The 800lb Gorilla – aka Depression

Ever experience the 800lb Gorilla? You know… when it feels like it is sitting on your chest and it won’t move. So you stay in bed until there is just know way you can stay another moment.

Or he could be on your shoulders, making you feel like the weight of the world is coming down on you and you can truly relate to Ayn Rands book title – Atlas Shrugged. But you feel like you are about to collapse… and maybe you finally do.

Sometimes depression is circumstance driven – in other words, there is something going on that makes you feel depressed. This could be from:

Loss – losing a loved one, loss of job, a relationship ending, losing a beloved animal, missed opportunity… and many more.

Feeling of Inadequacy- someone said something unkind, a decision you made turned out bad and you feel like a failure, someone said no to your dream, you didn’t get the job, you are being treated poorly, bullied, …. and many more!

That 800lb Gorilla can also be a chemical imbalance that leads to neurotransmitters not firing the way they should. If you cannot point to something that is causing you to feel depressed, then this is probably it and you need to see your medical professional right away.

Truth be told, regardless of the situation, if you are feeling depressed, seeing a qualified counselor should be the minimum that you do. If you need a recommendation, go to counseling.org and the ACA will refer you to some options in your area. I would also seek out a pastor you trust.

Now that we have established a baseline minimum, there are a few things you should know-

1. You have a 100% perfect record of coming through tough times to date. You can make it.

2. God is not punishing you. Bad things happen to good people all the time. Look to Him and He will see you through. In fact His Word tells us to expect tough times and for life to be so challenging at times, it brings us to our knees – but God is there for you, even in the darkest of days.

So… what can you do, right now, to get past this place you find yourself in? First thing I want you to know is that #yourlifematters. Some of my other posts will help you with that topic.

Next thing I want you to do is called – breaking up the narrative. What I mean by that is when you find yourself in a place of depression, oftentimes we can start to spiral down because of how we talk to ourselves and think about it. What I want you to do is physically leave wherever you are and engage in something different, positive and challenging. Maybe it is a work project. Maybe it is walking down the street/going to the gym, reading a funny and inspiring book or talking to a good friend/family member who always has a positive outlook and knows how to make lemonade out of lemons. Break up the narrative.

Then, I want you to go do something positive and meaningful (albeit small/not expensive) for someone who cannot pay you back or maybe doesn’t even know that you did it… but make sure you get to see the joy on their face. And then I would repeat this 2-3 times a week for the next month. Then I would go to once a week but never less. This has been shown to have an immediate impact on your sense of well-being, aka – happiness – equivalent to getting a 50k bump in salary. If you don’t believe me, google “positive psychology “.

Next I want you to either get a journal, notepad or heck, even a scrap of paper will work. Then I want you to write down one thing that you are grateful for – today. Maybe it’s the air you breathe. Maybe it’s something more – keep it simple. Then tomorrow, write down two things that you are grateful for. And the next day, 3. Then follow up the 4th day with 4, until you get to the fifth day and max out at 5. Now don’t make this complicated – you can use some of the same things day after day.

There are more things you can do but these are a good start. I want you to know that you too can defeat the 800lb Gorilla! I have defeated him on a number of occasions doing exactly the things that I am recommending to you.

Stay tuned for more information on this topic. And never forget- #yourlifematters !

God Bless,

Dr Cliff

Why is life so hard?

When tragedy strikes, life gets hard.

When the the job goes away, life gets hard.

When the diagnosis…

When the one you loved most dies… or leaves

When the horrible thing happens…

And then it happens again…

When we face depression…

….Anxiety…

…Fear…

When we wake up in the morning…

When we can’t sleep…

Let’s just say it out loud, life is hard… maybe even impossible. There are times when we feel like the weight of the world is on our shoulders and we simply cannot bear it another second.

Why? Why is life so hard? Why can’t our lives be like what we see on social media, or on tv? And not only that, if God is really there and really loves us, why would He allow all of this bad stuff to happen?

Where is God when bad things happen?

Years ago, I went through a really hard time. I woke like normal, got ready for work, kissed my wife and kids goodbye. It was the very last time I saw my wife and little girl alive or outside of a hospital setting. One moment, everything is normal, not easy but normal and the next, life is turned upside down and dumped out into the garbage can. It was hell… On more than one occasion I wanted to end my life. The main thing that kept pulling me back was that I still had a son. But I was not right…

I know that I am not the only one to go through the valley of the shadow of death. And I am not the only one to ask the question- Why God?

What I have learned over the years is pretty simple. God never promised that it would be easy. In fact, His word tells us that life is going to be hard – sometimes so hard that it brings you to your knees (John 16:33). But He also tells us that He will be with us through the pain and will bring healing and restoration. He also tells us that He will bring something good from something not so good – Romans 8:28.

I testify to you this one truth – God has done for me exactly what He said He would. He has wiped away my tears, brought good things from some very bad things. He has restored and transformed, giving me a purpose and a plan.

And He will do the same for you.

But I still didn’t answer the question- Why?

My best attempt is this – we live in a broken world, with broken people – therefore, broken things happen. Sometimes they will be accidents. Other times they will be someone’s intentional act and finally there will be acts of nature.

Life is hard but God is good. He promises that He will wipe away tears, not prevent them. He tells us that “no weapons formed against you will prosper” but He doesn’t say that they won’t try to beat the hell out of you.

So why is life hard? It just is. But everything worthwhile in this Life is worth the struggle. When we see the smile on someone’s face and we know that we had something to do with it – it’s worth it. When we see that sunrise or sunset and it takes our breath away – it’s worth it. When we stop and realize that we have served, helped and made a difference in others lives in some big or small way everyday we exist on this planet, we discover – it’s all worth it!

#yourlifematters

There is much more to be said here but am going to close this out today and circle back another day. Just know that you are loved. Know that you matter! Know that this world is beautiful place because you are in it.

God Bless You!

Dr Cliff

#YourLifeMatters

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Today is a day that is significant. Lives will be forever changed today. Economies will shift … fortunes will be made and lost. Tragedies will occur… blessings will rain down. New people will come into the world and into your life. Some people will leave this world and others will leave your life.

There will be opportunities – some will be missed, while others will be realized. New doors will open and others will close… some remaining closed. Jobs will be gained and lost… People will graduate, while others will drop out. Some will have mental breakdowns , while others have emotional breakthroughs.

Some will find a quiet place and read or write, others will scream at the top of their lungs until they are out of air.

Some will experience great joy…

Some will experience profound sadness…

2 things are absolutely true though…

We will all experience something today.

And all of us will matter today.

It will not matter what you are going through, or how bad you are hurting… you matter and your life is significant. Know that we all have bad days and we all have good days. And even though we cannot control which one we are having, it doesn’t diminish the central truth that you will make it through and that the world is a richer and brighter place because you are in it.

You need some help… someone to talk with… some financial help… medical… spiritual…emotional

Get the help you need… it is available. If you don’t have the money, there are 1000’s of non-profits that would love to help. Many that have money that is going unspent because they are unable to find the people that need help.

God created you with a plan and He has a mission for your life. You may be saying that there is no way… and I will tell you – yes, there is a way. It may not be easy but you can get through it.

Just think about this… if God created you and He has a plan for your life, doesn’t that mean you are pretty special? Do you think that the One who created the world has the capacity to see you through and help you succeed?

The answer to both questions is: YES

#YourLifeMatters

God Bless You

DrCliff

Anxiety… ugh, not again

As a non-profit Director, I worry a lot about stuff. These worries are often about finances and people. The people we serve, the people we employ… are all important to me. The money comes in and then goes out and it never sits very long.

So I worry about it. Sometimes the worry is founded in reality, most often it is me projecting my worry into the future and getting anxious about things that haven’t happened… yet, but may never happen.

The bottom line is that I suffer from mild anxiety. I call it mild because I am able to work through it without the aid of medication 💊. I have learned a couple of things that have helped me to do this, and I would like to share that here. I am not saying that this is the answer for everyone and I would never tell you to stop taking medication that your doctor prescribed for you.

First, I recall a Bible verse – 1 Peter 5:7

“Cast all of your cares upon Him, for He cares for you.”

This passage has been my go to for a long time. The first word “cares” has been translated into both the words – worry and anxiety. The second word “cares” is defined as the loving attention, protection of a father. To cast means to be rid of them – to literally throw them at Him, knowing He will catch them and handle them for you. I often repeat this passage, listing the exact worry in the midst of it.

The next thing I do is list out what has me worried on paper and then I make a plan of action as to what I can do about it. It try seems like when I write it down and get it out of my head, it is not so overwhelming. Then I set out to conquer it.

The next thing I do is tell someone else what is going on. Sometimes it is to ask for help and other times it is to simply get it off my chest. Verbalizing it helps by taking it out of the shadows and bringing it into the light.

And lastly, I remember John 16:33 that tells me that sometimes life will be hard but that Jesus is there for me and will see me through it – for which He has done repeatedly.

I want you to know that talking with someone, most notably a counselor, is always a good idea, especially when you are battling with depression and anxiety. I am a trained counselor and sometimes I need a counselor.

I hope this helps!

God Bless You and Yours,

Dr Cliff

P.S. #YourLifeMatters

Your Life Matters… No really, it does!

Good Morning! It is Saturday morning as I am writing this and I want you to know something – #YourLifeMatters!

I know that if you have followed me for any length of time over the last several months, I have been writing about it and I wanted to announce that later this spring, a book I have been writing is coming out called… drum roll please –

YOUR LIFE MATTERS

This is a book that tells some life stories that demonstrate that no matter where you come from, and what your life has been like up to this point, your life truly matters to far greater capacity than you could ever imagine. I want you to hear that over and over again.

As I am writing, I am also seeing more things to add to this, like – Your Hope Matters. What I mean by that is we hear the word “hope” in a variety of contexts and I believe it has lost its true meaning in our world. The average person will throw this word around, like – I hope the best for you – or – I hope that works out – or – I hope you get the promotion – or – I hope _____________ (fill in the blank). When they say those things, most often, it is with little to no real knowledge of whether that which they say they hope for is a potential reality or not – it is really more of a wish or a good thought. But the true definition of hope, is a confident expectation – I have hope that this will work out. When we truly hope, we are basing our hope on something tangible or intangible to help to produce that which we hope for.

So my question is – where does your hope come from? It matters!

The next thing I will be writing about is – Your Mind Matters! This will be about mental health – thought life and ways to improve our mental health.

Next – Your Leadership Matters

Your Church Matters

Your Family – Your Marriage – Your Money – Your Work – Your Habits – Your Health – Your Morning

All of these things and more matter and I will be writing about them more. Some will end up in a new book by themselves and others will end up in a book with others. I do not know yet but stay tuned.

The main idea I want to leave you with today is this – your life, your very existence is crucial to this world. Without you, our society would be somehow significantly less. On the other hand, if you become really intentional, your impact on the world around, can be exponentially greater. Love someone today – I mean go out of your way to love someone today, in whatever way you can. It will change your life.

God Bless You!

Dr. Cliff

Year End & New Beginnings

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Today marks the end of what has been a pretty tough year for many. I know many people have struggled greatly – some still are and for some the struggle is over, forever. While their struggle is over, many of us miss them so much it hurts and may not stop hurting… ever.

I will tell you, as one who has lost loved ones, the pain does lessen over time but it is important to not try and bury the pain in the multitude of means that are available to escape – drugs, alcohol, overeating, workaholism, are just a few. While they may dull the pain today, they dull you and take even more from you than you should be willing to give. Some can’t seem to make it at all and want to end everything. That is a permanent solution to what is truly a temporary problem. Plus, your loved one or friend would never want that for you. They would want you to miss them, of course but mainly, to live.

I think we need to approach this new year with a positive expectation that it is going to be the best year – EVER!

Let me make a suggestion –

Get out a piece of paper and write down all the good things that happened to you this year. Include all things – personal/family, work, health, education and more. Take your time and be specific.

Then I want you to think about what you want in your life for this new year. What do you want in your personal life/family/relationships? How can you work to improve things? What about work or business? Maybe you started a new business in 2021 or you want to start a new business in 2022 – make a plan, get specific – write out your goals, and then break it down into things you need to do each day, week and month. What about health – do you want to lose weight, run a 5k, 10K or longer? Do you want to be healthier, stronger…? What do you need to do in order to make that happen. Be specific.

As for me – I am working on my next book, while the last one I wrote is being edited. I am committed to writing everyday… Family – We are working on our house together and building a stronger relationship daily, by being even more intentional about how we laugh and live and love one another. Health wise – I am committed to losing more weight – I want to get to 190. I want to run a 5K by this coming summer. I want get stronger. I am also going to be continuing my education – more details on that are coming. Some people think I am crazy about education – I have lots of degrees. But I just think that growing as a person is important. I ask the question – how can I be better? The answer to that question drives the work that I do.

While our year is ending, our lives are not – tomorrow is not only the first day of the year, but the first day of the rest of our lives. Let’s embrace it with all that we have. Let’s love, fully! Let’s give all we have and make it the best life – ever. After all,

#YOURLIFEMATTERS

God Bless You!

Dr. Cliff

Your Story Matters

The day after Christmas is often a day of rest for many. We have been running around, trying to make sure that everything is just right, that we have all the gifts we need for all the right people and that the meal and the decorations are just so.

Some experience post Christmas Depression though… a kinda let down after the flurry of activity. Then we have some where it is more than a little bit of a “let down” and it becomes a full blown case of Clinical Depression. In future posts, I will go into what qualifies as Clinical Depression but for today, we are going to keep it simple – you don’t want to do anything, nor do you want to get out of bed.

There are a lot of reasons for this but, again, let’s keep it simple – you are tired and the let down from full speed to full stop, has you questioning life and it’s meaning, not to mention whether you got the right gift for __________ and did they really like it or were they just being nice?

The truth is that none of that really matters – at all. What really matters is YOU and your story – aka as your life. Have you ever taken a moment to sit down and write down the things in your life that matter most to you? At the end of your life, will you worry about what you got for Aunt Joan or Uncle Bob and whether they liked it or were just being nice?

NO!

What will matter is did you love, fully?

Now let’s keep this simple. That means – 1st and foremost – did the people under your own roof know that you loved them, completely – with your words and actions? 2nd – Does your family know and feel love from you – whether that is your presence or your words, when distance is a challenge? 3rd – do the people you consider close friends, know that you love them, with your time, words and presence? These are the things that will matter at the end when your story is wrapping up – not stuff.

What will matter next is – Did you follow your calling? Did you do what you believe that you are called and gifted to do?

For some that will be a career path and for others it will be a raising a family, while working hard at a good job. Some will be called to the ministry and maybe write a book or two, while others are called to teach and change the lives of girls and boys for the better. Maybe a firefighter or policeman…maybe a soldier, sailor or airman… Or something entirely different.

Some people ask the question – how do I know what my calling is? And that is a question that needs to be answered… but often only by asking more questions. You knew it couldn’t be that easy… right?

First Question – What do you wake up thinking about, almost everyday?

Second – What do you believe, and maybe others have told you, that you are uniquely gifted to do?

Third – What do you enjoy doing, that you either do for free or would do for free if that was the only option?

Fourth – What brings you peace and since of accomplishment in your soul?

Fifth – What is it that you would regret not doing, if you were to die and it was left undone? I am not talking about something here that is just a moment, like a bucket list trip to Fiji or something like that. I am talking about a mission.

This is a big deal… I really want you to think about it.

And finally – did you bring the joy?

Many times in life, we are just going through the motions and we are not focused. We seem to have no purpose other than to get through the next day – regardless of whether it makes us happy or not. Have you ever been around the person who always seems so wrapped up in his own head that he never seems to have any fun – even though he tells you that he does?

I have been that guy.

I forgot what joy and real happiness was all about and didn’t laugh very much either. I would tell you that I was happy but you could not tell it from the outside. Then one day, I was driving with my wife, and I mentioned to her that she was laughing and joking more and that I really liked it. She smiled and went on to tell me that I was laughing and joking more and that my change in mood was contagious. She then went on to ask me why I was happier and laughing more. At first I didn’t know… couldn’t answer the question. She prodded at got me to think about it and then it hit me that I had been so wrapped up in the challenges of the organization that I run, The Warriors Refuge (www.thewarriorsrefuge.us), that I had no joy or peace.

But then I got to where I was able to let go of some things, hand off responsibilities and empower others and it set me free to laugh again and smile. I hadn’t realized it until my wife asked me the question.

Then I was reading a book, and the writer was talking about “bringing the joy”. That phrase caught my attention because it spoke of being intentional with your life and happiness. Now my intention is to bring the joy and lift others and by doing so, I am lifted as well. I am bringing the joy – finally.

And I hope you will too. May God richly bless you in this coming year.

And remember #YOURLIFEMATTERS

Sincerely,

Dr Cliff

Merry Christmas Y’all!

We all have memories of holidays past… some good and some not so good.

Today, let’s make a Christmas to remember! Buy something for someone who isn’t expecting it. Place a wreath where it will beautify a building, a door or a sign. Tell 10 strangers Merry Christmas with your voice, in person… social media doesn’t count.

Post a picture of something that says – Merry Christmas to you in the comments here. Here is mine 🎄🎁

I built this for Christmas

The difference you make by doing these things, just might change the world for someone who is struggling this holiday season… even if it is you.

Merry Christmas Y’all!

Dr. Cliff

Why Today Matters So Much!

There are lots of cliches like – live like there is no tomorrow. I recently wrote about it and I believe that we have to live well in the day we have. But it struck me this morning that we need to create a disciplined approach to the day, where we live with great intention and focused determination.

I want you to really think about the things that are important – your mind, body, spirit and emotions – should be at the top of the list. You might think, shouldn’t I be thinking of others, instead of myself? While that is noble, it is not helpful in the long run. If we are to be at our best, and doing all that we are called to do – including thinking of others, we need to take care of ourselves. If we do not, then soon there will be no more of us to help those we care about.

Taking care of ourselves has to be a daily discipline. From our diet to some form of exercise, to meditation and reading – not to mention some daily planning, including how we are going to help someone else today – all need to be a part of our day. And it all starts with a great morning routine.

Robin Sharma, who I have the greatest respect for, wrote a book called, The 5AM club. The book talks about getting an early start on your day – 5am and owning your morning. He talked about having the top 3 – 20/20/20. 20 minutes of exercise where you sweat, 20 minutes of meditation (preferably guided) and 20 minutes of reading for self-improvement/mastery. I can tell you, firsthand, that this works, when you work it. I started this program and it was awesome but then …. I allowed myself to get off track and I stopped. I started again and while it was good, it wasn’t as early and I wasn’t as productive as I was.

So beginning today – I am going to get back into the 5am club but I am going to alter it a bit. I am going to workout an hour – between walking/running and weights, we are going to do this. Then I will shower and do my meditation/journaling/devotional time of 30 minutes. I will then follow up with at least 20 minutes of reading or listening to something for self-improvement. This will be the investment I make in myself for 6 days a week – with one day of full rest.

I believe that this will be a great personal investment in me, so that I can be my best for the work that I am called to do.

I am going beyond the 20/20/20 because I know that I need more of certain things to be my best. I began with 20/20/20 and grew from there. I would recommend you do the same. Maybe 20×3 is exactly what you need and if so, go for it. If you get started and need more – then adapt it to meet your needs.

One advantage to getting up and moving early, is that I am in a perfect state to get some really good and creative work done, before the phone begins to ring or the email starts to explode. Between 7am and 9am, I can get a good two hours of writing and recording in, the rest of the day will be a huge success – own your morning – win the day.

Now don’t get me wrong, my day and workload is different from yours. You may have more time or less time – everyone is unique in the demands that life and family puts on them. But, I want to make it clear, today matters and by getting up earlier and creating a routine for yourself that builds you up physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually, your life will be better. You will feel more confident. You will be able to get more accomplished and each day will feel like a win. Maybe all you can do is walk around the block, read a devotional and listen to a book on Audible while you get ready for your day – I call that a win.

Here is the main idea -Today matters because it is what we have been given. So invest in yourself in meaningful ways by getting up and taking care of yourself before you launch into taking care of everyone else. If we are going to be at our best, to make this day matter – most, then investing in ourselves is our first priority of the day.

#YOURLIFEMATTERS

Dr. Cliff

What Matters To You?

I often hear the words – people make time for what matters to them. But I sit here and wonder if that is always true? I mean if that were true, then people would always be seeking the best for themselves and those around them – right? But do they? No! So if they don’t, does that mean that seeking the best doesn’t matter to them? Well, in this argument, it would seem to be logical but I just do not believe that it is true.

I believe that people do not manage their time well and that the things that are often the most important, get left to the last minute or sometimes not done at all. I can attest to this because I believe that writing matters to me. I believe that it is part of my calling and yet, I have only recently started making time for it – actually mandating it in my life. Does that then mean that writing didn’t matter to me until recently? No… it has mattered for a long time now. But I have simply failed to make it the priority that needed to have been from the beginning.

What are some of those things that are getting pushed to the back burner?

  • Home Projects
  • Dreams
  • People
  • Callings
  • Moves – home or work
  • Education
  • Commitments to …. churches, non-profits and other organizations
  • You fill in the blank here _______

If things that matter are getting pushed to the back of the list, the question comes up – WHY?

There are all sorts of books on habits and time management – one of my favorite book names is called Eat The Frog. In other words, do what you really don’t want to do first and then everything else gets easier after that. I don’t necessarily agree but it is a funny title. The way I see it, and in my own experience, I see how things slip into our days that need to get done but just seem to wedge their way in. Or we get distracted by social media, email or a phone call or a conversation that takes longer than we anticipated. Then there is that task that seems to take longer than we planned for. All of which pushed our days to the very end and when we look back, we see that we didn’t get done what we really wanted to do, even though we were busy all day.

The challenge with living this way is that it leads us to a never-ending rat race – where we step onto the hampster wheel in the cage – staying busy all day but accomplishing little to nothing but wearing ourselves out. We often feel frustrated by this and are left with a sense of hopelessness for our dreams and ambitions, and then our families are often left with nothing scraps of time – that leave them and us feeling cheated.

I want to challenge you to look at your day differently. Let’s begin looking at our day as a mountain. But instead of looking at the day as an arduous climb, let’s begin at the top. Hey, it’s your mountain and it is your dream – begin at the top, with the few things in life that are only found at the top – dreams, family, love and health. Hit those things first with all of your effort. Then work your way down the mountain, with the ever-growing list of other things that need to be done.

By beginning at the top, the things that are most important, never get forgotten and it will leave you with a sense of accomplishment that energizes the rest of your day. Make it 2 or 3 things that are essential to your future and your family. The mission here is to begin your day with a mountaintop experience and ultimately get to a point where you can stay on your mountain top all of the time.

You may ask – how do you do that, stay on your mountain all the time? I will get to that on another day. For today, I am going to sign off with this simple reminder – #YOURLIFEMATTERS!

God Bless,

Dr. Cliff