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Archive for the ‘Mental Health’ Category

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The Cost of Integrity

Monday, July 26th, 2010

The events of the past few weeks, both personally and professionally have left me contemplating the true cost of Integrity. Let me start first by defining what integrity is – it is the true opposite of hypocrisy where you say one thing and do the other – Integrity means that your words and your actions are consistent, that you act on your morals and stand up for your beliefs.  Integrity is one of the personal virtues that I value over all else, both in myself and in those around me. I think this stems back from years of living with uncertainty, a lack of confidence in others and some serious breaches of trust – but those issues are for another blog, another day.

It has taken me a great many years of personal reflection and emotional battles to finally come to realize not only who I am as a person but my emotional and moral identity as well and after having been introduced to them, the struggle to form an acceptable relationship and finally learn to not only respect and accept those parts of me but to embrace and love them, has been a well fought battle and one that I don’t regret for a moment enduring. I have come to a place in my life where I love who I am, I know myself intimately, understand my values and have the confidence to express my opinions and beliefs to those around me without fear of them abandoning me or not wanting me around. I have learned that those people that really matter will accept me for who I am and while I never expect agreement, I do expect and demand respect for what I believe and who I am. Those that cannot or will not do that, have no place in my life.

This may sound like a harsh statement but when you look at it closely you realize that I am not saying that I expect everyone around me to agree with me or even like what I have to say, but if they can respect my ability to say it than we can co-exist. Those that turn against someone just for their opinion on a topic, are not people I choose to be around because they are only interested in people who think and act like them or who conform to their ideas of what a relationship should be. I prefer to surround myself with other people who value integrity and have the confidence to say what they think, act on how they feel and know that the people who love them will respect them more for it than if they say one thing and do another – how could you ever trust someone who want talk to you directly but prefers to talk about you to others? I know I can’t.

I believe that you teach people how to treat you and if you are upfront and honest with them but don’t demand the same respect from them, then they will never extend that to you and the relationship will forever be strained and tainted. It’s like complaining for 20 years that your husband is always late for dinner and your food is cold but yet refusing to NOT make dinner unless he is on time. When your actions are inconsistent with your words, you set yourself up for a lifetime of negativity.  

Beyond personal relationships though, Integrity in business is also a subject very close to my heart. Just recently I chose to close my retail store. Now many many MANY people have commented (most of course hid behind anonymous Internet posts to do so because they don’t have the integrity to stand behind their words), they have commented on the fact that perhaps my ‘attitude’ contributed to the lack of retail business in my store. Many have said that if I would stay out of local politics, if I would stop upsetting people over community and local issues, that my business would have done better. Many have also said that if only I would sell ‘weight-loss products’ instead of healthy food and exercise, the store would have fared better.

I have listened to all of these comments with both ears and to both suggestions I have to say…  you are probably right. No, you are actually DEFINITELY RIGHT! Surprise!!!  Of course I realize that if I were to sit back and watch events without comment, without voicing my opinion, without getting involved and putting my name behind my statements, I would have more friends and more business. Perhaps if I chose to do like so many others and complain only in the coffee shops and never take action, I would have better business and perhaps if I chose to promote the unhealthy and useless weight loss supplements, pills, fads and equipment that promises fast and easy results, exploiting people who want to lose weight without work, I would have better business.

Yes it is true – if I did all of that I would have more people in my life. I would be surrounded with ‘friends’ and family and my business would thrive. I know that. The only difference between me and the many others who are successful in their minds by doing things that way is that I absolutely flatly refuse. I chose NOT to do those things that would guarantee my business financial success because well… no amount of money can buy my integrity back.

I would have many more peope in my life, agreeable and happy conversations, never a harsh word, hurt feeling or heated debate or discussion. Never any demands, never any admonishments. But to me – those relationships just aren’t worth the time – who wants to be surrounded by yes-men and people that you know don’t care about the real you enough to respect your true self? Who wants to be surrounded by people who will say one thing to your face and another behind your back? Who wants to be surrounded by hypocrites who will say whatever is needed to keep the peace and avoid conflict, sacrificing honesty in the process? Not Me.

Do I like money? Absolutely. Am I upset at the loss of my retail store? Of Course. Am I willing to abuse the trust people have placed in me as a professional or take advantage of people’s desperation in order to make a few dollars? NEVER. I would rather wait tables for a living – the way I did when I worked to put myself through school and raise my son on my own. I don’t need any amount of money badly enough to sacrifice who I am and everything I believe in. There is always more money – and no amount of it can purchase dignity.

yes, there are high costs to doing what you feel is the right thing, for standing up against the crowd and demanding to be accepted for who you truly are, not just the good parts. I have lost relationships, a marriage and family over refusing to be in the company of people who treat me without respect. Never have I asked to be worshipped, but never will I accept being dismissed or belittled and those that cannot or will not accept that part of being in my life, just have no place in it. I have lost business, I have lost a great deal of money because I choose not to do what so many others have done and sell out for profit. yes, the costs of Integrity can be high but the rewards….

Ah the rewards! What have I gained after all of these losses? What do I know to be true in my heart? Well after many years of suffering with no confidence, with a constant fear of people leaving me if I didn’t accept whatever treatment they were willing to give and with not actually knowing myself who I really was as a person, I can now honestly say… I don’t care.  I am who I am. I am loud, opinionated and emotional. I get passionate over issues and will stand up and fight for what I believe in even if I am the only one who does. If you ask me what I think or feel, I will tell you and you may not always like it. If you hurt or offend me, I will tell you. If I say something behind your back you can bet your paycheck I will also say it to your face. And I have very little use or patience for those that will not do the same. I can be extremely judgemental – a personality flaw I constantly battle and hold everyone to very high standards because I believe they should always want and strive for the best for themselves and excuses don’t have any place in my life. I can still be quite sensitive as well which sucks but most people are quite surprised that I am not as much of a hard-ass as I seem lol. But most of all I am generous to a fault and will always do whatever I can to help those that I see helping themselves but will never offer sympathy or charity to those that sit with their lips and hands out. Pity is not in my repertoire.

Yes, the costs of Integrity can be very high but the reward of being able to walk anywhere I go with my head held high, knowing that I have nothing to hide and no secrets or lies to fear being uncovered, that I can sleep at night knowing that I have lived that day to the best of my ability and don’t need to fear the morning. The relationships that I have in my life are strong and true and deep, I can trust the people I am with, I can be my honest and open self without fear or worry and I know that I can always count on them to be there for me with open arms and acceptance oof the real me. Those rewards are the ones that are far more valuable than any financial or social gain. I am who I am and conceit be damned, I love me!

Posted in General, Mental Health, Weight Loss, Wellness Store | 35 Comments »

Motion changes Emotion

Monday, May 3rd, 2010

Suffering is not an enjoyable state of being and whether you suffer from a mental, emotional, spiritual or physical affliction, we can feel paralyzed by it. I know – I have been there. I have felt the overwhelming desire to lock myself in my bedroom never to leave, the almost physical repulsion at the thought of even seeing another human being let a lone having a conversation.

You don’t have to be battling the dark cloud of clinical depression to understand what I am talking about, everyone has felt what I am describing at some point in time – maybe it was due to the loss of a family member or pet, a life changing disappointment, discovering infidelity in a relationship or just a reaction to financial stress or unemployment. It doesn’t matter what causes the feeling what matters is what you choose to do about them.

Ten years ago – I suffered a traumatic miscarriage at 11 weeks of pregnancy which left me unable to conceive children naturally. I was lying in the hospital bed after surgery alone. No husband, no boyfriend, just me. My 6-year-old son was staying with a friend of mine, a woman who told me I was better off losing the baby than to raise 2 children on my own with no father’s present (I had divorced my son’s biological father 2 years earlier and hadn’t seen him since). And as I layed there contemplating my life – the last thing I wanted to do was talk – to anyone. 24 hours passed by with me in that room barely uttering more than a word or two when addressed and just staring at the wall. My body seemed quiet and serene but my mind was anything but. Again and again I thought about my situation – what I had lost, what I could never have, the direction my life had taken – over and over again until I got a special visit. From my mom.

My mother and I have never been close, actually our relationship was anything but and would take a whole dedicated blog to discuss but she did come to see me. And in her usual non-motherly way she said ‘If you don’t snap out of this and stop acting this way – they are going to lock you up in the nut ward.’  Ahhh the bliss of motherly affection. She may not have come from a place of compassion but she did succeed in one thing – she snapped me out of my funk – not because I valued her opinion but because as usual, she pissed me off and in my anger and frustration at her once again not giving me what I wanted or needed I learned a valuable lesson.

The minute I started focusing on her, the minute I sat up in that bed and stopped playing those negative ‘poor me’ tapes over and over again in my head, I started feeling better. It didn’t make the pain and the fear go away, but it did change my focus just enough to break through that black cloud and start moving down the path of life again, one baby step at a time.

I have used that lesson many times in my life since then (although I still can’t bring myself to give my mother credit for it) and I try to teach my clients and the people in my life the value of three small words “Motion changes Emotion”. When you are feeling down, belittled, unsuccessful, battered, hopeless, helpless – the longer you allow yourself to stay down, the stronger those emotions will become and the more power they will wield over you. Get up – move around, go for a walk – whatever it is DO SOMETHING. Take the focus off of yourself if even for a few moments at a time and slowly those tapes in your head will start to lose volume and you will begin to live again.

Sometimes the best ‘motion’ I have found is to work with or talk to someone who has it worse than I do so I can start to be grateful for being me and having what I do have instead of pitying myself and thinking only of what I don’t have. It’s hard – it is so very hard to make that first step though – to get out of bed – but think of it this way… what do you have to lose? If it doesn’t make you feel even a bit better – you can always go back to bed, draw the drapes and close out the world. But if it DOES work??? If getting out of bed, taking a shower, getting dressed and just taking a walk could have the power to diffuse that black cloud of emotion hanging over your head – isn’t it worth a try?

Posted in Mental Health | 62 Comments »

Cockroaches

Friday, April 30th, 2010

Quite often when I am asked to speak to a group about motivation or working through adversity, I start off my speech the same way. I ask everyone in the room to close their eyes and promise not to open them. Then I tell them that I am going to ask them a series of questions and if they can answer yes to the question they are to raise their hand knowing that everyone else in the room has their eyes closed too and can’t see their answer. Then the questions start.

Have you ever watched a family member suffer with and die from a terminal disease? 

Have you ever had to explain the death of a parent to your children?

Have you ever had to deal with infidelity? Domestic Abuse?

 Have you ever been diagnosed with a mental illness?

Have you ever had to wonder where you were going to spend the night because you had no money and no where to go?  

Have you ever lost someone you loved to  suicide? 

Have you ever wondered if you were going to get beaten when you got home?

Have you ever gone to bed hungry because there just wasn’t any food?  

Have you ever had to cope with sexual abuse or abuse of any kind when you were a child?   

Have you ever seriously attempted suicide because you thought the world would really be better off without you?

Have you ever been abandoned by a parent? 

Have you ever watched your child in the hospital – not knowing if they were going to live or not?

Have you ever been raped?

Have you ever been a single parent, working and going to school with no help physically or financially?

Have you ever been institutionalized?

Have you or your spouse ever had a miscarriage?

Have you ever watched someone die violently?

Have you ever had to choose between paying rent or feeding your child?

Have you ever had to bury a spouse?

Have you ever been told you could never have children naturally?

Have you ever been addicted to a drug of any kind?

Sometimes I ask all the questions – sometimes only a few depending on the crowd but they never vary much. Then I ask everyone to put their hands down and open their eyes. I ask them to think seriously about the questions that they did say yes too and then keep in mind for the rest of the conference that I said yes to all of them. Every single one.

The reason I tell people these things isn’t for sympathy or pity – those are two things I don’t want, don’t need and don’t ever give – I am open about my history in order for people to understand where I have come from and how I have gotten to where I am without sitting locked up in a padded room in a white jacket babbling to myself. I think it is important for people to know who it is that is trying to motivate them or else we all tend to revert to the same train of thought when we see someone sharing secrets of success… “Oh sure, that’s easy for YOU to say but you don’t know what I have to deal with…” You know we do it – we all do it, even me.

I have never once thought that there was no one in the world worse off than me – I actually tend to see myself as quite lucky because I know how dark and ugly the world can be and I know that I escaped suffering the worst of it and other weren’t so fortunate. Not that it has been easier – it hasn’t even been close to that – but as you overcome one obstacle and put some distance between you and it – you start to see it for what it was and not what it seemed while you were encompassed in it. So often we are suffocated by a situation we can’t see past it – we lose all perspective, all positivity and start thinking that there is nothing else BUT the problem when really, no matter how big it may be – it is just one part of us, one part of our lives that will eventually make us a stronger person. I know now that ‘What doesn’t kill us, makes us stronger.’ NOW I know that – I didn’t always and their were times in my life I thought my problem or my situation was really going to kill me – other times, I prayed that it would.

And yet here I am. 35 years old, newly married to an amazing man who knows everything there is to know about me, knew it before we even met and still chose to marry me ;), I have two amazing kids – a 16 year old son that I raised on my own starting at 19 – working my way through school while supporting the both of us with no family support of any kind and a 4 year old daughter conceived through IVF after I discovered in 2001 that I would never be able to conceive naturally again after an incredibly brutal miscarriage. Is life perfect?? Not at all. But I know from experience that things could be a lot worse and I am so thankful for what I have today and that I have the ability to see the gifts in my life because I have something to compare it to.

There are hardships to having a life like mine of course – scars that are both physical and emotional that I can’t always hide when I want to and have to battle with sometimes daily, but their are also great benefits. I watch others who seem almost paralyzed with problems that compared to the ones I have overcome seem trivial – I know they aren’t to them, but to mean they often seem silly and I am grateful for the inner strength I have achieved knowing that no matter what happens to me, I can and always will survive it. An old friend used to tell me that I had the survival instincts of a cockroach – I used to think it was an insult but now looking back with a few more years between now and then, I know better.

I do have the survival instincts of a cockroach and I am so very very happy that I do because no matter what obstacles come my way, I know I will overcome and outlast them – I have done it before and I will do it again and again and again for as long as I need to. When something bad does happen – like our failed IVF attempt this month 🙁 – I give myself a day or two to say ‘Why me! Haven’t I suffered enough?’ I shake my firsts at the fates, I rant, I rave and I cry. But then like a cockroach that’s been stepped on – I pick myself back up and say “Why me? Because I am strong enough to handle it and the next person may not have been” and I carry on.

Everything happens for a reason and I know that if I can spare just one person an iota of the pain I suffered in my journey from there to here, than everything I have endured will have served its purpose.

Posted in Mental Health, Uncategorized | 38 Comments »

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