The hell that I’m in…


Hell. A place different for every person, and yet the same for all.

Willing yourself out of a hell-hole is fruitless. You can no more decide to get up, toss the cot depression has forced a deep slumber in, than the ocean can decide to leave it’s bed. Those who reside on sunny beaches do not understand. Lying on a sandy towel is far different than drowning in the sea’s bed.

I’ve not been able to write. For a writer to not be able to write, it is a very specific kind of hell. The way I keep the world from running me over like a Mac truck is to restrain it and contain it with words. Forcing life to conform to a page; insisting that it take up residence within letters, words, and sentences; it takes the helplessness away.

I’ve never written like other people do. I’m kinda an odd bird. Most people have a vague idea what they want to express, feel a burning desire, and then grab a pen and paper or the keyboard to sketch out what they want to say. It maybe only be an outline or a cluster of words or quotes, but they have a clue.

I’m not really sure how to do that. Writing possesses me, not me it. Authorship dictates what I have time for; what priority my time and obligations get to number in rank, deciding what I will do, in which specific order, to secure my release. Sometimes it can be freeing and heavenly. Sometimes it can be an impatient beast, moody and demanding. Regardless, I live within the parameters that it calls upon my soul in order to keep this life thing rolling along.

keyboard-1176257_960_720Usually I sit down, place my fingers at the keyboard, and I relax. I don’t look at my screen. I stare out the window, maybe watch a bird or a squirrel do their thing. I let my senses loose; let them carry me away while slowing my heart rate slows to a crawl, and, like a burst of life giving breaths, words spring forth and I begin to write.

Now is not the “usually” time in my life, not by a longshot. Now is hell.

Mother’s crave quiet. Mother’s crave the beauty of stillness.

Authors fear the stillness of fingers on a keyboard and the quietness of their minds.

The ability to not be able to write has not just squashed my voice, it’s murdering my wandering soul. I am no longer able to think. I can’t breathe. My lungs have a mountain of hopelessness sitting atop them.

Exhaling. All I can do is exhale. Panic rises with each bit of air that leaks out.

What happens when there’s no more air to release? Tears, sweat, then blood.

Blood begins to take the air’s place. Life giving blood pours out every crevice. Every drop empties me of the will to even try.

There was a time that words were like grains of sand. They flowed from my fingers, escaping regardless of whether I wanted them to or not. Now? What once was life giving, the act of putting words to the page, has turned on me, and, for every word that goes untyped, it punishes me.

I’ve become hollow, empty, depressed. I fell into a hole and I cant climb out.

I’m in a bottomless, wordless, hellish pit that light refuses to enter. The entrance is  sealed with nothing but a password and I can hear the mocking laugher, mocking the fact I have no words to offer.

I must escape. Much longer in this wordless hell and this damned place will become lethal. the last words that will be written will be, “The end.”

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Sometimes sitting in the mud is the right thing to do…


Watercolor, art therapy, by my daughter, Lindsey, 16. Used with her permission. Her personal take on living with bipolar disorder, anxiety, OCD and depression.

 

I’ve been rendered completely wordless the last few weeks. I’ve been in a dark place; one with a lot of ugliness and not a lot of sunshine. Some of it is legitimate and understandable. I’ve got some real crap and sometimes crap just stinks. No use calling it by some flowery name. Just like a rose is a rose by any other name and still smells sweet, crap by any other name is still crap and it’s gonna really stink when you go to wash it off, especially if you really dig in and do the dirty work of cleaning it up.

Some of it is me throwing a pity party, I may as well own that. Some of it is weariness, exhaustion, and fractures in my life where I wasn’t quite broken; places that used to be held together by sheer will, but the the bonds of my “will” wore off.

I fell apart.

It is what it is, and justified or not, I’ve dug myself in and wallowed.

It occurred to me I feel a lot like a little girl who fell in a mud puddle in her new pretty dress. I first was in utter shock and horror. Oh NOOOOOO!

…Then tears of not just sadness rose up, but anger; intense, hot, all consuming… of which a person could be either torched to ash or refined by the fire. This was NOT happening!

…Next? I was so angry I refused to get up. What was the point? The dress is ruined! Nothing can ever make it white and new again.

…Furious, I splashed the damned puddle, as if beating the crap of life was somehow gonna get back at it. Laughing at me, it got even by leaving me feeling more livid as the splashes got me mucky where I had actually still been clean.

…Eventually, anger spent and rational thinking returning, still a bit drippy, a whole lot dirty, sheepishly getting up from the mucky pool around me, this girl will go about figuring out how to do what’s next. It wont come easy. “She” will be still mad and muddy, she will still be dealing with the stink for a while, but moving in the right direction, a good cleansing cry and maybe a little rain will right some of it. Later a good long hot shower will wash away the remaining ick and a fresh perspective and dry clothes will allow “her” to carry forward, maybe even better than she began.

Right now? Right now I am still sitting and I’ve just finished a good splashing fit.

There are many word pictures people use when they are in this space. I am using the mud puddle because I am at a full stop, and I feel really mucky and angry and I am in a place where I don’t even WANT to get up. I’ll get there. I know me. I just need to sit here long enough to really hate the mud. Once I really hate it enough I will get up, wipe off the bruises and clean off the mud, I’ll look for scratches on me and tears in my dress and begin to not just wash up, but mend the wounds and fix the rips.

I already know it’s gonna be okay. It really will be. Wanna know something? I don’t want to hear it. So, don’t explain it. I just need to sit here a while. I need to do this.

Here is the thing about mucky places, once in a while they need to be sat in.

Don’t tell me why I am wrong. I’m not. Sometimes you need to sit in the muck, really look around, take it in, acknowledge that it is exactly what it is, mucky, dirty, crap; then intentionally say, “Yeah, so, now what?”

The feelings are real. They are valid. They show up, as they always do, for a reason, and at some point the reason will refuse to be ignored or stuffed back into the closet or under the rock it came out from. So feel it. let yourself live in the now, in the moment, in the mucky place and say, “Wow, it really sucks I fell in this mud and I am really damned angry I got mucky and tore my favorite dress.”  Forcing a smile and saying a fake, “No biggie, It’ll wash,” only works for so long.

Sometimes sitting in the mud is the right thing to do. Sometimes getting right back up, brushing yourself off, and bouncing back right away is the right thing to do. How do you know the difference? Eh, you’ll know. Just remember, ultimately, it really will be okay, and you can get to that end game in many different ways. No path is wrong nor right.

It was the conversation I DIDN’T have that terrified me…


Today is National Suicide Prevention Day, Week, Month… It’s a harsh topic. Already some of you are cringing because this is not what you want to be reading about. It’s not fun, fluffy, and I guarantee it wont make you laugh.

Well, man up. It needs discussed.

16920_10207943717737263_5034557815060099013_nThere’s a viper that threatens to convince my daughter that suicide is the only choice that makes sense. She goes to the front lines daily to do battle with it. It’s cruel and mean. For her, she has an invisible illness that brings on her suicide battles. Her illness has a name that makes many flee, almost as much as trying to talk about suicide does. She is a courageous young woman who daily chooses to do one more day, while her mental illness rears up and tries to taunt her, hound her, chase her down and exhaust her.

I can’t prevent the attacks, but I can choose to fight along side her and refuse to let her do it on her own. As hard as the battle here is, it’s frankly the easy kind. Why? Because it’s reared it’s venomous head and shown itself. I know it lurks here. I take precautions. I’m on guard. I fight for her when she is too weak to fight herself.

The kind that’s a real killer is the kind that no one sees coming. I like to call them the “pressure cookers”. A silent, deadly battle is being waged, just like with my daughter, but this time there are no signs, no warning; it’s flat out of the blue. They’re terrifying.

It’s important to talk about suicide, if for no other reason, you never know who is thinking they aren’t worthy of one more day, or who believes they can’t fight the battle one more time… because they think they are alone in it.

Then there’s this kind: The kind where it seems someone is getting help, things are bouncing back, when really it lies hidden, waiting; waiting for the chance to strike.

There is one suicide I think about every single day; my dad’s. I think of it each time I look into my daughter’s eyes.

Oh, no, you’re right…He’s still here. My dad din’t commit suicide. I am one of the lucky ones. I know two friends who were not as lucky as I. Their dads did commit suicide. Watching the hell they went through… geez, there are no words. I had none to give them then, none that worked, nor did anything to dull the pain. I even walked away feeling guilty, in some odd way, because I realized I was thanking God that somehow my dad saw through his pain, to a fraction of a moment of clarity, sought a ragged edge to cling to and held on for dear life.

My dad had a plan of how, and when, he even had a couple plans, but he didn’t go through with it. I thank God for preventing it. I can do that. Really though? Dad had to make that hard choice. He had to choose to do one more day. He had to want it, enough to do it for just a little bit longer.

He doesn’t know it yet, but this tattoo on my left wrist? It’s to honor him as well as my daughter. He’s the period, she’s the comma that makes up the semicolon. (I have my reasons. I never get a tattoo that doesn’t hold great meaning.)

He was one of the lucky ones who had people who heard cues and noticed changes in behavior and were MORE stubborn than he was… and insisted on help.

Not everyone is as lucky as we were. Some people show zero signs. It’s true. Then there are subtle ones that if left alone and unchallenged, to them it looks like that green “go ahead” light when right there on that edge, barely hanging on.

Me age 4 with my dad, 1978

Me age 4 with my dad, 1978

My dad has been a minister all of my life. I am 41 years old. I was born into a life where the phone ringing at 2 am meant a crisis and my dad would be moving in pastor mode instantly. 40 some years of some very intensive situations, counseling, funerals, church politics (every bit as nasty as the government kind), and yes, all the joys thrown in too, it all adds up to some really exhausting mental overwork.

My dad is a chronic workaholic. The good kind in that he is always pushing/needing to do more for people. He sees how he can do one extra thing, so he insists to himself that he do that. Truly it’s wonderful… but intensely taxing. At one point he was so mentally tired he simply burned out. He was so tired he could not even decide what to eat for lunch. It broke him. It broke him in a way that scared the hell out of me.

The details are long, complicated, and not important. What is important was one conversation he had trouble having. It was a conversation we frankly DIDNT have. It was what wasn’t said that was so terrifying. He took me to lunch one day on a break from my job. Pizza buffet. He didn’t eat. He picked at his food. Stirred his Pepsi with his straw. Swallowed his words. He clawed his way through that conversation, words fleeing in distress. What little he did spit out was fragmented. His eyes were hollow but watery. Haunted. He started and stopped so many times; I already knew. I knew what he couldn’t say. But he NEEDED to say it.

If I can ever give advice, because truly I know nothing, I give this one thing. Just listen. Shut up and listen. Why? Because more times than not it’s what’s NOT said that you need to hear…

“I thought about just getting in the car, just driving. Not stopping.”  I just looked at him. I had no response. I’m not sure if I was supposed to.

“There’s this one bridge…I’ve thought about driving off of it. ”

“Wonder what that would be like, to drive off a bridge.”

Any hunger I had was long gone. Did he know I didn’t know the right words to say? The ones he needed to hear? I was pregnant with my oldest. My redheaded and freckled, Lindsey. My very first baby. I went from the pure joy and happiness of knowing she was there with us, to the thought of my dad never seeing my first child… It nearly undid me.

That moment was the first time suicide touched my life. It was the first time it became real. It wasn’t a statistic, or a story someone told, it was live, before me, and I didn’t have any answers.

I said something ridiculous. I am sure of it. I spent more time internally praying my heart out over my dad than I did voicing words aloud to him. I just let him talk. I don’t know if he walked away that day “feeling” like he could do one more day or not, but he did. Then he did another. Then another.

Later my dad would tell me that it partially was Lindsey coming into this world that saved him. That knowing that he would miss out on being a grandpa, holding that first baby, my newborn child, to look into those brand new eyes and see an untouched soul…he knew he would keep doing one more day till he could do that. Then he would decide from there how to do the rest of the days.

He is still here. It’s now 17 years later, and he is now helping me do battle for my daughter and saving her from herself. Someday I pray we have a story to tell about what her “one more day” moment was.


This tattoo on my wrist? It also has a shadow effect. It has hidden meaning for me. For every person who battles the thought of doing “one more day” and wondering if it’s worth it, there is someone who needs to stand up and say, “I got your back.”  My middle child, and second daughter, Allison and I both have shadows in our tats. Lindsey’s is singular. We have her back. We’ve got her, no matter when she needs us. I had my dad’s back. He knew it, even if it was hard for him to ask for what he needed to hear. He knew just looking into my eyes that I saw him. I don’t know. Maybe that was enough, that day.

If you are ever even considering suicide, I promise you, there is someone who wont want that… someone will have your back too. Don’t tell me I am wrong. Just trust me on this. Reach out, even if it is to an online group, make a phone call to a hotline, or just find someone who has kind eyes, tell them you know this sounds crazy, but you somehow know you are sposed to talk to them. Please just do that first, before you do something else. Okay?

There’s a suicide prevention/awareness group called “To Write Love on Her Arms.” They are a non profit organization that raises awareness for those who self harm and struggle with addiction and thoughts of suicide. My daughter struggles with self harm and in addition to the semi colons we got, we three got tiny hearts on our arms… because I wanted to write LOVE on my girls arms, so that they always knew that no matter where they went, how far they go, my love is always going to be right here for them, never ending, no matter what. I will always have their back. It will NEVER change. I don’t care what they do… They can always depend on me being that one person they can be sure will aways want them around, one more day.

For more information, please check out these amazing organizations:

To Write Love On Her Arms: https://twloha.com/learn/

Visit their blog over @ https://twloha.com/blog/

The Semicolon Project has gained a huge following. Check them out over @ http://www.projectsemicolon.org

Check out their blog @: http://www.projectsemicolon.org/blog

On being a “TERRIBLY” supportive mother


I’m a terrible mother. Horrible. There, now that we got that out of the way, let me tell you why I am a terrific one.

Our Project Semicolon tattoos

Our Project Semicolon tattoos

Today I took my daughters over to the local tattoo shop and we got matching tattoos. Yes, yes, TERRIBLE mother. I thought we established that already? Sheesh.

Listen, I know this place, I know the owner. It’s a clean, decent, reputable establishment that is not in some dark alleyway. Give me some credit will you? Listen to the reason and you will agree with the terrific part, (or not) but it’s what you SHOULD have done if you were me, living my life.

If you haven’t heard of Project Semicolon, then let me educate you. It is quite literally a full out movement of hope, all begun by one woman who was simply intending to honor her dad. It is a tattoo or even just a sharpie marker tattoo of a semicolon on a wrist or other area. Simple, small, and yet crazy powerful. We’ve done the sharpie version. We are ready to commit to a permanent version.

The website www.projectsemicolon.com says it this way… “A semicolon is used when an author could’ve chosen to end their sentence, but chose not to. The author is you and the sentence is your life.” They are a faith based movement dedicated to presenting hope and love for those who struggle daily with depression, suicide, addiction and self-injury.  Their sole existence is to bring awareness to mental illness and to encourage, love and inspire those who live with it or even just love someone who does.

The semicolon is a conversation starter. You see a tattoo of a semicolon on a wrist and you say, “what’s that about.” The door is now open to discuss what our lives here are filled with. It’s filled with hard things, messy things, scary things, but more than anything else, it’s filled with choices that include getting up each new day, moving forward, pushing on, and knowing that each new day is not a day done alone, but surrounded by a supportive and loving family who “gets it.”

Linds watches as she has her tattoo done. She wanted to be the first to go, since today was for her.

Linds watches as she has her tattoo done. She wanted to be the first to go, since today was for her.

My daughter, Lindsey, struggles and battles Bipolar Disorder and OCD along with some anxiety and a personality disorder. Each day is a hard day. photo 2That’s just a fact. But she is still choosing to get up each day and face it. Her sister and I both love her in ways that only a sis and mom can. It’s a girl thing. We have a wicked tight bond, the three of us, and when I introduced this website to Lindsey her whole face lit up. Her sister was indignant that she was left out and she demanded to be a part of it. I told her I never intended her to be anything but included. I just hadn’t shown her the website yet!

For warriors, support is critical. It’s for important to know someone has their back. Lindsey will never wonder if her sister and I have her back. She will look at her hand and she will see her tattoo and know that the three of us are connected in a special way, remember our day of bonding, needing only to trace it to gain some needed strength.

photo 3Along with the semicolon tattoo, I am gifting each girl with a little heart, about the size of a pinky finger. It is to be placed anywhere they want it, but in a place they can readily see  I used to use a sharpie and pit one on their hand or arm when they were scared about a test, school, or when they just needed a “mom hug” to take with them as they went off on their day. This time we are making it washable and forever. It’s a personal reminder that they ARE my heart; that they carry with them my unconditional love everywhere they go. I love them forever, always, and that there is NOTHING they can ever do that will make me stop loving them. Simply NOTHING.

Alli distracts herself with her phone while she is inked. Nothing compares to broken bones and the pain of soccer injuries and physical therapy. This was nuthin.

Alli distracts herself with her phone while she is inked. Nothing compares to broken bones and the pain of soccer injuries and physical therapy. This was nuthin.

It’s a visual reminder that they can come home, no matter what choices or mistakes they might have made in life, and to know that I’ll have their backs. Life is messy. Choices are hard to make. Sometimes we make the wrong ones. Come home, anyway. I’m always gonna be there. I don’t care if they are 18, 28, or 58. That tattoo won’t wear off and neither will my love for them. If at some point they need me, and I am no longer here residing on this green earth, then they only need look at it to know I’m still only a heartbeat away, loving them from above, still supporting them.

Yes, I took my two daughters, who are 15 and 16, to the tattoo shop and we got tattoos, but the question wasn’t ever, “how could I,” but instead, “how could I NOT?”  My beautiful girls are here and this is not in “memory” of anyone. This is to strengthen us and to empower us to do hard things, because we are still alive to do them.

There is a beautiful song I will play them. An amazing friend sent me the link the other day and I have been in love with it ever since.

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=OCUzqbAZq3E

The refrain goes like this:

This is not the end of me.

This is the beginning.

Hold on.

I am still alive…

As long as we are alive, we are going to live like it. We are going to remember that this is just the beginning, choose to not end our sentences, to just hold on tight, get through the night, and believe that this is not the end. No one has to get it all perfect, or get it all right, we just have to get up each day and try. Put one foot in front of the other, hold on tight, ride the ride, let the day have it’s way, and best of all…come home again.

I love you girls. We can do this. We’ve got this!

Nothing new, except now people are listening.


There is plenty being said and discussed and shared online right now about depression, suicide, and mental illness. They’re the buzz words of the day, the trending topics.

I’m sad. I feel like I am grieving. I’ll admit it… but more than that, my insides suddenly feel like they are being ripped out and it has nothing to do with the funny man, Robin Williams, who died. Wanna know who it does have to do with?  My kid. Yeah. MINE. Who else? Other members of my family, who I will leave nameless. Oh, then there’s me.

A friend posted this online tonight…  I can’t say it better… so here. I’ll let Heather say what she does so well… truth without fancy schmancy – politically correct – NUTHIN. Just sayin it like it is…

Robin Williams/Heather Osbun Smith

Nearly every day of life here behind our front door is spent in some form of survival mode. Many days we openly discuss this suicide word in an alarmingly personal and private way. We do battle with mental illness, that nasty word that sends so many into hiding in shame. The M. I. label is the driving force behind my “ditching the masks.”  I am sick to death of living a hidden life and one that makes my daughter feel shame…that she’s not enough, that she is somehow a broken person, is less-than because her brain chemicals don’t self regulate like so many others do and she must take expensive meds, constantly readjusting them monthly as she goes through the puberty and onslaught of hormones that muck up every good run we’ve ever had at stabilizing those damn things. I’m so sick of the stigma and “weakness” of people taking meds for mental illness or depression I could rage for an hour on it.

Let me tell you something about people with mental illness you may not know… it takes a HELL of a lot of strength, grit, determination, and heart to plug away day-in and day-out, silently, quietly, so that it’s possible to make it “one more day.” The idea that suicide is a weakness, an “easy way out” or that a person somehow failed because they finally said “enough”? It’s ludicrous… and obviously made only by someone untouched by the very devastating reality that so many live with.

Any clue how hard it is to get up and do another day, when no end is in sight? Any clue how much moxy you have to have to battle demons that have no shape in order to beat them into oblivion? Any idea how strong you have to be to just admit you need help?

I cant imagine how hard it must be to decide to leave your loved ones behind and take that step, one that is so personal and private, knowing that the world will talk and never let up on it once you take that step? Knowing full well that no matter what you’ve done in your life, it will forever be overshadowed by that last act. You think what’s currently going on didn’t occur to Robin Williams? My guess is it fueled it. My guess is he’s been battling our judgments his whole life, they were demons inside him, you and I, and our judgmental prattle. He may be remembered fondly and in time we will forget the last act and focus on his living legacy. He only gets that grace because he is who he was… regular folk? Yeah, not so much grace goes their way.

Robin Williams will make us talk. I guess I will take that for what it is, because like it or not, he now has given us a reason to talk about it openly… and it has given me a new talking points that allow me to connect with my daughter.

But has he given it a face? No.

10570290_10204898957100150_5190697673744201881_nTo me? To me THIS face is the one I battle for and with, daily.  These shades hide eyes that show strength. This face is why I will never give in to my own demons.

This girl has taught me more about living in her 15 years than I had in all the previous ones I’ve had. She has taught me about courage, love, pain, forgiveness, grace, moxy, and about wordless things have no shape, size,  nor definition. She’s shown me how to admit my weakness in a way that I never could before. She’s made me turn and face my own issues. She makes me proud. She makes me beam. She makes me want to be a better person.

This girl is why I am willing to be transparent, vulnerable, and real. Why? Because if I’m not willing to model it for her, how can I ask her to be? There is no shame inside the walls of this house. Only grace.

Robin, I pray you have found peace. You will be missed. Your last act was to give the world a way to talk, at least for a while, about a brilliant mind that was deeply affected by things we have only begun to understand. The brain is a vexing thing to learn and understand. Maybe you will help us move on to less stigma and the realization that anyone can be touched by the pain of this.  But as much as I love ya, your face will never be the “face of mental illness.” Sorry. This girl already has it covered.