He ate the light...

"He ate the light..." is a quote from the movie "Jaws." Taken completely out of context, this quote could mean just about anything. For me, right now, I'm in this weird place where I'm trying to find my joy again. I feel like I had this light in me, and now it's gone.

Like it got eaten?

It will make sense in a minute...stay with me...

I saw Jaws when I was really much too young to see Jaws. (watching scary movies at an age where I shouldn't' have been watching scary movies was kind of a theme in my house) As a result, growing up, I was pretty sure that sharks existed in any body of water, and were just waiting to kill me. Can't swim in the lake - sharks. Can't go to the pool - sharks. Not going to take a bath because...sharks.

original photo found here

Fast forward to grown-up me and I've figured out that sharks aren't in my bathtub. I also know they aren't really in pools or lakes and the chances of being eaten by a shark in the ocean are pretty slim. That doesn't mean that a small part of my brain doesn't still think that I'm going to get eaten by a shark in a pool, a lake, or an ocean. There is a tiny part of me that is still convinced that I will die by shark.

Given my lifelong fear of being eaten by Jaws, I'm also strangely drawn to the ocean. I'm fascinated by coral reefs. I love the idea of swimming with aquatic life. Sitting by the water brings me more peace than just about anything else in the world.

Emiquon Nature Preserve, where there is so much water and so much peace.

A lot of the jewelry I make is also inspired by water...specifically coral reefs. The more I started researching reefs, the more I realized that I wanted to someday see them in person. Which means that I would have to figure out how to face my very real fear of getting into really deep water...where all the sharks are. So I signed up to get scuba certified.

I had about 50,000 panic attacks in the water but I finished the course and am now certified to go swim around some coral reefs. And Jaws.

The thing is, when I finally got in some deep water, I discovered that the scariest thing about it (for me) was the nothing. The part of the water where you can't see the bottom and you can't see the surface and you can't see into the distance anywhere around you and you're just sitting nothing.

Which is what depression feels like to me. Like nothing. I've cried a LOT in the past few months, but in the worst parts of it, I wasn't crying or sad...I wasn't anything. I was just there. And I wasn't sure why. But I didn't really care. Because there is nothing. And nothing is actually terrifying.

painting by Jessica Mcghee

Sometimes you start wondering what is beyond the nothing. Sharks? Dead bodies? Ghosts? Piranha? (so many scary movies in my life, so many irrational fears)

So, for me, depression with anxiety is kind of like being in the deepest part of water... in the nothing...and then starting to wonder about what's beyond the nothing...and getting really, really freaked out about it.

It's awful. And it isn't rational. And it doesn't matter, because the tiny part of my brain that believes that I will die by shark is really strong for its size. And the rational side of my brain is now constantly in battle with it. The rational side of my brain sets my alarm to get up everyday and face the world. The part where the shark fear lives hits the snooze button because sleep is better than nothing. When I finally do get up, the shark fear part of my brain tries to convince me to stay in, because if I venture beyond the nothing, the sharks will rip me to shreds.

The depression has been easier to fight than the anxiety. Even now, as I write this, I can feel the sharks circling. Today I'm in a good mood, I'm up, I'm working, I'm functioning. But I'm also alone, which feels very, very safe. Because people are sharks, and sharks are terrifying and if I have to get in the water, I'm only going to get in the bathtub because it's super small and I KNOW the sharks can't fit in there.

I'm getting better. After I wrote my last blog, I was overwhelmed with the amount of support and concern and love that I was shown. So overwhelmed that I got even weirder around people because I was already uncomfortable around them, and now I pretty much feel naked. Of course, since I wrote that blog, now most people in my life know about what only a handful of people knew before. And they're understandably concerned. But the thing is, I wouldn't have even been able to write that 2 months ago. I'm being pro-active about this. I'm trying to be realistic. Monday was a great day. Tuesday, not so much. Today is kind of meh, and the fear of sharks is pretty strong. I just tackle each day as it comes and when it's over, it's over. If  I didn't get out of bed all day (like last Thursday), I didn't fail at life. I just had a bad day. 

I have always been a person that tries to find the silver lining in any cloud. I am trying to find the silver lining in this experience, and I believe I am succeeding. When I first realized that my brain was just going to go off and do it's own irrational thing, I didn't want to tell anyone. I felt like it would give people even more to talk about - like, "see? She's crazy. I told you to stay away from her." 

And then I had a good day and I decided to write about it. And opening up about this has prompted other people to share that they deal with a lot of the same things. And it sucks. And it's exhausting. And it's isolating. And embarrassing. And if anything, we should not feel embarrassed by this and we shouldn't feel like we're alone in this battle. We should not be ashamed. 

artist unknown

I do have to say that I am far braver on paper than I am in person. I feel like I am oozing confidence all over this blog post. But in about 3 hours I have to go to work...I have to throw myself into the middle of the ocean, and I am quite sure it's infested with sharks. And I'm terrified. But I'm going to do it and I believe that, eventually...someday...I will again have as much confidence in person as I do on paper. I will get back to the place where I can just enjoy the water, and not be so sure that everything swimming around me is a shark.

Hey Lola and The No Good Terrible Very Bad Year

2014 was a great year!

Scratch that. 2014 was supposed to be a great year. I had been part of a dedicated group of community activists who had made great strides in making positive changes within their community, and we had great things to show for it.

I should have been celebrating. I should have been working towards more great things. I should have been happy and excited and proud.

Instead, I found myself sitting on a couch in my new therapist's office, clutching a wadded up tissue, tears streaming down my face, wondering what the hell went wrong.

Apparently, when you are a part of something great, you become a public figure. Some people might consider you a leader.

Leaders and public figures are targets.

It was never my intention to be a leader or a public figure. I just wanted to put something good out into the world. I wanted to work with other people who wanted to put something good out into the world. And I wanted to do it honestly and with integrity and with respect to those around me.

I really don't know how I'm supposed to act as a public figure. Apparently I'm not good at it.

Early in 2014, I had an interaction with a local business owner that gave me pause. This person had not treated me well and as a result, I did not feel that I could continue having a friendship with them. I told them as much. That we could still work together for the greater good of the community and that maybe someday we could repair our friendship, but at the moment, I did not appreciate the way I was being treated and was going to put some distance between us.

It seemed simple enough. Lots of friendships dissolve, people disagree and people move on. Don't they?

Except when they don't. What I thought was a simple dissolution of friendship was the start of a year long (and still going) attack on my reputation, my character and my business. At first, I laughed it off. How bad could it possibly get?

As it turns out, well respected business people with families and normal lives can actually engage in some pretty horrible behavior.

It seems strange for someone who watches "The Real Housewives" pretty regularly to say, but... I was genuinely surprised. I grew up around bad people - addicts, alcoholics, felons, criminals, etc. I KNEW what bad people looked like. Growing up, I looked to the people who wore nice clothes, drove nice cars, went to church, had 9-5 jobs and thought, "Those people must be good. They have their shit together. Those are the kind of people I want to be like."

Fast forward to 2014 and I feel like a complete idiot. I feel like I just found out that Santa Claus isn't real. "Upstanding citizens" can do terrible things. Wolves in sheep's clothing and all of the other cliches that you can come up with...

painting by Jessica McGhee

 It's been little over a year now and it is safe to say that if anyone in this little city that I live in gets in trouble with the city for anything at all, someone will point to me as the cause.

Get in trouble with the health department? I probably turned you in. Problems with the liquor commission? It must be something I said. Code enforcement come after you for anything? It was most definitely me that called. Is your business not zoned properly? You should definitely let everyone know that I turned you in.

That probably doesn't seem like such a big deal until you factor in that the city operates lots of different departments, those departments field lots of complaints, and as a result, lots of businesses are going to get notifications. So imagine that for 13 months, on a regular basis, you are hearing about someone new that got in trouble for something, and that they were told that it was you. Imagine that you address this as soon as you hear about it, and that most people REFUSE to talk to you about it. They just level the accusation to anyone who will listen, and run away... cowards.

The thing is, rumors are funny (just kidding. so not funny.). Once a couple get out there (courtesy of my old friend), it's really easy to pile on more. Pretty soon, there are a lot of people who are sure you're terrible. That you're petty and jealous and trying to get businesses closed and get people shut down and stealing money and whatever else it is that terrible people do. Even if they've never met you. Even if they had met you, and you had really tried to help them succeed in the past. Even if you genuinely want everyone to succeed. They just know, because someone told someone who told them and also, assumptions and coincidences and she's difficult and bossy and a know it all and other things.

I couldn't defend myself. I hadn't done what I was being accused of, but it didn't matter. You can't prove a negative. I lost friends. I lost business. I lost weight. I had anxiety. I tried to stay true to who I was, but instead, I fell into a deep depression. My therapist and my doctor suggested Prozac, just to get me through this and back on my feet.

I suffered horrible side effects from the medication. I became even more anxious. Paranoid. I couldn't work. I couldn't leave my house. I spent the first few hours of every morning trying to come up with reasons NOT to kill myself.

painting by Jessica McGhee

If this wouldn't have happened to me, I would not believe it was true. I would not believe that respected members of a business community that I admired so much could so quickly and easily seek to destroy someone, just because they didn't agree. It felt - feels - like junior high. Like something you read about, but that doesn't really happen in real life - not with grown- ups. And it's ongoing. Every time I think it's over, something else comes up. A few weeks ago, some business owners got zoning violation notices ...they all let me know in one way or another that they either thought it was me that turned them in, or that someone had told them it was me. I now have a social media block list that's a mile long, just so I can avoid the cruel comments, the passive aggressive attacks on my business and/or character, and the speculation about all of the horrible things people are so convinced that I did.

Some friends have stood by me. Many have conveniently become "busy." More often than not, people don't want to get involved. Most people think I should just try and blow it off. But everyone else in the world, I have a childhood, and our childhoods shape us in so many ways...

painting by Jessica McGhee

When I was about 8 years old, my mom and my stepdad rented a Friday the 13th movie. We were getting ready to move, so our house was mostly empty, save for some bedroom furniture. We all snuggled into their bed together and watched it. When it was over, my stepdad said he heard the cat meowing outside and told me to go let her in. I walked into our empty living room, stood there and stared at the large plate glass window, with only darkness on the other side...and was sure that Mrs. Voorhees was going to come through it at any second to kill me. I stood paralyzed, rooted to the ground and began crying. From the other room, my mother and stepfather made fun of me. For being weak. For being stupid. For not being brave. And they laughed so much. Because they had sent me out there on purpose. Because it's hilarious to terrify your 8 year old daughter, and then make fun of her for her fear.

There was a lot of awful in my house growing up, but I think that that event, probably more than any other, is the best example of how my childhood shaped the best and worst parts of me. My parents let me know at a very early age that I would never be good enough, so I have spent my entire life trying to be good enough. My parents let me know at a very early age that fear was something to be mocked, so I try very hard to hide my fear, until I can conquer it into non-existence. My parents let me know at a very early age what it felt like to feel alone in the midst of people, unloved, and to want to die, so I try very hard to love people and to let them know that they are not alone, and that the world needs them.

Up until recently, trying to be good enough, just meant trying to be the best person that I could. Facing my fears was terrifying, but do-able, and worth the effort. Loving people and seeing the best in them felt good.

And now it feels awful. I am terrified of people. I don't know what good looks like. I will never be good enough. I am not worth defending. There is no one who will stand beside me when the world turns ugly.

I am alone.

I am alone, and the world does not need me, and I don't want to be here anymore. I am 8 years old all over again.

This is my current battle. A fear of people that is so strong that when I am around them, I find myself clawing at my own skin, as though I might be able to rip open a seam and hide inside of myself, so that I can still do what I need to do, but no one will be able to see me.

I force myself to get out of bed every day. This is new. For two months, I would not get out of bed except to go to work. If I did go to work, I would leave after a couple of hours. People are terrifying.

I cry when people are kind to me, because I'm so grateful for it, but at the same time, I don't trust it.

I cry because I still want to love people, but I am so very, very afraid of what they can do.

I do not know who to trust. I do not know who is saying things about me. I don't know who hears what is being said. I do not know who believes it, or who will level the next accusation at me. I do not know how much more business we will lose because people believe that I am terrible. I do not know how much more business we will lose because I am so horribly awkward around people now, in a business that demands that I be social.

I am re-wiring myself. I have not lost the part of myself that will fight my fears. I will fight this. I will stay here. I will remind myself that I am indeed loved. I will find my tribe. I will find a way to love people again, and to find those I can trust and stand beside, and those who will stand beside me. But it's a battle, and everyday is different. I can write this today, because today is a good day. I have no idea what tomorrow will bring. I will face it when I get there.

painting by Jessica McGhee

Because of this experience, everything about my life is changing. And because everything about my life is changing, Hey Lola will change. It's hard to talk about how great it is to find a $5.00 jacket at the thrift store when you can't even find the courage to walk into the thrift store. And you no longer have the extra $5.00 to spend.

So this is my new let go of the person I was, and to try and find the person I will be. And if you want to come along, and you promise to be kind, I would be grateful for the company.