Tag Archives: Mental health

Looking Out For Beautiful Minds

10 Oct

Before Russell Crowe, we had never talked about it.

Ever.

It was a big part of his past,  and maybe it contributed to his depression. Maybe he felt like we wouldn’t understand, or maybe he did talk to people and they didn’t hear him. Maybe he thought he could do it himself. Maybe he didn’t know how.

But it wasn’t until Russell Crowe that my Dad started talking about how he felt and what he went through as a young father.

Russell Crowe in A Beautiful Mind

A Beautiful Mind

He was glued to the screen, completely engaged in the story and rooting for Nash to come out all right in the end. He bought the book and watched the movie again and again. When it came out on DVD, he bought that too. He wanted to soak up as much information and experiences as he could.

We must have watched it at least fifty times when it aired on HBO. Russell Crowe, let everyone in on the struggle and we became aware of how difficult this could be on anyone and their family.

My Dad found pieces of himself in Russell Crowe that day and was brave enough to share, and granted their stories were different, and their journeys were different, but for the first time in a long time, he saw something out there dealing with mental health, dealing with the realness of it. Consequences and successes.

I rediscovered of bits and pieces of my childhood and moments of my dad’s journey through adulthood and parenthood. I understood why there were times my dad had been so afraid, why he might have drank, and perhaps why he had been dealing with depression for a large part of his life. We didn’t get all our answers that day, but what we were able to do was talk … talk about how he felt, he realized he wasn’t the only one, and that gave him the confidence to speak up. He wasn’t alone in this. Here’s this guy …this genius mathematician that’s living through mental health issues as well.

It wasn’t the same, but at least Russell Crowe gave him an opening and mental health became something he could talk about freely.

And I was grateful for that, because he did get help, and that seemed to help with the depression, for a while.

So seeing how someone informed me that it was World Mental Health Day, I thought I’d spread awareness the only way I knew how … through story.

Spread the word … Mental Health Matters. Talk about it.

 

 

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Coach Herb Brooks and Coach Eric Taylor Always Watching My Back

16 Jul

I didn’t plan on it happening it just kind of did.

Serendipitous. I guess.

I hadn’t planned on mentioning it but considering I was at one of my ultimate lows I figured I’d share how I was able to peel off the layers of grief and have heartbreak take a seat in the back of the bus.

My diet. My mental diet.

I mentioned Monday that I had begun a mental diet, same process as a 30-day-juice cleanse, but instead of cleaning out my internal organs with green kale smoothies, I’m in the process of cutting down on crap … Emotional crap that adds at least 50 pounds to the weight I’m already carrying on my shoulders. It’s a mental well-being cleanse.

Now considering I was born and raised in the awesomeness that is the dysfunctional Latino-American family there was probably a lot of excess “stuff” lingering around my love handles, but this mental diet has helped trim away some of that unwanted heaviness.

However this is not like other diets where by day three you’re ready to stab somebody because your body has been starved of essential nutrients. On Day 3 of this 10-Day Mental Challenge I’ve managed to avoid hostile encounters with clueless people who really deserved an ass-kicking, but I thought of my mental diet and I got all Zen on them.

At the end of the day, I felt better than the day before, and in truth that’s what it’s about … being better than the day before. It’s about interrupting old patterns and replacing them with something new. It’s about being able to change my state regardless of the disastrous environment surrounding me and finding a resourceful state of mind–the-Kurt-Russell-playing-Coach-Herb-Brooks-in-the movie-Miracle-state mind-the-Coach-Eric-Taylor-in-the-TV-show-Friday-Night-Lights state of mind.

This was not, and is not easy, especially when you’ve got all kinds of shenanigans of the I Love Lucy-Gilligan’s Island kind. But on Day 3 I’m still managing to stay afloat. And on this Day 3 I’ve learned that it’s not about lying down and ignoring the technical difficulties in your life, but putting yourself in a better mental and emotional state so that you can be prepared and find a solution.

Be prepared to be Coach Herb Brooks or Coach Eric Taylor.

 

 

So how do I do it?

Running. Biking. Swimming. Kickboxing. Some kind of physical activity just to get me breathing and feeling differently, to get me in a pumped-up state of mind. And I do it in the morning. And let me just refresh your memory … I hate the morning. I am not a morning person at all, but I do it early so that I can start the day right, because I know there’s gonna be some wrong in it. After getting that Rocky Balboa feeling I start the day and if someone decides to act like a jackass or something bad happens that’s out of my control, I try not to hit the George-Costanza-serenity-now phase immediately. Instead, I ask myself if there’s something I can do at that specific moment to help improve the situation.

So far I haven’t exploded.

But it’s only been Day 3 and I still have Ben & Jerry’s in the freezer. Plus I had a lot of positive support from my WordPress family on Monday (the unexpected Day 1 of the diet) so that definitely helped keep me on track.

I’ll let you know how things pan out in the end. Maybe I’ll lose the rest of the mental-this-is-draining-my-soul weight, or maybe I clear out the ice cream aisle at Vons. It’s still early in the mental challenge, but I’m feeling pretty badass … like a contestant on the Biggest Loser with that chick Jillian Michaels in my corner and my inner coaches Brooks and Taylor always watching my back.

 

 

 

Happiness Project Update 27: I Fell Off the Wagon … But I Found Refuge

21 Jun

The “negativity bias” crept in this week, like a tiny parasite sucking the life out of me.

I let the outside effect my mood. I mean who doesn’t right? It happens to everyone, maybe even Gandhi himself, that’s probably why he meditated so much.

Most of the time you feel good when you wake up because you realize you have another 24 hours to make something happen for yourself. 24 hours to do something. 24 hours to find a way to be happy or happier. 24 hours for something different from yesterday. 24 hours to fly your freak flag and be proud. 24 hours closer to reaching you dream. 24 hours … I mean Jack Bauer saved the world in 24 hours the least you can do is have a good day right?

But then you get out of bed and life happens.

You stubbed your toe. You can’t find matching socks. Your kids fight over the superhero cape.  You realize someone sent in the payment late and you’ve gotten a penalty fee. You wanted orange juice in the morning and just as you reach for the Simply Orange way in the back of the fridge you realize that some jackass left it in there with three drops. You try to shake it off, but then you hear from Debbie Downer and they’re trying to drag you down with the ship. You get criticized for the third time in ten minutes. You check your voicemail and realize that your friends are taking an awesome two-day vacation you desperately need, but you can’t go on because there’s no one to watch your kids. It takes a village to raise one, right? This town is population: 1 Guat.

You need to get out of the house.

So you walk out to the car to get the diapers your dude left in the trunk overnight and $78 parking ticket is hanging out on your windshield for all to see. Street Sweeper. People walking their dogs see it. They give you a sympathetic smile. They feel you. You’re glad, until you walk back home and step in dog poop.

You really need a Namaste moment. You realize the “negativity bias” kicked in.

The bias is defined by Gretchen Rubin as:

“… we react to the bad more strongly and persistently than to the comparable good. I’d learned in February, within a marriage, it takes at least five good acts to repair the damage of one critical or destructive act. With money, the pain of losing a certain sum is greater than the pleasure of gaining that sum. Hitting the best-seller list with Forty Ways to Look at Winston Churchill thrilled me less than a bad review upset me.”

Image via happiness-project.com

Image via happiness-project.com

Yeah … like I said negativity bias. Although I don’t really agree with her on the money one, if I found lost money I’d be doing cartwheels, and forget about how pissed off I was when I lost it. Finding lost items is awesome. But I agree with the rest. So what could I do with all the negative stuff brooding in my system?

She suggests finding a mental “area of refuge” and I agree. Thinking about an escape, something to distract you from the drama, something to occupy your mind and get you through the momentary traffic jam that is your life. So I thought of bungy jumping in Austrailia. I thought of the giant water slide my dad and I ventured on in Guatemala. I thought about the Spider-Man theme song my uncle use to sing randomly. I thought about Trader Joe’s Chocolate Lava Cakes. I thought about Jack Tripper (he always made me laugh). I thought about my son in the swimming pool doing his first starfish float and smiling excitedly. I thought about my daughter’s bouncy toddler run when she “hits” a home run and runs around are makeshift bases. I thought about the fresh smell of wet soil as I rode my bike through the park early Sunday mornings. It smelled liked Earth.

I wasn’t Mary Poppins after that, but I wasn’t festering in the crappy mood or the dog crap.

Things got better, until night time.

Thank God for Netflix. I was able to distract myself with episodes of Arrested Development.

This One Is For The Ladies

6 May

“I love him and want to thank him for putting up with me.”

I recently heard this and for some reason it burned me out. In truth I’ve been hearing and seeing that phrase quite often.

What’s up with that?

It usually happens at anniversary parties or at birthday parties, or for some reason when I’m at the market waiting for Coupon Lady to finish up her transaction and I’m browsing the magazines. I see it and I wince.

For some reason chicks feel the need to utter the words, and I guess if you’re a real ball buster, money spending pain in the ass crazy PMS mood-swinging diva who can’t even boil an egg, well then maybe it’s true. But for this hard-working Guat the thought never occurred to me. It may be the fact that I think if I were a guy, I would totally be in love with me and be grateful for this Guatacular person that has come into my life who constantly makes me laugh.

I don’t consider myself a person that someone has to “put up with.” It probably dates back to the days when my high school coaches and teachers told me I was great. And I believed him. A couple of them even told me I was special and seeing how they were college educated and wise beyond their years I had no reason not to believe them. I heard guys say that all the time, but they were just smooth talkers trying to get me to go out with them. Can’t really trust what a hormone driven teenager has to say. You like it, but can you really trust it?

Maybe.

It may also be due to that fact that I read too much Anthony Robbins change your life kind of quotes so that I can jump-start my Shark-Week kind of day. It may be due to the fact that Steve Harvey says that kind of stuff about women all the time. Wherever it came from, I got it. That’s what I think.

I may not flaunt it with my Chapstick Girl kind of lifestyle, but it’s in there. Even if Budweiser Chick herself were standing next to me I’d still think I was pretty awesome. Running triathlons, Warrior Dashes and 1,400 stair climbs tends to boosts my confidence. The fact that my four-year old son tells me I’m good mom helps out too.

Now don’t get me wrong, being awesome hasn’t gone to my head. The family I grew up in makes sure nothing gets to my head. You stay so low to the ground you know you’re a Salt of Earth kind of person. But nevertheless I’ve got what my Latino people call caracter fuerte, which loosely translates to being a strong woman — I’ve got balls. But I’m not a crazy person, I know when to unleash The Hulk and when to stay dormant. I’m like one of those wild animals on National Geographic, majestic and beautiful, but ready to chase you down if you piss me off. I live by the law of the jungle. I know what I am and I know what I’m worth. Sometimes it makes me sad that chicks don’t.

And what is it that I am?

I know I am not a person someone has to “put up with”. I’m the kind that should be appreciated. And I’d like to think that there are other ladies out there that feel the same way. Not all the ladies because in truth I know there are some chicks out there making it hard on everybody. You know the kind that are married and their poor dude is no longer Emilio, Hector, or Esteban. They are Poor Emilio, Poor Hector, Poor Esteban. So I get it. I know that there are “put up with” kind of people. But I can assure you not everyone is like that … there are still awesome chicks out there. So if you are out there, I’m holding my glass up to you ladies because the Guat feels you.  I know you’re awesome too.

Happiness Project Update 24: Stopping the Autopilot

15 Apr

I thought that multitasking was a good thing. I’m a chick, we need to multitask. There’s only 24 hours in the day and we need at least 30 to get everything done. I know I do. But I realized that sometimes multitasking can suck the life out of you. Suck it!

No, it’s not the stress of  not finishing. No, not the anxiety that comes with failing to cross off items from your to-do list. No, it sucks the life out of you because sometimes you stay on autopilot and miss out on life. I found myself trying to pay bills online, wash the dishes, get distracted by to-do list thoughts, and have breakfast with my kids all at the same time. Then it sort of hit me while I was doing my 21-day Meditation Challenge last month.  I thought … what a jackass. If someone was doing all those things while I was trying to have a meal with them I’d be pretty burned out. I realized … multitasking kills my mindfulness.

I needed to start being in the now, being present. Now in my defense, when I’m out on adventures, exercising, or hanging out I am fully present. But sometimes I have technical difficulties, usually when I’m at home. Usually when multitasking arises. My mom ambition takes over and the mission to accomplish everything on the to-do list gets a kung-fu grip on me. It’s a mission and I need to finish it.

Image via happiness-project.com

Image via happiness-project.com

But that whole 21-Day Meditation Challenge really honed in my focus and my appreciation of “the moment,” it forced me to stay still, and it also reinforced what I read in Gretchen Rubin‘s mindfulness chapter.

Now I understand that I have to get things done and that life moves pretty quickly, especially if you’ve got two kids and you’re the CEO, CFO, Managing Partner and custodian of the household. Things sort of move at the speed of light sometimes and you’re doing whatever you can to catch up. So you go on autopilot, but I realized that sometimes autopilot draws out the jackass in me and I miss moments, stuff like breakfast with my kids. Now mind you sometimes breakfast may include syrup in someone’s hair, pancakes on the floor, spilled milk, battles for the last sip of the orange juice or toasting up bagels only to realize that there’s no cream cheese. Yes morning chaos may ensue, but sometimes you have a moment — the kind of moment that you remember at the end of the day — the kind that makes it to the what-am-I-grateful-for-today answer list. Mindfulness helps you remember that you’re probably going to have very few meals in the future where the kids won’t be multitasking, texting, and ignoring you as they are dashing out the door.

So what did I do when the universe sent me the mindfulness message twice?

Well … I paid attention. I shut down the autopilot and paid attention. I closed the computer, left the dishes alone and joined in at the Frosted Mini-Wheats and Silver Dollar Pancake extravaganza.

The most important was mindfulness — the cultivation of conscious, non-judgmental awareness … it gives clarity and vividness to present experience … Gretchen Rubin, The Happiness Project.

I realized that mindfulness can help boost your happiness levels a bit, and I could always use a shot of that. Being in the present definitely helps you enjoy daily life a bit more, especially when you have something out of the ordinary take place. You’re there to witness it, all of it. Now that doesn’t mean I would stop multitasking, but it did mean that I would stop the autopilot when hanging out with my kids. I’d be in the moment and forget about the to-do list until my kids were actually engaged in something else. Play-Doh and Legos usually rock their world, so I would save the multitasking until then.

So here’s to mindfulness … for taking the jackass out of me.

 

Serenity Now

3 Apr
Image via LeFunny.net

Image via LeFunny.net

Yes. I found this to be true. Very true, which is probably the reason why I decided to take on the 21-Day Meditation Challenge a while back. I wanted to stop having George Costanza moments whenever I encountered stupid people. I don’t know why they irritated me so much, but they did. And I knew these people multiplied so I had to find a way of dealing with them without adding stress and aggravation to my life. So when the challenge came my way via a friendly email, I thought why not.

I finished the challenge this week and in truth I found so much peace in a couple of sessions that I meditated myself into a deep sleep and I guess that can be a good thing. Relaxation and peace are the ultimate goals and sleeping is the most relaxed and peaceful state I’ve experienced. So I gave myself a B+. I would have gotten an A had I stayed awake.

But that’s not the only reason for my B+ status. I didn’t quite master the art of emptying my mind until day 12. I imagine it had a lot to do with the endless to-do lists, my life lists, my rejection letters, my bills, my kids crankiness prior to bed, my excitement for what was waiting for me on my DVR, my attempt at trying to find humor in my latest personal disaster, my random ideas for another story, or my latest encounter with stupid people and how frustrated I was that they were still popping into my head. It’s busy up there.  I had a lot emptying to do, luckily I was able to make it happen by the half-way point and I reaped the full benefits of his whole meditation shindig.

And after 21 days, is there a difference?

Well, I still have Costanza moments, but they have simmered down a bit. I think being able to sit in the quiet, to reflect, to say my mantras, and to empty my mind has helped. I’m improving my perfect health portfolio which tends to include mental health, peace and inner well-being. Although chocolate is still a pretty amazing Zen experience too. But this whole meditation situation added a little balance without the calories. It added my serenity now moment, without the yelling and hostility. It tamed the Costanza in me, but let’s not get crazy … he’s still there. He just goes on hiatus every now and then — attempting to master his anger management skills and cope with the existence of brainless people.

Happiness Project Update: Squeezing Every Drop of Juice Out of The Lemon

4 Jun

I couldn’t believe it when I read it. At first I was annoyed, then I was just angry, then I thought what the hell … why not?

This chick had everything she wanted and she was still not satisfied. What the hell is that? Why are you upset? Why are you having bouts of “midlife malaise”? What is your deal? If I was in your shoes … shit I’d be doing a cartwheels every day.

She had a great job, a good husband, a good home, and a nice kid. She traveled and she was passionate about something in her life, and it was paying off in all respects, so what was the problem? How could you not be ecstatic every day?

Only miserable people seek happiness right? Only people in states of depression want to get better, right? Only those with mediocre existences want to improve, right? You have a bad day, you want to turn it around. You have a bad life, you want to jump-start it in the opposite direction. Who’s happy now that seeks an even happier life? What kind of crazy person does that?

Image via Happiness-Project.com

Rubin. Crazy Gretchen Rubin.

After reading Rubin’s “Getting Started” section of The Happiness Project, I wondered why this chick even began a Happiness Project. I mean she wasn’t miserable. She was content with her life, but for some reason she was being sour. Not everyday all day, but apparently she wasn’t as happy as she thought she should be. She thought she was in danger of wasting her life, so she needed to make a change.

She was happy, but she wanted to be even happier.

I was irritated right off the bat.

But then my sports-minded side of the brain kicked it up a notch and help me understand. I realized, she’s like a professional athlete. Baseball player, football player, basketball player, cyclist … whatever. They know they’re good on the field or court, they just want to be better. They push. They just don’t play to win the game, they play to earn that championship trophy in the end. They’re good, they just want to be better.

They squeeze every drop of juice out of the lemon. She just wanted to do the same. She wanted to have that I’m-bungy-jumping-awesome feeling all the time.  She wanted to learn how to appreciate her good life, I guess.

Me, I just wanted to get there. I think people like myself who’ve gone through loads of crap on an ongoing basis, genuinely appreciate it when something awesome happens because it doesn’t happen everyday. If I got to where I was going, I’d stop off and have a drink to celebrate the awesomeness.

In any case I decided to forge on and create my own project. The only difference is I know I’m not happy, I’m just all right. I know I was meant for something better.

I mean c’mon … Is this it?

Shit, I hope not.

For the Happiness Project there are 12 resolutions. You work on one every month. But I was hoping to end the project in December so each resolution will be about three weeks. As she mentions, everyone’s project is different, but the aim is still the same.

This months resolution: Wellness. Rubin lists Energy/Vitality as her first basic stepping stone. However, I’m in a different boat. The Guat kind. So I figured wellness is a basic necessity for this project. Spiritually, Mentally, and Physically.

Humor is a key component for me. One of the tools in my box. It’s the stabilizing factor, and probably the reason why I haven’t jumped off a cliff. So it will probably be my wingman on this ride — on this adventure to squeeze every drop of juice out of the lemon.

Stay tuned.