The Most Important Work You Will Ever Do

The Most Important Work You Will Ever Do

The Most Important Work You Will Ever Do

I think the root of all of the worlds problems are pretty obvious. Sure, it’s layered and multi-faceted, but there’s always a root problem that enables another problem layered on top of that which enables another problem layered on top of that.

Our root problem is that we believe in the illusion that there is a lack of love (fear), and we then act from that belief.

The mechanism which enables that belief is patriarchy.

Patriarchy is the suppression of the divine feminine essence within each of us (and as a consequence, the feminine bodies around us).

The feminine is our emotions, our empathy, our intuition, and our connection to the divine. Without the feminine, we would not be able to know, feel, or recognize that we are all connected, and that we are all one with the greater force of the universe which is Love.

We have created a culture where the feminine essence is shunned and suppressed, especially within men. When the connection to the feminine essence is severed, it creates a deep core wound. And then those men (and many times women as well), cut off from their connection with universal Love and operating from that core wound, perpetrate acts of violence and oppression, whether overt and obvious or subtle and insidious, as a means to control and dominate others (toxic masculinity).

When we talk about the rise of the divine feminine, we aren’t talking about female bodies. We’re talking about the feminine essence in all of us – a reconnection to our emotions, our empathy, our intuition, and our divine selves.

Only with this counterbalance can the masculine essence be recalibrated to its true purpose, which is to protect the vulnerable, not control them, dismiss them, or otherwise disempower them.

Each of us can only reconnect with our feminine essence if and when we participate in the work of examining our shadow (our ego) and unlearn all of the negative cultural and ancestral programming that we have operated from, participated in, and enabled in our society at large and HEAL the core wound, which we would experience on a personal level as an ego death. The process of an ego death is what we call a dark night of the soul.

We have to look at how this plays out on an individual level as well as within group collectives (because one enables the other, thus creating a mirror effect).

“The best political, social, and spiritual work we can do is to withdraw the projection of our own shadow onto others.” – Carl Jung

Shadow work is THE work.

Do Not Look Away

Do Not Look Away

Do Not Look Away

This post is going to make a lot of people uncomfortable. Truth be told, it’s meant to make you feel uncomfortable. As spiritual people on a healing journey, learning to recognize our discomfort and sit with it, examine it, find the root of it, and heal it is what we call “the work” of examining our shadow.

Shadow work was never meant to be easy. It was never meant to be comfortable. It is messy and painful and sometimes, downright ugly.

Any strong emotional reaction you have to what I’m about to say is indicative of something unhealed within you that needs to be addressed, and it’s calling you to look at it, sit with it, and to not look away until you’ve come face-to-face with it in the mirror of your reality.

I ran a little social experiment in a Facebook group years ago that literally proved that it was almost impossible for the majority of people to do this. I posted this blog post in the group and asked people to do the exercise contained therein, and to comment not with their opinion about the article, but with what types of emotions were arising within them as they read it.

Nearly every single commenter failed. They immediately launched into their defense mechanisms, commenting with their beliefs and opinions about the article rather than paying attention to what was happening within them, emotionally. Even with further instruction and guidance, many of them continued to react from their subconscious programming.

So here I am, six years later, writing yet another post which is going to challenge you to sit through your discomfort and refrain from reacting out of your own wounds. Can you do it without looking away?  Let’s find out.

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BLACK. LIVES. MATTER.

Do not look away. What are you feeling in your body right now?

Did your pulse quicken? Your heart start beating heavier? Your chest get tight? Brow furrow, perhaps? That almost uncontrollable urge to instantly react and tell me that all lives matter? Or perhaps your reaction is to shut down, stop reading, and immediately click away to avoid having to sit with those very physical feelings?

Do not look away.

If your coping mechanism is avoidance, the urge to run from these feelings is probably going to win out. You’ve most likely already stopped reading.

Do not look away.

The other possible outcome is that you’re already formulating all the arguments in your head to contradict the concept that Black Lives Matter, all of the reasons that justify what you are feeling right now and makes it righteous. This is another type of coping mechanism at work.

DO NOT LOOK AWAY.

Your instant emotional reaction and physiological response to Black Lives Matter is what we call feeling “triggered.” A person becomes triggered when a similar, yet unconnected environmental stimulus causes them to subconsciously recall unresolved emotional wounds from past experiences.

Still here? Still reading? Still able to sit with all of those uncomfortable feelings? Ready to explore them? Good. Let’s dig in.

Every time I write Black Lives Matter, I am intentionally triggering you. But how and why?

More than likely, you believe that acknowledging that black lives matter means that you don’t matter. That somehow, by acknowledging the pain of people of color, that your pain is being ignored. Your own unhealed wound is screaming so loud for acknowledgment and love that you can’t hear, see, or feel the collective pain of an entire group of oppressed people. And so you dismiss their pain or demand that they also acknowledge your wound. You may have wrapped this up in some kind of political rhetoric as a way to justify your feelings, but underneath that justification is your own core wound. Acknowledging that black lives matter somehow, for some reason, makes you feel less than.

In the spiritual community especially, this justification has become wrapped in the flowery language of peace, love, and light… which leads me to–you guessed it–SPIRITUAL BYPASSING.

Spiritual Bypassing: Spiritual Bypassing is a term coined by psychologist Robert Masters to describe the practice of empty spirituality devoid of real personal development. In spiritual bypassing, a person uses over-simplified spirituality to avoid actually doing the internal work to develop real spiritual understanding, often resulting in stunted spiritual growth, repressed emotions, inflated ideas about their own level of enlightenment, and a plethora of other detrimental activities and ideas.

This sort of empty spirituality doesn’t facilitate conscious expansion or enlightenment, but rather feeds one’s own ego and keeps its proponents trapped in the lowest levels of conscious awareness.

Here’s a clear example of using spirituality to bypass:

You cannot heal yourself without sitting with your own discomfort. When you haven’t healed yourself, your gaping wound can block your ability to empathize  with the plight of others, and that aspect of your shadow is reflected back to you in the world around you. In the case of Black Lives Matter, the anger that people feel around black people asking for the acknowledgement of the generational trauma inflicted on them by a biased system stems from feelings of resentment that your own pain hasn’t been acknowledged (and therefore, why the hell should anyone else’s be?).

Acknowledging the collective pain of black people doesn’t invalidate your own pain. That’s you invalidating yourself. That internal invalidation has informed your beliefs about yourself and the world around you. It’s the foundation of how you see the world. It’s informed your politics. It’s informed your actions, which include willfully ignorant blindness to the systemic oppression of people who don’t look like you.

And that, my friend, is how you create your own reality, and how that reality gets reflected back to you–until you heal.

That’s a hard pill to swallow. It doesn’t make you a bad person, it makes you a wounded person, blinded by your own pain. You can forgive yourself. You can recognize your wound. You can begin your own healing process, and in that process, you can contribute to healing the world–including the generational trauma of millions of African Americans.

Xo, 

 

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I Challenge You

I Challenge You

I Challenge You

The content you read and share on social media at this time will frame your understanding of what’s happening in the world around you, and every single thing can be framed in a fearful way, or in a non-fearful way.

I challenge you, before you click “share” on anything, to ask yourself these questions:

How does reading this headline make me feel?

How does the content of this article make me feel?

What emotion is driving me to want to share this?

What am I feeling in my heart when I read this?

What am I feeling in my stomach when I read this?

If the answer to any of those questions is fear, anxiety, panic, worry, concern, anger, outrage, or some other negative emotion that is rooted in fear, I challenge you to pause and re-think sharing that information.

I would bet that, if a headline incites any of those emotions from you, that’s exactly what it was meant to do, because the person who wrote it knew that you would be more likely to share it.

There are two sides to every story, even the stories playing out right now. People can and do latch onto the most fearful aspects of that story in order to push their own beliefs and agendas–whether or not it’s well meaning!

Some people want to sound an alarm because they are worried that something bad will happen, so they write an article, or record a YouTube video, and tell you all of the bad things that COULD happen because of X,Y, Z. And then people who read that article become worried that very thing could happen, and they share that article or video. The operative word there is “could.” Because it has not happened, and in many instances, there are measures being taken to ensure that it doesn’t, which were conveniently left out of the video or the post, because the purpose of the post wasn’t to actually inform you in a balanced, rational way, it was meant to incite you to action out of fear for the future, and presenting solutions does not help that cause.

We all have a choice in what kind of energy we lend to the situation at hand, and I challenge you to examine yours each and every time you make a Facebook post.

Look back at the things you’ve shared so far and ask yourself the same questions. Then look to see if there is a common theme in the answers. This will give you a very good idea of what type of energy you are living in and operating from right now.

I’ve written before about how the media uses your emotional triggers to further political agendas. This is exactly how people are being manipulated right now. And no, I’m not necessarily or only talking about the media making coronavirus sound scarier than it is, I’m also talking about wide-spread conspiracy theories that are telling you that we’re going to end up in a totalitarian society after this. This is also a fear-based message, it’s just on the other side of the coin. Fear is fear, no matter what color dress you choose to put on it. And reacting from fear is a choice.

This pandemic is real. This pandemic should be taken seriously and not dismissed. But instead of bickering about what we are afraid will happen next, we should see this as an opportunity to evaluate all of the broken systems that have been unveiled through it. We should also be working together and asking ourselves what we can do to help one another while we strive to weather this storm. Spreading fear–however well-intended–is not helpful when it’s all we are surrounded with.

I challenge you to be a light of hope in a time of uncertainty instead of a harbinger of doom.

I Quit

I Quit

I Quit

I had 17 people follow me in a single day on Instagram earlier this week. Of the 17, nearly every one of them was some type of intuitive personal development coach or mentor.

Within three days, most of them will disappear, because that’s what people do on Instagram to try to gain followers.

When I see people behaving this way, I question their motives for doing what they do.

I wrote in a post on Instagram not long ago that I take serious issue with the commercialization of spirituality. Once the desire for success overtakes the desire for service to the greater good, you cross the border into service of your own ego, and the work loses its integrity.

Spiritual work is sacred work. People are trusting you with their deepest level of vulnerability. You have a responsibility to honor that within your interactions. You have a responsibility to model integrity, not just in how you do business, but in how you live your entire fucking life.

It’s easy to tell people the fundamentals of how to create change in their lives. It’s a wholly other thing to show them in the way we carry ourselves day-to-day. It calls us to elevate ourselves, our actions, and the entirety of our lives to a higher level of integrity. To live fully within our purpose in every moment and be a beacon of hope for the masses.

This is the highest calling, the greatest purpose – to BE that which you present yourself as.

The longer I’ve been on social media, Instagram in particular, the more disillusioned I’ve become with people who claim to be something they aren’t, the people who follow them, and the people who help create them.

“Anyone can become a coach! I’ll teach you how. Just take my online course for $5,000.”

They throw out words that they don’t understand the meaning of, like intuition, spirit and purpose, teaching others to teach others when they haven’t done the work, and neither have the people they’re “coaching.”

The fact is, you can only teach others from the same depth at which you’ve done your own work and the thing you start to learn the more you work is that the work is never finished.

One of the people who started following me was a 22-year-old “intuitive transformation coach.”

“It’s taken me 22 years to find myself!” she glowed in one of her perfectly curated Instagram photos, ending with a call to action to join her training program.

I’m almost 36 and I still haven’t found myself and honestly don’t expect I will until I’m at least 50, if truly “finding yourself” is something that’s even possible in the grand scheme of being an ever-evolving, multi-dimensional being. The one thing I do know for damn sure is that 22 is the age where you barely fucking know who you are and, more than likely, are the epitome of lost in your own self-loathing, completely unaware of yourself, your true values, or your true identity. 

Sure. Anyone can present the illusion of being a “coach.” Even someone who was a teenage adolescent as little as three years ago.

You can teach people. You can coach them, even, without completely “knowing” yourself. The key is to be transparent as fuck about the fact that you don’t know and that you, too, are a student of life. But that goes against the principles of a good sale, doesn’t it?

Business coaches will tell you that you need to present yourself as an authority. Talk about what you KNOW, not what you don’t know. Admitting that you’re not the best and ultimately, you’re just here feeling it out like everyone else doesn’t make you stand out from the crowd and it certainly doesn’t make needy people want to buy your product.

The thing is, especially in the realm of personal development and spirituality, “best” doesn’t exist. There is no spiritual authority. That is both the beauty and the madness of it.

I see these people – people who feel energetically out of alignment, some of which I know empirically and factually to be living a lifestyle that is out of alignment with the spiritual values they preach on a daily basis – presenting it on social media to thousands of people, and in some cases, hundreds of thousands of people, as though it’s some kind of evolved thing they should all aspire to, and it is utterly appalling. They even preach authenticity while simultaneously having no real understanding what that even is.

I unfollowed the maker of my favorite oracle deck because I discovered she was following one such person. My immediate thought was, “How do you, as so-called intuitive, not see this person for what they are?” I’m sure it’s only because there’s a blue checkmark next to their name, but that now brings her spiritual integrity into question. How can I, in good conscience, support the work of a person who either A) claims to be intuitive and supports someone who is energetically disgusting, or B) support the work of a person who will follow and engage with people who are energetically disgusting simply because they can gain more exposure for themselves?

The answer is that I can’t, in either instance. It makes me want to throw up, and I don’t mean metaphorically. I mean the energy behind it is an actual assault on my solar plexus – it tightens and constricts and I feel repulsed.

Maybe it’s because I’ve spent 16 years immersed in marketing, branding and advertising and I can smell a sales pitch from 100 yards away. Maybe it’s that my intuition really is that on point. In the one instance where one of these kinds of people offered me exposure on their platform, I refused because I didn’t want to be associated with that kind of energetic garbage.

If this is what mainstream spirituality has become, if this is where we are…turning our healing process into a business model and using sacred terminology to make sales pitches, I can’t be a part of it anymore. I. WON’T. DO. IT.

My platform is authenticity and it’s been built on a foundation of integrity. And I can’t, with good conscience, continue to align myself with this parade of false idols.

And so, it’s with that, I bow out. The day I thought would never come has arrived. This the end of In My Sacred Space.

Maybe it’s time. Maybe it’s been long overdue. I did discover  over the weekend that on the last day of Mercury Retrograde, my entire website had mysteriously been deleted from my hosting server. It was recovered, obviously, but it seemed like that was the final and ultimate sign from the Universe that my time here has gotten stale, and to move on.

I suppose my first sign should have been when a semi-well-known bra company that, if you’re female, you’ve no doubt seen heavily advertised on Instagram and Facebook reached out to me to be a part of their influencer program. What did they think I was going to do? Post pictures of my tits in their bras and talk about self love like everyone else on Instagram? My body is not your billboard, and my words are not for sale. Seriously. Fuck off.

I didn’t respond to any of the multiple emails they sent me. I happen to own three of their bras already and frankly, they’re no better than any other bra I’ve ever owned. Here’s your glowing endorsement: mediocre at best.

For some of you this may admission may seem sudden, but it’s been building for well over a year. Probably since I first set foot into ABC Carpet and Home and discovered their culturally appropriated home decor collaboration with Deepak Chopra. It was very beautiful, very over-priced…and it made me uncomfortable as all hell. But I guess if that $1,000 iridescent-glazed statue of Ganesha makes one rich white person feel a little more enlightened and a tad closer to God, so be it.

No space is sacred anymore, not even your living room. Capitalism has recognized an opportunity to merge with “spirituality” and the money machine is in full effect, permeating every aspect of your life.

I feel like I’m in the Wizard of Oz, screaming at everyone to look at the man behind the curtain, and their attention remains transfixed on the glittery image being projected in front of them.

I’m sure I’m not completely done with spirituality. It’s probably more so a time for me to evolve into something else, and this form of it has simply come to an end. My takeaway from the whole of this experience, all of my years in marketing and advertising and all of my experience with “influencing” and “coaching” is that the U wants me to learn from it, to see it, and to do it differently. This is Uranus in Taurus energy, for all you astro nerds out there.

I have no idea what it is or what it looks like. I just know that there has to be a way to make a living for yourself while successfully helping other people, without selling yourself out, without compromising your integrity, without creating a fraudulent public image or using your body as ad space, and without servicing your own ego and that of others before the greater good. If you want the game to end, you have to stop playing.

But before I go, in my last parting words to all of you, I challenge you to do one thing and one thing only: give very careful scrutiny to those “spiritual” people you put your faith in. The ones with their professional photos who look like they’re “living their best life” on Instagram and Facebook, who talk about their dark times in vague generalities in a formulaic caption that always ends with something to sell you (or “Tag a friend and share with someone who needs to see this!”). The ones who say, “Look at me. Look at what I’ve done. Look at how much I’ve achieved. I can help you do the same…” for a price.

If the main message of their narrative is to learn from their success and not from their struggle, they’re not authentic. If the main message of their narrative is learn from their “struggle,” but they never present that struggle in true, vulnerable terms, they’re not authentic.

Look at them as a whole and ask yourself, “What is the overall feeling that this person leaves me with?” If the answer is a feeling of need, of lack, of envy, if you feel less successful by comparison, or pressure to be like them – they’re out of alignment with you.

Someone who is IN alignment with you will leave you feeling hopeful. Seen. Heard. Understood. You will identify with them. They will make you feel like you can do what they’ve done, not because they’re successful and they can teach you how, but because you identify with their struggle and it is evident in their words, actions, and demeanor that they do, in fact, continuously conquer it with grace and humility.

They’re covered in scars, not glitter. Those scars have given them the gift of depth. Of presence. Of Truth that radiates from the core of their being. It is felt. They don’t have to speak it.

That being said, I think this is my last post for a while. Maybe ever, or at least, under In My Sacred Space. I invite you to share it, far and wide, and not so that more people will follow me or so that I can get more potential customers, because I’m obviously not selling anything at this point. Share it because people need to wake the fuck up to who they’re looking up to and see beyond the illusion.

I plan to leave the site up, as there’s still a great deal of helpful content and many people who are still discovering it.

I don’t know where I go from here, but I’m sure there’s something waiting around the corner. It was fun while it lasted. I grew a hell of a lot. So much so, I’m not who I was when I started. I guess that means I get to start over, somewhere else, as someone new.

Maybe I’ll meet you there one day.

A Year Without Sex

A Year Without Sex

A Year Without Sex

You don’t realize how much energy we, as human beings, put into sex – thinking about having it, thinking about how to get it, the actual pursuit of it, and then the glorious seven minutes of actually experiencing it – until you’re not chasing it anymore.

I stopped chasing it one year ago this week.

*Cue Record Scratch* Wait – But Why?

I didn’t consciously tell myself, “I’m not going to have sex for a year.” It was more so that after my divorce and subsequent reintroduction to human mating rituals after seven years of being in a long term relationship, I was confronted with the stark reality of what it was like to be back in the dating pool.

I was initially excited about the prospect of being able to date again, but when older, wiser, and with a much healthier perspective on myself and where I was in life. Then I realized that while I had grown tremendously, both emotionally and spiritually since the last time I dated, the vast majority of single people on planet earth were, unfortunately, mostly the same unconscious neanderthals they were when I was 26.

I wanted a real man. A conscious man. One that wasn’t afraid of depth, but more importantly, one that wasn’t afraid of me, my scars, my mess, or my insatiable desire to know and express myself as authentically as possible.

I realized I had no inclination to engage in sex without the kind of deep emotional intimacy that I knew was possible, and deep emotional intimacy is not something readily available on the market.

New York City is a lot of things, but a place where people take the time to connect with one another, it is not. It isn’t just that, though – I’m a high-functioning intellectual individual. Intellectually stimulating conversation is easy to come by here. Everybody thinks they’re a sapiosexual. But I also have an extremely high emotional intelligence, and that is not something many people on the planet have, much less a steely place like New York City. The type of emotional and spiritual depth I require to feel satisfied is a rarity to find anywhere.

I stopped having sex because I became disillusioned with the inevitable disappointment of being starved for the kind of connection I needed by men who were too afraid to be vulnerable.

I decided that the Universe would find a way to bring me into the path of the right person, and I didn’t have to deal with an onslaught of frivolous Bumble and Tinder chats to find them. I wanted to be truly seen. I wanted to be felt. I wanted the deepest parts of myself to be known – but how can I show that to someone if I don’t even know it, myself?

I stopped going to bars. I stopped spending hours on dating apps. I stopped settling for surface level bullshit. I stopped seeking something from outside myself to fill a void within me. I quit. And instead, I took all of the energy I would have normally spent in the pursuit of sex and some “other” to validate my self-worth and existence, and put it to use in the pursuit of finding myself, my own inner-worth, and understanding how that changed the dynamic of the types of people I attracted into my life. Through that process, I became crystal clear about what I wanted out of an intimate relationship, what I valued, and most importantly – who I was and what I was worth.

The result was that I consciously chose to never be with another man who didn’t truly see me. Who couldn’t meet me on my level. Who couldn’t show up with intimacy and vulnerability that set my soul on fire – the same kind that I am capable of offering.

I would rather live the rest of my life alone than let one more person touch my body without touching my soul.

Your body is your temple. You don’t let just anyone inside. I finally grew spiritually mature enough to fully revere it with the respect it deserves.

The thought of having a one-night stand, or even sleeping with someone that I’ve only been on a couple of dates with used to be an afterthought, but it is utterly repulsive to me now. I’ve realized that sex feels like meaningless, barely-enjoyable, animalistic copulation without the spiritual component of genuine love and spiritual connection.

Most people on this planet completely miss the full breadth and depth of what sex can be. They connect on a purely physical level. The quality of sex is measured by the number of orgasms had, how many positions you tried, and how many orifices were penetrated.

Sex is not merely an avenue for physical pleasure and procreation, but rather, a doorway to the divine. A way to commune with our highest selves and the greater creative force of the universe, and I do not mean that metaphorically. Sex is a legitimate spiritual practice.

Followers of various sects of Eastern religions have practiced sex as a meditation for thousands of years. Sexual energy is considered to be the essence of our life force and maintaining a prolonged state of heightened sexual arousal can induce a state of heightened psychic awareness, bliss, and oneness with the Universe. Sex literally becomes a shared spiritual experience.

In yogic traditions, the energy that is responsible for this is called kundalini, or shakti. Kundalini awakenings can happen spontaneously or during meditation and result in all of the things I mentioned earlier. Ask me how I know!

I’ve experienced kundalini awakenings during meditation a handful of times. It feels like the universe is making love to you from the inside out.

Imagine connecting with your partner physically, emotionally, mentally, energetically, spiritually, and psychically in a state of total surrender while simultaneously experiencing the psychedelic highs of an LSD trip, merging so deeply that they intuitively know your every emotion and desire without you ever speaking a word, and your goal is not to orgasm, but rather, prolong that state as long as is humanly possible.

I think about what it would be like to experience that and – well, once you’ve had unicorn sex, everything else is just… vanilla.

A Bystander’s Guide to Suicide

A Bystander’s Guide to Suicide

A Bystander’s Guide to Suicide

For whatever reason, the Universe has seen fit to make me a magnet for for the highly traumatized and downtrodden. Astrology tells me it’s my 29th degree moon in Cancer. Other intuitives tell me it’s because I’m a healer. Broken people are attracted to my energy like moths to a flame – drug addicts, sex addicts, narcissists, schizophrenics, borderlines, depressives, stage five clingers, and anyone who just needs a fucking hug (and I don’t even like hugs. Don’t touch me unless you’ve known me for at least six months).

While many of these scenarios have played out on multiple occasions, the one that seems to recur most frequently is me having a one-on-one with someone contemplating ending it all. A couple of weekends ago, I once again found myself in the suicide boat, attempting to convince an acquaintance from college not to jump overboard. By now, I’ve got a pretty good handle on the situation, I think.

I have experienced depression, but not to the depth that those who have considered or attempted suicide have. Being an empath, however, I do understand, with cold clarity, the kind of soul sucking hopelessness that often accompanies it. I understand, from personal experience, how we become trapped in our own thoughts, unable to see the way out. I understand how, in the right moment, when those two elements occur at the same time, taking your own life seems like the best and only solution.

I am and have been deeply connected to people who have and still do battle with depression and suicidal thoughts. Some of them have lost that battle. Some of them have managed to hang on, if even by pure accident. And for the ones who have, I’m glad you’re still here, and I love you. Even if we don’t speak often, or at all anymore, due to circumstances beyond my control.

I did a mental inventory a couple of months ago of all the people in my life over the years who had been clinically depressed and/or suicidal. Thirteen. Four of them were people I was romantically involved with to some degree.

There was Tim, a guy I knew from high school and briefly dated in college. We stayed good friends afterward. He dropped out of school temporarily after being diagnosed with depression.

There was my first love, who would never admit it and I was too young to recognize it, but it was most likely a contributing factor to the train wreck of a four year fucked up off-and-on non-relationship we had, which, coupled with psychological abuse, completely obliterated my self-esteem, led to my first depressive episode and brought me to the edge of an eating disorder, but those are much longer stories for another day.

There was Sean, who I also dated briefly in college and through a bizarre twist of fate, ended up being roommates with my first boyfriend from high school. He killed himself a couple of years later. I went to his funeral. It was hard, not just because of him, but because of all of the different friends we had in common. Collective grieving is an interesting experience. (Funny side story- I actually met a girl after I moved here that knew him. All these years later and he still mysteriously somehow knows everyone I know, even halfway across the country.)

One of my close friends from back in St. Louis tried to kill herself five times. I practically had to kick down her front door to get her to engage with human contact again after the last one.

There was a kid from back home about seven years younger than me. He tried to overdose on prescription pills when he was in high school. We talked about it after the fact.

There was a guy I knew from a Facebook group I used to manage, who I was texting during his first two attempts.

This isn’t all of them, but you get the picture. The list is long. Too long.

When Sean died, I saw how devastated his family was at his funeral. That angered me. At the time, I thought it was a selfish act. Years have gone by and I’ve been more thoroughly exposed to the internal struggles of people close to me who suffer from depression, and I now have a better perspective. I don’t begrudge anyone for feeling so much pain that they simply want relief from it. It’s not my place to judge you. Your choices are your own. You have sovereignty over your own body, your own life, and I can understand how ending your life may feel like the only way you can gain any semblance of control.

For those considering jumping overboard…

I don’t believe that depression and anxiety are something that just happens for no reason, and I also don’t believe that it’s a life sentence. I don’t believe that people have to be medicated for the rest of their days to simply cope with it, and I don’t believe that “it’s just the way it is.”

There’s no shame in how you feel, but there is hope. I believe in hope. I believe that there IS hope. Even when you can’t see it. And it’s my hope that you’ll be able to find it, in your darkest moments and the depths of your suffering. We were not made for that.

It is my hope that when you can’t find hope for yourself, when you can’t see the light, that you’ll reach out to someone who can show it to you. Someone who can lead you out of your darkness. Always remember that it’s temporary. No matter how frequently it comes or how long it lasts, it’s still only temporary. And with hope and help, it can become fewer and further in between, and the moments of joy, more frequent.

I don’t like the word “cured.” I do like the word “healed.” To be cured from something suggests that it had power over you and you needed an external antidote to save you. To be healed suggests, to me, that you’ve had the power all along. And I do believe that depression stems from unhealed trauma. Sometimes that trauma is so great and so multi-faceted that it’s overwhelming to even think about healing. Where the fuck do you even begin?

Depression, along with many other mental illnesses, are less a disease of body, and more a dis-ease of the soul.

It takes time to heal. It takes courage to push through and commit to continuing to heal. And it takes even more courage to reach out and ask for help. Sometimes we don’t know how. Sometimes we test the waters with vague statements, just to get a sense of how it will be received, and when it doesn’t feel safe, we withdraw. Sometimes the people we want to approach for help aren’t equipped to do so – even some professionals.

One of the most difficult things for anyone suffering from this, in my experience, is how alone you feel, especially when the people around you can’t relate, and aren’t able to help you. You feel like a burden when you find someone you CAN lean on, because leaning on them makes you feel safe, but a single person can’t bear the weight for both of you. That’s why having a support network is so important. A group of people who are able to provide a safety net for you is so much stronger than a single individual, to give you connection during the times when you feel the most disconnected.

And the key IS to connect. Connect with someone who loves you and let them do that. Let them love you. Let yourself receive it. Let it lead you out of your darker moments. Let it help you hold on, just until tomorrow, because tomorrow can make all the difference.

For those of you holding the life preserver…

If I’ve learned anything from these situations, it’s that you cannot make yourself solely responsible for another person’s well being. And it isn’t fair to you for them to make you solely responsible, either.

Your name is not Jesus. You’re not a savior. They cannot and should not carry the weight of this alone, but neither should you. No matter how much you love them, their healing is, ultimately, their responsibility. You’re job is first, to simply hold space.

What does it mean to hold space?

It means to offer a safe, nonjudgmental environment. Validate emotions. Listen. Be receptive. Be supportive (being supportive does not equate to fixing things). Let them know that they don’t have to be alone, if they choose it.

Secondly, your job is to help them find more support, preferably from a professional, and perhaps other friends and family.

Most importantly: maintain boundaries. Know where your responsibility ends and theirs begins. This is a collaboration.

For those of you who find yourself being “the” person, if YOU need support (and believe me, sometimes you do), or guidance about what to do, I’m happy to lend an ear and some advice.

Everyone… take care of yourselves.

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