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Open your heart, Part 1

[Editor's note: This is the first half of a two-part column.]

Recently, I was on the phone with a friend whom I had not seen for more than 10 years.

After listening to her talk for a few minutes, I realized that she was dealing with depression.

She said she didn't want to get up, go out of the house and talk to people. Her heart was broken. She felt that everyone's life was better than hers. And she did not want to talk to others about her problems.

I am not a doctor or psychologist, but I know that these are the symptoms of depression. Approximately 20 million Americans suffer with depression. Nearly twice as many women as men are affected by depression.

When I pointed that out to her, she admitted that she did have depression and it was causing her physical problems as well.

Two things my friend said struck me. I quickly realized that she was wrong in her thinking and behavior. And I was not afraid to speak the truth to her.

In some way, we all make the same assumptions and mistakes.

First of all, we tend to think that we have worse problems than anyone else and everyone else is having a better life. We are all deceived in that thinking, the grass is greener on the other side.

I read a book titled "Everyone is Normal Till You Get to Know Them." The title really says it all.

We think other people are better off with their lives, with their relationships, with their marriages, with their careers, with their finances, etc.

The fact and truth is we just don't know them well enough to think otherwise.

Whenever I have a heart-to-heart conversation with other people and get to know them on a deeper level, it always reminds me how deceitful the world is.

Everyone experiences so much pain and problems in life. Many are crying inside, from the deep pain and suffering. The pain and suffering are often beyond what our eyes can see and our mind can understand.

As human beings, we can easily get stuck in our thinking and problems.

Our real problems may be small in the real world of problems, but the more we think about them, the bigger they become.

We keep thinking about the same problems over and over, in the process the problems become bigger and we become more miserable.

Then physical and mental diseases will follow inevitably.

We are what we think. If we think we are miserable, then we are miserable.

If we think we are OK and happy, then we are OK and happy.

The second problem is we have been taught "Don't air your dirty laundry in public."

We are not supposed to embarrass ourselves and our families by revealing our problems to anyone.

But the fact is when we have anger, resentment and problems that we bottle up inside ourselves and don't talk with anyone, sooner or later, it will cause mental and physical problems or disease, i.e., disharmony of body, mind and spirit.

Medical science has proven that emotional problems cause physical illness.

When we experience problems in life, we shouldn't feel so shamed and embarrassed that we don't talk to others and seek help.

Who has no problems? Everyone has problems.

Everyone is not "normal" in some way and every family is dysfunctional in some way.

I like what someone said, "To heal your heart, you have to open your heart."

If you have a physically sick heart, you probably have to do an open-heart surgery. If you have an emotionally- or psychologically-sick heart, the same solution applies.

You have to open your heart in order to find healing and relief. You have to open your heart to heal your heart. It's that simple.

If you have a troubled or broken heart, if you feel pain inside, whether it's anger, resentment, sadness, loneliness, sorrow, fear, anxiety or depression, you can't close your heart and expect the pain to go away.

It will do you more harm. The first step in the healing process is to open your heart.

If you are depressed, you need to find ways to express yourself, not further depress and suppress yourself by closing your heart and isolating yourself.

Personally, I don't believe in using drugs as the first step to heal a broken heart and depression. All drugs have side-effects.

In my next column, I will talk about opening your heart and expressing yourself to heal your heart and depression in a more natural and healthy way.

Meanwhile, please remember, if you don't express yourself, you depress yourself.

And to heal your heart, you have to open your heart.