I love you dad!

Before we left the Netherlands almost two years ago, we had a small ‘goodbye party’. During this party my dad was very emotional. I had never seen him like that, but I thought it had to be due to our move, why else?

Two days later my father’s girlfriend called. She told me my dad was diagnosed with prostate cancer. He didn’t want to tell, because he didn’t want to bother us, but she had convinced him that he should tell before we left. For that I’m still very grateful to her. I had two more days in the Netherlands and now I was able to go see him before we left (because I had not planned to go there anymore before leaving).

A couple of months later, he had surgery. The operation went well, and everything seemed to be as good as could be considering the circumstances. But after about ten months, his test suddenly showed increased blood levels. Last summer he received radiation treatment. It was supposed to kill the cancer cells, but when they tested his blood, his blood levels had not changed. It had not gone up either, so that was at least something, but still, it should have dropped. For about 25% of the people the levels will still lower in the following couple of months, so there was still hope.

This week he got the results of his latest blood test. The blood levels had doubled. It was a shock. Of course you know it’s a possibility, but in my mind it never really was. Worst case scenario it would have stayed the same. Reality hit and it hit hard.

When I was talking to him, I realized I couldn’t even remember the last time I had told him I love him. I guess I always assume he knows. And I’m sure he does, but isn’t hearing it so much better than knowing? And I don’t know how many more chances I will get to tell him. When you think about it, you never know. To me it’s a reminder to let the people I love know that I do, because it might be the last chance. I’m not saying you should fear this moment all the time, but I do think every now and then it’s good to realize what you have and that you should treasure it. Life’s a rollercoaster and it’s so easy to get caught up in the moment, absorbed by things that, in the end, don’t really matter. If you love someone, tell them so, don’t just assume they know, even if they do.

I love you dad!

The meaning of your communication

We communicate every day, but how often are we consciously aware of what we say, how our words are received and what impact they have? I think most people don’t give it much thought, just assume that everyone understands what they’re saying, until something goes wrong. Or maybe it’s just me 🙂 .

As I mentioned before I’m in a NLP training (if you do what you did, you will get what you got). NLP is based on several presuppositions and one of them is: the meaning of your communication is the response you get. You are responsible for getting your message across the way you intend it. A lot of people hold the other person responsible for not correctly understanding the message. Isn’t that nice and easy, it’s the other person’s fault, not their own. In NLP you take the responsibility if someone else didn’t understand the message. You take a closer look at what you said, check how your message was received and … try again.

My post Call me crazy got the following response “Please don’t blame anyone who doesn’t understand it, even for yourself it is difficult to understand and to accept. People indeed have no clue, thank god, so even if they want to help you they have no idea how. Usually this ends up in trying to give someone a positive vibe, a peptalk. Don’t shut them out and don’t feel hurt”.

When I read this, the first that came to my mind was: “Don’t blame anyone? Where was I off in my communication?” Ohhh, I am so practicing NLP (it could also be my uncertainty, but I prefer to think I’m getting good at this NLP stuff). I was surprised, because I never blamed anyone. In fact, I’m convinced that each and every one had good intentions (though that doesn’t make it less painful). In the past I probably would have freaked out, convinced that person would hate me 🙂 . Now, I was just curious. Most people seemed to have taken it the way I intended it, so when I got this response I really wanted to know what triggered it. Did I say something that could be taken in a different way, did I omit something crucial? When you write something, you know all the in ands outs and it’s easy to omit something because you assume it will be clear or you think people know. But someone else who does not know everything there is to the story might lose you and interpret it the way it makes most sense to them.

I really wanted to learn more about this interpretation, so I asked what exactly it was that lead to the interpretation that I blamed anyone. The answer was that ‘blame’ may not have been the correct term. The intention was to say it wouldn’t do me any good to worry about how people responded to me because it is their inability to understand. This was something I didn’t get out of the initial response. Isn’t it fascinating how we all have our own filters through which we experience and interpret the world and words in different ways? Maybe you have siblings and when you talk about something that happened in your youth you discover that they had a (totally) different experience. It may even be so different that you start to wonder if you’re really talking about the same thing. Really, when you think about it, it’s a miracle our communication works out most of the times.

Honestly, I think communication should be taught in schools. Everyone should learn about the impact of their communication, different ways to communicate, to say what they want in a clear yet respectful manner, give their opinion in a constructive way. I think people would be much more understanding and respectful towards one another. No, it still wouldn’t be a perfect world, but it would definitely be a step in the right direction.
So maybe, the next time someone misunderstands you, it might be interesting to see what they heard and what you could do differently so they do understand… or not…

 

 

 

Being me

First of all I want to thank everyone that took the time and the effort to read my posts Call me crazy and Hello, this is your wake up call. It means a lot to me that you all did. I also want to thank everyone who commented in some way for their kind and encouraging words, it really lifted my spirit.

Even though I know there are a lot of people who suffer(ed) from depression, I was still amazed how many people let me know they suffer(ed) too. It’s so sad to hear that and a big virtual hug for any one that needs it and know that you’re not the only one. To me it’s a sign that it was a good decision to tell my story, thank you for letting me know. I was tough, but you all made it well worth it.

The other day I wrote a poem. Until now I didn’t have the courage to share it. But I thought, if my story helps people, maybe my poem will inspire/encourage someone as well. If it’s just one person that gets something out of it, it’s well worth it. Also, I no longer want to hide myself. I just want to be me and this poem is me. If someone doesn’t appreciate it, so be it. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion (though I prefer them to like it 🙂 ).

Being ME

Being here
being me
sounds so easy
how hard can it be?

Being here
being me
not always as easy
as I want it to be.

Being here
being me
I just keep on going

knowing

one day I will be

ME

 

 

Call me crazy

When I was in my mid-twenties, I struggled with a severe depression. Everything was so dark and I felt so lonely and no one seemed to really understand. As it turns out I’m in pretty good company. Lady Di, Winston Churchill, Jim Carrey, Charles Dickens, Audrey Hepburn, all of them suffered from depression at some point. I also have a lot of company, according to the WHO (World Health Organization) almost one out of five people suffers from depression at some point in their live.

Despite the fact that so many people get affected by depression (it’s not just the person that suffers from it, but also the people close to them) it’s surprising there is still so little understanding of depression. A lot of people still think it must be someone’s own fault/weakness. They think it’s just some negative thinking that someone needs to snap out of. They will tell them to “just think positive” or to “exercise more”. But depression is so much more than just a bunch of negative thoughts. And maybe if someone has a mild depression, thinking positive and exercising might be enough. But if someone has a severe depression, no matter how well the intention, this ignorant advice can even be harmful. Depression is not the same as sadness. Sadness is a state of mind most people have every now and then. In that case it is helpful to think positive or do something you like to do. Depression is an illness and should be treated like one. Treating the two as if they’re the same is like telling someone with a broken leg it’s merely a bruise. That it may hurt a little but there’s really nothing wrong with the leg. My sweet hubby found the perfect cartoon to illustrate this.

helpful advice

I have experienced myself that there was a difference between telling people I was dealing with depression and telling I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. A lot of people were much more understanding and compassionate when I told them about the Crohn’s. WHY?????? Because, honestly, I’ve suffered more from my depression than I did from the Crohn. Not in the least, because a lot of people told me to snap out of it or exercise more and didn’t really take me seriously. And I know most of them meant really well, but they just had no clue what I was dealing with and how much their words hurt me. And other people think you must be totally wacko if you see a psychiatrist. A psychiatrist is merely a doctor, specialized in mental illness. No doubt there are psychiatrists that see people that are crazy, but that doesn’t mean that everyone who goes to see a psychiatrist is crazy. If you break your leg, you go to a doctor that can fix your leg. If you break mentally, you go a doctor that can help you with that. Call me crazy, but I did.

Once I went to an ‘experience museum’ about being blind. They made an “obstacle course” in which everyday situations were recreated that blind people encounter on a daily basis. And to make sure visitors wouldn’t cheat, they darkened the place. They gave you a cane and a (blind) guide to lead you through the place. It’s unbelievable how many obstacles there are when you can’t see. Suddenly you realize that most times you are not even aware you maneuver around obstacles. I mean, do you ever really see that garbage can? Probably not, you just walk past it without even giving it any thought. Not when you can’t see though. You are definitely aware of the fact that something is blocking your way and you have no idea what it is. During our trip we paid a visit to a playground. Now, that’s a real obstacle course, and there were not even children playing! While I was trying to find my way around the obstacles, the group started to leave the playground. Since I was already a little bit freaked out about the fact that I couldn’t see a thing, I wanted to stay close to the group. But the playground was fenced off and I couldn’t find the exit. I started to panic…., I didn’t want to be left behind…., I desperately tried to find the exit, but again couldn’t find it. Since I have a slight problem with asking for help, it was difficult for me to call out to the guide, but if I didn’t want to be left alone, I didn’t have a choice. So, I asked for help. And the guide came back for me and helped me get out of there.
Being depressed is kind of like that. You’re somewhere in a very, very dark place and you have no clue where you are. You may be standing next to the exit, or you could be standing on the edge of a cliff. At first you try to make it out of there by yourself. But you can’t find the exit, you keep on bumping into obstacles, you start to freak out, become desperate. So what are you going to do, keep on trying, hoping you will make it out of there in this lifetime? Or will you ask for help? You still have to make the journey yourself, you will still encounter obstacles, but at least you have someone to guide you to the exit and you’re no longer alone.

Like I said, I have slight problem asking for help. And as I’m writing this, I can see Mr. M. looking at me in this tone, so let me correct myself. I have a BIG problem asking for help and that’s now, it was even worse when I was younger. When I was in my early twenties I knew that things weren’t going too well, but I wasn’t really aware I had a problem. Not until one day, I was staying with my boyfriend at that time at his mom’s place. What happened that day opened my eyes and changed my life. It was an awful experience and I still feel sorry for her she had to go through that, but it was a life saver for me. Early that morning a noise woke us up. We heard his mom yelling and screaming. At first we thought there was a fire or something. But when we heard what she was saying, we realized she was psychotic. She was delirious, screaming and laughing hysterically. It was scary and at that moment, I finally realized that if I wouldn’t change anything in my life, I might end up just like that. You can try to ignore the difficulties you encounter, you can choose to hide them somewhere far away, but sooner or later they will catch up with you. This was the moment I decided to face my problems. Not that things changed over night, but it was the crucial awareness I needed. And, even though it was really, really tough, I reached out for help.

I worked my way through university, visiting a student counselor and after a few years, I graduated. The moment I had tried to postpone for as long as I could had finally arrived. I had to find a job. I was afraid that if I was going to work somewhere, I would get stuck there, because of my fear of new people and situations. So I made a decision of which I’m still very proud today. I choose to work for a company that would outsource me to municipalities that needed help. Had I not done that, chances are I would still be working at the same place I once started, and I would have never met Mr. M. and never had my little girl. So, it was the best choice I could have made, because I wouldn’t want to miss them for the world. However, I was depressed (even though none of the counselors I had seen so far had noticed – yeah, definitely getting more and more convinced about my acting skills 🙂 ) and it turned out I didn’t like the work and I made long days because often I had to travel far. But I dragged myself through it for almost a year and then, then, one day I couldn’t get out of bed anymore. All I could do was cry. And I had such abdominal pain that I was convinced I had appendicitis. So I went to my physician. Fortunately I had a really nice and understanding physician. And for the first time someone told me I suffered from depression. When he said it, it seemed so obvious, but until that point I had never realized it. I went to the psychiatrist he referred me to. She was very nice, and I was ready to talk, but she also suggested medicines. That was a little bit too much for me. Talking? Fine. Medicines? I don’t think so. Until about two weeks later my world was so dark, I was willing to try just about anything to make the pain go away. So I got medicines and within two weeks I slowly felt the darkness get a slightly less dark. I was so grateful that it helped, because it does not work for everyone. Taking medicines can help to get out of the deepest darkness so you are better able to handle things, but it still means you have to deal with it. It’s not some kind of miracle pill that will take away your depression and make you live happily ever after.

If you think you might be suffering from depression, please look for help. Talk to your physician, pastor or a good friend that will take you seriously. And if you think someone around you might be suffering, try to talk to them, let them know you’re there and will take them seriously.

If you think my story might be helpful to other people then please, do share it. If you don’t know anyone that might benefit from it, please consider sharing my story anyway to help me create more awareness and understanding for depression. If you want to use parts of my story somewhere, please feel free to do so. All I ask is that you give me credit for the words I wrote.
Not sure it will make a difference? I understand, I have these moments too. And when I do, I think about what the Dalai Lama XIV said:

If you think you’re too small to make a difference, try sleeping with a mosquito.

Thanks,

Sandra

 

 

 

 

 

Hello, this is your wake up call

This weekend was the fourth weekend of my NLP training. It was a very interesting and enlightening weekend. A very emotional weekend too. We were working on re-imprinting memories that have affected us in a negative way. What can I say, I have few of those in my memory box. So, when working with this, I got kind of emotional. Ok, very emotional. Hate it when that happens, that means at least 2 days of red, puffy eyes 🙁 . Anyway, apparently it had to come out, and still, I had no clue.

Sunday, after another emo-moment, I had a little talk with my trainer. She told me, she thought I was having a depression. Silence…… I’ve been there, I’ve done that, I’m through with that. Or not? It’s what my beloved Mr. M. told me a month ago. But I said no, no way.
So, this was wake up call nr. 1. I realize now I wanted things to go well so badly, I was in denial even though the signs were there. Also, I compared it to the severe depression I overcame in my mid-twenties. And compared to that, it’s not much, but that still doesn’t mean I’m not depressed right now. Ironically, I was just working on a post about the depression I had in my mid-twenties, hoping to create more awareness and understanding for depression. In that post I make a remark about how people are not always aware they are depressed. Well, apparently experiences in the past are no guarantee you will know next time.

She also told me that I come across as a beautiful, tall, confident woman of the world (ehh… we were talking about me, right?) and the fact that I keep my distance may not feel very comfortable to others. That was wake up call nr. 2. I never realized that people may see me so differently than I do. I feel so insecure and to me it feels as if I’m an open book and anyone can see how clumsy I am and how I’m struggling to connect and that the distance is created by my inability to communicate properly. Hmmm, you think I may have missed out on a beautiful career as an actress? Anyway, if people really do perceive me as a confident woman that’s keeping her distance, yes, I can see how that may come across.

Well, I have a lot to think about and figure out. And a doctor’s appointment to have myself checked out.

Room make over

In March Lisa will turn 7. What she really, really, really wants for her birthday? A bunk bed! She’s been talking about it for months. I found a nice (and affordable) one at Ikea. Actually it’s a loft bed, but it thank goodness it did qualify. I think it were the pink doors that did the trick 🙂 .
When I asked her if she would like to have this bed, she was so happy, she gave me a whoooooole lot of kisses.

stuva-loft-bed-with-drawers-doors-white__0275958_PE414043_S4

We’ve decided to give her room a complete make over, so it will be really her place where she feels comfortable. So, I have some measuring and painting to do. Or actually a lot of painting. I would prefer the walls and the ceiling to have a nice fresh and bright white color instead of the Bellevue beige that’s on there right now (beige is a very popular neutral color over here, like white in the Netherlands). Other things I need to do are reupholster a chair, revamp a lamp and finish a wall decoration that has been lying around for a while now. So, plenty to do. Let’s start with some measuring and picking out the right colors.

To be continued….

 

Sewing date

A while ago I had a ‘sewing date’ with a friend of mine. She has been sewing for a long time and makes really cute stuff for her kids.
She helped me pick a dress from a pattern book and showed me how to work with an actual pattern, because I had never done that before. All those lines just seemed so intimidating. And although it’s not that hard, you have to stay alert with all those lines, because it’s easy to miss something or mix things up.
So, now that I had the pattern, I was eager to get started. I went to shop for some fabric. What I found wasn’t exactly what I was looking for, but I was to impatient to order something online. I just wanted to get going 🙂 .
It was my first time working with stretch fabric and with my serger. Stretch was a little bit intimidating, the serger was scary. It goes so fast and cuts the fabric at the same time, so you can’t afford to make a mistake. After some practicing, I decided to go for it (fingers crossed). I was a little bit worried but tried to do it as slowly as possible and it turned out really nice. At the bottom of the dress I made a rolled hem, also on the serger. Stretching the fabric at the same time gives a nice lettuce hem, I love that! This is the result.

dress fr       dress b

Thanks for your help Marloes! The second dress is on it’s way 🙂