Life in the Spectrum – Nature Photography vs. Travel Anxiety

***Originally posted on lifeinthespectrum.com.

black skimmer - IG

It’s no secret that I don’t do well when I have to travel solo. Despite my issues, my company is located out of state, so solo travel lands on my calendar multiple times a year. In order to redirect my nervous energy this past week, I opted for a series of random after workday adventures. A couple of those days included the coolest of activities. Happy hour? Chillin’ with my team at the bars? Dancing the night away?

snowy egret seafood - IG with logoOooooh nooooo. Think cooler. Much much cooler. That’s right.

Nature. Photography.

Aaaaaah yes. Haters gonna hate, but I couldn’t stop the unmitigated badassness that came with lugging around a lens so ridiculous that it made my forearms ache to hold it. As an added bonus, I was able to respond to inquiries from curious passersby who repeatedly asked, “Do you get incredible photos with that camera?” with my sly response of “It’s a hit and miss given that my limited camera knowledge is derived from the patient people at Canon customer support and Google.”

landing - IG

I told you. Mad. Skills. My anxiety faded away as my native nerdiness returned to the forefront. But it made me happy, and it did calm me down. I send heartfelt thank yous to the many California locals who suggested several beautiful places for capturing lovely nature shots and to those who pointed me in the right direction once I arrived.

seal in la jolla - IGKindness is so very powerful. We often don’t realize that the people around us are struggling deeply, and the smallest of benevolent gestures can mean more than we could ever know.

As is the norm, I actually had a wonderful week. Despite a few questionable moments (to be discussed later), I survived relatively unscathed. And now I’m home once more. Back to Texas. Back to my people.

Back to me.

osprey - IG

Big hugs to you all!  Jo

*My instagram ID is @texasbirdnerd for any other nature photo nerds. Find me so I can see your pics, too. Those always make me smile.  🙂

acorn woodpeckers - IG

***I would love to know what you do to take down the stress level when you are feeling overwhelmed. Feel free to tag your relevant posts in the comments, but keep in mind that this is a family show. Please keep it G / PG rated. Sorry, but I don’t need to read any of your PG-13 and above ideas.  😉

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 – 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.

AWARD – Tell the Darkness to Get Lost

get lost award

The “Tell the Darkness to Get Lost” award was created to celebrate the rock stars who were kicked in the teeth by life and kept going anyway. It is also for those who inspire me to pick myself back up when I all I want to do is stay down.  It’s my tribute to the bad ass gem of a human I see in you.  You remind me to keep the faith, to keep going, and to never give in to the darkness.  Your light brightens my world and gives me strength to tell the darkness to get lost.  I celebrate you, I thank you, and I adore you.

Rules for accepting the award:

  1.  To me, awards and rules shouldn’t be paired together.  It’s like a great book and a forced book report.  It goes from fun reading to work.  So these are suggestions and ideas.  You do what you feel inspired to do.  If you change it wildly, that’s awesome!  As I said before, you’re a bad ass.  I would love to see what coolness you instill in this, but this whole thing is an optional gig.  You’re a bad ass no matter what.
  2.  Share one thing about you that is funny, interesting, or unique.  Ideally tell something that you haven’t shared before, but again, it’s your call.
  3.  You may display the award or not.  It’s your blog, so I’m not going to dictate website aesthetics.
  4.  You may nominate 5 or more or less other bad asses whom you believe deserve this award.  I don’t know how many I listed below, but I wanted to include countless more.  We all feel inspired by others and sometimes it’s beautiful to tell them how much their words have helped you when you needed it most.
  5.  Tell those people who you have tagged why they matter even if it’s just a word.  Kindness, bravery, resilience, laughter, quirkiness.  Whatever comes to mind.  Just tell them why you thought of them when you decided to share this with them.
  6.  Know how much I genuinely appreciate you.  You matter.  This world is infinitely better because you are in it.

Something about me…  Well, I have recently developed a serious talent for breaking my blog.  In less than a week, I have managed to delete my access, disconnect domains, upgrade downgrade upgrade and sorta downgrade my plan when I should have just stayed where I was, and mess up some of my normally untouchable fonts with “stray code” (uh what is that and how would I have done it?!?).  As a bonus, this is actually the second time I am writing the bottom half of this specific entry because it disappeared.  The last hour is 100% gone from my revisions history.  Even WP support couldn’t find anything.  Apparently I’m a frickin’ magician, too.  Now you see content and then POOF!   It’s gone!

Please note that I struggled greatly with selecting the nominees below because so very many of you bring light into my world.  There just isn’t enough internet to include all of the people I want to award.

Nominations (in no order at all):

https://joyfullyrenewed.wordpress.com/ – Your friendship makes my soul smile.  I could write a book on everything you have taught me.
https://mainepaperpusher.wordpress.com/ – You are like a butterfly with a gentle beautiful kindness that I adore.
https://insidetherainbow.blog/ – You are my sister from another mister.  I laugh and cry with you.
https://wakinguponthewrongsideof50.wordpress.com/ – If you are future me, I couldn’t be happier.  And if not, I’ll just have to stick with being inspired by how fab you are.
https://bookreviewsbyshalini.wordpress.com/ – You are Adele and I am Lady Gaga.  What a pair we are!  I’m so thankful for you sweet girl.
https://misifusa.wordpress.com/ – You make everything shine and fine light in the darkest of places.  You spread incredible kindness and bless us all.
https://knockedoverbyafeather.wordpress.com/ – Girl – you’re just kickin’ ass and taking names.  You are raw and real and fan-effin’-tastic.  Hold on.  Write that damn book.  You have a big important story to tell.  You are amazing.  Stick the #@*& around!  😉
https://watchwaitandwitness.com/ – Your teaching stories give me such joy.  You change the world in the very best way by opening little minds and hearts.  You changed mine, too.
https://thisismytruthnow.com/ – My friend with countless names…  Thank you for always finding a kind word and positive note.  I am perpetually in awe of the extensive writing and reading you do everyday, and I truly appreciate that you make time to include me in the mix.  I am thankful for you Jumper.
http://inspirationpie.com/ – You do serve up that inspiration!  I love your journeys, your wisdom, and your sass.
https://magickmermaid.wordpress.com/ – You are a fairy among us.  I adore the way you create magic all around you.  It’s infectious and marvelous (unlike the flu – also infectious but less fab).
https://foodzesty.com/ – On the one hand, you do not get this award because it’s terribly mean to make all that fantastic food while I sit here eating a hot dog.  On the other hand, I think that you are the cat’s pajamas and I can’t help but appreciate you on every level!  😉
https://collie123.wordpress.com/2017/08/08/r-e-m-everybody-hurts/ – You accept people for who they are.  You find beauty everywhere.  You are a kind soul Andrew.
https://carolrolke.com/blog/ – Hello outcast sister of mine!  I am certain that mom misplaced you in the hospital where we were born.  You are amazing.  I so enjoy your clever wit and your wicked smarts.  Keep ruling the world woman!
https://itrippedoverastone.com/ – Your ability to keep your chin up when life is lobbing some mega softballs your way is truly beautiful.
https://roseelaineblog.wordpress.com/ – Do I even need to mention the birds again?  (Clearly yes since I just did!)  You make the world beautiful on many levels.  Never stop painting.  Never stop shining.  I don’t think you could even if you tried.
https://elbycloud.wordpress.com/ – Your stories make me giggle.  Who wouldn’t feel seismic at reading them?!?!?
https://donnaanddiablo.wordpress.com/ – You don’t write on your blog anymore but you should!  Your comments always lift me up.  Thank you my friend.
https://welcometothenursery.wordpress.com/ – You recognize the importance of laughing at all things parenthood and I love that.  Kids – the original comedians.  I love your posts.  It’s like you live in our house, too.
https://readrantrockandroll.com/ – Mischenko – I told you that I was a mess with WordPress!  Hopefully your name will stick on this version!!!  In response to your latest post, reading your blog makes me happy!  I just love it.  You are a reading machine and you gobble up every book under the sun.  It’s like you’re the Flash but for nerds (cool nerds who read).  😉  So sorry about the revision revision revision!  I do adore you!

Thank you so very much to all of you.  You are precious to me.

Joanna

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