Monthly Archives: October 2015

Tie-Dye Bandana

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This summer I decided to teach myself the beautiful art of tie-dye!  I went all out buying several white shirts, several white bandanas, and even a cloth tote bag.  I was determined to make the most beautiful tie-dye creations that anyone had ever seen.  Now, let me preface by saying that I am quite OCD, so I wanted this tie-dye project to be absolutely perfect.  That was my first mistake.

The shirts actually turned out pretty good, however, the bandanas and the tote not so much.  Honestly, they looked pretty awful.  Yes, I was upset, but then I remembered that tie-dye isn’t about perfect; it’s about having fun and using color to express yourself.  Once I realized this the bandanas actually started to look halfway decent.  The tote still looked terrible, so I just trashed it! HAHA!  There were several spots on the bandana where I had put too much dye and it caused the colors to run together making either a black or brown muddy smudge.  Other places I didn’t put enough dye and they were very light and there were even some white spots where I had missed putting the dye all together.  I’m the type of person who always tries to see good out of every situation, and I also try to use each of those situations as a learning experience.

The bandana is kind of like my life.  Some spots were lightly covered with dye.  Those times in my life were the easy times.  School was great, my health was great, everything was going well.  Then there were other times, like the dark loaded down spots on the bandana, that were extremely difficult.  Losing my aunt Lisa (who was like a second mother to me) was one of  those times.  Unable to cope I decided to just take a few extra pain pills before the funeral, which eventually led to an even darker place in my life.  Those were the black spots on the bandana.  There was absolutely no light.  No good, and no positive in my life at that point.  However, I sought out help and the white spots on the bandana started to show up again.  I lost 135lbs, had finally beaten my depression (for the most part, and with the help of medication & therapy), had gained victory over my substance abuse, and was genuinely happy with my life.  I was no longer living in a fog, and I can honestly say that I’m extremely pleased with where I am now.  I’ve said before that if I had to go through all that again just to be where I am, I would.  I wouldn’t like it, but I would do it.

How does your bandana look?  Is it mostly dark?  Covered with light spots?  Regardless of how your bandana looks it’s still yours, and you shouldn’t just throw it away.  Life may absolutely bog you down with tough times, but they won’t last forever.  Life may also bless you with wonderful moments.  Sometimes you have to wait out the storm in order to see the rainbow 😉 (As cliché as that is!)

I challenge you to try and look at all the situations in your life as a learning experience.  Good or bad, try to find the “silver lining” and not just focus on the negative.  There’s bound to be some positive moments in there somewhere!

Running On Empty

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A few years ago I was driving home when my car died and I came to a rolling stop in the middle of the road.  Luckily, I was on a down hill slop so I coasted into an empty parking lot.  Not sure what was going on I looked around and then realized it had been several days since I had gotten gas.  Yes, my car had run out of gas.  I was one of “those people” who had allowed their car to run on empty and eventually deplete the required fuel in order to run properly.  I buried my head in my hands in shame and mentally beat myself up for being so stupid.  It was almost 11pm and I had to do something I really dreaded…call my dad.  I sat there for a few more minutes after finally picking up my phone and dialing home.  Dad came to my rescue with a gas can and a stern talking to about not ignoring the gas light.  Dad followed me home and I have never again allowed myself to run out of gas.

Sometimes, in life, we have these moments.  We are literally running on empty and eventually we just stop all together.  We sit, we cry, we beat ourselves up, but eventually we have to pick ourselves up and move forward.  It’s not always an easy thing to do, and we may dread it and even put it off for as long as possible.  However, if we stay where we stop then everything stops.  It’s okay to ask for help, and it’s even okay to let someone take the wheel for a short period, but don’t quit.

I had gotten to the point where I had given up.  I had quit and I didn’t care about continuing on.  After several years of some pretty rough substance abuse, and very severe depression, I had finally realized that I wasn’t going to get better on my own.  I had to ask for help, and I did.  I got the help I needed and I was finally able to move on.  There are still bumps in the road, and you may even run out of gas again later on, but just know that the possibility to move on is always an option.  I still pass gas stations and, out of habit, will check my gas tank indicator to make sure I’m not running on empty.  I know that, just because I fill up, it does mean my car will continue on forever.  I have to check it and stay on top of things to make sure I don’t end up in the same situation as before.  Our lives are the same way.  Don’t give up just because you run out of gas, or hit a bump in the road.  Keep going.  You’re not alone!

Cold Bottled Water

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I love watching “random acts of kindness” videos on YouTube, not only because it gives me ideas of things I can do, but because it actually restores my faith in humanity.  It reminds me that not everyone out there is a murderer, thief, rapist, etc.  When we turn on the news all we generally hear is bad stuff.  It’s so depressing, and I’ve learned that it’s not good for my mental well-being to spend my time watching the news.  I do have a news app on my phone that keeps me updated on the really important stuff, but that’s it.  The only time that I ever watch the news is to see the weather, and I have an app on my phone for that as well 😉

I love good news and random acts of kindness, so I try my best to be that person to actually do the acts of kindness.  If I can help one person, or make someones’ day then it’s definitely worth it!  You never know what someone is going through, and they may be fighting a battle that has them dangling by their final thread.  That person may be planning to go home and end their life, but your one small act of kindness may remind them that it’s not all bad.  There are still some people in the world who care.  So if you are feeling down today, or just haven’t heard it in a while, remember that I love you!  I care that you’re in the world, and if you’re reading my blog right now that means that you are somewhat a part of my life.

I challenge you to be that person who makes a difference in someones’ life.  It doesn’t have to be anything big and drastic.  Maybe just pay for someones’ meal at the drive-thru behind you, or give a few bottles of cold water to a construction crew during the summer.  Buy those packs of thank you cards (the ones that have like 20 in a pack) and write them out to the nurses at your local hospital.  Yes, there will be a lot, but the work they do is incredible and they don’t always get thanked for what they do.  I try my best to smile at people, make people laugh, give to someone in need, and send as many positive vibes to others as I can.  Being kind doesn’t cost a single cent, so why not share it?!  In the words of Ellen DeGeneres, “Be kind to one another!”

Late Introduction

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Hello there, and welcome to my blog (even though I’m a little late on this haha)!  I’m so glad you’ve decided to join me on my journey to finding happiness, and becoming physically and mentally healthier!  Let me tell you a little about myself.

I grew up in a small town in middle Tennessee, I have two sisters, and I’m the glorious middle child!  My parents are both teachers and I graduated from high school in 2008.  I’m a gay Buddhist who loves to learn, and I currently work as a 911 Operator/Emergency dispatcher for two counties.  I attended college for a few years at the University of Memphis before moving back home and changing my major from vocal music performance to psychology.  I now attend part time online/night classes at Motlow State.

I’ve always struggled with depression, but it wasn’t until June 16, 2012 (after a very serious bout of depression and substance abuse) that I finally decided I needed professional help.  I checked myself into a rehab facility at Vanderbilt Psychiatric Hospital for ten days and came out a new person!  Since then I have turned my life around tremendously!  For the first time in a VERY long time I actually enjoy waking up every day, and even wake up early to take in as many minutes as possible during the day.  I cannot tell you how happy I am to be alive and free of all substance that used to bog me down.  I’ve learned to face my problems, learn from them, and help teach others not to make the same mistakes.  I’ve since lost 135lbs, been promoted at work, saved SOOOO much more money, and improved so much compared to the person I was.  Plus I smile…a lot! 🙂

I decided to start a blog not only as a way to journal my thoughts and feelings, but to also help others who may be suffering.  I’ve learned to focus on the good things in life rather than the bad things, but I don’t ignore them completely.  I wake up every day, make my bed, and typically start my day with some yoga, a light breakfast, and some coffee.  I spend this time thinking of things that make me happy, and I also try to center my mind for the day to make sure I get started off on the right foot. My day may consist of many things: working, hiking, camping, swimming, kayaking, walking, dancing, singing, cleaning, etc. but I always do them the best I can, and I make sure I enjoy every minute.  You must be an active participant in your own recovery.  Let me repeat, you MUST BE AN ACTIVE PARTICIPANT IN YOUR OWN RECOVERY AND MENTAL HEALTH.  You cannot just sit by and expect to get better.  Yes, you may be on medication (as I am; a basic depression pill), but you still have to play a lead role in getting better.  Medication can only do so much, and it’s not a fix.  There are still days when I struggle, but those days just remind me that there is still work that needs to be done.

Now that all that is out of the way, I look forward to having you take this journey with me!  Please, feel free to ask questions, leave comments, and share my blog entries.  I want to help others so if you feel that someone you know could benefit from a post or something I’ve said, I won’t mind a bit for you to share it with them.  We are all brothers and sisters of the same species in this amazing universe that we live in!  I’m here for you! 🙂

Laughing Loudly

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I once read that by making yourself smile and/or laugh you actually lift your mood.  Whether it’s a genuine, real smile or a completely forced one, it doesn’t matter.  Whenever you smile it sends a message to your brain that says, “Hey!  I’m smiling, there must be something good going on.  Let’s party!”  Plus, it often makes you feel a little silly which normally causes you to laugh…at yourself! 🙂

I’m Buddhist and I love watching videos of the Dalai Lama, whether it’s an interview, or just a biography type documentary.  He is always smiling and laughing, and while watching the video I often find myself smiling as well.  His happiness just radiates and it’s incredibly contagious!  Don’t believe me, just click HERE!  You can also click HERE to check out a hilarious video of babies laughing!  There’s just something about watching people laugh that just cracks me up.  It’s also very rewarding to make someone else laugh.  I often tell little corny jokes throughout the day in order to brighten someones day, and it’s so much fun.

It seems I’m always challenging people to do something that makes their lives just a little bit happier so here you go:  I challenge you to find something to laugh about or smile about every day, preferably several times during the day.  Try smiling at someone in order to pass that smile onto them, which will inevitably move onto someone else.  You never know what someone is going through, and maybe they need a smile.  They are incredible gifts that are free to give so feel free to give as many away as possible!  You will definitely make someones day just a little bit better.

Rushing to Slow Down

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Your alarm blares, you jump out of bed, take a quick shower, skip breakfast, grab a quick cup of coffee, rush out the door, rush to work, and then wish that your day would go by as quickly as possible.  Once you clock out you rush home, rush through dinner, rush through your nightly routine, and then go to bed.  Tomorrow you’ll wake up and do it all over again.

Why is it that we are so obsessed with rushing through life? Why can’t we just slow down and enjoy the present moment?  From the minute we wake up to the time we go to bed we are often hurrying to get things done.  There are 24 hours in a day that won’t go by any quicker no matter what you do, so why not learn to enjoy some of it?  In the morning I wake up just 20 minutes earlier than I used to in order to make a decent breakfast (which normally consists of scrambled eggs, toast, fresh fruit, and coffee), do some yoga, make my bed, and just relax for a few minutes as I allow myself to wake up.  I don’t even take my cell phone or laptop into the kitchen because I want to have a mindful breakfast, and not allow my phone to distract me.  I’ve noticed such a difference now that I start my day in a more calming and peaceful manner.  I’m not as prone to anxiety, I’m not as likely to get irritated or upset, I’m generally more productive, and I’m just much happier throughout the day.

It’s such a strange practice to actually force yourself to slow down.  We’re not used to that, and if we change our pace at all during the day, it’s normally to speed up in an attempt to get more done.  However, I’ve learned that when I speed up I typically end up making more mistakes and just tend to get more irritated.  Yet, if I slow down, I don’t make as many mistakes and actually get the same amount of work done (if not more) by the end of the day.

I recently bought a new wrist watch and I’ve now developed a pretty neat practice…when the quiet ‘beep’ goes off I stop what I’m doing and take a few deep breaths.  I also think of something that makes me happy, and I make myself smile.  Sometimes the smile comes without force, and sometimes I actually have to “fake” a smile.  Yet, even when you fake a smile it still helps to lift your mood. Try it, it works!

I want to challenge you this week to slow down.  We are always rushing to the next minute, next hour, next day, or the next week, yet there’s no guarantee that we’ll even be here.  So take a few minutes out of your busy day to just enjoy the present moment.  Remember to breathe, remember to enjoy, and remember to live.

Yoga in the Woods

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There are few things that I enjoy more than being in the woods. Out in nature, the wind on my face, the smell of plants filling my lungs, the feel and sound of limbs and leaves crunching under my feet. It gives me such peace and truly makes me feel one with the universe. I feel such happiness and even writing about it now slows my heart rate and reminds me to take a deep breath. However, I’ve recently discovered something even better than just walking in the woods…yoga in the woods. I’ve never really been a big yoga person, but lately I’ve been doing much more of it.

About two months ago I injured myself pretty badly while working out so I was forced to cease almost all physical activity for almost four weeks. I started physical therapy at that point and the first thing they had me do was stretch. It hurt, a lot, but I knew I had to do it in order to wake up the muscles that I had not been using and begin the healing process. During this course of bodily torture I realized that the stretching exercises (most of which were your basic, and even some complex, yoga moves) actually calmed my nerves, made me less anxious, relieved pain, steadied my breathing, chased away some of the depression I had been feeling, and helped to elevate my over all attitude. For this reason I began making my appointments for the morning time because it always seemed to make the rest of my day go much smoother after I had completed my physical therapy. As my physical therapy continued I started to incorporate my stretches into my morning routine at home. I’m not really sure why, as I don’t know the science behind it, and it may be mostly a mind trick, but it has really made a difference. During this process I had noticed that my depression was slowly creeping back in and I knew I had to do something. I was sitting a home last week, and as I’ve finally gotten to the point that I can walk without too much of a limp, and I can put my full weight on my foot and back, I decided to go for a hike. As I slowly and carefully walked through the woods my mind began to slip back into that comfortable and welcome place of peace and stillness. I stopped, put down my backpack, closed my eyes, and breathed. Deeply. It was incredible. Being back in the place I love after almost two months of being confined to the house and my work, truly brightened my day and calmed my entire body. I started to stretch, not even realizing I was doing it, and before I knew it I was doing yoga. Right there in the woods. I took off my shoes and my bare feet gently meshed with the ground and leaves. My muscles welcomed the stretches and my lungs were grateful for the fresh air.  I think I did this for about 30 minutes, although I had honestly lost track of time probably five minutes in so I’m not really sure. When I finished my hike and made it back to the house my mind was in a state that it had not been in a long time…complete ecstasy. I was somewhat emotional, happy, energetic, peaceful, calm, and there was not a single thing that could’ve ruined my day. 

I’ve only done this twice so far, but I will definitely continue. It just goes to show that happiness can be found in the most basic of places. I didn’t spend a single dollar, I didn’t travel to some foreign country. I was simply there, about a mile from my home, in the woods with my bare feet on the ground. That is where I found happiness. That is where I began to breathe again.