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

Recognizing the Invisible Tether

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These tethers are anything but invisible, but even the wireless world needs juice.

Although I have easily maintained my title of Clueless Hot Mess Champion for many years, my parents still talk to me at times about various issues that frustrate them in their own lives.  Recently, technology entered the issue arena, and I don’t mean the ‘Hey will you see why my router isn’t working?’ kind of problem.  I’m referring to their individual affairs with the internet.  Not with people on the internet.  Just The Internet.

My mother gets her feelings hurt whenever she and my dad are hanging out together and he gets lost in the world of Facebook.  My father, on the other hand, feels like my mother can’t be around him without having to bring Google into the conversation.

They don’t use these words, but what I hear them both saying is that they feel sad when the other person in the room might as well be anywhere else since they certainly aren’t focused on each other.  They are hurt and mad when that happens.  But more than anything, they feel lonely.

So I suggested to my father that maybe it would be nice for them to carve out a couple of hours once a week for a date night just for the two of them.  No friends.  No kids.  No phones.  He was very supportive of the idea of a date night, but responded with a serious hard pass when I added that they should leave the phones at home during those dates.  “What if … called???”  (… represents a list of people but only one warrants a must answer call and that would be my sister who is 11 months pregnant – possibly a little less than 11 months given that she is not growing a llama)

Never being one to accept no as a final response. I countered that they could leave their phones in the car and just let us know the restaurant name in case we needed to track them down if there was in fact an emergency or imminent baby human / baby llama birth.  Seems reasonable, yes?  Well I guess not because he adamantly refused any possibility of leaving the phone behind in any fashion.  On the contrary, he became pretty fired up at the mere mention of it.  It was like I was telling him to leave his life line to the world behind. Or his oxygen tank (that he does not have but probably could have used given that he was basically hyperventilating at the idea).

His excessively emotional reaction stopped me in my tracks.  I started to contemplate my own need to keep close my phones (plural), laptops (plural again), and other endless technological devices (innumerable).  I thought about how we (I) have become too accessible and too plugged in.

When my husband and I were hanging out later that evening, I noticed that we were two feet apart, but it might as well have been two miles.  We were “watching” a show on TV while we both tapped away on our phones.  TV, texting, news, games.  We went on and on like rats trained to endlessly meander a maze in searching for more cheese around the next corner.  It made me sad, and instantly I felt the loneliness, too.  I got up to look around the corner at my children in the neighboring room.  They were doing the exact same thing.  TV yammering away.  Tablets and phones in hand.  Actual human interaction nowhere to be found.

They were zombies, and I was the source of the infection.  I was Technology Zombie Patient Zero.  (But only in my house so don’t bother trying to drum up a class action medical malpractice suit.)

All of our wireless wonders were actually invisible tethers.  They were choking off our opportunities to connect with each other.  We were so busy staying connected that we became utterly disconnected.

I want to tell you that this had only happened once or that it was a very rare event.  I want to be the mother who didn’t let her kids zone out on tech while my husband and I did the same.

But I can’t say that.  Not honestly.

I have to forgive myself for that though.  I am tired.  A lot.  Tired to my bones kind of tired.  Life never stops and trying to keep up with it all wears me down.  Sometimes I  want to turn my brain off.  I want a few minutes of quiet.  A few minutes to not think.  A few minutes to not worry.  A few minutes to not do.

But that one moment truly jarred me.  How many minutes were we actually sacrificing to the tech zombie gods each day?  How many chances to enjoy being a family and being together were we losing?  The idea of the Tech Turn Off Challenge was born.  Thank you divine intervention.

Could I do what I had asked my father to do?  Could I pick a few hours a week and just walk away from the phones, the laptops, the work, and the noise?  And could I really push myself and do it for a couple of hours a day for a whole week?  It may be small potatoes to many, but to me, it was akin to asking me to remove my bra before I headed to the grocery store.  Not.  Gonna.  Happen.  I have yet to institute the Grocery Store Bra Removal Challenge, and I don’t sense that it is on the horizon either.  But I figured I could give the Tech Turn Off Challenge a go.

Honestly I wasn’t sure if I would be able to meet the challenge requirements (doubly ironic since I created the challenge myself), and even more honestly, I didn’t think that I would succeed.  Yet here I am.  I have survived a little more than a week with over twenty deliberately chosen prime time tech free hours.

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I believe that we are each face critical life changing opportunities in lives.  We reach these forks in the road, and we can go one way or another.  The choice you make will set you on a course that could impact your entire life.  It’s the red pill vs the blue pill scenario.  Are you willing to wake up to your reality or is it more comfortable to stay oblivious?

I pray that I am waking up again.  I can’t unsee the virtual world I have been lost in.  I keep replaying the zombie tech epiphany in my mind.  I don’t want to replay it in my reality, too.  I was wireless most of the time, but I was more tied down than I ever knew.

I love the way we can connect with anyone on the globe in an instant.  I enjoy seeing the countless fantastic everythings we can find in this wireless world – covfefe and all.  I am amazed at the wonders the internet reveals.  But I don’t want to see that while I inadvertently miss the amazing everythings that are in the same room with me.  That’s where the magic is.  That’s what I want to experience.  That’s what matters.  They are my original wireless wonders.  They are my world.

***MoJo***

<a href=”https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/tether/”>Tether</a&gt;

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