Turning Your Problems into Your Purpose

lovelyWe all have stories. Painful memories. Hurtful parts of our lives that we don’t share.

So often we feel like we are alone in these experiences. We deem ourselves broken beyond repair and remain silent to avoid judgement and further distress. The idea of highlighting these events is unthinkable. We just want to forget them and find a way to wipe the slate clean.

But what if the part of your life that seemed to knock you off track was actually the very thing that set you on your path? What if the toughest of times were designed to shape us rather than to shatter us?

If we can hold on through the roughest of times, we will be able to see the light in the darkness. You will find that the madness has meaning and that we are never alone in our journey. We are a part of something so much bigger than ourselves, and every sliver of this grand design has a purpose.

This past summer I unexpectedly found myself discussing severe depression, crippling anxiety, and the struggles that go hand in hand with them. I hadn’t planned on covering those topics. Many people who have known me for years would never have a clue about that part of my life, and while I don’t even begin to pretend that I live in perpetual joy free of worry, it has been years since I struggled deeply with the absolute terror and debilitating effects of those disorders. However I write about them now because I have realized that most people who are in that place are too embarrassed or ashamed to share it. I did not realize how rampant the problem was until I wrote a personal post about my experience with depression as a child. I was stunned by the number of calls and messages I received in response. Happy confident problem-free people all around me whom I had known for years were drowning in their pain and isolation.

Mental health is a taboo subject. It doesn’t make for great table conversation at parties or PTA meetings. People don’t tell you their name and then add their diagnosis, nor do they discuss when their children are battling these problems. This deafening silence has led countless people believe that they are the only ones struggling. They lose hope, and too often, they give up before they are able to see the light once more.

Don’t ever let fear and hopelessness defeat you. The darkness will dissipate, life will get better, and you will be most certainly stronger for it. There is a purpose in all of our lives. We are called to be so much more than we think we can be, and we impact innumerable people around us.

What is your purpose? What events in your journey have broken you? Or maybe the real question is what events have forged you into the person you are divinely designed to be? Can you make it past being a victim of your disorder / circumstances / life experiences and become a survivor? If you can survive, can you go even further and move into thriving? And if you can thrive, can you help others who have walked a similar path to do the same?

Yes. Without question. You absolutely can.

You are not your past. You are not the mistakes of other, their false judgements, the misunderstandings, or the unkind words they have been spoken to you. You are not your diagnosis. But you can take all of these and use them to help you become something bigger and better and spectacular beyond measure.

You don’t have to be perfect to change the lives of others in amazing ways. You simply have to be open to this world of endless possibilities, be willing to conjur up a little faith, and be strong enough to find a way to be brave in the face of your fears.

Own your problems, find your purpose, and always always always be brave.

Love and light to you – Jo

Conjure

Stifle the Judgement and Recognize Childhood Anxiety

When you believe that you are the reigning panic attack champion of your familial crew, you are faced with a tough reality when you recognize that your child also struggles with extreme anxiety challenges. My concern has been growing as I have watched my child stumble through her schooling with increasing regularity over the past few months. Her grades have slipped, and while she still does fairly well on average, she just seems disconnected.

I do not believe that the mass education system is an ideal fit for a large portion of the children in today’s classrooms, and for a great many, it’s more about surviving than thriving. This is not a new problem. Nevertheless I maintain a strong commitment to the belief that people will match your expectations of them. I push my children to lose the excuses and work hard. I am not looking for perfection, but I won’t accept sloth or apathy either.

So when I received an email letting me know that my daughter had achieved a seriously underwhelming 45 (out of 100) on a grade, I was significantly less than thrilled. I quickly moved from confused into angry. By the time I picked her up from school and could ask her about the grade, I had made it all the way to furious.

me – “How in the world did you make a 45? Aren’t your grades important to you?”

her – Silence. Eyes glazed over while staring blankly out of the car window.

me (fuming and in total disbelief at her indifference) – “Look at me when I am speaking to you! Don’t you understand how one grade like this will affect your average? Doesn’t this bother you at all?”

her (facing me and responding in a sad quiet tone) – “I do care, but the teacher said that it’s too late to turn my paper in now.”

me (steam coming out of my ears and as I frothed at the mouth) – “You didn’t turn it in!?!?  You actually know that you didn’t do the assignment at all? So really you should have received a zero and that 45 was a gift? Did you forget to do the work or did you just blow it off?”

her – “No, Mom. I wrote a paper about some rocks we collected, but I couldn’t find the last page when I was supposed to turn it in. I told her that I was missing the page when she asked everyone for their papers, and she said that she didn’t know what to tell me.”

me (about to get a serious parenting wake up call) – “So what did you do with the rest of the paper that you still had?”

She looked away again and gave a little shrug of her shoulders.

me (instantly realizing what had really happened and feeling like I was on the receiving end of a well-earned gut punch) “You threw the entire paper away because you were missing that one paper.”

She nodded.

And in that moment, I felt my heart twist and break. I finally saw her and understood what had occurred. Her problem had not been one of indifference but rather her inability to see past the panic. She had been so distraught about missing one page in a report that she couldn’t think about potential solutions like asking for partial credit or requesting the opportunity to rewrite that individual page. Her mind chose the path of least resistance – shut this problem down by discarding it.

Her challenge was her extreme anxiety. Mine was my complete inability to recognize her struggle before applying my own assumptions and misjudgements. She had needed support, but I had gone on the attack instead.

I face anxiety struggles constantly, yet I still forget how debilitating the most innocuous of moments can become when panic attacks hit. You couldn’t pay me all of the money in the world to convince me to spend one year of my life as a kid in school again, but I watch my children head there every day and think nothing of it.

All children face challenges, but those who deal with anxiety disorders experience them at an exponential level. Some wear their emotions on their sleeves as they cry, rage, or have panic attacks. Others appear entirely indifferent and unaffected despite the turmoil within. There are always clues to be found, but these hints are quickly obscured when misunderstandings and snap judgements enter the scene. When that happens, the hurt grows and opportunities to learn and heal vanish.

We push our children because we worry about them. We become angry when they stumble because we want them to succeed. In our efforts to help them to avoid various hardships, we create others to take their place. We seek to train them on the intricacies of life, yet we miss the most basic of lessons that they constantly offer us. We have to ask more questions, dig deeper into their stories, and stifle the judgements if we truly want to understand what is happening in their worlds. As parents, we believe that we are our children’s greatest teachers, but the real truth is that they are ours.

Love and light always – Jo

<a href=”https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/stifle/”>Stifle</a&gt;

Anxiety Overload – From the Chaos to the Calling

At least I’m not talking to my Christmas lights. (Yet…)

As much as I have written about depression, OCD and anxiety, I actually struggle to write about these issues when I find myself working through a down cycle. The raw truth is that when I am in this place in my thoughts and feelings, I feel immensely insecure. I don’t want to respond to questions asking me how I’m doing. I don’t want to have the conversations confirming that I’m alright. It embarrasses me to be asked about it, and ultimately, I truly am okay.

However I’m writing about it tonight because years ago, I would not have been able to say with any sincerity that I knew that I would bounce back and that solid ground was in my future. I clawed onto any shred of hope that I could muster that life might get better. In my darkest moments, I hungered to trust in the possibilities of tomorrow yet failed to detect any light ahead. I gave up.

And yet I’m still here.

Despite my reticence to admit that I’m  struggling today, I feel called to write about it. I won’t bother listing my garbage du jour (and that’s just as well given that the internet would run out of room), but the snapshot summary is that I’m feeling overwhelmed beyond words.

While moments like these bring my feelings of self-doubt and utter imperfection to center stage, I now recognize that these negative sentiments are deceptive and that they cloud my perception. With a little time, these feelings will pass, and I will find sure footing once more.

Heavy emotions, insecurity, loneliness, extreme frustration, and sentiments of absolute hopelessness are not reserved for people who have been classified as having depression, OCD, anxiety, etc. Those bad boys are fair game for any human out there. Being in one or all of those emotional and mental places doesn’t mean that you are a lost cause who is screwed up beyond repair. It simply means that you are dealing with a heavy load, and in the immortal (and slightly paraphrased) words of Cousin Eddie, your mental and emotional shi**er is full.

I have found that my roughest moments tend to proceed tremendous positive reversals. It’s as if the universe sends us on a downward trajectory to provide a clear contrast when we strike the inflection point. We are able to shift from the downward spiral to a totally different and powerful direction. The difficult moments do not define us but those same occurrences can refine us. We are strengthened by our experiences – all of them. We discover who we are and what we can achieve. The chaos turns to clarity. But you have to allow time for that to happen even when you think that you are down and out.

Keep going. Do what you can no matter how small it may be. Try to have faith that you are where you are supposed to be despite appearances. If you can’t muster faith, aim for hope. And if that can’t be found either, just stick with holding on. It will get better. It always does.

Hang in there darling friends. Big hugs to you all. And yes I’m truly ok. It’s just been a dirty Santa beard in your smoked salmon kind of week. Oh well.   😉  Jo

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Calling

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

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?

elk

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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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