In my former life – pre-kids, pre-marriage, pre-adulting – I would decide that I wanted to go somewhere on a whim and be headed that way within a few days or less. I love to see new places and experience new cultures, so traveling has always been great fun for me. In my current life, experiencing new cultures consists of visiting the latest Vietnamese restaurant that recently opened in an area strip center. You know. It’s the one by the 40th nail shop, dry cleaners, and Subway that can be found littered on every corner of Suburbia U.S.A.
I have an innate sense of wanderlust and have always wanted to visit a million different places on the planet. Unfortunately, there are two million reasons that stop that from happening. Work, school, schedules. Obligations, family, money. Reality. The other problem is that I work out of the house. While this is a huge blessing, it can also be very tough. While the rest of the family spends the day at the office or school, I remain here. Working out of your house can be extremely helpful, but it also means I spend almost all of my time here. I work long hours and don’t run out for long lunches. I don’t have time to go shopping or hangout with other moms in the area. Sometimes it’s can be very lonely. And when my work day ends, all I want to do is see my family and go out somewhere away from the house with them. However as they have been away all day, they naturally look forward to unwinding at home after their school and work days are over. I feel guilty if I go out without them, but I feel stir crazy if I stay home.
I want to jump in my car and drive for hours and hours to anywhere different and interesting. I want to plan trips to every corner of the (cornerless) globe. I have yet to see the Egyptian Pyramids, climb Machu Picchu, swim the Great Barrier Reef, or twirl in dizzy circles like a nun soon to be nanny on the slopes of the Alps. I still dream of photographing the incredible wildlife of Galapagos, making faces at the big noggins attached to submerged bodies at Easter Island, see the Northern Lights in person, or sit on the ocean floor as huge manta rays swim around me at a night dive in Hawaii. Seeing the beauties of the world through my phone screen is not enough for me. I want to breathe it all in. To take those journeys. To experience those wonders. To do more everything. And I want my family by my side the whole way.
But they usually want to stay close to home. And beyond that, short of having a long-lost unknown relative who has recently opted to pop a random massive check in the mail, that’s simply not possible in my life today nor will it be happening tomorrow either. It will be back to work, school, schedules. More obligations, family, money. Life as usual within these walls.
I’m blessed. Truly. I do know this. I love my family beyond measure, and I’m genuinely grateful for all of the realities that we are required to tend to each day. I just wish that I could either find a way to break out of the walls every now and then or learn how to fully accept living the vast majority of my hours within them.
I don’t believe that anyone should discard their dreams based on a moment’s perceived reality, but I can’t see how to surmount the realities at this point in my life either. The good news is that I know that life never moves in a straight line and incredible and wonderful surprises can appear when we least expect them.
Although I am feeling constricted in this moment, I ultimately choose to trust that the universe has bad ass plans in the works for my crew and me. I remind myself to breathe in the good in all of the moments and seek the magic in the smallest of our experiences.
Anything can happen and there are countless impossible possibilities that become spectacular realities every day. So this is my official shout out to the universal miracle request line. Bring it on baby because we are here and ready whenever you are!
Writing your honest story can be a rocky mental path to take. When I first started blogging, I went the anonymous route. I never had to worry if anyone I knew might be reading my posts. I didn’t concern myself with thoughts about if this person might think that I was referring to him / her or that that person might pick up on the reality that yes I actually was calling him / her out as a total jackass. And even though I could be brutally honest from that black box, I felt wildly disingenuous. I felt like I couldn’t possibly be writing my honest truth if I couldn’t own the words in front of real people in my life. So I shared my writing with a few people and then a few more and ultimately many people started reading my posts. At first I was okay with that, but as more time passed, I found myself editing the entries in my mind long before I even began to type the first word. My comfort level with regard to speaking my own unsavory truths has become paper thin. I just don’t want to rock the boat on my already tumultuous seas. To put it another more delicate way, I already have enough shit to deal with and have no interest in adding more to the therapy heap.
If you’ve been following my mental meanderings for months or years, you have probably noticed that I sometimes disappear from the blogosphere for several months at a time. In the past, this has stemmed from a lack of time or straight up writer’s block. But that’s not what has been happening to me lately. I am busy as all get out, but there have been stories and inspiration to spare. The problem is that I am so concerned about hurting someone’s feelings, overstepping my bounds, or saying the wrong thing that my mental edits have been leaving the remaining words with a dull hollow ring. The raw emotion is stripped away, and I leave myself with puddle deep platitudes.
I’m tired of running circles in my mind about the imaginary thoughts of others. I’m over worrying about if someone might misread what I’m saying or, even worse, might not misread my words. For better or for worse, I have been given this voice and the call continues to throb in my mind. My mental censors have been on overdrive for too long and I’m utterly sick of it. I’m going to write whatever I want to write and no one else has to read it. If it offends you, read something else. If you think it’s about you, you’re probably wrong, but maybe ask yourself why you think that or, more importantly, DON’T. Don’t worry about it. These are my ramblings. They aren’t about you. This is about me. My crap. My issues. My journey. It’s the Jo Show and there’s enough happening in my one woman circus without bringing in additional side acts to manage. I’m over the silence. I’m tired of the gag. Screw the filters. It’s time to write again.
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. ❤️
We judge ourselves with the harshest of filters when we are struggling within. We often feel like we are battered by our situations and our emotions. In those times of severe self-critical examination, we fail to notice the beautiful revelations in those moments. We can’t see that the storms that we are enduring will never define us yet they will give us definition.
Our cracked facade is never a sign of our being hopelessly broken but rather proof of our indomitable strength. The perceived faults are our true beauty and the scars are evidence of the roads upon which we have traversed and triumphed. Our lives are miraculous wonders and our stories are anything but happenstance.
Celebrate the rough patches. The sharp edges. The broken corners. The rugged beauty of our human existence is a true wonder to behold.
Don’t ever let the wind or water take you down. You can survive any storm that heads your way, and your being able to read these words proves how far you have already come.
Never give up, never give in, and always always always keep going. You have important things to do, and it’s time to let your true beauty shine.
We all have stories. Painful memories. Hurtful parts of our lives that we don’t share.
So often we feel like we are alone in these experiences. We deem ourselves broken beyond repair and remain silent to avoid judgement and further distress. The idea of highlighting these events is unthinkable. We just want to forget them and find a way to wipe the slate clean.
But what if the part of your life that seemed to knock you off track was actually the very thing that set you on your path? What if the toughest of times were designed to shape us rather than to shatter us?
If we can hold on through the roughest of times, we will be able to see the light in the darkness. You will find that the madness has meaning and that we are never alone in our journey. We are a part of something so…