It’s all inside…just BELIEVE

All I know is that when I was a child, I didn’t really understand what all the hustle and bustle and celebration of a holiday called “Christmas ” was about. I knew that there was a vacation from school, my friends had “family” coming to town and they all returned with new clothes and smiles on their faces. I came back exhausted and confused.

As I got a bit older, I picked up on the fact that this was a pretty big deal and it had much meaning to it, too.

Now, I know….you’re probably thinking,”how sad”, “poor thing”, or if you are like many of my friends and “family”…you can’t even imagine. And that, my friends, is A ok.

It was all for a reason 🎄

My Grandma is my warmest memory of what Christmas means to me.

I remember waking up to the smells of her freshly baked sandbakkels, date filled cookies and other goodies. I remember coming down the stairs and nestling my face into her apron, as she wrapped her worn hands around my little head, for a hug only she knew how to give.

I carry that beautiful memory inside…still to this day❤

I didn’t know the meaning of this time of year, but I knew the feelings it invoked.

Generosity, happiness, safety and love.

I share a lot about growing up in an abusive, abandoned environment to offer strength. To others who have lived through similar circumstances and to those who are living it now.

I’ve learned as I age, it was all for a purpose….and I survived because of my faith, hope and perspective.

As I reflect this Holiday season, some mornings I just sit and stare… the lights on my Christmas tree.

I listen to the silence and remember a time gone by….today, it was 4th grade.

Just when I thought life couldn’t get any worse.

It was the winter of 4th grade and my parents seemed to have forgotten Christmas. I recall a cold winter night, the smell of beer streaming in the air, cigarette smoke haze… and of course, the ever present argument and fight my parents shared.

I calmly walked into my Grandmas bedroom, where she kept all her treasured things. And, grabbing a step stool, I started to carry out her precious decorations. I took the artificial tree out of storage and made a decision that night.

My current situation and someone else’s decisions would not affect mine. My parents were hurting and in doing so, they were hurting me. I was a child and deserved better. So, I decided to take back control of me.

What is Christmas without a tree?

So, at the age of 9, in the midst of insanity, I turned on my Grandmas favorites Christmas music 🎶 and decorated that tree!

While “The Little Drummer Boy” played, I moved another step closer to who I wanted to be.

And for a few moments, life felt normal.

I imagined how some of my friends “tree decorating moments” must have gone down. Maybe they had cookies and milk after. Maybe their parents sang or gave them special ornaments to hang. I remember promising myself that my children would never have to feel this way.

But, as sad and lonely as it may have seemed, God let it be a beautiful memory for me. You see, that night, I felt the Christmas spirit inside.

I didn’t need what others had, nor did I need presents or cookies.

I mean, it would have been nice…but it was all part of His plan.

My heart grew that night. Kind of like “The Grinch”, you could say. I realized at the age of 9, that everything I would ever need, I already had…inside.

Love, hope, faith.

Love for others and for myself.

Hope for a better tomorrow and New Year.

And most importantly, Faith in what would someday be.

And now, at the age of 43….I am sometimes in disbelief.

That all of the things I promised myself all of those sad and disappointing Christmases ago…..He gave to me…. a thousand times over.

My tree is always lit up. There is music, cookies, children, the warmth of my husband, and laughter surrounding that tree.

There are presents, friends, food, and happiness.

And every single year, without a doubt, “The Little Drummer Boy” seems to come on the radio. The old, scratchy version that I used to play. And I know, as I roll out the dough for the Christmas cookies only she used to bake…that in that moment, Grandma is there.

And I know, without a doubt, that all I endured were for these moments….today.

The appreciation I feel for everything I have. The gratitude for my beautiful children’s presence. The unconditional love from family and friends. And the Christmas spirit that I have inside of my heart.

We all have some experiences we wish we could forget. But I believe that every single moment… of every part of the day…has a purpose for us.

To grow.

To appreciate.

To learn how to love bigger and better.

To make the next generation even greater.

To make that Christmas tree shine brighter every single year.

This Christmas and always, I hope you can see. That the spirit isn’t in the gifts, the parties, the cookies, the tree. It isn’t about what we have or don’t have.

The spirit of Christmas is within you and me 💜

Happy Holidays. I wish you blessings that stretch beyond anything you could ever imagine. 🎄🎄🎄🎄

Happiness and peace are inside…you just have to BELIEVE 💜

Much love,

Linda 🦋

…And that’s when I knew it was bad

So, this is really, really hard to discuss.

It’s really difficult for me to share, but I feel this pull that I need to. I mean, no one knew this is who I was…I think I pulled off the part of the happy, bouncy, perfect lady to all who knew me quite well, right?

Well, here’s your morning eye opener.

If it helps the mom who has to pull herself out of bed each morning.

If it allows the young man to see that he is not alone.

If it empowers you to heal.

If my story shows you that there is happiness inside of you.

If it helps just one beautiful soul……this is my WHY.

So here is my story.

This WAS me.

I suffered from depression. They were some of the darkest days of my entire life.

Depression HURTS.

You can’t seem to move your body, to get up out of that mint green polka dot chair. You can’t drink enough wine, because you are still sober enough to feel. You can’t possibly eat enough food….you still feel empty. And you truly just want to go to sleep(or at least I did)….so for just a moment, you don’t feel the emptiness and pain.

I wanted others to “fix” me and couldn’t understand why they wouldn’t. Mainly, my husband… “He” wasn’t making “Me” happy. He wasn’t doing enough…giving me his time, fulfilling me, etc. etc. etc.

And my so called “friends”? Where the hell had they disappeared to? How dare them LIVe their lives to the fullest! You got a new car? A new job? You’re happy?? Well…. to hell with you. I’m not happy, so why should you be?

When is it my “turn”?!? And how are they ok?

Ever feel this way or think these things?

I’ve learned, through much work and self healing, that I was intentionally hurting and shutting out those I loved.

“People who are hurting, hurt others”.

I remember sitting in my living room one morning, after the kids had gone to school.

I just sat there…and cried for hours. And….I didn’t know why.

My husband said, “I think you are depressed”….what does he know?! I told him he was wrong.

It wasn’t DEPRESSION. It was my stress. About him, the kids, money, work, life.

And, that my friends, was bullshit.

It wasn’t until the last 3 years that I was able to look back and truly see how dark my days had been.

This is very personal and difficult to share, but I know that many of you reading this will be able to identify.

I remember the darkness as far back as a decade ago.

Waking up in the morning, although difficult, I knew I had to…for my children. I’d put on my overly excited, happy face and make their lunches, breakfasts, build them up, and off they’d go… to school.

I remember, some days, watching them walk down the block. Thinking to myself, “you have 7 hours to pull yourself together”.

The door would close and I would clean up and ….start to cry.

I hated my life. I was so lonely. So sad and so tired….all of the time.

I couldn’t see the beauty in front of me. I couldn’t see what others “thought” I had. All I could see was gray skies and nothing but an uphill climb in front of me.

Every single day.

I DID look forward to the night time. Whether that be to sleep and shut down or because it was wine and snack time…either way, it was “coping” time for this gal.

I just remember feeling so very heavy. Not “weight wise”, but it was as if my limbs literally had weights tied to them. Everything and everyone was a “chore” for me.

And the strange this was, as lonely as I felt, I just wanted to be left alone.

I beat myself up a lot in those days.

I felt the guilt of not being able to “save” my parents, I beat myself up about my “failed” marriage(with my first husband), I hated the person I saw in the mirror, I hated my house(which I now love, and did back then too), my clothes, car, friends(even though they were amazing)…..but most of all, I hated this Demon inside of me that seemed to have control over all of these things that, logically, I knew, I truly LOVED.

That is the moment, when I knew I was battling something bigger than me.

I actually broke down and accepted that I was suffering from DEPRESSION.

And that was the beginning of my recovery.

Did you know that almost 19 million people suffer from some form of depression??

Now, you must know, YOU ARE NOT ALONE. ❤

In today’s world, it seems as though it has become an epidemic. Or is it that we are just more “aware” of it?

I’ll tell you, I have been “aware” of depression most of my life, and even so, I couldn’t “see” it taking hold of me.

My father was a text book example. He couldn’t hold down a job, was an alcoholic, slept a lot, cried uncontrollably, among a multitude of other symptoms.

My mother “hid” her depression behind her “dead” eyes, her cold demeanor and her lack of interest in anything at all.

I can now “understand ” why the alcohol was so addictive to them. It numbed the pain…. temporarily.

You see, drugs(illegal or prescribed), alcohol, being overly busy(I call that “running from the pain”), the material possession addiction, sex, food, and that “oh so familiar perma smile”….only masks what lies deep within.

Until you RECOGNIZE. ACCEPT. And SEEK out HELP, you cannot begin to heal.

Trust me, I know.

Many souls float through life with the Demon inside and never take the time to look at how much destruction they have done to themselves and others. Not to mention the path of pain they have left behind.

This past week, I was “unwillingly”contacted by 2 of my siblings. Both of them are vicious, angry, mentally ill individuals. My heart breaks for them and their struggles.

I know that the 6 of us grew up with mentally ill, alcoholic parents, which predisposed us to a multitude of problems and issues to arise in our adult lives.

Of my 6 siblings, one took his own life(in order to escape his pain),one is very broken and suffers from manic depression (we see her a lot and then not for a decade at a time), the 2 that contacted me are carrying much resentment, tremendous hurt and are both battling addictions. And then, there are the 2 of us that left the family to save ourselves. I can’t speak for my oldest brother, but I fight anxiety on a daily basis and am now aware of my bout with depression. I hope I will recognize it if it returns. I also have equipped myself with a number of ways to “fight” it… if it decides to come back for a visit.

Mental illness is passed within a family.

I often say that I wish I had the knowledge to sit with and diagnose my parents… how Eye opening and profound that would be.

What the world and our family/friends need to accept and recognize is that you can’t just “get happy”. You can’t wish it away, lock it up or just get better.

It is a mental illness.

Illness is defined as “A disease or period of sickness affecting the body or the MIND “.

It is a sickness. And we need to treat it as such!!

It’s not something we bring upon ourselves, it’s not something that just goes away. It needs to be treated. Those suffering it’s tight hold need to be acknowledged and helped. Just as if they were suffering from the influenza or a debilitating disease.

As a society, within our families, friend groups, etc…..we need to become more educated… and empathetic to our fellow humans who are suffering.

I know, from my experience and from walking with others on their journey, WE are some of the most determined, strongest souls that I know.

We are Fighters. Survivors. Warriors.

We don’t want to be sad. We don’t want to hurt.

We just want to be happy.

I KNOW there is a light at the end of the tunnel, for I found it.

There are resources, healthy ways to cope and overcome, and HOPE for those who suffer.

My first step was recognizing and in doing so, I sought out help. In gaining strength and taking back control, I did my research and found what worked for me.

Self love is so healing and empowering.

In caring for myself and learning to love myself, completely and fully, I found true JOY.

I still have the “gray” moments from time to time. It can be when I am carrying a heavy stress load, maybe it’s just an off day.

On those days, I become even more proactive in my self care. Those are the days I schedule a massage, get a pedicure or go extra hard at the gym. A simple cup of hot tea. A warm, relaxing bath. And truth be told…. the stroking of my own hand, telling myself “I love you” and you’re going to be ok 💜.

“What we resist, will persist “.

If you are just walking onto the battlefield, in the middle of war, or just beginning to see the sunrise again….hang onto your HOPE.

There is help all around.

And, I promise you friends, there is JOY waiting to be found.

Much love,

Linda 💜