Thursday, June 27, 2013

A Hidden Star

Recently, I spoke with the amazing and inspiring TeeJay Dowe of Back on Track Teens and Talent Dynamics. In a (very brief) nutshell, TeeJay's passion is working with youth to help them move from a place of low confidence and self esteem, to a place where they feel confident and capable. I know TeeJay could describe it much more in depth, so if you have any questions, definitely check out her website and reach out to her. I can almost ensure that her energy and enthusiasm for what she does will inspire and motivate you. For the record, TeeJay did not in any way ask me to write this or promote her work - I actually reached out to her and asked if it would be ok for me to write a blog talking about my insights after taking the profile questionnaire (more on this in a minute) and speaking with her about her about my results.

The profile questionnaire, to give a very brief overview, asks a wide variety of multiple choice questions to determine which one of the eight possible profiles that best fits you. Mine came out, quite surprisingly, as "Star". I say surprising because if you've ever heard me talk about being up in front of people, especially for something like giving a presentation, you know that I have to picture everyone in their underwear to do so. Ok not really. Well, maybe. I trained in voice and won't do karaoke because I don't like to be in front of people. So the fact that my selected profile mentioned how those with my personality are good at holding the stage, working out of a crisis, are best in a leadership role, and are happy to be the center of attention, first seemed to me to be inaccurate. However, the profile did include that Stars have high energy, are visionaries/big picture thinkers, are creative, able to inspire others, and optimistic and those certainly hit home. So I gave it some thought, and had a follow up chat with TeeJay via skype.

The more I thought about it, and as I talked to TeeJay, I realized that this could in fact be the correct profile. As I pondered and dissected the profile and my current life situation and transitions, I noticed that the view I've always held of myself might not have been all that accurate. The reason that I've never felt I could be in top leadership, or center stage (yes, even during karaoke) was primarily lack of confidence. Evidenced by the fact that when I had needed to step into these situations at times, I actually had shined quite well - pun somewhat intended. Furthermore, as I reflected that over the past few years, I realized that when a few leadership opportunities had come up, I jumped up and down saying "I can do this!" even when others didn't necessarily believe that I could. And I got frustrated when others didn't see that potential. In the past year, I begun projects that, if they take off and become more "substantial" than projects I just enjoy working on, would probably put me center stage. Not because I'm looking to be, but because they're things I've envisioned and taken the lead on, and I'm therefore associated with their potential success whether I want to be in the spotlight or not.

I feel like through the profile, and through my followup discussions regarding it, I've unlocked some hidden potential. Or perhaps I've realized that it was there all along and I just wasn't giving credit where credit was due - i.e. to myself and my abilities. I'm excited to think further on what I can do and where I can go with this new knowledge that I have. And, as always, I'll be documenting that journey along the way.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Lessons From Your Dog

You've probably heard the saying "everything I ever needed to know about life I learned from my dog", or some variation on this. I've previously written a blog about inspiration from my dog, but I thought I'd add a "part 2", because the more I watch my dog, the more I realize that she really has it right - the times she stares at the corner shaking in a thunderstorm notwithstanding. But truly, if I think about her life and the things that make her happy, I think we really all could learn some lessons from our dogs. Here are a few of my observations:

My dog Cinn, resting in the sun. 
  • Don't sweat the small stuff. While it's true that my dog has a decent amount of fear of random things, she's certainly not analytical. Her food falls on the floor, it's totally still edible. Even after five seconds or ten seconds or whatever the appropriate "rule" is. A loud noise bothers her, but she forgets within seconds and continues to go about her day like it never existed. 
  • Take it easy. I don't know about your pup, but mine spends a majority of her time relaxing. Many humans, on the other hand, can barely carve out an hour each day for ourselves. 
  • Forgive and forget. Assuming it's not intentionally cruel or repetitious, if my dog is "wronged" - i.e. someone accidentally steps on her tail or her paw - she might wimper for a second, but then she's right back to her usual self, and not holding a grudge against the offender. 
  • Enjoy the simple pleasures. My dog loves just sitting out in the sunshine. I think she could happily do it for hours. There's nothing fancy or high tech required. Just some grass and the sun. 
  • Love unconditionally. Cinn's as excited to see me when I come home after walking out to get the mail as she is if I've been gone for hours. And when she needs comfort, she always comes to me. Being by the one she loves is enough to ease almost anything. 
  • Follow your instinct. Some dogs are certainly brighter than others, but one thing they all have in common is instinct. My dog could predict a "scary" event  well before I could. I'm sure there's a scientific explanation of exactly how, but the point is that she can. She's not "thinking" about it, it just comes naturally. 
Cinn hanging out in my parents back yard.

I often look at my dog and think, "I wish I could just enjoy the moment like she is... look how happy she is just at the idea of a walk or a car ride." While our lives as humans are certainly more complex, and if we never gave thought to or analyzed anything at all we'd probably be in trouble, it doesn't mean we can't take a step back and live by some simpler rules once in a while. I think I just might try it.

This post was written as part of the I AM WOMAN 30 Day Blog and Linkedin Challenge. 

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Five Reasons to Care About Mental Health Care

Often my blogs are a bit more "all life encompassing", with an underlying emphasis on mental health. However, once in a while, I think it's important to point out why I'm so passionate about mental health, and why one does not need to have a mental health condition in order to learn and care about the topic. So I thought I'd share a few of my "top reasons" for people to truly gain a better understanding of mental health.
  • Studies have traditionally recorded that 1 in 4 Americans deal with a mental health condition in any given year. New studies have now increased that number to as much as 1 in 3 American adults.  For children, that number is 1 in 5. While numbers will certainly vary from country to country, the prevalence is high enough that the World Health Organization has created a "Comprehensive Mental Health Action Plan" for the years 2013-2020. 
  • Mental health does not just include more "serious" conditions like bipolar and schizophrenia, as many people think. It also encompasses conditions such as Eating Disorders, Sleep-wake Disorders, Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder  (ADD/ADHD), and Substance Use Disorders, many of which are prevalent not only in adults, but in teens and youth as well. 
  • Symptoms do not have to be extreme to be considered a mental health condition. For instance, cyclothymia is characterized by "milder" mood swings than the better known bipolar disorder, while dysthymia is described as "mild, but long term (chronic) form of depression" (source: Mayo Clinic). Many people can go years or even decades battling symptoms before being diagnosed and getting treatment. 
  • The correlation between mental health and violence towards others has been grossly overstated by the media and the lack of understanding about mental health from the general public. Because of this, those with mental health conditions are facing increasingly negative stigma. Studies done in the U.K.  - unfortunately no statistics were provided for the U.S. - showed that 95 percent of homicides were committed by those with no diagnosis of any type of mental illness. (Source: Time To Change).  Mental health conditions can be difficult enough, without having to deal with stigma from one's social circle, colleagues, and employers. 
  • In 2009, suicide was the third leading cause of death among people ages 15-24, accounting for 14.4 percent of all deaths. (source: NIHM). Other suicide facts include:
    • Up to 20% of those diagnosed with depression or bipolar disorder die from suicide. 
    • Up to 15% of those diagnosed with schizophrenia die from suicide. 
    • Those diagnosed with a personality disorder are three times as likely to die from suicide as those without. (source for the above: Mental Health Reporting)
Mental health can be touchy subject for many people. Those who are diagnosed often don't want to talk about it, and those who are not diagnosed often are uncomfortable asking about it. This makes learning about and understanding mental health all the more important. The battle to spread mental health awareness and change the perception is certainly an uphill one, but the more people who work to do so, the more quickly and effectively we can overcome the stigma and focus on the actual important tasks, like research, treatment, and helping those who deal with these conditions every day. 

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

A Year Of Chances

Every New Years, I'm convinced "this is going to be the year!". The year for what, I'm not sure. The year I finally figure out how to reach my dream, they year I decide to take my dog and laptop and work from the road, the year I win the lottery and never have to worry about a bill again? Ok not the last one... I even don't play the lottery. But for some reason, the start of a new year always makes me feel like "definitely, this is it". Probably, it's my subconscious attempt to grandly exit the previous year which wasn't "the year".

I realized, though, that every year, I somehow seem to expect the world to do the work for me. Not that I don't work hard at my career and company, in my relationships both personal and professional. But I didn't do a whole lot differently. Sure, I've done a business analysis of my company to see how it is doing and what changes are needed, and I've talked with friends and family about my general goals in life. But there wasn't a lot of chance taking on a larger scale. I didn't evaluate my life as a whole - was I doing what I truly wanted to be doing? Was there anything missing that I might want to have or be doing down the road?  Was I really making room in my life my dreams and living a life that encouraged them? These are the kind of questions I tended to gloss over at best.

I've learned that a "stagnant" life is not for me. I don't do so well with the status quo. I need life to be exciting and interesting and a place where I'm constantly learning and growing. In 2013 I realized that in order for it to be "the year", I needed to start taking chances. I took a really deep look at myself, and what I wanted in every aspect of my life. I realized that I needed to take a few big leaps, and hope that I was either successful or that there was a sturdy net below. I needed to get out of my comfort zone. I accepted that it's ok to say "I need a bit of a change in what I'm doing" or "I need xyz in my life because it feels more fulfilling".

This year I decided to participate in a kindle book anthology and this current blog challenge a  for I AM WOMAN (link below). The decision was very nerve wracking. I get anxiety with people reading my work at times... ironic for a blogger, I know. I also have been working with a friend to organize a hike to benefit the Brain and Behavior Research Foundation. Talk about putting yourself out there - what if nobody signs up and the only donations are from blood relatives who are obligated? I'm also collaborating with another friend on organizing a destination writing retreat, which is something I've mulled over for quite a while. I told that same friend that I wanted to teach a writing workshop to help people with mental health conditions, and she told me she's going to convince me to make it happen. I found that, despite my fear of failure, I'm actually encouraging her to do so. These are huge chances in my book, and I'm taking them all in the same time frame. I'll be honest - it feels great. I feel like I'm moving forward, making my mark, and getting to where I truly want to be. Some might take off, and others might not, but I'm doing something about them, and gaining experience and knowledge along the way.

So perhaps, this is your year too. Maybe there some places you've been holding back, or some unexplored corners you'd like to reach into. Perhaps you are working on letting go of past troubles or hurts so that you can move forward towards where you want to be. I'm pretty convinced, though, that barring any personal traumas,  if we take some chances, it can be our year. Because you're trying, and that means you're learning and you're moving. You're not sitting around and waiting for it to happen. You're digging down deep, taking some risks, and allowing for changes to take place.

This blog is written as part of the I AM WOMAN 30 Day Blog and LinkedIn Challenge. 

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Head Vs Heart

A few weeks ago, I wrote about the gremlin that lives inside my head, and how I deal with that. If that sentence confused you or freaked you out or made you in any way curious, you can read about that here.  I thought I'd do a follow up post, because it's a topic that seems to be reoccurring in my life, as well as others I've talked to who deal with mental health conditions (and to be honest, probably a good number of people who do not have diagnosed conditions).

With cyclothymia, I deal with the constant battle of opposing self-talk between my head and my heart. In the general population, the brain is traditionally seen as the logical side, whereas the heart is viewed as the emotional, often less reasonable side. What if, though, everything were reversed? What if your brain liked to play tricks on you... like telling you that you're no good at something when you are in fact talented? Or telling you that people don't like you when you have a big circle of friends and loved ones? This is a struggle that I face, and I would venture to guess this is quite true of a lot of people with mood cycling, as well as anxiety, panic, and depressive disorders. It's also probably rather accurate for those who are not diagnosed, yet battle low confidence and low self-esteem. 

In this case, how do you sort fact from fiction? For me, the answer is quite simple. My heart almost always wins the battle with the brain. My brain requires medication in order to function "normally". And I mean that in the purest form. My brain doesn't work the way that others' do.  My brain is more porous, figuratively speaking. It often listens only to the negative. It soaks up others' thoughts that counteract my own opinions and beliefs of myself.  It generally sees only black and white. It's not happy with logical reasoning because quite frankly, that logical reasoning isn't always all that logical in my world. It's cautious. It would be content to live this life carefully, hedging every bet just so that "I don't mess up".  My brain is tends to think that its own shadow is that of a predator.  Furthermore, depending on what type of cycle I'm in, it sometimes seems to want me to fail. Quite frankly, I don't trust my brain at times. I feel it often lies to me, or at best, withholds some truth. 

My heart, on the other hand, does not. I know that my heart is genuine, and accurate, and not playing tricks on me. My heart is brave and courageous. It will not let me lie on my deathbed and look back and say "I wish I had..." or "I regret that I didn't...".  My heart knows when I'm really good at something, and encourages me instead of trying to scare me off. It recognizes the good people in my life instead of making me feel lonely. I trust my heart. Which I know is counterintuitive for most people. For many, their heart is a place of emotion, which can mean joy or hurt or fear or confusion, instead of good old reliable logic. For me though, that is all logic. The stuff my brain tells me can sometimes be a whole lot of BS. The stuff my heart tells me, that's real and to me, "logical" in the sense that it's trustworthy, and it makes sense. My brain can be a saboteur who tries to prevent me from taking risks and following dreams. My heart knows me better, and knows I'd be sorry down the road if I let my brain win. 

Of course I'm sure you can think of examples in which the brain is more accurate. Common place thoughts of the brain like "the milk is curdling, I probably shouldn't drink it" are probably pretty reliable, because in that instance you're using the brain for exactly what it's for - factual information. But major life decisions, ones that generally contribute to my happiness or lack thereof, those I assign the heart. It's different for everyone I'm sure. For me,  I'm slowly and surely learning to give less control to the gremlin in my brain, and more to that part of me that I know I can trust. I can say that in doing so, I'm much happier. 

This post has been written as part of the I AM WOMAN 30 Day Blog and LinkedIn Challenge

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Finding Your Hidden Talent

I'm convinced everyone has at least one hidden talent. Not like touching your nose with your tongue (though that's also impressive, I can't even roll mine), but a genuine talent that you don't even know you possess, that could be used in your career, volunteer work, organizations, or even personal life. Perhaps you have an talent for poetry, or you pick up languages well. Maybe you're great with numbers or can sketch but haven't done it in years so forgot you're even any good. It doesn't have to be a physical talent. You may be a good leader or organizer. People might love your passion for a particular idea or cause  or the fact that you're a good listener, but it's something you've always taken for granted and never considered a talent.

When I started my blog, I knew that I enjoyed writing and I wanted to put my story "out there". Gradually, I began to post it on social media and get positive feedback from others. Slowly, my confidence started to build, and I decided to partake in both the Kindle Book Challenge, and 30 Day Blog and Linkedin Challenge through I AM WOMAN (link at the bottom of this page for more information). Both took a large amount of courage because, despite the positive comments I'd gotten on my blog in the past, including a few "you should write a book"s, I've generally been pretty convinced that if I show my writing to *real* writers (as in those who are published and have experience beyond a blog they produce themselves), it'll look totally rubbish compared to what they do.

The point of this blog, though, is not to tout my "success" at all. I just wanted to give that background as an example of a hidden talent I've found (I still feel weird calling it a talent but I'm trying!), utilizing it once you've discovered it, and how good it can feel to do so.

So how do you discover your hidden talent?
  • Examine the things you like to do in your spare time. (Eliminate things like "go out drinking with friends" unless you really feel your hidden talent involves beer in some way- and I'm not kidding on that ... I have friends that have become brew masters!). Are there any that you feel you are decent at, or that just really stick out as something you enjoy more than the rest? Note - I say decent because we often under estimate our own abilities. 
  • Ask your friends what your talents are. If you could have another career, or do volunteer work somewhere, what do they think you should do? What others see in you can tell you a lot because they're looking at it more objectively, with less of the negativities that can often alter our self-perceptions. 
  • If you could do or be anything, what would you d/be and why? Often our passions are a good indicator of where our abilities lie. After all, how many of us love to do only things we're terrible at? 
  • Look at the types of things you post and read on social media (or anywhere for the reading part). Do you see any themes? For instance if you always post things about animals, perhaps your hidden talent has something to do with working with animals. If you always share things about how to treat others, perhaps you'd be good working with those going through a difficult time. 
Keep track of the answers to the questions above. Do you see any commonalities? If not, which stick out in your mind as the most accurate or interesting? Give them some thought, and think about how you may be able to use these. It may be, like writing for me, something you just want to do for yourself right now. It may develop into more, or it may just be a form of relaxation and release for you - both of which would be excellent outcomes. On the other hand, you could discover something that you really want to use, either in a career, volunteer work, or some other way. However you choose to use it, I can almost guarantee you'll find something if you just try. And don't let yourself talk you out of it - it can be very easy to dismiss a friend's opinion as "I'm not really good at that, they're just humoring me". Chances are, they're not. There's really no point in them doing so -it's not like you're putting it on a resume for your dream job, you're just asking them their thoughts. So I'm curious - has anyone discovered a hidden talent? Did you find anything that surprised you? I'd love to hear!

This blog is written as part of the I AM WOMAN 30 Day Blog and LinkedIn Challenge

Thursday, June 6, 2013

The Walls We Build

I'd venture to say that everyone has, at some point in their life, gotten hurt by someone that they cared about, or trusted, or, most likely, both. For many of us, it's probably happened numerous times. In some cases, it may have been an outright betrayal and in others it might have just been a situation that didn't work out, and the hurt isn't the result of blame, but of disappointment. Regardless of the reason, when hurt happens, we tend to build up walls. The next time we encounter a similar situation, we're more guarded. We trust less easily, and we're more protective of our heart and our spirit.

It's totally understandable. If you touch a stove and it burns you badly, you don't want to touch it again unless you absolutely know it's been turned off for a substantial amount of time. It's common sense, really. It's how we learn from our past so that painful history doesn't repeat itself time and again. At the same time, the higher the walls you build, the more you're not only keeping others out, but you're closing yourself in. And one day, you may wake up, look around, and realize you've completely walled yourself in, and you're trapped inside. The line between learning from the past and protecting yourself a little, and stranding yourself inside of your own fortress, can become very thin.

Getting hurt is no fun. I think we can all easily agree on that. But neither is not feeling anything, or at least very little - which is exactly what can happen as you build higher and higher walls. And it therefore becomes a careful balance, and a question you have to ask yourself. Would I rather risk being hurt, but also take the chance that I'm going to experience some very positive things, or would I rather cut off the pain, but also cut out all of the positive as well? I think it's a question that each of us have to answer for ourselves individually. And of course, it doesn't have to be an all or nothing - you can close up a little, but still leave some room for emotion - but you may risk it getting more and more severe.

I've personally come to the conclusion that I'm an emotional being. I love feeling happiness, and laughing, and the feeling of companionship and comfort I find with close friends and loved ones. And I have come of with a few questions that I have to ask myself when I'm tempted to wall myself up after a seriously painful experience. I thought I'd share them, in case they could help anyone dealing with the same.

  • Am I holding the mistakes of others against someone that has no connection to them? 
  • If so, has the (new) person I'm holding them against given me any actual reason to do so? It's important that "they care about me" or "this situation feels (emotionally) scary" aren't in and of themselves legitimate reasons. It's nothing they've personally done that indicates you should close them off.
  • What could happen if I build up walls against this person? Is it worth risking this to avoid potential hurt?
  • What could happen if I (possibly slowly) let down the walls? Is this worth the risk of getting hurt? 
  • What is the absolute worst thing that could happen if I stop building walls? (ie, will you physically perish, or will you be emotionally hurt for a while?). 
  • In the long run, being totally honest with myself, would I be ok if this absolute worst thing happened. This doesn't mean would everything be fine right away. It means would I survive if it happened, and eventually, over time, be ok? Even if that eventually was a year from now or more. 
I can honestly say, I've been through a lot. I have trusted people time and again only to get hurt. I can also say, I wouldn't have changed any of it. I would not have traded all of the good experiences just to not get hurt. And sometimes, it helps to make a list of all of the positive experiences in those situations, and how you'd feel if they never happened. I think in the end that's what it comes down to. Weighing the good, and the bad, and deciding how much you can handle. For me, the good always wins, because I never want to look back and wonder what would have happened. I'd rather know I gave it everything I had and gained every possible experience from it as a result, even if it meant getting hurt.

This blog has been written as part of the 30 Day I AM WOMAN Blog and Linkedin Challenge. 

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Random Gratitude

I recently downloaded an (iphone) app called Random Gratitude. I was looking for a handy way in which I could keep track of the positive, happy, or fortunate things that happen to me in every day life. Because to be honest, I can lose sight of the fact that they do indeed happen in everyday life. I am a huge fan of free apps, and I came across this one, and thought I'd give it a try. The basic premise is that each day, at a random time - you can set the parameters so that it doesn't wake you up at 2 am - it asks me "what are you thankful for?" and I input something. I can then, at any time, open the app and one of my answers from a previous day will be displayed randomly. Before I go any further, let me be clear up front... I was in no way asked by anyone associated with the app to promote it in any way. I am just basically using it as a catalyst for this blog.

I love the idea of random gratitude. I especially love it on those days during which it's tough to find any. Sure, when I'm out with friends having a great time, it's easy to say "I'm grateful for my friends, or margaritas, or finding this new restaurant" or whatever. But on those days when I am down, when nothing seems to be going right, those are the days that I really need to find it. It might be as simple as "I'm grateful that it's a sunny, warm day outside" or "I'm grateful for the cup of coffee I'm drinking". But it's something. And sometimes, once you start, you notice other things that you're grateful for as well.... not just the sun, or the coffee, but the person behind the cafe counter that always greets you with a smile an remembers how you take that cup of coffee, for instance. Looking at my list, I noticed that one day my gratitude was "for not messing up this day". I'm not sure what I thought I was going to do to mess it up, but I'm glad I didn't, and furthermore, that on that day I realized the beauty in that.

You don't have to have an app to express your gratitude. I know people who keep a gratitude journal - a running list of anything they think of that they're grateful for. You could keep a list in the 'notes' section of your phone or on your computer or a little notebook that you can easily jot things down in. You could have a gratitude partner and each day check in with each other, taking notes of what the other person says. But I think that however you do it, writing it down is key. This way you have some reference so that on your toughest days, when you try to downplay something positive because you just can't comprehend the positive right now, you have "proof" that there are good, happy, fortunate things going on in your life every day, and you can focus on those people, pets, activities, or places until you are feeling more positive again. In fact, the comments section of this blog might be a great place to start. So, what are you grateful for?

This blog was written as part of the I AM WOMAN 30 Day Blog and Linkedin Challenge

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Judgement Day

Judgement is one of my favorite topics to write about, because it's one of those things that gets me so fired up and frustrated that it makes me want to look the person straight in the eyes and say "what the  $%*$  $*^ #%&!" (That wasn't even meant to represent a word, just to symbolize the cacophony of expletives that go through my head when I'm judged in a way that I don't enjoy).

I think judgement stems from three places. The first, is ignorance in it's true form. As in, people really don't know. They don't know you, or your situation, or what happened to you an hour ago that may have effected something you said or did. They don't know about insecurities that you may be overcompensating for or that you just got terrible news and aren't really your "usual self". They're basing their opinion solely on their personal perception, without a lot of imperative information. This doesn't mean they're wrong or mean (though they could be), but it means that they are looking at it through only one single focus lens, and that will never provide the full picture. They truly don't have enough details to form an accurate opinion.

The second place is self defense. People are sensitive about a subject, and therefore get their back up when anything threatens them on that level.  So when someone else says or does something that touches on this subject, they reply by judging that person almost as a gut reaction .... "they're weird, they're too dramatic, they're trouble, they're crazy, they're stupid, they're ugly" and the list goes on and on. Sometimes the judgements have nothing to do with the actual topic at hand. They just lash out. And in full disclosure, I know I'm guilty of this one. If someone says one potentially negative thing about people with mental health conditions, I'm on the defensive, with my claws up. Instead of attacking, I do try to educate the person as to where they're possibly making an inaccurate assumption - at least if it's someone I know.  If not, I tend to walk on, try not to get too frustrated, and hope a bird shits on their head as they walk the other direction. I'm kidding. Sort of. But I certainly at times do think "what a jerk" as I'm walking away. I'm judging them because I'm defensive about the subject and I'm fully aware of this. I'm ironically doing the exact thing I'm frustrated with them doing, almost as if by rote, because it's such an emotional area for me. I think that perhaps this is the most common form of judgement. We all have those things that we keep close to our hearts, and nobody better go after them.

The third source of judgement actually seems counterintuitive at first. That is, we often dislike (and judge) the exact same thing in others that we dislike about ourselves. Perhaps this is because it brings our attention to it and lets us see how it appears to others. In this case, when we judge other people, we're really judging ourselves. Often, it can be the toughest form of judgement, because we are generally our own worst critics. With this type of judgement, it takes a lot of maturity and knowledge on the part of the judged to understand and not be too angry at the judger. And it requires the judger to address their own issues, so as not to project those insecurities onto others.

In the end, I think that the simple, yet not always easy, key is understanding that nobody's perfect.  We've all been or done or said something that's upset or bothered someone else. Hopefully, we've apologized. If you haven't, go do so - not apologizing hurts you more than it hurts them in the long run. If you don't understand the reason behind someone's judgement, try to communicate with them. Nicely, not accusingly. See if you can understand each other a bit better. I'm convinced that communication and understanding (because it's tough to have the latter without the former), are the key to dealing with almost any animosity in life. And if none of this works, remember the old but accurate cliche that nobody can upset you without your permission. So be the bigger person, forgive, and walk forward.

This blog was written as part of the 30 Day I AM WOMAN Blog and Linkedin Challenge 

Sunday, June 2, 2013

A Blog About Blogging..... About Sensitive Topics

I have recently signed up a(nother) blog challenge. What can I say, I'm a sucker for anything that pushes me a little further. The challenge is through an amazing group called I AM WOMAN, and I will have a link at the bottom of this blog, because their page can describe the group much better than I. With this said, I realized that I haven't yet written about one of the most obvious topics one could address in a blog - the topic of blogging. I figured what better time to do so than the start of a blog challenge! In this case, I am going to focus on blogging specifically as it relates to mental health, since there are a million and one blogs out there on how to blog in general and I can't say that I have much more expertise in the field at large. But blogging as it relates to mental health, that I have experience with, on all sides of the equation. And while mental health is the general theme of my blog, I hope people may find this helpful for blogging about other (often) sensitive topics as well.

As you may know, I started this blog just over a year ago when I decided it was time to stop hiding and lamenting over my condition and start using it to help others.  The decision was a huge one, and a scary one. I honestly expected to lose people over the blog... people who didn't want to deal with someone with a mental health condition, people who didn't understand. It turns out I've been relatively lucky, but there are times I still get a bit nervous at times. So, I thought I'd offer up a few thoughts to those who may want to start blogging about your experiences, your feelings, your condition, or any other sensitive/personal topic. As always, these are my thoughts and everyone's different, so take things at your own pace and comfort level, and adjust to fit you and your situation as needed.

  • You must feel ready to start your blog, even if a bit nervous about it. Never let someone talk you into going public about something you are not ready to. If it helps, keep a journal until you feel you are ready to go "live" with it. 
  • Once you are ready to start, write your about me, and be as honest and open as you feel you can be.  It doesn't have to be your life's story, but it can give some general background. This way, the reader knows before they even start, ok this person is living with depression or anxiety, or this person has a child who has bipolar disorder .  This serves two purposes - first, it helps you start opening up and "gets the ball rolling", so to speak. Second, it lets your reader know the subject matter right up front. If they're not ready to read about it (some people could find an issue with any subject), they don't have to read. 
  • You have the right to talk about some issues and not about others. If you've read my blog, you know that I don't talk much at all about past relationships. It's completely a personal choice, and there are a few blogs in which I've explained why. So know that if there's a topic you aren't comfortable speaking about, you don't have to.  If someone asks you about it in a comment or in person, you have the right to say "I've chosen not to address that topic in this blog", and you can give a reason if you'd like, but you are not obligated. 
  • Make sure your reader knows that it is your point of view only and, assuming that you are not, that you are not a medical professional. This is what I call the "cover your butt" statement. The exception of course being statistical data or anything quoted from another source (offer sources, unless it's obviously common knowledge). 
  • You may want to set up your blog so that you must approve comments. This way if someone writes something just completely out of line or offensive to you and/or the reader, you can choose not to publish it. 
  • Take it at your own pace. The first couple of blogs could just be history - a little bit bout you, your diagnosis, and basic facts. You don't have to delve into all of your feelings and experiences right away. Ease into it if you'd prefer. 
  • Never publish any blog written in anger (or any other horrendously intense emotion) right away. Emotion is a great driver of creativity and blog material, but words - whether said or written - cannot be taken back once experienced by others. So if you are mad at the person who just broke your heart or cost you your job, consider writing it in a journal, or at best, a draft form. Sit on it for a day or two, and if you're comfortable, have someone read it and see what they think. Only then, if you still feel you want to publish it, go ahead. 
  • Not everyone will agree with you, and that's ok. Everyone is entitled to their own point of view and has different experiences. So if you get a negative or disagreeable comment, that's perfectly ok as long as it's respectable. In fact, consider it your an initiation as an official blogger - because everyone gets them! 

This blog has been written as part of the I AM WOMAN 30 Day Blog and Linkedin Challenge.