A friend sent me a link for a photography contest. Although I’m the noobiest of photography noobs, I couldn’t resist checking it out. Upon looking at the rules, I noticed that one of the requirements was submitting a one minute video about yourself. So I thought about it. One minute to describe myself. One minute to sell my purpose and my vision. One minute to catch somebody’s attention and show them what I have to bring to the artistic table.
And the mere contemplation of the idea of trying to convey any of those elements absolutely terrified me.
I know what I love and what I enjoy. I recognize what I dream of for my family and what I wish for in my life. But I feel like I am hovering between two realities – a split personality with dramatically different approaches at life.
There’s the practical pay the bills get the job done persona, but there’s also the artist dreamer wisher side as well. It’s as if the left and right sides of my brain have taken up arms against each other and neither is willing to back down.
So when I have to think about sharing who I am and what I want, I feel deeply conflicted. It’s a question of what I should and have to do versus what I want and whom I wish to be.
I want both worlds, and I am both of those personalities. I just don’t know if one side ultimately has to win out over the other. In the immortal words of Jeff Goldblum, life finds a way.
For now I can tell you that I have such great anxiety at the mere thought of making a video that my neck and chest are literally covered in hives. Maybe I should just start with finding a nice oversized scarf to mummify my torso in and then go from there.
I was sitting at my desk at Enron. When you work on an open trade floor, there are always TVs streaming endless news reports. But there was a particularly terrible story being shared. I was shocked and deeply saddened to see the smoke rising from the building. It was a living nightmare. A plane had somehow lost control and hit that tower.
I called my father to ask him if he had seen the tragedy. As I shared what I was seeing, another plane appear on the screen. The floor had already been fixated on the live report showing the initial horrific crash, but silence instantly took hold only to be followed by a collective gasp as the second plane exploded into the adjacent tower.
I was so young and literally could not comprehend what had just happened. What was happening. I remember saying to my father, “Daddy! Another plane hit a second building! How in the world could that same accident happen again?” And he then put voice to the obvious reality that I had never imagined as a possibility. “Baby, that was no accident.”
Our country was under attack. Our people were under attack.
We went home almost immediately afterwards. I sat terrified in my apartment until every person I loved had confirmed that they were home, too. I watched the news reports in horror and cried and cried and cried. The fear was palpable and struck me and so many others at a deeply primal level.
It’s been 17 years, but I still feel such raw sadness at those memories. A dear friend lost her brother to that attack, and I always imagine how terrible it must be for her to have to see those stories and images played over and over again each year. Losing your family member is devastating at any point but having them stolen from you out of senseless hate is unimaginable.
I remember her every year. I remember him every year. I remember them every year. All of them. I won’t ever forget them, and I will always honor those who lost their lives trying to save them as well as those who continue to risk and give their lives to keep us safe today.
Cherish your days here, and recognize how immeasurably precious your time is. We must remember those who have gone before us and pray for those who give everything to allow us to live freely.
Those of us who lived through that day will heal, but we will never forget.
My prayers go out to all who are hurting. May you find peace and solace in your wounded hearts.
We all have down days, and some of those may almost drag us under. We don’t know how to work through the emotions so maybe we get a loose-lipped and dark and twisty with our feelings on social media. It happens. However there a delicate tipping point you can hit once you begin to feel validated by the negative attention. And if you don’t get out of your own way, you will immediately be setting yourself up to become your own worst enemy.
I posted the picture and sentiment above on Instagram earlier today. I love the memory of that beautiful morning, and I genuinely believe what I wrote there. After adding the photo, I wanted to see if any other posts or quotes spoke to my spirit, so I searched under the hashtags #loneliness and #depression. Biggest. Mistake. Ever.
I felt so frustrated at the endless barrage of posts that reflected outright self-sabotage and overt negative attention guzzling. It was even more disconcerting to see the number of followers and people leaving comments that directly cheered on the “bravery” (a.k.a. blatant unhealthy negativity).
So many entries said something to the effect of “I choose to be alone” or “I feel so lonely and don’t want anyone in my life” and included the #loneliness and #depression hashtags in the posts. In return they received hundreds or thousands of likes, e-high fives, “I agree” responses, and similar additional hashtags added into the comments.
What a complete crapfest of a story. This may sound ice cold but that is a personal pity party that has been posted for public approval. You don’t love to be alone if you feel the need to write about it on social media. If you must post about your love for loneliness and hashtag #loneliness for your followers on a platform with a billion other users, you are seeking out negative attention and feeding the monster once more.
People talked about how a single word from another destroyed their lives. I considered (but decided against) leaving the comment, “So how is that even possible? Is it like 42 for the universe, but instead in this case it’s a secret code word spoken only uttered the life-smashers?” Again. Total crap. If you are allowing one word to take you down, your problem is not the other person who spoke it. I don’t care who they are. No others have that power unless you choose to believe that they are right.
As for the bystanders (people leaving likes and cheers in the comments), how is liking and encouraging those posts you helping that person off their dark bandwagon either. The intentions may be sincere, but what message are we sending?
These writers and artists are brilliant beautiful people, but they are unconsciously sacrificing their opportunities to bring in more joy in exchange for more daily likes and potential followers. It’s a crappy trade my friends. No number of likes on a social media post will ever translate into sustainable love for yourself in real life. Trying to win over the fickle short attention span of the world of social media is a fruitless chase. Aim for winning over your image of yourself instead. The odds are better and the results will hold much much longer.
Maybe you don’t land ten zillion comments or likes for being happy, or maybe you don’t even get two. So effing what! You will still feel better when you get out of your own way. Your mind will find more clarity and balance when you validate the positive parts of your life and yourself. As I said before, focus on what you want in your life instead of celebrating what you are trying to escape.
This is a tough love post intended for people who operate with these behavior patterns as their standard, not rough periods here and there. We all have those. My hope is that my abrupt words will jar someone – any individual person at all – into recognizing that they are poisoning their own water if they continue to operate this way.
I didn’t write this post from a self-righteous place of judgement nor did my words come from emotions that I couldn’t directly comprehend. I struggled deeply with depression for decades, I embraced the blackness and believed the lies my mind fed me, and I barely escaped that period of my life alive. I sincerely believe that divine intervention saved me, and though I wouldn’t change my past, I would not wish for anyone in the world to experience the kind of pain I endured.
There are many elements of loneliness, depression, and mental health struggles that we cannot control. Don’t sacrifice the parts that you can change for the better. As you have likely heard, happiness is an inside job. If you can’t figure out how to find it, maybe start by trying to recognize what you might be doing to blockade it.
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.
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 twelve 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).
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 twelve 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. 😉
A dear friend of mine has a daughter who just began her new life at college. It’s not in Houston, but it’s only about an hour’s drive away. No biggie. She’s a good kid, a strong student, and the type of person whom you know will be successful. Life has dealt her some very hard kicks, but she is resilient and will not be defeated by the adversity that confronts her.
But she is drowning in this new world of college. The days have barely begun, and all she can focus on is getting back home. Her separation anxiety is off the charts, and she is missing her family to the point of being locked in place and utterly inconsolable. She feels like she is going under and sheer panic has taken hold.
I understand this feeling far too well. My husband and I went on a trip overseas many years ago. While we were there, I badgered him into taking the hotel’s Cliff’s Notes version of scuba (a.k.a “An Inappropriately Brief Summary of How Not to Die While Swimming Deep in the Ocean”). An 18 year old trainer gave us the ten minute speech (that in reality should have been explained in a classroom over multiple days of training), slapped some tanks on our backs, and plopped us into the resort pool.
I. Freaked. Out.
We are talking a complete and total meltdown. Massive claustrophobia. Unimaginable terror about being unable to get enough oxygen. Horrific fear about drowning. All of it. I was very literally hyperventilating into my regulator and tears were streaming down my face inside my mask. It was absolutely terrifying.
My husband had been swimming a few feet away from me and immediately recognized that I was circling the mental drain. In his old soul wisdom, he knew that he had to intervene and proceeded to do something that truly saved me. He grabbed my shoulders, pushed me up out of the water, and said with a seriously annoyed tone, “Dude – Stand up.”
In my terror (a.k.a. complete doofus attack), I had literally forgotten that we were in the most shallow of shallow ends. Of a frickin pool. At a hotel.
The water was maybe 4 feet deep. Probably more like 3.
Embarrassing. So so embarrassing.
The anxiety attack was immediately gone only to be replaced by an “I’m a dumbass” attack. As I was too humiliated to continue showing my face above water, I dropped into the pool once more and of course knew from that point on that I was a-okay. Later that day I did a 40 foot dive without batting an eye. A couple of years and multiple certifications later, I went to almost 140 feet. But this isn’t about that kind of depth.
We sometimes feel like we are drowning in a flood of debilitating fear when we are in unfamiliar surroundings. We lose our sense of safety and control, and we begin to spiral wildly. The trick is to recognize when the depth of terror is of our own making. Sometimes it takes another person to jar us out of our anti-fantasy, but ideally we learn to find a way to recognize the delusion so we can then snap ourselves out of it.
Change is terrifying, and staring into the unknown rattles us all. But more often than not, the water is nowhere near as deep as we imagine it to be. In most cases, we truly just need to remember to stand up.
The floodwaters of anxiety cannot be allowed to overpower you or steal your hope and joy. Stand up so you can see who is standing by your side in support. Stand up and be willing to distinguish what is a true threat versus what is simply unknown. Stand up and realize that you are okay in this moment and that you can release the panic that distracts your mind and obscures your purpose.
And after you have regained your confidence and maybe even laughed at the comedy of your overreaction, you can dive in once more and at last begin to see the world of wonders just waiting to be discovered. ❤️
I am genuinely passionate about writing. There is nothing comparable to the terrifying yet freeing feeling of putting your raw truth out for public inspection. I can handle the risk of judgement or rejection because I know that so many others need to understand that no matter how dark the moment may seem, there is always hope to be found. Breaking the silence about the harsh parts of our shared human experience is critically important so we can all be reminded that it’s not just us. That we are not broken. That we are never ever alone.
Posted by @texasbirdnerd on Instagram
However the challenge that I face as a blogger is that as much as I adore writing, I can’t turn these posts around in 5 or 10 minutes. They take a good chunk of time for me to compose, and I only seem to find that time somewhere between 11pm and 2am. Sadly that doesn’t jive so well with my 5am wake-up call and kids / work / life keep me jammed for the other waking hours.
Posted by @texasbirdnerd on Instagram
Furthermore the blogging community is so interactive that I remain in a perpetual state of feeling tremendously guilty about my inability to read 99.9% of the other bloggers’ posts including those written by my closest friends. I absolutely love reading all of them – truly. But I simply can’t keep up, and it makes me feel like a literary toolbag.
Posted by a clever young photographer (my daughter) @dragondaydreamer on Instagram
But then there’s Instagram. Although there are innumerable posts each day, you go through copious information in a few quick minutes. It’s much easier to support more of the community while leaving quick positive comments encouraging others forward. Like all social media, you can stumble into a dark bummer of a depressed you have serious daddy-issues kind of rabbit hole, but you can also kick that off your feed in two seconds once you recognize it.
Posted by @texasbirdnerd on Instagram
And on that note, please trust me when I tell you to stick with the happy, the amazing, and the educational. Don’t focus on the yuck and definitely don’t feed on the unhappy. Aim for the feel goods and the awe-inspiring. Put more good in to get more good out.
Posted by @texasbirdnerd on Instagram
While I took up photography a few short months ago, I have found myself absolutely smitten with it and always end up focusing on the nerdiest of subjects. (No, not fanboys. I prefer to marry those.) In the world of photography, I’m a nature nerd all the way. And much like writing, it makes me smile, soothes my soul, and appears to do the same for others in need of a mental respite from the racetrack of daily life.
Posted by @texasbirdnerd on Instagram
Although I will continue to write whenever I can find the time, I sincerely hope to see you on Instagram in the gaps in between. If you are already there, please look me up! I would love to support your work. And if you need tips on how to get started, let me know that, too. I would be happy to send along some tips for that as well.
Posted by @texasbirdnerd on Instagram
Best wishes and hugs to all of you!
Jo Price – Instagram ID @texasbirdnerd
Posted by @texasbirdnerd on Instagram
***All photos and writing contained herein are the sole property of the photographer / author. Use is prohibited without express written permission of the photographer / author. (c) 2018 – Jo Price Photography