Vote Because You Can

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I have been participating in a local postcard writing campaign for some politicians running for office. We get together as a group at a local establishment to drink coffee, watch the large TVs that are set to the news channels, etc. and talk about the goings-on in Washington and our state as well.

We are quite low-key in our actions and low volume in our conversations.  We are careful to buy coffee, etc. to support the business and to get out before the lunch rush. We have been approached by people who question what we do, who support what we do, and who aren’t too happy about what we do. We haven’t had to defend ourselves, yet, but if we were, I think we could fall back on our first amendment right to freedom of peaceable assembly.

We are trying to mobilize people to vote. This is something that people who become citizens are encouraged to do. Unfortunately, it remains something that some people who are citizens often forget about, put off, or ignore.

There are people who wish they had the freedoms and rights we do. I remember when I was working with refugees, they would tell me that this was the greatest country in the world. Sure, we have our problems, but we have the possibility, and the Ability to change and solve them. The question is, will we choose to do so?

I remember once seeing someone who was having a hard time getting up out of his chair.  He was also using a walker to get around. It got me thinking about all the times I haven’t wanted to go for a walk for whatever reason. But seeing him and the difficulty he had with the seemingly simple act of walking made me think, “Don’t walk because you want to. Walk because you can.”

The same holds true for voting. “Don’t vote because you want to. Vote because you can.”

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The Mental Health Journey, Pt. 1

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Is it crazy if you see a therapist or counselor? Why that word, why “crazy”? Sometimes I think all those who do not think they need counseling in this life are the “crazy” ones. If you think you can make it through this life alone, without some sort of help, YOU are crazy.

Life is not easy, for anyone, and there are those who need a little extra outside help to get through it. And one should not be looked down upon or think less of oneself if one chooses to get such help. Those who think they do not need even a little help are not always helpful or understanding to those of us who do.

We’re often told, “It’s all in your head.”, or “You’re just lazy.”, “I have felt sad too.” or “Snap out of it!” As you may have guessed, none of these phrases are supportive or helpful. Think of some of the other words that are used to describe someone who is a little “off” and imagine what it would be like to be labelled as such.

For the millions among us who are living with a mental illness, we are thought to be crazy. I choose not to say, “suffering from” mental illness because I do not want to put more of a negative spin on it than already exists. This is due to the already unfortunate prevalent stigma, the stigma that says we’re crazy, among other things.

The rest of the world thinks we’re crazy, or dangerous, or lazy, or insert (mostly negative) adjective of your choice. Nothing could be further from the truth. We are often among the most thought-ful ones. There is a lot going on between our ears. Our thoughts are just not always the most positive or uplifting or constructive, for us personally.

Our attitudes are usually reserved for ourselves alone. Our judgments are most often inwardly focused. And we are our own harshest critics. We share this with others around us, also harsh self-critics. Unlike those around us, we often can’t easily escape the possible downward spiral such negative self-criticism causes. Therefore, we need to “get out of our own heads” which doesn’t always seem easy or even possible.

You’re Not Crazy, You’re Just Depressed, Pt. 2

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I’m sure there are people who think if someone is depressed, or claims to have a mental illness, they can just snap out of it or it will pass or they’re faking it. While sometimes this might be the case, most of the time nothing could be farther from the truth. Those who are dealing with any type of mental illness desperately wish they could just snap out of it.

Sometimes mental illness is situational. Sometimes it seems temporary but all too often it’s a lifelong condition. Sometimes there’s a biological or genetic component. However it arises, it can take a lot of effort & support to survive.

I’m not a psychiatrist nor am I a trained psychologist. I am simply someone who is in the trenches of depression. I’ve heard, “Snap out of it!”, “It’s not that bad.”, & many other responses when people find out I have depression. Like I said, you can’t judge a book by its cover. You can’t tell by looking who is or who isn’t depressed or otherwise mentally ill. I look “normal”, whatever that means.

Most of the time w/ medication & talk therapy, I & others like me do pretty well. Some days are better than others, just like they are for anyone. Like other humans, appreciate & enjoy understanding & support. We find it in groups, w/ friends, & through help from those in the medical profession.

You can’t tell by looking if someone is depressed or experiencing a mental illness. You don’t know their journey just as they don’t know yours. As I said before, not everyone who living w/ mental illness is psychotic or dangerous to others. For the most part, they’re just trying to get through, & get along, in their lives w/ some enjoyment & hard-won positivity. And w/ mutual acceptance, support & understanding from those around them, this is & will be possible.

“Feed The Right Wolf”

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I heard a line in the movie “Tomorrow land” that really resonated with me. I guess it comes from a Cherokee legend. Basically there are two wolves inside us. One is positive joy, peace, kindness, etc. The other is evil, anger, greed, etc. They are battling for supremacy and the winner is the one a person “feeds”.

Someone going through depression and anxiety is battling a wolf of a different sort – that Wolf is self loathing, sadness, fear, vulnerability and weakness. Sometimes it feels like a whole pack of wolves is on the opposing side. You’ve got to find a way to control and corral them. Medicine helps. Talking helps. Prayer helps. Writing or journaling helps. Exercise helps. And other people’s acceptance and support definitely helps.

I am working to keep my negative wolves caged and feed and nurture the positive wolves within. Day by day, thought by thought, wolf by wolf.