The power of unconditional love

Love has many facades and could be expressed in so many ways. In the name of love you we do so many great things and we also commit so many mistakes. When do you know you are truly loved? When do you know you are in love?

I learned the meaning of unconditional love with my father. He is the one who taught me what it is, not by saying anything in particular, but by doing, during my 40 years of being his daughter.

You know as much as I do that we don’t choose to which family we are born to. In fact, I would not want it any differently. I would do it over and over again, with all the bad and ugly – just to meet my father.

So you guessed it. Today’s post is about him. It is his birthday, and beyond any gift I want him to read my words ‘ I love you and thank you for being who you are. You are perfection’.

The power of unconditional love that my father bestowed upon me meant a whole more than just feeling good about myself. It meant a whole circle of positivity and love.

It meant that I saw the world inherently as a good place. His way of doing with me and with everyone else taught me to try, at least try, and be less judgmental. He showed me what it is to always put myself in the other person’s shoes and to throw no stones.

Giving has no end when you know him. His generosity is not just with gifts and financial support. It is with words, time and dedication. One of his famous sayings to me when I was little was ‘I am next to you as much as you want me to be’.

His radiation of calmness day in day out has enabled me to be his friend and he became my confidant. There is nothing I cannot tell him. But that is not the point. The thing is he will never judge me, or anyone else for that matter. He has the power of unconditional love. When you are at your lowest you will still feel human and capable of good when you are beside him.

Perhaps one of the aspects that marks me the most about my father, is how he really cares about the development of others around him. He spared and spares no occasion to find a way to send a message across subtly. He would take you for walks for hours and tell you tales ranging from Ancient Greek mythology, passing through psychology, history of religion, to modern physics. He will talk to you about yogis and sufis; scientists and prophets; the self and organic horticulture. But he will talk a little bit more about non-duality, and you will get confused, and you will feel your mind stretching like you were doing algebra. But all along you will be mesmerized and you will never want him to stop.

In the power of his unconditional love I was able to come to terms with many wounds in my childhood and beyond. This would never have been possible without his patience and ability to listen, to forgive and help me forgive myself.

In the power of his unconditional love I am learning to become a parent, and a person. I also learned one of the most important lessons of all: to love and respect myself.

Because of all his love I was able to depend on him many many days and nights during my illness and and also during my wellness.

I wish you a year filled with joy and peace of mind. Always young at heart and going strong! Happy birthday ❤️

Forgiveness and recovery

The blog has shifted gears. My writings were sometimes exercises of introspection – reflecting my state of mind during my struggle with depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder. Other times, I would write about what I thought was wrong with the medical system as it stands today; not seeing the person as a whole or just silencing and over drugging the mentally ill till they slowly lose themselves in an array of side effects and endless adjustments of dosages. I also wrote about misdiagnosis and malpractice, and how our lives could change just by being given one very wrong label or another.

In my last few posts I started sharing with you the lessons taken home. There is no pretentiousness or ‘I know better’ in my words. I try to repeat this one way or another because it is so important!

So here goes…

Today I want to talk to you about a pivotal moment in my recovery.

You know getting better is not linear. If anyone tells you so, then they either don’t know what they are talking about, or they are simply really very optimistic, or just they were super lucky and are the 0.01%.

Recovery has so many elements. Naive, I used to think about it like a finish line. It was actually more of a destination, and to get there you have to take a bumpy ride.

To recover, I of course needed be on the right medication. I was supposed to find stability. Yes little by little I didn’t have anymore mood swings. A small relapse here, a little adjustment there…

I relate to this as trivial compared to what I went through. I didn’t feel depressed or have this huge void eating me up; true. Yet, I felt surprisingly guilty. Probably not surprisingly.

I was not able to feel relief. Why aren’t you happy now? Good question! I was faced with two major problems.

One: the aftermath of what ‘I have done’ to my family witnessing all this suffering. Two: the immense fear of this ordeal happening again. Three: I know I said two but I also had memory issues, self-confidence issues, brain fog, and 20 plus kilograms to lose to fit in my old socks because of all the meds I was taking before finding the right treatment, tapper off a few others, and of course I had to reintegrate into society.

After spending time feeling stagnant in these negative thoughts, I talked to my psychiatrist who suggested that these signs are very well similar to those of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). In brief: the experience of illness is so intense that in itself it becomes traumatic and creates guilt, fear and flashbacks. Are you familiar?

He suggested I undergo a few sessions of EMDR – Eye Movement Desensitisation and Reprocessing therapy. It is non invasive, simple and fast method of psychotherapy. I was skeptical at first but I tried and It worked really well on my trauma. Highly recommend it if you find a qualified therapist.

Relief was not immediate. But at the time I decided that I needed to open a new chapter in my life if I am to recover. Again this does not happen over night. It is a process. You plant the seed.

How can I ask those around me to forget what happened if I am constantly thinking about it? How can I be ‘normal’ if I am living every moment waiting for another attack? How can I expect to be ‘forgiven’ if I cannot forgive myself?

Forgiveness was the magic word. And trust me it is everything but cliché. 

I had no choice. I internalized this and repeated it to myself for the millionth time. Mental illness could happen to anyone at anytime. Mental illness is not a choice. Mental illness teaches you how to be human and humane. This experience showed us all how we are connected and how we love one another and how blessed I am to have my family and loved ones. They also used to tell me the same, but you know guilt…

Before all this, I had to forgive myself for the pain I went through. I decided that I will allow myself the suffering that passed and say it is ok. I don’t judge you. You were hurting and you are fine now. Again, you water the seed.

I gave myself a pat on the back and a big hug for the long road travelled and I said it is ok. I looked at all the things I have learned. How strong I have become. How loved and cared for I was and how things could have turned much much worse.

I looked at my family hoping day in day out that what dwells inside my soul will reflect into my behavior. Little by little, things began to change, and a new normal appeared.

The seed grows into a plant.

My dear reader I decided to be kind to myself because I had suffered enough and I invite you to do the same even if you are not in recovery, or even if you are not mentally ill. We have all suffered one way or another. We deserve to live guilt-free.

Allow yourself the gains you have achieved though little they may seem; for today is a good day and we only hope we replenish the well a little more tomorrow.

What does self-care actually mean?

I talked in my last post about self-care and its importance to mental health and well-being:

Today I would like to elaborate a little bit and dig deeper and try to tell you what I really mean by this concept.

Superficially, self-care is really simple to understand. It entails taking care of yourself. If you google the term you will find diagrams and articles giving examples of self-care including eating well, good sleeping habits, going for a walk, listening to music, and so on… Basically, it is about any action you do to take care of yourself.

I of course agree with all of the above. Who wouldn’t? But I like to stretch the concept a little bit more to include some other essential elements to our well-being that we tend to overlook.

Self Care is about Self Acceptance, Self Forgiveness, and Self Love.

Self-care is also essentially about self-acceptance, self-forgiveness, and self-love.

If we don’t accept, forgive and love ourselves we will not be able to truly care and mend our wounds, and ultimately start unfolding to meet our true self.

My new year’s resolutions, my goals, were almost never achievable not just because I lacked the will and the motivation to reach them. I discovered it was because I was rarely true and honestly accepting where I was at; I was not forgiving myself for my “mistakes” and I was judging myself for “lagging behind”. I didn’t love myself wholeheartedly and doubted that I could ever achieve anything.

We also get dragged and pulled by negativity right and left. We are consumed by toxins and more importantly by toxic relationships. We spend hours tending to these tasks while we could be using this vital life energy on our beings.

Self Care is about using our intelligence and intellect; our senses and sensibilities.

Self-care is about using our intelligence and intellect; our senses and sensibilities. We know down deep inside what we need to develop; what capacities we lack in order to become stronger and more complete.

I discovered along the way that my anxiety would reduce exponentially when I would “work” on myself away from the attacks. I had to accept me and forgive me and love me.

Another attack was bound to happen. Anxiolytics had to be stopped – they were threatening my life; I was becoming “addicted”. At the time, pain equaled pill: it was unbearable.

Putting thoughts into compartments helped me a lot. I blocked the negative energy coming from outside. I protected myself. I set boundaries. This is very important in self-care and it is not selfishness.

Along with compartmentalization, prioritizing, labeling my emotions, and repeating that I want to be happy and that I can be happy were all part of the package.

I repeat that I am under treatment and that I am very lucky that I found a good one that works for me. The final result would not have been possible without it.

But for months during my illness I suffered from severe brain fog. I was not able to think clearly. It was the residue of all the bad chemicals in my system – yes even after I quit them. It was the strangest feeling. Still deep under the person was still there; the process was in place.

The real you is always there. Your beautiful self is there, whispering and waiting to be heard.

I am telling you this because no matter where you are at now in your journey it is never too late or too early. Despite the heavy meds you are taking, despite the pain and the rejection you are feeling towards yourself: you can stop, assess and reconsider.

The same goes if you just feel that you are not in-synch with yourself. If you feel you are unhappy, starting a mild depression. Stop. Assess and reconsider.

I invite you not to wait till it bubbles up into something that becomes more organic and more difficult to manage.

“There is no higher or lower goal. There is only one goal, Self-Realization”

Meher BABA [The Answer 26]

The importance of self-care for mental health

I don’t promise to write often or make this and advise blog, or pretend being an expert.

I simply would like to share with you in honesty as I always have something that I believe is very important and was life changing in my experience.

You hear a lot about taking care of how you eat, about taking supplements, doing sports, and facial routines. Every time you are on social media there is this ad or this shared article about this cream or app, or this diet that promises to make you look like a star…

Very well yes, I know all this is important. On very good days, one might give attention to these things which are important I am not denying. Now that I am better I started to take care of my body and it makes me feel good.

But tear and wear as we approach our mid thirties and forties is not on our bodies only – it is also in our minds. We tend to forget about this. We run around in stressful circles all the times despite where we live and what we do; whether we are working from home, from the office, or as stay-in dads or mums.

Life has such a demanding rapid pace that we forget to tend to the most precious part of ourselves that nourishes our beings. We silence the rising alarm that says “I am tired”, “ I am not in synchronization with whom I used to be” , until it becomes “ I am not who I used to be”…“ I am unhappy”.

In my case mental illness was not a moment.

It was a series of these moments. Small droplets that formed an ocean.

Many many many times these drops form because of events that have nothing to do with us. That goes without saying. But also, I have to be honest, self-care; this very important stopping assessing and reconsidering strategies in life could prevent staying in viscous circles that attract negativity and self destruction.

One important lesson I learned through out my journey is that in order to get out of pain it is imperative to decide to be self critical and assume responsibility. One has to want to be genuinely happy. To decide that being the victim and staying in this role brings no good.

The wish is the beginning of the realization of the dream.

Nothing and no one, no drug, no doctor will get us of our misery unless we decide we want to be genuinely better first. It could sound naive. But this is my story…

I meet many people. They talk to me and I see how they are starting to be absorbed by life and not the good part of it. How stress is consuming them. I try to tell them that they have to apply self-care before it turns into something more serious. Some do and some don’t. Applying plastic surgery to life problems doesn’t solve them.

When we have a wound we need to clean it. Sooner or later it will get inflamed and inflammation means illness.

This is how I see it: when we are unhappy we start developing all sorts of illnesses. Our immune system weakens. I promise what I am saying bears a lot of truth. Look around you. Back pain, migraines, stomach problems, weight problems, fertility issues… Dig deeper. You will find a lot of unhappiness there. And downhill we go…

We might not be able to avoid all this. But we could change what lies between our hands.

At the end life is a series of moments and happiness is a choice…

I would like to end my post by saying that there are good days and bad days. A bad day will always end. Let us seize the good days and take care of our mental health and well being and make good choices in life. Every little helps and it is never too late.

And as Rumi said “ What you seek is seeking you. ”

You are not the problem; you are the solution

I have been away from writing for a while. It was a period of re-evaluation. I needed time to gather my thoughts before I share them with you.

Today, I want to talk about living in the now. I want to talk about living without fear. I want to talk about hope…

I want to talk about waking up without wanting the day to end. I want to tell you that it’s possible to enjoy life even if circumstances are not ideal.

I want to share with you today my insight about a previously feared decision that I was very hesitant to make.

I was hesitant to live.

My fear blocked me. Doubt was consuming me inside out. I didn’t like the present (my illness) , I regretted the past (my recent diagnosis with depression and bipolar disorder, my genes, my upbringing…), and worried incessantly about the future (relapses, pain, facing myself or even another day).

This topic was my obsession. I thought of nothing but bipolar disorder. I was not sick with the disease, I was the disease itself. I couldn’t put a distance between me and “it”. Bipolar was the boss of me, and I didn’t know any better.

Little by little my dissatisfaction with the situation kept building up. It was sort of an unconscious rebellion surfacing. With hindsight, I understand why I opposed certain hospitalizations and certain drugs or doctors. I refused over and over again to be numbed. Because when I get numb, I forget why I am in this situation in the first place.

I knew something was amiss.

The healing system I surrendered to was treating my symptoms and not my illness.

Traditional psychiatry attempted to take my pain away without telling me that I will also lose myself in the process.

I have been aware for a while that my condition is psychological but to a big big extent also physiological.

I couldn’t accept that my childhood, no matter how sad it was could still affect me some 30 years later. I couldn’t accept that moving from one country to another is enough of a reason to have me sedated by force while I was trying to escape from the ICU after a suicide attempt.

What couldn’t they see? What is being told to me by this suffering? Why is my family witnessing this? Is it all coincidence? Is it all in vain? I was a mental health practitioner at some point, how could I be the patient now? What happened to me???

As my rebellion became my revolution, I weaned myself off drugs. But that was only the beginning. Slowly my cognitive abilities came back. Not all, I still have memory blockage, or loss. I lack concentration sometimes too. But in general I can tell you with confidence that this is my brain. Those are my feelings. This is my reality.

I began to put 2 and 2 together and made some parallels- and those made and still make sense to me. They might not be universal truths; but is there such a thing?

I thought that each hospitalization began with a series of blood tests. Why do they keep on saying that there is no bio marker for mental illness!! A lie. A big fat ugly lie.

I don’t know about you, but I would rather have a half truth than none at all. The medical community has knowledge about biological, pure physiological imbalances that accompany depression, or any illness to that end.

People just take the easy track and stop investigating, or they don’t want to claim responsibility. Tell me why is my sedimentation rate (ESR) abnormal? Why is my vitamin D so low? Why is my thyroid imbalanced? Why did I bleed for weeks with no end between my periods staining every surface I touched before I was diagnosed? Hormones anyone? My ferritin was low, my proteins were in the wrong values. Soon after I started treatment I began to have bad cholesterol. Is my mother the reason for all that? Or is it rainy Paris? Or maybe my then 2 extra kilograms?

I was prescribed “vitamins and supplements” yes, but no one ever told me that they would be key in healing me if taken religiously and monitored regularly. I was told not to miss my antipsychotics, my antidepressants, my anxiolytics; those drugs that alienated me further and further from me, from those around me and most importantly from the truth.

I was told I need to play sports and bathe when I was pinned to my bed by drugs. Yes yes, exercise is good for depression. Not once was I told that there is a link between what goes into my body (food yes food!) and my physical or psychological condition.

Not once was meditation mentioned. Not once was yoga mentioned. Not once was even coloring-in mandalas brought up. Just take the drugs and come back for more. I was offered psychotherapy, but I didn’t give it much importance then. I think now it was because I felt to a huge degree that talking about my problems wouldn’t make them disappear.

I realized that no matter the good will around me is, no one would help me but me. I decided to take charge of my life.

At 38, I finally decided to become an adult.

I will listen to the medical community orthodox or not, because yes they do have insight. But most importantly, I will now forward listen to myself. I started to believe in me. I started to believe in my cognitive abilities surfacing and my instinct.

I knew I am no longer Bipolar Disorder. I am Me.

Simply put I began to circle around the idea of inflammation. I knew that illness meant imbalance and imbalance was often caused by inflammation. I also thought that inflammation is not only physical but psychological. I thought I would enforce a way of doing – a way of living – that is anti inflammatory.

When you are ready, the stars align. Without being esoteric, when you buy a red car you start seeing red cars all around you. When you brain focuses on a certain topic, you see it in plenitude.

I began to dig for links and for alternative remedies. I found that others – plenty of others- think the same. I hadn’t given alternative ways a serious thought before. Cancer healed by pure will and some plants? Yeah right!

I think that if you want to go alternative and drive off road, you cannot pick and chose. It has to be integral or better still systematic. Again that is me talking not science.

So it figures that turmeric or curcuma is a miracle drug that treats a wide range of problems relating to inflammation. It figures that I need to treat my candida problem that has been an integral part of my life for the past 10 plus years if I want to heal. Not one, not a single medical authority wanted to establish this link; as if I had several bodies or as if my organs were not related and living in the same ecosystem.

It figures there is a link. And yes, essential oils do work if taken long enough and right enough. It seems that the liver needs a proper cleanse to get rid of all the bad stuff we feed ourselves all the time. Otherwise healing would be in vain.

It figures that sugar and gluten can also be part of the problem, feeding regularly the inflammatory machine. The more you eat it, the more inflamed your body will be, and the more you will crave it. Funny, I consumed jar after jar of jam before my first hospitalization; a food that I truly dislike.

Activities are also inflammatory. Sitting hours in traffic jams is inflammatory. Dealing with negative people and draining meaningless tasks is inflammatory. Going for a walk is anti inflammatory and so is listening to music. Playing with the kids is anti inflammatory; trying to prove that I am right all the time is inflammatory. You get my point.

None of that would work alone. It is a system. A wholistic system that you create and you alone- it has to make sense to you.

The knowledge is there. I am no genius and you don’t have to be one.

We went through hell and back – all of us. Whether you lost a child, a limb, a job, or financial security. You are unhappy because you chose to define yourself as a problem. I Am The One without a Mother. I Am Bipolar Disorder. I am Divorce. I am Unemployment. I am Obesity.

While doing that we forget all the other things that we are, or aren’t! Yes you could be bipolar and it is sad, but you are so much more than that. And you are not so many other bad bad things.

The truth is there is always better; but mind you there is always worse.

So let us take a leap of faith and try to breath it out.

Say it out loud with me

I am not my illness, I am me.

I know this is not an ideal situation, but there is no such a thing.

I know I cannot control tomorrow, but thinking about it constantly won’t change a thing;

When I need help I will ask for it, but I am in charge of my existence;

I live for a reason; and that reason is to understand and free myself from suffering;

I am as happy today as I could ever be….

I beg you please to listen to yourself. Listen to your body. You are not the problem: You are the solution.

Bless

TBC