Advertising: Free Space for Rant

This is a completely free, one time offer to all my fellow bloggers. Do you have days when you are pissed off with the world in general and you really want to let rip? Do you keep it to yourself so that you don’t offend/have to live with the recriminations/upset those you love etc etc? If so this space is for you – you can rent a vent :O)

This is a completely free, one time offer to all my fellow bloggers. Do you have days when you are pissed off with the world in general and you really want to let rip? Do you keep it to yourself so that you don’t offend/have to live with the recriminations/upset those you love etc etc? If so this space is for you – you can rent a vent :O)

One of my friends gave me this idea (thanks Floriane) as she felt that it would be therapeutic to let some stuff out by writing it down and I thought ‘I’ve got a blog! What better place is there to lose your shit?’ Then I thought ‘Why keep it to yourself? We all need a good old rage every now and again so why not give everyone a chance? They’ll either thank you for it or you’ll have to start looking for some new followers tomorrow’.

Anyway, knowing what a great bunch you are and also how many of you have some serious crap to deal with I’m going ahead:

“Do you have any idea how much I hate you Cancer? Can you even begin to possibly fathom how deep my loathing is for you? You came, without warning, for no fucking reason at all and you took the only man I have ever really loved.

You brought him fear and pain and unbelievable suffering and for what??? You are a parasite, a pathetic life sucking, hope draining parasite and you murdered him. You leeched out his life force, his happiness, his dreams. You took away his future for fucks sake! And I watched it! You forced me to watch as you slowly destroyed him – you evil, sick twisted little bastard!

Oh sure  you left me with memories but what good are memories? I can’t touch a memory or hold it or kiss it can I? And do you know the problem with memories You can’t get shot of them; I can’t wipe out the ones that I want to and just leave the good ones! I can’t just lose the memories of him wasting away before my eyes can I????

Thanks to you a truly lovely man was ripped away from the people who love him, who needed him. Why did you even want him? You fed on him and you grew; an ugly, spiteful, vindictive, self-serving monster and then, at the very end, when you took his last precious breath, you died with him – what the fuck is wrong with you!?

You took everything you vicious little bastard and I HATE you for it but this anger I have for you is slowly ruining whatever is left of my life so I am giving it back to you. Here is my hate – take it and may you rot in hell”

I’m not going to apologise for my rant or the bad language because the rock that’s been sitting on my chest for the last goodness knows how long feels lighter somehow. There is a sense of peace in me that wasn’t there before.

If you need to let off some steam – please feel free.

  • No-one will judge you for it
  • No-one will mock you
  • No-one will criticise
  • You won’t have to apologise afterwards
  • You can swear if you need to
  • You don’t have to make sense
  • You won’t have to feel guilty
  • You won’t hurt anyone

So there you go, I’m advertising a free rant space; it’s there if you need it.

With love

Lisa x

Great Read Alert……

Have you ever read anything thing and thought ‘this is me, this is my life!’? I had that moment about half an hour ago. If you are a fan of great books and you have ever suffered from anxiety or depression I urge you to read Read After Burnout by our very own Mike Evans over here at readafterburnout. I started reading it this morning and now I can’t stop because it is funny and sad, brutally honest and thoroughly entertaining (pretty much what I look for in anything I read). 

Have you ever read anything thing and thought ‘this is me, this is my life!’? I had that moment about half an hour ago. If you are a fan of great books and you have ever suffered from anxiety or depression I urge you to read Read After Burnout by our very own Mike Evans over here at readafterburnout. I started reading it this morning and now I can’t stop because it is funny and sad, brutally honest and thoroughly entertaining (pretty much what I look for in anything I read).

More than that, it resonated with me on so many levels and voiced many of the things that I’ve never had the courage to say out loud. It shows an awe inspiring level of self-awareness but it isn’t self-indulgent navel gazing. Here’s a couple of excerpts to whet your appetite but I really hope that you’ll take the time to read more:

“Anxiety is a creep. It doesn’t announce itself in a sudden, calamitous collapse, a scream of fear or a strong desire to run into a corner and huddle up. No, anxiety hangs around like a phantom that exists somewhere in the corner of the eye or in the shadows”

“”If you want to cry it’s all part of the process”

I was part of the process now. I was in the process of working through a personal trauma that had brought me to a crashing standstill and….now I was being asked to cry as some sort of cleaning therapy. The problem was that I thought crying would be just a little distraction. It would be like having leaches placed on an exposed stretch of skin with the intention of having them suck out the badness”

See what I mean? It’s just brilliantly written!

It’s the story of breakdown, of life and I can’t wait to finish it. I hope you enjoy it too :O)

Lisa x

 

The Hardest Battle….

We were given the right pair of glasses to view the world through – they weren’t rose tinted and they weren’t dark and sombre shades either, they were perfectly, beautifully, CLEAR. We all learned that, whatever happens in life, it’s how you view it and process it in your own mind that will make the difference – your experiences are based on your perceptions…..

Is the one that we fight with ourselves. Every day. We all look for help, in one way or another but, essentially, only we have control over the way that we view the World and our own lives. Often the way that we speak to ourselves i.e. our own thoughts, have far more impact on our emotions than the words spoken or the actions taken by others.

My battle was with depression and I suffered with it and, more importantly, because of it for about 15 years. It started with, of all things, an appendectomy which resulted in a hospital stay for a few days and then a week recuperating at home…….and that was where I stayed for the next year, too anxious to go out. I saw psychiatrists and psychologists, I spoke to my friends and family and anyone else who would listen, effectively I talked about myself for about a year. It seemed strange to me, even at the time, that all of this analysing and navel gazing wasn’t actually changing anything, if anything it was making it worse. The more I turned my problems over and over in my mind, the worse they became and so I turned to pills, Prozac to be precise.

The medication helped insomuch as I didn’t have the terrible lows that had driven me to contemplate suicide but I also didn’t get any ‘highs’, never really felt happy or full of life. This carried on for a long time and the people that loved and worried about me were incredibly caring, they pampered me, walked on egg shells around me and made me feel the way that I had always wanted to feel: special. Depression, something wholly negative had given me, in my mind, something wholly positive. It’s something that I’ve only realised in the last couple of years and it’s a hard thing to admit but there is something addictive about being sad because of the reactions that it brings out in other people namely sympathy and understanding. Of course, the problem with that is that it doesn’t last, after a while anyone close to me got fed up with it and wanted to know why I couldn’t pull myself together and why I was feeling sorry for myself all the time.

This wasn’t what I wanted, why were people being so mean all of a sudden? Couldn’t they see I was suffering? Where was all the sympathy that made me feel so special? I was hurt and then angry and, as a result, I fell into a pattern of behaviour that made things even worse. I started to push people away; if someone was nice to me and let me drone on about all my problems, after a while I would turn on them and be cruel in some of the things I said – thinking back I think I was, subconsciously, hurting them before they could hurt me.

I don’t think I realised that I was becoming a complete bitch, I mean I must have known on some level, I’m not stupid by any means, but I think I saw it as a defense mechanism against the cruelty of others. Do you know what? It was funny, the more I pushed people away the less friends I had – how strange is that! That’s with hindsight, at the time it was just evidence that I’d been right about people all along – none of them really cared about me. This in turn justified my feelings of rejection and the inevitable sadness that went along with it. I was sad and no-one cared which meant I was more sad and pushed people away even further.

Two things happened to change all that: I was given a wake up call by my doctor and I met my future husband. The doctor basically showed me that I had two paths in front of me – stronger and stronger medication that would ultimately leave me zombie-like and emotionless (I should add here that that was my impression and not necessarily the reality) or I could chose to take back my life from depression and live it. I didn’t need depression any more because I had found the thing I’d always craved: love and I couldn’t face travelling down the other path, further into misery and sadness, because, quite honestly, it frightened me. I had had a glimpse of a place so dark, so lonely and terrifying that I couldn’t and wouldn’t take another step towards it….

As a result, I stopped taking any medication and I did everything I could to turn my life around. I stopped moping and started motivating myself into action. I listened to all 12, I think it was, of Tony Robbins self-help CD’s and I did what he instructed to the letter. Lo and behold, everything changed because I changed, who would have credited it! A few years later I went to two of his seminars in London, the first time with my friend and the second time with my husband and, guess what, ALL our lives changed….for the better. We were given the right pair of glasses to view the world through – they weren’t rose tinted and they weren’t dark and sombre shades either, they were perfectly, beautifully, CLEAR. We all learned that, whatever happens in life, it’s how you view it and process it in your own mind that will make the difference – your experiences are based on your perceptions…..

I didn’t know it at the time but I would need all this wisdom that helped me live such a happy and fulfilled life for more than 10 years….

Eight months before our 10th wedding anniversary, my husband was diagnosed with oesophageal cancer. We drew on all that we’d learned over the years and we were utterly determined to stay positive and fight this thing until we beat it. We had both heard stories of people who had beaten cancer with the right foods and the right mental attitude and we were the two most determined fuckers you could ever wish to meet! Sadly, despite all our best efforts (I say ours, my husband was the strongest person I’ve ever met and he never gave up) he lost his battle.

Afterwards I shut myself off from happiness and pleasure and I grieved and I worked. I spent hours in my office trying to find some semblance of my ‘normal’ life and, the rest of the time I sat at home and I cried; bitter, endless, heartbroken sobs. You could say that I had gone back to depression but, although the symptoms were similar, the cause was very, very different. Again, I thought about suicide but the one time I came close to it something stopped me; I was once again at that fork in the road and I chose the same path that I’d chosen before – life.

It wasn’t so easy this time for obvious reasons but I couldn’t go back to a life of depression whatever happened. I still have ‘bad’ days when I despair of ever regaining the happiness that I felt when my husband was alive (it’s almost like being back on Prozac again) but I don’t give up. I didn’t spend all those months watching him struggle to keep his grip on his life to just throw mine away. I’m still sad, I still cry but, even on the very fork of that crossroads I will still not follow the path that I know has no turnings and no way back.

Instead I look for inspiration, I look for pleasure in small things and I try never to ask myself the question ‘why is life so terrible’; it isn’t it’s a wonderful gift and I know that it won’t last forever. I choose not to be depressed, I chose life……..

We all need love so I’m sending mine to you. Lisa x

The bravest thing

Could You Cope with Life on Death Row?

They start to lose hope that they will ever be free from their emotional restraints and, when their end finally comes, I wonder if they will regret not opening the door to their cage and freeing themselves……?

Just try to imagine it; the last thing you think about before you go to sleep, the first thing you think about when you wake and every hour in between, is the fact that you are going to die. You could live like this for years before the day finally comes: worrying, imagining…..suffering unbearable mental torture. Trapped in a cage with no means of relief from the anxiety and stress gradually…..slowly losing all hope. Knowing that, when the final day comes, you will be filled with regret about the life that you led behind a prison’s walls.

To end up on death row you need to have committed a terrible crime but many people sentence themselves to a life like this. They are so worried about the future, about what may happen to them and how they might suffer that they are mentally imprisoned and suffering all the emotional torture of literal incarceration. They gradually retreat into themselves until their world grows smaller and smaller; until it’s the size of a prison cell. They start to lose hope that they will ever be free from their emotional restraints and, when their end finally comes, I wonder if they will regret not opening the door to their cage and freeing themselves……?

We are born – we die and the bit in between is called LIFE, don’t make it a sentence.

x

Are You Lonely?

And so it goes on. The pack on social media smells blood and suddenly complete strangers are praising Mary to the hilt and tearing Jane’s self-esteem into tiny pieces. The comments keep on coming and the night of Jane’s dreams has turned into a nightmare because it was shared with her online ‘friends’.

Loneliness is, apparently, felt more acutely in the US by people under the age of 30 than in any other age group. Can you believe it? How bloody sad is that! Young people have more chance to interact with others, through the internet and social media than at any other time in history and yet loneliness is becoming as big a threat to their health as obesity.

They can share every aspect of their lives with their friends and friends of friends and complete strangers, they have hundreds and maybe thousands of connections with other people. The thoughts and feelings they share will be ‘liked’ or commented upon or criticised ad nauseam and I can’t help but wonder how much this affects the things that they share in the future. The advent of ‘selfies’ means that our image is constantly popping up on social media and, again, the pictures we post can be ‘liked’, commented upon or criticised; how does this affect our self image?

Prom photoLet’s imagine that a teenage girl finds a dress she loves for her prom. She feels great in it, thinks that she looks amazing and feels more confident about her appearance than she has done for ages. She heads off to prom with one of her best friends who is also dressed up to the nines. They have that special bond that only teenage girls can have and are full of expectation as they chat and giggle about the night to come. They admire each others outfits, hair and make-up and describe to each other, in great detail, how they’ve imagined the wonderful night ahead; they’ve probably not thought about, nor talked about, anything else for weeks!

The inevitable selfies and group photos are posted online within minutes of their arrival; they get some ‘likes’ from their close friends but then the comments start:

“Not sure about that dress on you Jane but I love your hair”

“Mary looks so hot but Jane – what were you thinking LOL!”

“Yeah, Mary’s got an awesome bod why’s she always with that dog Jane?”

CyberbullyingAnd so it goes on. The pack on social media smells blood and suddenly complete strangers are praising Mary to the hilt and tearing Jane’s self-esteem into tiny pieces. The comments keep on coming and the night of Jane’s dreams has turned into a nightmare because it was shared with her online ‘friends’.

Her real friend, Mary, has become the centre of very positive attention but Jane is left isolated by mocking laughter and resentful of the girl that she was so unfavourably compared to. Their friendship may recover from this virtual assault but its unlikely; so much about teenagers lives in shared online that their attackers have the means to really hurt them readily available. Jane will drift away from someone that she was genuinely close to and will probably seek out those who defended her; they may well be complete strangers but they will feel like friends because they tried to protect her in her hour of need. The Worldwide web is exactly that so the chances of any of her defenders being in close enough proximity for her to have an actual relationship with them is unlikely so they chat online instead.

Jane will feel isolated in her real life because those around her will have been witness to her humiliation on prom night; they will have actually seen her tears of mortification and maybe even mocked her for her weakness. virtual friendFortunately she will have her new virtual relationships which will give her a chance to express herself and unleash her feelings so she will increasingly spend time in front of the computer in her bedroom or huddled in a corner somewhere frantically tapping away on her phone.

Unfortunately, the online ‘friends’ who really know nothing about you but were happy to jump on a bandwagon crusade on prom night will soon stop sending messages of love and support and may, instead, start telling you to “grow a pair” or “stop being a cry baby”. Jane will again feel like a victim, misunderstood and with self-confidence in tatters.

Eventually turning back to real life she will realise that Mary has moved on and no longer really wants to be best friends; after all she did nothing wrong and felt hurt and betrayed when Jane turned away from her. It’s at this point that Jane will start to feel truly lonely; she has access to virtually everyone on the planet but she does not love or feel loved – is it really a surprise that loneliness is becoming such an issue for so many young people?

Broken-Friendship

I’d really love to hear about your experiences, especially if you are under 30 and feel the burden of loneliness. The tale of Jane and Mary came from my imagination but please, tell me, is it really like that for some of you?

Lisa x

Like a Fart in a Colander

My imagination had stalked off in a huff and slammed the door behind it but I’m sure it won’t be long before it throws an other tantrum! However, as long as I’m aware, I should be able to grab it by the scruff of the neck before it can cause too much damage. 

Have you ever had one of those days where, as soon as buttock touches chair, you’re up and rushing around again despite the fact that nothing is really pressing on your time? That was me yesterday, I was like a fart in a colander – didn’t know which hole to get out of first!

tantrumAfter several exhausting hours, I realised what the problem was: I was thinking about all the things that I had to do over the next week and all the additional things that I might have to do. Of course, next week wasn’t here yesterday so all that was actually happening was that my imagination was having a bit of a giggle at my expense. However hard we try to train our minds to work for us, sometimes they just rebel and throw a tantrum for no apparent reason.

If our minds get stuck in a loop going over old memories or thinking about things that could happen in the future it gets all agitated and panicky and that’s when our bodies catch on to the idea and we start to stress out. If we are stressed for a while, our bodies start to suffer and we find that our back aches, we have a more or less permanent headache, stomach cramps or a myriad of other symptoms. Once that starts we find ourselves in a vicious circle – the worry started the physical symptoms and the physical symptoms then cause us to worry and so on……….

ExhaustedOnce I realised what was going on I forced myself to just sit and breathe. Deep breath followed deep breath and eventually my mind stopped rushing around like an idiot and calmed down. In fact, it calmed down so much that I fell asleep for an hour, something my body obviously needed. My imagination had stalked off in a huff and slammed the door behind it but I’m sure it won’t be long before it throws an other tantrum! However, as long as I’m aware, I should be able to grab it by the scruff of the neck before it can cause too much damage.

Meditation is a wonderful way to calm the mind and therefore protect our bodies from stress and illness; this is my favourite guided meditation – I hope you like it :O) x

Oooh That Hurt!

I think that really all we can say is f**k it! Aging is inevitable and there is nothing that we can do about the passing of the years. Our bodies will change and we can fight that or accept it. Personally, in the writing of this piece, I’ve decided that I’m even more determined to continue doing those things that make me feel younger

Have you ever read something and immediately thought ‘oh!’, then felt a tightness in your throat and an unbearable urge to cry even though you know that you’re being silly and over-sensitive?

I felt that this morning when I was browsing through Twitter (why oh why do I keep doing that!) and came across this Tweet:

“I love how this powder foundation evens out my skin tone without being too heavy,” said the woman who blasphemes nature daily by underhandedly modifying the tone of her complexion and luster of her hair with an array of ointments, gels, and lotions shrewdly designed to impart an artificial bloom of youth to her aging, depleted body

It’s taken from an article in the Onion which satirizes new stories; I think it’s meant to be funny but, as with most satire, it’s inherently cruel.

Ever since I read it I’ve been trying to work out why it bothered me so much and I’ve come to 2 conclusions:

  1. It made me feel slightly pathetic; is everything I’m doing to keep my body looking and feeling younger just laughable self-delusion and a refusal to accept the inevitable?
  2. My youth is behind me and there is absolutely nothing I can do about it.

Old women quotes

Then the real negativity started…..am I turning into a laughing stock? A raddled old hag who’s trying to pretend that she’s still young? Researching attitudes didn’t help much either; the quote above is from a Pulitzer prize winning dickhead (it didn’t actually say that in his bio – I added that bit) and it made me wonder how many other men think like that. Are men genetically programmed to only lust after young, fertile women for  the continuance of the species or is it just that we all appreciate beauty, men and women both?

toilet-paper-ad.jpgWe are a consumer society and virtually everything that is marketed to us is done so by young lovelies with perfect bodies and beautiful smiles – cosmetics, clothes, breakfast cereals and even toilet paper (yes apparently we even need beautiful women to sell us the stuff that we wipe our backsides with!). Beauty, it seems, is inextricably linked with youth so where does that leave the rest of us who are the wrong side of 50 and feeling sorry for ourselves this morning (that could just be me to be fair).

I think that really all we can say is f**k it! Aging is inevitable and there is nothing that we can do about the passing of the years. Our bodies will change and we can fight that or accept it. Personally, in the writing of this piece, I’ve decided that I’m even more determined to continue doing those things that make me feel younger and that includes looking after my aging, depleted body so that I’ll still be able to hop of the back of a motorbike and hurtle round the mountains even when I’m 90. I might look like an old woman trying to recapture her youth but, quite frankly my dears, I don’t give a damn.

 

A Problem Shared…….?

People will share the most intimate details of their lives with complete strangers; sometimes their hopes but, more often than not, their fears, their worries, the things that make them angry and resentful………in other words the negative things in their life. 

There have been questions raised recently as to why mental health issues are so prevalent among children and young people these days when awareness and help for things like anxiety disorders has improved so much. It’s an incredibly complex subject and I’m no psychiatrist but I do wonder how much social media is contributing to anxiety and depression in the young.

When I was at school, we had a few bullies who would verbally and sometimes physically intimidate others but, if you just stayed away from the nasty few, the encounters, although traumatic at the time, were few and far between. Now, however, bullies have any number of ways of tormenting their victims because, not only do we have real life to contend with, but almost all of us also have a virtual life. Many people seem to spend half their lives on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram etc. and it has become the norm for them to become far more open and honest in their virtual existance than they would be in a face to face situation. People will share the most intimate details of their lives with complete strangers; sometimes their hopes but, more often than not, their fears, their worries, the things that make them angry and resentful………in other words the negative things in their life. depression 1

Before the advent of social media individuals would discuss their problems with just one or two of their closest friends who would invariably listen attentively and maybe offer some advice or just a hug. Now a single post can attract dozens or even hundreds of responses. With Twitter especially, many of the people who reply will know nothing about you other than what you share online so they may ridicule or they may try to ‘help’ by giving you advice, offering words of support or sharing their own experience. What you then end up with is a timeline which is accusatory, sympathetic and empathetic but which, if any, are of actual benefit to you?

 

depressed 2The people who mock or ridicule you will lower your self-esteem even further and make you regret sharing whatever it was that you shared. If you decide to engage with them it will end in one of two ways – they will become increasingly abusive, feeling safe hiding behind the avatar of their virtual self or you will become angry and attempt to hurt them in the way that they’ve hurt you.

Sympathy tweetSympathy and words of support can make us feel loved and, in some ways, special. We are all craving love in one form or another so there follows the temptation to try to generate more of those feelings by posting again. If we’re having a bad day, feeling anxious or depressed, and someone sends us a message of love and sympathy it can give us a lift there’s no doubt about that. However, if the way that we attract positive attention is to constantly post negative comments, how long will it be before we are looking for negativity in our lives merely to have something to say that will encourage loving words from others? What we focus on in life determines our mood and our state of mind so, if we are constantly looking for ways to generate sympathy our focus will be on the things that we are lacking.

 This can lead to a vicious cycle. People will usually only be sympathetic for so long            so, although you may attract new followers who will give you the words of love and support that you crave, the messages will slow down or even stop. You continue to pour your heart out, writing down all the negative things in your life (which will reinforce their significance in your mind) but they don’t attract attention. The only way that you can continue to get those positive vibes is to make your posts more and more negative which means that you will be more and more focused on the things that you see as being wrong in your life. anxiety-tweets-memes-45-59d787f3c5dfa__700

Empathy is a wonderful quality; to be able to understand and share the feelings of others is a rare and beautiful thing. If you ever meet someone who is truly empathetic you will feel as though you have known them all your life and that you can share anything with them. It can seem like that on social media when you come across someone who seems to understand your problems completely because they have experienced them themselves. However, just because someone wants to share their experiences with you, it doesn’t mean that they are empathetic or that they truly understand what you are going through. Human beings, for the most part, like to talk about themselves and their experiences and those who think about what they want to say next are far more common than those who actually listen to what the other person is saying. Someone with real empathy will listen attentively and with compassion; they won’t launch into their own tirade of misery the second that you have finished recounting yours.

As there are so many stories being shared on social media 24/7 you can always find someone to share your misery with. Whilst this may feel liberating and helpful, what you are actually doing is constantly enforcing your own negative thoughts by writing them down and then having them verified by someone else who is doing exactly the same thing.

If social media was full of positive and life affirming comments and stories of people over-coming adversity I truly believe that we would focus far more on the things that are right in our lives rather than the things that are wrong but, you know what they say, misery loves company! Personally, if that’s true, I think I’d rather walk alone………………

Osho happy quote

 

How Many of You are there in there?

I’ve found that the only thing that really works for me is to be aware that, from time to time, a bunch of negative nellies try to work their way into my mind and, when they do I just say these few simple words to myself…….

I realise that I may sound slightly crazy asking this question but have you ever had an argument with yourself? I find myself doing it quite often and am constantly searching for ways to stop. It’s usually when I’m stressed about something; when I’m calm there is only me in my head but when I’m anxious it seems like there’s a whole bunch of other people who want to get in there with me. The worst part of it is that they all tend to speak at the same time and they’re often, without to put to finer point on it, a real pain in the ass! They have nothing positive to say to me and seem to be constantly looking for ways to make my life difficult.

Now before anyone starts looking up numbers for psychologists for me to go an visit, I am perfectly well aware that I reside in my cranium alone but it’s the only way that I can really explain how stress and over-thinking are connected. To give you an example, when I know that I’m going to be meeting new people, I’d really like to be able to be able to show them the ‘real’ me right from the off but my inner dialogue kicks into overdrive:

Me: “Just be yourself”

Cranial interloper 1: “What if they don’t like you”

Cranial interloper 2: “That’s their problem”

Cranial interloper 3: “What’s wrong with me? Why won’t they like me?”

Cranial interloper 4: “There’s nothing wrong with you but they can’t be very nice if they’re going to be all judgy”

Cranial interloper 5: “I don’t think I’m going to like them if they’re going to be like that”

Me: “Shut up the lot of you, they haven’t even opened the bloody door yet!”

HS2599And so it goes on; because the ‘they won’t like me’ scenario has been run through my head like a movie trailer the memory of it (if you will) stays with me and I find myself adjusting my character to try and avoid it becoming a reality. I try to be super pleasant and friendly, probably overly so and often come away from new meetings with a headache and jaw ache from smiling all the time. The problem with over-compensating like this is that:

  1. People I meet for the first time don’t get to see the real me and therefore any judgement they make is based on something other than the genuine article
  2. By trying to connect with them and please them rather than engaging with them on an equal footing, I risk losing any chance of a real friendship with them
  3. It’s very difficult to sustain a ‘faux’ personality for any length of time so, at some point, my real personality will break through and it will be perfectly clear to the other person that the relationship they thought they were building was, in fact, just an illusion.
  4. I’m well aware of what I’m doing and why and so my confidence takes a bashing from the cranial interlopers who gave me the problem in the first place.

In love in parisUnfortunately this is the way that the human mind works. It attaches emotion to past experiences and then uses the memory and the emotion attached to it to prepare us for future, similar situations. When the system works well we ‘look forward’ to things. Maybe you fell in love in Paris and walked hand in hand past the Eiffel Tower and the Sacre Coeur feeling nothing but happiness and complete contentment. If so, when you think about going back to Paris those feelings and happy memories will resurface and you will look forward to any future trips with great anticipation.

However, if the next time you go, your flight is delayed, your luggage is lost and it rains every day, it is likely that the negative feelings that have become associated with Paris could start to erode your earlier wonderful memories. If you arrange a third trip your mind will have two sets of memories to choose from and, it’s at that point that you will probably start to stress out and your cranial interlopers will start bickering:

“Just remember how wonderful it was the first time!”

“Yes but look what happened last time, it was awful”

“I know but it could be like the first time this time”

“But what if it rains again?”

And so on and so forth.

lost luggageThis means that the wonderful memory and mental images have been a little tainted. So, before you’ve even booked your flights you’re wondering what you can do to make this trip better than the last and that’s if you’re a positive sort of person! If you’re negative you’ll probably throw your Paris snow globe in the trash and forget about ever going there again.

In my quest to rid myself of the cranial interlopers I’ve have tried untold number of different things; thinking positive didn’t work, at least not by itself. You can tell yourself that Paris will be sunny and warm and romantic as much as you like but if, when you get there, it’s chucking it down and the hotel have no record of your booking, the disappointment will be twice as bad than if you had resigned yourself to the trip being a disaster. It’s better to be positive when you’re actually in the situation: I’ve lost my luggage so that means I can go shopping – that sort of thing.

No, I’ve found that the only thing that really works for me is to be aware that, from time to time, a bunch of negative nellies try to work their way into my mind and, when they do I just say these few simple words to myself…….

“SHUT THE F*** UP!”

It seems to work pretty well ;O)

Want to Live Longer?

you can learn to accept peacefully what you cannot change, smile at this wonderful life we’ve been given and enjoy it for as long as possible.

If the answer is yes (and I’ll assume that it is) then…….smile! Yes, I’m perfectly serious; a recent study has found that there is a direct link between how long we live and how happy we are which is great news for the optimists among us. However, another study, by the Office of National Statistics, suggests that ‘ratings of life satisfaction and happiness were at their lowest, on average, for those aged 45 to 59’ so, the question is, how do we deal with the problems that face us in middle age so we can stay happy and live to a ripe old age?

The first thing is to think about the concept of a ‘problem’ and to remember the words of Reinhold Niebuhr:

Grant me the serenity

Some things that we view as ‘problems’ and which therefore give us stress, we cannot change. For example, many middle aged people worry about their grown up children leaving home; it’s a major life change and is known as ‘empty nest syndrome’ but, realistically, what can you do about it? Do you want to keep your children at home with you forever and deprive them of the opportunity to find their own way in life? No, of course not! So, you have a choice, you can accept that it will happen regardless of how much worrying you can do or you can keep worrying and then accept, after the inevitable has happened, that it changed nothing. Unfortunately, by that point, you will have put your body through untold stress and it won’t thank you for it.

We know that the body will often respond to what the mind believes; this has been demonstrated in many ways over the years: people dying of voodoo hexes for no other reason than that they believed they were cursed, people being cured of illness by taking a placebo or spontaneous remission in cancer because people trust that God will cure them. The effect of stress has been studied in depth by Dr Sheldon Cohen, professor of psychology, and he discovered that “”When under stress, cells of the immune system are unable to respond to hormonal control, and consequently, produce levels of inflammation that promote disease. Because inflammation plays a role in many diseases such as cardiovascular, asthma and autoimmune disorders, this model suggests why stress impacts them as well.”

Lissa Rankin M.D. has studied what is known as the Nocebo effect, the placebo effect in reverse. We all know that placebos are often used in scientific experiments as a control; some people are given medicines and some are given sugar pills and no-one in the study group knows who has taken what which means that the results cannot be effected by ‘perceived’ benefits. The Nocebo effect is the negative outcome stemming from a negative perception e.g. when a doctor tells you that you have a low chance of surviving a particular illness, the idea can be lodged in your mind and your body will respond accordingly; a self-fulfilling prophecy if you will.

There are many, many studies which deal with our mind’s ability to influence our body so why don’t we use it to our advantage? Stress and worry are effectively our minds playing the same scenario, or worsening scenarios, over and over again so we need to find ways to disrupt this pattern and the easiest way is to do something that requires complete focus. People often find that they relax while playing their chosen sport; they concentrate so hard on what they are doing that there isn’t room in their minds for anything else so whatever was causing them worry or stress is, temporarily, forgotten. Woman practicing yogaMany people have turned to yoga and meditation to relieve stress and anxiety; indeed it has grown so popular that scientists are beginning to study the positive effects of yoga and meditation on certain mental illnesses. The other benefit of yoga is that you don’t need equipment, or to go to a gym and you can start at any age.

We can also consciously interrupt the patterns in our mind that cause us stress. Our imagination creates images and scenarios that are not true, have not happened but our bodies respond as if they are quite real so we need to view those images as if we were watching a film; interested but with a certain detachment. We also have the power to change the images so that they become more positive and therefore less stressful. If you have recurring mental image that’s disturbing you run it through your mind with a funny tune, introduce a quacking duck, an explosion of fireworks or anything that will distort and therefore dis-empower the image; think about how Harry Potter and Co beat the boggart!

There is more and more evidence to suggest that stress and death and happiness and longevity are connected; you can be miserable, suffer physically and mentally and risk dying prematurely OR you can learn to accept peacefully what you cannot change, smile at this wonderful life we’ve been given and enjoy it for as long as possible.