Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Why on Earth

would you settle for creating something mediocre that does little more than make money, when you can create something outstanding that makes a lasting contribution as well? - Jim Collins & Jerry Porras, author of Built to Last

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

About a Dog

Sometimes we just have to pause, catch our breath and remember the important things in life. I've been struggling, trying to find the right words to explain what has made me believe that I can be a part of the generation that change things. I've looked everywhere for inspiration and suggestions but sometimes everyday, ordinary things happen and you just say, f____ it. Life's too short to search high and low for the right words.

And so, my dog died today. We knew we had to let him go as it would be selfish of us to have him suffer any longer. Sunday night as I said my goodbyes and kissed him on his forehead I whispered to him, hey, you come and meet me when I get up there, okay? You promise? That night I crowned him to be my very own Virgil as I sail along into the next world. It comforted me to think I'd see that bugger again. But somehow those few words also meant I would have to live out my life. Not that many people think of things like that — even if your very own dog dies — but I do. It wasn't too long ago that I couldn't see anything but the very end.

My outlook was bleak. Each day was an internal struggle to keep myself alive. The pain was so great I was no longer safe. I began to drink heavily. Even if I was sober, I would be afraid to drive. I stopped wearing belts and pens, pencils or kitchen utensils became potential weapons. I was in such utter turmoil I began telling my dear friend all my passwords to my finances and personal matters. She had the wisdom (or fear) to tell me I needed help, help more than my usual the once-a-week therapy sessions and daily antidepressant could do. And at that, I checked myself into the hospital.

A month and a half later my social worker took out what looked like the bible for shrinks: the DMS-IV. She began to read these sentences aloud, asking me if I identified with any of them. One by one, she read each criteria and by the ninth bullet point I thought she was reading my autobiography. Amanda, she said, have you ever heard of borderline personality disorder?

From twelve years of psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers and meds I have never heard those three letters, BPD, put together in front of me. Yet it has only been eight months since I left that hospital (the one place I thought would swallow me whole) and my life has completely turned around. The program has helped bridge the gap of what once was to what I've always thought was within me. They have given me the tools, confidence and understanding i could have not otherwise known. Without the fellow patients, social workers and doctors working together i wouldn't be able to identify my emotions, understand my triggers and work through my urges. It is here that I listened and was listened to with compassion, kindness and good will. It is here that i let my guard down and let people in and be strengthen by them. It has truly been a complete and total experience and i will always take it with me. So much so, I've begun to help others in the same predicament I had found myself in. I still struggle to get through the day, some more difficult than others, but it can never be as worse than the all those years before my diagnosis.

If it weren't for my crisis (and for my dear friend), I don't believe I would have received the proper treatment. The hardest part of living with BPD is getting the diagnosis. Many end up misdiagnosed, undiagnosed, over-medicated and even worse, receiving treatment that exacerbates the very symptoms it is trying to manage. This is why I've been wanting to be an agent of change. There is so much that needs to be done in this fairly new field. We ourselves are the only ones who can make that first step. I know now that I am not alone in rebuilding my life, learning new coping skills and yes, just plain and simply, living.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

As if 422 Comments Ain't Good Enough

Like many other bloggers out there, I do a daily, if not hourly check at my favorite sites... one often visited is Rebecca Thorman's Modite. Not only is her writing insightful, witty and inspiring but she can also take the credit for my desire to be a part of these new generation of leaders. Modite also has a myriad of links to other noteworthy sites. Today I decided to try and tackle one new link a day. I said to myself, "Hmm. dooce... funky name. That seems like a good place to start." Who would of thought that the day I checked out her site more than 422 others did the same. 422. As if having four hundred-plus readers weren't enough, all the comments to Heather Armstrong began or ended with two words: thank you.

And because she couldn't say it on the phone, Heather gave the rest of the world courage to speak about something so many, including myself, are ingrainedly ashamed of. With one post she opened up a conversation that 422 others agree so desperately needs to be talked about: Mental Illness. Dooce, thank you for giving me the courage to speak.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Here's to the Crazy Ones

One of my favorite ads...

Here's to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in a square hole, the ones who see things differently. They're not fond of rules, and they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify them or vilify them. About the only thing you can't do is ignore them, because they change things. They push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who'll do it. - TBWA\Chiat\Day

The Changemakers

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

The New Heroes

As I've been reading these stories, ideas and experiences from the next generation I cannot help but feel the beginnings of greatness unfolding before my very eyes. There is something so raw yet very wise about it. Sure, blogs do that to you; gets you into the very soul of another being sometimes... but it's not just talk, it's not just rant and it sure isn't just words.

For the most part they start out like any conversation but then, like wildfire, ideas begin to spread. That vision you thought no one else would care about actually becomes something more. And your you know, what ifs become sure, why nots and maybe at that very moment, a tiny idea in the back of your brain turn into those very first steps of something real, something remarkable, something close to greatness... perhaps, yes... goodness.

It can start there. And with one sweeping motion, a movement unlike any other begins. We are the new heroes. And we've only just begun.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Cautious, careful people, always casting about to preserve their reputation and social standing, never can bring about a reform. Those who are really in earnest must be willing to be anything or nothing in the world's estimation, and publicly and privately, in season and out, avow their sympathy with despised and persecuted ideas and their advocates, and bear the consequences. - Susan B. Anthony

Monday, December 3, 2007

Chutes too Narrow

It's only been a week into my year-long project and I've already found myself in a bit of a quandary: should I make my personal cause public? It seems like an obvious answer (of course!), albeit insignificant (my handful of loyal readers, you rock) but sometimes the things most close to heart are those most difficult to open up about. And so I look to a fellow journeyer, Rebecca Thorman, to remind me simply — yet powerfully — of what it means to lead:

...being a leader means being unfailingly honest and transparent. Stay true to who you are. The rest will follow... The longer you wait to take action, the higher the edge will seem from the ground. You must take the jump, and trust the parachute will open eventually.

While you're waiting for that chute to open one of the first things you worry about is being out there, all alone, falling flat on your face with no one there to help you pick up the pieces. But I've noticed that the more you do put yourself out there, the more you tell your story and the more personal it becomes, the less those worry-thoughts appear and the more courage you gain. Somehow, you find meaning in this crazy journey you've started on and even on the bad days you can hear yourself saying, sure, I can do this. I can definitely do this...

So thanks Rebecca, for your words of encouragement. Here's to taking that first step, that first jump. Here's to what we're doing right now — sharing our ideals, our passion, our accomplishments and mistakes — just laying it all out there. For what we we do now can only create the change and much needed momentum for the journey on. Who doesn't need that.


When you commit yourself to making a difference in the world and share your passion and idealism with others, 'guardian angels' will emerge to help you.
- City Year cofounder Alan Khazei as quoted in Forces for Good