“That’s Nice, Dear”

Excuse me for a moment while I rant.

Here’s a bit of free advice.  Well, anything here is free but this is worth taking if you’re not too strong in the ‘wise‘ department.  Don’t under any circumstances say “that’s nice, dear” to anyone unless you’re absolutely sure that ‘that‘ is actually ‘nice‘.  If you say it just to be ‘nice‘ but haven’t checked whether it is actually nice, haven’t even heard what was actually said, or just making conversation… you’re getting yourself into hot water.  Being told “that’s nice, dear” is not at all nice when ‘that‘ is anything but nice.

What does ‘that’s nice, dear‘ mean anyway?  Nothing.  It’s simply something to say when you can be bothered saying something real.  In other words, it’s not worth saying, so don’t say it.

And just while we’re at it, forget about ever saying “I told you so“.  That might seem obvious but I heard that one this week.

End of rant.

It’s been a trying week in Cate’s world.  A little too much of ‘Cate versus Cate’s mind’.  A few ‘that’s nice,dear‘s didn’t go down too well, especially followed up by “I told you so“.  They never do, but this week I just wasn’t in the mood for meaningless words.  I would rather have had silence.  Actually I always prefer silence.  Silence in a wonderful thing… until you start thinking too much.

I know that it is often said that we should let go of the things we have no control over.  But that is so hard.  I have so much in my life right now over which I have no control, and actually letting some of them go is not an option.  I’m the first to admit that I could let go of some of those things, the problem is that I don’t want to.  Yes, mindfulness would work… if I wanted it to.  That might sound crazy but I’m one of those people who likes to have worked everything out in my mind before I let it go.  I want to understand the puzzle, understand what I could or couldn’t have done differently.  I want to know that others in the situation are okay, and even if I have no control over that, I still want to work it all out in my mind so I can get some peace.  If I simply let it all go, my mind might be easier in some respects but I feel like I don’t have closure.

For a moment, let’s go back to my last post, Claiming My Voice Back.  It wasn’t the easiest to write, let alone press ‘publish‘.  Once I had though, I began to feel pretty good.  I had done it!  It had taken me a year (minimum), but I had finally done it.  That felt good.  But then I started thinking, because in that situation of my atrociously awful internet relationship there are a whole heap of unanswered questions, which ultimately I have to simply let go.  I’m never going to be able to know for sure.  I know that, yet my mind that wants to ‘work everything out‘ wants the answers anyway.  So by the next day my mind was spinning wildly.  And frankly, it was making me emotionally sick.

It’s a bit like when you know you want some more ice cream, but you know you’ll explode if you eat anymore.  You give in to one side of your brain, and end up later feeling sorry.  I did this to myself.  I made myself emotionally sick , yet I couldn’t stop trying to piece together the puzzle.

The other issue in ‘the things Cate can’t control‘ discussion, is those things that I might not be able to control, yet backing away isn’t an option.  Just sometimes we have to stay in the situation anyway.  Those times are hard.  I’m not sure if I’m sitting waiting for the train wreck in front of my eyes or just watching the sun go down.  The one thing I know is that I can’t back away or for that matter, turn my back.  It’s really hard to handle those situations.  Much as I like having control in my life, I realise that I can’t have control over everything (damn it!) and I have no control over the lives of those I love.  I simply have to watch.

With all these things going on this week, I’m starting to think I need some help.  The atrociously awful internet relationship has had a huge impact on my life in so many ways, and while I have dealt with so much of that in the past year, I am still find it incredibly hard to trust people.  Anyone.  Fairly intense paranoia would be a good description and I can feel myself pulling away from humankind.  I realised this week I might just need some help with this.  Maybe I can’t do it on my own.  So I’m thinking about whether to go back to therapy for a while.

I’ve done a lot of therapy in the past and I don’t think I need anything long-term, but I am starting to realise that I can’t do this alone.  It is too big.  Too much went terribly wrong and it’s finally dawned on me that it is too much for this one woman.

I’m not sure how I’m going to make therapy happen, but I realised one thing this week…

When something bad happens in my life, I can use it as an excuse to destroy me… or I can get back up, tend the wounds and keep going.

If more therapy is what I need to be able to keep going, then I will find a way to make that happen.

And if anyone says “that’s nice, dear“…

“Another page turns on the calendar, April now, not March.

………

I am spinning the silk threads of my story, weaving the fabric of my world… I spun out of control. Eating was hard. Breathing was hard. Living was hardest.

I wanted to swallow the bitter seeds of forgetfulness… Somehow, I dragged myself out of the dark and asked for help.

I spin and weave and knit my words and visions until a life starts to take shape.

There is no magic cure, no making it all go away forever. There are only small steps upward; an easier day, an unexpected laugh, a mirror that doesn’t matter anymore.

I am thawing.” 

― Laurie Halse AndersonWintergirls

Where Does Compassion Fit?

I really started to learn about compassion when I made a decision to love someone deemed by others to be unworthy of that love. I started to understand the cost of compassion when I was judged on that decision.  When I was going to be loved on the basis of that decision.  Then I knew that compassion is easy when people are nice, animals are cute and cuddly, and when no one’s done anything that might harm us.

When others stand and literally spit at you and call you names, then you start to realise that sometimes compassion has a cost.  Yet I still want to be a human being who has compassion for my fellow beings.  It’s simply a harder battle.  It simply makes me be sure of what (and who) I believe in.

We talk of compassion as something that rolls off the tongue, but I’m starting to realise that those who practise it most pay a price when they choose to exercise it to those who the rest of the world deem unworthy.

“Anyone can slay a dragon …but try waking up every morning and loving the world all over again. That’s what takes a real hero.” 

― Brian Andreas

I thought I started to learn about compassion as a teen.  I don’t remember it being raised earlier, although I am sure it was implied.  When people hurt me, I was told to have compassion for them.  Usually that compassion came with the word ‘Christian‘ in front of it, although I have never understood why.  My experience is that when compassion is prefaced by religion then it sadly comes with conditions.  Some people are deemed unworthy of compassion simply because they choose to be different.  That just screams ‘wrong’ to me.  It did then, and it does even more so now.

But still, that’s what I was taught.  Put aside my own hurts and be compassionate towards the ones who had hurt me.  As a teen that was really hard, especially when I had been hurt badly.  It seemed to me that no one was being compassionate toward me.  My hurt didn’t matter and I learned from that, rightly or wrongly, that I didn’t matter.  I couldn’t understand people who loved me telling me in this way that I didn’t matter. Although they claimed that’s not what they were doing.

As I’ve grown I have distanced myself from the prefaced type of compassion.  It seemed false to me, although I hasten to add that there are some very loving and caring people in any community.  It just seemed inconsistent and uninterested in my needs or my beliefs.

Now I see compassion as something that all human beings should have for all other beings.  But as I’ve already suggested, it’s perhaps hard to be compassionate when you’ve been hurt.  That said, I don’t believe it’s impossible.

Last year I was hurt very badly by someone.  While I was still picking up the pieces, that person accused me of hypocrisy.  I was accused of writing in my blog about compassion, yet not showing it to the person who hurt me.  Did I laugh or did I cry?  I admit that accusation stopped me in my tracks, because I knew it was something I had blogged about and I needed to question my actions since.  For a while there, it was difficult to write at all.  I also knew that the person accusing me had hurt me bad yet I had done nothing to deserve it.

I eventually came to the conclusion, that I hadn’t been hypocritical.  The person who had hurt me was entitled as anyone to my compassion, but I was also entitled to theirs.  Is that confusing?  Hopefully not.  It came back to that issue of how to be compassionate when you’ve been hurt.

Actually it led to a realisation that I needed to be able to forgive their actions/words in order to have compassion.  It didn’t come immediately, because I still hurt like hell, but it has come since.  It didn’t fix the relationship (that won’t happen) but it gave me some peace, and actually, that was enough.

As human beings I think that we make judgements about who does, and doesn’t deserve compassion.  I’m not convinced that the judgement is mine to make.  Who am I to determine who deserves compassion?

The reason for this post comes from things I’ve seen, heard and read lately, on a number of different subjects.  Watching people determine that they have the right to destroy another person’s life rather than have compassion.  I’m not referring to anything specific because it’s there every day, anywhere we look.  Often that destruction occurs of people who are unknown to the destroyer.  They don’t even understand the effects of their actions.  They simply don’t know who they choose to destroy.

I’m not perfect.  I make mistakes, and maybe at times I don’t have as much compassion as I should for someone.  We’re all human.  And when we’ve been hurt, compassion seems next to impossible.  It makes me so sad how easily, we as humans, can set out to destroy others, and then we congratulate ourselves on a job well done without stopping to think of the price, without stopping to think of the alternative… compassion.

So you think I’m crazy?  No.  Just thinking about another way of being.

It’s not my right to destroy another, but I believe it is my job to offer compassion where I can.  I was told recently that if I had compassion for a person who had hurt me, then I hadn’t suffered enough at their hands.  The person who said it hardly knew me and certainly didn’t know of what I had, or hadn’t suffered.  I disagreed strongly with that view for so many reasons.  But mostly I just don’t see it as my role to destroy others.

I know all too well how hard it is to be compassionate towards a person who has hurt me.  Being hurt doesn’t give me the right to hurt back, although I know that’s what comes naturally.  I think if someone has hurt me and I find it hard to give compassion to them, I need to back off  (and probably shut my mouth) rather than seek to destroy.  Eventually I will work to a point of peace again, and maybe then I can find that compassion.

In case you’re wondering, this is all me just wondering out loud.  I’m working out something for myself.  I’m not saying that it’s how it has to be for anyone else.  Although I think for me, it has to be.

“Deserves it! I daresay he does. Many that live deserve death. And some that die deserve life. Can you give it to them? Then do not be too eager to deal out death in judgement. For even the very wise cannot see all ends.” 

― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring

Christmas Resolutions

Image credit: By Kelvinsong, via Wikimedia Commons

Twas the night two days (in NZ) before Christmas… and all through the house world, not a creature was stirring (well, that’s just wrong!) and every Kiwi (and probably Australian too) was hard at work baking a pavlova (staple Christmas food Downunder).  Me?  I have no pav to bake, and my contribution to Christmas dinner can’t be made until the day.  So I’ve been writing and here’s my Christmas post…

You maybe thinking that I’m a week early on setting New Year Resolutions, as is the usual practise for many people.  I’m not though.  I don’t do New Year Resolutions because they never seem to last, and I never seem to be enthusiastic enough.  But as Christmas has approached I’ve realised that I’ve quietly been setting Christmas Resolutions instead.  The great thing about Christmas Resolutions, in case you didn’t know, is that they come bearing a little Christmas magic with them.  A perfect way to make sure they come true.

So here they are.  Completely unrelated, but of importance to me…

Image credit: Connie Bowen (used with permission)
Facebook: I Create My World: a Children’s Book of Affirmations

Christmas Resolution #1
I believe (again) in the magic of Christmas!

I admit that I gave up on the magic of Christmas a while back.  Actually, I had almost given up on any Christmas.  I didn’t enjoy it, couldn’t really see the point, and just hoped it would be over sooner rather than later… with as little pain as possible.  But actually, Christmas is kind of cool.  There’s the Christian Christmas Nativity story, which I’ll get to in a minute, but there is also Santa Claus and reindeers…

I’ve been watching a few Christmas movies lately, my favourite being the one my friend Kathy very kindly sent to me.  That is ‘Miracle on 34th Street‘.  It makes me sad when children, through the ideals of their parents usually, are taught to believe that Santa Claus is not real.  I think those children miss out, on a lot.  I think it’s good for children to use their imagination and experience such tales.

I can remember when local television stations used to track the progress of Santa around the globe.  What amazed me was just how Santa made it around the whole globe in just one night.  Well I understand that better now and it helps that some places don’t celebrate Christmas, so he can zip past those places.  But again, it is sad that those children (and adults) miss out on the magic of Christmas.

So what is this magic of Christmas.  I think we need to get away from it being about gifts and start to see it as being about spreading peace, joy and love around our whole globe.  If each person, adult and child, could have a piece of that this Christmas, then I think we’d be going a long way.  And if it could apply to the whole world, and not just those of certain religions, then that too would be a great move to seeing the world be kinder to each other.  Now I believe that is something Santa Claus would support.  Throw in a few reindeers, and a bit of mistletoe, and we’d be getting somewhere.

One more point on the magic of Christmas.  For a few years now I have been aware of a debate within the Christian church of whether the virgin birth (at Christmas) was really a virgin birth.  I was raised in a Christian home and spent a good chunk of my life as a practising Christian (although I’m not now).  The Christian story of Jesus’ birth was what I was raised with.  Santa Claus took a very definite second place, and I know that many people reading may also see it this way.

So what of this virgin birth?  Was Jesus’ mother really a virgin?  This is far from a theological stance(my argument would probably not hold up anywhere) but I’ve come to my own conclusion that if I can believe in the magic of Christmas, then I can believe in the virgin birth. Maybe it takes a little imagination, but imagination is a very good thing.  And why should we confine it to children believing in Santa? In my mind, it is sad when we limit our experiences to what we see as literal.

So yes, I believe in the magic of Christmas, including the virgin birth.

Christmas Resolution #2
I support the survival of the rhinoceros  (and I did tell you these were unrelated!!)

Image credit: Andrew McMillan [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

It broke my heart a few weeks ago when I read that the black rhino as a species is now extinct.  Rhinos are wonderful animals.  In my mind they are part hippo, part dinosaur and part unicorn (yes, I did say unicorn).  That spells a wonderful mix.  The thought that we as human beings have killed off a species because ‘we’ wanted the ivory from their tusks, is a tragedy.  It’s happening to elephants too, another animal I like, but I won’t get side tracked.  Why can’t we salute the rhino?  Why can’t we put an end to the hunting, and celebrate the unicorn in the rhino.  That little bit of magic.  If you look closely you’ll probably see a rainbow too.

One species are extinct but we can’t afford to lose more.  As for me, I will do what I can to support their survival.  What about you?

Christmas Resolution #3
I must stop crossing oceans! 

This third resolution comes on the basis of the quote I read some months back and knew instantly that it was ‘my‘ quote for 2013.  Anyone else might read this quote and think “oh, that’s nice advice” but after this year, it is imperative that I get on board with it… and not on board a plane either.  I did something like 75 hours (there and back) of that before I learnt my lesson).

The quote is:

“There comes a point when you have to stop crossing oceans for people who wouldn’t even jump puddles for you.”

I have no idea who uttered these wise words, but I’m sure they were speaking metaphorically, and not literally.  Only I could do this literally, crossing many, many oceans (and lands) before I read this quote. Sure, you can say I was in love and had my head in the clouds.  It’s true.  But from now on I check first on the ability of the person in question to ‘jump puddles‘.  I checked many things, but alas, I forgot to check whether he would jump a puddle for me.  Even if he’d lay down his coat in a puddle so I could walk over it (as I remember my Dad telling me that a gentleman would).

If they won’t jump puddles for me, my feet are staying firmly on kiwi ground.  And I expect them to jump big puddles too.

That’s the end of my resolutions.  There’s no point making so many that you can’t keep up.  New Year Resolutions are made to be broken, but these Christmas ones are firmly embedded in my mental ‘it’s happening‘ list.

So sit back, look out for Santa Claus and his reindeers flying past. Oh, and keep a very big eye out for any flying rhinoceros.  I think that would be a sight to see, but also one to perhaps avoid if you can.  Have a lovely Christmas.  Forget the stress of families and money and food (especially for those of us who battle eating disorders and know this time of the year is the absolute worst).  Have a little magic instead.  Have a little peace.

And while you’re about it, check out the wonderful Facebook page where I got the image from.  It is I Create My World: a Children’s Book of Affirmations  A big thank you to Connie for her permission to use her work.

“Christmas magic is silent. You don’t hear it—you feel it, you know it, you believe it.”

― Kevin Alan Milne, The Paper Bag Christmas

Dona Nobis Pacem (2013)

(That’s what ‘Dona Nobis Pacem’ means)

Today I am participating, for the second time, in Blog4Peace…   because peace is something that I strongly believe is desperately needed in our world.  Bloggers from over 200 countries are participating today, and that just says to me how important our quest for peace is.

Sometimes I’m not too good at sticking to ‘the rules’, especially with blogging challenges and the like.  Hopefully Mimi will forgive my errant ways.  Usually bloggers create a template of their statement of peace, and post it on their site on 4 November.  I have borrowed a template (above) for this post, but came to the conclusion that firstly, I’m a better writer than an artist, and secondly, I had something to say that I couldn’t contain in a template. As well as that my brain isn’t quite functioning straight right now and to achieve both tasks is simply beyond me.

The Mission (1986 film)

The Mission (1986 film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I was watching a movie the other day.  A favourite from years ago, of which I have just managed to get my hands on a copy.  It is The Mission (1986) starring Jeremy Irons and Robert de Niro.

The brief summary of what this is about is that some Jesuit priests are living and working with locals above the Iguazu Falls in the South American jungle in the 1750s.  There is some outstanding music in this movie, probably one of the reasons I love it, but there are difficult moments too when Portuguese rulers take back the land, destroy the mission built with the Jesuits ,and try to enslave the locals.  The priest, played by Jeremy Irons, believes that God is love, and violence is a direct crime against that love.  He argues that they should trust God rather than fight back.  He chooses to stay with the villagers in peace while other Jesuits decide to renounce their vows and fight with many of the male villagers.

It’s hard to fit a movie into a paragraph, but the reason I raise it is the two choices that are made, effectively between peace and war.  I sat watching the movie, and there were villagers, priests and soldiers representing the Portuguese rulers dying everywhere.  Most of it was played out beside the river and I was struck how easily dead bodies were cast aside, out-of-the-way, so that the fight could continue.  It seemed to me those bodies meant nothing, and I was struck with a knowing that I could never kill another being (human or animal), in such a situation because I simply couldn’t allow myself to let them mean so little.  It was difficult enough to stand and watch my cat being euthanised last year.  I knew it was taking away her pain, but it was so difficult to let a life be taken.

That said, that’s an easy statement for me to make.  I’m not back there in the 1750s with the threat of my village being destroyed, and I’m not even in a position where I have to consider that I might be sent to war here in the 21st century.  I live in a country (New Zealand) where military involvement is not mandatory. It was for young men (including my grandfather) in the first and second world wars, but as a woman, that was never something I would have had to face doing.  Yes, it’s easy for me to say.  My choice not to bear arms would not have any affect on my family and/or loved ones.  Saying no is definitely an option for me.  But I get that for so many, it’s not that easy.

Peace is one of those things that I think we all have our own views of what it is about.  For me it is about respecting the value of each human being to a point where that person deserves to be saved.  This post isn’t directly about war, although obviously it is not ignored because without peace we often have war. My personal belief is that war is never necessary.  There is always another way of solving a dispute, and every effort should be taken to preserve life.  Maybe it’s more difficult, maybe it takes longer.  Jeremy Irons, in his role, chose to take what he viewed as God’s way.  That’s not why I like it but rather what I do I like is the respect a peaceful solution offers to each individual.

We are all worth saving.  None of us deserve to be left dead or injured on the side of the road, or permanently traumatised by the horror that soldiers, and the indigenous and local people have witnessed in the name of war.  My belief is that peace values each of us.  It says we are all too important to be cast aside as I saw in the movie.

That’s why I have taken time out from my usual blogging to take part in today’s Blog4Peace.  All of the bloggers taking part in this event believe that if words are powerful….this matters. The wider we spread this message, each in our own way, the more people will see that the right thing to do is to lay down arms and live at peace.

What does all this have to do with blogging for mental health?  If we had peace world over then we could all let it be.  I am convinced that our overall mental health would be significantly better.

Music drew me to that movie, just as I believe that music draws us in peace toward togetherness.  That’s why I’m finishing this post with music from Playing For Change Songs Around The World.

“Dad, how do soldiers killing each other solve the world’s problems?” 

― Bill Watterson, Calvin and Hobbes: Sunday Pages 1985-1995

Image credit:  Shannon Pinkley-Wamsley

Back To Music (Therapy)

Today I turned back to music, because I was losing my grip and I know (when I remember) that when that’s happening the best thing for me is to turn back to music, my favourite kind of therapy.

In many years past, back in what must have been another life, music was my world and playing in an orchestra or singing in a choir was a way to guarantee that feel good factor.  It was a long time ago, but music still works if I give it a chance.  And so today I pulled out a movie soundtrack from the 1980′s.  It’s one that others have told me they find depressing, but for me it’s the opposite.  It lifts my spirits every time… and gives me some peace.  I don’t imagine that you’ll click on it, and that’s ok.  The music is for me, and if anyone else gets something from it, then that is a bonus.

It has been a really hard week, and while many times, I have sat down to write, the part of me that withdraws when I’m struggling pulled me back from writing.  I realise at the other end of the week that while friends tell me to reach out and ask for help, I simply don’t know how.  Does that sound crazy?

Logically I know it’s three words “I need help” but actually those words are so hard to say, especially when you’re used to being independent.  I’ve attempted it in different places a number of times but have come away silenced by my fears and insecurities.  I need to be very clear that I silenced myself, rather than anyone doing or saying anything to silence me.

For a number of reasons, right now I am struggling to know who to trust, even to know who is real.  I’ve experienced the good, the bad and the ugly lately, and while the good still outweighs the rest, the worst of it colours my picture of the world and leaves me scared, even paranoid of who is really there for me.

Don’t get me wrong.  I have some wonderful friends who have done their best to be here for me, but it’s me that keeps pushing them away because I simply don’t know who, if anyone, is trustworthy now.

I want to trust people again.  I want to know that people are good.  I want to believe that I’m not alone.  I need to know that the world is a good place, and that the good and pure-hearted will win out against the bad and the ugly.

This week I have been rapidly running out of hope.  That’s right, I’ve been running out of hope.  It’s been hard to see the point anymore.  Yesterday a dear friend offered to hold onto my hope for me, and that is exactly what I needed.  We agreed to hold onto hope for each other, and somehow that seems so much easier than doing it alone.  I am very lucky to have her gift.

So I keep going.  The overwhelming urge is to run to under  the covers of my bed.  There it feels safe.  There it feels that the bad and the ugly can’t get to me there.  There I have no need for the paranoia and the anxiety.  There is peace.  I know I can’t stay there 24/7 but just sometimes it’s the best place to be.

“There is a saying in Tibetan, ‘Tragedy should be utilized as a source of strength.’  No matter what sort of difficulties, how painful experience is, if we lose our hope, that’s our real disaster.” 

― Dalai Lama XIV

Blog For Mental Health 2013

blogformentalhealth20131

I am joining the project to Blog for Mental Health 2013, a project speared-headed by the wonderful  A Canvas Of The Minds, where some good friends of mine hang out and come up with brilliant material on mental health issues.  I realise this is the second campaign I’ve joined in a week (the other one you can check out on Still Standing Up To Stigma), but I see them as both being important and want to be part of both.  Also when my good friend Ruby pledged me, I just knew I wanted to get involved.

Blog for Mental Health 2013 is catching on like wildfire.  Everyone wants to be part of it and that’s fantastic to see so many bloggers committed to talking about mental health.  So here’s what you need to know:  This is not an award, but rather an exciting project to get a community of mental health bloggers to show that they are proud of their lives, that they are writing for themselves as well as for those who have not yet found their voices, that they are ensuring no one ever has to feel alone when dealing with mental illness. For me, those are some excellent reasons to be a part of this.

The badge that goes with this project, is designed by Lulu and you’ll see that repeated over on the right of this screen.

The next task is to take the pledge, and therefore:

I pledge my commitment to the Blog For Mental Health 2013 Project.  I will blog about mental health topics not only for myself, but for others.  By displaying this badge, I show my pride, dedication, and acceptance for mental health.  I use this to promote mental health education in the struggle to erase stigma.

Step two is to link back to the person who pledged me, Ruby Tuesday of I Was Just Thinking. . . and also co-owner of A Canvas Of The Minds.

Step three is a short biography about my mental health and what it means to me.

My mental health tends to revolve around labels such as Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD) and Depression with frequent visits of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and eating disorders.  That said, labels don’t actually mean much to me apart from a way for me to identify reasons for some of my behaviours, thoughts and feelings.  I am me, I have a mental illness, and to me, that’s what matters.

Mental illness makes achieving mental health harder than usual.  There are extra bridges to cross, there is stigma to face, and there are battles to win.  But it is possible. 

The mental illnesses that I have are with me for life (BPD is part of my personality) but I view myself as having mental health when I can manage the symptoms and live the life that is important to me.  Right now, I’m doing that and it makes me happy.  It doesn’t mean that there are no struggles, but it does mean I can enjoy mental health just as much as the next person down the street.

Am I crazy?  Probably.  Is it ‘all in my head’?  Absolutely, that’s where my brain resides.  Is it easy?  No, it’s damn hard but living this way is so much more fulfilling than the life I barely existed in over years past.

Being part of this project is important to me, because I know how hard it is to live in this society where mental illness is not seen as okay.  I want to do my bit to spread the word that it is totally okay.  I not only want to make life easier for other people who have mental illness, but I also want to contribute a message that prepares our world to be more accepting of mental illness in the future.  May the next generation not have to fight with stigma.  May they be able to find the acceptance and peace they deserve.

Was that short?  Probably not.  Sometimes I just can’t help myself.  The final step is to pledge five bloggers who have “proven their mettle in my eyes as mental health bloggers”.  Hmm.  Actually this is a bit that I find hard.  I know that it is a way to get other bloggers involved, but personally I don’t want bloggers I could pledge to feel somewhat obligated.  I know obligation is not the intention, but I also know how easy it is for some of us to feel obligated.

So I’m not going to pledge any, except to say that if you write about mental health, even just some of the time (like me) then please consider getting on board with this project.  I honestly believe the more we all speak out about mental health, then the better place we create for ourselves and others to live with mental illness.  So check out the initial post – Blog for Mental Health 2013 and get involved.

One final note from A Canvas of the Minds, if you are getting on board…

“we are launching a Blog For Mental Health 2013 Official Blogroll!  So, in addition to linking back to the person who pledged you, please include the link to the original post in your piece.  As this gets passed along, link back or click here and leave a comment containing the link to your pledge, and we will put you on our Blog For Mental Health 2013 Official Blogroll page!”

Show the world our strength, show them our solidarity, show them what we are made of.  Take the Blog for Mental Health pledge and proudly display the badge on your blog!

“Sometimes the world is so much sicker than the inmates
of its institutions.” 

―    Joanne Greenberg,    I Never Promised You a Rose Garden

Peace on Earth

Merry Christmas

from New Zealand

New Zealand’s Pohutukawa flower (the NZ Christmas Tree) Image credit: Sarang/Wikipedia.com

Christmas in New Zealand arrives right on time for a summer celebration.  While I see pictures of Christmas celebrations in the snow from around the world, that seems completely foreign to me.

We have the usual pine Christmas Tree in our homes, but the real tree of Christmas (and probably the most well-known symbol of New Zealand Christmas) is that which produces the flower above.  The Pohutukawa tree.  If there are plenty of the red flowers out in time for Christmas, we know that summer will be a good one. Most of these trees are found in the North Island, where I spent my childhood, so I have lots of good memories of them, although they’re not that common down here in the south.

I grew up having a hot Christmas dinner of roast turkey and ham, but really it always seems a little crazy considering the warm weather outside.  Now days, and today’s plans with my family, will be around the barbeque outside followed by pavlova and fresh berries for dessert.

So that’s my Christmas plans, but I have to admit that I’m not big on the whole Christmas theme.  The reason I think I struggle with it is this expectation that everyone will be on their best behaviour, and we are cheerfully ‘nice’ to people who during the rest of the year, we perhaps don’t want a bar of.  If only we could use Christmas to find peace in our world and in our families.

I wish for a Christmas that spells the end of war. 

I wish for a Christmas that spells the end of hate, and a return to loving our neighbours.

I wish for a Christmas that contains no crime.

I wish for a Christmas where we all stay safe from harm.

I wish for a Christmas of love, especially for those grieving as a result of crime and war.

I wish for a Christmas of peace.

There are no doubt millions of people in this world who wish for the same, regardless of any religious beliefs they may or may not have.  Wouldn’t it be great if we could take those individual wishes and turn them into both an individual, and global reality?

Santa Claus, presents and singing Christmas Carols are simply not what matters, in my mind.  What matters is working out what each of us, as individuals, can do today to turn this planet towards peace.

Image credit: FB/ONE HUMAN FAMILY

Image credit: FB/ONE HUMAN FAMILY

Two years ago my family celebrated Christmas with a new child, my niece L.  She was born about six weeks before Christmas.  It was to be our last Christmas with everyone there, as my father died suddenly four months later.  It was a stressful time for us as the earthquakes had started to hit Christchurch and while we were all together, it was a difficult time.

A baby in our midst lightened the mood and promised of good to come.  She bought hope.  We had no idea of what trauma we would go through in the months to come, how much we would lose, and how much pain there would be.   But somehow L’s presence in our family gathering offered us hope and joy.  And no doubt today, she will continue to provide that to me.

And that’s on my mind as I’ve picked out this music (complete with snowy scenes for those who need that to connect with Christmas).  The lyrics veer towards a Christian understanding of Christmas but I don’t think that needs to exclude anyone.  We can use Christmas to celebrate new life, regardless of our religious beliefs.  That’s what I’ll be doing anyway.

I wish you all peace, love and hope as you celebrate your Christmas.  Enjoy the young.  Take joy in their lives.  And most of all, find a way to be at peace with yourself, and with our fellow beings.

“Oh look, yet another Christmas TV special!  How touching to have the meaning of Christmas brought to us by cola, fast food, and beer…. Who’d have ever guessed that product consumption, popular entertainment, and spirituality would mix so harmoniously? ” 

―    Bill Watterson,    The Essential Calvin and Hobbes

Related articles

Dona Nobis Pacem

“Grant Us Peace”

Trying to achieve peace within myself has been a life-long battle, not helped by long-lasting mental health issues.  Achieving peace is a battle I continue to work on daily.  The Dalai Lama says that peace can’t be achieved in this world until I find peace within myself.  I think he’s right, purely for the reason that I am part of this world.  I am affected by what happens in this world.  Sounds simplistic, doesn’t it?

I live in a small country, almost on the edge of the world, called New Zealand.  Our population is only 4.5 million.  I know that’s pretty small, but it needs to be kept in perspective.  Our statistics might not sound much, until you think about the proportion of people in our population affected by the country’s decision to be a part of war.  We all with be familiar with the six degrees of separation.  In New Zealand, that shrinks down to around two, maybe three degrees of separation.

In the 11 year war in Afghanistan, 11 New Zealand soldiers (including one female) have been killed in combat.  It doesn’t seem like much does it?  But what if one of those 11 soldiers was your flesh and blood?  Then their death becomes personal, and the war has a deep impact on your life.

On top of those 11 kiwi soldiers, there have been many more soldiers from around the world who have died, and then there are thousands of civilians who have also died.  If they were your family, this is very personal.  If you are/were a soldier there, then this is personal.

Six weeks ago New Zealand  sent its last group of soldiers to Afghanistan.  This is the last troops that will be deployed from here, as New Zealand is pulling out its troops in April 2013.  I watched on the television channels here as those troops said their good-byes to their families at the airport.  It was gut-wrenching stuff, not only to see parents saying goodbye to young children and husbands to wives, and vice-a-versa, but for one reason that must have been at the heart of most kiwis watching that day.

Just a few weeks earlier a total of five kiwi soldiers were killed in Afghanistan, in two separate incidents.  Those five were from the same battalion as this fresh group were from, at Burnham Military Camp.

How could this new group of soldiers say good-bye to their friends and family, and have any sense of peace of mind, without this in their heads.  And how could families say good-bye without wondering whether this would be their final good-bye?  Would they come back in a box, like their friends and comrades had?  I dearly hope not.

Peace of mind?  I don’t think so.  All in the aid of fighting a war.

Saying good-bye to troops headed for war is something my father knew only too well as a child.  There was very little peace of mind for him as a six-year-old, and my grandmother, when my grandfather would be sent off to World War Two.  Some 92,000 kiwi troops went to this war, the maths is mind-boggling to consider just how many kiwis were left at home, with little peace of mind.

Grandad as Lieutenant S.T. Reddell (1942)

You can read more about my feelings about my grandfather’s involvement in Peace Not War   (Passion Profile Challenge #1).  He was in the Royal New Zealand Navy Intelligence division.  He ‘officially’ served his time in the War in the National Home Office in Wellington.  ‘Officially’ he never left the country.

Unofficially though, and the reality for my father and grandmother is that, he ‘would go away’ for weeks at time.  They wouldn’t know where, or for how long.  It just happened that the ‘trip away’ would coincide with a naval ship or submarine leaving Wellington harbour around that day.  They could see it leave the harbour from their temporary home in Kelburn.

To this day no one in the family knows where Grandad went, or for how long.  He died in 1969 after a long illness related to his war injuries, but he was never allowed to tell anyone the details of his trips away.  From the rumours, I think I’m glad about that because there would have been no peace of mind for anyone had they known where we suspect he was, or what he was doing.

Peace matters to me on a personal front because of the experience of my father and my grandparents.  But it matters to me on a global basis for much more than this.  I don’t believe that we were put on this planet to fight, kill and injure each other, let alone innocent by-standers.

“We are connected to the sky
and connected to the earth.
Together we are the conductors of nature.
Let our song of connection be forever beautiful.”

Image and words used with kind permission of Alison Pearce (see credits below)

We are connected to the sky and the earth, but we are also connected to each other.  Regardless of our history, race, ethnicity, gender, religious beliefs, sexuality or even simply our thoughts… we are brothers and sisters, as fellow human beings.  However we choose to believe that we appeared here on this planet, and regardless of what higher power we choose to believe or not believe in, we are all one species.  So why would we choose to kill each other?  Why would we choose to destroy another’s family?

I believe that we choose  war over peace because it is easier.  Certainly not easier for those caught up in it, or watching loved ones in it, but it’s an almost simple way to win an argument.  Just kill the opponent, or at least anyone who matters to that opponent.  End of argument.  Apparently.

If we could simply lay down our arms, and talk.

If I disagree with my neighbour, we stand in the drive-way and talk.  It works because we are prepared to listen and understand each other’s  perspective.  It works, and while we have differences, we can still be friends, respecting each other’s individuality.

It’s interesting that in the past two years, living in Christchurch, we have all been through multiple devastating and deadly earthquakes.  As neighbours, we all put aside our differences, and helped each other.  The increased bond between neighbours is one good thing that came from the devastation.  I suspect something similar is happening today in the areas badly affected by hurricane Sandy.

Peace between neighbours reigned for us in Christchurch, and was a very good thing.  More important than arguments was making sure each other had the basic provisions of food, water and shelter.  Maybe it’s a simple way of looking at it, but I believe that simple is often best.  Talking and listening is often best.  It by far beats the need to kill and destroy.

That’s why I have taken part in today’s BlogBlast4Peace.  All of the bloggers taking part in this event believe that if words are powerful….this matters. The wider we spread this message, each in our own way, the more people will agree that the right thing to do is to lay down arms and live at peace.

I encourage you to read some of the hundreds of other blog posts on this subject today.  See the official site at BlogBlast4Peace for more details.

Make a choice, and take a stand for peace, as I have done, and speak out.

“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.”

- Bishop Desmond Tutu
Nobel Prize for Peace 1984

“Never doubt that a handful of committed people can change the world.  Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

 - Margaret Mead

Some Very Important Credits

My Peace Globes (used here and on my Facebook page) were kindly created for me by my friend, Michelle Frost.  Check out Michelle’s blog to see what she is saying about peace today at Crows Feet.

Artwork and Prose from Alison Pearce  are both used with her permission.  Alison produces some excellent work, which can be seen at Art That Speaks by Alison Pearce.  Her site is well worth a visit.  Thank you for your co-operation Alison.

International Day of Peace

“A mind at peace, a mind centered and not focused on harming others, is stronger than any physical force in the universe.”

~ Wayne Dyer

Today (Friday) is the International Day of Peace, recognised each year on 21 September.  On this day the United Nations invites all nations and people to honour a cessation of hostilities during the Day, and to otherwise commemorate the Day through education and public awareness on issues related to peace.

I admit that I am less interested in politics in general, and more interested in the recovery and sustainability of people’s mental health, but I have recognised that something that contributes or takes away from my mental health, is when I am disturbed by things I am passionate about.  Peace is one for those things for me.  And I am convinced that a lack of peace causes great harm to the mental health of so many.

The Secretary-General of The United Nations, Ban Ki-moon says:

“On the International Day of Peace, the United Nations calls for a complete cessation of hostilities around the world.

We also ask people everywhere to observe a minute of silence, at noon local time, to honour the victims – those who have lost their lives, and those who survived but must now cope with trauma and pain.

The theme of this year’s observance is “Sustainable Peace for a Sustainable Future”.

Armed conflicts attack the very pillars of sustainable development.

Natural resources must be used for the benefit of society, not to finance wars.

Children should be in school, not recruited into armies.

National budgets should focus on building human capacity, not deadly weapons.

On the International Day of Peace, I call on combatants around the world to find peaceful solutions to their conflicts.

Let us all work together for a safe, just and prosperous future for all.” (1.)

It is the victims of war, and they can be defined in many ways, are the ones I feel most concerned about because they are usually the innocent ones, the one’s who haven’t chosen war, but get stuck in its path.  They are the ones who face years of trauma and pain.  I accept that I have never been in a war zone, and neither do I want to be, but I have been in a war zone in my head (and my body in relation to my eating disorder and self harm).  I know from that how much damage war does and I believe strongly that there has to be another way to solve conflict.

“I am fed up to the ears with old men dreaming up wars for young men to die in.”

 - George McGovern

And it’s not just men.  Only a few weeks ago my country mourned the death of our first woman soldier in killed in combat.  Her death was no worse than the death of the two men who died with her, but it somehow hit home to me, particularly when I watched the footage of the all-female pall-bearer party carry her coffin off the plane that brought the bodies home.

I have complete respect for those who serve their countries in war, but I have no respect for the leaders who craft the wars.  Those who send soldiers to war and create conflicts where innocent people are killed.  There simply has to be another way.

Because of my interest in mental health I keep asking the question, what must war do to the mental health of those involved?  We only need to consider for a moment the statistics of suicide and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) amongst soldiers, but we have little knowledge of the impact on civilians.  It must simply be enormous, and I don’t believe that this impact on either soldiers or civilians is acceptable.

Image credit: Michelle Frost
Blog Blast for Peace

I am just one person, many miles from the conflicts that are taking place at the moment.  I could say, what can I do?  I can’t change anything.  But I strongly believe that I can make a difference simply by raising the issue,  recognising the event today, and hoping for peace.  It’s not easy to change our world, but that is no excuse not to try.  I am going to continue to write about this, and as I have said before, have committed to the Blog Blast 4 Peace on 4 November.  Maybe it’s not exactly what my blog is usually about, but it is something that I feel strongly about because it has an effect on my life (and yours).

**

“All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”

 - Edmund Burke
**

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

 - Margaret Mead

Related Articles

Dona Nobis Pacem – 9/11

Image credit: Shannon’s Moments of Introspection
http://peaceglobegallery.blogspot.co.nz/p/who-we-are.html

As I write today, it is actually September 12 in my part of the world, but I want to recognise that in the United States and around the world, 9/11 is being remembered again today.  As I wrote yesterday, 9/11 also marks my birthday, and while this year I have finally been able to celebrate that fact again, I admit that celebrating anything on this day just doesn’t seem quite right anymore.

I find myself almost being apologetic when asked when my birthday is, and I know that I am not the only one who feels this way about having a birthday on such a day.  The other thing I note is that until 2001 my birthday was always 11/9 because that is the way we write the date in my part of the world.  Now it is so much easier to say my birthday is 9/11 and still know that people won’t think my birthday is November.

But one day on is actually what I remember.  It wasn’t September 11 that the world seemed to fall apart in New Zealand, but rather it was waking up on September 12 that I heard that the planes had flown into the World Trade Center towers, (as well as the horror in Washington DC and Pennsylvania), and it was for the rest of that day that we followed the terrible news.

I was in hospital at the time and my favourite nurse woke me saying that the world was ending (that’s not what you need when an inpatient in a psych hospital).  I had no idea what she was talking about but in my very unwell state assumed I must have done something really bad.  In the next weeks I battled between reality and some sort of depressive delusional fantasy.

I was far from well and it wasn’t long before doctors decided that I was a candidate for more Electro Convulsive Therapy (ECT).  Lucky me.  I was well enough to sign on the dotted line but I knew little else except for concluding by then that 9/11 was all my fault.

The road to recovery has been long but one of the things that has become more important to me is the need for us to work towards peace.  There is too much hate, too much bloodshed and too much war in my mind.  It’s not something that I feel at all comfortable about, and the need for us to love our brothers and sisters seems increasingly urgent in my mind.  Why can’t we stand side by side?

In line with my thoughts on the need for peace, I have joined Blog Blast 4 Peace, a movement of bloggers blogging for peace.  This is a group that has been running for six years now and on November 4, there will be a commitment from involved bloggers to write that day for peace.  The images included on this post come from that source.

Peace means a lot of different things to me, and it is my hope to explore what it is that I wish for.  I have written before about my desire to see Peace Not War, as well as that I admit to being An Idealist.  I don’t pretend to think that everyone will agree with what I might think, but isn’t it time we were talking about what we mean by peace and how we can achieve it?

No one wants another 9/11 and while the world has changed much in 11 years, there so much more that is possible so that we can learn to live alongside one another.

There was an excellent post by Ruby of A Canvas Of The Minds a couple of days ago to mark World Suicide Prevention Day, in which she promoted the idea of:

“One hand holding on to another.  One human telling another human that they aren’t alone.  One person sharing their strength and understanding with another person.”

I like this a lot, and while Ruby wrote it in connection to suicide prevention, I see it as something that peace can also achieve, so hopefully Ruby won’t mind that I borrowed it.  It applies so well to peace, whether it across the world, in our local neighbourhood, or simply peace of mind for each of us.

Dona Nobis Pacem (Grant Us Peace).

“The day the power of love overrules the love of power, the world will know peace.” 
―    Mahatma Gandhi

“World peace must develop from inner peace. Peace is not just mere absence of violence. Peace is, I think, the manifestation of human compassion.” 
―    Dalai Lama XIV