May We Encourage Each Other

I saw this quote recently that really spoke to me. “Your journey is not the same as mine, and my journey is not yours, but if we meet on a certain path, may we encourage each other.” I think this is the epitome of empathy. Empathy isn’t about understanding or the ability to say, “I get it. I’ve been there, too.” It’s about being there for others even when we don’t understand what they’re going through. Empathy is meeting on a path that doesn’t look the exact same as someone else’s path, but still giving encouragment, a hug and saying, “That really sucks. I’m so sorry. I’m here for you. I love you.” I do think it’s possible, even when we are going through our own struggles. What a beautiful thing when two people on a rough, rocky, difficult road can embrace each other, wipe each other’s tears and be there for each other even though their rough, rocky, difficult roads aren’t the same.

Depression can make it hard to look at anything but yourself and your own struggles. I know because I have had depression and had a hard time thinking of anyone but myself and my own struggles. But as I continue to learn and grow I’m trying harder to look outside myself and see how I can be there for others. As I have done so my own depression has eased and I’ve found connection, which is one of the most important things in the world to me. I hope I can keep getting better at this. And I hope we can all pass others on our journey who will encourage us and whom we can encourage as well.

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.

20200517_194837

No Respecter of Persons

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.

20200517_194837

Focusing on the Blessings

I was going to write down all of the bad things that have happened to me in the last few weeks. Perhaps it was about justification for why I am, and should be allowed, to be so depressed. Then I realized that doing so wouldn’t solve anything. It wouldn’t make me happy, but would, if anything, give these problems and difficulties more power over me.

Instead, I’m going to write down the blessings I have received through this hardship. That is what I should focus on because that, in all of this, is what really matters.

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First I want to write what a blessing my ward (a local, Latter-day Saint congregation) has been. I’ve never felt like I mattered as much as I do in this ward. I’ve never felt so loved or cared for in any other ward I’ve ever lived in. The people here have been absolutely amazing.

So many people—ward members, friends, near or far, family, acquaintances—have messaged, texted, called, commented to see how I’m doing and to offer encouragement and support.

Friends are a big blessing. I have one friend who has let me cry and vent to her about so many things. We were roommates in college, and she has stuck with me through all of my struggles. I know she sees me for who I really am, and I can always be myself with her. When depression and anxiety make it so hard to make and keep any kind of relationships, this has meant so much to me.

A close friend of mine who lives in another state sent her mom to bring me flowers. After having just gotten home from a traumatic experience getting the oil in my car changed, I broke down and just started crying. (I know it sounds stupid, but on top of everything else going on I had reached my breaking point.) My friend’s mom hugged me and told me she was a good listener and very bad at gossiping if I wanted to talk. I didn’t feel like I could at that point, but knew she was being genuine and honest, that if I did need to talk she would listen and not judge.

One night I was feeling particularly bad and felt like I need some company, that I shouldn’t be alone. I texted a friend and asked if she would be able to get a drink (as in a diet coke!) the next morning. She said she could, so the next morning we went for a walk where she listened to me, but didn’t pressure me to say anything I didn’t want to say. She then bought me a diet coke before we went to pick our kiddos up from kindergarten.

Another night when I was down I felt like hurting myself—because yes, that is still where my mind first goes when I’m that low. I had been texting a friend, and he could tell something was wrong. When I told him how I was feeling he kept texting me until I got to a place where I felt well enough and in control enough to know I wouldn’t hurt myself. I was incredibly grateful that he didn’t judge me or tell me it was stupid that a grown woman would want to do that. He just talked—or texted—me through it. Definite blessing.

Another blessing was a friend who brought lunch one day, then sat and talked with me—or more like listened to me. I sort of spilled all my guts to her about everything that’s happened the last few months. Yet again, I broke down and sobbed through much of it. She just listened and gave quiet encouragement and support. By the time she left that day the load I had been carrying for so long felt lighter. I felt more like I could keep going, that I could do this, than I had all week.

I have to mention some individuals in my ward, as well. My Relief Society president (the Relief Society is an organization of all the women in a ward) stopped by one day with some beautiful tulips that are in full bloom right now! She also came in and cleaned my kitchen for me. It was simple and quick yet made a huge difference.

The second counselor in the Relief Society presidency also dropped by one afternoon with pizza and some of my favorite breadsticks to have for dinner! Again, such a simple gesture, yet it meant so much.

A woman in my ward reached out to me, and I told her how Sundays were hard when my kids were at their dad’s. Despite having her own struggles right now, she invited me over for dinner with her family on Sunday. While there we discovered our birthdays are close together, so she and her mother-in-law told me I should go over to celebrate with all of them—have dinner and cake. Her mother-in-law doesn’t even know me! We had just met, and yet she was inviting me to her house for dinner and cake—chocolate cake! Sometimes I am amazed, saddened, shocked by all the bad in the world. So many horrible things happen, people do terrible things to each other, yet there is still so much good. The world is full of everyday people living simple lives full of love, kindness and service. What a blessing to be reminded of this!

All of the prayers and people who have put my name in the temple—I have felt it. It has made a difference.

I was thinking about how I didn’t feel as though I should be receiving so many blessings. It’s not because I think I’m worthless or anything like that. It’s much more complicated, but not something I feel I need to go into here. It just didn’t make sense to me. Then I realized that maybe it isn’t about me. Maybe it isn’t for me. Maybe it’s for the sources of all these blessings—the people who have done so many good things for me—giving them another opportunity to serve. Service is one of the best ways we can become like our Savior. It’s what He spent His life doing. When we serve we are following His example and coming closer to Him. No matter the reasons, whether there be any or not, I am extremely grateful. Blessings are definitely the more positive thing to focus on!