Life in the Spectrum – Breaking the Silence About Mental Health Struggles

***Originally posted on Life in the Spectrum.

I keep quiet about the pain because if I reveal the truth, people will judge me. I fear the stigma that will exist once someone sees the me – the real me. I don’t want other people to view me differently, to recognize how dark my shadows can run, to know how lost and alone I often feel. I say I’m fine when I’m not, and I put on the smile. But behind the mask of happiness that I wear on the surface, I have spent years struggling with mental health challenges.

The irony of this whole charade is that I now know that countless people around me and around all of us are just pretending that they are okay, too, even when they are clawing to just hold on. Every single time that I write about depression, multiple individuals post comments or send me messages telling me how they feel the same way but don’t talk about it.

We stay silent in an effort to maintain a facade that allows us to assimilate with society. We want to blend into a world full of people, but those same people are playing that “fake it till you make it” game, too. I’m not suggesting that you display every colorful detail of your life for all to see. More to the point – don’t do that. Big time no to that. Your whole story should not be the world’s business. But you should be able to be honest with people whom you trust. You need a genuine support network, and I guarantee you that they need you more than they are saying, too.

I don’t typically delve into my personal experiences with depression, anxiety, or OCD nor do I discuss my sadness regarding people who lose their lives to suicide or my own survival stories. The nightmare stories of my personal mental health challenges aren’t conversations I would ever have at work nor would I bring those topics up casually or at random with anyone else. I am selective about my audience for those kinds of discussions. Admittedly in this moment my selective audience consists of the entire internet, but the odds are high that you can relate to my words if you are still reading. In truth, the odds are high that almost everyone can relate.

Life can be a seriously rough ride at times, and we don’t always know how to react or even how to feel. We don’t receive a “How to be a Human the Right Way” when we are born, but we spend our lives trying to figure out what that even means. There’s no set answer, life is not black and white, and every person you know has struggled with mental health in one form or another at some point in his or her life.

We need to accept that it is okay to not be okay all the time. We can’t keep pretending like nothing is wrong when we need help. We have to speak up, and we need to be honest with each other. The day you reveal your struggles to others is the day that you will discover that you are anything but alone in this.

So even though I do fear the stigma, the judgement, and the misunderstandings, I know that I can’t live my life hiding the person I really am – good or bad, dark or light. I fall down, but I get back up, too. I sometimes feel like I’m drowning, but I know that I will find my way back to the surface again. My lowest points have been the most revealing moments in my life, and while I would not wish those experiences on anyone else, I wouldn’t eradicate them from my personal history either.

Own all parts of your journey. Learn from the falls whenever you find your way back to your feet once more. Search for the meaning in the madness and the calm in the storm. Discover that brave voice within you, and speak up when you can. And if you can’t find a safe place to speak your truth, I’m always happy to listen. Others have been lighthouses to me in my darkest times. I would love to be yours in return.

Much love to you. Jo

***Before you even ask, I promise you that I really am all good. Like everyone else, I go through waves of feeling like I’m crashing and burning, but I’m not in that place now. Nevertheless I have been there more times than I can count. When we feel that way, we need to find the courage to seek help. Figure out who you want in your inner circle and let those people into your world – all of it. You will be surprised once you learn how many others are struggling in silence as well. You need them, but they need you, too. Be brave and speak up. Always.

https://lifeinthespectrum.com/2018/06/30/breaking-the-silence-about-mental-health-struggles/.

Life in the Spectrum – Depression is Not Black and White

Originally posted on lifeinthespectrum.com.

chickadee - soft (greys)

The use of black and white filters can be striking in the world of photography, but in the world of depression, black and white is nowhere to be found. Everything is shaded with countless shades of grey. I have spent decades attempting to figure out the right way to handle this or respond to that. Hoping to learn how to be more likable and more normal. Searching for a better approach to maintaining fulfilling relationships. Trying desperately to just be okay.

However it isn’t that cut and dry. Life is unpredictable and has a fierce habit of jerking the emotional rug out from under us when we least expect it. And when that happens, we hit the ground. Hard.

For someone with depression, an emotional takedown can be utterly debilitating. Maybe your energy drains to nonexistence and you find yourself unable to move or leave your bed. Perhaps you become enraged and begin to actively push away anyone who cares enough to try to offer support. Some people physically hurt themselves or try to anesthetize the pain away with alcohol or drugs. Others lose hope, give in to the pain and the lies their minds tell them, and give up altogether.

I genuinely understand the indescribable heaviness you feel when you are facing that dark night of the soul. I promise that I truly do. But I also know that no matter how dark it is in that moment – even if that moment feels like it has gone on and on – it does not stay like that. It always get better. Ironically it will go back to crappy again, too, but the good news is that the pendulum keeps swinging back and forth. As always, just remember to wait it out whenever that happens.

The truth is that this is how life goes for everyone. You don’t need to be a card-carrying member of the mental health diagnosis club to feel like an outsider, to believe that you are lost, or to be in a place of tremendous sadness or hurt.

We may focus on our weaknesses, but the heaviest of times often reveal our greatest strengths, too. If you can’t get out of bed today, that’s okay. The weight of that kind of emotional exhaustion can be suffocating, but the world will keep spinning for now. But get out of bed tomorrow.

If you are being offered genuine help from someone who loves and wants to be there for you, open the door instead of slamming it closed.

Avoid trying to mask to pain with alcohol or drugs. I get that it feels good in the moment, but those will tear you down on so many levels. The numbness won’t last, and you are left with a deeper emotional hole with every further attempt to hide from your life.

Open up to others in your life who will help you find your footing again, and seek professional help.

Above all, don’t ever give in to the pain, and don’t ever lose hope.

I don’t believe on any level that suicide is an indication of cowardice. Rather I see it as an act of absolute desperation and total confusion. People who take their lives become tremendously lost regarding what seems real versus what actually is real. They can recognize the absolute truth that every new day holds a promise of something better. Now I’ll admit that that doesn’t mean that the better whatever will come along today. But then again, it definitely could. If not, that greatly improves the odds for an even better tomorrow, so it makes practical sense to keep sticking around.

Although it might simplify our days, a world of black and white would be tedious and dull. We may perceive endless shades of grey in our lives, but we are also blessed with an endless array of other colors to brighten our days. Don’t forget to notice them in their innumerable forms, and don’t ever hide your own colors, your brilliance, or your beauty in an effort to blend in or be normal. You are so much better than normal, and you are so much more than mere black and white.

Much love to you always.  Jo

chickadee - soft (color)
Life is more beautiful with a splash of color.

Life in the Spectrum – The Loneliness of Depression

moon flight

I don’t enjoy writing about depression. My insecurities rise to the surface as my innumerable failings are put on display. I worry that people will read my words and judge me. That I will be seen as weak. Or whiny. Or pathetic. In my mind, I am already giving myself a severe beat down, so sharing my tales to invite more opposing boxers to the ring feels like a seriously foolish idea. No one else could possibly understand the crazy sentiments racing through my mind. No one else could possibly relate.

But that’s entirely untrue. These kinds of feelings are rampant. Countless people face these struggles every single day, and too many of them lose the battle with anxiety and depression. They feel so isolated. Broken. Helpless. Hopeless. They put out the light before the sun has a chance to find its way through the darkness once more.

So even though I am embarrassed to share my struggles, I recognize that someone out there in this moment needs to know that they aren’t alone in theirs. That they aren’t the only ones feeling broken, destroyed, or terminally unworthy of love. That another person is in it, too, and that maybe there’s some chance that it can get better. That holding on is possible, and that sticking around is worth it.

It does get better. It doesn’t stay dark and heavy forever. And you aren’t alone in it.

You are absolutely worthy of love. You are not broken. You can make it through this.

If someone doesn’t get what you are going through, they are luckier than they know. If they judge you for being imperfect, well… definitely don’t sweat that because no one is. And if you feel like you are alone, drop me a line. But whatever you do, please don’t give up.

It won’t stay dark forever, you are stronger than you can imagine, and despite the way you may feel, you are never ever alone.

Big hugs to you.  Jo

***I wrote this post for a new blog I just started at lifeinthespectrum.com. This site focuses on the challenges that come with depression, anxiety, OCD, and similar mental health issues. If you discuss these issues in your writing, please let me know and I will gladly send readers your way. You may notice that I have also reblogged some of my relevant older posts to that site, so a few of the entries may look familiar.

Much love to all of you. I wish you happiness, healing, and joy always.

Working Through Mental Health Heaviness with a Little Gardening

garden.jpgWhen I am struggling, I tend to shut down or lash out. Or I lash out and then shut down. It’s a game time decision and basically not really a decision at all because I never know how I’m going to react in the moment. To put it ever so delicately, I think that it must insanely suck to be part of my family (or within ten miles of me) whenever I’m spiraling. I don’t hide it at all. It’s not in my nature nor is it in my innate set of skills. I basically exude “Hot Mess Here!” when I’m in that place. And I hate it.

I don’t believe in taking medications (I AM ONLY SPEAKING FOR MYSELF ON THIS – I absolutely do NOT speak for others nor am I advising anyone else to toss their pills ever), and I can’t muster the willpower or energy to exercise. It’s like slogging through tar. Or old Velveeta on a sponge. Eck. That’s the worst, no?

When I have a mental meltdown, I operate in full-out sour puss mode. Eventually I move to doing projects. That could be painting a mural, gardening, refinishing an old something, doing design work, photography, or any other number of things that will require an extensive level of detail and concentration. If I’m lucky, I get started on the project long before the crazy brain hits, but that isn’t always the case. Sadly I did not get in front of the downward spiral before it struck this past weekend, but I did manage to pull myself out of it with the succulent garden pallet (thank heavens).

I wrote the post below on anotherjoproject.com detailing how I put together the above garden as a light DIY piece for other creative gardeners out there. I didn’t delve into the why but I don’t get into the mental explanations on that blog. I keep those posts light because I it gives me a sense of comfort (false though it may be) when I feel like there’s a small place in my life that isn’t marred by the emotional roller coaster that I never fully exit.

DIY – Creating a Succulent Garden with a Pallet

If you need a pick me up or other general DIY project ideas, feel free to check the site.

Just remember that although the dark times may feel deep and real and raw right then, but they are not permanent residents. Do not allow those heavy days (weeks / years) to defeat you or destroy your relationships. As my abundantly wise friend Louise Gallagher at https://dareboldly.com/ reminded me, now is not forever. It really isn’t.

Such wisdom in those words.

If you feel like you are caught up in the heaviness of the now, allow yourself the meltdown and then move another direction. Drink a cup of coffee, drag your butt out of bed, and do something. Write. Draw. Garden. Paint. Sing. Read. Whatever. Just find your way back.

If you are stuck, I’m here and am always happy to remind you that the sun is still there even when you can’t see past the clouds. I need those reminders, too.

Now is not forever.

Dig past the rough spots and uncover the life that you are meant to have. It’s there. It just gets a little hidden sometimes.

Love, light, and hugs – Jo

Sometimes I Feel Like I’m Losing the Battle With My Mind

I hate feeling this way. It’s like my mind decided to take a trip to Crazyville, and I can’t get off the damn bus.

It frightens me when I feel this way. I don’t like facing the sense of being out of control. My thoughts race. My emotions whipsaw back and forth at random. And I can’t even tell you what set it off.

Maybe my hormones bought a ticket on the world’s crappiest roller coaster. Maybe I’m overwhelmed with the endless day to day everything. Maybe I’m tired. I just don’t know, but that almost makes it worse. I am a looney without a cause, and I don’t like it. I feel lost.

But what I do know for certain is this – the main thing to hold onto during these rotten mind screw moments is the knowledge that what feels like reality in this moment is not actually as definitive as it seems. In fact it’s a total mental sham.

So I’m going to find some way to redirect my brain back onto the rails and keep holding on until that happens. My mind will settle back to normal sooner or later (very much hoping that it opts for sooner). This isn’t my favorite moment. Not at all. But I will be okay. The clouds always clear. I just need to give time for the sun to peek through once more. It will. It always does.

Much love to anyone else who is in this moment, too. I’m so picking up what you are putting down my friend, but we will get through it.

Hugs to you. Jo

Trying to Achieve Keto While Facing Low Carb Challenges for a Picky Eater

eating1

This is me when I believe that my salad has feta cheese but I take a bite of goat cheese instead. Bleh!

Although I have been more consistent at sticking with a lower carb lifestyle than all past attempts, my recent stumbles are definitely starting to catch up with me. Please note that I said “lower carb” because “low carb” didn’t feel totally honest.

Don’t get me wrong. I really am trying very hard, and my food choices have been exponentially better on average.

But…

Drastically cutting back your food options can be extremely frustrating when you are a picky eater. I haven’t figured out how to move past my daily menu consisting of meat, eggs, cheese, nuts, nut flour, a bite or two of fruit, and veggies (which I still really don’t love) (or even like) (I basically dislike them for the most part).

carbs2

carbs

I found the bread above and these sugar-filled fantasies located along my path between the meat, cheese, and veggies. That’s a stone cold move you made you naughty pretend health food store.

I go absolutely bananas (ironically I can’t have those either) when I walk into the healthy eating grocery store and am bombarded with aisles of sugary temptation. I have found and created a few sweet alternatives of my own, but sometimes I JUST WANT THE DAMN CAKE.

The good news / bad news is that whenever I throw glycemic caution to the wind, my body quickly reminds me why consuming carbs and sugar is a foolish move. In truth I am grateful for the physical payback because it stops my motivation from fizzling out into nothingness.

The positive side is that I can confirm that my sweet carby cravings have substantially decreased. The phrase, “I want something sweet” was once a daily mantra for me, but it doesn’t really exit my mouth or even cross my mind too often now. I have also learned that it’s worthwhile to keep a little prepared protein available to avoid poor snap decisions that lead to the feeding frenzies and subsequent sugar crashes.

So even though I feel a bit frustrated today, I know that it is getting better. I am getting better. I just wish that I was naturally drawn to more foods that would never land on the Children’s Menu list.

If you have faced and survived low carb menu boredom and protein overload, I would love your tips. You inspire me to keep trying and keep researching options. I can do this. I am sure of that. It’s just nice to have partners and friends in the process. 🙂

Best wishes to all!  Joanna

***Much love to Julie at https://juliehcares.com/ for the support and ideas. I so appreciate the tips you have given me and the website referral for keto cooking. Also ginormous hugs to my darling friends at https://itrippedoverastone.com/ and https://playamart.wordpress.com/2012/08/27/who-me-passionate-about-nature/. You inspire me with every word you write. Truly. 🙂

So Apparently This is How to Feed Squirrels Directly Via Bird Feeders

And to think that I thought that the feed was for the birds. How silly of me.

Rockhounds, Bird Nerds, and Nature Fans

squirrel feeder1

Thanks so much to the local squirrel who went out of his way to let me know that the “blackbird, mourning dove, and squirrel deterrent cage” that I created to protect my bird feeder should actually be called a “blackbird and mourning dove deterrent / squirrel feeding system.” Also high five to him for sticking his entire face inside the feeder. That was definitely what I was hoping he would do.

So this epic fail has sent me back to the drawing board once more. Oh well. At least he posed nicely for his crime in action mug shot. Little stinker.

View original post

Previous Older Entries

%d bloggers like this: