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Just Keep Swimming

12094798213_be4514c9da_z (1)I was feeling horrible for most of the summer.  Lots of pity partying, anxiety, and endless negative thoughts--if you are human you have probably been there. If you have lived with depression and fought overwhelming, crippling periods of darkness, then you can definitely relate. In life, I kept thinking that eventually I would arrive, that at some point through hard work and perserverence I would get to this place where success would happen because I was hard-working and because I deserved it for all my hard work and struggle and suffering and because I was a survivor, dammit. (Such a good little martyr I played).

Because I was a good person, and I loved a lot and I gave a lot and I cared a lot.  Maybe those things I knew to be true about myself seemed like the ticket to success would come to me, organically, fall in my lap.

So this summer for whatever reasons, be they situational or delusional or chemical, after many months of treading, my head went under for a while.  What seemed like a very long while, actually.  I thought I might fall apart completely, maybe lose my home, maybe end up in the hospital, maybe fail my children.

I hung out under water for a minute there--and this was dark, murky, Ohio lake water--not some perfect, clear, 20-foot visibility, white sand Hawaii water.

A year ago I had some big huge revelations, and as exciting as they were and still are--and the revelations keep coming--it seemed that because I had these seemingly monumental realizations about my life, I would soon be arriving somewhere.

To my destination.

To my purpose.

I was supposed to be getting there soon!

Instead I felt like I was sinking, drowning, failing at life.

So I gave up for a minute.  Took a look under water and got some silt in my eyes.

I said Fuck it.

It felt like forever, living in the “fuck it” moments.

Then I panicked.

Then survival instincts kicked in and I started flailing and I sent out an S.O.S. to my family and asked for help.  Which I rarely do, if ever. Because I am like a one woman island who seems to think she has to stay an island. Alone. Stranded. Forever.

Every good lifeguard knows that when a person who thinks they are drowning is flailing, they can be dangerous to try to save.  You gotta go in with a clear head and not get taken down with them.

It’s the silent ones who are actually drowning, and it happens oh, so quickly and oh, so quietly..

Like Robin Williams.  Like so many countless others who never showed a sign of any kind that they couldn’t swim and slipped away unnoticed into the abyss.

Even though I thought I might drown, my family didn’t think so.  They gave me a hand, pulled me to the surface and said--keep treading. Maybe they remembered I had been through worse, or maybe they simply knew the strength in me that I couldn’t.

So I don’t get to stop?  I don’t get a free pass, or at least a rotting log to lean on?

And my friends and family said “I love you”, and some made me dinner, and many sent me gifts, or sat next to me brainstorming, to get me through to regain my own sense of strength.

Because what I most needed was to remember my own strength.

So I begrudgingly kept going, until I wasn’t panicking anymore, and I accidentally swallowed a big, leggy, water spider.

And then my awesome friend said that transformation is a journey, not a destination.

And my head exploded.

Holy shit.

There is no arriving.

I get to let myself off the hook?!

So, there is only this huge body of water, and there are mucky parts and clear parts and parts where you swim with dolphins and parts where you swim with sharks and parts where you get stuck in the swamp tangled in long weeds?

There is no destination?

This one revelation was just the lifejacket I needed.

To give me enough buoyancy that treading water didn’t seem so hard anymore.

To give me enough hope that, maybe soon, I will start to swim again.



"I'll Never Be Happy Again."

Have you ever thought to yourself I'll never be happy again?

Did you accept your situation and regardless continue to work at the job you hated, stay in the marriage that became a prison, do nothing to change  the body you couldn't bear to look at?  Maybe you lost a loved one and felt that a piece of yourself died with them and didn't come back.

After months and years and more years of living in this way,we forget what happiness is altogether, and then we can no longer imagine it.  And if we can't imagine a thing, we can't attain it.

I remember a time when I had given up on happiness so completely that I was convinced happy people were faking it!  I used to think they are full of shit, why are they over there laughing, wtf? Nobody is THAT happy!

After my son was born I was miserable.  Not for lack of loving him or gratitude for my beautiful child, but because I felt so horrible in my body and mind. I had no idea how I was going to get through most days.  I would literally ask myself how am I going to get through this day?  I don't know how I did it, but I know I was very unhappy.

It's not the kind of unhappiness most people can notice in you, where you are happy today and then suddenly tomorrow you don't get out of bed.  It's a gradual overcast, a cumulative effect of dragging days, subtle losses, and little disappearing joys.  You don't even notice you are there, losing bits of yourself, until it is almost all the way gone.  And many of the people this happens to never really notice.  We have all met someone like this.

I spent the first two years of my my son's life just surviving, barely keeping my nose above the water line.  I knew it was postpartum depression deep down but I was scared out of my mind to take medicine or seek help from a doctor, (Iatrophobia, the fear of doctors, a not-so-pleasant after-effect of my Christian Science upbringing) so I tried yoga, meditation, acupuncture, cranio-sacral, St. John's Wort, talk therapy, walking, jazzercise, skin name it, I tried it.  I would feel a tad better for a little while and hope that I had found the answer but then the crushing defeat always returned.

Years passed while I tried to claw my way out of that hole.  Knowing as I did that my children deserved to see their mother happy, to feel the warmth of my true joy, I fought for it even though I truly doubted I would ever win.   I fought hardest to maintain my faith that happiness and joy were my birthright, and that I would one day own them again.

It has been almost six years since I was officially diagnosed with PPD.

I can honestly say today that I have never been happier.

So how did I get from misery to happiness?  Was it an epiphany?  A revelation?  Did I find Jesus or develop a drug habit?

Daily vigilance.  Leaping into the unknown of divorce.  Following bliss and remembering how to have fun.  Doing it anyway, even if I was too tired or too down or too broke.

Some battles don't have a clear beginning or end.  My battle with depression and unhappiness felt like a lifetime in the trenches of some far off field.  The most important thing is, never ever give up.  Never stop fighting for happiness and health.

I promise, you will be happy again. 



As if Noone is Watching

[vimeo w=400&h=225]

Girl Walk // All Day from jacob krupnick on Vimeo.

Have you ever lived a period of your life in which you remained trapped in a certain mindframe or paradigm that didn't serve you?  You were doing everything you were supposed to do yet still you were unhappy?  Do you know how long  it took you to break free?

We can become prisoners of our own reality, prisoners of our own misconceptions about what life is and should be.  We make assumptions and take conventions as truth rather than following our heart's call to what we truly want.  The heart sings a song and we don't listen because our mind will not budge from its rulebook.  Our mind says things like I have to work full time, I have to make x amount of $, I have to give my children these things, I have to have this large house, I have to have a car, I have to relinquish my joyous hobby for the day to day grind that sucks my soul...I have to stay here because of family, I have to stay in this marriage for the kids, I don't have time to eat healthy, workout, declutter, play music, write poetry, laugh, cry, write letters to my best friend...

I remember my mother taking a long time to recover from leaving my father.  She knew it was the best thing to do and it had been a long time coming, but she struggled for years to come to a new place of peace about her decisions.  Then years later, in my own marriage, she told me I didn't have to be in a situation where I struggled and fought and felt unhappy.  I remember being angry with her because I felt that stepping away from something I should stick with was a ridiculous notion.  Even though it was eating me up.  She could clearly see my unhappiness, which I was unaware of because I had forgotten what my happiness looked like.  Now I see that she was right.  When the pain became too great, I finally made the change I needed to make.  And it was as simple as making a decision.  Unbelievably simple.

When you forget how it feels to be happy or free, you also are unable to envision such a life for yourself.  Without vision, we cannot alter our reality to become what we wish for.

I know many people who are trapped in this kind of mindset.  Again, it is the shoulds which enslave us, or as they say in "The Neverending Story", it is The Nothing.  It is the numb and stark position of forgetting who we truly are and what our heart truly yearns for.

I suggest we take it by the hand, that Nothing, and let it be our most beloved teacher.  I suggest we stare our unhappiness in the face and smile.  Find your bliss and the Nothing will disappear.  We have forgotten how to feel joy.  When we find it, a revolution ensues.

The longer we stay in our self-made prisons, the harder it is to get free.  But the freedom is all the sweeter, and it can happen whenever you decide to step outside the unlocked gate.



Solving the Problem of Suffering with a Song

Life is suffering.  I know I need to accept this fact in order to overcome it.  But I want more,  I want something bigger and brighter than sitting down with my fingers in a mudra and thinking life is suffering, just 'assept' it already. I want to solve the problem of suffering, and this blog's unwavering aim is to do just that.  Because yes, bad things happen.  Yes, we suffer. But can we see the beauty in it?  And in doing so, do we not overturn and transform the aforementioned slug of suffering into an awe-inspiring praying mantis?

The discontent I carried for many years has now given way to a newfound freedom and happiness.  Perhaps only temporarily, perhaps because of medical advances, but I will take what I can get!

Quiet desperation is the enemy.   Life is meant to be relished, rejoiced, enjoyed.

The Summer Day

Mary Oliver

Who made the world? Who made the swan, and the black bear? Who made the grasshopper? This grasshopper, I mean- the one who has flung herself out of the grass, the one who is eating sugar out of my hand, who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down- who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes. Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face. Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away. I don't know exactly what a prayer is. I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass, how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields, which is what I have been doing all day. Tell me, what else should I have done? Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon? Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?

What are you planning to do?  Are you beating the suffering, killing the blues? Click the link to see me sing about this :)



Dear suffering Mamas whose burden feels too big to bear, so UNFAIR (!):


I want to give you hope

I want to speak to you from my deepest heart buried beneath the numbness, the horror, the despair of this wretched monster we call PPD.  I want you to know that you are not, and never will be, alone.  (I know it feels like you are because we are all silenced out here, drowning, but we are here and we need you, your voice, too.) 

You think you are being overtaken by this beast, your greatest foe, but in reality she is yours to conquer, yours to embrace, yours to overcome, and ultimately, yours to ride like the mightiest of dragons.  Maybe your dragon is pink.  Imagine her, imagine her being yours, and you the master of your own destiny, riding into your wildest dreams of health and peace, stronger, better, you.

I know.  It’s so f#*king hard.

I know because in 2006 I gave birth to my second child, and 8 weeks later the world was a ride I wanted to get off.  My mind wouldn’t stop churning, sleep eluded me, and though I knew love was a language I had once spoken with ease, now it was forgotten.  I drifted slowly, then suddenly, into psychosis.  I dreamed I was kidnapped, locked in a dark trunk, suffocating and screaming for my life. 

A week later that dream came true. I was catatonic, and went to the hospital for 7 days.

After all this, I remember a good friend taking me by the shoulders, on my front porch, looking in my eyes with compassion and love.  She said with gravity and rock solid conviction:  You are going to get through this and you are going to rock the world when you do.  We are going to have a party, a “Heidi-conquered-the-world-party”, and the whole world will be invited and will cheer for you.  You’ll see, you are gonna beat this and change the world.


I didn’t believe her.  She had no idea.  I had no hope.  How could she know that?  What did she know about this awful state of mind that robs you of your ability to feel, to love, to care, to focus, to sleep, to be kind, to be yourself

 I never forgot that moment.


(By the way, she was right.)


Don’t forget.  You are gonna beat this.  You are.


And when you do, I want you to climb on your pink dragon and scream to the world that you survived, and ride on, ride on, ride on!!!


Sending you All my ferocious love,

Heidi Howes



When Depression Strikes

Out of nowhere it can come in and make my life a mess.   A few weeks ago I noticed the tell tale signs of stress turning into something a little darker.  The scariest thing is, it always comes on so suddenly.  Monday I am fine, going about my business like everything is normal, scheduling this and that, working, playing with the kids -- and then Tuesday morning about 11:30 just as I am about to get off the phone I start sobbing and I can't stop.  There is always a part of my brain sitting on the sidelines watching, standing up going "What the F*%&!"  It's incredulous, like it's witnessing really foul play in an otherwise fair game.  So it doesn't seem to make any sense.  I can understand that PPD got me after the birth of my daughter, but now she turns 3 in a month, and I know my doctor says that at this point we are no longer dealing with PPD, now we are officially dealing with acute clinical depression which probably is never going away.

Never going away?

And I also just learned that apparently people are known to grow an intolerance to their medication, which seems to have recently happened to me, and therefore I am currently (as in right this minute) undergoing the painful process of changing medications, which to me feels like the official end of life as I know it because I keep losing everything and I can't seem to keep anything straight.  Yes, I feel like I have lost my mind, and the worst part of that is the continual berating voice that keeps telling me what a freaking loser I am. 

Oh, joy.