I’ll Never Homeschool, My Kids are Fine, & Other Parenting Certainties That Have Gone Toe Up

When I tell you that I had no intentions of entering my family into any form of homeschool whatsoever, I feel like this is basically the understatement of the century. Not only was I not planning on taking them out of public school, but I was fiercely against it. A handful of the reasons for that unwavering conviction (***unwavering until it utterly crashed and burned) are listed below. Feel free to raise your hand if any of these sound familiar. Also please note that I can’t see your hand, so maybe pretend like you are waving to someone across the room so you don’t look like a total weirdo randomly raising a hand.

I’ll never homeschool because…

  • Public school reflects reality.
  • For the most part, our children make good grades and are being taught the appropriate curriculum in our schools.
  • We like our teachers and the school administration, we don’t have problems with any specific families or kids, and we are zoned to one of the best districts and schools in the state.
  • Children need social interaction with their peers, and hanging with a sibling 24 hours a day simply doesn’t cut it.
  • We cannot put each child in a bubble, and pulling them out of regular school is a futile attempt to avoid conflict that they will face in reality.
  • Every school has issues so why would I want to pay money for different issues?
  • Although we are a family of faith, we do not concur with highly conservative or fundamentalist views and do not want the individual beliefs of others pushed on our children.
  • I work full-time, so even if I wanted to homeschool (which I don’t), that would be impossible.
  • I have zero patience and the news would surely be at my home within days if we were to homeschool.
  • We just aren’t the homeschool type. I don’t eat granola, my kids don’t look like they recently escaped the set of ‘Little House on the Prairie,’ and F bombs are an integral part of my classy speech pattern. Public school is so our bag baby.

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For our individual family, it feels like these are seriously solid arguments against homeschool. As I said before, never gonna happen.

But there’s a seriously funny thing about using the word “never” with regard to anything in the Parentiverse. You unwittingly use the word “never” with absolute conviction in a sentence about something pertaining to choices you will or won’t make for your children. The Universe (God / Jesus / Your Preferred Divine Name Here) then catalogs those words, laughs hysterically, and proceeds to turn your world inside out just for the sake of proving you 110% wrong.

In addition to the “never homeschool” beatdown I would one day (a.k.a. now) receive, I would also be getting a bonus gift that would simultaneously lead to my eating the words below.

My kids are fine. I know this because…

  • They look happy and don’t seem upset.
  • They actually want to go to school (In truth, that one still weirds me out, but my kids have always been such complete nerdzillas.).
  • Their teachers don’t complain about their behavior to us.
  • They are in advanced classes, perform very well on average on their grades, and always score solidly on the state standardized tests (STAAR – the state standardized assessment tests that I have loathed with a fiery passion since we first experienced them several years ago).
  • If they had problems in school, we would recognize it because we are a close-knit family.

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The two sets of bullet points above have been covered in extensive detail during countless conversations with my husband, family, and friends over the years. Even as my spouse and I watched our children’s individual learning gaps yawn wider and wider with every semester that passed, we couldn’t fathom how a non-traditional program could possibly fit into our lives nor did we want to go that route. We agreed that it would never happen.

Apparently I have been using the word “never” a little too emphatically because God has since felt the need to put me on the fast track in order to change my mind. Here are some of the gems that we never saw coming that we have discovered firsthand over the past two weeks.

I’m so sorry that I didn’t realize years ago that...

There is zero emphasis on fast facts. Seeing teenagers count on their fingers is painfully commonplace. I’m not being facetious. They literally count on their fingers. Education has shifted basic mathematical teaching to a utilization of various techniques that attempt to optimize every potential learning style. The problem is that the kids don’t have enough time to get really good at any single style, so they never get the most basic of foundations for any concept. Fast facts aren’t engrained in their base mathematical learning, and this dramatically impacts their ability to solve complex equations with any level of accuracy or speed.

As an example, I watched my genuinely brilliant daughter solve very complex equations this week. Unfortunately these equations took her an excruciating amount of time due to all of the micro-calculations one would expect to be automatic by that point in her educational experience. When I say micro-calculation, I mean something incredibly basic like 4×5. A student at her advanced level should easily be able to recognize that 4 x 5 = 20, right? Well I absolutely assumed so, but I watched my daughter repeatedly solve basic problems like this… 4 x 5 = 4+4 = 8 so 8+4 =12 so 12+4 = 16 so 16+4 = 20. This is not unusual for children in modern middle school (a.k.a. junior high school), but it is absolutely bonkers. Unbelievably, I came to the terrible realization that we needed to reintroduce the same flashcards that we once studied when our children were in 2nd and 3rd grade.

Although we found that our other kid could easily recite fast facts, we also discovered that he actually forgot how to solve 99% of the basic addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division problems at his level without a calculator. Full access to calculators has been a standard in his classes for years. I agree that calculators are fab, but unless you are solving something extremely complicated or inhumanly possible, one should still understand how to solve those same problems via pencil and paper. Sadly, we are now working on reteaching him his entire last three years of math once more. Three. Years. He will get it again at a fast clip, but the truth is that he should already have it given the grades he achieved in those classes.

And then you have the nightmare that is composition. The kids don’t study grammar much (if at all) and consequently can’t write sentences correctly. They don’t capitalize words properly, and they don’t use punctuation. If they do use punctuation, it often appears in the most bizarre of places. One of my older children wrote a paragraph for me a couple of days ago that literally started with a comma. The comma was intentionally written before all of the words. Despite my obvious head explosion at the sight of such horror, she has since pulled this wild punctuation move multiple times (because apparently she has been doing this for quite some time). In. Sane.

Another fun note is that while I feel strongly that one is permitted to have moderate to severe crap penmanship, you still need to be able to read and write your own name with a real live signature. I don’t care if the rest of your class jumps off the block letter bridge. You aren’t in kindergarten and should therefore be able to sign your name like a big boy / big girl / adult. Countless young adults are graduating high school and college with honors yet they can neither read or write cursive nor can they sign their names with a genuine signature. I am waiting to see someone put an X on a piece of paper. When that happens, you will hear my scream of horror from whatever corner of the globe you happen to inhabit.

Don’t even get me started on spelling speling spellyng because it has gone the way of the dodo doedoe doughdough. It’s Crap Central, and wow that’s seriously not okay.

An unexpected fun game I introduced to the kids was “Can You Figure Out How the Dictionary Works?” Spoiler alert – they couldn’t. My brain almost popped out of my head watching my daughter attempt to interpret the apparent hieroglyphics that systematically covered the pages of the new Webster’s Dictionary I recently purchased for this event. I bought the book in yet another attempt to back the kids off technology. Sometimes they need to look up words, but we have always used apps or the internet. I had no clue what a mind scrambler I was handing my poor child, but she was fascinated to discover the hidden code (know to the seasoned few as “alphabetical order”). It feels like they are so dependent on technology that they have lost what should be an innate ability to problem solve, to recognize patterns, and to seek alternate possibilities.

Our children are extremely intelligent and should be able to do so much more than what I have seen over the past two weeks. Thank heavens that my husband and I still have time to break this disturbing and debilitating pattern that is afflicting our children, and we will do whatever we have to to make this change. We have to figure this out for their sake. I refuse to raise meatheads.

Each new discovery of the past two weeks has left me feeling more and more guilty. It has made me question my parenting and forced me to ask myself how I could have possibly missed so much. Thankfully I was sharing those feelings with a kind friend of mine, and her response was exactly what I needed to hear. “You don’t know what you don’t know.” What a gem of a comment and a beautiful soul! (The biggest hugs go out to you Lynda!)

She was right. Had we known, we would have done something differently. Maybe we wouldn’t have opted for homeschool, but perhaps we would have supplemented their educations. It’s spilt milk now (buckets and buckets of it but over and done nonetheless). Thankfully, we know now.

Although I know that we are on a completely new path, I still can’t tell you how all of this will work. I have no doubt that I will have plenty of mom fails in this arena, too. I feel like that’s kinda my special skill, but then again, it’s just how is goes in the magically imperfect world of parenting. However, we always continue to learn, and ideally, we do our best to help all of our little loves do the same as well.

I pray that your littles are happy and well and that they are receiving the best education that they can get. I hope that you are having better luck with regard to being able to help and coach them in that journey. And if you are experiencing anything close to what we are seeing, I want you to know that you aren’t the only one. I’m here if you need to know that you aren’t alone, and I sincerely believe that you can make anything happen if you can be brave and release the fear. We’ve got this, and the One who sees it all has got us. ❤️

Parenting is so easy, right?!? (…said no one ever) 😉

Best wishes to all of you. Jo

Another Life Claimed by Suicide

Last night I received a call informing me that a family in our community lost a parent to suicide. Sadness doesn’t begin to describe my feelings for them. When I told my husband, of course he felt the same. In the course of our conversation about this, he made this comment that so many people make.

“No matter how bad I feel, I just can’t imagine it getting to the point that I would do that to my family.”

There is very real truth is those words. He can’t imagine it. Although my husband has his own heavy emotions and struggles to carry, he has never walked the path of someone who lives with severe clinical depression. He literally cannot fathom the world through that unimaginable filter. If a person has not faced the darkest of nights or wrestled to the depth of their soul about the value of their own life, they have no way of comprehending the torturous confusion and pain of those moments.

A person who committes suicide did not have a clear perception of their reality. His thoughts were terribly twisted. He couldn’t recognize the tidal wave of devastation that his death would bring. He didn’t see that his mind was creating vicious lies, and he couldn’t understand that his life was precious and invaluable. He truly could not comprehend that he was and still is needed more than he could ever believe.

All that person knew was that he wanted the pain to end, and that he didn’t want to hurt the people in his life anymore. He had no ability to perceive that his leaving his family would create a deep void in their hearts. Although they would heal to some extent over a long, long time, that place in their hearts would forever remain jagged and raw. His presence will never be forgotten, and he will always be loved.

If you are fighting this battle in your mind, do not believe the lies that depression creates. It poisons your thoughts and tells you that you have no value. That confusion feels so real but it is the cruelest of tricks. Don’t you dare ever believe those lies. Never ever ever.

Your mind will not stay in darkness forever. You must continue to hold on whenever you most want to let go. Your life has value beyond measure, and the people in your world need you more than you can fathom. Life doesn’t have to be perfect to be worth living, and despite what you seem to see all around you, everyone is fighting some kind of battle.

If you struggle with loneliness, self-worth issues, fear, guilt, or overall chronic imperfection, you are landing solidly on the scale of normal humanity. You aren’t alone in this and you don’t have to be alone in depression either.

Speak up. Ask for help. And hold on another day. And if needed, hold on again. Just don’t give in and don’t give up.

You’ve got this, and we’ve got each other. You are here for a reason. Give your life a chance to prove that to you.

You matter and your life is precious. Fight to keep it. Always.

My heart and prayers are with every person who has lost someone to this battle. Please know that it was never your fault, and it wasn’t the fault of the person who committed suicide either. Depression is a vicious disease.

***Please contact the National Suicide Prevention Hotline if you feel like you are at the end of your rope and truly can’t hold on much longer. If you are seriously considering ending your life, you desperately need to speak to someone who can help clear the blackness and the lies that are you can’t control in that moment. Call 1-800-273-8255 and please please please get help.

You are precious and you matter.

In love and light always.

Joanna

Calling Bull on the Validation of Unhealthy Behavior on Social Media

***Originally posted on lifeinthespectrum.com.

We all have down days, and some of those may almost drag us under. We don’t know how to work through the emotions so maybe we get a loose-lipped and dark and twisty with our feelings on social media. It happens. However there a delicate tipping point you can hit once you begin to feel validated by the negative attention. And if you don’t get out of your own way, you will immediately be setting yourself up to become your own worst enemy.

I posted the picture and sentiment above on Instagram earlier today. I love the memory of that beautiful morning, and I genuinely believe what I wrote there. After adding the photo, I wanted to see if any other posts or quotes spoke to my spirit, so I searched under the hashtags #loneliness and #depression. Biggest. Mistake. Ever.

I felt so frustrated at the endless barrage of posts that reflected outright self-sabotage and overt negative attention guzzling. It was even more disconcerting to see the number of followers and people leaving comments that directly cheered on the “bravery” (a.k.a. blatant unhealthy negativity).

So many entries said something to the effect of “I choose to be alone” or “I feel so lonely and don’t want anyone in my life” and included the #loneliness and #depression hashtags in the posts. In return they received hundreds or thousands of likes, e-high fives, “I agree” responses, and similar additional hashtags added into the comments.

What a complete crapfest of a story. This may sound ice cold but that is a personal pity party that has been posted for public approval. You don’t love to be alone if you feel the need to write about it on social media. If you must post about your love for loneliness and hashtag #loneliness for your followers on a platform with a billion other users, you are seeking out negative attention and feeding the monster once more.

People talked about how a single word from another destroyed their lives. I considered (but decided against) leaving the comment, “So how is that even possible? Is it like 42 for the universe, but instead in this case it’s a secret code word spoken only uttered the life-smashers?” Again. Total crap. If you are allowing one word to take you down, your problem is not the other person who spoke it. I don’t care who they are. No others have that power unless you choose to believe that they are right.

As for the bystanders (people leaving likes and cheers in the comments), how is liking and encouraging those posts you helping that person off their dark bandwagon either. The intentions may be sincere, but what message are we sending?

These writers and artists are brilliant beautiful people, but they are unconsciously sacrificing their opportunities to bring in more joy in exchange for more daily likes and potential followers. It’s a crappy trade my friends. No number of likes on a social media post will ever translate into sustainable love for yourself in real life. Trying to win over the fickle short attention span of the world of social media is a fruitless chase. Aim for winning over your image of yourself instead. The odds are better and the results will hold much much longer.

Maybe you don’t land ten zillion comments or likes for being happy, or maybe you don’t even get two. So effing what! You will still feel better when you get out of your own way. Your mind will find more clarity and balance when you validate the positive parts of your life and yourself. As I said before, focus on what you want in your life instead of celebrating what you are trying to escape.

This is a tough love post intended for people who operate with these behavior patterns as their standard, not rough periods here and there. We all have those. My hope is that my abrupt words will jar someone – any individual person at all – into recognizing that they are poisoning their own water if they continue to operate this way.

I didn’t write this post from a self-righteous place of judgement nor did my words come from emotions that I couldn’t directly comprehend. I struggled deeply with depression for decades, I embraced the blackness and believed the lies my mind fed me, and I barely escaped that period of my life alive. I sincerely believe that divine intervention saved me, and though I wouldn’t change my past, I would not wish for anyone in the world to experience the kind of pain I endured.

There are many elements of loneliness, depression, and mental health struggles that we cannot control. Don’t sacrifice the parts that you can change for the better. As you have likely heard, happiness is an inside job. If you can’t figure out how to find it, maybe start by trying to recognize what you might be doing to blockade it.

Best wishes to all of you always.

Jo Price

***Originally posted on lifeinthespectrum.com.

Are You Feeding Depression?

***Originally posted in https://lifeinthespectrum.com/.

heaven1 - IG

When you are in that place, that dark inescapable place where depression traps your thoughts and emotions, you feel like you are surrounded in blackness. There are no doors to open. No exits to be found. You’re trapped there until the lies of your mind go quiet and the treacherous confusion clears.

There’s no ON/OFF switch for depression nor is there a quick fix formula to keep it away forever. Is there anything that you can realistically do to make it stop?

Without question you have to speak up and ask for professional help. Beyond that, I believe that one of the most important steps you can take when you are struggling with depression is to ask yourself if you are feeding the monster. Are you helping the downward spiral spin even more furiously?

Those of us who have struggled with depression often do so in the shadows, but we may reveal our hurts in less visible ways. Some people write anonymous blogs that focus on their heaviest of thoughts and emotions. I have read extensive poetry written by people who either love Edgar Allan Poe’s dark style or (more likely) are struggling with their own mental health challenges. There are countless art pieces celebrating the dark night of the soul, and you could pack any home to the ceilings with books about the hopeless feelings of those suffering with depression, OCD, severe anxiety, thoughts of suicide and attempts to take one’s life.

We commend the bravery of those willing to speak their blackest truths as so many continue to stay silent about their mental health struggles in the public eye. We celebrate those who are able to create tangible evidence of those intangible mental shackles.

But it is really healthy to create or celebrate that? From my non-professional off-kilter and utterly imperfect viewpoint, I would say yes and no.

We can’t bottle up the immeasurable pain, slap a smile on our faces, and “fake it till you make it” all away. We need to be able to be honest about what we are going through if we are going to find a way to healing. We benefit from finding a community of people who may be facing different challenges but who can relate to the pain of feeling broken, unworthy, or unwell. Giving voice or visual to our struggles reminds others that they aren’t alone in those times, and we receive the same benefit when we see it from another.

However it takes a very sinister turn once that becomes the predominant or, much much worse, the only voice we have. When we start to focus entirely on hopelessness, giving up, perpetual loneliness, being shattered, feeling worthless, or wanting to die, we poison our thoughts. We energize the darkness and validate the confusion and pain. Those thoughts that dig at the mind become more and more real, and our ability to push them away from center stage decreases.

Attention is attention, and negative attention still fills that desire. Are you being supportive of someone who is struggling or are you feeding the monster? Are you giving voice to your pain or are you inviting it closer?

One of my children is an excellent writer who sometimes drifts into Emo Land. I think it’s good for him to work through the pain sometimes with the writing, but it concerns me when his teachers tell me how much they love or admire his willingness to share those feelings so extensively. I know my child, and this kid lives for teacher praise (nerd!) (but at least he comes by that honestly). If his instructor goes gaga over dark twisty, that theme and tone will pervade his writing. As I’ve seen him run with the “yay for your sad compositions” bait in the past, I now make a point to talk to his writing teachers to ask them to focus their high praise on alternate styles of compositions. I also try to give my child some glimpse into the importance of looking for the light rather than taking a dive into the darkness. It’s too easy to get stuck on that path of despair. I know this first-hand because I was there for many years, too.

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Admittedly this is serious weak sauce for dark poetry, but it’s not my thing anymore nor do I feel like taking much time to hunt through our fridge magnets at midnight.

I struggled with suicide and depression since I was very young. My negative thoughts and feelings became a natural part of everything that I composed including silly stuff like poems I compiled from refrigerator word magnets.

My husband (who was my then newish boyfriend at that time) landed in the relationship emotional intelligence hall of fame when he read some of my dark twisty fridge masterpieces and responded with his unfiltered and resounding review of, “You need to cut that sh*t out now.”

His response was utterly jarring to me. I said nothing aloud in return, but my mind screamed. Didn’t he see how deeply troubled I was? How could he be so cold about my pain? Why would he be so callous about my inner battle that he could never comprehend? What a massive jerk / soon to be ex-boyfriend!

But then I thought about his words. And then I thought about my own. What I was saying on my poor unsuspecting fridge? Why was I writing that stuff? What benefit was I getting from inviting the darkness in and why was I coating my major appliances with feelings that I was trying to escape? In that moment, I realized exactly what I was doing.

I was feeding the monster.

I never told him that he was right (a tradition that I continue to uphold whenever possible in our marriage to this day), but I did take down the festival of sadness as soon as he was out of view. He wasn’t asking me to pretend that I was happy when I wasn’t, but he didn’t have any interest in my parading around that level of negativity like it was fine art either. Until he pointed it out, I did not recognize how that I was validating and emphasizing the very feelings that I was trying to shake. I had been viciously chumming the water while simultaneously praying for the sharks to leave.

This is a tremendous problem on social media. If you have ever searched for #depression, #mentalhealth, or #suicide, you can find horribly dark and sad posts and photos with thousands and thousands of likes. They aren’t focused on healing. They are focused on pain. And to be clear once more, I’m not saying that it’s wrong to feel that way or even that it’s wrong to talk, write, or create art about mental health struggles and crises. But don’t go out of your way to embrace and celebrate them. Don’t cover your fridge in sadness and don’t spend your hours devouring and liking the pain of others.

If you want to heal, look for those who talk focus on getting better. If you want to step out of the darkness, look for the light instead. If the negativity of the news is making you feel hurt or angry, change the frickin’ channel or better yet turn it off altogether and go for a walk. And perhaps most importantly of all, if your fridge is turning all dark and twisty, invest in five dollars worth of sasquatch-themed word magnets. They are worth every penny, and that is one monster that you are welcome to feed (no offense intended to Bigfoot or lovers of said scientifically unsubstantiated ginormous critter).

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Again not my best, but it’s 1 am so you get what you get.

Always remember that whatever you take in feeds some part of you. If you want to feel better, nourish the good and offer that to your heart, mind, and soul. Your worse case scenario is five dollars down with a kick ass set of fridge magnets waiting in the wings.

Don’t get in your own way. You are healthier, stronger, and more incredible than you possibly know. Look for that and celebrate it. You got this honey. It’s time to let the real you shine.

Big hugs to all.

Jo Price  🙂

The images below will take you straight to Amazon if you feel like jazzing up your fridge. The sasquatch pack is hilarious, but they are even more fun if you add the Lumberjack addition to the mix. If you do buy these, please take pics of your art. We fall out laughing everytime we see these. 😉

***Originally posted in https://lifeinthespectrum.com/.

The Storms That We Endure Shape Our Beauty and Strengthen Us

***Originally posted on lifeinthespectrum.com.

la jolla - IG

We judge ourselves with the harshest of filters when we are struggling within. We often feel like we are battered by our situations and our emotions. In those times of severe self-critical examination, we fail to notice the beautiful revelations in those moments. We can’t see that the storms that we are enduring will never define us yet they will give us definition.

Our cracked facade is never a sign of our being hopelessly broken but rather proof of our indomitable strength. The perceived faults are our true beauty and the scars are evidence of the roads upon which we have traversed and triumphed. Our lives are miraculous wonders and our stories are anything but happenstance.

Celebrate the rough patches. The sharp edges. The broken corners. The rugged beauty of our human existence is a true wonder to behold.

Don’t ever let the wind or water take you down. You can survive any storm that heads your way, and your being able to read these words proves how far you have already come.

Never give up, never give in, and always always always keep going. You have important things to do, and it’s time to let your true beauty shine.

Much love to you all.  Jo

Does Social Media Intensify Loneliness and Mental Health Problems?

***Originally posted on lifeinthespectrum.com.

crabs1 - bandw ish

People are more lonely today than ever before. We have all heard this, but how is that even possible? We can send a message to someone on the other side of the planet and receive an immediate response. We electronically befriend and befollow (???) those whom we have not seen in decades. Our connections include people from high school and college, our jobs and our neighborhoods, a long wait at the grocery store checkout – basically anyone we know. Or kinda know.

Our having these connections does not mean that we receive honest insight into all of the significant parts of their days. Based on what we see online, most people are in romantic relationships, have children who excel at school, and take many exotic vacations with pedicured feet.

Those shiny updates may be legitimate, but they are by no means the full story.

We keep quiet about our most significant hurts. The dark realities are tough to face, and we often feel deeply embarrassed by them. The last thing we want to do is put them on public display.

That guarded approach is true for 99% of the public social media profiles you see. You may see an odd rough day post here and there, but the serious issues won’t make the cut. And that is a huge problem.

Because we are bombarded with endless fluff, we don’t see the dirt and devastation. We aren’t aware of the physical or emotional abuse that is rife around us. We don’t realize that so many incredible children are struggling desperately just to advance to the next grade. We have no clue that innumerable people we know are drowning in their feelings of low self-worth an hopelessness. And we don’t know that the perpetually cheerful neighbor a few doors down is battling suicidal thoughts behind the smiles.

More often that not, having a social media connection is akin to maintaining a surface acquaintance. That’s okay, but you need real interactions, too. Actual conversations. Shared meals. Genuine human contact.

People aren’t lonely because they don’t know anyone else. They are lonely because they don’t share themselves deeply nor do they directly support others in that capacity. We don’t thrive if we stay in endless hiding. As always, you don’t need to air your dirty laundry out for the world to see. God gave us politicians to fill that role, so consider that part taken. But you can take a quick break from technology so you can have an actual conversation that doesn’t involve YouTube at mealtime. You can get together with a true friend for coffee and trade emotional war stories. You can make a hands-free call in the car to catch up with a family member on the way home from work. You can turn off the mindless games and read a book that will boost your brain instead.

Our minds are rebelling against us because they are bored from a lack of stimulation, but we are also missing out on key requirement of our design. We have an inherent need for human interaction, and no amount of tech can replace that. The more we continue to exclude direct contact with other people, the more we isolate ourselves, and our societal mental health deterioration is a serious reflection of this problem.

Get out of your shell, and take a little time every day to step away from the tech. If you aren’t there yet, at least use it to make a call to a person who matters in your life. If calling isn’t your thing, write something worth reading. Something memorable. Something real. Just make sure that you are doing the thinking – not your tech.

Social media has its benefits, but never forget that the real story is behind the scenes. You have to get past the veil in order to see the truth of others, and you have to let people in so you won’t be alone in yours.

If you don’t feel like you can speak candidly with anyone in your personal life, consider taking up blogging and writing with a sincere voice. The community of friends I have met here is unlike any other, and they have taught me to be braver, more open, and more real than I ever imagined I could be.

Much love to you always.  Jo

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

***Originally posted on Life in the Spectrum.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Much love to you. Jo

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

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

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