From the Other Side of Hell

When I was in the depths of my depression a few months ago, I had thought of three ways I could end my life without my kids finding me. I reasoned that it would be better for them than being raised by a mentally broken mother. I had convinced myself that it would be less selfish to take my life than to subject my children to my flaws and potentially raise them to be the bad person I was. This was my rock bottom. This is a very heart-breaking but real look at mental illness. I know people who have lost loved ones because they took their own lives. I have seen the devastation that it brings. I know the darkness that that hole leaves behind. 

   If you saw me during that time, you probably observed me as being relatively healthy. I was more withdrawn, I didn’t talk to people when I was out and about. I made it a point to keep to myself. I went through the motions of survival only, caring for my kids’ physical needs but any emotional support they needed, was beyond me. When they’d bicker or refuse to eat what I made for dinner, I would run to my room and scream into a pillow. I’d battle a panic attack until Scott came home to pick up the pieces. I showered each day, although some people going through this stop doing that too. But I made sure people didn’t know how bad it was. I couldn’t handle much beyond that. When friends would call me, I’d tell them I was good but busy; “Just focusing on my family.” I pushed people away because I didn’t even think I deserved friends anymore. No one knew how bad it was and I didn’t want to dump my toxicity into their lives.

  I am opening up about this today because I want you to know you are not alone. Ever. No matter what you are going through, no matter how isolated you feel, you are loved (maybe not by everyone, but you need to get over that) and you’re needed in this world. It doesn’t matter how bad things get. If you are still drawing breath and have a heartbeat, there is purpose for you. God isn’t done with you. And if you’re not spiritual, this world isn’t done with you either. 

 I wasn’t especially spiritual at that time. I have gone through phases of my life when I really haven’t had much faith in God or his purpose for me. But it’s funny, He keeps finding His way back into my heart. 

  One morning, I remember it well… just before the kids’ Christmas break, I got them out the door for school, I was sobbing and yelling at God, “Why did you make me this weak person? Why did you give me so much brokenness? No one can handle this heaviness! Why give me these flaws when you know I’m not strong enough to handle them?”

  I heard this voice right next to me: “You’re right. No one can handle this alone. That’s why I am here with you. And I didn’t give you these flaws. I only gave you freedom of choice. You decide how far you want to run away from me. But I’m always here, waiting for you and I’ll lead you home.”

  I know it sounds crazy, I do. I would have read that a while back and thought, “Ok. This lady is off her rocker!” But it wasn’t where I was yet. This voice spoke to me. And I say “He” only because this is how we usually reference God. It wasn’t really a man’s voice. And when I say it was a “voice,” it was actually more of a crystal clear thought I’d never had before and likely wouldn’t have come to on my own, especially not at that time. But it stopped my crying instantly, like a toddler being told, “I have chocolate for you!” in the middle of a temper tantrum, and made me still for the first time in ages. I felt a sense of peace from nowhere come over me. 

  Now it didn’t stay. Probably within minutes, I was back to questioning everything, but I kept coming back to that message throughout the week…     

  And it was weird. I had a friend at that time who told me in a text, “It’s time to do the work.” And the message of “Do the work,” kept popping up everywhere I’d go; on signs, magazine ads, instagram posts, even graffiti. And let me tell you, it was work. I had to face some ugly demons within myself. I had to open up to a therapist, a total stranger, and I was filled with skepticism but I decided I was out of options. I had to “do the work.” What I had been doing before wasn’t working. I went back to church. Scott and I went to a new church and the message humbled us. I have no doubt that God led us there. 

  I still struggle with feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt, but I’m getting faster at tuning into the divine energy that I felt that morning, the one with the chocolate promise of hope and love. I want you to feel inspired to be open to that voice in your own life. Please, don’t give up. 

  When I tell you these stories, it’s not to seek attention. It’s to encourage you to keep working on yourself and not to settle for mere survival in your life. We are created for more than that. Our mission here is to touch the hearts of others in whatever way we can. I know God is using my brokenness to help heal others. I am so humbled by those of you who send me messages and tell me that you are going through something similar and thank you for giving it a voice.dr. kristin neff

  I am not here to tell you I am healed. I am healing. Maybe I will always be. I am turning my self-pity into compassion for others. Our experience in this world is shared by many. The stories all look a little different, but the emotions are the same. 

  Do your work. Don’t shy away from it just because it’s hard. Do it because a beautiful, vibrant existence is waiting for you on the other side of whatever hell you’re going through. 

 

Magic

Please don’t tell me there’s no magic. I’ve seen it with my own eyes and felt it in my bones. Surely it’s magic when you look at another human for the first time and feel at home in their eyes. You gasp for breath because it takes you with inexplicable force. And when you finally feel that first kiss, you know…an entire universe just opened in your heart.

Magic is in the creation of every life on earth. From nothing, from darkness, comes everything…Babies’ chubby fingers and toes. Kaleidoscopes of irises. A smile…A smile that will conquer hate and fear a thousand times during its existence. It will win love. It will start this miraculous cycle all over again. This is magic. So please don’t tell me magic isn’t real. It’s the only thing that makes life worth living.

Use Your Powers for Good

The best use of imagination is creativity. The worst use of imagination is anxiety.” –Deepak Chopra 

  Luke loves to draw. He made a new comic series this week that was *slightly* autobiographical about a boy named Luke. In the first episode, Comic-Book-Luke was starting back to school and his mother made him wear a t-shirt on the first day that said, “Mommy loves you,” with a big pink heart on it. It was hilariously executed and I found myself laughing quite a few times while reading it, and not in a patronizing-mom-way. I was so proud of him for coming up with something so original. His writer’s voice is starting to become more pronounced and he is becoming a passionate storyteller. I have always hoped that one of my kids might take to creative pursuits of self-expression. 

  Then before bed the other night, Luke was watching a movie with his brother and his dad and the movie had some scary bad guys in it. As I went to tuck him into bed, he was holding back tears and said, “I’m kind of embarrassed to say this, Mom, but I think that movie freaked me out.”

 “Aw, buddy, it’s ok. You know what I think happens to people like us? We have a really strong imagination. It’s our super power, if you want to know the truth. So, when we are inspired, we can create these really cool ideas, like your comic books…You’re so good at drawing and creating characters. It’s like you can see the story before it’s even on the paper. It’s a cool feeling, isn’t it?” He nodded.

  “But as we know all super powers can be used for good and bad. If imagination is your super power and creativity is how you use it for good, then anxiety is the dark side of your power. You can come up with these realistic scenarios that feel so real and are based on your worries. But what have we learned about a lot of our worries?” He shrugged.

“They don’t usually happen, right? And what usually does happen is, somehow things work out all right, don’t they.” He sniffed and buried his head into my arm. 

  Anxiety is something we deal with a lot around here. Luke has an extra dose and so do I. Our other two kids deal with it at times, but they’re also easily redirected. Luke takes a little longer to come out of it when he starts going down that road. I feel for him because that’s something I’ve struggled with most of my life as well. As a kid, you just think there is something wrong with you. 

Everyone else can order hot lunch, why can’t I just trust that it will taste good and I won’t be poisoned by it?

I want to try climbing the rope, but what if I look stupid or if I fall and get hurt?

  When you become an adult, those worries become more like, “I can’t watch my four-year-old go down the stairs alone because I know one of these times, she’s going to fall. But I don’t want to hold her hand because then she’ll think I don’t have faith in her being able to do something so simple and I’ll ruin her confidence and she’ll end up in therapy for yet another reason.” So you just hold your breath and pray and feel another brown hair turn gray on the top of your head.

  I envy moms and dads who let their kids go outside and play with turtles and frogs in the pond and don’t hound them about washing the salmonella germs off their hands in the laundry tub when they get back into the house and then proceed to scrub the laundry tub with dish soap and bleach afterwards (I mean, who does that?!)… I want to be laid back, but I also want to avoid hospital visits and broken bones. It’s such a fine line…

   Using my writing is how I keep my imagination powers “good.” When I neglect my creativity, things start to get scary up in here. It’s like someone dumped a bucket of crude oil into my brain and all that comes out is coated with gross black slime.

  To fix it, I write. My laptop or my pencil are like the rescue workers with their buckets of sudsy water scrubbing the oil from all the cute little turtles and seals in my head. I write to work out these problems. I drain the neuroses and sometimes the worries sound so ridiculous once they’re out that I have to laugh. So this is one of the coping techniques I’ve had Luke start using as well. To be fair, he kind of came to it on his own, but I’m encouraging him to go with it. We laugh together at his drawings and he realizes his fears are actually very funny at times. And I have started sharing some of my ridiculous worries with him and he laughs. His most favorite recent one was when I had a gassy stomach at a workout class and I was afraid to jump rope because I thought I’d fart in class so I asked if I could run outside instead. He loves bathroom stories.

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Photo by Nicole Rall Photography

  So we make light of our fear. JK Rowlings did this in Harry Potter with the “Riddikulus Banishing Spell” for battling boggarts which are invisible monsters that turn into your worst fears. To defeat them, you take your fear and make it funny. Ron Weasley was deathly afraid of spiders so the boggart naturally became a giant spider when it was his turn to battle it. Ron cast his spell and made the spider wear roller skates also it would fall all over the floor. 

 Sometimes it’s easier said than done. Sometimes our fears aren’t things that could bite us. They can be things like fear of failure or embarrassment, shame or allowing ourselves to doubt our self-worth. Thoughts like, “I’m not good enough.” “I’m unlovable.” “I’m so messed up.” “No one wants to be friends with someone like me. I’m the weird mom at pick up.” “I’m such a slacker mom! We’ve had take out three nights in a row! My kids are all going to have bad eating habits and it’s all my fault.” The list is endless. But this is anxiety. This is how we manifest our imagination in a negative way.

So, what would you tell your younger self? What would you tell a child version of you if you saw her beating herself up about things? What would you tell your own child? 

  Be gentle with yourself! Ok, so you could work on some things. Who doesn’t need to?! But it doesn’t make you less of a person. We must stop playing small and start believing in our worth.  

   So what if you’re the weird mom! Embrace it. Hey, you’re not like everyone else—Congratulations! You got take out three nights in a row? Guess what, you made it a priority to feed your kids using any means necessary. Go Mom! Scott’s favorite line lately is, “You can do anything, but you can’t do everything.” He uses that one on me a lot.

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Photo by Nicole Rall Photography

  Man I’m on another tangent… Anyway, my point is, take your worries and kick them upside down. “Riddikulus” the crap out of them. See the positive side of your overactive imagination. Find your way to get those worries out and see them for what they are. They’re lies. They’re ugly untruths meant to make you shrink down. This is NOT how human beings are meant to live. You are meant to be brave and bold and glorious. You’re not perfect, but you are beautiful! Your mind is lovely and you are loved. Don’t let anything or anyone make you feel like less. Keep your head up high, girl!

  Another quote I will leave you with because I loved it this morning and I’ve been vibing off of it all day: “The ocean does not apologize for its depth and the mountains do not seek forgiveness for the space they take, and so, neither shall I.” —Becca Lee