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

Posts tagged ‘tragedy’

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Going Beyond Outdated Family Patterns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

Tag Cloud

%d bloggers like this: