Who are we and how do we know?

So, today I gave a talk to some good people in Vancouver Washington to kick off the Employment as a Recovery Tool conference they’re having. There are lots of displays and workshops.  I was the keynote speaker and was told to “do the thing I do about roles” and “be motivating”.  Since I live nearby the good people at Clark County have heard many of my speeches and workshops and knew exactly what they wanted.

As I put my slides together, I got to thinking.  What about me.  Am I really who I think I am and how do I know?  So much of who I am is in my head and I don’t know how much of it actually comes out.  Conversely, does the stuff that comes out reflect who I am in my head?

We all have interior and exterior ways that we see ourselves and define ourselves.  It’s like we’re in a bubble under water and there is a pressure outside that defines us and a pressure inside that defines us and the trick is to keep both pressures equal.  Sometimes, when I get a glimpse of how I look or how people see me from the outside, it’s really startling.  People often define me far differently that I define myself.

Maybe that’s why some people hate to have their picture taken or why we think one photo of our self is better than another.  The “bad” picture may not represent who we are in our heads.

So, what creates that inside identity?  Where do we get those inside messages?  Ironically, they come from the outside, initially.  Family, doctors, environment, experiences all work hard as interior decorators.  Then we add our own distortions or perspectives that come with age, heartbreak, triumph, betrayal and/or love and we wind up with the finely tuned “secret identify” we carry around with us.

I recently decided to out my secret identity.  I got really sick with a high fever and had an insight to the fact that I really did have a secret identity that it was driving all my decisions and defining my choices.  I realized my secret identity was a lie!  Once the fever broke, the lie was still a lie and I began to heal on several levels.   I started to tell people the truth about my internal beliefs.  As soon as I called it a lie, I felt better.  I started to tell people about the lie and they agreed that it was a lie.  So, slowly my life is getting bigger.  I am getting stronger and more confident.

Choosing to define myself rather than let other people define me is scary, but really liberating.  I’m not afraid of making mistakes so much now that other people’s opinions are fairly irrelevant.   Here’s the kicker.  I created my own secret identity and I now choose to change it.  Now THAT’s self – determination.

Ask About Suicide, Already!

Is it really OK to ask about suicide?  Really?  YESASK Already.

People thinking of suicide are conflicted and in a lot of pain.  They want to talk about the situation, but they don’t know if you want to hear it.  They send off warning signs sometimes knowingly, sometimes unknowingly, because they want to stay alive.  They are waiting for you to bring it up.

People thinking of suicide are waiting for you to ask:  Ask directly; ask clearly; ask it again until you’re sure you believe the answer.

People tell me, “That seems harsh”.  “It feels very intrusive”  “I’m too awkward to just outright ask”.

So let me tell you – when you ask directly about suicide in a caring way, people will answer you honestly and directly.   Often people are relieved to have an opportunity to talk about their pain.  Besides – what’s the worst that could happen?  You’re embarrassed?  How does that compare with saving a person’s life?

So, let me help you out.  There is a formula you can use that will simplify everything.  I call it the “no dodge” question.  Make sure your questions is:

  1.  In the present tense – right now are you thinking of suicide?
  2. A Yes or no question – this is not the time to discuss the politics of suicide.  Yes or no – do you want to kill yourself?
  3. Using the word “suicide” or “kill yourself” – Euphemisms are not helpful here.  Asking directly tells the person you are willing to talk about suicide.

Here is an example:

“You are very upset about this [breakup, job loss, mistake whatever the problem is].  Sometimes when people experience this type of loss, they think of suicide.  Are you thinking of suicide?”

One more thing – asking about suicide will NOT plant the seed.  Not asking about suicide puts the person’s life at greater risk.

Once the person is talking with you, get help.  Call your local crisis line or the national suicide prevention hotline.  Here are some more resources to help you out.

National Suicide Prevention Hotlines
1-800 273-TALK (273-8255) press 1 for Veteran support
1-800- Suicide (784-2433) press 1 for Veteran support
1-866- 4U Trevor (488-7386) – GLBT support

On-line Resources
www.suicidepreventionlifeline.com (on-line chat available)

I’m all in!

One of the things about being the spokesperson for HOPE, is that I am continually looking for ways to say “Look! There it is!” Sometimes, it’s hard for me. Sometime I want to post “meh” and go back to bed, or worse, I want to point out the negative and become caustic and bitter (yes, it’s my default) But then I think of those of you who have told me you look forward to my posts and you appreciate my words, so I put the “meh” aside and start looking.

I am surprised at how just being myself is helpful to others. It leads me to the truth: Being myself – all of me – is what is expected of me all the time. I have to be all in or I’m not living my purpose. I am my purpose. YOU are your purpose. Being completely present, self-accepting and connected is what makes us so beautifully unique. It is the ultimate human challenge.

So then I started thinking – what happened to make me, or you, not be fully present? What makes us think we’re not enough or not capable or not competent. I think it starts with fear. Fear is what makes people run for cover. I ran for cover in food, sex, anger, alcohol, TV, sleep… you name it, I’ve hid behind it. I’m not sure what we’re afraid of, but it can become a habit. We learn to live with showing up half way and hiding the stuff we think we can’t show. I know that when I allow my head and my heart to be connected and be present at the same time, I can do anything! Fear becomes like a paper wall and when I move through it, I am stronger. When my head and heart are connected – I am present and I don’t hide. When I step out into the clearing – out from under cover – I am vulnerable and exposed. But if I do it with intention and awareness, I’m safe. For me, safety is found within. When I am connected mentally, physically, spiritually & emotionally I am fully present and I feel safe. When I feel safe, I take risks and know that It’s OK to be myself – even if – especially if – I’m not perfect.

So, THANK YOU for telling me I’m good enough and helping me stay balanced and well and….HOPEFUL! Thanks for helping me connect my head and my heart and go “all in”.

I am holding the hope for myself and for all of you. We can do this big and bold, when we stay connected, to ourselves and each other.