Basketball has given my son an outlet for his depression and anxiety. It's given him a focal point to practice something he truly enjoys and provides him with entertainment that pulls him away from his negative thought patterns. I'll always love the sport because of what it has given my son.
Throughout all my years of learning about improving my mental health and acknowledging my own personal growth, I sometimes think about how things in my life has happened for a reason. I love to self-reflect because it's a reminder of how far I've come since my days of kicking the dirt on the ground feeling defeated. Things happen for a reason. There's a cause and an effect, and if we choose to see an opportunity, greater things will come to surface given some time and patience.
In the last several months, I've made a conscious effort to put myself out there to broaden my peripheral view on life. I not only feel a boost in my self-esteem, but I also feel that I'm socially more comfortable in my own skin than ever before. I've attended a number of social functions where I knew very few to know one at all. I've gone to business seminars and conferences that I normally would have turned down the moment I heard they were taking place, and I went on a number of dates just for the hell of it. A dear friend once told me that going on dates is like going for a series of job interviews: you gain practice and experience hoping someday for that perfect match. As it stands right now, I remain unemployed.
Is it even possible? How does one regain their self-esteem lost from childhood abuse and trauma? What I've learned over the years is that low self-esteem in social situations can be common for childhood abuse and trauma survivors. I feel judged and begin analyzing what others might be thinking of me. I feel a discomfort in my breathing and suddenly my mind no longer pays attention to the social interactions going on, but rather on what my exit strategy is going to be. Perhaps it's a mild case of agoraphobia, the fear of feeling unsafe and trapped. Or maybe it's a trigger from my past.
If anyone is struggling in their relationships, family or work life, assess your history growing up and ask yourself how the environment may have shaped your present belief system. Did you grow up with a lot family violence, arguments and shaming? Were you violated as a child and put down often? Were there major transitions such as divorce of your parents, moving to a different region or the sudden loss of a loved one? Dig deep and learn more about how childhood events such as trauma and abuse impacted you.
Aren't you afraid of what people might think of you? Every now and then I get asked that question since I published Living with the Dragon, launched my online courses on mental health management and publicly opened up about my struggles in the past with depression, anxiety and anger. The initial fear of going public has long since passed. I overcame that fear of judgement because I also knew that very same fear is preventing me from making a significant difference to the mental health community, and it is the very same fear that kept my shame alive after all the years. And as everyone knows, when there's shame, we get stuck at a place of resentment, bitterness and external blaming.
As my collection of friends begin to show their age (with knee problems, high blood pressure, cholesterol challenges, balding), I sometimes think about some of my own aches and pains including my lower back and knees after playing intense games of basketball. And when I think about recent celebrities passing away at the young age of 75-80 years old, I begin doing the math of the remaining time I might have on this planet. So at the turn of the New Year, I reached several conclusions. Not resolutions. Conclusions.
We get thoughts that pop up in our head based on a memory. If your childhood was plagued by bad experiences of abuse, trauma, arguments and family violence, your brain became programmed to those negative experiences. The repetition and patterns of negative behaviors in a negative environment hard wired your brain to have recurring thoughts even as you get older. And since you get thousands of thoughts every day based on your experiences, you'll sometimes get these negative memories creep into your headspace, reminding you of those bad times. These reminders can make way for unhealthy behaviors. This is partly the reason behind depression and anxiety because we create these unhealthy thoughts from our past which creates the depression, and we respond with fear and anxiety.
My delightful millennial coworker Stella often teases me at work about my Gen X philosophies and idiosyncrasies. When I was in my 20's I never would have imagined going to bed at 8pm and that's one of the many things about me that she banters about. When I explained to her that on my dating profile, I included that I like to have meaningful conversations about life, she exploded in laughter pointing out that it's far too serious and a turn-off to say that. After her brief 101 on dating, I stood back and said yikes...she's right! Thus, I elected to save the meaningful conversations about life for a blog or with my close friends only.