handling life's pressures Jun 13, 2018
I don't think my blog will solve anything in the complex nature of being human but it will highlight a few problem areas of the pressures we carry in life. You see, anyone, rich, famous or, like my dad, a hard-working father, grandfather and husband can be faced with the devastating choice of taking their life as the only way to solve their pain.
It is being crushed under life's pressures and a lifelong collection of past pain that leads to suicide and no amount of pills will resolve that. It is the courage to stand up and become aware of the pain, face it, forgive it and accept it as something that has made you who you are.
The problems I see are:-
1. Living up to other's expectations - As the youngest of four children, I always felt the need to live up to my dad's expectations. I wanted to be seen and recognised by the first love of my life. All I ever wanted was for him to say he was proud of me. After his death, I found all the letters and birthday cards I had ever sent to him in his bedside cabinet. That said what he never could.
Living up to other people's expectations is a dangerous way to live because you have expectations of HOW they should respond. Unfortunately, you have no control over that so you are always at risk of being hurt. These hurts that, ultimately, you have created because of your expectations, stay with you, in your mind, in your heart and you carry them in the cells of your body where they can cause illness.
As the Happiness Millionaire, I feel a lot of pressure to always be 'up' and 'happy'. If that is the expectation from my friends, family and online followers, then what do I do when I am faced with an emotional challenge, as I was recently when a relationship came to an end that was brought on, mistakenly, by me?
At the weekend I escaped to London to have fun times with my daughter. On the returning train journey, I received a call from someone who has interviewed me several times on the radio.
'Hi, how are you doing?' he asked.
You know that general question when someone doesn't want the real answer?
'I am OK' I replied.
I realise it is a miracle that I was ever born, as the chances are 1/400 trillion and that every day is a gift, but that day my heart was aching a little for the relationship I had messed up with.
'You are JUST OK, not AMAZING?' he asked with a hint of judgment in his voice.
I went on to explain myself and then stopped because I shouldn't have to explain. I should just be allowed the space to be how I feel and NOT to live up to someone's expectations of how the Happiness Millionaire should respond. I am not perfect, please don't put that pressure on me.
Kate Spade's sister says that was likely to be one of the problems Kate was going through, in the article in The Independent.
"Ms Spade’s sister claimed she felt pressure to maintain her “happy-go-lucky” image matching her famous brand, which prevented her from seeking help with mental health issues."
You don't have to be famous to feel you have to live up to other's expectations. We all live such public lives with social media that we are under a new modern pressure to live by the image we create for our self. We need to step back and give ourselves space to be and stop judging our self. We also need to give others the space to be and stop judging them. Everyone is doing the best they can with the life they have been given.
2. Getting stuck in our pain without being aware - We all make mistakes, we all let someone down at some point in our life and others will hurt us too. True living is being vulnerable.
You can hide from your vulnerability by keeping your head down, working hard, drinking too much, eating the wrong foods, having too much sex (yes, this is a distraction as well as a pleasure), blaming others, complaining, plus many other distractions to avoid looking at your life and resolving issues that may bring old pain to the surface. Avoidance of the truth keeps you stuck in the pain. When my dad was made redundant at age 61, he was suddenly faced with too much time that he couldn't fill with work or going to the pub. This gave his mind plenty of time to ruminate and drag up past pains. It was just him and his pain and nowhere to turn.
Personally, I believe that rather than talking about the 'depression' as an illness, we need to know about the triggers, about the pain, about coping with lack of self-worth, shame and the pressure of living up to other people's expectations. Where is that conversation? If we can get answers to that, we can heal without drugs. It may take a little longer but we won't numb the pain but grow through the pain. This is why I started my YouTube channel, A Walk And A Talk For Happiness Seekers. I interview experts, wise people and people who have come through extraordinary emotional pain to go on and lead amazing lives.
You see after dad took his life, I felt I had lost meaning to mine because of my obsession with making dad proud of me. I felt rejected and wondered why all those years I had made him my focus? I was angry at him but really I should have been cross at myself. I made those choices. Dad never said 'you must do things so that I can be proud of you'. It was a story I made up in my head. Suddenly, on October 29th, 1994, I lost my inner compass. I didn't feel I was being true anymore. I had no reason, no purpose - or so I believed.
On the outside, my life looked perfect. I was married to a good, hardworking man with three young, beautiful healthy children. We had a four bedroomed detached home, new cars every couple of years and summer and winter holidays. Like Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain and my dad, we had built an impressive exterior. It was inside that needed to be rebuilt. Rebuilding inside when you have created an external life that others rely on takes great courage. You have to face truths, some people call these 'demons'. Demons are your truths, the life situations you must face in order to come through the other side to the real person.
3. Guilt - oh, guilt is a good one. It serves no one. No doubt this was very powerful for Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain given the amazing external lives they had created. When I sat in my pain and was keeping it to myself, suffering in silence because I didn't want to hurt my husband and children, I felt very guilty. Regularly the dialogue in my head was,
'why can't you just be grateful? You have a beautiful home and three beautiful children.'
Why couldn't I just be grateful? The answer is that I couldn't see a future for myself and when I looked back I saw pain from lack of self-worth. I am reminded of the Bible reference 'A man without vision will perish.' I was lost, lonely and felt insignificant. I was also exhausted with nowhere to go to rest as my husband worked away all week and brought work home at the weekend. Then I would beat myself up inside because I wasn't feeling grateful for the hard work my husband was doing for us to have a nice family life. All of these pains, thoughts and emotions were messing with my head until, inevitably, the day came that I had a breakdown.
We often don't know what to do in these moments but what is needed is to be loved more and what often happens is we are told to sort our self out.
'Pull yourself together.' 'Why can't you be happy?' 'You have everything you need!'
And those comments feed the guilt and round and round you go until YOU decide to face it and stop it.
4. Grief - Grief is very painful and doesn't only exist with the death of a person or an animal. There is stealth grief that filters into so many areas of life.
We grieve during the aging process - menopause physically demonstrates the loss of our youth. Then we experience children growing up and leaving home. Today is my youngest son's 21st birthday and though I am very proud and grateful for the man he has become, I had a tear this morning for the child I once knew, the loss of the soft hand that once reached up to take mine for safety. For people who were unable to have children, they grieve the children they never had. When a relationship breaks up, we not only grieve the couple that we once were, or the person who has gone from our life but we grieve the dreams we made together.
Apparently, Kate Spade's husband had moved out of the home and though, as he says they were working through things, she would have been grieving the life she had before. During the grieving process, you are directionless, lost and lonely and the only thing to do is keep getting up in the morning, take a shower be kind to yourself and take gentle walks until the pain eases off so you can make sense of the situation and make changes.
I know my dad was suffering through loss because several of his friends had passed away and that made him fear his own mortality. His older brother had been an alcoholic and his whole family had walked away because they couldn't handle living with him anymore. He became dirty with long hair and a beard and his nails were so long they curled. Dad refused to let any of us visit our uncle. I am sure my dad grieved the brother he once had and the laughter they once shared.
You see, none of this is terribly unusual or specific to rich and famous people. We all have our stories and pains of expectation, guilt and grief. However, we have two choices. We can either face the pains and work through them by reading, understanding, working with an expert or having a great compassionate friend. But taking different action is definitely needed. If you do the same thing life will remain the same.
Always look for the seed of benefit in every pain and defeat. It will always be there, though not always visible immediately, so be patient.
You may wish you could turn the clocks back (boy there are times I wish I could) and change the situation but you can't. However, viewing the past differently means you can change how you view the future and create new experiences.
You pass through this world once, I wish you love, courage and happiness along the way.
Janet Jones x
Are you at a turning point in your life? Do you want more from life, both your personal and work, but not sure how to change it? Then you may be interested in the second six-week Seeing Happiness Course I am running at the new library, starting on the 18th of September at 6.15pm.
# Janet Jones is the author of Award Winning book Happiness Millionaire: Positive Images for a R.I.C.H and Powerful Life
# Winner of the Women Inspiring Women Award 2013, Speaker/Trainer category