How to Choose Joy and Find Your Power

Trigger warning: Some material in this post may be difficult for some individuals to work with at this time. And that’s totally fine! If you find the material to be too much for you, do whatever you need to do take care of yourself, whatever that may mean for you.

Choose joy. Choose happiness. Choose hope. Choose love.

Someone tried to tell me something along those lines years ago. I scowled and turned my back and walked away. I was an asshole. My thoughts angrily stirred inside as I walked away,

“You don’t have a clue what I’ve been through. There’s been too much pain, sadness, trauma, heartbreak, loneliness, and suffering. I’d love to be happy, but I have this thing called depression and anxiety that won’t let me be.”

and

“Such bullshit! Maybe that’s possible for you, but there’s just no way. What does happy even feel like? I don’t even remember…I remember feeling happy, like when I make chocolate chip cookies…”

I guess it pissed me off a little when I saw other people being so happy and joyful. How easy they have it. No stress, no worries, no therapy, no medications to take every day to stay sane, no medical bills – nothing! What the hell?! Why can’t I be like that? Why can’t I be happy? Why did I have to get dealt such a shitty hand in life? Why me?

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Since then I have dedicated my life to healing and to helping others so they don’t have to suffer like I did for as long as I have. I have done A LOT of self work, in so many ways. I have tried everything I could find, physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually, and I can honestly say, it’s working! I’m a completely different person than I use to be. That darkness in me is probably still there in some ways, but there is a beautiful light now that keeps shining brighter and brighter with each day. I don’t fear the darkness like I use to, nor do I cling to it either. When all you’ve known is sadness, detachment, pain, and darkness, it’s excruciating and terrifying trying to pull yourself out of it. It’s like those shiny black sludgy creatures from Kingdom Hearts or the creatures from the bottom of the lake in Harry Potter, grasping at you, trying to pull you below the endless black water, when you’ve already accepted that this is your home, where you belong. It takes lots of conscious effort, choosing positive thoughts when all you notice are negative thoughts and thinking patterns, and it takes having faith in the universe that you were not born for this, that there is something so much better out there you might not even be able to fathom or believe in right now. With each positive choice, to choose positive thinking, supportive and good friends, following inspirational people on social media and removing yourself from anything that causes a negative reaction, giving yourself permission to pursue whatever you have been wanting to do or experience or try (for me it was singing, piano, writing, photography, belly dancing and painting) and release whatever fear is holding you back.

What I didn’t know then, was I suffered from another illness, called victim mentality, that I imagine many others share in this thinking pattern who have also been through any kind of extremely painful experience or trauma.

Now don’t write it off just yet. Let’s think about it. Every single thought I had after someone told me to choose happiness, love, light, or positivity was a choice, right? I consciously formed those thoughts in my head. I decided happiness, joy, and love weren’t options for me, because of X, Y, and Z. Couldn’t I have made the choice then to be open to it instead? Technically yes, realistically, not at the time. And here’s why:

I didn’t value, care about or love myself. So how could I truly value, care about or love someone else, romantically, as friends, family or otherwise? I wanted to, but I found it so hard to even tell my friends and family I loved them, or even my dog! I lost faith in myself and no longer saw my value and worth. I felt worthless and unworthy of anything, especially love.

I didn’t believe in myself. I had lost myself at this point. I had lost hope in life and in myself. I couldn’t see a future that was anything other than darkness and pain.

I didn’t trust myself. Therefore I kept making decisions based on my negative subconscious beliefs that didn’t align with what I said and thoughts I wanted. My actions were often self-sabotaging and not in my best interest, that was not helpful to what I said and thought I wanted.

Usually I just did whatever I could to feel better, to feel normal, to feel happy, to forget, to numb the bad feelings, to run, to hide, or to escape. I would go to the local pub and drink excessively til they closed and kicked everyone out, I would shop and spend money I didn’t have and buy things I didn’t need cause I hoped they would make me happy or help me figure out who I was, I’d spend an obscene amount of time playing open-world role playing games (World of Warcraft anyone?) to escape my reality, I’d smoke lots and lots of weed when I could get ahold of it (which wasn’t exactly easy in the Bible Belt – thank you Colorado!). I would constantly either eat my feelings or starve myself and often go to extremes to lose weight and many other worse things for my mind and body I’m definitely not proud of.

I didn’t see the point in life anymore. Some days I felt empty and numb and other days I felt tremendous pain, overwhelming anxiety, hurt and sadness. I couldn’t do it anymore. I couldn’t continue to live this way, and feel this way every single day. I saw no light, had no hope, and just wanted the pain to stop. I knew how I wanted to go, by the only light that made sense to me… a bright beautiful light given off by a ray of hope! A train.. a quick and seemingly painless ending and the end to all of my problems, or so I thought.

I stood there in the middle of the train tracks in the dead of night staring longingly at that light as it came closer and closer towards me. I actually felt at peace for once in my life. I didn’t have any worries or pain, there was somehow peace for once. My mind was clear, the chatter was actually quiet and I felt a small glimmer of hope. It was getting so close, not much longer now. Then a hand grabbed mine and pulled me off the tracks right before it reached me by a complete and perfect stranger I had met earlier that night.

When we are stuck in a deep state of depression and hopelessness with our lives run by fear, it sounds odd – but we are actually incredibly selfish! Had I taken my life that day, that would’ve been the end. No goodbyes, no explanation, no do-overs, no nothing. The end.

I wasn’t thinking about the locomotive engineer whose life would forever be changed by the trauma of killing me and witnessing that. I wasn’t thinking about the kind stranger. I wasn’t thinking about my dog or bearded dragon, the friend I was with that night, or even the people I knew that I wasn’t really close to that would still be impacted by that decision to end my life. I wasn’t thinking about my friends or my family and what kind of impact that would have on them; they didn’t know anything really about what I was going through, and what I had shared with only a few people only made me feel more alone, invalidated and depressed. It felt like no one got it, no one understood, and no one even cared. Some people would dismiss what I did share, minimize it, find reasons to blame me, or would just turn it around and talk about how they had it worse, or that it wasn’t that bad and I needed to just let it go and get over it.

They all seemed too busy with their own lives either way and didn’t seem to care let alone just be there for me. And so we’re clear, anyone can be there for someone simply by sharing space and even just silence with them, authentically listening, holding their hand or giving them a long and loving hug (ask first), validating their experience and feelings, or even just by asking how you can help or what they need, etc. Advice in this state often isn’t needed or wanted and will quite possibly just fall on flat ears. For me, I really just needed to speak, to let it out and talk about it, to be hear, seen, cared for, and that the pain I was feeling was valid and mattered. That it wasn’t my fault and nothing I could’ve or should’ve done differently then would’ve changed the outcome by much, if any.

I had often thought, maybe they’d be better off not having to deal with me, that I was a burden. These were all simply thoughts based on my perception – my perception that I was unworthy, alone, unloved, that no one cared about me, that my feelings weren’t valid and didn’t matter and therefore that I didn’t matter, but it goes way deeper than that.

Our perceptions about life and ourselves begin forming when we are only infants. We don’t understand words yet, but we pick up on feelings and emotions, touches, noises, tone of voice, presence or absence of others, and energy for instance. We literally get a sense of the world and how it works and this continues as we get older. Yelling and screaming, abuse, neglect, being dismissed, not being held and loved, not feeling safe – it all shapes how we view the world and ourselves later on in life. It may show up as anxiety as an adult and feeling unsafe. It could present as a deep distrust in men or women or even in relationships if you are subconsciously taught that they only bring pain or abandonment, so you subconsciously push love away to protect yourself. It may show up as a deep sadness and depression when your needs as a child for love, attention and affection aren’t met. Or, you may feel unworthy of these things at your very core and develop self hatred rather than self love and go through life seeking approval, validation, love and happiness outside rather than within. I did all of these things and it actually did get me somewhere – to check in to a mental institution.

I had just suffered a horrendous heartbreak and breakup after living with the abusive fuck for a year. I was lost, alone, broken, hurting, confused, and had hit the deepest state of depression I have ever known, which was badddd. I had to get out of that town so I jumped on a great career opportunity that presented itself as my shining ray of hope to get out of the state, leave it all behind and start over. I ended up running away from everyone and had no one for support. I truly was alone. I knew I seriously needed professional help at this point so I started with group therapy once a week but after various symptoms of a much larger issue started running my life and affecting my ability to work, I was fired and then realized I needed a lot more help and fast.

The outpatient program taught me a few things though, it introduced me to meditation, art for a creative outlet of difficult emotions or memories, mindfulness, music therapy, and yoga – I still to this day find all of these incredibly helpful, healing, and imperative to my recovery. It also taught me that I also suffered from complex-PTSD in addition to major depression and generalized anxiety, which gave me the validation I needed that there really was something deeper and much more complex going on inside of me, cause I just thought I was going crazy and losing my shit. My diagnosis was a hard pill to swallow, metaphorically and quite literally. It took a long time for me to accept it all and make peace with it, but that was the first step. It made me feel so broken and messed up. But I finally did accept it and was able to identify with it. I started to find my tribe, of other “broken” individuals with an equally sad sob story, a “woe is me” attitude and a pessimistic outlook on life. It started to become a part of my identity, my crutch, and ultimately my reason and excuse to not heal, to sit in my misery and not really try to get better. I had developed the victim mentality. I’m not saying it was all bad. It was part of my healing process just to know that I was a victim of someone else’s undealt with shit and the anger, manipulation and abuse that came with that. I about drove myself crazy trying to figure it all out in my head, going over and over everything, what I should’ve done differently, what I did wrong, blaming myself, and so on in a never ending monologue that only tortured me further and solved nothing. I had to learn that it wasn’t my fault, I didn’t do anything wrong, and nothing I thought I should’ve, could’ve, or would’ve done would have changed a thing in the grand scheme of things, because you can’t change people, especially when they can’t be honest with themselves, and hurt people hurt people, plain and simple.

The next hardest thing was learning to forgive myself, as well as my family, and that abusive fuck. I did these all separately in their own ways and on their own separate timelines. I was able to forgive my family by working on myself, and over time I was able to see events and the situation they were in from a different perspective. I could put myself in their shoes and see how they got the way they are. I was able to use an outside perspective without emotional attachment and hurt involved so I could see clearly and have compassion and empathy. I asked myself, what could’ve happened to this person for them to get this way, or for them to act in certain ways. I found this to also be particularly helpful for forgiving the abusive fuck as well. The signs were subtle and hidden when I was with him, but still there. He had suffered too and possibly been abused in his youth. As a young adult, he wasn’t able to stand up for himself to his father and he wasn’t allowed to be his truest self because he had to be who his dad wanted him and expected him to be. It is quite sad really. I learned that forgiveness doesn’t mean you are accepting or excusing any poor behaviors, it doesn’t really even have much at all to do with the other person, forgiveness is for you ultimately. To free yourself from the ties to a person, their actions, words, endless chatter in your mind and hurt in your heart. For me, forgiveness meant seeing things from an outside, unattached perspective and finding understanding and compassion in where and what they were coming from and how they got that way. I was able to forgive myself because I found compassion and love for myself and my younger self, and knowing I did the best I could in many tough situations with where I was and what I knew at the time. I was so hard on myself – why?!! I compared myself and my life to other people so much. Social media is the worst for this reason! We only see snapshots of only what other people want us to see. Do they post all of the bad times, bad days, burnt meals, bad hair days, plain black coffee, microwave dinners, screaming and crying children and all of the other less than stellar things people experience? Generally, no. So of course if you compare all of the real life crap to someone else’s seemingly perfect picture of a seemingly perfect day, you’re likely to find yourself feeling FOMO, anxious, upset, envious, depressed, lonely, unfulfilled, etc. You aren’t doing yourself any favors there.

The doctors said the diagnosis is a permanent condition. The doctors said I will be on medication my entire life. The doctors said it will affect me the rest of my life. And I believed them all. What they didn’t tell me what how incredibly powerful and resilient our minds are, how strong willpower can be, and how the human body is designed to heal! How much it really just wants to heal! But it starts in your mind. If you believe you are broken, guess what.. you will feel like you are. If you believe you can’t do something, you won’t. It’s that simple. Your life, your body, mind, thoughts and feelings might feel completely out of control right now, and that’s ok. We all start somewhere, but you do have some control. You have a choice in what you choose to believe and if you choose to listen to naysayers or choose to carve your own path. You choose what you fill your mind with, what kind of content you let influence you, what kind of people you keep space for in your life. You decide what you will put up with from other people and how you will be treated. You can choose to set boundaries for honor your needs and you can choose to communicate those needs with others or you can choose to let things slide and not speak up for yourself. You can even decide today, right now even, that you are so sick and tired of being sick and tired. You can decide that you want a different life than what you’ve been living. You have the power to decide that you’ve suffered enough, done enough damage to your mind and body, and have wasted too much of your precious life wrapped up in your misery, blind to the light that resides in you and the beauty and wonder of life and this vast wonderful world. You have everything within you already that you need. You have love and light, confidence and a strong heart, and I’m willing to bet you also have something to say, something to share, that others desperately need to hear. Because we all just want to feel connected. Your pain can be what destroys you or what connects you. You can bury the pain and allow it to isolate you rather than using it to connect to others, or you can begin to open your beautiful vulnerable heart to others. When you share your story and your truth, others begin to feel more comfortable sharing their hearts, and through this process, we start to learn that we really aren’t as alone in our feelings as we thought. We meet others who can relate to your experience and real connections form. Remember to connect from a heart centered place rather than from that inner child that may still be seeking validation and acceptance. You know your story. Any and all hurts are real, are deeply painful, and only you know how it felt and how it affected you. Your validation, acceptance, and forgiveness is the only one you need. Your own health, happiness, hope, joy, and love is the most important thing you can ever give. When you let go of all the things weighing you down, you create room and space for new things, new people and experiences to come in!

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Deep down I always felt I was meant for something much greater; my big ideas and thinking were often too much for others to wrap their head around, but not me, I lived for that. I think part of why I was so depressed for so long was I wasn’t living life the way I knew I wanted to be, and craved so desperately to be. And honestly, I’m still not quite there. But I’ve learned something… your pain is your power. And if you run, hide from, and numb it, you will never be free of it and you will never discover your power. You have to feel it, sit with it, sit with the feelings and emotions of your past traumas and really feel them if you ever hope to be free of them.

What Your Anxiety & Chronic Pain Are Trying To Tell You

Anyone who deals with chronic anxiety knows how crippling it can be and how much it can affect your day to day life. If you are struggling with anxiety, you may be desperately searching for something, anything, to dull the senses.

The human body is an incredible thing. It gives us signs and signals when something isn’t right whether mentally or physically, in the form of symptoms. You may develop a cold if you’ve been overworking yourself or not taking the time to properly care for yourself. It’s your body’s way of telling you to take a break. Anxiety is a physical response to an emotional pain that stems from fear. Our emotions have a deep connection to the body. Often when difficult emotions arise, if we are unable to process them, they can get stored in the body. I’ve noticed mine come in the form of extremely tight muscles that have contorted my body. I also notice my buried emotions come in the shape of large, deep knots, daily pain all throughout my body (particularly the back and neck) and a significant decrease in my range of motion. No two people are the same, so your body may store emotions and show symptoms differently. The key here is awareness.

Physically, I’ve found a few ways to release some of the emotions stored within the body. My personal favorite, because it can provide instant relief, is called dry needling. It’s very similar to acupuncture, with the main difference being that dry needling is more science based whereas acupuncture is more spiritual. So rather than targeting stuck chakras and things like that, they target the heart of your pain, which is called the trigger point. When they correctly hit the trigger point, you feel the area tighten, then release. I like to call these twinges. If the spot is particularly deep, old, or tight, when the muscle contracts, it may even bend the needle (which I find fascinating)! Yes, I said needle, but let me try to ease your mind before you freak out. They are more like little pins, just like the acupuncture ones. Personally, I’m not a fan of needles; I tried acupuncture before and didn’t like it. Dry needling can change your life; it definitely changed mine! After years of a mix of chiropractic care, physical therapy, stretching, yoga, and anything else I thought might alleviate some of the pain, relax my muscles, and realign my spine. I did several sessions through a physical therapist’s office, which also allowed my insurance to cover the expense which was a life saver! Some people may only need a few sessions depending on your situation. I immediately saw huge improvements, and kept seeing them! My posture improved, various symptoms due to my nerves being compressed by my vertebres disappeared, headaches and migraines are practically nonexistent now (except for the occasional hangover..lol..), and I even grew a few inches from my lengthened and more aligned spine! Sometimes, I could feel the emotion leaving, and often people have emotional responses to the dry needling either during the session or afterwards. If you have any other questions or comments about dry needling, comment below or feel free to email me (info@mentalmindmorph.com).

 

The next best thing, is to try to achieve the same muscle spasms that release trapped emotions is through either stretching or rolling on a ball. It’s a much slower process than dry needling, but basically works the same way. Through stretching, you target the spots that are giving you trouble. This can often be difficult because you have to push into the trapped areas, which you may not have been able to use those muscles in many years. I find taking deep breaths and breathing into the pain allows the muscle to relax to reach the trigger point, and you’ll know when you do! You’ll get that same muscle spasm that can be large, sometimes painful, but super gratifying afterwards. You can also use a ball, I prefer a lacrosse ball like this.

Kieba Massage Lacrosse Balls for Myofascial Release, Trigger Point Therapy, Muscle Knots, and Yoga Therapy. Set of 2 Firm Balls (Blue and Red)

If you find yourself in constant pain, particularly in your back, I find foam rollers really helpful. I need the extra firm kind which really digs into those tough spots and loosens them up. I’ve tried all kinds of them and still wasn’t getting enough, so I finally got the RumbleRoller and I am super happy with it! I use it on my back, neck, hips, psoas, glutes and hamstrings, arms, and everything else! I love it!

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As an Amazon affiliate, I receive a small percentage from sells linked from my page. I am not paid by companies to support their products; I hand select products I personally use and love and share them with you in hopes they can help you too! I am also not a doctor, and therefore nothing on this site is considered medical advice. You should always consult your physician before beginning anything new.

Little Black Dog Called Depression

What Is Depression?

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, major depressive disorder, or clinical depression is described as:

“A common but serious mood disorder. It causes severe symptoms that affect how you feel, think, and handle daily activities, such as sleeping, eating, or working.” These symptoms are present for a minimum of two weeks.   (Click here to continue reading: https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/depression/index.shtml)

I personally think of it more as this annoying flea that has decided to latch onto me, leeching from my blood and somehow poisoning it at the same time. I’ll have a few good days, then it decides I’ve had too much of a good thing so it siphons off any feel good chemicals left from my mind and body for its own use. I’ve just made a happy bug… ugh.

Other times, it feels like a sad, lonely miserable animal that won’t stop following me around, pouring its pain into me, and I can’t escape from it no matter what I do…it always finds me. This video below is an excellent example of what depression is like, and also a great video to share to those close to you that aren’t as familiar with depression. Maybe they’ll at least stop saying things like “just get over it, pull yourself together, it’s not as bad as you think it is,” or whatever cliche insensitive crap uninformed people throw at you. 

Have you ever asked yourself, who am I without depression, without anxiety, or without _______ (fill in the blank)? Most of my life, I didn’t realize or understand that I was depressed or that I  struggled with depression. When I look back, all I see now is depression, insecurity, hurt and loneliness. If you’ve dealt with any kind of mental illness for a significant amount of time, whether knowingly or not, it can become part of your identity, sometimes a big part, like it did for me. 

I can be overly sensitive and emotional, I can find comfort in darkness, and brood over and stew in deep unpleasant or unsettling thoughts and feelings, unable to let things go. This is normal, well at least, my normal. So many years later, these “personality traits” still remain. I have built upon them over the years and even expanded some. I use to write to vent, express myself, and connect to my emotions, thoughts and feelings. Now I still do. Some of my hobbies, interests and personality traits that may have stemmed from my depression or as a coping mechanism, was there all along. Now I can thank the darkness for giving me more meaning, depth, understanding, wisdom, knowledge, empathy, sensitivity and powerful emotional depth that would’ve been rather superficial have little value to myself and others had I not had a black dog called depression raining on me day after day throughout my life. Not everything is bad, not everyone is bad either. Where in your life can you find the good in your mental illness? How has it helped you? What has it or having to live with it taught you? 

For me, it got to such a bad point that self medication and avoidance, couldn’t help me anymore. That I sought professional help, then when that wasn’t enough, more professional help, and then even more. Overtime through this process, I was forced to look at myself and my hurts of the past, which I would probably still be running from otherwise. After looking at more recent traumas, eventually I found a counselor that helped me get to the core of all of it. Who knew, most of our deepest insecurities, fears and pains often stem from childhood. Often they can be things we never considered, or things we forgot altogether, like I did. Usually though, it’s the emotions and the feelings that get stuck, and can often be the reason why out of the blue we feel down or anxious and have no clue why. It could’ve been just a brief thought, a look from someone, or a feeling that randomly popped up that took a part of you back to a moment you are still stuck in. Maybe your body/mind is trying to help you look at that memory, so you can heal from it, so you can feel it in its entirety to finally put it to rest. Through working on yourself usually through self reflection and focussing on being present the heaviness starts to lift away. One by one, those rocks and boulders fall away and break apart, and so does the depression and the anxiety. The negative thoughts start to fade as you become aware of them, challenge them and put them to the test. Take the beautiful parts with you and everything you learned. Know that you aren’t your mistakes and your diagnosis doesn’t define you. When you feel lost, alone, confused or depressed, instead of saying to yourself “Why is this happening to me?” ask yourself, “What is this trying to teach or show me?” Know that “no” is also an answer and often comes in the form of things not working out in the way we want or what we thought was what should happen. “No” is often a blessing in disguise. The universe has a clearer idea of what we need than we do! Look for the silver lining, find the message. Sometimes hard times are necessary to develop the skills, mature, learn and grow into the person we are meant to be. I know I’m not quite ready for whatever this world has planned for me yet. But, I know I was meant for something more, something bigger, and big rewards come with big challenges and struggles. 

No matter where you are at in your journey, know that these feelings don’t last forever. You haven’t lost control over your mind or body. You still have a choice. Are you going to let it win or are you going to rise up? It’s easier, yes, to feel defeated and much less work. It’s easier to complain about how crappy it is or how it’s not getting better. What’s hard and why most people are stuck is because they are afraid to do the work that’s necessary for healing. In this world of everything on demand, we want our health and healing to be on demand too. Well, let me ask you…. did you get to this point overnight? I’m guessing not. Generally, it’s quite a long process. The hard part is facing your demons and dragging them out of that dark closest and into the light, and having a long hard look at them and yourself. Can you accept your faults without crucifying yourself? Can you do this with compassion for yourself but also for those that wronged you? Can you find the good in the bad, the beautiful in the ugly, and the magnificent in the ordinary?

Let me tell you something you may not have heard in a while. You matter and you are here for a reason. You are worthy of selfless love and you have it within you to love so deeply. You have so much left within you to give the world. You are strong and you are braver than you knowYou are not lost. You are on a journey, and that is a beautiful thing! Embrace it! 

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J.R.R. Tolkien

Thank you for reading, and I hope you enjoyed it! I want to ask you, what have you found to be on your mind more so lately? Any particular struggles or challenges you’d like me to talk about or even just share some inspiring words on? This blog is for everyone! A community for anyone who can relate, and a safe place for anything on your mind, with a thoughtful and kind group of people that can relate and have your back. Please follow and be sure to leave a comment with any thoughts, tips, or suggestions for this blog post or future posts. Thanks for your love and support! 

Peace and Love, 

Laura