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  • Writer's pictureJan Avellana

I've been laying low the past several days having had the wind knocked out of me. Sometimes the depression and anxiety, completely sideswipes me like it did this week, and all I can do is hibernate and learn to breathe again. Mostly I'm pretty even and functional for good swaths of time. (I think perimenopause has a lot to do with my lows of late, but we'll see--it's time for a check-up.)

I was so hesitant to talk about my struggles again, to talk about the hard parts--but that didn't sit right. I come here to talk about the ups and the downs and to be, if nothing else, real and transparent. Because I believe in joy. Even in midst of struggles and suffering there is a part of me that burns bright that holds out for joy. I'm not into the happy-happy-sunshiney 'everything is fine' when it's not--that's not me at all. But as Albert Camus says:

“In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer. And that makes me happy. For it says that no matter how hard the world pushes against me, within me, there’s something stronger – something better, pushing right back.”― Albert Camus

  • Writer's pictureJan Avellana

Our writing group met for the first time last night and it was so life-giving! I've known these wonderful peoples for years now, and it was powerful to spend some focused time together. We ate a quick bite, caught up with each other on life and had a discussion about the importance of safety in this group and what that looks like, and why it's of utmost importance.

Then we poured over each other's writing. Some read their personal writings out loud--GASP! Some shared a book they were reading. For me, I shared a beloved Mary Oliver poem, "Have You Ever Tried to Enter the Long Black Branches?" We spent some time devouring her words and talking about how we can breathe more deeply to live a deeper life, how we can not just be spectators in this world, but full participants, engaged and alive.

One of the concepts we latched onto early on in our meeting was the idea of having "Loving Curiosity" for one another. This is not meant to be a critique group, but rather a safe and nurturing space to grow as writers and creatives. With that at heart, we are not about analyzing one another or even each other's work in progress, but will rather maintain a loving curiosity about each person, their work and process.

I'm so grateful down to my toes! I can't wait for our next gathering! :) Yay for creative community!

I struggled a lot with life from the time I was in middle school. Enter into adulthood and life became more complicated and my difficulties followed me.

I always thought I was doing something wrong, that I was weaker than everyone else and that's why I was struggling so at life. I thought that life was just that stressful, and I was not managing it well. Oh, I looked fine--long time marriage to my high school sweetheart, a five year fine art degree and then a master's degree in teaching. I held down full-time jobs as a professional graphic designer, and then an elementary school teacher. I even became a mom of two young boys--everything looked good outwardly. I was even a church going Christian with a vibrant spiritual life.

But I was dying inside. Struggling to get up in the morning. Surviving my days just barely and then making it to the finish line around 6pm when I would crawl into bed and be done for the day, leaving my husband to care for our babies. Deeply dissatisfied with work and living in a very dark place in my mind.

It wasn't until I was about 36 years old that I realized I suffered from clinical depression and that I could get help. I didn't know all those years as an educated and self-reflective woman, that depression was making life so much harder that it had to be and that I didn't have to suffer so.

This is a picture of a young woman suffering from severe depression. This is a picture of a young mom who loved her boys more than life, who was contemplating suicide.

If you are struggling today I am here to tell you seventeen years later that there is HOPE. That you do not need to SUFFER. That there is HELP. That therapy and medication and huge doses of love really do help make it better.

Today I am so much better than I was before. I am full of hope and life and lightness. While the depression is always there, it doesn't get to drive the bus anymore and I've learned to tame it and manage it to keep it at bay. And when the low times do come--and they still do--I am so much more empowered to deal with depression in ways I couldn't before. I'm a resilient, strong, sensitive survivor today and I am keeping on, keeping on.

If you find yourself struggling with depression or suicidal thoughts, get help. Dial 988--it's the suicide prevention hotline. Make that call to a doctor. Tell someone you love and trust that you are struggling. Reach out to me and I'll support you to get you the help you need. Just don't suffer alone. I'm here and there are so many of us that have made our way through the dark with God's grace, out to the other side and you can too.

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