Oh man, depression hurts!

Oh man, depression hurts!

I always thought that depression was one of those things that hurt mentally. Heck, I’ve experienced it personally several times over the past year. It hasn’t got better by much, but I’m getting better at fighting it off. Unfortunately, “it” is also getting better at fighting me.

Last night, it upped the ante by escalating into a physical thing. For absolutely no reason, I had a panic attack at 1:00am. I woke up feeling scared as I had trouble breathing and my chest was really heavy. And my body felt completely depleted of all energy. All I wanted was water – lots of it. I downed about 4 glasses of water and the panic subsided a bit. But I still couldn’t breathe.

I woke my wife up (for the first time in my life) and told her what was happening. She listened… but there wasn’t much she could do. She asked if I wanted to go to the hospital. “No”, I firmly replied. I knew where the roots of this were… My old friend – Depression.

I opened the bedroom window and the cold winter air came streaming through. It really felt good, even though it didn’t help my breathing. I looked at my wife who was sitting by the side of the bed groggily looking at me. She was tired as hell too. She’s been having busy days at work. This wasn’t fair on her.

So I figured if I have to solve a problem I’ve never had before, I’ll do something I’ve never done before. I got out of bed, grabbed the duvet from the next room, my yoga mat from the family room and headed out to the car garage. I was going to sleep in the garage. My wife gave me a “Are you friggin’ nuts?” look which I was able to ignore. “I’ll be OK” I said as I walked out.

It was freezing cold in the garage as I lay out my yoga mat and my pillow. My chest still felt heavy, but in about 30 minutes, my breathing improved. I think the biting cold took my focus away from the physical discomfort. I was spending all my energy staying warm to bother too much about the breathing. The only thing that bugged me was the garage light that came on every 20 minutes as a squirrel would scamper across the driveway. I have never cursed so much at a squirrel in my life!

By 3:00am, I was breathing normally. I even managed to doze off a bit. But now that I had things under control, and I got thinking…

I have to get a grip on this. More than anything, I have to believe that I will be able to take control of my problems. The company I worked for closed down in August and everyone got laid off. I have been working for myself ever since, but money is nowhere close to what I was making working full-time. Every now and then, the fear grips me and I think “What if I don’t make enough the next month?”. I then try to push it away by telling myself “You’re worrying about something that doesn’t exist. Cross the bridge when you come to it”.

I’m trying to focus on what’s going well for me – I have an amazing family around me – My wife loves me, my kids are fantastic, and we have enough to get by. So what the heck am I worrying about? I have all I need. In reality, it’s the excess that I don’t have. Do I really need to kill myself trying to get a little bit more? No!

This morning at 6:00am, I walked back into my bedroom feeling a sense of relief. My circumstances were EXACTLY what they were five hours back. But I had been able to change the way I was looking at my life. I felt better about the fact that I wasn’t going to give up on myself. I’m not the first person dealing with depression and I won’t be the last. It will take time, but I will get out of it.

In the meantime, I’ll focus on all the good things I have going to me in my life.

The Warrior

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It’s hard to take one’s own advice

It’s hard to take one’s own advice

About a year back, I was helping a friend through some difficult issues he was facing in his personal relationships. At the core of his problems was money. No, it wasn’t the mismanagement of money, but rather the “over-management” of it that was creating conflict in his personal life. His desire for financial security had ended up as the primary objective rather than the well-being of his family. Ironically, he wanted financial security for the welfare of his family.

His wife believed that the should spend less time worrying about money and more time with the family.

So I was staring at a classic case of both sides doing what they did with the best of intentions for the family. Both good people, with good intentions. But amid those good intentions lay the conflict.

Now I’ve never been crazy about money to this extent. Everybody is different and that’s the way I like myself to be. So I counseled him from my point of view and urged him to give up control of the money… I urged him to make some decisions that are simply fun – without any regard to whether they make financial sense or not. He listened intently and promised to think things through.

OK, so that chapter finished there. And then after a couple of days, I was called upon to take my own advice…

My wife wanted to buy some family room furniture on Boxing day. Now when we bought the house, we both decided that we won’t spend any money on new furniture for a year. But she’s been wistfully looking at the empty rooms and speaking about how good they’d look once there was furniture there.

Now buying a house isn’t a trip to Walmart. And the recent purchase has left our bank account with a rather empty feeling. And any future, immediate purchases would need to come out of the credit lines (something I detest diving into).

So the question confronting me was – just how much emphasis should I place on this desire of hers? Here were my options:

  1. I can say “We had an agreement. Lets honor it and buy the furniture next year instead of this year”
  2. I can delay the matter by saying “Lets think about it”
  3. I can take the big financial hit and howl while I go berserk trying to pay it off.

But then, I recalled the lengthy discussions I had with my friend and realized that money is simply… well… money. I have to look at what it means to me compared to what’s really important in my life. I mean what will bring me more happiness? Looking at my bank statement or looking at my wife’s face when she enters the family room each evening?

The answer was clear.

The next day, we spent $5,000 on some gorgeous family room furniture. There were no compromises made on quality, especially when it came to selecting the recliners. After all, it’s my tushy that’ll be spending the most time in those chairs for the next 10 years and damned if I’m going to compromise on those 🙂

Looking back, I made the right decision. I still wince at the thought of paying the debt down, but you know what? I’ll pay if off eventually… it’s just money.

Someone once said “Money is nothing but paper with an attitude”.

I believe that.

The Warrior

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Tolerance? Really?

Tolerance? Really?

Call it the scotch working overtime, but my ears pricked up during a party I was at last week when I heard a woman state “It’s so important to teach kids tolerance in this day and age”. Something didn’t quite sound right with that. So I refilled my glass and sat back to listen in on her talking animatedly about the challenges that we face in a culturally diverse society and that tolerance is what is needed.

10 minutes later, I was convinced – Tolerance is a “negative” concept.

Let me ask you something… Think of a person you really like – a friend, relative, anybody that you’re fond of. Do you tolerate them?  Or love them?  Why don’t you ever say this about your loved one “Oh, I tolerate my boyfriend just fine”.  When do we tend to use the term “tolerate”?  We use it in the presence of people we can’t stand, but simply have to put up with. For example, you might say “I can barely tolerate my boyfriend’s buddies” or “I can’t tolerate my mother-in-law anymore”. I can go on….. but I’m sure you see where I’m going with this.

We tend to consider tolerance as a good word. Heck, we’re teaching this stuff to our kids in school.  The word has the aura of peace, understanding and cohesiveness in society. Yet our language betrays the word’s real meaning to us.

The opposite of tolerance isn’t intolerance…. its understanding. Where tolerance urges us to keep our opinions (of people we don’t like) to ourselves, understanding pushes us to try and see where they are coming from.

Isn’t that what this world needs? Our world is coming together at a stunning pace. We haven’t been exposed to so much cultural diversity in the past 50 years as we have in the past 10 years. And a lot of us don’t know how to handle it.  We almost feel as if our identity is under threat and the natural instinct is to assume a position of “We” vs “Them”… anything that makes us better than the others. You can extend this to any situation – the workplace, family, anything.

And as we can’t do anything about their presence, we tolerate them.

What if we didn’t tolerate them? What if we tried to understand where the other people were coming from? What if we thought “They’re not idiots. Let me see what they’re trying to tell me”. When we’re no longer taking the refuge of a weak word which (ironically) makes us feel superior as well, that’s when we’ll see our paradigm change.

The clumsy, geeky neighbor’s kid who’s always hanging around your kid’s toys may emerge to be a kid who looks for love wherever he can find it. The new immigrant with the funny accent at the office may emerge to be a brilliant strategist only if people would listen to him without laughing. And the beggar who bugs you for change may simply be a guy who’s given up on life. Heck, who are we to judge?

So next time, don’t tolerate…. Understand!

The Warrior

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Are you really in love? Try passing the acid test !

Are you really in love? Try passing the acid test !

I was listening to the Dhamma Podcast recently and what was said about love really got me thinking. In a sense, I already knew much of it (and agreed with it as well), but what was remarkable was it presented certain concepts that made me sit up and take notice.

So you say that there’s a person in your life that you love more than anything else in the World – even more than yourself. You say that all you really want is for that other person to be happy. That’s all fine and good, except that your statement may not pass the acid test. As far as he’s concerned, he just loves you for what you are, no matter what you do.

So lets take the test, shall we? Lets say you’re in a relationship (married or otherwise) and one fine day, you find that your significant other has run away with the mailman. Are you happy? If you really love that person, then you should be happy for her because now she’s clearly more happy than she was before. In 99.9% of the cases, you’re not going to be celebrating this event.

So what that really means is that we tend to love ourselves more than pretty much anything else. We love the people around us, our friends, family and our possessions… but we love them for ourselves.

So what is so wrong with this equation, you might ask ! Nothing, really, but I do believe that there is a higher form of love…. a higher platform that we can reach. And once we reach this platform, the way we look at people, relationships and possessions completely changes.

Ironically, we can learn this best from those we don’t give much credit for intelligence – dogs and babies.

Take your dog for instance. Each day, when you come back from school or work, this little fellow will run towards you, jump all over you, and makes no bones about how delighted he is to see you. He doesn’t care about the way you look, or dress. He doesn’t care how much money you have or what you do for a living. He doesn’t even care to remember how nasty and indifferent you might have been to him a day earlier. He’s just happy to see you, no matter who you are and what you do.

Can you remember the last time you did that with anyone? When it didn’t matter what they did or said… when your love was unconditional in every sense of the word?

Through the ages, the strongest bond has been between a mother and her newborn baby (even in the animal world). Why? that’s because the mother will love her child regardless of how the child looks, or behaves. I have yet to see a mother say to her baby – “If you crap more than 3 times today, I’m not going to hold you”. Childbirth is a difficult process, and even after the child arrives, there are some huge sacrifices and pains that the mother endures. Yet, each of those sacrifices endears her to her baby even more.

The strongest relationships are those that are forged on unconditional love… that you can say “I will love you no matter what you say or do”. When it isn’t important for the other person to respond or reciprocate… when you’re happy simply because the other person is happy… when you can finally let go and still be happy. I call this selfless love. And in my opinion, its the most powerful love of all.

Can you imagine the sense of security the other person feels when they receive this kind of love? The freedom of being loved unconditionally. Living without fear of retribution or rejection yet having someone else celebrating every moment of your life as if it were their own?

Think about it. Want to take it a step further? How can you apply the same knowledge to yourself – I mean loving YOURSELF unconditionally. Learning to forgive yourself and accepting yourself completely. I can say a lot on the subject, but I’ll leave that for another day.

Till next time, have a wonderful life.

The Warrior

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