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.

socks

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

Depression Is NOT Equivalent to Being Broken

different

Don’t bother calling the Louvre.  I’m keeping this one.

I have read countless articles, blogs, and books written by people struggling with depression, anxiety, autism and OCD.  One of the themes I see over and over again is that people who have been labeled with those disorders often believe that they are chronically different and utterly broken.  I understand that feeling because I have been there before and will dance in and out of it again.

I considered tackling each of the specific disorders I mentioned above on an individual basis, but when I started to write the words, I couldn’t draw clear lines.  The reason for this is two-fold.

First – Personally, I don’t see these diagnoses as being wholly separate.  Imagine a sweater made of 100 threads (yes, it’s an itty bitty sweater).  Depression is one thread, anxiety is another, and so on with autism, OCD, etc.  They weave in and out of each other with such intricacy that you can’t really tell where one begins and the other ends.  They blend together to form one entire sweater (that might fit a skinny mouse).

Second – While I agree that there absolutely are people confronting severe mental illnesses, I don’t believe that the majority of those diagnosed as such have true disorders.  I feel that we are created differently and that it’s most certainly part of our divine spiritual design.  I don’t mean this in some kind of fluffy “we are all God’s children kind of way.”  Yes, I get that part, too, but I literally mean that we aren’t broken, we don’t have disorders, and we are made this way for a reason.  I frequently substitute the term “label” for “disorder” because that is how I see it for most people I know with these diagnoses.  That doesn’t mean that there isn’t a place for medications and treatments.  It’s just a different take on the whole mental health shebang in general.

In an earlier post I wrote, (https://momentumofjo.com/2017/07/15/depression-shifting-your-perception/), I talked about the special gifts I believe that many people with depression have.  To take that a step further, I would like to bring in the other labels.  Again I look at these collectively.

People who fall into these categories frequently have a sense of being out of control.  We may struggle with addictions to anesthetize the hurt and fear, or we may turn the other direction and go into a hyper-control mode.  At times, this can manifest in odd places.  Precise placement of objects.  Excessively clean environments.  Fixation on possible and frequently highly unlikely scenarios.  Worry worry and more worry.  It can be exhausting.

The interesting aspect is that many highly successful people deemed by standard society to be “normal” fall into these categories, too.  These individuals have learned how to shift how they use their excess of quirky energy.  They change the perception of fixation to one of focus.  It’s sounds like basic semantics, but in truth, it’s a different approach to life.

I would bet that you already know numerous reasons why your label is supposed to be a negative.  Now it’s time to look deeper and find the reasons why that same label can also be a positive.  I believe that the universe has an innate balance and those reasons can be found if we are willing to really open our eyes.

Here are some of my own examples.  I put my stuff out there because I have permission from the owner (me), I know exactly how I felt before and how I feel now, and I pray that others may see parallels and hopefully benefit.  And the winners are:

  •  Emotional ranges on all extremes – At times this has made for a wild ride for those in the fallout zone, but it has also allowed me to be exceptionally perceptive of the emotions of those around me.  It goes beyond noticing that someone seems a little sad or frustrated.  If you are sensitive, you probably know it, too.  Also for the sensitives – stop trying to take another person’s pain on yourself because that’s not your role.  (That last sentence is a big post for another day.)
  • Obsession with perfect placement and specific random job completion – Well this one is rife with quirkiness, but I am one heck of a decorator.  I have a great eye for visual continuity and flow.  People have a natural tendency to appreciate order and often find it soothing.  As for the job completion element, I can become focused on something really insignificant, but I can also zero in on something huge.  Either way, the task will be completed with precision and excellence.
  • Irrational worry – That falls lower on my “favorite things I do” list but even it has its place.  The key with this behavior is to point the fearful anxious energy to a more productive place.  When I do this, I can come up with clever problem resolution techniques.  I find ways to avoid potential pitfalls and can streamline process fails that I see.
  • Excessive list-making and concern with keeping schedules – This can become a bear, but it’s also an absolute gift when I use it in an effective way.  Rather than list all the things I will need to buy for a trip three months away, I can scratch my list-making itch by coming up with three goals I need to do, three goals I want to do, and three goals I have to do.  Being a compulsive list crosser-off-er (yes yes that’s a word effective right now) means that I will tackle those goals like a champ.  Something will get done one way or the other.
  • Extreme fixation on a specific subject or topic – This can be unnerving for people around someone who does this, but the benefit is that you can also become an expert on the subject with minimal effort.  You already love it, and if it’s a thing, someone else out there probably does, too.
  • The benefit of addiction is not the addiction itself.  It is the part when you realize that you are no longer willing to be chained to it.   The real you is so much better than any anesthetized disguise.  Taking you back is empowering beyond belief even if that happens in baby steps.  It’s not about the distance of the step but rather the fact that you are moving forward.  Find your momentum and own it.

If you want to find the negative side of those personality traits and behavioral patterns, you absolutely can.  However, I have traveled that road and would advise a u-turn if possible.  You can drag yourself down if you want to, but some of your worst of things may actually be your best of things.

Change how you see yourself and what you bring to the table.  Find the divine instead of the disadvantage and the benediction instead of the burden.

The last major point I want to add is this – everyone feels broken sometimes.  Label or no label.  We are all trying to be someone better and find something real.  We seek counsel from each other and from the heavens because we want more from ourselves and from our lives.  It’s just how our souls work.  We are constantly changing.  We are always  learning.  We may be unable to see the magic within us, but we aren’t broken.

As Carl Sagan would say, we are made of star stuff.  Open your eyes to the light you have within you.

Love and light always – Joanna

 

Day 4 – Tech Challenge – Out to Lunch

If you are going to be on your phone throughout your meal, you might as well tell everyone with you to sit like this (because that’s how it feels to them).

We went to dinner during tech turn off time. This wasn’t much of a challenge for us, but it seemed like the challenge might be a worthy idea for at least a quarter of other restaurant patrons. It was the same sad scene that we could have found at any restaurant.  There were tables full of people on hot dates with their tablets and phones. 

What’s the point of going out with each other? Maybe someone really dislikes cooking and clean up, but why bother bringing anyone with you? These moments matter.   It’s worth taking a few minutes to savor the food and the company.  Another tech break for the win. This tech turn off gig is starting to turn into a habit. 

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