I believe it’s critical for me to preface this post with some recent insight. I began working on this post about two months ago. For some reason I felt a lag in actually publishing it to the site. I recently discovered why. Three weeks ago someone very dear to me, my daughter’s father, chose to end his life. We’d broken up over two years ago and, honestly, stuck to a strictly co-parenting relationship. With that being said I did not really notice that he was apparently in a dark, depressed state. I learned many chilling details of his, very classic signs (from a nurse’s perspective) of depression and suicidal ideations, from others close to him, after his death. Trust and believe there will be some serious content from me in the near future on how we can ALL be aware of the symptoms of depression and/or suicidal thoughts and behaviors. My ex’s death crushed me and my daughters; the healing process is slow. We all need to be educated enough to help ourselves and loved ones should it prove necessary. For now please visit suicidepreventionlifeline.org and the National Institute of Mental Health if you or someone you know seem to be experiencing depression or suicidal thoughts.
We’ve all done it. I know I’ve been there. Mad at the world. I’m talking any and everyone who would listen was going to Catch. This. Pity. Party: “Girl, I’m so sick of my job!”, or “ Do you know so-and-so had the NERVE to reschedule my hair appointment?”, also; “ Sis, I don’t know why you are moving there. It’s too much traffic in that area.” Yikes. Now let me tell you, I’ve also been on the receiving end of those gripe-sessions and, spoiler alert; It’s no fun! I’m pretty sure that most of us, at one time or another (or always) fall into one of the two, if not both, following categories: 1) You love to glorify problems or; 2) You are the sounding board for other’s mile-long list of “Woe is Me’s”; Heaven help us if you fall into both categories. Either way, help me to help you stop being annoying/annoyed.
“What you are gaining by glorifying the negatives?”
Let me just say that there is nothing inherently wrong with venting from time to time. Talking it out is a form of coping; allowing a friend to do so is called support. Lending emotional support, on occasion, is pretty much a qualifying factor for friendship in my opinion. However, friend or not, it can be extremely taxing (emotionally, mentally and physically) to listen to someone’s serial complaints. And for the one who’s doing the complaining, I challenge you to really ask yourself: What you are gaining by glorifying the negatives?
I was listening to one of my favorite Pastor’s, Pastor Touré’s, podcast. Sidebar: PT’s wife, Sarah Jakes-Roberts, is my ULTIMATE fave (y’all know I’m all about my #girlpower). Anyhow, PT was doing a sermon about focus and peace. In short: he illustrated the importance of being very mindful of what you give your attention to as it will determine your perception, productivity and most importantly, your PEACE. My favorite part in the sermon was when he said: “ Some of you are weary because you’re worshiping your problem…you THINK about your problem all day, that’s meditation…you SPEAK on your problem all day, that’s praise…making an IDOL of your ISSUE and then wondering why your idol is rewarding you with FRUSTRATION!” Whew chile! I know I looked a fool when I heard that as I started slapping the steering wheel, and shouting in epiphany-like agreement! It’s so true. If we could just take a moment to acknowledge the problem and then move on to, drumroll please… THE SOLUTION, life could be just a little more productive and, maybe just maybe, people would actually enjoy being around us for more than three minutes at a time.
Once again, I’m no stranger to being the giver of“Bad News Bears”. Not my proudest moments. Admittedly, up until recently my default reaction to any unpleasantries that showed up on the “ big screen” of my life was to grab the popcorn, Kleenex and sit Indian-style in front of that screen; ready to be entertained by my own drama, fast forwarding through all the “solutions-based” commercials. Occasionally, I would allow others a front-row seat to my show as I acted out the climax of my sad stories; with no resolve or happy ending. After a while, people stopped wanting to attend the show. Much like watching reality shows, there’s only so many cuts and clips to highlight never-ending drama that people can intake routinely without feeling the blues. At least that’s true for me. But hey, I stopped watching reality shows about five years ago for that reason. I digress.
“…my mind was frequently a whirlwind of ‘Ughs’, ‘OMG’s, and ‘Damns’ “
It’s always been a challenge for me to make new friends. I believe part of that, aside from my issues with learning to trust, was due to negative energy I exuded because my mind was frequently a whirlwind of “ Ughs”, “OMG”s, and “Damns”. Not ironically, the people that tended to be drawn to me had similar energies and habits. No RSVP needed for the pity party!
The negative, ceaseless-problems mindset never served me and I’ll bet it doesn’t do much for you either. All it gifted me was insomnia, alopecia, migraines, gut issues and fatigue. This eventually got old for me after many years; but it took some rock bottoms, therapy, goodbyes, and a re-dedication to God for me to get to a healthier space. I’m now in a space where I welcome, if not crave, vibrant, authentic energies around me (when I decide to be around people) in an effort to not succumb to old die-hard habits.
“Unless you are offering solutions, I don’t need you to highlight the problems.”
The saying is “You are the company you keep”. It’s not that I’m trying to act brand new and think I’m better. It’s just that I know myself, how far I’ve come and ultimately where I’m trying to go. I can’t risk being around energy-suckers too long. It drains me, makes me anxious, and shifts my focus and frankly- I’ve got shit to do. I just don’t have that type of time anymore. I’m at a point now where my mindset is: “Unless you are offering solutions, I don’t need you to highlight the problems.”
All this is to say that if we set some healthy boundaries, and/or get to a place where we use most problems as an opportunity for improvement, maybe our focus can shift from attitudes of anxiety and despair to ones of focus, productivity and peace. And if you’ve been following me, you know my recent wave has been all about #protectyourpeace.
Please don’t get it twisted. I am thirty-six years old and I’m barely getting to this healthier place, and it takes intentional effort for me to stay here. I know it can be easier said than done. Like I mentioned, therapy, and God were instrumental to my shift. I also had to distance, or completely remove, myself from people or situations that allowed me to get comfortable ruminating in the doom-and-gloom.
Journaling is another therapeutic activity of mine. I will write it out. All the bad and icky that I’m feeling goes on paper. I’m sure my family and friends silently thank me as I now do less emotional dumping on them. Do what you have to do. Feel the feels: cry, curse, swing into the air like Tre in Boyz N the Hood, or scream into a pillow as I’m sure some woman on a Lifetime movie has done. Just don’t stay there too long if you can help it. People need you. You need you.
If a friend happens to need you to lend an ear while they vent, I think it would be wise to do a quick check-in with yourself to see if you are in a place to support them in a healthy way; if so, be a friend. I just think at some point we have to ask ourselves, and each other: “What’s the solution?”.
Stay a while and I’ll share some of my healthy-ish, environment-appropriate coping mechanisms that I use to keep me sane-ISH and solutions-motivated on future posts. I’d love to hear how you’ve worked to protect your peace lately so feel free to share in the comments below and don’t forget to subscribe to stay up to date on my latest blogs. Shalom!
FYI: For tips on setting some boundaries, which are a must for protecting your peace, click here:
PS: The above post is geared towards general, yet frequent, elective moments of negativity. If you find yourself in a more consistent, clinical sadness or emptiness that can’t be shaken, it may require professional help; and soon. In no way do I want to cause confusion as to minimize the seriousness of actual depression and how difficult of a battle it can be. Depression as well as many other mental illnesses are not to be taken lightly and should be addressed and/or treated under the direct supervision of a clinical practitioner.