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/.

Learning to Accept What I Can’t Control

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

As one who has minor (ginormous) challenges with slight (immeasurably large) control issues, I have yet to find a way to master my emotional response to situations that don’t turn out according to plan (that I created in my mind regardless of anyone else’s plan or reality). While I am aware of this flaw in my thought process, I struggle deeply with disentangling my personal feelings from the scenarios that upset me even when I recognize that I can’t change them.

A few months ago, we moved to a unique suburban area that offered over-sized lots with a small forest of trees blanketing the back of the yards. My oldest daughter and I discovered a shared passion for wildlife photography (especially of the feathered variety). We have always loved birds, but we were clueless about the vast array of species that would appear when we shared a little space with a grove of native trees.

In addition we have since found countless animal tracks trotting across our yard (inside our entirely enclosed fence). Our family and friends have been entertained over and over again with photos from our game camera as well as our evening animal stakeouts (a.k.a. sitting together in the dark in my room while we all stare out the windows with binoculars in hand and wait for our eyes to adjust and the nocturnal zoo to reveal itself).

game cam1

This level of nature may not be for everyone, but it’s an absolute paradise to my crew.

So when I woke a few mornings ago to the sickening crack of massive trees being felled a few feet behind our home, I felt an indescribable sadness. Our lot backs up to a tiny creek that separates our property from the lots behind us. Despite having a massive lot and a huge amount of space available for any castle / pool / soccer field the a new resident might need, the builders bulldozed tree after tree to the ground. The birds flew madly and many pairs could be heard wailing madly for hours as their nests and chicks were stolen away from them.

trees1

This was the view from our lot a few days prior. We were upset with our own builder for clearing the back of our lot, but we were confident that the green space would be maintained.

To be clear, I’m not an unrealistic person nor do I live in a tree house of my own. I understand that even if it isn’t exactly what I want, many trees may have to come down to make room for a home, pool, and significant yard. But if you buy a massive wooded lot, why in the world would you ever destroy such natural beauty that took decades (or longer) to grow? Why come here at all? In addition, it was a clear violation of everything that we had been told about maintaining the larger trees. Although we rallied with the other neighbors beside us to get the builder involved and stop further mindless clearing, the damage was already done. The builder feigned confusion about the excess of clearing, and the destroyed trees were piled into an 18 wheeler and hauled away.

trees2

This quickly became our view as the bulldozer began to tear through the trees. They did significant additional clearing after this photo was taken, but I couldn’t stomach taking another picture of the decimated habitat.

There was a pair of great horned owls that lived in one of the trees behind us that is now gone. We used to see a thick forest when we looked across our back fence but now see power lines and electrical boxes running along the other street several hundred feet behind our lot. I feel so sad and I don’t know how to let that go. I can’t control their choices nor can I fix the damage they caused.

All I can do is pray that the sadness will fade and that hope will find a way in the end.

I can’t change what has been done, but I humbly ask that you please consider planting a very small native tree or shrub near your home, school, or park. Any home improvement or garden store should be able to offer basic advice regarding appropriate plant species. If not, google might have one or two (thousand) suggestions. People constantly asking us how we get these beautiful species in our yard, and the answer is truly so simple. They just need a little bit of help.

We can’t control the situations around us nor can we go back in time to undo a hurt once it has happened. But we can make better choices when others can’t or won’t. We can rise above the pain. We can recognize that anger may be warranted but cannot define our existence. And we can choose hope and prove that it’s more than an idea.

As Willy Wonka beautifully said, “We are the music makers, and we are the dreamers of the dreams.”

And it’s true. Regardless of what is occurring around you, find your song and celebrate your dreams. Never forget that the smallest light can brighten the darkest room. Don’t let fear, hurt, or anger extinguish your brilliant glow. Find that beautiful spark that is an innate part of who you truly are, take positive action of your own whenever you can, and show the world what it’s like to shine.

Hugs to you all. Jo

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

Working Through Mental Health Heaviness with a Little Gardening

garden.jpgWhen I am struggling, I tend to shut down or lash out. Or I lash out and then shut down. It’s a game time decision and basically not really a decision at all because I never know how I’m going to react in the moment. To put it ever so delicately, I think that it must insanely suck to be part of my family (or within ten miles of me) whenever I’m spiraling. I don’t hide it at all. It’s not in my nature nor is it in my innate set of skills. I basically exude “Hot Mess Here!” when I’m in that place. And I hate it.

I don’t believe in taking medications (I AM ONLY SPEAKING FOR MYSELF ON THIS – I absolutely do NOT speak for others nor am I advising anyone else to toss their pills ever), and I can’t muster the willpower or energy to exercise. It’s like slogging through tar. Or old Velveeta on a sponge. Eck. That’s the worst, no?

When I have a mental meltdown, I operate in full-out sour puss mode. Eventually I move to doing projects. That could be painting a mural, gardening, refinishing an old something, doing design work, photography, or any other number of things that will require an extensive level of detail and concentration. If I’m lucky, I get started on the project long before the crazy brain hits, but that isn’t always the case. Sadly I did not get in front of the downward spiral before it struck this past weekend, but I did manage to pull myself out of it with the succulent garden pallet (thank heavens).

I wrote the post below on anotherjoproject.com detailing how I put together the above garden as a light DIY piece for other creative gardeners out there. I didn’t delve into the why but I don’t get into the mental explanations on that blog. I keep those posts light because I it gives me a sense of comfort (false though it may be) when I feel like there’s a small place in my life that isn’t marred by the emotional roller coaster that I never fully exit.

DIY – Creating a Succulent Garden with a Pallet

If you need a pick me up or other general DIY project ideas, feel free to check the site.

Just remember that although the dark times may feel deep and real and raw right then, but they are not permanent residents. Do not allow those heavy days (weeks / years) to defeat you or destroy your relationships. As my abundantly wise friend Louise Gallagher at https://dareboldly.com/ reminded me, now is not forever. It really isn’t.

Such wisdom in those words.

If you feel like you are caught up in the heaviness of the now, allow yourself the meltdown and then move another direction. Drink a cup of coffee, drag your butt out of bed, and do something. Write. Draw. Garden. Paint. Sing. Read. Whatever. Just find your way back.

If you are stuck, I’m here and am always happy to remind you that the sun is still there even when you can’t see past the clouds. I need those reminders, too.

Now is not forever.

Dig past the rough spots and uncover the life that you are meant to have. It’s there. It just gets a little hidden sometimes.

Love, light, and hugs – Jo

Christmas Flu By

I can’t remember a Christmas when I haven’t felt a bittersweet sadness at the end of the day. Whenever this time has rolled around, I have always found myself feeling a little blue that the presents have been opened, the family events have come to a close, and the lovely decorations celebrating the reason for it all have worn out their welcome and will soon find themselves on the fast track to attic central.

However this year has officially allowed me to confirm that having 100% of your family of five simultaneously sporting a nasty flu infection for the big celebration weekend will move you right past bittersweet sentiments and straight into exhausted relief. I have also confirmed that this flu virus was the worst family gift. Ever.

Bleh and yuck.

I heard the words ‘Choose Joy’ countless times over my radio throughout this holiday season, and every single time, I wanted to throw a reindeer at the announcer. If I could find joy, wouldn’t I have opted for that right out of the gate??? Clearly it wasn’t that easy. I tried. I just couldn’t find it. And having a houseful of extremely sick humans didn’t exactly check any boxes off of my Christmas weekend wish list either.

But the strangest thing has happened. Right now in these last few minutes of Christmas, despite all of the disappointment of the past few days, I am surprised and truly grateful to feel my natural fondness for Christmas returning home to my heart where it belongs. It is familiar, and as always, is a love that easily surpasses my affection for any other time of the year. I am writing this by the fire in my living room as my family members are asleep in their beds. In this moment, there is a beautiful peacefulness. A stillness. The holiness of this day is palpable, and I can understand with perfect clarity how truly blessed we are.

There are joys to be found even in the heaviest times of our lives. We shouldn’t berate ourselves when we can’t find the light in the darkness, but we should celebrate every moment of it whenever we have clarity.

We have so much to be thankful for, but we become infected by so many things – illness, loneliness, hurt, worry, fear. They drag us down, and we feel so lost. Nevertheless we are stronger than we could ever imagine, and we never walk the path alone.

Christmas transcends the presents, the get togethers, the decorations, and most certainly the flu. It’s not about the day or the month or the season. It is about light, it is about hope, and it is about love. Those are the true gifts, and they are very, very real.

I pray that you feel the light, hope, and love that surround you always, and I pray that you cherish the true beauty of all around you and all within you.

Merry Christmas and blessings to you.  Jo

Cherish

Angels Among Us – Kindness in Action

Over the last couple of months, we have seen multiple devastating natural disasters including hurricanes, earthquakes, and wildfires. We have also witnessed unimaginable hurts inflicted directly by people upon each other. Mass shootings. An increasing nuclear threat. Further racial divisiveness. Confusion, rage, and pain.

These kinds of headlines overwhelm me so much that I avoid watching the news whenever possible. Within two minutes of doing so, I  find myself questioning what has gone wrong with the world. The horrors they share aren’t occurrences I can stop or even predict. I have to turn off the incessant negativity of the news so I can find the quiet stillness. The light in the darkness.

I have a large collection of photos various friends sent to me after Hurricane Harvey tore its way through Texas. I have used some of them for various posts, but that story has long departed from the global center stage. Although the Texas hurricane headlines may have faded, the memories of the kindness we experienced in response should not.

The attached video shows pictures during and after Hurricane Harvey, but the truth is that these photos could be from any disaster. The details of the pictures and the corresponding scenarios might differ, but in every crushing moment we experience as humans, tremendous goodness can also be found. Countless people will rise to their best selves during the most difficult of times. We find support so we won’t fall, and humor so we won’t cry. Many of us are back to life as usual in Texas, but disasters of other kinds are always happening to someone somewhere. We must continue to rise up and offer assistance to those in need.

Never forget the good in the people around you. Remember who stood by you in the dark times, and continue to be a light to others in theirs. Every kind step you take on behalf of another matters. Every choice to do good and to act with love counts.

I will never cease to be overwhelmed at the good I see in people in the toughest of times. Thank you again for your kindness. There truly are angels among us.

Love and light always – Joanna

***Song credit – “Angel by the Wings” by Sia – This is a spectacular song and one of my very favorites. I genuinely hope that Sia is alright with my borrowing it for this video, but sadly I don’t have her cell to call and ask to be sure. If you love it as well, please support Sia by purchasing the song from the soundtrack of the beautiful movie “The Eagle Huntress.”

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.

***

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

foggy

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.

***

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

2017 Favorites

Previous Older Entries

%d bloggers like this: