Jana Says

Living life from cover to cover

Tag Archive: opinions

Book review: Building Blocks of a Better Attitude

You know how there’s that one person in your life, an older sibling or cousin, who always just seemed so cool and you kind of wanted to do what they did but you didn’t think it’d be as cool if you did it? For me, that person is my cousin Dave. He’s 5 years older than me and he probably didn’t know that I looked up to him when we were kids (he knows now because, well, he’s reading this). And now that we’re adults, Dave still does things that are different and cool and I’m pretty sure I’d be ridiculous if I tried them (seriously, picture me trying to give away free hugs at a concert. It doesn’t work, does it?).

I can’t remember exactly how it came about, but earlier this year, Dave emailed me asking if I wanted to listen to some of his hypnosis recordings (oh, have I mentioned he’s a certified hypnotherapist and life coach and NLP provider? Cool, right?). I’ve always been skeptical about hypnosis, mostly as a result of the image it gets in pop culture but my grandmother used hypnosis to quit smoking roughly 30 years ago and besides, what did I have to lose? Nothing but time and I have plenty of that to spare. So I said sure and I listened to the recordings, and you know what? They’re quite good.

I felt a little silly at first but the more I listened, the more I could feel what he said setting in. And it made sense! And I totally do not do weird things when people snap their fingers or say certain words. Dave’s recordings focus more on changing your thoughts and your words and he does that by putting you in a situation where you can be receptive rather than resistant to those ideas. And you can do it at home, too.

I liked what I gleaned from his recordings so when he approached me about reading his book, of course I said yes. Because I am a skeptic by nature and honestly, sometimes this stuff gets a little too new age/hippy for me, I didn’t know what to expect when I read it. But I have noticed a huge difference in Dave over the last few years and if he was saying this is the method he used to change, I was willing to put my skepticism aside, much like I did with the hypnosis.

I’m glad I did. His eBook, Building Blocks of a Better Attitude, is a short, jam packed with information book that will make you truly think about your words, your reactions, your thoughts, and how they are all interconnected. I honestly never gave any thought to the choice of words I use and how they impact my attitude and approach towards….well, pretty much everything. He gives you easy to use techniques for reshaping and reframing ideas, feeling, thoughts, and words. And reading this in conjunction with the recordings puts it on a completely different level. Because when you read, you can hear his voice in the words on the page, and it makes it that much more impactful.

Also included in the book are simple exercises to do to put what he’s teaching into practice (I think a workbook would go perfectly with this book, to reinforce the exercises even more) as well as a host of resources for further self-improvement. I’ve read part of one (the library wanted it back before I had a chance to finish), The Four Agreements, and it is a good, albeit dense, read, so I’m sure the others are just as plentiful. And that’s something to consider; these books are short but chock full of information. You need to read them more than once to let the lessons sink in. Fortunately, just like the title advertises, they are blocks and each one builds on the previous ones so taking them one at a time is possible and doesn’t devalue the lessons.

A final note: I think what, more than anything, resonates with me about Dave’s approach to shaping a better attitude is the focus on personal responsibility. He emphasizes that changing your thoughts and feelings comes from you. No one else. You can change your response to every situation, regardless of what it is, and that will in turn affect you. It is not about the external factors, it is about the internal ones (Note: if you have a mental illness, seek professional help. These resources can help, and maybe they are all you need, but maybe not. There is no shame in traditional therapy or meds and if that is what you need, then obtain that help).

Now that I have been exposed to this method of hypnosis and the systems outlined in Dave’s book, I will definitely continue to explore them. Traditional therapy did not work for me and I still have some major self-esteem issues to improve on. And thankfully there are tons of resources, including those in Dave’s store (if you’re so inclined, check it out and if you want to purchase anything use code jana15 for a 15% discount on anything in the store. This is not an affiliate link and I would not be sharing it if I didn’t think it had value), that can help me.

I’m interested in self improvement and this is a great place to start. Even if it seems a little weird.

How about you guys? Have you ever tried hypnosis or anything like my cousin suggests? Did it work?


A few words on depression, suicide, celebrities, and everyone else

I hadn’t planned on writing a post today but I have a few things I need to say.

In case you haven’t seen or heard the news, actor Robin Williams died yesterday, and the cause of death was suicide. It’s a tragic, horrible situation and so many are mourning the loss of an incredible and talented performer on social media, in the news, or in private. And that’s fine. You do what you need to do to make sense of it.

For me, though, it’s a bit different. It is frustrating to me, someone who battles depression every day, to see this hyper focus on mental illness and suicide simply because a celebrity dies as a result. Depression is an every day battle for millions of people, and every day, many of them take their lives. Yet no one floods their Twitter or Facebook feeds with pictures, memes or quotes from those every day, yet equally special, people. I get that perhaps people are taken aback with this because there is a cultural perception that celebrities are invincible. They have money, fame, and everything we place value on. They bring joy and happiness to others. So how can they be depressed?

That, to me, highlights just how misinterpreted depression is. Depression is a mental illness, caused by internal factors, not external ones. No matter how incredible your life may seem on the outside, depression wreaks havoc on your insides. Mentally, emotionally, physically. Depression skews your perception of everything and it feels impossible to make anyone understand what’s going on (for a great depiction, check out Allie Brosch’s comics on depression. She says is better than I ever could). Depression makes you feel alone and isolated. Depression takes away all the things normal people take for granted.

Depression is more than just sadness.

Robin Williams’s influence on pop culture is undeniable. Some of his movies are among the best ever, and are some of my personal favorites, and it is no doubt because of the talent he leant to those movies. His talent was unique. His mental illness was not.

And for me, that’s the tragic part.

We, as a society, need to take the stigma out of mental illness and start making it okay for people to be open about their struggles. And those of us who have it need to break the barriers and make sure we talk about it (besides Allie Brosch, two others who are fantastically open about their depression are Jenny Lawson (The Bloggess) and Joe Pantoliano’s book. There’s also some wonderful TED talks on depression, including this one from a comic). We need to let others know they’re not alone. We need to encourage those contemplating suicide to seek professional help rather than inundate them with glib sayings about how happiness is a choice and it will all be better. We need to generate a better understanding of the disease.

We must support, and remember, everyone who is fighting against depression and other mental illnesses.

Not just the celebrities.

Monday morning rant: On being intellectually starved

This post is kind of ranty. You’ve been warned.

Last week, my husband sent me a link to a Yahoo! Finance article about this guy, Ken Ilgunas, who graduated from college with a decent amount of student loans, moved to Alaska to work (with a 6 month AmeriCorp stint in Mississippi), lived super cheap and paid off all of his debt in just a couple of years. Good for him. Not a very original story but I give the guy props for not wanting to live in debt and doing what he needed to do to make sure that didn’t happen.

I can’t fault him for that. So kudos to you, Ken, for sucking it up to not be saddled with student loan debt. I can’t imagine Alaska at certain times of year was all that fun. (And am I the only one who wants to know how he handled that whole midnight sun thing? Because that would be interesting. He might have covered it in his book. I don’t know. I haven’t read it yet.). He displayed a good work ethic and desire to live debt free that maybe more of us should show.

But it kept going.

I'm not really sure what a picture of Rarity from My Little Pony has to do with this post but it looked appropriate. Also, she's my daughter's favorite.

I’m not really sure what a picture of Rarity from My Little Pony has to do with this post but it looked appropriate. Also, she’s my daughter’s favorite.

The story continued with how Ken decided he was “intellectually starved” from being on the road (more on this in a bit) and felt the need to return to grad school. And not just any grad school. Duke University. After a couple of years in Alaska, I’d pick somewhere warm, too. But why Duke? Was it the prestige? He claims it was because the school had an affordable liberal arts Masters program (let’s pause for a minute here and say this…a Liberal Arts Masters degree? I’m all for higher education but Ken. Really? You couldn’t pick something practical to further your education? What the hell are you doing to do with a Liberal Arts Masters that you can’t do without one? Hell, I have a Masters in Public Policy and it was hard for me to put that to use. And it’s a practical degree. Sort of) but I have other opinions.


A few thoughts on grieving and depression

Last week, in what I assume was an attempt to comment on the death of Cory Monteith, a woman I know commented on Facebook that the only deaths we should mourn are the unpreventable ones like murder, illness, and the like. That's right. She feels that those who die from a drug overdose, suicide, or anything that she's decided is preventable should not be mourned. Not by their families, friends, co-workers or anyone else. Because it was their choice to die.

It took every ounce of self-control I have not to tell her how I really feel. Because how dare she state that people like my next-door neighbor–a father, former public school teacher, and Afghan war vet who killed himself 2 months ago–do not deserve to be mourned. Or the middle and high school kids who can no longer stand the incessant bullying and can't see it ever getting better so they commit suicide. Or the addicts who are so deep into their addiction that their last high kills them.

They do deserve to be mourned. They deserve to be mourned because they lived. They deserve to be mourned because they were loved. They deserve to be mourned because mental illness and addiction are horrible diseases that, when you're in the throes, have such a stranglehold you begin to feel like a hostage. They deserve to be mourned because often, the problem is so deep and the affected suffers in silence because they just don't feel like anyone will understand. They deserve to be mourned because, as a society, we're so quick to dismiss mental illness. Particularly depression.

Don't believe me? Here's a smattering of what I was told when I was in the thick of mine:

“You need to learn to live with it and get back to work.”

“You can be happy if you really want to.”

“Everyone has depression. You're not any different.”

“You can get up and out of bed every day. It must not be that bad.”

“I known exactly how you feel.”

Some of those were said to me by medical professionals. I'll let you decide which ones. And because medical professionals have this attitude towards depression and other mental illnesses, it's no wonder so many people go untreated (those who are medicated or over-medicated or self-diagnosed or whatever is a totally separate discussion).

It doesn't help that well meaning “experts” and bloggers have permeated our culture with self-help books and blog posts and inspirational quotes telling us that depression really is just something we can cure if we want to. These individuals make us feel like it's a character flaw; that we're deficient in self-esteem or have some other weakness that causes depression. It's somehow our fault that we feel this way.

Bull shit. No one asks to be depressed–and I'm not just talking blue, I'm talking depressed (and to the lady shopping at The Body Shop who professed that she was depressed over the fact that the mall has a Cheesecake Factory and she had eaten elsewhere, I want to say, to paraphrase Fat Amy, not a good enough reason to use “depressed”)–because it. Is. The. Worst. It sucks to cry for no reason. It sucks to have zero motivation for anything. It sucks to feel unloved. It sucks to stop enjoying everything you once did. It sucks to be unable to laugh or feel most emotion except excessive sadness. It sucks to live in your own head, listening to the chorus of voices telling you that you don't matter (I've written before about what my depression looks like. Please read it if you have a chance).

And that? Is not easy to just “get over”. Because if it were, I, and so many others, would do just that. We'd put all the horrifying feelings and misery behind us and move on. We'd magically smile and laugh and start loving life again. It'd be easy to take a shower or walk the dog or go to work or do anything that's not sit on a couch or curl up in our beds, blocking out everything. Please realize this–even if a depressed person is engaging in those activities, it's exhausting for us. It takes every ounce of strength to feign acting normal and, when that's over, we're back in our pajamas, in the same corner on the couch. Because we don't know what else to do.

Depression isn't a choice. Who would choose to live in a perpetual state of numbness and sadness? No, depression is a disease. It's a chemical imbalance. And it's fucking torture. And it breaks my heart that so many people are suffering from this personal hell and the only escape they feel they have is suicide.

So to the Facebook woman, I say this–fuck you. If you don't want to mourn a celebrity who died of an overdose, then don't. But to say that anyone who dies from a reason you deem unacceptable doesn't deserve to be mourned shows what a compassionless asshole you actually are. And I hope you never know what it's like to have or love someone who has a mental illness or addiction. Because I can't imagine what you'd say then.