a thing needs to get lost,
never to be found again,
before I realize just how much
it really meant to me while I had it.
the sparkle in her eyes
when I’d tell her the secrets of my heart…
and the fire in them
when I’d tell her the pain in it.
I never expected to have a “her”
in my life.
I never expected “her”
to last twenty years…
Three years later,
three years since the end,
I’m more convinced than ever I
never will again.
Sometimes a thing,
like this one,
doesn’t get lost.
It is taken.
for what seems like no reason at all.
That pain never heals.
My friend Dawn shared a video that touches on something that I have been considering and trying to figure out how to express for a long time. Thank you so much for sharing this, Dawn. I have had SUCH turmoil in my spirit for SO long about the things shared in this video – and now, that’s just gone.
Before 2015, and even for a short time after my father died – while I was still in denial – I was who and what Dawn expresses throughout this video. I believed. I didn’t believe in religion – I had already fought my battles with that and overcome and undone the hold religion had had on me as a child and teenager, because of the way it was so misused and so abusive and manipulative. I had not (and still have not) completely overcome the trauma of that abuse, but I am much farther down the road of recovery. I didn’t believe in “that” God – but in the Source. A higher power. An energy. And I believed in signs.
I believed in our ability as humans to connect with higher spiritual energies and forces and to receive guidance and to guide others. I knew that I had a gift and that I always had – I was able to understand that part of the reason I was so strongly opposed to religion was that I had always been more connected to that source than to buildings and books and that the source was found in the natural world that I had adored and revered throughout my life. I believed in the power of nature to heal, to guide, to teach, and to comfort. I believed in life, and not death.
I had faith – so much faith. I was positive and more happy and at peace with life and with myself than I had ever been, and all just felt right. Real. And yes, peaceful, even in times of pain and struggle. Even though I was at this place and knew I had been awakened and was living with my eyes and my heart open, I struggled with the physical complication of depression and anxiety – not because I didn’t believe in good or higher power or whatever you want to label it but because my body didn’t manage its chemicals very well.
When my best friend was diagnosed with cancer, and I was going through a loss of a different kind along with that terrifying and excruciating experience with my best friend, I held fast to my faith despite the creeping depression. My father died unexpectedly one week after the one year anniversary of her diagnosis with terminal cancer, and I continued to hold fast, knowing that he had been prepared and ready for his own death for some time. He had struggled and suffered for many years, and though his death was unexpected (diabetic coma leading to stroke and then to the sepsis which eventually shut down his body one organ at a time over the course of five days), he was at rest. At peace.
For another 8 months my best friend fought and struggled and suffered, and I was there. I was there until she pushed me away and asked me not to be. She did this with many, to be fair – she was afraid, she lost her ability to cope, and instead of realizing t was a brain tumor and fear speaking for her I believed it was what she really wanted and thought I was respecting her wishes. Weeks went by and during this time my faith began to waiver and my grip began to loosen on that rope that had always held me through those difficult times. She passed away 8 months to the day that we buried my father, and in that moment, part of my soul quite literally died along with her.
Since then I have struggled. I slipped so far down that taking my own life was an option and something I planned out and would have followed through with and completed had something inside me not spoken up and cried out to my husband for help. I don’t know why that happened, aside from my fear of leaving my son without a mother and destroying him, but it did happen and because of his help, and my willingness to fight a really fucked up system, I was able to finally get the help and the medication that I desperately needed. I still struggle. I still rarely leave my home. But in so many ways, I AM better.
In the spiritual areas, though? I have continued to struggle the hardest there. To founder. To nearly drown only to be held afloat by the tiniest life preserver with the thinnest thread attaching it to me. That life preserver has been comprised of my son, of music, of art and photography, and my unwillingness to just pretend like I’ve been ok. I found more strength in vulnerability and allowing myself to share my reality than in “faking it.” Only through doing that was I able to cross paths with some of the most healing people I’ve had touch my life in the past year. People who have encouraged me to continue to share and to have faith and hope, if not in healing, and the possibility of mending and growing and learning to live with the ache of grief, loss, and the “not understanding” or not having the answers or the closure I thought I needed.
Dawn has always been one of those people, and I am so grateful. Even though Dawn and I may be on slightly different paths in career and life in general in many ways, we also share things in common that connect us in very special ways – cancer, loss, grief, “the struggle,” seeking the way (whatever that may be for each of us) – and, what she expresses here about “giving it all away” is so accurate and in tune with where I am…
And that is the other issue that’s been weighing on me: the issue of why I give away (or dump out, as someone once said to me, and I can’t help but laugh at that because it’s so close to true so much of the time) so much stuff – just give it away with no real concern about marketing it or branding it or selling it. “Why do you just give all this creativity and energy away for free? You don’t even try to gain followers or build your brand.”
Because…I don’t want to. I create for the same reason that I breathe. I don’t WANT to make money from it. Making money from it takes away the spiritual connection and soul that I want to express. I LIKE giving myself away, as it were. I LIKE sharing myself and my creative stuff.
I used to like working on computers and tinkering and writing weird programs and so on, and then when I let people convince me to turn it into a career the heart got lost. It became stress. The same thing happened with my photography. I let people convince me to “work harder” and to get into shows and to build a site to sell it and so on, and it became stress instead of joy.
I don’t need to sell these things and I don’t want to sell them. I don’t feel like they can be valued by a price tag and that if they are then it somehow takes away from the true value of what is there. You can’t put a price tag on peace – your own or anyone else’s. It is PRICELESS. And if anything I have to offer can bring that to me or to anyone who shares in my creative endeavors, it’s absolutely worth the “freedom” – at many levels.
Ultimately, as Dawn shares, it’s healing for me to “give it away” because it’s healing for me to create – it’s my PURPOSE to create. I’m going to create regardless and if I feel that giving it away and even just possibly being of help to someone else, even if inadvertently, can be a part of that process…well, why shouldn’t that be free? A lack of monetary value doesn’t make that worth nothing. At least, not in my soul…
Sharing is priceless. It helps me to believe – and it helps me to believe even more when other people cross paths with me via my creative sharing and say, “hey, I believe, too!” or better yet, “hey, I know the struggle so well but I’m hanging on, too. Let’s hang on together. Let’s learn together. Let’s share. Let’s grow together.” Those people exist. Many of you who are regular readers of my blogs, or listeners of my music, or followers of my photography, have shared with me that you are those people.
While I love that others find success in selling their creativity and I even often purchase it from them, it’s just not something I want to do with the things I share creatively online. I need that connection – at least right now, that connection is worth far more to me than money ever will be. I want to be better. I am, at this time, extremely blessed to be able to survive and work on becoming better and not worry whether there will be food in our mouths or clothes on our backs or a roof over our heads without me having to sell my soul to cover it. I am so thankful for that – for my family.
I’m SO grateful that Dawn’s shared this and that it’s available for me to share with you. This has been on my heart for so long and I’ve not been able to figure it out until now. Thank you again, Dawn. So much!!
I encourage you to watch Dawn’s video and listen to her story, which you can do by clicking here. In many ways – especially the spiritual things she speaks about – it mirrors who I was and who I am re-becoming. It inspires me to continue to seek my own heart and hear it, as well as that of whatever this higher power has to offer me.
I hope that you will find some inspiration or encouragement in it, as well…
All the love,
Today I received the most unexpected “thank you” note. It’s said, “thank you for sharing your story with me,” and had a nice note alongside that spoke about art and creativity and the healing of trauma, grief and broken spirits.
I want to thank YOU, for much the same thing.
I think we often forget that a person’s art IS their story – regardless of the type of art they create – and that’s where I’ve focused my mind this afternoon. When we create any kind of art, even when it’s not a piece of writing that “explains” what’s in our minds, we are actively releasing SOMETHING. Whether it is good or bad, whether it is joy or pain, beauty or darkness, we are actively expressing our hearts in any creative endeavor that we are a part of.
I truly appreciate the kind feedback here, at Instagram, and all the other places. I appreciate YOUR art and stories so much. It’s a wonderful way to remember that we are really all the same, just living our own stories…even when we aren’t sharing our own out loud.
Thank you for the kind response to my sharing of my music. I was really very unsure whether it was “worth” sharing, since I only create it as a hobby. Turns out it’s much like my experience with sharing photography and writing – people enjoy other people’s art, they enjoy SEEING another human being, and you get to know other people who create the same kinds of art, whether it’s photography or writing or music…
I’ve enjoyed “meeting” so many different people since I started putting that stuff out there. It’s a blessing to get to know and learn from you.
It’s always been one of my greatest joys to share my creative pursuits and my spirit with the world. Thank you for encouraging and reminding me how important it is for a creative person and artist of any kind to do that.
I’m thankful for, and blessed by, you. Keep expressing yourselves in your ways, too. And stay awesome.
All the love,
There is nothing like the joy of a child, or your love for that child and that joy.
It’s snowing here tonight – very lightly, compared to our snow in December, but snow nonetheless. I have a memory that always returns to me when it snows here in Alabama. It is a memory of a father watching his only child play outside in an Alabama blizzard at something like 9PM, darkness never bothering the child and snow never failing to fascinate and excite.
I remember this man watching this child and seeing a sparkle in his eyes, despite his misery at being outdoors in the cold, dark night, wind howling and snow blowing from what seemed like all directions.
I can see him suffering at the hands of neuropathy and overworked muscles and joints, every step a sharp pain and every breath a hope for the snow to stop and the pipes not to freeze. But I can also see him glorifying the excitement and the newness of the snow in the child’s eyes and spirit, and struggling to roll the three parts of the snowman just in case it melted the next day.
Turns out, that snow lasted for almost a week, there was no power until days after the snow had melted, and the man saved the child from frostbite by giving the child his own full faced toboggan halfway through the snowman building process.
This man was willing to suffer for his child. He was willing to forgo the knowledge that his body would hate him the next day, that he wouldn’t be able to go to work (even though there was a blizzard his factory didn’t care – he was a supervisor and was expected to be there, no matter what).
He didn’t care that he was hurting or that he would pay a price for the temps in the teens and the random but grand night adventure. He played. He laughed. He threw the child in the air and caught the child. He didn’t let her fall. He never let her fall.
This man was my father, and this child was me. And I will NEVER forget that night or that blizzard, not as long as I live. I will never forget the milk and the goat cheese and the freshly churned butter and the wax paper wrapped venison and squirrel that he’d taken for us and cleaned and processed himself, literally buried in a drift of snow, or the cooler on the deck full of all the condiments and other refrigerated foods.
I will never forget his smile. His laughter. His attempts to run and to make six foot four inch snow angel and perfect lines of size sixteen footprints right alongside my own. I will never forget the light in his eyes, even in the dark, even in pain. I will never forget how warm I was when he would hug me up in his own coat or the comfort in the voice I have almost forgotten saying, “how do you like the snow? Are you having a wonderful time? Do you see and feel the magic?”
I am thirty nine now, and have an eight year old child of my own, and suddenly tonight I realize the sacrifice that was a part of what was one of the best memories I carry in my soul. I know now what he gave to me – not just suffering the cold that southerners “can’t bear,” or staying up late, or giving up his recliner and his comfort. He gave me his time. He gave me his patience. He gave me his love. He gave me his heart.
When you have a child, and you love that child, that’s what you do. It’s not even a choice. It’s just what happens. You don’t think about your own comfort, even if you repetitively say, “I don’t know how long I can stand this cold!” You just…do. Because the child brings out the magic and the joy that’s been buried in your soul by an exceptionally long overworked-with-nothing-to-show-for-it run.
You realize you have everything right there in your arms, and no amount of pain (physical or emotional) or cold or worry about the future is going to stand in your way of that moment. That now. That memory.
That’s what I experienced tonight. Tonight I became my father. And now I sit in bed and weep tears of both longing and joy. Because I was raised, protected, loved and spoiled by a loving man. A faithful man. A steadfast and gracious man. A good man, despite his flaws.
Watching my boy, and playing with him tonight in the cold and the wind and the little bit of snow that presented itself, I realized that I carry that within me and I am capable of giving it to my baby. Although eight years old, and someday 39, like me, my baby he will always be.
I love you, Daddy. And I am so grateful for the 36 years I had with you. Thank you for the life you gave me, and the heart you taught me to have. And thank you for the snowman.
Session tonight was…emotional. It was one of those tearful, snotty, sobbing sessions – one of those ones that I go into wishing I could slide down a razor blade into a bucket of alcohol instead because that would hurt less, but at the end of it am left calmer and numb and call my mother back on the phone and say, “hey, I love you. Despite all you do to make me hate you, I love you, and that’s why I have done the things I have done.”
I’m trying very hard to accept and continue to be myself, and appropriately deal with my mother, even while many people in my life are dumping their opinions and unwanted advice on me like seven dust on a yard full of fleas.
I believe that…
No one has the right to tell you how long your grieving should last or how fast or when you need to move on, not even your own mind. Follow your heart.
No one has the right to judge or hurt or ignore you – especially when they call you “friend.” Don’t believe them when they call themselves your friend. Friends don’t do those things – not on purpose.
No one has the right to tell you how to live your life or how to be who you are. Don’t listen to them. Don’t try to manage or live your life based on other people’s double standards.
No one has the right to make you cry. Don’t believe anyone who tells you that your tears are your own fault.
Just because you’re not dealing with things the way someone else is dealing with things is irrelevant – they’re not living YOUR life or YOUR situation or walking in YOUR shoes.
That said, sometimes we care about other people so much – the people who do these things to us – that we continue to try. We continue to take responsibility for them when we know or believe we have a responsibility to keep them safe – especially when they’re mentally ill or senile or sick…
Because while I DO believe in taking responsibility for our lives and in taking care of ourselves, I also believe in taking care of others – even those who have hurt us – when they need to be taken care of – especially when they are mentally ill.
If my husband, for example, had given up on me because of my depression and actions and words (or lack thereof) – and Lord knows how many bad episodes there have been throughout our relationship – if he’d walked away to take care of himself or because he decided not to “allow” it anymore, I’d be dead by now. I’d be dead two or three times over. And that’s the truth. But this post isn’t about my depression. It’s about my mother.
Whoever reads this gets to have their own opinion. That’s fine. But don’t comment to me about how no one has the power to make a person do or feel anything unless the person hurting allows it because that’s bullshit. That’s what my therapist and I have been talking about in session tonight – how that’s all I’ve been hearing for three days now from different people around me regarding my mother, and I’m sick of it.
People’s words – or even lack of them – can HURT. People DO cause tears and pain and it has nothing to do with what someone is allowing to “control” their emotions. That’s a copout and it’s blaming the person feeling the pain for feeling pain that they didn’t bring onto themselves.
Sometimes a person can’t “walk away.” Sometimes there is no choice but to allow it to continue to some extent, or even fully. Sometimes there is no other option but to bide your time and wait for your moment to “escape.”
So for those people who keep saying things to me like, “why do you “allow” it to continue this way,” or telling me how I am only responsible for myself, I have a question (or two or ten):
How many times did YOU choose to allow someone to continue hurting you (in ANY way) because you loved them, or because you FELT you had a responsibility to take care of them (whether you actually did or didn’t)?
How long did it take YOU to start blaming yourself instead of someone else for how they “made” you feel? I’m sure you probably ALWAYS blamed yourself for the actions or behaviors of others, right? I’m sure you NEVER, ever were hurt by their words or actions and only blamed yourself for “allowing” it. Pfft.
And then, how long did it take you to STOP blaming someone else? Or do you still say things like, “he is/was such an asshole,” or, “she is/was such a control freak,” or, “they were/are so ridiculous?”
You know what? He/she may have been or may still be those things. That’s the role some people play in the world. And they’re hurtful and they ARE to blame for the pain they cause. And you may not always be to blame for “allowing it to continue.” Every situation is different. Don’t judge mine.
From my therapist:
“Maybe a person’s situation doesn’t allow them to fully escape the person hurting them. Maybe a person judging, or telling you how to live your life and deal with your situations, even when you agree with a lot of their advice and wish that it COULD work for you, just doesn’t get it. Maybe they don’t or can’t grasp the full scope of your situation.
Or maybe, just maybe, other people just don’t have the heart or the character you have – not everyone is strong enough to endure mental illness or abuse and still love the person or care for the person who has or does hurt them (emotionally in this case), and not want them to hurt themselves, and want to protect them from dying or care for them while they are dying despite the pain they themselves might be feeling, or want to try to help them to help themselves.”
And so this all sums up where I currently am on the situation with my mother. Her idle threats don’t scare me. State laws don’t scare me (at this point). But I DO have a responsibility to take care of a woman who has no one but me and is literally going senile.
Not eating or taking care of herself.
Becoming a danger to herself and others.
Even if that care exists only in bringing in outside help and even if it means having to sometimes be exposed to her narcissistic and emotional abuse, I DO have and carry that responsibility.
She’s not my mother, but she used to be.
Sometimes she was.
Until session tonight I’d forgotten that sometimes she was normal.
Sometimes she helped me with school projects all night until they were finished (even if only because she wanted me to get an A for her).
Sometimes she cooked meals instead of delegating that task to my father despite his working, too.
Part of her controlling behavior was keeping the house spotless and sanitary and that’s was, in some ways, good for me and my health and well being.
Sometimes she made me clothes, with her own hands, because they couldn’t afford to shop for them.
Sometimes she hugged me, and meant it, even if I never remember her ever telling me she was proud of me unless it was in front of someone else.
There were others, but I’m finally sleepy now and will save them for later…
Tonight, my therapist cracked open a whole new set of memories from my childhood with my mother that I had blocked in the process of trying to block the bad ones. And tonight she made it a point, in “forcing” me to share some of those better memories, to remind me that despite my mothers illnesses, she is human – just like despite my illnesses I am human. That’s the thing I have kept trying to get people to understand about my heart and why I struggle so with the whole situation since my Dad died.
There’s a song by Rascal Flatts called, “What Hurts the Most,” that comes to mind and while it is actually meant to be about a romantic relationship, it reminds me very much of my relationship with my mother throughout my life. There are these moments – or have been – of being so close…and what hurts the most is not knowing how it could have been to have had her as my mother consistently when every now and then there would be a little taste of her being kind, being motherly, not hurting me…and those are the parts my heart still carries that keep me in this place of caring…
Don’t. Judge. A. Heart. You. Don’t. Know.
Don’t. Judge. A. Life. You. Don’t. Know.
Don’t. Judge. A. Life. You’re. Not. Living.
Partially rewritten from an old instagram account – the one that used to bear this username, I wanted to take a moment to catch up with you and tell you, in short, I’m doing a 5k in two weeks.
I know, I know. What!?? My husband has been helping me prepare and is doing it with me, along with our little pup. It’s been a definite lesson in learning to listen to my body. Yesterday I made my best time, averaging just at 15 minutes per mile, which is basically shit for a runner but a miracle for someone pushing through with chronic pain.
I suffered last night. Today I can hardly move. But this evening, weather permitting, we’ll be out again, pushing that time. Why? Because I WANT to. Neighbors and acquaintances alike are openly calling me crazy and expressing concern for my sanity more than my safety but using my safety as the key words, and I want to combine two things (this older writing rewritten for the now and a piece I wrote last night) and share it with you. Why? Because it helps me to share.
Walk A Mile in My Shoes
I wrote this a while ago but was afraid to share it because I didn’t want to be seen as a complainer or as weak. This is what the stigma of invisible disease does to people. My friend sent me a challenge to share my truth as I used to – it’s called the #vulnerabilitychallenge. So, I AM going to post this & not be insecure, & know I am not complaining.
If you have loved ones with CI or chronic pain, be patient with them. They can’t control their bodies & battle with them every day & some days every second. It’s hard to live with pain, especially invisible pain. Try to give them a break.
Literally hours ago I felt like this black cloud over my head was lifting. I felt…happy. I got excited because the depression was leaving. But what I forgot is that it never leaves. It just rises & falls like the temperature…or the ventilator that kept my dad alive during his coma.
I realized I keep waiting – waiting to get better when I know I never will. I may not necessarily get worse, but never better. That’s what CI means. So I do the best I can…but forgive me when I suddenly crash, or snap at you, or act out of sorts or distant. It’s not just a mood. It’s not just pettiness or whining. Its not selfishness or taking you for granted. It’s fibrolife or a celiac flare. Don’t be angry with me & fuss at me or cuss at me or take it personally. Worse yet, don’t compare me to yourself or others – especially others with CI or depression.
Instead, just take a moment to try to imagine your skin feeling like it’s on fire. Feeling like your legs are wrapped in barbed wire, and let down because it’s backpain again tonight, first headache in a while, leg cramps, stomach cramps, everything hurts, and it’s stress. My body reacts very bitchily to stress – especially extreme stress, like my preparations for this 5K.
The day has settled down & now it all catches up with me. Don’t hold it against me if I don’t cope well with stress. But rest assured – I WILL walk on, I WILL keep pushing through, and I DO love you. But I am also upset with certain aspects of how I’ve been approached recently.
It’s comparison that gets to me. Tonight I was reminded by a film I watched during this painsomnia marathon how my mother has always doubted me and how sensitive I am to rejection, being doubted, being abandoned as the weak or the crazy one…and how that has been feeding my insecurity lately from several different directions. This all in turn reminded me that I am plenty “enough,” and never “not enough” or “too much,” at least not for MYSELF, which is what matters, and I started thinking about how even though I know it will never happen, anyone who doubts me needs to stop judging and assuming and just sit back and watch me succeed despite the challenges I face or my ups and downs.
Then I wrote this note (blog) that was amazingly well thought out and put together and accidentally deleted it because it posted twice but it was a glitch so when I deleted one it deleted the actual note (and yes I’m pissed). Sigh…
The whole idea was that I no longer believe that our thoughts alone create our experiences, or that life has “terms.” I believe that there is a reaction for every action and that regardless of our thoughts or best intentions sometimes bad shit happens. I don’t believe we can control our lives with our minds alone, and that our hearts and our spirits have just as much to do with it. I believe that our actions and reactions, good and bad, feed on themselves to create our lives, and I also believe (know) that our lives can be effected by the actions and reactions of others but that we ALWAYS have a choice in how we live and face our challenges.
I don’t believe in living life on life’s terms, I believe in creating my own regardless of what life has to say about it, even if that’s the harder way of dealing with things sometimes, and I’m sick of hearing people tell me lately that I need to accept life’s terms, I need to be careful with my body or I’ll make it worse, I need to just accept that I’m older or that I’m sick and so I can’t do the things I used to. Pffft. I know that they THINK that they have my best interest in mind, but they’re not ME. How can they know what is best for me – especially when they’re only a neighbor or an acquaintance I ran into in the dollar store? They can’t – not even just because they had an experience and found out what was best for them.
Look… Listen to me hard right now. How many people who get a cancer disganosis say, “ok, I’m terminal. I’ll just die now and not try to fight back?” Some may, I’m sure…but all the people I’ve ever known to get that diagnosis, in real life or friends/acquaintances online? They may already know they’re terminal and they’ll die but they still fight – 99.9% of people I know who have had that diagnosis have not just accepted it as “life on life’s terms.” I even asked Dorie one time, because I used to judge that choice and think, “if I end up like that I’d never choose chemo,” why she made that choice and continued to struggle with it even though it was that that was killing her and not the cancer… Her response? “It’s the only way I know how to fight this.”
My experience with Dorie and cancer and caregiving and watching her fight…that was the moment that I stopped believing in life’s terms and started believing in the human spirit and in the human heart rather than some stupid idea about how life works the same for all of us. IT DOESN’T. In a general sense, we all live and die. Everything in between? Not exactly the same for any two people. That was a huge lesson and realization for me. I’ve always known we are all different and we all do things differently and for different reasons. But that was my first slap in the face of how stupid it is to compare people or hold them to a standard we might think we have for ourselves but that can change in an instant based on any number of scenarios we may face.
Fighting my body but learning to listen to it at the same time has reminded me of that. Especially today, after reaching that milestone in my mile time. My hip and my knee – my whole right side from the ribs down, really, is screaming at me. But it’ll pass – and it would have screamed anyway, probably louder, if I hadn’t reached this point. It would all come in waves regardless of any choice I did or didn’t make – because hello…that’s how it works.
Anyway, all of this reminded me about comparison. That was the whole premise of this whole bit of word vomit to begin with. Don’t compare – don’t compare ANYONE but especially not people with mental or chronic or physical illnesses in general. It’s not fair, because we ALL do things and face things and accept things differently and at different times and in different ways and even on differently on different days.
I get that people may think I’m super crazy or annoying because I deal with life at both ends of the spectrum to an extreme and refuse to just exist or live somewhere in the middle but that’s because I don’t WANT to be or live a mediocre life. And, it’s also because I’ve always been a passionate and very free spirited person and I’ve always had to fight – it’s a learned behavior. I’ve always had to fight – those are hard words for me to “say” out loud, but it’s true and a realization that deeper discussion in therapy has helped me to accept.
I’ve ALWAYS HAD TO FIGHT and it is a LEARNED BEHAVIOR – my mother, my health (yes even as a child – mostly because of allergies and reactions which we now know was related to celiac but especially the time I had chicken pox and then scarlet fever and almost died when I was 7, which is what led to my heart issues as an adult), my depression, and a whole hell of a lot of people in my life as a young person (family, not people just randomly existing in my life, but yes, some of those…) who never accepted me because I was adopted and who always judged and hated me and belittled me because I was different…I was bullied a lot in school when people found out I was adopted – and I still have no idea exactly how that happened; because of how my “family” treated me I NEVER talked about being adopted to anyone. I guess there’s always that “one friend” in middle school… LOL I digress…
Rest assured – I may appear weak at times, especially when depression has me down – depression is the hardest and cruelest battle I face and yes, I face it head on daily and “fail” miserably sometimes in the eyes of others and even myself when I forget that surviving another day is a huge achievement some days, but weak is the farthest thing from reality that I am or that ANYONE with depression is. It’s the farthest thing ANYONE with ANY disease is, physical or mental. So just because someone doesn’t complain or express thoughts about their illness to you and you think, “ohhhh they’ve got their shit together, why don’t I or why doesn’t she or why doesn’t he?” Just don’t. Because they DON’T have their shit together. They’re just dealing with it in a way that makes it look like they do – and if they’re not talking to you about their struggles it’s easy to think they’re not struggling.
News flash – not everyone talks about their struggles. Some people are very private. Some only express their physical and emotional exhaustion when they’re alone in the shower or in bed at night crying themselves to sleep. Some express it with a scream into a pillow that no one ever hears. Some express it by not expressing it. Silence is a sound, too… I’m not one of those people that is very private, and that doesn’t make me a bad person or a weak person or an ungrateful person or a “not coping well” person… And tonight I’ve been reminded by art imitating life imitating art of how much I HATE to be compared to anyone else and how much I strive not to compare anyone else to myself or to others.
I don’t want to hear about what you approve of or disapprove of how I have a goal to make it through this 5k coming up with a “broken body,” or about what I should do or what I can’t do or what precautions I should take and so on and so forth. I CAN READ and I have been researching my physical conditions a lot longer than you’ve been thinking about all the ways my legs might not work during a 3.3 mile trail run. Speaking of which, it’s ONLY 3.3 MILES. It’s not the fucking Iron Man.
What I want is for you, if you’re one of those people, to just sit back and watch what I CAN do, despite my insecurity and fear and pain and my body that screams, “fuck you!” to me every time I begin and end a walk or a jog. I want you to sit back and choke on those words of doubt and judgments, even if you’re only thinking them. Because I will NEVER say them to myself and I don’t want to hear them from anyone else, and I don’t want to be compared to anyone else – especially not anyone else’s imaginary standards for me (which are generally double standards, anyway). Nobody does.
Tonight I’m laying here with heat on one spot and ice on another, and you know what? I’m relishing in it – I feel strong. I think I’m stronger than the doubters and judges in my life because guess what? I’m doing something besides worrying about what everyone else’s is doing. I’m focused on MY goal and MY current “dream.” And I’m gonna get a T-shirt for this particular experience, whether I come in first or 80th or dead ass last. But what I’m really gaining is a window back into myself. And that is priceless to me, even if it costs me more than I have to pay in the end.
Coping mechanism #1 for me in dealing with this deep depression I find myself in is creative expression. It’s a struggle to remain in the right headspace for it during this time of my life but I try to be patient with myself and encourage myself to allow my moods – no matter how low they may become – to inspire creation rather than to eliminate it. I don’t know HOW I do it, just that I do.
A lot of people I speak to say that when they are in a deep depression they find that they can’t find a desire to create, much less actually try to, and they ask me how I keep creating. I don’t really know.
I think, personally, that artists (by that I mean people who create unconsciously, and continuously, in some way) experience creativity and depression much differently than non-artists. Depression, sadness, heartache, melancholy – those are the times when my creativity as an artist soars. I can’t explain that. It’s just how it happens. I do frequently get into ruts, though.
I wish that I could help others to find an expressive way to cope with their depression and sadness but all I can really do is share what I create from mine. This is a photo (header image) I shot in my garden a few days ago, and I am working on composing music this weekend. I’ve titled the current track I’m working on “Escapism.” Not there yet with the track – but finding much comfort in the process. It helps being alone. Being alone with myself, my thoughts, my emotions, my tears, my melancholy…that is so very healing for me today.
I’ve stated above that I don’t know how to help people to find or spark creativity during an episode of deression but I’ve thought more about this, and I’ve come to this conclusion: I’ve been viewing it in such an objective way, almost as this “creative fire” that others seem to see in me, even when I am struggling with/in depression. That’s not accurate at all.
After sitting for quite some time tonight (thanks, insomnia) and considering it in a more subjective way, it’s become clear to me that fire is not accurate at all. There doesn’t HAVE to be a blazing fire inside you for you to keep going, for you to rise above whatever is going on in your life that is bringing you down.
A lot of people are under the mistaken impression that I must be doing fine because I’m posting – especially when I post “positive” stuff. Contrary to popular belief, there’s no fire here, y’all – there hasn’t been for over two years. But there’s an ember – there’s a desire and a wish to help someone else and feeling like I might be doing that helps me to keep TRYING to help myself.
Mostly that’s through my creative endeavors, but even with that I’m sporadic and unstable. In reality, behind the one post here or there that people see that convince them that I’m fine, I’m irregular in posting, I teeter back and forth between whether to share and then I openly share my confusion. I share some pretty obvious ups and downs and struggles…but I keep trying. I’m don’t see myself as “strong,” or anything if the sort.
Most days I’m not even “positive.” But I am TRYING (and then there are those who can’t see even the trying, much less do they think of me as “strong” or “capable”). What matters is how I think of myself. The actions I take. The words I allow my brain to absorb from my emotional self’s rants at me. But mostly in this whole process and experience of deression, I keep tending my embers. Sporadic though my “fires” may be, my embers are still hot. That’s all I can take credit for on that front, really.
NOBODY is perfect or has a perfect, pain-free life. EVERYBODY is hurting at some level and in some way or another, and all any of us really need is a glowing ember inside to inspire creativity (artist or not), strength, kindness, compassion, the ability to ask for forgiveness and to forgive, to overcome demons and struggles…
It doesn’t have to be blue-white hot glowing flames. A single yellow-orange ember is all it takes. Maintenance is key – and that’s a huge battle in living with/in depression.
I’ve spent the last hour reminding myself that life is about balance and cycles. Fires are always going to die out, eventually – it’s just the nature of things. But if the embers are always hot, the fire can be started again fairly easily. We just have to find the right “material” – the thing that works for us.
Depression loves to try to piss on your coals and tell you you’re unworthy. It CONSTANTLY reminds you that you’re misunderstood. On a daily basis mine reminds me that, “people will hurt you; they will let you down, ignore you, judge you, blame you, hate you, be unresponsive to your kindness, be impatient with your moods and emotions, turn their backs on you, stab you in the back, tell you lies, walk out on you, and hell, sometimes they will even die.”
Hey, nobody’s perfect, and we will do all of those things to someone else at some point in our lives, whether we mean to or not, or even whether we ever realize it or not.
Everybody perceives you and all the things you say and do differently. Every. Single. Person. You. Meet. Try to remember that when someone has issue with you and struggles to handle you during your struggle with depression. Also remember it when you have an issue with someone else, for any reason.
NO ONE is perfect. Try to be patient with yourself, and with others. We’re all just doing the best that we can, where we are, with what we have, one day at a time. And that’s OK. That’s life, and we have to stop fighting, keep flowing, and maintain the embers.
I hope that you’ll enjoy this post. I hope that you can find and experience what soothes and heals you this weekend, and that you’ll find YOUR best way to maintain your embers.