What does "talking about the elephant in the room" mean to you?
Everyone comes to this world with a different story, path, capabilities and capacity. At the end of the day, there is no elephant, rather tolerance and compassion must be a prerequisite within our social atmosphere. Some people are extremely sensitive, others quite sensitive and then there are those hearty types who are less affected by the traumas and circumstances of their lives. For some, life and it's colors and textures, fury and fire is enough to affect them - it doesn't even have to be happening to them, it can just be what they see in the world.
We often equate depression or madness straight up to mental disorder, but I see us as a species less categorically. There is absolutely chemical, clinical diagnosis. Of course. But what about when a highly sensitive type experiences times and pain in life that would be easier endured by someone less sensitive? A great series of books is HSP the Highly Sensitive Person. I love Elaine Aaron's writings (highly sensitive person/child/partner). She touches on the varying degrees of sensitivity we all carry. Once we understand that each of us is vulnerable to pain and suffering and that self care and caring for each other with our different strengths and gifts is the best way to a healthy society, then there will be less of a stigma to mental health. Communicating our aches and burdens is integral. When everyone acts stable and healthy all the time, we continue to build up this bubble of a lie. THAT is insane. As humans, we must acknowledge our own vulnerabilities to become better attuned to others.'
How do you take ownership of that elephant?
I acknowledge my childhood trauma. I acknowledge the ever changing landscape of the manifestation of this history in my life. I understand that I as well as everyone has a responsibility to become an expert at both their personality type and the experiences that have shaped us. Reading, therapy, compassion and caring for others story is key to embracing my own. ALL of us could use getting in touch with our emotional selves and well being. Everyone could take time and find resources to reflect on the unique backdrop of their human experience. This would help us in our personal relationships.
The perspective we gain helps us to unlock our higher creative self and make decisions that better our quality of life. No ones reptilian brain is "their fault" but it does act as the filter for how we interpret the world around us as adults. When people who are very wounded or are clinically diagnosed can begin to understand their wounds and the nature of their brain pathology they can begin to make healthy choices. They can better self-regulate and protect themselves from further exacerbating their issues by repeating cycles and can begin to rebuild their lives. This can be a very difficult cycle to break. But when the rest of us get in there and start doing the work, we become more educated and realize that compassion is the key to bringing out the best in everyone.
What helped you come forward and speak up about living with depression?
I have seen up close and personally, how mental health quickly becomes the crux of a life experience, a family life, a community. There has been bipolar disorder in my own family and also a person I cared about in my teens took his own life after a very quick episode which turned to depression. I also have learned how everyone has a responsibility to learn about (their own) self care and kindness to self and to each other. This mentality, in the most personal interactions, to the interactions between countries is what will impact lives everywhere.
I look even at the wars in the world, the hatred that has come from tyrants and terrorists, like ISIS as a mental health/education episode.... Which we are now all bearing the cross of. Madness is complex but at the root, kindness on EVERY level is what can create the health of individuals, families, communities on local and world scale. Education is key to compassion. But this means people's style and approach to life has to shift. Love is slow. It takes time to invest in the lives of others, to learn about such topics. Sometimes we feel like it's negative, like "we're fine" and don't want to learn about such toxic things. But I feel that this attitude is narcissistic and is a reflection of the generations. We need to shed this idea that we can put up a wall around our own personal lives, and realize our part and purpose in the community. If we are as individuals, healthy, then we have gifts to share. This life or consciousness of "service," even a little, encourages others that they are not alone in their plight- whether a person in the western world struggling with depression, or an individual stuck in a cycle of violence on the other side of the world....
As much as we have been programmed to be the best and win and live the dream, the reality is that we are a species a collaborative effort and no one can go it alone. If you think you can, well then, you may be surprised at how it affects you one day, when a family member is stricken with a co-occurring diagnosis of addiction and bipolar disorder, or something else.
You mentioned "breakdown", can you explain further?
I myself am not clinically depressed and do not suffer a disorder, however I can see where having one person in a family ill means that the whole family is ill. I can see where I am text book or "definable" quite clearly. I have over the years, become an expert in being me.
One of my calls to service is in encouraging others to see where it is they truly come from. What kinds of illnesses are in their modeling and history? How can they beef up their armor in this generation and become better prepared as a human and help this species to evolve? In regards to the "breakdown" I can now see where the greatest opportunity for growth comes when a bubble bursts, and an old way of modeling or being no longer works in this age. When I have had a crisis, I have been able to learn and grow and find a better way. This I pass on to my own children, and to anybody who will listen. This is how we evolve. Breaking down is just fine. It means, just like with our cars, we need a new starter or tires, and they will be better with which to move forward. So many metaphors, DON'T GET ME STARTED!
We do not come to this world with a manual or any map. We come here innocent beings, completely at the mercy of our genetic makeup, and the experiences that we get thrown into. As children, we are at the mercy of the parenting and guides given to us. They are operating only with what they know to be true, based on the leaders and experiences that they were given as innocents. We must forgive everyone that subjected us to pain that has shaped our lives, because everyone is doing their best, using the tools that they have.
Our job is to catch ourselves becoming stuck in past harms done to us, and move forward in the knowledge that our story is our own responsibility to write. Only by becoming an expert in who we are and what has happened to us, can we begin to know what is required for us to move away from the traumatized state of re-activity and into one of health and well being and intention.
This self care is a life long commitment. It requires that we make tough decisions like ridding ourselves of people and habits that we do not flourish with and in. It means that we have to, for a time, gently put ourselves in our childhoods. It means that we have to compassion for those who have unknowingly wronged us. It means that we have to let go of bitterness, and realize that it is all luck - having the type of genetic predisposition we have, matched with our experiences….yes, this can create a nasty recipe for disaster, but our experiences can also make us stronger and ultimately make us tell a triumphant story. I know this, because I am living proof that becoming educated, and an expert in my "type" can make us inspiring and strong, and a positive influence on the world around us.
Don't give up if you have a tough story or history. Don't try to erase your story, rather dissect it carefully and cautiously. Understand it clearly, and be open to the stories of others. Don't be scared to tell your story. Become as educated as you can, and become a teacher. Then you will begin to feel less pain. Realize that this is not YOU, but something that is happening to you or happened to you. But your day is coming to manifest all the traits you have in the most positive of lights. I do not doubt this. I have seen it time and time again…in myself and many others. Don't be scared of the root of the problem. The scary part is NOT doing anything or digging below the surface. You are HUMAN. You are NOT God. You are one human. Take the time you need, and focus on your care. You'll know when you are "there," because you will begin to serve in a way you never imagined before.