on staying

movingIf you know me at all, you know how much I love Oklahoma.  So I was just as surprised as anybody when we packed our life collections into boxes and moved to Utah.  Although I’ve lived in five different states and enjoy the adventure of exploring new places, I had a really difficult transition this past year.  The thing about moving to a new city where you hardly know anyone is that you get to spend time getting to know yourself and expanding your limits. There has been a lot of journaling, a few tears, and months of interoception, or looking within.

Sometimes leaving means saying goodbye to all of the things that are good in exchange for situations that are hard.  And sometimes leaving means letting go of your anchors in exchange for the sea.  Perhaps it’s the staying in a place you’ve outgrown that’s hardest, or maybe for you, the difficulty lies in letting go of your comfort and routine.  At different times and in different places, moving has meant has all of these things to me.  And this time, arriving here has been a new lesson in navigating discomfort, of staying even when things get hard, and re-learning that situations are as beautiful as you make them out to be.

What I know about staying- whether that be in a location, relationship, job, or even belief- is that we can find our comfort here.   That if we are lucky, we have strong support systems and beautiful relationships that bring us fulfillment and keep us tied to where we are.  Staying might mean working at a place that fuels your creativity, engaging in activities that fill your life’s purpose, or in developing a routine that is nourishing to your soul.  Staying can be as equally beautiful and transformative as we make moving on to be.  And in all the ways that staying can be wondrous, remaining in places, situations, and relationships that are no longer meant for you can also be difficult, limiting, and contracting.  Sometimes staying is a choice we make not because it’s best for us, but because we doubt our abilities to adapt to what might come next.

And when it comes to leaving, what i know is that change can be overwhelming.  All of a sudden, our fears begin to sneak in and make us question whether or not we’ve made the right choice.  Moving, letting go, or changing your direction often creates uncertainty about our ability to belong, to navigate our way, and to redirect our path.   I think we leave places with the expectation to grow, change, evolve, and accomplish great things, and maybe we go to new places and do just that.  But you might also crumble, fail, or change your mind.  You might find  the very thing you were running from is waiting for you at your next stop.

I don’t necessarily think either option- staying, leaving, letting go, remaining, – is better than the other. There’s not one option that is right and another that is wrong; there are only life experiences that show us more about ourselves, teach us lessons, and land upon our plate of experiences in ways only meant for us.  I’ve learned that we can only learn from what we are willing to open to- and that might mean in your hometown or across the country in a place foreign to you.

For me, moving here was a lesson in being my own friend which meant learning about my limiting beliefs and habitual thought patterning.  In the same way you get to know a friend, I started looking within my own heart; I hadn’t done that in a while.  I spent some time touring my internal landscape and uncovered thoughts patterns that based my worth on a sense of accomplishment and level of confidence on external approval.  Spending more time alone helped me to get clear about the types of relationships I would like to have supporting me, as well as the ones that tend to drain my energy and make me feel inadequate.

In moving, I found that I had a lot more time to fill up and so I reconnected to the things I am passionate about and wanted to improve upon.  I attended yoga workshops alone and invited strangers out to coffee.  I looked people in the face and smiled, I started conversations. I created a sense of community by doing the things that made me feel most alive and said yes to opportunities that were outside of my comfort zone. And in the midst of trying to build relationships with others, I also dove into the uncertainty of being alone and dedicated days to spending time with myself.  I shifted my perspective a lot and spent reframing difficult situations as opportunities and lessons.

If you find yourself in a situation with each option contrasting itself against the other, I hope you know that regardless of where you go, you’ll take yourself with you. That if you can find comfort in who you are, wherever you go will be beautiful. And that if you can be accepting of all of yourself, you’ll be able to be gentle when you stumble and forgiving when you fall.  You’ll be able to reach out to meet new people even if you are unsure.  And whether you stay or go, you’ll be okay.

You’ll land exactly where you need to.

And then you’ll fly.

p.s.  If you are interested in following my thoughts, movements, wanderings, and daily inspiration, you can find me on instagram! @todaywasmeaningfulblog

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p.p.s.s.  thanks for being here, it means a lot to me.

like someone you love.

Processed with VSCO with f2 preset I’ve been doing this thing lately where I ask “how can I best take care of myself in this moment?” and then I pause long enough to hear the answer. The thing about our hearts, is that they know. This year I’ve placed a high priority on taking care of myself and am constantly reorganizing my commitments and schedule to find balance.  It’s not a fixed point you know, taking care of yourself and juggling all of the commitments that life requires of us.  My philosophy about self-care and self-love is that you can’t show up fully to the present moment and to the people that you love when you don’t feel whole.

On the surface, self-care can include practices like receiving adequate sleep, spending time in nature, practicing yoga, getting a massage, taking a long bath, or engaging in supportive eating habits.  These kinds of activities nourish ourselves and help to restore our hearts and minds; they take care of our most basic needs.  And we can practice all of these things and still find ourselves feeling internally restless, uneasy, uninspired, harsh, inadequate, anxious, sad, or unkind.  Beyond all of the self-care rituals we can tend to is perhaps a greater, more gentle, and necessary way of being with ourselves.

This year, I started with the practices. I went to yoga almost every day and spent a lot of time outside with my feet in a stream.  I collected rocks, slept under the stars, and journaled regularly.  I said ‘no’ to things when I was tired and gave myself plenty of permission to rest. But the real work and internal shifts came by getting to know myself deeply enough to identify underlying core beliefs about my worth and how achievements and accomplishments fueled the reaching for feelings of ‘enough.’  The self-love came when I allowed myself to be imperfect after making a mistake, or when I showered myself in kindness after making the wrong choice.  The deep self-love came when I interrupted a habitual thought patterning of shame and negative self-talk and stopped myself from continually replaying out situations in my mind, of living in the past.

Our society talks a lot about self-love and self-care, especially these days.  But there are still so many people feeling lonely, disappointed, and not okay.  I think it’s partly because we have mixed up the intention of doing self-care practices with the intention of being someone who cares about themself. Self-love and self-care are not about excusing your behaviors or giving yourself permission to over-indulge or over-consume, they are about moments when you choose to hold space for the human being that you are.  Self-love is about becoming familiar with the thoughts that pass through our minds everyday and learning that we are not our thoughts and we are not our feelings.    The practice is in acknowledging the way you are unfolding and blooming to the present moment, no matter how messy or scary that might be. Its requires active and continual effort to honor your existence, tune in, listen, and then make a choice based on what it is you need.

 

I invite you to begin treating yourself the same way you would treat someone you dearly love.  It can get messy because it might ask us to uncover some truths about our self-worth, feelings of value, and ability to set boundaries with time, people, and our resources.  It might stir up feelings of regret, anger, shame, or dissatisfaction.  And all of that is okay; we can allow ourselves to feel the way we feel without having to act or changing anything.  That is self-love.

 

 

I offer you ultimate permission to unequivocally be yourself.  To feel bad and still be okay, to be imperfect and still enough.  To be a work in progress and still a brilliant masterpiece.  I encourage you to take as much time as you need, to move slowly,  and to work on only one thing at a time.  I invite you to learn about where you hurt and why, and to set an intention to send the love there.  Connect to what inspires you and chase those little sparks of magic.  Be gentle with your current self, the person you once were, and the person that you are becoming.

 

 

 

 

 

 

be brave enough to love yourself more than you think you deserve.

and then a little more.

on vulnerability.

everything is full.

I’ve sat in a lot of circles this year; hands at my heart, eyes gently closed, feet pressing upon a hardwood floor. We always start off as strangers who come together in vulnerability, and end up as friends.

Last weekend I recognized that somewhere along the way, we’ve learned that it’s dangerous to be vulnerable, that we shouldn’t risk being seen.  Our voices have been quieted in many ways throughout our lives, and somewhere, we’ve learned to keep our pains silent and to suffer quietly in the secrecy of our hearts.  We’ve internalized messages that we are supposed to show up as nicely wrapped packages, organized, happy, and unflawed. We believe we’re supposed to experience life so effortlessly that we feel discouraged when things get hard.

We might have lived lifetimes of saying we are fine when actually, we feel lonely.  When we are actually scared, deeply unhappy, tired, anxious, or hurt.  We mask ourselves in busy-ness, numbing, perfectionism, over/under-eating, alcohol, and drugs.  And we wear cloaks of perfection or indifference to replace our deep rooted fears of being negatively judged, falling short, or feeling inadequate. We harm ourselves through the voice of our inner critic or avoid trying because of the risk of failure. We might resist vulnerability out of fear of what would happen if we opened up.

And while vulnerability can mean many things for different people, for me, it is about uncertainty, risk, and exposing the truest parts of ourselves.  Vulnerability is about our ability to sit with discomfort, name it, and grow in it. It’s about being seen for who we are, especially when it’s hard and when we feel like we are crumbling; especially when it feels like no one could understand.  And I believe this matters because when we close ourselves off to this emotional risk, we start to feel alone.  We feel like something is wrong with us; we feel inadequate, broken, disconnected, and not enough.

 

 

 

 

I think that if you sit on the floor with someone and listen as they talk about what they most fear, how badly it hurt to lose someone they loved, and how difficult it can be to live in their body and mind; we would begin to realize we are all the same.  We hurt in the same ways and seek the same sense of connection, approval, and belonging from others; the similarities in our hearts are greater than the differences that divide us.  And the more people I sit with, the more I realize that the cracks in our hearts are the areas in which we can allow more love in.

This is your gentle reminder that we don’t have to do any of this alone; that we all have a need to feel connected to and nurtured by others.  And what I know is that our relationships and connections to one another help us to stay anchored to the shore when the waves are raging inside and trying to tear us away.  I invite you to give yourself permission to be messy, to be a work of art, to change your mind, and to speak your heart.  I encourage you to make mistakes and learn from them.  To rest when things get hard.  And please know that you can speak your truth and still be scared.  You can feel alone and not know what to do with it; you can be sad and tired, and still okay.  You can be not okay while still holding on.  I invite you to open up to how you feel and honor who you are; mistakes, unknowns, insecurities and all.

 

 

 

 

 

and if there is no one in your circle yet, I would be happy to sit there with you.

we can start off as strangers and end up as friends.

a point in time.

Last weekend was the “Point-In-Time Count (PIT)”- a national measure that takes place every January where a community attempts to capture the number of people who are literally homeless or sleeping in a shelter.  This snapshot of homelessness meets a funding requirement for HUD (Housing and Urban Development) and the data is used to track progress on addressing homelessness, increase local and national awareness, inform policy makers, and attract resources to address homelessness.  It was a Thursday through Sunday of waking up at 3:00am to walk the streets, under bridges, and near loading docks.  Some people went up near the mountains, and others in parks.  The places we visited were hidden and not meant for human habitation, perhaps invisible to your eye if you haven’t been looking.

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the experience and even more time thinking about the people I encountered.  I can’t tell you the depth of their stories and I can’t tell you about their experiences, hopes, fears, and goals, because our interactions were brief and it’s likely that I wouldn’t be able to fully understand, even if we had had all day.  But I can tell you what I saw, what I heard, and how I felt.  I can tell you how it made me reflect and how this experience informs my interactions with people I do not know.  I can tell you about the fire that is inside my heart, and how important it is to not make generalizations about people you do not know.  And I’ll tell you these things with the hopes that perhaps it will offer you a new perspective, an opening in your heart to fill with compassion, or a call to act. I’ll share these words with you in hopes that you’ll be curious and not-judgmental; compassionate rather than condemning.

It was so cold that I had on two pairs of socks, two pairs of pants, two pairs of gloves, five long sleeve shirts, a hat and a jacket.  There was snow on the ground and I was acutely aware that I had gloves and all these layers on and the people we met did not. I was aware of the luxury I had to  buy waterproof snow-boots and the time limited nature of my role in the count. I knew that I would return home to a warm apartment, they would not.  I want you to know that there are places where people sleep that many of  us could not even imagine. I cannot forget how cold I was, nor the knowing of how cold they were too.

None of the people we encountered between 4am and 6am were sleeping; they all appeared to be tired, but it was much too cold.  We met a person laying on a loading dock,  his eyes greeted us over the top of his sleeping bag; he was more vigilant and alert than he was asleep.  We talked to a person under an overpass, huddled between two trash cans with bags of personal belongings laid out in front of him.  I saw that we were both shivering, both cold, and we laughed together over the same joke.  We met another person under a light-post, he explained that he was eager to complete the VI-SPDAT so that he could practice his ‘people skills’ and later asked us for feedback on how he was doing.  He said it was nice to have someone to talk to.  Another person explained that they were formerly homeless and showed more passion than some of the people in the room.

We walked down a dirt road, sideway stepped down a hill, and walked behind a graffitied building.  There was a pile of wood, empty cups, trash, boxes, papers, and a blue tarp piled up to make a home.  An overturned bucket held up the entrance; we only heard his voice and only saw his hands.  He told us several stories that did not seem to be based in reality, and his voice was sweet, his words welcoming.  He had no mailbox and no socks. He lives in a hidden place. I saw a person I knew, shivering on the snow covered cement, supported by the side of a building and his groceries thrown about.  He was outside for over nine hours in the freezing cold because he had fallen and missed the last bus.  A lot of people passed by, but no one had stopped.  I noticed that his lips were pale, his body shaking.

We met a 32 year old laying on a tarp with only a yellow blanket covering his body.   Empty boxes of hand-warmers surrounded him and his shoes were wet. He was under a tree and we heard him crying out in pain.  His toes were raw and blistered; the nurse said his feet were frostbitten and that putting socks on would be too painful.  He spoke only of his severe anxiety  and kept his body under the blanket, partly for warmth, and partly because he said he felt too overwhelmed.  He wouldn’t go to the hospital.

 

We didn’t end up ‘counting’ or assessing as many people as I expected; not because they weren’t there, but because somehow asking questions didn’t seem as important as addressing people’s more emergent medical needs and immediate suffering.  I drove home with tears in my eyes, angry and cold, but with fire burning inside.  I’m still trying to put together the words to describe this point in time.  My thoughts, like many of the sentences in this post, are incomplete.  What I saw was suffering and unshakeable resilience.  I saw people surviving in a way that I had never seen before.

 

I tell you these stories because human suffering is not something we remember only when it is convenient for us.  It is not something we fix with a simple solution or ignore because of an incomplete judgement.  Mental illness, addiction, complex trauma, and homelessness are real.  And they hurt.  It can be isolating.  And they do not fully represent who a person is.

 

What I know most is our shared humanity.  This deep sense that my life is not worth more nor more important than another human being.  I ask you to recognize the actual experience of someone in your community, and I ask you to make room in your heart to love someone that you do not know.  As divisions becoming increasingly cemented, we must continue to make bridges between our hearts.  For me, this is not about politics.  This is about people.

 

Find your mission.  Find your human, your cause, and your fight.  Do not be quieted by systems, policies, or judgements.

We were given voices. minds. and hearts.

 

Act.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

oceans and mountains.

Processed with VSCO with f2 presetOut of all the things there are to love in this world, people are my favorite.  I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about all of the hearts I am connected to and how grateful I am to have so many pieces of people’s lives intertwined with my story.  Like the man from Budapest who told me about his daughter’s dreams while in Paris or the father I hugged when he got his son back.  I think about the chance encounters that became my greatest friendships; your desk being placed next to mine because you were shy and I was not.  I think about you crossing oceans and me moving to the mountains and both of us sitting next to each other on a hardwood floor in a circle, hands on our hearts. I think about all of us applying at the same restaurant as we made our way through college and dancing the night away eight years later on my wedding day. My heart thinks about you, all of the people that have read my words and then became my real life friends.

My heart overflows with gratitude when I consider the details that occurred in order for our lives to touch, the miles and miles we each spent walking the earth that resulted in your footprints making their way to my path.  I’ll always believe that people show up right when we need them, to help us grow, to open us up to the possibilities, to carry a message, or to hold our hand in comfort after a particularly stormy chapter.  I think about the people I’ve come to know who live their lives in the boldest, most beautiful, and magnificent ways.  The people who teach you to be soft, who show you how to be honest and vulnerable, the ones who dare to change their paths to answer to their life’s calling.  And I think about all of the people I do not know and all of the hearts that are beating just like mine.  I think about entire populations of people that many of us know nothing about, who do courageous things and suffer in ways we cannot possibly understand. I think about all of the people sewing beautiful seeds into their corners of the world, who leave roots for things to grow in every place they touch.  I imagine picking a flower they once planted or sitting underneath the shade of the tree they helped to grow.

 

With my blankets astray and snowflakes falling from the sky from my third floor apartment, I think about the ways in which we enter people’s lives. The ways our own feet lead us into another person’s story and create lasting change.  We can show up in the world in big and small ways,  like the way we carry ourselves, greet a stranger, or stand in a check-out line.  We show up in the ways we use our talents to benefit another person, pursue our passions with every fiber of our being, and how we make a person feel about themselves.  We choose the way we treat the people we love and the people we do not know.  We can be soft while showing up strong, we can withdraw judgement and seek to connect, to extend a hand.  We can help people to see the magic that they are.

I think about my yoga teachers, who without words, showed me how I want to be present in other people’s lives.  In the last four months I’ve learned about the gift we offer to people we meet and the people we love when we are present and kind.  I’ve learned that the more compassionate and gentle we can be with ourselves, the more compassion we can show towards others.  I’ve learned how valuable it is to see each person as a whole, to take note of their heart, and to make room for someone to be just as they are.  I was able to transform in beautiful ways because my experiences, challenges, and strengths were not only validated and seen, but celebrated and encouraged.  I developed as a person because my heart was nurtured, my words were listened to, and my vulnerability was met with sweetness and love.

 

When it comes to loving people, here is what I know:

  • Powerful things happen when we allow people to be who they are instead of who we want them to be.
  • People transform with compassion, not shame.
  • When we nurture another human being, we create an opportunity for healing, softening, and growth.
  • We have the power to impact someone’s life in just one conversation, evening, or experience.
  • I believe when we show up authentically and vulnerably we encourage others to do the same.
  • We can stop trying to fix people and focus on loving them instead.

 

 

 

 

and so I thank you, for being who you are and showing up in the way that you did.

in big ways and small ways.

I needed you.

a call for compassion.

as a social worker, i consider myself to be a listener of people’s experiences, a collector of stories, and an observer of change.  while i may not be able to fully understand each person’s individual experiences, i’ve been attempting to understand my own.  i’ve spent the last nine months talking to people during outreach on the streets, at homeless camps, panhandling sites, and at community shelters; more importantly, i’ve spent the last nine months trying to listen. i’ve come to learn of individual life experiences and series of events that lead people to life without a home. these lives are often characterized by trauma, substance abuse, mental illness, disability, loss, inadequate social support, and difficult emotions like anger, shame, and hurt. i’ve also come to learn that these individual life experiences are also most often characterized by perseverance, resilience, resourcefulness, and kindness.

 

in these conversations, i’ve learned that living without a home is often accompanied with judgement and criticism from others.  it comes with name calling, avoidance of eye contact from passerby’s on the street, feelings of invisibility from being overlooked, negative assumptions being made about their worth and character, and often physical destruction of the little property they may have left.  i recently talked to someone who tearfully recalled the items that were thrown at her and the names that were called as she sat on the corner selling magazines.  i have observed wonderful people lose their lives to substances despite a lifetime of efforts of trying to quit. i’ve witnessed good people make terrible decisions as a result of their addiction and i’ve watched people slowly regain their lives after moving off the street and into their own home. i’ve seen a reduction in mental health symptoms, a decrease in use of alcohol or illicit substances, and a flicker of hope after having basic needs like food, shelter, and safety being met. i’ve observed children who spend their summer at day shelters for people experiencing homelessness and the impact it has on their development. and i’ve stood with and watched men silently cry after moving into their own home after decades of homelessness.

 

i read facebook posts and see pictures of a society who mock fellow community members because of their situation.  i listen to generalizations being made about individuals who are homeless, their work ethic, and worth.  and although i am no expert, i hear conversations demonstrating a lack of education on issues surrounding homelessness including addiction, mental health, recovery, affordable housing, disability, and government assistance.  i have observed how systems make it incredibly difficult for people to rise out of poverty, obtain employment, and gain financial stability. i have an increasing awareness of the laws and efforts put into place to criminalize homelessness and i’m learning about the impact of racism in our justice systems and the outcomes of youth that are marginalized by it.

and throughout all of this,  i have also seen the impact of people working together; of communities uniting to provide resources, support, and encouragement to others experiencing homelessness- to their community members.  as a result, i have witnessed a reduction in chronic and veteran homelessness, an increase in understanding, and a realistic goal of eliminating this social problem. i am learning that widespread change is possible and that we all can be part of the solution. i am learning that as humans, we naturally want to connect with others, and that by learning about other people’s stories, we can begin to understand the complexities of each person’s situation and offer compassion, healing, and support rather than condemnation, discouragement, and marginalization.

 

 

i think sometimes we get so busy judging other people’s choices and focusing on our political affiliations that we lose sight of the uniqueness of a person’s experiences. i believe that when we begin to cluster people in large generalizations and negative stereotypes, it becomes easy to write off an entire population of people.  what i know is that our lives, communities, and world are enriched when we bridge the gap between our differences and try to connect with one another.  and i believe that our personal judgements- regardless of the situation- are also opportunities to look inside ourselves to challenge our assumptions, stereotypes, prejudices, values, and lack of information. i’d like to think that if we all just took the time to genuinely listen to another person’s life story, we might recognize the similarities of existence that we all share.

 

 

i hope that my life message is one of compassion and love. of understanding and non-judgement, of openness, curiosity, and acceptance.  and while i fail regularly, i know that i will continue to try to be quick to listen and slow to judge.  i hope to respond with patience and to be a light during another person’s darkness.  i hope i continue to grow as a person because of the people who decide to touch my life with theirs.  

i hope to sit with others in their brokenness, confusion, and times of need with grace, sincerity, and presence.  i will continue to challenge myself to deepen my understanding of the diversity of the human experience and the limitations in society’s structures.  what i know is that love begets love and kindness fosters kindness. what i know is that when we choose to love others we allow ourselves to see the good that exists in all of us; and when you see this inherent goodness we can begin to treat people with respect, kindness, and love…. we can help people to become all that they truly are. 

 

 

 

 

 

i challenge you to open your heart, your mind, and your ears.

i challenge you to respond with compassion and to act with love. 

 

 

a robin williams story.

i can’t remember how old i was, but i remember being in my parents’ room, sitting on their bed with a plate full of snacks.  the moment i started watching the movie, i knew that it had been made just for me. and i’ve always been a little bit selfish when it comes to stumbling across a favorite movie, quote, or  book- of holding on to the stories they contain like treasure- trying to keep all the magic they consist of just for myself.  so i can remember my elementary school self not wanting anyone else to know about “Patch Adams.”  i was going to be him, i remember thinking.  i was going to be  person who brought light to the lives of others, who was attentive to other people’s suffering, and who knew what to do to help make it better. i can distinctly remember not wanting anyone to know about Patch Adams because i thought the world would only need one of him, and i wanted it to be me.  i’ve grown up since then. and i’ve learned that having the tiniest impact on the world is about focusing less on one’s ego and more on one’s understanding of the challenges, solutions, and contributors to a problem. but that movie became the spark that ignited my dream to go to college to become a doctor.

 

like many of you, i have my own Robin William’s story.

 

as you may know, i held tight to the dream of becoming a Patch Adams kind of doctor, until my junior year of college. and as you may also know, i chose to become a social worker instead.  this choice has afforded me the opportunity to work with some of the most remarkable and resilient people i could have ever hoped to meet.  and so in the last few years, i have spent time talking with people who are homeless, people who have a severe and persistent mental illness, people who have been diagnosed with other mental illnesses, people who have endured traumatic life experiences, and people who are struggling to make it through the day. i’ve had the opportunity to get to know people whose lives have been very different from Robin William’s, but perhaps similar in their experience of depression and suicidal ideation.

and in the days, weeks, and month following the initial shock over Robin William’s death, i’ve noticed that the conversations about suicide, depression, stigma, treatment, and mental illness have waned. but it has left me thinking about the friends, family members, consumers, Veterans, and people i’ve come to know who have struggled with depression, addiction, other mental health challenges, or thoughts and plans of suicide.  i’ve never personally experienced depression, but i know that it can feel a lot like darkness, like an unexpected blow to the stomach, or like a heavy feeling of dread that you just can’t seem to shake. i know that depression can mean not feeling anything at all, or being numb to everything you are feeling all at once. it can mean feeling withdrawn or withdrawing yourself from the world. and i know that depression can feel a lot like a sinking hole that you cannot climb out of.

what i know is that suicide is often a symptom of major depressive disorder- a  mental illness caused by a number of biological and environmental factors. what i know is that over 90% of people who die by suicide have a diagnosable mental illness (including bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, personality disorders, anxiety disorders, and eating disorders).  and for people who experience chronic and recurrent symptoms of major depression or other mental illnesses, suicide or thoughts of suicide may come to feel like a comforting solution or viable option to end the pain that no longer feels endurable. depression is not a choice nor a character flaw, and it is not a decision of someone ‘wanting to feel sorry for themselves,’ or not being able to cope with life’s challenges.  suicide is not about being selfish or weak, but rather, it’s about pain. it’s about loss of hope. and i think we forget that it’s human nature to want to end suffering, to find relief.  to be clear, it is not my intention to encourage, promote, or advocate for suicide.   i am however, challenging you to empathize with another person’s experience before making a judgement or criticism about their character.

 

since beginning this profession, i’ve been collecting other people’s stories.  and these stories- their life experiences- have been guiding and shaping my interactions with others. conversations with people who are both chronically homeless and transiently homeless demonstrate to me the complicatedness of poverty, the challenges of locating affordable housing, and the difficulties of maintaing competitive employment while also living with a mental illness and/or addiction. play dates with children in foster care and with children who have been severely abused and neglected remind me of the impact of abuse on cognitive development, emotional regulation, and attachment. and when working with these children when they later become adults, i consider their childhoods and the traumas they’ve endured. i think it’s important to recognize the number of factors that contribute to a person’s behaviors and perception of the world.  i am also aware that some people-regardless of their upbringing, or despite having a ‘healthy’ upbringing- will make poor choices.  and even then, i attempt to understand.  because what i know is that you cannot reduce people to simplistic generalizations based on your limited understanding of their situation.  it is much more complicated than that.

 

and what i know is that there are still so many people in this world who do not understand.  who choose not to understand. and who continue to blame people for the suffering they do not take the time to understand.  and so if your understanding of depression or suicide is one that blames the person who is struggling with the mental illness, i would challenge that your knowledge of their life and experiences is incomplete. i would challenge you to have one conversation with a person who has had thoughts of suicide, attempted suicide, or who struggles with a mental illness. i challenge you to be curious rather than judgmental.  open minded and open hearted. i challenge you to seek to understand rather than assume that you already know. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

and so this post is for you.  for those whose suffering feels unnoticed. for those people who feel quietly stuck inside their mind. for those that feel hopeless. for those whose cries for help are mislabeled or misunderstood as cries for attention or flaws in their being. for the people who feel too tired to continue on.  for people who struggle with depression and for people who don’t.  for people who are having a bad day, a bad season, or a rough stretch of life. and for those people who don’t understand the illness but are willing to try.

 

 

 

It’s okay – whatever you need, wherever you are,  however long it takes – it’s okay.

there is still time.

to ask for help. to grow. to heal. to recover.

there is still time for the sunshine to begin to seep through the cracks. for a flower to grow straight from your heart.

 

 

 

 

 

just in case.

  • The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline:  1-800-273-TALK (8255). They are available 24/7
  • Talk to someone online through the Lifeline Crisis Chat
  • Teens can get text support from the Crisis Text Line by texting “listen” to 741-741.
  • Veterans in crisis can contact the Veterans Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255.
  • Call 911.