Breaking the Silence About Mental Health Struggles

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

*Thank you Janie at https://authentically50.wordpress.com/2018/06/27/7-day-bw-photo-challenge-day-four/ for tagging me to participate in the 7 Day Black & White Photo Challenge (7 days / 7 b&w photos / no people / no explanation / challenge a new person daily)

For day 3 of the challenge, I am tagging my incredible friend and wildly talented artist Lisa at https://playamart.wordpress.com/. The reality is that I have no expectation that Lisa will be available to do the challenge because she eat, sleeps and breathes art and frankly has a million other bigger things happening at this point in her life. However the reason I am tagging her specifically on this post is that Lisa has been an amazing lighthouse in my life for many years. I was blessed to meet Lisa when I first began to write years ago, and I am immeasurably grateful for the light she continues to bestow on my world today. Thank you for your endless kindness and wisdom dear friend!

**The photo above was inspired by Cee’s Black & White Photography Challenge specific to birds. I have become an avid (but absolutely still learning) bird photographer and will frequently use those shots in my posts. Thank you so very much to Cee at https://ceenphotography.com/ for the lovely bird photographs that you shared as well as the beautiful inspiration you gave me!  🙂

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

***Thanks so much to Nancy Merrill for her clever weekly photo challenge prompt of from below.

Continuing to Live When the Life You’ve Planned is Lost

sand castle - bandw

You are going to spend your entire life with this person. Be able to hold this job. Live happily in this town. Recognize that these friends are kind and honest. Understand that the world may be a fickle place, but some certainties are unshakable.

Until they crumble before your eyes and there isn’t anything you can do to stop that from happening.

I have walked that road many times. Obtaining a dream job only to find that it was a total disaster (perhaps you have heard of Enron?). Moving to houses that were financial pitfalls. Learning that some people will go after you with no cause beyond simply bringing you into their world of misery. Being faced with devastating hurts in friendships. Recovering from the loss of trust in relationships. Facing the heartbreak of infertility and miscarriage.

When moments like this happen, our course of life forever changes. We once knew that our journey was going to include those places and those people, but an instant later, everything changes and those certainties that we maintained with unwavering faith vanish before our eyes.

When this happens, life can seem heart-wrenching and terrifying. We move from grief to rage to denial to total shut down. Maybe you go in a different order on those responses, but those reactions are common when life plans are obliterated.

However if we can continue breathing (and you can do this – I promise you it’s worth it), we will begin to heal. The plans that we had once believed to be set in stone were just a prelude to the real story that was yet to be revealed. When you lose these parts of your life, you will be led to alternate scenes, new characters, and completely different adventures that could not have occurred in the previous setup. Your foundation isn’t shaken but rather strengthened by these trials. While we likely would never want to repeat those painful experiences, time often proves that we can be better for having gone through them.

In this moment, I am so very sorry if you are in this place in your life and hurting within your soul. I wish with all of my heart that the pain would disappear and that the memory of this moment would go with it. Healing takes time, but you can survive it. Just keep breathing and keep going. Give hope a chance and let faith do its thing.

Your story is still unfolding and the best chapters are yet to come.

Much love to you always.  Jo

***Thank you Janie at https://authentically50.wordpress.com/2018/06/27/7-day-bw-photo-challenge-day-four/ for tagging me to participate in the 7 Day Black & White Photo Challenge. The rules are straightforward. Seven days. Seven black and white photos of your life. No people. No explanation. Challenge someone new each day.

I am tagging Shalini (a.k.a. Fablini) at https://bookreviewsbyshalini.wordpress.com/ for day 2 of the challenge. The post attached to this link is a beautiful poem that Shalini wrote a couple of weeks ago. She is a rockstar of a reader and reviewer, but I believe that she also has a book in her just waiting to be written, too. 🙂

As always, please know that anyone who is tagged should feel zero pressure from me regarding actual participation. Although I would always love to see your photos and read your posts, I fully understand that we already have plenty on our to do lists. Participate if you would like. Don’t if you would rather not. No worries either way. Just know that I was thinking of you. Much love! 🙂

Battling the Blues — The Bright Side

I wanted to share this beautiful post written by a lovely new blogger. Annie’s writing can be found at https://thebrightside247.wordpress.com/. Her words serve as another reminder that there are so many people around us who face these challenges everyday. The link to the referenced post is below the pic. Wonderful work Annie! ❤️

I am so flippn’ joyful that… For over twenty years now, I have been dealing with chronic pain. It never goes away; I just have different degrees of discomfort.

via Battling the Blues — The Bright Side

Depression is Not Black and White

chickadee - soft (greys)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Much love to you always.  Jo

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

***Thank you to my darling friend https://authentically50.wordpress.com/2018/06/27/7-day-bw-photo-challenge-day-four/ for tagging me to participate in the 7 Day Black & White Photo Challenge. The rules are straightforward. Seven days. Seven black and white photos of your life. No people. No explanation. Challenge someone new each day.

For day 1, I am tagging Kim at https://itrippedoverastone.com/.  Kim is a light in the dark to so many, and I am so incredibly blessed to call her my friend.

For those who have known me via my primary blog https://momentumofjo.com/, you won’t be stunned to hear that I am not particularly interested in rules of any kind (thus my black & white-ish photo) nor will you be shocked to read that those whom I tag should feel zero pressure from me to participate or follow the requirements as written. Although I would love to see your photos and read your posts, I fully understand that we all have plenty on our to do lists. Participate if you would like. Don’t if you would rather not. Whatever you do, just do it in your own style. Much love! 🙂

Working Through Mental Health Heaviness with a Little Gardening

Momentum of Jo

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…

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Sometimes I Feel Like I’m Losing the Battle With My Mind

Momentum of Jo

I hate feeling this way. It’s like my mind decided to take a trip to Crazyville, and I can’t get off the damn bus.

It frightens me when I feel this way. I don’t like facing the sense of being out of control. My thoughts race. My emotions whipsaw back and forth at random. And I can’t even tell you what set it off.

Maybe my hormones bought a ticket on the world’s crappiest roller coaster. Maybe I’m overwhelmed with the endless day to day everything. Maybe I’m tired. I just don’t know, but that almost makes it worse. I am a looney without a cause, and I don’t like it. I feel lost.

But what I do know for certain is this – the main thing to hold onto during these rotten mind screw moments is the knowledge that what feels like reality in this moment is not actually…

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