Category Archives: depression

The Benefit of an Emotional Meltdown



“Sometimes it takes a meltdown to cool down.” Evinda Lepins

A recent meltdown I had wasn’t a public scene or even a really big deal around our house. It was significant enough, though, that I realized how important something was to me that I’ve been ignoring. I try to be preventative about these sorts of things, but sometimes prevention doesn’t work because of others’ reactions. My solution sounds something like this until I calm down, “I can’t believe I’ve let this go on,” “Never again,” and “I’m done.”

By my final fit, I’m left with what I used to think was an unusual outcome, but now I’ve come to expect it – an emotional hangover and a spiritual awakening. Like what Terrell Owens said, “Instead of me having a breakdown, I’m focusing on me having a breakthrough.”

Since I grew up in a silent family who shut up about their emotions and shut down everyone else’s, meltdowns ended up being the only way to figure out how I felt. It shouldn’t come as a surprise I married into a family that did the same thing because we’re attracted to what we know. They’re screamers, so I hoped they’d scream about their emotions so I could finally talk about mine. As it turned out, their screaming was also about shutting up and shutting down.

Shy on role models, I eventually learned to appreciate emotional meltdowns for what they were – a gateway to my emotions. Even though I’m still shaken by their messiness and hung-over feelings, and I fear I’ve made things messier instead of mending them, meltdowns haven’t let me down as long as I handle them constructively. I stop looking at what everyone else needs to do and, instead, I look at my part in the meltdown. I get in touch with how I feel and I decide what changes I want to make.

So, what’s actually melting away?

I used to hate to cry in front of people. I still do, but it helped when a friend said, “I love when you cry. You’re melting.”

I knew what she meant. I relaxed a little each time I cried around her. She could see me softening and I could feel it. For years I tried keeping up a happy pretense and a façade of being distant from my emotions by laughing off how I felt and saying, “I’m fine. Really, I am.”

I’m like Elf, “Smiling’s my favorite.” However, weightiness surfaced when I recognized emotions have a life of their own if we ignore them. Instead of being happy like Elf, we numb out with food, zone out on Facebook, and distract ourselves with problems we can’t fix, disturbing news reports, and our own bad habits. Sometimes we want to die when we already feel emotionally dead or our emotions (the ones we think we’re not supposed to feel) feel too out of control. I dislike being called “too sensitive” and hearing I overreact, but I dislike even more not being true to who I am and what’s going on inside of me.


So, I melt.

I ask myself things like: What am I thinking? What am I feeling? What do I need? What do I want to change?

When I ignored the answers to these questions or didn’t bother to ask them at all, I ended up in a depression I almost didn’t survive. It’s like the anonymous quote, “I froze because frozen hearts don’t feel pain.”

I tried to give up feeling pain so I wouldn’t inconvenience others with my emotions. The result of freezing my pain was freezing almost all of my feelings. I was robotic. I went through the motions of life without emotion, or tried to. I felt like one of the walking dead and wondered what the point was of getting up each day.

This is when I had the meltdown of all meltdowns.

“On the other hand, I believe there’s hope, because the breakdown and the repair are happening simultaneously.” Kathryn Bigelow


I cried for two years, or so it seemed. I broke my silence and told a couple of trusted friends about my depression and not feeling anything except hopelessness. I let my family know I felt desperate even though they didn’t want to hear it, not because they didn’t care, but because it was scary to listen to. I contained my meltdowns to our living room and limited the best I could my accusations, name calling, and cuss words. The more I talked, the more I was able to share my emotions constructively by talking about myself and how I felt and my plan for feeling better.

I stopped trying to get a thicker skin and focused on being kind to myself and talking about my pain. I got in touch with what my heart longed for instead of the chaos in my head. I had less severe emotional hangovers and more startling spiritual awakenings. I started healing from my meltdowns because I saw their value and handled them right.

When you melt down, do you know why it’s happening? Do you see its value? Do you ask the right questions? Our emotions and handling them right are key to melting well.

In This Together,

On the Side: My manuscript is about emotions and the value of getting in touch with how we feel. I’d love feedback from you about what to include and about what you’d like to read more about.

Thanks for the images,


Isolated or Insulated (living safe with people)



“I feel safer keeping a space, a gentle breeze between me and people, a buffer I like to think of as God.” S. Kim Henson

When John accused me of isolating, he mixed up his words and instead said, “It concerns me how much you’re insulating yourself from others.”

“I know you don’t mean that as a good thing, but insulating to me sounds like a safe haven,” I said.

Ever since that evening, when I catch myself staying at home more often and staying away from people a little more, I say, “Here I go insulating again.”

And it’s okay. I’ve accepted and figured out ways to deal with being afraid of people, especially ones who know how I should live.

We all judge, but there are variations of judgment. Some are good judgments and some are bad. Some are accurate and some inaccurate. Some seem fairer and more reasonable than others.

Some friends judge in negative ways and know they shouldn’t. I’ve done it myself and way too many times. We know we don’t really know how others should live.

Some judge and know they’re right. These friends scare me.

When I detached from my family of origin, a friend confronted me in a restaurant about my decision. One of my mom’s friends confronted me from behind the register at a gift shop. I put my purchase back on the glass shelf and walked out. A local reader of my blog sent an email warning me I should visit my mom or I’d regret it. None of these townspeople knew much, if anything, about my family’s dysfunction, disorders, and secrets, yet they judged.

When I couldn’t be there for a friend who lost her son, I wrote a blog post about doing the best I could, which meant showing up at a distance. The post, Compassion, aroused a judgmental response that said I should have been there for her. I chose not to share it in the comment section.

I could write on and on about how afraid I’ve been of people this election year. Their fierceness behind knowing they are right scares me and stirs up feelings of being judged, feelings that my choice of a candidate couldn’t possibly be right if it’s not the same as their choice.

While writing this and thinking about how I’ve vacillated between isolating and insulating, I looked up the two words. They showed up as synonyms in a couple of online resources, but I have no idea why. They feel very different when I’m living them.

Here are definitions that resonated and made the most sense for this post.

Isolate – having minimal contact or little in common with others.
Synonyms: solitary, lonely, companionless, friendless; secluded, cloistered, segregated, unsociable, reclusive, hermitic, lonesome, cutoff

Insulate – protect by interposing material that prevents the loss of heat or the intrusion of sound.
Synonyms: wrap, sheathe, cover, coat, encase, enclose, envelop; heatproof, soundproof; pad, cushion

I’ve isolated so people wouldn’t find out how afraid I was of them and how afraid I’ve been of just about everything. I figured I didn’t have anything to lose by putting up walls and a façade.

I was wrong because I lost myself.

By never letting anyone know me, I shut myself off from everyone including John and our two adult children. I remember our son’s bewildered face the evening at our mountain house when he questioned some of my choices, like no longer exercising and staying on Facebook for hours at a time. I admitted I was depressed. He had no idea and neither did our daughter.

John helped me distinguish between isolation and insulation, even if by accident.

blog empty roomI no longer want to isolate and keep people at a far off distance. It’s depressing to be solitary and secretive.

Insulation, on the other hand, has turned out to be the gift of learning to live among people and letting them know who I am. It’s the gift of blogging again.

 At the same time that I’m showing up, I also keep a space between us – a gentle breeze, a buffer I like to think of as God – so I can make my own judgments, as well as accepting others’ conclusions whether I agree with them or not.

It’d be helpful to hear ways you’ve taken care of yourself while living among and loving family, friends, and the not so friendly.

In this Together,

On the side: I’m learning from Summer Turner’s pilot program, Move Forward from INSIDE Your Comfort Zone, about how introversion has influenced my life, which in turn influenced this blog post. I’ll share more information and links when she launches her online course.

My Version of JOY (Jesus, Oneself, You)


blog, joy

“Loving yourself isn’t vanity. It’s sanity.” Katrina Mayer, author of The Mustard Seed Way

I’ve attended church most of my life, so there’s no telling how many times I’ve heard and repeated the acronym for JOY.

J    Jesus
O   Others
Y   Yourself

After lying in bed with depression, though, I had to decide whether to value my life enough to stay in it or stay on the bottom of what I’d been told about JOY and die.

When I considered the latter, I’d close my eyes and see my children’s faces. I wanted to dance at their weddings and hold my future grandchildren. However, choosing to live meant putting myself ahead of them (and everyone else) for the first time ever. I didn’t know if I could do it. Stories below tell a little about fumbling my way to a new version of JOY.

J    Jesus
O  Oneself
Y   You

A friend didn’t agree with my version of JOY when I said “no” after she asked if I’d volunteer on Wednesday evenings at church. My voice shook when I explained that raising kids, working full-time, and teaching Sunday school were all I could handle in a semester. She said, “If everyone felt like you, we wouldn’t have a youth program.” I said, “If everyone felt like me, we shouldn’t have a youth program.”

Wait. Don’t click off just yet. My version isn’t as un-Christian as it sounds.

A friend didn’t like my version of JOY when I wouldn’t continue taking her calls at seven in the morning so she could talk about her husband’s anger. Next, the calls were about her 13-year-old son who didn’t want to be left alone because he was afraid he’d hurt himself. I begged her to get help. My husband begged me to stop listening to her. After a year, I said, “If you don’t get help outside of me, I’m not listening to you talk anymore about your husband or your son.” She said, “If you can’t be the kind of friend I need, there’s no need to be friends.” I cried when I got off the phone, but I stuck with my decision.

Here’s one more story before I share what convinced me that it wasn’t selfish like I thought to bump myself up a rung so I could experience joy.

A friend didn’t agree with my version of JOY when she found out I was estranged from my parents. My friend hadn’t made the connection until my dad’s visitation that my mom was the owner of a local clothing store where she shopped. She confronted me after the funeral, “Your mom has always been good to me. Why don’t you get along with her?” In the middle of answering questions like I was on trial, I realized I didn’t owe her an explanation. I tried to sound poised instead of panicky when I ended our conversation, “A lot happened and I can’t really explain it, so I’m getting off the phone.”

I’m sorry for the times I’ve treated people in these same ways – expecting them to DO what I wanted them to do, BE who I wanted them to be, and ACT like I wanted them to act.

a face by christy copy

The transformation to JOY (the one where I wasn’t on the bottom) happened when I met Betty. She reminded me over and over, “Do what’s best for you and it will be best for everyone.”

As self-absorbed as that sounded, everything I knew about her, everything she did for others, and the way she treated me was anything but selfish. She listened to me ramble on about my issues. She suggested I get help and she went with me. She saved my life and my marriage and probably my kids’ lives when they did dumb things. Instead of screaming and threatening them, I called her and we’d laugh for an hour. I believed in her and her loving God until she pushed me to find my own and trust Him.

I couldn’t consistently follow Betty’s advice to “Do what’s best for you” because it was uncomfortable to do and others didn’t always like it (imagine that), but when I followed through, it worked. Instead of feeling depleted and hopeless, I felt uplifted and more willing to do for others than I had in years.

As far as “… and it will be best for everyone” – the analogy of putting the oxygen mask (in a plane) on yourself first before trying to help those around you is the best example of what Betty advocated. We can’t help others when we’re dying.

Is it hard to do what’s best for you? Do you even know what that looks like anymore? Do you need a new version of JOY? Let’s explore together ways to do what is best for us so we can do what’s best for everyone.

In Joy,

On the side: In the next post, we’ll talk about why self-care is best for everyone. We’ll also talk about untangling it from selfishness.

Thank you for your fun artwork and creative photography, Christy Young. Most of all, thanks for your friendship. That’s one fine looking mango!

Thanks for permission to use your artwork, Kelly Rae Roberts. This one is truly JOY filled. Click on Kelly Rae’s name above to see more.

What Truly Matters to You? (finding your “why”)




“People lose their way when they lose their why.” Gail Hyatt

 In the series, Finish Your Book in 2016, author Jerry B. Jenkins talks about finding our “why.” He asks, “What truly matters to you?”

It seems I’ve known since I was a little girl that relationships matter and we need each other.

Friends and I sit for hours in restaurants and coffee shops sharing stories about things we didn’t know about each other in high school, things we’ve been through since high school, and ways we wish we had been there for each other.

We stand in sweltering and freezing parking lots to catch up and confide with each other about the families we grew up in, the ones we couldn’t get along with, but we miss them terribly now that they’re gone.

We stay up past midnight to message back and forth about our marriages that never should have lasted, but they have and we’re grateful.

The more I tell the truth and listen to friends tell theirs, the more I realize how much we as women need to speak up. My “why,” the thing that truly matters to me, is living in relationships honestly and honestly telling my story.

[I’ll post a disclaimer here since I used to confide in the wrong people. Use discretion and discernment when you share since not everyone is a friend.]

Even though I knew I needed to write on this topic, I wasn’t sure I’d be able to open up about my life. It wasn’t until I read Lysa TerKeurst’s blog post on her site at Proverbs 31 Ministries, Jesus Loves Those in Messy Marriages, that I thought I may be able to tell anything. She starts her post, “I threw the cup of orange juice across the kitchen.”

Lysa wrote that post four years ago. It’s taken me a while to follow her lead. Until I reread it last night, I didn’t remember anything aside from the juice. I’d also thrown orange juice, except I threw my glass across the dining room while screaming at my husband to get out. The juice glass broke a pane in the French door. My husband left, only to have me call him two minutes later and beg him to come home. Doubled over on my hands and knees, I alternated between sobbing and sopping up sticky juice and glass.

Why share a story like this one? My secrets kept me despondent and in bed. So did my unwillingness to talk and write about our messy marriage, my scary reactions, and the depression they led to. My husband and I recognized healing happened when I talked about things like the broken windowpane. I felt less broken every time he listened and tried to understand. He said, “It’ll be uncomfortable, but I want you to tell our story. It’ll help us and others.”

We both realized …

If one friend had told me what she threw across her kitchen and how crazy she acted and how isolated, dark, and afraid she felt, we both would have felt less isolated, dark, and afraid. That’s how this works.

If one friend had let me know her Facebook post about being best friends with her husband wasn’t always true, but they’re healing, then posts about husbands sending flowers and couples going on cruises would have been less painful.

If one friend had let me know her home life didn’t feel safe or sane, I would have told her mine didn’t either. We would have felt safer and saner.

I am telling my story so we can help each other. That’s what Lysa did for me.

In This Together,

A big thank you to 16-year-old Abigail Sawyer for giving permission to use her drawing. Abby is a homeschooler and a self-taught artist whose family realized her talent when she took a painting class. She hopes to attend art school and draw for Disney. To see more of Abby’s artwork, check her out on Instagram @abigails_art13.

Giving Voice to a Silent Killer (a blog post about suicide)

“Writing is a struggle against silence.” Carlos Fuentes (Image from iStock)

“A diagnosis is burden enough without being burdened by secrecy and shame.” Jane Pauley  (Image from iStock)

Our phone conversation left me teary. Our daughter said the news about Robin Williams’ suicide scared her. It made her think of me. Her comparison was disturbing, and oddly comforting. If I could choose an actor to be like, it’d be him.

In the aftermath of his death, Robin’s family, friends, and colleagues confirmed his kindness over and over by posting on Twitter things like, “A gentle spirit,” “Nicest guy I’ve ever worked with,” and “Robin had time for everyone.”

His roles in movies like Mrs. Doubtfire and Dead Poets Society were too convincing to be called “acting.” So was his performance during Good Will Hunting when he compellingly repeated to Matt Damon, “It’s not your fault.” (It’s a powerful clip if you can get past the language. I could.)

I went back several times to the theater with a handful of tissue to hear him tell me that same thing, “It’s not your fault.” I’d sit alone on the back row during afternoon matinees and sob. I’ve since watched the scene on my laptop hundreds of times.

Even though I knew why my daughter was afraid (she knows I mask pain with humor), Robin Williams’ death isn’t the one that terrified me. It was Harriet Deison’s suicide that kept me awake at nights.

After reading every article I could find on her, I’d imagine talking her out of driving across town in her Lexus to a gun shop where she shot herself inside her car. I’d imagine our conversations about hiding how we felt so others would think we were okay because we wanted desperately to be okay. I’d imagine helping each other step outside our depression and into the Light. I still wonder why this beautiful 65-year-old woman, a preacher’s wife at a prominent church in Texas, committed suicide four days after Christmas. I wonder why her husband, her daughters, and her grandchildren weren’t enough to help her choose life.

But, then, I think maybe I know.

My husband and I call it “The Dark Place.” It’s where I’m convinced family and friends don’t want to hear about my despair, but I’m desperate to talk about it. It’s where I beg God to show up, but he’s quiet, almost like he was never there at all. It’s the place where I’m overcome by pain, yet the pain of suicide seems practical and peaceful. The dark place is not just my closet where I curl up, it’s the thoughts I curl up with … the ones that say, “It is your fault.”

Until the movie Good Will Hunting, I couldn’t put into words what was wrong. The “it” (that I didn’t want to be my fault) was not being able to fix or fit into my family of origin. The “it” was not feeling safe and protected because I wasn’t. The “it” was having emotions that overwhelmed my family and me because none of us wanted to face what had happened and what was still happening.

The scariest part, even when it hurt, was I couldn’t stop living up to my title from high school as “Most Dependable.” I took responsibility for my family’s insanity because they wouldn’t. I also kept it a secret because maybe they were right, maybe it was my fault.

After Mom threatened me with boarding school because “all you do is cry,” I tried to stop feeling and talking about my depression and fear. I tried to stop making a big deal out of nothing (like sexual abuse) and taking things personally (like Dad staying away nine months out of the year). I tried to convince myself it was safe to love and lighten up even when my uncle who abused me ended up in a padded room at a mental hospital. But I couldn’t do it. Death sounded safer than life and suicide seemed the only way out since I told myself I was too unstable to leave.

Get over it. Yeah, I tried that too.

Here’s where I’m supposed to neaten up my blog post, let you know God’s the answer (he is, but I’m not preaching because talking-tos didn’t help me), and tell how I stopped wanting to kill myself. Like my daughter says about solutions, “I’m not quite there yet, but I’m working on it.”

I can offer some hope, though. Robin Williams and Harriet Deison saved me a little bit. My kids, my husband, my friends, and even my family of origin saved me a little bit. Most importantly, I’m saving myself a little bit by writing blog posts like this one. I hope if you’re in a scary place, this blog post saves you a little bit.

“Writing is a struggle against silence.” Carlos Fuentes

Is there something you need to share or something you need to do to save yourself? If so, it may save others a little bit as well.

WRite wHere I’m supposed to be – To heal, we must allow ourselves to feel. And some of us also need to talk about the feelings even if others don’t want to hear them. And this, my reader friends, is why I write. Thanks for letting me talk.

Click the link for an inspiring article and video sent by my daughter right after Robin Williams’ suicide. Going Public with Depression is by CNN’s Kat Kinsman.

Click the link to read the obituary of Harriet Deison.

Click the link to read a compassionate account by Steve Blow of Harriet Deison’s life and death: For Harriet Deison, a life to admire gave way to a death beyond understanding

Too Good for My Own Good (more about suffering, more about acceptance)

He must become greater; I must become less.  John 3:30 (Image from iStock)

He must become greater; I must become less.
John 3:30
(Image from iStock)

Although suffering is inevitable, Sunday’s sermon shed light on how often we suffer unnecessarily. Our stubborn will is the cause. We put something other than God in the place that he set aside for himself.

Our will goes something like this –

We worship intelligence only to end up feeling stupid.

We worship beauty only to end up feeling ugly.

We worship success only to end up feeling like a failure.

I knew before the sermon’s end what I worshipped – being a good person. It never crossed my mind (until now) that being good was anything but admirable.

The sermon put an end to my asking why I’ve felt unlovable no matter how many times I’m told “I love you.”

It put an end to my asking why I’ve felt ashamed, never mind all my attempts at being perfect.

It put an end to my asking why I’ve felt unkind even though my husband says over and over, “You’re the most caring person I know.”

How did trying to be good turn out so bad?

It’s pretty simple when I apply the sermon’s formula – I worshipped my own goodness only to end up feeling anything but good.

I put my goodness before his Godness, and nothing good comes from that.

What’s getting in the way (no matter how admirable you deem it) of your relationship with God?

WRite wHere I’m supposed to be – I’ve wanted to get out of my own way for some time now. Thank you, Iain, for the sermon. Thank you, God, for the shove.

On the side: I’m posting next about Robin Williams and suicide – a man and a topic that deserve to be talked about.

What Died? (more about suffering, more about acceptance)

“There’s nothing more depressing than having it all and still feeling sad.” Unknown  (Image from iStock)

“There’s nothing more depressing than having it all and still feeling sad.” Unknown 
(Image from iStock)

I’ve spent nearly a decade grappling with Dad’s death and with the death of thoughts that I had control over my now 36-year marriage. Both losses left me feeling lifeless.

When friends said grief takes time, I nodded. However, I knew this was more than being sad that Dad was gone. It was also more than letting go of the control I tried to have over my husband. Something else died and it scared me that I didn’t know what it was or how to revive it.

I prayed every single day for more than three fourths of those years.

I prayed for energy and motivation to write and exercise and live life as it came. I prayed to focus on myself instead of staring at what others had done to me. I prayed to know what died so I could begin accepting it was gone and move beyond days that were dark and heavy.

Prayer didn’t work (meaning it didn’t make the pain go away). 

Neither did gratitude lists that included seeing my first article published, celebrating our children’s wedding and engagement, and sharing a precious granddaughter with the world. The more good that happened, the darker and heavier I felt for not feeling grateful.

Neither did advice about my attitude, attempts to diminish my pain in the light of others’ more devastating pain, or my own self-contempt for not being able to shake depression.

And neither did attending church, reading positive passages, or talking to family and friends who looked sympathetic, but confused. Their expressions said, “Now, tell me one more time why you’re feeling sad and lost?”

I almost stopped trying to explain because I didn’t know myself what was happening. That was, until I tried one more time.

“Nothing’s motivated me like trying to get it right with you and Dad,” I said to my husband. “Sick as it sounds, struggling for your attention and Dad’s approval got me out of bed every morning.”

He heard me. 

I heard myself.

Since burying my dad and my marriage (as I knew it), I’ve been missing my sickness. I wrote in my last post that suffering serves a purpose, but suffering is a means to an end, not an end in itself.

Instead of learning and being changed by suffering, then moving on, I’ve tried to revive it by staggering too often into the past, flirting with fear and self-doubt, and throwing pity parties. Not that I’m saying this party girl is finished, but I’m over-the-top relieved to know what died – my suffering that masqueraded as purpose. When I’m ready, life is waiting.

And so is more suffering and I’m okay with that.

Are you smack dab in the middle of your sickness, your struggles, and your suffering? Are you feeling more dead than alive? I hope this post offers some answers, some optimism, or at least lets you know you’re not alone.

WRite wHere I’m supposed to be – It takes what it takes for each of us. I’m grateful to be at another crossroad where I have insight and hope and choices, and, yes, awareness that there will be more suffering.

On the side: In hindsight, some of the things I listed – prayer, gratitude, church, reading, and sharing with family and friends – did work (meaning they made my days feel gentler, they moved me forward, they grew me up), just not as quickly or as dramatically as I wanted.

Here’s additional reading about suffering from A Holy Experience, “The 1 Unlikely Secret to Hold Onto When You’re Sad.” 

Too Much Suffering, Not Enough Fluff (about suffering and about acceptance)

"Your greatest ministry will likely come from your deepest pain." Rick Warren (Image from iStock)

“Your greatest ministry will likely come from your deepest pain.” Rick Warren
(Image from iStock)

“God is more concerned about our spirituality than our comfort” came to mind during Sunday’s message about the purpose of our struggles. At first, I wasn’t anymore thrilled about the sermon than I had been the quote. After all, I just want to be happy.

I contemplated only writing light-hearted, fluffy posts. You know, so I’d be known as the happy-go-lucky blogger, but, then, I didn’t have much to say about that.

Next, I contemplated asking for prayer so I’d be more happy-go-lucky, but God didn’t have much to say about that.

Finally, I contemplated what God did have to say and it wasn’t about happy-go-lucky, although I’m sure he has nothing against our happiness. It’s just that, from what I keep hearing, our priorities are often times not his priorities.

The sermon and the quote offered insight into our suffering and an explanation as to why we don’t need to run from it or pray it away, even though I continue to try both. We’re supposed to be changed by it.

God’s obvious concern about my changing over the past nine years has left me wondering if he had concerns for anyone else’s spirituality, but of course he does. He has big plans for us all, even though I’ve been focused on the pain that I equate with God’s punishment. Painful events have led to painful thinking.

Suffering, however, is not about punishment, although it is sometimes a consequence as the result of our behavior. Suffering is a mirror into which we catch a glimpse of what’s inside of us. No, Facebook doesn’t cut it.

Suffering is for our own good and for a higher purpose. Our time here is designed to help us stop edging God out (ego) and, instead, start edifying him. Unfortunately, most of us are hard headed and some of us are hard hearted.

What gushes out during the tough times is what’s been inside all along. Usually it’s a combination of love and fear, grace and griping, humility and entitlement, meaning we all need the changing power of suffering.

What are you suffering through? How is it changing you?

WRite wHere I’m supposed to be – Here’s to graciously walking through our suffering and being changed from fluffy-seeking to faith-finding.

On the side: Beth Vogt also wrote a blog post this week about suffering. Click here to read In Others’ Words: Wrestling Match.

The Gift of Darkness (the bright side of depression)

“When it is dark enough, you can see the stars.” Ralph Waldo Emerson (Photo by Jeff Watkins Photography)

“When it is dark enough, you can see the stars.” Ralph Waldo Emerson (Photo by Jeff Watkins Photography)

I recently (in the last four years or so) went through the darkest and most painful depression I’ve experienced. I knew a lot about why, but not much about how to stop it. Since very little of the advice helped from friends or from articles and books they suggested, the best I could do was ride the lows until they passed.

I hoped the experience would somehow prove worth it, that I would learn and change and grow, and I did. What I didn’t expect, though, was to feel gratitude except that I was through the worst of it. It wasn’t until I said it out loud to a friend last week that I realized how thankful I am for those dark moments.

My friend talked about her family’s circumstances. She said, “I broke my number one rule. I talked with a family member about a problem that wasn’t mine to discuss.”

Next thing I knew, I was admitting my thankfulness, “That’s one of the reasons I’m grateful for the depression I went through. For the most part, it kept me out of others’ lives and out of their business.”

Since I said “… one of the reasons,” I’m guessing I have more, but, for now, I’m happy to identify one. Who knew darkness would be a backdrop for gratitude?

My third grade teacher may have known a thing or two about it when she showed us how to melt crayon shavings in between wax paper. The most memorable artwork for me was when we melted black crayons on top of the colored ones and then etched scenes with our pencils – memorable because we made sense out of what had been abstract and dark. I etched a sidewalk up to a bright house and a colorful tree.

Have you found gratitude, or at least a bit of brightness, in your darkest moments? I’d like to hear your stories.

WRite wHere I’m supposed to be – Dear God, I’m sure it saddens you when we live in dark and painful places, even though darkness and pain serve a purpose. Help us etch paths toward gratitude and brightness.

On the side: During this season of family, holiday meals and a gift buying frenzy or two, I’m practicing renewed faith, the faith stated in I Thessalonians 5:18, “In everything give thanks …”

Click here for more photography by Jeff Watkins.

Airing Our Dirty Laundry (breaking the silence that isn’t golden)

“Writing is a struggle against silence.” Carlos Fuentes  (Image from iStock)

“Writing is a struggle against silence.” Carlos Fuentes
(Image from iStock)

Until I recently posted about it on my blog, I’ve been ashamed to admit estrangement from my mom. I blamed myself for the lack of relationship and struggled with thoughts that no one would like me since it seemed I wasn’t liked by Mom.

I’ve been unable to pinpoint the exact cause of our missing bond, but the best I can figure is Mom liked quiet and thought it best to ignore anything unpleasant, to pretend it didn’t happen in hopes it’d go away if we didn’t mention it.

I, on the other hand, am a talker. I believe it’s wise to converse about whatever is going on as a way to get to the other side of an issue.

It was sad hearing about Mom’s death on July 11th. The news put an end to any possibility that we’d talk our way through this one. However, in the midst of a tearful conversation with my daughter, she made an amusing observation that perfectly characterized my mom.

“Granny wasn’t hanging around if you were going to start talking about her on your blog,” she said.

Mom was not online, so she had no way of knowing about my blog posts. Still, the timing of her death seemed uncanny. I thought, “Maybe there is something to her leaving now.”

I wondered how her physical absence would affect my willingness to tell our story. Not that I’m wanting to air our family’s dirty laundry – I don’t see any need for others to know much of what happened. After all, all of us have been hurt and our stories are more similar than not.

Also similar is that many of us have been told, “Don’t talk about what happened.”

Oh, maybe no one voiced these words, but we got the message to sit in silence with our pain. Mom’s way was to cry for three days (according to my dad, the length of time was always the same) each time I brought up a memory she thought better left unspoken. An elderly friend confirmed what I suspected when she told me she also cried at her daughter and the tears were more about control than sadness.

Whatever Mom’s reason, I stopped talking.

Silencing my feelings led to the worst depression I’ve experienced. I knew better than to shut up, but I hoped to wrangle my emotions to the ground and get over the ones I was told I shouldn’t talk about, then we could restore our relationship.

Instead of overcoming my feelings, I ended up the one on the ground. There I stayed for years, beaten and bruised and sort of pathetic because I wouldn’t speak up.

I did what I hated seeing Mom do; I blamed her (and anyone like her) for my silence, for my depression, and for not being able to get past my past.

Turns out, Mom wasn’t the problem. My silence was the problem.

I could keep blaming her because she encouraged the silence or I could get up off the ground, show up at my laptop, and share posts like the most difficult I’ve written to date, one about my daughter and granddaughter-to-be, Girls Aren’t Safe Here.

Is there something you need to say? Maybe the time is now.

WRite wHere I’m supposed to be – I want our family to live out loud for the sake of healing and happiness and helping others to do the same, and I’m willing to go first. Here’s to speaking up (respectfully, of course).

On the side: Our family’s relationship with Mom was complicated and painful, but we never stopped loving and I’m guessing she didn’t either. In light of this quote, I’m hoping Mom’s death reunites us, “Death doesn’t end a relationship – it changes it.”

Thank you to family and friends who encouraged us throughout this season and who expressly showed up the past week with flowers, messages, sympathy cards, phone calls, visits and much love.