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Entrepreneurship, Depression & Loneliness The Bane of Start-Ups

It’s no secret that I struggle with mental illness. Frequent Highs accompanied by steep Lows, my mood is about as volatile as the Bitcoin Stock Market. Couple this with my strong views, opinions and crazy dreams about the world, talk like “we can save” it, we can use games to save the world, one game, one story one person, one YOU at a time!

Alongside my severe and awkward communication style. Sure some people say you communicate just fine, you are doing great. But the energy it takes to translate my thought, my tone of voice, and my facial expressions into their language, constantly hearing. Why are you talking to me like that?! And you need to socially get in line, adapt and gain some social tact or get out of the club, or putting those off who don’t know me personally (which is what business is all about transacting with people you DON’T KNOW personally)— as a result my life has been a lonely one, such that out of necessity I’ve had to learn to value solitude.

I see the world differently, I stand apart from the world. I feel different even though I know that I am no different than the rest of the world, I truly believe: We are all one. I feel like a dreamer most days. Looking at the map of problems in the world, and figuring out what solutions are out there, trying to bring them altogether. My thoughts and viewpoints are extreme, the very thing that allows me to sit with the world and understand it and love it for what it is, is the same thing that causes me to stand apart from the world sometimes even downright loathing it for its cruelty. It’s hard to love the world all of the time, and yet it is part of my practice, and something I work on bit by bit, every single day, even—especially when it comes to loving myself, flaws and all.

As the main founder of Zenratstudios, and as an Entrepreneur I tend to avoid speaking of the downs. Of the challenges, pitfalls, at least not without giving it a positive twist. But today I want to write about the challenges of having mental illness, particularly depression and the loneliness of being a leader, an entrepreneur, a visionary and a creative writer. Creativity and depression seem to go hand in hand and yet that seems to be a requirement for Entrepreneur’s, to see outside the box.

I am a hybrid Dreamer/Architect. My brain functions completely different in that my personality shifts from “Left” and “Right” brain thinking, according to are you a left brain or a right brain tests for fun it always says, “You are both, your brain is divided and shifts from one side to the other”. It’s funny because I always feel divided. I feel differently, I see differently, I identify in ways that people find hard to understand. I feel like pure energy trapped in a body that is always shifting into one mind from the next, the only thing constant is my evolving dreams.

These feelings aren’t unique to me, some of them are even pretty common. So here are some thoughts about why people who have Mental Illness also make great Entrepreneur’s but struggle.

The Thing That Makes Us Different, Sets Us Apart: This Makes Support Hard To Find And Teams with Compatible Personalities Challenging to Build

Visionaries and great leaders are rare. The ability to think outside of the box and be able to separate yourself from the crowd is not something that everyone can do, in fact we’re designed by default to herd, like sheep around a sheepherder. Visionaries are a special breed. They are the brilliant scientists, the engineers, the architects, the great writers, holding entire worlds, landscapes, and maps inside their head, just waiting to be made real, to transport what is dream into reality.

Imagine drawing a building at 4 or 8 years old and saying, one day I am going to build this. People who can’t do it, or believe it’s too hard will tell you to keep dreaming and do something sensible. And you alone will have to be the one to find a way to say, yes, yes I can, and pave a path so that others can see, all the while they tell you it’s not possible. By default Visionaries live in a dream world, a fantasy world, we’re constantly dreaming and our job is to be able to acquire the skills to make those dreams real, or to acquire the assets and finances to hire people who can.

Because of this mentality we have that sets us apart, it may be hard to find support. Imagine for instance being a Techie in a world where 98% of people who surround you are non-techies. No one knows what a blockchain is, or about the new and innovative features. Imagine being a Game Developer in a world where 98% of the people that surround you don’t care or even trust games, downplaying their value. Or Imagine being a Writer in a world where 98% of the people don’t write. Now imagine you find a niche, a group the 2% of people in society who think like you, who are trying and exploring this new technology…and now imagine that the type of people exploring the same thing you are exploring are a demographic different from yours, have a culture and mindset different from yours, making you stand out like a sore thumb among even your own ‘niche’.

Can you picture being an Evangelist Christian Female working in a field that is predominately Male and Atheist leaning?

As an Entrepreneur the ability to find like-minded people, who support your vision, and who would even want to join your team, where personalities mesh is possible, but hard. The challenges of that, building a team, and having support, and being set apart and different even among your own team is lonely. If building a team, and finding support for their ideas are hard imagine how lonely it must feel for these ‘visionaries’ finding close friends and even lovers. How common is it for truly genuine and authentic leaders to build both strong healthy families, and a team?

And yet their entire success rides on their ability to find common-ground and build connections and bridges with people who may or may not understand them. In a world, in a species where we’re taught to trust that which is like-us and to conform with the majority in order to survive, being a visionary can quickly turn into a witch hunt.

It is for this reason, that an important qualities a person has to have in this field are: Passion, Perseverance and Persistence. Steve jobs himself said “You have to have a lot of passion for what you’re doing because it is so hard…that any rational person would give up.”

Another tip is to learn how to view the no’s as constructive criticism. For every challenge, or no, or I can’t, or You can’t, that is brought up, be willing and able to view it as simply a challenge, a puzzle to be solved. For every puzzle and challenge there is a solution, transform those You Can’t’s into Challenges and Puzzles to be solved, and then jump, climb, or fly over them.

We’re aware that: 9 Out of 10, or 3 out of 4 Start Ups Fail, And we Might Be One, Esp. If We Don’t Adapt (And A lot of us Won’t)

We know that there is a huge amount of risk that comes with being a start-up. The biggest risk is failure. We may have quit our jobs, be working on shoestring budgets, trying to bootstrap and reach out to people who only want profit, who need to feed their families. Everything is riding on the success of this business and yet, we know that we’re going to fail at it 9x’s out of 10. So it means that we have try 10+ times, tweaking the formula until we get it right. There are a lot of people who don’t tweak, or adapt, or try. If it fails they just give up.

But knowing that, knowing that your ability to plan and strategize and to be able seek and find help whether it is paid or community resources, and the long road ahead can be even more daunting. Everything is riding on your success.

To survive we have to rethink how we view failures, to see failures as a positive, bringing you one step closer to the solution, because now you know what WON’T work. We have to constantly be adapting, flexible, open to new things. This is a learned trait. We’re not taught to compromise, to adapt, to be flexible. We live in a world where new technologies crop up every day where we have to be innovative. For a long time we’ve been taught to value traditions, to stick with the old and distrust anything new.

Moreover we have to have the ability to keep moving forward, to keep trying, again and again, to gain increasingly more skill. Aside from that the biggest skill is to not think of it as daunting, think of it as fun. When you play a video game and the whole world is on your shoulders game designers have found a way to make it fun, in that same way you can design and develop your own life, gamify it in such a way where failing, is part of growth and growth is transformative, painful and yes just like in games can be made fun.

It’s Cutthroat World Out There

We’re surrounded day and night by people who are in this to make money, who need money, no one will help you for free. The same people who you hang around with may view you as a competitor, rather than someone to cooperate with, maybe you even view them as a competitor. They don’t have time to hear you or to read your 15 page business plan and give it feedback. Would you yourself have the same time if it were in reverse? The people by majority that you reach out to, don’t care about your dreams, they just care about their own thing, it is all about money, and making a living and how can interacting with you -help them-.

It’s for this reason to make it you have to detach and develop thick skin. You cannot take anything personally, and have to remember that everyone wants something from you, they want incentive. You have to create incentive, you have to create value. To give people a reason to work with you. What do you have that makes you so special? You have to prove yourself, earn people’s attention, figure out what it is that they want and then give that to them. Time is precious, tons of people are vying for their attention. And you’ve gotta figure out how to get it.

Thick skin is a huge must, not taking things personally, and really being able to make it fun, turn it into a game. When a game is fun and enjoyable, pleasurable, and when you don’t take anything personal you never have to attack people, get on the defensive and so forth. It’s all fun and being a good and friendly sport is part of it.

It’s hard, but the biggest thing I’ve learned in all this is that developing thick skin, while keeping a soft, open and friendly heart, and treating it as engaging and fun, an adventure is the best medicine to take the edge off of the stress.

In time your efforts may allow you to find people who share the vision, but there’s a lot of walking alone and paving the path that needs to be done before many people even agree to step onto the rollercoaster with you.

The World Isn’t Always Ready For The Gift

Sometimes we’re just ahead of our time. Sometimes 10-15 years ahead, sometimes 100 years ahead, sometimes we’re a whole evolutionary gap, or species, or even a world ahead of the rest of the world. Imagine what it was like to be Bram Stoker, Edgar Allan Poe or Emily Dickinson, to have so much to give to the world, and to have the world not be ready for it. Imagine being Leonardo Da Vinci flowing with ideas, but not having the technology to create them.

Mad genius. Sometimes that’s the case, but keep trying anyway.

The Financial & Social Challenges, Loneliness & Stress Exacerbate Mental Illness

It is all the more reason to be able to have support. Sometimes though, especially for those with mental illness, all you have is your resolve, and your commitment to keep moving forward even on days where you can’t take another step.

To bring this closer to home, it’s days like today, I just lay in bed and read. Nothing makes me smile, or laugh, not even the things that usually do. It’s as though each low I build a tolerance for the new tricks I use to circumvent my brain to be happy before. All I can do then is let myself cry. Sometimes I even slip up and verbally attack the only people in my corner, and withdraw which creates a cycle by which I make a point to try hard to withdraw and keep people away, to protect them from me and my lows when I need someone the most.

So where do we go to when we have no one to go to, when our tongues are sharp and our hearts are soft and bleeding? This day in particular, I just let myself be sad, I surrender into it. I acknowledge that I hurt, that this is going to be an uphill climb, that there are going to be bad days or weeks, and I do my best anyway, knowing that my best wasn’t the same as my best yesterday, but it is my best today.

Times like these, I think about people in countries like Syria, strong, beautiful people risking their lives on dwindling fees, rescuing girls in a world that doesn’t care about them, and I think to myself. If they can get up every day and find the will to move forward, then so can I. I can’t look at the world this beautiful world, and watch it destroy itself and hurt others without stepping in and doing my part. No matter how challenging it is. No matter how hard the climb is.

If there is a skill I need to learn, then I learn it, if I need to raise funds, then I will. And if I have to learn how to survive in solitude, alone, without emotional support, then that’s the agreement I made when I pursued the road less traveled. I’m not going to give up. And neither should anyone who else who has a dream, who truly has insight and something of value that they can learn to hone and harness and give back to others.

I remind myself why I’m doing this. If I have the energy I read about things in my field, that inspire me. I read about brave activists, I watch Ted Talks, I listen to It gets better stories, I keep an eye out for hope, and I keep. Moving. Forward. Even if I have to drag myself, even if I have to type one key at a time, one day at a time. Because sometimes, when you have a dream that so much bigger than you, when it is more than you, that’s all you can do.

So here’s to all those entrepreneur’s out there, struggling with mental illness. This post is for you. I understand your journey, I feel it. I stand in solidarity and my message is to keep moving forward, keep trying. Figure out your gift to the world, and you find a way to give it. We need you, we need more people like you in this world, people who have the strength to stand against adversity who climb the highest mountain and give us messages of hope, even when it feels like it’s the end of the world. You’ve got a gift for the world, whether they’re ready or not. This is a call to all heroes to stand up, to keep moving forward. It’s a call to me, it’s a call to you. One person, one story at a time.

10 Things To Do When You’re In A Low

1. Don’t React

The first thing to do is to take time to yourself and sit quietly, but after the quietness is the response. To respond rather than reacting gives us a chance to respond appropriately rather than irrationally, we could respond by disengaging, deescalating, not throwing fuel to the fire. Responding to your current low constructively by putting away anything that could do or cause harm to yourself or others. It helps to step back and to think things through.

2. Cry but Don’t Attach

Just let yourself feel what you feel, but don’t attach to them. Give yourself permission to be down. Let the thoughts come and fall away. Rise and drift. It will pass, happiness will come again. Yes you’re tired, yes it hurts, yes this feels bad in this moment. That’s where we are right now. So love ourselves and have enough compassion for ourselves to let ourselves cry. There is no rush to feel better. You are where you are now, you feel what you feel now, it’s OK not to be OK, just try not to attach to that feeling, it’s important not to let it define you but rather to use it as a moment to simply be down and recuperate. Crying is part of our bodies healing process.

3. Connect or Reconnect With Your Allies

If it’s possible (and this is not always the case). Find and seek out people to talk to. Maybe it’s a therapist or a counselor. Share with someone you trust and who listens. Or just hang out with someone who makes you feel good and who cares about you and your well-being genuinely. You don’t even have to tell them you’re feeling bad.

I love volunteering and giving back, but sometimes I am in such a low that it doesn’t help. When I’m down and don’t feel like I can talk about it sometimes I seek out someone to hang with because being in their presence makes me smile and laugh. For me that person is my grams. We don’t always have this as an option, and during a low I don’t always have the energy to seek out new experiences. Which is OK. We’re going to have to face the solitude and be alone with ourselves some time. Which is all the more reason to prepare a sanctuary a feel-good environment that acts as a temporary buffer between us and the rest of the world as we recover.

4. Disconnect With Toxic & Unsupportive People

“Toxic Person” in this scenario can mean anything from a person who mistreats you, who we might have baggage with. More than likely it is a person to whom we perceive as toxic during a low.

There are all types of toxic people in our life. From the extreme cases to the mild cases. There can be the ‘caring’ friend who gossips behind your back and spreads rumors. There can be the person who might be passive-aggressive, ask how you are doing, express they care, but always have ulterior motives and more often than not express it to other people who keep the gossip going and/or return it back to you.

For some people disconnecting means cutting people out of your life. But if you have made a genuine commitment to not turn away others from your heart but rather open wider to them as well as  not to depend on others for your external happiness then it is important to know ‘when’ to break away and recoup. Not only for the other person, but for yourself. During a bipolar low these type of toxic people can trigger feelings of despair, loneliness and suicide. Every little quip they do that hurts you when you’ve asked them not to or to stop becomes a siren of pain.

 

5. Do Not Confront, Retreat into a Sacred Feel Good Space

Now more than ever is important to hold to constructive and loving speech. If your desire is to never speak with harm or hurt people (and it is definitely my desire and what I advocate for) then know that this is NOT the time to confront someone who may or may not listen, care, or may even use how you feel against you OR themselves later.

People who suppress their feelings and are passive-aggressive can also manipulate and use what you feel or do against them. Lashing out at someone gives them ammo, gives them reasons to justify and even at times indebt you to them. To make matters worse People in general are constantly numbering your sins and looking for reasons where you are more ‘trouble’ than you are worth to them. Sometimes when we confront someone we are trying to make it better, but when we are in a low we go about it all the wrong ways and we view everything as a ‘slight’ against us when in reality nothing anyone does is personal, no matter how personal we make it feel. It’s always about them, just like our reactions to them is about us.

It’s important to not give them anyone YOUR power of self-control, but also to maintain the practice of speaking only constructive (not destructive) thoughts, and to build people up ALL people, to accept people into your heart. You have to know when to turn away and love them from afar and simply observe your heart.

The only way to do this is to retreat into a sacred feel good space. Your own personal sanctuary. This is the place where you give yourself TLC. You cut out anyone who isn’t feeling good for you at this moment, binge watch your favourite show, pamper yourself laugh, cry. Deep down you may cry because the world on the surface is like that and rewarded for that, but you can also smile at the lessons it teaches you and the challenge it gives you to expanding your heart like a muscle, to loving, to being a stronger force for love.

Really take the time to care for yourself and work on recovery.

6. Observe Yourself, Seek The “Middle-Way”, The Neutrality, “The Truth” & Reconnect to Source

The Truth we think we know are really just opinions and ever-changing facts and how we perceive them through our current emotions at the time.

Emotions however are just ‘signals’, bringing attention to inner conflicts or freedoms from conflicts within ourselves. Through meditation, reflection and observation of myself I have monitored my lens and the switches enough to know that the switch of happiness and sadness are just states of being, they are not actually me. They are simply a lens like Love or Hate. And we can cultivate that vision. In time we can turn the switch on and off and observe how radically the world changes, how radically we change. How what once was true is now is a lie. I used to be confused when this happened, but now I see it as a symbol of nonduality, as a great time to get to the heart of reality. That reality isn’t the labels we apply to it or people.

Seek this ‘neutrality’, seek to see people from that place of love. That place where they are pure, and radiant and beautiful, that place underneath that shadow that we’re all connected. See it them, see it in yourself, and connect to that source.

7. Look For the Lesson, The Silver Lining

In a high or positive emotional state I might list all of a persons positive traits. The things that make that person awesome to have on your side and to really look for similarities. How are we alike rather t han focusing on the differences and all the negatives.

Seeing things from a positive or negative lens comes with it’s drawbacks. But being able to perceive life through a more neutral lens, how things just are without colouring them is important. To see a person and even a situation just as it is, beneath all the layers, underneath the core. To even learn to find love in that situation, to connect with that energy and source in it’s most neutral form, without need or want.

In those moments where I am still I need nothing fromanyone, and I can see through the relationships and the underlying business transaction that lies within all relationships. That relationships are a business transaction by which we rely on external factors for happiness. But it’s in these moments, that I can really see the illusions, and my entrapment in them. And it’s in those moments that I can only smile at the pain, and the situations and thank the  situations that feel ‘bad’ for what it has taught me and how it has given me the opportunity to grow my heart larger. No one can really ‘make’ us feel anything that’s all within us. We create our own pain, it does not exist outside of our head. It feels very real because it is very real, but beyond our minds and bodies it doesn’t exist.

More importantly during a low I feel grateful because it allows me to see where I still need work, brings attention to things that still haunt me, and helps me utilize cumulative skills and mental priming to see those emotions for what they really are.

8. Feel Gratitude

Without the negative emotion an event or person or LOW challenging you, you would never realize your strength, and how big your heart can actually be. It may be hard to be grateful for it, but when I smile, I smile because I know even if I don’t ‘know’ it in this moment that my heart is bigger than this emotion, it’s expansive.

It’s in that sacred space that I can list all the things I am grateful for and happy towards in life, including the things that generate feelings of pain. Perhaps more so because of those feelings of pain that I can truly rise to the challenge of being Love and practicing compassion not just towards others but myself.

Even when I am tears I smile at my pain with compassion. I feel it in my hands, observe it, look over it. And I thank it for bringing attention to some things that I might not have known were there. But the biggest gift it brings attention to is letting me know where I need to appreciate life and people more, it’s helping me see my own Ego, where I’ve become too reliant or dependent on others, allows me to see places where I need to love more.

9. Let Yourself Be Scared

I always get a little scared sometimes in a Low that maybe my heart isn’t big enough. Maybe this is the moment I break, the moment I give in and die. Where I lose everyone and thing that matters to me and am left with this emptiness that I cherish when I feel neutral but fear when I come from a place of ego, emotion and self-preservation.

10. Visualize Love

I like to imagine meeting a higher version of myself and letting this being that radiates love take over my body so that I can check out. While I am checked out, I slip away into the garden within my mind a sanctuary. I meet the higher selves of others, like my friend. There I imagine our higher selves having a conversation, and I ask her and others what they came into my life to teach me, what lessons do they have to give and how can I best use this to help the world. I then turn to my higher self, or source, or love, or any entity I view as wiser than me or interconnected and connected with me. I let them fill me with their love, drink in the warmth of their love and let it soothe the burning pain in my heart and body like a cool balm that chills and warms my soul so that I feel cozy and snuggled up in a warm blanket. The womb of life. In this space I visualize all the places I feel lack are that I am unhappy with, and then I imagine little spheres or orbs of love vibrating and rising from my heart. I place these orbs of love into the places I feel lack. I fill those places with love and then I watch the orbs vibrate and frequency and rise and expand with me as we continue our expansion of love and becoming love.

Sometimes in this garden I ask for guidance. I look for solutions and opportunities. But when it’s all over and it comes time to leave the garden I step out and return to my body. I walk into a cottage within my mind take off my coat and scarf, sit on a sofa in front of a fireplace, drink hot tea and I bask in the feeling of warmth and love. I do all of this in my mind’s eye, and slowly but surely I feel myself start to feel better. This process becomes quicker with time and practice.

How To Develop Games In The Midst Of Depression or Loss

Depression is a real challenge that I have to face in my work. I feel in our society that there is not as much support and resources that there could be, specifically when it comes to work and rehabilitation, and helping supporting people. For instance, I love writing and game development. Storytelling and world building, creating worlds and being able to share that with others who care or find value in it genuinely makes me feel happy. For others this is their art, or their music. I also love volunteering and working with animals and meeting new people, though the stimulus and my inability to focus on both my work and socialization can overwhelm me.

The Work Force

To this affect one thing I realized in my attempts to adapt and survive in a world that wasn’t quite made for me, is that people aren’t sensitive or aware or even capable with all their own pressures and daily stresses of understanding themselves let alone what you’re going through. I think even the average person could benefit from work built around their unique challenges, gifts and needs; the idea that a work schedule can be more flexible, where demand can be dealt with in increments. Where each human being is valued.

I remember one time trying to meet the high paced demands of work and having my boss sigh with exhaustion and say, “Look I have 50 other employees to look over, I don’t have the time to worry about your special needs.” I was slowly falling apart. The excitement and enthusiasm I had initially felt, getting to deliver pizzas and go door to door, meeting all the amazing people just turned into constant anxiety. Anxiety that I would not be able to meet the high demands, anxiety that I would mess up an order and get yelled at, anxiety that I would drive through a storm and due to not being properly trained not see that napkins and cups were requested, and it seems so long ago that now I’ve forgotten what it’s like to wake up feeling blue out of nowhere in tears, not wanting to get up. Where every step, every breath is a battle.

Starting a Business: Accommodating Your Own Needs

That doesn’t go away when you decide that you’re better off accommodating yourself and starting your own business. In fact it can almost seem like there is just as much pressure because now you’re no longer guaranteed a steady paycheck. So when you wake up one day and you’re staring at a mountain of all the things you have to do to get our start-up indie off the ground, and you can’t even get out of bed let alone stop crying for those who are really down about it. Here are some tips I have found to help me, both as a single parent, and an indie developer.

I.

Tips To Cope With Down Days

Take your time

Slow and steady wins the race. It’s better to take your time and focus on quality, and getting things done one bit at a time. Work 5 minutes here, work 5 minutes there. Soon before you know it you’ll have finished your work.

Take a break

In between chipping away, take a break. Did you work hard yesterday, did you do your best? Just take a moment to be with yourself. Go for a walk, sit in the sunlight out in the back yard. Listen to a feel good meditation tape, or just let yourself cry. It’s OK, it’s just a break, it’s not forever. Honestly, I promise, it’s ok to take a day off.

Create an Overall Goal

I often give myself a deadline. I take everything I have to do and write some reasonable ideas, when I’d like to get those done, for example by the weekend; and then I write the final deadline for them. It’s amazing how when I am easy on myself and take breaks, I manage to make those goals more than when I am trying to cram and work nonstop even when I am emotionally and mentally stressed and feeling a low come on.

Do it in Bite-sized chunks

Dedicate 30 minutes here, maybe an hour there, and break it out throughout the day. Sometimes you are more productive by breaking an overall task into smaller pieces than doing the same all at once; it’s better than never doing it at all.

Create a Daily Goals List

Every morning I write a list of my goals for the day (sometimes I do it before bed). I log all my hours and what I’m doing related to those goals. I’ll log my time writing this blog, then I’ll log my time taking a break, I log every minute. It’s a habit now. I can look at when I took a break to handle my lows, to work with my children. How long I worked for, and what I got done, and what needs to be done. It helps.

Be Flexible & Patient with yourself

Part of having depression or any other mental illness is knowing sometimes you’re going to have bad days. We tend to be hardest on ourselves which can aggravate the depression as we start getting into low sense of self-worth and self-esteem. This job requires a light heart, openness, and flexibility.

Do your best within any given moment

“Some days, doing ‘the best we can’ may still fall short of what we would like to be able to do, but life isn’t perfect on any front-and doing what we can with what we have is the most we should expect of ourselves or anyone else.” – Mr. Rogers

Some days you’re going to do your best in that moment and it won’t be what your best was yesterday. Give yourself some slack. Push a deadline a few days to a week ahead, so long as you are doing it.

In The Four Agreements by Don Ruiz he says do your best, and that your best changes on any day depending on how you’re feeling.

Always Do Your Best. Your best is going to change from moment to moment; it will be different when you are healthy as opposed to sick. Under any circumstance, simply do your best, and you will avoid self-judgment, self-abuse and regret. – Don Ruiz

Tomorrow’s a New Day

So what you didn’t get all you wanted to do in. Try again tomorrow, make this a motto that you’ll try and give it your best. And you’ll keep on trying. Push yourself to do that 5 minutes, that 30 minutes that hour, but don’t stop trying. Every morning is a great chance to reset and start over. Don’t think about yesterday and all that you didn’t get done, Today’s that day.

Do just one thing

Pick one thing off your to do list and then do it. Read about it, research it, integrate it. Do something related to it. If you can’t get out of bed, then lay in bed and scroll through your phone reading about indie game development or whatever your task of the day is. This applies to whatever you need to work on.

Meditate

To date Meditation in the beginning is hard, and by hard I mean it’s not easy to learn to sit with yourself and your emotions, to not try to distract yourself from them but to face them head on. To that effect, I meditate every day. I aim for 1 hour, twice a day, but a lot of days I just get 30-20 minutes and on the worst days I only get 5 minutes in, but I try every single day. The goal is to build mental and emotional resilience and meditation is proven to help with this. Sometimes Mindfulness (also known as Vipassana or Zen Meditation) is too much for me right away, so I’ll do a loving-kindness meditation, Jack Kornfield’s guided meditations helps a lot, other times I listen to a meditation on manifestations, realities and goals, and other times I’m too tired to get out of bed so I just lay there and do deep breathing following my breath.

The first time I really did meditation and sat with the emotions and couldn’t escape I became suicidal. I was in a fit of tears trying to escape the pain. But with support and love, compassion and perseverance it became easier and easier.

Listen To Anything That Makes you Feel Good

I find in lieu of not having many supportive friends who are available that watching a favourite TV show, or someone funny online like French & Saunders or Ellen Degeneres; or listening to self-help feel good helps. But also thinking about how infinite the universe is and all small we are and timelessness helps me too. That’s different for others.

Mental Strength Training

Research meditation and mental endurance and strength training techniques. The mind and heart is a muscle, practice it a little bit every time.

Prevention

Create a work environment that focuses on preventing lows, offers flexibility and ease, and is able to accommodate you when you do hit a really bad day.

Remove Negativity, Find a Community

I am a big believer in turning with openness and love to all things and people. But sometimes when I am sharing my thoughts on game development or on spiritual health and mental wellness, people I am talking to will put me down, or comment that they’re bored, or hate the subject, or they will really make a point to tell me what I am doing is stupid. These same people might be all I have for support and tend not to value me as a person.

Make it a habit to minimize contact with those people, love them anyway but if you need to and wherever you can, build a wall of protection. Create a buffer and reach out to communities for support. Find people who believe in your cause, who motivate you. And spend more time around them. If you don’t have a support system, find and build one. Make that a goal. And practice mental and emotional resilience in the meantime.

Letting It Out Safely

It’s usually while I am meditating that a lot of my feelings that I am suppressing or denying come out. Tears will roll from my eyes and I’ll admit that I am hurting. I’ve made a rule that when I am angry or hurting I do not vent or say any word that is not helpful or will only cause harm to another person. No matter if it’s directed or at them or no matter if I want to vent frustration. It usually only makes me feel better for a time offering short-term momentary relief, long-term however it damages and does more harm to good, and bites hard when it comes backback to me. So I write a letter in my journal describing all my pain and anger, and then work out the hurts underneath and what I really just want or need from someone or anyone. I then cry and ask for strength and really just sit with the pain and offer myself compassion. A lot of the times I’m frustrated with myself more than I am anyone else. Journaling privately helps me manage that pain and keep my interpersonal relationships in tact. It also keeps with my rule that I only say things that build people up constructively rather than trying to break them down destructively; and guess what that includes yourself. It helps to know where there’s emotions are coming from and what’s at the root, so if you need to cry then just let it all out, and get back up. It’s ok not to be ok or down sometimes.

Extra

OK so there’s plenty more that you can do, but these are the top things off the top of my head that I find help a lot. It most certainly helped me get through the day today.

Push comes to shove, if you’re finding that you’re really having a rough day in particular send an email. Share your story, explain a difficulty, and I’ll write back offering support, to rally you in your corner. I think sometimes knowing someone is listening with an empathetic ear helps.

II.

Bonus Round:

How Society can Help

Mental & Emotional Support

I believe that there are a lot of situations where just having the emotional and mental support, the love and care to get through the day can be a tremendous help. People who are well rested and happier are better producers. Offering or having access to regular support especially for jobs that have a lot of pressure and demands, and rehabilitation services can really boost the quality of a person’s endurance.

Getting Trained

In life we are going to meet a lot of different people who have various special needs. Developing empathy and emotional skills and equipping ourselves with the knowledge and unique needs of others can help. If we learn to understand what we’re dealing with then we’re more capable of leading and maximizing the success of our team. Teamwork is so incredibly important, and the traits and qualities of a Good Leader include the ability to know and understand people and maximize that success.

Now I know that in the western world, more often than not it’s traits of the sociopathic and uncaring leader that gets to the top. But the most productive organizations are the ones with the happiest workers, and happy workers feel good like they have their needs met. The ability to know that Jane just lost her mother or had a miscarriage, or Bob’s wife just left him, or maybe Kip struggles with depression and this is just a really bad day, can help us not just react to people but respond on a case by case basis.

It sounds like a lot to be compassionate, supporting, caring of your workers and to not just treat them like objects whose sole purpose is to produce for your team; to treat workers as human beings who lead real lives and have ups and downs, and to offer on-site support. That’s a big deal.

This also helps to learn how to deescalate problems rather than escalate them and solving unique problems as they come. This shows how you creatively deal with your jobs problems too.

Empathy & Understanding

I can’t say how often being told I am weird, giggled about and talked about behind my back, or told to my face I don’t understand you and I don’t want to dug deep. Having people in your life and being in an environment that wants to understand is incredibly helpful. This type of empathy and understanding is either something you’re born with or something you have to learn because our society values IQ over EQ, and definitely doesn’t seek to understand the other side or try to work with it to maximize support.

We have this it’s my way or the high way, from everything right down to our opinions and values, but it doesn’t have to be like this.

Nurturing Environments

The more high demand and pressure a job takes the more support and nurturing I believe is needed. If the work environment you are in cares about you and your family, that you’re a mom or a Dad and even offers a day care and on-site learning especially for those tech people that’s amazing. Being supported through your life changes, and having that accommodated is wicked awesome. To grow your family and your business. Yeah I’m talking about Google as one of the prime examples for how such a business can work.

If you go over to Google’s Benefits they truly work to adapt around what you’re needs are. And offer food and the opportunity and encouragement to learn more. This should be something that is available across the various professions.

Bonus: Free Food

Some people skip breakfast, or can’t afford lunch, especially in jobs that have low wage. I remember as a pizza delivery driver, I met some people who could barely pay their bills. One woman in particular had a mental illness and would steal food because she was hungry. I watched them clean the floor and drop a good pizza, then throw it away and say you couldn’t eat it. I watched them get an order wrong or have an order returned and instead of offering that pizza to their hungry low-wage workers they put it all in the back and donated it to the homeless. But offered discount to their workers. I remember being starving sometimes and having to get the right manager to say, yes you can have a pizza. Offering snacks or food that are available for free can help people, esp. those who struggle with blood sugars. Ever heard of “Hangry”, it’s a real thing.

III.

Homelessness

I am no stranger to having your life depend on your work; while having little to no income. You still have to take it easy on yourself, and be good to yourself. Follow your dream with passion and perseverance and always strive to do better. Read about inspirational stories like J.K Rowling, watch the Pursuit of Happiness. Realize that the only thing standing between you and your dream is learning your craft, what it takes to succeed, and fail, and to keep moving forward.

A Day In My Life

Puppies

I feel openness. And grateful. I spend my days listening. Listening to others, listening to my mind. I write down what my mind says, and the struggles. Sometimes I ruminate on a thought. A feeling. I watch the thoughts come and go, but I’ve stopped attaching feelings to them.

In the beginning sitting with my thoughts and myself brought me distress. I nearly committed suicide the feelings I had to sit with were so
intense. But soon I gave in. I examined the pain, analyzed it. In the same way I analyze the thoughts. I’m largely an observer. My mind would wander during meditation into pain, and I would have tears pouring down my cheeks.

Later when meditating my mind would wander to thoughts, that would trigger an emotion. I’d follow the breath, the thought would wander. I’d give up on bringing it back, sometimes with complete frustration, like picking up a puppy and bringing it back, watching it wander off and bringing it back. Now in meditation, and in daily life I simply watch. I simply notice. I don’t cling to the thoughts I just listen.

When the thoughts come I can analyze the limited beliefs they carry, and then I can relinquish them one by one and reconnect to my higher self. Now I just watch the puppy, my mind. When I meditate I tell it Stay, and I watch it when it doesn’t listen, when it does, when it wanders off, when it pees on the carpet and makes a mess of things. When it runs off and away, and I watch it repeatedly do this, but I also notice it staying longer and longer. Training my mind is a process of starting over and over again.

I remember once I would beat the puppy of my mind for not listening. “I told you to stay!”

I’d give myself compassion in those moments. Now I give myself gentle reminders to be more compassionate with myself, and bit by bit, gradually I unfold such that I can watch my mind wander off, and gently lead it back.


Awakening is a process. I was reading that you can have a lightbulb go off inside your head, but it takes time to deal with the losses, and integrating it into your life. In that way living with an open heart in a world that’s closed takes time. You have to learn gentle acceptance of others, and yourself.

I am learning that the difference between someone who is Free and someone who is not, isn’t the difference in experiences. It’s just simply how we each experience the same experience, and our willingness to go into the pain rather than to avoid life, experiences and pains, but also our willingness to go into pleasure with awareness without attaching to it.

Another difference is our complete openness to life, changes, and all of what it has in store for us. We are open and connected to people, we are open to the good and bad. We train our hearts to love our friends and enemies with the same openness and heart that we love our children and spouses, we train ourselves to be aware of the connections we share with the whole, we train ourselves to be aware of our wholeness, our connections and interconnections. To walk with our eyes fully open and not closed. We’re willing to work through the limited beliefs that prevent us, and we know that unless a person is truly one of the walking irreparably wounded, that just like the mind the heart can be trained, and we practice it, every day. We practice loving, and we start with where we are.


Open to Life & Experiences

Being open to life and pain and my own pain has led the extremes that I once experienced to simply be experienced and witnessed by me. I don’t attach to them, and they are more mellow. I still experience shyness, sadness, but I just watch. Sometimes I see a flicker of a suicidal thoughts, but it bubbles up to the surface and then comes down. Sometimes I feel a thought, and I gently acknowledge it in passing, a thought like: I miss her. And I’ll reply. I know you do, and it’s OK. And watch the thought pass. Another thought. But I do love her. I know you do, and it’s OK. And watch the thought pass. Sometimes I don’t just acknowledge the thought but I try to show how the thought is limited, and ask a counter question to the thought.

So to I miss her. I reply, she’s still here and always has been. Or I say, if there is a vast, infinite timeless space bigger than you, then it is bigger than her too. Other times my thought is She doesn’t want me anymore. And my mind acknowledges it, and says the same thing as before, but expands it with sending love and energy that is unconditional, connected and whole, so much bigger than all of us and yet one with us at the same time. It practices a love does not cling or grasp or holds too tightly, and yet still holds in its hands the same joy and appreciation and deep inner knowing, perhaps deeper than those who never look within to what they see and only hang around on the surface. I think truthfully I feel more connected and more one to her and the people around me than I have ever felt in this space.


Awe & Appreciation

Lately I simply allow my experiences fully. I feel such deep appreciation that my ex-gf entered into my life and that for the time being whether temporary or not she is still present in some way even if it is no longer in the same way she once was. And while I miss that about her, I also know that she doesn’t have to do or not do, be or not be anything for me to feel what I feel for her, and her being in my life and being my anam cara, and being my mirror, my karmic opposite has taught me a lot. More than anything it teaches me every day how to hold in my heart with acceptance and love, without changing the world that which is opposite of me, contrary. To see it as it is, in this moment and stage of it’s life, and to simply love it, without trying to change it. But to see it, flaws and all and to hold it into my heart as forever and always a part of me.

Looking back on this journal, it’s taken me a long time to stop rejecting her, to stop rejecting life, to stop rejecting myself. What happens when we stop rejecting pain? When we start accepting life and people and experiences and loss and everything into our life, when we become flexible and not rigid, open and not closed, expansive and not limited. When we go beyond ourselves?

We experience peace. Maybe even boredom, neutrality, but even that feeling comes to pass. We feel nothing and everything at the same time and yet like they say: “After enlightenment, the laundry”

At first simply just being drove my mind crazy, I yearned to fill it with noise, but now it’s just still. I am honestly open to life, to people, relationships, experiences. I think even just a week ago I said I was closed, too afraid to get hurt, to afraid to hurt others. But now I’m just open. If the universe wants to move her away and bring someone else in, then I’ll let it. If the universe brings someone into my life and that person brings with it great pain, then I’ll listen. Pain tells me only one thing: That I still have more to learn. And it tells me where I have to learn it.

This is what it means to live gracefully in the river of change. Working with undiscovered feelings, thoughts, beliefs, and letting them be processed, felt thoroughly and to go without holding on. And the beautiful thing about all this is?

My mind and emotions and pains WERE extreme and intense. This means that when someone else goes through a similar process in their life, I won’t stand by helpless. I can understand the pain they are in, I have felt it, I can feel it and hold it within my heart without wavering, and I can gently guide them through the process, and help them as needed, never more than that.

“Death” is literally not just something we experience on the other side, but it happens regularly symbolically in our life. And for those who are having new experiences, and awakening, and going through this. I just feel like if I am strong enough to deal with my own extreme and intense shit, then there are few people I won’t be able to guide through it.

Today’s Plans

Today I am currently looking for a spiritual master to help guide me through the process of what I am going through. I also plan to finish working on my card game which is in the designing stage. I’ll be printing around tomorrow if I am lucky, but I am just going with the flow here.

I’ve been reading that we all need a spiritual teacher, or a spiritual relationship with someone to help remind us and keep us on track. On our own we simply create reminders, I write little reminders that I am infinite and expansive, timeless, and that this finite body that only understands finite slivers of time is not the whole universe, there is more to me and my thoughts; there is more to us. And that helps reconnect me to source and the universe. It helps get me out of my head and my pain.

Having a teacher and a spiritual community is nice. What I love is that while there aren’t consensus on a lot of things the people waking up share consensus in some things and have written guides to work through the experience that we have often on our own, It seems to be universal.

For now my spiritual teachers are books and videos and reconnecting and meditation.


Suffering is Inevitable,

Freedom is optional

You know when you pay attention to emotions and thoughts, you realize that they come from nowhere. Kind of like how our breath. It all seems to come and arise with some process that isn’t from us, breathing, our heart beating, it’s just something that happens and passes, moment to moment.

Suffering is inevitable in life. Things we love will always go away, and suffering abounds if we attach to it. Freedom isn’t packing up your bags and leaving everyone you know. It’s simply being aware that someday this too will go, and being open to that experience and open to all experiences and people. It’s living with an open heart. It’s the difference between being closed off to life and holding on within a changing world trying to make something constant and rigid and sticking to it. And the difference to simply being open. With compassion. It’s not the right or wrong way to be , it’s just a perspective.

It’s the difference from bearing our suffering like “an ox or soldier under a heavy hold” and the difference of the flow of the wind or river, going through the pain rather than against it. It’s Openness and living from this ‘spiritual’ place (which for me just means working with the limited mind and emotions and making them more expansive and manageable), of wisdom and love simply means that if we are living a genuine path, that we aren’t avoiding difficulties in life or mistakes, but instead experiences these difficulties with an open, compassionate and flexible mind, that’s what awake means. And then bringing those difficulties into our heart so they can be transformed. Setting out to love and be free is simply being willing to confront our own limitations and then set ourselves free from those limited systems, because only in doing so can we see the world with true clarity, and wisdom. This is naturally going to be a perception change, and it naturally can only happen if we’re open to seeing.

That’s all freedom and love and being open means. The willingness to open our eyes and face the world as it really is, and not as we or our minds have coloured it to be. We see with openness our thoughts, our emotions, beliefs, confusions, our weaknesses, strengths, and we go through them, examine them, feel them. We face the pain and loneliness that comes with them, the beliefs that come with them, and we go even beyond that too.

All mistakes, difficulties, and changes, in life are, are opportunities, to learn and grow and evolve and expand. Life is a succession of these such things, and everyone will learn it at their own pace. Everyone gets to this point at their own pace. It took billions of years for multicellular organisms to become ‘this’ today, and it might take a billion more in the expansion of time, but everything meant to be done will be done in a world that is truly infinite and timeless beyond our mind. In that way everything is OK, and everyone is OK. And I am OK too.

People will be saved, people will be alright, it just won’t be on my time. It won’t be when I decide. It’ll be on their own time, when they decide when they’ve learned everything they can or want to learn from this life or the next, whenever they feel like it. And I will be apart of that purely by the fact that I am connected to everyone and everything even when I die and so I don’t need to experience it directly from this limited body and mind. It’s just something that happens, and when you’re connected to everything all the experiences are within you, and that’s the end of this post.


Freedom & Love

The depth of my love is a resource that knows no bounds.

I commonly talk about Freedom without actually understanding what it means. This word liberation. Freedom, openness and love don’t mean rebels, and law-breakers, and willfullness and dominance. It in exact contrast to that. It really just means, the openness and freedom to go beyond our limited minds, and beliefs, to be flexible, malleable and not rigid. To challenge ourselves, our limited beliefs and thoughts, and to experience life and change, pains and joys, and people with openness, knowing, love and non-attachment, without holding others down, loving each other enough to let each person be free to think their own thoughts, be their own person, to evolve and grow, and so forth. We really don’t know how to truly love if we never learn how to love ourselves and to reflect that love and allowance back on others.

It’s like: If you need someone else in order for you to feel love, and that person needs you to feel that love, and there is no love without the other–then the paradox is, there was never any love to begin with. But if you can be whole and love yourself on your own; and vice versa, then such a love is true and pure, open and free, naturally. But we don’t know or allow that love, we enable each other, because we’re conditioned and afraid of what we see underneath it all.

People won’t love us, and without the love of people we’re nothing. But if we learn to love ourselves on our own, without limitation, with clarity and freedom, then we can love the people we meet and see and show them that through our beingness, and they can reflect them. Taking the drugs from the drug abuser hurts, giving him the drugs because it will hurt if he’s off them is enabling him. But it hurts a person more to be doing drugs. Even if they say, it’s not hurting anyone to be on the drugs, and it feels good for me! Interventions never work unless the person wants to be helped, so sometimes you remove the drug they say fuck you and go somewhere else to get it.

But if they want help, and you refuse to give it to them. Then you can compassionately guide him through the pain of letting go of the drugs, and teaching them to experience the world and life without them–that’s Love, and that’s what I have meant when I said: I want to save people. There is life beyond chemical dependency.

I want(ed) to show them that there doesn’t need to be a middleman, that they can generate their own Love, and that it doesn’t make the love we have less, it makes it more meaningful, more beautiful, more fulfilling. But my job isn’t to convince people of that, it’s to convince myself, and then it’s to live that way for myself, and guide people who are ready.

Spirituality is just some fancy word to say freedom from our emotional and mental and biological limitations, and structures, and facing up to what all that means. That’s all.


Present

Today I feel open and free to experience life and experiences. And that feels pretty good. I want the world to feel this feeling like someone wanting to share good food; but everyone and thing in their own good time. It’s enough that I feel it, and so I just sit in that experience.

Finding The Beauty In Life During Sad and Difficult Times

One of the hard and challenging things that I find during my low points is to find the beauty in life during sad and difficult times. Losing a best friend, a lover, a relative, whether it be through death or simply the severing of a connection is hard, if not downright devastating. Rebuilding relationships after that can feel like an uphill climb and in addition people who struggle with depression or bipolar may have the added struggle of spiraling lows.

Not everyone has a strong support system filled with compassionate and understanding people, and there’s something to be said about those of us who did have a support system but find themselves left with increasingly dwindling support systems as time has gone on.

I find in my journey that every person I have managed to gain in my life with my particular set of struggles and unique ways of being is precious to me. So the loss of a person for whatever reason can shake my entire world. Especially when in some of the cases my crime has been, ‘you loved her too much and dived too deep’. Today’s post is inspired by such a challenge. The challenge of being in a moment when after all has been said and done, when you’ve reflected beyond the point of reflection, counted your losses and looked back at what you’ve gained. That moment when you’ve accounted for all the broken pieces of your heart and are left just sitting with what’s left and find yourself depleted.

Today I sat down. I meditated on Love. Acceptance. Quietness. And Beauty. I decided this post was long overdue.

The Challenge: 1,000 Beautiful Things

It’s a daily challenge, particularly when you live with mental illness and a small support system. But one that needs to be done.

I am constantly on a daily basis looking for a reason to want to live, looking for the beauty in life during sad times. But how do you do that when you are in the middle of the wreckage? Imagine this, you’re standing in the ashes of a disaster. Everything around you is dead, but in the sky you see a bird fly past. As you walk on you see a single green plant sprouting. You begin to make it a game, how many beautiful things can you find?

It’s hard isn’t it, especially in the beginning “to see the glass as full and not half empty, the good and bad in everyone” as Annie Lennox says in her song 1,000 beautiful things. But sometimes when every tear has been shed, you reach this point where your heart is just ready to let in some beauty.

So I’ve been compiled a list of some things that can help ease the pain, to recenter back in a place of quiet love, and to see the beauty during sad times when it’s feeling hard to see:

  • Meditate on Loving Kindness (Metta)
  • Listen to F*ck That: An Honest Meditation (video)
  • Deliberately meditate, reflect, and/or write about quietness. love. beauty. and acceptance. (youtube search these topics or google search to read or hear people talk about these same topics if it helps)
  • Take a shower and enjoy the warmth on your back
  • Cry and be fully with your tears
  • Make yourself a good hearty meal and focus only on it and eating it.
  • Watch a Video of people who want to make you smile! (And keep watching until you find something that gets you to crack a smile), in essence surround yourself with happy people who want to make others happy. (Ellen (especially her dancing and scaring people) and French and Saunders are two of my favourites)
  • Watch an entire TV Series online (see: television really does make you less lonely)
  • Listen to It Gets Better (Link)
  • Sift through Upworthy articles
  • If you have a dog or a child or someone in your life, and can tolerate hugs, give them one.
  • Watch and listen to people laughing
  • Do a Laughing Meditation (Laughing with Ellen, Laughing with monks)
  • Sit quietly and don’t react
  • Make looking for the beauty in life a game
  • Keep a list of all the beautiful things you manage to find
  • Take something that seems sad and give it a positive twist or story, a happy door it opened, something good that came from it. (Everything has two sides, flip around the sad side and look at it from the positive side, what it taught you about you, what you learned, what doors it opened, what it led to, and more )
  • Find something even if it’s just one thing to be grateful for each day
  • Be thankful for a celebrity or comedian or other figure who makes you smile when you’re down
  • Take it easy on yourself/be gentle with yourself
  • Do something kind for someone or Do something that makes them smile.
  • Do something nice for you.
  • Watch Kid’s Videos on youtube
  • Regress: Let yourself be a little kid again
  • Read the stories of successful people who started out rough, but had hope that it’d get better and it did (imagine if Oprah, Michael Jordan, Ellen and more gave up hope when things were looking grim!)
  • Remember tomorrow’s a new day
  • Remember: You are Loved
  • And though we haven’t met, I do Love you too.
  • And last but not least, if you’re feeling down and you need a listening ear and someone who believes in your worth, send a message. I haven’t met you yet, but you’re lovable, you’re worthy, and it will get better.

Get Lost listening to people who see beauty:

Those are just a few things I do to help me find the beauty in things. Last but not least, I’ve just come to accept that in my life there will be a lot of low points sometimes that last what feels like forever and a day, and sometimes we just don’t have the energy. I’ve gotten to that point; I still get to that point. Approaching myself with gentleness and love, and letting myself cry it out has been great.

Some books and articles for Recommendation: