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.

words1

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).

words2

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/.

Life in the Spectrum – Depression is Not Black and White

Originally posted on lifeinthespectrum.com.

chickadee - soft (greys)

The use of black and white filters can be striking in the world of photography, but in the world of depression, black and white is nowhere to be found. Everything is shaded with countless shades of grey. I have spent decades attempting to figure out the right way to handle this or respond to that. Hoping to learn how to be more likable and more normal. Searching for a better approach to maintaining fulfilling relationships. Trying desperately to just be okay.

However it isn’t that cut and dry. Life is unpredictable and has a fierce habit of jerking the emotional rug out from under us when we least expect it. And when that happens, we hit the ground. Hard.

For someone with depression, an emotional takedown can be utterly debilitating. Maybe your energy drains to nonexistence and you find yourself unable to move or leave your bed. Perhaps you become enraged and begin to actively push away anyone who cares enough to try to offer support. Some people physically hurt themselves or try to anesthetize the pain away with alcohol or drugs. Others lose hope, give in to the pain and the lies their minds tell them, and give up altogether.

I genuinely understand the indescribable heaviness you feel when you are facing that dark night of the soul. I promise that I truly do. But I also know that no matter how dark it is in that moment – even if that moment feels like it has gone on and on – it does not stay like that. It always get better. Ironically it will go back to crappy again, too, but the good news is that the pendulum keeps swinging back and forth. As always, just remember to wait it out whenever that happens.

The truth is that this is how life goes for everyone. You don’t need to be a card-carrying member of the mental health diagnosis club to feel like an outsider, to believe that you are lost, or to be in a place of tremendous sadness or hurt.

We may focus on our weaknesses, but the heaviest of times often reveal our greatest strengths, too. If you can’t get out of bed today, that’s okay. The weight of that kind of emotional exhaustion can be suffocating, but the world will keep spinning for now. But get out of bed tomorrow.

If you are being offered genuine help from someone who loves and wants to be there for you, open the door instead of slamming it closed.

Avoid trying to mask to pain with alcohol or drugs. I get that it feels good in the moment, but those will tear you down on so many levels. The numbness won’t last, and you are left with a deeper emotional hole with every further attempt to hide from your life.

Open up to others in your life who will help you find your footing again, and seek professional help.

Above all, don’t ever give in to the pain, and don’t ever lose hope.

I don’t believe on any level that suicide is an indication of cowardice. Rather I see it as an act of absolute desperation and total confusion. People who take their lives become tremendously lost regarding what seems real versus what actually is real. They can recognize the absolute truth that every new day holds a promise of something better. Now I’ll admit that that doesn’t mean that the better whatever will come along today. But then again, it definitely could. If not, that greatly improves the odds for an even better tomorrow, so it makes practical sense to keep sticking around.

Although it might simplify our days, a world of black and white would be tedious and dull. We may perceive endless shades of grey in our lives, but we are also blessed with an endless array of other colors to brighten our days. Don’t forget to notice them in their innumerable forms, and don’t ever hide your own colors, your brilliance, or your beauty in an effort to blend in or be normal. You are so much better than normal, and you are so much more than mere black and white.

Much love to you always.  Jo

chickadee - soft (color)
Life is more beautiful with a splash of color.

Life in the Spectrum – The Loneliness of Depression

moon flight

I don’t enjoy writing about depression. My insecurities rise to the surface as my innumerable failings are put on display. I worry that people will read my words and judge me. That I will be seen as weak. Or whiny. Or pathetic. In my mind, I am already giving myself a severe beat down, so sharing my tales to invite more opposing boxers to the ring feels like a seriously foolish idea. No one else could possibly understand the crazy sentiments racing through my mind. No one else could possibly relate.

But that’s entirely untrue. These kinds of feelings are rampant. Countless people face these struggles every single day, and too many of them lose the battle with anxiety and depression. They feel so isolated. Broken. Helpless. Hopeless. They put out the light before the sun has a chance to find its way through the darkness once more.

So even though I am embarrassed to share my struggles, I recognize that someone out there in this moment needs to know that they aren’t alone in theirs. That they aren’t the only ones feeling broken, destroyed, or terminally unworthy of love. That another person is in it, too, and that maybe there’s some chance that it can get better. That holding on is possible, and that sticking around is worth it.

It does get better. It doesn’t stay dark and heavy forever. And you aren’t alone in it.

You are absolutely worthy of love. You are not broken. You can make it through this.

If someone doesn’t get what you are going through, they are luckier than they know. If they judge you for being imperfect, well… definitely don’t sweat that because no one is. And if you feel like you are alone, drop me a line. But whatever you do, please don’t give up.

It won’t stay dark forever, you are stronger than you can imagine, and despite the way you may feel, you are never ever alone.

Big hugs to you.  Jo

***I wrote this post for a new blog I just started at lifeinthespectrum.com. This site focuses on the challenges that come with depression, anxiety, OCD, and similar mental health issues. If you discuss these issues in your writing, please let me know and I will gladly send readers your way. You may notice that I have also reblogged some of my relevant older posts to that site, so a few of the entries may look familiar.

Much love to all of you. I wish you happiness, healing, and joy always.

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