When Working on the Healthy Body, Healthy Mind Equation Proceed with Compassion

I’m not quite sure how to describe the pain I felt, but when it hit me, I doubled over. More than some acid reflux that I could pop some tums over, it wasn’t just in my chest. I felt a blazing ache rippling down to my belly in an area I didn’t even know existed. I had never experienced an attack like this before. I wasn’t sure if I should go to the hospital, I didn’t want any more debt when I was finally starting to pay it off. I thought about how sad and pathetic it was that I had to make such a choice as to either lay there with my burden, or go seek help. I chastised myself for being weak and not tolerating the pain that probably wasn’t that bad, (at least not as bad what some other people were probably going through). I eventually convinced myself to try and sleep it off as I laid there in excruciating pain. As I made that choice I became extremely disheartened with my life. It felt like if it wasn’t one thing it was another. I was doing much better with my mental health and then along came the deterioration of my physical health which triggered the mental health issues again.

That night was a deal breaker for me.

I refused to go back.  I had come too far in my healing journey. Something wasn’t well with me and my body sounded the alarm so I could no longer ignore it. After that night, the food I loved so much became a catalyst for anxiety, I was terrified to eat for fear of pain. In a matter of a week I had lost those 10 pounds I had been trying to lose all darn year. By the end of the month and with the help of my nurse bestie, I had found safe foods to eat via a reference book of recipes to naturally heal myself with the food I ate, and I had also lost 20 pounds.

When it was all said and done 60 pounds were gone-and I had finally gotten health insurance and was immediately referred to a gastroenterologist for a formal diagnosis of my educated guess.  This all started back in 2015 the very year I started officially doing research for the mental health book I eventually published this year.

Since my book was not intended to go too deeply into body work, as that wasn’t a strong area of knowledge for me, I put writing more deeply about these issues on the back burner. But as my friend Jessica at http://everysingledollar.com/  has said, “nutrition is vitally important to good mental health. There is so much research that shows making good choices in your diet are key when it comes to mental health and mood.” I didn’t really get that before I had my attacks because I didn’t feel it.  I couldn’t understand how food had anything to do with my mind even though I knew otherwise.

Knowing something in your head (with your mind) isn’t always enough, you can easily intellectualize self-care and struggle with actually embodying it.

I’ve learned a lot more about shame, blame, guilt, forgiveness, and compassion since that time. I also realized how much self-care, (a branch of the self-love tree) is so important to both healing and maintaining mental health.

As I march on towards optimal wellness I become more cognizant of the fact that “me too” applies to a lot of areas in our lives. Chronic pain, painful menstrual cycles, depression because of the issues, more issues because of the depression etc. are things many women experience. My guy pals are also struggling with their diagnoses, the weight gain from the meds they’re prescribed, wanting to treat their bodies better but struggling to fight the sugar and caffeine cravings. The next year after my deal breaker moment I became more focused on wanting to explore and discuss the relationship between mental health and physical health and teamed up with my resident mental health expert Dr. Angela Clack. There’s nothing revolutionary about this topic, but it was all still new to me. I figured I could add the perspective of someone who wasn’t solely focused on working out or making the transition to a vegan lifestyle etc.  As I am writing what I learn as I go as a sometimes “too busy”, sometimes “not the most disciplined” woman; a working professional who like many of you, is sick and tired of being sick and tired.

This is an ongoing learning process for me. It is an ongoing endeavor that I reach out to people who are healing their bodies to heal their moods. Most recently, I noticed that women in my network were not waiting for a New Year resolution to make lifestyle changes and whatever they were doing seemed to be really working for them. For instance, a Facebook friend Tilina shares “I would certainly say that healthy living starts with being aware of what you are ingesting; spiritually and physically.  Healthy whole foods nurture your body naturally.  Meditating on the Word of God nourishes your body spiritually.  Avoid processed foods as much as possible.  These foods often do not satiate you for long periods.  The second thing would be regular exercise.  Exercise for me helps to relieve as well as prevent stress on a daily basis.  It also gives me clarity to when it comes to processing information and/or concentrating for long periods of time.  I can tell a vast difference between the days I work out and eat right and the days when I may have ate some things I should not have.”

I know for a fact that when I was in the midst of my depression, the only movement I wanted to make was one that involved me going back to bed. But healing arts practitioner, Jessica at http://www.jessicadore.com/  reiterates that “exercise is usually the last thing most people want to do when they’re feeling down or depressed, but aerobic movement stimulates dopamine and serotonin—the same brain chemicals targeted by popular antidepressant medications. Getting movement is generally a much tougher pill to swallow, but it is a highly effective mood regulator that can have real and lasting impacts.” Going to the gym wasn’t really my jam, but power walking for miles in nature became my refuge. Meditation has been difficult for me to get into, but dancing, and doing yoga stretches gets me out on my head for an occasional break. I didn’t enjoy being gluten free and didn’t make the commitment to it in 2015 past a month. However, I was able to eliminate caffeine from my diet which triggered my anxiety and gut issues, I stopped gorging on trigger foods like peppers and tomatoes, I was also able to reduce gluten, sugar, processed meats, and dairy.

Instead of beating myself up, and talking down about what I’m not doing, I practice gratitude for what is. I’m grateful that the habits I have been able to build prevent debilitating gut attacks. I’m grateful that I have resources to help me build better habits towards wellness. I find that I am much more motivated to change behaviors when I’m not shaming myself into submission.

“Progress not perfection” has become my go-to mantra.

I know that building healthy mind and body habits can feel like a real pain in and of itself.  But I also know I want real and lasting positive impact.

How about you? Let’s do this together!

Until Next Time…Peace, Love, and Wellness!

Oh! By the way, if you want to learn more about the blogger of this post feel free to check out my about page.

Sign up here for a free copy of The ABC Method to Managing Your Mental Health While Running a Business.

Building Bridges: Reflections on Loving Someone with Mental Health Concerns

loving someone with mental illness

With the car still running, he tilted his head to the side and glanced over to make sure he could look me in the eyes. “Before this goes any further…” I hadn’t considered a him and a me in any other capacity before that conversation, but as I took in his words, I realized that at that point in our budding relationship (because that’s what it was) I’d be fine if he decided to stop “seeing” me if my response wasn’t what he wanted to hear. That would be a first for me. Even if I didn’t like a person, the “people pleaser” in me would not want them to leave…or at least I wouldn’t want them to leave with unsavory thoughts about me and my ‘no thanks’. I carefully thought about what he revealed. Not because it sounded appealing, but because it was the first time I was presented with such a notion. I measured it against the values I’d finally decided to honor and concluded we could not go beyond being just friends. His view of committed relationships were a deal breaker for me as my view of family was a deal breaker for him. Our relationship continued the way it started (at least for me): no expectations, and even though I didn’t want it, still full of hope for genuine connection, acceptance, and honesty even if we didn’t agree or like what was being said. Much the same as any authentic friendship I already had. As the friendship blossomed, I began to learn things about love that I’ve never been present enough to grasp before. I began to understand more about loving someone with mental illness.

When another close friend of mine told me she was diagnosed with bipolar, I being the bookworm that I am, went into research mode. There are books out there about how to love someone with mental health conditions. As much as I fully believe that love is something to be studied, it is in practice that we fully grasp its meaning. As I considered my past, my discovery that I myself was that someone with mental health conditions began to shift how I viewed caring, compassion, and conscientiousness. I became more aware of my default “I” vs “them” I became more aware of the fact that socialization plays a huge role in the “othering” of people. Because of that I wanted to overcome social conditioning and do more “we” and “us” kind of thinking, even if it went against the grain. When I feel a bit more in touch with the “we” and “us” mindset, I think loving all boils down to the same elements whether one has a mental health condition or not. It’s simply that you love someone in a way that speaks to them, not in the way you’ve concocted in your head based off of how you want to be loved. Too often we mentally construct a fantasy version of someone molded from a shortsighted perception of the impression they left with us. Then we cling to the idea of what we should be to that person and how that person should be to us. I’ve been terribly guilty of doing that myself.

Here’s one of the hard lessons I’ve learned so far. The reason something so simple falls apart is because we don’t know how we want to be loved due to not loving ourselves first. How can you accept being loved if you can’t accept and love yourself? People love you based on what they, themselves, learned about love and care and can’t speak your love language and love you the way you want if you don’t show up for the love being given. I didn’t love myself. In fact, I didn’t even know, like, or trust myself. I was never going to be able to accept someone loving a person I couldn’t stand to be around. It only made me feel more inferior and inadequate because I saw more of what was wrong with me, and why I couldn’t measure up. This was the biggest reason my marriage failed many moons ago. And it would be the reason why any relationship I attempted would fail afterwards.

I didn’t think I was capable of love.

A shell of a person, I’ve been that girl before. I didn’t feel worthy of being loved, and I didn’t feel loving. I understood caring enough because I didn’t want “bad” things to happen to anyone, but I thought that was all I could do. I understood possessiveness, I have both been accepting of being a possession and wanting to possess. I understood abandonment and clinging due to fear of abandonment. I understood isolation and avoidance, and even abuse. It would often be accompanied with the words “I love you” but I knew even then that this was not love. My actions, however, didn’t want to cooperate with my knowledge. Even though I’d been hurt (was the “victim”) so many times before, it wasn’t until I became the “villain” that I was finally ready to acknowledge just how empty and dead I was on the inside. You see it’s easy to play victim, you don’t have to change because everyone else is to blame for your life. You can keep on being miserable, complaining about your circumstances, and how they make you feel so low…you don’t have to worry about growth because there’s nothing wrong with you. They are to blame not you. You’re just trying to help.

Love isn’t manipulation so that the outcome is always in your favor even if at the expense of you.

People say that love hurts. I think that love is simply hard work. It’s hard work not to get attached to someone and get wrapped up in fantasies of what you think your life should be with them by your side. It’s hard work to hear someone say ‘no’ and not take it as a personal assault on your character and self-worth. It’s hard work to believe someone the first time when they tell you and show you just who they are- that they are simply not that into you. Understand that their rejection has nothing to do with you. It’s hard work to walk away from someone who says they love you but are not loving when they can’t honor the commitment of your togetherness by respecting your body, mind and soul. It’s hard work to stay with someone who accepts you when you see yourself as worthless and not contributing due to lack of finances, mental unhealthiness, not being socially acceptable enough, beautiful enough, smart enough or strong enough, feminine or masculine enough. It’s hard work. It’s hard work to have loved and lost due to illness, or a life well lived, to cherish memories and not sink to a place of “I can’t go on without you.” It’s hard work to learn to love again.

I wondered if I could love “him” if given that opportunity again. I wondered if I could love them, the men I called brothers, the men I called friends. One day not too long after our car conversation, I glanced over at his smiling face. I saw him. This man who dealt with meds, and days of despair, and pain, and loss, and shame, and feelings of unworthiness. Who shut me out, perhaps thinking to protect himself, maybe even to protect me. When we 1st met I’d become love avoidant, careful not to make the same mistake of being so desperate to escape myself that I allowed someone undeserving access to my body without my heart and soul. I figured that if I only had mere friendships and casual acquaintances I could easily let them go and I wouldn’t hurt anymore. With him, with the love I’ve received from those I’ve called friends. I throw down the gauntlet. The glass casing surrounding my heart shatters into a thousand pieces. Yeah, the scars are there, but I’m still here, unbroken. Shedding shame, reclaiming my freedom.

Hope is an interesting thing. For as my heart swells with hope, I hope for true belonging, I hope I can accept as is, I hope for the experience of happiness even though it’s fleeting, I hope for the strength to endure the times we don’t agree and that even if angry we can still come back and get along, I hope for the best in you, I hope that we see the best in each other and think “how wonderful” “wow you’re pretty awesome even if you’re a dork” I hope that my worst doesn’t scare you and even if it does that your hope for the best still lingers and you decide to be forgiving and compassionate. I hope that we both have the courage to have boundaries and honor them. I hope that we can encourage each other without trying to control each other. I hope that we can be kind and understanding, that we can tell each other that we believe in the other and that we hope the other believes in themselves too. I hope that I will honor what I’ve learned about filling my own cup 1st by being responsible for my own emotional well-being so that I don’t unrealistically demand that of you. I hope I remember what I’ve learned about impermanence, and nonattachment, and still show up to love fully and from a place of wholeness with openness and trust.

I’ve come to realize that I had friends who gave those kind of gifts to me, and I wish I treasured them more back then. I can honor the friendships and relationships I once had now by how I treat myself and others. I’m thankful for reflective friends who remind me of that powerful lesson in life today.

I’ve come to realize that love has the capacity to grow in places you forget exists.

If love is truly energy and energy cannot be destroyed, then love has no limitations. It is only our limited ideals of what love looks like to us that confines it. I’ve wanted to run from love and loving, and even being loved because I thought that would mean a sense of control, security, and protection. I wanted to believe that love didn’t call out to someone like me, someone who took relationships for granted, someone who stayed in relationships long past their expiration date, someone who didn’t know how to even be a friend. To be presented with people, beautiful souls who fear the things I’ve feared, and hurt the way I’ve hurt, who hope despite it all the way I still hoped despite it all is no coincidence. As they learn from me, I learn from them. We all learn from one another.

And with this I am learning that I can learn to love again, and again, and again and again. And I think…no, I know that we’re all going to be okay.

Until Next Time…Peace, Love, and Wellness!

Oh! By the way, if you want to learn more about the blogger of this post feel free to check out my about page.

Passive Suicidal Ideation: A Discussion About Money + Mental Health

This blog post is part of the Suicide Prevention Awareness Month blog tour in partnership with Debt Drop. If you are feeling suicidal, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text HOME to 741741.

Did you know (according to Money and Mental Health Policy Institute), if you’ve had a “major financial crisis” within the past six months, you are nearly eight times more likely to experience suicidal thoughts?

Imagine a freelancer who doesn’t know when their next gig will come in.  They struggle with the feast or famine cycle many freelancers experience.

Imagine a startup founder (Someone who has literally given their blood, sweat, tears, and every last dollar in the hopes of getting noticed by an investor). They experience financial crisis more often than not until they “make it”.

But some things you can’t “fake” like passive suicidal ideation.

Passive suicidal ideation is the desire to die. It’s not accompanied by a plan to end your life, but the thoughts are real and intense.

I’m not a finance blogger like everyone else on this tour, but as a business owner, I know all too well the frustrations of not having enough money and wondering if I should call it quits. I’ve experienced the joy of paying off one student loan, while feeling the sorrow of not being able to afford my mortgage payments. I know from personal experience that my former company, A & D Media, was formed with less than $200 and dream. Which was pretty much the last bit of money in my and my business partner’s pockets. I took a risk like many of us who are entrepreneurial do. In some ways, I’ve failed. In others, I’ve succeeded. It really is a ride, this business life.

While I’ve never attempted suicide, many nights I was plagued with depressing thoughts. I used to wish and dream about never existing. I felt like the world wanted me gone, that the world hated me. I wished I didn’t have to exist in a world where I felt I was born to be hated.

This was passive suicidal ideation. But I didn’t know that at the time.

Eventually, with the help of therapy and finding my “why” (purpose), I overcame these thoughts.

My life changed when I discovered that I was surrounded by purpose. And I learned to set goals to help me with my purpose under all 6 slices of life for the year: personal, social, physical, spiritual, professional, and financial.

A culmination of my goals and purpose led me to write my book, Success to die for: Breaking down assumptions about anxiety, depression, & suicide and their impact on business women, which advocates for mental wellness in business so as to prevent further entrepreneur suicides.

Throughout my entrepreneurial journey, I’ve learned (and share in my book) that whatever load you’re carrying around in your life comes right along with you into your business venture. And that includes mental health issues. So while we can appear to “have it all together” financially, we can also be depressed, experience chronic disease, have anxiety, addictive behaviors, etc.

I’m lending my voice for the business owners who haven’t “arrived” yet. Who are still climbing the ladder of financial success. All while maintaining their mental health. Heck, I’m lending my voice for those who have seen financial success, and still feel empty and unfulfilled inside.

Resources

Join the Love Yourself Love Your Business mental wellness movement tribe and surround yourself with fellow entrepreneurs breaking mental health stigmas.

NAMI Suicide Prevention Month Advocacy

International Association for Suicide Prevention

Until Next Time…Peace, Love, and Wellness!

Oh! By the way, if you want to learn more about the blogger of this post feel free to check out my about page.

Suicide Prevention for Entrepreneurs with Mental Health Concerns

candle for suicide prevention

Failure, Love & Persistence

Entrepreneurs run the gambit of emotions on a daily basis.

Are we good enough, smart enough, or talented enough?

We question whether pursuing our passions is a waste of time.

But what we don’t often acknowledge is how much these thoughts are compounded by mental health concerns.

This is the reason why I wrote my new book, “Success to Die For: Breaking Down Assumptions about Anxiety, Depression, & Suicide and Their Impact on Business Women” a book about mental illness and entrepreneurship.

A battle raged in my mind, and the minds of colleagues. So many entrepreneurs and business leaders struggle with suicidal thoughts. And attempt to take their own life. Sadly and tragically, some do.

We get upset, maybe we buzz about it on social media for a day or two and then we move on. I wanted to do more. No, I needed to do more. But, I didn’t know what to do or how to help. So I did the only thing left I could do: reach out to professionals and research mental health concerns amongst women in business.

My book is a compilation of stories from colleagues, who struggle to create the change they want to see, yet don’t feel they deserve success or happiness. They struggle with depression, anxiety, and stress every single day. They’re stymied by fears of failure, self-doubt, and self-sabotage.

But think it’s just part of the entrepreneurial experience.

What I want you to know is you are not alone.

Through my book, I share insights and resources for understanding the intimate relationship between mental health concerns and entrepreneurship.

My hope is that you will pick up where I leave off. Join this mental wellness movement and share your story, so that mental health concerns are recognized, destigmatized, and adequately addressed in the workplace and in life.

I believe that by acknowledging the ups and downs of entrepreneurship with love persistence prevails. Because even if we fall down, we don’t have to stay there. With love, acceptance, and guidance we can rise above any obstacle.

The two most liberating feelings in the world are realizing failure is an opportunity to grow and realizing you’re worthy (even if you think your life is a mess).

I feel called to spread this message about love. And I’m very grateful to all of you who have been listening, reading, encouraging, supportive, and loving along my book-writing journey.

Join my Facebook community here and share your story of struggle that led to triumph.

If you or a loved one need support right now, you can reach National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by calling: 1-800-273-8255. 

 

 

Until Next Time…Peace!

Oh! By the way, if you want to learn more about the blogger of this post feel free to check out my about page.

Be The Change Series Interviews- Featuring: Emily Wu Truong

The 2017 Be The Change Interview Series

Week 3 – Featuring: Emily Wu Truong, Motivational Speaker and Mental Health Advocate

Here’s the direct link to the recording on YouTube: https://youtu.be/-yfTJoGvX8M

About

Emily Wu Truong is an award-winning motivational speaker in Los Angeles, who works tirelessly to address the misconceptions of individuals who struggle with mental illness. As a suicide-attempt survivor diagnosed with depression and anxiety, she transformed her adversities into wisdom, inspiring others to face their fears and find value in their own life struggles. As a mental advocate, she uses her voice to advocate for children in communities of color whose voices are often under-represented. She also collaborates with other organizations to create safe spaces to encourage informative discussions on equipping community advocates with the resources they need to improve the quality of life in their communities. In recognition of Emily’s efforts, Senator Ed Hernandez honored Emily with the 2015 Woman of Achievement Award, and the following year, Congresswoman Grace Napolitano invited her to be a guest speaker before an audience of leaders in school administration and mental health care. Most recently, Emily spearheaded the establishment of May 10th being recognized as “Asian Pacific American Mental Health Day” in Los Angeles County. In honor of this day, Supervisors Hilda Solis & Janice Hahn recognized Emily for her grassroots efforts in highlighting the struggles & resilience of the Asian Pacific American communities. Emily has become a role model for many, delivering her message that with help, there IS hope, and that helplessness is NOT hopelessness.

Connect with her on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/MLEWu

How You Can Help

Support Each Mind Matters http://bit.ly/1JCYkC2

Contact Emily regarding a speaking engagement at emily.wu.truong@gmail.com.

Resources mentioned

NAMI https://www.nami.org/

 

Until Next Time…Peace!

Oh! By the way, if you want to learn more about the blogger of this post feel free to check out my about page.

Sign up here for a free copy of The ABC Method to Managing Your Mental Health While Running a Business.