Love, and a good dog, will always pull you out of the darkness, if you allow them to.

As a writer who blogs mostly about my what’s on my mind; whether that be about city planning, or lack of it, people, and how we interact with one another in the world, parents who pimp out their children for seemingly their own “gain” I often struggle to post anything at all when I find myself in an emotionally difficult spot.  Such as the spot of I’ve found myself in for the better part of two weeks.

I have posted, very tongue in cheek in the past about how aging isn’t for sissies.  I’ve also opened up, when the time was appropriate about my own struggle with mental health.  There is such a stigma attached to admitting that sometimes, I, you, all of us are just not doing well inside our own minds.  There is also, very much, an attitude of “just snap out of it” or “let it go” and my personal favorite; “your life is so blessed, what on earth could be getting you down??”  As if being married to a handsome, talented, successful man, owning two lovely homes, and being the mother of three incredibly gifted, talented, beautiful girls somehow negates my “right” to struggle.  This way of thinking from not only people on the “outside” but from me as well, has always made me go “hmmm.”

But this is not how anxiety, depression work.  They don’t look around at your “wonderful” life and say, “hey.  Forget Shantelle guys, she’s got such an amazing life these days, let’s go bug somebody who doesn’t have so much to be thankful for.”  And away they go.

No.  It doesn’t work like that at all, sadly.  Anybody who has known me, knows that I love deeply, that I celebrate life fully and wholeheartedly, I’m often generous and loyal to my own detriment.  I love being kind.  I love giving of myself so much so that I fall into bed exhausted, but full, also knowing that I choose to do all the things that keep the “demons” at bay.  Those who have been with me my entire (or most of my) life, my mother, Yannick, and a couple of girlfriends, have watched me fight to allow the upbeat, strong, focused, “best self” shine day in, day out.  But sometimes, this is not so easy.  Some days there is so much more at play, and I become exhausted from the fight, and raise the white flag.

After two weeks of reading, focusing, and meditating on not giving into the feelings, and thoughts that want me to believe that I’m not worthy/deserving.  The thoughts that I’m failing my children, my husband, and more importantly, myself, sometimes become so loud, that I begin to believe that it must be truth.  Rather than my knowing that I’m killing the game, and supporting and loving them, and me, the best I can becomes louder than the other truth.  This doubt grows, and before I know it, I’m not only doubting my abilities as a wife, and mother, but as a writer, a creative person, and general good citizen of the world.  And that’s when the weight of doubt becomes too much to even breath, let alone stand.

Where does it come from?  This all encompassing doubt, and feeling of failure?  It is incredibly confusing; because I not only know that I’m an incredible human, but I believe it deep in my soul.  And when it comes, why is it more powerful than the knowing that I am sure as hell not perfect, but I am doing my absolute best?  Why, for me, does the darkness have the ability to take me out at the knees?  But, for example my husband can have the thoughts that he’s not where he wants to be in his life/career, acknowledge it, and move on?  Is it our chemical make up that enables these times to become dark mental times for one person, but not another?  Or is it a hormonal thing?  I was talking to Yannick about it; wondering if it is all chalked up to hormones?  I mean, ask my mother, ask him, hormones and I have never, ever, been a balanced thing.  Some women, like my mother, like my eldest daughter, and a couple of my girlfriends have zero issues with their hormones.  They are the same day one of their monthly cycle as they are day twenty five.  No change up in personality, temperament, or attitude.  I have never been this girl.  Puberty was a bitch for me.  Being on the pill; well let’s just say, you would have thought I was Linda Blair from the Exorcist, and pregnancy.  Shit.  Yannick is famous for saying; “I had the coolest, most amazing girlfriend for four months, and then for two-three months, I thought ‘what the hell have I gotten myself into??'”  What he had gotten himself into was a girlfriend who had no idea she was pregnant for ten weeks.  Again.  Hormones.  We have never seemed to get along.   And now here I am, I can’t remember when I had my last period; so I know my old frenemy, hormones are hugely at play right now, even with my bio-identical concoction of the three major ones, some how I’m still “unbalanced” struggling to find level ground to exist on.

This is where sweet Mack, and a loving husband came into play.  It seems to me that the most important part of getting out of the hole of doubt, anxiety, loneliness, fear, is to share these feelings in a safe environment, with somebody who can handle it.  That might be a close girlfriend, your mom (considering she gave you life, she probably gets you better than you get yourself), if you’re fortunate to have an open minded, understanding lover, let them know that you’re struggling and need them to wrap their arms around you, or if time and money allow, a kick ass therapist who is qualified in not only supporting you through it, but also has the qualifications to give you tools to combat the dark days.  And unlike me, who tries to press on, acting like “I’ve got this” or in some cases I tell myself “this isn’t happening” open up about it sooner, rather than later.  Or, hell finding and focusing on true perspective might be just as simple as it was for me yesterday.  All the support you need might just come from your dog, like it did with me.  While our old guy was bouncing around, nub wagging, ears perked, smiling from ear to ear; I stopped and reminded myself of all the challenges Mack has faced in his one life.  Yet here is he, he still gets up every day, all day long with the same joy, the same giving spirit as he always has.  Listen, I understand that dogs don’t think in the same fashion as we do, they don’t understand that they’ve had cancer, or lost their sibling, or even that currently, as in Mack’s case, he doesn’t have many days left.  I know this about dogs.  So, we can’t literally be like dogs, since our brains work in a way that, unfortunately, keeps stock, has memory, and language; we know when we’re not “ourselves” whether it be physically, or mentally, and this can torment us.  Dogs are dogs, and we are not, obviously.  What I’m suggesting is that I, and perhaps you, spend more time living life the way dogs do, than the way human beings do, dogs seem to have it all figured out.  If you want to know how a dog lives, read the anonymous poem I posted yesterday over again, and try to live today more like a dog.

In closing, thank you to each and every one of you who has written in words of encouragement.  It means the world to me, and truth be told, we all need to know that we’re not alone when the darkness falls.

Love you,

xo

Shantelle

PHOTO CREDIT:  @thekittyholland

 

 

11 Comments

  1. “Where does it come from? This all encompassing doubt, and feeling of failure?”
    I’ve been asking myself that very question for over a year now.
    I feel like a complete loser on a daily basis even though I have a great life filled with love and laughter.
    Thank you for reminding me that I’m not alone, Shantelle.
    And by the way, you’re an amazing writer and human being.

  2. I think there are dark times in everyone’s life, menopause doesn’t help, it seems to bring out our worst feelings of doubt and inadequacy. I use to sit and cry for no reason, felt so sorry for myself, I know it was hard for everyone around me at home. I kept it all inside, at work people thought I was this upbeat person who had it all together. Thank God for my dog who sat with me, licked the tears away and made me feel like everything would be ok, wish he was here still…
    There is hope, life will bring you moments of great joy, hang in there. XX

  3. I wanted to add that I find myself reading the other peoples’ comments, and comparing my comment to theirs, thinking that mine is nowhere near as good as everyone else’s! When actually, every comment has it’s own merits, and expresses that individual’s thoughts and feelings. It’s hard for me to remember that it’s not a competition, but that we’re all trying to express love and support for you, Shantelle, and hopefully, for each other too!

  4. Dearest Shantelle, your blog made me cry so much. I have been having the very same feelings of not being worthy, lazy, unlovable etc. I have been suffering, for the last 9 years from fibromyalgia and an unknown neurological illness that has robbed me of my energy, my mobility and makes me constantly fatigued. My dogs know when I’m at my lowest and make me feel better and loved.
    seratonin levels play a part in depression. I also have a nasty voice that puts me down constantly (a collection of people from my past), that makes things worse.
    I hope you feel better soon. I completely understand how awful it can feel.
    You are a wonderful person.
    Take care and keep meditating.

  5. Dear Shantelle,

    As someone who’s been struggling with mental illness (as well as being sorrounded by friends in similar condition for years), all I could think at first was to send you a big virtual hug. Personally, what I find more exhausting from all this anxiety and depression is the lack of empathy of those that simply don’t understand that this is something that we can’t control. It’s not about being whinny, a person who deals with mental issues knows that there’s a lot of things to be thankful for, but having people accusing you being ungrateful does no better. I’ve been blessed with a close-knit family, loving parents in an interracial marriage and I’m lucky enough to have a college degree and a somewhat stable financial condition – which means a lot if you consider how many people have been living here in Brazil. However, I can’t stop feeling that I can’t make deeper connections with people, neither avoid the pressure of being an overachiever whithin the area I chose to work with. And whenever I feel that I accomplished something, the impostor syndrome comes full cyrcle and I can’t help but comparing myself with other friends and acquaintances in similar situation and feel somewhat underserving of this success, and then feeling bad for having such thoughts when you know that there are people in worse conditions and so on, going on a full downward spiral. I can only imagine your struggle with handling career, children, marriage and much more…

    Also, once you’re clinically depressed people minimize it, not recognizing that it’s simply a chemical imbalance on your brain and that it needs help to be ok again….and I’m with you when you say how much love (either human and animal) can lift your spirits. I once had a lovely dog, but only had cats ever since he died, and I must say that there’s something magical about them. It’s like if they had superpowers underneath all that fur that absorbs all the sad, bad thoughts in our minds. Pets are among the best therapists.

    Wishing you a better week 🙂

  6. Shantelle, you are such an inspiring woman with your intelligence, wit, honesty, passion, and beauty. Thank you for sharing your thoughts as it helps others, like me, know we are not alone when we are feeling up or down, with our thoughts, actions, or experiences.

  7. You are not alone. At these times I know it is not easy to acknowledge your strengths but they are there. It is a struggle but you will get through this again. Caring thoughts are sent your way.

  8. It’s probably not just hormones, although they are powerful, and at this time of your life, probably come into play. I do remember feeling small and alone at age 4 or 5, so I have been struggling with depression my whole life. I have been told that “running every day” or “digging in the garden” will fix those dark times (yes plural!). Uhh, no. There is a book I like the title of “My diagnosis should have been artist.”. Yes, as we have seen with other famous people/celebrities (Robin Williams comes to mind), creativity can come with a heavy price. Mental illness is not the “fault” or a “weakness” of the sufferer. All I can say to you and me both is, hang in there! The tough part during depression is remembering that life can and does feel good again, that the lows don’t have to be permanent. I am glad you have a multi person, multi species support system around you! Take care of you!

  9. Part of the reason I enjoy reading your blogs each day – a very large part – is your honesty, your bluntness, your candor. Today, I add bravery to this list. Yes, so many of us have these experiences and yes, so many of us are afraid to speak it aloud. But the more someone does so, like you did today, the greater the chance that someone else will also do so and by doing that, be on their path to clearer skies – and help someone else on their path, too.

    Some of the most hurtful words are the carelessly uttered “Get over it”. This implies that a) it’s a simple task that obviously you are failing at and b) that it is something that can be gotten over! It’s not a simple task (or else all of us would just have perfect mental health at all times!) to “get over” and also … you don’t “get over it”. You learn to deal with it. You learn to live with it. You learn to put it in its place and try not to revisit it. Sometimes that’s less difficult than other times, but we all know that often it is a very difficult and exhausting task.

    I applaud you for reaching out and finding what you needed on that day, what you needed to help set things right for you in that moment. Pets are wondrous gifts in many ways, and I know that you (and your family) don’t take them for granted. Your fur babies are lucky, too 😉

    Love and strength to you, Shantelle xo

  10. I so appreciate your willingness to share the most private and sensitive parts of you life with us.

    We are very much alike. Like you, I have moments of mind-numbing self doubt. My hormones played hell with my life before I had a medically necessary hysterectomy, so things have leveled out on that front.

    As an abuse survivor (which I will not go into now), it took me years and years to truly believe that my husband loved me and would not abandon me. When you talked about doing your best to drive Yannick away, and his steadfastness in refusing to let you, it might as well have been my husband and I.

    It is such a terrible feeling to know that you are behaving in a way you don’t want to, and you seem helpless to control it, and I can so relate to your feelings.

    Finally, I loved the poem about dogs, and the world would be a much better place if all humans were more like them. I also agree that they are the best antidote to bad days, not that they can cure them. They do however, bring a smile your face and warmth to your heart, and they are unrelenting in their love for us.

    I hope it is helpful to know you are not alone, God bless you and your family.

    Rolayne

  11. Have the same doubts and anxieties and understand all too well. Dogs have always been a comfort to me but it is only in the last few years since my husband died that I realized how much they have taught me about living. This has been a rough time for me as well. Please know you always have my support and love! Marion

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