Sunday, December 11, 2005

How what you say/do affects others..... (Part II)

Obviously for just as much as what one says or does for/to another - what another says/does to us can also affect us. Now at the same time, we have to allow it to affect us in a positive or negative way. Let me explain.

If someone says something nasty or mean to us - we don't have to allow what they said to hurt us. But often times - in fact most times - I think we do. If you care enough what others think of you - the words, "you suck" or "(place expletive here)" can certainly hurt any of us. I can't think of anyone who would like to be demeaned by anyone - let alone someone that you care about.

The thing with this - and another "option" that I give to you today is that of not allowing what others think of us (in a negative way) to bother you. Of course I can certainly understand how certain derogatory terms could bring someone's self-esteem down. However, you know yourself better than ANYONE else - so if you allow the person's words to "hurt" you - you essentially admit that what they said is true.

If I may quote Billy Joel in the song, "Second Wind" - 'I wouldn't be telling you if I hadn't been there myself.'

Yeah, I've definitely been there myself. I can recall telling people in June 2001 (after I was first diagnosed with depression - people who even noticed a negative change in me leading up to my diagnosis) that I was suffering from depression - hoping to have some support from them - only to have that "hope" fall flat in my face. Words like "that's weird" - or "you're weird" came from their mouths. True friends, eh? I don't think so.

However, today 2005 I have forgiven those people for lack of a better word.......ignorance. I am definitely not as close with them as I had once been - but I do still speak with them. I had hoped that the stigma that surrounds depression and other mental illnesses wouldn't influence them in their "care" for me - but unfortunately it did. And yes, I did let those words hurt - because they hurt - and they hurt bad.

If we just four years to 2005 - the situation has changed. I almost feel as if I can't/wont allow what a person thinks of me influence what I feel about myself - unless what they say is justified in my heart of hearts. But for the most part, I wont allow what others think "matter" to me - especially not in a negative sense.

You know that when you do come out and talk about a past that people would have never guessed you of having (in my specific case, that of suffering from depression) - I have come to accept that not everyone is going to be as supportive of that past. Some people may continue to believe erroneously that mental illnesses are not real, while some may just continue to think that they are "weird." However it is those people - who have a negative influence on mental illnesses and people in general - who create that "stigma" that I personally am trying to remove.

It certainly is easy to mock or make fun of things that you don't understand. Just like certain people don't understand what it's like to suffer from depression. But you know what? I do. Some people are simply "glib" to it - have no idea, but THINK they know when they really dont. Although I wish I didn't know what it was like - I do and now it's a responsibility that has fallen upon me to tell others - if for no other reason, to give them "hope."

But at the same time, for every person who doesn't believe that a "chemical imbalance" is real - or that "mental illnesses" are real, there are probably numerous people who either know or believe that they do.

I personally had the priviledge of talking with some of them this past Saturday - and what they said helped to "fuel the fame of passion" that I have for my cause; because they told me how my "coming public" helped them to help others. And ironically enough, this "positive fuel" came on a day when I REALLY needed it.

I was feeling incredibly bummed, tired - you name it. Not depressed as in "depression" again, but just "blah." Had to be up early on a Saturday and also essentially "work" that day a full day, so I wasn't overly enthused, but you know what? You get up, get there, drink a cup (or in my case a pot) of coffee, put a smile on your face and "just do it."

Well the even went smoothly; and then I waited for the parents of the students who helped me that day to arrive. One by one they came in to pick up their son or daughter, when one parent started a conversation with me. I spoke with that particular parent who eventually played the "role" of a parent with me very well, when he said that he read the article in the newspaper and that he was happy and proud that someone who was so involved in the community to "come out" and talk about something that must have been so difficult to go through. I spoke a lot about how "difficult" it was and how supportive the community has been since the article has come out, when ANOTHER parent spoke to me. Her comments echoed those of what I am hopeful that and me talking about depression will do - and that is to help the greater good.

This particular mom worked with a group of students at a local High School who were either emotionally or mentally challenged. She saw the article and wound up talking with the group about how they as well could learn from the story and through exercise and helping others, also feel better themselves.

I just had the biggest smile on my face - and almost started to cry - just being so happy to see that the outlying effects of the coverage in the newspaper were really having some positive effects. That's really the biggest reason that I wanted to let people know that I had suffered from depression - to save lives. I know that had it not been for God and the people that He put in my life when I needed Him and them most (and continues to today) - well, I wouldn't be here today to put these thoughts on paper. So as a result, I see every training run; every distance-running competition; every day here on earth - as a day that I give back to Him through those around me.

I've always been told to "see God in everyone." I've also been told that "when we do good things for others, we are doing them for God, since He is in all of us." So I wont deny that what I'm doing is somewhat selfish - it's my way of saying, "God, Thank You." I can't thank Him enough for giving me another lease on life (let alone the FIRST one!); so as a result, I want to make a positive difference in as many lives as I possibly can. If that means through mission work; so be it. If that means through educating others on the injustices and the lives of our brothers and sisters in the 3rd and 4th world - so be it. And if that means talking about an experience that almost killed me - and doing it through a sport that I NEVER thought I would be it. Everything in this life happens for a reason. EVERYTHING. Once we understand that, comprehend that, and respect that - everything that happens to us and how we react to it - will just fall into place.

The interesting thing about everything happens for a reason - is that not everything that happens to us is what we would perceive as being "something good."

Yes, bad things do happen to us; to our family, to our friends, to other people in other places. But it is how we react to what happens to us or those we care about most that matters.

For example, I know of a family who lost a loved one in a car accident some time ago. He actually was a friend of mine who I cared for a lot. Really good person, great heart. It has been over six years since he passed; and I know that his family continues to struggle with it - even 2,000 days later.

The thing is, the family allows the spirit of this fine individual to live on in giving out a scholarship every year to a worthy senior at a local high school who personifies who my friend who perished was. It is through this generosity that his spirit lives on.

I myself even have something to say about this fine individual - God rest his soul. I can recall being around him - his "laid back; dance to the beat of a different drummer" attitude. I absolutely loved it - I still do.

Immediately after his passing - and for a while afterwards - I prayed that I would appreciate and love life that way. It just seemed so much fun! Well, I often times wonder if it was through my depression and the knowledge that I would overcome and lead a similar "dance to the beat of a different drummer" attitude (after overcoming depression), that I now have. I often times wonder if part of my friend lives on through me. I would like to think so - because I would be deeply grateful if that was the case.

That's the thing about our influence on others. Ask most of my friends - and they will probably say that the thing that they think of most when asked what makes me "unique" - and it would probably be my laughter. If you don't think so, ask any of the 2004 SHS girls soccer team, or the other coaches, who went to see Shrek 2 with me. Or you can ask anyone who went to the 2004 trip to West Virginia with me to describe my "reactions" to watching Robin Williams live on Broadway or even Will Ferrell. You can ask my parents or any friends who have been "in the surrounding area" when I've watched episodes of ALF (season 1 and 2 are out on DVD, baby!! *winks*)

I honestly believe that laughter is truly the best medicine. Sometimes it may seem impossible to laugh; but I'll tell you what - find that show that tickles your funny bone unlike any other - watch it and just continue to watch it until you start to laugh. Harder and harder. Before you know it, whatever it was that was bothering you will be forgotten.


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