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

Posts tagged ‘suicide’

Triggered by Suicide…Again

Triggers Bring Memories and Healing

https://www.flickr.com/photos/erix/66519749/in/photolist-6SW1e-VTKUdm-M1eYnL-242z7nc-oqkg1j-proThx-fsTWuh-6k2FkX-o4wR24-y6Zwr-KfMCGq-SFv9cS-8hfbmZ-bfs4it-SkpXJ5-fTkgBF-SRG43L-oaSpyU-6LELFf-8sY2Wq-65Q84A-4uhkK6-4CwKmQ-21jdqXp-ry5GpM-RHagrR-s7emTJ-b8moxH-pgqTW-GmKEPY-7h7g9p-6tuV9R-r3UHnJ-9kePpX-b1DnC2-9Gv9Kj-RFjn7k-6tuPQR-2b4oHPW-nxaMN8-Kez8E-6tuN7i-dUaLfP-6nXEKq-TiiQCx-nXxmkn-hCDNRa-CFeyn-2YRhRS-9BUEVLosing someone to suicide means spending the rest of your life remembering. Though the daily reminders might fade as the years go by, you never know when someone or something will bring the memories flooding back; memories of what was, but also memories of what could have been.

At the end of this month, it will be 26 years since my mom ended her life. Unlike many who lose someone to suicide, my mom and I weren’t close. In fact, I’d say we had more of a love-hate relationship. The one thing the years have done is to soften the hard edges of our conflicted love and allow me to see past her hard shell to the woman she hid from the world. Sometimes though, my new-found compassion and gentler love for the woman who gave me life, and ultimately took her own means a trigger hits me harder for the years it’s lain dormant. It’s a harsh reminder I have feelings yet to unpack, address, and release.

This time, it happened while driving past the town where I grew up. So much has changed. Even new freeway off ramps have been added in the decades since we first moved there. Miles of previously empty land is now filled with car dealerships and office buildings. Still, memories of a childhood spent running, hiking, and biking through land where deer and rabbits ran freely,  over faint paths few feet had yet to traverse erase signs of progress, After spending my first 12 years in an area surrounded by buildings and concrete sidewalks, I can still see the verdant green hills I mostly took for granted as a teenager. 

Time Blurs the Edges of My Memories

My mind didn’t only see the land for what it once was, but my life as well. It stripped away all https://www.flickr.com/photos/augustbrill/5025448773/in/photolist-8E5JQv-bj2Q3-buZES-NosS3S-bE9C2-8NP6x3-oKBJYc-7yxvUJ-4eRexw-28mE1ch-5tW6Kf-f2JEoo-acCwSd-eajL56-paxFhz-4cv8b7-7yxvw5-7D7azC-ofd2U1-4jX86v-cLpNW-7yxvPb-7yxvS7-6hKsj7-7ytH5n-6ZkEpv-nxKqWs-pz4SNk-8HDCce-gT2U3W-7AkeTX-5hzA7T-5hDXEh-fjpMeq-ceoQ2-5hzAiF-51qGYK-ceoza-51qFRM-9vkmV9-5v6EqD-ceoGA-51uTs5-51uSJo-8NP6zA-51qEZx-7zy4Hg-ceoKc-ceorH-w9TTqthe ugliness; the fights, the angry words, the years I barely spoke to my mom, leaving a bone-deep sadness. She only stayed around for 6 years of her granddaughters’ lives, though I know she absolutely adored them, and loved being a grandmother.

Forgetting for a moment how much she drove me crazy when it came to my daughters, I wondered how different things might be. Those thoughts pause with my youngest. We’ve been estranged for years, and I don’t really know her 10-year-old daughter. Would Mom’s presence have made a difference when I struggled with 2 headstrong teenagers pushing hard for the freedom of adulthood far too soon?

I spent 16 years denying any feelings for my mom’s passing other than guilt. Guilt over not feeling sad; for fighting too much and listening too little; for what I could have or would have done differently had I known how much she was struggling. For 16 years I avoided the need inside myself to acknowledge the deeper feelings of loss, abandonment, and grief.

Letting Go to Let People Help

In the last 10 years, I’ve put a lot of time and effort into unpacking those feelings; acknowledging some, denying others. I’ve shared many of them, and learned there are many others who need a non-judgemental ear, but didn’t know where to look. Breaking the seal on my own belief system concerning suicide and mental health has benefited me more than anyone, and not just by releasing pent-up feelings. I get to hear other peoples’ stories and struggles too. They’ve been a tremendous help in teaching me how to accept my own feelings without beating myself up, or hearing my dad’s voice saying; “You shouldn’t feel like that.” Words I tried hard to live up to in my false belief it would make him love me, and actually show it with kindness instead of ridicule.

In the process, I’ve had to recognize and accept the wagon load of anger I’ve been carrying towards my dad for failing to fill the void of love I believed I lost from my mom when my sister was born. I had to learn he loved me the best he could, and showed it as he’d been taught to show love. That the criticism and ridicule he’d been taught by his own parents tore away at my fragile self-esteem escaped his notice. He didn’t know how to see it. Nor did he see how hard I tried to live up to his impossible standards which, in hindsight, I don’t think he managed either. We both learned to hide it well. The tragedy is, he never learned he could stop hiding.

I’ve gained a lot while unpacking and sharing my feelings over the least decade. The greatest gift has been loving and supportive friends. Being able to accept and embrace my Empathic abilities has been a huge part of the process. More and more, I get to see the people around me opening up to theirs as well, and it strengthens our connection in ways which often surprise me.

A Time To Isolate and Process

There are still times I need to withdraw; to go inside and process my latest revelation or trigger. I’ll find myself alone in a crowd as I did the night this trigger hit—drifting from one group to the next, isolating for a few minutes, getting lost in a line dance; one only with the music and the floor beneath my feet. For the most part, each trigger reminds me of the need to keep working through feelings as they arise no matter when, where, or how. There’s no longer an option to put it off until it’s convenient. I’ve learned feelings are never convenient, and the more I stuffed them down, the less convenient they became. I have my share of meltdowns to prove that one!

Though it took awhile, I’ve learned to see the blessings more than the traumas, and that some of those traumas were necessary. I’m not the woman I was 26 years ago when mom let her demons win. Nor am I the woman I was when dad did the same 10 years later. Growth has come in stages. First I had to learn to love myself. It was probably my biggest hurdle given the number of years I’d failed to measure up to my parents’ expectations.

I spent decades telling myself I didn’t care, but the only person I might have deceived was myself, and in hindsight, that’s unlikely. Deep down inside where I stuffed all my feelings, fooling myself into believing they’d stay put, was someone who saw through all the subterfuge and attempts at self-preservation. After all, my very sanity was at stake.

Finding the Validation I Needed From Within

The voices in my head, not unlike the ones I’m sure my parents fought, never let me forget how close I came to losing it on many occasions. But do you know what? They’ve grown softer since I started acknowledging the buried feelings; not only the ones since my parents’ suicides, but the ones I tried to ignore from childhood all the way into my 40’s. Like the child I was; desperate for a demonstrative love my parents were incapable of giving, the child inside me wanted nothing more or less than to have her feelings acknowledged and validated. Only in recent years have I discovered, thanks to a lot of soul-searching and a seemingly endless flow of triggers, that all the validation I need—that I’ve ever needed is, and always will be inside myself.

This may sound weird, but in a lot of ways, I’m grateful for my parents’ suicides. They cut me loose from a lot of unrealistic expectations and allowed me to eventually start finding my own way. It gave me a chance to love and accept myself for who I am and realize I didn’t need to perpetuate old familial patterns.

They also cut me loose from a family which knew no better than my parents. Being abandoned by the rest of my family for decades turned out to be the most valuable gift I received. It gave me time, space, and new examples of the woman I wanted to be when the dust cleared and the walls crumbled. It allowed me to become part of a healthier, happier family of friends who are helping me find the person I’m meant to be without judgement or expectations.

Building a Life of Gratitude

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I’m grateful for triggers that help me learn, acknowledge, release, and move on.
  2. I’m grateful for supportive friends who’ve been through their own hell to learn to accept their feelings as valid and valuable.
  3. I’m grateful for a daughter with whom I can speak openly and honestly, even when we’re polar opposites in our beliefs.
  4. I’m grateful I’ve learned to accept the times I need to go inside and muddle through the latest batch of feelings without letting the process overwhelm me.
  5. I’m grateful for abundance; love, friendship, triggers, lessons, challenges, opportunities, growth, empathy, compassion, peace, harmony, balance, philanthropy, and prosperity.

Love and Light

 

About the Author

Sheri Conaway is a Holistic 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

Ask an Introvert to Dance

Some Find it Hard to Ask

https://www.flickr.com/photos/basykes/7340397856/in/photolist-cbDsxJ-fzRXJH-fzRU3V-GFFVME-87C3ro-epfT1v-6ixEeJ-HRLxVG-58xPj2-Xp8vtU-pXs6to-QHDGiW-t6dtT-6bsVU6-9SurWh-Wdj1Qd-odAC7i-ubQRAd-apXuRr-nJMGvb-9sCtdA-51wq2C-4KXrym-dJLEXx-dfGd8s-6yz6qi-22c7xXE-4KXt7A-219zYfG-Y6ugwd-aokdtX-WXZF7J-8k4FAh-219zYkm-rqFwgT-2gqYSkX-pKNDEY-fngxkg-2rBixn-cAMBNL-6yEkh5-cAMnRj-9Axjsh-WXZF8W-HU8RCu-E72ZqC-8nkuaw-bDCtyG-22eMwC4-64vyhJI’ve been dancing almost all my life. I started with tap and ballet when I was 5. Since then, it’s been a wild and varied ride; folk, square, round, jazz, modern, ballroom, and my current passion; all things Country. I know most of the line dances done in my area, can two-step, waltz, nightclub two-step, West Coast Swing, East Coast Swing, and even polka. But mostly I line dance.

It may seem strange given my repertoire but a few bad experiences and my innate shyness mean I simply don’t ask, but instead, wait to be asked which may or may not happen. Years ago I’d ask any available man to dance but after being turned down too many times, often with a lame excuse, or worse; watching him turn away after declining my request to dance with someone else, I gave it up as a bad deal. I decided being a wallflower was better than being turned down. Yes, I dance less than I’d like to. I know it isn’t personal. But a part of me feels it is and crawls further into the shell I’m still not ready to break into a zillion pieces and discard for good.

I’ve often been told I’m intimidating (though not as much lately as before I let some of my walls down). I suspect it has to do with an outward confidence I exude. In truth, it’s only real under certain circumstances. The rest of the time, it’s a carefully constructed and maintained facade originally erected to protect my soft, mushy center. While it’s rarely necessary these days, old habits die hard. The minute I feel even the least bit insecure or uncertain, my outward confidence is elevated to safeguard an ego that’s still easily bruised.

Nip Isolation in the Bud Before it’s Too Late

Even so, I trust too easily these days, letting people I shouldn’t get close. Yet given the choice, I wouldn’t do things differently. I know too well what it feels like to be less trusting; more self-contained. The reality is most introverts do not want to be alone and isolated. It’s a place to recharge, nothing more. Making isolation a permanent residence invites depression. Left with too much alone time to think, I can make a mountain out of a molehill in record time.

In the weeks surrounding the anniversary of the Borderline shooting, I read a lot of posts on Facebook from people who were feeling sad and disconnected, yet felt they didn’t have the right to feel that way since they hadn’t been there that night, nor had they lost a friend or family member. I know a lot of them were feeling the sadness and grief anyway. For many like me, it was a little bit of our own sadness, and a lot coming in from outside. Everywhere were reminders of a night many of us wish we could turn back; bring back the precious lives that were lost, and help a young man who was lost, alone, angry, and struggling.

Our community has it’s heart in the right place. Many people suggest professional help or post and re-post numbers for a suicide hotline. I try to remind people a listening, non-judgemental ear and a shoulder to lean on might be a better solution. It seems too many are still quick to shove the responsibility off on “professionals” who often then shove it off on the latest pharmaceutical wonder. If you ask me, human kindness is a more effective drug with no negative side-effects. I think it should be the first drug of choice before heading to the medical profession in most cases.

People Need to be Included

Sure, there are those who clearly need professional intervention, and I don’t mean to suggest there isn’t a time and a place to consult someone trained to guide people out of dangerous and destructive behavior. I think it might be the last resort instead of the first. But to make it so, more people have to care and be willing to put forth the effort even when it’s not convenient.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/ky_olsen/4860839266/in/photolist-n8CFnR-o5uD96-22RQjNp-eCZ3Kq-WYUGZj-DLmHDZ-KKjkM7-8px5ay

For someone like me, it might mean something as simple as being included, or asked to dance. For others, it might take more effort; ask them out to coffee again and again if necessary. I remember feeling unworthy. I was the one who believed people tolerated my presence, but didn’t care whether I was there or not; who believed I was too much of a burden to befriend. I was lost and alone, never realizing the isolation I felt was a product of my own mind, ultimately manifesting in my behavior until it became reality. No one reached out because they had no idea I needed help. My actions had ensured no one asked or felt the need to offer.

Loneliness becomes insidious. The more a person is alone, the more alone they become. It’s as if the world becomes affected with amnesia, at least in their mind. A few years ago I withdrew for a couple of weeks when the drama became too intense. In my mind, no one would even notice my absence. To my surprise, when I returned, a number of people made it clear I was missed. Yet not one reached out while I was gone to ask if I was OK.

Belonging to a Loving, Caring Community is the First Step

Things are different now. If I miss more than a couple regular events, I get texts and Facebook Messages asking if I’m OK…most of the time. Even the best of us get busy and don’t pick up on the signs our friends might leave indicating they’re in distress. It’s why I emphasize a network approach where no one is left alone and floundering. Maybe 6 friends are entangled in the web of their own lives, but there should always be someone whose life is currently less complicated, and available to check on the quiet ones. 

What I’m trying to say in my usual long-winded and convoluted way is everyone needs to be part of a loving, supportive community. Everyone deserves to be part of a community that reaches out and draws them back into the fold when life knocks them sideways, or when they start feeling disconnected, yet accepts them as they are without judgement or expectations. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a dance community like mine which ensures everyone is included and appreciated, a church group, an extended blood family, or some other community formed around a shared interest.

We need to reach a point where no one feels like they have to act badly in order to get attention; where no one is ever left to feel they’re unloved or don’t matter. Each of us is a drop in the Sea of Souls. What we do, think, and feel causes ripples felt further away than we know. When we stop making ripples too soon, or make a gigantic ripple because we’re feeling too alone it causes enormous repercussions in the entire Sea. Sure, sometimes that Sea needs a bit of a tidal wave, but lets make sure those tidal waves are induced for the right reasons. I may be an idealist, but I believe love does conquer all.

Using Gratitude to Keep My Spirits High

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I’m grateful for the friendships I formed once I learned I wasn’t unworthy.
  2. I’m grateful for the people who show me what caring, loving, and community look like.
  3. I’m grateful to be included.
  4. I’m grateful for less walls and more open doors.
  5. I’m grateful for abundance; love, friendship, compassion, community, joy, hugs, music, belonging, inspiration, motivation, peace, harmony, balance, philanthropy, and prosperity.

Love and Light

 

About the Author

Sheri Conaway is a Holistic 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

A Mother’s Pain: Mental Health Care Isn’t Optional

Prevention Starts With Our Mental Health

A weekend full of memorials; the dedication of the memorial garden, its 12 fountains shooting water high in the air; pavers for the survivors—yet any words spoken for the 13th victim of the Borderline shooting on November 7th 2018 aren’t spoken with remembrance or love—except, perhaps by the woman who called him “Son”.

I suspect the last year has been horrific for the shooter’s mother; seeing stickers, t-shirts, and signs wherever she goes. Newspapers are still writing stories memorializing the 12 victims of her son’s last angry, violent act. I’ve read most of them, and haven’t seen his name mentioned since the early accounts (like the journalists, I’ll honor requests from the victims’ families to refrain from immortalizing his name, though my heart shatters a bit more for his mother). Many hate him for taking their friends and loved ones. It’s a natural response. A few found it in their hearts to feel compassion; to see a young man in so much pain he committed an unthinkable act. I doubt we’ll ever understand why he chose to walk into a crowded bar heavily armed and take lives I think we can all agree he had no right to take.

My thoughts, however, are with his mother. In the aftermath, I heard she was subjected to some pretty awful comments on her Facebook page while I’m sure she was trying to wrap her head around what had happened, and her heart around the fact her son was gone in a final, horrific blaze of glory.

One Suicide Affects Many

As a suicide survivor, I know how hard it is to wrap my head around a loved one taking their https://www.flickr.com/photos/erix/66519749/in/photolist-6SW1e-VTKUdm-M1eYnL-242z7nc-oqkg1j-proThx-fsTWuh-6k2FkX-o4wR24-y6Zwr-KfMCGq-SFv9cS-8hfbmZ-bfs4it-SkpXJ5-fTkgBF-SRG43L-oaSpyU-6LELFf-8sY2Wq-65Q84A-4uhkK6-4CwKmQ-21jdqXp-ry5GpM-RHagrR-s7emTJ-b8moxH-pgqTW-GmKEPY-7h7g9p-6tuV9R-r3UHnJ-9kePpX-b1DnC2-9Gv9Kj-RFjn7k-6tuPQR-2b4oHPW-nxaMN8-Kez8E-6tuN7i-dUaLfP-6nXEKq-TiiQCx-nXxmkn-hCDNRa-CFeyn-2YRhRS-9BUEVown life. I know the questions I’ve asked for which there will never be answers. How much worse can it be when first, it’s your child, and second, he killed innocent people before he took his own life, and did so where the repercussions would continue to echo in not only the local community, but a large portion of the Country dance community as well. How many times does a mother’s heart break as memorial after memorial celebrates the lives of the innocent, but not the person who was so broken and alone as to plan and execute a mass murder/suicide?

I have a huge amount of respect for the father of one of the victims who recognized how much our neglect of mental health played into this tragedy. Michael Morrisette lost his youngest daughter, Kristina in the shooting. Rather than screaming uselessly about the need for gun control, he turned his efforts towards helping others heal, but also to understand how many people out there are ticking time bombs. They live inside their heads where the landscape is unwelcoming and cold; their tender hearts shriveling from neglect. They don’t know how to reach out and ask for help. Hell, they’ve been trained since birth that asking for help is a weakness and admitting you’re struggling makes you a target.

Give An Hour and Others Opening the Dialogue

Organizations like Give An Hour  not only help victims of disasters, but with the help of people like Michael, are working hard to change the way we look at mental illness. With suicide rates, especially in young men rising steadily, they have a long row to plow. But if they manage to keep one mother from having to mourn her son’s death as this mom is, I believe they’ll have made a difference. Their campaigns to educate everyone and raise awareness to the signs of mental illness and depression are desperately needed as our society falls apart at the seams.

Whether it’s offering counseling for victims of disasters or educating people about recognizing triggers in themselves, I can’t emphasize enough how much we need the staff and volunteers of organizations like Give An Hour to help bring mental health out into the open; to emphasize how important our mental and emotional health are. Think how much healthier people would be physically if they stopped stuffing their feelings and struggles down instead of dealing with them.

I can only speak with authority on what I’ve seen, but some of the most angry, bitter people I know are suffering from multiple serious physical ailments. The question is, which came first? In my opinion, and from the ones I’ve observed personally, the mental state brought on the physical ailments. Things like carrying a grudge, hating for no concrete reason, feeling isolated, and ensuring by their behavior that the isolation intensified eventually ate away at their physical health. Yes, I can only conjecture, but if you ask me, the evidence is overwhelming.

Once, I was one of those bitter, angry people, and I can assure you, my health, both mental and physical suffered for it. My children and everyone I touched suffered because I was so busy holding my pain close to me like a fragile infant, I failed to recognize it for the vicious parasite it was. I truly believe the only reason my health has returned is because I learned to let go and more, to reach out.

The More We Talk about Mental Health and Suicide, The More Ears and Hearts We’ll Reach

Even Kaiser Permanente has been running an ad campaign for quite awhile which emphasizes the importance of mental and emotional health. 5 years ago, you never even heard it mentioned. Health insurance companies were all about treating the physical body only, and even then, imperfectly. It’s hard to tell right now whether they’re emphasizing it because they think it’s fashionable, or because they truly believe we are a single cohesive being, body, mind, and spirit. Only time will tell.

All I know for sure is I’d love to stop seeing stories about murders and suicides, not because they’re once more shoved under the rug, but because society as a whole is accepting of how mental health affects everything else. My dream is for it to be as common and accepted to see a Psychologist, Psychiatrist, or Therapist as it is to see your GP, Cardiologist, or Orthopedist. Let it become part of our annual preventative medicine routine so mothers stop losing sons too soon, wives stop losing husbands, children stop losing parents, and we all stop seeing people die unnecessarily.

Most of all, let’s not see another community shattered because someone thought killing other people would assuage the mental anguish they suffered. When there’s a tragedy like Borderline, Route 91, or any of the other mass shootings we’ve seen in the last few years, people think nothing of attending to the mental well-being of the victims’ families and the survivors. It baffles me that so few have recognized the importance of attending to everyone’s mental well-being before something awful happens. Before a mother has to mourn her son amidst voices raised in anger and hate.

Gratitude: A Powerful Tool for Improved Mental Health

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I’m grateful I learned to reach out and ask for help. It’s a learning process I’ve yet to perfect, but it’s allowed me to let go of a lot of pain and misery I’d heaped on my undeserving self.
  2. I’m grateful for people and organizations who are speaking out about mental health. At times, I feel like my voice is no longer needed. Then I realize every voice is needed if we’re to be heard and for action to be taken.
  3. I’m grateful for my friends and family who love and accept my imperfect self just the way I am.
  4. I’m grateful for the dance community which has stood together for a year since our own tragedy, but who stood together long before that, without any other reason than our common joy.
  5. I’m grateful for abundance; love, community, joy, friendship, support, caring, sharing, peace, harmony, balance, philanthropy, and prosperity.

Love and Light

 

About the Author

Sheri Conaway is a Holistic 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

Trauma Management Skills

Every Trauma is Unique

traumaMy trauma isn’t your trauma. Even if we experienced the same traumatizing event, my life experiences and coping mechanisms will paint my perceptions with a different pallet of colors than yours. Though we’ll ultimately have to go through many of the same steps in the healing process, I’ll go through them in a different order, spending more time on some and less on others. My needs are different and defined by how much I’ve stuffed down, released, denied, or revisited from previous traumas. They’ll  also be impacted by whatever else life throws at me in the meantime.

My process isn’t right for you, nor yours for me. But it’s exactly right for each of us with no set timeline nor point when you or I will be completely healed from the event. I will simply keep traveling on my healing journey as will you with many triumphs and setbacks along the way.

Still, I see so many similarities as I read articles and posts from others who are at various stages in their healing process. It doesn’t really matter whether the trauma is old or new, dealt with right away, or held deep inside for decades. Once the process of healing and releasing begins, the road traveled has many common stops along the way.

Not only does the process share components, but so does the way we coped with the trauma initially. Personally, I can only speak from the “holding it all in until you burst” camp, and as such, relate well to those who suffered childhood trauma, or years of abuse before they finally made the break, realizing they did not deserve such treatment, eventually learning they didn’t bear any responsibility. Those people opened my eyes to how emotionally bankrupt my own childhood was, not because my parents didn’t care, but because it was the only thing they, themselves knew.

Peeling Your Own Coping Skills Onion

Healing from trauma is like peeling an onion, but never reaching the very center. Often, in the process there are layers which go back to previous generations. In my case, my family’s primary coping mechanism was to stuff things down and try to ignore their existence. I don’t know if any of them realized (or realize, depending on the generation) how destructive it was and is. I believe when it originated, it was more of a survival mechanism than a choice. Unfortunately, when it was no longer a matter of life and death, the pattern was so deeply ingrained as to be considered normal.

I’ve always been a rebel in my family. Never really fitting in. Never trying to conform to familial patterns. I was always too sensitive or too outspoken, and in hindsight, made people uncomfortable by overtly questioning what was considered appropriate behavior. To me, it never made sense to bottle things up or pretend I didn’t feel something, though I truly did try to conform, much to my detriment. It took me years to figure out why. I just assumed I was some kind of misfit. In a way I was, but I see now it’s not in a bad way.

Failure to Fit In is a Red Flag

https://www.flickr.com/photos/101561334@N08/10197031243/in/photolist-gx5s8v-jFvehZ-ceYKvY-gx4Gcf-Qv32MQ-gx58Ji-aavAwk-k15Tk9-gcokN-jYnA9p-pts3CH-KErQUu-fMFuKi-5gvfXp-gx5zqD-594W8Y-gx5GPp-gx4EMG-S7Jpw1-P5f7sP-VMMRHL-oiRYiu-7pPH6E-2bXKRhj-2cLerFQ-oxWTqS-psDwB2-ceXTFN-amxUkM-2bsd6t6-N7Lj5T-cbSXFd-YtbGJE-bNJ5H-RNvZP3-kiboPh-WmzxPu-7UzoSM-24eKtUM-cjgru7-n3pBeq-7PK4bp-ajX4J8-nk5bJN-88HFFJ-W18WBb-jBnrh2-ciDDMd-TzUwZm-8wqYSTIf I don’t fit in with my family and their attitudes, it doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with me. In fact, I’ve come to understand it means there’s something right. Coping with trauma by stuffing it all inside wasn’t healthy for me, and probably isn’t for anyone else, but I can only change my own approach. If anyone learns something by my example, that’s great, but it’s not my purpose. It is, however, my purpose to break a dysfunctional family pattern, if only in my own line, and then, only a part of it. You can lead a horse to water, as it were.

Part of the process has meant cutting ties that no longer serve me, and creating new ones that do. Too many of the ties I’ve cut are blood, but we can’t help who we’re related to. In fact, I believe I chose them in order to drive me to the point where I had to learn the lessons and cut the ties if I wanted to do more than just survive. I’ve learned I deserve to have supportive people around me; people who have my back as I have theirs. I deserve to thrive.

My life is, in it’s own way, no different than anyone else’s. I’ve had traumas and triumphs, but mostly long periods of living, learning, and coasting along. Sometimes I’m oblivious and others, sharply and sometimes painfully aware. I put time and effort into healing, then step back and allow things to settle into the newest version of me. If I get too complacent, something or someone comes along to shake me out of my complacency, forcing me to put some effort into releasing more that doesn’t serve me to replace it with something healthier.

Triggers Get Me Moving When I’ve Become Complacent

I “get to” experience triggers periodically. Triggers like the murder-suicide at my favorite dance 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-di6ynQclub, or hearing a friend lost a family member to suicide, and being asked for my insight. Those triggers often set off a visceral reaction; tears, sadness, and a general withdrawal into myself. It doesn’t last long, but reminds me there are layers I’ve yet to uncover, much less, heal and release.

Worse is when family members have felt they had the right to be cruel to my daughter or me. Despite knowing what they’re capable of from long experience, and recognizing they’re only venting their own pain on what they think is a safe target, I can’t help feeling a level of disbelief that people could treat their own family badly. I also know they came from the same place I’ve been working hard to heal and leave behind. Still, it’s where abuse starts, and if boundaries and barriers aren’t set, often escalates. Even so, my heart aches for all the broken people out there who think causing pain to others will ease their own. They never learn how to heal themselves, and will come into their next life with many of the same unlearned lessons.

One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned as I allow myself to go through an often painful process towards healing is compassion for others, including those who mistreat me or the people I love. I know they aren’t coping with their pain, but trying unsuccessfully to fling it outwards. It isn’t always easy to avoid the initial feelings of anger, but ultimately, those feelings degrade into pity. It’s not exactly compassion, but I’m not adding negative energy to their own in the process. It’s more of an energy void. I strive for forgiveness, but frankly, there are some with whom I have to settle for pity and leave it at that. Maybe in my next life I’ll be able to forgive. For now, I’m focused on learning how to handle trauma in a healthier, more productive manner.

And when all else fails, I fling imaginary heart-shaped confetti.

Gratitude Reminds Me How Far I’ve Come

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I’m grateful for the traumas I’ve suffered, the coping mechanisms I’ve put in place, and the lessons I’m learning from both as I continue to heal.
  2. I’m grateful for people I meet who are willing to be open about their own traumas and the challenges they’ve faced in trying to heal.
  3. I’m grateful for vulnerability. Without it, there is no healing.
  4. I’m grateful for a new moniker, “Holistic Ghostwriter” which was given to me recently.
  5. I’m grateful for abundance; friendship, choices, love, challenges, lessons, trauma, healing, forgiving, imaginary heart-shaped confetti, dancing, health, harmony, peace, 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

Triumph Over Adversity: Abusers Amongst Us

Exposing Abusers

I met a woman in one of my Facebook groups who has an incredible story of triumph after a larger helping of adversity than any 10 people I know, and continues to have what I can only call grit to keep fighting. She agreed to let me share a small part of what she’s overcome. I know it will inspire some who are struggling and thinking they can’t go on any further alone, and to realize, you aren’t alone, no matter who tries to tell you you are. I haven’t edited what she wrote, except to remove names per her request. I think it’s much more powerful to read her stream of consciousness.

A Woman Alone

10 years ago I was certain I wouldn’t make it to 18, and not necessarily by my own hands. I used to leave journal notes hidden around my room and in my locker about what was going on in life so IF I died people knew what led up to it. Abuse was just life; just normal. I had had chronic pain for 2 years at that point and spent 10/30 days a month zombified or in too much pain to speak.

9 years ago I would date and beg for affections from red flag after red flag we won’t go into, much to mainly my brother’s chagrin, and was financially independent selling under the table hoping to get emancipated. I had my first miscarriage.

8 years ago my best friend died in a car accident and I wanted to follow him. Badly. I got in 3 car accidents within like 50 days after and didn’t drive for a year after his death in fear. I finally talked openly about how I was treated by others, someone broke the law to keep me under control longer. I was raped for the first time. I started spending every minute I could socially as a form of mood control.

7 years ago I tried out and was accepted into a performing arts high school for my senior year; I transferred to ignore my grieving. I worked full time, paid my bills alone, and was still denied emancipation.

6 years ago I graduated, my uncle/father figure died, still worked full time, sold work on the side, and my health issues (pain, constant infections, strange pink dots, you name it) had me living in hospitals under “acute stress disorder,” and I traveled to 7 European countries. I was not considered social anymore, but bubbly when I came around.

5 years ago I moved across the country, had a second miscarriage, moved home, had a third miscarriage, used weed to cope temporarily, became a bit of a gypsy, bought my first car, and completely shut myself in from the physical world.

4 years ago I was raped for the second time, moved home again, escaped a date-rape drug situation, lost a best friend because he threatened to rape me, bought a brand new car, worked mainly 12-16 hour days to avoid my life, was molested on at least 3 occasions in my sleep by someone who skipped town after confessing. I was getting social again, I was Not the good crowd, and I started living with someone that was the peak of my self-sabotage.

3 years ago I got married to my villain, started college, got pregnant, had to stop going to college and running my own businesses, and 9/10 days couldn’t walk. Things got Bad; I ended up in a hospital for sucidal ideation. We separated for 2 months and I had major preterm labor issues. He hoped to push me back over the edge and I’d have happily complied.

2 years ago I gave birth, was immediately a single mom, crawled to get around to take care of him, was hit for the first time by a partner in 6 or 7 years, my chronic pain vanished, diagnosed with PTSD, separated again, stalked, sent to a private shelter, my son started having internal bleeding on top of his medical issues, I got my health back enough to walk and perform small tasks, and I was dealing with the most heartbreaking and terrifying situation of my life thus far; in my opinion.

1 year ago my son recovered from being poisoned, was fairly used to life 90% of the time with mommy, had a stable home with good family and more loved ones than I could count. I still deeply pined over the loss potential for non-violence and kindness, I took measures to minimize stalking and violence but it felt like the system really couldn’t have cared less. Still, we were thriving for the situation and I became “me” again. More social, happy, and business centered; starting to reject self-sabotage like that useless heartache. My son started improving medically too.

9 months ago a legal safe-than-sorry loophole let my son get kidnapped for 5 days, I became a shut in again, I decided to look for my birth parents and found my dad who was never told of my existence – But we get along and I’ll get to meet his side of family in person soon. My son spent 4 straight months with just me and started to undo symptoms of PTSD, anxiety, and progressed so far ahead of his age group intellectually and socially I was going to start him in preschool this year. I became paranoid; I never knew when life could strike again. But things seemed generally on the rise and I haven’t accepted any red flags of friendship or otherwise in my life.

Less than 4 months ago things worsened again by a new/old presence. They’ve been steadily physically and mentally getting worse for the both of us for this. I’m not going to sugar coat it; I’ve made it obvious. I’ve felt like my needs for safety and support have scared friends off. My therapist moved. I’m re-winging it.

1 week ago I was told we’d have temporary safety.
It was the first I’d been so happy and relaxed in 9 months. My son started showing improvements already.

Late last night I was told this safety is being stripped but we can defend why we’re asking in court at a later date; details to follow. My lawyer, confused, pointed out that was very surprising and they’re normally Immediately approved and protected with Less proof involved. And the court hearing is something highly abnormal to be done that way too.
I pointed out the system’s history in letting my family specifically slip through their cracks despite the constant fight for safety.

Within the next few weeks there will be a Lot of court cases I’ll have to be present for. Including charges for violence against me/in front of my son. Investigations are still pending. I’m trying to cling to a hope the system will change and give a damn.

In coming months, no more than a year, mine and my son’s fates are decided by strangers who’ve already shown how much our lives mean to them.

I have made 10 years of mistakes, learning, growing, changing, and progressing and I feel like I Have made progress overall. Bouts of homelessness vs bouts of wealth, bouts of health vs bouts of sickness or abuse. I’ve come so far and and I’m still alive, and even in days when my body will shut down to keep me from pushing my triggers farther I still TRY.

There is no pause, no rest, no breaks within the justice system and I’m still hunting down the justice as well. There is stay fighting or quitting with no middle options, and I’m still fighting.

I can survive, much to my own surprise sometimes, anything. And I’m not going to back down now, even if people are actively avoiding helping me. Eventually someone has to care and defend us. Eventually someone has to demand we’re not going to be ignored and slip through the cracks. I refuse to let my past, my trauma, or my bad decisions/self-sabotage make my son a statistic. I’m not a statistic. And somehow we’re getting the Hell past this in one piece.

Solutions Start With People Caring

When I started writing openly about my parents’ suicides, I started becoming an ear for people like this, though I’m not entirely sure why. Still, I’m grateful to be able to listen, even if I have no solutions, or no direct understanding of abuse. It’s sickening to learn how many women and children are or have been in abusive situations they couldn’t escape. More sickening to realize some didn’t stop at suicidal thoughts, while others succumbed to their abusers, paying with their lives.

What I do know is it’s up to us as human beings, and as a society to protect these people in any way we can. They don’t deserve to be abused physically, mentally, or emotionally. If nothing else, let’s share their stories so more people are aware they’re not alone. So more will speak out and stop allowing so many abusers to go unpunished.

About the Author

Ordinarily, I’d post the author’s bio here, but as this story is being shared anonymously, I’m putting my own in. This isn’t my story, but it is a subject I feel passionate enough about to share the stories others need to tell.

 

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

A Sad Anniversary Brings Perspective

Another Anniversary of Dad’s Death

When one of my posting days falls on September 11th, I’m sorely tempted to skip it, or at least move it to another day. But my innate sense of consistency won’t allow either, so at least it’s easier from a distance of 3 weeks or so which is when I’m pre-scheduling these days.

I don’t need to reiterate the significance of September 11th to anyone who is even remotely aware. Not only was it a horrific day in U.S. history, but reminders start showing up a few days before the anniversary.

There’s a small handful of us who are reminded of another anniversary which occurred 2 years after the WTC bombing, but which is much closer to home. In fact, my daughter and I typically disconnect from the internet on this day to do our remembering in private. As I’ve become more efficient about pre-scheduling posts, it’s become a lot easier to do so.

Moving On vs. Getting Over

Anyone who has lost a family member to suicide knows you don’t get over the loss. Like any other death, the impact eases somewhat as years go by, but it’s always there. Little things remind me how fragile life is, and how important it is to stay connected with the ones we love. It might not prevent the inevitable, especially when a loved one is faced with a terminal illness which will be long and painful if death is allowed to come naturally.

My dad made his choice, and for the most part I respect it. Still, I look back at how I distanced myself in his final couple of years when he became difficult to be around. He never shared the worst of his health issues with me or my sister. That was typical. He didn’t want anyone worrying about him or smothering him with attention. In a lot of ways, he was a very private manfar more private than I ever realized.

Even so, I could have made more of an effort to spend more time with him, despite the turmoil my own life was in. I could have brought his granddaughters to see him more often, or made a point of seeing him every week. There are a lot of things I could have done, but being patient with his grumpiness instead of distancing myself is at the top of the list. My only excuse is I didn’t know how bad things were. It serves as a harsh reminder of how little my dad trusted me with what really mattered.

Reflection Evolves Over Time

In past years, the anniversary of dad’s death was a time for reflection and remembering good times, most of which occurred years before he died. Too many things broke what I now understand was a tenuous relationship, often held together by other people rather than our own efforts.

At one time it was my mother. Even when she and I were estranged, it was her influence which kept my dad and me in touch. Sometimes it was the dysfunctional influence of my alcoholic husband who worked for my dad for a couple of years. Whether he felt a desire to stay connected for his own sake is something I’ll never really know. I have to believe he saw someone worth knowing in his eldest child.

An Unfortunate Accident of Birth

https://www.flickr.com/photos/gastaum/14490581818/in/photolist-o5u28y-YfsirJ-k8x7MM-bxbe69-W1rTYx-arWoEp-9hSaAd-ahFY4U-dUPFnv-cbTML-9dRrhQ-nNcDz4-W1scJn-6Q5kQB-aPHuVt-dF2PfA-qsan3a-9Q3GD-7puXf-ca3kUb-8Qnh5S-7EPcJ1-9RZQ7L-2jv27s-3ytNAS-4Ax3Vm-7P6ms6-fLeJCZ-9eA4z4-dUzmHi-dJ2ajE-4s4eeJ-9ZWATV-4Ax3K3-6459Qr-r7YPq9-7ZBske-3ypqPa-7yi435-9uRzwZ-kdLtng-2c5brCn-HLfJSP-qTk7jd-oSdAwv-pNeYXi-3fqAZV-5btNtn-72Kth6-V4V7jqRevelations in the last year make me feel I was more of a disappointment, and mostly due to an accident of birth. The cards were stacked against me having a real connection with the man who helped give me life because I had the misfortune of being a girl.

I doubt he ever actually said the words out loud. Growing up, I didn’t notice his lack of interest in the things I enjoyed. Then again, I saw him through rose-colored glasses. He was the parent who loved me best, or so I thought. In truth, he was the one who minimized my accomplishments because most of the time, he didn’t understand them.

It wasn’t that I was overly feminine. I just wasn’t athletic or even coordinated except when I was dancing. In short, there was nothing he could relate to or share with me. Meanwhile, my mom fretted over all my injuries, allergies, and inherited health challenges. But I was so busy trying to please my dad, I didn’t notice how hard she tried to connect with me. At some point, we both gave it up as a lost cause.

Putting Things in Perspective

This is starting to sound like a long, self-pitying whine, but that’s not really where I want to go. I can’t honestly say I miss my dad, 16 years after he opted out of a long, painful death. I’ve simply come to terms with his choice, and don’t begrudge him for it.

But the years since have given me a chance to really look at our relationship, or if I’m honest, lack thereof. He was the first in a long line of people I tried to please by forcing myself into behaviors which weren’t me. I followed my mother’s example and tried to win his love. I’ve finally learned to accept there was nothing I could have done to change the fact he loved me as best he could, or that approval and love are two entirely different things.

I can, however look back and be grateful for what he taught me, even if the greatest lesson didn’t come through until long after he was gone. It was never my purpose to fit into someone else’s mold or vision. People will love me or not, regardless of any effort I might make to gain their approval. More importantly, I’ve learned to let my own daughters spread their wings and fly in the direction they choose.

Loving and Accepting My Daughters as They Are

They don’t need my approval, though one, at least seemed to want it a great deal more than was probably healthy. The difference between my relationship with her and the one I had with my dad is she always had my approval not matter what. I might not have liked some of the choices she made, but there was never any doubt in my mind that I love and approve of her and whatever paths she chooses.

The other rejected me as I did my mom, but I didn’t have her father around to help mend fences. In her case, I had to learn to let go and withhold judgement. Her choices are her choices, even if some of them shut me out of her life. In many ways, the distance works best for me too.

Looking Back So I Can Move Forward

Today is a day of reflection, but it’s no longer a day I mourn my dad. He’s gone, Created in Canvaand everything is as it’s supposed to be. I’m more aware of changes in mood in the people who are close to me now, and more likely to reach out. I don’t look at my dad’s death and my lack of knowledge with regret. It was put into my life to teach me a very important lessonone I would take with me into the next chapter in my life.

I’ve gone through a lot of withheld anger towards my dad in the last year, but I’ve purged a lot of misconceptions which negatively impacted my own sense of self-worth. In the end, no one else’s opinion affects my destiny unless I allow it. I’ve finally learned to stop allowing it.

Finding Many Opportunities for Gratitude

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I’m grateful for the challenges I’ve faced and the lessons I’ve learned.
  2. I’m grateful for parents who forced me to learn to love myself without reservation or qualification because they truly didn’t know how.
  3. I’m grateful for friendships which have formed since I learned to love myself because of my imperfections instead of in spite of them.
  4. I’m grateful for a self-love that keeps me moving forward even when the tunnel ahead looks awfully dark and forbidding.
  5. I’m grateful for abundance; friendship, love, joy, dancing, kitties, compassion, kindness, inspiration, motivation, health, peace, harmony, 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

Helping the Traumatized or Depressed

Proactively Helping Our Community

You see it all over social media these days: “If you need help coping with {insert traumatic event here} I’m here for you. Just reach out and I’ll be there.”

While I commend people for wanting to be there for their friends, family, and community, I’ve seen all too often that those who need help the most are the least likely to take the hand reaching out to them. The reasons are endless, but here are just a few of the ones I’ve seen, heard, or even spoken myself:

  • I’m fine. I don’t need help
  • Others have worse troubles than me.
  • Everyone is busy with their own lives and problems. They don’t need to be burdened with mine.
  • They don’t understand what I’m going through, and I don’t feel like explaining it.
  • I just want to be left alone. I’ll figure it out.

Showing Up for Those Who Can’t

The reality is, life is a lot like writing. We have to do more showing and less telling. Instead of posting our offer of an ear, a shoulder, or a sanctuary on social media for everyone to see and scroll right past, we need to be proactive. Let’s put our money where our mouth is.

Is there someone who hasn’t shown up lately? Give them a call. Invite them out for coffee, or a meal, or a walk in the park. Whatever you think might interest them. If they decline, call again in a few days and offer again. Or show up at their place and insist they come out with you or at least let you in for a visit. Even if they’re less than gracious about it, deep down, they’re grateful, believe me.

There is nothing worse for someone who is dealing with deep, emotional pain or trauma than to be left alone for too long. Left to their own devices, they’ll talk themselves out of being valuable to anyone. They’ll wallow in their misery and watch it grow bigger and scarier every day they’re alone.

Better by Degrees

We may not be coping much better than they are, but the fact that we can leave the house and reach out to someone puts us in a much better place from which to heal and move forward. If nothing else, the best way to help ourselves is to reach out and help someone else.

Don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against those who make a public announcement they’re available and ready to help their friends in need. I simply think we need to take it one step further and do something. I’ve seen for myself how much healing happens when a few people get together and share their feelings, or do something they all enjoy to take their mind off reality for a little while. Sitting alone and stewing never did anyone any good.

Knowing they’re hurting, we have to be ready to switch gears if they try to change plans at the last minute. They’re not up to going out for coffee or a meal? Bring the coffee or a meal to them. They just want to sit on the sofa and veg? Bring over a couple of movies or channel surf and find something you can watch together. Or talk to them. Carry the conversation until they’re ready to contribute something of their own.

Being the Friend in Deed

https://www.flickr.com/photos/jkfjellestad/17408694382/in/photolist-swm7k9-5RUVz2-mJjTbx-5RZcQG-LaVetu-ehWSkL-mJjNaa-mJncXh-UQc1nx-mJkdTR-mJnhJS-UNopBe-TLtd22-UnTzSt-UKUNfQ-TvXc6r-UWzrjN-g9uykn-H7hkTY-27dmuiJ-dPKPg5-StARkr-H28Np7-TLyHW2-SasSyJ-ovj4Jg-TDQz2w-g9v3mc-H7rXSy-UWEf8E-qxwgcP-X7uFem-TyrPG7-g9uRij-g9vmqr-TLF3sZ-683YTJ-4DjRMh-5R69WX-eiwKNy-873BnY-787D4h-g9vKLK-UWGbnj-TytBPA-p92cJn-Ufcsfy-URnUfu-TrXPo4-UMmQvhIt’s funny. This isn’t a new concept. There’s an old proverb that says “A friend in need is a friend in deed”. By taking action instead of just offering to be there, we’re taking the act of friendship to the next level. We can even let them know that their company is just what we need right now to get past all the tragedy and pain we, too are experiencing. Take the pressure off of them to be helped by turning it around. They are helping us by allowing us to try to take their mind off the voices in their heads.

I spent a lot of years alone, broken, wallowing, and unwilling to ask for help. Granted, I’d done a bang-up job of pushing people away or keeping them out entirely, so there weren’t many to choose from, even if I knew how to ask. It was a dark, lonely place, and I would have been happy if someone took enough of an interest; cared enough to brush off all my excuses and help me get out of the funk I’d sunk into. But no one did. No one offered. No one visited. And I wallowed for years in my own private pity party.

Look for Those Who Need Help Climbing Out of Their Funk

I’m one of the lucky ones. I found a way out of my funk. I took a couple of suggestions when Created with Canvathey were offered. I decided I was tired of being miserable, and set out to address my ghosts and invite them to leave. The recent suicides of one of the Parkland survivors and the father of one of the Sandy Hook victims makes it clear there are many who can’t do it alone. And it’s more than likely they’re also the ones who won’t reach out or even accept an offered hand.

It’s OK to be sad. It’s OK to wish things hadn’t happened; that lives hadn’t been lost or homes destroyed. But we can’t change the past or make it better than it was. We can, however, change the future by taking action now.

It’s the Little Things

Gather with friends. Visit memorials. Bring soup to a friend like someone did for me not so long ago. Even let someone help you even if you don’t feel you need it.

I recently called a friend to change some light bulbs for me. I could have climbed on a ladder or chair and done it myself, but he’s tall enough to reach without either. He helped me by preventing a potential fall (I’m a well-known klutz), but I got him out of the house for a little while too. Win-win.

My point is, we could all use help once in awhile, but tend to blunder along on our own rather than ask. If someone shows up on our doorstep it’s harder to make excuses, turn them away, or even do without. Sometimes, we might even enjoy the company or a break from our usual routine. We truly are better together than alone.

Gratitude Attracts More to be Grateful For

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I’m grateful there were caring people around to help me emerge from a decades-long funk.
  2. I’m grateful for the lessons I’ve learned, the people who’ve reached out, and those who’ve allowed me to reach out to them. We all heal in the process.
  3. I’m grateful for choices. Sometimes we really do need to be alone, but too much of anything is not a good thing.
  4. I’m grateful for lessons I’ve learned and people who’ve been there when I needed an example or a teacher. I might still have made progress, but it would have taken much longer.
  5. I’m grateful for abundance; new clients, new projects, new opportunities, progress, inspiration, motivation, productivity, joy, love, dancing, positive indifference, peace, health, 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

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

Empaths as Outcasts: Why Misery Loves Company

New Inspiration from an Old Source

You can find the Facebook Live Video which goes with this post here

Today’s blog topic didn’t come, as has been common, from my morning pages, but from my meditation. As I snuggled on the couch with my two furry girls who love the meditative energy, my mind was processing a discussion about the latest suicide of a famous figure.

As my overly active brain processed, connected, and analyzed, it landed on my relationships, or lack thereof with my family over the last couple of decades. From comments and questions I’ve fielded recently, it occurred to me my sister hasn’t been the outcast I’ve been allowed (or perhaps allowed myself) to become. Of course, this raised questions in my mind, despite the fact I’d come to the realization quite some time ago that the distance was for the best on all our parts.

Not only did it allow me to heal without interference and accept my parents’ final acts without condemnation, blame, or lifelong guilt, it let me find peace. Knowing my sister still blames my mom for more than I even know, or want to, and knowing she’s ill and angry, I’m starting to understand why the family dynamics are what they are.

Finding Yet Another Commonality With My Mom

Mom was the family outcast and was often criticized and I suspect, ridiculed behind her back. I’ve certainly had my share of missteps and actions which failed to meet with everyone’s approval. The difference between us is that I don’t really care. Mom needed the family’s approval and love. If I had it, I would be grateful, but I have never really needed it. And I am not going to be part of the blame and rehashing of mom’s failings. She was no more or less human than anyone else and as such, was prone to mistakes, both from her own viewpoint and that of others. That she likely beat herself up over them was part of her personality and more, her desperation.

Taking after my dad has been a double-edged sword. Yes, I tend to isolate myself too much, but as an Empath, sometimes isolation is the lesser of two evils. Yes, I find it hard to ask for help, much to my daughter’s annoyance. But as time goes on, I’m learning to be better about letting others do something for me instead of letting assistance be a one-way street. The best lesson I learned from dad, though, was to accept responsibility for my own actions. From that, I’ve learned to also be more understanding of the actions of others.

Don’t Blame Those Who Need to Blame

I may not agree with, nor buy into the idea of blaming mom for decades old perceived misdeeds. I may not agree with continuing to blame her when she’s not here to defend herself. But I accept the fact that my sister and whoever else she talks to has the right to make their own choices. They’re no longer hurting mom with words or deeds anyway. As I’ve learned in my own healing journey, forgiveness truly only helps the forgiver. The forgiven couldn’t care less whether we forgive them or not.

It does explain a lot about why nobody reached out to me after mom took her life, or why the last of the contacts I shared with my parents disappeared from my life after dad took his. I brought nothing to the conversation they wanted to have.

At least now, things have evolved so there are a few tentative attempts to connect. Yet, the commonalities we had 20 years ago, the roads we had traveled together have been covered over by the dust of time. We’ve raised our families, lost loved ones on all sides, seen children marry and start families of their own, and all the things that happen during a lifetime.

Lifetimes Within Lifetimes

I’ve learned that when it comes to families and connections, 20 years is a lifetime. The elderly aunts I remember have all passed on along with a few from their daughters’ generation. We’ve even lost one from my generation during the years of disconnection, and are likely to lose a couple more in the next few years. Frankly, I’m not expecting to be a part of their grieving process any more than they have been part of mine. It is what it is.

I have been an outcast from my own family for most of my adult life and the truth is, more often than not, I’m relieved. A Jewish family who escaped the persecution in Russia and Poland to emigrate to the United States and Canada carries a lot of angst. In many members of my family, that angst is embedded in their very souls and passed on from generation to generation. The fact that I’ve learned to release much of my share essentially severed my connection. Without intending to, I’ve torn myself loose from the fabric which weaves the family into a single piece of cloth. By necessity, they rewove that fabric to hide the hole I’d left, perhaps using my sister as the thread which would most efficiently cover the gap.

Empaths Create Their Own Rules

I believe the story has unfolded for a reason. I was given the sometimes dubious gift of Empathy for a reason. Despite being born into a family with a long history of trauma and upheaval, I had to learn how to manage my gift or go quietly insane. I chose the former and am learning how to use it to help others. My personal traumas have been the best teachers.

I savor the connections which have been tentatively re-established, but know I will always be one of the family outcasts. That is the role I came here to assume. Sometimes, breaking free is the first step in healing a wound that stretches back many generations. I may not have chosen the easiest path. I may have even chosen the loneliest one. But I believe the path I chose is the most rewarding one of all.

With Love and Gratitude

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I am grateful to my family for giving me the space I needed to find my own way.
  2. I am grateful that I’ve learned to let go of blame, anger, bitterness, and resentment to love and accept the people who gave me life, no matter what direction their lives or actions might have taken them.
  3. I am grateful for the challenges I’ve faced which allow me to be an advocate not only for those who’ve lost someone to suicide, but for those who chose suicide as their exit plan.
  4. I am grateful for the love and support I receive from the family I’ve attracted around me. Though most are not blood, they love and accept me as my blood family aren’t able to because I’m just too different.
  5. I’m grateful for abundance; inspiration, love, motivation, support, guidance, allowing, creativity, energy, peace, harmony, health, happiness, 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, www.shericonaway.com 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!

Universe-driven Inspiration: Introducing Life Coach Carolyn Maul

As the New Year Slips By

For the last couple of months I’ve been floundering. No, floundering would infer that I’ve actually been trying to accomplish something. The truth is, I’ve been treading water…barely.

I’ve made a few feeble attempts to drum up business, but the Universe in its infinite wisdom seems to direct my attempts into that black hole wherein lives my despair. I followed up on an interesting lead and even shared the email I wrote with someone I trust implicitly (and despite her own challenges, is one kick-ass salesperson!) who told me it was a good pitch. That was over a week ago and the silence is deafening.

When my daughter opined today that it was already March, my frustration wanted to reach through the phone and choke the words back down her throat. “It’s not March yet!” I insisted.

But it may as well be. Forgotten Victims is no further along than it was in January, aside from finally having transcribed my handwritten outline of the first 13 chapters (now that’s ominous, isn’t it? I’ve only written 13 chapters. I can hear the clanging of the dungeon door as I write those words).

Despite all of the doom and gloom there are always those guiding lights; those sparks of inspiration; those words of encouragement which keep me going on this path I set for myself over 3 years ago. I still visualize myself as a successful writer with my memoir and several novels gracing the shelves of Barnes and Noble; the web pages of Amazon.com.

The Spark I Didn’t See Coming

Every once in awhile, you encounter someone who commands the attention of men and women alike, not by their actions, but by their presence.

Such was the case for me this weekend when I started a conversation with a woman I’d noticed at the club where I dance. She typically hangs out across the dance floor from my usual spot, but I could not help noticing her; the way she holds herself, the sheer confidence in her manner. I admit it. She has qualities I aspire to but am still learning how to achieve. To say she is striking is to understate it by a thousand degrees or more, but words escape me. Yes, I know that’s unbelievable for one who regularly says what she has to say in 10,000 words or more. The lack of words alone should be enough to demonstrate the quiet, serene power of a woman whose presence is palpable, even across a crowded dance floor.

Recognizing Inspiration, Whatever Form it Takes

We talked about what we do and I gave her my card. She reached out to me today, and offered me a chance to take a closer look at what is behind her amazing presence.  Carolyn Maul is a Life Coach, but like none I’ve ever seen. She completely embodies the words she speaks and the advice she gives.

After reading just a couple of her blog posts, I felt a renewal of that spark which started me writing Forgotten Victims what now seems like eons ago. As difficult as it has been to resume work on it and to embark on the long road to pitching a non-fiction project to publishers, I feel better about getting out of my own way and allowing the words to flow again. I can finally admit that the words are dammed up because I’ve built the dam. The only way to take that dam down is brick by brick. The bricks are my words and thoughts on a painful and difficult part of my life, but one which I know needs to be shared to a wider audience.

I can’t do that unless I truly commit to finishing it, some of which is going to involve reaching out to fellow writers to learn some of the things they do to finish their own projects and set achievable deadlines. I am truly my own worst enemy, and relegate my own work to the bottom of the pile. I’d never treat a client the way I treat myself. It’s time I listened to the advice I’ve been so freely given and treat myself like the best client on my roster.

A Life Coach for Type A’s

So thank you, Universe, for putting Carolyn in front of me, and forcing me to pay attention. And if you are a Type A personality (which I, admittedly am not) who could use a little help achieving your goals, do yourself a favor. Take a few minutes to watch her introductory video and browse her blog. Maybe even take her quiz. You might, like me, find the inspiration or the motivation to push past the blocks which stand between you and your dreams.

Always so Much to be Grateful For

My gratitudes tonight are:

  1. I am grateful for the down times as they give me time to build up the energy for the long stretches of intense effort.
  2. I am grateful for opportunities to meet new people and get out of my comfort zone which frankly, has become pretty boring lately.
  3. I am grateful for the pain in my life which can and will be faced. Which by so doing could just help someone else who’s lived a similar trauma.
  4. I am grateful for loss as it makes me appreciate the good times and the little things all the more.
  5. I am grateful for abundance: love, inspiration, Universal head slaps, friendship, dancing, learning, challenges, peace, harmony, letting go and holding on, joy, 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, www.shericonaway.com 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!

Photo courtesy of Arseni Mourzenko via Flikr

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