Rainbows and Stars

My coworker has this cute daily calendar. This is what was on it the other day:

When the rain is pounding us and the darkness, thick, envelops us it’s hard to always see the rainbow or the stars. But they are there. Sometimes it takes great effort. Sometimes it takes someone else reminding us. Sometimes it takes time—after the storm is gone and the light has come back—to realize we saw them.

I try to look for the lessons (the rainbow and stars) I can learn from the difficult times (the rain and darkness) I go through. Sometimes I can see tidbits as I’m going through it, but more often I don’t see it until after, when I have time to reflect. That’s okay. It’s okay to struggle. It’s okay to feel only rain and darkness. But it’s also important to remember the light is there. It won’t always be dark. It won’t always be stormy. We can have light and lessons and growth with time.

Looking for Spring

I wrote a poem today. I think I did it, trying to convince myself, but not actually feeling it. I want spring to come. I want light and warmth back. But right now all I can see . . . all I can feel . . . is coldness and darkness.

Looking for Spring

Pairs of sandhill cranes,
flocks of red-winged blackbirds,
signal spring is around the corner.

The freezing days and the long nights
suggest otherwise.

The cold and darkness of winter
clutches me in its claws,
attempting to squeeze the hope out of me.

But I try to take courage in the song of blackbirds,
the sight of cranes,
the belief that the needed warmth and light of spring
will soon be upon us.

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Just a Poem

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Maybe

Winter.
SAD.
Cold, wet, dark.
Siren song of depression
lulling me to sleep,
enticing me deeper into blackness.

I need to prop my eyes open
like Odysseus.

But maybe I don’t want to see
the endless ocean,
relying on nothing but hope
to get me home.
Maybe I want to close my eyes.

Let the dark overtake me.

-Tacy Stine

Hope and No Hope

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I didn’t think I could get any lower. Then I lost my job, and suddenly that pit I was in got a whole lot deeper, a whole lot darker.

 

My job wasn’t much—just a couple hours a day, a few days a week, but it was something. It was enough to help. And it gave me a sense of purpose, a feeling that I was doing my part to contribute to my family’s financial needs. It also worked so perfectly with my schedule, allowing me to be able to pick my son up from half-day kindergarten and be home with him and my daughter when she got out of school. Now it’s gone. And now everything rests on this new venture of mine as an independent sales consultant for this company. It’s a whole lot of pressure and fear. Pressure to make it work. Fear that, not only will I fail, but that I’ll make people dislike me even more. Yet, I have to hope that it will work, that I won’t fail and that people will be understanding that I’m only doing my job—only trying to put food on the table.

Yes, I have some hope. I have to, otherwise I would have given up completely. I still feel very hollow and numb inside, and I still have no hope in other things in my life, but in this one endeavor, I see a very tiny, very faint light far, far in the distance. Maybe it’s enough right now. I guess only time will tell.

Is There a Point?

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Sometimes I wonder if there’s a point in continuing to do this – to do anything, really, I guess. What’s the point of any of it? I try so hard, yet I never seem to be able to move forward in life. This road I’m on is full of speed bumps of disappointment, u-turns of mistakes and crashes of hurt. How do you keep going when you see nothing but fog and darkness ahead?

 

Dark and Light

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Sometimes it feels like the whole world is collapsing in on you, like anything that can go wrong does go wrong. When it rains it pours. And then, sometimes, right when it feels like it can’t get any darker a ray of light breaks through and shines down on you. Then another and another until your world is filled with light again. It’s not that the bad things have gone away, but it’s easier to deal with them because you can see again. I wish I could thank the people who have brought this light back into my life, but some people do kind things without feeling the need to be known or praised. Anonymous friends have blessed my life lately. I thank them for the light and strength they have given me. I hope I can do as they have done for someone, someday, as well.

Darkness Makes Us Grow

A little over nine years ago I moved from a tiny town in Eastern Utah to Phoenix. I was beyond happy to be getting away from what had been a horrible situation where we had been living, but was also incredibly intimidated and a bit terrified to be moving to such a big city. Yet, within weeks, I had fallen in love with the city, the people and the vast, unique beauty of the Sonoran Desert. Some people hate the desert or simply think I’m weird for loving it. Maybe I am weird. Maybe it’s the fact that I could relate to something “different.” Maybe I simply appreciated a landscape that survived despite the odds. Probably it’s all of those reasons.

Blooming cacti in the spring was one of my favorite sights while living in Phoenix. The fact that these prickly, pokey plants could produce such bright, vibrant, beautiful flowers never ceased to amaze me. So when we moved back to Utah, less than two years later, we took a tiny cactus magnet with us as a memento. Okay, so my ex-husband’s mom bought it for our two-year-old daughter, but I was glad to be taking a piece of the desert with us. Unfortunately the magnet got packed with all of our stuff, and despite searching the storage unit we rented, we couldn’t find it.

I was sure the poor, little cactus would be dead after four months of no water or sunlight. I dreaded pulling it out, letting our daughter see, because I knew she would be sad. But a miracle occurred. One day, as we were unpacking, after having bought a house, we found the cactus magnet. Not only was it still alive, it had actually grown!

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I love finding metaphors in life. This one reminds me that darkness doesn’t have to be an end. Sometimes the darkness we face in life is what helps us grow. It’s what makes us stronger, what gives us the ability to appreciate the light when it comes into our lives again. If that little cactus could make it all that time with no light or water to sustain it, I can make it too. It’s not easy. It’s hard, it’s dark, it’s hell. But I can find the light again. And when I do, I will have learned and grown and become stronger because of it.

The Dark Place

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I’ve been in a dark place recently. The last couple of weeks I’ve felt as if I’ve been wandering aimlessly through life with weights attached to my arms and legs—my heart. Nearly everything in my life has been neglected in some way—my house, my kids, my health. At times like this each little task takes on the illusion of being monumental, and when you have several monumental tasks, it becomes too overwhelming to accomplish any of them.

Then, Saturday morning, the fog cleared, and I somehow received a burst of energy, motivation, confidence, determination, strength, and I got to work. I exercised, did yoga, cleaned my house, vacuumed, put the dishes away. And then the darkness settled back in, the weights snapped back on. All I wanted to do was retreat to my bed and spend the rest of the day curled up there, crying. I stood in my kitchen battling those thoughts, and somehow I fought them off. I was still depressed, still in darkness, yet I still managed to finish the dishes, go to the store and even went to a marching band competition. I’d been planning on going to it for several weeks, but when the depression gets as bad as it has been it’s easy to make up excuses to get out of anything.

I don’t know why I was able to keep going this time. There have been many times I have given in, let the mental illness win, gotten back in bed and let life fall to pieces. Sometimes that is just mental illness. But it gives me hope to know that I can fight back and accomplish things even when I’m depressed. I hope it gives others hope as well.

Beginnings are Messy

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John Galsworthy, the English novelist and playwright, said, “Beginnings are always messy.” Well, this is my beginning, and it is a bit messy.

I was never your typical teenage girl in high school. I didn’t care about boys (thought they were dumb), I didn’t care about fashion (I was this crazy neo-hippie-like character who went around in tie-dye and bell bottoms), I didn’t care about makeup (people should like me for what’s on the inside, right?), and I didn’t care about giggling on the phone for hours with my friends (school was about getting good grades so I could get a scholarship to college). I liked reading poetry and going for walks in the rain and being out with nature—one with nature. Though I eventually came to defy social conventions on purpose, at first I didn’t really understand it. I just knew that I was different. And that was hard. Lonely. It was so very, very lonely.

I started spending a lot of time sitting in the dark, listening to music, withdrawing from others. I felt as if there was no one else in the world like me and no one I could talk to about it. Darkness and loneliness ruled my life. I was so depressed, and I didn’t know what to do about it.

One day, when I was fifteen, I was putting away dishes out of the dishwasher. My thoughts were so crowded with how depressed I was and how bad life sucked, I barely paid attention to what I was doing. Then my fingers wrapped around the handle of a knife my dad used to carve up roasts. And suddenly, this idea came to me. I put the knife up to my chest and stuck the tip into my skin. I could plunge it into my heart and end my life. All my problems would be solved.

I stood there for what seemed like several minutes, though it was probably only a few seconds, considering the implications, weighing the pros and cons. Finally, I pulled the knife away and placed it in the drawer, realizing that I didn’t really want to end my life, I just wanted something to help ease the mental anguish I was going through.

Pain. In my chest. I suddenly became aware of a stinging pain where I had been poking the knife into my chest. And somehow, it clicked—this wild idea flying into my thoughts that if I physically hurt myself it would block some of that mental pain.

So I started searching for a weapon. I tried a knife at first and didn’t like the way it felt. Scissors seemed too dull. And then I found a razor blade—the box cutter kind—and I sliced it across my arm. It was sharp, precise, and it hurt. But it also felt good.

At first, I only hurt myself when I’d had a really bad day. I’d tell my parents I was going to bed, but instead, would sit up next to my stereo, headphones in, listening to depressing music, and I would race that blade across my skin—mostly on my upper arms and shoulders. It’s ironic—that I was trying to take pain away by giving myself another kind of pain. It didn’t work, of course. But I kept doing it, anyway. It became a sort of addiction, something I started doing even when I hadn’t had a bad day. It’s just what I did because I liked it, because it felt good.

All of this happened during the winter of my sophomore year in high school. I wore long sleeves, so no one could see the red marks and scars marring my arms and shoulders—except for in gym class. I sweat like a pig—or like a boy—so I still wore t-shirts and shorts in gym. People started asking about my arms, and I didn’t want to lie, so I told them I’d done it to myself. Most people looked at me as if I were crazy—one boy even told me to my face. “You know you’re insane, right?” he condescendingly asked me. And then people began to talk. That’s actually how I met my best friend—because she heard people talking in one of her classes about me and what I had done. Turns out she had been a masochist once, too. After that, I started meeting more people like me. More people who had depression and hurt themselves as a way to deal with it.

After five or six months of hurting myself I told my parents, which was a very tough conversation to have, but they were good at trying to get me the help I needed. For awhile I stopped hurting myself because I knew it was wrong, and it didn’t really help. Then I went back to it, and then I stopped again. But it’s like this addiction that’s always looming at the back of my mind. Even now, so many years later, any time I get really depressed or start to feel darkness closing in on me I think about hurting myself. I still believe it will feel good. I think the older you get the more self control you learn, so it’s easier to push the thought back down, to not give in, but it’s just another one of those hurdles people with mental illness have to try to jump over, dive under or go around.

Sharing this story is hard. It makes me feel so vulnerable, because I don’t know how people will react. Even now when I tell people about it—something I did over fifteen years ago—some of them still see a freak because anyone who purposefully hurts themselves is a freak, right? People look at me differently. But this is the beginning of my battle with depression, and I don’t want to sugar coat anything. That’s one of the reasons I believe mental illness is still so misunderstood—too much sugar has been sprinkled on something that is not sweet in any way. And the good news is that there is hope—always hope. It’s one of my favorite words.

 

Breaking the Silence

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Years ago, I’d take my daughter to the park where I met other moms who asked me what I did. I always just told them I was a stay-at-home mom. If someone asked me that today, my answer would be slightly different. What do I do? I do a lot of things. I stay at home with my kids, I read, write, and I exercise six days a week. However, I think the real question for all of us should not be what we do, but who we are. Just like there is more than one thing I do, there is a lot that makes me who I am. I am a woman. I am a mom—a single mom of two beautiful children. I am a reader, a writer, an exercise enthusiast. I am a nature lover and a chocolate lover. I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. And I have mental illness. While it is not the whole of who I am, while it cannot single-handedly limit or define me, it is a part of who I am.

Saying you have mental illness shouldn’t be any different than someone saying they have cancer, diabetes, multiple sclerosis, cystic fibrosis or any other illness. Yet for some reason it is. There is still such a stigma attached to it, so much people don’t understand—don’t want to understand. I would love to be able to change that. I don’t know if I can or will, but if I can help even one person in any way, this blog would be more than worth it.

Twice a year the church I belong to holds a big conference where our leaders speak to us. I think it was a talk by Elder Jeffery R. Holland, an apostle for the church, that first inspired this idea to start a blog opening a discussion on mental illness. I mulled the thought over in my mind, thinking it was a good idea, but never doing anything about it. Next conference, Elder Holland inspired me again, but I kept doubting myself. Really, what did I have to offer anyone? Then this past April, hearing Elder Holland speak yet again inspired me, and I decided it was time to do something—I started writing, I talked to friends, and I looked up other blogs on mental illness. That’s when the doubt crept back in. All these other people seemed to have so much more knowledge, experience, qualifications and better advice than I could ever give. Suddenly my idea, my words, seemed so insignificant.

Yet something kept pushing me. Maybe it was the Spirit—the thing our church believes inspires and guides us. Or maybe it was just my own desire to find a way to break the silence on mental illness. Silence—it’s what my name means. It comes from the latin name Tacita which means silence. When I discovered this in high school and told my mom, she said it was fitting. I was a very quiet person who rarely spoke. It took several months before I could tell my parents about my depression because how do you tell someone about the darkness you live with every day? Well, now I’m talking about it. I won’t live in silence anymore. It’s been almost twenty years since I was first diagnosed with depression. That’s a long time and many experiences that have shaped my life—time and experiences that shouldn’t have to sit in darkness and silence.

So I write this blog as a woman, who is a single mom, who reads and writes and exercises a lot and belongs to the LDS church. And while opening a discussion on mental illness is my main goal, I will also likely write about other experiences or lessons I have learned in life. Hopefully, some day in some way some of it will make a difference to someone. I also hope that others will join in. Leave comments, share your stories, ideas, resources that have helped you. Let’s break the silence together. As I said, if even only one person is touched or helped by this, then it will definitely have been worth it.