Why I Blog and What Social Media Means for Me

I am a part of the way through something I am working on this summer that is causing me to have no time to follow the over 500 Facebook pages whose news appears on my feed on a daily basis that takes, easily, up to 4 hours a day to read through.  Reading everything in my Facebook feed requires me to be on Facebook on my commute to and from work (about 1 hour each way), plus 2 or so hours after I put my daughter to bed each night.  I’m fairly certain that all my Facebook friends–at least those that have NOT hidden me from their feeds–are relieved at not having to see every single time I Like a post with a Global setting (thank you, Mark Zuckerberg, for this ridiculousness).  Ha!

A couple of friends recently asked me if I plan to cut back from Facebook on a permanent basis, like I did with Twitter a couple years ago because that became too time consuming (and I was getting tired of the cliquey snark and popularity contests that left a bad taste in my mouth….and I don’t have time for that sh*t), and as a full-time employee with a long commute to/from work each day, I found it impossible to keep up with it.  At this point, I do not know.  I will have to see how it goes.  I must say, though, that it is so freeing not to have to feel like I MUST get through everything in my news feed every single day!  More time to do what I have to do.  Less stress.

A couple of friends also asked me if I planned to keep up blogging, to which I indicated that I will always keep up my blogging and advocacy for maternal mental health and anti-bullying.  They indicated it seems I have reached the end of my journey of documenting and processing my emotions and experiences that occurred before, during and after I had my daughter. But I told them that I will always need an outlet and I will always be passionate and outspoken about these two topics.  And after all, the origin of the word “blog” came from web log:  an online journal or diary, a means to get one’s thoughts and feelings out and at the same time sharing with individuals who can appreciate your posts.

I may not have amassed that large of a following, but what I do know is that I am reaching people on a daily basis who find me via certain key words.  I am content knowing that I continue reaching and helping others feel less alone with their experiences and I continue to spread awareness so fewer new moms will go through what I went through…..the original intent of this blog.

I am not using social media for popularity purposes.  In fact, on Facebook I choose to keep a very small circle of Facebook “friends.”  I limit this small circle to those I know IRL (in real life) or with whom I have corresponded regularly online for a certain length of time and with whom I feel very like-minded.  And if I know the person IRL, I have to have a positive relationship with that person (this is pretty logical, no?).

I’m not blogging strictly to see how many Likes or Shares I can get or friends I can make.  If that were the sole purpose, I would’ve stopped a long time ago.  Despite the fact that I have been blogging for over 5 years and people still haven’t heard of my blog–even in the field of maternal mental health–and certain individuals who used to support my blog but don’t any longer, I am going to keep on doing what I’m doing.

I’ve said this in previous posts that my blogging style (as straightforward, down to earth, genuine, no BS, and “what you see is what you get” as you’ll ever come across….which reflects the kind of person I am IRL) isn’t for everyone, and that’s okay.  Everyone is different. I am staying true to myself.

I care about new moms who feel as lost as I did when I first had my baby.

I care about teens who get bullied.

That is all.

Why Do People Feel Compelled to Bully and Cyberbully, Anyway?

TO THE BULLIES / CYBERBULLIES OUT THERE (and if you’re not completely convinced or aware that you are, in fact, a bully or cyberbully, read on):

Does bullying make you feel better about you, as a person?

Does cyberbullying make you feel more powerful, knowing you have X number of followers/friends (or shall I say groupies) that will jump at your beck and call and support you without question?  Even if what you are doing is tearing someone else down?

Picture a bully facing off with their target, in a hallway, in school.  This bully takes a swing.   The fist impacts the other person’s face.  The group surrounding the two grows, and witnesses start chanting “Go, go, go!”  The bully beats furiously on that person until his fist is all bloodied and bruised, and his anger has dissipated since he’s taken all his anger (from whatever was on their mind – may or may not have been related to the person they beat up) out on the poor individual he so furiously beat up.

It’s a shame people have such problems processing their emotions and getting a grip before unleashing their fists (or words, for that matter).   Or perhaps it’s an attempt to show that they are more dominant/popular?  Either way, it is a clear sign of a lack of impulse control, emotional intelligence, maturity in coping with whatever issue is going on…which is why you hear about all too many cases occurring in middle school and high school.

When I think cyberbullying, I instantly think of the teens online that are being taunted and hated online.  TEENS.  But it also happens among grown-ups.  Grown-ups TEND to have more of a better grasp on communication skills, they TEND to be more mature than children/teens, and as people grow older, their emotional intelligence TENDS to increase (but not everyone achieves emotional intelligence, without first resolving any of their own emotional/psychological issues first).  But yes, cyberbullying does occur among adults.  I haven’t really seen much of it myself…..and had the misfortune of witnessing it today.

cyberbullying

Why does the bully do what he does?  What makes a person want to beat down another person so bad that they aren’t happy until they see him all bruised and bloodied….or in cyberspace, completely alienated, humiliated with everyone turned against him?  Could the bullying have been triggered by something that occurred at home?   Not coming from a nurturing environment growing up?  Low self esteem reaching a boiling point he couldn’t stand it anymore and had to try to make someone else feel worse than him? Or on the other side of spectrum, a grandiose sense of being better/far more important than the other person and therefore having the right to do and say anything he feels like, even going so far as belittling, mocking, stepping all over that person (literally or figuratively), just because he feels he is more entitled, superior to the other person, and popular?

Could he not have taken out whatever it was that was bothering him so by writing in, say, a journal…or even a blog?  A much more peaceful and cathartic approach, don’t you think?  Well, one would think, but evidently, words can be just as detrimental and damaging as a fist.  A fist brings physical damage.  Words can bring emotional and reputational damage.  If a person goes on a warpath on someone else in cyberspace, with or without that person’s presence, well, that’s CYBERBULLYING.  They think they have a right– on their own Facebook page, blog, Twitter, or whatever the social media preference du jour happens to be–to unleash their fury with the purpose of taking someone else down.  They have an audience who is chanting in their favor, supporting them with comment after comment, that they are absolutely in the right, no questions asked.

But wait a minute.  If you witness a cyberbully on the rampage, before providing unquestioned and loyal support, do you have evidence that the person that is being cyberbullied is in the wrong, before publicly participating in cursing him out and saying hurtful things that are personal, even though he did nothing to you personally…and chances are, you don’t even know him?   Think first before acting.  Don’t behave like a flock of birds and take off from (or mimic) the slightest movement of one bird in the flock.  Think about this:  What exactly did he do that was so bad that it justified being trashed and his name get dragged through the mud?   Yes, you may be very fond of the person that’s on the rampage, but you have a mind of your own, don’t you?  How would you like to be on the end of this online trashing?

Putting out there in cyberspace words that are hurtful and spiteful, and not even necessarily true, with the purpose of shaming, alienating and damaging a person’s reputation, is completely the wrong way of coping and dealing with shit.  Cyberbullying is NEVER GOOD.

And for those who feel attacking someone they have been friendly with form some time, but then all of a sudden, something happens that they don’t appreciate and voila, they leap in motion online…and before you know it, words are said in cyberspace that can’t ever be completely wiped out….because, wouldn’t you know it?  You can take screenshots of those words.  Thank you, technology.

What I would love to know the answer to is what exactly makes a person so spiteful that a past, positive relationship/friendship means nothing to you?  When you are passionate about something but this other person doesn’t do exactly what you do to share your passion about something, but he does it in his own way?   Or you are miffed about something he did or said, or didn’t say or do.  One thing said or done by a person doesn’t warrant your humiliating him– on your Facebook page, Twitter feed, or whatever the social media do jour happens to be–via cursing and a string of nasty opinions for all your friends/followers to see and scoff at.  You are essentially assisting your friends in formulating opinions about this person without your friends ever having to meet that person IN REAL LIFE.  How right is this?  WELL, IT ISN’T RIGHT.  NOT AT ALL.  If you can’t talk things through and come to an agreement, fine, then go your separate ways.  But don’t turn on him and publicly humiliate him via cursing and spiteful words.

If you are a bully/cyberbully and can’t see that what you’re doing is wrong, then you have a long way to go in growing up and achieving the emotional intelligence you are so lacking at this point in time.

STOP BULLYING.  STOP CYBERBULLYING.

Taking down another person with willful intent to make them suffer emotionally and/or physically is DEAD. WRONG.

If you are a witness to bullying or cyberbullying, then step away.  There is no need for you to join the fray, especially if you don’t know the complete circumstances.

I have ZERO TOLERANCE for this shit.  <Note: I don’t normally cuss, but in this case, I am pissed>

#liftoneanotherup #donttakeeachotherdown #bullyingofanykindisbad #adultswhodoitneedtogrowup

Thoughts of Suicide and the Taboo of Discussing It

I think the title of my post speaks for itself, but just in case, I will add a trigger warning…

*** This post may be triggering if you are are emotionally vulnerable right now***

Below is an excerpt from a recent Facebook post over at the Angel Rehtaeh Facebook page I’ve been following since Rehtaeh Parsons of Novia Scotia died by suicide on April 7, 2013.  The cause of her attempted suicide has been blamed on the online distribution of photos of an alleged gang rape committed by four boys in November 2011, and subsequent persistent cyberbullying and bullying that took place that drove her to try to end her life.

As I’ve mentioned in past posts, I am just as concerned about girls’ mental health as I am about maternal mental health because there is risk of postpartum mood disorders occurring when there is a history of depression, bipolar disorder, or other mental health issue.  And as many of my blog followers already know, since I was a victim of bullying while growing up, I am just about as passionate an advocate for anti-bullying as I am an advocate for maternal mental health.  And mental health/depression and suicide as topics for discussion?  Still very taboo in our society today.  Yes, they are still very hush hush and make for awkward topics to talk about.  But not awkward enough for my lunch group today, which I had the pleasure of organizing as a mini reunion of four fellow Postpartum Support International (PSI) members from as far away as Arizona in addition to Long Island and of course, New Jersey.  Yes, we talked about suicide, among a number of other maternal-mental-health-related matters….not to mention our books (3 out of the 4 PSI members are book authors).

Not speaking up about suicide is just like not speaking up about mental health….it doesn’t do anyone any good.  It just keeps it a completely taboo topic.  It makes people who experience it feel ashamed and alone, when in fact they are far from alone.   People with suicidal thoughts may feel like no one cares and no one will ever understand what they are going through.  That’s simply not true.  There are always people who care.  The key is whether you spoke to the right person about what you’re going through.  When I say right person, I mean a loved one whom you trust and can help connect you with someone who is trained to help those who are in a dark place say that there truly is a light at the end of the tunnel.

The following excerpt is being quoted with permission from Rehtaeh’s mother, Leah Parsons:

The sad part about thoughts of suicide and the taboo of discussing it is that so many people especially teenagers go through times where they have these thoughts. Instead of acknowledging that these thoughts are more common than we know…we make people feel like there is something “wrong” with them. That somehow they are “weak” and can not handle life’s pressures. Schools need more talk of mental health- not less. Not talking about mental health does not equal less suicides. Actually, talking with supports in place is the answer to helping peoples – especially teens deal with their emotional struggles.  So what would I say to someone who is wanting to leave this beautiful world?
I would say:

1. You are not alone.
2. This too shall pass….what seems like the darkest of days can lead you to the brightest light.
3. When we come out of darkness we have a better lense in which to view the world.
4. Find the smallest of things to look forward to everyday. It can be the feeling of crawling under your comfy blankets at night. Embrace comfort!
5. Ask for guidance to something bigger than yourself…even if you don’t believe in God, ask the Universe..you will get an answer but you have to be present. Listen,be present for that opportunity!
6. Look around you for beauty….it’s there and inside of you too.
7. Find one person you trust…find “YOUR” therapy whatever that may be…explore that.
8. Look around you at the people who love you…you matter to them even if it feels like your a burden…thats not true that is something you are feeding yourself to confirm your negative feelings. Its a trick your mind plays with you when you are down.
9. Life is hard and again YOU ARE NOT ALONE.
10. What seems like desperation and sadness today is not permanent….it will not always be that way.
11. Don’t compare your journey to another.
12. Someone else may seem strong and have everything going for them, but they too will struggle or are struggling.
13. You are loved…find the love in you and feed yourself the way you would a friend that is down.
14. Listen to your thoughts, is that how you would talk to a friend? Be that friend to yourself!
15. Please Stay there will never be another YOU!

I would like to end this post with a reminder to reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Hotline if you are feeling like you are at the end of your rope, there is no hope, there is no way out of the situation that is making you feel so bad, and/or your loved ones would be better of without you.  Contrary to what you believe, your loved ones will NOT be better without you.

Let’s Face It, Your Kids Can’t Avoid Bullies and Mean Kids – But You Can Help Them Develop Problem Solving Skills

*** This post may be triggering if you are suffering from postpartum depression (PPD) and are sensitive to negative news events ***

I am so tired of feeling devastated, seeing the constant posts of children taking their own lives.  Reading about teen suicides that seem to be occurring more and more frequently is truly heartbreaking.

There’s 11 year old Michael Morones who was bullied (and is now in a persistent vegetative state from hanging himself) for being a My Little Pony fan.  Every time I see his beautiful face on my Facebook feed, I just want to break down and cry.

Then there’s Ashley Payton who was driven to bullycide on February 5, 2014,  just shy of her 16th birthday.  A girl who was so beautiful and yet was convinced she wasn’t.  Self esteem issues seemingly at play here, as is at the heart of all too many other teen-related issues like eating disorders (anorexia/bulimia), cutting, drugs, and depression….just to name a few.

And finally, there’s the article in the Clarion Ledger dated April 12, 2014 titled “Anti-bullying Laws Fail to Stem Youth Suicide” by Emily Le Coz, which is what motivated me to write this post today.  The article reveals frightening statistics of the numbers of youth suicides each year and how bullying is most often cited as the root of the epidemic, despite anti-bullying laws in place in most states.  The article mentions 15-year-old Lyndsey Taylor Aust, bullied for merely having acnie, was but one of THREE suicides in her school within ONE MONTH period (this is what is referred to as a “contagion effect”).

Sure, schools have some form of anti-bullying policy in place, but I have yet to hear about a school that has an effective one.  For one thing, instead of an environment of transparency in schools, you have one that is controlled by fear that stems from the stigma of depression and suicide. Instead of transparency and a culture that TRULY cares about the welfare of students, schools fear doing anything to change the negative culture, hence the sweeping of depression, suicide and bullying under the rug.  There is a price to pay for such willful ignorance.  Look at what happened at Scott County Central High School in Mississippi….three suicides in ONE MONTH.

The fact of the matter is our children are feeling hopeless and helpless enough to end their own precious lives.  There have been arguments that bullying is not necessarily the sole and direct cause of all youth suicides.  That it might just be “the straw that broke the camel’s back.” Well, there is ABSOLUTELY a correlation between victims of bullying and suicidal thoughts and attempts, according to a study published in the March 2014 edition of JAMA Pediatrics.  You can also review the booklet posted over on the CDC website titled The Relationship Between Bullying & Suicide.  Both parents and educators should familiarize themselves with this information.

If there are self esteem issues that are leading toward changes in behavior/sleep/eating, depression should be looked at and treated. In a number of recent cases I’ve read about recently, I noticed that parents indicated there was absolutely no sign whatsoever that anything was out of the ordinary.  Their children seemed like their happy, normal selves.  I don’t know any of these families’ situations, but there is a greater tendency to bully or be bullied in the following situations in which a stable support system is lacking:

  1. Greater numbers of single parents than ever before
  2. Dual-career parents who are busy working long hours at full-time jobs and spending less time at home with the kids and providing positive behavior role modeling, interaction, and simply listening opportunities
  3. Risk factors for depression and other mental health issues, like eating disorders, self esteem issues, family history of mental illness, extreme poverty, emotional/physical abuse, lack of nurturing, etc.

I am not in any way blaming any parents whose children took their own lives.  I’m imploring ALL parents to be more in tune with their children. If there is an underlying mental health issue, then PLEASE get help for them.  If you see that there are changes in demeanor, behavior, diet, and sleep, please observe, talk to and listen….REALLY LISTEN TO WHAT THEY HAVE TO SAY AND REALLY OBSERVE THEIR BEHAVIOR AND MANNERISMS CLOSELY.  If they refuse to open up to you, please try to get them a neutral third party–someone experienced with teen issues and depression, like a family counselor–to talk to them.  Put aside any feelings of shame or fear from the stigma of mental illness.

If you are of the camp of parents who believes the best way your children will learn to adapt to and survive in this world is by doing it with very little to no guidance from you, I implore you to put aside any feelings you may have that, since you toughed it up and lasted through mean kids and got through tough times in school, your child can too.  Don’t think for one second that what you went through growing up back in the 60s, 70s or 80s is the same as growing up today in the 21st century when kids are heavy users of social media and can be cyberbullied day and night via texting, Twitter, Facebook, Instragram, and online forums in which teens “hang out” in an often anonymous fashion.  Anonymity affords cyberbullies/trolls access to an easy–albeit even more cowardly than in-person bullying–means to harass, intimidate and taunt in a public forum, and gives others to join in/gang up to make an emotionally vulnerable young individual miserable.  And put aside the belief that it’s impossible for them to ever have any mental health issues because “depression just doesn’t happen to anyone in my household; I wouldn’t allow them to be weak like that.”

In these cases–since we all know that middle and high schools are a breeding ground for kids undergoing hormone changes who, as part of the socialization process that goes with growing up, try to assert themselves in inappropriate ways–we need to ensure our children are prepared.  I’m  not saying we need to be like the helicopter parents that are so oft criticized in parenting articles, and solve all our kids’ problems so we can keep them out of harm’s way.  No, not at all.  I’m saying that we need to provide guidance to our children.  After all, that’s what parents do.  We use our own experiences and wisdom gained from living and learning….and from our own parents.  From the time our children are toddlers, we teach/coach/guide our children to feed themselves, go potty themselves, talk, stand up, walk, change themselves, brush their teeth, behave appropriate/use inside voices in public spaces…and so on.

I can’t help but view a school as one huge boxing ring within which kids are forced to demonstrate their survival skills.  Because school ends up being where kids spend most of their time every day of the school year, it’s not unreasonable for me to say that every school district should help kids with training on how to cope with mean kids.  In fact, I fervently believe schools should be mandated to add to their curriculum–for first grade all the way through twelfth grade–a year long training on social skills.

It’s one thing that schools observe a Week of Kindness every October.  That’s only five days out of a 183-day school year.   Schools will generally have a mission that includes words like emotional wellness, appreciation of diversity, fostering respect.  But let’s face it, since we can’t even get the majority of schools in this country to deal with bullying effectively, the responsibility for teaching our kids coping skills rests on parents.

It is inevitable that there are mean kids in every school.  What we need to focus on is how to provide our children with guidance on how to cope with mean kids.  It is crucial that parents teach their children to adapt to and survive in this world by nurturing, guidance, and simply being there for them.  Providing guidance is not the same thing as making things easier for our kids and fixing all their issues so down the road they have no problem solving skills of their own. I’m talking about helping our children develop skills they need to fix their own problems. Self esteem is a huge issue for all too many teens. Not every teen is going to know how to let mean behavior slide like it took me years to learn how to do myself.

Resources I would like to recommend for both parents and educators (I am early in my research, so more to come in future blog posts):

Your Voice is Yours – Don’t Ever Let Anyone Take That Away from You

Standing up for principle–and standing up for yourself– is important, especially if you know you don’t deserve someone’s negative comments and/or behavior.  All my life I’ve been about principle.  All my life I’ve had difficulty in standing up for myself, mainly because I’m not witty enough to come up with a response, rebuttal–or what have you– on a dime.  But as I mentioned in my recent Brave post, I’m getting better at it!

Ever get backed into a corner with people accusing you of things that just aren’t true?  Constructive feedback is one thing, but false accusations are completely different….and needless to say, bad.  Period.  And in response to false accusations, you absolutely MUST be able to defend yourself.  If you are ever judged or accused of anything wrongly–whatever circumstance this may be, whether it be by a family member, a friend, a fellow student, a teacher, a boss, a colleague, a doctor, someone on the Internet–you have a voice to express yourself (within reason, of course) either verbally and/or in writing.  Use it!  Don’t ever let anyone take that away from you!

If you are suffering from postpartum depression (PPD) and your experience is minimized by someone and/or someone is saying hurtful things to you and/or people are giving you unsolicited advice that is not helping matters one bit, don’t hesitate to use your voice and stand up for yourself.

If you are suffering from PPD and your doctor is not listening to you and/or is treating you in a sub par fashion, tell him that as your doctor, he needs to listen to you and treat you better.  If this is a new doctor who doesn’t “get it” when it comes to PPD, then don’t continue to try to cope with it.  Find a new doctor who “gets it.”

If you are a new mom that is having difficulty breastfeeding and/or wish to supplement with formula (or want to feed your baby formula, period), and lactation consultants, doctors or anyone else who tries to make you feel guilty about that decision, then tell them to back off.  Tell them that how you feed your baby is YOUR choice to make (with your significant other, if applicable).

If a teacher, boss or colleague is bullying you and/or creating an environment that is uncomfortable for you, tell them how you feel and escalate if attempts to reason with them lead to a dead end. 

If you are a student and you find yourself being the target of a bully, don’t relinquish control to them.  Don’t let them know that you are intimidated or bothered by them. It’s important, first of all, to unplug (from social media).  That gives them less weapons for attacking.  Next, document, document, document!  One technique you may be able to use is referred to as baffling the bully.  In other words, come up with a response that throws the bully completely for a loop.  Make it clear that you are unphased by their antics (I know this is hard, but it’s worth trying…not just once, and DO IT EARLY ON).  Be familiar with your state laws concerning bullying.  Make sure you tell multiple individuals, including your parents.  Do not endeavor to undertake this on your own or think that by simply walking away or ignoring it will make it stop.  No one deserves to be bullied.  None of this is your fault.  The bully is the one with the issue, not you.

I could go on and on with examples, but I think you get the picture.

I saw a meme pop up on my Facebook feed the past weekend the words of which struck home with me:

One of the lessons that I grew up with was to always stay true to yourself and never let what somebody else says distract you from your goals. And so when I hear about negative and false attacks, I really don’t invest any energy in them, because I know who I am.  ~ Michelle Obama

Here is the First Lady of the United States who, just like the President himself, are on a daily basis being criticized.  But they both can’t defend themselves from the onslaught of criticisms–most of which are based on prejudism, willful ignorance, illogical reasoning, brainwashing (you are told to think/feel a certain way because x generations of people in the family and community have felt that way for centuries) and just a plain ol’ need to hate, period.  First of all, they can’t possibly address every criticism.  But most importantly, why should they?  The President and First Lady have goals, and they have a commitment to stick with them.

They are, however, in quite a different situation than you and me.  We are not receiving criticisms daily all over the Internet from trolls who have nothing better to do with their time.  The average person who is not a celebrity will just receive criticisms–both warranted and unwarranted (sadly, you can’t prevent the latter)–and you have to deal with them as best as possible, and move on.  Do your best not to dwell on it.  Takes way too much of your energy…energy that could be spent on more productive things.

REMEMBER, everyone is unique in their own way….

Some are verbose, some are succinct.
Some are emotive, some are restrained.
Some are passionate, some are apathetic.
Some are neat, some are messy.
Some choose words wisely, some are inclined to “open mouth, insert foot.”
Some fear confrontation, some do not fear confrontation.
Some are introverts, some are extroverts.
Some are tall, some are short.
Some are generous, some are stingy.
Some are kind, some are mean.
Some are narrow-minded, some are open-minded.
Some are good listeners, some are bad listeners.
Some like it hot, some like it cold.
Some see black/white, some see in numerous shades of grey.
Some are passive, some are aggressive.

You get the picture….oh, and by the way, some are also passive-aggressive…a personality disorder that is included in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM)-IV.  Keep that in mind too.

The trick is this, and guess what I am going to say next?  Yes, EMPATHY.  Try to imagine yourself in the other person’s shoes.  It just might teach you something and help you become more open-minded and accepting of others.

Anyway, I just whipped up my own e-card via Some ECards of the sign I would want to flash every. single. time someone puts you in a situation that makes you feel bad:

To sum up this post:

  • Many challenges will be thrown your way during the course of your lifetime.
  • Try your best to keep things in perspective.
  • You have a voice…..use it!
  • Your voice is yours.  Don’t ever let anyone take that away from you.
  • Stay true to yourself.
  • Don’t invest any energy on anyone who is against for your whatever reason…it’s not worth it.

Be Brave, Say What You Wanna Say

Every single word in Sara Bareille’s wonderfully inspirational song “Brave” has meaning.  Very important meaning.  Funny that this song has been out for a while, and yet I’ve only heard it on the radio a couple of times before today.  Before this song, I just knew Sara to be a former judge on The Sing Off, my FAVORITE show of all shows.  Then, a few days ago, she performed the song at the People’s Choice Awards.  Today, with some leisure time on my hands, I decided to blog about this song.  Wanting to include a link to the video for this post, I watched the song’s video on YouTube.  It is just as uplifting to me as the song itself is.  What a beautiful singer, video, and lyrics!  She absolutely deserves her five 2014 Grammy nods among which are Album of the Year and Best Pop Solo Performance for such an uplifting song with meaningful lyrics….and a great beat, to boot!

I know this song was inspired by a friend of hers that was struggling to “come out,” but the words are totally fitting for bullying and everyday situations (see words below, paraphrased for everyday context):

No more running away.
     Free yourself from and face your fears.
          Be brave.
               Say what you wanna say, and let the words fall out.
                    Say what’s on your mind.
                         Don’t let your thoughts and words stay bottled up inside you.
                              What will silence accomplish?
                                   Speak up.

Words can have a powerful impact–both positive and negative.  People bully and say hurtful things to others in an attempt to make themselves feel better about themselves.  Bullies are generally proof positive that the apple tends not to fall far from the tree–the exact words used by me and a few others in a Facebook conversation I had earlier today regarding bullying behaviors of adults and children.  In other words, if parents are mean and behave in a bullying fashion to other adults and even their own family members–basically providing a non-nurturing environment for their children–then they are setting bad examples for their kids to follow suit and teaching their kids the wrong way to interact with others.  Kids in these households are often stuck in an environment that is short on love and long on abusive (emotional and sometimes even physical) situations.

Standing up for principle–and standing up for yourself– is important, especially if you know you don’t deserve someone’s negative comments.  In all too many situations in the past, especially during my painfully unpleasant teenage years and first decade or so of my career, I was the brunt of people’s jokes over my appearance, my ethnicity, and my name (“Poison Ivy”)…. and all sorts of other put downs.  As I’ve mentioned many times previously, I didn’t have any friends in my high school.  To this day, I refuse to acknowledge the town I spent over 2 decades living in, or even the high school I attended.  No point, really. I’m sure I’m not the only one who wishes there was a way to take the knowledge and experience we now have and time travel back to our teenage years and tell off the people who gave us grief.  If only I could time travel back to my high school and tell people exactly what I would tell them today.  If only…

Unfortunately, I only have regrets for what could have been.  But at least I now feel confident and empowered to say what is really on my mind.  From reading my blog–especially posts like the last one that touches on breastfeeding zealotry–you more than likely never would have thought I’d have any problems voicing my honest opinion on situations that irk me.  I certainly don’t hold back when it comes to writing.  However, responding to in-person situations is very different and has been a challenge for most of my life.  I’ve never been witty or quick-minded enough to reply to rude remarks with a spontaneous comeback.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I seem to have reached a turning point in the past couple of years in terms of being able to speak my mind–exactly what’s on my mind, unfiltered–and one example comes immediately to mind because it just happened two days ago…and ended up as a Facebook post I wrote during my fun commute home from NYC:

Me:  (addressing the guy in the row ahead of where I was trying to sit, seeing how there is like no leg room for me because his seat is so far reclined): “Excuse me, can you raise the back of your seat a tad? I’ve got short legs and they won’t even fit in that tiny space.”

Guy: (moves seat up a half inch, if that much)

Me: (squeezing underneath reclined seat): “Thank you……oh, and I’m being totally sarcastic.”

Guy: (turns and glares at me)

Guy next to me: (turns to look at me with amused look on his face)

Me: (oops, I was supposed to think that, not say that out loud, while smiling back at my neighbor…ha!)

I truly surprised myself when those words “I’m being totally sarcastic” came right out of my mouth.  You should’ve seen the look on my face when I realized what I’d just done (i.e., speaking as if I were writing my thoughts down).  So, maybe this is a turning point in comebacks for me.  :)  Or….. as I get older, I’m finding that I’m spending less time filtering and more time speaking my mind.   GO ME!!!

Being Thankful and Paying it Forward

The inspiration for today’s post came just in the nick of time for Thanksgiving.

Have you stopped to appreciate any of the gifts surrounding you?  I know some people who regularly ask themselves and share openly with others the 3 things that happened that day for which they were most grateful.  Gratitude is an important component of self care.  Gratitude is important for good health and well being, in general.

First, I’d like to share the 5 things my daughter is thankful for in this picture (I’m so proud of her work):

syd_thankful

My daughter’s gratitude turkey

As for me, I am thankful for many things on the list of 60 (link above), but the 4 things I am most thankful for are:

  1. I’m employed and I actually like my job (except when people yell at me for no good reason other than they’re lacking in self control and emotional intelligence, and that I think I deserve a lot more recognition for my efforts than I actually receive).
  2. My family.
  3. My postpartum depression (PPD) and my bullying experience during my lonely, friendless junior and high school days.
  4. My ability to be highly empathic.

Wow, my teenage and 20-something self would think I’ve lost my mind for saying I’m thankful for both my PPD and bullying experiences.  No, I haven’t lost my mind.  My PPD and bullying experiences allowed me to cultivate the EMPATHY that I’ve always possessed but didn’t always realize I had.  Because by experiencing these negative events firsthand, I can say that I TRULY understand.  I KNOW what it’s like to be excluded, gossiped about, and made fun of.  I KNOW what it’s like to be blindsided by a sudden darkness at a time that should be so happy (my first few months as a mother).

EmpathyWas I born with empathy?  I don’t know.  What I do know is that I have a ton of it.  That, and after all these years, I can finally say I possess a high EQ (emotional intelligence).  Emotional intelligence is something you need to have if you want to succeed at work.  And I sure know quite a number of people who could use a greater dose of it.  Because these very same people cause my blood pressure to go up needlessly.  I keep my behavior in check and move along.  Previously, a conflict would have set me back, preventing me from being productive and making me dwell on the situation for days….basically causing me a great deal of angst.

In my recent blog post, I mentioned the two Facebook groups I belong to, in which I try to provide online support to teens and moms on a daily basis.  So, I won’t go into more detail on them now.  I just wanted to mention, since the spirit of this blog post is about being thankful, that I am thankful I have the ability to see things from someone who has had PPD and from someone who has been bullied.  That is why I have become so passionate in these two areas.

What frustrates me are conversations I have about bullying and PPD that go around in perpetual circles, like the conversation I tried to have with someone yesterday.  I cannot get certain people to truly see what it is like to be bullied or to feel hopeless to the point of wanting to end the suffering….permanently.   For every scenario I come up with — whether it be a child who is being relentlessly pursued online and being verbally tormented or stalked in person and physically attacked — these individuals will come up with a “Well, I would tell my child to avoid such situations.”  Okay…..but you can only avoid cyberbullying and physical/verbal bullying in school to a certain and all too limited extent by “unplugging” (staying off social media, not have smart phones with texting capability) and avoiding bullies in school (what about being ambushed in the bathroom or merely walking down the hall to get from one class to the next or standing at your locker?).  When kids want to bully, they can be vicious and persistent…and they WILL find ways to get around your avoidance of them.  There are some real sociopathic kids out there (take the case of the 2 girls in Lakeland, Florida, who bullied Rebecca Sedwick to death this past September).   True, as a parent, you can arm your children with approaches to minimize the likelihood of your being a target of bullying.  You can get your child involved in activities and friends–not just classmates but friends from activities outside of school like through Church, Brownies, Girl Scouts, Cub Scouts,  Boy Scouts, sports, dance, gymnastics, music, martial arts — to give him/her the opportunity to make friends outside of school, give him/her a sense of camaraderie and fellowship with others who share similar interests, as well as build self confidence and identify what he/she likes to do and is good at doing.

ISL_I will always be there for you But if your child does in fact get bullied, then you sure as heck need to come up with ways to provide SUPPORT, SUPPORT, SUPPORT.  As a parent, that’s the FIRST thing you need to do.  Support would include things like thinking about strategies, finding resources/support groups (like Stand for the Silent), documenting incidents, and finding the right places to go to to report a situation and obtain results.  All too many school officials cover up incidents, turn a blind eye, and let bullying situations get out of hand just so they don’t have to deal with it.  There is absolutely NO EXCUSE for any of that.

So, for the people who don’t understand the impact bullying can have on a child and the impact depression can have on anyone–both young and old–and why all too many feel so desperate as to end their lives, I suggest you take the time to read some of the stories that get posted on social media and in the news.  Read about Rebecca Sedwick’s case and Grace McComas’ case, join the closed Facebook group Stand for the Silent and hear firsthand about the desperation, isolation, hopelessness that some teens feel.  All too many are at the end of their rope.  And it breaks my heart.  I want to do so much more for these young folks who have so many more years ahead of them to really learn about life, learn from their experiences, and really enjoy all that life has to offer — like the arts (music, literature, motion pictures, photography), sports, nature, traveling, and even helping and making a difference for others.  With the exception of sports (ha!), all these things make me see how I was given a gift of life and I sure as heck want to appreciate all the days I’ve got left.  I’ve got my bucket list, do you?

Unfortunately, not everyone is going to have the desire to pay it forward.  Their attitude is the following when it comes to situations like bullying and PPD:

Well, I suffered.  They can suffer much in the same way I suffered, without help or support, and feeling lonely, helpless and the end of my rope.  If I survived, they can too.  If they can’t, well then I guess we’ll call it fate.

Then, specifically for bullying:

It is, after all, a rite of passage….this thing called bullying.  Parents nowadays are overprotecting their children, and as a consequence, their children will be sheltered from valuable life experiences that are supposed to begin when they are young.  If they can’t deal with bullying, then how will they ever survive a day in the life of an adult?

gratitude

I would like to end this post with this as food for thought:

What are YOU thankful for?  Have you experienced PPD or some other life-changing event, and come out of it feeling thankful for the experience and determined to turn the event into a positive by helping others get through similar events?  Please think about it.  There are many people out there in need of support.  Would you have wanted to receive support when you were in your darkest moments?  If yes, then I think you’ll find, just as I’m finding, that paying it forward will give you a great amount of pleasure knowing you are making a difference for someone else.  In fact, you could be saving a life.

Thank you for reading this blog post.  And have a very Happy Thanksgiving!