Tell Me Something Real: David

A few days ago I threw out the challenge to share something real – something true – something unfiltered in light of Mental Health Awareness Month – a way to press pause a bit on the fairy tales we spin through social media – a way to show that our lives are real and not these flawless Rockwell-esque fictions – that we’re more akin to the characters from Shameless than This is Us.

A day later, my friend (and editor) David bravely took up that challenge by writing a very open and honest piece about his own mental health challenges:

Tell Me Something Real by David Farnell

Please take moment to read his words, and when you’re finished accept my new challenge to you:

  • Educate yourself on how to help a friend or family member in crisis
  • Do your part to help remove the stigma around seeking and receiving help for mental health issues
  • Support legislation to make mental health care both affordable and accessible
  • Listen more
  • Talk/try to fix less

… and if a friend/loved one is in crisis, recognize you don’t have to shoulder their burden, but be able to provide them with the information and resources to put them in contact with professionals who can.

Then plan to walk with me and my Jay Walkers team on Saturday, October 29th from wherever you are in this big ol’ world.

Let’s all work to be better – better people, better friends, better members of our global community.

I’ll see you in October.

Tell Me Something Real

Wielding language has never been my strength. So, I practice.

The way I express my thoughts is the way I speak. With each post, you catch the faint strains of the voice that whispers within and without.

To be honest, I’ve been continually surprised that I’ve had a following, especially outside of my family and friends. I’ve always felt that these posts capture doodled thoughts rather than convey a coherent story. Occasionally, I’ll litter the pages with an update or two for my family and friends as an attempt at a proof of life so they don’t worry. (Now that I think about it, a photo of my face by the current headlines might be simpler.) But on a more serious note, I just don’t post often enough or even well enough to garner a true following. (I’m way too lazy.) So, I guess I’m surprised that you all continue to come back.

I’m both humbled and flattered. Thank you.

When I reflect on previous posts, I recognize the ones that receive the most praise and comment are the ones where I’ve been open about my grief over the loss of Jay – where I talk about how I struggle – present tense. I’m told I’m brave. I’m told I’m strong.

The pain has definitely eased over time; however, it is ever-present.

Enough prologue.

I was crafting a new post – one where I planned to paint a picture of how I’m winning at life – you know the drill – that social media fluff we throw out to the universe to say, “Hey, look – my life is amazing – I’m a success – I’m fun, beautiful, creative – a winner by all accounts – better than!” The proclamation accompanied by a perfectly framed shot of my suntanned tootsies at sunset – a half-filled glass of some enviable drink close at hand as a way to support my claim.

A perfect life on display ready for your “likes”.

…just like everyone else’s lives.

And then I remembered it’s Mental Health Awareness Month.

What a disservice it would be if I let this moment go by. So, with that in mind, here are some of my thoughts – something that’s a bit more real and in keeping with what people tend to appreciate more on my blog – something that is more true than my pages filled with my wins.

Anxiety

Since Jay’s death, I have continued to struggle. Not every day, not all the time, but in flashes. I struggle to find purpose – my raison d’être. Since Jay’s death, I have anxiety attacks that begin to appear in May and last until the end of September. It’s carved out its own season in my life – backyard picnics, blockbusters, cool pools, big hats, sandals, mosquitos, and anxiety – gotta love anxiety season. October heralds my subconscious snow-birding its way back from wherever subconsciouses go – hey, even the subconscious needs a restorative break.

The attacks come out of nowhere – usually when I least expect them. I can be watching a comedy on TV and then every fiber of my body tells me something is desperately wrong.

I love October as much as I dread May.

It’s May.

I continue to struggle with being alone. It’s not that you aren’t all great, but you’re not my partner. You offer many important things, but not the whisper in the middle of the night or fingers lightly dancing across my back to lull me back to sleep. You cannot hold me or look at me in a way that makes me believe I’m all that matters.

I struggle with the idea that I will never be truly loved again.

After Jay’s death, several people felt they’d help by remarking, “At least you were loved.”

True.

What a truly awful thing to say.

That statement reverberates through my soul. I am the “once loved” – like a child’s discarded favorite toy.

Things to Work On

I have a laundry list of things I need to work on, but some days, as I stand at the crossroads of “Do you want to make it better or make it worse?” I choose “Make it worse.” I flip the proverbial coffee table. I rage at the world – a tempest – unrestrained.

Standing in the eye of my storms are my pillars – friends who batten down, listen quietly, and still stick around. They blink slowly, considering the volume of filth I’ve unleashed into the world, and ask quietly, “Are you finished?” Honestly, sometimes the answer is “No!” So, they wait until I’ve exhausted myself, and redirect me to something else.

The Words I Use

Each day I paint myself in words that are run a spectrum: abusive, bleak, encouraging, beautiful. Sometimes I use all of them, and sometimes none.

Today those words happen to be particularly brutal. Tomorrow they may be different. Tomorrow I may not use words to tear myself down. We’ll just have to see.

Tomorrow I plan to get up and start again.

I will work on my perspective – on my personal narrative.

Just An Idea

I wish there were a May Mental Health Awareness Challenge where we were encouraged (unafraid) to post something real – something unguarded – something that boldly proclaimed, “While I have had successes, I have also experienced epic failure/deep disappointment/profound sadness – I’ve had days where copious amounts of concealer and duck face at the perfect angle of a camera couldn’t fix – just like you.”

I’d like to see a challenge that gives everyone a safe space to be honest and open without judgment and without people feeling the need to rush in and “fix” the issue. (Something that often happens when we’ve broken away from the duck-faced herd.) A challenge where our raw truth is not only accepted but embraced – where we pull back the carpet and finally see that what we experience is normal/typical – that what’s abnormal is the fiction where we all live perfect and happy lives.

I’d like to see a challenge that shows it’s ok to feel sad at times. It’s ok to feel small.

I’m not suggesting we move into those moments, but that we acknowledge they happen.

I’d love a challenge that gave us all a small reprieve from the feelings of inadequacy many experience when comparing their lives to the social media-generated fictions shared by all of us – stories we carefully curate and run through our “gorgeous tootsies at sunset” lens.

Are you up for that challenge?

Can you be open? raw? exposed?

Can you listen to someone else’s truth without judgment? Without a need to gaslight? Without a need to rush in and fix it? To sit by quietly and accept?

(Points if you can do it while sharing a photo of unmanicured gnarly feet in tatty flip flops next to some Natty Light (Bud Light, Yuengling, Pabst).)

So, tell me something real.