I’m sorry but I can’t hear you.

Telling someone with depression that they are loved, that they are wonderful, and that it will get better is exactly like praising the beauty of a painting to a blind person. They hear your words but they can’t see their truth, enjoy their beauty, or feel the comfort they are meant to convey. Their disease has rendered them incapable of seeing any good in themselves and words to the contrary are empty of any ability to soothe them. 
Often, as someone who suffers greatly from depression but is high functioning, I have been told that I’m a great mom or a wonderful friend. My husband tells me I’m a fantastic wife and I often receive praise at work. None of it makes the slightest dent in my self loathing. I strive really hard to earn this praise. I give my all in every thing I do. I make a real effort to be a good person and to help others. All the while I’m convinced that I am a total fraud. I wonder how I can so easily fool everyone and how they can seemly forget all of my terrible, unforgivable failings. How can I be a great mom when every struggle my kids have had in their lives is because of me and how I let them down? How can I be a wonderful friend when I can tell you every moment where I said something stupid that probably hurt my friend’s feelings? Clearly I talk a good game because I’m not anything special at work but I can make them think I am. All the praise means nothing because I know I am truly worthless…I just hide it well. I am not the strong woman they see; I am a coward. I hide behind a persona so they won’t see the ugly truth of who I really am. Every person who has ever disliked me or abandoned me is a reflection of my true worth because they are the ones who see what hides behind the facade. They know the real me. 
Even on the days where I tell myself this is all the depression talking and I desperately try to feel the love I can never quite achieve happiness. There is always a cold presence waiting to wrap me in its arms and comfort me with the knowledge that I can end my pain and give up the pretence once and for all. It whispers to me that it will never get better because my true ugliness will always leak out the edges, tainting everything I touch. My every accomplishment no more than a testament to the gullibility of those around me. I tell myself I keep fighting for my family because I know the pain of my death would destroy them but another voice tells me the truth is that I am a coward. I can’t even enjoy the comfort that the idea of suicide and an end to my pain should bring because I don’t know whether I am a selfless martyr or a selfish coward prolonging everyone’s suffering. That cold presence tell me they’d be better off without me and I shouldn’t be so arrogant and self absorbed. How dare I force them to endure me when things would be so much easier for them if I was gone?
Telling someone with depression that they are loved, that they are wonderful, and that it will get better is like whispering into a room of loud, angry voices all demanding to be heard. The message isn’t received and even if it’s heard the other voices make a much more convincing argument.
I’m not saying to stop trying but just understand that what wants to eat us alive has the advantage. You are trying to get your message in and it’s already inside…feasting.

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Abandoned

How do you turn your back on your own child? I will never understand that level of coldness. I don’t care what age they are you will be ripping out their heart and tearing at their soul. Doing this once is shattering but after being let back in and -against all odds- forgiven, to do it again is cruel in a way I will never understand.

I can’t fathom a scenario where I could bear not being in my children’s lives. I could never callously cut off communication and never wonder how they are and what is happening in their lives. The mere thought has brought me to tears.

And yet tonight I am finally letting the pain wash over me and beginning to grieve over the reality that my parents do not feel the same way about me. A moment of careless words said in frustration amounted to a complete end to their involvement in my life and largely that of my children. It has taken a year to finally accept and now I will mourn and eventually come to terms with the end of our relationship, but I will never understand. Or forgive. I did the first time but I shouldn’t have to do it a second time.

How do you turn your back on your own child?

Finding our way back into the light

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If someone had cancer for most of their life and fought long and hard to survive, beat it time and time again and at 63 discovered it had returned, stronger than ever, would you criticize them for feeling defeated and wanting to give up the fight? Or would you show them sympathy for having suffered and fought for so long in an overwhelming and never ending battle an understand their agony and wish peace on them? Why is it then, when someone struggles their entire life with an illness that can’t be seen on an x-ray, is weighted down by social stigma and causes untold amounts of suffering and whose cause is not fully understood even though the illness itself is recognized as valid and real- why is it that when the person suffering can no longer go on are people so quick to judge? Depression is real. Mental illness is real. It isn’t just a bad day nor is it Hollywood style crazy. It is an enormous burden carried on the shoulders of many. It is a noose around your neck on a bright shiny day. It is a sneaky. terrifying stalker that stays hidden until its too late. Imagine wanting and needing help but being too afraid to ask for it because a diagnosis may hinder your relationships with people or prevent you from getting a job. Imagine being so afraid of the treatments available because of the side affects that you just suffer in silence until you can no longer go on. Imagine listening to people snicker or whisper when referring to someone as crazy or nuts and wondering what they would say about you if they only knew. Imagine looking at your life, thinking it is pretty great and yet being completely unable to enjoy it. Picture losing sleep for weeks on end and always feeling like every thing you do is wrong and you are not worthy of love. Imagine feeling like you will never feel happy, may never have felt true happiness and wondering if it wouldn’t just be better for everyone around you if you weren’t there to bring them down. This is the reality so many people live with, day after day after day. A never ending cycle of pain, fear, shame, confusion, desolation and isolation.

Yesterday a beloved comedian, Robin Williams took his own life. It got the conversation rolling with so many being supportive and sharing links to hotlines and offering to be there if someone they love needs it. This is wonderful and I’m sure Mr. Williams would have wanted his story to help someone else. However, right alongside the support comes judgement. People proclaiming suicide to be selfish. How dare that person take their own life! How dare they throw such a gift away! Its their families who are left behind that suffer the most! Sure, let’s just pretend that the human being that suffered in silence and took a huge and terrifying step to end their life did so without thought of anyone but themselves. Let’s pretend they didn’t agonize for weeks, months or years, desperately trying to believe the people in their life wouldn’t be happier without them. Let’s pretend that the act of taking your life is a smooth, delicate process that these people selfishly ease into and not a terrifying, painful, trauma. Let’s just forget that while others had bad days these people had bad months. Suffering so greatly, often in silence.If you can pretend and forget those things, I can see why you cast judgement. Lucky you to never have felt that way. Lucky you to have never been victimized by your own mind.

A friend of mine- who is often quick to be judgmental and to spout of his opinion-loudly- commented to me today that Robin Williams had it all and if he hadn’t been “an idiot addict” he would have had a great life and it was selfish for him to kill himself. He then said, ‘I mean I have never been an addict or depressed but…” I took the opportunity to enlighten him. I asked him to imagine being thrown into a hole that is cold, dark and scary. You can’t breathe, you feel like your entire body is weighed down and you have no idea why you are here and no idea how to get out. You are scared, alone and afraid to call for help because you don’t know what is out there in the darkness. Your only reality is your own inescapable agony. One day you are suddenly set free. Everything is bright and happy around you and you are relived to have survived the ordeal. Yet you have a lingering fear of being thrust back into that hole. You don’t know how or why it happened and it scares you that it can happen again…and then it does. Back down the rabbit hole you go and its worse this time because you know what is going to happen but not how to stop it. You may be trapped down there for days, weeks, months or even years. When you do come out you are terrified to tell anyone because being called crazy is devastating and labels taint everything. You live your life waiting for the next time you are plunged into the darkness. Imagine living like this for decades. Can you really fault someone for feeling like they can’t go on. Torture victims often beg for their lives and then eventually their death.

Every time I hear that someone has lost the fight it wounds me deeply. I understand their pain and I wish it could have been better for them, I don’t stand in judgement of their decision to stop the pain. I do feel for their loved ones because losing someone to suicide is a death for them as well. It is the death of that relationship and the death of their belief that things will be ok. The guilt, anger and grief must be all-consuming. Suicide is never the answer. Finding a cure for mental illness, removing stigma from the diagnosis and supporting those that are suffering is the only way back into the light.

This world breaks my heart

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It has been said on many occasions that I wear my heart on my sleeve. I am empathetic to a point of it being embarrassing. I cry easily and often. I don’t just read a book, I experience it. I don’t just see another’s pain, I feel it. For me, a picture truly tells a story and I have a passionate love affair with words. A song can break my heart and the mere idea that I’ve hurt someone will haunt me forever. I feel…deeply.
As I have recently had reason to read about the Holocaust , I am right now feeling thoroughly wounded. My soul feels like it has been shredded and I am clasping at the pieces, trying to hold them together. I am tender and sore in places no eyes can see. Images are embedded in my minds eye and torment me constantly. Images that go hand in hand with stories of incomprehensible brutality. I’m that person who captures bugs in my home and sets them free outside, how am I supposed to process the thought that a human being can do the things I’ve read about to another human being? How can I reconcile this in my head when every part of me wants to deny it’s very possibility? I want desperately to reach into those pictures and comfort the poor souls in them and to take that pain from their eyes. I want desperately for none of it to be real. I want desperately for it to never have happened or to have happened again. I want, I want, I want -desperately…but what can I do? This question creeps into my every waking moment and I have no answer for it.

Let down

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It’s a sad reality but a reality nonetheless, that a person can become accustomed to being let down. That isn’t to say it doesn’t hurt every single time but it can become so common place that you come to expect it and sadly, accept it. The feeling like you are the one in the wrong because your expectations are too high and that you just aren’t worth fighting for is a weighty burden to bear. The internal struggle over whether to just give up or keep fighting is intense. Do you turn a blind eye yet again or stand up for your own needs and demand to be treated right. Should you shut up and swallow your pain just to keep the peace or speak up and hope to be loved enough to be worth change. Is losing the one you love because they didn’t want to deal with what was wrong better or worse then never truly feeling happy?

Encouraging your kids to think

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Raising kids is such a daunting task at times. You want to do what’s right and to raise good, strong, moral future adults. There are so many books, magazines, online articles and fellow parents giving advice that it can get quite confusing. That is why I never listened to any of it. For me, raising my kids was something I did on instinct. A trial and error at times but for the most part I just went with what I felt was right. I encouraged their creativity and individualism and taught them to build their own moral compass and follow it down a path that felt right. There have been times that they have followed some upsetting and hurtful routes but in the end their moral compasses led them back home. All of us a little battered and bruised emotionally but wiser for the experience.

Tonight was one of those times where I felt immensely proud of my sons and their strong minds. I read aloud an article about a protestor who was arrested at a funeral for a police officer. He was protesting the formal march and funeral procession on the grounds that no other public servant receives such an elaborate farewell and he felt it was unnecessary and a burden to taxpayers. In order to get an un influenced opinion from my youngest I read it and asked his opinion without revealing my own. Without missing a beat he emphatically expressed his opinion, clearly stating the reasons for them.
This then gave me the opportunity to open him up to seeing the opposing side of the argument, which I did even though I agreed with his take on it. I did this in order to help him form his own opinion without the need to pass judgement of the other side. I wanted him to stand by his convictions while allowing himself to at least see the other perspective even if he couldn’t agree with it, which he did. I couldn’t have been more proud, hearing my son challenge the views presented in the media and to be able to so eloquently and emphatically present his opinion on the matter. Then to have him open his mind to the opposing side of the argument and to understand where the other mindset was coming from, even though he still did not agree, was exhilarating! Knowing he could carry on a passionate conversation without the need to tear down the person with opposing views is crucial to his growth as a person.

For me, I feel hope for the future each time I have a conversation like this with one of my kids. If we teach them to be active participants in their own lives and not mindless sheep then they can continue to grow, evolve and live lives with meaning.

Wanting to fight the good fight….

My quest to write more from a happy place has hit a road block -superstition.
I find myself wanting to write about how good things are and how happy I am but then I become convinced I will “jinx” it. Foolish I know and yet…….

When you believe in things that you don’t understand,
Then you suffer,
Superstition ain’t the way

-Stevie Wonder
Superstition

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