I love this project for several reasons . First of all, it was created by someone that I have been working with in her quest for freedom from tremendous suffering for several months now. It is one of the greatest joys that I know to see depression slowly melting and the twinkles of life and hope slowly beginning to glow once again in someone’s eyes. I don’t mean to put words in her mouth, but I think she is beginning to see the greater picture of everything she has been through. “Why me?” is not a question that can ever be answered, but “What can I do with it?” is a question that brings an enormous sense of purpose and beauty to one’s life and allows you to go on an adventure not otherwise possible. There is an epidemic not only of depression and anxiety, but also self-harm, especially in young people. Most of them hide it in their personal life and then retreat to places on the internet where they gather and let their pain out. Most of it is really graphic, triggering, and just tragic. It leads them nowhere except to darker places. This project is an interactive safe space as well as a chronicle of her own journey and triumph over tremendous obstacles. Overcoming these struggles is not about coping, it is about growing, and I really celebrate how brave she is in sharing her story and inspiring others to do the same. http://www.projectbadass89.tumblr.com/ 
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I love this project for several reasons . First of all, it was created by someone that I have been working with in her quest for freedom from tremendous suffering for several months now. It is one of the greatest joys that I know to see depression slowly melting and the twinkles of life and hope slowly beginning to glow once again in someone’s eyes. I don’t mean to put words in her mouth, but I think she is beginning to see the greater picture of everything she has been through. “Why me?” is not a question that can ever be answered, but “What can I do with it?” is a question that brings an enormous sense of purpose and beauty to one’s life and allows you to go on an adventure not otherwise possible. 

There is an epidemic not only of depression and anxiety, but also self-harm, especially in young people. Most of them hide it in their personal life and then retreat to places on the internet where they gather and let their pain out. Most of it is really graphic, triggering, and just tragic. It leads them nowhere except to darker places. This project is an interactive safe space as well as a chronicle of her own journey and triumph over tremendous obstacles. Overcoming these struggles is not about coping, it is about growing, and I really celebrate how brave she is in sharing her story and inspiring others to do the same. http://www.projectbadass89.tumblr.com/ 

5 Things That Must Be In Sync For Happiness

(An article explaining one of my bizarre theories, published today (on www.thinkdifferentfeeldifferent.com)

The trouble with happiness is that we tend to believe it is a high, instead of a state of existence. Because of this we end up seeking to create it in ways that are not sustainable and it becomes just that- a temporary high. Picture an internal mechanical contraption that houses your spirit.  Here are 5 components that when aligned, create a sustainable baseline of happiness deep within.

1. Your heart
Your heart  is both the engine and the compass of this machine. It is a highly underestimated power source which can power you through things you don’t think you can survive, sometimes just by brute force. It also tells you what direction you need to pursue in life in order for your soul to be the most fulfilled,  just like an animal somehow just knows which direction to migrate- sometimes thousands of miles, to get the nourishment it needs to sustain its life. It knows the deeper truth, beyond logic and we are never truly at ease when we are ignoring it.

2. Lenses
At the front of this contraption, are lenses. They are the filters through which we collect information. The data points they detect are neutral in reality but the way we interpret and distort that neutrality is based on things that have affected us in the past. There are many published lists of cognitive distortions, but there are a lot of subtle personal ones too that are formed based on our story
For example, one of my personal lenses that I have always struggled with is Traps. I have a tendency to see everything and everyone slanted in such a way that I feel completely trapped and therefore powerless. At this point, I begin to suffer. The suffering used to feed itself and snowball to the point where the only way I could see out of it was to actually fantasize about death. It was a great milestone in my growth the day I began to see that this was a skewed perception of reality.

If you continually find yourself in pain, or just have a dull nagging feeling like you don’t really like life, you can benefit from exploring what exactly your lenses are, how they were shaped, and then work to adjust them in a way that gives you a view of reality that is in keeping with what your heart really wants to feel.

3. Thought system
Another component of this internal structure is our mind, which is our thought system. This is the part of the machine that processes the information brought in through the lenses and then gives the heart its orders on how it “should feel”.  Often we end up in life with a thought system made up of scraps we have collected from previous generations,  society’s conditioning, etc. – basically patterns of thinking based on the truths or limitations of others. This system doesn’t support our heart and this causes inner conflict  and collapse. The bigger the discrepancy between the soft voice of the heart and the loud, logical voice of the mind, the greater the chance of depression, anxiety, and all self-destructive behaviors.

Often our thoughts actually take us in the exact opposite direction of what our heart wants to feel. Awareness of this gap without judgment is always the first step in fixing this. Surrounding yourself with teachers (people who have an inspiring way of processing life) and being open to what they show you is key. This can mean wisely selecting friends and mentors, or hiring a professional to help you rebuild the way you process the world in a way that feels good.

4. Spirit
Your spirit is the sacred nature of who you are. It is the core of this machine, the reason the heart beats.  A large source of pain in life stems from failure to spent time to get to understand it, and failure to see it as the most precious thing you have. This results in all sorts of other painful situations such as relationships that oppress and injure it. Often we have systems of thinking that cause us to inhibit our own spirit. We also often fear it, or fear that aspects of it are some form of mental illness or defect. Your spirit must exist in everything you do, for you to be living at your full potency.

5. Voice
Your voice is what gets this machine the nourishment it needs to keep running. When your voice speaks up for what your soul needs, that is how you receive things that make you feel alive. It is how you protect yourself from things that drain you. Often we don’t have language for what we need. And if we do, we don’t express it. This leads to a continual state of needing without any hope of having those needs satiated. It also leads to people never really knowing you, and a continual state of disconnect. Your voice is also the music that comes out of you. It is not just what comes out of your mouth, it is what vibrates out of you, into your life. It is what the people who know you, experience of you. It is your truth.

When you have lenses that give you a view of the world that creates joy, a thought system that is constructed to support the truths within your heart, and a voice that not only feeds your soul but also shows it to the world, that is when happiness becomes more than a temporary high, it is a state of living.  

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lovemeanywaysthoughtinitiative:

The first time Padhia told me about Love Me Anyways, I thought it was the most badass thing ever. Immediately I knew I wanted part of the movement. I sport the wristband everyday and throw on the tank any time it is clean. Love Me Anyways is something the world needs more of – positive affirmations that it is ok to be who we are and that the people who matter in life are the ones who love you anyways.
 The first time Padhia told me about Love Me Anyways, however, I was incapable of fully comprehending the concept. Not much more than a month prior, I was forced to go to the hospital for fifteen stitches after a night of wine and cutting. It was the culmination of a series of nights of the same thing – my depression and anxiety were spiking to an all-time high. Roughly two weeks later, my best friend left me high and dry because of the whole situation, taking my two other friends with her. My family lives two thousand miles away from me, and they did not know how to help me either. I was all alone in a new city, wounded and lost, just trying to make sense of everything that had happened. Most of my days were spent lying in bed, just wishing my life would end.
 My whole life, love has been conditional. Even those who tried their best to love me unconditionally were only able to do so in covert conditional ways. That was all I ever understood. I earned love by stuffing down any emotion I felt and taking on other people’s burdens silently. And whenever I would collapse under the weight of it all, people would conveniently disappear from my life.
 After a difficult five months alone in a little cocoon, I have surrounded myself with a new group of friends. And every single one of them teaches me something new everyday. But the thing they continue to teach me day after day is exactly what I could not comprehend after first hearing about Love Me Anyways. They see my flaws – the majority, if not all, of them know about my history with depression, anxiety, and cutting. They see me as their equal, even though I am younger than most of them.  They encourage my goofy faces and random, sometimes nonsensical comments. And no matter what they come to know about me, they continue to Love Me Anyways.
 Here is the other thing I have learned through all this: Love Me Anyways is just as much about doing just that for yourself. As my friends – my new family – have continuously shown me they will Love Me Anyways, I have found that I have been being a lot less harsh on myself. For the first time in my life, I am showing myself compassion and mercy. While I still have a long ways to go, I am learning that it is ok to love myself despite my flaws, quirks, and weirdness. I am starting to discover that it is ok to be whoever the fuck it is that I am (Mark my words, one day I will figure out that Agatha Christie mystery). And the cool side effect – I feel lighter. My sarcasm is no longer as cutting as it once was. I smile more. And there are not as many days spent lying in bed, no matter how comfy and warm it is.
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lovemeanywaysthoughtinitiative:

The first time Padhia told me about Love Me Anyways, I thought it was the most badass thing ever. Immediately I knew I wanted part of the movement. I sport the wristband everyday and throw on the tank any time it is clean. Love Me Anyways is something the world needs more of – positive affirmations that it is ok to be who we are and that the people who matter in life are the ones who love you anyways.

 The first time Padhia told me about Love Me Anyways, however, I was incapable of fully comprehending the concept. Not much more than a month prior, I was forced to go to the hospital for fifteen stitches after a night of wine and cutting. It was the culmination of a series of nights of the same thing – my depression and anxiety were spiking to an all-time high. Roughly two weeks later, my best friend left me high and dry because of the whole situation, taking my two other friends with her. My family lives two thousand miles away from me, and they did not know how to help me either. I was all alone in a new city, wounded and lost, just trying to make sense of everything that had happened. Most of my days were spent lying in bed, just wishing my life would end.

 My whole life, love has been conditional. Even those who tried their best to love me unconditionally were only able to do so in covert conditional ways. That was all I ever understood. I earned love by stuffing down any emotion I felt and taking on other people’s burdens silently. And whenever I would collapse under the weight of it all, people would conveniently disappear from my life.

 After a difficult five months alone in a little cocoon, I have surrounded myself with a new group of friends. And every single one of them teaches me something new everyday. But the thing they continue to teach me day after day is exactly what I could not comprehend after first hearing about Love Me Anyways. They see my flaws – the majority, if not all, of them know about my history with depression, anxiety, and cutting. They see me as their equal, even though I am younger than most of them.  They encourage my goofy faces and random, sometimes nonsensical comments. And no matter what they come to know about me, they continue to Love Me Anyways.

 Here is the other thing I have learned through all this: Love Me Anyways is just as much about doing just that for yourself. As my friends – my new family – have continuously shown me they will Love Me Anyways, I have found that I have been being a lot less harsh on myself. For the first time in my life, I am showing myself compassion and mercy. While I still have a long ways to go, I am learning that it is ok to love myself despite my flaws, quirks, and weirdness. I am starting to discover that it is ok to be whoever the fuck it is that I am (Mark my words, one day I will figure out that Agatha Christie mystery). And the cool side effect – I feel lighter. My sarcasm is no longer as cutting as it once was. I smile more. And there are not as many days spent lying in bed, no matter how comfy and warm it is.

This photo of one of my quotes haunts me. What a great shot! By @ollywoodhills #melrose #streetart #unfukyourself
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This photo of one of my quotes haunts me. What a great shot! By @ollywoodhills #melrose #streetart #unfukyourself

lovemeanywaysthoughtinitiative:

Not tall  enough, not black enough, not gay enough. I love animals and food more than most people. I may not have heard you because I was guessing your astrological sign, but  LOVE ME ANYWAYS! 
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lovemeanywaysthoughtinitiative:

Not tall  enough, not black enough, not gay enough. I love animals and food more than most people. I may not have heard you because I was guessing your astrological sign, but  LOVE ME ANYWAYS! 

lovemeanywaysthoughtinitiative:

I think too much and cry too little.  I don’t really care if you don’t love me back but I do care that you didn’t recycle.  When I look at you I can’t see color, I can’t see gay or straight.  All I see is love or hate.  Politics bores me music excites me!  I believe my pig is the only one who truly understands me.  Fear and excitement are not in my repertoire of emotions.  I chew my lip when I’m nervous, rub my feet together when I’m tiered and run when I’m angry.  Sometimes to me black becomes white; up becomes down and nothing in my world in normal.  I’ve shaken hands with angels and hugged devils.  I’m a Reverend and my faith is strong.  What the hell…. love me anyways, I do!

Getting some really amazing submissions! Join the thought initiative: www.lovemeanyways.com
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lovemeanywaysthoughtinitiative:

I think too much and cry too little.  I don’t really care if you don’t love me back but I do care that you didn’t recycle.  When I look at you I can’t see color, I can’t see gay or straight.  All I see is love or hate.  Politics bores me music excites me!  I believe my pig is the only one who truly understands me.  Fear and excitement are not in my repertoire of emotions.  I chew my lip when I’m nervous, rub my feet together when I’m tiered and run when I’m angry.  Sometimes to me black becomes white; up becomes down and nothing in my world in normal.  I’ve shaken hands with angels and hugged devils.  I’m a Reverend and my faith is strong.  What the hell…. love me anyways, I do!

Getting some really amazing submissions! Join the thought initiative: www.lovemeanyways.com

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lovemeanywaysthoughtinitiative:

some words about the love me anyways thought initiative

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New merchandise! 1.25 wide soft rubber wrist/ arm bands. Flat black on black. Debossed LOVE ME ANYWAYSavailable —>HERE<—
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New merchandise! 1.25 wide soft rubber wrist/ arm bands. Flat black on black. Debossed LOVE ME ANYWAYS

available —>HERE<—

A Story I Recently Shared on CNN’s iReport for National Mental Health Awareness Month

I had been suicidal most of my life. As a kid, I used to draw my gravestone over and over and over until I just went numb in the soul. I guess it was in my late teens though that the actual debilitating depression set in. I was raised basically in isolation by a mentally ill mother, who never received help, so I thought I would be responsible and go to the doctor and admit I had a problem. A serious one. I explained to my first psychiatrist how I was having all of these terrible thoughts that I couldn’t control they spun around and around in my head. I described these “flashes of death” that would happen every few seconds to the point where at the end of the day my nerves were so frayed all I could do was drown myself in alcohol. I described this tight knot in my throat that felt like a golf ball, and how all day long I tried to swallow it. I was diagnosed with OCD. The complicated medication regimen that I was put on would’ve required OCD to follow it. It made me lethargic, dizzy, frighteningly anxious, gave me vertigo, and extreme nausea. The thoughts became worse, to the point where I was afraid I was going to lose control.

 I saw another psychiatrist who diagnosed me with depression and started me on Prozac since that was the flavor most of my depressed family was on. I don’t think I got out of bed for a whole month. I felt like my skin was a bag full of concrete. I could barely drag myself to the bathroom. When I was awake, my heart would pound and I could barely breathe. I felt crippled by fear. Then I was diagnosed with an anxiety disorder too.

Over the next ten years, I was prescribed virtually every medication on the market. The effect of these meds never lasted very long; I’d start off on whatever the regular dose was, and over months of them becoming less effective, the dose would increase until it was at the max. For over a decade despite being in therapy and on constant medication management, I suffered from night terrors, gripping flashes of death, insomnia, panic attacks, times when I felt completely dissociative, depression that at times completely immobilized me, stints in the mental hospital because I was sure I was going to hurt myself, and consumed with thoughts of suicide every second of everyday. In this condition I managed to graduate college, co-author several books, and start my own business. I so desperately wanted the life I would’ve had if I wasn’t so dysfunctional and I never stopped fighting with everything I had to overcome this emotional disturbia that was trying to consume me. My idea of success was how little of my suffering anyone actually knew about.

Finally after all of those years, I broke and began telling people that I wanted to die. I was married at the time and my husband started doing research and found a seemingly hip younger psychiatrist who had impressive credentials and seemed like he might offer a different perspective from the older, more conservative doctors I had always seen. This was the tiniest twinkle of hope I felt in my heart in years.

He sat there with his trendy surfer hair and shell necklace and again began to sentence me to the same fate as all the other doctors I had seen over the years. He repeated what I had been told time and time again, depression was not about being cured, it was about coping. Trying new meds as soon as they came out on the market, upping dosages, mixing things. Being proactive about medication management. He then went on to diagnose me with a rare form of bipolar, where instead of cycling from high to low, I cycle from low to lower. I keep the paper that he drew on right here, where I can see it. He drew a relatively straight horizontal line- which represented the moods of a normal person, an exaggerated sine wave- representing bipolar high and lows, and my own special rare bipolar, way below the other two lines- where my “high” was the bipolar low. I felt like someone let the last teeny drop of air out of the already deflated balloon that was my soul, yet I managed to protest that I was feeling slightly better, brighter and more alive now that I had reduced my dosage slightly. He explained to me that that was because I was on an “upswing towards down”. He told me in addition to sleeping pills, anxiety meds, an antidepressant, he also wanted me on an anti-psychotic.

Standing at the crossroads of “continue descending into the dark hell that was my life on antidepressants” and “give up”, It was then that I decided I deserved peace. I had tried hard enough, been through enough therapy been on enough pills, enough side effects, endured enough pain and I had nothing left. I was going to kill myself. I deserved freedom. And so I prepared to depart this earth. This meant internally making peace with letting go of every single thing about my reality, my existence and my dreams. That was easy; there wasn’t much left.

But there was just one thing that bothered me, that I could not seem to let go of. Was the joy, happiness, inner peace that I had dreamed of all of these years- that I distinctly remember experiencing as a small child- just really the delusion of a sick mind? I decided that since I was going to commit suicide anyway, I would go on the journey of answering that question first.

I got off all the meds. This meant that I endured close to a year of the most excruciating physical and emotional detox you could imagine. I lost almost a year of my life in “protracted withdrawals” detoxing from medications that supposedly were not addictive. In addition to the “brain zaps” and other physical symptoms, the emotional symptoms were equally frightening. Waves of sheer terror would wash over me constantly, my vertigo was so bad I often had to crawl, I had zero ability to calm myself down. I had what felt like no control over my mind or emotions and mood cycles. When the physical symptoms finally subsided, I remember the first time I felt air on my skin. It was such a beautiful moment that I giant streaming tears just poured out from somewhere deep inside. Just to feel the breeze on my skin… To be coming back to life.

I found a new therapist, who for the first time in all the years I sought help, told me that she believed depression was curable. She talked about “when I reach the end of my treatment”. I couldn’t even wrap my mind around that concept. She said we were going to go back in time and explore how its roots. Bit by bit, guided by her insightful questions, I began to tell her my story. A story I had never told to anyone before. No one had ever asked.

I learned that being suicidal is not so much about wanting to die, as it is about wanting to be free. I found my way to freedom. The freedom I had been searching for my entire life.

That was 7 years ago. It was hard at first. I felt like I had literally woke up standing in the middle of my life. I saw how my marriage, my friendships, basically everything was built from a place of being a completely dysfunctional person. I started over, gaining momentum in my newly found freedom with each step. I rebuilt my entire life, this time with intention. I would describe my general state these last several years as a baseline of happiness with peaks of joy, and that is why I tell my story. I want people to know that is even possibility.

My story about living with mental illness is actually a story about living most of my life with a mental illness that I did not in fact, have.

________________________________________________________

Although it may sound that way, The message of this story is not that antidepressants are bad. My message has many components such as:

 -Antidepressants may have their place in dealing with traumatic events and difficult times in life, but in my opinion as a long term solution for someone who is severely depressed they are tantamount to a death sentence. They are recklessly and over-prescribed. The direct-to-consumer marketing is grossly misleading (suddenly the gray world turns to bright color, etc).

 -There is a serious void in the education of mental health professionals. In their education path, if they don’t want to develop the special skill set needed to treat it, they at least need to be taught to recognize PTSD & trauma and refer a client to someone who can help them. I believe is often the underlying cause of depression, addiction, self-harm, etc., and it is virtually impossible to heal from that unless the underlying trauma is dealt with.  We also, as a society need to realize what trauma is. Trauma does not necessarily mean dramatic things like years of physical abuse, kidnapping, warfare, etc. It is actually anything that causes us to split where one part of us stays frozen in that state of pain and suffering and another part goes on putting on a show for the world and even our own selves. It is often subjective- something that traumatizes one person may not traumatize someone else. Often people who have experienced this split are so adept at coping that their secret internal suffering goes undetected by the outside world. In all my years of therapy, no one asked me the right questions, and I didn’t have language to explain what had happened to me because I didn’t understand myself what happened. Had I been diagnosed with PTSD or had someone picked up on the fact that I had endured complex psychological trauma for most of my early years, I would’ve been saved some 20 years of suffering. If someone hadn’t eventually recognized it, there is no doubt in my mind I would be dead by now.

 -Depression & anxiety is not some random chemical imbalance. There are roots of when it formed in your life. Depressed people live in a thick murky soup of painful confused feelings that we cannot separate on our own. As we develop language for our experiences, pain, and our story through adult eyes, it becomes entirely evident why the depression exists. We begin to make sense to ourselves and in that process we learn love & compassion for ourselves. By developing language for pain and feelings, working to resolve it, learning to honor our needs, adjusting our distorted lenses (the way we look at life), learning tools to process life in a way that is in keeping with our hearts, and by building a life that supports our emotional needs, depression is completely resolvable. The key is growth, not coping. And growth doesn’t come from a bottle.

My recent MBG article: 5 Tips To Help You Deal With Toxic People (click to read)
Love Me Anyways... a thought initiative

unfukyourself:

announcing my new apparel line!
check it out:
http://shop.unfukyourself.com/products/love-me-anyways

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A shift from shame to celebration.

One day a friend told me a secret. Through the eyes of judgment, it was one of those things you would never tell anyone. In the silence that…

12&#8217; Billboard in Silverlake LA.
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12’ Billboard in Silverlake LA.