Category Archives: Happiness

Mental Wellness Week

Hello all! Thank you for your support, compassion and kind messages over the past week. Each one meant A LOT!

This is a week dedicated to mental health. Some people call it “Mental Illness Week”, others say “Mental Health Week”, but, you know me, I must be different and I choose to call it “Mental Wellness Week”.

Mental illnesses and mental health issues are so often at the forefront of conversations and in trying to get help out there to those whom need it the most.
Of course I support both of these conversation but I wonder what sort of world would we have in 20 years if mental wellness was taken seriously as well? Teaching our youngest children to our oldest senior how to better care for their mental wellness.

Rather than focusing solely on what to look for in society to point out the mentally ill person and help them before it is too late, what if we began to encourage positive mental wellness messages as well. How do you spot a person who takes excellent care of their own mental wellness? How do we take that model and teach it to those who’ve never understood or been taught how to or fell off the rails somehow?

A lesson such as compassion for oneself would radically change our world for the better. I know from my own journey and watching others going through the same journey that the people who are able to show compassion for themselves and can accept their humanness in all its glory and its gory are the same people whom are more able to extend compassion towards others.
I know for certain that I was a far more judgmental and harsh person when I had no compassion for myself. I didn’t have it for others either even though I thought that I did.
When I finally realized that I was just a human being with so many facets, I was able to start being more accepting of others as well.
Imagine a world where we show compassion towards ourselves and then for others. I can’t even think of how much that woudl change our world for the better.

And self-care. Remember being a teapot 2 weeks ago? The importance of keeping yourself full and taking care of your own needs so that you would have the ability to offer goodness from within yourself to others.
What if we began to teach children how important they are. Not due to any ability or level of cuteness but being a worthy human being just for being alive?
Could that child become a teenager that put their own needs for safety and wellness above the needs of a group? Could they make better choices about where to spend their time and who to give their time to if they only knew to put themselves before the boyfriend, girlfriend, groups or others?

Worthiness. Teaching people that they are worthy.
Worthy of a good life, worthy of safety and protection, worthy of being heard and believed, worthy of exactly what anyone else has emotionally…
Worthy even if they are not being taught that at home? How long could abuse last if the person being abused saw themselves of being absolutely worthy of a better life? Never blaming themselves or taking on responsibility for the other persons behaviour. Can you imagine?
Even as a very young child, knowing this one skill would have propelled me in to speaking out more and not stopping so quickly. If I’d known that I was worthy of better… wow.

There are so many life skills that we just do not often teach at home or at school. This is not done neglectfully. It is bypassed because most of today’s adults don’t know what mental wellness includes or how to go about getting it. I didn’t! As a parent, I never taught my children much at all about becoming or staying mentally healthy and well. I did not teach it to them because I hadn’t been taught it yet myself. This needs to change in my opinion.

Wouldn’t it be terrific to one day wake up and realize that we now lived in a happier world filled with people who really knew how to care for themselves and considered themselves worthy of such treatment?
Bullies woudl hold far less power.
Abusers would have a much harder time convincing someone that horrible treatment was deserved somehow.
Pedophiles would be at a huge disadvantage if there was no hidden need for them to prey on. Children would already feel special.

John Lennon sang “Imagine” so many years ago but I’d love to add to those lyrics. Just imagine a world where most people are mentally healthy and skilled while far fewer suffer mental illness because they can catch it when it starts and get help immediately rather than putting it off for days, weeks, or years.

imagine

Today you are a teapot.

Please choose a teapot.
This teapot will be you until you finish today’s blog. ๐Ÿ™‚
Since I am asking you to BE a teapot I will at least give you some really cool ones to choose from.

Teapot5 Teapot4 Teapot3 Teapot2 Teapot1 Teapot

Got one?

Okay… so today you are a teapot. Have you ever thought about the personality of a teapot? Not its looks or where it came from but what sort of person is a teapot on the inside? The first word I think of is “giving”. Very few other objects can connect people as quickly and as easily as a teapot can.

That said, the teapot is also a master at self-care.ย  It is perfect at it. When it is full and warm, it shares and shares but when the teapot is close to empty, it won’t even think for a moment before wanting to be refilled. It does not feel guilty for needing more water or a new teabag. It does not berate itself for having those needs. It does not deem itself stupid or selfish. It just needs a refill. Period.

Since you are a teapot today (a very nice looking teapot I must say), I want to think of yourself as cozy and warm. Filled to the brim with delicious tea. You are happy and content.
Then along comes the cups. Small cups, larger cups, beautiful cups, cups with a chip in them, kinda ugly cups, decorative cups and plain.
These cups represent all the different areas in your life which you give your energy to. Everything from walking the dog or petting the cat to going to work or taking care of your family. Don’t forget that there are usually a LOT of cups. Some cups (children, spouses, caring for your home, dealing with/making money…) are larger cups and require more of your tea. Others areย  smaller (food shopping, going to the library, taking a walk…). These require less tea but they can not be ignored.

So back to you, my teapot friends.
You can only fill so many cups before you run dry. Even the biggest and best teapot runs out of steam eventually. It can only hold so much.
So what do you do when you begin to run out of water?
Let the last drops fall and pray for more?
Berate yourself for running out of water?
Get angry at the cups?
Call yourself lazy, stupid or selfish ?
How helpful is any of that going to be?
The teapot is empty and needs be refilled. Period.

The teapot needs to be refilled on a regular basis if it is going to be of any use at all to the cups. It is only by refilling on a regular basis that there is an endless stream of tea for everyone to enjoy.

Filling the teapot is no different from self-care.
In order for you to be of use to anyone else, you must refill yourself on a regular basis. It can not always be the very last thing on the list because you’ll have nothing at all to share. You will be empty and that is no good for anyone.

Self care is not selfish AT ALL. You are only taking enough time to refill yourself so that you will have more to share. Empty teapots can look cute but they are really of no use are they? Don’t allow staying empty to be okay with you thinking that you are just a generous person who puts others first. It is a great idea but if you don’t put you first? Who will?
Coming first and taking time for self-care is necessary for good physical and mental health. When you are a happier and more fulfilled person, those around you only stand to benefit from that.

How you refill your teapot is up to you. It is different for everyone. For me it can be doing my artwork, chatting with a good friend, playing a game on my computer… it can be anything at all that makes you feel happy and calm. Anything that truly feels like you’ve had a break. Sometimes it can be 5 minutes while you might occasionally get an hour or even a whole afternoon but no matter what you get? TAKE IT and do self-care.

A short life lesson from a former bone dry teapot…
I used to say that there was no time to take care of myself.
Then I learned that I MAKE time for everyone else so I need to MAKE time for me too.

Elanor

Attachment

IC

I never understood how attachment theories worked nor how they affected me personally. I just knew how I felt inside and felt this deep longing to belong somewhere in this world but no matter what I achieved or who cared for me, I still felt that ache just as strong as the day before. It was a deeply lonely feeling as though I was separate from every single other person around me.ย  I’ve heard others describe it as “being alone in a crowded room”.

About a year ago I had a conversation with a doctor who has taken a keen interest in attachment issues. He explained to me that a child attaching to its mother is not just a good thing, it is a biological need that MUST be met. It is not a want or a wish, it is a need.
In healthy infant development, the baby will attach to mom first for food and comfort. The father is usually the next attachment and then gradually over time after the age of about 6 months, that infant will gradually begin to expand his or her circle. If mom and dad have given the child everything they need, this attachment to others is a very natural process. Auntie Kate to visits the most regularly may be the first outside attachment perhaps Grandma and Grandpa are next. It will usually just be whomever the child sees the most often and has positive interactions with.

The trouble for neglected infants is that when the mother and/or father do not adequately bond withย  or care for their baby, that infant will still have that biological need. Generally neglected infants do not have good support systems either. There might not be an Auntie Kate or a set of grandparents that either live close enough or perhaps care enough to be there on a very regular basis. Even if these people do try and do care, that infant is still going without. He or she needs mom for certain and in the best circumstances, dad too.

To explain the gravity of this situation… if this was to happen in the wild? The infant would die. In some ways this is also true for human beings.

If you watch this short video, it shows how a good and connected parent affects the child and then this same parent refuses to engage at all. Watch the difference in the child.

So what happens as these babies turn in to preschoolers, become school age, turn in to teenagers, and then become adults??? That unmet need is still there and it will never leave unless that need is met somehow. Some people will say they do not care what happens to their parents and that may be absolutely true but they will still hold that biologically unmet need within themselves.

Quite often these people seek out acceptance to a much greater degree than those with healthy upbringings. “Looking for love in all the wrong places” as the song goes. We can grow up, get in to deep relationships too young and sadly even accept abusive relationships easier than most people would because that need for a bond is so overwhelming.

I recall my thoughts after my first marriage crashed and burned… I realized that I had not chosen well or been picky enough. I had my children when I was not yet old enoughย  or fully equipped to handle them (I was married and in my 20’s but I really wasn’t equipped). I just wanted to be married and have children because I was desperate for a connection of my own. Sadly this rarely ends well so I got a divorce then swung to the other extreme where I need NO ONE for ANYTHING and totally shut myself off from anyone outside of my own children. That doesn’t end well either just in case you are thinking of trying it. ๐Ÿ˜‰

So here I am at 46 years old and I know many others just like me who are even in their 60’s and yet they still wish for a unconsciously look for a mother to take care of them. We attach to others too quickly. We can force bonds which can often freak other people out. We can be seen as needy, sometimes even childish or many other varieties of “messed up”.
Please do not blame yourself if you see yourself in this situation. Your needs were not met and you are behaving as your mind feels that you need to in order to get that need met. It is not acceptable to continue this behaviour long term but do not berate yourself for needing something you couldn’t get.

I am not a professional on this in any way so I can’t give a laundry list of suggestions but perhaps even just being aware of your reactions and accepting them for what they are, an unmet need, could be helpful.
In my own life I am still in mourning for the things I never had but I am also getting healthier and being sure that my boundaries are as appropriate as possible.
A spouse is a spouse.
A therapist is a therapist.
A friend is a friend.
A sister or sister-in-law is a sister.
Those are the lines and attempting to put these people in a mothering or fatherly position holds our progress back. We will be once again seeking and not finding what we need and this can be devastating even if you are not totally aware of what you are doing.

The only true healing comes from beginning to give ourselves what we need. Starting to mother and/or father ourselves. Accept that there is that little girl or little boy in there that really needs to be shown true parental love. I will admit that I am still at the point where I feel like this just sucks and I shouldn’t have to be my own parent after everything else I’ve had to do for myself… but I know cognitively that this is where I need to go and I have started in some ways.
I just found this post and think it might be helpful to say to ourselves. Either this or something like it but we need to start to nurture that inner child.

IC1

A Tree

I moved 32 times (at least) before the age of 30.
Most people realize that moving that often can not be much fun but there is more to it than that. There are obvious disadvantages like always dealing with new schools, new friends, new rules, new people…

Then there are less obvious things that I have only really started to enjoy since I have lived in this house now for over 13 years.
When we moved here, we had only one healthy tree on the lot and it was at the side of the house that has no windows. We never see it. Since moving here we have over 25 tress planted and doing very well. Likely more but it is early spring and that was my rough count. ๐Ÿ™‚
There is this one special tree and this is its short story…

We live in a rural area and our ditches are often filled with wildflowers and small trees. When they get too large, the transportation department will scoop it all out like it is garbage. For this reason, I have become somewhat of a tree saver and I go and dig some of the healthiest looking small trees out of the ditch and plant them in my yard to save them and to also enjoy them.

Many of these trees are now large enough for small birds to build nests or hide in, one is even producing really nice apples. I love them all.
There is one special tree though.
I spotted it in a ditch the first year that we lived here and my husband said it was beautiful but its roots were firmly gnarled up with large rocks and would be impossible to dig up without ruining the roots. I let it go but was disappointed as it was just so full and so beautiful even at 2-3 feet tall.
One day soon after, I saw my husband walking down the road towards the house with a shovel in one hand and my tree in the other! I was so, so, so pleased. We decided to plant it in the very centre of our front yard and we were so happy with this tiny fledgling tree. Sadly it had a horrible first year and looked almost dead but its second year proved that this little tree wanted to stay.

I am short (5’1″) but this tress was far shorter. I could not hang anything in it due to how small it was… but it began to grow.
A few years later it started to produce dogberries.
Not long after that we hung some small lights on it.
Eventually it was large enough to hang Christmas decorations off of.
These past few years it has been more than large enough to house 5 birdhouses and several bird-feeders.
I have some big plans for that tree this year with even more birdhouses and feeders.
Right now it is all still bald as spring is not even close to arriving in Newfoundland yet but I have been looking at my tree a lot lately.

When you move more than once a year and you never stay in one area, you never get to see a tree grow. A small tree is a small tree and a big tree is a big tree. You never see it any other way.
You certainly never see a tree go from a ditch to nearly dead in your yard, short and spindly to tall and beautiful.
I have now done that and it has been amazing.

I have watched trees grow, wildflowers take over a huge area, wild blueberry and strawberries start to appear, apples begin to form then get large enough to eat (in 4 bites). It feels amazing to be able to look at those apples and know that as each year passes, those apples will continue to get larger and I see a pie in my near future. Like 2 or 3 years “near” but I will still be here watching that tree grow.

Trees, berries, wildflowers and apples are not the only things that I have watched grow. I have watched relationships bloom, I’ve gotten to know every bend in the roads, I’ve made friends, gotten closer to my husband’s family, watched my children grow from little children in to young adults, and I’ve watched my own life ebb and flow within these walls. I am a part of a community now and people know me. I can not go to the mall without many hellos and even a few chats.

Just like my sweet tree, I have developed deeper roots as each year has passed.

This email feels a bit selfish and all about me but I wonder if perhaps it makes you look out at your yard and look at the gift of watching a tree grow just a bit differently? We are so fortunate to get to watch seasons change and feel that we have roots. It does not matter if you have a house or an apartment, maybe only a room but if you get to put roots down, it is a great gift.

It is just nice to start this new week with a sprinkling of gratefulness. Right?

Have a wonderful week and I will see you on Wednesday. ๐Ÿ™‚

Dogberry

A Healing Space

I know that it is not always easy to carve out your own space within your home for many reasons but I also know that without it, we suffer. It is easy within my home now with no children left at home and a whole house to fill. I have a bedroom, an office AND my art studio. I consider myself super fortunate and also realize we will downsize at some point and I will be back to trying to carve out a small space for myself.
I also remember having children at home, having a much smaller place (I raised my 3 children for several years in a 2 bedroom place with a shared kitchen, dining room, living room and laundry) and it can feel like nothing is yours. How often do you even get to have a shower without someone at the door (or in the shower with you)?

All that said? It is IMPORTANT to have a little corner just for yourself. A room is great but if that is not possible, take a corner. Each room has 4 corners so just pick one and let others know that this space is for you. I know you give everyone else their space right? We need to teach those around us to offer us the same. I did not do this when I should have and I felt very squashed for years. Nothing was really mine. I had no space just for myself. This was my own doing and I lived first hand with the damage this eventually causes us. I don’t even care if the space you choose for yourself is a rock out in a field… just so long as you choose a space for you and only you. Let others know that when you are in this space, you need a bit of quiet time.
In most homes, this request will be ignored at first so a lot of gentle reminders may be needed. Putting on headphones, closing your eyes and turning your back towards the world helps too. ๐Ÿ˜‰

So what do you put in this space? Anything at all! Whatever makes you feel calmer or more at peace with yourself. For me that includes plants, rocks with special words on them, pretty pictures, my rocking chair and a cozy blanket, photographs of my grandmothers, quotes that I love, music… I don’t need a lot of space for these things. Just enough for a chair and some small shelves. Just arrange your special place with anything that brings you joy or offers you comfort.

A sweet friend of mine posted this picture on her blog a while ago and it is PERFECT for this blog today. It gives you a lot of visual ideas of things you could do as well.

Remember that you are important and need to treat yourself as such. โค

Healing

Hard work.

As you all saw a few weeks ago, I have a new puppy. He is growing like a weed and eating like a horse, yet he has found his way straight in to my heart.
That said, puppies are hard work. A LOT of hard work. For every minute of cute, there are at least 9 minutes of hard work.
I’ve seen a lot of ads lately on a “Snowdog” site that I am a part of where they are offering their slightly older puppies up for a new adoption at a greatly reduced price. These are not bad people with bad intentions, they are people who saw the cute puppy and assumed that sweet little face wouldn’t be as much trouble as they are. I am NOT making a judgment here. Not at all. It has made me think though…

First of all, here are my 2 favourite fur babies in the world.
16th
They are both beautiful, cute, sweet as can be… and a LOT of hard work.
We are up with the puppy twice each night to let him outside in to the cold for a pee. We are out in the cold too and it is not fun at 4am!
We must keep an eye on him at every second because with each new day of growth, he hits a new height of treasures he could not reach before. This week it was the 3 recycle bins, the garbage in my office, my husbands neatly stacked wood splits for the fire and the edge of almost every table we own. Tonka will soon believe his name is “Tonka-No”
His food is super expensive because a puppy that grows as fast as he is (he’s gained 8 pounds in the past 3 weeks) needs excellent nutrition.
We can not just leave him alone for hours and go off to do whatever we wish to do. His bladder is not strong enough yet and we do not wish to stall his house-training.
And poop duty… oh gross.
And he bites. HOLY CRAP those little razor-sharp puppy teeth want to sink in to everything. Hands, ankles, earlobes, my hair and head… it is all fair game. He is not a bad dog or a “biter”, he is a puppy and puppies need to learn that human beings are not chew toys. Until he learns that? We are.
He’s earned a second nickname besides “Tonka-No”, he is also known as “Jaws”.

I do not list all that to complain. He is not our first puppy. We knew what we were getting in to and we did so willingly because we know that as he grows and learns, he will become a very well-behaved and treasured part of our lives. I just feel that some people do not really know the reality of puppies when they get one. It really is 1 part cuteness and cuddles vs. 9 parts hard work.

The same can be said for almost anything that is really worthwhile. How many months does it take to get those tomato seeds to go from where you are making a huge mess planting tomatoes in your home (if you are Canadian you have to start them inside LOL), remembering to water, fertilize, split, replant and weed on a regular basis before you get to pick even one tomato off of your plant?
It is like a puppy. 1 part yummy and beautiful vs. 9 parts hard work.

Your job (ANY JOB) is often the same. How many days do you work before someone says something nice to you or you complete a project? How many snotty noses until an “I love you mommy/daddy”? 1 part “pat on the back” vs. 9 parts of no one giving you a glance.

Does this mean that we shouldn’t bother with puppies, fresh tomatoes, children or jobs? Of course not!!! The end, no matter how hard the work, is often so worth it.

This is one place where I think we can often lose motivation when it comes to ourselves though. Mental or physical well-being takes a lot of hard work. Recovery can be such a huge uphill climb and like these other examples, we might manage to raise ourselves up one notch then fall back 3, or 6, or 9 times…
We might get so fed up with all the hard work that we feel like giving up. This is why I wanted to write today’s blog about my pain in the arse yet really cute puppy. He is just a really good example of well-being. It is hard work. We get him on the lawn for his business then turn around to clean a mess he did in the house. Our own skills are much the same. You will get it right and you will get it wrong. You might get it wrong a lot at first and right only now and then. BUT!!!! If you stick with whatever you are working on? You will eventually master your goal.

Hard work doesn’t mean it is not worthwhile.
Hard work often means that it is.

Now back to that 1 part cute and not the picture of the poop I cleaned up out of the house an hour ago, the clump of fluff he pulled out from the box-spring mattress this morning, the mess he made with the bit of oatmeal and fruit he had for breakfast (that I am still removing from his fur), or the scratch marks on my husbands face from an early morning wake up call…
He is such a lot of hard work but look at him right now asleep with his sister.
So cute… and so worth it all.
TonkaHave a great week and work hard. It’ll be worth it in the end. ๐Ÿ™‚

Stop and look…

I have something that I have been doing for the past few years and it makes a HUGE difference in my life. I suppose I have danced around the behavior many times but I’ve never done a blog on it. So here it goes. ๐Ÿ™‚

When we are in recovery or even in the most stables of lives, we make constant changes and decisions. We learn. We move forwards, we fall backwards. We feel great and then horrible. We work hard and do a great job working on a task then it doesn’t work out. That is life. Up, down and all around.

I don’t know about you but for me? Recovery and wellness seem to take a LOT of work and each time that I reach a goal, the list of goals still yet to achieve seems to grow longer rather than shorter.
So here is what I started doing 3 years ago while hospitalized. I can not take credit for this. It was taught to me and I am very grateful for this lesson. Mind you, in all truth, this whole blog is about what I learned. ๐Ÿ™‚

I was encouraged to make an “Accomplishment List”. Each time I felt that I had done something well, learned something new, made some good choices, or anything else that was a step forward in my mind, was to be written on this list. I know a lot of people who didn’t bother doing it and even more who stopped doing it after leaving the program but I have found it is immeasurably important to do on a constant basis.
I also stop and take time to look over how far I have come every once in a while. I ignore the work yet to be done and forget about the future as a whole. I take that piece of time to just pay attention to the right now. Today. This moment in time.

I do not do this on a schedule. I actually find that I like to do it after I have gone through a really rough time. It is nice to stop and think about how much better I handled it, how I felt more at ease… whatever.
I really like doing this with my therapist, a friend, my hubby, quite frankly, anyone who will listen to me because it is so easy to only report the negative to all of those people. It is an easy habit to fall in to. Sharing complaints only. It is nice to stop and say “Look how much better I am doing!”

I just went through a really hard anniversary, I’ve been ill with 8 infections and used 12 prescriptions to solve the issue since January 10th (and I am normally healthy as can be), my birth father sank to new lows, a good friend stopped contacting me, and a few other thing. I ended up falling in to a deeper depression than I have in quite some time. BUT… this is where my “Accomplishment List” comes in…

While dealing with all these things, I did not go silent which I normally do. I can write anything at all but actually opening up and speaking when times are tough has not been my strong suit. In the past few months I HAVE reached out. I told my husband why I was feeling down and admitted that I was having a hard time. I talked to a couple of friends and brought the tough stuff to my therapist.
I stayed on top of each infection as it happened and even though I got really fed up with it all, I just moved forwards each day.
I also set a couple of HUGE boundaries in my life which were very stressful because there was a lot of emotion involved in both decisions but after making them and respecting myself, I started to feel much better.
There is even more than this but I’ve been “braggy” enough already. ๐Ÿ™‚
It just feels really good sometimes to stop and look at the changes you have made.

Do you keep a list of the positive things that you do in your life?
This list need not be huge things.

  • If you find it hard to get out of bed each day but do it anyways? That should go on your list!
  • If you manage to make a healthy meal 5 days out of 7?
  • Keep a boundary or set a good one?
  • Still alive even though you had days where you didn’t want to be?
  • Start a new healthy habit?
  • Take time for yourself?
  • Have another day, week or month sober? (I am 17 years in yet I still celebrate it as an accomplishment.)
  • Find time to create/write/sing…?
  • Deal with a tough subject.
  • Go through a hard time and manage to avoid doing what you usually do? Maybe you reached out this time? Tried something new?

Your list can be the smallest of efforts to the grandest of gestures. The important thing is just to stop and look at where you were a few months ago and how far you have come. Even tiny changes add up over time so you may suddenly be in a situation that would have crushed you a year ago but now you deal with it better than you expected to. Stop and congratulate yourself. You are making progress.

I hope you will try doing this for a while and let me know how it goes.

Have a great weekend everyone!

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