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Diane Passey: Does Weight Equal Worth?

At a dark point in her life, Diane Passey decided she was too heavy to keep living. Follow her journey from grief and despair to coach.

Some of the points discussed are:

  • There will be a light at the end of the tunnel. It may be just a tiny glimmer. But it’s there. There is always hope.
  • You don’t have to feel God’s hand to have Him there. He’s there whether or not you can feel it.
  • We are never really as alone as we feel. Diane strongly believes our trials are not just for our own experience and growth, but to help other people through their trials. 
  • How important it is to have a survivor mentality vs. a victim mentality
  • Satan will do anything he can to destroy your self esteem and make you feel like nothing. I almost took my life because of a number on a scale. It was only a number.
  • When you’re feeling stuck in that dark place, you have to talk. Talking is the hardest thing to do. Depression is so self centered and inward focused. As soon as you can reach out and look up, you’ll be able to work your way back up again.
  • There isn’t a right or wrong way to cope with mental struggles. Medication, Therapy, Coaching, Exercise, Connection, all are good ways. The challenge can be to find the combinations that work best for you.
  • The value of an individual is always more than a number on a scale or a pant or dress size. Numbers are neutral they are not good or bad. It’s what your brain, Satan, and society tells you about the numbers that create those feelings of worthlessness and hopelessness.
  • Gratitude is very powerful and the fastest way to change the focus of your brain.
  • Self care, self care, self care!
  • Don’t listen to shame. It’s a liar. Don’t listen to Satan. He’s a liar.
  • You are never truly alone.

Enjoy the transcript from today’s episode:

Diane 0:01 

Just one particular day, I went and stood on the scale to donate plasma and I saw the red lights of this digital scale flash 201 and I couldn’t believe I was over 200 pounds. I though, “How could my family love me? How am I even going to face them again?” I was devastated. It’s like something inside me just broke.

 

Tamara Anderson 0:31 

Welcome to Stories of Hope in Hard Times, the show that explores how people endure and even thrive in difficult times, all with God’s help. I’m your host, Tamara K. Anderson. Join me on a journey to find inspiring stories of hope and wisdom learned in life’s hardest moments.

My next guest has been married for 25 years and has seven children, three in-law children, and three grandchildren with a fourth on the way. She has a passion for teaching and has taught children, teens and adults in religious, personal and professional settings for over two decades. She started out her coaching career helping people through weight loss and emotional eating for eight years. Two and a half years ago, she became certified through the ICF and CCA and now loves helping parents and teens navigate the difficult path of parenting and adolescence. What a chore. I am pleased to present Diane Passie. Diane, are you ready to share your story of hope?

 

Diane 1:39 

I am so excited. Definitely ready.

 

Tamara Anderson 1:44 

Yay. This is going to be fun. Diane and I go clear back to high school days almost. She was one of my sister’s best friends and so we kind of know each other from back then and then reconnected through Facebook after she shared a very, very personal story which I’m gonna invite her to share today, so I’m excited to have her on.

But before we dive into that story, a little known fact about you is that you have a crested gecko named Creo. And I have to ask about this because we have a dog. And the reason we have a dog is because my children, it’s one of their stress relievers, and they will love on this dog and talk to the dog and play with the dog when they are not as apt to talk or be as open to me sometimes because teenagers are tough.

 

Diane 2:32 

Yeah, for sure, for sure.

 

Tamara Anderson 2:34 

And so my question is: why a gecko?

 

Diane 2:38 

Okay, so first of all, a crested gecko is the absolute best pet ever. It doesn’t stink, it doesn’t bark. It’s easy to take care of. I have loved lizards and reptiles for a very, very, very long time. And my children found this crested gecko and gave it to me for Christmas. They all went and pooled their money together and gave it to me for Christmas probably three years ago.

And it is the coolest little animal. If haven’t seen a picture of a crested gecko you’ve got to look it up. It’s got these little eyelashes and its little fingers are just so delicate and it licks his eyeball like, Oh, cool. Dogs cannot lick their eyeballs. It’s actually funny.

I have kept my crested gecko in my office and I had a cute little client who loved my crested gecko and she would come in and hold it during our sessions. She really tried to convince her mom that a crested gecko was the emotional support animal that she needed. They don’t qualify legally as an emotional support animal but after she reached some of her goals, then her parents allowed her to pick a little crested gecko. Isn’t that a cute story?

So they are easy to take care of. They’re beautiful, and just a lot of fun. So I love it. I love that he’s mine. And that, like how many adults get to have their own pet? You know, that’s true. We kind of inherit pets when our kids have a pet and then they leave the house and then they leave it with you and unfortunately that’s how we end up with some of our pets. So I love it. I love that it’s just mine. That makes it really fun.

 

Tamara Anderson 4:38 

That is so fun. Oh my goodness, that that is really cute. I guess I’d never thought that a gecko could be an emotional support animal but, you know, different people bond with different types of animals. So it makes sense that those who would gravitate toward that would be so excited to have that and hold that maybe even as you were saying during a session

 

Diane 5:00 

Yeah, well, you know, I think anything that distracts your mind from whatever you’re going through at the time, that kind of gives you something else to focus on, can serve as an emotional support animal of some type. And so yeah, you know, officially, there’s only a certain few animals that can be technically emotional support animals but like you said, there are like different animals that people gravitate towards. I don’t know if I’d call a fish…

 

Tamara Anderson 5:33 

You can’t hold a fish No,

 

Diane 5:34 

No, you can’t hold a fish and my fish have never sung to me like they do in Finding Nemo so you know, they don’t talk to me and I find them quite boring. But you know, I suppose maybe watching the fish swim in water might be comforting. I don’t know. I don’t know we can make probably make a case for anything, Tamara.

 

Tamara Anderson 5:54 

That’s probably true. We could, I bet between the two of us, we can.

 

Diane 5:59 

Between our kids, we probably could, depending on what the kids are wanting at the time.

 

Tamara Anderson 6:04 

That is very, very true. Oh my goodness. Well, thanks for telling me about that. I never would have pictured a gecko as an emotional support. I’ve learned something new today. Yes, yes. So let’s dive a little bit into your story and why don’t you take me back to being a young mother and where you were at that point?

 

Diane 6:26 

I’m happy to do that, if I can just go back a couple years further, because I think it kind of helps understand how it is that I kind of became, you know, so like, put in the situation that I was.

 

Diane 6:43 

When I grew up, I felt like my worth was based on how my body looked. Was I skinny, was I overweight, was I not overweight, what was the number on the scale? My first diet that I went on was when I was in fifth grade. And during that time, you know, a lot of girls are hitting puberty and they do get to gain a little bit of weight. You get a little bit curvy, but in my family there’s not a lot of curvy people.

I have a teenage son right now who is a size 28 waist and 34 length. That’s kind of how the majority of my family was built. I’m tall, they’re petite. I’m built with like, just a bigger body set. So I very much felt like I stood out. I’m five nine, so I was much taller than a lot of my friends.

From about that time in life I started becoming very self-conscious of my weight and went on several diets throughout junior high and into high school. Never felt like my body was okay or that I was okay. So fast forward to being a newlywed and my husband loved me. I had had one pregnancy and then and I got pregnant pretty quick after my first. My first two kids are 20 months apart. I think the combination of being pregnant two times close together like that and just my body makeup, I am not somebody who is meant to be super skinny. I had put on some weight.

Weight was not something that, you know, you talked about very much. In fact, when I talk about weight openly, it makes some people really uncomfortable. You can ask boys all the time what they weigh. My teenage boys will tell everybody how much they weigh. But for women, it’s kind of like this taboo subject because so many of us base our value and our worth on that number on the scale. Being five nine, I always have weighed more than my younger sister. She is 5’1” if she rounds up. I’m always going to weigh more than her because I just have a bigger build of a body. That was really difficult for me because of the culmination of all those years of having all this shame about my body and having this second little baby.

My daughter was probably about four months old. We were very, very poor. We were going to college and I decided that I wanted to start donating plasma. I didn’t work outside my home, and I wanted to do something. See, what a lot of the college students, I was in Provo, Utah, what a lot of them do is you go donate plasma. If you go, like the first time you get 25 bucks, a second time you get like 35 bucks or something. I thought, I’m gonna do all this good. Well, I didn’t own a scale and really dreaded getting on a scale anywhere. It just was always a very emotional experience for me. But when you go and donate plasma, they have you step on a scale to get your weight, they prick your finger, and they go through all these motions to make sure that you’re healthy and that everything is good.

This particular scale that they had was kind of like a doctor’s office scale more like maybe we see nowadays where it was a platform you stepped on and then there was a digital number. It wasn’t one that you move the little weights over. Yes, that was kind of more common. So having that digital number was pretty triggering to me, and I went one particular time and I was kind of in a dark place already struggling with depression and some anxiety. I had been for years but we didn’t talk about it much back then. It was 25 years ago, we were maybe starting to talk a little more about mental health, but not as openly. Well, even now, we talk about it a lot more openly now, but the conversation obviously needs to be even bigger because it’s still so hard for people to talk about.

So already kind of in a depressive state with a lot of shame. This one particular day, I went and stood on the scale to donate plasma and I saw the red lights of this digital scale flash 201 and I couldn’t believe I was over 200 pounds, and I couldn’t tell you what I was wearing that day if I had my shoes on or off, like, I don’t know. I mean, I have been 200 pounds so many times ever since. Like, it’s not like that big of a deal to me anymore.

I’ve had to do a lot of brain work to kind of help me talk through that. It’s just a number on this scale. But that was completely devastating that I was over 200 pounds. I didn’t know anybody over 200 pounds. I couldn’t imagine that. How could I be somebody that was over 200 pounds? How could my family love me? How was I even going to face them again? That’s just not what normal people weighed. And the devastation, it’s like something inside me just broke. And I sat down as they processed the rest of my paperwork, and I started just really thinking about that shame just being so strong. How was I ever going to be able to keep going and cope and what would happen if I wasn’t around anymore?

I had had suicidal thoughts before. I kind of thought in general what would life be like without me. But this time I started really considering specifically what would happen with my daughter what would happen with my son, my husband, he was in school, had a job. I like thinking logically. I started following this path of “Is this the time that I just can go? Is this the time? I don’t know how to face this. I don’t know what to do. And is this my time? That the world would be better without me.”

I’m a pretty empathetic person. So I knew that my husband would be sad. And I knew that my kids would be sad, but I figured my husband was young enough that he would be able to find another wife, that my kids would be able to grow up in a home with a mom that they wouldn’t be ashamed of, that they would be able to not have to be around me anymore. And it seemed so logical. It seemed like why wouldn’t I give them an opportunity to have a mom who was okay? A mom who didn’t have this heavy shame that was attached to her.

When you’re in a college town, and you live in these college apartments there were all these just teeny, teeny women. And I just thought there’s so many more women who are better than I am, like, everybody is better than I am. And I’m being unfair to my family to stay around any longer.

And so during this time, it takes a while, this waiting period of time and then you sit down to actually start donating the plasma. I kind of sat and watched as they put the needle in your arm like if you’re giving blood and then they kind of spin the blood out and put it back in your arm. They spin the plasma out. I just remember just watching that the TV’s were on. I remember seeing TV’s on but everything was just a blur as I sat and I planned it out.

I knew because I thought about it before that what would be the most sure and best way for me to take my life. And I knew exactly where the items were that I was going to use. I knew exactly how I could do it. They were easily right there in my apartment. My husband was watching my kids, but he had, I can’t remember if it was class or work or something right after. So when I got home, he was going to leave. And I would be able to follow through with my plans. And I thought it through and I thought it through and I had a lot of time to really, to really like sit and logically make sure that everything was going to happen, was this really what I wanted to do and I decided it was, that this was going to be the best thing. The best thing for everyone and I didn’t want to have to face this challenge.

More I didn’t want to have to feel anymore, that my value was so much connected to this number that I might not ever. What if it never changed? You know? Or what if I stay 200 pounds? Like, that was just, I just couldn’t fathom how horrible that would be.

And so I knew that this was the right thing to do. I have found that when I’m in those really dark times when I feel like I’m so, so deep in a hole, it’s a very selfish experience. It’s when I’m really depressed. I’m thinking about me. I am the center of all of all my thoughts. How are things going to affect me? It’s hard to look out. It’s like, almost like you kind of close off in a shell.

And you’re looking down, your shoulders are slumped. There’s an actual posture that we kind of do to close off from everybody. You don’t get as much air because your lungs are not filling up with as much air and it kind of perpetuates this feeling of depression because you’re just hunched over. When I was done donating plasma I got in my car and it was a little bit of a drive. But I sat and I thought through everything, step by step, over and over again because I had to make sure. I didn’t want to get out there and get home and not follow through. If I was going to if I was going to do this, I wanted to make sure that I accomplished my goal and that nothing might possibly stop it. I had to make sure that I had a plan for everything.

So I arrived home. I lived on the first floor of our apartment complex, and I walked in, and I didn’t want my husband to know how upset I was or anything. I’m sure in the moment he doesn’t remember this experience at all. And I’m sure in the moment, if he was aware that I was upset he would have maybe been able to see signs, but I went back into the room that I knew I could start the process and he didn’t leave. I needed him to leave because he would stop me and I couldn’t have stopped me. And he didn’t leave and I don’t remember the reason why he didn’t leave that day but it was like he just wasn’t leaving. And it was like it was normal for him. I don’t know if he decided not to go to work or his class was canceled or he just had other things to do.

I was kind of frustrated. I was frustrated that he was thwarting my plan. I’d figured everything out. But I hadn’t planned him not leaving, like I had planned all these other things, but not him not leaving. And when I came to realize after a few minutes that he was going to be around and that I wasn’t going to be able to follow through. It opened up my heart to I think this pain.

I think in the planning stages and deciding that I was going to take my life and all of that, I wasn’t feeling all the emotion. I was obviously in pain because it was that place to start with. But once I realized that I was going to still be around, that’s when the real pain from the shame and where I was and what I felt about myself and how low my self-worth was, that’s when it really came. And I remember standing in this little hallway, we had cinder block walls and, and just standing there and sobbing and my husband came and just hugged me.

And I just remember sobbing and sobbing and laying on my bed and just crying that I had to keep going. It seemed so much easier to leave than it was to keep going. And I didn’t want to deal with keeping going. It was just going to be I ended it, and that was it. I didn’t have to worry about it anymore. And I didn’t have to think about it anymore and the pain would be gone. And so when that moment came, that’s when it got really, really hard. Because then I had to think of what am I going to do now? I have to like I have to keep going. Because I don’t know when this is going to work again, I had this all planned out and now it’s not working and so now what?

 

Tamara Anderson 22:12 

And you had to pivot and make a new plan.

 

Unknown Speaker 22:15 

So I did I had to decide, okay, now what? And at the time I was not very good at opening up like I said, I didn’t tell my husband until years later that that had been my plan. And he had said that he had remembered that he had stuck around for something but he couldn’t remember what either but I had to decide, okay, well, this is how things are meant to be. If this is what God is telling me is that I’m supposed to still be around then what? What am I going to do about this? How am I going to become a different person or how am I going to improve myself or how am I going to deal with this painful thing moving forward. What am I? What am I gonna do from here?

So it was coming up with a different plan and a lot of just allowing pain and allowing myself to work through that pain and that shame. I didn’t go back to donate plasma anymore. That was too hard. It was too triggering. It was recognizing that these thoughts that I had about these numbers on this scale weren’t healthy. I didn’t know how to fix it. I didn’t know what to do about it. But it was just recognizing that that I was not in a healthy place with that and feeling.

I think the other tricky thing is that when you are really depressed like that, being able to feel God’s presence is hard. You are just not in a place to think outside of yourself. So I wasn’t thinking, what would God want me to do? Instead you’re thinking selfishly, you’re thinking of yourself. And so trying to determine, well, why am I you know, why am I here? Why is this a thing for me? You know, why is it so hard for me and not for other people in this area? And what am I supposed to do with it? It’s been a long process of many, many years of kind of working my way through that. But that definitely was the start of recognizing that something needed to change and that I was going to have to be the one to change it and it wasn’t going to be the easy way out. I was going to have to do it the hard way, which was to keep going.

 

Tamara Anderson 25:08 

And that that takes some courage. I mean, it really does to, to make that kind of a decision in your mind that I’ve got to go the hard way. I don’t want to go the hard way. But I need to go the hard way. You know, that’s hard.

 

Diane 25:25 

You know, it is hard. When we hear of somebody attempting suicide, when we hear of somebody who maybe has been suicidal, we kind of think of that moment being the really hard part. But it certainly is hard, really moving forward. That’s what takes the courage and the bravery. Because I’ve been there before, I’ve been there in that dark place where I was ready. So I understand where you come from. If you go through with it, I understand. But if you don’t, there is a sense of bravery. There’s a sense of maybe resignation, but kind of trudging up the mountain that’s been placed right there. And you just know you’ve got to do it. And I might be grumpy and sad. And, you know, as I kind of start trudging up this mountain, but there was no other way around it. I had to, this was what I had to do.

 

Tamara Anderson 26:42 

So how did you find the courage to take those steps every day? Diane, what did you do? Like what were you thinking as you pulled out of that and faced one day, each minute at a time And said, I’m going to move. For what? What did you do to give you the strength to do that?

 

Diane 27:06 

Well, Tamara, I think you said it really well, that it is that taking one day at a time, one step forward. I feel like, although I might not have been able to feel God, just so, so strong in my life at that point, I was able to have moments of joy and relief. Looking back now, I can see that that was God’s way of communicating with me. My little girl that I had had was a very cuddly loving, snuggly daughter, she was extremely easy to raise. Around this time, she wasn’t thriving with breastfeeding and we switched it to a bottle and that kind of gave me some other things to focus on and kind of helped me come out of that. I think with the help of God, and heavenly help, I totally believe that in our life when we go through these times that there are absolutely angels and loved ones from the other side that are right there along with us just helping us make it that one day, that one afternoon, that one evening. He puts people in our path.

I had a couple friends that I developed very close relationships with during this time that also were struggling with their weight, and their self-esteem and their body image. I would look at them and think, “They’re so wonderful! How is it that they can be so wonderful and not be teeny tiny? And I’m not wonderful?” I realized that people’s worth and value is more than what they weigh. They didn’t ask people to serve in our community or in our church, or in whatever capacity because they were skinny. They asked people because of what was in their heart.

So I think having God helped me see that there was a purpose and that I wasn’t the only one. Having somebody else there that was also feeling some shame and struggling with their weight, I think that those were really big blessings for me that were definitely put into place when I needed them so desperately.

 

Tamara Anderson 29:49 

Wow. You’ve hit on several important facts there. One, serving. That serving others like your daughter gave you something thing to live for. And thinking of her problems took you out of yourself enough to give you a sense of, “I need to help her.” I think that’s interesting that by serving we do get out of ourselves and less focused on what our problems are. And yet by helping others, God blesses us with that sense of joy. You said that there was a joy in being of service to your daughter and being a mom.

And I love that you also brought up the importance of heavenly and earthly angels, because that is something we’ve actually talked about on several episodes of my podcast. It is so, so true and so, so real that God brings both heavenly angels into our lives to help keep going us minute by minute. I know I’ve discovered that in some of the darkest moments of my life, that I had to learn to pray for angels. It really saved me on this one particular night where when my son Nathan was crying inconsolably, no matter what we did. I finally had to tell God, “I don’t know what to pray for anymore. We’ve tried everything.” That’s when the thought came pray for angels. So sometimes I think we have to go through these hard times to learn these hard lessons and that, hey, we’re not really alone. And we can pray for angels. we are worthy of that blessing and they will come.

 

Diane 31:51 

I think that we just don’t realize that we absolutely have that. If I were on the other side, if I got in a car accident or something, eventually when I pass, I can’t imagine not being there to help my children when they need it, and my grandchildren. I have a picture that I love. I have it in a big print. And I also have it on my screensaver on my phone. It’s called “She Will Find What is Lost.” It’s by Brian Kershisnik. I don’t know if you’re familiar with this picture, but there’s a woman who is kneeling and praying and there’s all of these angels that are coming down around her and surrounding her. When things get hard, I often picture I have this army of people around me whether they be earthly angels or whether they be heavenly angels, certainly a combination of both. I just have to just keep going one more step, one more step. God will provide that.

There was a country song that was really popular at the time about I believe there are angels among us. I loved that song. That could be a thing. I just love that. I think you also have to know that you can be the angel for somebody else. But you have to look up. When I’m really, really feeling that deep depression, I’m down, my shoulders are slumped, everything. If I don’t look up, I will miss all the angels. Like I could have one standing right in front of me. But if I don’t bother to look up for the light, look up for that little glimmer, look for the joy, look up for something, then I’m gonna miss it. I don’t want to miss it. So I keep looking and watching and praying for the angels and praying for my angels to be with my children and helping them and I think God is a good God and He wants to bless us and he wants to help us by providing that.

 

Tamara Anderson 34:29 

No, I absolutely agree. And it’s interesting. I know I have a sister who struggles with major depressive disorder and so this is something that I’m very, very familiar with. She has described to me the being in those dark, dark places, kind of like you have, and she said when you are that down and dark and deep, it’s hard to even feel anything good at all. You mentioned that as well. What do you do when you can’t feel the joy? What do you do when you can’t feel the hope?

 

Diane 35:16 

Everybody is going to have something that reaches them. A lot of people can. It’s sometimes music, it’s having a phrase of a favorite song, a hymn, a song you loved as a child. I think hearing that song or having a phrase, and recognizing that phrase, or that that little piece of music can help. I think we have to talk about in our society more and with our children more the importance of speaking of talking. It’s hard to talk about how you’re feeling when you’re there. I worry most about friends, family members, when I don’t hear from them after a while. Then I know something’s going on because you shut yourself off. It’s too painful to feel, so painful to open yourself up.

Sometimes people say things that are, you know, they mean to be helpful, but they can be so painful, we have to be very careful to know what to say. Because these people are in such extreme pain at the time. I think recognizing that there’s a higher being, whatever that higher being is for each individual, that there is somebody or something there that really does care about you and love you and is aware of you. Just having hope in a higher power and a higher purpose than that moment. If you can establish some of those fundamental beliefs, before you get to be in that really bad place. Sometimes you might have even forgotten a certain phrase or you might have even forgotten that there’s a God that loves you. But if it’s in your brain, it can be brought to the forefront of your brain. Anytime you put something good in your brain, then you never know when it’s gonna be remembered again. So filling your life with things that are positive and uplifting are going to help you feel better during hard times. And talking. Once you talk and you open yourself up, it’s like popping a balloon. There’s so much relief that comes especially if you can find the right person who isn’t going to judge and is loving and understanding and will just listen.

 

Tamara Anderson 37:59 

Oh, I love that. It’s almost like you need to have a list. When I write it down or in your brain or something of these are the things that helped me when I’m down.

 

Diane 38:11 

Yes, and with my clients, we will make a list for if you are feeling down because you’re not going to be able to remember it in the moment. So let’s practice a power phrase. Let’s practice saying to yourself every morning a little verse of a song. Let’s practice some of these coping skills and techniques so that when you’re feeling really down, they’re already circulating normally in your brain. Instead of feeling like I have no value, I am not worth anything, having a little power phrase that says I’m strong. Come back into your remembrance because you’ve practiced It, whether or not you believe it, it’s in there. That’s the power of positive affirmations. Unless you have created a list of coping skills, whatever that looks like for you, a list of simple, easy resources that you can go to in your brain, it’s a lot harder to pull yourself out.

So now I have this little toolbox. Music is powerful to me. So I have a couple different songs that will be playing my brain or the visual picture. I’m also visual. So that visual picture of the painting of the woman kneeling with the angels around he. I have these things that can come into my mind much easier. I can pull them up much faster because I practice and because I expose myself to them. So when I start feeling that, really feeling down I can remember, “Okay, wait a minute. Diane, you are not alone. You are going to be okay. You’re not the first person who’s gone through this and you are needed and you are loved and you’re strong and you are survivor. You’re not a victim, you’re a survivor and you have a purpose and a job to do. And people need you.”

That sucks right now, you know, life is really hard. And this really hurts and it’s, and it feels like you can’t go on but just look up, take another step. Pray, do whatever you have to do to just make it the next minute or the next. You know, make it until lunchtime or make it until work is over or make it until you go to bed and then the next morning, you’re just going to do it again. Keep reusing that list of coping skills that you’ve developed.

 

Tamara Anderson 40:57 

So it sounds like a couple of really good coping skills for people that are struggling is first remember your worth, or write down positive affirmations. Find music that will speak to you and bring you up. Find pictures or thoughts that will inspire you. You mentioned serving earlier about service. Maybe get out and do something for someone, even a random stranger.

 

Diane 41:25 

Absolutely. Even saying hi and smiling at someone, waving to someone in a car, giving someone a compliment. It’s amazing how much that can lift you a little bit. We have text messaging that we can do now that we couldn’t do way back. My kids say way back when we were clinking rocks together, you know, before the internet was. So sending a little text message out. There’s so many little things we can do and we think that service has to be a big thing. Sometimes we think, I can’t just make chocolate chip cookies, the world’s best chocolate chip cookie or make some fancy cookie that takes four steps. I can’t just bring someone bread, it’s got to be homemade bread, still warm. We want to make it all complicated.

Serving really isn’t that complicated. It doesn’t have to be. Hugging somebody, reading a story to your kids or just walking to your mailbox and waving to a neighbor, picking up a piece of garbage off the ground and throwing it away. Anything like that is a service and it’s little and the little services are the ones that are going to be the best because you have opportunities to do them so much more often. And they don’t take as much out of you when you already have very little to give

 

Tamara Anderson 43:03 

Oh my gosh, these are such powerful things and they are so important. I think everybody needs to have a “For when I’m down in the dumps” list of things to do.

 

Diane 43:16 

Absolutely. Another thing that I tell people is that your list of things can’t be dependent on anybody else. So the list of things that you cope with have to only involve you. So I have a client right now who is in their teenage years and their list when they came to first see me was “if I spend time with my friends, then I feel better.” That’s great, and I love being with my friends too. But that can’t be what makes you feel better because you may not have friends around.

What if you’re going to college, and your roommates go do something and you’re by yourself? Find happiness and joy doing something by yourself. It has to be independent of anybody else. Your coping tools have to be something you can do by yourself and something that makes you feel better. I can sing a song to myself, I can pull out a craft. I like to crochet. I can do all of those things no matter where I am, no matter what I’m doing, whether or not I have people around or not.

 

Tamara Anderson 44:41 

You mentioned talking to people, so obviously that hinges upon people being available to talk to you, but if you can’t talk to people, writing stuff down like journaling, or even praying it out, you can still get the emotion and the feelings out there. There’s ways you can do it that don’t hinge upon other people. Right?

 

Diane 45:03 

Absolutely. Um, one of the most powerful things is writing gratitude. I had another client message me at work a couple months ago and said, “I’m so, so down, and I just can’t make it and everything is going wrong.” And I just said, You know what, find a scrap of paper. By the time you finish your work shift, I want you to have 50 things of gratitude for me. And I don’t care how big or small they are. I just want you to write them down.

You know, and there’s times that you’re mad at God, and you don’t want to talk to him. And I think God understands that. I think God knows that we are natural human beings and normal and sometimes you’re mad at what has happened to you or things have happened to loved ones. If you don’t want to talk to God, that’s okay. Journal it out. Write it out. Start thinking of your gratitude.

Gratitude has been shown now scientifically to be so powerful. I used to think gratitude was just a religious thing, but it’s not. You’ll hear scientists from all over talking about the power and the chemical change that happens when you do that. They say that actual physical pen to paper is more powerful than texting, or you know, writing on a phone but even writing on a phone is better than nothing. Whether it’s journaling, writing, gratitude, whatever it is, but just write how mad you are. Right? How much it hurts, right? All of those emotions, just write. Then come up with three things you’re grateful for. It can be things like, “I am grateful that this day is over. I am grateful that this particular child is asleep and for at least an hour” Whatever little thing, it does not matter it is, you’re just grateful for something and it has that powerful effect.

 

Tamara Anderson 47:10 

I love it. That’s one of things I started journaling for. I wrote at least three things I was thankful for every night, probably about a year or two ago. And it’s powerful. You’re right. It’s a powerful technique. I tried to think of things I was thankful for specifically that day, but if you’re in a really bad place, you can go back. You don’t have to think about that day, especially if it’s been a really bad day.

 

Diane 47:40 

No, you know, and sometimes you have to repeat one. Sometimes you’re like, I don’t know what else but I’m still thankful for my shoes and chocolate. I don’t know what else and that’s okay. Because it’s the habit.

 

Tamara Anderson 47:58 

You’re still working on it. This is so fun. You know what, we’re going to take a quick break but when we get back would you mind if we finish talking about lessons learned during your hard times and advice? We’ve been talking about advice you would give to somebody in a similar situation but just kind of diving a little bit more into that and even a little bit more about your coaching and what you do now.

 

Diane 48:25 

Sure, sure. I’d be happy to.

 

Tamara Anderson 48:29 

How many of you out there feel like your life is chaotic, crazy, and completely awful compared to the norm? What if I were to tell you that you are normal for you? I am so excited to announce that my book “Normal for Me” by Tamara K. Anderson is now available for purchase on Amazon. This book took me 10 years to write and I share 20 years’ worth of lessons learned in my life. Towards including being in a car accident and having two of my children diagnosed on the autism spectrum. In this book, I share the secrets of how I made it from despair, to peace with God’s help. I also include a bonus diagnosis Survival Guide at the very end of my normal for me, but the diagnosis Survival Guide includes 12 tips to survive and thrive in tough times. Wouldn’t you like to know what those are? So what are you waiting for? Grab your copy of “Normal for Me” today on Amazon.

And we’re back. I’m talking to Diane Passey. We’ve been having a wonderful conversation about how we get out of those dark times. We all have them and I think they’ve been especially predominant with COVID-19 happening. We’ve all had changes in our life. It looks different, things are hard. I know I’ve seen it more more as my kids have tried to go back to school and things are on a hybrid schedule, and it’s just different. It’s hard. So life is hard right now. So it’s good to have coping techniques and strategies in place in a list form so that when you are down, you can check those boxes. But, Diane, you mentioned while we were talking earlier this morning about having a survivor mentality, would you mind diving a little bit into that and telling me what that means to you?

 

Diane 50:34 

Yeah, for sure. I learned about this victim versus survivor mentality from a man who lives local in our town and he came to speak to a group of youth and adults. He was involved in a bombing in Belgium, I believe it was where he received all these burns and these in the scars. He was in a burn center unit for a very, very long time. And he talked about the importance of being a survivor and not a victim because he could be victim to his pain and his circumstance or he could be a survivor.

As I kind of mulled over what he was saying, I noticed that my body felt different when I thought of myself as a victim, versus when I thought of myself as a survivor. When I think of myself as a victim, like even as I talk about it now I can feel the difference in how I feel. My victim mentality feels bad for me. I’ve had to struggle with my weight. I haven’t always had enough money for the things I want. I grew up thinking that I wasn’t good enough I get stuck in that.

When I am in the survivor mode, it feels powerful because I can take my experiences and things that I’ve been through and I am moving on. I’ve conquered this mountain and I can conquer mountains. I’m strong and I can make it through hard things. Other people have made it through hard things too. Some of us are dealt a really hard hand at the beginning of their life, they’re in a home situation that’s not ideal. There’s a lot of hard things that have taken place, there’s been abuse, there’s been neglect, whatever it is, if we get stuck, and we can’t get past to looking forward, to being a survivor.

When we’re survivors, we have power to change, to choose. We have power to take our experiences and bless the lives of others, to help make them stronger instead of the victim. Your experiences suck away the joy and the control out of your life. The survivor takes those and says, “Well, no, I’m going to take these experiences and I’m going to build a wonderful life for me that’s deep and diverse and full of all kinds of experiences. I have control over what my story is. I have control. I couldn’t control what was in the past and whatever’s in the past has happened. But I can control what I’m going to do with those experiences and how I’m going to improve my life because of them.”

 

Tamara Anderson 54:02 

So maybe it’s a shift, a mental shift from thinking, these things all happened to me, to what can I learn from these things that happened to me? Instead of looking at them as chains that are dragging you down, look at them as, “I’ve been through those chains, and I am now free from them, and I’m going to move forward, destroying them.”

 

Diane 54:29 

Yes. Or even check out my muscles that I have from chains. I’m not free from the chains. Maybe you have a difficult child that you’re like, oh my goodness, I’m gonna have to pair this child until I die. What the heck did I sign up for? So maybe those chains are gonna stick around but you get the buffest muscles. You can say, “Look what else I can do with these muscles that I’ve developed because of this hard thing.” I can do all of these other things with these muscles. I would not have had these muscles. I didn’t want the muscles. If I were given the choice to have those muscles or not, then I would have said, “No, thank you.” I’m happy being wimpy.

But now that I have these muscles, I’m good. I can either complain about the chains and I can let it drag me down, or I can lift my knee and I can roll my shoulders back. I can take a deep breath and I can say, “Now what can I do now that I have this experience and I have developed this growth? Now what’s next for me? How am I going to use these muscles in a way that I didn’t realize I could have used them? What’s the blessing that comes from my muscles that can bless somebody else?”

 

Tamara Anderson 56:04 

I think you’re absolutely right. That is one thing that I had to shift into realizing. Right after my boys were diagnosed with autism, I used to pray that God would take the autism away. It would be easier, right? Here I am all these years later, and I’m so glad that that prayer was not answered. I can look back and see, I’ve become more compassionate. I’ve become more patient. Doesn’t mean I’m perfect, right? No, but I’ve become so much better because of them. It has molded me and shaped me.

Has it been hard? Oh my goodness gracious, absolutely. I have such empathy for people that have special needs or people who are going through a hard time or people who’ve been in the depths of despair because I’ve been there myself and you’ve been there yourself, you know, there is an empathy. It’s interesting that because we’ve been through those things, here I am, I’ve started a podcast, and here you are. You’re a coach.

 

Diane 57:16 

Yeah. It’s a great feeling when you see that your experiences are actually able to help even one person, even by reaching out and saying, here’s my story. This is what’s hard. Having somebody come to you and say, “Tamara, I have got these kids and they’re with these special needs and they’re so hard” and just having you be able to say, “Oh my gosh, I know.” Not even give them a solution but just say, “I know how you’re feeling and I’m so sorry that it’s so hard right now. I’m here for you and you’re going to make it through.”

One of my one of my power songs is called “Beautiful Heartbreak” by Hilary Weeks, and it has the most amazing music videos. I would look it up on YouTube if you’ve never seen it. It talks about this mountain being right in front of you and you’ve tried to find your way around it and you’ve realized that there’s no way around the mountain. So brokenhearted, you start climbing. Then when you get to the top, you realize you wouldn’t have traded that mountain for anything. When you see the view from the top, it feels, it just feels like wow, look at this hard thing that I accomplished and look at what I’m doing. And I you know, looking back, even though there’s so many incredibly hard experiences that we can go through here in this life, there’s so many blessings and ways that we can bless other people with them. A lot of the time you’ll hear people who’ve been through hard things, say, “Wouldn’t have given that up. I’m glad I went through that so that I could do a, b, and c, so that I could bond with a, b, and c.” I need people who have been through hard things to help me through my hard things. We all need that. We all need that connection. That human connection is very, very important.

 

Tamara Anderson 59:21 

This is so amazing and so powerful. Let me ask you one other question. Now, we’ve talked about feelings of self-worth, and how there are times when we just feel so down on ourselves, and there’s a lot of negative self-talk going on our head. How do you think that plays into the adversary’s hands? I guess we’ll call him Satan here. The adversary is so quick to jump in when we’re feeling down.

 

Diane 59:56 

Oh, absolutely. So he does jump on us when we’re feeling down. But I think he always also knows how to bring up that shame. He knows where we feel the weakest. He knows that, for me, seeing a number on the scale is going to affect me in a way that is different than somebody else seeing a number on a scale. He knows me and he knows how he’s going to get me down. What I have found is that we can’t necessarily control the thoughts that come in our head. We’re here to be tested, we’re here to learn how to survive and to thrive, but we don’t get to control the negative thoughts.

There was some statistic that was like our brain thinks like 65,000 thoughts in a day, and they have found that 80% of those are negative, and of those negative thoughts about 20% of them we repeat over and over and over and over again. Our brains are just built to have those negative thoughts be very easy to come by. It’s not very hard for the adversary to come and whisper and say, “You’re not good enough. Look at this person and all the things that they’re accomplishing, and you’re not there.”

I think even as professionals, there’s imposter syndrome. We worry, what am I gonna do? People are gonna find out that I’m a fake. Like, who are you to tell people how to deal with kids, you can’t even control your own kids? Who are you to tell people how to make it through hard times? You’re not making it through your own hard time. He’s there to whisper all of the things to us.

We don’t get to pick what comes in our brain. What we do get to choose is what stays in our brain. We can’t just get rid of negative thoughts. I’ve tried it and it just doesn’t work. I can’t just push them out of my mind. What we have to do is replace them with positive thoughts. That’s where some positive affirmations, where positive music and our environment that we have is so helpful.

So when Satan comes to me and says, “Who do you think you are, that you’re worth having here? You think that you have anything valuable to offer the world?” I can say, “No, I am strong. And I have been through hard things and I’m a survivor.” When I can repeat those things in my mind, and I can make that side of my mind stronger, I’m going to choose what’s going to stay in what’s not. When he tries to be sneaky and sneak things in, then I can choose whether or not they’re going to stay in or whether they’re not, whether or not I’m pushing to replace them with something that is uplifting that’s going to help me feel better about myself. And help me be able to keep moving forward.

 

Tamara Anderson 1:03:11 

It’s so important to recognize that those negative thoughts aren’t coming from God.

 

Diane 1:03:19 

Oh, for sure. And that they’re normal. We all have them. Everybody’s having these negative thoughts, Everyone’s thinking stuff. It’s just gonna happen. There’s nothing you can do about it. It’s not because you’ve done anything wrong, you haven’t. It’s not because you’re sinning or because God doesn’t love you. It’s just part of being here, learning how to foster positivity and take care of yourself in a way that you can give to other people and help your brain be able to think past those negative thoughts and be able to kind of conquer that. I don’t want Satan. Wherever it comes from, I don’t want those negative thoughts to have any more space in my head than they have to have. But I have to choose that. That’s a choice.

 

Tamara Anderson 1:04:13 

And when you think about it as a choice, it kind of goes back to that survivor mentality. I choose it. It’s empowering. You know, it’s empowering. You think, “I don’t have to go down that same path that I’ve gone down 100 times to beat myself up over this, I can choose.”I choose not to believe these negative things. I choose to instead replace it with, “I am strong. I’m a survivor. I have worth. I’m daughter or son of God.” Just putting these positive things in there that will help us and uplift us and combat the adversary. Because it is a battle. It’s a daily battle, right?

 

Diane 1:04:50 

It is. Just because your brain thinks something doesn’t mean it’s true. And that’s like a real power point for a lot of people to realize. Your brain thinks, it does not make it a fact. Your brain thinks all kinds of weird things, but not all of them are true. You know, “I’m sitting in a chair right now.” That is certainly true. But there are so many thoughts that come through that are not true. And we can filter out the things that are not true and just realize that is not true. Am I a perfect mom? No, but have I tried my best? Absolutely.

And have I learned and helped other people through the mistakes I’ve made and my experiences I’ve had? I absolutely can. And so I don’t have to be perfect to do that. In fact, my imperfections are what makes me good at what I do. And that’s what makes me strong is being authentic and not being a perfect person. So when that comes in my head, I think, “Yeah, I’m not perfect. And that’s why I am who I am. That’s why I can reach the people who I can reach. That’s why I’m good at my job.” So, let’s be clear. I’m like, yeah, you know what, you’re right. I am not perfect, and it’s okay.

 

Tamara Anderson 1:06:18 

So Diane, tell me a little bit about self-care and why that is important when we’re struggling.

 

Diane 1:06:26 

So we can’t give more than we have inside of us to give and it’s a really hard concept, I think, especially for women. And moms think, “Well, of course we can. I can love my kids more than I love myself because, I feel like I love my kids more than I love myself.” But you can’t offer what you don’t have inside of you. Self-care is so incredibly important to work into your life especially if you’re a parent, if you’re a grandparent or work with people or whatever.

For you to be in a place to be able to bless the lives of others and to help other people is very important and is very powerful. And you may think that even though you don’t feel good on the inside, that you’re doing a good job faking it on the outside. And that might be you know, that might be true for neighbors and people you kind of see, but you’re not serving your family in the best way and you’re not serving your spouse in the best way and you’re not serving yourself in the best way.

So the importance of making yourself a priority is making sure that you have a full bucket or even just have something in your bucket to give. Lots of people can take and take and take and you have to find a way to fill your bucket. There’s a lot of different strategies for that. I won’t go into that right now but there are strategies to fill your bucket and there’s things that take away from your bucket. You have to be willing to make that a priority so that you can give and so you can have a reserve.

I grew up in a very traditional household and you know, women did this and men did this and women take took care of everybody. You know, as moms, we take care of all the things and the dads come home and they rest and you massage their feet or something even though I’ve never massaged my husband’s feet. But that was the idea behind it. That was our job. So by the time I’d had my third child, and we were living back east and we weren’t around any family, I had given and given and given and given and when my third was born, my oldest child was three.

So I had these very close together kids. I was struggling with postpartum depression, I was struggling with just generally feeling alone and anxiety and depression. And I had horrible thoughts about my kids, but I couldn’t share them. Because then I was afraid they were going to take my kids away, and I didn’t dare reach out for help. I emptied an empty bucket, and there was nothing there for me. I was so depressed, and I was in such a bad place. I was so afraid to reach out for help.

I look back at that now and think, what if I would have taken 10 minutes to go outside every day and walk around my apartment complex? What if I would have had my own gratitude journal, a gratitude list? What if I would have closed the door and said, “Honey, I need you to take care of these kids because I need to just shower” and I’m just going to sit with a journal or I’m just going to sit by myself for a minute and just have my own time reading a book or doing something that brings me joy, or sparks love, or sparks appreciation for myself? What if I would have filled my bucket a little bit? Because so much of it is chemical for me, I don’t think it would have taken it away.

But I would have been in such a better place and I would have been able to serve my family so much better. I would have been able to pull myself out a lot quicker because I would have been doing something to help me to grow and to help me to have that little bit of that self-care.

We think that serving we just have to serve everybody and do all the things and be on the PTA and do all of this volunteering in the classrooms and go on the field trips and cook all the dinners and make cookies. We think we have to do those things and I tell my clients, “I’m giving you permission to not do any.” You don’t have to burn yourself out. Serving other people is great. But the little things that we talked about, the little service things are fantastic. You have to take care of yourself or you, physically, are going to have problems, mentally, you’re going to have problems, emotionally, you’re gonna have problems. That’s not the way God intended us to be. He didn’t intend for us to run faster than we have strength.

 

Tamara Anderson 1:11:17 

No, and I think you’re right. And don’t you think it goes back to that feeling of self-worth? That I believe I am worth taking 10 minutes or 30 minutes to exercise, to journal, to schedule a time to go out to lunch with one of my friends and get a babysitter to do it. And yes, we are worth that.

 

Diane 1:11:44 

Sometimes that’s such a jump for people. They say, “Well, I don’t feel like I’m worth it.” Then I say your family is worth it then. Your husband is worth you taking care of you. They deserve the best you, and the best you is not going to be someone who’s drained and exhausted and can’t cope anymore. That’s not the best you

The best you is somebody who knows how to and models the behavior of taking care of yourself and knows how to put limits on things and doesn’t say yes to everything. That’s the best you. And they deserve that. So even if you don’t feel like you do, the people you love do deserve it. So put yourself up there. Allow yourself to be an important part of your day. Self-care becomes an essential part of your day, no matter what that looks like.

 

Tamara Anderson 1:12:48 

Oh, I love that. Yeah. Oh my goodness, this has been so much fun. Again, I swear we could just go on forever. But unfortunately, I’m sure my wonderful listeners would love for us to wrap it up. But let’s talk about resources.

 

Diane 1:13:10 

Sure. The resource that I hope that most people know is going to be the National Suicide Hotline. That is your state resources. At least I found for my state everything points to that National Suicide Hotline and I believe you’re going to have that number.

 

Tamara Anderson 1:13:31 

Yeah, I have it. I have it right here. It’s 1-800-273-8255. That’s 1-800-273-8255. You can also Google them and find more information on their website and I’ll put a link to that in the show notes.

 https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

Diane 1:13:48 

Another and I’m not sure how widespread the Hope Squad is. But I know they have a very strong presence here in Utah. So my kids have been around the Hope Squad and it’s a group of teens that are trained in suicide prevention. They receive trainings weekly. They train them starting in junior high. They get kids from all different areas, you know, band, athletes, kids who do well in school, kids who might have some special needs. They want a wide variety. They train these kids to be aware and to watch for signs of suicide in their friends.

I have one that is just starting with Hope Squad, but I have another child who is a sophomore, and about a year and a half ago, they were able to prevent a girl from committing suicide because she reached out to one of them. They say it happens constantly. We don’t hear about it all the time. Obviously there are privacy rules and there can be really personal things. But Hope Squads are powerful. They’re run by your school’s counseling system, but also through state funding.

As far as teenagers go, that’s where so many of them are going to turn is to their peers. There certainly is the National Hotline, but going having a connection is so, so powerful. And so being aware of what other resources are available. If there isn’t a Hope Squad, ask a school counselor, get the funding for it, get that set up. In our community it has been extremely valuable and has saved lives. We used to be a high suicide area here in our county here for teens and for kids. And those suicide numbers have gone down quite drastically since they have implemented the Hope Squad so I just can’t say enough good things about that.

And then I think the resource of just we just have to open our eyes and be a little more aware. We have to look around and be willing to just be happy. Don’t be overly happy, but sincerely love everybody. Take interest in who they are. Listen to them. Be careful with your judgments. Be careful with your strong values. It’s certainly find to have strong opinions but sometimes they can be so hurtful to somebody. Just know that everybody’s fighting a battle and you can’t see it on the outside.

People look at me and they think you are always so positive and happy, how is it that you ever struggle with depression? They just don’t believe it because I’m great at hiding it and so are a lot of people. We learn how to cope, we learn how to look great on the outside, even though our world is crumbling on the inside. So just loving people, I just think that’s so much the answer. Just love, love, love. Loving is always the right answer. You will never look back and feel bad that you are too loving in a situation. That’s just not possible.

 

Tamara Anderson 1:17:28 

Wow, that’s beautiful. So Diane, I know there’s gonna be people who are listening that are like, I need to talk to her. I need my child to talk to her. How do people find you?

 

Diane 1:17:38 

I would love to connect with anybody. I have speaking opportunities, opportunities to teach small youth groups, large youth groups. I’ve had a lot of experience with that. And I love that. I have a website. It’s Dianepasseylifecoach.com and you can find information on how to get in touch with me there. I’m also on Facebook, which is my main social platform. I am on YouTube as well.

On Facebook we have a support group for parents. In addition to just general you know, health and self-care guidelines like that, I’m happy to just reach out. I love to do whatever I can do with my experiences and my muscles that I didn’t want to earn. They’ll allow me to bless other people you know, just give me the opportunity to help one more person be able to hang on, or have a coping tool that they wouldn’t have normally had. or know what to do. That’s my goal is to reach out as far as I can and be able to bless in any way that God needs me to bless and share. So that’s how you can find me.

 

I appreciate the opportunity to be on here with my gracious host. So thank you.

 

Tamara Anderson:

I’m just thankful you were able to dive deep and tell us such a personal and intimate story. And honestly, my hope is that by you sharing your story, somebody out there who’s feeling discouraged and down can make it one more day. Right?

 

Diane. 1:19:39 

Yes.

 

Tamara Anderson 1:19:40 

Yes. Awesome. Thanks so much, Diane.

Hey, thanks so much for listening to today’s show. I know that there are many of you out there that are going through a hard time and I hope you found things that have been useful today. As you listen to the podcast, if you would like to access the show notes from today’s podcast, visit my website. That is storiesofhopepodcast.com. That is where you’ll find favorite quotes from today’s episode and shareable memes. Those are fun because you can share them with your friends on social media. You will also find the links mentioned throughout today’s episode so you don’t have to remember what those were. And also all the tips that were shared. Sometimes tips are shared so much throughout an episode you forget, what were those great things? So go to the show notes, storiesofhopepodcast.com to look up these fantastic resources. You know, if someone kept coming to mind during today’s episode, perhaps that means that you should share this with them. Maybe there was a story shared or a tip that they really, really need to hear. So go ahead and share this episode with them. May God bless you, especially if you’re struggling with hope, to carry on, and with the strength to keep going when things get tough. Remember to walk with Christ and He will help bear that burden. Above all else, remember God loves you.

About the author, Tamara

Tamara K. Anderson is a speaker, author, podcaster, and is a professional in HOPE. She has four children who struggle with autism, ADHD, anxiety, visions issues, and all bring her great joy.

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