Life is Many Things Hannah Lyles

Lifesource

I am moss clinging onto
pages of books, sucking air:
the wisdom of others is my friend.

Fertile green, slippery rock,
wet with love. Have you ever

loved a book so much
it became your being, and
the stories became yours?

You dream rainstorms
and you wake up twice
as long, full and hungry
for soil.

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Hannah R. Lyles

Spellbound

If you look at the tread of the front wheel
long enough, you’ll either get into
a hypnotic rhythm, or you’ll cause your
premature death. How much of life

is this rhythm? We are bound by routines
like bundles of dried flowers by a string.
The gravel falls everywhere and you’ve got
no control where it lands. You never know
where the first weed in the flower bed
will show itself. But if you find out what
nutrient the earth is missing, you can
at least try to add some love beneath
your feet.

 

 

Floating lilypad. Hannah Lyles.

The Importance of Roots

What sustains a lilypad
as it grows, before it breaks
the water’s surface?
Faith. Hope that it will
be touched by the sun.

A lilypad cannot rest on the water
without making the journey
from the depths; from the darkness
of the invisible bottom.

And even when it stands tall,
pad floating with the ripples
of the push and pull of tides,
the roots are firmly stuck
in the wet, muddy earth
of the lake bed.

They sing: remember the roots.
Do not celebrate the beauty of blooms
without honoring the soil’s fertility.
Our beginnings, our earthy starts,
are what bind us to this life.

Finding the Right Fit: How Some Doctors Make Your Mental Health Feel Worse, Or Better

Depression: let’s talk.

Today is World Health Day, celebrated to mark the anniversary of the founding of the World Health Organization. The theme for 2017 is depression, and it’s no surprise that this is the focus since suicide is now the second leading cause of death for 15-29-year-olds. This is a staggering statistic and one that needs to change.

This change will only come about if we have open talks about depression and other mental illnesses, which would remove the stigma associated with them, and if we continue to invest in organizations that help people who are struggling.

People with mental health issues are often judged by others who make huge assumptions about these people based on fear and ignorance. And sadly, sometimes the people who we go to for help are the ones who can make us feel worse.

The Bad News: The Doctors Who Make You Feel Like Shit

A few weeks ago, I visited a new psychiatrist since I’ve recently moved to a new state and needed to change doctors. In the span of forty-five minutes, during my first session, I was analyzed in a brutal and basic way. I was told that my father was an alcoholic and my mother was an “uneducated pussycat” for putting up with him. I was told that men had let me down and that I “pick the wrong ones all the time”. I was told that “women just want to get married, have children, and settle down”, which implied that I was depressed because I didn’t have a man that was going to provide that for me. I was told that I didn’t have anxiety or general depression, but that I had bipolar disorder since my brother had it. And I was told that my father probably suffered from bipolar disorder as well since it was a “genetic disease”.

I wanted to say she could fuck off and see how she liked that for some spontaneity.

I walked away feeling bruised, confused, and very upset. When my dad asked me how it had gone, I told him, and of course, it made him feel sad too. We didn’t talk to each other for a day because we were dealing with it. Now, I look back and see it for what it was: a load of rubbish.

Another psychiatrist told me that I had lived a privileged life and was lucky to have traveled around the world during my childhood. She made it sound like the rootlessness, dislocation, and uprooting were not valid reasons to feel broken inside. That I should be grateful for the experience, which of course I was, but that didn’t mean I didn’t feel trauma about it. This is a whole other issue to discuss that would require another post: the joys and traumas of the third culture kid experience and how most people don’t get it. After knowing that I’d traveled the world and was both American and British, the psychiatrist had the guts to correct my English when I pronounced something in the British way instead of the American way. And when I told her I had visited Edinburgh over the holidays, she asked, “Where’s that?” Go figure.

She also asked me if I had always been “that calm”. She asked me if I ever expressed “spontaneous joy”. I was almost too shocked to reply to her. I wanted to say she could fuck off and see how she liked that for some spontaneity. Instead, I said, “when I’m with people I enjoy being around, I express joy. Sometimes I dance around my room naked.” I also added that I felt more British in the expression of my emotions: more reserved, not as loud as some Americans are, having a drier and more sarcastic sense of humor, more observant. She told me that I could work on being more animated around her and others. She told me that being British didn’t mean I had to be miserable. I mentally noted that sentence and promised I would make a caricature of her one day in one of my future books. No darling, it doesn’t.

If I got outside and walked a block, it was a triumph.

About four months ago, I visited a GP after I was told I should probably see if there was anything “wrong with my body” that would explain the anxiety and depression. People are a lot more comfortable knowing you have a bodily injury or illness rather than a mind-based affliction. I sat down in the doctor’s office and explained why I was there in a nutshell. When I mentioned I had been having suicidal thoughts, I saw the doctor visibly flinch and the medical intern in the corner of the room shuffle her feet and stare at the floor. I understand that depression is difficult to talk about, but why don’t people squirm in the same way when you tell them you have a kidney stone or a broken arm? (Who knows, maybe they do.)

After measuring my height and weight, and taking my blood pressure, it seemed like she didn’t know what to do with me. She asked me questions like “are you sleeping okay?” and “are you exercising?”. To which I replied, yes and no. She then recommended that I find the time to exercise. I replied that I would find the time to exercise if I wasn’t thinking about cutting myself half of the time or if I managed to find the energy inside left over from the continual grieving and suffering to lift my limbs. She didn’t know what to say in response. The last time I had tried exercising, I rolled out my yoga mat in the living room and attempted a few sun salutations. I managed to do a few downward dogs, and then I flopped onto the mat and cried with my face squashed into the ground. If I got outside and walked a block, it was a triumph.

The Good News: Finding an Ear to Listen

Am I saying that you shouldn’t go to seek professional help when you feel like hurting yourself or if you’re struggling? Hell no! Of course you should. You must. You can’t do this journey alone and your loved ones can’t bear the brunt of it for you. I’m not saying you’re a burden—you’re not—but having more people help to lift the weight is easier for everyone. And yes, sadness has weight. It is so heavy, isn’t it?

What I’m saying is that finding the right mental health professional for you is a process. If you find the right psychiatrist or therapist straight away then that’s great! But if it takes a while to find the right fit, do not be discouraged. Do not let the system get you down. And do not let anyone, with an MD at the end of their name or otherwise, tell you who you are. You know who you are. Even if the depression is making every day a struggle, you know who you are. You know. You know what you like and don’t like. Listen to the way your body trembles. It’s speaking to you.

If you’re booking an appointment with a psychiatrist, you’re a badass.

If you don’t like your psychiatrist or therapist, find a new one. There are others out there. You’re not a failure for wanting to change. It doesn’t mean you’re weak or picky. If your parents or friends tell you you’re running from the truth by changing doctors, tell yourself you’re doing anything but that. You’re confronting it. A lot of people don’t even admit they have a problem, and funnily enough, it’s the people who have issues that like to judge you for yours. If you’re booking an appointment with a psychiatrist, you’re a badass.

Moving Forward: It Takes Time

Now, after some false starts, I’m happily in therapy with a wonderful therapist who listens to me, asks me important questions, and doesn’t judge me at all. I’ve spoken with her about my bad experiences with other mental health professionals and she’s been very empathetic and admitted that the profession can attract weird types of people.

I’m still trying to find a psychiatrist, but I’m comforted by the knowledge that I’ll find one eventually. The good thing about psychiatrists is you don’t have to see them very often; only about once a month on average since any medication takes some time to kick in. I think it’s far more important to find a therapist to work with because they’re the ones who will work with you on things, get deep into the hurting, and not just prescribe pills to fix everything. The best combination is having a psychiatrist and a therapist. At least, that’s what has worked for me.

I believe that when people want to hurt themselves it’s a cry to reconnect to their body.

I’ve also started exercising and meditating regularly. Waking up every morning at a set time and hitting the pavement to go for a walk or to the gym is helping me so much.  You’re probably wondering what changed and how I managed to motivate myself to do this. Well, I had a really difficult conversation with myself. I asked myself how I wanted to feel during my day. I replied: expansive, powerful, strong. I knew that I needed to reconnect with my body in order to do this, the same body that I had been hating, the body that I had wanted to hurt.

I believe that when people want to hurt themselves it’s a cry to reconnect to their body. The negative thoughts banish us to a dark place where we can’t even feel our body anymore. It’s a weird feeling to have, to feel so much pain and to not be able to feel your body at the same time. It doesn’t really make much sense. The self-hatred shakes the bond with our body. It is a deep yearning that only we can answer for ourselves. Thankfully, I no longer feel like hurting myself. I need this body to walk. I need it to see the animals. I need it to breathe the air. I need it to do so many things I want to do. Hell, I need it because I need me. I am.

If you can live the three minutes for a quick meditation, I bet you can live another three minutes, another ten, another twenty.

I looked to the past and recognized the fact that I had been happiest when I was rooted in my body. I realized after a lot of tears that this reconnection had to involve nature. So I made a pact with myself that I would get outside and go for walks to hear the birds and see the squirrels in the neighborhood. Soon I was going to sleep thinking about the next morning and how I was so lucky to wake up and go outside to see the living creatures walking around. This is hope. This is how hope is born.

Another way to live in the body is by training the mind through meditating. Meditating is a life saver because it quietens my mind’s obsession with thought.  I used to roll my eyes at people who spouted the benefits of living in the moment and letting go of the ego. It sounded like exclusive living to me. Something only those who are graced with the light of spirituality can experience (by the way, we all are). But once I shifted my mindset and viewed meditation as an exercise like walking or going to the gym, I started viewing it in a different, less overwhelming way. I just do ten minutes a day, twenty minutes max. I started with three minutes. I downloaded a few meditation apps (Stop, Breathe, and Think and Calm) to help me along and willed myself to sit still. If you can live the three minutes for a quick meditation, I bet you can live another three minutes, another ten, another twenty. I sure hope you do.

You can do this. Stay strong, warrior.


If you or someone you know needs help, visit this suicide prevention resources page on The Mighty.

If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or text “START” to 741-741.

Don’t Be Afraid: Doing One Thing Everyday That Scares You

Eleanor Roosevelt once said famously, “Do one thing every day that scares you.”

I’m pretty sure she didn’t mean anything extreme like diving off a cliff or climbing a mountain – she just meant step outside your comfort zone a little bit. (Of course, you’re welcome to do those things if you’re up for it!)

It is difficult to challenge yourself sometimes, though. Especially when you are stuck in a routine of waking up, going to work, and coming home after work. Somedays you may venture to the grocery store on the way home but that’s about it activity-wise. It is hard enough to fit in work and life (that stuff you happen to be doing) let alone find time to do something that ‘scares you’. Fancy a bit of sailing after work? Sure. But dude, there’s no time (or money).

So my one thing that scares me might be talking to a coworker I don’t normally speak with.

So I suppose one must start off small. For me, it normally has to do with opening up to people. I can be a little closed off at times, detaching myself from a group and working away on my own. So my one thing that scares me might be talking to a coworker I don’t normally speak with. I’m a little embarrassed to name this as the thing that scares me, but it does. Going out of my way to ask a coworker I don’t normally talk to about how their day is going and really engaging with them and smiling is not something everyone does! Perhaps you could give them a compliment and brighten up their day. What a lovely necklace you’re wearing, or, this coffee is so damn good. Sure, it may seem a little superficial on the surface but I promise that if you’re genuine it will show and they will give you a smile.

GO. Learn something new.

Another thing you could do is go to a talk or workshop of some sort. You might have a secret interest in astrophysics and some person from NASA is going to be giving a talk in your city. Or you’re dying to go to a writing workshop but you think you’re absolutely terrible. Or you think you’re too fat and ugly (you’re not) to go to Soulcycle. GO. Learn something new. It might intimidate you but I can guarantee that many of the others won’t know much about the subject or they may think they are also shit (a lot of writers, and people in general, have the shit voice talking to them in their head too!).

Sign up to take classes in an activity you’ve always wanted to try out but never had the guts or dedication to. Hip hop. Adult ballet. Pottery. French. Boxing. Rock climbing. You name it. There’s probably a class for it. Hot air balloon riding! Now, that’s scary. Go for a trial class first if you don’t want to commit upfront. Most places give a free trial class so take advantage of it. And then watch yourself blossom. Yes, dear, you can do that. You’re AMAZING.

Or it could be something that doesn’t really scare you but that you never do simply because you don’t make the time or effort. Go sit in that park on your lunch break. And you know what? Be a real rebel. Lie on the grass. But there are worms and ants and crawly things, you say? Oh please, just lie back and look at the sky. 🙂

You’re scared but do it anyway. Go ahead, it won’t kill you. Unless of course it’s parasailing or scuba diving with sharks and then my friend, you’re on your own…

I think you can interpret this quote, do one thing every day that scares you, in whatever way you want. It could be doing something scary every week or every month. It doesn’t have to be every day, although if you focus on little things I’m sure you could do something every day. I guess Roosevelt was proposing an outlook and attitude with which you can approach life. You’re scared but do it anyway. Go ahead, it won’t kill you. Unless of course, it’s parasailing or scuba diving with sharks and then my friend, you’re on your own… No, no, just be careful. But really, it’s saying that there’s no point living life in fear. You only get one life so why not try out as many things as you want? Random question: Why not give a big smile to that guy/girl at the gym that you have been eyeing for months?

We stop ourselves from doing things due to fear. We worry about failing. Failure is a natural occurrence. Without failure, there is no success. I can guarantee you that all the people you love and admire did something that scared them first before succeeding, whether it was starting a new business, being a professional athlete or even having a family – those are all daunting and challenging things.

So godspeed, my friends. Enjoy yourselves. I’m off to dreamland.

Hey There, Are You Going With Your Flow?

Right now I’m resisting nature. I’m resisting my desires, my inclinations, and my dreams. And for what reason? And at what cost? Too much. The only valid reason I can see why someone would forgo their dreams temporarily is to earn money and save so that doing the dream is easier, but I’m living paycheck to paycheck for something I don’t want, so what am I doing it for? Experience? Experience for what? More of the same thing? I might as well live paycheck to paycheck for something that I love.

(What do you think?)

I think I’m finally understanding what life is all about. I think I know what I need to do.

Go with the flow.

Just go with it. Or better yet, be the flow. Or even better, go with your flow.

Ok, there’s a lot going on here. What I’m saying is take the opportunities that you see and watch where you go. Listen to your gut. That’s flow for me. But there’s not just one way to do things. Everyone’s flow is different. Go to the beat of your drum. Why pretend to be someone you’re not? I feel that when I stop flowing, I get grumpy sooner or later.  Out of sync. But if I listen to my beat and really feel out my thoughts, I am a lot happier.

Follow and be numb forever.

Breathe, I say to myself, look up at the sky. For me, this is flow. Concrete may surround me (since I’m in New York City) but the sky is always there, and a tree, a leaf, or a cup of soil is not too far away. This is why I walk to Union Square this Friday evening. To see the tall trees. The greenness. To smell the peppery French lavender at the stall in the market. To touch the snap peas on offer. To bite into an apple. All these things put a sense of peace inside of me that not many other things can do. I feel like grabbing soil, getting dirt under my fingers, and seeing roots weaving through the earth. I want to feel grass under my feet and hold onto a tree for support as I climb up, up a hill to a lookout where I can survey the land. Hmm, maybe I should go hiking. Or volunteer somewhere like this.

(Do you like hiking? Gardening?)

This feeling comes from a desire to be the animal that I am. Sweat, grunt and exert my body. That’s why I like the gym. I awaken and feel the burn in my muscles. After running, I am light and mindful. I also want to love and make love. One day, I’ll even reproduce. How cool is that? We are all animals.

I keep singing.

I want to feel and not stay passive or mute. Follow and be quiet forever. Eventually, you’ll be screaming inside. Nearly every morning before work as I take the elevator to the 7th floor I start to sing. Sometimes I shriek. I tell myself that I’m warming up my voice for human interaction but I know it’s more than that. I’m releasing something. I am bringing myself into my body and feeling my breath. I always think someone will catch me one day belting out a song when the doors open but it hasn’t happened yet. I keep singing.

How Slow (or Fast) Do You Live Your Life?

I’m reading New Slow City by William Powers right now and I don’t think there’s a better time for me to be reading this book. The author talks about moving from a big house in Queens to a micro-apartment in Manhattan with his wife and their struggle to keep living slowly in the fast environment that is New York, NY.

I often find myself walking really fast on the sidewalk urging the people in front to get out the way or walk faster. This kind of thinking makes me feel guilty of rushing, of always being on the go. I believe that being in a rush all the time is bad for your health and well-being. It’s probably been proven scientifically too (but I don’t have the references – I challenge you to find some!).

Powers proposes that society in NYC, or basically all cities or urban centers, view time as a commodity, something that can be lengthened, bought, traded or sacrificed. But time is time. That sounds funny but it’s true – we all get 24 hours in one day. It’s a renewable resource that we are gifted with if we continue to exist. Some of us just have to work more while some get to have more free time. In response to this concept of time, Powers introduces Natural Time, which is where we lose track of time and it just sort of flows. It’s when “intuition and instinct guide action, not a schedule”. We’ve all felt it before. Whether we meditated and entered a zone of thoughtlessness or swam in the sea and felt one with the water or when we indulged in one of our hobbies or passions and we lost track of time.

Personally, it’s for those moments that I live and the reason why I am so dissatisfied with my job. The time is ever so slow. I wait for the clock to show 5 pm and it shouldn’t be that way. Instead, I live to write, to hit the pavements, to wander the city, to discover new things and to connect with people. You could say that I do these things to live and not the other way round.

Without sounding too creepy, our past follows us. And our future is us. It’s all one, not separated or linear.

Powers shares a great little insight into Inuit language; apparently, the Inuit have one word to mean both the “past” and the “future”, uvatiarru. How cool is that? I’m not an expert in Inuit language but I interpret this as meaning that the present is what matters. It also means that how you conduct yourself or think about the past will mold your future. Time is smoothed out – sort of cyclical- and life becomes something that isn’t about getting from point A to point B.  Life isn’t linear. Just think about memories. They pop up unannounced and resurface years later weaving their way in and out of our lives. People do the same. We meet someone in our childhood and meet them again in later life. Without sounding too creepy, our past follows us. And our future is us. It’s all one, not separated or linear. I think because work is supposed to be such a big part of our lives and our jobs fuel the economy and its growth, there is a pressure for our lives to progress in the same linear fashion. (The economy doesn’t even progress in a linear way either but that’s another topic!) But that’s not how humans are. Or at least that’s not how I want to live. Living to get from point A to point B is boring, and it’s a potential adventure wasted.

During the week, when I leave my apartment in Brooklyn at 8:05 am (or 8:15 am if I’m moving slowly) I am commencing my commute. Commute. That word describing getting from point A to point B. Do we use this word to describe a road trip? No. Do we use this word to describe a flight? No. This word is used almost always in regards to when someone is on the way to or from work. It is distinguished from other journeys because it’s sole purpose is to get you from point A to point B. No frills. Well, to hell with that. I am trying to change this one hour that it takes me to get to and from work. I want to change it from time to Natural Time, the concept I described above. Instead of sulking all the way to work (which is extremely easy to do when there are hundreds of people squeezed into a space that seems inhumanly possible to contain so many) I usually read. You can read a surprising amount of pages in a hour-long commute. I can race through a book in a week easily. I’ve recently been getting back into podcasts so I listen to them too. It’s a chance to learn something new, to educate yourself and to inspire yourself. If I listen to someone who has done something great it is a great motivator to follow my dreams. It gets me fired up. It gives me enough energy to get through the work day. Another thing I do when I’m not in the mood for reading or listening to podcasts or simply watching people. Of course many people do this. I bet you did it today when you were out and about! The subway is a great place to people-watch. But when was the last time you actually looked? Listened? Sometimes I realize I’m not really looking, that I’m self-absorbed and lost in my thoughts. There’s nothing wrong with that – I’m a complete dreamer – but sometimes I have to remind myself to not glaze over, or detach myself too much. I guess there’s a fine line between zoning out and remaining calm and relaxed. Life is tough, huh?