Tag Archives: violence

An Open Letter to My Depressed Self:

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As part of cognitive behavioral therapy you are often sent to fill out tables, first to identify your irrational, exaggeratedly negative thoughts, and then to respond with rational, more accurate ones.  Because I often feel attacked by my negative thinking about myself, it can feel daunting to respond to each ridiculous thought as it arises.  I know, even as it is happening, that my negative thoughts are irrational, but I still feel defeated and trapped.  Because of this, I thought it would be useful to come up with a letter to myself, to read to myself, in midst of one of my negativity ambushes, that responds rationally and empathetically, to the irrational beliefs that ultimately fuel my depression. It is an open letter, because I consider it a work in progress, and because I would love to receive advice, suggestions, input, edits, etc. etc., especially from those who have experienced the challenges that depression brings.  Thanks for your time and honesty! ❤

Here’s what I have so far:  

An Open Letter to My Depressed Self

Dear me,

The way you are seeing the world is distorted, even though its ugliness seems so real. I know that you are struggling and that your emotions feel out of control. You need to know that you are much better a person, than you deem yourself to be at this moment.  The people who love you are better equipped to confirm this.  You should ask them about your doubts, listen to their answers and believe them, even if it hurts more to receive their love, than it does to continue hating yourself. Sometimes pain is necessary in the healing process.

Yes, it is true that you have made mistakes and survived hardships; it is part of being human. But remember that you have always had good intentions in your heart.  It can be a tough course to learn that true love, is as much about loving as it is about being loved, that love is about balance, and boundaries.

Hard times have the potential to teach us about ourselves and help build resilience.  But their worth can only be measured afterwards, in lessons learned.  And sometimes a hard time is just a hard time. We have little control over this.

In the end, what will matter most is how we used the love we were given, across a lifetime. I know you deeply believe in the intrinsic worth of every being on this earth. This includes yourself.  Just as you believe others to be worthy of love and understanding, so must you believe this of yourself, for yourself.

This makes it not only ok to lean on people, when you need them, but necessary.  When you choose to lean, others also learn that it’s ok to lean back, when they need you.  This is the way we, humans, have nurtured our love for one another, for all of our history.  Do it even though you don’t want to, even though it goes against the very aching in your bones: do it anyway.

Finally, time is a curse – too much when we are suffering, too little when we are saying goodbye.  But it also has healing powers, because, this too will pass! Let these words seep into your hurting heart.  They may not feel good but you know, in your soul, there is wisdom here.  Heed it.

Please remember that my love for you will always be greater than your disdain, even if it doesn’t feel that way right now.  Love has always, and will always, win.

Love,

Me

 

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Race, Power and the Flu

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I have been battling the flu and with it I have had time to confront my own feelings of inadequacy in terms of the appalling violence that has been occurring in the US. My tendency when sick, to my stomach or heart, is to retreat into paralysis, and besides a few Facebook posts, spend my grief in fetal position feeling isolated and alone as an expat.  Sometimes I wonder if my living overseas is not an escape, an avoidance of responsibility to the deeply flawed nation that raised me.  To my American students, mostly white, I teach intercultural competence and urge them to see the unequal power structures that plague our world.   Some take their privilege head on and want to learn more; others avoid the topic all together and disappear.  The latter is what I have been doing lately with the weight of the hate-filled violence I have been reading about.  I am effectively speechless and breathless, perhaps the cause of my hacking cough and fever.

I have known for some time that my task at hand, is to find my voice and to never shut up.  It’s an ability that I have had since I learned to speak.  But now in my mid-thirties, after having recently survived an abusive marriage where my voice was essentially silenced, I find it hard to say anything at all.  Yet I also now know the savory taste of freedom, of autonomy, of an unencumbered heart, and a mind teeming with ideas.  Why is it, then, that my words do not find their way forth? Today I have decided to push past this silence. As a one-year-old takes her first steps, I am attempting to form my first words, as awkward as they are eager.

I will begin with my heart which is in pain, no longer because of the trials I went through but because of the state of the world.  It seems that violence has become commonplace as a way to exert one’s power over another, and it is done mostly without consequence because of the failings of the justice system.  Even if justice were fulfilled after such horrific events, we would only be alleviating heartache with a band aid, not with a cure.  True healing comes when we change the system and culture that produced the murderer, and the ethos of fear and hate that provided him the ideas and the weapons of mass destruction to carry out his dirty deed.  I am referring to white supremacy, male supremacy, police brutality, homophobia and the mass shootings which have become all too familiar.  But how do we even begin to change such a massive and destructive structure under which we are just a pebble?

I believe change begins as a spark in the inner most point of our hearts.  The spark might feel like anger, pain or sorrow, but it carries a hint of hope. And if you listen to it, validate this tiny energy with your conscience, it grows stronger and pretty soon a flame evolves and you start to feel its warmth.  If you can be still long enough to notice it, you can warm yourself from its heat and encourage it to grow into self-compassion, then into believing in yourself, into believing you matter, into discovering you have power, into using your power, propelling you into action.  What is this action? It is whatever action you are lead to.  Life has a remarkable tendency to lay trials and opportunities before you at just the precise moment.  But you have to be awake to notice them and to discern the right, the just, the good action.

We are all different beings on this earth, with different pasts and different futures, and yet we are all connected as part of one wonderful whole.  What our world needs is more voices to question the status quo, voices of protest, voices of love, more than ever. We need to trust our own voice when it comes from the heart, even if we then decide it could have been said better.  Silence is the world’s biggest enemy, because most of us know that something is gravely wrong and if not righted, the future of humanity is at risk.

Yet we say nothing. Like me, in my fetal position, silently hurting.  It does nothing.  In fact, my silence is most harmful to myself, because I end up reinforcing my paralysis, believing that I can do nothing, that I have no power, until I forget I even have a voice.  This is a function of oppression, to believe one’s inferiority.  It is incredibly dangerous because it is the most insidious way that privilege or tyranny, which is the same, stabilizes the current power structures, eliminating and invalidating descent. Don’t collaborate with the culture of fear and hate, say something!  If we start to speak up, others will feel that they have permission to do as well.  When two people are talking, we have a dialog, with three, we have a conversation, when a community of people speak up, we have a social movement, and on and on.  This is how it starts, one voice at a time.