Finding a life worth living

September is Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. If you are or you believe someone is at risk of dying by suicide, please dial 911 or the Suicide Prevention Hotline at 800-273-8255.

Special note: This is a story I wrote several years ago before I entered the field of mental health and didn’t know the symptoms of depression or that suicide is the second leading cause of death in adolescents and young adults.

While I was on the periphery of the story told below, the experience had a profound impact and changed how I view people who behave in troubled ways. Behavior is communication and sometimes people who are in emotional or physical pain behave in ways that provoke irritation, frustration or anger from us. Do your best to be calm in the face of another person’s internal crisis and offer what compassion you can.

be kind

Paul and Rick fought on the Tuesday before winter break and again on the Wednesday that classes resumed. The first argument was over the cigarette butts. Paul flicked the last of his cigarette on the ground even though a black metal canister was right beside him. Rick, the building’s maintenance man, walked by just as the butt landed on the ground. In a polite way for Rick, but a rude way to Paul, Rick barked that Paul should use the ashtray. Paul shouted where Rick could put the ash tray.

The second argument continued the first over the disposal method of cigarettes but was also fueled by Paul’s inattentiveness to clean spaces. Rick had just mopped the floor and Paul walked through it, rather than around.

As the full-time maintenance man, Rick walks a tight rope of self-restraint in word and action. His job is menial enough–unplugging toilets, changing lights, cleaning up vomit–without people deliberately and immediately wrecking what he just finished wiping up. On this second day of blatant defiance of common courtesy, Rick ignored self-restraint and came to our office. He complained loudly and expletively to us about Paul. He demanded we do something to stop Paul or he would.

image-from-rawpixel-id-401529-jpegI agreed with Rick and understood his frustration at our students. My coworkers and I wished Paul would quit being rude. But we didn’t know how to stop him or any of the other inconsiderate students in the Adult Learning Center. Many students ignore the rules and procedures. But for these two incidents, Paul was the student caught at it.

We told Rick we would talk to Paul. The Adult Learning Center’s director took Paul aside and said we would have to call the police if he acted this way again and, especially, if he threatened Rick. She advised Paul to avoid Rick and save himself from further trouble.

Paul is one of an endless stream of students in Adult Basic Education Centers who hope to make up in basic education skills what they didn’t learn when they were kids. So many of them, though, are missing more than just the basics of reading, writing, and arithmetic. Dozens arrive without homes, teeth, cars, jobs, food, and hope. We try to give them encouragement, but we know the center is here because society doesn’t know what else to do with them nor does it want to do anything–meaningful at least–with them. It’s a daytime holding place. We don’t know where or to whom some students go to at night.

I understand some of the societal causes of their problems, but my critical, judgmental voice tells me that life shouldn’t be that hard for them. I don’t vocalize it as Rick does, but I’m thinking the same thing: “Use the ashtray. Walk around where he’s mopped. Learn your multiplication tables. Why do you go out of your way to make life more difficult for the rest of us? Can’t you act like you remember even one thing you learned in kindergarten?”

All these thoughts bulleted through my head as Paul walked past my desk. And after he walked by I didn’t give Paul another thought. For emotional protection, I don’t think very deeply about our students. I don’t ask them personal questions nor do I tell them about my life. And they don’t ask me either. They know what they don’t have and they don’t need me to remind them.

After I finished working I went home and didn’t think any more about Paul and Rick until I came back after the weekend. Sadly, that Friday, Paul didn’t think any more deeply about himself than what I had. He hung himself in his basement bedroom where his mother found him.

My boss and Paul’s teacher went to the funeral. Rick and I stayed behind. My boss said the minister didn’t know many personal details of Paul and didn’t have a lot to say about him in the eulogy. She shook her head.

I tried to learn more about Paul by reading the newspaper’s obituary. A professional portrait was used in it. It showed a smiling, dark haired young man wearing a suit and tie. Pictures probably do speak a thousand words. But these were words of happiness and good health that were from sometime in Paul’s past. In the weeks we knew Paul, he wore only faded blue jeans and worn t-shirts. He rarely combed his hair. My mental picture of Paul was one of anger, defiance, and loneliness.

Rick came into our office after the funeral. He consoled us, or maybe himself, with the comment, “he’s in a better place now.” He didn’t express any remorse about his feelings toward Paul. But I wondered if he regretted his harsh judgment like I regretted mine. We talked a few more minutes and then we all got back to work.

The next day I came to work and Rick, the maintenance man, was mopping the floor. This day the floor would stay clean.

 

Advertisements

Do you need a lifeline?

Affiliate disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, meaning at no cost to you, I will earn a commission if you click through and make a purchase of a product or service.

Every so often it’s good to take a step back and take a different view of your life. A big picture point of view can give you some perspective that living it up close and personal every day won’t allow. A wide-angle, panoramic view can be especially helpful when you are experiencing a challenging time.

37061793_10155408670426968_2408675066129678336_nOne way to see your life in a different way is to create a lifeline or life map. New author Jen Alward recommends a lifeline as an activity in her new release Hope and Healing at Home: Build Bridges with your kids and empower them for life with Art & Christian Therapy.Click here to visit Jen Alward.

Locating where you are and gaining insight into how you got there can give you direction in where to go next. Families have challenges today that were unimaginable 20-30 years ago. Drug epidemics, increased school violence and other societal trends are placing new levels of stress on parents and their children.

20180726_142342(2)
A lifeline will help you see where you’ve been and where you could go.

You can be as detailed as you want in your lifeline, family map. I set mine up for 10-year decades, but you divide it into five-year increments if you prefer. It can be helpful to include other family members on one sheet of paper to see where the trajectory of their lives may be headed and to help you set family as well as individual goals.

A perspective you may gain by completing a lifeline or family map is noticing how many challenges you have already successfully overcome. This can be reassuring that you will be able to meet whatever challenge you currently find yourself coping with. Seeing the pivotal periods in your life on paper can be a reality check into how you are spending your precious commodity of time.

So, where are you going with your one “wild and precious life?”

direction

© 2018 Brenda Henning

Your Personal Bill of Rights in Relationships

Happy Independence Day New Thought, Right Action readers! Below is a post of a New Thought, Right Action leaders (two in particular) who worked and continue to work in the field of mental health. Their efforts in writing and teaching in the area of recovery from addiction and growing up in dysfunctional families helped define what healthy boundaries in relationships looks like. I hope you are enjoying your independence from what ever patterns that have been binding you from living your life to its full, healthy capacity.

********************************

Native Houstonian John Bradshaw was a prolific writer and he, along with Atlanta-based Dr. Charles Whitfield, made popular the concept of “healing your inner child. ”  In the early 90s,  Mr. Bradshaw shared in a public way his vulnerabilities and own recovery journey from alcoholism. He built a platform of lectures, PBS presentations,

and books to help millions of people around the world. If it weren’t ‘t for his and Dr. Whitfield’s service in writing, many people would never have been introduced to the concept of toxic shame. Mr. Bradshaw’s theory, in particular, is that toxic shame is what drives so many people’s decisions to self medicate through alcohol, drugs, food, sex, shopping, and overworking to mask the intolerable feeling of unworthiness.

IMG_0960(1)Mr. Bradshaw died two years ago. Friday, would have been his 85th birthday. His family held an estate sale at their property last weekend and I chose to attend so I could see where he wrote his many, many influential books. While we were there, admiring the many artifacts Mr. Bradshaw had collected on his international trips, we had the serendipity to meet Mrs. Bradshaw. The reason she and her husband had so many collectibles is not because of materialism but because of Mr. Bradshaw’s spirit of service. Everywhere they went, she said, “John wanted to buy something from the shopkeepers to help them out.”

Helping people out is what healers do. Dr. Whitfield is referenced for his compilation of a Personal Bill of Rights as it relates to interacting in healthy relationships. Here’s his list of “rights” that we are all entitled to enjoy if that’s what we choose. What rights are you exercising today?

 

© 2018 Brenda Henningindependence day

Addiction abruptly ends lives, but there’s always a New Thought, Right Action to choose

road not takenI attended the funeral of a 20-year-old man last week. He died from complications associated with addiction. It was several years of struggle for his family as they helped him navigate resources to manage this chronic, relapsing brain disorder.

The funeral home was packed with nearly 200 friends–many of them the same age and most of them struggling with the same chronic, relapsing brain disorder. The friends who were currently sober talked about their anger at this illness and how it abruptly changed their life. In the early days of abusing substances, an altered mental state is a positively enhanced experience over the highs and lows of common everyday life. But, then, the highs or the check out from reality changes abruptly and something which an individual has had control over is suddenly controlling them.

If complete abstinence isn’t achieved from mind-altering substances, then people with this illness can have many years of long, drawn-out mental and physical suffering from the illness. Once a person has passed the stage of recreational substance use to addiction, there is no alternative street substance to use.  And, unfortunately, as long as the years are for the relapsing stage it almost always ends abruptly.

I’m sure the grieving phase for the man’s family will last the rest of their natural lives. It may lessen in intensity but the abrupt loss has left its mark which cannot be undone.

If you or someone you know is ready for an abrupt change to save yours or someone else’s life, then please connect with us. We have resources available to help you live a life of New Thought, Right Action.

Love and light,
Brenda

© 2018 Brenda Henning

 

via Daily Prompt: Abrupt