Searching for the Faint Hint of Light in the Loneliness of Depression

Over the past few weeks, I have been finding myself in an increasing number of conversations that are thick with heavy emotions. So many people have swallowed their words and their pain about the mental health issues that have ravaged their families and their lives. These individuals seem fine at a glance, but the reality is that they are drowning on the inside. The perfect (and false) vision of life on social media creates a deceiving veil that obscures the pervasive struggles of depression, anxiety, OCD, addiction, and suicide. And if you are dealing with any of those challenges, it can make you feel even more broken when you scroll through the endless joy that seems to be the norm from the vast majority of those around you.

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I wanted to get the beach in the pic, but all these darn laundry baskets were in the way. Also I had to get to work, so I couldn’t leave reality to head to the beach. One day, I’m going to take these laundry baskets to the beach. They desperately need a break, too.

Based on the posts and photos you see on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc., standard daily life should always include high levels of problem-free and adorable children, fluffy puppies galore, hundreds of birthday wishes from innumerable e-friends (many of whom also leave me contemplating my annual questions of “What does that person look like and how do I know him or her???”), and random pictures of feet taken by lovely pools and beaches (because seeing your feet in the pic really sells me on the beauty of your vacation). And on that note, please stop doing that. I don’t need to see your hobbit feet. I already know that you are there because you took the pic. Including your feet in the shot does not make me say, “Hey, I recognize those hairy toes! You really are there!”

The truth is that life isn’t always smooth sailing, and despite the evidence that you are presented with online, a striking number of those same people are also trying desperately to find their way back to solid mental health. They just don’t talk about it. When you find yourself facing depression, anxiety, OCD, addiction, or suicidal thoughts and actions, you feel so very isolated. You search frantically for any faint hint of light in the darkness of those moments. And when those moments turn from minutes to hours and sometimes from days to years, it truly seems like it will never end. In those times, you feel like no one else has been as messed up as you are right then. If there were Screwed Up Human Olympics, you would run the table at the games and easily pocket the gold, silver, and bronze medals. Team MoJo for the win!

I have lost many friends over the years due to my tendency to go radio silent when I am navigating those rough waters. I disappear and shut people out whenever I am trying to work through challenges that are consuming me. Part of me knows that most wouldn’t judge me for struggling, but another part just won’t allow a public viewing of that much of my raw and utter imperfection (hot mess central, totally unable to cope, emotional tornado action, scared little kid trapped in a less little grown up body – that kind of stuff).

Shutting other people out to limit further emotional damage is a common behavior for people who are hurting. Unfortunately it also happens to be a highly flawed coping mechanism. The reality is that I still miss many of those people that I lost in those times. They never knew why I disappeared, and I could never find the strength to explain what was going on or the right words to fix the hurt after I was in a better place. It’s not my favorite set of experiences to contemplate, but to everything there is a season, and sometimes, you just have to release the past.

Isolating yourself creates a frustrating complication of the issues and ultimately exacerbates the problems. If we could be more honest about our struggles, we would discover that so many other people around us are dealing with the same challenges as well. If we can gather enough courage to speak up when we or our family members are falling down, we would be surprised to learn that our true friends are willing and often able to genuinely assist us.  They keep the conversations going, allow us to see that we are not the only ones having a hard time, get us out of the house and out of the ruts we find ourselves trapped in, and remind us about how totally dorky we are for taking pics of our feet while still completely loving us anyway.

You may be lucky and find a way out of the darkness all by your lonesome, but you don’t have to go that route, and the odds of recovery are wildly better if you seek help from others. Let people into your world. Please note that I did not say, “Drag other people into your world.” If you have to drag them, you are barking up the wrong friend. I’m talking about surrounding yourself with people who are able to hear you and who want to listen in a supportive way. Also do yourself a favor and step away from negative social media. If you go the other direction and find that you are fixated on comparing your life to other people’s fluffy stuff, just remember that you are going to have a hard time finding their “So I totally vomited after my kids saw my husband and me in a terrible fight this morning. I am praying that they stopped crying once they got into school, that my marriage will last, and that my stomach bug goes away soon!” post. No one shows that crap off to the world, but everyone has those days. Those people need your shoulder, too. We all feel excruciatingly deep pain sometimes, and that doesn’t make you broken or weird. It makes you normal.

I know what it feels like to lose hope, but I have found mine again. For anyone who is still searching, I’ve got your back. I have stockpiled more than enough for all of us and know that it can and will get better. The darkness will fade, and your joy will return. You are so important, and you are amazing and perfect just as you are.

Allow those who care about you to hold your hand and your heart. They truly can help you find that faint hint of light in the darkness, and eventually, the light will outshine the darkness altogether. There will still be ups and downs, but life will get dramatically better if you let that happen.

Recognize when you need help, and be honest about what you are going through. Let the people who matter into your world.

Love and light always – Joanna

Faint

Female Body Changes and the Mystery of Metabolism that Appears to be Asleep at the Wheel

Ok so maybe all of this facial hair isn’t entirely mine (but maybe some is). Also it’s possible that today is Halloween.

While I have zero issue with plastic surgery for other people, I find that it doesn’t really appeal to me on a personal level (today). With that said, there are elements of aging that are seriously less than fabulous. I don’t mind getting older from a number stand point. I just never realized that cosmic humor would require all of the numbers that pertain to my body to join in on the joke.

I went to see the doctor for a routine check-up. While I was there, I thought that perhaps the scale was pulling an excessively early April Fool’s Day joke on me. It wasn’t. The weight in question was shocking to me and is not a number that bears repeating. Ironically it is a number that a bear might weigh if she did happen to get on that same scale, too.

As a bonus I was in the perfect sunlight at another point and noticed something gleaming in my view. It took me a moment to realize that a long thin fuzzy hair had landed on my face. Another unhappy moment later led me to discover that I was a bit off the mark on my original assessment. The fuzzy didn’t land there. It was trying to escape my face. What the eff?  When did I turn into a she-wolf?

It’s tough to feel pretty when your youthful bod has gone on vacay and left you and your bat wing arms dangling behind. It frustrates me immensely and leaves me scratching my beard. Although I love naughty food, it doesn’t seem to matter what I eat. I’ve tried changing the menu significantly, yet I still remain un-thin but with a serious hangryover. If I exercise, I get even hungrier, so I eat more and end up bumping up my calorie count to offset the activity increase.

Please don’t even mention salads. I like real people food. The only salads I enjoy are less like salads and more like bread-free sandwiches. The others with all veggies plus a side of more veggies never leave me satiated. Man cannot live on kale alone, and even if he (she) could, why would one ever want to try???

I will keep attending to my increasing presence of sasquatch chic body flair as I continue to strive for a way to solve my “how to achieve a healthier lifestyle by eating cheesecake” mystery. I know that I could maintain that approach if it was an option. Maybe I will give kale another try. Ha! Not! But I suppose that there are other veggies that I could purchase (yet again) and actually eat this time (ideally before they sprout mini-gardens of their own).

Thankfully I don’t have any major negative temptations in the house at the moment because it’s Halloween and every person in America gives out celery and protein powder. Also the holidays are quickly approaching, and that’s always a great time to shed the excess fluff.

Despite my snark, I do need to figure out a way to get motivated. I may be able to pick up Thor’s hammer, but I think the real challenge is going to be putting down Jo’s fork. Sigh.

Lentils and lettuce always – Joanna

Mystery

The Road to Hell is Paved with Varnish, but There’s Still Gratitude to Spare

When your house has been listed for sale since the Triassic period, you definitely want to learn that you are going to have a second showing the day after you have a couple dozen families over to carve Halloween pumpkins. As cleaning up after anything with that many small kids is sure to be a non-event, I highly recommend that you follow my wise lead and opt to refinish your front door that same evening as well. If at all possible, only do this when the weather is cold enough to ensure that the wax or varnish won’t dry by the following day when the actual showing is to occur. Ideally you want to make sure that it just sticky enough to be impossible to wipe off with a rag yet still tacky enough to be able to get all over the hands of those potential buyers when they touch your door. Imagine tar but without all those ginormous dino bones mucking up your masterpiece.

If you do this, the visitors will return the favor by staying an hour and a half in your home (forget that silly hour window we agreed upon), repositioning all of your window treatments (unevenly – and that’s where you lose me), playing with your kids’ toys and leaving them in various places throughout the house, and sitting on your beds (my perpetual fav that incredibly keeps happening!). Honestly I’m to the point where they could try on my bras as long as they ultimately gave us a good offer and bought the house. I would only request that they wash their sticky mits before doing so.

Every single time we have a showing request, it causes – no that’s not right – I cause utter chaos in my ridiculous attempt to create order. I spiral wildly as I search for control. My poor family does a perfect imitation of repelling magnets as they maintain a safety bubble of distance away from me as I dash from room to room. I move into ludicrous speed and frantically tackle whatever unimportant detail that my mind chooses to believe is a potential random item that these people might notice.

The problem (in addition to me) is that these specific buyers stayed the full hour the first time they came here. Our video camera showed that they spent surprising amounts of time on items that seemed nit-picky (even to me!). Does this hardware move on this fixed door to allow it to open another way even though the adjacent door is all good (thus indicating that yes it’s fine and is this really a deal breaker anyway?)? What do the window treatments look like if we move them all up several inches but leave them at varying heights throughout the first floor? Why is there a cemetery in the front yard, and is it really included with the house as indicated by the FOR SALE sign? I shook my head and shrugged my shoulders as my OCD sat watching the footage with mouth agape. Sorry OCD. Someone has out-insignificant detailed you.

As my OCD never settles for second place, it chooses nonsensical tasks like refinishing doors in response to the challenge. I see it happening. I know that the timing is wrong. But I just can’t shackle the nutty girl who has taken the wheel and is driving the bus at that point. Whenever it happens, I want to hand my husband a note that says, “Remember when you said ‘For better or worse…’? Well this ain’t the better part.” Sadly he doesn’t need a note to clue him into that reality. Every irrational action I take displays this like a neon sign. He’s a good man, and I’m truly thankful for him. I’m blessed to have him, no one should be stuck dealing with this level of nonsense. Then again, he’s at the World Series as I type this, so maybe he will survive after all. (An amazing friend offered him her extra ticket. I’m thrilled for him and incredibly thankful for that awesome pal!)

I am grateful that we had a second showing, and I’m hopeful that it went well. We assumed that they might be moving in this evening when they wouldn’t leave, but eventually they scooted out. At this point we haven’t heard back yet. The good news is that it appears that none of my bras have wax or varnish on them, so I guess they followed at least one of my rules. I’m just so ready to hand the keys and mortgage over to another family who appreciates this house and genuinely wants to call it home.

I was hoping to do tons of other stuff today, but again, if the house sells, it’s definitely worth it. Fingers and toes are crossed. It will work out no matter what, but it sure would be lovely if it worked out now.

I hope that you avoid sticky situations of your own and that your week is a good one. Blessings to all of you.

Joanna 😉

Gratitude

Dear Universe – Quick Question About the Astros

 

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Dear Universe,

So sorry about the whole monster complaining thing earlier. Now that we are cool, would you possibly mind sending a couple of Houston World Series tickets my way? I have already checked inside my wallet, but so far none have miraculously appeared. I’ll keep looking in the meantime.

Thanks super much!

Your moody but usually really nice friend,

Joanna ❤️

P.S.  Could I also please have Jose Altuve. I’m significantly taller and older than he is and we are both married, but I believe that we could make it work. If it helps, I’m pretty confident that my husband would marry him as well after the epic game we just watched. Thanks again!

 #GoStros

<a href=”https://dailypost.wordpress.com/photo-challenges/rounded/”>Rounded</a&gt;

LOST: My Patience

patience

Well it’s gone again. Yes I have lost my patience once more. Eventually it always comes back, but I get so upset whenever it disappears. It doesn’t have a tag, but its identity is clear once it returns. Doesn’t my patience understand how important it is to me? Why can’t I always keep it so I can avoid the stress and worry that I experience every time it is gone? In a twist of serious irony and what I highly suspect to be a cosmic sense of humor, the more upset I get, the longer it takes for me to find my damn patience again. So here I am. Bitching about my patience as I wait impatiently for it to reappear.

Before you ask me why my panties are so totally in a bunch, I’ll just say that I’m an overall grumposaurus max today. If you even bring up the word “hormones,” I will chase you down with a spork. I’m just super tired, and I’m also generally annoyed with stuff. Different kinds of stuff. Small stuff that shouldn’t be sweated, and yes, it truly is the smallest of the small stuff. Lots of first world problems. Unfortunately my patience and I have a long-standing relationship dynamic that has perpetually been fraught with drama. It leaves me, and although I fear terribly that it will never come back, it always returns. In the meantime, I’m fine. Really. I’m just grouchy.

With that said, if you do happen to see my patience in your neck of the woods, please tell it to get its a$$ home immediately. I suspect that it is cavorting about somewhere with my mind and my youth. If so, please send them back, too.

Bear hugs from a serious bear – Jo

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Identity

Does Forgiveness Really Require Forgetting?

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Forgive and forget. It’s an old phrase that we have heard countless times over the years. But is it truly wisdom?

I suppose that the answer might lie in your interpretation. Stockpiling every hurtful action that ever impacted you over the course of your life would be overwhelmingly negative. The level of ever-increasing pain combined with the cacophony of bad memories drumming around in our minds would overwhelm us. We simply wouldn’t be able to function if we were completely unable to set those heavy thoughts free. In that sense, I can appreciate the sentiment.

However what if we approach the question from a different angle? Should we base our “forgive and forget” / “forgive and no way can I forget” criteria on the severity of the hurt instead? Do we opt to retain loaded memories of those inflictions while choosing to release others? If the action created severe pain, can you truly forget it?

This is a concept that I wrestle with more often than I would prefer. Even though I appreciate the idea of giving a clean slate those who have hurt me deeply, I have yet to master a way to permanently eradicate something that shattered my trust or dishonored my confidence. I can forgive a devastating emotional assault. Been there. Done that. Big freakin’ time.

But forgetting it altogether? Not so much.

I’m not referring to holding a grudge, planning payback, or going full honey badger on the offending party. I’m talking about reality. I don’t pretend that I give trust easily once it has been broken. I don’t at all. I am referring to the bigger picture – really understanding who you are and seeing that other person for who he or she is as well. This is about seeing the behavior patterns and being honest about the likelihood of true contrition and permanent change.

As an example, I want to be bathing suit confident. I fantasize about it. Really. I sometimes thumb through the Athleta catalog that somehow mistakenly finds its way into my mailbox, think mean thoughts about my skinny svelte friends who could wear string bikinis to the grocery store and look fabulous, remember once more that I adore them anyway, and then put the magazine back down so I can pick my fork up again to polish off the last of the cheesecake that is probably in front of me.

If I was a superhero (and I am…), I would have two arch nemeses (arch nemesises???). Sporks (I loathe these plasticware rejects and speak fiercely against them at random) and salads pretending to be meals (I dislike them so much that I once wrote a whole post in protest of the way they have made my plates look sad – https://momentumofjo.com/2017/06/04/salads-even-calories-dont-want-any-part-of-them/ – that’s a serious and somewhat strange commitment to talking smack about veggies). I am never going to willingly grab a spork and dig into my sad salad meal when I have a chance to get an actual piece of acceptable silverware (a fork OR a spoon – NOT BOTH) and eat cake instead.

Are those rational behaviors on my part? Yes. (NO.) Even though I know that I am being a bonehead, do I expect that my behavior is that going to change? No. (NO.) It’s just how I roll. While I may hope to be wiser, smarter, and better when I make my choices, my past history will accurately tell you that you should save your money and avoid stocking up on kale before I visit your home for dinner.

The best predictor of someone’s behavior is not what a person wants to do or what he or she wants to be able to wear out of the Athleta catalog. Your major hint at what is likely to occur is what that person has previously done. People really can change, and that does happen. Lord knows that I am not the same girl I was in college. (Ironically that girl could have shopped at Athleta, but in order to do so, she would have needed to exit the bar scene first – no Athleta for her either.)

Until you begin to see honest ongoing changes that align with your emotional needs, do yourself a huge favor – don’t plan on that happening right away. In truth, change may not come ever.

If someone will genuinely let you into their world, you may have a chance to help them for the positive. Nevertheless you still have to remember that their choices are called their choices for a reason. A person who continually chooses behaviors that hurt you will likely continue that pattern. Some relationships are so destructive that your healthiest option is to set them free / turn them loose / get off the pot / run for the frickin’ hills. Thankfully most relationships can be maintained. Just know that you are dealing an imperfect but probably predictable human. There are instances when something happens one time only but is so devastating or dangerous that your best choice is wishing that person well and completely moving on. Only you can know if you are facing that moment, but if you are, honor your inner knowing and follow the guidance you are receiving.

Forgiveness is an essential element of healing, and the most important part of that healing happens from within. WIth that said, in extreme situations, I don’t necessarily feel that forgetting is as vital. At times, choosing to ignore an assault (emotional, physical, mental) can be a dangerous approach.

Pray for clarity and guidance to help you understand what is a stumble, what is a lesson, and what is a warning.

Hope for the best as you learn to recognize the behavior patterns you are facing within yourself and others. Most people won’t change, and it is unrealistic to expect that of them. Unless you are someone’s parent or guardian, you probably won’t get to make choices on behalf of another. The only actions you can control are your own.

You don’t have to be jaded to see with open eyes nor do you have to wipe the memories clear in order to find healing. Forgetting may not be possible, but thankfully, forgiveness is.

Love and light always – Joanna

***photo credit – Huckleberry Arms

Cacophony
More

Childhood Depression and Anxiety – Avoid Feeding the Monster

Having grown up with depression and anxiety challenges as a child, I constantly watch my kids for the signs I once showed. Do they like to stay in bed all day? Are their moods reflective of the bipolar disorder that once consumed me? Do their emotions soar to elation only to come crashing back down to utter blackness in an instant (beyond normal hormonal kid madness)? Do they grow so dark that I cannot see their light shining through? Do they become excessively focused on negative scenarios? Do they see themselves as being broken? Are they unusually connected to the pain of others? Do they talk about suicide?

For me, the answers would have been clear to those close to me by the time I was in middle school. In hindsight, I knew that I was struggling beyond the norm before I was even out of elementary school. Was there anything that my parents or anyone else could have done that would have steered me in another direction? The plain truth is this – I really don’t know.

Please note that I am not a trained medical professional nor am I a psychologist of any kind. The only role in therapy I have ever served is as the person on the sofa with sad tales, zombie-chic runny mascara eyes, and a box of someone else’s tissues at the ready. If you are looking for professional medical advice, you won’t find it in anything that I write. Also I should disclose that I can’t teach you how to iron either. Those skills just aren’t in my wheelhouse, and I don’t plan to add them anytime soon.

I am speaking as an individual who survived the blackest nights of being clinically depressed and terribly suicidal. I am speaking as a person who doesn’t just hope that recovery is possible – I know that it is a reality. When I tell people that I no longer have depression, I mean that with absolutely sincerity. I’m not going to lie – I can be a serious bitch, and I am highly explosive at times and heavily in the doldrums at others. But that is not the same as what I experienced decades ago. Not even close.

When I was growing up, we faced some extremely stressful situations. Based on every other family I now know and reality (as I perceive it today), it appears that my genetic pool has never maintained a corner on the stress market. Everyone has stuff. Everyone has stories. Bad yucky sad tales and heart-wrenching experiences. It’s just the way the humanity cookie crumbles.

So when major unfun stuff happens in or to my own family now, I look even closer to see how my children respond. Are they emotionally drowning or are they temporarily set back but heading back toward being okay? Do they disappear for hours and hours to hang out by themselves in their rooms for days? Do they withdraw from actual humans and get lost endlessly in mindless technology time? Does the bulk of their artwork or writing reflect heavy emotional tones? When I see these behavior patterns kick in, I remember my own downward spiral, and I act immediately to try to prevent my children from entering that treacherous ride.

While I recognize without question that there is a true physiological element to depression (thus why I fear that my children could have it), I also believe that we have the ability to circumvent and rewire that part of our makeup. Consequently when I see them displaying a behavior that appears to be “feeding the depression monster” (ramping up the potential for greater negative mental feedback), I immediately try to redirect their actions.

One of the rotten parts about being a kid is that you only have as much freedom as you are given by the adults around you. One of the best parts of being an adult is recognizing how you can use that dynamic to help your children when they need it most.

Here are a few specific examples I have used in the past month:

  • On multiple occasions, we have forced the older kids to turn off their emo sad FM music, leave their rooms, and come hang out for family night. We eat food that they like, we watch goofy movies together or play games, and ultimately, we end up spending hours laughing instead of emotionally stewing solo. Everyone goes to bed feeling like it was a good day because that’s how we closed it out.
  • My son told me that he was writing some very heavy and sad poems at school, and that he wanted to focus on writing this way because the other kids were so impressed by his depth. I’m not looking to raise Edgar Allan Poe II nor do I feel like this is good long-term brain food at all. I said nevermore to that crap and told him that I wanted to see a balance in his writing. I even called his writing teacher on the sly to let her know the importance of her being aware of this dynamic, too. She was glad that I contacted her and said that she had assumed that he was a deep-thinking writer with a heavy style. We agreed that he could still express his emotions while finding more balance via incorporating the positive emotional elements as well. She is encouraging him to find balance in class, and I work iinon this at home.  My son and I now talk about his writing every couple of days. I encourage him no matter what, but I try to focus my highest praise on the positive works. This isn’t about squashing his true feelings. It’s about programming his brain to point toward the half full glass version of thinking versus automatically seeing a smashed cup of darkness weilded by a creepy raven.
  • My kids get frustrated with the behaviors of some of the other children around them.  As fate would have it, it turns out that really small people can be seriously big buttheads (that is the scientific term for heavy duty jerkfaces). Instead of focusing on all the garbage that those other kids do, we try to find something good in them, and if that is a lost cause at that moment, we try to come up with an alternate good thing that happened that day to focus on instead.

The key to this is mental and emotional redirection. As parents,we want our children to know that we hear them and that we see them. We seek for them to feel emotionally validated, and we want them to be able speak to us with openness and honesty.

However as parents, we also need to show them which emotions are beneficial for them on a regular basis. Everyone is allowed to be sad and angry sometimes. We are even permitted to rage and be devastated. But we cannot allow those emotions to be our baseline. We have to help them figure out what emotions should be the outliers and what should constitute healthy daily living. We have to enlighten them on the obvious. It’s truly okay to not be okay sometimes, but ultimately it feels better to feel better.

Personally I find it cathartic to have a good solid cry every now and then. I have a handful of gut-punching songs, TV shows, and movies that are certain to do the trick if needed. Sometimes I’m just want to be a bear, and I don’t want to be cheered up dammit!

But even then, I still try to maintain awareness of how far I can let those emotions run. I only allow myself to take it so far. If this goes on for several days, I take steps to shift how I’m feeling by turning on funny shows and upbeat music. I change the channel when the heavy stuff appears until I can watch it without feeling emotionally inundated. I force myself to get out of the house and do something that doesn’t stink even if it’s something as simple as going to a plant store (Jo❤️🌸4ever).

It’s same story with the kids, but I attempt to expedite the process. I choose to change their sadness channels as quickly as I can. They don’t have the awareness to pull out of the spiral, so I do the best I can to steer them safely away from it instead. I refuse to allow them to feed the sadness or desire for isolation.

Can I guarantee that my children won’t face severe depression? No. Not at all. Do I know for certain that they will never face the darkest moments of feeling suicidal? It terrifies me to recognize that I can’t say yes to that either.

But I have seen that their hours of heaviness can be turned to moments of joy. I am certain that being aware of the warning signs and red flag behaviors might offer us opportunities to intervene in innocuous yet effective ways.

There are times when we can stop them from embracing the negativity. They are moments when we can avoid validating increased unhappiness by focusing on finding something to laugh at or something to do that makes them smile instead. The key is to figure out how to flip the switch the other direction in a way that engages your child.

I pray for blessings for all who struggle with depression and anxiety. Whether you are the one who is experiencing those challenges or you are the one who is trying desperately to send a lifeline to another navigating them, it is so very important to choose joy whenever you possibly can. There are numerous options for treatment, and I strongly recommend that anyone in need should seek available help. Please know that depression does not have to be a lifelong sentence. Stop the downward spiral whenever possible. Feed the best, not the beast.

Love and light to you always – Joanna

Enlighten

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