DJWritingOutLoud

"Elegance is not the prerogative of those who have just escaped from adolescence, but of those who have already taken possession of their future."

Your 9-5 and Mental Health

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, approximately 1 in 5 adults in the United States suffer from some sort of mental illness in a given year. More specifically, approximately 1 in 25 adults experience a serious mental illness in a given year that substantially interferes with or limits one or more major activities (which often includes work)

Take a second to reflect on the increased amount of commercials/infomercials, news reports, scholarly journals, magazine articles and so forth that point to the increased amount of those suffering from mental illnesses around the world, yet for the sake of this post, within the United States. Whether it’s an advertisement for a medicine that curves the “lows” of depression, or a documentary telling the chilling details of a teenager that was bullied in school and who later ended their own life – it’s all around us, all the time. Yet, as a society at large we seemingly ignore it or more so have categorized mental illness in a completely different category than other health issues one may face.. which of course presents several problems to those who are suffering.

When doing research for this blog post, I was overwhelmed with the data that is associated with mental illness. Yet, one of the initial questions I had and wanted to clarify my understanding was: What is mental illness? According to Triad Mental Health

“A mental illness is a disease of the brain that causes mild to severe disturbances in thought and/or behavior, resulting in an inability to cope with life’s ordinary demands and routines.  There are more than 200 classified forms of mental illness. Some of the more common disorders are: clinical depression, bipolar disorder, dementia, schizophrenia and anxiety disorders. Symptoms may include changes in mood, personality, personal habits and/or social withdrawal.”

So now that we have a pretty clear definition, how can we identify mental illness? Well, we can break it down by age: adults, pre-adolescents, and younger children. To start with adults, some symptoms may be:

  • confused thinking
  • prolonged depression
  • feelings of extreme highs and lows
  • excessive fears
  • worries
  • anxiety
  • dramatic changes in sleeping or eating habits
  • strong feelings of anger
  • delusions or hallucinations
  • difficulty coping with daily activities or problems
  • suicidal thoughts
  • denying the obvious
  • substance abuse
  • unexplained physical ailments

Do any of these seem familiar? While adults and pre-adolescents are similar here are a few more potential symptoms:

  • excessive complaints of physical ailments
  • defiance of authority (truancy, theft, vandalism, etc.)
  • intense fear of weight gain
  • prolonged negative mood
  • frequent outbursts of anger

Lastly, younger children:

  • Changes in school performance
  • poor grades despite strong efforts
  • excessive worry or anxiety
  • hyperactivity
  • persistent nightmares
  • persistent disobedience or aggression

So even with being able to identify symptoms and signs.. how can we help others or even ourselves, or as the title alluded to, how can your employer help? The average American works (or does a related activity) 8.9 hours out of the day, the remaining hours are spent sleeping, caring for others, household activities, eating/drinking, so on and so forth.. While the hours spent on the clock may fluctuate depending upon the person, consider this.. the “average Joe/Jane” works 40 hours a week, from the age of 20-65 and gets two weeks of vacation every year. In that time, average Joe/Jane will have worked a total of 90,360 hours over his/her entire life.

What’s difficult about identifying mental illnesses in the workplace is that those suffering tend to hide (or attempt to hide) such on while on the clock – why you ask? Well obvious reasons of course.. job security; employees are often reluctant to seek treatment or share that they are suffering primarily out of fear that it may jeopardize their job. This in itself is problematic as not only is the mental illness going untreated, but it could be impacting productivity at work.

A great resource to check out is the Harvard Health Publications: Mental Health Problems in the Workplace – here they highlight low treatment rates and how it negatively impacts workers’ careers and companies’ productivity. As well as break down the more common mental illnesses and how symptoms of such may appear in the workplace.

Where does the shift in acceptance and support for mental illness and the workplace begin? In my opinion, company culture and policy. Employers will have to be the one to set the tone, whether it’s increased sick days (or even mental health days that are given or accrued), support staff that can aid those with mental illness, resources (whether physical or digital that are readily accessible to all employees), and lastly acceptance and understanding of those with mental illness.

One of the biggest misconceptions with mental illness is that it’s a choice. Suffering from depression myself, this couldn’t be further from the truth. The days where I physically can’t bring myself to get out of bed, eat, or even communicate with others are certainly not a conscious choice. If I could choose, I wouldn’t choose depression.

And my own experience is the reason I felt inclined to write this post, for the “Oh, cheer up!” comments received while on the work place from colleagues that don’t understand that it’s not that easy to not having enough sick days to even take a mental health day if  I wanted to. Mental illness has to be a part of our company culture that is discussed openly for anything to change.

Below are some links for both employees and employers in regard to mental illness and the work place:

  1. https://www.nami.org/Find-Support/Living-with-a-Mental-Health-Condition/Succeeding-at-Work
  2. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/joseph-rauch/employers-talk-about-mental-illness-workplace_b_11427674.html
  3. http://www.valueoptions.com/suicide_prev/html%20pages/Mental%20Illness%20and%20the%20Workplace%20Lifting%20the%20Stigma.htm
  4. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/should-you-tell-your-boss-about-a-mental-illness/
  5. http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/542517_3

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As always,

Devin J.

 

 

Finding New Forms of Intimacy for Your Relationship

Ask yourself, what is it you love or like most about the individual that you are married to, dating, interested in and so forth. What about them truly draws you to them – perhaps it’s the way they carry themselves, how they motivate you, their physical appearance, a shared belief system, their profession, etc. The answer to that question will of course vary for everyone, and may even be multifaceted; therefore, it’s quite possible there could be an ongoing list of what attracts you to that special someone.

A few months ago my grandmother asked me a question that would forever alter the way I looked at, regarded and demonstrated love. I was in the earlier stages of dating with my boyfriend at this time, and she like most in my family knew I was smitten; I was truly in what they consider the “honeymoon stage” – he could do no wrong and I just adored everything about him. Needless to say, my grandmother didn’t ask me “Do you love him?”, but “Why do you love him Devin?” While I could provide answer, the question stumped me. So often you will find yourself being simply asked, “Do you love him/her?” and we quickly blurt out, “Yes!”

Her question stuck with me as our relationship continued to grow, I found myself delving deeper into why I loved him, which over time solidified my answer when someone asked me, “Do you love him?”

Our generation is bombarded with opinions, how-to’s, lists, and cliche rules for what defines a “successful” relationship, most often this is relayed to us via our social media timelines, friends or family, and even group messaging applications. In our minds, we’ve got it figured out (and for quite some time I thought I did too!), yet there’s some layers I’ve found that many of my peers need to pull back – the first, which is hinted at in the title of this post is: Redefining Intimacy. 

From observation, this or moreover the lack of this is what is killing relationships. By definition intimacy points to familiarity, closeness, bonds, and so forth, yet when most of us consider intimacy we are only reflecting upon physical intimacy (sex). Ahh, sex – it’s so taboo within our society, we plaster it upon all of our advertising, films, and even social conversations, yet somehow it’s still this big “no-no” that isn’t talked about openly in the way I believe it should be (especially in relationships). Yet, sex is unfortunately the bottom line of intimacy for many couples (whether married, dating or in between). I asked some of my peers to consider, if you remove physical intimacy from your relationship, what’s left? Is the bond strong enough between the two of you to find (and most importantly want to find) differing ways to express love, attraction, and appreciation?

While being as candid as I can be, I too mistook physical intimacy as a way to show my significant other that I cared about him, and while it’s not wrong, it is very important to find other ways to demonstrate love. Sex is easy to find, get, what may have you – it’s always been that way and always will be, but the connection of two souls/bodies coming together is very hard to come by, and even more hard to come by without being physically intimate with one another.

Once I figured this out, I wanted to find other ways to show my significant other that I loved him, and in doing so our relationship strengthened – like a lot. Personally, I turned to writing as a form of expression, my handwritten letters to him allowed me to express what sometimes I verbally could not, I poured my heart on to paper, and the connection I felt with him watching him read my letters was (and still is) absolutely indescribable. He too, found ways to express love to me, outside of being physically intimate and such has opened doors for our relationship to prosper. Our conversations are stronger and deeper, bickering and arguments have lessened, we are more in “tune” with one another, I feel safe opening up to him and I can lay on his chest listening to his heart thump my favorite rhythmic tune without saying a word and just be at peace.

Don’t get me wrong folks, physically intimacy, of all kinds, is important to explore and cherish with your partner, but sometimes we can get so caught up in that (and let’s not even get into the self consciousness that comes with trying to please your partner) and forget the “why” of it all. So I challenge my readers to ask yourself, “Why?” and then take it a step further and show that special someone “how”.

Love on, lovers. 

As always,

Devin J

 

Remembering the Golden Rule

Regardless of where in the world you went to school, you were likely taught some form or version of the “Golden Rule”

The Golden Rule or law of reciprocity is the principle of treating others as one would wish to be treated oneself. It is a maxim of altruism seen in many human religions, human cultures, and animal kingdoms.

In the simplest of terms the rule that advised you to simply treat others how you want to be treated. As children, this was don’t push on the playground or do your best to share with others in the classroom – little things that we as adults can now say, “Okay that’s easy enough.” Yet, interestingly enough the application of this rule as we peak and level into adulthood seems to somehow slip away. Here and there we may find ourselves forgetting to take in consideration the feelings, differing views/thought processes and beliefs of others.

My question is why?

Why is that the older we get the more stuck in our ways, closed minded, and prideful we become? What about life makes us lose that childhood innocence and willingness to forgive? I can remember being a child and quickly forgiving a friend that accidentally pushed me on the playground, yet now it’s not so easy to move forward and it’s something that I really don’t like about “adulting”.

I don’t like that people (whether I know them closely or not) seem to disregard my thoughts or feelings and carry on with their own self driven agendas. I don’t like that we don’t automatically treat others with respect, rather demand that they “earn it”. I don’t like that we feel we can look down or belittle someone else due to circumstances that may or may not be of their control. I don’t like that we allow our presumptions of people to prevent us from really trying to get to know them. I don’t like that it’s so easy to throw away relationships of any kind, without hope of resolving.

We hold grudges, we hurt others without intention of apologizing, and we can inherently be selfish. The older we get the colder (some) of us become.

I wish I could say I’ve never hurt or let someone down, but I have and on more than one occasion and in turn I’ve been hurt just as much if not more. I can reflect on the times  when I said things I didn’t mean or said things I simply shouldn’t have. I’ve been mean to others out of spite, trying to get “even”, and trying to combat the crude behaviors that were directed towards me.

I am not perfect, but that’s what makes us human.

Our lives are a series of trial and error, trial and error.. we live and we learn (Sometimes it takes us more than a few tries to learn too!).  Yet, while we will never be able to guarantee that we won’t hurt or disappoint someone else, what we can do is reflect. Reflection will allow us to not only hold ourselves accountable, but allow for growth. No one wants perfection really, rather effort.

Don’t allow life and the coldness that sometimes comes with it to steal the light and warmth within you – people are going to hurt you. Forever keep in mind the good ol’ Golden Rule.

Be kind, be open, be receptive and simply treat others how YOU want to be treated. 

As always,

Devin J

 

Couldn’t be More INFJ if I Tried

A few years ago I took a personality exam that really told me so much about myself and moreover who I would soon become based upon my personality. I am an INFJ (Introversion (I), Intuition (N), Feeling (F), Judgment (J)) through and through. The Myers-Brigg Personality Type Indicator really allowed me to hone in on what makes me, me and moreover how I can use the skills and personality attributes I have to better communicate with others.

According to the 16 Personalities the INFJ personality type is very rare, making up less than one percent of the population. As Diplomats (NF), they have an inborn sense of idealism and morality, but what sets them apart is the accompanying Judging (J) trait – INFJs are not idle dreamers, but people capable of taking concrete steps to realize their goals and make a lasting positive impact.

INFJs tend to see helping others as their purpose in life, but while people with this personality type can be found engaging rescue efforts and doing charity work, their real passion is to get to the heart of the issue so that people need not be rescued at all. <- GOODNESS that is me.

INFJs indeed share a very unique combination of traits: though soft-spoken, they have very strong opinions and will fight tirelessly for an idea they believe in. They are decisive and strong-willed, but will rarely use that energy for personal gain – INFJs will act with creativity, imagination, conviction and sensitivity not to create advantage, but to create balance. Egalitarianism and karma are very attractive ideas to INFJs, and they tend to believe that nothing would help the world so much as using love and compassion to soften the hearts of tyrants.

INFJs need time alone to decompress and recharge, and to not become too alarmed when they suddenly withdraw. INFJs take great care of other’s feelings, and they expect the favor to be returned – sometimes that means giving them the space they need for a few days.

It is also important for INFJs to remember to take care of themselves. The passion of their convictions is perfectly capable of carrying them past their breaking point and if their zeal gets out of hand, they can find themselves exhausted, unhealthy and stressed. This becomes especially apparent when INFJs find themselves up against conflict and criticism – their sensitivity forces them to do everything they can to evade these seemingly personal attacks, but when the circumstances are unavoidable, they can fight back in highly irrational, unhelpful ways. – HOLY MOLY This is so me

When it comes to romantic relationships, INFJs take the process of finding a partner seriously. Not ones for casual encounters, people with the INFJ personality type instead look for depth and meaning in their relationships. INFJs will take the time necessary to find someone they truly connect with – once they’ve found that someone, their relationships will reach a level of depth and sincerity that most people can only dream of.

Getting to that point can sometimes be a challenge for potential partners, especially if they are the impatient type, as INFJs are often perfectionistic and picky. People with this personality type aren’t easily talked into something they don’t want, and if someone doesn’t pick up on that, it’s a trespass that is unlikely to be forgiven, particularly in the early stages of dating. Even worse is if a suitor tries to resort to manipulation or lying, as INFJs will see right through it, and if there’s anything they have a poor tolerance for in a relationship, it is inauthenticity.

INFJs will go out of their way to seek out people who share their desire for authenticity, and out of their way to avoid those who don’t, especially when looking for a partner. All that being said, INFJs often have the advantage of desirability – they are warm, friendly, caring and insightful, seeing past facades and the obvious to understand others’ thoughts and emotions.

INFJs are enthusiastic in their relationships, and there is a sense of wisdom behind their spontaneity, allowing them to pleasantly surprise their partners again and again. INFJs aren’t afraid to show their love, and they feel it unconditionally, creating a depth to the relationship that can hardly be described in conventional terms. Relationships with INFJs are not for the uncommitted or the shallow. 

When it comes to intimacy, INFJs look for a connection that goes beyond the physical, embracing the emotional and even spiritual connection they have with their partner. People with the INFJ personality type are passionate partners, and see intimacy as a way to express their love and to make their partners happy. INFJs cherish not just the act of being in a relationship, but what it means to become one with another person, in mind, body and soul.

There is a running theme with INFJs, and that is a yearning for authenticity and sincerity – in their activities, their romantic relationships, and their friendships. People with the INFJ personality type are unlikely to go for friendships of circumstance, like workplace social circles or chatting up their local baristas, where the only thing they really have in common is a day-to-day familiarity. Rather, INFJs seek out people who share their passions, interests and ideologies, people with whom they can explore philosophies and subjects that they believe are truly meaningful.

INFJs are often perfectionistic, looking for ultimate compatibility, and yet also look for someone with whom they can grow and improve in tandem. Needless to say, this is a tall order, and INFJs should try to remember that they are a particularly rare personality type, and even if they find someone compatible in that sense, the odds that they will also share every interest are slim. If they don’t learn to meet others halfway and recognize that the kind of self-improvement and depth they demand is simply exhausting for many types, INFJs are likely end up abandoning healthy friendships in their infancy, in search of more perfect compatibilities.

It’s almost scary how accurate this test is, thus I strongly encourage others to take it as well.

CLICK HERE TO TAKE THE TEST

As always,

Devin J, your favorite INFJ

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Right Person, Wrong Time and the Issue of Entitlement

Awhile ago someone posed a question on Twitter that asked their followers this:

“Is there such thing as the right person at the wrong time, or is it just the wrong person all together?”

This was question that I never really thought of before, and moreover challenged me to think about when and what the “wrong” time in someone’s life could be. Like most things in life, the older (or rather the more exposed) I get the more clearly I see and understand that it’s completely possible to meet someone at the wrong time or just meet the wrong person.

Let me explain.

Whether it’s the fact the one person is emotionally more mature, one is looking to settle while the other isn’t, differing priorities, differing career or personal goals, previous relationships that haven’t completely ended..you name it and it could be a reason that it’s simply the wrong time. Quite frankly I’m sure its frustrating to be on either side of said scenarios, as you’ll both have a difficult time seeing eye to eye on expectations. Actions and words after you surpass the “honeymoon” stage will be over analyzed and taken far deeper than they would of had you both been on the same  level of understanding. So, what do you do when you think it’s the right person at the wrong time? 

Well, I hope you are looking to me for the answer, but I will say this:

My mother always told me, if it’s meant to be, it will be. This isn’t meant to dilute any of the effort that goes into the maintenance of a relationship, yet if you’re really with the one, things will work out the way they are supposed to.

While I can understand what my mom means here, its scary as all get out to essentially leave things up to chance. I’m a planner. I like to know what’s going to happen, when it’s going to happen, and moreover how it’s going to happen. I suppose I like feeling in control of situations, because then I know what and where to invest my time, energy, and love to. Nothing is more draining than placing that into the wrong hands or space.

Getting back to the original question of the tweet, is it possible that it’s just the wrong person all together – I vote yes, sometimes.

I’ve seen it happen far too many times where people try to force themselves within another’s life and that in itself is problematic. You can be a great person, have great intentions, and genuinely care for or shoot even love your partner, but still not be the best fit for them – and that’s okay!  I think this is what a lot of adults have trouble understanding. As in our heads we are thinking, I am doing everything right, what’s not to love? Neglecting that you can be doing everything right for the wrong person. Sometimes your “right” isn’t the “right” that they need – are ya’ll with me?

I truly believe this is the root of relationship issues now, sure there’s social media and constant connectivity, but this feeling of entitlement is what I believe is really killing dating. We feel entitled to commitment when doing the right thing and we also feel entitled to giving to someone that we no longer are involved with. As I said, you can be a phenomenal being, but just not the one for him or her and if you were involved with someone that was good to you and it didn’t work out stop thinking you owe them something because they were good to you at one point in time. There’s a lot of good people out here. Avoid blocking your blessings and potentially someone else’s by being entitled.

Whew – long story short this is why communication is essential. It’s important to be transparent, open, receptive, etc to your partner. So yes it can certainly be the right person at the wrong time, or it can just be the wrong person all around. Know yourself, know your worth, and know who belongs in your life and simply who doesn’t.

As always,

Devin J

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Happy Endings Are on the Last Page 

Frequently I find myself feeling exceptionally down because love didn’t happen the way I dreamed my entire life it would.

Where I went looking for love I was met with abuse (verbal, physical, and emotional), cheating and lies on more than one occasion. As I’ve expressed in previous blog posts I’ve always kind of wondered what’s wrong with me.. Was I not worthy of the love I so craved? Was I doing too much.. or perhaps too little? What about me made a man not want to commit, or hurt me? What did I do to deserve “this” time and time again..

Upon reflection, it’s clear to see that this is quite a destructive thought process. If I have learned anything when it comes to unhealthy relationships, it’s often the wrong person questioning their worth and what they did wrong. Yet, the thoughts sometimes plague my mind, despite my constant fight not to let them penetrate my happiness.

If you would have asked me where I’d be at 22 (or so) when I was 16, 17, or even 19.. my answer wouldn’t reflect where I am today, at all. I’ve met every personal, academic, and work related goal, but love and healthy relationships at large is something that I’ve struggled with. Years ago I really believed that by now I’d be married and swooning over my husband that would come home to me everyday, our home. We’d be happily building a life together, and moreover creating a legacy that will continue on long after we are gone.

I never wanted perfect, I just wanted someone who saw something special in me and didn’t take that for granted.

The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. 2 Peter 3:9

Within my conversations with God, I found myself requesting patience, understanding, and whatever else was needed in the process of me waiting for the man He intended for me. As I do self reflection, there’s certainly room for growth prior to that point, as the person I will commit the rest of my eternal life to, deserves the very best version of me. So, for that, I am willing to wait.

Interestingly enough, a few days ago I read a quote (via Pinterest of all places) that mentioned how in fairy tales the happy ending is typically on the last page. What a profound and timely message. As of now, I am still writing my story.

As always,

Devin J

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#BlackLivesMatter and America in Terror

Yesterday evening, I had the opportunity to be a part of one of the many Black Lives Matter protests taking place in Omaha, Nebraska. Just shy of a week ago hundreds took to 120th and Center (what’s classified as west Omaha) to protest as well. This one in particular took place on the four corners of 30th and Ames – nearing what I consider to be the heart and business district of northern Omaha.

If I had to guess there were probably close to 150 in attendance, yet you couldn’t tell due to how quiet it was. Unlike the other protests I’ve attended regarding Black Lives Matter there were no chants or songs shouted in unison, or anything for that matter really bringing us all together.

I had an opportunity to talk with some of the individuals at the rally, and a common theme was a feeling of hopelessness.

“I’ve lived in north O my whole life, and seeing everything that’s happened in other states with the police and blacks I am fearful, not for just me but my kids too.” – Shawn (last name not given)

The too close to home feeling is one that is really start to eat at me, the idea that my father, brothers, cousins, boyfriend, and so forth could be the next hashtag is down right frightening and it’s truly a what can you do sort of situation.

Prior to deleting my social media accounts, I made several posts that alluded to the fact that the issue doesn’t lie within individual police officers, but rather the system which protects those individuals with power whom choose to abuse it over and over again, taking innocent lives without a second thought. This is a systemic issue, one that has roots spanning back to slavery, Jim Crow, segregation, etc.

Race and race relations is something that I’ve always discussed on my blog, yet how much more can we talk about this? How many more times can we protest and chant and hold signs until something actually changes? How many more lives will be taken – black or white?  America has a messed up.. like really messed up history. A history of abuse of power, a history that cradles and supports racist behaviors, systems, and individuals, and overall a history that’s not willing to lift the bandages that have long covered issues that are not healed.

America is in terror.. What do we do?

As always,

Devin J