Rip off the mask, tear down the walls. Show the world my beautiful, vulnerable self!

Archive for the ‘depression’ Category

We All Get Depressed. Do You Go it Alone?

Alone Again, Naturally

Ever had one of those weeks where you started down the rabbit hole—and kept right on going? When you were fighting legions of ants, and the ants were winning? Where the lab work you’d scheduled was hung up at the insurance company because the doctor couldn’t see fit to do his part? When you got a rude awakening regarding who your friends really were, and how little even the real ones heard you whimpering in a ditch? When you knew you’d make it out eventually, but a hand up and help cleaning the abrasions and bruises would sure be welcome? When you realize all the talk about taking care of each other is well-received, but not so well acted on?

After living through one of those weeks, I’m coming to the conclusion alone truly is my natural state. When I do admit I’m struggling, the advice I’m given is so lacking in compassion, so full of “just suck it up. Get out of your house and do something” I realize all my posts about reaching out to people who are hurting are falling on ears deafened by years of hard knocks.

That’s when I remind myself I’ve managed to survive, and often thrive throughout my 60-odd years with little or no help from anyone. My daughter keeps telling me to ask for help, which is all fine and dandy if what needs fixed is a garage door, or a broken faucet. It’s an entirely different story when what’s broken is me. Funny, I learned not to ask for help for this very reason. All the times I told myself: “my friends have problems of their own” or “everyone is too busy to help me over this rough patch” turn out to be entirely accurate. They are all too busy, or immersed in their own problems. Why did I allow myself to believe it was any different?

We Learn to Detach, But is it the Best Way?

I understand though. They all have families, jobs, and a million other balls they’re trying to keep in the air. Some have serious health issues so why would they even begin to understand how freaked out I am that what’s going on with me has baffled my doctors for over 6 months, or that I’m fighting every step of the way to get answers? They already have theirs. One gently suggested my health issues might be resolved with psychiatry! As if I hadn’t written reams in my “eyes only” places about that possibility and come up empty handed…and still struggling.

It really makes me empathize with people who are depressed or suicidal. If they’re getting the responses I’ve been getting, maybe what we believe is true: nobody gives a flying fuck whether we live or die — unless we happen to have the bad taste to end things ourselves.

Even when I tried to explain that I needed to be sad for a little while, people were quick to refute my statement. How dare I take even one moment to be sad? What makes me believe I deserve to be anything but light-hearted and airy-fairy?

Re-setting My Mindset’m disappointed right now. In myself for believing; in the people around me who are slowly killing my hope; and for humanity as a whole which is so caught up in pretending to be OK, and failing to allow each and every one of us to be sad and need a little emotional support once in awhile that they don’t even mourn the loss of their humanity. Instead, they accept its demise like they accept the end of true communication.

Being without a computer for a few days gave me lots of time to think; lots of time to be completely disconnected.

Only 3 people actually reached out and I know they tried to understand. But their efforts were clumsy, either because it was a skill set that got little use, or because they didn’t know how to use it with me. I’m no less grateful for their efforts even if they mostly ended in frustration on both our parts.

Maybe that’s the real problem. We can talk ’til we’re blue in the face about being kinder; more compassionate. But we’ve lost the ability to actually be those things, or at least with someone we’re not close to and know well.

Sometimes I’m a Butterfly, and Sometimes, I’m a Turtle

Though I continue to fly like a butterfly, I’m starting to see I only do it from the safety of my with words on a screen. When it comes to real life; to giving and receiving compassion, I fear I’m destined to remain a turtle.

Still, the butterfly in me insists on getting up and flying once more, knowing if I hit another wall there will be no one around to straighten my wings or clean my wounds. For that, I’ll return to my turtle state until wounds heal or I’m ready to call it a day for the last time.

Yes, I always get back up and eventually resume my forward progress. Sometimes I’m more cautious but lately I realize I have nothing and no one to lose by forging ahead in my usual willy-nilly fashion. Those who feel the need to judge or disapprove quickly fall off my radar. Their opinions or rejections might sting for a minute but they ultimately fuel the inner fire that says “I will not allow you or anyone else to dim my light. You are operating from your own pain body. It has nothing to do with me, but says everything about you. The only person you limit with your behavior is yourself so screw you and the horse you rode in on!”

OK so I sound a little bitter. That’s on me and is one of the many things I choose to work through. My imperfections and pain body give me plenty to work on. But looking back for a brief moment, I see how far I’ve come. Most important, I see that progress was made alone; without anyone’s help. I’d like to continue believing life isn’t meant to be lived alone, but recent events prove otherwise. For now, it doesn’t matter that my absence goes unnoticed and unremarked. Someday, it might, but right now, I have enough on my plate that “someday” isn’t even on the menu.

Always Room for Gratitude

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I’m grateful for my resilient and self-sufficient nature.
  2. I’m grateful for the few friends who at least try, despite their own heavy loads.
  3. I’m grateful for my daughter who does understand and somehow helps me beat the funkies.
  4. I’m grateful for my writing which has gotten me over the rough patches every time.
  5. I’m grateful for abundance; stubbornness, tenacity, growth, understanding, acceptance, forgiveness, letting go but not giving up, opportunities, inspiration, health, peace, balance, philanthropy, and prosperity.

Love and Light


About the Author

Sheri Conaway is a writer, blogger, ghostwriter, and an advocate for cats and mental health. Sheri believes in the Laws of Attraction, but only if you are a participant rather than just an observer. Her mission is to Make Vulnerable Beautiful and help entrepreneurs touch the souls of their readers and clients so they can increase their impact and their income. If you’d like to have her write for you, please visit her Hire Me page for more information. You can also find her on Facebook Sheri Levenstein-Conaway Author or in her new group, Putting Your Whole Heart Forward

Depression Hiding Amongst Us

Hiding Depression is a Way of Life for Many day you interact with other people; the clerk at the grocery store who always greets you by name with a warm smile; the friend you met for lunch; the guy at the gym who keeps to himself, safe inside his noise-cancelling headphones; the woman pushing her young child in a shopping cart, his innocence shining through his smile. From the outside, they all seem perfectly content with their lives, but are they really?

Society has taught us to hide our pain behind a smile; behind routine tasks; behind a collection of masks. Although the media and various health organizations are trying to reverse generations of conditioning with their “let us help you” ad campaigns, the stigma remains for many.

The prospect of being shunned, losing a job, or being humiliated for showing weakness play an enormous part in a continued unwillingness to seek help. But it’s only the tip of the iceberg of depression. Getting past a deep-seated belief that you don’t deserve to ask for help, or you’d be a bother to others for asking keeps many locked inside their own minds. That there’s no basis in fact for their beliefs never comes into question.

Getting in Touch With Your Emotions

Even before you consider asking for help, you have to actually be in touch with your emotions, and recognize when you’re just down over a specific event vs. down in the grand scheme of things without specific reasons. In her article “How to Develop Your Emotional Intelligence”, Angela Duckworth talks about an enormous gap in our educational system. If we can’t identify our own emotional state, not only are we unable to help ourselves, we can’t set an example for our kids, or recognize when they’re flailing. Is it any wonder so many people think the problem lies within themselves; that they’re broken and can’t be fixed?

I’ve learned by reading books from people like Eckhart Tolle, Deepak Chopra, and a few others, you need to learn how to not only be more self-aware, but more in the moment. In order to assess your true state of mind, you have to focus on where you are at this very moment, tuning out any future plans and lists, worries and concerns. Tolle calls it being in the “Now” and advises you ask yourself if all the problems and plans running through your head are an issue at this very moment.

Managing Life in Smaller Bites

For example, say you’re stressing out over necessary car repairs you can’t afford. If you ask yourself whether it is an issue in this moment; if it’s something you have to deal with in this exact period of time, the answer is likely to be no. If you neither need to, nor are able to deal with it right now, worrying about it won’t change things. He advises setting it aside until its proper moment, and dealing with what is right in front of you. Typically, what’s right in front of you is a small, manageable portion of your life and will be better dealt with if you’re not worrying about something in the future. And who knows? All those smaller pieces may lead you to a solution for the car repairs as well!

Another benefit to focusing on the moment you’re in is you’re able to determine whether what’s dragging you down even belongs to you. If you’re like me, you’re sensitive to the energies others are putting out. At times, it’s difficult to tell whether your stress and even anger belong to you, or to someone else entirely. When you step back and ask yourself what you can truly deal with in this moment, what isn’t yours won’t even make the cut. The truth is, there will never be a moment when you can manage what belongs to someone else.

I know this sounds complicated, or at least it did for me when I first read about it in “The Power of Now”. Like anything else, you get better with practice. Now, when someone in my world is suddenly cranky for no apparent reason, I can take a mental step back (even if I’ve reacted in kind), focus on what’s really mine, and send them compassionate thoughts for whatever is causing them to act out. It helps me release any ownership of their anger or frustration, and allows them to do with it as they see fit.

Take a Moment to Breathe and Assess

I was sitting at a machine at the gym one day, looking at my phone as I rested sets. One of the trainers who is usually very sweet, comes up and practically snarls, “Helloooo, I need this machine!” I snapped back that I’d just gotten there, had two more sets, and had to rest a bit between sets (something she should have been aware of in the first place).

I could have allowed the exchange to make me rush through my last two sets, but decided I’d finish them in my normal time. In the first place, as a trainer, she should have a large enough repertoire of exercises she could easily substitute something else. In the second, it was clear something wasn’t right in her life for her to be uncharacteristically snotty.

It doesn’t mean I didn’t stew a bit before showering her with compassion from afar, nor feel slightly annoyed when she (as she should have) had her client working on a similar machine and never did use the one she tried to kick me off of. I did cut my workout a bit short as I needed to get away from the toxic energy, but not so short that I didn’t use all the machines I needed to.

Small Improvements With Consistent Practice

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERAStaying in the “Now” isn’t something you learn and perfect in a few sittings. As far as I can tell, it’s a lifelong pursuit. The more you do it, the better you become, but there will still be times when you let someone piss you off, or feel cranky and out of sorts for no reason. But the more you remain aware, the more time you’ll spend in a calmer, happier place. Better still, the more you’ll be aware when someone around you needs an extra dose of understanding and compassion, or maybe assistance in identifying what’s causing their mood to swing downwards.

Sometimes, no, oftentimes, all they really need is for you to be there with a smile, a warm hug, or quiet companionship. In doing so, you let them know they don’t have to face whatever they’re facing alone, even if they don’t want to share it. You’re there, you’re supportive, and you’re not pushing them to divulge more than they’re comfortable sharing. When someone is sad or depressed, knowing you’re there with unquestioning support could be the small reminder they need to see they really do matter. It could be the spark that helps them start turning things around.

Sure, you and I aren’t going to eliminate depression by being there for a few. Depression is a complicated animal. Some people need professional help to manage it. Like the cats I’ve rescued over the last few decades, I’m not going to change the world for everyone, but for the ones I brought into my home, and will in the future, I’ve changed their world.

Think about changing someone’s world, if not for a lifetime, at least for a moment. Consider how you feel when you’re able to lift someone’s spirits, or when someone lifts yours, and pass it on.

Using Gratitude to Keep My Spirits High

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I am grateful for all the people who have lifted my spirits, often without even realizing it.
  2. I am grateful for my own experiences with depression. The memories help me avoid slipping back into that pit of despair.
  3. I am grateful to friends who’ve become comfortable letting me see when they’re down, feeling lost, left out, or alone, and need a little extra attention.
  4. I am grateful for my lower stress world where even a bad day can be made better with a few kitty cuddles, head bonks, and cat facials.
  5. I am grateful for abundance; love, laughter, friendship, dancing, long walks in nature, energy, answers, questions, inspiration, motivation, peace, harmony, balance, philanthropy, and prosperity.

Love and Light


About the Author

Sheri Conaway is a writer, blogger, ghostwriter, and an advocate for cats and mental health. Sheri believes in the Laws of Attraction, but only if you are a participant rather than just an observer. Her mission is to Make Vulnerable Beautiful and help entrepreneurs touch the souls of their readers and clients so they can increase their impact and their income. If you’d like to have her write for you, please visit her Hire Me page for more information. You can also find her on Facebook Sheri Levenstein-Conaway Author or in her new group, Putting Your Whole Heart Forward

Am I a Psycho in Remission? A Guest Post by Don Karp

Mental Health From a Different Perspective

I’ve been talking to a lot of people about the other side of depression, mental health, and suicide. My accountability partner, Don Karp was kind enough to share one of his posts with me so I can share with you a very personal perspective on mental health, professional approaches to treatment, and how one man took matters into his own hands with great success. (With Don’s permission, I’ve edited this post a bit from his original for readability).

Am I a Psycho in Remission?

by Don Karp, © 2018

For most, hearing a controversial viewpoint which goes against their beliefs, provides them with an excuse to reinforce their deep-seated beliefs. Then why do I bother writing this—either preaching to the choir or strengthening opposing beliefs? Well, maybe there’s just a slight outside chance someone hearing my way of expression will see things from my side. I’ll take that gamble.

I’ve published my story elsewhere—how I survived seven mental hospitalizations over a nine-year period (1969-78). The professionals labeled me “paranoid schizophrenic.” Yet here I am, thriving! In 2003 I retired and moved to Mexico. I self-published a memoir in 2013. I’ve taken no meds nor have I been hospitalized since 1978. And I have neither participated in nor needed therapy since 1982—at least not mainstream therapy.

Like many who find themselves in the hands of psychiatric professionals, they told me I might live a “normal” life, or at least one without relapses, if I continued take the meds they prescribed.

One doctor told me: “You must take your meds for the rest of your life, like a diabetic needs to take insulin.”

The medical model of mainstream psychiatry says the cause of mental illness is a mix of genetics and imbalanced brain chemistry. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (DSM), the Bible of psychiatry, lists symptoms to categorize those illnesses.

I’ve found no current scientific evidence to validate their conclusions.  As far as I’m concerned, this is pseudoscience.

Why are people’s sufferings reduced to subjective diagnoses from a set of arbitrary rules pretending to be a science? Why are most of them treated with experimental neuro-toxins that kill 500,000 people every year?

What ever happened to the Hippocratic Oath? Or simple human kindness.

Is it because we like simple answers given with confidence and authority?

“It’s just like a physical illness,” they tell us.

If so, where are the blood tests, x-rays, cat scans, and other physiological test results used to diagnose such illnesses?

I believe it all comes down to the guild power of the American Psychological Association, and the profits of Big Pharma, with a little help from media spin. Or to put it more bluntly, profit over people.

Take for example a recent report of a huge study on the genetics of schizophrenia showing a two-fold rise in genetic traceability. Twice as much seems like a lot until you consider the previous baseline. The reality is the starting point was one percent which they’ve now elevated to two percent. Need I say more?

Take note that the antidepressant Prozac came on the market after Reagan took office and instituted neo-liberal policies. People lost their jobs. Depression became commonplace for good reason. But wait, here’s a new miracle drug to help with your new-found depression.

Mainstream psychiatry doesn’t talk about the real causes of people’s suffering: joblessness, homelessness, poverty, racism, sexism, trauma, or parenting.

It’s just another instance where doctors use diagnoses to control behavior someone with clout (or potential for profit) has decided they don’t like.

I’ve been writing on this topic for the past few years on different platforms:,, and On the Quora forum, I answered a question and got a comment from a retired psychiatric nurse:

“You give false, harmful information, using Quora to promote your book. You’re not a recovered paranoid schizophrenic. You are in remission.”

This comment made me realize I had stepped into my power as an advocate for other victims of the mental health machine. Thanks, for your help, nurse!

About the Author

Don is an expat who has lived Mexico for 15 years. He is an ex-mental patient and a peer coach. Writing on, he specializes in questions on “psychosis.” He facilitates journaling workshops. His self-published memoir is on Amazon, and his site has a monthly blog, “Letters From Mexico.” Visit his Facebook page, or contact him at


Would You Like to Share Your Experiences Here?

This article in no way reflects my own opinions or viewpoints, nor have I done any fact-checking. I share it because I believe it’s important to look at a very important topic from all perspectives, and welcome comments and articles which bring in those perspectives as well. If you would like to have yours published (with the qualification that I won’t tolerate anything hateful nor which bashes others for disagreeing), you may send it to If I decide to publish your work, I’ll ask for a short bio and links to your website or work published on other sites.

It Takes a Little Wallow

For Some, Mother’s Day is a Day to Wallow in Self-Pity

Mother’s Day 2018. I slept in as I hadn’t slept much the night before, and had danced and walked my way to 13,000+ steps 3 days in a row. I got up and started my day even though there was really nothing to start, but I no longer sleep all day, even when, like today, I’m feeling lower than the underside of a mushroom in the forest.

Tossing the healthy eating aside for the day, I made myself gluten-free pancakes and chicken breakfast sausage with a bowl of fresh strawberries so the meal wasn’t a complete lost cause, then nibbled on the strawberries and sausage for another few hours. I lolled in front of the TV until after 8 watching sappy Hallmark movies before deciding I was TV’d out and tried to switch to computer solitaire.

But my heart wasn’t in it. I’d hit my wallowing stride around 4PM and it was all downhill from there. One daughter hasn’t spoken to me or acknowledged any kind of holiday or special day in years. The other wrote a quick blurb around mid-day I didn’t even bother to respond to. Too little, too late. Would it be too much to send a card or a text, or pick up the phone? Yep, I was really feeling pitiful now.

Finding Something Wallow-Worthy in Everything

Thought about the cruise and how the table I was at with people I barely knew (my own fault for cancelling, then re-booking late) was set off by itself away from the rest of the group. And how the people who were so excited I was going after all never did manage to meet up with me for lunch or breakfast.

Then I got started on the place where I dance. I wander back and forth from one end of the club to the other talking to people, but I feel like a nomad despite still sitting at my regular table. I feel like I don’t belong…again.

I go through this periodically, and I know it’s me and not the people around me. I’m somehow isolating myself in a crowd of people. I detach, and pretty soon, I might as well set up a play list of the line dances I like and dance alone in my living room. At least I wouldn’t have to get dressed, put on makeup and wear a bra.

The trouble is, I can’t figure out why I feel the need to isolate nor even when I started doing it again. I just know I’m doing it, and feeling like I’m going to burst into tears any second. And as the song goes, you can’t cry pretty.

Finding a Little Light in an Otherwise Gloomy Day

Sure, I managed to get the Roomba working again and cleaned up the kitchen from all my messes, but if that’s my claim to fame this Mother’s Day, it’s a pretty pathetic one.

I admit, I’m the Queen of Wallowing. When I get a good wallow going, even my kitties can’t drag me out of it until I’m good and ready. Years ago, when I saw myself going down a really bad path (somewhere in between my parents’ suicides and finally starting to write about it) I made myself a promise that no wallow would last more than a day and a half. But this one seems to have snuck up on me.

I was doing fine, or at least OK, then suddenly, WHAM! I’m at the bottom of my personal pit of despair. Nothing is really wrong, but then, nothing is really right either. So there’s nothing for me to grab onto to pull myself out of the pit this time.

All the cheery Mother’s Day pictures and greetings certainly aren’t helping, nor are the sad ones from the suicide survivors support group or the empath group. And apparently, nobody knows me as well as I thought, because none have picked up on my silence, my pathetic excuse for Mother’s Day breakfast, or any of the things I, as a friend would have picked up about someone else.

The No Reason Wallow is the Darkest of All

Through it all, I keep asking myself “what’s wrong with me? Why do I not give anyone a reason to care?” I even left the post for today undone because I didn’t care enough to keep to my schedule. I figured it was one less post I need to write for next week.

My memoir lies untouched since March as I don’t even know where to go with it right now. My business is still limping along. I’m half-heartedly looking for something part-time, but am still trying to keep it remote. I’m pretty sure I’ll fail at that too.

You’re probably wondering why I’m writing such a whiny, negative post. If you’ve gotten this far without closing the page in disgust, I’ll tell you why.

Why Share My Misery?

Each of us gets down sometimes. We don’t have to have a reason. We just start seeing all of our failures and none of our successes. All of our challenges and none of our blessings. We feel alone but don’t remember how to fix it. Even in a crowd, we feel like an outcast, and can’t seem to figure out what’s changed.

So I started writing this, partly as therapy, but partly to try to reach even one person who feels the way I do right now on occasion. I want them to know it’s OK to feel down like this once in awhile. What’s not OK is to let yourself keep feeling this way without reaching out to someone, somewhere for help if you just can’t break out of your funk alone.

Reaching out, asking for help is by far the hardest lesson I’ve ever had to learn, and frankly, I have only just broken the surface. I have a long way to go before I’ll ever be good at asking instead of trying to muddle through on my own, believing everyone I know is too busy to help anyway. I know I have several friends who, if they’re reading this are calling me all sorts of stupid for not reaching out. They’re also the ones who know how hard it is for me to do so, especially when I’m feeling down.

Sometimes, You Have to Reach Out Any Way You Can

The hardest part about being depressed is feeling like nobody wants to be around you. You isolate yourself even more because of the voice in your head that says “you have no right to bring others down to this dark, dank place you’re in right now. Stay away until you’re not such a drag to be around.”

Well, I may not be making any phone calls right now, or private messaging, or texting to ask for help. In my own way, this is how I let the people in my life know I’m not as OK right now as I might seem. I could use some help, but don’t really know how to ask because I’m not sure what kind of help I need.

I will, however, urge anyone reading this who can relate to please, Please, PLEASE call someone who loves you and let them know you’re struggling. Text a friend, a child, a parent; whoever you have and know they care and love you even when you’re not your bright, happy, cheerful self. Someone out there really does want to help you get through whatever it is that’s taking the sparkle out of your life. They want to help you clear the clouds and find your sunshine. If you can’t do it for yourself, do it for me and the millions of others who might be wallowing with or without a good reason right now.

Grasping at Straws for Gratitude

My gratitudes tonight are:

  1. I’m grateful that I can use my writing to help others feel less alone.
  2. I’m grateful that I recognize a wallow for what it is even if I can’t yet find my way out of it.
  3. I’m grateful I refrained from spending too much time on Social Media on a really depressing Mother’s Day, if only to keep from bringing anyone else down with my desperation and loneliness.
  4. I’m grateful for the one or two people who may have recognized I’m not in a good place, even if all they could do was send me some good thoughts.
  5. I’m grateful for the end of a long, dark, lonely day because I can start over tomorrow, and tomorrow is a gym day which I actually look forward to these days.

Love and Light


About the Author

Sheri Conaway is a writer, blogger, Virtual Assistant and advocate for cats. Sheri believes in the Laws of Attraction, but only if you are a participant rather than just an observer. She is available for ghostwriting to help your business grow and thrive. Her specialties are finding and expressing your uniquely genuine self. If you’d like to have her write for you, please visit her Hire Me page for more information. You can also find her on Facebook Sheri Levenstein-Conaway Author

Not My Usual Upbeat Post

Warning! Steep Downhill Ahead.

It’s been awhile since I’ve needed to post a warning at the beginning of a post, but, having decided to put this out in public instead of taking it off-line, I feel I owe it to my readers to warn them of impending doom.

Depression Sucks

There, I’ve said it. Depression is the worst place to reside, even for a brief span of time. To someone who is depressed, I don’t think there really is a brief span of time. Every moment seems endless and excruciatingly painful. Though I only have my own perspective, I think it’s even worse when the cause of your depression is your own thoughtless actions.

I didn’t expect to gain additional perspective into my mother’s life and actions this late in the game, but it seems the Universe decided I needed some. Mix together months of physical pain, the inability to sleep more than an hour or two at a stretch, financial worries, a shit load of fears, a feeling of being alone and disconnected from everyone and the unconscious lowering of shields necessary to an empath’s sanity and you have a cocktail for disaster. The other night, not only did I partake indiscriminately of that cocktail, I wallowed in it like a pig in mud.

Now, I’m left feeling embarrassed, mortified and even more isolated than ever before… and filled with even more compassion for my mom. I can’t know how physically isolated she felt despite what appeared on the surface to be a decent marriage and a large circle of friends, nor how much pain her arthritis and other physical ailments were causing her. But I am reasonably certain that, unlike me, she hadn’t found a way to crawl out of the emotional hole she was in. Her foundation was a lot less stable than mine in the first place, despite the clear messages she gave me about how much I disappointed her. I, unlike her, was able to reach a point where I knew the only approval I needed was from myself, and I worked very hard to give myself that approval…until this week.

My only saving grace right now is that the circle of friends I moved into while making a more positive, compassionate world for myself is more supportive and understanding than the me I am right now believes I deserve. My heart swells with gratitude over how blessed I am to have these people in my life. As I sit in front of my computer with tears flowing down my face, wiping off my reading glasses every few minutes so I can see the computer screen or a text on my phone, I realize the messages they send are a true testament to the changes I made. Although on one hand, it comforts me, on the other, it reminds me of how tenuous a hold I have on both the positivity and the friends I’ve been able to attract by working to become a better person.

Friends, Indeed

Yes, I admit I’m being overly dramatic in thinking that friends of this nature would be so quick to turn their backs on me. The truth is, though I’ve learned a lot, I haven’t learned to believe I deserve loving, compassionate, understanding friends who realize even the best of us have bad days. Sure, my bad day this time took on what to me appears to be epic proportions. One friend even pointed out in an incredibly kind manner that I seemed to have regressed back to the angry, negative person I’ve worked so hard to leave behind. Talk about a reality check!

When I think of my mom living every day in this dark, lonely, desolate place, reliving every word she said to someone and tearing herself apart, I want to cry anew for the lonely, disconnected, unhappy woman who saw no other choice but to end that life. And it scares the living daylights out of me.

Is it any wonder that the cats, and Dylan in particular have been especially attentive for the last month or two? They saw me going down that long, dark spiral and have been doing their best to make me feel loved, appreciated and needed. They recognized when it reached its peak last night. Dylan has been glued to my side ever since. He curled up with his head on my lap while I watched TV and slept with me on the couch until my shoulder relaxed enough to move to my bed. In hindsight, he helped me sleep longer than I have in quite a few nights (a whopping 4 solid hours!). When I moved to my bed around 5 AM, he followed and curled up around my head where he stayed until I got up about 9. Now he’s just sticking by me wherever I go.

Taking Control

Even during my worst years, I used to tell myself I’d allow no more than 24 hours to be depressed before dragging myself out of that hole and getting on with my life. Whether I really did or not is irrelevant now. Suffice it to say, it made me wallow far less than I might have. And it was pretty good advice.

Writing has always been my sanity, even when what came out sounded somewhat less than sane. It is my therapist and a place where I can pour out hopes and dreams as well as fear and misery, knowing that putting the words on the page are tantamount to pulling the plug in the bathtub and letting the water flow out. The words and thoughts are no longer crammed into my brain, fighting for space and clamoring for release. They’re out there and given voice.

In the years I’ve been meditating, I often make use of a phrase to still my monkey-mind: “Accept, Acknowledge, Release”. I believe that the writing is a physical manifestation of those words. When I write down the thoughts churning in my brain, I am indeed, accepting and acknowledging them. When I finish the document or post, I’m giving myself permission to release them and move one. Small wonder so many of us find writing therapeutic. Not only can we give voice to those dark, twisty thoughts, but we can acknowledge and accept ourselves, realizing those thoughts are not necessarily the person we are. There’s always the other advantage and that is to help us understand those dark emotions and make the characters in our books more three-dimensional.

Yes, this week has been a wake-up call for me. Though I’ve worked hard to be positive, allowing the challenges in my life to grow unchecked still has the power to undermine years of hard work. I’m just grateful that where my efforts to be positive have excelled is in attracting incredible examples of natural positivity into my life. When the reflection in my mirror becomes displeasing to my eyes, I need only look towards those I now consider friends to remember that the person I want to be really is still in there. I just need to re-focus my effort and re-adjust my perspective.

Depression might suck but even as it is necessary to remind me how fortunate I am to have amazing, loving, beautiful people in my life.

My gratitudes today are:
1. I am grateful for lessons which help me put things back in perspective.
2. I am grateful for the lessons which repeat when I forget to be kind, compassionate and positive. They remind me that I am still a work in progress, and that’s OK.
3. I am grateful for friends who don’t abandon me when I get ugly, but also don’t sugar coat things. There is a time and a place when I just need to be told I’m acting like an ass.
4. I am grateful for reminders that, no matter what, I need to accept and forgive. What my mind might magnify into a major slight might just be someone else’s bad day.
5. I am grateful for abundance: friendship, love, compassion, kindness, lessons, challenges, perspective, joy, peace, harmony, philanthropy and prosperity.

Blessed Be

I invite you to visit my Facebook pages, Sheri Levenstein-Conaway Author and HLWT Accounting. Please also drop by my website, and check out my Hire Me Page. I’ve created these pages as a means of positive affirmation and would be very grateful if you’d “like” them or leave a comment! Thank you!

Wallowing in a Pit of Despair? Try Gratitude.

Finding My Way Back Home

For the last 15 years or so, I have made immense progress in turning my life around. I am no longer the angry, defensive creature I had become through long years of tragedies, disappointments and, what I considered at the time to be poor life choices. I’ve learned that everything I’ve done and everywhere I’ve been had a purpose and came together in making me the person I am today.

But sometimes, pieces of my former self rise insidiously to the surface and if left unchecked, threaten to undo all of the work I’ve done. The trick is recognizing it before it sets me back years.

This morning when I woke with the prospect of cooking a huge pot of chili and spending the afternoon with anywhere from 50 to 100 people, the negative thoughts and the desire to crawl back into my hole and pull it in after me became almost overwhelming. Thankfully, years of training myself to do otherwise proved stronger, and I realized I had all the tools I needed to turn this around.

I looked back over the last couple of weeks and realized I’d become angry over stupid things, reactionary, and downright hateful. And truth to be told, I couldn’t dig a hole deep enough to escape the real problem anyway, so fixing it is a much wiser choice. It would also go a long way towards alleviating the constant, if relatively manageable pain I’ve been in since December, helping lower what has clearly become an upwardly spiraling stress level (thankfully, the every-other-day migraines have eased off!), and the resulting sleep deprivation.

Conquering the Demons Within

The answer to my problems, both real and imagined can be summed up in a single word. Gratitude. Sure, I’ve remembered to give thanks for all of the little synchronicities in my life, and, on what has become the rare occasion I actually sit and write a blog post, list a handful of gratitudes. But I’ve been missing the big picture. I’ve been allowing the “don’t haves” to smother the “haves”. No wonder I’m suffering the consequences. My face is meeting my palm rather violently at the moment.

Instead of rambling on about this or that, or detailing the things I won’t be doing from here on out, I’m dedicating the rest of this post to as many gratitudes as I can conjure, because, really, that’s why this blog has evolved; that’s why it is no longer “Surviving and Beyond”, but “Leaps of Faith”. For the last month or better, I’ve been giving it a great deal of lip service, but failing to follow through in my thoughts and deeds.

Reminding Myself of What the Universe Already Knows

Without further ado, here are some things for which I am grateful in this crazy, beautiful, sometimes insane life I’ve been given this time around:

  1. I am grateful for sunny days.
  2. I am grateful for rainy days.
  3. I am grateful for the fur babies I fall asleep with every night and wake to every morning.
  4. I am grateful that I have already lived nearly a year longer than my mother did.
  5. I am grateful for the people who pointed me towards the path of positivity and offer daily reminders.
  6. I am grateful for the lessons I’ve learned, the ones I am still mastering, and those which await me further down the road.
  7. I am grateful for the pains in my body which remind me that I’m being allowed to age and that I need to get up and move more, stretch more and love my body more.
  8. I am grateful that I’ve learned to recognize when I’m wandering away from my true path.
  9. I am grateful for the tools I’ve acquired which help me get back on track.
  10. I am grateful for signs and head slaps from the Universe which remind me to stay positive and hopeful, and get my attention when I start to forget.
  11. I am grateful for all of the wonderful examples I’ve been given: people who have conquered their own demons and retain the kindness and compassion I strive to achieve and embrace as part of my being.
  12. I am grateful for changing my career path to the one which fuels my soul.
  13. I am grateful for remaining positive despite setbacks and challenges which I know are intended to test my commitment.
  14. I am grateful for those setbacks which force me to seek alternatives and remind me that my path will never be straight and smooth. Easy paths don’t offer much in the way of inspiration for writing.
  15. I am grateful for successful completion of my three novels and Frederick the Gentlemouse and for the strength and tenacity to publish and market them.
  16. I am grateful for the stories inside me that are yet to be told.
  17. I am grateful for opportunities to mentor, coach or otherwise support other people.
  18. I am grateful that I’m learning to Stop, Look, and Listen more; not necessarily while crossing the road, but while interacting with other Divine Beings having a Human Experience.
  19. I am grateful to my daughter for encouraging me to start this blog when I got stuck in the middle of writing my first book about family suicide. Not only has writing about it eased my pain and brought more compassion into my life, it has connected me with others who have had similar experiences.
  20. I am grateful for the people who read my blog, my website and even my comments on Social Media. You touch my life and make it a better place. You’ll never know how much that means to me, nor how much it makes me strive to be a better person.

I could go on and on with this, but I’m already feeling better, just for sitting down and doing it. I’ll likely continue the list off-line. Listing my gratitudes has dragged me out of far deeper holes than the one in which I currently find myself. It is probably the single most powerful lesson I’ve learned in the last few years, and one I need to spend more time doing. Maybe that’s why the Universe sat back and watched me slide into a well of negativity for a little while. Like the stretching I now do every day to reduce the physical pain, the physical act of listing my gratitudes turns the inner pain around and shows me how much joy and beauty I have in my life.

Thank you for being a part of my process…my path.

I invite you to visit my Facebook pages, Sheri Levenstein-Conaway Author and HLWT Accounting. Please also drop by my website, and check out my Hire Me Page. I’ve created these pages as a means of positive affirmation and would be very grateful if you’d “like” them or leave a comment! Thank you!

October 18, 2014 What a difference the music makes! #shericonaway #blogboost

Dance like nobody’s watching, sing like you don’t need the money.

Words to live by, although, in my case, it might be amended to “sing like nobody’s listening”. My poor cats have been subjected to my off-key but exuberant renditions of my favorite songs as they poured forth from my computer speakers the last couple of days. And yet, when I start to sing, instead of heading for cover, they all come into the room to join me. I guess Joy is attractive, no matter how pitchy it sounds!

Bringing back the music has brought on an incredibly productive period. Laundry is done, cat boxes cleaned, floors vacuumed and scrubbed (and re-swept since certain felines are incapable of using the sandbox without throwing the sand all over the bathroom), client work completed for one client. I even had time to change my dancing look tonight, which received very positive responses from my friends. It’s amazing that two days ago, I went dancing in what I’d worn all day, not really caring what I looked like. Today, it was a 180 degree turn. My hair was braided (which I never do unless Heather is here to do it for me), I wore a skirt instead of shorts, and a sparkly shirt. I forgot how much fun it is to line dance in a skirt! It spins and twirls and you can play with it, flicking it around…ok, so I’m like a kid with a new toy, even if it was a very old skirt!

Even more disturbing, is that I’m excited about going to the gym tomorrow! If a little bit of music can induce such dramatic changes in only a couple of days, what might we expect after a week???

The tiniest of changes can change your whole world

I’ve heard it said that a small change can have an enormous impact, but I’d never thought much of it…until now. Such a simple thing has changed my entire outlook. There is no limit to what a person can accomplish if they start by improving their outlook. Esther and Jerry Hicks talked about a continuum of emotions, with the deepest, darkest despair at the bottom, and complete and utter joy at the top. Each small step up or down that continuum has the power to impact our entire life. Though it is possible to stay at the very bottom indefinitely without concerted effort, it is difficult if not impossible to remain at the top 100% of the time. Life interferes and our joy slips. For each of us, it has to slip to a different point before we stop and say “Now wait a minute! What’s going on here? What did you do with my Joy?”

It’s at that point where we aren’t feeling as good as we’d like to that we start making those small changes which will put us back at the top of the continuum, one baby step at a time. I’m not at the peak of joyousness right now, but I’m several steps up from where I was two days ago. Isn’t that what’s called “progress”? I don’t know about you, but I’ll take that progress any day!

If my own baby steps weren’t enough, taking a little extra effort with my appearance drew so many compliments that I moved a couple more steps up the continuum with no additional effort on my part! How’s that for bonus points? I don’t think there’s a human alive who doesn’t respond to compliments. Yes, many of us do, or have at some point told ourselves that we didn’t deserve the compliments, but hopefully, by now, we’ve stopped trash talking ourselves enough to accept the compliments gracefully and enjoy the rush of positive energy, truly believing that we deserve it.

That really is the key to moving up that continuum. We have to begin by being kinder to ourselves, loving ourselves and seeing our own beauty. It doesn’t matter if we don’t meet society’s size standards, or if our features aren’t perfectly symmetrical. True beauty doesn’t lie in our outer packaging anyway. The most beautiful people I know are kind, caring individuals, both to others and to themselves.

As I sit here typing, thinking and reworking, the song “You’ve Got a Friend” is playing. “Ain’t it good to know that you’ve got a friend? When people can be so cold, they’ll hurt you and dessert you. They’ll take your soul if you let them, but don’t you let them.” I think that says it all. That is where our true beauty lies: in being a friend, to others, to ourselves, to our animals, and to our planet.

Stepping off the soap box now to give you tonight’s gratitudes:
1. I am grateful for my friends who can be counted on to lift my spirits, even when they’ve dropped lower than normal.
2. I am grateful for my cats who love me (and my less than perfect singing voice) no matter what, and show me in little ways every day.
3. I am grateful for the lessons I began learning more than 15 years ago which allow me to recognize negative thoughts and behavior and turn them around before they can damage my life, or let me slide into a depressive state.
4. I am grateful for examples which show me where I don’t want to go, even more than those which show me where I do want to go. They inspire me to move towards the shinier, happier places.
5. I am grateful for wonderful nights of dancing, chatting with friends, sharing stories and most of all, the joy of just moving our bodies to music we love.
6. I am grateful for abundance: love, joy, music, friendship, caring, kindness, harmony, peace, health and prosperity.


October 12, 2014 Recognizing depressive behavior patterns #sconaway #blogboost

When we’re doing something that doesn’t seem so far out of the ordinary, unless we look into our past.

At first, there didn’t seem to be anything out of the ordinary about this morning. I woke up about 8:00, went to the bathroom, drank some water, looked at the clock, and decided I wanted to sleep some more. It wasn’t that I was still tired, I simply didn’t want to start my day yet.

After laying down, getting up to throw a kitten out of the room, laying down again, and finally catching the second kitten and sending him out to join his brother, I settled back down with a pillow over my head to block out the sun and slept for another hour or so.

When Toby began expressing his displeasure with both his delayed breakfast and lack of access to the dry food, I looked at the clock again, deemed enough of the day gone, and started my day.

It wasn’t until I was dishing up cat food that it dawned on me. This was the same behavior I exhibited in the late 90’s, post divorce and post mom’s suicide when I was unambitiously trying to make a go of a bookkeeping business with clients who had simply fallen into my lap. I had recently parted ways with a company whose owner and management staff were more dysfunctional than any I’ve seen before or since. Being fired wasn’t really a surprise, nor a hardship as I’d been sick far too often with stress related issues. Although I ended up returning as a consultant when the woman he hired to replace me made a total mess of everything, it was on my terms and was, thankfully, short-lived.

But I digress. As time went on and I had less work to do, I found that I’d drag myself out of bed to get the girls to school, then crawl right back under the covers for another couple of hours. What I didn’t realize at the time, but do now, is that sleeping overmuch just because I don’t want to start my day is extremely unhealthy mentally. Even though I’m not feeling particularly sad, I know from experience that continuing to allow myself to follow this pattern will take me down a road I never want to see again, where motivation and caring about myself go by the wayside.

Fortunately, recognizing a negative behavior pattern and knowing when and how to nip it in the bud is about 90% of the battle. I know that I simply need to get busy and get moving. Whether it’s housework, gym routines, dancing in the living room or walking the neighborhood, my body needs more action than two nights of dancing.

Speaking of dancing, I’m continuing to experience an energy drain around 8:30 for no apparent reason. I didn’t really check with anyone else, but I know that a lot of folks left even earlier than I did last night. Even now, as I try to document the feelings, I am still not feeling a lot of energy. Instead, I’m feeling more like I need to pull these weird feelings out, hold them in my hands, twist them and turn them to get a better viewpoint, and analyze them to death, quite literally.

My rational mind, however, is getting louder by the minute as it tells me to get busy with something and shove those thoughts back into the handy little compartment where they’ve been for so many years. But then, I’ve been there before too. I bottled up my grief and guilt over my mom’s death for years until it came out explosively over something really minor. I’m not inclined to go there again either!

So what do you do with feelings which come back to haunt you?

If I learned nothing else form my healing training, I did learn that when feelings come back, you need to acknowledge them, recognize where they came from and ask for help in clearing them. The cause is long gone, maybe even forgotten, but some of the pain still lingers, like a ghost waiting for ties to be cut so it can leave the material plane. Even more, what triggered the return of those feelings? Why did they return at this specific moment in time?

I know where they were the last time, though I won’t swear that was the very beginning. In fact, I suppose these feelings started somewhere a lot further back and simply return as a result of some kind of trigger.

That will be my meditative task today. To identify the starting point, recognize the triggers and clear it all so I can go forward with a clear, happy mind and heart.

Do you know what triggers your depressive behavior patterns? Do you recognize them when they occur?

My gratitudes today are:
1. I am grateful that I’ve learned to recognize depressive behavior patterns in myself.
2. I am grateful that I no longer accept depressive behavior in myself and work on myself to clear the reasons and the results.
3. I am grateful for activities which regularly get me out of the house and around people, even when I am not in a particularly social mood.
4. I am grateful for daily conversations with my daughter. Sharing her new world is one of life’s many joys.
5. I am grateful for abundance: friendship, love, positivity, smiles, laughter, joy, motivation, inspiration, happiness, harmony, peace, health and prosperity.


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