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

Posts tagged ‘tragedy’

Change Your Mindset, Change How the Year Ends

Mindset Matters, Especially as We Leave an Old Year Behind

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-9BUEVAs we leave not only another year, but another decade behind us, I see people posting how grateful they are to put 2019 behind them. A year ago, many of us were grateful to put the horrors and tragedies of 2018 behind us. Is this how we look at our years, marching one behind the other in perfect rhythm? 365 (and sometimes 366) days we trudge through thinking: “If I can just get through this year, next year will be better”? If so, it’s a truly sad state of affairs.

Why, when a year is winding down do we focus on the times we fell instead of the times we got back up and kept going? When did our failures become more important; more memorable than our triumphs?

I have friends on social media who have beautiful families, rewarding jobs, incredible talents and gifts. Yet I’ve had to hide their posts because invariably, they focus on the days they have a headache, or their back hurts, or they had to spend the day in meetings instead of doing what they love. I have to tell you, though I have my bad days too, I don’t typically feel obliged to drag everyone who reads my page down with me. Trust me. Misery does not love company. It’s an excuse to wallow longer instead of getting up and doing something productive, fun, or both.

Looking for Glimmers of Hope

I’d rather look back on a year (even some of my most horrid) and find at least a tiny glimmer of Consciousness On the Risehope; a small kernel of joy mixed in with all the crap I may have had to shovel. I’ve learned I’ll always find what I’m looking for.

In what I mockingly refer to as “the divorce years”, finding joy and hope wasn’t always an easy task. But I didn’t really have to look far to find it. It was in the faces of my daughters; in the laughter we shared; the hugs, the silliness, the togetherness. I might not have conquered the world during those years, or left any noticeable mark, but I found a way to laugh once in awhile, and more importantly, put one foot in front of the other even on days when I wanted to pull the covers over my head and disappear.

Having my mother end her life as Divorce Year 2 was winding to a close could have been a huge setback. Instead, even then I found a way to be grateful. Her demise was one less pressure I had to field in a world where I walked a very fine line between sanity and my final breaking point on the best of days. It left me with one less ball to juggle, and bit of much-needed breathing room.

Allowing Myself to Feel But Not To Wallow

That’s not to say all the emotions I unconsciously packed away and ignored for several years were going to stay buried, but by the time they came bursting forth in all their technicolor glory, I was in a better place to deal with them, and to finally feel those feelings. I won’t lie to you and say it was a pleasurable experience, but it was both necessary and cathartic. Once the worst of it was over, I felt like a new woman, even knowing I’d spend the rest of my life revisiting feelings, though from a stronger stance from then on.

Perhaps that’s why I take issue with people thinking they’ve left the worst behind. The events we experience in any given year of our lives remain with us on an emotional level. Some are a heavy, wet blanket, while others are a mere glimmer which occasionally grows brighter when the memory is triggered. Some changed our lives forever.

When something does change the trajectory of our lives, I’ve learned there is a reason, even if what changed it is as horrible as losing a child, a home, or several members of a close-knit community. I’ve watched it happen in the last year or so, as people have used their grief to raise awareness of mental health, suicide, depression, and compassion. Granted, they were subjects many of us were already talking about, but the causes were greatly elevated by the tragedies.

Helping Other Trauma Survivors

Many of the people who are speaking out and bringing causes like Give An Hour into our lives in a huge way could easily have crawled into that dark hole I mentioned, coming out only to complain about how awful their life is, and how glad they are to see another miserable year pass into the history books. The fact is, they didn’t. They used their own grief to help make the world better for someone else; someone they’ll probably never meet or even know exists. They’ve also been honest enough to admit sometimes they’re not OK, and need to withdraw and be not OK for a little while before getting up and carrying on.

Unlike so many, I look at 2019, and the entire decade as a period when I triumphed over adversity time and time again. I grew as a person, and opened up about my own horrible experiences, not by asking people to help me feel sorry for myself, but by trying to understand the lessons in the experiences and share them with others who might find them useful.

A side effect to my choices came unexpectedly. I discovered that sharing my experiences actually made me more approachable, so the years between 2010 and 2019 have broadened my circle of friends, and expanded my chosen family. My daughter, son-in-law, and I initiated the Conaway-Hewes After Thanksgiving Feast which just passed it’s 5th year.

Using My Pain for the Greater Good

The way I see it, you can take the body slams life gives you as an excuse to crawl into your turtle shell and stay there. If so, you’ll always bemoan the small things each new year brings and miss out on all the joyful ones. Or you can be a Phoenix rising from each pile of ashes, knowing what was burnt down had run it’s course, or needed to give you a reason to do something on a grander level.

As the tragedies and traumas in my life have broken me loose from patterns which needed to be changed, I’ve learned to take the lesson and do my best to leave the pain behind me. Rather than risk being accused of sounding cavalier, I’ll admit I didn’t leave the pain behind right away, and some of it still comes back to haunt me from time to time. What I have done, and what others are doing even better than I is to use that pain to propel me forward.

Pain can make you more compassionate, or it can harden you to the consistency of bedrock. Though the choice might seem out-of-reach at first, the choice truly is yours. Wallow in misery if you must. I choose compassion every time, after having spent too many years being miserable, angry, sad, and alone.

The Healing Powers of Gratitude

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I’m grateful for the lessons I’ve been given.
  2. I’m grateful for the people I’ve met who show me the good that can come from tragedy.
  3. I’m grateful for the people who show me what I could have been had I failed to make the choices I did when my life was in turmoil.
  4. I’m grateful for my friends, my community, and my adopted family. I know what love isn’t.
  5. I’m grateful for abundance; love, joy, compassion, support, community, celebration, life, giving, cherishing, belonging, 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

Crooked Road to a Life Filled with Joy

A Face Filled With Joy to Light Up a Room

There’s a woman I see out dancing quite often who literally exudes waves of joy wherever she goes. Yet when I read the poetry she drops into Facebook, I can also feel the pain she’s experiencing as a physical ache. My first thought in recognizing the dichotomy is she uses joy to hide her broken parts.

Taking a step back, I realize it’s not an accurate portrayal. This lovely, fairy-like woman has certainly had her share of pain. She’s experienced loss, betrayal, and perhaps even abuse at various points in her life. She has chosen not to let those parts define her. Though her wings may have been broken or bent time and time again, she refuses to wallow or even allow the pain to encompass her being and affect others.

Instead, she uses the hardships as the building blocks of the firm foundation she continually creates for herself. The broken bits become pieces that are just the right size to fill in cracks or strengthen gaps with an extra layer of mortar. Perhaps she recycles the broken parts, grinding them into powder, then mixing them with glue or epoxy so it flows easily into the hairline fractures life gives her before they widen into chasms.

I suspect the process itself has come from her experiences. Once, she allowed those cracks to widen until some became seemingly insurmountable chasms. Like many of us, she did her share of wallowing before she found her strength and learned what didn’t break her has made her so much stronger than she ever imagined.

Searching for My Inner Light

I’ve not yet learned to be the ball of light and energy she has, but my own path has allowed me 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-9BUEVto learn the broken pieces have value. I’ve used my own to strengthen a wobbly foundation. I’ve added strength to myself, and been a rock for others at times. I’ve also learned to allow others to be a rock for me when my own strength falters.

I suspect her light, like mine is made up of millions of tiny prism pieces gathered not only from her own broken bits, but from the countless others she’s helped when they needed a light through their own darkness. Those prism pieces shine all the brighter for having been forged of love and tempered by life.

One of the hardest lessons for me to learn was that nobody has to trudge through life alone. It’s OK to ask for help, and in fact, when you ask for help, you’re giving someone else the opportunity to be of service; to give of themselves. You need to break off pieces of yourself to help others get through the tough times. But in so doing, you end up with pieces of them as well.

A Heart Made of Millions of Prism Pieces

I believe by the time you reach adulthood, assuming you weren’t raised with the misconception you were better off standing alone, that your heart is made up of millions of little pieces of the people, places, and animals you touched on your journey. It’s those pieces which truly make you whole, not holding onto your own as if losing a single one will shatter you into a million irreparable pieces.

Yet that’s what I believed for the first 4 or 5 decades of my life. It was what my family taught me, and the times I’d been broken had given me no reason to question those lessons. Each time, I put myself back together as best I could, little realizing I was building on a disintegrating foundation each time, and setting myself up for the next disaster. I built fragile structures on top of each other, unaware that at some point, the whole thing would come crashing down, and I’d be unable to find a single solid piece on which to build.

That day came in my mid-40’s. I was alone, angry, sad, and clueless as to how I could come through the latest series of disasters in anything resembling wholeness. In truth, I’d never been whole, so I didn’t even know what it looked like. Nevertheless, I craved wholeness as most humans do. It wasn’t until a few years later I realized in order to find that wholeness, I had to finish shattering. Most of all, I had to shatter all the false beliefs I’d been given.

No Longer Working From Flawed Beliefs

I think my mom’s suicide was my first indication the belief system I’d been given was flawed. https://www.flickr.com/photos/katsexagesima01/3612047773/in/photolist-6vbFXK-7mfHK5-82q4rd-7Ku82r-7xTufQ-7xTvNm-noV2nx-8v7yLg-7xTtxw-b5JoM-awiDbx-74ofjQ-4xTEyL-aFUvSc-2nJqV-pnUS3J-UZSY-KSCvY-q54hFw-74jkL8-57r2Za-rXWSV-RAqoKt-wCAn3-74jkCt-459Ltf-8VkKtr-jrTTpy-7Mx4vz-9gJ6Hm-q2BAZF-A1eTBs-4sLmnj-7hJteh-nDn5BQ-98W5r7-4oJBHP-FUYqD-66WsR1-aaLTe-9gF1wt-7AibaD-cof4ks-bKGrY-7pamwZ-9yY17Q-2QEkGc-qtnpn9-qUrb5H-5EB1gvWhat had slowly become a toxic combination of resentment, disrespect, and annoyance was my ineffectual way of disengaging from my family without a safety net, or any idea what to connect to instead. For several years, my only real connections were my two daughters, and by then, they were at an age where they were trying to establish their own boundaries and rules.

Needless to say, I was adrift in unfamiliar waters without the ability to guide my vessel, or any idea where to guide it if I could. It wasn’t long before I lost the ability or even the desire to hide my seemingly unstoppable rush downstream and over the falls. With nothing left to lose, certain I was about to crash and burn in spectacular fashion, I threw caution to the winds. I admitted I didn’t have all the answers, my life was far from perfect, and by god, I was tired of pretending.

I’d like to say it was like finding the drain plug just as the place was about to flood, but it actually took awhile for me to even recognize my life was changing for the better. At first, I simply wrote and shared my thoughts, encouraged by my daughter. Initially, my words were like dipping a toe into a pond, then pulling it back quickly before anyone noticed or commented.

Everyone Struggles Until They Learn to Ask for Help

As comments came and were for the most part positive and encouraging, I became braver, sharing what my parents would have considered intimate details. I learned others simply considered it opening up and allowing myself to not only appear, but be human; to be someone others could actually relate to instead of a barren mask of feigned perfection.

I learned everyone struggles, everyone falls, and everyone hurts at one time or another. While those like me keep breaking, and never really fix themselves, but instead, set one more illusion; one more glamour in place, the ones who truly grow have learned to say: “Yes, I’m broken, but it’s only temporary.” In the immortal words of the Beatles, “I get by with a little help from my friends.”

When I first began to lower my masks, though, I had no real friends. My relationships, such as they were, were as superficial as I was. I was surfaced in glass with no way to lock on. Those first forays made from behind the safety of my computer screen were downright terrifying. Once they started reaching the people I saw regularly, but who’d never really seen me, it got easier. To their credit, they found ways to connect to me until I learned from their example how to do some of the connecting myself.

Learning to Give Without Reservation

Slowly, I allowed the words to come out of my mouth instead of my fingers. I hugged with complete abandon instead of the reserve I’d been taught. I stopped being afraid people would be disgusted by the raw, brokenness of my bare face, and learned true love and acceptance came from the gift I gave them by sharing my imperfections as it allowed them to share their own just as freely.

So when I see someone like this beautiful, fairy-like, joyful creature dancing her way into everyone’s hearts with an ethereal glow on her face, I know it’s the result of many breakings, and an open and willing heart which keeps allowing others to help her fit the pieces back together, better and stronger for the experience. I only hope someday I’ll carry the same glow and light up a room the way she does.

Gratitude is My Strongest Building Block

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I’m grateful for wood nymphs, fairies, and sprites in human form who spread joy liberally and with complete abandon.
  2. I’m grateful for everyone who has been patient with me as I unlearned the things which isolated me to make room for those which allow me to be an active member of a community.
  3. I’m grateful for the free flow of words and ideas which never fails me as long as I put fingers to keys.
  4. I’m grateful for all of my broken pieces which have gone into making other people stronger.
  5. I’m grateful for abundance; love, light, joy, friendship, compassion, kindness, dancing, acceptance, 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

Peeling Our Emotional and Mental Onion

Going Through My Own Onion-like Layers

Healing after losing a loved one to suicide is a lot like peeling an onion. Some layers are thick and solid. They require time, patience, and some effort to break through. Others are thin to the point of transparency, but sticky and hard to let go of. Some layers will flood your eyes with tears while others break your heart; the memories so sweet you want to keep them with you forever.

When I began my own healing journey I was so naive. I thought all I had to do was learn to forgive my parents’ abrupt departure, accept their choices, release my anger, and get on with my life. I learned instead the process is a tangled web of inaccurate memories, a lifetime of habits and behaviors, often handed down through generations, but most of all, learning to accept myself, imperfections and all. I had to recognize and own my emotional and mental weaknesses. But the most important part of the process is learning to ask for help even if, for a while it feels like giving more than receiving.

Going Beyond Outdated Family Patterns

It’s about seeing family patterns that are long overdue to be jettisoned and recognizing it’s my responsibility to cut those cords. In the process I had to admit I struggle at times, and I had to share those struggles with others because we all need to know we’re not alone.

I’ve reached a point in my journey where I need to expand my reach. I have to become part of a larger group seeking to re-educate people, not only about suicide but our overall mental health, because the two are indelibly intertwined.

People need to be able to say “I’m not OK” without fear of repercussions or judgement. It needs to be as natural and accepted as admitting you have the flu, or gallstones, or cancer.

Tragedy Often Alters Our Trajectory

On November 7, 2018 a mentally disturbed young man took the lives of 12 incredible people at Borderline Bar and Grill before taking his own life. It was a place I called home; a feeling shared by many others.

As we continue to grieve the loss, both of our friends and family, and a place we called home; a place we believed to be a safe haven; a place where troubles and stress were left at the door, we embrace our extended family. Some who lost so much more; a beloved child, a spouse, a lifelong friend are setting examples for the rest of us for what love truly is.

Michael Morrisette lost his cherished youngest daughter, yet continues to encourage love, understanding, and more; social consciousness. He constantly offers opportunities he’s already taking to give back. Recently he introduced ChangeDirection.org (#ChangeDirection) to the Borderline family. They are offering resources to help us help each other and to educate people about the signs which show someone is in distress while doing their best to hide it. Most of all, they’re on a mission to change how our culture views and responds to mental health and mental illness.

People Who are Suicidal Need More than a Band-aid or a Phone Number

I’ve seen a lot of people and places claiming to be committed to helping those who have experienced a suicide as well as those who might be considering it themselves. Too often, I’m frustrated because their primary solution is to give you a number to call. In my opinion, if someone is desolate enough to be seriously considering suicide as an option, giving them a number to call, or posting an impersonal sign on a freeway overpass is confirming their mistaken belief that no one cares. It’s relinquishing responsibility to reach out to them ourselves.

One of the many lessons I learned in the last decade or so is how many times I, myself am not OK. Leaving me alone to figure it out might be what I say I want and need, but in reality, it’s probably the worst place for me to be.

I’m nowhere near the dark, tangled place my mom found herself, nor do I have the dreadful medical report my dad got a couple of days before he took his life. Still, I have been depressed enough to believe no one would notice if I disappeared, and certainly, no one would be the worse for it. Talking to friends who’ve been there as well, and some who’ve slipped into even deeper, darker waters, I’ve learned being alone only gives you more time to convince yourself the world is better off without you.

Giving of Ourselves

ChangeDirection.org recognizes the urgent need to reach out to those who are feeling hopeless and disconnected—before it’s too late. They offer tools, support, and guidance to help recognize when one of your own is tumbling headlong into a pit of despair, and needs help arresting their downward plunge. They recognize a person in that state has already decided they’re not worthy, and the last thing they’ll do is ask for help. Even if help is offered, they’re likely to decline over and over, unable to believe anyone really wants to help them.

June 9-15, 2019 is “A Week to Change Direction” which they describe as:

…a week of action, advocacy, culture change and fundraising for organizations, corporations, universities, communities, and individuals! Our aim is to increase knowledge, raise awareness and increase support for efforts that are working to change the culture of mental health globally so that all in need receive the care and support they deserve.

I hope you’ll join me, Michael, and everyone else who has lost someone as a result of unrecognized and untreated mental illness, or who is suffering themselves, or knows and loves someone who desperately needs to be able to accept the help we can all offer if we start being more aware.

Together We Can Turn the Tide of Suicide and Mental Illness

I didn’t have a village when I started the long, uphill journey out of the abyss not created, but exacerbated by my parents’ suicides. I only had 2 daughters who needed their mother, a stubborn streak that wouldn’t let me give up, and a penchant for writing.

In hindsight, my journey might have been shorter and more pleasant had someone reached out to me, but I might not have realized I needed to learn to both reach out to others and accept help myself. I needed to have the perspective of believing I didn’t deserve help to understand how important it is to keep trying when someone says they’re OK, though it’s clear they’re not.

I may not have had a village before, but I have one now, and being part of that village means taking what I’ve learned and using it to help others. Will you become part of the change too?

Finding a Powerful Tool in Gratitude

My gratitudes today are:

  1. I’m grateful for the lessons I learned the hard way. They didn’t make me harder, they made me more compassionate and socially conscious.
  2. I’m grateful for the examples set by my daughter Heather. She is one of the most giving, socially conscious people I know, and I’m often ashamed I don’t do more when I see how much she gives.
  3. I’m grateful for the people who are my village now. They uplift me, and give me opportunities to practice what I’ve learned when it’s my turn to give back. They help me understand it’s OK to not be OK, and that they’re there for me no matter what.
  4. I’m grateful for people who demonstrate by their own actions how much we all can do to make things better.
  5. I’m grateful for abundance; friendship, love, support, inspiration, motivation, peace, harmony, health, 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

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

August 12, 2014 A Phoenix rises from the ashes.

Inspiration from unexpected–and tragic places.

About six years ago, I sat down to document my journey towards acceptance. Not the usual sort of acceptance like the life I had or the diversity of my friends; no, I had been, for some years, on a journey to understand and accept the choice both of my parents made to take their own lives, not at the same time, but nearly ten years apart. Eventually, I felt that it was starting to come out as more of a document full of whining and ill-concealed blame, so I put it aside and started my blog, hoping that I’d return to my original purpose which was to help others who had lost a parent or parents to suicide.

Ironically, the last time I accessed the file was on the tenth anniversary of my father’s death, September 11, 2013. But in the last couple of days, something inside of me has changed.

Both the pain and the triumphs of others may now be my muse

As I read some of the many tributes for Robin Williams and even more, the stories people are telling about their own battles with depression, as well as those close to them, I think I’ve found the direction my book needs to take.

What’s behind the mask?

We all wear a mask from time to time, keeping our cards close to the vest, if you will. But some of us, many of us, I believe, only put one mask down to pick up another. Robin Williams, as well as many other comedic greats (or so I’ve been reading) hid behind a mask of comedy. Yet I always felt that there was an element of truth, of his own suffering in performances such as Mrs. Doubtfire. It was so incredibly believable that I could well have attributed it to his acting abilities (and a lot of it may well have been), but something inside told me that he’d really suffered the loss of his kids at one point. My mother hid a lifetime of being pushed to the back of the bus, so to speak. Her mother cast her out when her sister was born and the rest of the family received the message loud and clear: she was of no value to anyone. She was always looking for love in all the wrong places, and she had the biggest collection of masks I’ve ever seen. It wasn’t until many years after her death that I came to the realization that I never really knew the woman I called “Mom”. I have to wonder if anyone did.

At the moment, I’m putting the finishing touches on my first fantasy novel (slowly but surely), which I started last year when I just couldn’t go back to my book about family suicides. Suddenly, I feel compelled to get the novel finished so I can give my attention to the book that really got me writing again. I may end up trashing everything I have and starting clean, or I may take the part before I felt I was sinking into a quagmire of negativity, anger and blame. Either way, what I’m learning from others in the last couple of days is inspiring me to finish it and get it out there for the sake, not only of others who have felt the unimaginable pain of a parent taking their own life, but for those who have people in their lives who are crying out for help and love, and still have a chance to climb out of their own, personal abyss, if only the people who care will push aside the facades and see the sad, lonely person inside.

Out of tragedy, a greater good.

Yes, Mr. Williams death was tragic, and has impacted a lot of people who have loved his work for many, many years. But something beautiful is coming out of it. Those of us who have lost a family member to suicide were, in the past, made to feel shame and even responsibility for failing to prevent the suicide. Suddenly, people are opening up about the mental health issues which cause a person, no matter how successful on the outside, to remain a sad, lonely, unworthy person on the inside. Suddenly, what I’ve been saying for years, that suicide is a choice made when they’ve gone as far as they can go, is not being tossed aside as New Age drivel. There is a new awareness. Yes, many are saying that it will be gone in a few days, but I say, only if people like me, people who have lost a parent, a child, a cherished uncle, a good friend; speak out and credit the victims with facing their dark, twisty side for as long as they were able. Also, too, if those who fight depression or mental anguish of any kind on a regular basis continue to speak out honestly about their condition and give people a chance to move closer and help chase away the dark clouds.

It all boils down to this: As long as mental health issues and suicide are treated like anathema in which both victim and remaining family members are made to feel soiled and unworthy, the trend will continue and even, as one writer suggested, escalate. But if we truly open our hearts and our minds and see that there’s no blame, but instead, a need for more compassion, perhaps we can bring the numbers down until, ultimately, the only real reason people choose suicide is because they are terminally ill and their quality of life is gone forever.  Above all, I beg you to remember that we are all part of the same whole, part of Source.  How can we, in good conscience allow part of ourselves to atrophy and die, simply for lack of the nourishment of love and attention we have it in ourselves to give?

My gratitudes today are:
1. I am grateful for the compassion I’m reading about.
2. I am grateful for the opening up of the mental health/depression, Pandora’s box of an issue.
3. I am grateful for reminders that my mom took her life at my age as it reminds me to look at all I have in my life which is beautiful, loving and compassionate.
4. I am grateful for the return of my inspiration and motivation to write the book I need to write.
5. I am grateful for abundance; love, health, happiness, harmony, joy, compassion and prosperity.

Namaste

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