Words to Live and Write by

I am willing to fall Because I have learned how to rise.

I craft Love from heartbreak, Compassion from shame, Grace from disappointment, Courage from failure.

I am among the brave and brokenhearted, and I am rising strong.

(credit to Brene Brown)

Monday, February 8, 2016

No More Fear

 So it's 2016, and I am "reviving" this blog. I took a bit of a hiatus in 2015 because a great majority of my emotions were consumed by the decision to adopt and the process of beginning that journey; as I've said, that's not something I can really share here. But because of that writing hiatus, a look at my blog might suggest that I'm still in all the places I was when last I wrote. I'm not! Life is so fluid and I am ever-evolving and growing and learning. Who I was in 2014 and before is a part of me, but I am so much more now. I'm writing again because writing is how I make sense of life and share my stories and experiences.

I want to start by talking about a post I wrote in 2014 that began a tremendous journey for me. I decided that it was time to shed the fear and shame of admitting that I battle depression. So many people do, but they do so in silence and fear, and I wanted to tell myself and anyone who needed to hear that this is something we're in together and there's no reason to be ashamed of it.

But WOW! I was completely unprepared for the responses I would get for this post! I knew I was making myself vulnerable - on purpose - because I didn't just say, "Oh, by the way, I have depression, but let's move on." No. I wrote as honestly and openly as I could about what depression feels like in its worst moments. And suddenly everyone was reading that post (which had never happened in this little blog of mine), and everyone seemed to have something to say about it. Most people didn't comment on the post itself; they either contacted me privately or began this buzzing behind-the-hand discussion all around me.

So in the wake of this vulnerable expression, I now had to deal with the feelings of what people were doing with my vulnerability. A lot of people privately said thank you - thank you for showing me someone else understands; now I don't feel so alone. And I thought, Yes! This is so good. When we suffer together the burden feels lighter. A lot of people didn't talk TO me at all, but ABOUT me. I had to quickly stop myself from becoming obsessed with what they were saying. This was so atypical of me - I am really self-conscious by nature - but I convinced myself that if they couldn't say it to my face then what they said wasn't important enough to worry about. Because I had other people who DID say to my face some pretty harsh criticisms.

 Those critics were tough for me. I was already being tough on myself for having this weakness, and the added voices were too much for me at first. I heard things like, "How dare you? It's not okay to talk about this." I heard the voices saying, "Nothing good can come from this." I heard so many misconceptions. People who didn't understand depression sometimes saw what I wrote about how bad it can get and thought I meant it was always like that, and well-meaning people kept asking me or my family if they should be on suicide watch. - What?? I'd never said anything about suicide. That's not a part of my depression battle. Where was all this coming from?

So I took some deep breaths, asked some close friends to reassure me that I wasn't a terrible person for writing about depression, and then started taking a close look - a really close look - at the critics. Here's what I learned:

 Those who said it wasn't okay to talk about depression, that I was destroying my reputation by doing it, etc., were actually projecting their inner critic onto me. They were afraid to talk about it openly; they were afraid of what would happen if people knew they fought depression, too; they were just afraid of the same demons I'd given a voice to. So while I still felt the sting of some harsh words, I could understand and forgive their criticism - I knew those fears; I was just ready to move past the fears before they were.

And those who said nothing good could come from this had the same fears. They were just mistaken in what they said. SO much good has come from this! I freed myself. What could be better than that? I freed myself to say, "Okay, I have this thing - now how can I use it for good?" and it has become a vulnerability that I now consider a strength instead of a weakness. I freed myself from denial so I could finally tackle the challenge of learning no just to survive depression but to acknowledge and prevent it and actually thrive. Even better, I've been able to share how I've been learning to thrive with others who want to know and forging meaningful relationships, some short and some long. It's beautiful.

And when I looked at those who thought I must be always depressed and even suicidal, I saw people who cared. Maybe they had someone in their life struggling and they didn't know what to do; maybe they'd lost someone to the struggle and were afraid and grieving and vulnerable themselves. Maybe they had just never known what depression was, and the brutal truth of it scared them.

In the end, I learned that all the critics and even the gossipers were just projecting fear. Fear is the enemy of truth. Fear is the enemy of progress. Fear is the enemy of connection, the enemy of healing, and the ultimate enemy of love. And since I'd decided to be done with Fear, I could stand tall amid all the commentary knowing I was proving, most of all to myself, that I could be, and was, brave and stronger than Fear.

I don't have to talk about my depression, and often choose not to - I like to be positive and most of the time I'm not even in a depression. But I can write about it, about times when I struggle and times when I overcome, with no more fear. I can express myself and be vulnerable because I know those responses really have nothing to do with me. Those who find good in my writing are connecting with good within themselves, and those who find fault are, sadly, listening to fear.

I will continue to be brave and continue to share my stories and explore them. For that is how I am becoming light and free. (A follow-up post updating you on how I now battle and conquer depression is in the works.)

Leave your thoughts and comments please!