Searching for the Faint Hint of Light in the Loneliness of Depression

Over the past few weeks, I have been finding myself in an increasing number of conversations that are thick with heavy emotions. So many people have swallowed their words and their pain about the mental health issues that have ravaged their families and their lives. These individuals seem fine at a glance, but the reality is that they are drowning on the inside. The perfect (and false) vision of life on social media creates a deceiving veil that obscures the pervasive struggles of depression, anxiety, OCD, addiction, and suicide. And if you are dealing with any of those challenges, it can make you feel even more broken when you scroll through the endless joy that seems to be the norm from the vast majority of those around you.

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I wanted to get the beach in the pic, but all these darn laundry baskets were in the way. Also I had to get to work, so I couldn’t leave reality to head to the beach. One day, I’m going to take these laundry baskets to the beach. They desperately need a break, too.

Based on the posts and photos you see on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc., standard daily life should always include high levels of problem-free and adorable children, fluffy puppies galore, hundreds of birthday wishes from innumerable e-friends (many of whom also leave me contemplating my annual questions of “What does that person look like and how do I know him or her???”), and random pictures of feet taken by lovely pools and beaches (because seeing your feet in the pic really sells me on the beauty of your vacation). And on that note, please stop doing that. I don’t need to see your hobbit feet. I already know that you are there because you took the pic. Including your feet in the shot does not make me say, “Hey, I recognize those hairy toes! You really are there!”

The truth is that life isn’t always smooth sailing, and despite the evidence that you are presented with online, a striking number of those same people are also trying desperately to find their way back to solid mental health. They just don’t talk about it. When you find yourself facing depression, anxiety, OCD, addiction, or suicidal thoughts and actions, you feel so very isolated. You search frantically for any faint hint of light in the darkness of those moments. And when those moments turn from minutes to hours and sometimes from days to years, it truly seems like it will never end. In those times, you feel like no one else has been as messed up as you are right then. If there were Screwed Up Human Olympics, you would run the table at the games and easily pocket the gold, silver, and bronze medals. Team MoJo for the win!

I have lost many friends over the years due to my tendency to go radio silent when I am navigating those rough waters. I disappear and shut people out whenever I am trying to work through challenges that are consuming me. Part of me knows that most wouldn’t judge me for struggling, but another part just won’t allow a public viewing of that much of my raw and utter imperfection (hot mess central, totally unable to cope, emotional tornado action, scared little kid trapped in a less little grown up body – that kind of stuff).

Shutting other people out to limit further emotional damage is a common behavior for people who are hurting. Unfortunately it also happens to be a highly flawed coping mechanism. The reality is that I still miss many of those people that I lost in those times. They never knew why I disappeared, and I could never find the strength to explain what was going on or the right words to fix the hurt after I was in a better place. It’s not my favorite set of experiences to contemplate, but to everything there is a season, and sometimes, you just have to release the past.

Isolating yourself creates a frustrating complication of the issues and ultimately exacerbates the problems. If we could be more honest about our struggles, we would discover that so many other people around us are dealing with the same challenges as well. If we can gather enough courage to speak up when we or our family members are falling down, we would be surprised to learn that our true friends are willing and often able to genuinely assist us.  They keep the conversations going, allow us to see that we are not the only ones having a hard time, get us out of the house and out of the ruts we find ourselves trapped in, and remind us about how totally dorky we are for taking pics of our feet while still completely loving us anyway.

You may be lucky and find a way out of the darkness all by your lonesome, but you don’t have to go that route, and the odds of recovery are wildly better if you seek help from others. Let people into your world. Please note that I did not say, “Drag other people into your world.” If you have to drag them, you are barking up the wrong friend. I’m talking about surrounding yourself with people who are able to hear you and who want to listen in a supportive way. Also do yourself a favor and step away from negative social media. If you go the other direction and find that you are fixated on comparing your life to other people’s fluffy stuff, just remember that you are going to have a hard time finding their “So I totally vomited after my kids saw my husband and me in a terrible fight this morning. I am praying that they stopped crying once they got into school, that my marriage will last, and that my stomach bug goes away soon!” post. No one shows that crap off to the world, but everyone has those days. Those people need your shoulder, too. We all feel excruciatingly deep pain sometimes, and that doesn’t make you broken or weird. It makes you normal.

I know what it feels like to lose hope, but I have found mine again. For anyone who is still searching, I’ve got your back. I have stockpiled more than enough for all of us and know that it can and will get better. The darkness will fade, and your joy will return. You are so important, and you are amazing and perfect just as you are.

Allow those who care about you to hold your hand and your heart. They truly can help you find that faint hint of light in the darkness, and eventually, the light will outshine the darkness altogether. There will still be ups and downs, but life will get dramatically better if you let that happen.

Recognize when you need help, and be honest about what you are going through. Let the people who matter into your world.

Love and light always – Joanna

Faint

Does Forgiveness Really Require Forgetting?

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Forgive and forget. It’s an old phrase that we have heard countless times over the years. But is it truly wisdom?

I suppose that the answer might lie in your interpretation. Stockpiling every hurtful action that ever impacted you over the course of your life would be overwhelmingly negative. The level of ever-increasing pain combined with the cacophony of bad memories drumming around in our minds would overwhelm us. We simply wouldn’t be able to function if we were completely unable to set those heavy thoughts free. In that sense, I can appreciate the sentiment.

However what if we approach the question from a different angle? Should we base our “forgive and forget” / “forgive and no way can I forget” criteria on the severity of the hurt instead? Do we opt to retain loaded memories of those inflictions while choosing to release others? If the action created severe pain, can you truly forget it?

This is a concept that I wrestle with more often than I would prefer. Even though I appreciate the idea of giving a clean slate those who have hurt me deeply, I have yet to master a way to permanently eradicate something that shattered my trust or dishonored my confidence. I can forgive a devastating emotional assault. Been there. Done that. Big freakin’ time.

But forgetting it altogether? Not so much.

I’m not referring to holding a grudge, planning payback, or going full honey badger on the offending party. I’m talking about reality. I don’t pretend that I give trust easily once it has been broken. I don’t at all. I am referring to the bigger picture – really understanding who you are and seeing that other person for who he or she is as well. This is about seeing the behavior patterns and being honest about the likelihood of true contrition and permanent change.

As an example, I want to be bathing suit confident. I fantasize about it. Really. I sometimes thumb through the Athleta catalog that somehow mistakenly finds its way into my mailbox, think mean thoughts about my skinny svelte friends who could wear string bikinis to the grocery store and look fabulous, remember once more that I adore them anyway, and then put the magazine back down so I can pick my fork up again to polish off the last of the cheesecake that is probably in front of me.

If I was a superhero (and I am…), I would have two arch nemeses (arch nemesises???). Sporks (I loathe these plasticware rejects and speak fiercely against them at random) and salads pretending to be meals (I dislike them so much that I once wrote a whole post in protest of the way they have made my plates look sad – https://momentumofjo.com/2017/06/04/salads-even-calories-dont-want-any-part-of-them/ – that’s a serious and somewhat strange commitment to talking smack about veggies). I am never going to willingly grab a spork and dig into my sad salad meal when I have a chance to get an actual piece of acceptable silverware (a fork OR a spoon – NOT BOTH) and eat cake instead.

Are those rational behaviors on my part? Yes. (NO.) Even though I know that I am being a bonehead, do I expect that my behavior is that going to change? No. (NO.) It’s just how I roll. While I may hope to be wiser, smarter, and better when I make my choices, my past history will accurately tell you that you should save your money and avoid stocking up on kale before I visit your home for dinner.

The best predictor of someone’s behavior is not what a person wants to do or what he or she wants to be able to wear out of the Athleta catalog. Your major hint at what is likely to occur is what that person has previously done. People really can change, and that does happen. Lord knows that I am not the same girl I was in college. (Ironically that girl could have shopped at Athleta, but in order to do so, she would have needed to exit the bar scene first – no Athleta for her either.)

Until you begin to see honest ongoing changes that align with your emotional needs, do yourself a huge favor – don’t plan on that happening right away. In truth, change may not come ever.

If someone will genuinely let you into their world, you may have a chance to help them for the positive. Nevertheless you still have to remember that their choices are called their choices for a reason. A person who continually chooses behaviors that hurt you will likely continue that pattern. Some relationships are so destructive that your healthiest option is to set them free / turn them loose / get off the pot / run for the frickin’ hills. Thankfully most relationships can be maintained. Just know that you are dealing an imperfect but probably predictable human. There are instances when something happens one time only but is so devastating or dangerous that your best choice is wishing that person well and completely moving on. Only you can know if you are facing that moment, but if you are, honor your inner knowing and follow the guidance you are receiving.

Forgiveness is an essential element of healing, and the most important part of that healing happens from within. WIth that said, in extreme situations, I don’t necessarily feel that forgetting is as vital. At times, choosing to ignore an assault (emotional, physical, mental) can be a dangerous approach.

Pray for clarity and guidance to help you understand what is a stumble, what is a lesson, and what is a warning.

Hope for the best as you learn to recognize the behavior patterns you are facing within yourself and others. Most people won’t change, and it is unrealistic to expect that of them. Unless you are someone’s parent or guardian, you probably won’t get to make choices on behalf of another. The only actions you can control are your own.

You don’t have to be jaded to see with open eyes nor do you have to wipe the memories clear in order to find healing. Forgetting may not be possible, but thankfully, forgiveness is.

Love and light always – Joanna

***photo credit – Huckleberry Arms

Cacophony
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Childhood Depression and Anxiety – Avoid Feeding the Monster

Having grown up with depression and anxiety challenges as a child, I constantly watch my kids for the signs I once showed. Do they like to stay in bed all day? Are their moods reflective of the bipolar disorder that once consumed me? Do their emotions soar to elation only to come crashing back down to utter blackness in an instant (beyond normal hormonal kid madness)? Do they grow so dark that I cannot see their light shining through? Do they become excessively focused on negative scenarios? Do they see themselves as being broken? Are they unusually connected to the pain of others? Do they talk about suicide?

For me, the answers would have been clear to those close to me by the time I was in middle school. In hindsight, I knew that I was struggling beyond the norm before I was even out of elementary school. Was there anything that my parents or anyone else could have done that would have steered me in another direction? The plain truth is this – I really don’t know.

Please note that I am not a trained medical professional nor am I a psychologist of any kind. The only role in therapy I have ever served is as the person on the sofa with sad tales, zombie-chic runny mascara eyes, and a box of someone else’s tissues at the ready. If you are looking for professional medical advice, you won’t find it in anything that I write. Also I should disclose that I can’t teach you how to iron either. Those skills just aren’t in my wheelhouse, and I don’t plan to add them anytime soon.

I am speaking as an individual who survived the blackest nights of being clinically depressed and terribly suicidal. I am speaking as a person who doesn’t just hope that recovery is possible – I know that it is a reality. When I tell people that I no longer have depression, I mean that with absolutely sincerity. I’m not going to lie – I can be a serious bitch, and I am highly explosive at times and heavily in the doldrums at others. But that is not the same as what I experienced decades ago. Not even close.

When I was growing up, we faced some extremely stressful situations. Based on every other family I now know and reality (as I perceive it today), it appears that my genetic pool has never maintained a corner on the stress market. Everyone has stuff. Everyone has stories. Bad yucky sad tales and heart-wrenching experiences. It’s just the way the humanity cookie crumbles.

So when major unfun stuff happens in or to my own family now, I look even closer to see how my children respond. Are they emotionally drowning or are they temporarily set back but heading back toward being okay? Do they disappear for hours and hours to hang out by themselves in their rooms for days? Do they withdraw from actual humans and get lost endlessly in mindless technology time? Does the bulk of their artwork or writing reflect heavy emotional tones? When I see these behavior patterns kick in, I remember my own downward spiral, and I act immediately to try to prevent my children from entering that treacherous ride.

While I recognize without question that there is a true physiological element to depression (thus why I fear that my children could have it), I also believe that we have the ability to circumvent and rewire that part of our makeup. Consequently when I see them displaying a behavior that appears to be “feeding the depression monster” (ramping up the potential for greater negative mental feedback), I immediately try to redirect their actions.

One of the rotten parts about being a kid is that you only have as much freedom as you are given by the adults around you. One of the best parts of being an adult is recognizing how you can use that dynamic to help your children when they need it most.

Here are a few specific examples I have used in the past month:

  • On multiple occasions, we have forced the older kids to turn off their emo sad FM music, leave their rooms, and come hang out for family night. We eat food that they like, we watch goofy movies together or play games, and ultimately, we end up spending hours laughing instead of emotionally stewing solo. Everyone goes to bed feeling like it was a good day because that’s how we closed it out.
  • My son told me that he was writing some very heavy and sad poems at school, and that he wanted to focus on writing this way because the other kids were so impressed by his depth. I’m not looking to raise Edgar Allan Poe II nor do I feel like this is good long-term brain food at all. I said nevermore to that crap and told him that I wanted to see a balance in his writing. I even called his writing teacher on the sly to let her know the importance of her being aware of this dynamic, too. She was glad that I contacted her and said that she had assumed that he was a deep-thinking writer with a heavy style. We agreed that he could still express his emotions while finding more balance via incorporating the positive emotional elements as well. She is encouraging him to find balance in class, and I work iinon this at home.  My son and I now talk about his writing every couple of days. I encourage him no matter what, but I try to focus my highest praise on the positive works. This isn’t about squashing his true feelings. It’s about programming his brain to point toward the half full glass version of thinking versus automatically seeing a smashed cup of darkness weilded by a creepy raven.
  • My kids get frustrated with the behaviors of some of the other children around them.  As fate would have it, it turns out that really small people can be seriously big buttheads (that is the scientific term for heavy duty jerkfaces). Instead of focusing on all the garbage that those other kids do, we try to find something good in them, and if that is a lost cause at that moment, we try to come up with an alternate good thing that happened that day to focus on instead.

The key to this is mental and emotional redirection. As parents,we want our children to know that we hear them and that we see them. We seek for them to feel emotionally validated, and we want them to be able speak to us with openness and honesty.

However as parents, we also need to show them which emotions are beneficial for them on a regular basis. Everyone is allowed to be sad and angry sometimes. We are even permitted to rage and be devastated. But we cannot allow those emotions to be our baseline. We have to help them figure out what emotions should be the outliers and what should constitute healthy daily living. We have to enlighten them on the obvious. It’s truly okay to not be okay sometimes, but ultimately it feels better to feel better.

Personally I find it cathartic to have a good solid cry every now and then. I have a handful of gut-punching songs, TV shows, and movies that are certain to do the trick if needed. Sometimes I’m just want to be a bear, and I don’t want to be cheered up dammit!

But even then, I still try to maintain awareness of how far I can let those emotions run. I only allow myself to take it so far. If this goes on for several days, I take steps to shift how I’m feeling by turning on funny shows and upbeat music. I change the channel when the heavy stuff appears until I can watch it without feeling emotionally inundated. I force myself to get out of the house and do something that doesn’t stink even if it’s something as simple as going to a plant store (Jo❤️🌸4ever).

It’s same story with the kids, but I attempt to expedite the process. I choose to change their sadness channels as quickly as I can. They don’t have the awareness to pull out of the spiral, so I do the best I can to steer them safely away from it instead. I refuse to allow them to feed the sadness or desire for isolation.

Can I guarantee that my children won’t face severe depression? No. Not at all. Do I know for certain that they will never face the darkest moments of feeling suicidal? It terrifies me to recognize that I can’t say yes to that either.

But I have seen that their hours of heaviness can be turned to moments of joy. I am certain that being aware of the warning signs and red flag behaviors might offer us opportunities to intervene in innocuous yet effective ways.

There are times when we can stop them from embracing the negativity. They are moments when we can avoid validating increased unhappiness by focusing on finding something to laugh at or something to do that makes them smile instead. The key is to figure out how to flip the switch the other direction in a way that engages your child.

I pray for blessings for all who struggle with depression and anxiety. Whether you are the one who is experiencing those challenges or you are the one who is trying desperately to send a lifeline to another navigating them, it is so very important to choose joy whenever you possibly can. There are numerous options for treatment, and I strongly recommend that anyone in need should seek available help. Please know that depression does not have to be a lifelong sentence. Stop the downward spiral whenever possible. Feed the best, not the beast.

Love and light to you always – Joanna

Enlighten

Have Faith in Yourself – Remove the Mask

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Love and light always – Joanna

 

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Brave

The Patchwork Soul – Recognizing Our Divine Beauty

I have noticed that I am being drawn with greater regularity to writing about releasing fear, owning all parts of our journey, and learning to love ourselves as perfectly imperfect people. It’s amusing to me that I ever questioned my focus given that I wrote the post below years ago. This was the first blog entry I ever created. So much has happened since I wrote these words, yet the message remains.

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When you look at yourself, what do you see?  Does it all make sense to you, and do you like every part of that picture?  When I look deep within, I sometimes find that I have questions.  I see parts that are beautiful, bright and fun.  I see elements of joy, moments of unshakeable faith, and acts of kindness that make me smile.  I love these pieces of me.  But then I notice other parts that don’t appear to continue that wonderful trend.  There are remnants of doubt, frustration and sometimes anger.  At times, there are places that seem dark and cold.  I see colors that clash and mismatched patterns.

How do these fit into the same package?  I cannot fathom how this mix of light patches and dark patches will possibly come together to become something worth keeping and definitely can’t see them fitting together to become something spectacular.

But then I remember the one thing that matters more than anything else.  I am not the creator of the artwork being molded.  While I strongly believe that I have creative input via free will and the choices this allows me to make, I know that it is not my hand that guides the design of my soul.

I have spent so much time trying to unbreak and fix those parts that I don’t understand, don’t want to recognize, and don’t want to be – but these are part of me and part of my design.  I may not understand the dark patches, but I don’t think that my comprehension is required on this journey.  Maybe the moments of darkness act as contrasts to allow the beautiful light parts to really shine.

I believe that it is time to let go of the idea that we are broken and need to be fixed.  The light and the dark fragments come together to form a masterpiece of God’s creation.  When I look at myself with this in mind, I’m not sure how it could get any more awesome and spectacular than that.  And that’s what I see when at look at you, too.

If we want to add to the creative mix, let’s use that wonderful free will to make choices that make us feel light and wonderful.  Maybe we can go with choices that help others feel the same way, too.  In the meantime, let’s embrace all the colors, all the moments and all the blessings because we are patchwork souls with a heavenly designer.

For Those Left Behind After Suicide

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

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

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

How could you leave me?

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

That was what I thought.

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

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

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

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

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

Never give up and never give in.

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

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

Love and light to you all – Joanna

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

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

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

 Believe

Glow

Take Flight

Stepping out of your comfort zone is disconcerting for anyone. If it wasn’t, we would call it walking. But leaving that place of emotional security while also anticipating that every person in your life will understand your perspective is not simply unsettling. It is unrealistic.

Very few people have the ability to openly embrace change. Even fewer have the capacity to actively seek it. When they see someone in their inner circle bucking the system, it rankles them and scratches their own fears to the surface.

While I am displeased with this admission, the raw truth is that I can most certainly be one of those inflexible and easily rankled buzzkills of a human. Seeing someone I care about do something that doesn’t fit their normal pattern concerns me. I take a marathon sprint down the mental worry path and start listing various possible barriers to their success (hopefully these thoughts occur via my “excessive and overthinking” inner voice but unfortunately the ponderings frequently happen through my “excessive and needs to shut up immediately” outer voice).

It’s not that I don’t want the people whom I care about to do well.  That’s not it at all.  I absolutely want them to be successful. However my desire to protect that person from any harm becomes entangled with my own insecurities, hurts, and memories of past disappointments (a.k.a. My Issues and Me – The Less Sexy Shades of MoJo).

My focus on any potential negative outcomes shadows my ability to recognize the other equally possible positive outcomes. I worry about their chance of failure, but in doing this, I miss the reality that their willingness to get on the playing field at all means that they are already taking part in the game. Thankfully I almost always manage to get on board eventually. I just need time to realize (once more) that my self-imposed limitations need not apply to anyone else’s hopes and dreams.

So when the tables turn and this happens to me – when I say that I want to venture further away from my own comfort zone and I find myself feeling the sting from a response that pushes me to stay with the status quo – I recognize the source of that other person’s reaction. I am reminded once more that my belief in myself cannot be diminished by another person’s insecurities.

image000000_65No one in this world has the right to deny you your hopes and dreams. No one. And if they are doing that, it is only happening because you are handing them that power. Don’t ever sacrifice your light to someone else’s fear.

Always dream, and when you do, always dream fantastically big.

This is your journey, and there are endless choices you can make. Just be sure that the ones you select are truly yours.

We may not always succeed with every attempt that we make, but we will never even get the chance to find out what we can achieve if we continually refuse to try. Don’t allow the words of another to weigh you down.

We each have something wonderfully unique and wildly special within us. When you feel like you are stepping into the zone and that you are kindling the spark within you, that is the divinity of your soul cheering you on.

Listen to that voice. Follow that feeling. Release the fears, find your wings, and take flight.

Love and light always – Joanna

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***Photos in this post were taken from my airplane window while traveling to San Diego for work this week.

Windows

Deny

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