Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Bravery and the Girls

I had a couple of recent opportunities to learn about bravery: One in the therapy office and another at the pool in Glenwood Springs.

In the therapy office a 15 year old girl said to me, “I want to get off of my antidepressant medication.” I naturally asked why. She naturally answered, “because I don’t think I need it anymore.”

“This is an interesting kid”, I thought.

“Ok”, I said. “Let’s give it a go”. With a doctor in consultation we cut her med dosage in half and we scheduled to meet in a week. Before she left we talked about some of the protective measures to help prevent depression. One of those that we discussed was accomplishing something or learning something new. This young lady’s initiative to go off of her meds seems brave to me, and here’s another story about bravery.

My wife and I really enjoy taking our kids to Glenwood Springs. The drive there from Denver is beautiful and it’s a town with great history tucked right up against the red cliffs of the Colorado River. Occasionally when we go I will take the kids swimming in the hot springs pool. There are actually two pools, a small one which is quite hot and a larger one designed for swimming and playing that is more temperate. The larger pool has a diving board. I don’t swim much but I love diving boards, tons of fun. I asked my wife to watch the kids and I went to jump off the diving board. I did my jump, which probably hasn’t gotten much prettier than it was when I was 10 years old, I swam underwater for a ways and surfaced by the side of the pool. As I went to get out I saw an older man talking to a little girl, he was teaching her how to dive.
Immediately I felt a trigger go off. I think I have dived once or twice in my life and that was more than 20 years ago. I have always wanted to dive though and when I heard this man giving instructions I inched closer to listen.

“Put your hands together above your head and when you jump, kick your feet up.”

“I could to that.” I thought to myself. “I could dive.” The very thought scared me.

I climbed out of the water and stood at the water’s edge with the hairy toes of my non-cute feet curling over the side thinking, “it’s cute when a six year old does it, what is it when a 33 year old does it? Weird? Gross?”

As if I wasn’t already feeling a little odd I made it even worse when I raised my arms above my head in perfect imitation of an apprehensive 6 year old. Which is exactly how I felt. I almost put my arms back down when I realized how awkward this must look.

Let me take this opportunity to discuss bravery for a moment.
“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.” I fully agree with this quote from Nelson Mandela and have had many experiences in my life that endorse it.

I thought about that idea as I was standing there at the pool, my bald forehead glistening in the late afternoon sun, and I jumped. My brain was a little slow on remembering the “kick up your feet” part but we got there eventually and I entered in to the water without endangering my internal organs with a belly flop.

In that moment my day changed a little bit. We were having a very nice time all day in Glenwood but then I accomplished something that scared me and that enhanced my day on a whole different dimension.

I know some people who, when asked how they are doing, answer, “I’m vertical.” Some people are joking, and some people, like a holocaust survivor I know, are quite serious.

People who struggle with depression are some of those people who can say, “I’m vertical”, and be truly appreciative of that reality.
So I told my 15 year old client that accomplishing something would help her with her depression now that she was taking the brave move of trying life without her meds.

And so I send this message to you, my dear and loyal readers (loyal because you’ve stayed with me even though I haven’t posted for a minute). When you are feeling like the spark isn’t there, try something that scares you a little bit. Accomplish something. Confront a fear. Learn something new. After you've done that, notice where you were before and where you are now, then celebrate it.

If you want more information on taking this step then give me a call. 303-803-4832 
Very best wishes to you my dear readers.

Ari Hoffman MA, LPC

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