Three Little Birds-W.I.S.E Project 2017 #tenacioustuesday

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A few years back, possibly more as I am at the age that time is flying by in warp speed; I used to love the waterslides at World Water Park. They were exhilarating and I felt a sense of freedom and abandon as I was rushed feet first at insane speeds into the cool water. With age comes an awareness of our mortality and that feeling that we are invincible begins to fade away. Some people are very successful in defeating that feeling and proving that age is nothing but a number but as I stood at the top of the slide uneasily awaiting my turn to go on the slide aptly named “Are you fucking kidding me?” I imagined nothing but terrifying things and plunging feet first to my tragic death. My turn came way before I was ready and as I pushed off the side I was thrust into immediate darkness as the sides of the slide were completely enclosed. I struggled with several feelings that rushed to me all at once and though my mind and my body seemed to be going at a wild speed, some things seemed to be happening in slow motion. I coped by balling my hands into fists and squeezing until I was white knuckled, closing my eyes and bracing for the worst. Seconds passed which felt like years and I decided that if I was really going to die right now this would be the last exciting thing that I ever got to experience. I willed myself to open my eyes and embrace the darkness, I took a deep breath and un-clenched my fists and felt my body being rocked from side to side, the rushing water lifting me to the right side and then the left. Within seconds my entire body was dropped into cool water, rushing around my body and head. I felt this feeling of relief mixed with euphoria that filled my lungs and my limbs and shone through my heart. I didn’t just survive, I thrived. I had stared my fear in the face and on the other side of my fear was joy.

So many times over the years I have told my daughters that joy is on the other side of their fears. My oldest seemed to be so unwilling to embrace uncertainty and looking back seemed to have all sorts of irrational fears. Little things would cause an argument or a great deal of anxiety but for the most part she seemed like a loving, smart and athletic girl who had big plans and hopes for the future.

At ten years old when I couldn’t help her with math because she became too frustrated, once flipping the coffee table over or kicking the walls in her bedroom repeatedly when put on a timeout I assumed that it was goddamn hormones. Watching her struggle through the teen years was difficult and I accepted the therapist’s recommendation that she was a normal teen who just needed coping mechanisms. I agreed with that advice and would hear it and agree with it several times over the years; from therapists, doctors, school counselors and friends. I never once considered that my only coping mechanisms were tears, white knuckles or wine.

In her early teens she fell in with a group of girls who had little to no supervision so when I said No to her and we ended up in a screaming match and she later crawled out her bedroom window making me frantic with worry I cursed the damn hormones and those other parents who didn’t set boundaries for their children. At fourteen she struggled with her sexuality, but we loved her no matter what and genuinely just wanted her to be happy. We prepared for struggle as she found her way in the world and a therapist would assure all of us that she was going to be fine. She just had to learn to cope.

Over the years she would suffer ups and downs, I would see her dedicate herself to a sport she loved fully and completely and be filled with immense pride. I would see the amazing things that it did for her self esteem and her confidence but it all seemed like it hung in a very delicate balance, as if one bad game, play or unkind word from a teammate or coach could take it all away. Through it all I tried to encourage her to be herself and embrace her individuality and learn to love her differences and she did for some of the time…and then she didn’t. I saw as friends came and went and I told her that if she became the kind of person she would want to be around the right people would come to her life at the right time. She welcomed new opportunities and challenges; growing and learning new things and finding new passions, but on some of the days everything was wrong, very very wrong. She called herself ugly and stupid and she directed a great deal of her anger at me. She became disconnected from the things she loved and I blamed it on Netflix binges and encouraged her to leave the house and be active. I took her to the woods on a hike recently and she said how great it made her feel. The earth, the air and the trees reconnected her to something she had lost. Her anger in the weeks following seemed to worsen and those in between times when she was my sweet young lady seemed less and less. She started to lash out at her sister and what we perceived to be small things would make her feel rage. She told me she wanted to talk to someone, that she just had a lot to get out. I encouraged her to do her research and find someone she thought she could connect with as she had called the other Therapists stupid. One afternoon she called me after leaving the doctors office and said she had finally found a good doctor that listened to her and he was referring her to a Psychiatrist. We lucked out being the first people to answer the phone on a forty person waiting list and she got in to see the Psychiatrist without the typical five month wait. I took her to the train and she went by herself so she could feel confident in being completely honest about how she was feeling. I held back tears as the Psychiatrist called me and told me that he was shocked that Morgan had not been diagnosed sooner and that his diagnosis was clear without any uncertainty all. My heart broke as he told me that she had ADHD with underlying depression and anxiety, that untreated had also led to conduct disorder. The screaming anger, bad decisions and struggles with school and self esteem were all a part of a larger issue. The diagnosis was a bit of a blessing, but the fact that she had suffered for so long caused me an immense amount of pain. I should have known. I know that we cannot go backwards and we decided together that we would go forward. The doctor said that there was no way around medication; though he fully supports and encourages a holistic lifestyle he believes wholeheartedly the medication is needed immediately to help her, especially in school. She and I both believe that our Western society is way too medicated but we are also both tired and hopeful for a reprieve from the daily uphill battle that rages on and on.

We have been on this road for several years but our journey has just begun. Everyday brings something new and we are trying to find a way to stay connected as a family and face our challenges head on, without curling up in bed with ice cream and tissues.

There are things that are hard for her, things I cannot quite understand but I am trying my best. She is going to meditation classes with me and the first one she was so incredibly anxious I did not think she would make it through it but she was able to control her breathing and her anxious mind and find a little place where she felt safe. She actually fell asleep in class, which was the most amazing result for a first time mediator. She now refuses to go to any classes that are not facilitated by this instructor, she found a bit of safety and I am trying to understand.

She allowed me to share our story with the instructor, who is also a mom, and such a warm and genuine woman that people gravitate to her. When I explained to her that she had been told for years that she needed coping mechanisms she took a thoughtful pause and said “coping mechanisms? I don’t like that. I don’t like that at all. How about thriving mechanisms?”

That moved us and encouraged us at a time when we needed it. We do not want to move through our lives white knuckled, squeezing our eyes shut, binging on ice cream and wiping away tears. We want to be fully engaged in our lives, to encourage and support and love each other, even when things are hard.

When she is ready, my daughter wants to get involved on this blog and in the Podcast so that she can be a voice for other people that are struggling and do not know why. Right now she is busy learning how to thrive.

“Every obstacle is an opportunity in disguise”

~Deepak Chopka

 

I have been working extremely hard on my own mental health, I know that if I am not healthy than I will not be good to anyone else. I find that floating (sensory deprivation) is an amazing way to clear my troubled mind and reset. I go to Modern Gravity in Edmonton Alberta. I have amped up my daily meditation practice by attending unlimited classes with Lifestyle Meditation here in Edmonton. They have a variety of different classes for relaxation, stress relief, movement, creativity and balance. I try to get enough sleep; the absence of good and restorative sleep can be harmful to our bodies and our minds. Our minds are powerful messengers and if something is wrong it will tell us. Stress can manifest in all sorts of ways and make us ill. Not enough sleep can keep us from leading full and happy lives. I do a sleep mediation nightly and I created my own Guided Journey Sleep Meditation as a gift to my Mom but I am hoping to convince my daughter to do it with me tonight after our hike in the woods.

The keys words in the dictionary definition of Cope are struggle, deal and face. The key words in the dictionary definition of thrive are prosper, grow and develop. Which would you rather do in times of stress? The answer is clear for me, even through my instinct during times of stress has always been to curl up in the fetal position and hope for it to pass I am finding healthier ways to deal with burdens and I am hoping to be an example to my family.

This morning I woke to three little birds outside my window singing a pretty song. I know that was the great Bob Marley’s way of reminding me that every little thing is going to be alright.

 

Be WI.S.E. friends and take care of yourself.

Our minds are powerful messengers and when the burdens that weigh us down rob us of the healing and restorative power of restful sleep we find ourselves sick with stress. Join me for a guided journey to create calm, inviting you to a deep and restful sleep.

 

Lover’s Waltz -W.I.S.E. Project 2017

The message was wrought with hurt and anger but above all else it was a surrender. I thought that I was giving him what he wanted and needed; a resolution and one less thing to worry about so he could focus on the most important thing, getting well.

Last year when my husband found himself in the intense grip of depression I found myself in a sink or swim situation. I cannot recollect a time that it was more important to love and care for myself. I read a quote recently about the importance of writing from a scar and not an open wound. I agree that when your heart is suffering your reminiscence might be very different than recollecting the hardship at a later time. For me the pain has become another life lesson, and a reason to re-evaluate everything I ever thought about love.

Everyone has their own definition of love, as well they should; but I fear that love, the very idea of it has taken on such a transformation that it is hard to express in words. It is almost easier to tell you all the things that do not constitute love, than to actually define love. In spite of that I think that most people would agree that love is a feeling and that the very idea of love can be hard for a lot of people. Singles put themselves out there; constantly trying to find love while couples are continuously striving to keep love alive.

Is Unconditional love possible in a romantic relationship?

A term that I have heard a lot, as well as used a lot over the years is unconditional love. Unconditional love is a love without conditions which I think, in reality, is very hard to achieve. Speaking as a woman, falling in love, “true” love as it is often defined, is because we have found someone who fulfills our physical and emotional needs, and we imagine that this person will provide us with a stable home and a good life. As time goes on if that person does not satisfy our physical or emotional needs or offer us a secure home and a suitable life then problems arise. We are no longer happy because our conditions are not being met. That sweet feeling of love begins to turn sour. Some lovers part ways fairly quickly while others choose to stay and fight for love. Staying is right for some people and leaving is right for others but loving someone unconditionally does not dictate either of those things. Here is where I question if unconditional love in a romantic relationship is possible.

I have been with my husband for over 18 years. The most useful things I have learned about love have been have been most recent and I believe; if I am being honest with myself and the world, that I have only loved him unconditionally for a very short time, if at all.

To not only believe in the existence of unconditional love (as it relates to romantic love) but to also love someone unconditionally requires a great deal of vulnerability, courage and effort. True love is not about receiving love, it is about giving love, without the expectation of anything in return. Are we capable of caring about the happiness of another without any thought whatsoever of what we might get in return?

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The beautiful madness of falling in love…

Falling in love is beautiful madness. When you think of it, in the terms “falling” and the total abandon that overcomes you, it is quite surreal. We talk about being raised up by love but falling in love is quite different. That moment you realize you are falling  it seems completely out of your control, you are sitting there feeling so completely consumed by your love for another that you feel like you have fallen into them. Moments without them feel like days and you feel like you could die without them. Falling in love is quite a dramatic undertaking. During this phase of ‘falling in love” we are often so caught up by love that we fail to see our partners authentically. We cannot see them in any sort of negative light, and we simply overlook their faults. Without genuinely looking at things without blinders on it is not feasible to love unconditionally because we need to be aware of the good and the bad before we can make the declaration that nothing is more important than loving this person.

Loving someone doesn’t not mean you will always like them. In life and relationships, we make mistakes, but there are times that I have put my heart in a jar on the bedside table, sealed up tight and if I wasn’t getting what I expected from my relationship or if I was angry or annoyed my heart stayed in the jar, impenetrable. I was still there even though I had closed him off from a part of me, so I thought that meant I loved him unconditionally.

To love unconditionally is to choose to give love under all conditions.

Is loving under all conditions feasible? Is it healthy? What if your spouse is physically or mentally abusive? What if you set boundaries in the relationship and your spouse does not respect those boundaries? Are you then no better than a doormat? Are you willing to be the dust under their feet?

If love itself is a feeling and the feeling of love is commonly in response to something we are getting from another person; is it therefore conditional? Unconditional love is something we do, despite the conditions so does that make it an action? I do believe the feeling of love can be unconditional. Sometimes, no matter what a partner does, feelings towards them do not change or go away. Relationships, however, are working partnerships and as such, they require conditions, boundaries, and aims to be successful. I think it is possible to continue to love (the feeling) under any conditions but to continue to actively give our love under any circumstances is what I am not sure of.

We are not islands; eventually things will come between us.

About seven months ago my husband was in the throes of crippling depression. He was working away at the time and I didn’t recognize the signs immediately. We have endured some tough times throughout the years but in my opinion this was the worst, or at the very least the impact was the worst for me. Initially I took it personally and I think that is a common misstep. I have learned that you cannot love away depression, no matter how hard you try. There is not a manual on how to deal with your spouse’s depression so of course I made mistakes. However, once I got a sense of what was happening, I did a lot of research and every day I had to make a choice and endeavor to do the most loving thing for him in the moment. Some days he needed to talk to me and he needed me to be engaged and others he needed me to permit him some space and some silence. He wasn’t in charge of much in his life at that point as his demons had their arms wrapped tightly around him. I had to let him be in charge of something so I had to step back as best I could, and allow him to determine when we talked and what we talked about; it was more difficult then I care to admit. There was a comfortable, loving and flirty element to our relationship that disappeared and I struggled really hard with that. I faltered often, it is hard not to take depression personally, none of my emotional needs were being met and as I wrestled with the uncertainty of it all I tried not to lose myself. I was anxious to find some measure of structure in the chaos that had become my life. There were days that it felt like there was an ocean between us and that it would be impossible to swim to that place where we could meet in the middle. There were others that you couldn’t put a paper in the space between us. It reminds me of the old Dolly and Kenny song; Islands in the Steam, “nothing in between, how can we go wrong?” they croon. Well we are not islands and eventually things come between us.

Though it was all very confusing, the entire time my husband insisted that he felt like something was pulling him away, he felt like he was the captain of a sinking ship spirally into a black void and I know he wanted to get me to safety before the ship sank forever into the dark abyss. I spent many a night staring at the ceiling and telling myself that no matter what that the kuds and I were going to be okay. In my head, I made plans for a future that didn’t include the person I loved so much it hurt. I made a very big effort to be well, knowing that he could barely lift himself up to make it through the day and that worrying about me was too much. The most loving thing I could do for him in that moment was to take care of myself.

It is really hard to reach out to people when you are in the midst of something you can barely put into words but one day I texted a friend and I told her what was going on. She called me and prayed for me while I sobbed hunched over the steering wheel of my truck. It was such a powerful feeling to be embraced in love and understanding that was void of any sort of judgement; either of me or of him. It felt how I would imagine “true” unconditional love, the kind that god gives us, to feel like.

I never stopped giving my love to him but I felt at some point weeks later that the most loving thing that I could do is to let go, not to stop loving him but to loosen my grip and make plans to move on separately. He had told me so many times that he couldn’t see the light and that he so desperately wanted me to be okay because he felt like he was ruining my spirit and the very thought was killing him. I began to recognize that his frantic worry about me and my relentless longing for a connection that he couldn’t offer me was only serving to cause him more anguish. He was trying to lesson his own pain by lessening mine, all the while going to bed with his nightmares and waking up with his nightmares and trying urgently to sail his ship out of the storm. He couldn’t give me any reassurances because for him there was no end in sight to the way he was feeling. He was basically holding on tight to the little grip of reality he had.

Sometimes; sadly, loving another person means walking away.

I took my wedding rings off on the evening of November 22nd before I went to bed. I hadn’t taken them off much in15 years and it had definitely been awhile. They had become as much a part of my hand as my fingers were. I had to cut up tights, loop the nylon through each ring one at a time, lather up my hand and slowly wind the nylon around my finger until they finally came over my knuckle. After they came off I didn’t really feel much, a little physical pain on my finger but emotionally I just felt weary.

I know that depression is hard for people to understand, even well intentioned people will tell you to “look on the bright side” and to “snap out of it” I only wish that it were possible.

My husband has suffered some sort of depression for years but the depression that hit in July of 2015 was different than anything we had every experienced together, it stole so much of our lives from us. My husband suffered trauma in his childhood that has followed him into adulthood. He has tried therapy but he has not found the right person for him. He asked me to help him find an older lady, someone motherly to speak too. I did that and though it wasn’t the perfect fit for him I sincerely think there is someone he is looking for. However, until he is ready to truly sit with the pain, to walk through it, not around it, and to face his lifelong fears and terrors head on instead of just keeping them at bay as long as possible, depression will loom; just around the corner. Unfortunately, these are not my choices to make and even though I think it is possible, I do know that it will not be easy. I have come to accept that he is not ready.

Things got better for a while, in fact things were so good that we remarked frequently how grateful we were to have made it through that terrible time and we hung on tight to each other, loving fiercely in the aftermath. Depression however is a formidable force in breaking down trust and tearing couples apart. Fast forward to that night in 2016 after 2 months of life altering moods and indecision and my husband’s insistence that he was not good enough for me and that I needed to move on. Finding the strength through tears after I had decided over and over, day after day that I would be strong enough for both of us, that I would hold on no matter what, and that I would be the light in the darkness. That glimmer of hope got further and further away, just out of my reach, the reassurances, the reciprocation, and the plans for a future together; they all faded away. I tried to be what he needed, when he needed it, even realizing that he was struggling so hard within himself that as much as I was reeling I couldn’t expect him to be there for me. He stopped wearing his wedding ring; it was part of his conclusion that we had to move on separately as he did not want to envelope me in his gloom. My decision to stop wearing my wedding rings was largely based on doing what I thought was best for all of us, especially him, but my letting go was swathed in a great deal of hurt, anger and emotion. Sometimes; sadly, loving another person means walking away.

I was entering the stage of grief that fluctuates between sorrow and resentment.

A part of me felt that he had given up on all of us; that he had mentally walked out on us. In my heart of hearts, I knew that nothing could be further from the truth but months of grief, heartache, and shattered hope had left me raw and angry. Most of all I was very sad. I felt like I had showed up for him, every single day, that I was probably the one person in his life that never let him down, that loved him unconditionally through every imaginable scenario and here I was left in a mess of tears. I was entering the stage of grief that fluctuates between sorrow and resentment.

I sent the love of my life a message and a picture of my red swollen ring finger and the rings that he had given me as a symbol of our forever love, sitting alone on my bedside table. The message was wrought with hurt and anger but above all else it was a surrender. I thought that I was giving him what he wanted and needed; a resolution and one less thing to worry about so he could focus on the most important thing, getting well. I turned my phone off and conceded to the restorative power of deep sleep.

I didn’t turn my phone on until about 10 am at work the next day. The return message I got from my husband was brave and honest and full of heartache; cloaked in a tiny bit of hope. Looking back on it, I feel like my willingness to finally loosen my grip was a turning point not just in our relationship but in my husband’s lifelong struggle with his demons. It catapulted us into a place of honestly and sincerity and allowed us to be open and candid about our feelings. Some of the things I learned during that time were shocking and hurtful and others brought me to my knees. When the person you adore has spent a great deal of their life in unimaginable pain it can be difficult to grasp the realities of that.

I would put my heart in the glass jar on my bedside table and put the lid on tight

I realize now that the demons for my husband are never very far away. From the beginning of our relationship when they came to visit I would sense a withdrawal from him and I would immediately withdraw as well. I would put my heart in the glass jar on my bedside table and put the lid on tight. For a good part of our relationship there were times that he needed me the most that I would be emotionally unavailable. Though I thought I loved unconditionally by always being there physically; I was cutting my husband off from the most important part of me. I believe that all relationships should have boundaries but I made mine red lines in the sand and I feel like there was many times that my husband had to struggle without me because my unconditional love had so many limitations. I didn’t have the courage to love freely; my love was always full of expectation.

Love is a feeling, but loving someone is a voyage that requires vulnerability and a courage that not everyone is capable of. I asked my husband s week ago what he thought unconditional love was and he said it was simple, “love without conditions, true love!” I asked him if he thought it was hard and he said, “It shouldn’t be.” A couple days later her waivered significantly on whether unconditional love was even possible.

Maybe I overcomplicate things but I have finally realized that if your number one goal is to protect your heart from hurt; as it was for me, then unconditional love will be impossible for you. Love is a feeling but unconditional love is also an action, it is something you do, not just something you feel. Sometimes it is the hardest thing you can do; to continue to give love without the anticipation of anything in return. We all struggle, we rise, we fall and we learn.

Depression is something we will likely always struggle with. I now know the value of setting loving boundaries in my relationship, but when hard times hit I think in some cases it is possible to keep on giving love. Sometimes that action, void of judgement is the most loving thing that you can do at the time. I know that when I make a mistake that hurts people, I judge myself harshly. There is a difference between we have done something bad, and we are bad. In the same token if our partner disappoints us, they often feel just as bad as we feel, guilt is healthy and inevitable but “you are bad” is shame and shame is not healthy for us or our relationships.

I took my heart out of the stupid glass jar for good. That glass jar can be shattered anyway but my heart is pretty enduring.

It’s the summation of small steps that make possible the substantial changes in an emotionally impaired relationship! We didn’t land back in the place where we were before the tough times hit, but we found ourselves in a new place and hopeful place ,a place we have grown into, and can continue to cultivate a healthy and loving marriage.

Mistakes happen; we need to forgive ourselves the things we didn’t know before we knew them. Loving someone is “trial and error”, often with a lot of error! In my opinion, there can be no true love without vulnerability; I think it has always been my largest struggle. You have to be willing to show up even when you have no control of the outcome. Opening up your heart to someone, can be the most vulnerable and courageous thing you can do but protecting your heart from hurt also shelters it from love.

I did shed some tears writing this, sometimes when you peel back the many layers of scar tissue over a wound it will bleed.

My goal is to love better, to have a love that is kind and giving, that has boundaries but is also forgiving.

One of the most valuable lessons I have learned since starting the W.I.S.E Project is the importance of self-love. I don’t think “true” unconditional love is possible in any relationship outside of a parent-child relationship if you do not first learn to love and take care of yourself.

Loving myself and learning to take care of my own health and wellness has made me a better partner and a better parent. When I chose to let go of my marriage, it was because I knew that I could be ok, no matter what. I have never bought into the “two becomes one mentality” of marriage. I am healthiest as an individual, responsible for my own happiness and harboring my own beliefs. I think loving yourself is the very best protection you can have for your heart. Your heart can endure grief and loss and pain and all of the beautiful and challenging things that come with love, if you love and take care of yourself first, the more aware and understanding we are to our own needs, the more giving and loving we can be towards others. When we are willing to risk our heart, we are also opening it up to love.

My goal is to love better, to have a love that is kind and giving, that has boundaries but is also forgiving. I am not sold on the dictionary definition of unconditional love, at least not in the way that it pertains to romantic love. I think the action of unconditional love (with healthy relationship boundaries) requires a great deal of compassion, and wisdom. I think our capacity to love and to give love to another can grow immensely as we grow as people. I also think that loving someone unconditionally, occasionally requires walking away.

That being said the only thing I am really certain of is that I am not completely certain of anything!

What do you think unconditional love is?

Do you think it is possible?

Do you think it is healthy?15541249_10211047297515845_5487702828603847435_n

 “I think unconditional love for another is: You see them for who they are, as much as possible; you accept them for who they are and where they are on their journey. You know they are human with strengths, weaknesses and wounds, just like you. You are willing to go with them or understand and love them when their wounds get exposed for healing purposes and you pray for them. I think it takes a lot of grace! And if they walk away and go in a different direction, you might have to work through grief, anger and hatred because you had expectations and wanted them, but you land in the place of letting go and still loving them and wanting God’s best for them.”

~Rebecca Mcmaster

Walkin After midnight -W.I.S.E. Project 2016

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It’s just another midnight walking through the shadows of my mind, sifting through memories and collecting my strength. There is something about the midnight hour, the moonlight, that makes me feel comforted and safe. Sometimes life seems cold and unfair but these are opportunities to be our true selves and hold unto the things that are legitimately necessary.

A week ago my boss handed me a pink journal and she said “You haven’t been writing. You always write. I notice. Write something, anything, a note, a poem, swear words. You will feel better!”

It’s nice the little ways that people show you they care. It is nice to know that when the clouds get dark there are people with umbrellas who don’t want you to get wet.

It rained that day. All the best and the and the worst days do. I walked outside and the rain was so cold against my skin that the last thing I felt like doing was dancing. It wasn’t that type of rain, the dancing kind. It was the tortuous, mocking kind that comes when your life is falling apart and mine indeed felt like it was. I stood there collecting myself by my truck and I struck the warrior pose in that cold fucking rain. Only seconds passed but in those seconds I knew that I was going to be OK. I am a warrior and I may scream, cry and fall down but dammit I always give everything I have and I always get back up.

Fast forward a week later. I woke to snow and optimism. The day didn’t end as I planned. My life is not going anywhere near according to plan. Plans don’t always go according to plan. So now what?

A couple days later the sun is shining and though my life seems to be a huge unanswered question I feel encouraged in knowing that often when we think things are falling a part they are really falling into place.

I looked back on my W.I.S.E. Principles for October which were whole, involved, spirit and engaged. Without a doubt in my mind I can say that I put my whole heart into my life, I injected my spirit into everything I did. I was involved and fully engaged. I showed up every damn day even when it was incredibly hard.

Sometimes things will still fall apart despite your best efforts. In my case I have been fighting the demons of depression for several years now and though I never once gave up this is one of those battles I cannot fight alone. They are not my demons, I hate them like they are but they do not belong to me.

The days to come already feel overwhelming. That is what happens when we get ahead of ourselves, when we don’t live in the moment. There are feelings I would love to fast forward through but  unfortunately we can’t skip over pain. My pain is my proof that it all matters, that it is real. In the hurt and loss and torment I will one day find a lesson that will make me stronger and I already know that the most important things in life can’t be taken from me. Life moves and changes so fast that you have to keep moving with it or get horribly lost in the shuffle.

I don’t do well in times of uncertainty so I am trying to focus on the certainties of the near future so I made a list of things I can be sure of:

1. A lot of people will see me with red rimmed eyes and smudged mascara and wonder if I am on drugs.

2. I will say things I don’t mean and immediately regret it and a short while later say things I don’t mean.

3. I will cycle frequently between laughing and crying

4. I will either eat a lot or nothing at all.

5. I will equally love and hate 80s love ballads.

6. I will struggle between being my authentic self and being the person who I think is needed right now.

7. I will try to focus on the things I can control like brushing my teeth, combing my hair, making sure that my pants are not inside out and backwards.

8. An episode of Bob Ross painting will always calm me down.

9. No matter what life serves me it will be better if I melt cheese on it.

10. Though it is possible to laugh or dance yourself to death nobody has died from crying.

Novembers W.I.S.E. principles are Winning, Intention, Smart and Efficient. I have been working on these essentially for the last eleven months of this project.  To have a “Winning” life I have to live with intention, my intention is to seek happiness and joy and to do that I have to choose it every second of every day, even when it is hard. When dark clouds are sitting over my head I need to stay in the gratitude line and find reasons to be thankful. That is the smart and efficient way to live. More gratitude, less worry. I got this and so do you.

If you are anything like me there will be times that it is difficult to find your comfort in the discomfort. These times can make or break you. These are the times to focus on the things that are certain in your life. Besides death and taxes what are the things you know to be a certainty in your life?

When everyone is lined up in the complaint line for hours waiting to growl and whine about how unfair life is, never deviate from the gratitude line. Be gracious and thankful for your many blessings. When you are faced with difficult times, be yourself, don’t let the world change you, don’t let how people treat you change you. Be your authentic self and that will always be your salvation. When crisis hits and you are left to sift through the wreckage of your life you will find that when everything falls away the important things will remain. We spend our lives gathering what we need, our true friends, our family, our wisdom, our strength. That is why when you push the rubble aside you will find that you still have everything you need to survive.

Be W.I.S.E. friends. This is the 11th month  of the W.I.S.E. project. Lets make it a WINNING month!

“I realized, through it all, that…in the midst of winter, I found there was within me, an invincible summer and that makes me happy. For it says that no matter how hard the world pushes against me, within me there’s something stronger, something better, pushing right back.”

~Albert Camus

 

 

Goodbye Stranger-W.I.S.E. project 2016

And I will go on shining
Shining like brand new
I’ll never look behind me
My troubles will be few

~ Supertramp

Since I wrote a post about my struggle with depression I feel like I have come out of the ‘proverbial’ closet. I feel like I have shed a skin, taken off a mask, exposed a deep dark secret and the heaviness that has gripped my heart for years has loosened significantly.

I felt like a bit of a fraud to be honest, always taking about happiness and how it is a choice that we make everyday  when some days I was shackled by fear and uncertainty, holding back tears, just like the rest of you.

I have always disliked it when people air their dirty laundry all over the internet but I do love good stories. The problem with a good story is to tell it authentically can be tricky because often our stories are so tightly woven around the stories of others  that it is hard to separate the two and sometimes people don’t want their stories told. Some people are fiercely private and others worry about being scrutinized if they allow their feelings to show. I am not among those people. I am more concerned about presenting a story that is not true, a story void of struggles and tears, a story where I breathe sunsets and piss rainbows. That is far removed from my story.

I know that for many people all they know of depression is what they have learned from movies and metaphors. It can almost look beautiful in the right light. It’s like seeing a stunning portrait in black and white. The entire feeling of the portrait would change if it was concluded in color. The great photographer Robert Frank once said, “Black and white are the colors of photography. To me they symbolize the alternatives of hope and despair to which mankind is forever subjected.”

Imagining a torturous life, wrought with days void of color is not as beautiful.

I think all of our stories of struggle and fear are eerily similar but the problem is that we compare our truth to each others highlight reel. My Facebook story, my Instagram feed represents some very wonderful times in my life with some very wonderful people but it is very far removed from the whole story. These perfect images which scatter our feeds are a very tiny glimpse into the very best of peoples lives, they do not look into their hearts and souls. They should not give anyone the feeling that they are not enough, that everyone knows something that they don’t know and that they are living a better life.

Even though the depression I struggle with is not my own, even if the racing thoughts, the dread, the gloom, the fear, the anxiety, the love, the hate, the emptiness, the fear, the horror, the tragedy, the deceit, the betrayal  and chaos is not happening in my mind  it robs me just the same.

I have always been fiercely protective of my marriage, we have tackled some very hard times, often pulling ourselves up by the straps of our boots and starting over again, but there are days that my mind is plagued by doubt and sometimes the certainty I feel about the strength of our union betrays me. I have always affectionately described my marriage as enduring but this illness plants and waters seeds of uncertainty, delighting in their steadfast growth.

My marriage is like that black and white portrait, full of wondrous hope and agonizing despair. The human condition that plagues all of us. We live this life full of incredibly beautiful moments, moments of enduring love and friendship, moments of feeling safe and adored. There are moments that we are captivated with each other and excited for our future, but just as quickly as these moments envelope us in warmth and cheerfulness they can turn and smother us with panic and uncertainty.

Depression is a thief. It is a prowler that lurks around in the dark shadows of your mind and snuffs out the sunshine. It has a tenacious and heavy hand. It strengthens all of our fears and uneasiness and nourishes your insecurities. Occasionally it loosens its grip on us just enough to make us think that we are going to be ok. Randomly these times can be so intense that you feel like you are on top of the world looking down at all the sad stick figures walking around. Life is a precious gift and yours is the best. You are invincible. You radiate sunshine and rainbows. You are higher than Johnny Cash on a Sunday morning. You are sitting on top of the roller coaster. You have a great view and you are never coming down. Inevitably you do though…and it is a long way down. I want to be the parachute that breaks the fall for the one I love but how do I do that without getting knocked down?

Depression is a bumpy ride. I cannot make sense of it and though it dwells in my space I cannot imagine what it would feel like if it was living in me, if it invaded my mind and my thoughts from the inside.

We have made our way back to each other many times, through rain, snow, sleet, fog , we have traveled washed out roads slowly but surely to get back to that place where we feel safe and right together. I have always thought of safe as an everlasting feeling but in my experience it is a transient excitation at best. The seeds of uncertainty have rooted and grown making the thoroughfare a merciless trek, but we make it time and time again. For the in betweens are a precious gift.

We work tirelessly to tear down walls, to be vulnerable and convicted in our love for one another only to have our sentiments be obliterated, our affections conveyed as weaknesses by the monster that comes knocking periodically.

Sometimes I am scared and not scared to say that I am scared. I am scared to allow the person that I have loved for almost half my lifetime slip away and just as scared that my earnestness will push him away.

I am a lover, afraid that my love is no longer the answer or the question. It is a maze, a riddle, a puzzle with a missing piece.

There is this person I love more than anything in the world but over the years there are times it feels like there is a whole world growing in the space between us. It is hard in those times to remember that it won’t last, to keep fighting. From experience we know that our love can slay dragons, even the fire breathing monstrosity that is depression and that knowing keeps us rooted. We bounce back stronger and we learn. We try to stay in the light!

A belief in ourselves is at the very heart of this hope. For me, it is rooted in knowing that I am enough, that I am loved, that this beast can strip me of everything but my worthiness.

Sometimes fighting the beast makes me feel like a stranger in my own skin. Small and afraid, clinging to to the threads of a life I built to last. Recently I was on an online support group based out of the U.K. and this woman wrote in asking for help because she was struggling in her marriage and her husband suffers depression and he was pushing her away. She was scared and distraught. I felt compelled to write to her and it made me feel good. I am not an expert by any stretch of the imagination but I can speak from a place of experience. It helped me and I hope it helped her. It made me want to be honest in the hopes that if even one person was suffering they would realize that they were not alone. It made me realize that my vitality, my unwillingness to give up, my willingness to choose and cultivate happiness every damn day, even on the days when the world feels dark and cold makes me pretty damn close to a super hero. We are all heroes in this big , heavy world and if you can’t be someone else’s you better be your own.

xo

Michelle

Hand in my pocket-W.I.S.E. Project 2016

They will not give us back the times we have lost battling them but what it will give me is the certainty that they cannot overtake me, they cannot take what is mine

What it all comes down to
Is that everything’s gonna be fine, fine, fine
‘Cause I’ve got one hand in my pocket
And the other one is giving a high five

~ Alanis Morrisette



I woke up this morning feeling well rested and I thought I can be anything I want to be today so I decided to be grateful. It is October, there is snow on the ground, it feels more like Christmas than autumn, my husband just went back to work in another province, my house is in the the “disastourous aftermath” stage of my busy week, my laptop is not working, I took my vitamins on an empty stomach and all I can taste is fish oil, my coffee is cold, my yogurt is warm and my day is passing by too quickly for my liking but  even still I am feeling incredibly blessed. 

It has been a difficult month but there have been some bright shiny moments that have reminded me of my resilience and the fact that the most important things can never be taken away from me. 

My beautiful friend Ashley @photoswithashley recently captured my strength and spirit in some photos she took for me to update my blog. She made me feel beautiful and brave. I was holding back tears that morning because I felt choked by the uncertainties of life and I was struggling to be in the present and remind myself that worry takes the joy out of today but not the troubles out of tomorrow. 

Ashley is not only good at her job but she is a fantastic person to be around. She radiates a positive energy and gives me that gentle reminder that my time is valuable and it is ok to spend it alone or choose to be around people that leave me feeling energizied not drained. 

I have been suffering the devastating effects of depression for the past 18 years and there are many times that I feel like I am walking around in circles beating my head off of walls. There are many times that I have had to scoop my crying carcus off the floor and press the reset button. There are times that I have felt like an empty shell of a person walking around in a body. 

The biggest problem with the depression is that I don’t understand it. Not from lack of trying. I have read a thousand and one books, I talk to people, I read psychology today and I frequent online support groups but I will never have all the answers. The depression lives with me, around me, wraps its strong arms around me as I lay down to bed. It doesn’t live in me though. It has not invaded my insides. Its demons try to smother me and make me insigificant but they can’t enter me. They live inside the person I love, screaming at him from the inside. They are there all the time! Sometimes he can keep them at bay, their voices are a dull consistent hum like a fan in the background waiting for the right time to strike. When he is overworked, stressed and weary those demons are lurking around in the shadows like thieves. Stealers of joy. You can’t drink them away, they love self medication, it helps them to prey on insecurities and construct inpenetratable walls of doubt. 

Unfortunately you cannot love away depression either. Not your own and not anyone elses. Somedays it is hard enough to be your own cheerleader so being someone elses can become tedious. 

A therapist told me recently that I had to focus on me. She didn’t want to talk about my love, she wanted to know about me, my support system, my hobbies, my frame of mind. 

I hated her. I didn’t want to talk about me. I wanted to help the person I love. I wasn’t willing to talk about anything but so I decided she sucked. 

It took me some time to realize that I did have to focus on me. I needed to be strong and realize that depression could not rob me of who I am. It can take my tears and multiply my insecuries and amplify my fears but at the very core if I am certain of who I am depression cannot take that from me. 

Those realizations will not cure my loved ones depression. They will not take away his childhood trauma, his fears, his doubts or his loneliness. They won’t take the lives of the demons but they will diminish their power over me. They will not give us back the times we have lost battling them but what it will give me is the certainty that they cannot overtake me, they cannot take what is mine. 

If I can take care of me in the darkness and in times of stife  if I can remember that the light is in me than I can be stronger and I can face anything.

In relationships there are times when your partner will need you to be strong. There are times you will need them to be strong. I think it is one of the most important parts of marriage in fact. Relationships are like navigating a ship only when the waters get rough and too much to bear you don’t let the Captain go down with the ship. You grab the wheel and you hold on tight because four hands are better than two. 

When you truly love someone you would no more judge their battle with depression than you would if they had a brain tumor. You would be strong for yourself because during the times that they use all of their energy to struggle through their days they cannot carry you or comfort away your fears. You need to set boundaries and lovingly encourage them to be healthy and get the best possible help to keep them in the light. Demons hate the light. 

Depression and Mental illness affect your friends, your loved ones and your neighbors. People often suffer in silense. It is an illness that well meaning loved ones pat you on the back and say “perk up” Nobody brings you a casserole or offers to pick up some things for you at the grocery store. Survivors and their loved ones don’t wear brightly colored ribbons to let you know that once again they survived, they made it through the darkness. Lets start a conversation, lets talk about mental illness. Lets support each other and let people know that they don’t have to suffer in silence. 

Fast Facts about Mental Illness

http://www.cmha.ca/media/fast-facts-about-mental-illness/#.WAPPkr1rnqA

Who is affected?

  • Mental illness indirectly affects all Canadians at some time through a family member, friend or colleague.
  • 20% of Canadians will personally experience a mental illness in their lifetime.
  • Mental illness affects people of all ages, educational and income levels, and cultures.
  • Approximately 8% of adults will experience major depression at some time in their lives.
  • About 1% of Canadians will experience bipolar disorder (or “manic depression”).

How common is it?

  • Schizophrenia affects 1% of the Canadian population.
  • Anxiety disorders affect 5% of the household population, causing mild to severe impairment.
  • Suicide accounts for 24% of all deaths among 15-24 year olds and 16% among 25-44 year olds.
  • Suicide is one of the leading causes of death in both men and women from adolescence to middle age.
  • The mortality rate due to suicide among men is four times the rate among women.

What causes it?

  • A complex interplay of genetic, biological, personality and environmental factors causes mental illnesses.
  • Almost one half (49%) of those who feel they have suffered from depression or anxiety have never gone to see a doctor about this problem.
  • Stigma or discrimination attached to mental illnesses presents a serious barrier, not only to diagnosis and treatment but also to acceptance in the community.
  • Mental illnesses can be treated effectively.

UNWELCOME- W.I.S.E. Project 2016

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I have been absent from here for 11 days, not a long time realistically but to me it feels like forever because I have been absent from my own life for at least half of that time. For some of the time I was reconnecting with friends and spending special time with my family but I had an unwelcome and unexpected visit from an aqaintance that knocked the wind out of my sails. This guest was as unwelcome in my life as your troublemaker Aunt Jean showing up at the potluck with her not so famous bean dip!

DEPRESSION. MENTAL ILLNESS. YOU WERE NOT INVITED!

I am not a sufferer but I do have people that are so very dear to me that struggle and it affects me more than I care to admit. After about a week of not feeling myself and coming to the realization that a plateful of namaimo sqaures is not helping me I decided to try to figure it out with my fingers and this keyboard. I spent most of this Family Day in tears, in my jammies, trying to find something to eat that will make me feel how I want to feel (*emotional eating*)

I came to the conclusion that the only way for me to feel how I want to feel is to do the things I did before I was knocked off the horse. Be enaged in my own life and CHOOSE to be happy.

Depression is cruel and unfeeling and it preys on amazing and intelligent people. Unlike me, those that suffer cannot just choose to be happy. They know how much they have to be grateful for, how much they are loved, how good that life can be, but when depression has a grip on them they cannot control how they feel. It is a sad, terrifying and helpless feeling to see someone you care about struggle with something they don’t understand and cannot control.

In my last post I said that misery loves company but it won’t get mine. I didn’t invite this misery in, but I am going to try my best to usher it out. I know that I am worthy of the happiness I want to feel and I know that for me it is a choice. I had a dream the other night that an elevator door opened and I stepped in and fell down the shaft. I could look up from the bottom and see how far I had to climb to get out but part of me just wanted to rest at the bottom. Even in my dream I knew that saving myself was a choice. I can’t imagine what it would feel like to wake up everyday and feel like you had to drag yourself up that elevator shaft only to get knocked back down halfway. To work through that pain everyday and suffer it in silence so that nobody thought of you as “different” or pitied you.

I know how fortunate I am in that regard because that luxury that I have is not afforded to everyone.

That alone makes me feel ashamed that I have chosen to waste this day on Netflix, chocolate and tears but I guess we are all entitled to a moment.

It certainly reminds me of why I started this project, it was to live in the moment, to be more mindful and choose happiness always. To choose it every single moment of everyday. There will be good days and bad days, that I know. I just need to put on my big girl pants and get back on the horse and hold on tighter this time!

I am going to go dress up, and spend the rest of this beautiful family day with my youngest daughter. She gives me a million reasons to smile everyday!

For those of you that are suffering in silence, please don’t. You are worthy and loved. Love yourself enough to seek help.

If you or someone you know has a mental disorder, there is help available. Use these resources to get general information and find treatment services near you.

Canadian Mental Health

National Institute of Mental Health (U.S.)

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Depression and mental illness doesn’t only affect those that suffer, it invades the lives of their spouses, children, family and friends. More people suffer from Mental Illness than Heart Disease, Cancer and Diabetes yet it remains an illness that is not discussed and often not treated.

Just a reminder the Februarys W.I.S.E. Principles are Worthy, Inspire, Simplify and Empower. Be good to yourself. Take care of your health. Be W.I.S.E.

“We get up every morning and we do our best, nothing else matters”