Equal or greater benefit…?

“Every adversity, every failure, every heartache carries with it the seed of an equal or greater benefit.”

~Napoleon Hill

If nothing else, I’d like to think this is true for me… The longer I live, the more time passes, the better I am able to determine whether I feel as though it’s true or not. I’ll never know ‘factually’ whether it’s true or not, but that’s not what matters. What matters is how I feel, and how I determine the quality of my life, my self, my past, my present, and my future.

(Napoleon Hill may be a bit of a ‘scammer’, but there are a number of encouraging quotes attributed to him.)

 

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Emotional First Aid with Guy Winch

When we have a physical injury, we’ll put on a band-aid, we’ll take cold medicine… we’ll go to a doctor or hospital. But when we sustain emotional or psychological injuries, do we do this? Chances are, we don’t.

I discovered Guy Winch when I came across his TED Talk a while back. I watch it every few months, when I feel the need.

He has a blog as part of his website too, which I recommend taking a look through.

Common psychological injuries we sustain include loss, failure, loneliness, ruminating, rejection, and low self-esteem… Like physical injuries, psychological injuries can irritate or even create more injury:

Untreated rejection can cause damage to our self-esteem, which can make us behave defensively and push people away, which can makes us become more socially isolated, at which point we find ourselves feeling lonely and brooding about how our friends have stopped caring, which can lead to a full blown depression.

We tend to seek advice from, or confide in trusted friends, family, and partners when we sustain emotional or psychological injuries – but that can’t always be done; it doesn’t always give us what we need. We don’t always have someone to turn to and seek help from. That person may not be able to provide the support we want. Sometimes the person we would turn to is the one causing emotional injury.

Give thought to your emotional needs in such times, and take steps to apply emotional first aid techniques by reading […] and finding the techniques that work best for you. In time, you will develop your own psychological medicine cabinet—one you can use for many years to come, and one you can share with your children and family members.

In another article, Guy Winch gives us a list of 5 steps to better our emotional hygiene:

  1. Pay attention to emotional pain
  2. Stop emotional bleeding
  3. Protect your self-esteem
  4. Battle negative thinking
  5. Become informed about the impact of psychological wounds

It is never problematic to learn about yourself and how best to provide for yourself, to love yourself, to take action and start moving forward. Emotional first aid is just as important as physical first aid. We all have baggage, but how great would it be to lessen the load and be free (and in the process, decrease the chances of injuring others and ourselves)?

The Set-Up

I met him in September 2014, within a few days of him moving to Japan. It wasn’t long until he started sending me messages about going out for a drink. He wouldn’t leave me alone. It was pretty obvious he was hitting on me and I took that as a compliment, but I was busy doing my own thing – I had consciously decided to dedicate the next year to work and school – and his pestering was getting annoying. I finally gave in, and we met one evening after work.

We met for two ‘dates’ – in a row, if I remember correctly – and that was that. The relationship progressed quickly. He kept things at my apartment (he only had a tiny room in the university dorm that housed a lot of young, international students) and so I gave him a key. We had gotten together only a few days before I started commuting to Tokyo on the weekends to study interior design. It was an expensive and time-consuming (over 3 hour commute each way) endeavour, but I’d spent a year preparing for it and I really wanted to do it. I didn’t mind him having a key; I didn’t have anything to hide. It was all kind of exciting, anyway.

 

The bad stuff started happening early on, too. Within about 10 days of being together, he had a difficult conversation with his ex who is Japanese, living in Yokohama. Haruka. They’d been together for 6 years, and had often talked about being together again (she had been mentally unwell and had to return to Japan after living with him in France for a few years). He’d decided to come to Japan to be closer to her, but he’d met me and I’d ruined the chances for her. He had to cut ties with her. He blamed me for it. He’d loved her. They’d wanted to have a family too, but she wasn’t mentally well enough and he couldn’t trust her with his children so he’d sent to home to get better. He’d also had a short, fun relationship with a very intelligent, beautiful, multi-lingual woman just before moving to Japan and she‘d gotten upset that he jumped into a relationship with someone new (me), almost exactly one month after the move. She was angry and decided to stop talking to him. That was my fault too. I clearly remember that evening. Conversations with both women, and with me, all happened with an hour or two.

I thought it was a bit odd at the time, but he made it sound like a sacrifice that he was doing for us. It upset him to lose these two women, but it had to be done to ‘clear the way’ for a relationship with me.

He had a foul mouth and called me a lot of names from the very beginning, but the set up was that he was just like that. He meant it in an endearing way. It was a compliment.

We had a group from work that would have lunch together everyday, and he started pulling me away to get me to help him with filling out documents and helping him find an apartment. He wanted a place with as few neighbours as possible (ideally a corner unit in a building), and multiple rooms. He was too old to be in a university dorm. Why multiple bedrooms? Maybe he’d rent a room, maybe he’d have a roommate. Maybe he would’t live alone. Why a corner unit? He winked. You know, noise. These requirements were a must. I spent hours searching online, communicating with rental companies, going to viewings, interpreting and helping him sign the forms when he finally chose one. Then, I went shopping with him for furniture and whatever else his heart desired. I had my own apartment that I loved, but he wanted my opinion on everything. He wanted me to like what he’d have at his place.

His apartment was a 3 bedroom unit, plus kitchen and living room space. His favourite room was the washitsu, the Japanese room with paper doors and tatami. The unit was in a building that overlooks the river. One floor was one unit. His was the 5th and top floor. We could even climb up to the roof of the building from his big balcony.

The evening he moved in, his young friends from the dorm rented a small truck (he couldn’t drive), helped carry all the furniture and appliances up the staircases (no elevator in the building), and helped set things up inside the apartment. They’d even helped bring some things from my apartment that I didn’t mind sending over. There was a little house-warming party that night. I was going to go home to my own beloved apartment, now that his was settled, but he didn’t want me to leave. I felt uncomfortable, but there were others around and I didn’t want to make a scene. These young international helpers seemed to think we were a great couple.

He moved in to his apartment 3 weeks into our relationship. And by ‘him moving in’, I mean I moved in too.

All of this was a secret at work. We didn’t talk about it. There were women at work who were interested in him, he told me – it was funny for him – but work life and private life should be kept separate. We should keep things quiet, at least for a while.

He didn’t let me stay in my own apartment again. We started moving my things over, carrying things by hand. He made it sound like a happy and exciting thing, but also scolded me for not sending more over earlier, when we had access to the truck and helpers that night.

I didn’t sleep in my own apartment, but I continued to pay rent. I didn’t want to let it go. It was the first time in my life that a space had really felt like it was mine. We decided that I would contribute to electricity and water bills at his place, and when I let my own apartment go, I’d start paying rent at his.

His contract to be in Japan was for two years, so I had to start learning French almost right away to have be good enough for when we moved to France together after. It’s virtually impossible to get a job in France if you don’t speak the language, he told me. Plus, his family doesn’t speak English. How would I communicate with them? There were a few other places in the States that were possible places to go do research after the two years, including Harvard (he was in high demand, you know)… but he needed to start thinking about that very soon to start strengthening networks. Haruka had learned French to stay in France. She had loved France (and why didn’t I love France as much as her?). He’d started learning Japanese for her. All of his associations with Japan involved her, so it was my responsibility to re-write it all. Except that I couldn’t teach him Japanese, I didn’t know how, I didn’t have the confidence. I had underlying issues with that. I told him from the beginning I could support his learning, but I couldn’t teach him. I was a trained English teacher.

The language exchange that he’d dreamed up for us didn’t happen (especially the way he’d wanted it to), and he brought it up daily for months and months on end. It was my fault, and he never, ever, let me forget that. It was always my fault. Everything was always my fault. Didn’t matter what I did – it was too much or too little. But he was doing it all for me, so that I could learn to be less selfish, less arrogant; so that I could learn to be a better partner, a more supportive partner. He was always trying to show me the way, so that I could become a beautiful, sophisticated, intelligent woman. He wanted to be proud of me.

There were so many red flags, but I didn’t see them, I minimized them, I ignored them. (How many did you count as you read this?) I wanted to think that maybe I’d finally met the man who would sweep me off my feet, that would treat me well, unlike some other men in my life who had for years manipulated and taken advantage of me.

In a way, he did sweep me off my feet.

The more time we spent together, the more he tore into me. Picking away at my mental and physical health, every minute of every day. I often didn’t even realize what was going on. He was always there in constant texts and phone calls, if not in person. (Looking back, it’s interesting to note that as the relationship got worse and both of us had declining mental health, his name-calling faded away.)

The ill-treatment I’d received in my lifetime leading up to my relationship with him had apparently only given me a higher tolerance for it. And like most other things in my life, this was something I felt had to fix myself. It was up to me to do something. But, I tolerated it, I put up with it, I sometimes even appreciated it.

“A scar means, I survived.”

“I ask you right here please to agree with me that a scar is never ugly. That is what the scar makers want us to think. But you and I, we must make an agreement to defy them. We must see all scars as beauty. Okay? This will be our secret. Because take it from me, a scar does not form on the dying. A scar means, I survived.”

~ Chris Cleave

「人間嫌い」って本当は嘘なんだ

自分のことを理解してくれてる人がいるってとても幸せなことだと思う。

私が「人間ヤダ。嫌い。面倒臭い。一人のほうがずっと楽。」って言っても、言い終わる前から見抜かれている。

「ココロは優しくて、みんなが大好きだからね。周りの人を気遣って疲れるんだよね。エネルギーを吸われちゃうから一人が良いって言うほうが楽なんだよね。」セラピストが優しく言うから涙ぐんでしまう…

ありがとう。

自分でも言えないこと、気づかないことを言葉にして聞かせてくれる。

「ココロは自分の体調の悪さを隠せるから他の人は気付いてないんでしょ、どれだけ苦しんでるか知らないんでしょ…だからココロが心配なんだよ、表に出さないから。他の人を優先するから。」14年ぶりに会った憧れのお姉さんに言われてしまったよ…いつから知ってたんだろう。 思わず涙が出たよ。重い病気で苦しんでるのに…私のことなんか心配しなくて良いのに。

嬉しくて、悲しくて。懐かしくて。安心してしまって。

そう、本当は嫌いじゃないんだよ。でも人の為を思って頑張ってるうちに疲れたり、体調崩したり、メンタルヘルスが悪くなったりで辛いんだ。自分のニーズをほおって置いてしまうから目に見えないところで不健康になったりするんだ。でもそう簡単に人に口に出せないし。だから一人のほうが楽なんだ。

見透かされる人の前では隠さなくても良いのに、癖で。

まだ治りかけの心の傷を隠さないと弱点を気付かれやすくなる。隠さないと日常生活についていけない。でも隠してるから、いつかは消えてなくなるんじゃないかってちょっとポジティブになったふりをして自分に言ってみるけど…でも、そうはならないだろうな。メンタルヘルスってそんなに簡単なものじゃないからね。あはっ。

今はまだ自分を守らなければいけない。心の傷を癒したい。自分と同じような経験をした人が出ないように前に進まなければいけない…でもまだプレッシャーに弱いから少しづつ、ゆっくり進まだきゃいけないんだ。焦っても仕方ないんだ。そう自分に言い聞かせないと忘れてしまってやっぱり焦る。「どうしてもっと早く元気にならないんだ」って。(そもそも「元気」ってなんだんだろうって思ったりもするけど)

「人間嫌い。面倒臭い。一人が良い。」って言ってしまう辛い時は、この言葉の向こうの本当のことを見抜いてくれた人のことを思い出すと解放される。

気付いてくれてありがとう。

安心できる場所の与えてくれてありがとう。疲れなくても一緒に居られる人がいるって幸せだよ。

Angry?

“Your best friend will always hate your ex more than you do”

I was just waking up, but I couldn’t help but laugh a little to myself. Still groggy and sleep-deprived, I sent it to Kei, who also appreciated it. Ah, what a great person to have in my life.

Hate.

We use it pretty readily, but it’s a strong word if you think about it.

Do I hate the lion? Nah. Have I ever? Mmm, I don’t think so.

In fact, I don’t really remember ever being really angry at him. I’ve been afraid, I’ve been confused, frustrated… but I don’t think anger has really been there. Anger turned inward is one thing, but anger toward him? Not that I can think of. Not consciously, at least.

There was a short time though, when I was honestly very afraid of my own behaviour. I was worried that I may have a sudden outburst where I hurt the lion. What if I end up in an uncontrollable rage? What if I hurt him? …What if I kill him? It wasn’t something I wanted to do, but I didn’t feel in control of myself. It was a serious concern at the time.

I had left him at this point, but we still worked in the same small building, only a floor or two apart. We had a lot of common friends and acquaintances. He sometimes left things at my door. I don’t remember how much we were talking, but it couldn’t have been very often.

After becoming afraid of myself and what I may or may not be capable of doing, I sought the wisdom of my therapist. She’s a godsend. Her wings may not be visible, but for all of my needs and concerns, she’s been an angel in my life.

I told her about these very real fears I had. I didn’t know why, or where they came from, but they were there alright. And I didn’t want them.

She looked at me, patient and kind as usual, and she said, “You have nothing to be concerned about. That’s not in your nature. You’re not like that.”

And with those words, my concerns vanished. I still don’t know where they came from, but that’s not really important to me, so I don’t spend time thinking about it.

Kei and another friend, Audrey, have been so, so angry with the lion. They have called him all sorts of names. They’ve wished ill on him, and talked about what they would do to him if they saw him again.

I don’t agree or support a lot of what they say, but it takes an enormous burden off of my shoulders. Those who have been abused are supposed to hate or feel anger toward the perpetrator. Or at least, that’s the vibe I’ve gotten from a variety of settings. It’s a normal feeling to have; it’s always on those lists of ‘common reactions‘, but it’s not my feeling.

For me, being angry takes up too much valuable energy. I tend to just be sad and reminiscent. (I have no idea how others feel.)

And plus, I have at least two friends who have taken on that burden for me. They’ve got my back. They express anger. And I have felt loved and protected so many times because of it. Maybe it sounds weird, but it works for me.

I’m not angry, and I don’t hate him. But I also don’t have the need to be angry; I don’t have the need to hate him. I don’t have the energy. (I’m too busy analyzing my surroundings, watching people, and having my guard up.) More importantly, I have had reliable friends who have taken that burden from me. And I never even needed to ask.

My job is healing and protecting myself and other vulnerable people, not hating him.

 

 

Counterconditioning: A tool for healing

Sometimes I get asked questions about overcoming fears and moving on. How have I dealt with traumatic memories and lessened their effect on me? That’s when I bring up counterconditioning: It’s what happens when we re-train an unwanted behaviour or response to a stimulus into a wanted behaviour. (It’s used as a treatment for both humans and animals.)

In my case, I did it to myself. I re-trained myself. Even when I was at a really low place and wasn’t sure of what all of the scientific terms were for what I was doing, I remembered enough of what I had learned in school to bring it back, more-or-less unconsciously.

The lion introduced me to a lot of different music, some of which I still wanted to listen to even after I’d left him. Problem is, I couldn’t listen to this music for a while. The sounds jolted me back into what I had escaped. Sometimes it was terrifying. We probably all know that our senses are closely tied to emotional memories. Why? Because the same part of the brain that’s in charge of processing our senses is also responsible, at least in part, for storing emotional memories.

It was painful, wanting to and trying to listen to the music he’d introduced me to.

I started trying to change that. It’s a thing I’m still working on, a year and a half in, but it’s coming along.

And here’s how I do it.

When I’m in a good mood, when I’m content, in a physical and/or mental place that is good, I’ll listen to his music. Maybe I’m relaxing with a close friend. Maybe I’m walking in a park. Maybe I’m cooking my favourite food. It doesn’t really matter why I’m content, it just matters that I am when I choose to start listening to his music. If it brings me down and I become uncomfortable, I stop it. I change the music, I change what I’m doing. The next time I’m in a happy place and I feel safe, I try again, maybe with the same song, maybe with a different one. Slowly but surely, I start associating his music to different people, different places, different emotions – happier things. And it gets better; it gets easier. I haven’t forgotten the scenes and emotions in which he and I used to listen to this music, but I have enough other memories to balance it all out. It’s like writing over something, where you can still read the original text, but it doesn’t overpower the newly re-written words. I can listen to a lot of the music he’s introduced me to without feeling like my chest is going to burst from being squeezed in someone’s hand… without feeling like I’m being crushed.

Counterconditioning can be used to re-write emotional memories for anything, really. But in my case, it’s been a great tool that’s provided a pathway for me to listen to music that I want to, without being interrupted with debilitating flashbacks.

An evening with Dr. Roberta Bondar

Some days, it’s hard to get out of bed and do stuff. Some days I just lack inspiration to do life stuff.

Maybe I want to do things, I wish I had the motivation, or I just get upset with myself for not doing all the things on my to-do list. But it’s too hard.

A few days ago was one of those days in a string of a number of very similar days. Feeling drowsy, lazy… and generally dissatisfied with the fact that I feel that way.

Days like that, I watch Japanese videos online and pretend it’s language practice (sometimes it genuinely is), I’ll watch documentaries on history, nature, science, wildlife, I’ll watch political commentary videos – if nothing else, to at least feel like I’ve done something with my day. I try to fold laundry, or tidy the house a bit while I do this.

Sometimes though, I feel a rush of motivation, of inspiration, of energy to do all the things I want to, and make a positive change in the lives of other people on earth.

Listening to Dr. Roberta Bondar speak was like riding on a shimmering wave of positivity and inspiration. She is Canada’s first female astronaut, and the first neurologist in space. She has degrees in zoology, agriculture, experimental pathology, neuroscience, and medicine. She’s a gifted photographer, researcher, traveler, author, and environmentalist. She has her own foundation, a charity that educates about the environment in creative and exciting ways. Oh, and by the way, she’s also an amazing presenter and speaker.

What a trooper.

I left the event completely enthralled. Her photographs were beautiful, her storytelling captivating, her passion contagious.

I felt like a child: I want grow up and be like her! For the first time in my life, I almost wanted to travel to space.

Even though I have days where I don’t have the energy to converse with many humans and I’m too much of a blob to do much of anything, I still hope that one day I can be an inspiration to someone. That some young human will look at me, and find motivation to follow their passion.

My hobby is learning things.

My life goal is to make positive change for those around me, and to one day, be someone’s role model.

It’s a challenge, but that’s okay. I am me, and will be me forever. Even on rough days, I just need to remember who I am and where I’m going.

“Me too”

Have you seen this yet?

Me too.
“If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote “Me too.” as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem. Please copy/paste.”

I struggle with this. I don’t think this is something we should hide or be wary to share. It’s so ridiculously common. Yet, I also understand why some of us may not want to “advertise” that we have experienced sexual harassment and/or sexual assault. I often fall into the category of not wanting to say much about it. (Yes, I realize I’m a bit of a hypocrite, since I’m here writing about it.)

But perhaps what stands out for me most is my automatic, cynical response: Who hasn’t!?

When I started feeling comfortable enough to share my story and tell others about what happened, I was surprised and saddened by how many of my female friends and acquaintances had experienced something similar. I shared my story, and in turn, they shared theirs. No details are even necessary, we get it. We understand what’s hidden between the lines, and even between the words. It creates a form of camaraderie, of mutual understanding. But think about it – even one person having experienced sexual harassment and/or sexual assault is one too many.

We talk about violence against women. Who is it about? Women. Who does it exclude? The perpetrators. Who are they? Most likely men and boys.

We talk about rape. Who is it about? Those who experience the rape – almost always girls and women. Who does it exclude? The male perpetrators.

We teach girls and women how to defend themselves. What to do when they experience harassment and/or assault. …Where is the part where we teach boys and men how not to harass and assault?

In talking about sexual harassment and/or sexual assault, we focus on those who experience it, the victims. Most often the victims are girls and women, but there are many in the LGBTQ communities who also experience it, as well as some boys and men. Even some is too many.

How we talk about it is one of the many problems that surrounds this “difficult” topic. It shouldn’t be difficult, but we perceive it to be. We make it difficult for ourselves (as a global society). It really shouldn’t be this much of a challenge. Why is it so difficult for humans to respect one another?

Will “me too” actually make a difference? Who knows. I’m a bit skeptical. But – perhaps for some idiots out there, it’s a chance for them to open their eyes.

More importantly, when will the questions change from “Have you ever experienced sexual harassment/assault?” to “Have you ever sexually harassed/assaulted someone?”  and from “What happened to you?” to “What did you do to them?” Sexual harassment and sexual assault are such wide-spread cultural problems that a change in attitude needs to include how we talk about it.

Should we not all be taking ownership of our actions and experiences? Sexual harassment and sexual assault are never the victim’s fault. And yet here we are, with all of our “me too”s. Perpetrators, abusers, the anger in me asks you, Will you ever own up? Will you ever stop?

Online Screening: Here to Help

Welcome to Here to Help’s online screening for depression, anxiety and risky drinking. Your answers are completely anonymous–we won’t record anything that can identify you.

It doesn’t take very long to go through, which is convenient. I tried it out, but found the lack of options a bit difficult to determine which of my answers was the most accurate. It also seems to assume the person who is answering the questions works full- or part-time, and there was to be no option for “not applicable” which may be the case for some.

Online screenings and questionnaires are great – they allow for a wider variety of people to have much easier access to information… but I sometimes wonder, how accurate are they? Of course, some are more in-depth and come from reputable sources, and are therefore more likely to be accurate. Some, however… are probably less so.

The end of this particular screening tool provides you with a summary, well-being screening results, depression screening results, anxiety screening results, and a risky drinking ‘checkup’ (not sure why this was labelled as being a ‘checkup’ rather than a result, like the others were). Each category had a list for next steps, tips and facts, personal stories, and other ways to help get more information and understand the results better.

Here to Help is one of multiple free online screening options, for those of us who are seeking help and guidance, or are maybe just curious. It seemed like a reasonably accurate tool to me, but I’m also wondering what others think about these tools and resources. Also, it’ll be my homework someday to look into how these test were developed, and the expected accuracy of results, according to those to created them. Ideally, of course, the developers would have this information easily accessible to the public.

Here are a few alternative screening tests:

http://www.test4depression.com/english

https://www.patienttools.com/index.php/screening-interview/

https://depression.org.nz/is-it-depression-anxiety/self-test/

https://adaa.org/iving-with-anxiety/ask-and-learn/screenings/screening-depression