Viewing entries tagged
hope

Hope in the Holes

Looking Up

I was in eighth grade when I first considered suicide. I decided on pills. That is as far as I got. In the space between knowing without a doubt that the people in my life would be better off without me, and swallowing pills, I found the holes in my story. I saw hope in those holes.

There have been times since then when I have imagined dying. About four years ago, after my dad died and all the pain I had stuffed deep down inside came rushing out and over me, I wanted to disappear. I thought about how the people I love most in the world would go on without me. I knew they would be happier. They would have less to worry about. Their lives would be more peaceful. They could move on. I imagined being shot. Getting hit by a car. Having a heart attack on the treadmill. These were times where I felt hopeless. Helpless. I knew I had to snap out of it - suck it up and get on with my life, and I didn't know how to keep going.

Can you imagine being that desperate? In so much pain that I would even consider welcoming the possibility of leaving this behind?

My people.

It is an infinite amount of pain.

It is painful thinking about it now. I cannot even imagine being in such a dark place now, and yet I have been there. Sitting here in this moment, I am at a loss for words to describe my gratitude for the people I love. I am grateful for every second I spend with them. I know they love me. I know I am blessed. 

In my darkest moments, I still lose sight of the beauty that surrounds me. It is truly unimaginable now - when I am grateful and at peace - sitting in the sunshine. In the darkness, I feel lost. Hopeless. Helpless. Worthless. I lose faith.

There are numerous triggers - things that happen that can send me down a dark path. I run anxious and I always have. In an average day any of the seemingly small things that a person faces can stress me out. Things like social situations, having to make small talk, returning items to the store, driving in heavy traffic… Depending on what else is happening in my life, I might fall into depression.

Mostly, looking back over my life, my depression occurs when I believe I am falling short. It comes from the belief that I am not enough. It comes from my certainty that other people also believe that I am not enough. All the lists of the reasons that I am not enough compiled in my head are the impetus for shame. As I grew older, and especially since I've become a wife and a mother, there was guilt. There is always something to feel guilty about.

With a lot of soul searching and some anti-anxiety medication, with time and yoga and writing and art, with therapy and life coaching, and the support of my husband, I cleared space to come up for air. For the most part, anything that was ever a source of shame is now just a piece of me and my story. It has been rendered powerless. In retrospect it is usually an opportunity to transform into something meaningful. Something beautiful.

I try not to stuff the pain anymore. I don't like to let it fester. I sit with it. I feel it. I look for lessons in it. I thank it. I let it go.

None of this is easy for me. I am not always good at it. It is messy. It can be really ugly. The process of working through it though makes all the sweetness waiting on the other side even sweeter. The beauty is more beautiful. The glory is more glorious. I can appreciate all the goodness in a much richer way now that I allow myself to experience and move through the pain. I am grateful I can say I know what it's like on the other side of the pain. I am grateful for the courage and support required to look up, to move on and out of it.

I haven't solved anything. I'm not cured. Living and working through my depression is a process. Life is a process for me. It is a practice. With practice and knowledge and support, I get stronger. I bounce back more quickly. Things don't look quite as bleak as they used to. I have faith that there is something bigger than me at work in the world, and that I can be of service to that force. I know I am loved. I try to keep my blessings in focus - when I acknowledge those blessings it is harder to fall down the rabbit hole.

This, obviously, comes in the wake of the death of Robin Williams, another great talent gone too soon. He was one of my favorites. I'm taking this opportunity to share a bit of what I know to be true. That even when things look fine on the outside, it can be a facade. Behind the scenes there might be turmoil. 

This is a truth that more of us are coming to accept as we see past the misconception of neat packages, nice clothes, good hair, pretty faces, hot bodies, successful careers, power, money, big houses, and fast cars. Behind it all, we are just people doing the best we can. 

A lot of us are encouraging those who suffer with depression to seek help. I think that is sound counsel. And, I also invite each of us to be a little kinder to each other. To be more compassionate. To search for the beauty and the love and the sweetness in the bramble of the berry patch that is life. The good is in there and there is a lot of it - enough for everyone.

Suicide is not a selfish act. It can feel that way to those of us left behind. Suicide is a desperate act. Of course, it isn't something that can really be generalized. And yet, I feel confident in saying that a person who takes his or her own life is not doing it for selfish reasons. I believe suicide occurs when the victim thinks the world would be a better place without them.

It is an infinite amount of pain.

It us up to each of us to prove to one another that we are each here for a reason - to enjoy the uniqueness of one other and the beautiful experiences that life has to offer. The world is a better place because of us, not in spite of us. That is our challenge actually - to accept that it is better because of us, and to keep working to make it even better. And better. And better.

It would be fun if we did it together.

************

My sister is a social worker who works with Veterans at the VA Hospital in Ann, Arbor, Michigan. I asked her to share some of what she and her colleagues use as a safety plan for clients with suicidal ideation. While seeking professional help is the very best option for those who need it, I thought this might be of use too:

Very General Components for A Safety Plan

  1. These are the thoughts, feelings and behaviors that describe how I am experiencing...
  2. These are things I can do to feel better, or to distract myself from these thoughts…
  3. These are people I can talk to when I'm feeling down (make sure to have contact information handy)…
  4. These are the professionals I can reach out to… Include the National Suicide Prevention Line, and keep in mind that loved ones can call support lines for help too: 1-800-273-8255 (also include 911)
  5. What can I do to make my environment safe...
  6. How will you ensure you use this plan? (where will you keep it, etc.)

Consider signing it to seal the contract.

XOXOXOXO

A Matter of Perspective

I am in awe of Spring.

This year in particular it seems that she has had to work extra hard to come forth from behind the dark veil of Winter. Here in Michigan, our Winter was longer and snowier than ever before - both in my opinion, and in meteorological history.

Now my backyard is an oasis of growth, a beacon of hope for what is sure to come out of the darkness, even when it doesn't seem possible.

Not long ago, I stared from inside my house out to my backyard and this is what I saw….


I took that picture during one of our last snowfalls near the end of March (March 25 to be exact). I couldn't believe it was snowing again. I didn't think any of us could tolerate another flake of snow. Even though I typically enjoy the beauty of winter, I was so tired of the colorless landscape that this snowfall was depressing. Even after the snow melted, I stared at the naked trees not believing they would ever bear leaves again. It just didn't seem possible after the brutal weather we experienced - that something so desolate could ever be lush again.

Today my backyard looks like this…


I watched in awe as the little leaf buds popped, the grass began to turn from brown to green, the sky returned to its trademark blue, and finally the buds turned to full grown leaves. It is amazing, isn't it?

Same creek in the back. Same trees. I'm looking out from the same house. The same person. And everything looks completely different.

This change in perspective is a simple yet powerful thing. Seeing these trees from Spring's window is so completely different than seeing them from Winter's. Yes, the trees themselves are different too, but does that really matter? What if when I looked out the window on March 25th, I chose to see the potential for growth I see now?

What if when I looked in the mirror this morning, irritated by the way my shirt stretched across my large chest, I saw her…


Instead of her…



Would there have been less grumbling? Would there have been such doubt in her reflection - her beauty, her worthiness, her capacity to shine?

Last week in our online coaching circle for our e-course Make Space to Shine, my dear friend and teaching partner, Libby and I began to explore perspective with the class. Libby brought her life coaching tool - her Perspective Wheel to the table and blew me away with the insights that came with it.

Surprisingly, the new insights were mostly mine. With Libby's gentle nudge, I began to see what for me was a stumbling block in growing my business from a few different perspectives - from my daughter's perspective, my future self's perspective, and even from the perspective of a painting hanging on my wall. Same stumbling block. Different perspective.

Usually our perspectives are the result of a story we have come to believe about ourselves. A story someone else may have helped us write. A story that may not even be true. Sometimes a story we carry for our entire lives was written in a matter of minutes, even seconds.

Exploring these stories - how they came to be and who helped us write them gives us the opportunity to dig deep, and sometimes we don't like what we find. The beauty in digging though is that we get to decide what to keep and what to throw away. We get to decide. WE get to decide.

The skills we lacked when the story was written are more developed now. Whether the story came into being twenty years ago or 20 minutes ago, we now have the capacity to see it in retrospect. Consequently, we can choose whether we want to rewrite the story from a new perspective or keep it like it is.

Accepting our stories as is opens us to the possibility that there were lessons learned or gifts given. Acceptance is as powerful as revision. Acceptance neutralizes what was once a source of shame or guilt. By digging into this story and accepting what came of it, we disempower it. No longer does it have a hold on us.

We can completely rewrite our stories. Or, maybe we can keep the essence of the story, but change how it impacts our lives. A story of what was lost when a loved one passes becomes a story of what was gained in knowing this person. We can decide whether we want a co-author or whether we will go it alone. We can take it slow. We can stop and start again. We can crumple up our latest draft and start fresh. All along the way, we get to decide.

I write my story. You write yours.

Where could you benefit from seeing a situation in your life through a fresh set of eyes? Will you try it? Will you choose hope? Growth? Potential? Or will you choose something different? It's all up to you.

xoxoxo