Monday, May 13, 2013

Giving to Others is Also Giving to Yourself

Helping Others Can Reduce Stress and Depression

I have suffered from Depression and high Anxiety nearly all my life. Both of my parents were alcoholics and my mother was mentally ill. She suffered from periodic and debilitating bouts of depression. Living under the stress of daily verbal and physical abuse can take its toll. Neurological pathways are laid down in the brain where it seems 'normal' to be under stress. If a person is under a stressful state for years, certain diseases can occur. These might include insomnia, personality disorders such as depression and even PTSD, diabetes, and high cholesterol.


My novel, The Shade Tree Choir, is a true account of a child living with starvation, beatings, punched throughout the body, standing at attention for many hours, and being locked in a darken closet for eighteen hours with no water and no restroom. My abuse started at age eight and ended at age seventeen. It can be found at my website and you can also watch a two minute video on the top of this Blog. That video will give you a 'feel' for my book. 


One activity I learned early on in Life, was I found it calming and rewarding to help others. I was not certain, but there was a warmth when I did something nice for others. As I grew into an adult, I was fortunate enough to go to graduate school and become a physical therapist. I retired last year after some forty years in the field. Little did I know that when I was a young I would help others physically and emotionally. And they would help me.


I loved being a physical therapist. My didactic training and personal experiences taught me something to help overcome my personal illness. Any time we do an activity the brain records that event and is called a neurological pathway. The more we experience something, the stronger the pathway becomes. Negative pathways from my past will always be with me. So will the positive pathways. All of these have made me who I am. Each piece of mosaic event creates a beautiful piece of art. That artwork is US! We are all a collection of our pathways. In addition to my book, another great source of reading is Understanding The Fall by Susan McMartin. Her book is about a little girl growing up with an alcoholic mother. Both Susan's book and mine are stories about HOPE!


I say to you embrace yourself! Don't blame others for any of your negative characteristics. We all have them. Mark Twain once said, "Each of us is like a moon. We have a dark side that nobody sees." 


I believe that the more we give to others, the more we give to ourselves. Gandhi, Dr. King, Jesus Christ, Mother Theresa, and The Dalai Lama advocated this principle. It can also be compared to Karma. If we send out good Karma, then it will return to us. 


There have been many times in my life when I did not have the energy to help anyone - including myself. In my first book, Stress Management: Does Anyone in Chicago Know About It?, I discussed that when we are stressed it is time to pull in to heal. Regardless, how low we are, there is always room for a smile or a kind word. The more I helped my patients, the better they became, and SO DID I! It was incredible. I might start the day on the 'pity-pot'. After giving all I could to others, I felt great at the end of the day.


We do not know what others are experiencing at any given time. I once was pissed-off at an older guy driving too slow in the fast lane on the interstate highway. I was in a hurry. I had things to do. I was important. As I passed him in the right lane, I looked over. He was crying and it was then I saw his window sticker that read "Proud Parents of a Dead Soldier"! I slowed down, gave it all a thought and felt terrible. I made a point of being kind to others even more so that day. 


I challenge you this month. Help yourself by helping or being kind to strangers. The Lakota Sioux Native People in America believe that generosity is defined as: To give is to bless and not to expect something in return. Wouldn't it be great to post here on my Blog in the Comment Section examples of what you did for a stranger. Who knows, maybe we will start a movement together!


Be well and Love Life!

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The Shade Tree Choir Book Trailer