Resilience

Hans Christian Andersen said, “Where words fail, music speaks.” I love words. I’ve loved and treasured them since I was young. But sometimes they simply cannot speak or convey true depth of emotion the way music can and does. A song that has spoken to me, that I’ve been listening to over and over again, is Resilience by Audiomachine, on their album Rise. Resilience. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YnxZDiHYHzE

There’s this trendy thing that’s been around for years now where you pick out a word, and that’s your word for the year. I’ve never done it because—well, because it’s trendy, and I hate trends. Ask my kids and they’ll tell you one of my favorite things to say is, “I’m not a sheep.” Meaning, I’m not going to follow all the other sheep walking off the cliff. But this word is powerful to me right now—just like the song. Resilience. “The capacity to withstand or to recover quickly from difficulties; toughness.” Life is hard. I’m trying to withstand and recover, to be resilient.

But I don’t think it’s just about surviving. It’s about thriving through the trials and difficulties. There are times in my life I have merely survived. This time, despite being the most difficult thing I’ve ever gone through, I want to do more than survive. I want to find joy. I already have. I want to continue being grateful for the blessings, even when another bomb explodes. I can find gems even in the rubble. I am resilient. I will have resilience. The song by Audiomachine conveys so perfectly what I have felt about this word and everything it means. The music speaks when the words fail. Resilience. Not just my word for this year, but for my life. Resilience.

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Daylight

Sometimes we don’t make a difference in the lives of the people we wish we could. But it’s okay, because sometimes we make a difference to others without even knowing it. The ones I wish would read this and get something from it probably never will. But maybe it will still mean something to someone else.

Daylight. A song by Shinedown on their new album Planet Zero. When I first heard it last year I thought, “Well, Shinedown has made yet another song I feel completely.” How do they do that? So many of their songs feel like something I could have written because it’s something I’ve been through or something I’ve dealt with or something I’ve felt so strongly, too. Right now, Daylight means even more to me than ever. I’m coming to understand the importance of these lines:

It's amazing what the hard times can reveal,
Like who shows up, who walks away and who's for real.

How often do we let anger, selfishness or pettiness cause us to walk away from someone? Even when someone ends up suffering because of their own mistakes or sins, it doesn’t mean it’s okay to turn our back on them. I’m sure as hell not perfect, but I try to live my life the way Christ did—the way he would want me to live. Christ spent His life among the sinners. He didn’t spend it with the “righteous” people because those so-called righteous people were just a bunch of hypocrites. So, He walked among the “unclean”, teaching them and making a difference in their lives. I have seen the way His light and Spirit work among “sinners” today, teaching them and making a difference in their lives, just like Christ did when He was on the earth.

So why should I turn my back on them? I’m not talking about people who are toxic or continually abusive. It’s okay to have boundaries or walk away from people who refuse to acknowledge their own toxic and abusive behavior—who refuse to do anything about it. I’m talking about not giving into anger. I’m talking about not giving into selfishness. I’m talking about forgiveness. I’m talking about being there for people who have made mistakes—even huge ones—when they acknowledge it and are doing their best to change and overcome. I’m sure that’s what Christ would have done. I’m sure because that is what He did time after time after time.

Everyone deserves love and compassion. Everyone deserves another chance. Everyone deserves someone who will be there for them and have their back through difficult times. Like Daylight says, those difficult times reveal who truly loves and cares about you, who’s there for you, and it reveals who never really cared about you, who’s not for you and who’s just fake. As hard as it is, sometimes we all need that truth.

I’m grateful for the people who have truly been there for me. And I’m grateful I get the opportunity to show the ones I love that I’m there for them. I’m grateful I can be the daylight in their darkness. Because they are worth it.

What Forgiveness Has Done For Me

Forgiveness. I won’t preach it to you. I, for one, have struggled with it at times in my own life. What I can do is share my experiences with it. I already wrote about one. You can read it here. https://silencespeaksdotblog.wordpress.com/2017/08/31/the-power-of-forgiveness/

I think there are misconceptions about forgiveness. One is the notion of forgive and forget. I read an article once by a member of my church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/ensign/2004/08/forgiveness-our-challenge-and-our-blessing?lang=eng In it Steve F. Gilliland says that in most cases, short of brain surgery, it’s not possible to forget what someone did to you. That’s not what forgiveness is. Forgiveness is being able to remember something, but not have the same feelings associated with it. Just because you haven’t forgotten what someone did to you doesn’t mean you haven’t forgiven.

Another misconception is that forgiveness means continuing to have a relationship with someone who is abusive or toxic. Elder Jeffery R. Holland put this myth to rest when he said, “It is, however, important for some of you living in real anguish to note what [Christ] did not say. He did not say, ‘You are not allowed to feel true pain or real sorrow from the shattering experiences you have had at the hand of another.’ Nor did He say, ‘In order to forgive fully, you have to reenter a toxic relationship or return to an abusive, destructive circumstance.’” https://www.churchofjesuschrist.org/study/general-conference/2018/10/the-ministry-of-reconciliation?lang=eng There are abusive and toxic people that I know longer have in my life. That is to protect the mental and physical health of myself and my children. When I think of the things they things they did to me or the toxic behavior they continuously exhibited I no longer feel anger, hurt, sadness or fear. It’s possible to forgive and also have boundaries or cut ties altogether.

I’ve heard some people say that forgiveness doesn’t help you, it only helps the person who hurt you—as if forgiving means you are okay with what someone did or don’t think there need to be any consequences. I don’t think this is true. Forgiveness lifts the burden of pain off your shoulders—at least it has for me. Life has been a struggle. I recently wrote about a curve ball boulder that hit me. Since then, it feels as if boulder after boulder after boulder has been dropped on me. Some might say that I should be angry, but anger doesn’t help me or anyone around me. Forgiveness and giving that anger over to God has helped me understand more than I ever have before what it means to give my burden to God. Is there still some pain, sadness and uncertainty? Yes. But I feel lighter and more capable. I still believe in consequences. I can believe in them and still forgive, still have that burden removed.

For me, forgiveness turned an enemy into a friend (my previous story), and it has also allowed me to continue going despite incredibly difficulty. It has brought me incredible peace and strength. If forgiveness has made a difference in your life, I’d love to hear about it.

Perspective and Growth

Have you ever made an assumption or judgment about someone, sure you know or understand the whole story? Sure you know exactly what they should have done or what you would have done in their place? Then, have you ever found yourself in a similar circumstance and realized you now understand why they did what they did? Maybe you even find yourself thinking the same way or making the same decision. It’s amazing how perspective can change once you’re faced with the same challenge and same decision.

There is a story, that’s not mine to tell, that happened 10-15 years ago. This woman made a decision that I thought was so stupid. So stupid! I couldn’t believe she had made this decision. It seemed unfathomable to me and just plain wrong. All these years later, and I have found myself in a similar situation—not exactly the same, but similar. And I suddenly understand this woman. I understand why she made the choice she did. I understand how she must have felt. I understand how hard it probably was for her, as I’m sure others told her she was stupid and wrong. And I’m ashamed of myself for being so judgmental. Because here I am, hoping for a similar outcome as the one she had because of the choice she made—the one I had thought was stupid and wrong.

I’m so grateful we have the opportunity to learn and grow—in so many different ways. I’m hoping that being able to see things from this different perspective helps me to become less judgmental. I do believe in consequences. But I also believe in love and forgiveness. Those things have brought me peace in difficult times, and I’ve learned through my life that peace is one of the most important things we can have.

Have you ever had a change in perspective? And how have you seen growth in your life?

Will You Share Your Story?

Jewel has a song, Hands, that says she’s never broken—that we are never broken. I think the opposite is true. I think we’re all broken, have been at some time or will be in the future. I think all, or most of us, have had or will have shit lives at some point. And at some point, some of us wonder if we’re really going to make it. But so many just don’t talk about it.

I understand the difficult things we go through can be really personal. It took me months to finally write and share about my attempted suicide in 2021. I don’t regret it. I don’t regret that people I interact with all the time know that life got so bad—that I was so broken—that I tried to take my own life. Because I’ve been willing to be vulnerable, honest and not share just the pretty parts of life, I’ve been able to help others. I’ve made a difference. I don’t say this out of egotism, but because many people have told me. That absolutely makes any embarrassment or shame I could have felt worth it.

Sometimes, when we do really bad things or make really huge mistakes, we need to feel really guilty. We need to feel really ashamed, and we need to feel really horrible about ourselves. That can be what leads us to true remorse and change. But I wonder if we feel it more than we need to because we think we’re the only one, or one of the very few, who have done such a horrible thing. Sometimes we feel more depressed and alone because we think we’re the only one who has gone through something so horrific. I wonder if we were more willing to be vulnerable and share those nasty, horrible, depressed, anxious, etc. shit-life experiences we’ve had how much better we could help others through it. I wonder how much more support, understanding, love, acceptance and help we could get if we all just opened up more. Because the world needs more of that. We all need, and could benefit so much, more from it.

If you have a story, consider sharing it with others. You have to be comfortable with it, of course. Just remember—we all can make a difference.

Reborn

Reborn
by Tacy Gibbons

Fire rages red, orange, blue—
the hottest it can burn.
Flames lick at my flesh,
devour my body, my mind, my soul,
leaving behind nothing but ashes.
The phoenix rose from nothing more,
arrayed in colors, vibrant.
I, too, rise up from the ashes,
spread my wings
and leave behind all that is charred,
then fly away with feathers anew.
Reborn.

Curve Ball Boulder

Sometimes life throws you a curve ball. Only it’s a gigantic, heavy boulder that comes hurtling at you out of nowhere and lands right on top of you, nearly crushing you. Nearly. It doesn’t completely crush you because you’ve been thrown other curve balls and been hit by other boulders, and you’ve survived. And that has made you stronger.

One of those boulders hit me yesterday. I’m sad. I’m devastated. I’m conflicted. But I have hope. I know from other difficult times I’ve been through that things can turn out—and that they can even turn out better than expected. And the thing about being pinned under that boulder is that you can’t see too far ahead of you. I’m a planner and a preparer. Normally, I need to know, or at least plan, on how things in the distant future are going to go. But I’ve also learned that sometimes it’s better to focus on the here and now and just be part of the present.

I also know that despite how heavy that boulder is, it can be weathered and chipped away until all that’s left are tiny, light little pieces that can’t hold me down anymore. And when I get up, I’ll be stronger again.

Things are going to be rough. They’re going to be heavy. They will get dark, and I don’t know how it’s going to turn out. But this time around I have faith and hope. And that means everything.

Goals

I am not a goal person. In the past I’ve seen goals as a way to set myself up for failure. And failure is bad. But I’m trying to change my perspective.

In the last year I’ve discovered that I’m a perfectionist and tend to have a black and white view of myself. If I set a goal I had to achieve it perfectly. If I didn’t it meant I was a failure and that meant I was a horrible person. I could say I blame Yoda. His whole, “Do or do not, there is no try,” is really stupid. Trying is okay. Trying is worth it. Trying can be good enough. I’ve decided to look at goals through the lens of a Knight Radiant (from Brandon Sanderson’s Stormlight Archives). One of the ideals of the Knights Radiant is, “Journey Before Destination.” Rather than expecting myself to perfectly achieve my goal I’m going to try, to do my best, and focus on what I’ve learned and how I’ve grown, even if I don’t achieve or meet it perfectly.

So, being the new year, I’ve decided to set some goals for myself. I’ve divided them into three categories—mental, physical and spiritual.

I wanted my mental goal to be something that would help with my mental health and happiness, so I’m making this year the year of birding. Birding brings me joy. My goal is to go birding at least once a week for the whole year. I’m hoping this motivates me to go new places to look for new birds rather than going to the same places I always go.

My physical goal is stop eating treats, snacks and soda late at night. My husband and I enjoy relaxing together after the kids have gone to bed. This usually means watching a show or movie and eating. I gained a lot of weight, and just felt bad physically. A few months ago I actually did good at not eating late at night, and I think it helped me lose some weight and feel better about myself. So I’m going to try to do this again, and see if it helps.

My spiritual goal is to have personal scripture study every day. I tried to have a more specific goal last year, and it didn’t work out. Having something general that can include any book of scripture or conference talk (from General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) and not having a specific time I have to study will help, I believe. Part of why this goal is important to me is not just to improve my relationship with God, but to be an example to my kids. We are good at having family scripture study, but that will only take them so far. I want them to have a desire to learn scriptures and religion for themselves. I want them to want a personal relationship with God. So I want to be that example to them.

While I’m trying to have a better perspective about goals and not beat myself up if I don’t do good at keeping them, I am setting them for a reason. I want to do these things that I think will help me mentally, physically and spiritually, so I asked my husband if he would help. He agreed to occasionally check up on me and my progress. I feel good moving forward. I feel good about the journey.

Have you set any goals? Is there a change in perspective that might help you along your journey? If so, I’d love to hear your thoughts!

An Update

Yesterday I saw my therapist. We did an ART (Accelerated Resolution Therapy) session. I swear, it’s like magic. It made such a huge difference. I have done several ART sessions before, but it has always been about specific trauma or learned behaviors from trauma that I was struggling with. I’d never done it about something as broad and general as depression. But it worked wonders! My therapist said she wished she had a picture of me when I walked in and after the ART was over because she could see a difference in me. We discussed medication and other options as well, but at this point I feel best about going in more often to have more ART sessions during the winter.

In simple terms, Accelerated Resolution Therapy combines eye movements and visualization to treat trauma, PTSD, anxiety, depression, etc. A good definition I found was that ART “works directly to reprogram the way in which distressing memories and images are stored in the brain so that they no longer trigger strong physical and emotional reactions.” https://acceleratedresolutiontherapy.com/ It has worked for me in a truly life-changing way. After the session yesterday I felt as if a huge, heavy burden had been lifted off my shoulders. I feel hope again.

I wouldn’t say ART “cured” my depression or took it away. It’s still here, like it’s here every winter. And every spring it goes away. That’s why I’m going to do ART more often this winter, until there’s more warmth, light and sunny skies in the world. I do think that medication has its place, and I’m going to talk to a doctor about medication for anxiety because my anxiety never goes away. But for now, I feel good about continuing with the plan I have in place. I think that’s one of the most important things to remember about mental health. When you find something that works, stick with it.

Not Doing Well

It’s been hard to find the motivation to write. It’s been hard to find the motivation to do anything. I’m not doing well. Winter hit sooner than usual this year, and it hit hard. The last several years people have still been out mowing their lawns the first weekend of December, but we’ve had snow and cold temperatures since the middle of November, it seems. And it hasn’t gone away. My depression hasn’t been this bad in a long, long time, and my anxiety is also the worst it’s been in—well, maybe ever. I’ve been having almost daily panic attacks for weeks now, often multiple a day.

I’ve been having a hard time distinguishing between what’s real and what’s just the depression. I try to be logical, to remind myself that depression is a liar, but it’s hard when I feel like there’s so much evidence that I am a horrible mother, a horrible wife and just a horrible person in general who is not doing enough. Who simply isn’t enough and never will be. I keep asking myself why I’m even trying, when it doesn’t seem to matter.

Logically, I can look at what I am doing and see how much better I am at dealing with my mental illness than I used to. Despite just how much it takes from me to get out of bed every morning, I do get out of bed. I get my kids to school. I exercise. I’ve been going to light therapy even though I’d rather stay in bed all day. It takes longer than on healthy days, but I still have been getting dressed, doing dishes, cleaning, getting dinner ready (some nights), going to church, trying to socialize when I can. Yet, every day, as I sit alone crying, feeling so alone and worthless, I don’t feel that I’m doing better or that I’m doing good enough. I don’t feel as if I’m being the person I’m supposed to be. I don’t feel what the logic is telling me.

I have an appointment with my therapist tomorrow. I might want to try medication again, despite the fact that my last several attempts years ago didn’t work. I have to hope that something will help.