To Those On Their Last Rope

Disclaimer: May trigger—mentions issues surrounding depression, self-harm, bullying, and suicide.

Intro:  Many people I know around me are struggling, not only physically, but emotionally as well.  As you may know, I have struggled with depression with many years, and I just wanted to share the hope I found with them—and with anyone here, reading this that may be struggling as well, that there is hope.  If you are feeling strongly suicidal or need someone right away to talk to, please call this number: 1-800-273-8255. It’s free and there are trained professionals that can help you through this tough time, so you never have to be alone.

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Dear Friend,

I see that you have been struggling so much lately.  You may wonder through your daily routine, “ Is this life really worth it? “ You wonder if your suffering, your pain, will ever end.  You wonder if anyone really cares about you—or each other– for that matter.  You may not wonder these questions out loud, but subconsciously, you do.

I sometimes wonder these same things.

When I was in my sophomore year of high school, the pain was sometimes so great, I wondered if I had the strength to go on in life. I considered (more than once) a way to end my own life.  . In one of my diary entries from that time, I had written: “I wish I could be more […] effervescent (lively). I feel dead without being physically killed. I hope I don’t die emotionally, but I am dying. If I could only find that zest, that greatness life is supposed to hold. But where is it, at least in me?”

I also see that you are emotionally dying.  The spark, that smile, that I once saw, is now faded.  You seem really stressed and broken inside—like I was when I was in my sophomore year of high school.  I know you now see joy in my spirit, and a bounce in my walk. You also may think that “everyone likes me.” However, know that this was not always the case.

When I was in school, I struggled with being bullied, almost on a constant basis.  People would mock my way of dress, my hairstyle, and even how I looked.  This almost drove me to suicide, several times in my life.

Because of my history of being bullied, and being regularly excluded by my peers, I never really like I “fit in.”  I felt that in order to be part of any group, I had to beg. Then, maybe someone would feel sorry for me, and hang out with me for a while. That would, of course, never last for too long.

Then, in high school, I had an instructor that basically made me feel like I was worthless and would never amount to much in my life. I had almost no friends that could uplift and encourage me during that tough time, and this was before I knew about God’s love and presence in my life. I didn’t feel like I could talk to my family because I had assumed that they would not be able to really relate to my problems. Also, I had felt hopeless that I would find anyone around me who would truly accept who I was, inside and out. I didn’t think anyone would be able to really love me, especially if they really knew who I was inside.

Sometimes, I hear that you are being mocked and bullied by those around you too, and for that I am sorry.  I wish I could do more than just offer an encouraging word to you. I wish your bullies would know how much damage they are inflicting against your soul and your Creator as well, and repent of (i.e..stop) their bullying behaviors.

Know though that you are a valuable creation.  No one in the world is exactly like you (even if you have an identical twin!), and no one can touch the world in exactly the way you do!  Sometimes, I know you feel that you can’t do much positive, or live a legacy worth living.  However, that is the depression speaking, and it is lying!  Even if you are bed bound, you still can make an impact by greeting people who visit you with a cheerful and positive attitude, despite your pain and suffering. This will then make people look inside themselves, and say, “ Even with all the stuff that I’ve been through, I am grateful that even if I become bedbound, that I could make someone else smile!”

Also, reach out and get the help you need. You are NOT weak for asking for or needing help. On the contrary, depression is often a sign that you have tried to be strong too long. Know that you are not alone in your struggles. I sometimes still struggle too, but I know that there is hope for me.

I find that hope in a relationship with God and knowing that I am still able to make an impact on this world. It’s never too late to do something positive with your life—as long as you are still here!

So, what happened to me since high school?

I continued to struggle, off and on, with depression and suicidal thoughts, through my early twenties, though it was less than before I knew God’s love.

Then, about twelve years ago, I found a church that embraced me, and some friends who were willing to support and love me through the long haul. I am still in contact with some of them today.  I am eternally grateful that God brought me to that church.  I explored my passions for helping others and also began to write more often.

About two years ago, one of my managers, Chris* (NOT his real name), interviewed me for a position at my current job.  This position I still hold to this day.  Then, about a year ago, God brought me to another church, which has shown me how to love others, at a deeper level than I have ever known before.  Both, through my current job and my church, I have found a joy and love that I had only dreamed of before.

It may take a long time to realize your dreams, but it is never too late to start somewhere. Don’t give up. There is always a light at the end of the tunnel.

Sincerely,

Patricia

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How to Support People With Invisible Disabilities

DISCLAIMER: No disparaging comments about anyone allowed, or your comment will be deleted!

When most people hear of the word “disability” they think of someone in a wheelchair, or at least someone with some type of physical impairment.  But did you know that up to 10% of all people with disabilities suffer from what is called an “invisible disability?”  An invisible disability is a condition that one has that impairs, or makes it more difficult for someone to function successfully in everyday life, but that is not readily visible to the human eye.  They may have problems getting up from bed, may be tired a lot of the time, may have trouble interacting with others, or may have trouble taking care of themselves without help, to name a few symptoms.  These symptoms are, of course, not all inclusive or even applicable to some of the invisible disabilities that there are, but they do apply to some of them.

What to say and do and what not to say or do to people with invisible disabilities:

What to say/do:

  1. Do offer to help and support them if they ask and are in need of that.—If they ask for help or are in obvious need of support, do whatever you can to help them. Validate them and be a caring friend to them. Help them also get the accommodations they need, or at least help them find some.
  2. Do acknowledge their disability and take them seriously.—There is nothing more frustrating than people who don’t take our disability seriously just because they don’t “see” anything wrong with us! If someone tells you they have a disability or some medical issue, believe them!  Just because you can’t readily “see” it, does not mean that they aren’t suffering from anything! Everyone has issues in their lives, but some can’t be “seen.” This doesn’t mean they don’t exist or that the person is “faking” it.  For instance, as a hypothetical example, what if you told a friend of yours when you confided in them that you just had cancer, but they just said something like, “It’s all in your mind,” or “Don’t worry. Everyone else has issues, too.” You would be furious, right?  This is why it is important to acknowledge the struggles and disability as valid and try to help them through it.
  3. Do emphasize their value as a person, not just their disability.—Another frustrating thing that people tell those suffering from an invisible disability, is something like, “Oh, I didn’t know you could drive? Most people with [insert disability] here can’t do that. You are amazing!” Even though this seems like a compliment, it really is patronizing and insulting because it assumes that just because someone has x disability, they can’t do or be anything of value to this society. This is also why upon learning their child will have developmental problems, the doctors sometimes will recommend abortion to the parents, although a lot of the time, parents that have children with these disabilities are blessed by their child(ren)’s joy and what the child(ren) can teach them about what really counts in life.
  4. Speak out against discrimination and educate people about the nature of invisible disabilities.—If you really want to help your family, friends, and other loved ones who you know suffer from invisible disabilities, speak out against the blatant discrimination that exists against them and advocate on their behalf.

    Ways to do this include:

a.)Educating yourself about invisible disabilities and what people who struggle with them go through on a daily basis.

b.)Speak out when you hear a misconception or discriminatory comment against those with any type of invisible disability.

c)Listen carefully and thoughtfully to the people in your life with an invisible disability and offer to help and understand them better (and, of course, follow through on that promise).

d) Be an advocate for getting us that suffer from an invisible disability more resources and research to help others understand us better and help us navigate through life more successfully.

 

What not to say/do:

  1. Tell someone with an invisible disability that they don’t really have one or that they are just “faking” it or “being lazy.”—This is very invalidating and borders on being verbally abusive! Just because you don’t “see” anything wrong with the person, doesn’t mean the person is fine inside! If the invisible disability involves mental or neurological conditions, do not tell them it’s all in their head or that they are “being lazy” or somehow not trying hard enough to overcome their disability. First of all, unless you are also suffering from that disability or know what’s going on in the person’s mind (i.e are God), don’t assume to know how they are feeling or coping! More often than not, they are already trying the best they can and your invalidation can bring about feelings of self-hatred for themselves, causing resentment and anger against you.
  2. Value the person only in terms of their disability—(See number #3, in what to say/do.)
  3. Exclude or treat the person differently because you found out about their disability. Never, ever exclude or treat the person with the disability differently or exclude them from certain activities just because they have a disability (unless the person asks you to). We should treat everyone, especially those with invisible disabilities, with kindness, respect, and dignity! This means not treating them as if they were aliens or someone to be avoided or excluded. Treat them with the dignity you would your non-disabled family and friends.
  4. Make fun of /or ridicule them for their disability.—Along with the above, you should never ridicule someone for their disability, invisible or not! If you ever encounter another person mocking or ridiculing a person with a disability (invisible or visible), speak up and stand up for the person struggling with the disability. Silence basically signifies agreement with the action. Do not stay silent!

These are the ways you can support people with invisible disabilities, and the things you should never do.  If more people knew about what we go through on a daily basis, there would be more understanding and less prejudice against those who struggle  I struggle with an invisible disability, and on behalf of all my family and friends who likewise struggle, know that we appreciate you taking time to learn about our condition and understand us better.

The Importance of Life Stories

I have three main occupations (and many “sub-descriptive” occupations as well): First and foremost, I am a follower of Christ. God saved me from the pit of despair when I was just sixteen years old.  I am a sales associate. This is my day job that helps pay the bills and where I serve God the most.  Finally, I am a blogger and writer.  In writing, I have been made very aware of the power of stories—both fictional and real—in order to cultivate learning and more effective interactions with others.  Letting people share their stories and telling our own are both vital in cultivating more effective and fulfilling human interactions.  Here are some reasons why learning other people’s life stories are so important to effect better communication and interactions with others:

  1. It eliminates prejudicial attitudes.—A lot of people call racists and other prejudiced people “ignorant,” which I believe is a fitting term for them because they are often judging without knowing their targets’ stories. Although there are elements in some circles of feminism that I disagree with, one thing I like about almost all feminism, especially intersectional feminism, is that they take the time to learn about others’ stories, especially those that are often marginalized and shunned by society. If all of us (me included) would take more time to just get to know others better without prejudging them as “bad” in some way, we would probably discover that they are more like us than we realize. For instance, there were some people at work that at first irritated and angered me.  However, as time passed and I got to know them a little bit better, I realized not only did they have a lot of similarities to me, but there was a lot of pain and hurt in their life stories.  I know it is difficult (even for me), but as Rachel Scott said in one of her essays, “Code of Ethics” about not judging others and showing compassion, “ [D]id you ever ask them what their goal in life is, what kind of past they came from? Did they experience love; did they experience hurt; did you look into their soul and not just their appearance? Until you know them and not just their “type”, you have no right to shun them. You have not looked for their beauty, their good.”  (source: http://rachelschallenge.org/media/media_press_kit/Code_of_ethics.pdf)
  2. Knowing other people’s life stories cultivates a sense of understanding. –When we learn about other people’s goals, likes and dislikes, what kind of past they came from, and their experiences with love and hurt, we understand them better and are able to interact with them more effectively. For instance, before I knew one of my former pastors well, I did not trust him. In fact, because of his gregarious and upbeat personality, I assumed he “had it all together” and would not be able to relate to my problems and issues, or anyone else’s. However, when he told me part of his life story, I realized I had it all wrong.  I realized that he didn’t always have it all together.  I realized that because of what he had told me that he would indeed have great compassion of all that I had been through in life. I have realized that when I know a person’s life story better, I begin to understand what motivates their actions and why certain things bother them, or why certain things make them very happy.  If we took the time to get to know others better, it would not only eliminate wrong judgments, but we would be more understanding and compassionate of them because we know what they have been through.
  3. Getting to know other people’s stories adds value to them as a person.—When we listen as people tell us their stories or when we have a genuine interest in another’s life story, we show that we value them. We are, in essence, saying to them, “ I want to know more about you because you are that important to me. I want to understand you better because the stories you will tell are valuable to that purpose. Your story has value, and I can learn much from you.” We are also saying we respect them and what they have to offer when we have a genuine interest in learning about them.  For instance, if a good friend of yours confided in you about being abused in his or her past, when you listen to them without offering advice, but instead offer encouragement and just a listening ear, we are telling them, “I care about what happened to you, and you are not alone in this.”

This is why learning about others’ life stories is so important. It would eliminate much of the prejudice we see in this society; we would truly understand others’ motivations better and not just assume they are doing things just to be “mean” or “nasty” or out of selfish desires.  It also tells others that they are valuable and what they have to say is important. What are some important life stories you have learned that helped you understand someone or several people better? Please feel free to share in the comments, but please do NOT use people’s real names or specific details of a situation.

 

 

How I Overcame Depression This Year (and how you can too!)

On and off depressive episodes have been a part of my life since I was ten years old.  Sometimes, I cry for what seems like forever and a day, and sometimes I just become numb to everything around me, while hiding the turmoil inside. Though, when you meet me, I may seem happy and bubbly, for years it was only an unconscious façade to prevent myself from dealing with all the feeling of inferiority, self-hatred, and unfulfilled desires I had inside.

Then, some major changes in both my life situations and perspectives happened last year that fueled my motivation to beat depression once and for all this year. I still do struggle sometimes, but the depressive episodes are getting fewer and fewer. In my life situations, these four events fueled some major changes:

  1. My brother moved away.
  2. I got a new job.
  3. I went to a different church home after being at my previous one for over ten years!
  4. I started blogging more.

Here is what I learned from these events that have helped me overcome depression and enjoy some of the most joyful moments of my life. :

  1. I forgave those who hurt me.—There have been many people that have hurt me in the past. After several people hurt me emotionally a few months ago, I talked to one of the pastors at my church and he told me to “kill them with kindness” and directed me to the passages in the Bible where it said to “Love your enemies,” and “heap burning coals upon [my enemies’] head[s],” by loving and serving them anyway. It was in that moment that I realized what I wanted out of the people who hurt me and why it wasn’t working.—I wanted those that hurt me to stop hurting me! I had thought that by refusing to forgive them, I was, in essence, “punishing” them and giving them a taste of their own medicine that they deserved. However, in reality, what was happening was that I was hurting myself, and the people who hurt me not only continued to unconsciously hurt me because I was harboring so much anger and bitterness towards them, but also probably didn’t care or even know that they were still hurting me!  So, I believe God told me to “let go of the anger” because it really wasn’t accomplishing anything I wanted anyway, and I followed my pastor’s advice of intentionally doing good to them to help me heal from my anger and bitterness towards them.  Not only was I able to forgive these people, but our relationship was rekindled as well!
  2. I cultivated my dream of being a writer by blogging.—After starting and stopping blogging for about five years (I had accounts in other social media forms that are deactivated and I no longer use), I finally created this one in December 2015, but really made a commitment to regularly blog after getting my new job last year.  In addition to that, I joined a blogging group on Facebook, which has been a huge blessing and has helped me in many ways.  I am planning to monetize my blog sometime late this year or sometime next year, and/or do some affiliate work with this blog.  Writing has not only soothed me but has enabled me to communicate to others in ways I never thought possible.
  3. I woke up my motivation to learn about many different things in this world to increase my knowledge and so I could help and teach others.—This motivation and love of learning were really what woke up in me in two ways. First of all, my pastors’ sermons are always relevant to what I am going through and about the world around me. To apply what I learned, I felt that I could take what he taught and learn more about the topic. For instance, once he preached on creation, and that made me want to learn about how the world was created and about the different creatures that inhabit this planet.  Secondly, in the blogging group, I am a part, I have to read others’ blogs in order to get people to respond to mine and stay a good standing member of the group. This rule has helped me to learn about many different topics from fashion and travel to tips on how to better my blog! What are some things you can learn about the world around you?  What are some things that you can learn that your family and/or friends are interested in? I would try to learn about these things so you can better the world, make a difference in others’ lives, and also for your own enrichment.
  4. I embraced my spirituality more deeply.—As you may be able to tell from the title of the blog, “God’s Whisperings,” I take my Christianity quite seriously. However, before this past year, my devotions with God were lacking in quality and depth and I just didn’t feel as close to Him or to the people around me.  That changed when one of the pastors at my church did a bible study on doing devotions with God. Following his teachings, I was able to have a more effective and enjoyable time with God. Also, I tried to apply what I learned spiritually to other parts of my life too, such as my job and the friendships that I had with others, both in and out of work.
  5. I learned to enjoy and value my time more.—Before I got my current job, I felt that I was bored and had too much time on my hands. Now, with my free time being much more limited, I value my time more. I try to find something to enjoy in the moment I’m in now.  I no longer fear being bored or unfulfilled, because I now realize something always can be done, even if it is something as simple as prayer.  I learned that even if I have to spend some time with difficult people that something good still can be learned from them.  My pastor has repeatedly said, “Time is life.” I want to enjoy all the time that I have left because I can see all around me how precious life is and how limited time really is and how we should never waste it.
  6. I learned to love others more unconditionally.—As time goes on, I see all the pain and hurt that many people I know have to go through, often times on a daily basis. I also, unfortunately, see a lot of hate and indifference in this world, and I think that is tragic. So, because of this, I have resolved to strive to be different and counter all this hatred and anger with love and compassion.  I have tried (but still struggle with) being more patient with others, and putting others ahead of myself. I learned not only to forgive those that hurt me but to love people no matter what.
  7. I strived for excellence in everything I do.—It does me no good to just do something “to get by.” Nothing is more rewarding than to know that your hard work was all worth it. I strive for excellence in everything I do because it motivates me to constantly better myself and to learn new things.  Also, I have seen that when I do something with all my heart, that it is more rewarding than if I do something half-heartedly.
  8. I never gave up even though at times I wanted to, even though at times I failed in life, or even when obstacles had stood in my way.—There were a few times when I just wanted to give up. However, God didn’t allow me, and that has made all the difference. When I failed either morally or in other ways, yes I got upset, but then I picked myself up and tried again.  When obstacles stood in my way, there was always a way around it. When I wanted to give up, I thought of the negative consequences of actually giving up like not being able to accomplish my goals in life and not being able to be a positive influence in this world.  These things and often deliverance from a bad situation or situations gave me the motivation I needed to go on.

These are just some of the things I learned to do this year (and last) that helped me overcome my depression. How have you coped with or overcome depression, if you have struggled with it?  How has your life circumstances helped you to more effectively cope with life’s stresses? Please feel free to discuss in the comments.

How to be Genuine

This is a kind of a “Part 2” of a post I already did called, “Taking off our masks.”

Many people long to be known for who they truly are AND be loved and accepted for who they truly are. Some people are people-pleasers who strive to do or say anything (or almost anything) in order to be accepted or loved.  It is sad, when, despite everything they have done, people STILL won’t love or accept them, OR they accept a fake version of them, discarding the real, flesh-and-bone person in the process.  The good news is that we don’t have to strive to be accepted or loved if we know how to be genuine, even if not everyone on the planet even likes  or gives a care about us.

Barriers to being genuine:

1.) A society, institution, and/or individual who doesn’t allow for emodiversity, which is the abundance of emotions, both positive and negative being allowed to be expressed.

For instance, at work, associates are often not allowed or are strongly discouraged from crying, because it’s deemed “unprofessional” and “unbecoming.” But, according to the December 2016 edition of Reader’s Digest, a study done by researchers Oliver John of UC Berkeley and James Gross of Stanford University, found that bus drivers who suppressed their anger or sadness, had their anger or sadness intensify (i.e…worsen)! (Marsh, Readers Digest, 45) That is probably because they were unconsciously feeling guilty and uncomfortable because of not being able to be genuine enough to express the reality of how they were really feeling. An online friend of mine aptly described crying as “the peeing of the heart.”  Imagine, if at work or school, you weren’t allowed to use the bathroom because it was deemed “inappropriate” or “unprofessional.” It would be a mess!  Maybe if we allowed for more emodiversity, including crying or sadness at work and school, then I think we would solve half our interpersonal or personal emotional issues right there. I’m not saying, cry in such a way that it interrupts the teachers, students, clientele, and/or other associates. But maybe if we were to have a designated safe place where people could cry or get upset without fear of retaliation or hurting themselves or others, much like smokers now have a designated area where they can smoke, that would work MUCH better than not allowing people to cry at all!

To add to that, often we are forced by societal institutions, even religious  institutions, to “put a smile on our face” even if we don’t feel happy. I’ve heard numerous times (I don’t know how many) said to me things to the effect of “Put a smile on your face,” and “Don’t worry. Be happy,” when I was actually feeling depressed and/or angry.  Needless to say, that advice didn’t really help me at all! Research has shown that when we are forced to feel happy (or fake-happy), our actual moods actually became worse!  Many times in the sales or helping professions or even in religious institutions, we are told that smiling makes others happy, but if it is forced or fake, who does it really help when our actual moods deteriorate anyway?

Being able to be emodiverse , according to already-existing research gathered by Jason Marsh in Yes! Magazine published by Reader’s Digest in December 2016, is consistently linked to lower depression and had a healthier lifestyle than those who didn’t. (Marsh, Readers Digest, 48).

2.) Lying or being dishonest with who we are as a person.

That means exaggerating our accomplishments or just straight out telling people things that are not true about ourselves.  People may then have an inflated (or deflated-depending on the lie we may tell) sense of who we are, but they will never have the chance to accept and love the real you, and you will never have the chance to improve yourself, a lose-lose situation for both of you.

3.) Being arrogant

Along with lying, as sign of ingenuity, I have found, is being arrogant and/or displaying behaviors and words that make it seem that you think you are better than everyone (or almost everyone) else. I believe, with the exception of God, no one is perfect, and making it seem like you are, is a sign of being dis-genuine. For example, when someone confronts you about something you did wrong, rather than apologizing, admitting, and/or repenting of that error, you get upset and blame him or her instead. Also, when someone compliments you making it seem like somehow you “deserve” it more than everyone else.Connected to this, another way we are dis-genuine is feeling entitled to certain things that are really privileges. For instance, telling your boss that you deserve a raise and demanding it when you have done little to earn it, or even if you have done enough demanding it anyway, instead of telling him or her nicely that you want a raise.

4.)Trying to hide our flaws and/or perceived issues from others

When we try to compensate or hide things from people, we not only get a sense of inadequacy (from people being fooled into think we are better than we really are), but we are not being genuine either.  But when we are emodiverse and open about our mistakes and issues to others,  I have found often that it then frees others to open up and talk about their issues and flaws, because when we are open about our own shortcomings, we are in effect saying to them that it is safe for them to open up and that we will most likely (I hope.) that we will listen and empathize with them without judgement or retribution.

To summarize: How to be genuine

1.) Be emodiverse and allow others the same.  That is, allow yourself and others to express their emotions openly and without fear of reprisal or retribution.  That, however, does NOT mean that you allow yourself or others to get away with acting abusive in any way, whether it be emotional, verbal, physical, sexual or in any other way. But that does mean you allow people to cry if they need to or allow them to express anger or other so-called negative emotions, so as long as they are not hurting or trying to hurt themselves or others.

2.) Being honest with who we are a person.

3.) Being humble. That means never demanding more than we honestly think we deserve. That also means admitting our flaws and imperfections and accepting and loving others despite them.

4.) Being open about our issues and flaws with others. That does not mean you have to share everything with everyone; after all, that may not be wise. However, that does mean trusting at least a few people with our issues and flaws, and asking for help to change and solve these issues and flaws.  It also means that we are open to others telling us about their flaws and emphatically listening to them.

Being genuine may be difficult and costly, but at least I have found that it is well worth it because not only is genuineness a valued asset in our day, but it is also rare and beautiful.