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Thursday, October 29, 2015

How to Develop Courage and then Wield it to be Great


The definition of courage has evolved over the last thousand years.

Courage, as defined by Frank Baum’s Cowardly Lion, is in part, “what makes the muskrat guard his musk.” Okay so I was reaching pretty hard for that one. 

The original definition of courage originated in Old French and means to speak your innermost feelings with all of your heart.

Speak up and speak often with courage, telling your story with all of your heart for the benefit of others. You have much to teach us and we have much to learn. True greatness cannot be achieved without a leap of faith and your own brand of courage. 
——
The i’Mpossible Project: Reengaging With Life, Creating a New You is now available for pre-order. 50 authors. 50 inspirational stories of overcoming tremendous obstacles. 
Read a few sample chapters HERE.
The first 200 people to pre-order will get a “thank you” in the front of the book, and a free copy of the book The Gospel According to Josh: A 28-Year Gentile Bar Mitzvah.



Thursday, October 15, 2015

Great Expectations: Hard to Live up to and a Recipe for Paralysis

"I have no responsibility to live up to what others expect of me. That’s their mistake, not my failing." - Richard Feynman
I spoke at a suicide prevention/postvention conference this week and met a talented young woman with a great deal of potential. We got to speak over lunch and she revealed that despite the great work she was doing as a counselor, there were parts of her life and career that she couldn’t crack because her parents didn't approve. 

She wanted to move forward with some pretty incredible ideas but the threat of her parents' disapproval was causing (metaphorical) paralysis and misery. 

This idea that we have to do what is expected rather than what we believe to be right is a recipe for disaster. We stay in relationships for far too long, veer down a career path we should never have been on, and give people power to lord over us.  

Do it for you, even when it’s scary, even when the safety net of other people's approval vanishes. 

Life is too damn short to make yourself so busy conforming to standards and pleasing other people, that you forget to pay attention to your own needs. 
——
The i’Mpossible Project: Reengaging With Life, Creating a New You is now available for pre-order. 50 authors. 50 inspirational stories of overcoming tremendous obstacles. 
Read a few sample chapters HERE.
The first 200 people to pre-order will get a “thank you” in the front of the book, and a free copy of the book The Gospel According to Josh: A 28-Year Gentile Bar Mitzvah.


Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Ten Years After Diagnosis—Guest Post, Cynthia Forget, an i'Mpossible Story



This is the forty-seventh edition of The i’Mpossible Project: A series where anyone can share a personal story of inspiration or an event in life where they overcame tremendous odds. Everyone has a powerful story to tell and something to teach the world. (See HERE for guidelines on how you can write for The i’Mpossible Project.) Here we have Cynthia Forget with Ten Years After Diagnosis

***
 It’s here! September 25, 2015. That’s ten years from the day I was first diagnosed with bipolar disorder. It’s hard to believe it’s been that long, and yet in some ways it seems like a life-time ago. And it really was. It was a different life before I got sick.


Trouble is, bipolar disorder has stolen so many of my memories. It’s hard to visualize my life before my illness. It has taken over that much. I remember big picture things rather than details. For example, I know we were a happy family—my husband and two children. We did a lot of typical family stuff. We did them together. That means I actually participated in activities and outings. Once I was sick that didn’t happen often.

When I was diagnosed my children were only 11 and 6. My illness made a huge impact on my family, my marriage, my career and my life. When I was manic I wasn’t around much. I was out being busy—shopping, partying, working on projects or anything else that was an energy release. Unfortunately, little of that energy was spent at home.

When I was home, it was usually because I was depressed. And if I was depressed I was in bed. And I stayed there. Not moving for days, weeks, even months on end. My children became used to seeing me in that state. To them I was just sad. And it was sad. I missed out on so much—so did they.

But throughout it all, somehow I managed to instill in them my values and I was able to be there for them emotionally. Though I wasn’t able to do all the typical mothering type things like volunteering at school, going on field trips, driving them to friends’ houses, helping with homework, etc., etc., I did what I believe to be even more important. I nurtured them. I groomed them for life. I taught them unconditional love.

Before bipolar I actually had a life. I had friends. I had a career. I was a fun person to be around. I think I was happy. I was a companion to my husband in every way. We went out often. We talked a lot.  We laughed a lot. We were very much a couple and had an active social life. That all changed. In addition to bipolar disorder, I struggle with general anxiety and social anxiety. That keeps me away from most things and most people.

In the time that has passed I’ve learned a lot about bipolar disorder. I have researched the subject beyond what you could imagine. I have applied much of what I have learned. And as the time has passed I have discovered better ways of coping and better ways of predicting and even preventing future episodes. I’ve had to adjust my lifestyle considerably. My life is now a fragment of what it used to be. But I’m okay with that. Most days.

In the ten years that have passed I’ve tried countless medications and even more combinations and doses. I’m probably in the best place I’ve been since this all started. But this illness does not rest and it does not stay the same. It changes with brain chemistry. It changes with situations. Even though my days are mostly good right now, I remain on guard knowing that my mood can fluctuate at a moment’s notice.

I’m not bitter. I don’t hate that I have bipolar disorder. It has taught me a lot. I has given me strength. There are many ways I can still find happiness. But any way you slice it, I’m not the same person I was ten years ago. My husband misses me. I miss me.
---
Cynthia Forget was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder in 2005 and has since been through a myriad of experiences, doctors and treatments. Ten years later, she is now relatively stable—as stable as one can be with Bipolar Disorder. She is lucky enough to have a psychiatrist who actually listens to her. She uses writing as therapy and through Facebook, Twitter, and her own on-line blog (http://cynthiaforget.weebly.com), she is a strong advocate for those with Bipolar Disorder.
——
You can find more stories like Cynthia's in The i’Mpossible Project: Reengaging With Life, Creating a New You, now available for pre-order. 50 authors. 50 inspirational stories of overcoming tremendous obstacles. 
Read a few sample chapters HERE.
The first 200 people to pre-order will get a “thank you” in the front of the book, and a free copy of the book The Gospel According to Josh: A 28-Year Gentile Bar Mitzvah.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

You Want to Help Someone, Let Them Get Singed (but Don’t Let Them Burn Up)



I just finished watching a two minute video on Facebook (yes, you can roll your eyes at me), where a child no more than two-years-old, climbs a miniature indoor rock wall. The wall wasn’t more than four feet high but it was still pretty difficult for someone so little. The most brilliant part: there was no adult or parent there lifting the child up helping her find each crevice for her feet and hands. The adult was a safe distance away in case the child fell, but the child completed the wall on her own. 

This is something I’ve been contemplating for sometime: If you want to truly help someone, you need to let them work things out for themselves, maybe letting them get burned a little, before stepping in to prevent any potential full on disaster. 

Unsolicited help or advice will almost never lead to a person creating longterm sustainable change and/or finding the valuable lesson they need to learn. A person needs to have full ownership of the solution to their problem. Even if it is your solution, it has to make sense in the other person’s head and how it can apply to their own life.

When I present to colleges on suicide prevention, I always stress that when a person is with a loved one who is in crisis; it’s always best to listen, tell them that you love them and that they’re important, and know where to find professional. Advice or suggestions should almost never be on the agenda. Because the way I solve problems is different than the way you solve them. It make take some time but the person in crisis needs lots of support and at some point (hopefully in the near future) needs to take ownership of their solution to managing their emotional pain. I say all this from my own experience being in crisis in 2011.

Whether it’s wanting to prevent a loved one from experiencing the pain of job loss or a breakup, or a trying to rescue a colleague from making a terrible business decision—it’s important to let people take personal ownership of the solution to their problem. Yes it’s a delicate balance between “helicopter friend/parent” and being a fire extinguisher to prevent full on calamity—but the overriding factor here is that you’re a positive force in a person’s life and that you care. And I’m sure you’ll figure it out on your own :) 
——
The i’Mpossible Project: Reengaging With Life, Creating a New You is now available for pre-order. 50 authors. 50 inspirational stories of overcoming tremendous obstacles. 
Read a few sample chapters HERE.
The first 200 people to pre-order will get a “thank you” in the front of the book, and a free copy of the book The Gospel According to Josh: A 28-Year Gentile Bar Mitzvah.



Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Getting Wet: A Life-Changing Traumatic Event (Guest post: Rory Bristol)

This is a guest post written by Rory Bristol. Read to the end for details on his projects.
There's nothing like being afraid of the element that consists of 71% of both your own body and the surface of the planet you live on. Water. It is terrifying. It is evil. It is full of germs, and wetness. It is gross to the extreme. I am able to get in the hot tub. I am able to swim. I am able to shower. I force myself to do these things because they are "normal" and I am vain. Also, a little (or a lot) of OCD goes a long way when you are afraid of your shower. Germs from the water are better than the dirt from the day. I ALWAYS shower. Even if I hate it.

But germs and wet are only part of the story. Water is a complex element with many iterations. Showers, rain, sinks, drains - water is everywhere. It smells like everything. I can go outside in the afternoon and still smell or taste last night's rain in the air. There is no escaping this monster inside of my head, any more than I can escape my heartbeat.

I first developed an aversion to water when I was a teenager. As always, my parents were good at finding ways to suck. This time, they forgot to pick me up after a field trip. This field trip was no ordinary field trip. It was a weeklong trip to Tennessee to participate in FFA competitions. I was a landscape competitor, but I sucked. I didn't make it to nationals, but I went on the trip anyway, because a trip to Nashville isn't something to turn your nose up at.

So, I come home from this trip, tired, and I wait for my parents. Five minutes passed. Then fifteen. After an hour, the teacher finally said he'd give me a ride home. I declined, telling him that I'd go to a friend's house. I was too embarrassed at the thought of him seeing my house with a collapsed ceiling, much less the look on my parents' faces when they were shamed by someone else taking care of their "problem." So I walked home. It was five miles, but I didn't really mind. I had walked it before, when my parents had failed to show up to performances, or football games. I had to get home after all.
I got about a half mile out of town when it started raining. At first it was a light drizzle, and I was only slightly on edge, because I had a week's worth of luggage on my shoulder. Then it started to pick up a little. I may have started to cry. Then it really started to pour. I had a panic attack. I didn't even know what a panic attack was at that age, so I thought I was going insane.

When I arrived home, I was soaked clean through. My shoes, and my luggage, were full of water. I was also mostly covered in mud, because the last two miles of the walk were on the red dirt roads that made up most of the county's streets. I was sobbing and couldn't stop. My family thought I was being melodramatic. I didn't have words for it. I was disheveled, exhausted, had at least two ruined text books and at least one ruined library book in my bag, not to mention my swag from the convention, and a disposable camera.

I couldn't explain the terror I was experiencing. I didn't know the words "sense of impending doom" which have explained so much of my anxiety since then. I was dysfunctional. I got shaken for crying, being told that I'd be "given a reason to cry." I still couldn't stop crying. I got belted across the back for ruining the books. I got shoved into the wall because I couldn't explain why I couldn't talk. I got pushed over a coffee table when my mother pointed out to my stepfather that they'd have to pay for the damaged books. Then I got punched because the table broke when I fell over it. I was then kicked multiple times for not getting up.

You might notice a theme here. This is one of my most vivid flashbacks. When I get wet unexpectedly, I am slammed into this moment. Out of nowhere, I am a runty fat teenager, in the throes of a panic attack. I am in physical pain, and emotional pain. I feel betrayed, bruised. I feel like a victim.

I get sad when it rains, even if I'm inside. In the rare occasion that I get caught in the rain, I have a panic attack. If I'm at a friend's home and it starts to rain unexpectedly, I've been known to become the guest of an impromptu sleep-over. Thankfully, I've learned to communicate with people regarding my anxiety and PTSD flashbacks. Thanks to therapy, good doctors, my own determination to succeed, and the loving support of my wife, I am able to live a normal life with my PTSD and anxiety.

Despite years of hard work and therapy, I've still not shaken the fear that accompanies getting wet. I'd give a toe (at least) to leave this part of myself behind. For now, I steel myself against the literal and figurative oncoming storms.
-
Rory is an emotional badass, able to jump from zero to save-your-life in precisely two blinks of the eye. His superpowers include unapologetic honesty, forgetting the little things, and dragging people back from the ledge. He's also an amazing party trick. Rory's compassion, drive, and love are a result of an upbringing surrounded by felons, drug addicts, schizophrenics, and generally not-nice people. Buy him a beer, and he'll look at you like you have a bug on your face. Buy him a book, and you will always have a place in his heart (or at least his bookcase).

His major work is http://terminallyintelligent.wordpress.com/
Follow him on Twitter: @TerminallyRory

——
You can find more stories like Rory's in The i’Mpossible Project: Reengaging With Life, Creating a New You, now available for pre-order. 50 authors. 50 inspirational stories of overcoming tremendous obstacles. 
Read a few sample chapters HERE.
The first 200 people to pre-order will get a “thank you” in the front of the book, and a free copy of the book The Gospel According to Josh: A 28-Year Gentile Bar Mitzvah.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Best Laid Plans—Guest Post, Karen Gould, An i'Mpossible Story

This is the forty-sixth edition of The i’Mpossible Project: A series where anyone can share a personal story of inspiration or an event in life where they overcame tremendous odds. Everyone has a powerful story to tell and something to teach the world. (See HERE for guidelines on how you can write for The i’Mpossible Project.) Here we have Karen Gould with Best Laid Plans 


---

I had it all planned out. It was my sophomore year of college and I had just been accepted into a highly selective program to start junior year. This was my chance to move and start my life anew. I wanted to get away from the place where I never felt accepted—the only person in my household who was not related by blood. I was “different” — in temperament, looks, and the way I viewed the world. But now I was planning my escape, my new life, and it would be amazing. I would finish college, have my dream career, meet my handsome prince, get married, and have a family. I would finally fit in and know what it was like to belong. And the memories of recent unspeakable events would be banished forever. But life had other plans.

My first serious boyfriend came along at a vulnerable time in my life, not long after the passing of my beloved grandmother. She was kind to me in a way that deeply touched my life and I loved her dearly. I was eighteen when she died and that was definitely not how things were supposed to go. She wasn’t supposed to leave my life. But I pushed aside the grief and focused on my new boyfriend. I was inexperienced but I trusted this man who was brought into our circle of friends by my best friend’s boyfriend. I still remember the shame I felt the night my best friend accompanied me home on the bus after he sexually assaulted me. In every scenario I created in my mind it was my fault. So I buried the shame, the pain, the confusion, the anger, and moved forward. I was good at moving forward.

Spring of my sophomore year tragedy struck. A friend of mine was murdered during a store robbery where he had been a clerk. Everything seemed so surreal. I couldn’t believe he was gone. It was only a year prior that a high school classmate took his life on a train track. That was horrible enough. And now my friend had been murdered. Through my pain I carried on, as I always had. Denial was my friend. I was going to move away and forget this horror. I was going to move forward into my perfectly planned life. But the final straw was waiting for me just around the corner.

I called my best friend to shoot the breeze one day the summer before I was to start my junior year. Suddenly I felt faint, confused, sick… what was happening? What did you say? He was MURDERED?? I didn’t understand. I once wished the man who forced himself on me that night dead... but not really. I swear I didn’t mean it! I hung up the phone and left the house. It was a hot day and I was at the mall but didn’t remember how I got there and I was crying. How long had I been crying? I saw a friend from high school on the sidewalk outside the mall. Her words sounded hollow and I felt dizzy. I somehow made my way back home. I had to put this latest disaster into another corner of my mind. It was my time to move into this new life I had been planning. Only this time, my plan to go forward didn’t work so well.

The next few weeks were a downward spiral. I was unable to sleep or eat. I continued to try to work my fast food job but couldn’t concentrate. I went to see my family doctor and after many tests he exclaimed: “Karen, there is nothing wrong with you physically, I need you to see a psychiatrist.” What? I’m not crazy—don’t you know how strong I am? Terrified, I followed his orders and made an appointment to see a psychiatrist at the college counseling center. I didn’t even know what that meant. I didn’t know I was headed to see someone who would ask me questions for an hour and then prescribe medication. “It’s for depression”, he said. “It will help you sleep”.

I was a compliant patient, and I wanted to feel better but the medicine was not working. “Just keep taking it,” the doctor said. “It takes a while to work.” So I followed the doctor’s orders. By the end of the summer, at the cusp of my perfectly planned life, I still couldn’t sleep; I lost weight, and cried all the time. As the new school semester began, I could barely hear what the professors were saying. I was terrified and profoundly sad and soon enough, I began to think about suicide. Would I stand in front of a train like my classmate? No. But in my dorm room, during the worst of it all, I took an entire bottle of medication, prayed to die and to never wake up. But I woke up in the emergency room. My plan was thwarted.

Many days and months of darkness followed that attempt on my life, but countless times I was embraced by the healing hands of those who had dedicated their lives to helping people like me. It was during that time of recovery that I discovered therapy and was grateful for the healing it provided. I wanted to do the same for others—to shine a light before things go dark and to help those who were already in darkness to find the light. I have never doubted with each person’s life that I have touched as a therapist, that every second of my pain was worth it and that my journey was exactly what it was supposed to be. I had my life planned out… but God had better plans.

——
You can find more stories like Karen's in The i’Mpossible Project: Reengaging With Life, Creating a New You, now available for pre-order. 50 authors. 50 inspirational stories of overcoming tremendous obstacles. 
Read a few sample chapters HERE.
The first 200 people to pre-order will get a “thank you” in the front of the book, and a free copy of the book The Gospel According to Josh: A 28-Year Gentile Bar Mitzvah.



Thursday, October 1, 2015

It Always Seems Impossible Until it’s Done (and Why Zero Suicide is Possible, Dammit)


The quote, “It always seems impossible until it’s done,” is attributed to Nelson Mandela. A man who was unjustly imprisoned for twenty-seven years and was the spiritual leader of the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa. For context, apartheid was a horrific system of legalized segregation (officially beginning in 1948, though technically its it traces its origins back to 1795 and British colonialists) in South Africa where blacks and people of color were treated as sub-human and forced from their homes into segregated slums and ghettos.  

In 1994, apartheid was finally abolished and a black man, Nelson Mandela, was sworn into office as President of South Africa. 

Two hundred and fifty years of the impossible and struggle culminated in a beautiful victory.

This past week I attended and spoke at several conferences. A concept of “Zero Suicide” was brought up—an idea that our local communities, regions, and even nation-states should be working to achieve not a 5, 10, or 20 percent reduction in the ever-increasing suicide rate but the need for us all to work TOGETHER toward ZERO suicides. 

Many were supportive but others were cautious and even hesitant. Some of the questions, thoughts, and concerns were (and my answers in italics):

“How do we integrate survivors of loss without making them feel isolated or guilty?” I was framed with this after I lost my dad and when I learned that suicide is preventable. I didn’t know that before my dad died, but I know it now and can use that information to help other people going forward.

“Where do we start?” Here. We start here and now. We might fall on our butts but we must use “failure” to readjust toward success.

“I know what I’m doing with my job and in my sector and I’m getting along just fine without everyone else.” #facepalm Get up and walk away. We have no room for Negative Neds and Nancys. 

“This seems like an impossibly tall task” “Seems” is the operative word. It is a tall task but it isn’t impossible—even if it takes another 250 years. 

“We can’t get to everyone.” Okay. So do you have the stomach to tell this to a person after they have lost a loved one. We need to TRY our damndest to get to everyone. 

My takeaways: Behavioral health, healthcare, and even families aren’t the only stakeholders in this game. We need a holistic approach to suicide prevention. The industry as it currently stands needs to partner with the prisons, the urban planners, legislators, and the educational system among others. Let’s give people a fighting chance in all rungs of society, making sure people feel important and that they have a purpose—guaranteeing that no one will ever die alone and in terrible emotional pain. 

To do my part I am going to commit to continue to be a public advocate as a speaker, a personality, and one of the many faces of this movement. I’m going to continue to share other people’s stories (a la the new The i’Mpossible Project book). I’ll continue to develop peer-to-peer educational and outreach tools in various sectors of healthcare and mental health. AND I’m going to ask for help when I need it. 

Who else is with me?

Whatever difficulty you’re dealing with on a personal level or within a larger system—it always seems impossible until it’s done. Alone we are vulnerable but together we can achieve much. 

#iampossible