Some Frank Personal Thoughts on Depression and Suicide

By Shannon Cutts

shutterstock_122961457Last month we were shocked – flattened – to discover our beloved Robin Williams had taken his own life.

I blogged about it the day I found out….and I’m still very sad. I miss him.

Knowing more about the possible “whys” – he had been diagnosed with early stage Parkinson’s Disease; he may have been struggling with bipolar illness as well as depression; he found aging to be a ponderous and difficult process – makes his choice perhaps less mystifying.

But it doesn’t make it one bit easier to accept.

I will admit sometimes I feel like I should have been asked. “Is it okay with you if I just go now?” I would have answered him: “No. No, it is not okay with me. No one else makes me laugh quite like you. I feel like you know me – even though I know you don’t. Please stay. Promise me you will.”

Watching someone we love lose their battle with depression kindles a bit of that same capitulation in each of us.

I am definitely no exception.

In times like these, I can’t help but remember my first big suicide scare. It was in college. One night the bottom just dropped out of me. I ended up in a local ER. The nurse diagnosed me with a “runaway eating disorder” and recommended counseling.

That night was the first time I’d ever considered there was an “it” ruining my life – that it wasn’t just me screwing things up all by myself.

I felt hopeful, but also very scared. Suicide seemed, well, easier, and certainly quicker, than fixing what was wrong with me.

In fact, the “terrible twins” of cyclical anxiety and depression have stalked me nearly all my life, but I was in my early 30′s (and newly in strong recovery from the eating disorder) before I had enough energy to notice.

Many, many times in the in-between years, I continued to toy with vague notions of suicide. Usually these were couched in the form of remote philosophical queries: “I wonder – just hypothetically speaking of course – if I drove off this cliff, how long would it take before anyone noticed?”

As a traveling marketer living out of state and away from her family and friends at that time, I had many weeks and months on the road to ponder all possible answers.

Later on, as the anxious and depressive cycles widened and deepened, thoughts of suicide became more functional. Recognizing my addictive personality by this point, I was terrified to take drugs (prescription or otherwise), and yet I couldn’t make heads or tails of how to end the unbearable cycling any other way, other than the obvious.

After a long course of neurotherapy treatment, I began to experience some relief from the anxiety.

Then all of a sudden the depression worsened again. Neurotherapy didn’t help this time.

Finally, through a truly strange series of twists and turns, I began to take anti-depressants at last. This was three years ago.

Continue reading… »



How to Tell if You are an Emotional Sleeper

By Shannon Cutts

shutterstock_212138536A week or so ago I was talking to one of my colleagues.

We were discussing stress.

I asked her how she copes with stress in her life – her answer surprised me.

She said, “I am an ‘emotional sleeper.’”

It didn’t take me long (i.e. about two seconds) to figure out that I, too, am an ‘emotional sleeper.’

In fact, even on low stress days I am barely out of bed before I am looking forward to being back in it again.

On high stress days, I can barely wait for it to be time for my favorite activity again – sleeping, of course.

What I found most odd is that I’d never heard of this term before….or even thought to think it up for myself. 

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Jane Goodall Answers a Questionnaire

By Shannon Cutts

shutterstock_30427399I can’t help but find it oh-so interesting that, just a few days after posting my thoughts on the relative value of online quizzes, I encounter another quiz I really want to take.

Although here I feel that perhaps the deck is unfairly stacked against me.

You see, Jane Goodall, one of my heroes and mentors, happens to be the latest in a long line of luminaries to answer this particular quiz.

And Marcel Proust is the quiz’s long-passed yet still celebrated author.

I loved Goodall’s responses. For many of the questions, a simple switch of “parrots” for “chimps” and her answers could be my own.

Not that that means I could resist taking the quiz for myself.

In fact, I have decided I will take the quiz right here…..for reasons including these:

  1. The questions feel very pertinent to recovery, mentoring, relationships, and life – they are questions from which we might all benefit by discovering our own inner answers.
  2. I suspect this is precisely the kind of quiz my mentor would encourage me to take, because it encourages me to tap into my inner wisdom and intuition rather than asking others what they think (or, even worse, comparing my responses with others’ responses).

So….here goes! 

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What Online Quizzes Tell Us About Ourselves

By Shannon Cutts

shutterstock_194317793The other day a Facebook friend posted a link to a free online quiz.

The title read, “What is your brain gender?”

Of course I had to take it (I mean, who knew my brain had a gender?!)

The quiz asked me a series of seemingly easy questions.

I felt confident in my answers.

My result? My brain is 88% “female.”

To be honest, I wasn’t surprised (although I will admit to a moment of wondering what the other rogue 12% might be up to).

The moment I got done with that quiz, the website presented another.

The title read, “What is your inner age?

I was so on this – I leaped right in and began answering more questions.

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Chats with a Younger Me

By Shannon Cutts
Me-then, circa 1973.

Me-then, circa 1973.

I’ve blogged a bit here and there about my ongoing work to resolve conflicts between “me now” and “me then.”

One of the most effective techniques I use is a simple Q&A.

For instance, if I wake up (like I did this morning) and realize I spent all night dreaming about painful periods from my past, I will ask my younger self questions.

Since my younger self is, well, younger, I use simple, open-ended questions.

I might ask, “What do you need from me?”

Or “What can I do to help?”

I also use statements.

Sometimes I say, “I’m so sorry.”

Or “Thank you for not giving up.”

Sometimes I just wait and listen and let my younger self vent. 

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Understanding Our Desire to Explore and Invent

By Shannon Cutts

shutterstock_164724497Recently we’ve been chatting (via blog posts at least) about a number of, well, less “naturally desirable” character traits and where they might have come from.

And why.

And how.

And what (if anything) we can do to get them to go away.

The other morning I was snoozing as usual. The night before I had watched a Netflix special about the link between Neanderthals and Homo Sapiens.

Needless to say, after a night of dreaming myself back in the jungle, quite hairy, covered in mosquitos and wielding a spear held together with tree resin “pitch glue,” I was in full-on contemplation mode about the intersection of evolution with invention.

The next night, I watched a special on Yellowstone National Park called “Battle for Life.” The special featured pronghorn – a type of mammal similar to the antelope – and how they evolved to become the fastest land mammals out of a desire to evade a now-instinct type of cheetah.

And it hit me. 

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Past-Gazer Versus Future-Gazer

By Shannon Cutts

shutterstock_127696883The other night I was watching something…..I think it might have been “Longmire” but don’t quote me on that.

Speaking of which, while watching, I paused the show to write down this great quote:

There is no past that we can bring back by longing for it….only a present that builds and creates itself as the past withdraws.

Since then, I have read it every few days (on account of having written it down right on my in-phone grocery list).

Each time I re-read it, the quote makes me pause yet again.

You see, I’ve never been a “past gazer.”

I’ve just never wanted to go back – not a day in my life.

If anything, I have spent more time gazing into the future, wondering when it will finally get here.

Perhaps this is because for approximately 20 of my 44 years to date, I struggled with anorexia and bulimia.

Even after that struggle ended, I had another good long decade to follow of fighting tooth and nail with cyclical anxiety and depression.

Maturity, medication, meditation (and feathers – plenty of feathers) helped me break free at last.

When I broke free, I felt like my past had released me into my future – the future I had been longing for ever since I was born. 

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You are Living a Great Life – YOURS

By Shannon Cutts
-Image courtesy of http://www.fightlikeagirlclub.com

-Image courtesy of http://www.fightlikeagirlclub.com

Everywhere, all around us, people are fighting.

They are surviving the un-survivable.

They are choosing to find that one tiny ray of hope in the hopeless.

They are creating a path to make the un-workable work.

They are inspiring others (like me) without even wanting, trying, or meaning to!

You are too.

Every time I sit down to write this monthly e-newsletter, I think of each of you who are receiving it.

I realize there is so much struggle – so many trials – so much pain and challenge in the world. 

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Jealousy: Hard-Wired, Learned, or Both?

By Shannon Cutts
My parrot, Pearl, jealously eyeing my baby tortoise, Malti.

My parrot, Pearl, jealously eyeing my baby tortoise, Malti.

Last month I shared a post about how to stop judging other people.

The post generated some interesting comments.

One particular reader suggested that perhaps the sensation of “jealousy” might have a similar survival-based purpose.

I was most intrigued by her idea!

The truth is, I am personally more apt to look to animal behavior rather than human behavior to better understand why I think and say and feel and do the things I think/say/feel/do.

This is because when I watch animals there is less subtext to wade through.

The link between motive – action – desired outcome is clearer.

In the judging post, I used the analogy of a lady eagle choosing a mate and why judgment might be helpful to that process (especially since eagles mate for life).

In the same way, when I watch television shows about animals, I notice what appears to be a fair amount of what I might call “practical jealousy” – jealousy that could be useful for successfully navigating the various facets of a survival-based daily life.

In fact, I don’t even have to turn on the television to see this – in my own household, my 13-year old parrot, Pearl, is intensely jealous of my new baby tortoise, Malti.

Pearl doesn’t try to hide his jealousy. If anything, he amps up his efforts at self-expression (perhaps assuming his large featherless housemate is too dense to pick up on anything less than the most extreme outbursts).

You might be wondering, “How do I know that Pearl is ‘jealous’?” 

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What One Little Stomach and One Big Lion Have in Common

By Shannon Cutts

shutterstock_17632963The other night I had a dream that a big lion bit me in the stomach and I died.

It was a sad dream.

My family was there, and many friends, but no one could do a thing to save me.

Please understand – this kind of dream is nothing out of the ordinary for me.

I have always dreamed vividly and do not anticipate this will ever change.

I don’t even really mind it – over the years I have learned my dreams are often teachers – especially the ones that come over and over and over again.

Also, I have learned that often my pets will take on roles as “me” in my dream state (understandably, over the years this has made repeated episodes featuring the dream-time demise of my beloved parrot much easier to bear).

The lion dream especially interested me, because it followed a mystifying two-week episode of intense stomach distress of the kind I used to get when I was recovering from my eating disorder.

Continue reading… »



 
 

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