The Pursuit of Happiness vs Search of Meaning.

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When I started to look for my purpose, I was recovering from occupational burn out, and PTSD ( except I didn’t understand it ). My doctor played a mentor’s role in the story and he pushed me to my life questioning. Before that, I was completely unaware and in so-called hamster wheel.

In february 2016, I lost a camerade, at work, for a stroke, at 7 am. He was, apparently, quarelling with his manager when he fell down on the ground.  They brought him to the hospital by a first aid helicopter, but it was too late. A stroke requires fast help, and perhaps, unhappily, it was not the case. When I arrived in the morning, I passed by the direction office, and heard the executive director preparing his speech for the team talk.

He was calling, on the phone, for all the team staff and occupational doctor, in order to announce that R. my brit camerade, aged 43, was lying in a hospital bed, waiting to cut his hoxygene off. They were just waiting for his parents to come from the UK. He left 4 children and a wife. Sure, you first wonder how it would be like if you were at his place. The fact is that in the early morning, at wake up, 6h45 am, I did my routine mindfulness meditation, and I remember addressing my Self to “above” to submit my service into something bigger than my ego, and my own will. If you see what I mean. We often ask and beg for what we want for us and we never put our selves in a humbling position.

Don’t ask what your Life can do for you, but what you can do for your Life“.

As soon as I stepped into the corridor of the management office, I had the gut feeling that I got my answer or, at least, for just that day. No more excuses, I needed to talk.

So, for the very first time, fearless, I crossed over the door of my executive director, in order to speak out loud and we finally had a powerful, understanding, conversation.  He was in dispair, it was his third loss in a few months, and right after the november attacks, which had such an impact on our workplace, and our spirit. To minimize, my manager tried to tell me that all of us have personal situations which put our health in danger. Work issues wasn’t concerned. Invisible wounds and stress disorders cannot be taken seriously – at a work environement – as a proof of stroke, heart attack or any other health disease, because if you survive, there is a clause of confidentiality. They keep it as a secret. You’d better not talk about. That’s how people get depressive and suicidal, what the hell.

“They say that your purpose is what you struggle with.”

So, the promise I have made to my Self, in that dark upsetting morning, was precisely to take responsability for Me and My own Life. To be honest, from 2015 to 2017, I’ve been writing a memoir in my mother language, that I have tried to get published, but no one showed up unless ahaha! some editing publisher from Rome who complimented me and, as offer, asked me 1500 euros to get my work published. Never mind. What’s the main purpose of all this writing, I wondered, if not healing and sharing? 

***

 

In her book “The Power of Meaning,” Emily Esfahani Smith rounds up the latest research — and the stories of fascinating people she interviewed — to argue that the search for meaning is far more fulfilling than the pursuit of personal happiness.

 

Our culture is obsessed with happiness. Even though we devote vast amounts of time and resources trying to be happier, many of us feel aimless and alienated nonetheless. With depression and loneliness trending upward for decades and the suicide rate rising around the world — recently reaching a 30-year high in the United States — it’s clear that something is wrong. In recent years, social scientists have been trying to understand what exactly the problem is. What they’ve found is striking. What predicts the rising tide of despair sweeping across society is not a lack of happiness. It’s a lack of something else — a lack of having meaning in life. In fact, chasing and valuing happiness, the way our culture encourages us to do, can actually make people unhappy.

This set Smith on a journey to understand what constitutes a meaningful life. After extensive research and reporting, she came to see that there are four pillars of a meaningful life — and she lays them out in her TED Talk. Ultimately, she discovered that the search for meaning is far more fulfilling than the pursuit of personal happiness — and we all have the power to build more meaning in our lives.

With courtesy of Ted Talk’s Ideas worth spreading

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Stress as Self Defense. Burn out vs Stroke.

“There’s a lot of stress out there, and to handle it, you just need to believe in yourself; always go back to the person that you know you are, and don’t let anybody tell you any different, because everyone’s special and everyone’s awesome.” – McKayla Maroney

Sleep deprivation, anxiety, overthinking, anger and frustration, can lead to over producing the hormone called Cortisol. These factors elevate stress hormones and can have negative impacts on the brain, including the hippocampus. When I slept 3-4 hours per night, due to chronic stress and trauma, my nervous system short-circuited. In bed, before falling asleep, my legs used to shimmer, not like normally would when you are shy, or cold, for example, but more like convulsions. Until 1 am.

The same, at work, once a guest lost his bag from airport, and asked for help, in tears, getting angry cos I didn’t show very proactive or empathic ( airports procedures can be very slow and frustrating on the phone ), but real fact is that I was so fed up that I had my hands shimmering without any control. Simply, I couldn’t stand complaining about minor matters than a terrorist attack any more. That means I was overreacting to any stressful situation. I couldn’t put any distance at all. Anytime I felt in danger, my body started shaking. It could be an unhappy guest, or a couple quarrelling on the street, or police cars with blue lights … my body put me in fight or flight protection’s system.

Adrenalin and cortisol, when produced in overdose, stimulate your body so much that the memory of the traumatic event keeps this process of shaking. Then your body is releasing the massive energy slowly anytime it is possible, in order to calm down and relax. So trauma manifests him self by this loop of neurobiological response that keeps you blocked in a physical and mental prison. Until the signal of « danger is over » comes to your body. And your plus energy flows away, naturally.

It’s like we have to say to our body : « Ok, now you can let go, danger is over! »

Imagine a gazelle escaping from a lion, that is so-called « fight or flight » scheme, when adrenaline and cortisol are at theur top production. Now, can you figure out the same gazelle after one year and more holding on escaping ?

It scents blood.

It has long been established that stress-related illnesses, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) trigger changes in brain structure, including differences in the volume of gray matter versus white matter, as well as the and size and connectivity of the amygdala,” says endurance athlete, coach and author, Christopher Bergland.

Theferore, if you are interested in taking care of your brain, I invite you to learn more about chronic stress effects on your amigdala.

https://www.powerofpositivity.com/how-stress-changes-brain/

Of course, I am a caffein addicted. And sometimes I try to change my habit into a healthier one, like green tea or chai, ginger and so on. But it’s really heavy for me that I am Italian. Bad habits, bad heritage.

Stress can kill you, you have to be aware of it. If you have a chance, it might as well save your life. It depends if you have the chance to recognize it, and say STOP. Or someone else will do it for you.

That’s fine. Except it might be quite late for your brain’s damage. Neurons gone; and you lost. Preferably, left alone. Nobody holding your hand. Can you figure it out?

Burn out is called “strong disease”. I am a case study. And following are real facts.

In 2016, at work, right after november 2015 Paris attacks, in four months, I lost three camerades. Age 27, 38, and 43. The last one had four children, and had an argument with the manager, at 7 am. He fell for a stroke. They waited for help, and he was brought to hospital by helicopter. When you have a stroke timing is essential. You get 4 hours time before it’s too late. Also brain functions damages can be relevant. While director called all teams in a room, to announce us that our english colleague was lying in be at hospital, his parents were on their way to decide to unplug his machine. They said it was not related to work, or stress disease, nobody could prove it, anyway. In three days afer his unlucky accident, we were collecting money to burn his body. Three days and your own truth is blowing in the wind.

 

The others two, stroke again ( bad feeding habits, obesity realated? ), and infarctus, this one, after a ride on a bycicle, early in the morning. He was 27, and worked in the restaurant’s kitchen. He also had an argument, with managament, before going home. I could notice, the higher rate of casualties happen in food&beverage environments, where the talk and hierarchy are much alike army.

A few other colleagues from reception had health issues during summer 2015. The time of my panic attack. « It is personal ». « She is anorexic. » « She takes heavy treatments for breast cancer. » « She is just tired. » And me, I was – obviously – too sensitive.

Researchers who conducted a study on the effects of stress and stroke measured chronic stress in 5 major areas:

  • Personal health problems
  • Health problems in others close to the patient
  • Job or ability to work
  • Relationships
  • Finances

Use this list to assess where your chronic stress is coming from.

https://www.flintrehab.com/2015/can-stress-cause-a-stroke/

Nobody could mesure Stress Conditions, because there is no way to put a code for stress. Stress is defined a personal and individual response to danger conditions. We are unique individuals with different responses.You can’t put responsability to bad behaviour of someone or bad management. That’s also why it is so much important that you take responsability for Your Self. And Self Love starts with learning to say “NO”, or “ENOUGH”. Didn’t you have enough yet? Did you learn to put your borders?

Start now.

Burn out. Paragraph.

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When I was diagnosed « burnt out » by my doctor, september 2015, I used sleeping 3-4 hours per night, five days a week. In my weekend days, I was so exhausted that I didn’t wake up until I had enough. Recovery sleep, what was that ?

Professionals say that our biological system starts producing melathonin at 22 pm, and recovering every single cell in our body, from 23 pm to 1 am. After that time, it’s too late. That means that if you go to sleep after 2 or 3 am every single night, it is quite possible that you develop health issues, and deseases, due to a weakened mental and physical body. As soon as I got my sick leave, a collegue had a terrible accident on his bycicle, when out for competition, on a sunday morning, he had his chest broken and couldn’t do any sport or walk properly, for a long time; another collegue went to hospital for a few months, and when he came back to work, he had to rearrange his schedules the same then I. He was stressed out, but he couldn’t ever admit to him self. The first, who was also my coach, told me that 4 hours sleep for him was enough. And for a while, he went on smoking weeds to help relaxing him self in the evening, until he finally had to quit, because of addiction. The second, who was in charge of « fake alert » (after january Paris attack), with me, moved to another service after a long recovery time in hospital. Because he was in denial, first, with him Self, he couldn’t see that something was wrong with me. He just told me, once, that I looked like I was going to cry, all the time, and that’s it. Also, he asked me if  I was bipolar.

When home, not only I felt drained, but unexpectedly, I wanted to do more. So, I used to sit on my kitchen table, and write down plenty of « to do list ». Cook, walk, draw, create, clean, iron, fix bike’s wheel, yoga, relax. I checked the list, except for last one, of course. What you should consider as normal, on an off work day, like having fun, going out, or simply cocooning at home, was not considered, and seen as a waste of time. Yes, I spent my rest time keep doing things. What helped me, during my journey, was this article about being anxious. It stated to try to write down your list, and then destroy it. So, I did it. My table is much cleaner now. And my mind, too.

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By the way, the person who really made the difference there, was my manager. During a certain time, she wasn’t there as much as the service required, or I would, due to her family’s configuration schedule, but I can’t blame her. At that right time, I did. I was angry against all management and frustration made me nervous and put me in a bad mood. Instead of leaving, cos there weren’t healthy conditions, to do our job, we felt compelled to replace them (for different reasons, I suppose). When she came back from holidays, she called me on a meeting with her, and asked me if what she heard was true. « Did I really had the courage to claim for a bonus ? » Definitely, yes, I did. We, as a team, did an excellent job, all alone. We had deserved it. Of course, that was the straw that breaks the camel’s back and, finally, bursted into tears. Go away. I was worthy a recognition for the effort. Instead of striking, as we were supposed to do, once the safety conditions are not guaranteed (guests became quite aggressive and they were right to be angry against a lack of service and staff), but we kept on doing a great job, altogether. And not only it didn’t pay off, we’ve been called and judged. That was my chance to blow the whistle. And I haven’t missed it.

That was the right moment when she, the boss – one of the persons I « feard » most– humbly suggested me to ask for help.

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The first reaction that I remember, before burn out, was feeling guilty. I felt like I was not strong enough. Others look was very important and you don’t want to desappoint them, right ? Your will is to show them that you are worthy their attention (and perhaps love ?).

Everybody was tired, but my collegues were holding on. Nobody spent a day sick at home. It was very exceptional, because as a team, we knew that if someone wasn’t there, others would do the job. It wasn’t human kindness, instead, but a sort of spiritual pride. Deeply inside, as individuals, we couldn’t bare not to be necessary. My service was precious, I thought, and I pretended to make a difference, in service, too. How could they manage without me ? Oh, well, they could, and they did. After burn out, there were no reaction, but release. Finally, I could start to breath again. And still do.

breeze : synonims, gentle wind, breath of wind, puff of air, current of air, flurry of air, gust

Be grateful.

Since 2015, all in my life went wrong, and so, I had to decide what was really worth going on and what was time to let go. Ego suffered the most. Now, three years later my beautiful trauma, the moment has come to move forward. Taking the responsability of my entire life. If you agree, that we create our own reality, and if you are someone who attracts toxic relationships, or fake alerts, even natural disasters, you shall ask questions about WHO YOU ARE, and WHY YOU.

It takes 10 years now, that I live in this Country – Parisian suburbs, France – where many people are renowned to complain about anything, from weather, to strikes and canteen food. If they are black skinned, they say that there are too asiatic, in town, and they are ready to move into another city. On the opposite, asiatics are quite happy-go-lucky. They inspire me always looking on the bright side of life.

That means that when you open your window, after one month of cloudy and rainy weather, you shall be thankful for Mother Earth. Or saying “hello” when you meet a lady, out of a station, who is begging for money, even though you won’t give her any coins. That is the positive attitude which I have been developing in last ten years. I can’t remember when exactly it happened, but this shapeshift is still transforming my mind and behaviour.

So, welcome to my PTSD world. I hope you will enjoy your visit, take notes, and get well.

 

 

 

No more excuses.

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At the time of Paris attacks, january and november 2015, I was already struggling with chronic stress due to toxic work and lifestyle. Anger and frustration made me piss off all my dears, lover and best friends. All I needed was a warm and deep hug, listening, caring, and the way I had to call for it was just screaming and exploding in violent raptus of rage.

My boyfriend eventually ran away. He had two children, divorced, so I repeat to my self that I can’t blame him, if he couldn’t stand by me, upright. Btw he didn’t either make any effort to try to understand what was wrong with me. He just found that we quarrelled too much. Raise your hand if you went through low self esteem issues. « Am I worthy ? » « Will I ever find the right person who can stand by me upright ? » « Will I die alone ? ». « Will I ever find a balance in life ? ». It goes without saying, mental health issues made me loose my job, or did I loose mental health because of that job? Serving people, in a multicultural entertainement environement, made me very passionate about it. Let me be honest with you, I was brilliant, and guests really appreciated my concern at their demands. The fact is that I really felt like I had been damaged, someway, because of other’s fault, too massive tourism flow (low cost budget packages), and severe, partly ghostly, management. The lack of staff, and destroying schedules planning, did the rest. Financial results were all that counted. The same week that I’ve got my sick leave, company’s director proudly announced, on a meeting with occupational medicine and unions, that our team was good, perhaps the best in statistiques. Psychological risks were zero. 

Sure, I felt alone, powerless and, yes, the weakest link. Me, burnt out, no kidding.    

Ok, now, no more excuses. When you put your self in a situation, more times in life, and you repeat the pattern, it’s not just a lack of chance, or others bad will, you shall investigate in depth. C’mon, it’s not your fault, I am not saying this, but it becomes your responsability. “What are you gonna do with that?” There’s some lesson there that waits to be learned by your Self. My first lesson, Self Love. Self care. Self worth. Scary, but true, I admit that at that point of my life, my routine didn’t have any purpose except to soldier on. No sense at all. “Metro, boulot, dodo.” The daily routine of commuting and work was leading me to apathy.

Apathy: when feeling becomes too much.