Why I Keep Blogging

Lately I’ve been wondering if I should even keep doing my blog. I have over 250 followers, but my posts usually only get a few views, maybe up to fifteen if I’m lucky. Of course I didn’t start this blog thinking I would get millions of followers and thousands of views. I don’t do it with the hopes of becoming famous or anything like that. But it’s still hard to see the point when so few people look at it or seem to care about it.

This got me wondering why I feel the need to blog and why it feels so hard or hurtful to think of ending it. One reason I started this blog was in the hopes that it might make a difference in even one person’s life. Once, a random person commented on one of my posts that what I had written had made a difference. So I guess I did that, and I do feel grateful for it.

Another reason I started it lies in the subtitle of this blog. “Opening a Discussion on Mental Illness.” I really hoped that more people would comment, that this really could be a place to have an open discussion about mental health and mental illness topics and awareness. I also hoped that there would be others who would want to share their stories or perspectives. There have been very few, and often, my husband is the only one who comments. So again, this makes me wonder if I’m really making any kind of difference at all or not.

But I also realized that one reason I keep posting, even though I know I might get let down, is because it is a creative outlet for me. Writing has been a part of who I am since I was ten years old. I shared my writing in English and Creative Writing classes. I had people who actually asked to read my poetry and my stories. Since college I have been in writing groups where I got feedback, interest and encouragement. But it has been years since I have had any of that. Other than a little poetry here and there, this blog is the only creative writing I have done in a very long time. I think about working on my stories again. I think about it all the time, but always talk myself out of it. What’s the point? I’m no good anyway. No one wants to read my writing. Nothing will come of it. So I keep blogging because writing is still a part of me. It is in my blood, something I feel in my soul. I need to keep sharing my writing whether I get a lot of view or not, whether I get any comments or not, whether I’m really opening a discussion or not. It makes a difference in my life. I fear that if I completely stop writing I will lose a huge part of myself and never feel whole again. So I will keep writing and sharing. Because sometimes we need to do things for ourselves.

In a Funk

The last couple of weeks have been tough. For lack of a better description I guess you could say I’ve been in a funk. I’m not sure if it was a recent event that triggered emotions from past trauma, but my anxiety has been nearly paralyzing and my depression, while not as horrible as at some other times, has been a weight on my shoulders. A weight on my heart. I tried to deal with it, told myself I could do it on my own, but finally decided I needed some help and guidance. I felt too lost to keep attempting to navigate the fog on my own, so I tried to get an appointment with my therapist. I felt stupid, though. The whole point of therapy is to get to a point where you don’t need therapy anymore, right? And I thought I’d about gotten to that point. Things have been really good. I’ve been doing good–until a couple of weeks ago.

Unfortunately, my therapist got sick and ended up in the hospital, so no appointment for weeks. I’m trying to use the tools she gave me to get through this. I keep telling myself I need to stop being so pathetically weak. I need to be strong. Others rely on me to be strong. If I’m not, everyone else suffers. But maybe that’s not strength. Is it really strength to ignore our own needs? To ignore our own suffering? Or is it just the same as hitting your head against a brick wall and pretending the throbbing bruises and blood dripping in your eyes isn’t there as we go about business as usual?

At this point, I don’t have any answers. It’s easy to tell someone else it takes strength to admit you need help or that you shouldn’t ignore your needs; you should take care of yourself, even if that means letting it all out in tears or staying in bed all day or taking a long bath while ignoring all the housework. It’s easy to tell someone else that it’s okay to call your therapist when things crash after being good for so long. It’s harder to tell myself those things, especially when I don’t know how long this anxiety and depression will last.

Songbird

Sometimes it’s discouraging and difficult to want to continue with something when it seems like no one cares. But song birds have taught me a lesson I put into a poem.

Songbird
By Tacy Gibbons

House finches land at my feeder,
then fly into a nearby tree and sing.
Rain or shine
they sing.

Sometimes they duck and hide
when swirls of snow hit
or take flight when starlings
and red-winged blackbirds invade,
but they always return.
And they sing

I, too, will sing my song.
I may duck and hide
when storms rage
or take flight when blackness surrounds,
but I will return.
And I will song my song.

Sharing Some More Poetry

Sometimes life is hard. In those hard moments writing, especially poetry, helps me. It has always been therapy for me as well as a creative outlet. Words are my soul. Words make up so much of who I am. Even though the things I may have felt in moments, days or weeks of depression, despair, frustration, hopelessness, etc. fade the words still mean something to me. And maybe they will mean something to someone else as well. That is one of the reasons I love poetry so much. It can touch someone through time and distance in so many different ways. Here are a couple of poems that may not be how I feel now, but are how I felt at some point and may be how someone else has felt or is feeling.

Honeysuckle Poison
by Tacy Gibbons

Scent of honeysuckle.
Nostalgia hits.

I can see the fence where its white flowers grew.
Smells of heaven and childhood.
Picking blossoms and sucking the sweet nectar down.

Memories now poisoned with the knowledge of your lies,
the truth of what you really were
polluting the sweetness like poison.

Reaching through time and memories,
choking on the bitter reality,
the past now tainted by your toxicity.

Yet, I rise up through the fallen petals,
let the poison fade.
The wave of nostalgia washes over and retreats.

And I am left only with the sweet scent
of honeysuckle.

A Day In the Life
by Tacy Gibbons

I am the captured tiger,
beaten into submission,
thrown into a cage.
My master holds the only key.

Head hanging, shoulders hunched,
sad eyes look longingly for the dream I used to live.
Master asks me to lift my head,
swish my tail and purr.
He needs life to feel normal again.

I sit in patience, surrounded by bars,
lift my head, swish my tail and purr,
hoping to please, hoping for companionship.
Master walks by, smiles and pats my head . . . 
then wanders off,
leaving me to my cage and defeat.

I am the captured tiger,
beaten into submission,
thrown into a cage.
My master holds the only key.

And I wonder—
if he ever lets me out, will I want to go?
Or will the caged life be all I remember?
All I want to know?

Or maybe—will I run?
Run to freedom and never look back.

When Do We Let Our Truth Shine Through?

Father’s Day was a difficult day for me. I knew it could be, but had hope it might be okay. That hope was crushed after something unexpected happened, so I spent the next two hours of church on the verge of tears, fighting as hard as I could not to let them spill out and trying not to let my true emotions show. I then spent the rest of the afternoon and evening trying to be strong for my family even though I was close to crying pretty much the whole time.

Since then I’ve wondered how often other people are experiencing the same thing. How often have I chatted with someone at church, run into someone at the store or talked with someone on the phone who seemed okay, but inside were actually doing everything they could just to hold it together?

I believe in trying to be optimistic. I believe in doing what we can to help ourselves find and live for the good. A long time ago I worked with a woman who seemed to have a pretty crappy life. Almost every single day when I got to work she would cry to me, tell me how awful her life was and go into detail about the latest tragedy she’d suffered. Almost every single day. For years. I felt for her and did what I could to be there for her, but it was also incredibly draining. As someone who takes on other’s emotions I struggle to be around negative people. I also recently worked with someone who was very controlling and negative and it damaged my mental health so much I had to quit. So I do believe in doing more than just showing or sharing the bad, difficult, negative, hard things in our lives, but when do we show it? When do we allow the truth to shine through? When do we allow vulnerability out? When do we let others see that it’s okay to not always have it together? That it’s okay to have hard days and let others see? When we do, this gives us the opportunity to help, to serve and to be there for each other.

I’m sure I will have plenty more days that I hold it all in, afraid to show what’s really going on, thinking I have to put on a mask and be strong for everyone else. It’s hard to take that mask off in front of people. It’s hard to be vulnerable. It’s hard to let others see the truth when it’s not pretty and wrapped in a nice, neat package with a perfect bow on top. But life isn’t always a perfect, pretty package. And I think sometimes we should let others see. We should let them know and let them in to help us, so we can also help them on their hard, difficult days. Maybe we can all learn together.

Live Fearless

I have a secret. Sometimes, when I’m on the back of a motorcycle, I’m terrified. I know, it probably doesn’t seem like much of a secret. Riding a motorcycle can be scary, but I’ve never told anyone this, other than my husband, and I only just told him recently.

Overall, I love riding a motorcycle. I always dreamed of marrying a man someday who had one. And my dream came true! I love sitting behind him on our Triumph, and he loves having me as a passenger. But sometimes, when we’re on the freeway or going around some bend at fast speed, I squeeze him a little tighter, breathe a bit quicker and feel terrified panic course through my body. And when nothing bad happens I relax and enjoy the rest of the ride. And the next time, I get back on that motorcycle again!

See, I’m not someone who believes in living in fear. I don’t believe we should let fear control our lives. I never let it stop me from rock climbing, even though my dad tried to. Every chance he got he would tell me about some accident someone had while climbing or how someone (who was free-soloing) fell and was killed. He used fear to try to control me, to try to get me to stop doing something I loved. Rock climbing was more than just a sport to me. There is something incredibly spiritual about connecting with nature in such a raw, physical way. And there was also something so freeing and ecstatic about sending a route, accomplishing a hard goal. So I never let it stop me. Yes, sometimes accidents happened, but when using good gear and climbing with knowledge and experience it is extremely rare.

It can be hard to do things that scare us, especially when we have anxiety. But I believe it is good for us. Sometimes I still let fear stop me, but I’m trying more and more not to let it. I’m trying to teach my kids not to live in fear. My daughter used to be scared of rollercoasters. Then, one day, I made her and her brother go on a new roller coaster at the amusement park we live by. After we had gotten on and were just waiting to take off both of them started complaining, saying how they wanted to get off, they were scared, they needed to go to the bathroom. Like any good mom (hahaha!) I just laughed at them and told them it was too late to get off. They both looked terrified, but after we got off the rollercoaster they were both grinning and asked if we could go again! I’ve told my daughter many times that it’s good to do things that scare you. And now, she loves roller coasters! And I’ve seen her confidence shine through in so many instances over the last couple of years. Confidence can help with anxiety too.

So I challenge all of us to ride the motorcycle, climb the rock, go on the roller coaster. Go to that party that you’re scared of because of social anxiety. Go on the trip you’ve been planning even though leaving your house makes you nervous. Don’t let fear stop you from living your fullest life. Live it fearless. Live it to the fullest.

No Respecter of Persons

It is five years to the day since Chris Cornell took his own life. It’s always a solemn day for me. A sad day. He was so talented and had such a unique voice. I still mourn his depression and his death. I wrote this post a couple of years ago and wanted to share it again.

Today I write in honor of Chris Cornell—three years to the day after his suicide.

I first heard Soundgarden, Cornell’s band, when I was in high school. Black Hole Sun and Spoonman. Instantly I loved them. And then a couple of years after high school I heard Show Me How to Live and I Am the Highway on the radio. The two singles from the first album of Cornell’s new band, Audioslave. I was hooked! The fact that they could write something as powerful and rockin’ as Show Me How to Live and as powerful, yet soft and beautiful as I Am the Highway was amazing to me. I went out and bought the album on CD as soon as it came out. I listened to it over and over and over again.

Many years later, after Audioslave had disbanded, I heard rumors that they were going to get back together to go on tour. I was so psyched! And then, I’ll never forget the day I heard the news that Chris Cornell was gone. It was early in the morning, I was in the car, pulling up to the gym. The DJ on the radio announced that Chris Cornell had hung himself. I was devastated. My heart ached that such a talented person had been in such a dark place that he had felt the only option was to take his own life. And I finally, really came to understand why people made such a big deal about celebrity suicides—because it shows that mental illness is no respecter of persons. So often, we think people have it made—celebrities, CEO’s, the wealthy, even our neighbors, family or friends. It’s easy to think we know what’s going on by seeing the outside, when really, on the inside, that person is struggling, suffering, dying.

Too often, I think the signs of depression get ignored. Too often, I think depression is minimized because it’s easier that way. It’s easier to ignore or give simple answers. Sometimes it’s because of the stigma still attached to depression. Sometimes it’s because of lack of education. And sometimes it’s because, simply put, depression is hard. It can be hard to understand or to know what to do, as is the case with any mental illness. And it can be hard because it’s different for everyone. And that is totally normal.

But when it comes to helping others, what’s right may be more important than what’s easy. The Mayo clinic has an amazing page about how you can recognize depression in others and ways you can help and encourage them. I can testify that even a simple smile can make a difference. I still remember a couple of girls I went to high school with who made a difference in my life. One of them always said hi to me, always gave me a smile. Another one brought me flowers because she had noticed I was sad the day before. I have a friend who easily could have given up on me because, as I stated, depression is hard. But she didn’t. Even when it scared her, she kept being my friend, and that made a huge difference. My boyfriend is a good example, too. Little things like asking questions and trying to understand what I’m going through helps so much. These things truly do matter.

Chris Cornell made a difference to me. There were so many times I was off at college that I would take off for a long drive in my car when I was feeling sad or frustrated about something, and I would crank that Audioslave CD! It always managed to either help release my frustration or remind me that I wasn’t alone. It still saddens me that I’ll never get to see him in concert. It saddens me that such a talented person struggled for so long with depression—until he couldn’t struggle anymore. But I believe we can do something about the alarming number of people who take their own lives. It starts at an individual level. Learn to know the signs of depression and learn what you may be able to do to help. And remember, a simple “hi” or a smile may be just the thing someone needs.

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Doing Something Nice

Have you ever heard anyone say that one of the best things to do when you’re down is to serve or do something nice for someone else? It’s something that gets brought up a lot at my church. When you have depression it can be really hard to motivate yourself to do anything for anyone–including for yourself. But as I’ve gotten help, progressed in my healing and grown more into the person I hope to be I’ve found it easier to get push past the walls of depression.

Yesterday I was feeling pretty depressed so I decided to do something nice for someone. It wasn’t anything big. It was something pretty small, actually, but it was still something. And I felt happy while I was doing it. It will be a good reminder that it really can help to think of others when I’m down or depressed. Things like this may be a lot harder for those of us with mental illness, but even something small can make a difference–even if the difference it makes is in our own life.

A Change In Perspective

A few months ago my therapist gave me a new perspective that really helped me deal with trauma that was triggered by yet another toxic person in my life. I’ve been in so many toxic or abusive relationships (family, friend, romantic) and had so many people treat me so horribly that it was hard, yet again, not to wonder if it was my fault or if I deserved it.

My therapist told me to imagine each of those people and their history, their upbringing and possible trauma they may have been through. She told me that it didn’t excuse them from the way they treated me—there is NO excuse for that, she said. But thinking of those other things could help explain why they treated me the way they did. It helped me see that it had nothing to do with me and nothing to do with me deserving to be treated that way. Shifting my perspective, being able to see it from a different angle, truly helped me move past the previous and current trauma I was going through. This is the power of perspective and the power of a great therapist.

When Life Doesn’t Go As Planned

Life doesn’t always go as planned. Sometimes bad things happen even when you’re doing the right things. A perfect example happened a couple of days ago. I was on my way to Southern Utah for a few days. My kids are with their dad for Spring break this week, so I was going to spend some time birding and just relaxing by myself in warm, beautiful red-rock country. A few hours into my trip and three-fourths of the way there my car broke down. The engine seized up and wouldn’t start. Now my car is sitting at a dealership where it will take around 2 months just to find out if the cost to repair or replace the engine is covered by the warranty. What happened isn’t because I didn’t take care of the car. I had it serviced when it needed to be. I always kept up on oil changes. I did everything right, and yet . . . the car broke down and now we’re down to just one vehicle. And I didn’t get to take my solo vacation.

Sometimes life doesn’t go as planned, and sometimes bad things happen even when you’re doing things right. That’s just life. There are two important things I learned from this experience, though. One, even when things are bad and sucky and deviating far from what you wanted or had planned, there is still good, and there are still things to be grateful for. Shortly after pulling my car off the side of the freeway and turning my hazard lights on a tow truck pulled off. The driver got out and asked if I needed help. He said a local who knows him called him up and told him he had passed a car off the side of the freeway with hazards on. I’m grateful for the person who called the tow truck driver and grateful for the tow truck driver himself. He’s the one who towed me to the dealership, quite a ways away. And he was so nice! I was worried about my anxiety kicking in, not knowing how to talk to this stranger, but we talked easily and had a great conversation the whole time. Even in the midst of adversity and total crap happening there is still light and goodness.

The other thing I learned is how important it is to have the right people in your life. To have the right support team. It can be hard to have any sort of relationship with someone who has mental illness, but my husband has been absolutely amazing in his relationship with me. I don’t deal well with stress, but I have found that I deal with it better since my husband came into my life. Five or ten years ago I would have been an absolute basket case in this same situation. I wouldn’t have known what to do, I would have been terrified, I would have been extremely angry that things didn’t go as planned and that I didn’t get to go on my vacation and probably would have thought the world was ending just because my car broke down. Seriously. But I stayed a lot calmer than that. After I pulled off of the freeway I called my husband. I was a little frantic, but not basket-case, I’m-freaking-out-and-can’t-stop-crying frantic. Knowing he was going to try to get ahold of the insurance company and that he’d pick me up from the dealership helped keep me calm. I did get a bit emotional thinking about the possibility of having to buy a new car when I feel we can’t afford it right now, but he stayed calm and reassured me it would be okay. Having someone who can support you in the right way during those difficult times is so important. And I’m so grateful I have my husband for that. He truly has helped me grow, and that is so helpful and so wonderful.

So when life doesn’t go as planned and crap just happens, remember to look for the light. It’s there. And finding a good support person or team will also do wonders!