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Real Ways To Help When Your Loved One Has Depression Or Anxiety – 46 People Weigh In

 

When I’m in the midst of a deep depression, or grappling with a bout of anxiety – both of which often come together – very few external things help me.  I never want someone to try to help me fix it (I have a therapist for that), and it’s extremely rare that I want to talk about it, if I even can talk about it (I have a therapist for that, too). More often than not, even the best of intentions and attempts to make me feel better only serve to make me feel worse.  I feel like it’s important to clarify that I don’t mean to sound ungrateful, and I don’t mean to lay blame.  I blame nothing other than ignorance, inexperience, and a stigma surrounding mental health that means it’s not talked about nearly as often, or as openly, as it should be.   How could anyone possibly know what to do – and what not to do – if no one’s ever told them?  The irony of course is that the times I need support the most are the times when I’m least able to articulate, or even identify for myself, what may or may not be helpful.  When I’m depressed, I’m not rational.  I’m never “with it.”  I’m not always nice.

Still, there *are* a few things that help, none more than simply being there.  Not trying to fix, not judging.  Just seeing me, and loving me, right where I’m at.  When I asked my readers to share their own experience on my Facebook page, the response was overwhelming in its solidarity.  People with depression and anxiety just want to know they are loved.  While that might look slightly different for everyone, the sentiment remains the same.  Far and away the most common response was some version of, “Just be there.  Just love me.”

A selection of those responses, plus several others, are what follow.  A few times the responses directly contradicted one another, which I loved (we’re humans, not robots).  I tried to group those together.    I added a bit of commentary a couple of times, but mostly let them stand on their own.

Listen – and really hear – what helps these brave individuals when they are struggling:

“Just listening and not trying to fix things.  I usually just need a sounding board, not answers.” ~ Kelsey S

Validation helps, not necessarily trying to find you a solution.” ~ Ladasha M

“When they reach out and just offer support or when they let me just “be” until I’m ready to talk.  It’s super helpful when they don’t try to “fix” things.  I think that helps me more than anything.  Just to know that they are there for me and don’t see me as broken and unuseful.”  ~ Laura L

“Letting me talk about it without offering an “answer.”” ~ Valerie S

“The most helpful thing is when a friend/loved one just sits next to me (literally or metaphorically) and says “I’m here”. No false promises that things will get better soon, no attempts to cheer me up, just sitting with me and letting me feel what I need to feel” ~ Chelsea S

“The most helpful for me is for my friends/family to just be there.” ~ Katie C

“”I’m here if you need me”. You have to truly mean it, because you might get a call in the middle of the night.”  ~ Alisha T

“Nothing they really say helps because when I am in deep, I can turn anything into a negative.  Just being there, never giving up on me, and loving me helps.” ~ Ashley A

“Just being listened to.  Having someone just witness my experience.  Believing my experience is real and not just “in my head.”  ~ Patty M

“”I’m here if you need to talk.”” ~ Jay T

“Giving me some space to just be with how I’m feeling, and letting me know they’re there when I’m ready to talk.”  ~ Jessica M

“Just simply saying they are here for me but also reminding me that I’m strong and brave.” ~ Kellie M

“Empathy:  ‘That sounds really hard.  Do you want to talk about it?'” ~  Catherine D

“It’s not anything said; it’s simply being near me. Even if the company is silent, having somebody sit with me and be willing to listen, watch a movie, or just exist for a moment makes me feel supported, more supported than any words.” ~ Reggie R

“I have anxiety and panic attacks so it’s very helpful if my family can remind me when I have a panic attack that I’m okay and that I only have to get through the next few minutes.  Asking why or what I’m upset about or trying to “fix” it does not help.  Also, being understanding when I need to leave the room to have a few minutes to breathe and let the anxiety wash over me.” ~ Ursula D

“Mostly just NOT saying, “What’s wrong?”  There doesn’t have to be anything wrong, and there usually isn’t.  Expecting me to be able to give some reason makes me feel guilty, like I have no business feeling awful when everything is going well in my life.” ~ Elizabeth S

“Being a compassionate, non-judgemental ear helps me a lot.  Being able to talk it out or cry it out works for me.”  ~ Michelle J

“Believing me.  No second guessing, no hedging.”  ~ Julia J

“The best thing ever was when I was having a bad day and I felt like I was causing so many problems for my husband. I was crying and promising him I would try harder to change. It was such a relief when he told me that I didn’t need to change, that I was fine just the way I was, and we just needed to find ways to cope. I had never felt so accepted and loved and it helped give me a solid base from which to blossom.” ~ Alicia R

A lot of people pointed to physical affection, along with physical presence:

“For me what is most helpful is when a friend is there for me letting me know they are there to listen.  When they make time to just come over and be present.  When they try to get me out of the house and out of my own head.  Another big one for me is a hug.  Hugs really help me.”  ~ Tamarah C

“Holding me tightly until the storm passes- that feeling of someone seeing you at your ugliest and not running away, not trying to make it better either.” ~ Crystal M

“It’s not so much what my loved ones say, it’s what they do (and don’t do). My partner gives me massages. He does my head, neck, back, shoulders, arms, and hands. Tension melts away. My family all knows the special treats I like, so they’ll bring me truffles or a bottle of sparkling cider or spicy hot V8 or chile rellenos from my favorite restaurant. Then they leave me alone. They don’t try to talk to me unless it’s essential. They know I’ll eventually be okay, and time alone to sleep or read or snuggle my cats helps immensely.” ~ Jenny R

“”Are you having a hard day?  Do you need a hug?””  ~ Naomi R

“Hugs. And not all hugs are created equal.   Also, encouraging me to take a break, because I get stuck in the “I need to finish this,” mindset and have trouble seeing the solution.”  ~ Rob T

“It depends on how close I am to the person.  With my house humans, I definitely like hugs, back rubs, and someone just sitting quietly with me.  Hugs from acquaintances… nope.  A sincere compliment from anyone goes a long way, though.”  ~ Joan C

For some of us, tangible, practical help with the necessities of life goes a long way:

“Cleaning or cooking. Taking over administrative household things would be a tremendous help.” ~ Renee M

“When someone notices I’m down or very anxious and instead of asking me what’s wrong they simply do something kind.  Another question to ask instead of “what’s wrong” is “What can I do for you?” Or “What do you need right now?”  I don’t really get asked these but wish I do more often as they are the most helpful words at the time.” ~ Rebecca B

“Taking something off my plate or doing something kind for me helps a lot.” ~ V Sue H

“What can I do to help out?  What can I take off your plate for you?  What would make you feel better that I could do for you.  Feeling overburdened (by my own rules and expectations, mostly) was a huge part of my depression and anxiety.” ~ Sue S

“When they ask me what they can do to help.  That’s the best help.  Instead of assuming what I need, it’s nice for them to ask.” ~ Stephanie J

“Dear Lord, not the open ended, “How can I help?”  That question is so overwhelming to me when I’m depressed.  “Can I do X for you?” is much more helpful.  Trust me, if an alternative is better, I’ll let you know.”  Mariellen M.  I could really relate to this, and it took me a long time to realize it.  I’d often just wonder what the heck is wrong with me.  (That’s something I wonder a lot, especially when I’m depressed.)  Here I have this well-meaning, loving friend who wants to help me, and the offer only makes me more frustrated.  It’s not because I don’t appreciate it, and it’s (usually) not that I don’t want help.  It’s that I DON’T KNOW what kind of help I need.  The question feels overwhelming and impossible to answer.  A specific offer would be much easier to respond to.  I still might decline it!, but it’s far more likely to help.

“I would say whatever they think would help me out, just do it.  When I’m overwhelmed by depression and anxiety, someone asking me a question is incredibly stressful.  But if they just go ahead and hug me, call me, clean something, etc, it’s definitely appreciated.” ~ Issa W

“Can I bring you a cup of soup or a Coke?  Or can I watch the kids for you for an hour or two?  Just these simple things remind me that I can get through the darkness and I am not alone.” ~ Jennifer E

“Would you like to have a cup of tea with me?”  It just helps to fill the empty hours more pleasantly.”  ~ Margaret B

“Basically treat me like I have stomach flu!  I’m sick at the moment, let me act like it, and treat me like it.  Tuck me in and bring me tea.  The show of understanding and love will give me the strength to rise up.” ~ Seana R

“Not trying to whisk me away to my bedroom for alone time, and then taking over all the household things with the family. That would be helpful. I like knowing I can be present and included even if I am depressed. I don’t need to be quarantined.”  ~ Shelly C

And sometimes, what we need is a little bit of gentle pressure from the right person:

“Want to take a walk?  No?  I’d like to take you for a walk.  I know it helps.”  ~ Heather Y

“”Have you taken a shower today?  Text me after you get out of the shower.”” ~ Roya D.  Self care, even something as seemingly simple as a shower, can be incredibly hard when you’re depressed.  Gentle encouragement from a trusted friend can go a long way.

“Make me food.  Offer to get me out of the house.  Gently ask if I’ve showered/eaten something/taken my medication/stepped outside.” ~ Idzie D

“My husband helps me by giving me alone time or encouraging me to go to yoga.  I often give up yoga when I’m overwhelmed, and it’s one of the things that helps me the most.  He also gently helps me get to bed, as sleep always helps.  He just kind of takes over and says, “Why don’t you get in bed and I”ll put the kids to bed.”  No judgement.” ~ Audrey B

One of the biggest reasons that I continue to write about this is that it has helped me SO MUCH to hear from others who get it.  Commiseration from someone who’s been there is a powerful thing, and I’m not alone in that belief:

“When I went through a four-year struggle with depression and anxiety, what helped me the most was 1) knowing other people had been there.  I loved it when people were willing to share their experiences. 2) Learning to seize the day.  That is, I had to learn to live life to the fullest.  I had to learn to do things I enjoy.” ~ Kandy C

“Personally, hearing someone say, “I’ve struggled with that too” has helped me the most. That hardly EVER comes from my spouse or family.  It has to come from someone outside my current situation like a close friend.”  ~ Mandi P

Depression is an incredibly isolating illness.  It’s about us, and no one else, so it’s important not to take it personally.  Here are just a couple of examples:

“Not take it personally and keep getting angry because I won’t say what exactly is wrong.  Most of the time I don’t even know what’s wrong, but everyone is so quick to think I’m upset with them” ~ Kelly J

“Don’t take it personally when I cancel plans to go out at the last minute”. ~ Jenica M

One of the things that helped me a lot when I first started talking about this was simple honesty.

“”I don’t even know what to say right now, I’m just glad you told me.”” ~ Jessika B

And finally, when all else fails, there is this:

“Saying that no matter what, you love me.” ~ Rebecca R

46 different people in different places, with different struggles, and different stories.  But one common plea that unites us all:

Just be there.

Hear us.

See us.

Love us.

xo

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Today, I’m Sad

It’s not quite raining, but the sky is dark and the air is heavy with the dampness that comes right before the clouds open up.  It’s not exactly morning anymore, but it’s not quite noon, which absolutely qualifies as far as I’m concerned.  Three of the four kids are sleeping, and the only sound I hear is the clicking of my laptop keys.  I’m drinking industrial strength coffee – one cup of regular coffee, three shots of espresso.  It just felt right today – and I’m eating a snickerdoodle fresh from the oven, made at the extraordinarily talented hands of my 12 year old.

And I’m completely, and profoundly, sad.

I am not watching the inauguration, and I am doing my best to stay away from Facebook, but it’s still out there.  It’s still real.  It’s still happening, whether I’m okay with it or not.

And I’m sad.

I’m sad for my fellow women, for our immigrants, for people of color, for people of the LGBTQ community, for people who are poor, for people who are differently abled.

I’m sad for the people who have legitimate concerns about the future of their healthcare and of their access to needed medications and procedures.

I’m sad for the people who worry about the future of the legality of their marriage.

I’m sad for the parents who will live in fear of their transgender child not being safe at school.

I’m sad because so many of my fellow Christians seem to have mistaken Mark 12:31 (look it up) to mean:  “Love your neighbor as long as he is a conservative Republican like you.”  Over this past election season, I have felt many, many things from Trump’s Christian supporters.  I have felt disdain, I have felt hate, I have felt mocking.  But love?  No, love’s not something I’ve felt.

I’m sad because I see gloating.  Not humble acceptance, but honest to God gloating, even while people mourn.

I’m sad because your cheers today seek to erase the very real experiences of the people who are genuinely afraid of what this presidency is going to mean for them.  People are legitimately afraid, and I can’t help but think if you understood that – if you really, truly let yourself understand it – that you wouldn’t be so quick to celebrate.

I’m sad because today you are celebrating a man who bragged about sexual assault… sexual assault that you so eagerly dismissed as “locker room talk.”

I’m sad because today you are celebrating a man who has spent the last several weeks feeling as though his time would be best spent not graciously accepting his win, or preparing for the very real job ahead, but behaving like a petulant toddler on Twitter.

I’m sad about the hypocrisy it takes to call people whiners and cry-babies for exercising their right to peacefully protest, in essence giving the finger to the very Constitution that you claim to so deeply want to uphold.

I’m sad because people keep wanting to tell me – and people like me – to sit down and shut up.  Don’t whine.  Don’t complain.  Don’t FEEL.

I’m sad because people keep wanting to tell me – and people like me – not to stand with those who are suffering.  Not to advocate for the rights of others.  Not to peacefully protest that which we do not believe to be right, and true, and good.

I’m sad because the very same people who mightily complained about, mocked, and disparaged President Obama for eight years are now telling us to “accept it.”  To be respectful.  To support our new president.

I’m sad because people are telling me to deny the sadness.  People are telling me to just think positively.  To just be kind, to just adjust my attitude, to just love.

Sure.

Yes.

But not today.  Not when so many are grieving.  Not when so many people have actual cause to grieve.

The earth will keep spinning, to be sure (although what that is going to look like for many Americans is very much up for debate), and tomorrow I’m going to get up, and I’m going to put two feet on the floor, and I’m going to go about the business of living my life.

But today?

Today, I’m sad.


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She Let Go

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She let go.

She let go. Without a thought or a word, she let go.

She let go of the fear.

She let go of the judgments.

She let go of the confluence of opinions swarming around her head.

She let go of the committee of indecision within her.

She let go of all the ‘right’ reasons.

Wholly and completely, without hesitation or worry, she just let go.

She didn’t ask anyone for advice.

She didn’t read a book on how to let go.

She didn’t search the scriptures.

She just let go.

She let go of all of the memories that held her back.

She let go of all of the anxiety that kept her from moving forward.

She let go of the planning and all of the calculations about how to do it just right.

She didn’t promise to let go.

She didn’t journal about it.

She didn’t write the projected date in her Day-Timer.

She made no public announcement and put no ad in the paper.

She didn’t check the weather report or read her daily horoscope.

She just let go.

She didn’t analyze whether she should let go.

She didn’t call her friends to discuss the matter.

She didn’t do a five-step Spiritual Mind Treatment.

She didn’t call the prayer line.

She didn’t utter one word.

She just let go.

No one was around when it happened.

There was no applause or congratulations.

No one thanked her or praised her.

No one noticed a thing.

Like a leaf falling from a tree, she just let go.

There was no effort.

There was no struggle.

It wasn’t good and it wasn’t bad.

It was what it was, and it is just that.

In the space of letting go, she let it all be.

A small smile came over her face.

A light breeze blew through her. And the sun and the moon shone forevermore…

~ Rev. Safire Rose

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2016 Top Ten

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In a perfect world this was supposed to have been posted last week… you know, when it was actually still 2016.  But it wasn’t, because I was trapped under something heavy and couldn’t get to my laptop was busy eating and watching movies and marathoning It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.

I feel like my limited vocabulary doesn’t contain the necessary words to describe 2016 in all of its… all of its… see, I don’t even know the word.  It’s been a painful year.  Not just for me, but for lots of people.  And sure, there has been progress and personal growth and all that touchy feely stuff that makes me so uncomfortable, but still.  IT’S BEEN A YEAR.

So I’m thrilled, and happy, and hopeful to put to 2016 behind me, and to move onto bigger and better things in 2017.  Before I do though, one last look at 2016, blog-wise.

Here are my top ten most read posts last year, from least to most amount of views.

10.  The One About The Boobies  – I’m happy that this one made the list, and I’m glad that Kaitlyn Juvik so openly protested when she was treated unfairly.  This is a conversation that needs to be happening.

9.  Yes, I’m Upset, and No, I Won’t Shut Up – I’m not super excited that Donald Trump is going to be sworn in soon (especially when he is still tweeting stuff like this), but this is reality. And at the moment, this is just what had to be said.

8.  When You Can’t Walk Into Their Room Without Tripping – Some kinder alternatives to the viral photo that was going around at the time, encouraging parents to bag up your children’s things and then make them pay you $25 a bag to get them back.

7.  My Summer To-Do List For My Kids (And Myself) – This was just an antidote to all the rigid, hyper-scheduled, micromanaged to-do lists I was starting to see crop up as kids headed into summer (which is supposed to be a break.)

6.  I Could Have Been The Disney Mom – Every time a family’s tragedy becomes public, my heart breaks for the parents… first because of what happened, and second because of the public lynching they inevitably receive. I try to remind myself that no one is immune, and we are ALL those parents.

5.  In a World Where Rapists Only Get Six Months – I wrote this over six months ago, and I still don’t even know what to say.

4.  My Dear Daughter, Your Value Doesn’t Change With What You’re Wearing – Misogyny is alive and well, and I’m going to call it out every time I see it.

3.  Humiliation Isn’t Funny – So, it’s something I talk about a lot on my blog, but it’s truly difficult not to, when SO MUCH of what we see, hear, and are bombarded with as parents is the message that kids need more punishment. That they need to be treated as lesser than.  That they are somehow less deserving of kindness.  Well, I believe that kids need more compassion, and more respect, and that is a hill I will stand on all day long.

2.  I’m Not The Meanest Mom – Something that I noticed several years ago – and am noticing again as I get to these top two posts – is that you guys always respond in a big way when I write rebuttals (except I don’t really like the word rebuttal.  Alternatives.  When I write about alternatives).  I always have mixed feelings about writing them, mainly because I have trouble with the negative attention, but I still think they need to be written.  So I’ll still continue writing them.  There is ALWAYS a kinder, gentler alternative

1.  5 Phrases To Use When Your Child Is Having A Hard Time – Always a kinder, gentler alternative.

Happy New Year my friends.  Thanks as always for reading my words, and sharing my words, and for being overall awesome.  I appreciate you all more than I can say.  xo

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I’m Loving My Kids And Calling It Kindness

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Every year at Christmas time, there’s a sudden rush to share articles warning us about “spoiling” our kids.

Don’t get them everything they’re asking for!

Don’t give into their whims!

Don’t SPOIL them!

This one particular piece (titled We’re Killing Our Kids and Calling It Love) that recently came through my news feed brought a dire and overwrought prediction of killing our children through our generosity.    We’re too concerned with our children being happy, she tells us.  So we’re spoiling them, and in turn we’re harming their character.  But wait, is it really so wrong to want to our children to be happy?

According to this author it is.

Isn’t that what we’re after? Happy children?

I hope not.

The measuring stick of successful parenting is definitely not happy children. Well-adjusted, responsible, kind, and selfless? Absolutely. Happy and spoiled? No way.

Later on, she says:

The truth is that giving them everything they want and ask for is the opposite of showing them love. It’s showing them that they’re the center of the universe, and it’s teaching them that the purpose of their lives is fulfillment of their material desires.

Here’s the thing.  The article is making two rather large and erroneous assumptions.  The first is that parents who are generous with their children believe that “things” will buy their child’s happiness, and the second is that spoiling occurs when children are given too much.

Neither of these are true.

To start, happy and spoiled are oxymorons.  A child who is genuinely happy cannot be spoiled, and a child who is genuinely spoiled cannot be happy.  True spoiling occurs not when a child is given too much, but when a child is given too little … No, not too little material things, but too little love, too little attention, and too little connection.  The problem isn’t “stuff”:  the problem is an unhealthy base relationship.  The problem is that the child is not being shown and modeled generosity, or kindness, or respect.  The problem is a lack of a human connection, or an emphasis of stuff in place of relationship.

Giving of ourselves, sharing abundance, and showing our children generosity is not synonymous with “spoiling”.  In fact, you know what happens when you show your kids kindness?  They become adults who are kind.  You know what happens when you show your kids generosity?  They become adults who are generous.

Giving of ourselves as parents is what we should be doing.  We’re hard-wired to selflessly give to those we love.  I see it as my job as a parent (and for that matter, as a conscientious human being) to give more.  Not less.

More generosity.  Not less.

More time.  More attention.  More kindness.

And yes, when we can, more of those material things that make their life more comfortable, or colorful, or enjoyable.   I do want to raise children that are happy.  I want to raise children that are “well-adjusted, responsible, kind, and selfless.”  Of course.  I also want to raise children that know how good it feels to give to the people we love.  I want to raise children that understand that when we give to others it creates more abundance, not less.  I want to raise children that understand that while yes, material things aren’t what make the world go round, that they don’t have to carry any sort of guilt for enjoying them.  (She says as she sips on her overpriced coffee and types away on her laptop on her high speed wifi)  We all have and appreciate certain material things, and to justify our own baubles but purposely deny our children – in an effort to teach some sort of lesson – is inconsistent, hypocritical, and counterproductive.

Giving to our children… truly giving, from the heart… does not spoil them.

Truly “spoiling” a child requires a relationship that is insincere, shallow, and detached.

A relationship in which a child is treated with kindness and generosity is very much the opposite.

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Feeling Their Joy And Their Pain

I was recently talking to a fellow mom friend about how, once you become a parent, everything you feel is heightened.  Seen and felt through your children’s eyes and hearts, excitement is greater, joy is more palpable, and pain is more acute.  When my kids are happy, the happiness I share with and for them is far greater than any happiness I can ever feel for myself.  When my kids are hurt, the hurt that I share with and for them is far greater than any affliction I could ever experience for myself.  It’s all deeper.  More primal.

As someone who’s already hard wired to feel the outer extreme of every emotion that passes through my heart, this isn’t necessarily a good thing.  I mean, is manic elation or total despair – even when it comes from a place of pure love – ever really a positive thing?  I’m working on it.  But for better or worse, it’s there.  Whatever my kids feel, I feel it too.  And I feel it hard.

These past several weeks have seen some ridiculously high highs and painfully low lows when it comes to the kids, and my capacity to feel both (just as acutely) at the same exact time always amazes me.

Tegan – who’s 8 at the time of this writing – has had a series of events over the past couple of months that have in her own words “made her life complete.”

I am so, so thankful and ecstatic that we’ve been able to make it all happen for her.

First, we took her to Fan Fest to meet her favorite actress of all time, Millie Bobby Brown.  (If you don’t know who this is, grab a cup of your favorite beverage, silence your cell phone, and go watch Stranger Things in its entirety.  Stat.)

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Then, the night before last, we took her to see Adele in concert, making good on a hypothetical promise I made her when she was probably three years old.  (“If she ever does a North American tour again, and comes to Phoenix, we’ll go.”)  We bought the tickets almost a year ago, her first concert was postponed due to illness, and as we finally sat in that stadium on Monday night I couldn’t believe that 1) we’d actually gotten tickets, and 2) we were really there.  Most surreal concert ever.

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And in between meeting celebrities and watching concerts, she was hard at work rehearsing the part of Alice in a local homeschool production of Alice and Wonderland (which wrapped this weekend, and went very well)

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It was an embarrassment of riches in a very short amount of time, and to see her face, and to feel her joy… it made my life feel complete as a parent too.  Pure and total happiness.

And at the same time all of this happiness was going on, one of my boys was experiencing one of the most painful transitions (if not the most painful transition) of his life.  My heart has hurt for him… the kind of hurt that keeps you up at night.  And there’s nothing I can do to fix it.  Nothing I can do to make it better.  All I can do is be there, and be a sounding board, and be a cheerleader, and be a mom who tries to absorb some of the hurt so that he doesn’t have to carry it alone.

Two diametrically opposed feelings, intersecting at that most tender and sensitive part of the heart… the part that I fear may break at the mere exposure of its existence.

I’ve written a lot about thinking too much (and indeed, I do that too), but it’s the overwrought feeling that’s going to be the death of me.  Feeling so deeply hurts.  But the opposite?  Not feeling at all?  The mere thought of a life devoid of emotion pains me even more.  I kind of feel like unbridled empathy is what I’m here for.  I need to learn to harness it, to be sure.  To learn to protect myself, even as I absorb the feelings of everyone else.

But in the meantime, I’ll be over here in my little ball of emotions, swimming in the primal joy and deep ache that threaten to swallow me whole.  Knowing that there’s a balance somewhere, just beyond my grasp, and that eventually, somehow, someday, I’ll learn to embrace it… without taking myself down in the process.

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Yes, I’m Upset, and No, I Won’t Shut Up

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I climbed my mountain yesterday (I don’t actually own a mountain, but I like to think of it as mine).  I climbed my mountain in an attempt to get climb away – or perhaps climb towards – the heavy shadow that’s been hanging over my mind and my heart since November 8th.  Like an itch I couldn’t reach, it sat there.  Heavy, suffocating, distracting, and if I’m being honest, as annoying as all hell.

I didn’t want to write about it, and really, what could I say that hadn’t already been far more eloquently said by better writers than myself?

Except…

Yesterday I was pissed off.  Pissed off because people keep wanting to tell me – and others like me – to shut up and sit down.

Oh you crybaby liberals.  Get over it already.  Quit your whining and complaining.  So your candidate lost.  Trump is the president now.  Show some respect, grow up, and move on. (*language cleaned up to keep this family friendly)

Well since I’m not going to shut up:  Let me start by saying I am NOT upset that my candidate lost.  To be honest, I didn’t feel like I really had a candidate.  I’m upset by what won, and there’s a big difference.

I’m upset by what this could mean for minorities, and women, and members of the LGBT community, and lower income families.

I’m upset because you elected a person who’s shown himself, time and time again, to spew hatred, and bigotry, and disregard for anyone who is not a straight, white, middle-class, Christian male.

I’m upset because you elected a person who bragged about sexual assault.

I’m upset because America just took a giant step backwards.

I’m upset because the very same people who are calling for unity, and working together, just voted for one of the most divisive leaders America has ever known.

And listen.  Emotions are high, and I get that.  Republicans are feeling defensive, and I get that too.  People feel that they are getting called racist and homophobic and misogynistic because of their vote.  For the record, I’ve never called a voter any of the above.  I don’t know you.  I don’t think you’re racist.  I don’t think you’re homophobic.  As someone who very acutely feels the frustration of being negatively piled into one ugly yet neatly labeled box, it’d be highly hypocritical of me.   You’re entitled to how you feel though.  We’re all entitled to how we feel.

But here’s the thing.  And I mean this with the highest amount of respect I can muster:  This is not about you.  It’s not about me either.  Rather, it’s about all of us.

Because Trump?  Trump IS all those things that his voters don’t want to be called.  And no, it’s not because that’s what the media told me to think.  And no, it’s not because I’ve been wooed by negative buzz words.  (Seriously, this is insulting.)  It’s because of actual words that have come out of his own mouth.  Say what you want about him, but the man has never been shy about showing us who he truly is.

I saw a meme the other day blasting people for being afraid.  What are you afraid of?, it asked.  What can he possibly do to you?

People are afraid because they’ve been the one in four women who’s been assaulted (and/or they’ve been every women who’s ever been catcalled, or sexually harassed, or intimidated, or spoken to in an unwanted sexual way – which is every woman)  They’re afraid because America has just decided that that behavior is something that can be excused.  That that behavior is not a deal-breaker.

People are afraid that they’ll no longer be able to get their needed medication, and needed medical care.

People are afraid that they’ll start to lose their rights.  People are afraid that they’ll see a rise in mistreatment, and slurs, and outright attacks because of the color of their skin, or because of who they love, or because of who they worship.

People are afraid because Trump’s voters are so busy defending themselves that they’re not standing up against everything that is wrong with his candidacy.  That they’re not standing up against his running mate, who’s a big proponent of the cruel and dangerous and damaging conversion therapy.  That they’re not standing up against his newly appointed chief policy advisor, Stephen Bannon, a known white supremacist.

People are afraid because bigotry won.

And this man that America has elected as president is now the example.  Let’s make fun of someone’s disability!  Let’s call Mexicans rapists!  Let’s brag about grabbing women by the p*ssy!  Hey kids, this is fun!

In Trump’s world, bigotry is the norm.

Do I think that otherwise good and decent citizens are suddenly going to become horrible people under his reign?  Of course not.  But I do think that there are absolutely people that are going to feel emboldened by his precedent.  I do think that there will be people who will now act on their previously private biases.  I do think that he has – inadvertently or not – made them feel as though they now have a license to do so.

He has told us it’s acceptable.  He has told us it’s okay.

And that’s what scares me.  That should scare you too.  That should scare all of us.

Because all the unity talk in the world isn’t going to change the fact that this man, this man who harbors such outward contempt for… well, for pretty much everyone… is now going to hold the highest elected office in the United States.

Yes, that scares me.  And no, I won’t be shushed into compliance.  Not this time.  Not about this.

Finally, to the people who are saying, “You should stick to writing about parenting,”:  I’m pretty sure I’ve already invoked my, “It’s my blog and I can write about what I want” once this year, so I’ll just say this:

This is VERY MUCH a parenting issue.  I want, more than anything else, for my kids to grow up in a world that is gentle and kind.  Where people are respectful and loving to one another… no matter who they are, no matter the color of their skin, no matter how much money they have, no matter who they love, no matter who they worship.

And absolutely, that starts with me.  That starts with us.  In my own home, within these four walls, their life will be peaceful.  It will be gentle.  It will be loving, and it will be kind.

But outside our own closed doors?  There’s a different reality.  There’s a reality in which the new President elect is making a mockery of all of the above.  The highest position in the country just went to someone who bragged about sexually assaulting women, and is vehemently defended by people who want to point fingers at the crybaby liberals who Just. Won’t. Let. It. Go.

I’ve dated the teenage version of Donald Trump, and the idea that he now runs the country is … unreal.  I keep trying to wrap my head around it, keep trying to make sense of it, but there is no sense to be made.  This is reality.  A reality I never imagined would come to fruition, but reality nonetheless.

I will get over it of course, in my own time, and my own way.  But for the time being:

Yes, it does scare me.  It does anger me.  More than anything though, right now, at this moment, it mostly makes me profoundly sad.

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Why Trump’s Comments Are So Much More Than “Locker Room Banter”

Photo Credit: Matt A.J. via Flickr

Photo Credit: Matt A.J. via Flickr

A few quick, but important, disclaimers:

  • This is a post about Donald Trump – and about rape culture.  This isn’t a post about Hillary Clinton, or Bill Clinton, or any other Democrat (or any other Republican for that matter). This is about the actions of one individual.  When you lead your rebuttal with, “But Hillary…” or “What about Bill…” all it does is make me think you can’t articulate your own feelings about Trump well enough to discuss them without deflecting onto something/someone else.  This isn’t about Hillary Clinton.  That’s another discussion.
  • I hate talking about anything remotely political.  Hate it.  It makes my stomach hurt and my heart race and my mouth go dry.  I know that some people love a good political debate.  I do not.  So for me to write about something that can be deemed political, especially on my blog, it means I find it really, really important.  Important enough to ignore the impending urge to vomit.
  • I’m not sure what I’m doing in the upcoming election.  I may vote third party.  That shouldn’t matter, since this is a post about one candidate only (see point number one), but it gets really boring and redundant to answer to immediate assumptions that if you have a negative word to say about Donald Trump, you must be voting for/endorsing Hillary Clinton.  I am a registered Democrat.  I’m also a woman, and a mother, and thinker, and a person who can make informed, intelligent decisions all by herself.  Boxing people into narrow little definitions never helps anyone.
  • If you’re tempted to comment in the vein of, “He’s still better than Hillary,” please read point number one again.

In case you missed it, some audio from 2005 was recently released in which Donald Trump can be heard saying things like:

“I moved on her, and I failed. I’ll admit it…  I did try and f— her. She was married.”

“I’ve got to use some Tic Tacs, just in case I start kissing her.  You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful — I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait.”

“And when you’re a star, they let you do it.  You can do anything…  Grab them by the p—y…. You can do anything.”

Now to be fair, Trump says a lot of crass, juvenile, and/or vulgar things.  It’s sort of his modus operandi.  We all – including his supporters – know to expect this from him by now.  Insensitive, unfiltered comments are Trump’s calling card.

But that’s not what this is.

What Trump is describing (and indeed bragging about) is sexual assault.

Kissing/touching/grabbing a woman without her consent is sexual assault.

Using your power as an excuse to “do anything” to a woman is sexual assault.

This is not a conversation about some silly inconsequential words uttered by an arrogant egomaniac.  This is about a man who wants to be the leader of your country. This is about a man who is not only admitting to but boasting about sexual assault.

This is about a culture that supports Donald Trump, and others like him.  People who want to blame the victim.. for drinking too much, or dressing too provocatively, or being in the wrong place at the wrong time.  People who let rapists like Brock Turner walk away with a slap on the wrist.  People who excuse sexual aggression by saying “boys will be boys”, or excuse sexually aggressive language by calling it “locker room talk.”

This isn’t locker room talk.  Most men don’t talk about sexually assaulting women.  Most men don’t talk about grabbing women’s genitals.

This isn’t “boys being boys.”  To reduce it to such is like giving a big “F–k you” to the 1 in 5 women who have or will have experienced sexual assault in their lifetime.  Excusing Trump for what he said and did is the same thing as telling these women that their stories don’t matter;  It’s the same thing as telling these women that THEY don’t matter.

Excusing, defending, or dismissing Trump’s words (because they were a decade ago, because he’s human, because he’s “sorry”) explicitly tells the world that you think it’s okay.  It’s okay to reduce women to sexual objects that are there for the taking.  It’s okay to joke and brag about touching them sexually without their consent.  It’s okay to vote someone who endorses assault into the most powerful position in the United States, just because you happen to agree with his policies.

None of this is okay. 

And it’s not about political parties, and it’s not about us vs them, and it’s not about “the lesser of two evils.”  It’s about right and wrong, plain and simple.

I see memes like this, and I feel sick to my stomach  (*Note:  The first couple of memes reference Hillary Clinton, because that’s the sort of thing that people like to post.  Per my own rules, I’m ignoring the parts about Clinton*):

trumphassaid

What Trump has said is that it’s okay to sexually assault women.  That’s bothersome.  You should find that bothersome.  We should ALL find that bothersome.

Or this one:

trumphillary

He has said mean things, to be sure.  Mocking a disabled reporter was mean.  Mocking a woman – or all women – for menstruating was mean.  Mocking Miss Universe for gaining weight was mean.  Mocking people is a very big thing for Trump.  But endorsing sexual assault is not “mean.”  It’s in a whole different category than mean.  And reducing what a woman who’s been sexually assaulted feels when she hears his words to “hurt feelings” is minimizing and disgusting.

People who are bothered by Trump’s actions are not delicate little flowers who walk around with their fragile feelings hurt all the time.  They’re people who care about how others are treated.  They’re people who care that women, minorities, LGBTQ, children, disabled individuals all receive the same amount of care and respect and compassion as everyone else.  They’re people who care about not perpetuating misogyny and hate.  They’re people who care that this man – this person who wants to be the leader of our country – has so little regard for his fellow humans.

And finally:

trump50shades2

I saved this one for last because it is the most ridiculous of the three.  I hardly want to dignify it with a response, but I have to.  If it wasn’t dealing with such a serious issue, this meme would be laughable.  Now I obviously can’t speak for any other women but myself, but I’m not the least bit “outraged at Donald Trump’s naughty words.”  Naughty words (and what are we, 8 years old?) don’t bother me.  Sexual assault bothers me.

Stop reducing me to a fragile little simpleton who wilts at the sight of a crass word.

As for 50 Shades:  I’ve read it, or part of it anyway.  I couldn’t really read the whole thing… not because I was offended by the “naughty words”, but because I was offended by the terrible writing.  I have very limited knowledge (and no personal experience) with BDSM, but I do know that it’s consensual.  And it should go without saying – except I’m having to say it – that these are fictional characters in a book.  It is make-believe.  Pretend.  Not real.  They are characters.  AND THEY’RE NOT RUNNING FOR PRESIDENT!  The comparison is illogical and gross.

This is a real issue, about a real person.  These are real women that Trump is talking about. If it was your daughter he was talking about, or your sister, or your mother, or your best friend…. if it was someone you loved… would you still be okay with it?

Would you be okay with someone saying they were just going to go ahead and “grab {your loved one}’s p—-y?”  Because these women he is talking about are someone’s loved ones.  They are someone’s daughters and sisters and mothers and best friends.  (**Editing after the fact to add, after it has been correctly pointed out to me by a few of my readers:  Even if the person is NOT your daughter, sister, mother, etc, she’s still a PERSON.  A woman’s life is valuable and important, no matter who she is.  Full stop.  Thank you for speaking up, and helping me write with better clarity**)

They are all of us, and they deserve better.

Our men deserve better too.  Every time you reduce Trump’s words to harmless locker room banter, you condemn all men to the lowest common denominator.  Not all men brag about sexual assault.  Not all men view women as objects rather than humans. Not all men hear Trump’s words and think they are normal, or okay, or in any way acceptable.  And honestly?  If the guys you’re hanging around do think what he said was okay, might I suggest you find some better friends, friends who actually respect women.

We can be better than this.  We have to be better than this.

I have three teenage boys, and one young daughter, and I want them to grow up to see a world that is kind, and gentle, and true.  A world where people are standing up for what is right, instead of rallying behind a man who represents everything that is wrong.


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Quiet

Partying it up on New Years Eve.

My life is noisy.

Inside my own head is noisy.  With four kids and one husband and two dogs, my house is noisy.  A brief note to my neighbors:  Yes, sorry.  I have a barker.  Django is a barker.  I feel it’s important to note however that I do call him in when he barks, and that he is most definitely NOT the dog that is allowed to bark for hours in the middle of the night.  That’s the house behind us, and I am just as highly frustrated by it as you are.

Even when people are happily doing their own thing, there’s one person talking to a friend on Skype.  Another talking to himself.  Another watching TV.  Another playing a video game.  There’s the click click click of computer keys.  There’s singing.  There’s music.  There’s laughing.  There’s general merriment.

There are people across the street whose car alarm is constantly going off.

And have I mentioned we have a barker?

This past month has been insanely busy for us with these final conference preparations, and the 12 year old’s football starting, and the 8 year old’s theater starting, and dentist appointments, and car appointments, and my own personal… stuff… and all of the comings and goings from all of the above.

I have not been sleeping much – because that’s how my body tends to deal with stress – and when you’re not sleeping, noises are so very magnified.  You know how people talk about the horrifying sound of nails on a chalkboard?  When I’m not sleeping, everything sounds like nails on a chalkboard.  Except, if I’m being honest, I can think of much more objectionable sounds than nails on a chalkboard.  Like someone flossing their teeth.  Or eating a banana.

This is my life right now.  A million people flossing all their teeth and eating all the bananas.  Right in front of me.

And please don’t misunderstand.  A lot of the above are happy noises, and I’m grateful for them.  It’s just… I’m tired.  And when I’m tired, the noises make me more tired.

But right now, in this very moment, it is quiet.  I am alone in the living room.  Three of the four kids are sleeping, and the other is quietly watching something with headphones on his computer.  The dogs are sleeping.  There is no barking.  No car alarms.  No TVs.  No music.  There’s just… silence.  Silence so acute that I can hear my own breathing.

And I’m sitting here and I’m thinking, Has it really been this long since I’ve had a silent moment?  or Have I just been too busy and stressed out to take notice of them?  My heart tells me that it’s the latter, and I struggle against the feeling that I’ve somehow failed, again.

But I know I didn’t fail.  I’m just learning.  And for whatever reason, this lesson of being still in the moment is one I need to learn over and over.  And over and over and over until I really get it.

My brain wants to go to the next thing, to get ready to deal with the next noise.  The dog will start barking.  My phone will chirp at me.  UPS will show up at the door.  One of the kids will need me.  I fight with myself to stop anticipating everything that will come next, and instead appreciate the here and now… as I simultaneously realize that fighting is exactly the wrong thing to do, and that it’s a matter of leaning in, and surrendering, and allowing myself if even for a moment to just BE.

Right now, it’s quiet.

And I will breathe.


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Pokemon Go: Saving The World One Charmander At A Time

pokemonatpark

I was coming home from downtown yesterday, and I was ahead of schedule.  The kids weren’t expecting me for another 20 minutes, and I knew they were all involved in their own projects and wouldn’t miss me regardless.  So it was an easy decision to swing into the park (I had to pass it to get to my street anyway).  I was running low on Poke balls, and this particular park has five different Poke Stops.  A quick little 10 minute loop and I’d hit them all.

I hadn’t even parked my car yet when I saw them:  Pairs and groups and people on their own, walking around, chatting, staring at their phones, and occasionally stopping to flick their fingers to capture whatever imaginary Pokemon they’d stumbled upon.  All of this in the 110 degree heat mind you.  The first guy I passed – a man I’m guessing to be in his 50’s – gave me a friendly greeting.  “Out hunting?”  he asked me.  When I answered in the affirmative, he said,  “Can you believe there wasn’t anything on the top of the mountain?   I thought for sure there’d be something good up there.”  We chatted for a couple more minutes until his daughter, a teenager, yelled at him to come join her where she was standing, several yards away.  “Oh what’d you find?” he asked as he trotted over.  “A Poke Stop!”

I visited all the Poke stops, gathered some balls, and captured some more Pokemon.  As I walked to my car, I heard the spirited conversations behind me.

Stranger #1 – “Oh I just got a Zubat!”

Stranger #2 – “Hey I hatched one of those.”

Stranger #3 – “My son and I just found one in the Walgreens on the corner!”

And on and on the discussions swirled… happy, friendly, upbeat dialogue between total strangers of all ages, united in playing a simple and free game on their smart phones.

In case you somehow missed all the hoopla over the past week or so, here’s a quick little Pokemon Go primer:

It’s sort of like geocaching, but instead of looking for physical caches, you hunt virtual Pokemon.  It uses something similar to Google maps to plot your location, but when you spot a Pokemon, it switches to camera view, so you literally see the Pokemon on the sidewalk, in the trees, on your friend’s head, on your counter, on the edge of the bathtub.

pokemonbath

When you find one, you use your finger to flick a Poke ball at them to capture them.  You can stop at Poke Stops (at malls, stores, churches, parks, etc) to gather items like more balls.  There are also eggs that you can hatch by walking a certain distance, and Poke Gyms where you can battle with other Pokemons … but I haven’t gotten into all of that yet.  My 12 year is a little bit ahead of the curve, so he’s giving me pointers as we go.

It’s just a really fun, addicting, happy little game.  But that’s not why like it.  Or it’s not the only reason anyway.  This game, as silly as it may seem to some people, is getting kids and parents and teens and strangers uniting in a way that I haven’t seen in a long time.  It is helping people with social anxieties come out of their shells.  It is lifting the spirits of people with depression.  It is providing a conduit for a new way for parents to bond with their kids, and siblings to bond with each other.  It’s getting people out and exercising, running around their parks, and their neighborhoods and their city streets.  It’s getting people excited about something.

It’s not for everyone, and that’s cool.  Truly.  We don’t all enjoy the same things.  But in this internet day and age of the “I must find something negative to say about everything” crowd,  I’m seeing a large number of naysayers.  And why?  Because it makes people happy in a way you don’t understand or approve of?  With all that’s going on in the world around us, is a little bit of happiness such a terrible thing?

Anything that’s good harmless fun that gives people joy, that gives them a connection with others – heck, that gives them a connection with themselves – is always going to have my vote

pokemononmike

So do I really think a game is going to save the world?  Well, no, not exactly.  But I do believe that people can change the world.  And who better equipped for the job than the people who are happy, passionate, and engaged… no matter what it happens to be that makes them that way.


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