Saturday, 23 November 2013

Know Thyself

Depression and anxiety are part of many people's lives. They've definitely been a part of my life. What I've realized though is that neither depression nor anxiety is a disorder. 

What I now understand about depression and anxiety is that both are surface manifestations of imbalance. These manifestations are deeper than the symptoms I've been experiencing every day. The truth of the matter is, I don't have to live with depression or anxiety ... and neither do you.

Most of us worry about worrying. We're anxious about our anxiety. It's a vicious cycle. The more we worry about worrying, the more anxious we become. The more anxious we become, the more we worry. In the end, we become depressed. Our health is affected because we don't get enough sleep. We crave eating, mostly unhealthy food. We lack exercise and are overwhelmed by our emotions, feeling unloved.

The day-to-day struggle makes us feel as if we have no purpose to move forward in life. The root of the problem lies in the fact that most of us do not know ourselves very well. We don't know what it is we desire, what we are chasing, what we want, what we need or where we're going. Not knowing leaves us feeling uneasy and disconnected.

Every day, we are surrounded by people. We all wear masks – different masks for different people. We're too afraid to be ourselves. We're too afraid of ourselves. In this confused state of anxiety, we make choices and live with the consequences. More often than not, we regret the choices and the consequences.

Where does it all end?

We need to identify the people, places, activities and our own thought patterns that trigger depression and anxiety. We have to believe that we can change how we feel so that we don't suffer any longer. Napoleon Bonaparte said, "When you fight, fight as if everything depends on you. And when you pray, pray as if everything depends on God." We have to fight against negative influences constantly and learn to focus on the positive things in life.

We have to have that much faith that when we wake up in the morning, we have the power to rely on ourselves, and when we climb into bed at night, we rely on God. This doesn't mean that we don't need God during the day. It simply means, we know ourselves well enough (our strengths and our weaknesses) that we can cope confidently with who and what we are.

It takes time and God to make a life. We can't make a life if we don't know who we are. We need to find "quiet time" in every day to be with ourselves, to get to know ourselves. The more we know about ourselves, the more we will be able to endure ourselves. We'll find an inner calm of acceptance and once we have that, we will have conquered depression and anxiety.

So, go on. Get to "know thyself" ~ Socrates.

Saturday, 26 October 2013

A Walk Back in Time

Was it Confucius that said we should study the past to define the future? Well, it's true.

I turned 48 today. Quite a remarkable age, I think. My father passed away at the age of 48. (To be honest, he died on the 5th of August, 1990. He would have turned 49 on the 20th of August, 1990.) I remember how much I wondered, at the time, what 48 must feel like. I was 24 going on 25. To me, 30 was the ideal age - probably because Jesus was baptized around that age. So, I thought 48 was still a very young age. 

I've reached my dad's age. I now know what 48 feels like. Given another 11 months, I'll know exactly what he could have felt like at the age of almost 49, had he not been ill ... I've been pretty emotional about reaching this age. Since I turned 46, I have often wondered how long my life will be extended. 

I do believe we are all here on earth for a specific purpose. I'm not sure what my purpose is other than teaching and making an educational difference in a teenager's life, but, while I am here, let me continue doing what I do.

One thing I will never forget about my father was his passion to broaden our horizons. He used an atlas from Readers' Digest and encyclopedias back then to sharpen our minds. When we came to South Africa in the '80s, he took us to the Voortrekker Monument in Pretoria. 

Some of the few things I remember are:

  • the long drive up the steep hill to the top;
  • the climb up the stairs to the top of the monument;
  • my father's fear of heights, making us stand back from the edge of the balcony, not allowing us to look down; all we could do was admire the view of Pretoria.
My wish for my 48th birthday was to take my family to the Voortrekker Monument. They have never been there. There's a new entrance to the monument, so the drive to the top was short and not as steep. My children's reaction to the monument made my day. They really admired it for what it was. My son said: "This place is awesome." There's an elevator inside, which takes tourists/visitors to the top now, but I made my family climb the stairs. When we got to the top, I stepped forward and looked down from the balcony to the garden below. I'm proud to say, I don't share his fear of heights.


I have always tried, in every possible way, to enrich my children with knowledge, much like my father had done with me. Going to the monument made me appreciate him. He died at a very young age and my children do not know him at all. My eldest child was born two years after his death. I tell them a lot about him. I think, in more ways than one, I am a lot like him. So, I have the opportunity of showing them who he was through my words and deeds. 

Our visit to the monument today was a walk back in time, but it defines the future. One day, perhaps, my children will take their own children to the monument ... and history will repeat itself. 

My husband is a year older than me. It was his first visit to the monument, too. I'm glad that I was able to take my family there and share a part of our cultural heritage with them.

"You educate a man; you educate a man. You educate a woman; you educate a generation.” ~ Brigham Young.

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Study hard ...

"Study hard, for the well is deep and our brains are shallow." ~ Richard Baxter, The Reformed Pastor

This is the beginning of a whole new adventure. I have decided to study further at the age of 47 almost 48, give or take 13 days.

I am not sure whether I am insane or mentally deprived of something, but here's to the next 24 months!

Saturday, 20 July 2013

Your religion or mine?

In life, we experience many things. Life offers us a great variety of opportunities and whether we grab them or not, nothing ever really stays the same. One opportunity leads to another just like one choice leads to another. We’re permanently living the consequences of our choices, constantly learning and constantly changing.

Our thoughts and our viewpoints change over time. We get a different perspective of certain things and gain a new understanding. Eventually, there is a change in our emotional state and our beliefs. We evolve. We grow. Most people don't allow themselves to change. They keep experiencing the same old problems, patterns, issues, responses, reactions, and hold the same old grudges. They reason: “I was born like this; I will die like this” or “My father was like this and I am like my father”.

The society and world prefer it that we don’t change. Society wants the average person in the ordinary world to be consistent. There’s so much pressure on us to be like everyone else. While we are always concerned about what others think of us, we need to ask: What is it that other people do for us? They want us to conform to their way of thinking and be like them. They constantly judge us for who we are. Worst of all is that the majority of people believe they are better than others. (Who decided that one life is worth more than another?) We have 
all been created to live here on earth and we have been created with differences. We have different needs and different perspectives.

A good example to look at is religion. There are many religions on earth today because of changed v
iewpoints and perspectives. When we look at our own religion, we see that it too has changed in many ways over time. Our religion was given to us by our parents. From a very young age we were told by them what to believe and we accepted their teachings without any questions. Some of us feel a sense of instilled guilt when we believe otherwise so we don’t change our beliefs and refuse to consider other religions. In fact, we tend to look down at other religions quite unfairly and with prejudice. 

Most of our actions spring from our behaviour. Our natural behaviour is simply an automatic response system. It is based on what, how, and how much we have been taught. Religion is a programmed behaviour. It's not the name of a building or the choice of religion that determines our faith. Faith remains within our hearts because God reads hearts and not the names of the churches we attend.

Change is inevitable, but while we live our lives - filled with many opportunities and differences - we need to learn to live with mental flexibility and accept other people as they are without forcing change upon them. We also need to respect other people for who and what they are.

Saturday, 22 June 2013

Living Menopausally in Denial

I'm turning 48 in October. I really don't mind because I've never had a problem with my age. I've lived my life well and I have no regrets. With age comes a lot of problems: mentally, physically, spiritually, and emotionally. I know I'm aging, but sometimes I'm not aging very well. My body and my mind tell me many stories.

I've had many debilitating experiences with headaches. What upsets me the most is the fact that my doctor continually refers to them as stress-related. I love the way most doctors I've seen want to blame all my health problems on stress. Yes, I do suffer from a lot of stress. I've done that my whole life. I was a little girl, 7 years of age, when I had terrible nightmares because of stress. My father wanted to send my sister and me to boarding school. Whether or not it was just an idle threat on his part, it had an adverse effect on me. So, I know what stress is. I grew up with it. I also know what fear is. I've grown older with that as well. Prior to moving to South Africa, I never really had many fears. The ones I remember are minor in comparison to the ones I developed in this country. So, I find it difficult to believe my headaches are stress-related.

I was about 20 years old when I had my first severe headache. I remember I had to lie down and cover my eyes with a towel to block out normal daylight. Throughout my life, I've suffered from these headaches. I've had what some refer to as auras, but my doctor tells me I don't suffer from migraines. They're tension headaches. He says my stiff neck is the reason for the visual problems, so they're not auras. He also says the stiff neck is the result of tension. I always thought the headaches caused the auras and the stiff neck. What do I know? I'm told to drink anti-depressants. I never do and eventually the headaches pass for a long time. Then they return. Meanwhile, I am always stressed.

Now that I'm older, the headaches are different. In fact, they seem worse. I have burning sensations in my head and three different types of pain.
"They're tension headaches."
"Could it be my hormones, doctor?"
"No! They're tension headaches."

Is my doctor living in denial of menopause? I do not know. What I do know is that I'm sick and tired of these headaches!

When I look at myself ...

  The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honourable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that yo...