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HEAL.ME

When I choose to feel goodness above evil

When my brain no longer saves up pain

Stored away in the depths of hurt and weakened pieces of tattered ghost-soul

And I listen to what my body needs from me

And I satisfy it with caring…

When you feel like you want to cry when you feel good

Because you are so used to touching fire

And walking on hot coals

It hurts more to feel love from another

Because the happiness aches inside you…

When you want to fold-up into a ball and be fetal and safe

Even though you want to love back

And love yourself enough to accept it

But the overwhelming feeling that you don’t deserve it sneaks up to you

And pushes you down like a boy in the schoolyard

When all you wanted to do was play…

That’s how it feels to love myself.

J.F

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INDEPENDENCE.DAY

HBD.AMERICA,

Independence Day knows what it wants. It begs for beer and greasy food slop, sweating, hot and drunk, bathing in skin cancer and shouting obscenities. And that’s cool. I like it more for the metaphor.

I found my independence, or at least some baby-form of it, just a couple years ago. I was in the vice grip of illness. No way was I about to take care of myself. And then, support came. With diligence and TLC from loved ones, I bounced back. Out of the rubble that I was buried under, the plague of silence that my mind begged for, I came out of that ash and spoke.

Living alone was difficult. But it brought me out of my empty shell. It sounds counterintuitive; yes, I was very lonely. Even around people who “get me.” The hard work came from introducing myself to me, my personality, my morals and values. Without a voice, I lost myself. Independence woke me up from my Sleeping Beauty slumber and returned my soul, mind, and voice to its proper place in my heart.

I am not independent.

Yeah, so I am not independent. But I am getting there. I’m working on my life from every direction. And I won’t slow down. This is the lessen I learned for myself. It’s vital to feeling accomplished and successful. It doesn’t have to be some big atomic thing. A small step, and a mindful next move, each-and-every-day spent wholly, I’m learning what I want in life and continuing to move toward it.

I believed in myself again.

I told myself, no more. Not the way it is anymore. I wanted to return to the old me. The old me was not there. And I’m glad. Because I believed in the real me that I found. Anyone who truly knows and loves me would agree. Old me was not me. It was a hollow shell. I believed I would learn who I was if I let go of the pain, the attachment I had to the voices in my brain, and no longer shoulder all the blame.

Independence Day.

It came and there’s no more shame. I will never lose my optimism. I believe in myself. And I believe in any woman who gets torn down, and gets back up. Wipe the fucking dirt off, and give me your hand. Because you know I will be there to pull your ass up if you need help. That’s the real American Woman.

xoxo, God bless, America,

Joanna

I am not Jasmine, I am Aladdin. — Nicki Minaj

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LE.TIRED

Living with mental illness is exhausting. And what’s worse, the summertime can have an opposite effect on my mood. I’m happy in the cold, mildly miserable in the hot, hot heat. Depression sets in and leaves me feeling grumpy in spite of the gorgeous sun-filled days. Like a reverse Seasonal Affective Disorder. As one of my favorite bands sings: I’m only happy when it rains. I feel ya, Shirley Manson (of Garbage).

Nevertheless, I persist. And I work hard to resist the temptation of giving up. As so many of you know, it is tiresome to keep pushing past depressive states. A lot of my heavy fogs come at night. I thought it may be helpful to give some ideas to those of you who suffer from depression, mood disorders, or really anyone. (Disclaimer: always talk to your doctor for medically professional guidance on dealing with depression.)

Find balance.

Work, school, family, friends, me-time. We forget about that last one a lot. Everyone has busy lives that often overshadow taking care of numero uno. But in reality, you are only able to thrive and survive by taking care of yourself first and foremost. Every doctor/therapist/counselor I have had the pleasure of knowing brings up the oxygen mask analogy: you have to put your oxygen mask on first so you have the ability to help your loved ones next to you on that plane put on their masks.

I have a love-hate relationship with this analogy. But, for real, it’s true. Make sure you balance life responsibilities, and be sure to include me-time in that long list of to-do’s. Nourishing my work week with some me-time, especially self-care, makes depression a teensy bit easier to get through. Bubble baths are key. Just sayin’.

Love yourself.

But it’s sooo hard, right? Not all of us can, nor should we, be narcissists about it. But that sentence I just wrote says a lot about society. It’s a negative thing to love yourself?? Why? Why is it so bad to develop a loving and caring relationship with yourself? I see it as hugely beneficial to my wellbeing and shifty moods.

When I remind myself that I am good enough, smart enough, and deserve TLC, then it makes the nights that I feel low a smidgen easier to get though. Take advantage of feeling good about who you are, especially when you are feeling well. Next time depressive episodes hit, you can meditate on everything that you love about yourself. It helps pull me back to the present and feel less down on myself. Ain’t no shame in loving beautiful YOU.

Write it out.

Writing about how you are feeling can release some of the sadness that comes with depression. You may not be fully interested in much of anything (I personally get cranky and restless and have little desire to do much when I am feeling my depressive mood), but the amazing effect that writing has on my mood says a lot about the therapeutic benefit it provides me.

Scribble, scratch paper, or write a short poem. I am always amazed at how much better I feel when getting out of my head in those states. And take advantage of writing when you get ready for bed feeling good! It can create an easier time of writing when you are down. If you like, I would recommend sharing with your therapist/doctor and maybe she/he will have suggestions for lessening the power that depression has over you.

But I am LE.TIRED.

Zen take-a zee nap! I find that when nothing else works, and anhedonia is hitting me hard, I get ready for bed, and ride that wave while dreaming. The sun comes out tomorrow, and a new day becomes a fresh start. Major depression may be too much to ride out overnight.

Just remember that when you give it some time, your happiness, interests, and elevated mood will come back. You have it in you, even if you are LE.TIRED of fighting that good fight. I have faith that you will win.

At the end of the day, you won’t be happy until you love yourself.

— LADY GAGA

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OUR.SOULS

We believe in many versions of the soul. Whether it is religion or science; agnostic, christian, muslim; physics, evolutionary, or biblical — there are ways to explain (or debunk) the presence of the soul. Why do we need to tap into OUR.SOULS now more than ever? And what is the point of believing in something that we cannot see?

Maybe we cannot see it, but we can feel it.

The God particle

Even the discovery of the Higgs boson several years ago lead me to wonder about the soul. I will never forget reading a story in The New York Times about “the God particle” and how its existence was proven. I am no physicist but my gut told me that this particle meant there are forces greater than us and life as we know it. Was there proof that invisible force fields are keeping the universe balanced? And isn’t there a reason to believe in other forces, like our souls, that we cannot see?

It was also around the time that I had a psychotic break that lasted three torturous years. I was in and out of hospitals, trying to stay alive, and fearing everything from the paranoid state I was in. This discovery was my only hope, learning of it before the psychosis set in, that my soul would save me from the mental illness. The psychosis I experienced felt like I was being physically, mentally, and yes, even spiritually tortured by my own brain. It felt like my soul was so broken down that it had disappeared — disintegrated. I felt like there was no hope without it. But I reminded myself, there are invisible forces at work in the universe, and someday my soul (and sanity) would return back to me.

And it did.

Holy souls

After three years of auditory, visual, and scary-as-hell tactile hallucinations, my soul came back. My sanity returned. I had fought the fight of my life, and made the decision that I would put my life back together. Medication began working. I resisted the demons in my head. And I learned to ask for help. My spirit lifted, and I felt that I had a spiritual purpose again. It had to be forces greater than myself at work. And I developed a connection with Jesus stronger than I ever had.

The fact that over the next two years, I have built my mental and physical wellness back together again is amazing. I would never want anyone to go through what I went through — though many of you do know and feel that pain. And I hope you find or have already found relief. Just know that your soul is more than spiritual. It is the thing that makes you amazing YOU. Always listen to what your soul is saying. I felt close with God, but it can be a closeness with yourself, your loved ones, anything. And know that the greater forces of good, in whatever way, shape, or form, are looking out for you and will bring you back to where you need to be.

Why the soul matters

I feel like we are drifting away from our souls. We are not listening to our spiritual selves, and we are dividing, isolating, and ignoring our morals and values that make our souls shine. We need to come back to living for what is true, what is right, and what feels good. When we have a gut feeling that something is wrong, run away from that, or resist it and fight for what we believe in.

We should not be separating families at our borders — those are babies that need their parents. It is about humanity. We should not shatter once strong ties with our allies — those are countries that need our mutual support. It is about unity, not isolation. And we should nourish our souls with truth and justice, not mass-digest toxic falsehoods from a leader who is ignoring everything that makes America great.

Come back to your souls, the way I came back to mine. It once was lost, but now is found. Find yours again. And share the wealth that listening to your soul brings.

Whatever you are, be a good one. — Abraham Lincoln

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DEAR.DAD,

DEAR.DAD,

The water lilies of Monet’s paintings

Are small in comparison to

the love I have for

my father.

You had that love too with

my grandfather

and it lives on

in the Adriatic waves.

Sail away but not too far

always come back to shore

as we all wait

to greet you.

Always know

in your deepest of heart

we are not a family

without you.

LOVE,

JOANNA

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DOGS.LIFE

It’s a DOGS.LIFE. We just live in it.

I’m coming up to the anniversary of my aunt and Godmother’s death. The only way I see fit to honor her is with a post about the exceptional love a dog brings it’s owner. She wasn’t just a Godmother. She was a Dogmother.

Judy meant the world to my family, and her many friends. She was a free spirit, a brilliant intellectual, and often misunderstood. She went through a lot. It wasn’t always smooth sailing between us. But we had (still have) an unbreakable bond. That bond was especially important to the many dogs that she had rescued over the years.

A dog’s love.

Any dog owner can tell you just how special the love shared with their dog can be. When they are just a puppy, they bond with their mother. If a puppy is adopted out, they form a new bond with their owner.

My dog Layla immediately bonded with me. Her first night at home was spent sleepless and successively walking her until she fell asleep on my stomach around 4 AM. Sure, she’s not a human baby. But she is my baby.

Why Judy loved her dogs.

Judy bonded with each and every dog that came into her life. Every birthday, she gave me a card especially from her dogs — signed “love and licks.” There is no better way to honor her memory than to mindfully appreciate the way a dog protects, needs, and cherishes with loyalty their owner. Layla the poodle is my special girl who will forever remind me what Judy taught me about treating animals with kindness and compassion. Anyone who tries to tell you that animals cannot feel emotion is wrong. So wrong.

Wild instincts.

One of the reasons I felt close with Judy was that we shared an otherworldly instinct. Our sense of intuition was so strong that we would go on emotional rollercoasters. That instinct comes fairly close to how dogs can sense their owner’s sadness, joy, depression, frustration. They feel what you are going through, and do everything in their power to loyally make you feel better. They love you unconditionally.

Judy, I love you unconditionally.

Rest in peace.

When I find myself in times of trouble
Mother Mary comes to me
Speaking words of wisdom
Let it be —

— The Beatles

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Layla the poodle.
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GOOD.ENOUGH?

This may surprise you, since my recent post declared that I was in agreement with being called TYPE.A — however, instead of striving for the ultimate goal of perfection, should we stay mindful and aware when we are GOOD.ENOUGH?

Shocker: I have been working on being good enough for myself. Sometimes perfection can be a reason to see the negativity in life, rather than the glass half full. Because when you are constantly striving for an unattainable goal — perfection — you judge everything you do that will never meet that qualification as subpar, bad, or just wrong. That ain’t no way to live, people!

What does it mean to be GOOD.ENOUGH?

Being good enough requires a lot of work for people who grew up thinking all of their behaviors were insufficient. It may be overly critical parents, learning disabilities that were never diagnosed (or were diagnosed), or a number of other reasons. I promise that you can “teach an old dog new tricks” and at any age, find ways to feel good enough for the most important person there is: YOU!

Feeling good enough takes a lot of time and energy. I started using positive affirmations. Then I gradually started believing them. Then, shocker yet again, I noticed a positive sense of self in other aspects of my life: work, friendships, relationships. The relationship that had the biggest impact on feeling GOOD.ENOUGH? Well, it was the loving new relationship I keep with myself. You only have one you, and one life; it’s about time that you start appreciating and loving beautiful/handsome you!

BUT WHY IS LIFE SO HARD?

Yes, yes, and yasss. Life is F*CKING.HARD! It feels unbearable at times, especially when you have an invisible mental illness and feel misunderstood and alone in your struggle. But there are so many others who fight to feel good in spite of illness, both physical and mental. Being good enough for you means to get your ass back up on that horse when you get knocked down, and saying hey, I may have fallen or even been pushed off by life, but check this out! I got back up on the G-damn horse and rode it into the effing sunset. All metaphorical, but true.

One more thing: Internal validation rocks socks.

External validation is fantastic. Someone tells you they love you. You get a “job well done!” at work. A stranger compliments you on your outfit. Etc…

What about looking in a mirror and saying to yourself, “Hey! You look great!” Or, if that is too cheesy, thinking about what you did today that made you feel good about yourself. Keep it written down in a journal or app. Compliment yourself.

It sounds life bogus hocus-pocus kumbaya, but self-love feels so much better than self-loathing. Practice it. Feel it. Live it. And appreciate it.

You truly are GOOD.ENOUGH.

Maybe my best isn’t as good as someone else’s, but for a lot of people, my best is enough. Most importantly, for me it’s enough. — Lindsey Stirling

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