s difficult for me to think about much else. I’ve heard of some individuals using jealousy as a type of drive – motivation to get to a better place in their lives where they’re more content. As I feel jealousy coursing its way through me, however, I find it incredibly hard to think that some people could use this to motivate them, because for me it causes nothing but destructive thinking habits. Where one person may say, “I want what that person has, so I’m going to use this jealousy of them to push myself harder,” I generally say, “I want what that person has, but I’m not skilled or charming or innovative enough, otherwise I would have it by now.” You don’t need to tell me there are about 17 logical inconsistencies with this way of thinking – believe me, I know. But depression often overrides logic.

So, for those like me, where jealousy doesn’t motivate you, but instead breaks you, what do you do? What is the best way to deal with this poisonous mindset? Simply put, I don’t know. I practice mindfulness, and that helps to an extent, but I’m by no means a master at the craft – it takes months upon months of practice and dedication (it makes sense, though, you’re literally training your brain to subscribe to an entirely new way of thinking). For what good it does, there is one thing in particular I’ve been trying to tell myself in moments of jealousy:

Each and every person is unique. No two people accomplish the same things at the same time in the same way under the same circumstances. We all have different walks through life, regardless of how similar our circumstances may seem at first glance. In fact, I’m willing to bet someone in your own life is looking at you and saying “I wish I had that,” just as you may be with others. Do not take pride in this, but instead use it as a reminder that nobody is ever perfectly content with life – we all fall prey to wishing we have more than we already do. You aren’t alone in this.

How do you deal with jealousy? Do you have certain coping methods that help pull you through? I’d love to hear what you have to say, so comment or shoot me an email and I’d love to converse with you! All the best to you in whatever struggles you may face.

Stay strong.

  • Ryan

I hope you never understand, I hope you never forget

I don’t want you to understand what it’s like to be physically crippled by your own mind.

I don’t want you to understand what it’s like to wake up and not be able to get out of bed. Not because you physically can’t – your legs are working just fine. I don’t want you to understand what it’s like to not be able to move, simply because your own mind is preventing you from doing so. Glued to the bed, battling your own mind. Move your foot, take a step. Pick your head off the pillow. Get out of bed.

I don’t want you to understand what it feels like to nearly be overcome with anxiety just getting through your morning routine. I don’t want you to be filled with dread at the simple prospect of what the day might bring. Even if nothing has given any indication that the day ahead may bring bad things. The mere possibility that terrible things may happen can be enough to make you want to run and hide.

I don’t want you to understand the feeling that everyone in the world has it better than you. You obviously have it better than so many people, but it doesn’t matter, at least not to your mind. You can’t even pull yourself out of bed in the morning, remember?

I don’t want you to understand the feeling of a hopeless future leading nowhere.

I don’t want you to understand the feeling that the best place to spill your feelings is on a blog, because those people can’t see your face. They can’t judge a faceless writer, hundreds (or thousands) of miles away.

do want you to understand that it’s okay not to understand.

I do want you to understand that understanding isn’t necessary to support people, and love people, and have faith in people, even if those people don’t have faith in themselves.

I do want you to understand that nobody, mental health issues or not, can fix everything. I do want you to understand that nobody expects you to be able to, either.

I do want you to understand that everyone has their own stories and their own battles, regardless of whether they let other people actually see those things.

I do want you to understand that people shouldn’t expect to be loved by all, or worshiped, or the center of attention at all times. People just want to be accepted for who they are, not forced to change to suit society’s whims and expectations. In fact, I bet you already do understand that.

I don’t want you to understand my mind, just be content with that fact that you never will. I truly don’t want you to feel any of this for yourself. So just talk with me. Support me, if you can. Be there for me when I need you, and hell, even when I don’t need you to. I will do my best to be there for you. Protect me from my own mind, because ironically enough, that’s what I’m most afraid of.

I hope you find happiness to the best of your ability, and I hope that you wish the same for me. I hope you’re able to remember that you aren’t alone, you have people here for you, whether you realize it or not. I hope you understand that there are others who understand. I hope you understand that there are others who feel the same things you do, in good moments and in bad.

I hope you know that people care about you, and what happens to you, and your happiness. I hope you never forget that.

I hope you stay strong, regardless of what your own mind says to you, because you can overcome it.

  • Ryan

You’re good enough.

So my day is kind of crappy so far. My depression has decided to make itself front and center in my mind today, and I’m feeling it.

It’s trying to tell me that I’m not good enough. But I am. As are you.

So I’m taking a super short post to say just that – you’re good enough. Whether it’s another person or your own mind trying to tell you otherwise, the fact still stands that you’re deserving of happiness.

No matter what mistakes you made today, or yesterday, or last year, you’re deserving of contentment. Your life isn’t defined by the ‘whats’ or ‘whos,’ it’s defined by the ‘whys.’ Your intentions.

Even as I write this, my mind is screaming at me that I’m full of crap. But I know better. I’m worth something, and you’re worth a hell of a lot, too.

Stay strong.

  • Ryan

 

Compassion, not just kindness

“Compassion is the keen awareness of the interdependence of all things.”

Far too often, true compassion is overlooked as just being simple kindness. There’s nothing wrong with being kind, of course. All acts of compassion are kind, however, not all acts of kindness are compassionate. It’s the societal norm to be kind to others. If you walk into a grocery store and be a jerk to the person in front of you in line, people are going to give you dirty looks. Being rude or ignorant is, in most cases, considered socially unacceptable. Nearly everyone is considered to have a certain amount of decency towards others, even if it means going through the motions. This often means empty gestures. Yes, that person won’t get angry with the grocery store patron in front of them that’s taking forever to pay, but mostly because society would look at that with a figurative scowl.

I don’t want to imply that all acts of kindness come from social necessity, that certainly isn’t the case. There are absolutely people who are kind in public not because of any norm forced upon them, but because they genuinely want to be kind. They realize that patience will get them farther than initiating conflict ever will. But I’d be lying if I said that I believe that’s most people.

If there’s any one thing that my experiences with depression have shown me in force, it’s that people often see what I consider to be my “realist” attitude as pessimistic. I’ve said many times before that I believe in the inherent good in all people. I do. But inherent is the key word for me. While everybody has the potential for infinite caring, it seems that so few people, well, act on that. So, if people have the potential for unconditional love, why is it so uncommon? There’s probably a long list of reasons why: for fear of it being seen as weak and vulnerable, because the feeling may not be reciprocated… but my guess is that the most common reason why is because it’s simply easier to be indifferent to it all.
We can still perform these empty acts of kindness without much sacrifice on our part, but true compassion requires looking outside of our own self more often than not. Why sacrifice our own time, putting our emotions aside for the sake to help others with theirs? It seems like such a predatory mindset – kill or be killed. Look after yourself and your own emotions, or supposedly risk your mental well-being to help someone else maybe feel a bit better. From that viewpoint, the answer as to which seems better is obvious. How, then, is compassion worth it?

To understand that, it’s important that we understand what compassion actually is. To have compassion for something, be it a person, group, or cause, is to care about it on a deeper level. It’s easy to be kind to people we see in passing. To have compassion for them is a different thing entirely. While kindness is just that, kindness, compassion is fostering understanding for one’s situation, considering everything affecting it. Compassion is attempting to understand where one is coming from, be it good, bad, or somewhere in between, and caring for them anyway. Compassion is understanding that you will never be able to fully understand anyone else, nor they you, but loving and accepting them for who they are and what they have to offer anyway. Compassion and acceptance go hand-in-hand – if you cannot accept someone, then it’s impossible to understand and sympathize with them.

The word ‘compassion’ has its roots in Latin. The root of the word, compati, literally means to “suffer with.” While I don’t believe that having compassion for something means you must suffer with it, it shows that true compassion is opening yourself up to the plight of others, whether you have a stake in the situation or not. Human society, and even more than that, human understanding, is built on the foundation of togetherness. This means different things to different people, but I believe cooperation and understanding for others is key. Humans can’t live alone. You can stick a person in the middle of nowhere for years and years, alone, and they may find a way to survive. But emotionally, they will be broken. Cut someone off from any possible chance of compassion, and everything they have dealt with and everything they will deal with is theirs and theirs alone. Compassion allows them to share the burden with others, strengthening relationships and fostering understanding. How many fewer wars would be fought it compassion was shown to enemies instead of no mercy? Instead of the “kill or be killed” mindset?

This may seem like an incredibly naïve mindset. I’m not advocating for pacifism, but I do believe that rudeness, mocking, hatred, and violence should never be the first go-to for a lack of understanding. If we put compassion ahead of everything else, how many fewer people would feel the need to end their own life? To turn to drugs or alcohol? To violence?

Letting ourselves be open to others doesn’t mean rejecting ourselves, though. By seeing what others go through, we can become better equipped to deal with our own ups and downs. To reiterate what I said before: “Compassion is the keen awareness of the interdependence of all things.” Humans can survive alone. But to truly live, emotionally, mentally, spiritually…we need someone who has compassion for us. But how can we morally ask for compassion if we aren’t willing to give it ourselves?

So many problems in the world, past and present, are attributed to a lack of understanding. Compassion surpasses understanding – it allows for unconditional caring even when we don’t understand everything. But, understanding or no, it promotes cooperation. Again, I’m not saying we should all be pacifists. As morbid as it may sound, as long as humanity exists, violence will accompany us. But it certainly doesn’t have to be something we so readily turn to when understanding evades us. On a larger scale, like when it comes to entire nations, it’s obviously much, much tougher. But it’s possible. It has to be, if we start individually and build it up. For it to affect things larger than us, it first has to affect us. It needs to become a way of life, living compassionately. It would take years, I know. Years and years. But so do most things worth fighting for.

Understanding surpasses ignorance. Compassion surpasses simple kindness. And all of those things surpass violence due to lack of understanding. Compassion first. Everything else afterwards.

Stay strong.

  • Ryan

Self-Affirmations

Beating ourselves up is easy. Find an aspect of our personality that we don’t like, or look at something we did which we regret, and anything taken out of proportion enough can seem catastrophic. Loving ourselves can be harder. Giving ourselves compliments, even internally, can make us feel like we’re bragging, celebrating our successes when maybe the world doesn’t even feel that they need to be celebrated. But it doesn’t have to be the rest of the world that validates us. We can validate ourselves. We can determine whether we deserve love or hate, and which we choose to receive (or deny). I’ll tell you right now, I’m a firm believer that everyone deserves love. I’m willing to bet that most people feel that way. But accepting it, even from ourselves, can be a hell of a lot tougher than some people might imagine.

So I’m going to just post a few sentences here. Self-affirmations. Things we can say to ourselves to remind us of our inherit worth. Say them out loud, that’s important. If you just think them, they’ll be like every other self-praising thought that passes through your mind. Saying these out loud gives them substance – even just hearing the words can help. You may say them out loud and feel no different. That’s okay. Like I said before, only we can choose whether we’re open to receiving love, and saying these things to ourselves gives our mind the opportunity to accept that love, in this particular case, self-love. You’re worth so much, if you won’t take my word for it, maybe you’ll take your own.

 

I have the capability to love myself and others, unconditionally.

I have worth, not determined by outward circumstances or others’ opinions of me, but inherit worth.

I don’t need validation from the world to accept myself, I only need validation from myself.

I am so much more than anything illnesses that may plague my brain or body; I am a soul, a human consciousness, and no disease or affliction can change that.

I live in a world where people can be cruel, but can also have hearts bigger than the sun.

I have people, whether I realize it or not, that genuinely care about me and wish for my success, my happiness, and my inner peace.

I am a unique soul with unique circumstances; I have lived a life unlike any other that has come before or will come after, and what I have to offer the world is something that nobody else ever can.

I am flawed, I am guilt-ridden, I am not perfect in any sense of the word, but no one is. I am better than good enough. I am good.

 

  • Ryan

“Success”(the real kind)

I tend to talk a lot about how I compare myself to others based on my “successes.” When I say that word, success, I’m generally talking about outwardly achieving something – careers, relationships, acquiring material goods, etc. But looking back, it’s odd that I would use the word “success” in this way, as none of those things are what I consider propelling me to success. (Oh Lord, I feel like I’m going to use that word at least 30 times before this post is finished…) However, I think it’s fair to say that society sees achievement and (sigh) success as being directly linked to those things, especially things acquired with money. High school teachers and parents push us to do well in school, so we can apply to a good college and get a good job and turn it into a great career, therefore being “successful.” Young adults in many countries are encouraged to find the love of their life and marry them and have children soon after, so that you’ve done your part to contribute to the continuation of the family line and therefore are “successful.” If you make a good amount of money at your job you can buy a nice house and nice furnishings in a nice neighborhood, so that you’re “successful.”

Per society, it seems that there are many paths to this so-called success, but almost all of them involve having a good amount of money. Now, practicality-wise, I get it. If you’re a young adult entering the world, planning on getting by on food stamps and schmoozing off your parents, you probably don’t have the right goals in mind. To say that money is completely unimportant would be an unfortunate lie. But does that necessarily mean that we must base whether we’re doing life “right” on it?

I’m sure that many people have heard this spiel before. Money isn’t everything, love is what matters, give hugs not war, etc. etc. There isn’t anything wrong with these opinions, believe me. Many of them are just different versions of saying the same thing: life is more than materialistic things. In a perfect world where everyone was provided with what they need to have a good life, these lessons would be far easier to take to heart. The fact of the matter, though, is that it isn’t a perfect world. There are social and economic classes, hierarchies, monopolies…unfortunately, “equal footing” is a rare thing nowadays (speaking purely on tangible goods and possessions).

Success is directly linked to happiness, yes? Simply put, if you’re “successful” you didn’t fail, therefore you did things right, therefore you have no reason to be upset, or depressed, or guilty. …right? That being said, I try putting myself into society’s success scenario. I picture myself with a career I love in which I make plenty of money. Each night I come home to my wife and kids, my perfect American family. We live in the best neighborhood in the area, buy only the highest quality foods, and everyone we know loves us. So, Ryan, you’re happy, right? You have no reason not to be.

Now I can only speak for myself here, but no matter how many $100 bills I throw at my head, my depression is unfazed. My anxiety doesn’t care either. You can certainly make the argument that more money pays for better treatment, such as the most reputable outpatient counseling or one of the most renowned psychologists. This is true, however, unless those expensive methods have some magic trick for getting inside your head and pulling the mental illnesses out like you would the funny bone in Operation, the fact is those illnesses will never fully go away. I’m not saying this to be morbid; there are many tried and true methods of getting depression, anxiety, and other mental illnesses under control, I’m just trying to illustrate the fact that, in the end, money honestly doesn’t make that much of a difference when it comes to treating mental health.

So, going back to this scenario I picture myself in, and I genuinely don’t see myself as “happy.” Content? Probably. Grateful for what I have? Absolutely. But free from worry? No longer picturing myself in the worst possible scenarios? Not a chance.

We all know that money can’t buy happiness; it clearly doesn’t buy sound mental health either. So, what does give us relief from our own minds? If there’s a good answer, then I couldn’t tell you, as I’m still trying to figure that out myself. Again, there are many reliable, health-conscious methods for keeping these illnesses under control, but what eradicates them for good? (Seriously, if you know, tell me. While you’re at it, tell everyone you know. Call up all the world leaders and tell them too, because I think most everybody with a mental illness asks that question at one point or another.)

Putting society’s definition aside, I truly believe that success comes not from outward achievement, but instead from the comfort of our own minds. If you’re content in much that you do, no guilt, sadness, hurt…in my eyes you’re already successful. As someone who suffers day-to-day with something as simple as accepting myself for who I am, being able to look at your life and say “that’s okay,” seems like a fairy tale to me.

And how does combatting our mental illnesses directly lead us to successful lives? Does it even count as success if we’re only temporarily holding it at bay, and not wiping it from the board completely? Once again, these are questions I have no good answers for. Society already has their multiple definitions of success all figured out – good grades lead to good college which leads to good career which leads to good money. “Success.” Or: significant other leads to wedding leads to happy marriage leads to children. “Success.” Please, I don’t want to sound like I’m demeaning any of these things at all. If you worked hard to get to where you are, be it a happy marriage or successful career, truly, good for you. Be proud of yourself for that, and be grateful. I’d only like to stress that true happiness lies in much more than what society defines as life achievement.

I don’t really have a “lesson” here per say, this is just something I’ve thought about since examining my own tendency to compare myself to others based on “successes,” and it got me thinking. Let me know if you agree or disagree, either in the comments or reach out via email or Facebook. Is “success” being content with your life, regardless of your monetary or materialistic circumstances? Or is it something else entirely?

Best wishes, everyone.

  • Ryan