Hello, Warrior! 🙂
You know how sometimes you’re in a bad mood or feel depressed or anxious and you have no idea why? Yeah, I don’t feel that way today! In fact, I’m in a really good mood, despite the dark, rainy, thunderous sky.
I WROTE A BOOK!
You may or may not know that I recently had a book published! Sorry for the shameless plug, but I’m going to refer to it in this post.
It’s a young adult (YA) novel called The Katie Chronicles. (It’s available from Amazon in either paperback or Kindle, if you’re interested.) The reason I wanted to write about it in this post is because there’s a strong mental health angle to it, one that is relevant to everyday life.
The Katie Chronicles is about a teenaged girl who is trying to survive her parents’ separation and subsequent divorce. I’m not about to give away the whole thing, but she suffers from anxiety and starts having panic attacks. She starts working with a therapist to better deal with her emotions and to help her work through her thoughts and feelings. There are a few scenes inside the therapist’s office where you can really get into her head.
That’s all I’m going to tell you about it, except that it is well-written (of course I would say that!), suitable for everyone from pre-teens to seniors, and it flows nicely. I like to think it can be helpful to teens, parents, teachers, counselors and other mental health professionals, anyone who struggles with anxiety, and anyone who has survived or is surviving a divorce.
Now, this book is fiction, meaning it did not happen in real life. But it is partly based on some of my life experiences, and in my opinion, it’s impossible for a writer to not put a part of herself in a story. It may be a short story, a novel, or a blog post, but it is informed by the author’s experiences, knowledge, opinions, research, feelings, and biases to some extent.
There. That’s out of the way.
DEALING WITH REALITY
My own parents got divorced when I was 17 and still in high school. My mom married one of my teachers shortly thereafter, which I found very confusing and had a really hard time with for a long, long time. Thankfully, I eventually grew up and reconciled my emotions with my reality.
That’s one of the lessons in my book: You have no control over what other people think, say, or do, so you need to learn to accept it (sometimes over and over again) in order to move on.
Living in reality sucks sometimes, but if you think about it, it’s all there is. If your reality involves optimism, healthy decisions, sunshine, and roses, awesome for you! If it’s full of abuse, negative thoughts, and toxic people, well, you may have a more difficult time dealing.
My own upbringing was pretty standard, except that my parents were unhappy for a looong time before they finally got divorced. I’m the youngest of five (and the only girl) and they wanted to stay together for us kids. That’s admirable, and I know it’s common; however, my theory is that it’s better to grow up in a stable single-parent home than an unhappy two-parent household. But that’s just me. I’m no expert; I don’t even have any kids.
Everyone’s reality is different, obviously. This is why we need to have an open mind. For instance, I have a very close friend who thinks that everyone thinks the same way she does. It’s almost impossible for her to see a different side of a story or an experience, but she tries (sometimes).
If you look up “empathy” in the Merriam-Webster dictionary, it is defined as “the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner. Also: the capacity for this.”
Now, this friend is fantastic – she’s genuine, she’s very compassionate, she’s really funny, and her life has been so interesting, I’ve thought about writing a book about it. But, using this definition, she lacks empathy. She has a very difficult time putting herself in another’s shoes, which is necessary for understanding other points of view.
A DIFFERENCE OF OPINION
Of course, her reality is based on her past experiences (not so much her current ones, for reasons I may explain in a future post) and her interpretation of them. But she does have a hard time accepting other interpretations of similar things.
For instance, and I’ll be very careful here, we have very different views on religion. In her mind, there is one way to believe, and dammit, it’s the right and only way to look at it. In my mind, there are many different ways to interpret the vast amount of religious practices and beliefs from around the world.
We’ve had several discussions about it over the last decade or so, and there is simply no convincing her that there are other ways to look at it. Naturally, then, she feels that everyone else is just plain wrong in what they believe. She lacks empathy.
People who are not empathic seem to live somewhat rigid lives. At least, that’s been my interpretation of it. And that can cause problems in just about any kind of relationship – with a significant other, kids, coworkers, the boss, a neighbor. Mind you, it’s not that people lack empathy on purpose or are intentionally trying to be difficult. For whatever reasons, and I’m willing to bet that a lot of it is from the way you grew up, they just have trouble seeing things in a different light.
Okay, I went off on a little tangent there. I’m not sure why I included empathy in this post; it just hit me as relevant in some ways.
The thing about reality is that it just IS, whether you like it or not. You can certainly choose to deny it or try to argue with it or be angry about it, but in my experience, accepting it is the most peaceful way to live.
What I love about writing is that you can write whatever the fuck you want. It can be true (non-fiction), it can be made-up (fiction), it can take place on a make-believe planet in a make-believe solar system where our Earthly human rules have no place. You can write about any topic you’d like, whether it be artificial intelligence, different species of trees, cars, bunnies, how to build a deck, erotica, and every single thing in between.
But Reality – real, every-day life – is what it is. Much of what I have had trouble with my entire life has been wanting my reality, whether current or past, to be different than what it actually is. Maybe you have the same problem. You know what, though? Too bad for us!
We have no control over what has happened in the past, and we only have control over what we do and say in the present moment. And I, personally, don’t believe we have control over what thoughts pop into our heads, but I do believe that we have control over how we react to them, what we do in response to them.
It’s damn hard to live in reality and it takes a lot of work to stay there. That would mean being in the present all the time, which may just be impossible (unless you’re a monk or maybe the Dalai Lama, but I’ve read that even he gets angry sometimes!).
But this is what we have. This is all we have. Of course, we all experience emotions, and sometimes our actions are based on those emotions and we may get a little out of control. Maybe instead of trying to change people, the goal should be (sorry to “should” on you) to be balanced – emotionally, intellectually, thoughtfully, and spiritually. That’s hard, too. Balance is very important to positive mental health, but it can be really hard to find and even harder to keep.
WRAPPING IT ALL UP
In The Katie Chronicles, the main character isn’t happy with her current reality, and that causes her great anxiety as well as wishing things were different. I’ve certainly felt that way before, haven’t you? But there’s that rule about control: We have no control over other people, only ourselves. Acceptance, then, seems like the way to go, even if we don’t feel like accepting whatever it is.
What choice do we really have?
Sure, we can try to change things. We can try to make someone act differently, say nicer things, stop beating on our kids, quit drinking or doing drugs, or get better grades by studying more often. In the end, whatever actually happens is our reality. Everything else is a “what if”. You can try as hard as you want until you’re blue in the face, but reality will win. Every time.
It takes practice to be okay with the way things are. Remember – practice makes permanent. We need constant reminders that things are the way they are supposed to be, even if they hurt right now. You will find a way through it. You will be okay. You may not know when or how, but you will.
And so, there it is. Reality in a nutshell. My reality is different than yours, but I can share it with you through dialogue, writing, and other actions. Maybe you’ll be able to relate, maybe not. My goal isn’t to make you think what I think or feel what I feel; it is to share my experiences with you, and hopefully, you’ll get something out of it. But you may not, and I have to be okay with that.
What about you? Is there anything about your reality that you have trouble accepting? Is there anything that keeps you stuck? Or have you ever found your way through something really hard and discovered that everything really is okay, after all? I want to know!
As always, thanks for reading and try to Keep it Real!
Please share the love! 🙂
A version of this post was previously published on DepressionWarrior and is republished here with permission from the author.
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