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

Posts tagged ‘depression’

Suicide Affects Us All

Suicide Strikes

At some point in our lives, given the constantly increasing numbers, we will all experience suicide. It might be a friend, or an acquaintance, but chances are, at some point, it will be someone we know well, and perhaps love. Some of us might even be the ones considering or even attempting suicide.

Admittedly, I’m more aware of it having lost both parents to suicide. I’ve learned to recognize people who are hiding behind self-made walls and masks; who show little or no value for the life they’ve been given. Sometimes I can reach out to them, but more often than not, they’ve created safeguards preventing people like me who see and feel too much from getting too close. They want neither to be pitied nor judged and are unable to see some of us might just want to help them feel wanted and loved.

Freedom to Be Ourselves

Life these days is hard. There’s no pretty way to say it. For some, the daily challenges are overwhelming, and the stories they tell themselves about not being missed become a reality to be escaped at all costs. Many even become the person they believe themselves to be; withdrawn, angry, unpleasant to be around. They use their behavior to discourage others from reaching out or trying to help change their reality.

Others wrap themselves in false gaiety, often with the assistance of alcohol or drugs. They’re the life of the party on the outside, surrounded by smiling faces who are completely clueless about the turmoil the false front hides. Even those closest to them are oblivious to the cost of keeping the mask in place; of the loneliness they’re unable to break free from.

I talk to friends who’ve at one point in their lives contemplated suicide and understand. There were times I, too felt alone and unnecessary. Times when the only reason I’m still alive was my refusal to put my daughters through the pain and trauma I’ve had to live through twice. I remember being angry all the time, stewing over the slightest thing, and feeling abused and put down by everyone around me. Of course, a lot of it was their reaction to my prickliness and unfriendly demeanor.

Recognizing Our Value to Others

Fortunately, both my writing and the dancing were my saving grace. When I was at my angriest and most withdrawn, I had put the dancing on the back burner to involve myself in the girls’ high school activities. Perhaps not my best choice, but it was the right choice for them, if not for me. Shortly after those responsibilities ended, I got my butt back out on a dance floor. After awhile, the fog began to clear and I found my happy; bigger and brighter than it had been before.

Unfortunately, what may work for some of us, doesn’t help for others. There are plenty of writers and people who dance regularly who aren’t able to escape their pain or realize there are many people who want them around, and who would miss them if they were gone. It puts a lot of responsibility on the rest of us to pay attention to the ones who always seem happy, or who drink to excess and have a long drive home, or simply who share the barest snippets of themselves.

They’ll never say, nor admit to needing help, but they’re the ones we need to do our best to include and reassure we love them as they really are, and that they needn’t pretend for us.

Loving Each Other for Who We Are

I recently saw this graphic on Facebook of Eeyore (my favorite of the Winnie the Pooh https://www.facebook.com/cmhagbcharacters, coincidentally). I think this really says it all, and was published on the Canadian Mental Health Group Facebook page.

It speaks directly to what I’m saying. We all have friends who are depressed, and they need to be included anyway, and not expected to pretend everything is fine. They need to know it’s OK to be who they are without need for masks and walls, and that they’ll be accepted as they are all the time.

The biggest problem our society faces right now, and probably why suicide rates are climbing at such a frightening pace, is people think they need to pretend to be someone they’re not in order to be accepted or even liked.

I’ve learned people like, and even love you more if you’re yourself and nothing else. Those who don’t, quite frankly, don’t matter. We all have quirks, idiosyncrasies, broken parts, and imperfections. Rather than believing they make us wrong in some way, we need to realize they’re what make us unique, and even in tune with others. If we aren’t worrying about fitting in and matching some arbitrarily prescribed description of normal, we’ll find others are able to let down their guard and be themselves too. Not only that, the relief we get from not pretending might even lift some of the sadness and depression!

Dropping Our Disguises Ain’t Easy, But it’s Worth the Trouble

Learning to open up to my friends was, in all honesty, one of the toughest things I ever did. It went against everything I’d been taught from birth, and left me exposed to the ridicule and abuse I’d experienced most of my life, at least from my distorted recollection. I only saw people teasing and making fun of me, but never noticed when it went in the other direction, or when I was one of the perpetrators. Funny how our memories leave out the important parts, right?

Once I got to the other side, however, it became one of the most rewarding, kindest things I’ve ever done for myself. I have friends who are as imperfect as I am, but who accept themselves as they are. They have challenges with family, jobs, and a million other facets of a life well lived. We all know we have someone to talk to if we need to vent, but also to share successes and joys with. We gather in small groups and large, discussing everything from world events to personal frustrations.

When all is said and done, we feel better for the company and the opportunity to release some of the weight we carry around. What’s good for us is clearly good for those we might tend to overlook. They may not open up the first time or even the tenth, but after awhile, we can show them by our actions and our own sharing that they have a safe place to drop the pretenses and be themselves.

If we have the chance to keep suicide off the table for even one person, shouldn’t we take it?

Gratitude Helps Keep the Gloomies Away

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I am grateful for the people who have come into my life the last few years who’ve made me feel accepted and loved for myself.
  2. I am grateful for the lessons I learned and the acceptance I gained while writing my memoir.
  3. I am grateful to my daughter, Heather, and my oldest friend, Candy who kept me moving forward with the memoir, even when I needed a few long breaks to get further along in my healing process.
  4. I am grateful for the dance community that lets me see we are all broken in some way, but that it isn’t a flaw, but a badge of honor.
  5. I am grateful for abundance; love, joy, dancing, writing, inspiration, motivation, support, butt-kickings, ideas, dreams, goals, baby steps, philanthropy, peace, harmony, health, and prosperity.

Love and Light

 

About the Author

Sheri Conaway is a writer, blogger, ghostwriter, and advocate for cats. 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

What Do You Do When Your Happy Is Gone?

Author’s Note: I wrote this in that often dark time between Christmas and New Year’s when so many people suffer from depression, and feel lost and alone. I wrote it for myself to help me start climbing out of my funk, but also for anyone who also experiences sadness and loneliness, not only at this time of year, but any other time too. We all have someone who cares, even if we don’t think we do, and we need to reach out to them when we’re feeling down. They want to help, but don’t always know we need it, or will even accept it. I urge you to let your friends and family see when you’re hurting instead of feeling like you have to hide it. You’ll be glad you did.

Nothing to Be Happy About

I’ve lost my happy. As I mope around the house, sometimes for days on end, I’m disinclined to even change out of my pajamas unless I’m going to the gym or to a relocated dance night. Even then, I often have to argue with myself before I get dressed and moving. I haven’t used the word “fantastic” or even “great” when someone asked me how I am in what seems like ages. The best people get out of me these days is “OK”, and it’s because I’m anything but. I see no reason to drag anyone down by telling them the truth. For those who know me, “OK” says it all anyway, as they keep checking in on me.

I know it started the night we lost 12 beautiful souls at the hands of a troubled young man; the night we lost more than just 12 innocents who were known for making this world better for many. We lost the place where we gather, where we unwind, where we de-stress, and where we knew we’d give and receive many warm, heartfelt hugs twice a week without fail. We lost our home.

The owner of the club is still talking about re-opening, some way, some how. But when, or even where is still a huge question; our own elephant in the room.

Insidious, Unseen Happiness Thieves

If this single event was the thief of my happiness, I might have found it by now; in the strengthening bonds, the shared hope, the resilience of our family, and the extraordinary heart and spirit of the families who lost children, brothers, husbands, sons, daughters. But it goes so much deeper for me right now.

My world is turned upside down by many things. I lost my sweet girl, Munchkin in December. I increased my debt significantly, but my income is still falling far behind. The 25th anniversary of the day my mom’s unhappiness got the best of her; the day she got tired enough of being unhappy and left us forever, came and went without a single thought until days later. A quarter of a century without my mom. Most of the dissension we shared is long forgotten, or at least the reasons we were so at odds. I don’t exactly miss her. I miss having a mom though. The mom I didn’t really have.

Empathic Cats Offer Comfort Wherever They Can

Even seemingly stupid stuff is getting to me now. I curled up on the guest room bed because I felt lousy and didn’t feel like doing any of my usual things. I didn’t have the energy to clean or the focus to read or even watch TV.

Pyewacket and Tiana

As I pulled the soft blanket Heather got me for Christmas up over my shoulders, I felt tears prickling the back of my eyes. The last time I did that, Munchkin came bounding in, her little bell jingling, knowing there was snuggling ahead. A little over a year ago, she’d have been joined by Toby stomping all over me until he found a good position laying across my body, and Dylan who’d walk across my pillow and lick my cheek. Now, only Dylan is left of the older cats, and he’s doing his best to comfort me when I’m not really ready to let go and be comforted.

Mulan and Dylan

Fortunately, the cats understand better than I realize. Pyewacket joined us, crawling under the blanket and snuggling for a little while. Mulan came in too and even refrained from stomping all over me, demanding attention. She simply curled up beside me, offering comfort. Even shy, skittish Tiana who I often mistook for Munchkin until I got a closer look has found a jingle ball and plays with it in the middle of the night, as if to remind me Munchkin’s love lives on in my heart and home. I love and appreciate those who are still here, but I miss the two who brought so much love into my life, and died way too soon. I can’t help missing them, any more than I can stop the tears from flowing whenever something reminds me of all they gave, and all I’ve lost.

I know Dylan feels the losses as much as I do. He hardly leaves my side any more, and seems distressed when I leave the house, even for an hour or two. We spend a lot of time sitting together, comforting each other, and grieving.

Healthy Routines Aren’t Always Enough

If that wasn’t enough to make me struggle to regain my former happy, cheerful self, I learned my blood pressure is now in the unhealthy range. I informed my doctor’s PA I would, under no circumstances take medication to reduce it, so I’ve had to make some significant changes to my eating habits instead. The hardest has been giving up my morning coffee. I’m hoping it’s only temporary. Green tea is OK, but it doesn’t have the strength of a good cup of coffee.

Scrappy Doo

Scrappy Doo

More exercise would help too, but getting myself out of the house for anything but my pre-set routines is nearly impossible. Lately, my laundry consists of workout clothes, pajamas, and the shorts I wore on the few nights I did dance. And cat purrs. Lots and lots of cat purrs.

Dimming My Light

https://www.flickr.com/photos/anieto2k/8156999698/in/photolist-dqNKPQ-8xXrZz-a2tqF7-ecib3q-aR5rxR-23UMduh-aWLsg4-aQ6X3p-dTTc5c-dcyQ5m-b1FLUp-drS8ZF-bsmN5R-nNhBzE-6ssEeg-9jEcfZ-aVXtzx-j6LK2o-aNpZyT-dCTfD3-dvswdt-b3pgdi-dtXu4B-6LJawW-8CFHEg-8aL7Jf-hDdmuC-anA578-cPoDxo-9qmjuQ-dtXueV-qsdJSm-dqq1i2-2cGG4pp-dqq1sP-hp14Hw-cbnjHE-7bv7xs-chavXC-7uLgNT-8E3GL9-ar7X3y-aai6ME-nt1LXG-gZvg1N-S1DgTf-8kUop7-6532HD-exeWcJ-di6ynQMy bright colored blouses hang on the rack collecting dust. When I do go out, I’m either wearing a black t-shirt commemorating the fateful night, or something else that lets me blend into the crowd. Wearing bright colors doesn’t feel good right now.

When I do go dancing and talk turns to next year’s line dance cruise, I feel even more alone and left out. My current finances won’t allow an expenditure like that, or another much-needed writer’s conference, for that matter.

That’s not to say things aren’t improving a bit, but it seems like for every windfall, I’ve had extra expenses as well. And when I have a large expenditure like Munchkin’s vet bills, there’s no offsetting gain.

I know a lot of it is my mindset. Although I’m starting to attract more notice and more interest from my target audience (read, people who could use my particular type of writing skills and can afford to pay for them), the process is slow since I am still learning the marketing ropes. Again, I know I’m improving with a lot of help from my coach. But the holidays and Munchkin created a hiatus of nearly a month so I’m going to have to recapture some of the momentum. Still, the negative voices, imposter syndrome, and sheer ennui keep getting in the way. I stumble over my own feet too often.

Temporary Down Turns and Lights in the Darkness

I’m grateful I recognize this unhappiness as not only temporary, but uncharacteristic. I know I can fix it, and that I don’t have to fix it alone. Right now, I feel adrift, alone in a storm mostly of my own making, But I also know I won’t remain here, if for no other reason than I won’t allow it.

I see the lack of appetite as an asset as it’s helping me lose some of the weight I’ve put on because I’m not dancing as much. The high blood pressure keeps me from eating the salty snacks I was eating while mindlessly glued to the television. Without them, I rarely eat after dinner even if my stomach starts to growl. I’ve had to find a recipe for the amazing lentil soup I was buying from Trader Joe’s, but which has too much sodium for my new lifestyle. I’m looking forward to adding to my freezer stock soon. In spite of myself, I’m developing healthier habits again, and I know I can re-balance my system without artificial and potentially harmful means.

Being Sad Without Guilt

Right now, I’m allowing myself to be sad. I’m establishing new relationships with the younger cats as they do their best to fill the enormous holes Munchkin and Toby left. I also realize the best way to help myself is to help others, and am looking for ways to do that.

I know the pain, the hurt, and the loneliness I’m feeling right now will ultimately fade and I’ll find my happy again. I’ve learned it might take time, and it can’t be rushed. Times of pain and sadness are part of our process; part of our evolution. We have to walk through the storm in order to find and appreciate the sunshine. I guess I’ve yet to tire of the storm enough to move towards the sunshine. But I will. I always do.

Gratitude: One of the Best Healers

  1. I am grateful for friends who understand that “OK” isn’t a good place for me.
  2. I am grateful for my cats who demand little and give so much.
  3. I am grateful for my writing as it gives me an outlet for my deepest, darkest places so they don’t fester and become toxic.
  4. I am grateful for all of the people who are finding ways to keep us together and dancing.
  5. I am grateful for abundance; love, laughter, friendship, vulnerability, caring, sharing, giving, receiving, introspection, opportunities, challenges, inspiration, health, peace, harmony, philanthropy, and prosperity.

Love and Light

 

About the Author

Sheri Conaway is a writer, blogger, ghostwriter, and advocate for cats. 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

When Your Vibration is in the Cellar: Baby Steps Are Key

When Life Kicks You to the Curb

https://www.flickr.com/photos/anieto2k/8156999698/in/photolist-dqNKPQ-8xXrZz-a2tqF7-ecib3q-aR5rxR-23UMduh-aWLsg4-aQ6X3p-dTTc5c-dcyQ5m-b1FLUp-drS8ZF-bsmN5R-nNhBzE-6ssEeg-9jEcfZ-aVXtzx-j6LK2o-aNpZyT-dCTfD3-dvswdt-b3pgdi-dtXu4B-6LJawW-8CFHEg-8aL7Jf-hDdmuC-anA578-cPoDxo-9qmjuQ-dtXueV-qsdJSm-dqq1i2-2cGG4pp-dqq1sP-hp14Hw-cbnjHE-7bv7xs-chavXC-7uLgNT-8E3GL9-ar7X3y-aai6ME-nt1LXG-gZvg1N-S1DgTf-8kUop7-6532HD-exeWcJ-di6ynQThe last month has been trying on pretty much every level; mentally, emotionally, spiritually, financially. You name it, and I’ve taken a hit directly or indirectly. I’ve shed buckets of tears, though primarily in the privacy of my own home with the cats my only comfort.

That isn’t to say friends haven’t reached out, because they have—in huge and unanticipated ways. Some tell me I’ve been there for them, yet I can’t see it from my vantage point, any more than I’ve recognized, when a man was interested (not that it’s happened lately anyway. I travel in a world that tends to be weighted in favor of men).

The Games People Play

It makes me wonder where else I’ve had tunnel vision, oblivious to what’s right in front of my face. I suspect my long, unsatisfying foray into the Corporate world is one. I never learned to play the games, and found myself cast as the unwitting bad guy, or even buffoon on far too many occasions. Granted, some of that was because I didn’t allow myself to connect with co-workers or staff. But most of it was because I never learned the rules for office politics. Frankly, I never wanted to. I don’t like politics in general, and have always believed they don’t belong in an office.

It seems a bit ironic really. People go to work for a company, contributing to the company’s success, yet believe they need to go to extremes to assure their own success. How much personal success can you really claim when the ultimate recipient is owners or stockholders. You get what they’re willing to give you, and nothing more.

The Rocky, Peril-Infused Road to Success

Yes, the road to personal success is difficult and fraught with peril more often than not. In the end, both https://www.flickr.com/photos/nhoulihan/4038592452/in/photolist-79SQQm-TfUffd-pgu9hJ-qfYXYE-pDVWDB-6UQgZM-KFog6C-TFYhqd-29TMHM-fP6i28-j73ZT5-atsnGd-C4HxXs-5eRdT5-YoKVff-24PBcMS-28G1ckh-AqrzL-haocsM-o1RCfj-4iigfF-6hbQxG-TCfZem-qVx4n8-U63bC7-dCTxQg-amkKyF-eiY1qF-Ct5hqm-hSGXpV-BcaCh-8c2bVB-27RWaS2-eQjYy1-cJWTgw-ehKQWJ-AJSt63-ay4RXc-cxa1zW-UFe9Vq-aC3EP1-pkL1fr-ehKSrs-qxMMJj-bvMGyV-VG1fkR-ay4Sgv-aDNaMx-aE1tNY-h7171rthe successes and failures are your own. You get to keep the lessons for the failures without having someone else’s castigation added to the mix. When you fall on your face, it’s only you who has to get up, dust yourself off, look at what didn’t work, and try again with the new insight you’ve gained.

At the moment, I feel like I’ve failed more than I’ve succeeded, but I have no one to blame but myself. I’ve succeeded at a few things, though, and am proud of those successes. Those, too are on me alone.

From the failures I’ve learned to reach out and ask for help because I don’t know everything about everything. There are areas where my experience and talent is decidedly lacking. Those areas give me the opportunity to network and develop new relationships.

The successes teach me what I have to offer to others; where I can offer to help them with their own gaps in experience. But most of all, they teach me more about connecting.

Creeping Slowly Out of My Hermit’s Hut

https://www.flickr.com/photos/binnyva/14856573264/in/photolist-oCPPCU-8f1nit-kNH87E-8rNdoG-6KCefX-9Bgqr6-Yi8x7C-XC2S6P-56Q2W-Vh4pvh-32EGJ7-M1eaS-ptvU3v-9Awj7L-wKmp31-8AvCj7-7bqtC-a5fJwH-kNFH9k-9G6tXM-24uVDRG-dDd9qu-Kwohct-Urtf8U-YDnn4J-6omdkQ-Dsesvd-puLasy-24vk2io-ktRkX-bbbDnP-pGjrym-4BEGNG-5jHBoS-5uRazj-9G9pbW-HcTbbD-a5ixA3-289TB1G-a5fHdv-i6HTk-4nHJbV-92qx88-smAuU2-WRJBho-7fLn3G-QENbeM-XS7dj9-kdP5rm-7f3qBEI’ve used the excuse: “I’m a writer and an introvert. I’m better off working alone” far too many times. I recognize it’s an excuse to be a hermit. Even more, I’m learning I don’t want to be a hermit all the time. I want to be around people and be part of a community. I want to let people see that I succeed sometimes and fail others, just like them. Besides, being a perpetual hermit is extremely unhealthy. Far too many psychopaths live in that world. I’d rather not be looked at through the same glass as someone whose moral compass hasn’t pointed to true North in a very long time, if ever.

I’ve learned to recognize when my sunny disposition has gone astray. Signs like negativity, judgemental-ism, excessive self-criticism, and even lousy eating habits show me clearly when my mood has taken a trip to the dark side. The years I spent wallowing in self-pity, angry at the world, and in an undiagnosed state of depression come back to haunt me. Yet they also scare me into making changes, reaching out to friends, or getting out of the house whether I want to or not.

Changing Perspective

So far this week, I’ve gone to the gym after first talking myself out of going, spent an evening dancing Created with Canvaafter trying to convince myself I shouldn’t share my sad state with others, and reached a saturation point with Hallmark movies. The last one, alone has pushed me a little ways out of my funk to get a few things done I’d been avoiding for ages. I’d convinced myself once again that I wasn’t worthy, lacked the necessary experience, and didn’t want to do those things anyway.

Sometimes, it’s a matter of perspective. We look at the things we accomplish as nothing special. We convince ourselves out accomplishments are no better than anyone else’s. We deny our part in making the world a better place. Or we minimize our contributions by treating them as commonplace acts performed by everyone.

Showing Up

There’s a time and a place to call “bullshit” on ourselves. I found mine when a friend knocked on my door on a cold, rainy night with a container of split pea soup. Her simple act reminded me how much my own simple acts mean to others. I realized it isn’t so much the what as it is the doing in the first place. Showing up is often the greatest gift of all, both for the giver and the receiver.

Over the years, I learned the climb from abject depression to joy is a long one, and isn’t accomplished in gigantic leaps while yanking on your bootstraps. It’s accomplished one step at a time, and often one backwards for every two forward. It’s easier to take 100 baby steps than it is sometimes to take one giant leap. In the time we gear ourselves up to take that giant leap, we could have already been there by putting one foot in front of the other, testing the ground with each step, and asking for help over the tougher spots.

Raising My Vibration A Baby Step at a Time

I may be in a bad place personally, financially, even professionally at the moment. I’m trying to get out of it, but my vibration is in the toilet. With each baby step I take; each proffered hand I accept, I leave the darkness a little further behind. The darkness is no longer the friend it once deceived me into believing. Instead, I reach towards the sunshine, the light of friendship, love, caring, and sharing.

The friends who show they care in so many ways are making the baby steps bigger by reinforcing the ground I walk on. I still have a long way to go, but knowing I don’t have to go there alone keeps me putting one foot in front of the other a lot more easily and readily these days.

A Heart Filled With Gratitude Vibrates on a Higher Level

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I am grateful for friends who have made the effort to get to know the real me.
  2. I am grateful for changes in perspective.
  3. I am grateful for baby steps.
  4. I am grateful for clear, sunny days when the wind finally dies down.
  5. I am grateful for abundance; emotional, spiritual, mental, health, connection, inspiration, love, motivation, opportunities, challenges, peace, harmony, philanthropy, and prosperity.

Love and Light

About the Author

Sheri Conaway is a writer, blogger, ghostwriter, and advocate for cats. 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.

Navigating Imposter Syndrome

Exiling the No-goodnicks

This has been a rough week for me. I’ve actually managed to convince myself (at least for a bit) that the last 5 years have been a complete waste of time in which I accomplished nothing. Sound familiar? Well, read on.

As many of you know, I quit my nice, comfortable, secure Corporate job nearly 5 years ago to pursue a new career in writing. Yes, I was slowly dying from the job, the environment, the tedium, and not doing the work I loved to do, but it was secure so that’s a good thing, right?

At the time, I believed all the security in the world wasn’t worth how miserable and stressed it made me. I scoffed at losing a regular paycheck, vacation time, a 401(k), and a reason to get up and leave the house every morning to join my fellow commuters slogging down the freeway. And in my naive little heart, I believed I could find success before the money ran out.

How We’re Able to Provide Does Not Define Us

This week, I got a backhanded slap of reality when I faced tapping into my final resource in order to pay next month’s bills. That was when the side of me that abhors change took over. Soon I was convinced I’d accomplished nothing, helped no one (especially not myself), and was no closer to my dream than I was when I started. I was foolish, untalented, lazy…I could go on, but I’m sure you get the picture.

The worst part, though, was when I went down the “nobody would care if I disappeared” path. That ugly, weed-filled, thorn-laden path that’s brought many a weaker soul to end their misery for good.

There are many things which stop me from following that path to the end, not the least of which is sparing my daughter the pain and the years of soul-searching and questions without answers I have, and will always live with since my parents’ suicides. Then of course there’s the fact that deep in my heart of hearts I don’t believe I’m beaten yet.

Recognizing Our Own Worth

As my friend pointed out, I’ve helped a lot of people with these emotional outpourings, both in print and on Facebook Live. Just because I’m not aware of the hearts and lives I’ve touched doesn’t mean I haven’t helped someone. The numbers might be paltry in the minds of those who look at numbers to determine influence, but there are some who read my posts all the time. So I must be doing something right.

The trouble is, a girl and her cats have to eat, and since my ability to keep the food bins full is suffering no small amount of threat to future filling, I started attaching my self-worth to my inability to provide. As if being an aspiring but as yet unpublished writer wasn’t enough!

But it doesn’t stop there. I sat here in my hermit hole surrounded by books, cats, and proof of my unworthiness to walk the same path as J.K. Rowling, Nora Roberts, Brenda Novak, Jacqueline Carey, Stephen King, and more. I lost sight of how each one had to start with their first sale. And Anne McCaffrey didn’t start publishing until she was in her 50’s!

I don’t doubt at least a couple of them went through similar times when they stopped believing in themselves. Yet they must have gotten past it as we read their books today, and some are still pushing out new ones if not every year, pretty darned often.

Emerging Again, Battered But Not Broken

Coming out of the downward spiral into unworthiness is harder than it is to go in. Sliding down merely requires succumbing to the voices telling you you’re an imposter and won’t amount to anything no matter how hard you try. Getting out often requires an almost physical wrench to disengage from the voices and begin the long, slow trek out of the pit of despair into which you’ve sunk.

One of the most difficult parts of emerging for me is remembering there are people out there who care about me. That I do have people I can call who won’t see my need for help, or maybe just a good kick in the butt as in imposition, or worse, an added burden to their already challenging lives. Some things from my childhood are buried so deeply, it takes an earthquake level shakeup in my life for me to even recognize them.

When the Imposition is in Trying Not to Impose

This time around, I realize feeling like I’m imposing if I ask someone for help, or to just listen comes from so far back I don’t even remember the point where it began. I only know I’m more than willing to listen and possibly help if one of my friends is hurting and needs to unburden themselves. But if I’m the one who’s hurting and feels like the load has become too heavy to bear, I find it nearly impossible to reach out and ask for a steady shoulder or a listening ear.

My friends have given me hell about it on countless occasions, and I am getting better about asking for help, when it’s something physical like repairing something at the house. When it’s personal, emotional, and probably irrational, I seal myself in like a clean room in a science lab. I convince myself nobody cares if I’m struggling. Nobody wants to hear I’m not perfectly fine. Above all, no one wants to deal with me when I’m a weepy, soggy mess.

I’m the first to tell you it’s important to allow your friends to help you sometimes, just as you allow them

to need you. I say a lot of wise things I don’t follow myself. But in my defense, when I’m feeling really down like I have the last week or so, I manage to convince myself there’s no one in my life who really cares enough to let me fall apart on their watch. I start feeling detached from the crowd even when I’m doing one of my favorite things in the world with some of the kindest, most compassionate people I know; the dance community. Without a conscious thought, I remove my broken and battered self from their exalted sphere, not physically, but by erecting the walls I thought I’d destroyed long ago.

Our Misguided Sense of Safety

I’ve mastered the art of hovering on the edges, taking in the warmth and love everyone exchanges amongst themselves, but allowing none of it to reach my own needy heart. It’s all part of the long-held belief of undeserving. I know it’s wrong. I know it’s stupid. I know more than one of them would be over here, giving me crap if they knew I was returning to my inner hermit again. Yet still that voice inside me says “no, don’t bother them. They’re too busy to bother with you. They only like to be around you when you’re cheerful and positive.”

You, me, and anyone else who listens to that voice for even a nanosecond needs to tell it to STFU. It’s insidious and evil. It doesn’t care about anyone but itself, and thrives on our misery. The less we think of ourselves, the happier it becomes.

As my friend and mentor, Linda Clay says “we can’t be positive all the time.” I might add, it’s exhausting to always see the sunny side of things and never have moments when we let go of our Pollyanna exterior and pull out those insecurities and weak points. We need to learn to look at them a little more dispassionately is all. See them as specimens under a microscope instead of gigantic monsters hiding in the closet, waiting for a moment of inattention to bite off a leg or an arm.

We all have times when we just can’t get up the energy to show our positive side to the world. In my case, it’s when I pull out the masks without even thinking (another remnant of my childhood) and hide my pain behind a face that says “everything is perfectly OK. Don’t look too closely though. This face isn’t much more than paper and glue.”

Our Real, Imperfect Self is the Most Beautiful Person We Can Be

I use this forum not only to rip off my own masks and expose the dark and gnarly interior, but to let you, my readers know you don’t have to hide your imperfections. Whether you show them or not, your friends and some family know you have them. In fact, they’d appreciate it if you let them see those imperfections once in a while. It’s awfully hard keeping up with someone who always acts like life is one happy party. Life is a combination of good parts and crappy parts. Why share only half of yourself? What kind of friend holds back the most interesting parts anyway?

With a Grateful Heart

  1. I am grateful there are people in my life who recognize my downward spirals won’t stop without intervention.
  2. I am grateful for the opportunity to help other people, even if it’s only by showing my own warts.
  3. I am grateful for my writing which has kept my sanity loosely attached for many decades.
  4. I am grateful words are flowing from my pen again, even if they’re not the project I feel I should be working on.
  5. I am grateful for abundance; friendships I don’t always believe I deserve, a daughter who loves me even at my ugliest, my cats who never judge, but always comfort, the roof over my head, the food in my belly, and the possibilities I can’t yet envision.

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 specializes in creating content that helps entrepreneurs touch the souls of their readers/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

March 27, 2015 Mulling over a sensitive topic.

I’ve wasted two days bouncing a topic around in my head, but never committing it to physical reality, but here goes nothing.

For the last couple of days, I’ve had a blog topic rattling around inside my head, but I just wasn’t ready to put the words on the screen, but the time for false delicacy has passed. The truth is, Robin Williams has been on my mind quite a bit. It’s true that I pretty much love everything he’s ever done, since Mork and Mindy and a stand up routine he did for HBO. But the reason he’s taken up residence inside my head really has little to do with his career, and more to do with how and why he chose to leave the stage.

Like both of my parents, Mr. Williams chose the time and day when he would take his last bow and exit, very quietly, stage right. No amount of intervention or suicide prevention hotlines could have, in my opinion, made a difference for Robin, my mom or my dad. Before you decide that I’m being fatalistic and harsh, hear me out.

When I first began writing about my parents’ suicides and the impact it had on me, I did a bit of research into the statistics. What I found at the time was that there were significantly more successful adult suicides than teen suicides. One of the explanations given at the time was that when an adult decides to end their life, they are more certain that it is the right decision, and as such, use methods which are not only more likely to be successful, but wait until there won’t be anyone around to stop them, or interrupt the process of dying before it is complete.

The next part will be a little graphic, so if you’re sensitive, you might want to stop reading now.

Cases in point: My mom waited until my dad had left for work before taking a handful of pills and securing a plastic bag round her head. My father wasn’t expected to be anywhere the day he smoked one last cigarette before sticking a pistol in his mouth. And Robin Williams waited until his wife was gone before putting that belt around his neck.

What I’m saying is that all three of them, and tens of thousands like them every year were simply ready to go and didn’t want to take the chance that someone who loved them would do their best to convince them that they really needed to stay around for a few more years. The truth is, they, like so many others, knew exactly what they were doing, why they were doing it and that the work they’d come here to do was complete, or as close to it as they could get.

I am so grateful that my parents were simple people who never sought the spotlight.

As I see posts and news reports about Robin Williams’ family, my heart goes out to them, but I wouldn’t want to be in their shoes. My grieving may have been very lonely and took a lot longer than it might have, but I’ve been given the space and time to work my way through it without having it thrown in my face repeatedly. Certainly, people mean well, but I’m not sure how I would have handled the constant public reminders while I was sorting through the morass of emotions through which I waded both when mom died and again, ten years later when dad made his own decision.

I have long held my own theory with regard to the statistics of suicide and those thoughts were echoed in an article Tony Dokoupil wrote for Newsweek’s May 22, 2013 edition in which he states:

And this assumes we can even rely on the official data. Many researchers believe it’s a dramatic undercount, a function of fewer autopsies and more deaths by poison and pills, where intention is hard to detect. Ian Rockett of West Virginia University thinks the true rate is at least 30 percent higher, which would make suicide three times more common than murder. Last fall the World Health Organization estimated that “global rates” of suicide are up 60 percent since World War II. And none of this includes the pestilence of suicidal behavior, the thoughts and plans that slowly eat away at people, the corrosive social cost of 25 attempts for every one official death.

Not to mention those who poison themselves slowly with alcohol. I also found that the “25 attempts for every one official death” is a bit skewed because younger people tend to have more unsuccessful attempts and older people tend to, if you’ll pardon the expression, get it right the first time. Mr. Dokoupil actually supports this theory when he says:

In America in the last decade, the suicide rate has declined among teens and people in their early 20s, and it’s also down or stable for the elderly. Almost the entire rise—as both the new CDC and GBD numbers show—is driven by changes in a single band of people, a demographic once living a happy life atop the human ziggurat: men and women 45 to 64, essentially baby boomers and their international peers in the developed world.

However, I think the quote from this article which most strongly resonated with me was from Dr. Thomas Joiner who also lost his father unexpectedly to suicide:

It’s not painless or easy, like pulling the fire alarm to get out of math class. It takes “a kind of courage,” says Joiner, “a fearless endurance” that’s not laudable, but certainly not weak or impulsive. On the contrary, he says, suicide takes a slow habituation to pain, a numbness to violence. He points to that heightened suicide risk shared by athletes, doctors, prostitutes, and bulimics, among others—anybody with a history of tamping down the body’s instinct to scream, which goes a long way to unlocking the riddle of military suicides.

One thing I’ve never believed of either of my parents was that they were cowards. Indeed, I have always believed that despite the result, they showed an incredible courage in not only choosing to leave those they loved behind, but to ensure that there would be no going back, no lingering, and no distraught family members hovering at their bedside hoping for a miracle, because there would be no lingering, no hope for recovery. They would be gone and would leave us with the task of grieving and of closing the final chapter on their lives. If you’ve ever watched someone who spends days, weeks, months watching a loved one wither away from cancer, you know that committing suicide is truly an act of compassion and courage.

Don’t take this to mean that I advocate suicide or believe it is the answer to everyone’s ills

This is not a treatise advocating self-harm in any way, shape or form. It is, instead, my own point of view in both trying to understand the whys, but also to recognize that the pat answer of “depression” is, in and of itself, not the entire picture, nor should the family of someone who chooses to end their life be forever stigmatized and even blamed for not being able to see the future and stay the hand of their parent, child or lover. Their lives never were and never will be in our hands.

I’m going to close this rather lengthy post with a final quote from Dr. Joiner because, franklydr. joiners venn diagram, I just couldn’t say it any better myself. (on a side note, the three variables he mentions are depicted in this diagram)

These days, Joiner’s thoughts have shifted toward prevention. If he’s right about suicide, the ability to foil one of the three variables is the ability to save a life. Smart clinicians can do it, but it’s not easy to get people into treatment. There’s the cost, for one thing, but more than that, there’s the shame and the stigma. Suicide is the rare killer that fails to inspire celebrity PSAs, 5K fun runs, and shiny new university centers for study and treatment. That has to change, says Joiner. “We need to get it in our heads that suicide is not easy, painless, cowardly, selfish, vengeful, self-masterful, or rash,” he says. “And once we get all that in our heads at last, we need to let it lead our hearts.”

Even more than usual, I beg your indulgence as I share my gratitudes for this evening.
1. I am grateful that there are those who are working diligently to alter the perception of suicide.
2. I am grateful for the years I’ve had and the writing I’ve done which have given me both perspective and compassion for the decisions my parents made.
3. I am grateful for the challenges with which I’ve been presented to allow me to learn both compassion and kindness and to make me see that crawling into a hole and feeling sorry for myself is not the way to make the world a better place.
4. I am grateful for my friends and those few family members who have been there for me in the years since my mom’s suicide and for all that occurred in the years since, helping me feel untainted and in fact, blessed by the lessons I’ve learned from my experiences. Also for those who willingly shared their own experiences and feelings with me.
5. I am grateful for abundance: understanding, compassion, kindness, caring, love, joy, friendship, inspiration, peace, harmony, health (mental, physical, energetic and emotional) and prosperity.

Blessed Be

And now for some shameless self-promotion:
I’d love it if you’d visit my Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/SheriLevensteinConawayAuthor?ref=aymt_homepage_panel and my website, http://www.shericonaway.com. 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!

Attribution added April 18, 2016

While discussing the topic of suicide in one of my Facebook groups, I realized I’d forgotten to link the article used. In re-locating it, I discovered they’ve added more photographs of famous suicide victims and additional material since I last visited the Newsweek site. If you’d like to read the original article, you can read about Dr. Joiner’s Theory of Suicide here

August 20, 2014 Ode to Decluttering

The first thing to realize is that clutter comes in many forms: Energetic, mental, emotional, physical; and many variations on these themes.

Once again, I’m guided to declutter, but this time, it’s not so much my physical environment, but my mental and emotional ones. As a result, I find myself less inclined to allow Facebook to suck up my time and have been taking steps to, in essence, clear more space. To begin with, I’m no longer posting what I’m doing or where I’ve visited, and, in fact, didn’t even post comments or pictures from the Rascal Flatts concert the other night. This morning, I was guided to go through my friends list and unfollow many on it, which will, ultimately, result in considerably less activity on my wall to distract me and keep me away from what’s truly important. Even better has been the ease with which I have been able to close the Facebook page for hours on end, not even missing knowing what my friends are up to. Clearly, the time and energy sucking I was succumbing to has lost a lot of its glitter over the last week or so.

Ch-ch-ch-changes!

Making this small but significant change has had immediate, positive results. Not only did I get some editing done yesterday, but I wrote my blog post much earlier in the day, got laundry done and a few other chores I might have continued to put off. But the very best part of my latest decluttering effort has clearly been on the energetic plane. I found myself going to bed a little earlier last night, and awoke refreshed and ready to start my day hours early than has been my wont for the last couple of weeks! I also feel much more relaxed and focused.

This is not to say that social media sites don’t have their place. I, myself, tend to follow pages and people who post a lot of positive affirmations and empowering quotes. In fact, I have a habit of unfollowing anyone who posts a lot of political and world shattering images and comments. As always, we choose the energetic vibration of our environment, and in so choosing, we draw to us those things which maintain our selected balance. Thus, the people and places I choose to follow tend to be spiritually enlightened, oriented towards kindness, animal friendly and, in many cases offer educational opportunities in non-traditional subjects. In fact, I think part of my disenchantment with much of it lately has been the endless posts which do not feed my need for mental and spiritual expansion.

As a further expansion of this thought, and my desire to improve my kindness rating, I am grateful that Facebook has the “unfollow” function rather than limiting its users to either seeing everything someone posts or not having them on their friends list. Unfollowing someone doesn’t send them any kind of message, as far as I know. But unfriending them, once they realize it has occurred, can, at the very least, cause hurt feelings, but can also result in anger or, in people who might already be mentally unstable or depressed, actually increase those feelings of unworthiness they might already be feeling. I, for one, do not want to make anyone feel unworthy or uncared for (though, admittedly, I have made comments and remarks which may have done so). In fact, social media gives us too easy a path towards unkindness by allowing us to vent our frustration in real time, instead of taking a time out to think it through, and realize that our words can be hurtful if not edited and put forth after we’ve worked through negative emotions.

Over sharing runs rampant.

People joke about how we post pictures of our meals, our animals and other strange things for the reading enjoyment of our “followers”. I’d estimate that most of us do so at least once in awhile, while others are guilty of posting such things almost daily. We are also addicted to the “selfie”, and again, some people post them occasionally, when they’re on vacation or at Disneyland or celebrating a special event, while others post daily, or even hourly! This propensity towards posting selfies is just another indication of how closely many people tie themselves to social media every day.

Again, I find myself grateful to have not succumbed to the need to allow Facebook to ping me on my smart phone every time my friends post something or comment on my posts. The lack of constant reminders makes it even easier for me to disconnect for long periods of time. The fact is, a phone that is constantly pinging and booping and making other assorted sounds would just annoy the ever-loving crap out of me! Bad enough, being on the “do not call” list has not prevented salesmen and other unwanted calls to break through my personal barrier of people I do and do not want to talk to. (driving home from my daughter’s house on Monday, a call came in which I thought might be my daughter, and, had I listened for the ring tone would have known it wasn’t. A saleswoman launched into her pitch with such verve, I was forced to just disconnect as she didn’t even take a breath long enough for me to politely tell her I wasn’t interested!)

What’s happy for you, might make someone else sad.

Many of my friends post pictures of their vacations, their homes, their family gatherings and their grandchildren. While sharing their happiness might be uplifting to some, consider a person who can’t afford vacations, but spends a lot of time working just to make ends meet. Or perhaps, a person who has to share a small apartment in the city. Consider how the happy, family gathering might affect someone who either has no family left, or has nobody they’re close to. What about those who either have no children or are estranged from them and, as such, will never have or see their grandchildren? In cases like these, what seems like a sharing of joy to some could trigger, once again, those thoughts of unworthiness in others. I can see someone wallowing in self-pity because they are unable to post similar pictures. Even I, find myself, on occasion, feeling a little sorry for myself…at least until I remember to be grateful for all that I have, and realize that I’m only seeing a small piece of their lives. The reality might be that, overall, I have far more to be grateful for than they do. Those happy family vacation pictures might hide a child who was lost too young, or a parent who is suffering from Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s or ALS. We don’t often post the things in life which cause us pain, or with which we must struggle constantly to accept. There are a lot of cliches running through my head right now, but the bottom line is that it is dangerous to compare your own life to one in which you’re only given a glimpse of the good times.

Tuning out and turning off to increase focus on what I can control.

To summarize this rather lengthy post (and longer posts is another benefit/result of reducing my social media exposure), though there are mixed thoughts on whether social media enhances or detracts from our overall well-being, I believe you have to take it on a case by case basis, and simply decide how it’s affecting your life. After doing my own analysis, I’ve decided that it is OK in small doses, but that, for awhile now, the doses I’ve been consuming have been excessive, and, as a result, causing me damage which reducing the dosage will quickly reverse. All I can say is: Choose wisely, my friends!

My gratitudes today are:
1. I am grateful for my recent inspiration to declutter energetically and mentally as it will positively impact me emotionally as well.
2. I am grateful that we all have choices.
3. I am grateful for visions of myself which show me areas which need improvement.
4. I am grateful for new horizons.
5. I am grateful for abundance which is available to everyone: Harmony, peace, health, happiness, joy, love and prosperity.

Namaste

August 11, 2014 Not my usual blog post

R.I.P. to a man who brought more than his share of laughter to the world! We are poorer for his decision to leave.

Ordinarily, I avoid current events for blog topics, mostly because I avoid watching the news and the media’s tendency to make a huge deal out of bad news. But today, nothing is quite normal, and the news of the world’s loss of actor, Robin Williams, hits way too close to home.

Losing someone to suicide is a very personal kind of hell.

Only when you’ve lost someone to suicide can you truly understand the emotions experienced by a death which you could no more have prevented than if it had been a slow decline from cancer, an auto accident or any other method of passing. Only suicide leaves the family with tons of questions, and mere seeds of answers. And only suicide seems to bring out the worst in people who ask insensitive, sometimes cruel questions of the survivors. Suddenly, all responsibility for the deceased’s life and choices is assumed to belong to their family.

When my mother committed suicide over twenty years ago, I was appalled by relatives who had the unmitigated gall to ask my father why he didn’t recognize that Mom had a problem and force her to get help. As if it was his choice to make! It didn’t even occur to them that you can’t force someone to seek help. They have to want to fix themselves first! Would you say that to someone whose spouse died of liver disease due to alcoholism? I really doubt it!

I sincerely hope that his status as a public figure for so many wonderful decades doesn’t give people reason to believe that they can flood the internet with their ignorance and insensitivity, but instead, gives them an opportunity to express their gratitude for all of the laughter he brought to us, while hiding his own pain. His family needs time to process their feelings without interference from well-meaning masses.

Robin Williams will be missed by many, yet nobody but the family and friends who truly loved the man behind the mask will understand the depth of that loss.

Suicide was the 12th largest cause of death in the U.S. in 2010 with over 38,000 successful suicides. This doesn’t even take into account those who failed to achieve their goal…death and release from pain. People around us are living with depression every day, but many disguise it so well, nobody ever guesses. Some, like my mother, are so good at disguising it that their death comes as a complete surprise to everyone concerned. My sister and I used to joke about my mother’s many faces when we were younger. Sadly, it wasn’t a joke. Like Robin Williams who hid behind his humor, my mother seemingly had a face for every situation. It was only when I began writing about both hers and my father’s suicides that I realized how little I knew the woman who gave me life. I find myself wondering if much of the crazy, eccentric behavior Mr. Williams performed for audiences, both on stage and film, wasn’t really one of his faces, and his way of acting out on the pain within, fooling us into believing it was just an act?

It’s all about Choices

Despite it all, I continue to contend that it’s all about choices. My parents made the choices they did because they felt they had finished what they’d come here to do. I believe no less of Mr. Williams. He’d done what he needed to do, learned the lessons he needed to learn, experienced the joy and suffering he chose for this lifetime, then, very quietly and without fanfare, exited, stage right.

May he be lovingly remembered, and in doing so, may his family and friends be left to grieve…and cope…in peace.

My gratitudes tonight are:
1. I am grateful for things which, through sadness, make me remember to be compassionate.
2. I am grateful for the experiences I’ve had which (I hope) have made me a better person.
3. I am grateful for my family and friends who understand without an excess of words.
4. I am grateful for those who respect the privacy of people going through a family tragedy.
5. I am grateful that I am not my mother’s child, but a strong, compassionate, happy, self-sufficient woman with every reason to continue living, learning lessons, and experiencing every emotion I can, but from a place many miles from Depression.

Namaste

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