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

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

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
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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

Have Faith in Yourself – Remove the Mask

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I often tell my children that no one gives as much thought to their insecurities as they do. No other people are panicking about a blemish on someone else’s face. Nobody else stresses if another person gets a stain on their shirt during the day. Those moments of imperfection make my children feel like they are under the magnifying glass of their peers, but the reality is that those incidences are quickly replaced by alternate distractions and concerns of other people. I tell my kids all of this, and I remind them that no one is perfect. We all have embarrassing stuff, and we all carry insecurities. They don’t have to hide who they are ever. It’s solid mom advice, and I genuinely believe those words. But do I heed this wisdom in my own life?

The really short answer is no. The still short but not quite as short as the latter answer answer is not entirely, but I’m working very hard to change that. Putting my own challenges out there for public review isn’t the easiest task for me. Frankly, it’s extremely difficult, but I believe that it’s important. We share our lives with each other, and we should never feel isolated in our struggles. I have survived dark days, and I want others who are hurting to know that they aren’t the only ones to have ever felt that way.

To be abundantly clear, I don’t believe that being honest about yourself means that you have to share every heavy detail of your existence. Not at all. I also recognize that we reveal different parts of ourselves to various groups of people in our lives. But that is about discretion, not dishonesty about who we really are.

If you can’t own the reality that your life is not perfect, you aren’t alone. Sometimes I feel like I am walking around in a giant suburban masquerade ball. Fancy clothes and jewelry. Made up faces and unnaturally wide smiles. Peals of raucous laughter and endless bottles of wine always a-flowin’.

Maybe balls aren’t your style. Perhaps you would prefer the idea that we are all playing a giant game of strip poker. If you don’t play your hand correctly, you may find yourself peeling off those thin layers of protection that hide all of your unmentionables. Then again, if you aren’t into balls, strip poker is probably an even worse scenario for you, so back to the masquerade analogy we go.

We all wear masks. They shield others from seeing what is really underneath. Removing the mask would leave us exposed. The fairy tale would vanish, and a normal human would be revealed. The facade of perfection would vanish.

The problem with masks is that they aren’t really part of us. They may serve to shield us at times, but the clock will strike twelve and all of our coaches will turn back into pumpkins eventually.

We all have blemishes – imperfect marriages, parenting problems, body image issues, health challenges. We all have stains – choices that you shouldn’t have made, friendships that you lost, jobs that didn’t work out, addiction, mistakes. Everyone has experienced some version of that. If anyone needs you to be the kind of person who doesn’t have that kind of reality in their life, recognize that they are wearing a serious mask as well.

We have a path, and we are here to learn how to walk it. It wouldn’t be much of an experience if we arrived on the scene, already knew everything, didn’t have any ups or downs, and then left the planet again. What would be the point of that journey?

Choose to find the learning opportunities in your experiences. Know that you are allowed to be perfectly imperfect. Do good and be well as often as you can. Forgive yourself whenever that doesn’t happen as planned, and tackle the good / well dynamic once more with the next step you take.

And do all of that with honesty. Own who you are. It’s alright for others to know that you move to your own beat and that sometimes you miss a step (or if you are cool and graceful like me, you fall flat on your face). I can assure you that everyone else stumbles, too.

You don’t have to pretend to be someone else. You may need to work on your choices – we all do – but you must remember that you are an intentional and important part of the divine plan. You are a stunning piece of this beautiful design, and you are where you should be right now. If another person doesn’t get that, or more accurately, if they don’t get you, set their expectations free.

Your true light lies cloaked beneath those false layers. Release the fear of judgement and of not being accepted as you are. Have faith in yourself. Remove the mask, and reveal the raw beauty that lies within you.

Love and light always – Joanna

 

Cloaked

Brave

For Those Left Behind After Suicide

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This post is written for those of you who have been left behind. Those who have suffered the loss of a child. A brother. A sister. A parent. A friend. Those who endlessly carry the emotional devastation that comes when you lose someone whom you love to suicide.

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Delilah’s beautiful and kind voice comes through my radio every year as Christmas approaches. This sweet soul has helped countless people to work through their hurts in hope of making their holidays a little brighter.  I was heart-broken to read that she lost her own son a few days ago to suicide. As a parent, I don’t know how you are able to keep breathing when this happens to you. I deeply honor each person who continues to do so after suicide has stolen your love out of your arms and out of your life.

Two decades ago, I walked the path of a young adult drowning in the darkness of depression. I tried to end my life and very nearly succeeded. In a moment of true divine intervention, I survived. I am going to try to put a voice to the misguided perspective that I held up until that moment. I don’t pretend to speak for everyone who has made this choice. Not in the slightest. But I can tell you that these were my genuine beliefs then, and I have since heard the same from others who also survived those darkest of hours. I am going to attempt to respond to the question that people so often ask whenever someone whom they love commits suicide.

How could you leave me?

It was never about leaving you. It was about forgetting the pain. Ending the darkness. Releasing the weight. It was about not wanting to hurt anymore. I couldn’t ever be normal and my inability to do that made your life much harder than it needed to be. I thought that my struggles made your life more difficult than you deserved. I knew that you would hurt a great deal when you lost me, but I also believed that you would heal with time. Depression clouded my perception of reality, so it made sense to me that you would be so much happier without me and my problems. I frustrated everyone around me no matter what I did. I always messed everything up. After I was gone, you wouldn’t have to spend money on medicines or treatments for me. You wouldn’t have to waste anything else trying to fix something that was unfixable. It would never get better. I would never get better. In the long run, it was the best choice for everybody.

That was what I thought.

But it wasn’t true then, and it isn’t true now.  Suicide is the last choice anyone would ever wish for their loved one to make.

The people whom I believed would have been better off without me would have given every cent they had to spend one more day with me. They would have sacrificed their own lives in a second if it would have meant saving mine. They would cry for years and years, and although the tears might slow, they would never stop coming. When your heart is stolen from you, you never fully recover from that loss.

I would have sacrificed a million beautiful experiences. My children wouldn’t have been born to bless the world with their spectacular light. I would have cheated my nieces and nephews out of having the biggest bad ass of an aunt EVER (graded on a sliding scale from awesome to hell yeah!). My husband wouldn’t ever have learned what it could be like to be simultaneously loved and nagged into insanity. Also he would probably still be walking around in those damn holey t-shirts and goofy jean shorts. Clearly that man needed me to save him, too. At a bare minimum, his wardrobe needed me desperately.

Depression does not have to be a life sentence, and even the healthiest of people struggle immensely at times. Despite what you may think you see when you look at others, there is no such thing as normal. But there is always hope, and there is always a chance for a better day to come. I understand with every fiber of my being that sometimes it REALLY doesn’t feel that way. But it’s true. Hold on a little longer. Please.

There are many directions you can take if you feel like you are going under. Seek medical advice to determine if you need pharmaceuticals to realign a chemical imbalance. Find a solid counselor who specializes in mental health diagnoses. Talk to your family and friends, or call the suicide prevention hotline to speak to people who understand how to help you find your way out of the helpless weight of the darkness. Think of anything and anyone good that you care about, and if for nothing else, stick around for the sake of not hurting them. No matter what you tell yourself, if you take your life, you will break their hearts beyond comprehension, and it will never be a better choice than your continuing to hold on.

Never give up and never give in.

Each of us is more precious than words could ever convey. You must believe that there is light behind the clouds, because even if you can’t see the sun, it is always there.

I love you truly my darling friends. Please hold on. Please don’t give in. You matter in this world. You matter to me.

Love and light to you all – Joanna

***This post was not written as a personal call for emotional support for a path I once traveled. I am truly okay now, and I’m not sad about the struggles I once faced. They made me who I am today, and I’m good with that person – hot mess queen and all. I write these entries for those whose broken hearts have become the collateral damage of this disease and for those who are currently struggling with depression. We all experience tremendous ups and down. Thankfully the darkness will disperse eventually, and life truly will get better. You just have to ride out the rough waters until it does.

If you are battling severe depression, please don’t hide what you are going through. You aren’t alone, and it does get better. Just give yourself and your life a little more time to let the clouds clear so you can find the sun again. If you feel like you are on the edge of taking your life, please get honest and please get help. You are important to someone, and if you think that you aren’t, I promise you that you are extremely important to me. If you are reading these words, they were meant for you. Even if we don’t know each other, I can tell you now that my world is infinitely better with you in it. Please hold on and please don’t leave me behind.  Love to you always – Jo

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – 1-800-273-TALK / 1-800-273-8255

 Believe

Glow

Another Weekend Morning

IMG_20171007_113023.jpgBefore 5am was able to an appearance on the clock this morning, I could hear the not so sweet sounds of one of the dogs barfing on the plush carpet of my bedroom floor next to me. It needs to be extra thick in order to be able to adequately absorb whatever may be hurled its way. Naturally I thought to myself, “Wait…is it Mother’s Day already?” But no. It was just another weekend morning.

So my husband and I jumped out of bed joyfully (as indicated by the way we were yelling at each other) to split up the tasks of collecting supplies to clean the cushy barf sponge and chasing the dog into the bathroom where she could (and did) upchuck a few more times on the tile. Thankfully we were able to wrap up the barf-fest and go back to bed for a few more hours.

sara splat

This is my kid, and this is how I felt after wrapping up round 1 of my morning.

When we awoke (again), my husband left to pick up our middle daughter who had spent the night at a friend’s house. We rarely allow our children to go to or have sleepovers. We have found that it’s typically just easier to let the kids play together at whomever’s house and then send them back same day while ending on a high note.

But this is one of our daughter’s dear friends, and she hadn’t seen her for months. We gladly made an exception when they invited our child to stay at their home. So when morning part 2 rolled around, my husband left to go pick her up from their home. I texted the other mom to see how it went, and she told me that they had a blast. Yay! The yay was short-lived when she added the text about how funny my kid was.

I love me some good funny anything, but I have learned that my daughter and I have significantly different opinions on what does and doesn’t belong in this category (which is pretty ridiculous because it takes almost nothing to entertain me). And if she was doing her version of funny, she was about to be in a doghouse of her own.

I was praying that I was wrong, but in case I wasn’t, I asked if burping was involved. And of coooourse it was.

Dammit.

It’s not that I go bazerk because my daughter burps sometimes. That action alone wouldn’t thrill me, but I wouldn’t totally flip out either. Let’s face it – she’s a kid. But my daughter doesn’t burp. That word is in no way adequate to capture what she does. If you have ever seen the movie “Revenge of the Nerds” – and if you haven’t, what the eff is that about because it’s an epic 80’s classic – just think of Booger. She a pretty version of that of that gnarly dude.

The even better news is that she worked overtime during the sleepover because she made it a point to show those parents her mad gross guy skillz while also attempting to teach their daughter how to do it, too. Yes. My kid. I’m so proud. It’s strange that they didn’t ask to schedule another sleepover right then and there.

“Hello Amazon. Could you possibly send that doghouse we thought we might be needing via rush delivery? Great!”

My kid found herself on ice as soon as she walked in the door. Tons of chores, no electronics, and the worst of all punishments – being forced to watch “Peppa Pig” with her little sister. Enjoy THAT.

Morning joy part 2 couldn’t depart fast enough. I needed morning part 3, so I could finally relax. I was certain that morning was tired of dishing out the crapola.

Silly silly me.

Few things say “keep the magic coming” like walking into your room to have the brilliant morning light reveal that the initial barf scrub session actually didn’t remove everything your pooch gifted to you pre-5am. Nothing disgusting to be found with that scenario. Especially not for someone who already has a serious aversion to germs and animal body action of any kind.

So it was back to the hands and knees again. Back to bringing in the towels and water. Back to getting out the Oxy Clean and Shout so my room could be flooded once more with those invigorating scents. Thank goodness for that because I just used the last of my Wet Dog Vomit in Your Carpet Plus Chemicals scented wax melts. They are so hard to find!

My sexy morning just wouldn’t quit.

I want to float carelessly over the stumbling blocks of life that I find, but instead I end up with a face full of barf towels. I need to laugh at the antics of my kids, but I am too wrapped up in the “oh no she di’n’t!” feeling I have instead. My dog would gladly let her gross action fly anywhere, but my daughter knows better. Nevertheless she saw her opportunity to misbehave and completely ran with it. And that genuinely bothers me.

It’s exhausting. The week has been insanely long, and I have a ton of actual work that I need to tackle. I just wanted to sleep in a little. More to the point, I needed to sleep in a little. And now I’m so steamed at everyone that it’s fogging up my whole brain. (Thus the diatribe here.) (And you’re welcome.)

I wanted to meditate to soothe my mind, but the words that kept circling my brain sounded like that old song “Fire Water Burn” by the Bloodhound Gang.

The roof, the roof, the roof is on fire!
We don’t need no water, let the mo$#&er burn!
Burn mo$#&er!

Errr so I thought maybe not right then for meditation. I went into OCD overdrive and tackled the least relevant task ever. I organized DVDs. I could see the ridiculous nature of the obsession as I ran through it, but it was the task I picked, and there would be no chance of calm until I was finished.

Have I unpacked my suitcase from earlier in the week? Nope. Is my office organized and are all papers filed? Don’t be silly. Are my DVDs separated into kid movies, holiday theme, grown up movies, empty cases with movie location known, and empty cases with movie location unknown?  You bet your sweet patootie they are.  I almost put each group in alphabetical order (as they always had been until my mini-human tornadoes wreaked organizational destruction on the cabinet), but I decided to save that task as further punishment for the belch queen. My part in that task is over, and I can move on to actual stuff that needs to be addressed.

I recognize that I’m not talking about the really big issues in life, but that doesn’t change the reality that it doesn’t take much to throw us off kilter. Or at least it doesn’t take much for that to happen to me.  I want to move through my life with perpetually uplifting spirituality, but that’s damn hard to do when you are up to your elbows and ears in reality.

I didn’t get anything taken care of that I wanted to do over the past few days, and I wasted even more time and energy this morning. I want to be flexible when life’s little collection of unplanned moments stretches me thin, but instead I often feel like I’m being pulled to the point of having my elastic snap into pieces. I want my feathers to dance a bit in the wind, but I feel like they blow away wildly.  I am left with my rear exposed and looking like my goose is about to be cooked.

It frustrates me.  And sometimes it makes me angry and sometimes it makes me sad. Today was a smorgasbord of emotions. If you wanted them, you could have easily found them amongst the available selections.

But then again, I did end up with highly organized and soon to be alphabetized DVDs. One section of carpet and multiple sections of tile are looking might clean at the moment. My daughter will be on work duty, but she had fun seeing a lovely little friend. And the dog hasn’t barfed again for several hours, so hopefully she’s okay now.

I think that I’m mostly alright now, too. I’m feeling calmer. The Bloodhound Gang is no longer earworming me into insanity. I probably will be meditating in a few minutes, and somewhere in the mix there will be a shower. Everything is better after a shower.

The world keeps spinning, and I keep learning. The most pedestrian of days can turn into a roller coaster, and it sometimes feels like we are out of control. But really it’s just a matter of holding on and enjoying the ride whenever we possibly can.

lilly on a swing1.gif

At least our dog looks relaxed today. I guess we have that going for us. (Isn’t she adorable?!?)

Love and light always – Joanna  😉

 

Pedestrian
Elastic

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