Tag Archives: mental health

WE ARE THE DREAMERS

I remember the exact moment I realized I had matured into a responsible adult. It was the day something didn’t go the way I wanted it to and instead of saying, “why is this happening to me”, I thought, “what did I do to create this outcome”. Somehow, life became easier after this revelation!

Unfortunately, the biggest obstacle in my life I did not create and I can not fix. Scleroderma is the beast I can not outsmart or outrun. It’s there, it’ll always be there. Every once in a while, I just want to curl up in a ball and shut out the entire world. But then I get discouraged and angry that I’m wasting precious time. The older I get, the more I realize how every minute matters. I don’t want to curl up in a ball, close my eyes and wake up having missed years of my life.

The lesson I’ve learned from being chronically ill is that everything matters. My lust for normalcy is insatiable. I want to get up, shower, drink coffee, whine about going to work, drive to work while bitching about traffic, survive my day to come home, make dinner and whine about doing it all again tomorrow. But my reality leaves no time for normal things.

On top of the desire to find balance in a world made for the healthy, I also want to do everything, see everything, meet everyone, and I want to experience all of the goodness in the world. Again, my reality leaves little time for all of these things. I can not tell you how many people have told me to “just do it”, go on that trip, and do all the things my heart is set on, while I still can. But I’m here to tell you that not everyone has the financial means or the health to be that person on TikTok traveling the world crossing things off their bucket list. I’m not hating, I say do all the things if you have the means. It’s just not possible for a majority of the disabled community. Whether it be a physical or mental disability, we live day by day with constantly changing medical needs and paycheck to paycheck trying to pay for those needs. We barely have time to write a bucket list, never-mind live it!

The other side of this is the people who, with negative intentions, have told me to shrink my dreams, to accept I’ll never have a normal life and move on, to adjust my life plans, and to just give in to my new reality. I’ve even had people tell me to just stop fighting the inevitable. What the…This one is probably the most painful and infuriating. When someone says this, I hear, “You’re inconveniencing my life and I need you to just be a good little patient”.

If you get nothing else from this blog, please read this and burn it in your brain. When we dream it’s with some semblance that these things are possible. Hope gets us through our darkest days. It drives us to push & never give up. Possibilities, goals, small triumphs, and even the hard work it takes to see a dream come true, are all burned as fuel to carry on. We savor the thought that the pain may end, that tomorrow will be better, that a cure may be found, and that our dreams will come true. Please don’t take that from us.

Yes, having a permanent and incurable illness means you will have to learn to navigate all the changes and hindrances that come with the diagnosis. But it does not leave a person less intelligent, damaged, incapable, irrelevant, unable to make their own choices, less worthy of friendship or love, and they, sure as hell, are not weak. An illness doesn’t make someone less of a friend. It doesn’t make them less fun or leave them not needing fun & excitement in their life. It doesn’t make them a burden, and it is not a free pass to steal their passions, hopes, and dreams.

I will not climb into my bed and be a good little patient. Sorry if this inconveniences some people & makes “their” life more difficult. But we all have the choice to be in someone’s life or not and love should be unconditional. If you see me as a burden, find a better patient, it’s not me. Unless you have a degree and can put Dr. before your name, I am not your patient. Do not cast shade on my hope. It would be better if you just walked away. It would be your loss. Because I am a fierce & loyal friend and you will never find a more welcoming & loving group than my circle.

Lucky for me, I’m a stubborn bitch who loves learning, life & people. I will not cower, I will not succumb, I will not have my life stolen by Scleroderma. Even on a bad day, I will accomplish something. Sometimes it’s a huge thing & sometimes it’s small. But to me it’s everything. I’ll continue to visit loved ones, make people smile, create, talk, study, practice, help others, make new friends, dream, hope, love, laugh, and fight until I take my last breath. I will not let the lack of money, resources, or bad health keep me from dreaming about doing all the things I want to do in this world. Will I do it all? Probably not. Will I die trying? Absolutely! 

Here’s to the warriors and all who know your worth and willingly step out into the world and share your journey. Keep hoping, fighting, surviving, and thriving, for we are the dreamers & we will not let anyone take that from us.

INTRODUCTION

Hello! Welcome to Thrive To Survive! This is a special side-project that will tie into Just Another Badass Warrior, a blog & interview series taking a look at how folks have overcome the various obstacles presented in their lives, whether they be physical or mental. Your host, Jon Phipps, will take an in-depth look into the stories of those he interviews, while also finding out the pathways to the light at the end of the tunnel for his guests, while seeking the same for himself. May you derive hope, inspiration and clarity from this blog!

LEARNING TO SMILE ALL OVER AGAIN

Happy New Year, one & all! I hope that 2023 has gotten off to a wonderful start for you! Most of us tend to make resolutions when the new year rolls around, some of them minute in stature, others towering over us like skyscrapers. Some are easier to adhere to and follow than others, but all of them carries weight in our lives, no matter how large or small they may be. We all want to see in-person that friend we made over the pandemic, or to go to that city, state or country we’ve always wanted to go to, or to dye our hair that color that would catch everyone’s eye. But what if we did something in the new year that cost nothing, did not require a gym membership or association admission, or did not even require approval from others?

What if we learned to smile again?

2022 was a hard year for a lot of us. Whether it came from events in the noisy news cycle, or events that happened in our own personal lives, or events that happened to others close to us in our lives, 2022 was a very draining and taxing year. Mental and emotional hardships. The projects or opportunities that just slipped through our fingers. The loss of a loved one or a beloved pet. 2022 threw plenty of ways to snatch our happiness and joy at us, and in some cases, it did steal those precious things away. To say nothing of what the last 3 years has done to the world as a whole, with the pandemic considered.

But what if I told you that we’re on a mission to get those things back?

A big resolution for 2023 is to learn how to smile again. 2023 is the year that happiness grows and re-re-regrows in our lives. With the sureness of a rose in the springtime, we will all find our way back to happiness this year. This is your call to manifest it! Cultivate your soul and make it into a garden of peace, love, joy and great happiness! Planting season in just around the corner in our lives; take advantage! This is the perfect time to rid ourselves of the reeds and weeds that was the happenings in 2022; in 2023, we will strive to toss the bad news and the noisy news and the discord and disaster and dissent into the wastebasket, and hold our heads high and look forward with clear eyes to the future! The future is eight months pregnant, and tomorrow has ALWAYS been better than today! Optimism, self-love, self-care, taking bold but calculated chances, speaking out, reaching out and loving others more will take root and flower in our lives in 2023. Gone will be the choking vines and weeds and invasive species of self-doubt, abandoning ourselves and our needs, timidness, fear, people-pleasing, attachments, conformation and self-flagellation. 2023 is our year, brothers and sisters. Let’s grab this thing by the horns and make it ours and MANIFEST all that we deserve!

I hope this blog finds you well, and in the comments, please list some ways you aim at keeping to our resolution of learning to smile again!

As always, take care, much love and may God richly bless

-Jon


WHERE THE END AND THE BEGINNING MEET

Milepost 264.4 on the Blue Ridge Parkway in my beloved North Carolina will find you at The Lump Overlook, one of 195 scenic overlooks on the 469 mile Blue Ridge Parkway. Following a short trail up the hill, you can see for miles into the picturesque Yadkin Valley region. A plaque telling about Tom Dula (Tom Dooley) stands at the trailhead at the bottom of the hill. Wooden fences lines the hill and adds to the charm of the area. Beyond the hill, there is a narrow paved walkway, offering travelers and tourists a second opportunity to peer into the Carolina foothills. The scenery is lush and green in the spring, and alight with many colors in the fall. It is a place where snapshots are taken, and memories are made.

And for me, it is the place where I nearly ended my life.

In August of this year, I hit absolute rock bottom mentally. I have touched on this in previous blogs, but have never fully dove into it. I found myself to be completely frayed in my personal life, and in my work/creative life. I found myself constantly worrying and obsessing over everyone and everything in my circle. Even in doing things I enjoy, I still found myself straddled by the weight of anxiety, of uncertainty, of FOMO, the fear of missing out. It was completely wrecking my life. Being an empath, it can be very hard to tame your care for others down when you need to. And in my case, these feelings were like kudzu, covering every fiber of my being in a thick layer of choking anxiety vines and leafy panic. But I kept ignoring it. And ignoring it. And ignoring it. I kept lying to myself, saying I things under control, when it was gnawing-no, eating-at me, from the feet up.

Many times, I had visited The Lump Overlook in rides on the Blue Ridge Parkway. I remember vividly the view, and how sharp the drop-off was from the aforementioned narrow paved walkway down into the chasm beneath me. I had my mind made up. I was going to free myself from these feelings, emotions, worries, panics and fears by jumping from the overlook into the valley below. I didn’t care how long the fall would be, nor what I may or may not hit as this body cascaded into the valley below. I knew I’d had enough. I had reached the end of my rope. A running start and a leap into the valley from the overlook was going to be the solution to all of my problems, so I thought. But little did I know, a new beginning was about to meet my planned end.

I confessed my intentions to a handful of close friends, even going as far to admit I had begged and pleaded my own brother to drive me to the overlook, so I could carry out what was to be my final wish. Shocked and terrified they must have been, but judgmental and critical, they were not. They sat me down and identified what had caused this to build up, things I had wholeheartedly ignored. The stresses, the worries, the anxieties, the fear of not being present, the pressures of making sure everything ran correctly, and that everyone was appeased, both within the group and outside of it. They made a map of progress for me to follow, with careful and concise instructions going forward. And at times, it’s been damn hard to follow. Even now, I get that wrenching feeling in my gut that I should be present, I should have my sleeves rolled up and that I should be getting my hands dirty in the online network we are running. But I know that, if I was insistent, I’d just find myself right back at where I was, and I would have erased every shred of the progress I have made.

Instead, I take those wrenching feelings and tun them into knocking on doors, looking into options for mental health services, emailing potential therapists, and airing out these wrenching feelings to that same close knit group of dear friends. And apart from that, I am channeling those feelings elsewhere, into writing poetry and short stories, and in recent days, even going as far as submitting one of my poems for publication in a physical, hard-copy book! And I’m always looking forward to the future……..some of my early goals for the next year is to find a solid therapist, to visit some more dear friends, to write and publish a full book of my own poetry, and to take some of my music ideas and get them recorded, with the hopes of having at least an EP of my songs released by the end of 2023! Many bright things await me, and it all came when my end and my beginning met, at milepost 264.4 on the Blue Ridge Parkway ❤

I hope this blog finds you well, and in the comments, talk a bit about how you’ve overcome those feelings of anxiety, the fear of missing out, suicidal thoughts, etc. Your feelings and stories are valid, and well welcomed and cherished!

As always, thank you all for taking some time to read this blog! Take care, much love, and may God richly bless

-Jon

P.S.-Special thank yous to Renee Yaworsky, Diane Coll, Sandie Ingrande and Just Another Badass Warrior co-founder Em Farwell for taking me into their arms and helping me chart a course toward a better and brighter future for myself. Without their care and love and kindness, I do not know where I would be. Thank you ladies, from the very bottom of my heart. ❤ ❤ ❤

NOISY NEWS, PASSIONS AND GIVING PRECEDENCE TO HEART, MIND & SOUL

On the day I am writing this, I am currently visiting with a friend in the wonderful city of Statesville, North Carolina. The last few days away have been a much-needed retreat from the real world, but I woke up this Monday morning to the awful news that more violent attacks are ongoing in Ukraine. My heart was in my throat, knowing the people I know that are touched deeply by the ongoing war in that country. To say nothing of those who are deeply affected by news stories that may not be front page headlines every day, but are nonetheless topics folks invest a lot in, ranging from self to state to world. And it made me wonder: At what point do our hearts, minds and souls take precedence over the 24 hour noisy news cycle? At what point do these three things take precedence over things we have deep passions for? Can a happy medium be reached?



I know this is a slippery slope, especially in the times in which we live. The 24 hour news cycle is a hard thing to get out of once caught in it. Couple that with the social media boom, and the fact that anyone can say anything about anything, and you find yourself in a draining, depleting mindset. And that’s just with news stories. What about things we are fiery and passionate about, thing that may not make the headlines routinely, or may not even make the news at all? It’s good to have that drive, that passion, but I believe a healthy dose of moderation is also required, so we don’t find ourselves in the whale’s stomach time and again. After all, it is the testing time once again with humanity. We stand at the precipice of today, with the golden horizons of tomorrow within sight. But storm clouds and lightning bolts lie between us and that, and to traverse these metaphorical storms, we must be well prepared for what lie ahead.

The legendary Paul Harvey once said about the seemingly never-ending news cycle: “Noise makes news. One gunshot makes more noise than a thousand prayers. And we will continue to be attracted to it, so long as the fire which burns others warms us.” And this statement I couldn’t agree with more. The human race has such an obscene fascination with bad news. But I also understand where that fascination may be coming from. We may be broke out with woe and worry and discord and disaster in our own lives, but if we see the news about a village in Ukraine being decimated, or about an athlete with a broken leg or torn muscle, or about stock market numbers plunging, or a small town somewhere getting blown off the map by a tornado or hurricane, we can all feel relatively comfortable in our own lives and positions. We can see the misfortunes of others and say to ourselves, “well, at least I’m not as bad off as those people!” But before you do this, please stop and ask yourself the following questions:

1) Is this the way to be?

2) Is it right to make light of the splinters in someone else’s eye, when we have logs sticking out of ours?

3) Is it right to mock and ridicule others’ situations, just because we’re tired of facing our own, or not wanting to face our own?

4) Is it OK for us to bury ourselves in other’s despair or worry or anxiety?

5) Is it OK to substitute what I’m going through with what someone else is going through?

If your answer is no to any of these, I advise you look deep inside yourself and take an inventory of your mind, heart and soul. I used to be one of those who would find some twisted level of comfort in the pain of others. Then I found myself following the news cycle 24/7, and finding that the happenings of the world were replacing my own needs and low points in my life. Every little breaking story would send shockwaves through my being. I found myself losing sleep at night over everything. Someone else’s bad news was something I would revel in. I had to divorce myself from the noisy news cycle before it completely enveloped me. Unbeknownst to me at the time, this was a first step in setting boundaries in my own life. And the great thing is, it’s never too late to set those boundaries in your life!

If you feel the fire in your belly by the news stories that impact you, a good place to start would be donating to a worthy cause tied to said news stories, ranging from a local food bank to medical donation websites to storm relief. Spreading the word about notable causes tied to news stories is a much better way of channeling the fire inside one’s self. Another way is to volunteer, if you are able to. So many charitable causes are short-staffed in these trying times, and every helping hand is welcomed. Detoxing from the social media cycle is also highly beneficiary. Try and limit yourself to checking the news cycle just once a day, but if you struggle with that, slowly decrease your time spent on news sites or watching various 24/7 news channels, until the number dwindles downward all the time. And if you find yourself getting caught up in the rat race of the cycles, take a step back and a deep breath, and remind yourself of the positive. Take a look at what’s around you. Go for a long walk. Read, write, listen to music or take a nap. Remember that misfortune for one does not necessarily equal fortune for another. We are all in this boat together, and we must look after one another, if we are to make this work.

I hope this blog finds you well, and in the comments, please feel free to share tips you use for pulling yourself out of the news cycle and into brighter, better mindsets!

As always, take care, much love and may God richly bless,

-Jon

ATTACHMENT, ABANDONMENT AND BONDS

Throughout my life, I have had the pleasure and privilege of forging many brawny ties with those in my life, and I referenced this in my earlier blog on soul ties, and in a way, this blog will be a sort of part two to that soul ties blog. But today, I want to talk with you about when the soul ties get to be perhaps too strong, and you find yourself fighting attachment issues-thinking that those you are close with hung the moon and sent the sun into the sky every day.

When someone shows you daylight after a long period of being in the darkness in your life, you cling to that. You cherish it. You become intoxicated by it. You cannot believe it. Your mind rejoices, saying:

Someone showed me the light!

Someone showed me a path out of the forests in my mind!

Someone offered me a hand to pull me out of the weeds!

Someone offered me a life raft from the sinking ship of a situation I was in!

Someone encouraged me in my creative endeavors!

But if you are not careful, you find you will begin to obsess over these feelings, and starting to chase them. It’s like a drug, far more powerful than any of the ones circulating on the streets today. And you find yourself smothering those around you in time, worrying over their every minute movement in their lives, when 99.99% of the time, the moves they make will not impact the friendship, partnership or relationship you have cultivated over time. But still, your mind worries. You’ve become addicted. And now you can’t let go, because attachment and fear of abandonment have you pinned to this person or people. You find yourself lashing out when they want to do something that doesn’t conform to what you want them to do, whether it’s something as major as a cross-country move, a new creative journey, or something as minute as what color they should dye their hair, or what books they are wanting to read. I know this well. Because I am one of those people.




As I have mentioned in blogs past, I deeply value and cherish soul ties I have forged in my life. I value hugs, conversation, sharing laughter or making a meal for someone. But the dark side of this is precisely what I’ve mentioned above. I found myself getting attached to the people I have forged these ties with. My brain sank its teeth into their kindness. They listened to my story and didn’t run afterward. They sat with me and held my hand through the tears and the fears. They heard every single reason why they should toss me in the ditch and leave me, but yet they stayed. And I greatly value and cherish that. But the down side is that my mind always takes what they’re doing and stores it away, and just assumes that they will always have the time to give it, at the drop of a hat. And when even the smallest of changes comes, it pulls out those files and says, “you’re not getting this from them anymore!!! They are fixing to abandon you, just like how everybody else close to you has! You don’t deserve this, and you’ll never get it again!” And as a result, you find yourself lashing out, not from a place of hate, but from a place of trying to maintain the good thing/things that are going on. You instantly go into fight or flight when someone this close to you shares news of a new event or happening in their life, because you are scared shitless that what you have is eroding, going the way of the dodo, and that the bond you have with them is about to buy the farm.

Sometimes, these can even manifest themselves as feelings for someone. And no matter what reasoning you might try to do with your mind, it will have you convinced that the person you are close with is head-over-heels for you, and that, no matter the situation, you can show up as their knight in shining armor riding a white horse, coming in to save the day. You cannot picture yourself without them. You find yourself fawning over them constantly. You dream about them every night. You find yourself messaging or emailing them multiple times daily. And before long, you’re so caught up in the addiction, you can’t even recognize yourself anymore mentally and spiritually. Nor can you recognize your own heart, soul and mind. The addiction of attachment has you fully ready to shed your body, cares and woes, to become one with the person you are closest with, and to become a specter in their lives, hanging over every little decision they make, and ready to declare war on anything they do that may jeopardize the “special thing” your mind has tricked you into thinking you have.




I am an addled soul. And I have fought this exact bear many times in my life. Attachment and fear of abandonment has leeched so much from me, and I know it has strained many friendships along the way, to say nothing of the opportunities it has cost me. I am still reeling from years of this addiction, the debilitating need to be loved and to go above and beyond for everyone.

But you know the beautiful thing about it?

It’s never too late.

It’s never too late to take your life back into your own hands. I am slowly realizing this. I am seeing firsthand the damage my attachment issues and abandonment issues have caused, and I am ready to roll up my sleeves and get to work in the repair process. These issues and fears have carved through me like a Category 5 hurricane. There’s a LOT of work to be done to overcome these issues and addictions. But it’s a bright and brand-new day in my life. And I am fully prepared to do whatever it takes to shed myself of these problems, and I encourage you to do the same!

I hope you all have gleaned something from this! In the comments, feel free to share your own stories about fighting attachment, abandonment issues, fears of losing someone close, being too clingy, etc! I am always willing to listen to your stories, and I want you to overcome and succeed in your journey to be a better person!

As always, take care, much love, and may God richly bless,

-Jon

P.S.: Special thanks to my dear friend Renee Yaworsky, who inspired me to write this blog on this subject today!

ON TINY ISLANDS, LONELINESS, SMALLNESS AND FIGHTING YOUR MIND

“Sometimes I feel like a tiny island, floating in the sea……..”

Today is the 77th birthday of one of my favorite guitarists, the inimitable Leo Kottke. And on such a day, I figured I would write a bit, and center it on a theme of a song he had on a record called Greenhouse 50 years ago, a cover of an Al Gaylor song called Tiny Island.



In my mind, I often find myself stranded on tiny islands. Feeling like I am stranded in a place where the only person I truly have is myself, a place hundreds of miles from those I love and cherish. A place where dark clouds and stormy gales are moving in, and I can do nothing but watch, and maybe put my hands over my head and curl into a ball for protection, if I can think clear enough to do so. And I write to you this day, September 11, 2022 from one of those sun-baked and lonesome islands in my head.

These tiny islands manifest themselves as feelings of smallness, forgottenness and abandonment, and feeling as though I’ve been placed on the shelf to collect dust. I know where this stems from. When I was 7 years old, I lost my mother, Nancy, at the all-too-young age of 44. My rock, my safe harbor from life’s great storms. The solid ground I walked on as a child. My sunlight and the North Star in my sky at night. Gone. At the all-too-young age of 7, I had this first taste of loneliness, forgottenness and smallness. And it’s a taste that has only grown more bitter to me over the long arc of time.

In the 18+ years since that day, I have been fighting those feelings tooth and nail. And like kudzu, they spread, wrapping their choking vines around friendships, relationships, creative partnerships, etc. Always feeling like I’m one comment or missed call away from a dissolution of said friendship, relationship or creative partnership. Always walking on eggshells with my view on certain things within my creative work or elsewhere. Going down dark rabbit holes and snapping off at people I love and care about, because I feel they are forgetting me. Being too clingy and overbearing, and slowly having those things drive a wedge between the folks I love and care about. Always having hellish and insanely unrealistic scenarios about friends and loved ones. Fearing I will wake up to bad news about someone I love and cherish. Feeling 50,000 pounds on my chest when someone I love and cherish does have bad news in their lives, knowing I can’t physically be there to help. Projecting my fears and concerns on those around me, and my mind trying to pin those fears onto those around me, and trying to paint them in a bad way. People pleasing. Losing sleep. Backsliding in my mental health. Shutting down. The loneliness and need to feel accepted has cost me dearly, and very nearly cost me everything a couple of times.

But, on those tiny islands I find myself on, I am finding something I’d not noticed before now: Bottles washing up on the shore with messages inside them. Messages of folks relating their experiences to mine. Messages of love, hope, care, and help. Messages of support. Messages I desperately needed to hear. I have had it in my head for so long that I and only I could fight my way off these islands and swim to help, even though the waters are infested with sharks and the waves are high and whitecapped. But I am no longer alone in these struggles. I finally have a viable, healthy and loving support system in the many who have stepped up to help me in my fight, including one Em Farwell, one of the founders of this very site. In these kind, loving, sweet and wonderful people, I have a team who are willing and ready to roll up their sleeves and chop wood and help me build a boat to sail off these islands with, toward calmer waters and islands with my friends and loved ones on them.

Though it doesn’t come without those friends having a healthy dose of patience and VERY long fuses. Even with the support team, I still find myself having to weather storms that move in. I have to sometimes encounter parts of my path forward that are flooded. I have to sometimes cope with the fact that my torch lighting my way gets put out due to the rain and wind. But at least I have these friends to turn to when storm fronts move in over me. In their friendship, kindness, patience, love and understanding, I have a home with impenetrable and unbreakable walls. I have a home where the bonds are strong, the love runs deep and has solid roots, the foundation is sturdy, and the roof over my head provides cover from all that life may throw at me. Sincerely grateful am I, for these people that are willing to share my experience and help me in my journey, and are not afraid of getting rained on and getting battered by the wind at times.

I hope this blog has inspired you to reach out and find your team that will be a home to you, and will be boat-builders and shelters from the storm in your life!

Much love, all the best, and may God richly bless,

-JP

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-j5ilgP1Ov8