Not Comparing Myself to Myself

I notice as I start feeling better, I add more good things in. When depression is going on, I’m not able to do much, but I don’t get worked up about it anymore. I tend to tell myself it will get done when it gets done. Whatever it is. I tend to set a goal of one thing on those days. It might just be “take care of the kids the best you can”. Which really isn’t a just, but in the list of things I can do in a day, it’s pretty short. This week is an awesome

Week, by contrast, and I’ve been cleaning and organizing the house, cooking meals, practicing at Shanteel everyday, and running errands during the day. A bad week tends to find me sleeping, making sandwiches or leftovers for dinner, and helping with the kids as best I can. Yoga practice tends to be forward folds all day (great for depression) and lots of yoga nidra. It works.

With this being a good week, I’m refocusing on diet. I can only add things in when I can focus, and depression makes it really hard to focus. I started intermittent fasting last week – no eating past 7:00 PM, and smoothies for breakfast (I never eat breakfast) to cut down on coffee and start the day with a vitamin boost. I’m making sure I’m taking all my vitamins because they make suuuch a difference in moods. But again, shit like this is hard when it is. I’m eating Buddha bowls again, and I’m cutting back on cheese and meat. I genuinely don’t like how addicted to cheese I am.

The biggest difference is I trust myself now. I don’t stress if I don’t get to Shanteel, because I know I’ll go back. I don’t stress that I didn’t do anything, because I trust I will. There’s so much less fighting that way and I bounce back so much more quickly. I am getting away from comparing for any other reason then reporting symptoms to my doctor. It doesn’t matter what I did yesterday in context of today. Yesterday, I did a lot, but that doesn’t mean today I have to. I’m not in competition with myself or anyone anymore. Today is a day, and when I can look at each day With fresh eyes, it’s like a whole new level of freedom.

I use the good times to build habits I can lean on in the opposite times. The simple things like basic hygiene can be challenging on days I don’t even want to get out of bed. So, I try to simplify everything then. I take really good care of myself when I can and assume it balances out when I can’t. The end.

Sometimes, it gets frustrating watching these fluxes. I wonder what my kids think

When they watch me go from Supermom to ZombieMom. But I remind myself: what if any of them grow up with similar struggles? Do I want to teach them to criticize and judge themselves? Or do I want to show them

Acceptance and love no matter what? No one is the same day to day, we just tell ourselves that and hold ourselves to standards that don’t actually exist anywhere besides our minds.

It’s amazing how comfortable it is when the good times and the bad times aren’t that big of a deal. The amount of energy I’d waste hiding the symptoms, escaping the symptoms, or lying to myself… I actually can do so much more now just from saving that energy and being myself As I am that day Being comfortable in your own skin and mind is a freedom that so few can enjoy. With or without mental illness.

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Talk About Your Sky

This hits too close to home. I’m crying and covered in chills. “She wasn’t well enough to know how sick she was” is a 10 word summary of my life since 7th/8th grade. I started cutting and being suicidal in 8th. I had full intentions of killing myself in March 1997, at the ripe old age of 14. This didn’t come to me as an illness or symptom of an illness. This was: I’m a terrible person, everyone hates me, and it would be a favor to everyone if I just died. This carried forward til present: it still happens. I finally know symptom versus reality, but it has taken so much work to find that truth. I can’t even say medicine is how I found it. Therapy wasn’t either. It was finding myself, my true self, and seeing I was beautiful and worthy of love. Most especially from me.

People don’t understand that mental illness robs you of the capacity to experience love because it tells you no one loves you. It tells you how awful you are. People say always to “believe in yourself” but what if yourself says everyone hates you? You are evil? No one loves you. You don’t deserve love. God hates you? I believed until I finally learned my brain lies.

This is the analogy I use to explain bipolar. Imagine someone who sees the sky is pink. They call this sky blue, because everyone else says the sky is blue. You don’t know what blue looks like, because blue is pink for you. You don’t know to call it pink, you’ve never known it was a color other than blue. It’s always just been how you see your sky. How can you make someone understand their Sky could be a different color? How can I make you understand I don’t see your blue? How can we ever understand that I don’t have any capacity to understand other skies or that my sky is different? And even if my sky is different, it’s beautiful too.

Life changed when I realized my pink sky is the most beautiful one In the world because it’s mine. It’s me. My challenges made my strengths, and my pain made my beauty. This mother, lost to us forever, fought similar battles as me, and she lost, her husband lost, and her children lost. It’s stories like this that make me care for myself more, and speak louder. Everyone has different skies, none of us see the same blue, but that makes you beautiful not broken. Because all the broken parts of me are all the best parts of me too. My mind works differently. I am a genius, and I am also a person who suffers in her mind.

Bipolar affects every aspect of my life and my relationships. I have lost so many people because of this illness including the man who was my world. I can understand the pain Jon Davis in right now, because I remember the pain Evan and I have been in. Jon Davis and his wife divorced in 2016, and it’s so difficult to convey what it’s like to love someone who can’t love themselves. Medically and chemically can’t feel love. It’s like water in a holey bucket trying to get a drink when you’re dying of thirst.

Mental illness was what tore our marriage apart, and healing mental illness is what brought our marriage together. But not before I almost killed myself – either with my addictions or by my own hand. And Evan helped save my life. I hope Jon doesn’t feel the guilt that he couldn’t save hers. I could have left my kids motherless, even though saving them my pain was what started me realizing I was not well enough to realize how sick I was.

Rest In Peace Deven. You’re an angel who graced the world with beauty, until your broken wings took you home for peace and rest.

If these words resonate, start talking and don’t stop. Don’t keep this pain inside. The most beautiful part of you is everything you hide away, because the people who struggle are the people who are admired for overcoming. Talk, please. Share your story. Share your struggles. You will quickly see how many other pink skies there are. None of us are alone.

Raisin’ Em Loved

It’s not always I can feel like the best mom ever, but last night I had the chance to maybe shift Livie’s perception. It all started with “Mom, girls are way better than boys, right?” I said no, not at all. I think we’re all amazing.

She thought for a second, “well girls are way different than boys, right?” This is what I said

Livie, everyone is different from everyone. People get so hung up on things like I am a girl or I am a boy or whatever, but what people keep missing is that no boy is like another boy and no girl is like another girl and no boy is like another girl. We are all completely different. A lot of people are scared of that and they try to be like everyone else. They don’t like what makes them different and they hide behind things that make them feel the same or better than people. But no one is better than anyone on this planet. We all see, think, and feel differently. I am a girl and you are a girl, but you and I are completely different.

Imagine if you painted a picture and you only used one color. That would be kind of boring and you might even have trouble seeing the painting. That’s how our world is. Each of us is our own color, we’re all completely unique and that makes the world so much more interesting and better.

You and I could see the same painting and I could hate it and you could love it. Thats just like life. I believe god gave each of us special gifts and talents that no one else can do like we can, because it’s our special gift. No one can see the world through your eyes and there is not one person on the planet like you. You are it. There’s only one you. There’s lots and lots of girls and lots and lots of boys, but there’s only one livie. No one has your special gifts. It doesn’t matter if you’re a boy or a girl, because you’re you. And the worst thing you could do is hide those gifts away and try to be like everyone else. You need to always be yourself and never be afraid to be yourself.

Look at lady Gaga! No one in the world is like her and look how powerful she is. Not because she’s rich or famous: because she doesn’t give a crap what anyone thinks of her. She’s always herself. There is nothing more powerful than that. There’s nothing more powerful than loving you and being you, because there’s only one of you. That’s the coolest thing in the world!

Livie did a handstand when we got outta the car, gave me a big hug, and said “you’re right mommy, I love you. Nobody is like you.”

I don’t always feel like a great mom, but last night, I felt like I’m doing a lot right. Livie especially has a growth mentality, and I’m teaching the boys too: endless possibility and no good or bad, just life.

I was having a shitty day all day. No energy, cranky as hell, and not on point with mom duties. As soon as Evan got home, I went for a long walk to shut myself up and I came

Back ready to be the mom my kids deserve instead of being the mom consumed by hormones and chemicals. This is all ostensibly bad and yet: God presented me this opportunity with her. If I can help my kids see the beauty in themselves before the world tells them how to be like everyone else, that they’re deficient and need to buy shit to feel better, and they need to have people like them to feel okay, I don’t care about much else. My metrics of success are different than most. I don’t care about anything beyond: do my kids love themselves and know how loved they are by me? Success. Every time I speak to them, hug them, and kiss them, I teach them love. My words aren’t always good, my temper can often be short, because I teach them imperfection, humanity, and forgiveness too. I don’t want them using me as how to feel about themselves. I want them to love themselves independent of me. The only way I can do that is to love myself, and show them I love myself even When I screw up. I don’t want them to think I’m perfect or know everything. I want them to know they are always loved even when they feel the most unloveable. Cause it’s that truth that gets me outta bed and on walks when I don’t even want to deal with life.

From Fear to Love: How my muses saved my writing

Inspiration comes to me like a flash. If I’m not prepared with something to write, I typically end up dropping everything and typing it on my phone. I’ve lost too many good epiphanies otherwise. The tough ones are when I am getting inspired out the wazoo as I’m trying to go to sleep. My muses don’t seem to have a circadian rhythm.

There are three muses in my life who similarly aren’t big on the concept of letting me sleep: my kids. Their inability to give me quiet time or an extra hour to sleep in notwithstanding, they are my everything. They are the reason I write and have been since I started. It was the mantra “My children will never cry my tears.” that started this journey.

I knew deeply if I did not stop my shit, I would pass it on to them. I remember thinking how they couldn’t know what I was doing when I was purging or starving, but the look of relief on my daughter’s face when I suggested we stop and get some food proved me dead wrong. I know how I speak to them will become their inner monologue. I’m human, I screw up, I get angry, I say dumb shit. I’ve always feared I was ruining their lives, I was screwing them up, etc. etc. Hurt people hurt people, and I was so terrified of hurting them. My pain radiated to my marriage until it imploded, it’s a natural assumption to fear what it could do to them.

All of that fear was the impetus to write, because I knew I could figure it out if I just wrote about it. I could have never expected the journey my writing has taken me on, but the more important reality is how much healing my writing has brought. I am world’s apart from the woman who started writing 2 years ago, and thank God for it.

Now, though, fear has no place in my life. Anything brought from a place of fear can only bring forth more fear, which is what happened when my mind shattered under the weight of my own pressure. This obsession with being well took me far, far down a rabbit hole of my psyche and shadows. It was a wonderful blessing wrapped in a curse. Carl Jung said, “Nothing more profoundly affects the mind of a child than the unlived life of the parent.” What he’s saying is we all project our fears on each other, most especially our kids. I didn’t want to project me not following my dreams on them. But, on my road to recovery, I connected with the reality: my writing will never be what it must be if it’s not born from a place of love. It’s only within the past month I’ve been able to write like I used to. Raw, honest, Me. I feel as though the words fall out of my fingertips and it’s meditation in action.

The shift was so simple, I don’t know why it did not occur to me sooner. Before, I wrote to save the children from my biggest fear: myself. Now, I write to save the children from their biggest challenges: themselves, society, and all the well meaning fools that will tell them now to follow their dreams. Then, as my kids get older, the instructions to chase dreams will be recanted and they’ll be told to get a real job. How many of us had our dreams shattered by a well meaning loved one? How many of us have an artist inside begging to come out while we sit behind a keyboard at a job we wish was anything else and make someone else rich, or make someone else’s dream come true?

My kids don’t listen to me worth a damn. I used to think talking about how they can do anything, etc. was enough, but the simple evidence of asking them to clean their rooms shows how well they listen. The same reality spurring my fear is the reality spurring my love: Kids watch and learn by example. If I am secretly starving myself, my kids are learning to hate their bodies. If I am sitting and writing, promoting, and actively pursuing my dream, my kids are learning to believe in themselves, their gifts, and their dreams.

This, to me, is my sacred duty as a mother. There are too many children trapped inside adults who were told they couldn’t cut it. There are too many of us full of doubt, remorse, regret, and confusion. This is probably going to sound weird, but it’s like killing Santa Claus over and over again. We tell our children there is magic in the world, we tell them Santa can do all of these incredible things. Then, when they’re old enough or when a kid on the playground decides to, we tell them it was a lie. We kill magic. Likewise, we tell the kid who wants to be an astronaut, firefighter, or artist they can do anything they set their minds to. When the chips are down, and it’s time to graduate high school, we encourage practicality and mortgage sized student loan debt.

If we starve our inner artist, or our inner child, look at the suffering we bring into ourselves. Depression and anxiety: how much of this is repressed dreams and gifts? I get so much anxiety if I am not writing, especially if I am having lots of ideas and I’m “too busy” to do anything with them. I write as much as I do just to stay on top of myself. Otherwise, I get overloaded, and I start panicking, and I’ll slump in depression. I mean, Christ, depression and repression sound pretty damn similar no?

Why are so many artists diagnosed ADHD, Bipolar, anxious, or depressed? This is our gift manifesting the wrong way. The sensitivity we have to life is our gift wrapped in a curse. We cannot express the mysteries, beauty, and perfection of art without feeling it immensely. We all know words are a pittance to reality, when we express pain or love, it’s nothing compared to truth. Yet our words come close, because of our gifts. If showing my kids the paths to their dreams, self worth, and self love is my sacred duty as a mother, writing about the beauty of reality is my sacred duty to life. Being completely authentic and truthful me, free of the bonds of people’s opinions, free of the bonds of fear, and free of repressed expression is my sacred duty to myself – my true self.

I can’t and won’t put my kids through a journey of trying to reconnect with something that was once crystal clear. When I was in 8th grade, I promised my teacher I’d dedicate my first book to her. There was not a shred of doubt I’d be a writer then. 21 years later, I’m finally “hey I should do something about that writing thing I liked to do…” I had so many dreams when I was younger. I was going to be POTUS, too. Dreams beget more dreams. I’m living my first dream now: I’m (technically) a stay at home mom raising 3 kids. I always saw that, I just didn’t understand the timing. They didn’t need me as a SAHM when they were babies, they need me now. Divine timing works that way, and it’s necessary to trust that. If you make your dreams known, worlds move to make that dream come true.

The people strong enough to step into their dream are the ones who make their dreams come true. The people who repress their dreams are the ones who have the shadows of regret and remorse. The only way I can be an example to my kids is to step into my dream and be a writer. It doesn’t matter the scale, I trust the universe on that one. They just need to see and hear me being a writer. Today. Not tomorrow, not one day. If I want to be a writer, I am a writer. Every time I press publish anywhere, I am a writer. That’s what they see. When my brain starts telling me I cannot, I picture the three of them, and I say of course I can. I have the best inspiration in the world. I have the best fan base in the world. My children.

How many of us are starving artists inside? I’m not talking financially. I am talking we have a muse, we  have a vision, we have a gift, and we are starved for expression. We take that gift, and shove it in the back of our psyche because it’s not practical.  Thank God for my children, otherwise I never would have started trying. I would have lied to myself to my deathbed and wondered where my life went. I have only truly experienced life to its fullest when I saw my dreams were already coming true, and all I had to do was step into them.  I hope, if you are struggling with your dream or believing in yourself, this inspires you to take the first steps. That’s how every journey begins.

What about you? Are you living your dreams? Who inspires you to live your dreams? If the answer is no, are you going to change it? 

Let’s connect! Follow me all around the web

Daina (OurBeautifulLies):

 

 

Marketing Art

The reason why you are struggling in your dream is not because of external forces. It’s because of a simple, logical one word answer: you. You lack marketing. You’re not marketing yourself – to yourself. How you speak and how you interact with the world is your brand, and your number one customer is you. Everyone else will follow your lead.

Coke does not tell you that they can clean a toilet bowl with their product. It’s true, but they don’t advertise that. They make you lick your lips when they talk about how badly you want that Coke and how much better you feel. They do not tell you how much sugar or calories it contains.

Are you following me? If you are advertising this shit to yourself, you will not hire yourself, you will not purchase from yourself, you will not read your poem, blog, article, buy a painting, get a tarot reading. Why would you? Why would they.

Marketing is strategic and logical. It is the left side of the brain and usually the weaker side of the brain in artists especially because they are right brained. Without marketing: internally and externally, you will not find a consumer. Research the law of 7s in marketing. Email lists, social media, everything is crucial, but finding your niche and finding your message is marketing. And you must market your art. You must network. You must be the CEO of your art. It’s balance. It’s analytical and strategic.

But it’s worthless if you don’t do it on yourself first.

Contact me if you’d like to discuss ways to better market your art, if this is of interest.

Feel free to follow me on Facebook, Blog page, I’m @mahbuttitches on Instagram and @ourbeautifullie on twitter. Let’s connect!!

❤️🧡💛💚💙💜

Mom Duty

I had to do a rough mom job last weekend. Livie’s anole died: she got two anoles at the Renaissance Faire in October, and the male died pretty fast, the female just died last week. Of course, it happened while she was away at camp. We had gotten her another male, because anoles shouldn’t be alone. I sat her in bed with me and told her what happened, reassured her she did nothing wrong, told her how good she’s done taking care of them, and then I just shut up. I let her cry, I listened to her cry, and I squeezed her tight. I think sometimes we crush our kids with the best of intentions. No one wants their kid to hurt or cry, but both are natural parts of life. We come into the world crying, and every mother knows labor is neither free of hurt or tears. It’s just part of life. Sometimes, I think the hardest thing is to let our kids hurt, let them feel pain, and show them how to cope. The best way to do that is to let them see you cope, I think. Be honest with your own emotions at a level they understand, and talk about how you get through tough times.

This time, I just shut up. There’s no words that take away the pain of a lost pet, and what she needed was to cry, and was to just be nuzzled by me. She started smiling again pretty quickly.

She went to get anoles this weekend, because now Pete can’t be alone. I suggested she name her new anole sparkle, so she can always remember the fun she had at sparkle camp, even if she came home to a sad thing. I told her this is how life works, and the best way to stay happy is to always make the bad as good as it can be. Even though you will miss majesty, you can be thankful for her and the memories you had, as you make new memories with sparkle and princess. (Apparently more females are better for the male. They like “harems”… lizards man who knew! 🦎)

When she was happy, I explained the yin yang to her again. There is always good inside the bad, and bad inside the good. ☯️

Me vs. me

The most frustrating aspect of bipolar or mood disorders (including ADHD) is there are essentially at least two diametrically opposed personalities in your life. There’s the person who can handle it and the one who can’t. They’re both you, it’s not multiple personality disorder, but one you is on the ball and trying to improve and the other you is overwhelmed, anxious, and wondering how the hell to get half of what was done before done now.

This has been an ongoing battle in my life. When things are good, I’m on the ball, organized, house clean, and dotting all my lower case j’s. When things are not, I don’t even know where to start. I call it going down holes. It’s frustrating because as far as I can go up is as far as I can go down. Most of this year has been me trying to teach myself baseline. An area where I can manage and cope without too much pressure either way. Things that are easy on good weeks are difficult on not good weeks. I make commitments on good weeks that are impossible on bad. And then I have to dig myself out of the holes my moods can go to.

Buddhism taught me impermanence and to relieve myself of expectations. The largest part of my suffering was in comparing myself to myself and to others. I am not the person I was five minutes ago, let alone last week. This frees me to just do my best every day. It doesn’t matter what I did or didn’t do previously. It’s also okay to be overwhelmed, because I have a lot going on. Carving time to meditate creates space to just be and allow myself to be however I am without fixing me.

I am not my house or my to do list. Some days, I just need to cope with my Newtonian moods watching me go up and inevitably come down. Ram Dass said his stroke is a grace from God, because he finally learned to ask and receive help. He is paralyzed on his left side saying this is grace. I’ve been pondering his beautiful words for a month, and I agree.

Bipolar is my grace from God. If I had not gone into full blown psychosis, I would never have started asking for help. If I hadn’t started seeing my mood swings, irritability, and suffering, I would never have turned to Buddhism for help. I would have followed the path others laid for me, and never become me. I would have never accepted me. I would never have expressed me. I look at the weeks I go down in the hole as me just needing rest. Does it suck to have to dig out and try to get back to baseline? Sure. But I have a baseline now. I know when I’m off, and I know what to do when I’m off.

And I know how to ask for help now. I’m not ashamed for needing help. I am not ashamed that I can’t do it all. I’m not ashamed of myself. None of this would be possible without the grace of bipolar. My creativity, problem solving, personality, empathy, and compassion all come from being “batshit crazy” as I called myself before. There are kind of two or more me’s in here, and at least we’re all playing nicer in the sandbox. Even if I gotta pick up my slack sometimes.

I believe our greatest challenges are our greatest strengths. This becomes apparent when we stop fighting with ourselves and love the good, bad, ugly, and all in between.

Pay Attention

Do you know what your greatest gift, asset, tool, etc. is? Do you know the most powerful part of you? Do you know the one part of you, that if you use it wisely, it will change your life?

It is your focus.

Focus is something most of us struggle with immensely. The climbing rates of ADHD diagnosis in adults and children are testament to our struggles with the power of focus. Most of us pride ourselves on our abilities to multitask, but the reality is multitasking, over-committing, and generally being too busy is one of the biggest reasons we are miserable. (No shit Sherlock). The reason, though, isn’t because we are tired or stressed. It’s because we are maligning our greatest and most powerful gift.

Take a moment and think of people you deem wildly successful, the people you wonder how they did it, or what their secret is. There’s a common denominator: focus. Take a musician: they focused on their gift and passion until it became their reality. They don’t just work in music, they live music. They tour, write, perform, and embody music. How did they get there? “I never gave up, I never stopped believing in myself, I practiced every day…”

Most of us dismiss them as “lucky” or how we can’t possibly do that because “here in the real world…” However, we overlook the simple trick they use that can change everything for us: focus.

Do you fixate on things? Do you ever wonder why sometimes you just want to do the same thing, and other weeks it barely crosses your mind? Do you have interests that you want to incorporate in your life, but you can never seem to find the time?

These fixations are your inner compass, and they are a blessing, a gift, and guidance. Call it God, your higher self, intuition, the Holy Spirit, or channeling divinity. I don’t care. What your fixation or focus is trying to help you with is what you need to do to help yourself to be happy and fulfilled.

When we multitask and overwhelm ourselves, we erode our powerful focus, and like a muscle, lack of use creates weakness and lack of results. Our society loves to erode our focus. How many times do we check Facebook or even just our phones in a day? How many times can you say, “I just did one thing for like an hour.” When you go to work, how many things are you doing at once to be productive. Are you actually productive? How is your energy?

Have you ever watched a kid actually playing? Not video games, I’m talking driving a car on a floor, building a puzzle, or taking Barbie on a date with Ken? The outside world doesn’t exist to these kids. As a matter of fact, the kid doesn’t exist to the kid. There’s no mental observer, “I am making Barbie perfect, but up next I really must see about my muffins in the oven and good God that laundry!” It just doesn’t happen. They’re focused and immersed, which means they, and all their problems (kids have problems too) don’t exist.

What happens then? They’re happier! Have you ever dealt with an overstimulated kid? It’s fucking hell! My kids are constantly overstimulated, then they overstimulate me, and I want to go weep under a blanket for a month, pondering how to simultaneously be a great mom and hermit in a mountain, and if there’s a wawa located in any mountains.

Why wouldn’t we realize if kids can get overstimulated and turn into dickbags, most of the dickbags you encounter in your life (especially yourself!) are also overstimulated, unfocused, and outta their damn mind. We’re all chocolated-up toddlers demanding nap time 24/7!

We lack focus. Without focus, we’re generally ships without a compass lost in a world of circular thinking, rumination, habitual confused behavior, escapism, and in need of that nap.

Or, perhaps, more accurately: our focus is squandered in the wrong place. When you have that rare five minutes of quiet time, what do you focus on? Your blessings, or your problems? If you’re a resident of this planet, I bet problems are the more likely answer, although you’d try to caveat it with, but I’m really happy with my life, it’s just….

Focusing on something is transformative. In that, your focus takes you away from your idea of yourself, or your ego. We all have imaginary worlds we live in, where expectations run the show and expectation and reality are perpetually two ships passing in the night. When expectation and reality don’t align, frustration is a constant. When you focus on something and come away from your chattering monkey brain, suddenly shit makes more sense. Why? Because our brains can’t actually solve problems. Our ego, our idea of ourself, doesn’t do anything but take past data and attempt to answer a question. This just puts us in circles. This is what we all do when we have a problem, and it never actually solves our problems.

If anything, what if we create the outcome we don’t want? If you have a situation, and you’re focusing on the thing you don’t want to happen, how often does the thing you don’t want to happen come to fruition? When it does, do you feel a sick satisfaction that, although you’re miserable, at least you were prepared for it?

What if you made it happen though?

Your focus isn’t just what you’re doing, it’s what you’re creating in your life. Focus on peace, you will find peace. Focus on not wanting to fight about the dirty dishes, how many times did you end up fighting about dirty dishes? Focus on too much, and you end up confused and tired.

If you think about driving: if you focus on not hitting a pedestrian, you’ll find yourself inevitably steering away from the pedestrian you are somehow drifting towards. Where you set your focus is where you go, and focus doesn’t understand not. You’re staring at the pedestrian saying, “I don’t want to hit this 90 year old gentleman carrying his groceries”. Your focus says, “oh you wanna go to that guy? Got it!” Next thing you know, you’re jerking the wheel after startling someone’s grandpa. Google target fixation motorcycles and you can see this concept repeated in thousands of articles.

I think everyone has ADHD to varying degrees. ADHD is not a lack of focus, it is a lack of focusing on what someone else wants you to focus on. This is why school age children have these letters. The little bastards just don’t want to sit in a chair for 8 hours listening to someone talk about shit they’re not interested in. I don’t know any adults who struggle like that 🙄 Hell, this is a longer post: how well are you getting through it? Are you still reading? We all try to write less to keep our readers’ attentions because none of us have any!

ADHD, when framed properly, is a superpower, and we all have access to it. How many artists, musicians, and entrepreneurs have either ADHD or bipolar? How many stories have you heard where some wildly successful person sucked at school? Why is this? Their focus didn’t give a shit about anything but their focus, and they listened to it. An incredible musician can’t be incredible if they don’t play their instrument constantly. That’s great, because that was their focus. An inventor doesn’t give a shit about anything but making an iPhone. That’s great, because that was their focus.

We all have this to varying degrees because no brain is the same. Your focus could be as simple as wanting to drink a cup of tea and write in your journal. You put it off because your busy, and you end up grumpier than usual, because you didn’t do what you wanted to do. That urge did not come from your brain, either. We all know there’s a place in us that we can’t quite put into words, and when we don’t listen to it, it becomes a “man, I wish I had just….”

Focus is key. Our egos love to plan, dictate, tell us or shortcomings and problems. When we listen, we find lots more shortcomings and problems, and we create more of the same. Why? That’s where the power of our focus was squandered. If you do sit and journal with your tea, you may just find the answer to the question that’s been bugging you. If you go to that class you said you didn’t have time for, go to the gym, write the blog, etc: epiphanies can happen. You didn’t think of it, no amount of rumination did it. It wasn’t until you used your focus to not focus on creating problems did you, in fact, see through the problem.

Once I tapped into focusing on what I want versus what I didn’t want, life got better. Don’t get trapped by instant gratification. I didn’t practice yoga once and I am a billionaire with no cares in the world. My problems are exactly the same, I just see them differently. For me, focus and fixation come in approximately 1-2 week bursts. This week, my fixation has been practicing yoga nidra. This is something I had practiced when I started meditating, but didn’t know what it was called. It just made sense to lay down, close my eyes, and chill the fuck out. The week before was yoga. I pick one focus – whatever is pulling me the most – and I let that dictate my week. I’m busy, and I’m a mom. I don’t have tons of time. I keep my practices simple, I don’t let them become a guilt factor or burden. I just let it be my focus. Everything still gets done, but I redirect and focus on the fixation of the week when I start ruminating. Some weeks it’s cleaning my house, or writing, or journaling. I call my week whatever fixation I have, and it is my compass. I cut back on the shit I don’t need to make time for the shit I do. I can’t and won’t do everything I want or should do, so I pick one and I let my day focus on that. If it’s a yoga week, I plan my schedule around getting to yoga. If it’s a writing week, I wake up and write before I get distracted, etc.

What have you been wanting to do? What do you keep putting off? Where is your focus being squandered? If you had more time, what would you be doing? Start focusing on these questions, and I’ll bet things begin shifting. Keep focusing on the things you don’t want, and don’t be surprised when you told yourself so. Your focus will create your reality. Start using it to your benefit. What can you focus on today? Hit me up in the comments, this is my current fixation, and I want to talk more!

Up next, I’ll give you some more personal examples of my focus and fixation, a couple steps I took to get my focus back, and what changes I’ve observed since. Thanks for reading, and share the love if this was enjoyable, relevant, or semi coherent.

Using Your Body to Discipline Your Mind

Yesterday was Summer Solstice. At my yoga studio, Shanteel, we did 108 Sun Salutations to welcome summer. This was my second time – the first was for Spring Equinox. It’s a very challenging practice, taking about 2 hours to complete. It’s also deeply healing and eye opening.

Yoga is not about getting in better shape, although it helps. It’s not even about getting in proper postures, or looking like the Instagram pictures. Yoga teaches using the body to discipline the mind. I think when any of us are doing something repetitive and challenging, our brains love to comment on its difficulty and our inability to do it. If we listen to the chatter, the difficulty grows exponentially. Every ache, muscle, etc becomes screaming resistance.

It becomes a mind over matter situation, and yoga demonstrates this perfectly. As I was thinking how hard this was, I was struggling until I caught myself. I went to child’s pose, rested, and changed my internal monologue to a simple “I can do this”. I whispered it to myself as I was in downward facing dog. Eventually, thoughts ceased and all that remained was the sensation of my body, with my eyes closed, moving through the postures. I became focused solely on alignment and positioning, and allowed myself to just move without commentary. I stopped when needed for water or rest, but I was acutely aware of how many more sun salutations I did, how few rests I took, and how much my practice improved since spring.

I didn’t have to modify by dropping my knee in lunges, I could stay up. I was keeping my elbows hugged in for transition. More importantly, my internal monologue became kind and encouraging as opposed to critical and belittling.

Nowadays, it seems difficult to hear ourselves think. I didn’t notice it until I started meditating. I never noticed how critical and mean I was. On the outside, I was so nice to everyone, but on the inside, I was downright mean. This sets you up for terrible projections. If you are constantly criticizing and hating yourself internally, you’ll project those feelings unconsciously on the people you love. Their words and interactions will be perceived with negative intents where none were present. It’s inevitable.

It’s only by bringing awareness to the mental chatter that you can change it. Yoga helps because as much as you may feel good after a practice, it’s rare you want to contort your body in bizarre ways, sweat in places you didn’t know you could, all while trying to breathe and quiet your mind. My mind loves to tell me how hard it all is, yet not once have I lost a limb or died in practice. I generally get sore and relaxed.

This experience carries into day to day, as you become more aware of your monkey brain and realize that your thoughts are messing with your reality. Sure, my house is messy, but in my thoughts, it’s an insurmountable Mount Everest of dishes and laundry, my kids are bound and determined to drive me insane with messes, and I’ll never ever know what it’s like to be done cleaning. In reality, some music and a few hours of focus gets me where I need to be.

I never would have thought I’d be capable of 108 sun salutations. I remember struggling to even commit to 3 as I practiced on YouTube. I was scared of even joining a yoga studio. I thought I was too fat, too this, too that to join a studio. I thought I wouldn’t be able to keep up with the classes. Yet, there I was, in reality, flowing through 108 sun salutations with my community.

If I had listened to my brain, I wouldn’t have a family at Shanteel. I wouldn’t have found my home, where I go to find myself daily. I wouldn’t have found my strength or beauty. I would have just sat around letting my brain kick my ass, as opposed to kicking my ass on the mat to see how much further I can go beyond my thoughts.

Last night was even more special for me. I promised myself I was going. I negotiated if I had to miss regular classes, I’d go. Because this is the week after my period, which means it’s depression week. Awareness of my cycle has helped me plan around my hormones. I know these weeks are tough for me. My energy is low, my mood is typically low, and life is harder than usual. My house is a mess, because I didn’t have the energy to keep up. My kids are home, and I had to let them do screens more than I’d like so I could rest more than usual.

Normally, depression weeks are harder to practice yoga for all these reasons. I’ve promised myself to try to get to 2-3 classes/week versus my normal 5-7. I’ve promised myself to rest without judgement, and listen to my body without criticism. I had to nap most of the day yesterday, but I got to the 108. All day, I was thinking of reasons I couldn’t or shouldn’t. All day, my brain wouldn’t shut up, and all day, I had to ignore it, because I promised myself I was going.

Depression used to be a call for mania, where I would force myself to hide everything away and pretend everything was great. I’d pile on activities and do anything to distract myself and hide it. Depression was 75% of the time for me. As I pushed, intrusive thoughts would begin screaming at me, I’d become suicidal, and driving would be a challenging experience of internally telling myself why driving into a phone pole or oncoming traffic was a terrible idea. Once I stopped that insanity, and allowed myself to feel depression, I became aware of how debilitating it was. I felt sad for all my body has been through as I fought. Once I accepted depression as a state I go through, episodes become shorter and less debilitating.

After about a year of regular yoga practice, almost 2 years of regular meditation, etc etc. I just did 108 sun salutations while I was having a bout of depression. This practice is about releasing what no longer serves you. What no longer serves me is telling myself I can’t be everything I want to be. What no longer serves me is being a slave to my thoughts and endless brain chatter. I am way, way stronger than I think I am. We all are. The only true limits that exist are the stories we tell ourselves.

Don’t be a Slave to Should

5 years ago, I went to the hospital for bronchitis. Over the course of a week, my “normal” life was flipped upside down. The hospital cold turkey’d me off the lexapro I was taking, because I had finally accepted after decades of hell that the depression was more than “just being lazy” or “needing to stop being a baby”.

Lexapro withdrawal can be pretty severe. The hospital mistook my withdrawal symptoms for a worsening cold. They were giving me klonopan and finally asked me (as I’m laying in a hospital bed) why I wasn’t taking the lexapro. Things worsened. I started having panic attacks, I couldn’t walk myself to the bathroom from being so dizzy. The albuterol for breathing made me felt like I was on speed, and my cough was so bad, I burst blood vessels in my eye and started having migraines. Things came to a head when I called my mom at 5 am hysterical because I could no longer pee and had a catheter. After I got discharged, I was a wreck. I had never had a panic attack before that hospital stay.

When I was discharged, I had them constantly. I had no coping skills, I had never seen a therapist or psychiatrist. My panic attacks can make me twitch and stutter. This hospitalization led to my first stay in the mental hospital, because nothing could stop the panic attacks. Ativan, Xanax, Klonopan, nothing helped. I began hearing, what I described as, voices telling me to kill myself. Many years later, I’d learn these were intrusive thoughts, something I had deemed myself as crazy for since they started happening when I was a teenager.

5 years later, I am a walking DSM-V. I don’t take any shit from doctors, because I’ve been through too much to be talked down to. I advocate for myself by speaking intelligently about my symptoms. By referring to intrusive thoughts as “voices”, I was diagnosed with schizo-affective disorder at the mental hospital. That is schizophrenia and bipolar combined. I was put on a cocktail of anti-psychotic medication and basically was so drugged, I practically drooled on myself. I don’t think I’ve ever been so scared and convinced I was crazy as I was then.

Crazy is the word that I’ve run from my whole life. I think the biggest hurdle to treatment is not knowing that what you deal with on a daily basis doesn’t have to be that way. Imagine if you only ever saw the sky as green. How could anyone help you see or understand it’s actually blue? The way my brain works is how it works, and I blamed myself for all the faults and problems. This is how suicide can come to be. I’m nothing short of blessed that my suicidality never succeeded, and that went on until literally my last hospital stay in January 2017, as I was trying to strangle myself with my hoodie strings in the horsham clinic bathroom.

It’s difficult to convey what it’s actually like in my brain. Five years ago, I was forced to start talking. I didn’t tell the doctors about the constant bulimia combined with hours at the gym, because I was obsessed with not being fat. I didn’t talk about how I was working 80 hours a week, cleaning my house constantly because it had to be right, and in constant fights with my husband. I blamed it on the hospital stay. I didn’t tell the doctors how much I wished I was dead, or how most days I cried before I got out of bed, cried in the shower, and cried myself to sleep. I definitely didn’t tell them how afraid I was of being crazy because deep down I knew I wasn’t okay.

5 years later, none of this is my reality, and I am really glad that hospital stay fucked me up so badly. I don’t know how else I could have been forced to say the three words that can change your life: “I need help.”

We all like to think we can handle it all. Kids, jobs, home, life, society etc. but the truth is, we all need help. None of us can do it alone. Yoga has shown me just in the last few months how I still don’t like to ask for help – even from a brick wall, foam block, or a cloth strap. I don’t like to go to child’s pose. But Monday night, I was forced to child’s pose, because my body was done, like my mind had been done all those years before. I wasn’t beating myself up about it, I just knew I needed to listen to myself and take the help of the floor.

This must have been weighing on me this morning, because I had a panic attack first thing. No twitching, no stuttering, no two week hospital stay. 10 minutes of meditation with alternate nostril breathing every hour, yoga nidra, and letting the kids be lazy while I

Took care of myself, without guilt trips of

What we should or could be doing. I know what I need, and I know if I don’t listen, I can go to the hospital. There’s no more fighting through it for me. The kids will see me

Have bad days, and they will see me

Cope, and God willing, they’ll follow the example I set now. There is nothing like the self induced hell you create when you push yourself beyond your capacity while telling yourself it should be better. Some days you can barely be mom, let alone super mom. Some days, you do let the kids be lazy because you gotta be lazy.

Don’t be a slave to should. Honor yourself and ask for help. Even if it’s an iPhone or Thor ragnarok on a nice day. I need help is not weakness, it’s strength. Like a muscle, we all get torn and broken, but only with rest can we truly become strong.

Thanks for reading ❤️