Life is a bit of pyramid scam. As you grow up, you get a bigger cut of the action. But there’s no difference between you and the other people in the pyramid. They just got into the game at different times.

Having worked as a high school teacher and as a corporate consultant, I have yet to hear anything from the kids I taught or the adults I facilitated that sounded especially “grown up” or “not grown up”. Regardless of age, people deal with anxiety (or don’t deal with it) in the same ways. Some adults never learn to deal with their mental health challenges in a healthy way, while some kids can learn how to overcome those same challenges at a very young age and continue building a strong self-care and recovery practice throughout the rest of their lives.

I’m a huge fan of growing older. I get better at taking care of my health with each year that passes. That’s the complete opposite to how things were in the past when my mental health got worse with each year that passed. When I struggled with mental illness, I was terrified of each year added onto my age because it was just another year that I’d sunk into compulsions and depression and catastrophising. I was only creating lists of regrets and excuses. But in a way, I wasn’t really growing. I was getting older, but there was no growing going on.

When we speak anxiously or negatively about growing up, it’s probably because there isn’t much growing going on.

Growth takes conscious, concerted effort. When we’re open to learning and change, and we’re present in the experiences we’re having, then growth is possible and enjoyable. But if we approach life with a rigid mindset and a mind that’s anywhere but the present, then growth isn’t possible and we fly past life trapped in a cage we helped to build.

Grow healthy!

Mark

Yoshitomo Nara is one of my favorite artists - not just because of the visual style of his pieces, but because of the personality he puts inside them. When I went to Japan earlier this year, I picked up a wonderful book on his works and was pretty surprised to see how deep they went into his personality. Nearly all of his pieces are self-portraits - telling a story of a part of his life that existed at one time or another. And while the emotional cues of his works can be hard to get in exact words, to me they always come somewhere between happiness, guilt, melancholy, and longing for attention. 

Portraits of people have this strange ability to portray a life story of one place in time. If done well, you can start to imagine the feelings and experiences the subject has been through or lived at one time. And even if the subjects are fictional, like Yoshitomo’s, you can get a sense of the painter or photographer that created it. It becomes a self-portrait.

Like the themes of many of Yoshitomo’s paintings, I grew up feeling like I had to hide my emotions in public. And sometimes, these emotions would explode because I felt like I had no one to talk to. Whenever I look at his paintings, I feel a rush back to my childhood memories where my imaginations ran wild, but I felt like I had to contain them all. I was often afraid of what people thought, so I had the impression from many people that I was just a quiet person by nature.

When I was comfortable with the people around me or the place that I was in, I was really far from it. I remember hours and hours playing and imagining all kinds of stuff - from movies to sci-fi inventions and designing crazy buildings. So I’d act out, draw, or build things out of whatever I found around my house. For a time, I felt like I had my own place for my ideas and I wasn’t afraid of what people thought. As I got older though, the balance tipped. I got more concerned about what other people thought of my ideas, and I got afraid to express them as time went on. I stopped playing and building for awhile - that’s just what kids do, right?

Lately I’ve been thinking a lot about how things have changed since my childhood. While the world is more complex than you can understand when you’re younger, I think it’s really important to hold on to the experimental, playful part. Because it’s so easy to forget and dismiss, that it’s in the dullest of moments where regaining a sense of that can help. I’ve tried to be really aware of that, and I’ve probably played with ideas and built more things in the last 6 months than I have in years.

Every time I feel like I’m losing touch with that side, I try to remember how Yoshitomo’s paintings are made. First, with a playful splash of colors - slightly structured, but rough and natural. Then some outlines, with more colors to start the structure of a face and some features. Eventually, we see a defined face, but it’s still soft and glowing - as if it’s powered by the energy of the first few layers of paint.

- Matt

When I grow up, I want to be hokage.

When I grow up, I want to be hokage.

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therapy101:

propitlikeithot:

This may be the wrong place to ask, but does anyone in the San Diego county area know of a good Family Practitioner? Preferably one that’s mental health (anxiety specifically) friendly and female? I recently had a bad experience with my first visit with one and I’m getting the feeling I’m gonna…

It can be really tough to find a GP or other doc who is knowledgable and understanding about mental health- the majority of MDs receive very little/no training in mental health specifically and are mostly trained to see mental health problems from a medical perspective (which makes sense to some extent, since they are medical professionals, but leaves a treatment gap and can be super frustrating).

My general advice would be to get a referral from a mental health professional, ideally one you know and trust. Ask them who they think would be a good fit for you, or who they’ve worked with in the past and felt like understood mental health issues. You might also see which providers are working with mental health providers (in an interdisciplinary office or agency)- those people are more likely to have resources and interactions with mental health so they’ll be more knowledgable. Always feel free to ask questions before you decide to see someone!

It is tough! But it’s totally normal to have an experience where a GP (or a therapist) isn’t very effective or knowledgeable. I’ve had clueless GPs and GPs that helped me game the system so I could jump barriers to get help.

Therapy101 gave some great advice up there. I don’t have any experience with receiving therapy in southern California, but I’ve had some interaction with the OCD Centre of LA http://www.ocdla.com/ and they share many tips and resources that I’ve found accurate and insightful. They might be able to point you towards some GPs that they’ve worked with in your area.

It’s awesome that you’re talking about this and gathering resources to get the help you want. Keep at it!

Way back during the Renaissance, a guy named Baldassare Castiglione wrote a book called “Il Cortegiano” about how to be a great courtier—which is like a Renaissance-era reality TV star that hangs around rich people all day tossing out witty one-liners. He had a lot of advice about being funny because if you’re not a funny courtier, nobody’s going to want you in their court. He said that we basically only laugh at things that are “incongruous”—things that seem a little off from our expectations, but aren’t totally misaligned with our expectations.
So dumping a bucket of Gatorade on the head of a blushing bride is funny. I don’t expect that to happen, but it’s possible because it’s a common thing we do to celebrate winning. Hooray!
But to the bride it might not be funny. Maybe she doesn’t want her hair ruined, or her dressed stained fluorescent green. Getting a bucket of Gatorade dumped on her isn’t incongruous with her expectations of reality, it’s incongruous with her desires. And when something is incongruous with our desires, we get angry.
There is a very thin line between humor and anger. An expectation is very similar to a desire. If you’ve ever told a joke that resulted in many people yelling at you or sending you angry Tweets, you’ve experienced the ambiguity of where different people draw that line.
Where you draw that line for yourself has serious health implications. Laughter is connected with a variety of health benefits, like helping blood vessels function better, while anger is connected with a variety of health risks, like increased risk of heart attacks.
So for your own health, if you’re often struggling with anger, instead of trying to tackle the anger, try examining your desires instead. There’re probably some unhealthy desires you can toss out so you can bring more laughter (and health) into your life.
- Mark

Way back during the Renaissance, a guy named Baldassare Castiglione wrote a book called “Il Cortegiano” about how to be a great courtier—which is like a Renaissance-era reality TV star that hangs around rich people all day tossing out witty one-liners. He had a lot of advice about being funny because if you’re not a funny courtier, nobody’s going to want you in their court. He said that we basically only laugh at things that are “incongruous”—things that seem a little off from our expectations, but aren’t totally misaligned with our expectations.

So dumping a bucket of Gatorade on the head of a blushing bride is funny. I don’t expect that to happen, but it’s possible because it’s a common thing we do to celebrate winning. Hooray!

But to the bride it might not be funny. Maybe she doesn’t want her hair ruined, or her dressed stained fluorescent green. Getting a bucket of Gatorade dumped on her isn’t incongruous with her expectations of reality, it’s incongruous with her desires. And when something is incongruous with our desires, we get angry.

There is a very thin line between humor and anger. An expectation is very similar to a desire. If you’ve ever told a joke that resulted in many people yelling at you or sending you angry Tweets, you’ve experienced the ambiguity of where different people draw that line.

Where you draw that line for yourself has serious health implications. Laughter is connected with a variety of health benefits, like helping blood vessels function better, while anger is connected with a variety of health risks, like increased risk of heart attacks.

So for your own health, if you’re often struggling with anger, instead of trying to tackle the anger, try examining your desires instead. There’re probably some unhealthy desires you can toss out so you can bring more laughter (and health) into your life.

- Mark

Several weeks back, I was in a store purchasing a flower. The cashier, while ringing me up, asked if I was buying the flower for myself. I responded that I wasn’t, paid, and went on my way. As I was biking home, I thought: “Who buys flowers for themselves?” It seemed a bit strange to me, but as I really thought about it, I wondered why I’ve never bought flowers for myself… I like flowers — I think they’re pretty, they’re not particularly expensive in small quantities, and I find them genuinely enjoyable…

The term ‘self-centered’ has a tendency to infer a negative personality trait; but, I don’t think that should always be the case. Self-centeredness, to a point, is an important component to a healthy lifestyle. Indeed, if you think about it, you are the center of your universe; everything you perceive, and come into contact with, affects you in whatever manner you allow it to.

Often, when we’re in stressful situations, we begin to forget about ourselves, and the stresses of the issue move us towards burn-out. Sometimes it’s helpful to take a step back, and concentrate on ourselves, before we attempt to tackle the problem, whether it is our own, or that of a loved one. In much the same way that you’re instructed to place an oxygen mask over your own face before assisting someone else during an in-flight emergency, being mindful of your own mental health when helping another is immensely important. You have the best chance of alleviating the problem if you are the best state possible.

The feeling of mental-incapacitation that results from burnout is a terrible feeling. I know, because I’ve been there. A while back, I couldn’t help my loved one to the best of my ability, because I didn’t take the time to care for myself as well.

I feel like I’ve learned many things since I began my recovery, but I know for a fact that one of the most important insights I learned was that self-centeredness is not always a bad thing. Sometimes, when you’re helping someone pull weeds for their future garden, you need to remember that you deserve flowers too.

- Andrew