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.
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. 😉
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…
People are more lonely today than ever before. We have all heard this, but how is that even possible? We can send a message to someone on the other side of the planet and receive an immediate response. We electronically befriend and befollow (???) those whom we have not seen in decades. Our connections include people from high school and college, our jobs and our neighborhoods, a long wait at the grocery store checkout – basically anyone we know. Or kinda know.
Our having these connections does not mean that we receive honest insight into all of the significant parts of their days. Based on what we see online, most people are in romantic relationships, have children who excel at school, and take many exotic vacations with pedicured feet.
Those shiny updates may be legitimate, but they are by no means the full story.
We keep quiet about our most significant hurts. The dark realities are tough to face, and we often feel deeply embarrassed by them. The last thing we want to do is put them on public display.
That guarded approach is true for 99% of the public social media profiles you see. You may see an odd rough day post here and there, but the serious issues won’t make the cut. And that is a huge problem.
Because we are bombarded with endless fluff, we don’t see the dirt and devastation. We aren’t aware of the physical or emotional abuse that is rife around us. We don’t realize that so many incredible children are struggling desperately just to advance to the next grade. We have no clue that innumerable people we know are drowning in their feelings of low self-worth an hopelessness. And we don’t know that the perpetually cheerful neighbor a few doors down is battling suicidal thoughts behind the smiles.
More often that not, having a social media connection is akin to maintaining a surface acquaintance. That’s okay, but you need real interactions, too. Actual conversations. Shared meals. Genuine human contact.
People aren’t lonely because they don’t know anyone else. They are lonely because they don’t share themselves deeply nor do they directly support others in that capacity. We don’t thrive if we stay in endless hiding. As always, you don’t need to air your dirty laundry out for the world to see. God gave us politicians to fill that role, so consider that part taken. But you can take a quick break from technology so you can have an actual conversation that doesn’t involve YouTube at mealtime. You can get together with a true friend for coffee and trade emotional war stories. You can make a hands-free call in the car to catch up with a family member on the way home from work. You can turn off the mindless games and read a book that will boost your brain instead.
Our minds are rebelling against us because they are bored from a lack of stimulation, but we are also missing out on key requirement of our design. We have an inherent need for human interaction, and no amount of tech can replace that. The more we continue to exclude direct contact with other people, the more we isolate ourselves, and our societal mental health deterioration is a serious reflection of this problem.
Get out of your shell, and take a little time every day to step away from the tech. If you aren’t there yet, at least use it to make a call to a person who matters in your life. If calling isn’t your thing, write something worth reading. Something memorable. Something real. Just make sure that you are doing the thinking – not your tech.
Social media has its benefits, but never forget that the real story is behind the scenes. You have to get past the veil in order to see the truth of others, and you have to let people in so you won’t be alone in yours.
If you don’t feel like you can speak candidly with anyone in your personal life, consider taking up blogging and writing with a sincere voice. The community of friends I have met here is unlike any other, and they have taught me to be braver, more open, and more real than I ever imagined I could be.
For day 5 of the challenge, I am tagging Julie at https://juliehcares.com/. She is a sassy Texan with a such spirit and light. I am thankful that we met here Julie and look forward to getting to know you even better! 🙂 Hugs! Jo
I originally posted this on my primary blog momentumofjo.com. My thoughts went to this entry earlier this evening when I read a post by Danielle at daniellemhttpsariecolucci.com/ regarding her own struggles with depression. If I could share anything at all, I would want her to know that there is always good stuff around you, but you simply can’t imagine the magic that will be heading your way if you can grant life the time to make that happen. All you have to do is stick around, trust that pain and anxiety won’t be a constant in your life (it really won’t), and let the wonders of the universe come to you. And you can’t fathom it now, but some of those wonders will absolutely melt your heart in the most unimaginably beautiful way. ❤️ Big hugs to you. Jo
Over the past couple of months, I have not written about my strong belief in angels. I don’t ask or need for you to believe what I say in this entry, but I can’t share my experience without doing so here. Not that I would want to anyway. I owe them my life.
Twenty years ago, I almost died. There was no accident. I wasn’t suffering from a terminal illness. I just didn’t want to fight against my tormented mind and my broken heart anymore. It wasn’t worth it, and I wasn’t worth it. I was lost, and I attempted to take my life.
When the roller coaster of emotions was climbing upward, I could recognize that everything would be alright. I could see possibilities all around me. But whenever the imminent crash would happen, my ability to perceive the relevance of my existence wouldn’t merely fade – it would…
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.
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! 🙂
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.