LIFE // Link of Hearts


I received one of the sweetest gifts in the mail yesterday from Link of Hearts, who's mission is to inspire and connect the voices and empower those who are fighting the stigma of mental illnesses such as depression. Each piece is handcrafted with an inspirational word or phrase of your choice. 

On the Bar of Goodness I chose: Let Go, Courage, Inspire, and Relentless. There is one abusive experience in my life that I have recently discovered that I haven't quite let go of. At the age of 11, I was molested by a family friend. An experience that scarred me to think I wasn't worth it, that I wasn't enough, and that rocked my entire world. This little secret I carried was a burden I held onto until recently when my husband asked me one morning in bed, "what's something I do not know about you." Being that he's been my partner in life for the past 13 years, the only thing he didn't know about me was that. Hearing me say it outloud to someone who wasn't my my therapist or parents felt like a stress lifted off my shoulders, but it was something that was buried so deeply in my heart. Each day I have to remind myself to let go of this pain, to accept that the young Joanne didn't do anything wrong, yes I happen to be a statistic which is a painful truth, but it's okay. Each day I find the courage to continue, to move forward, to forgive myself and to embrace all of life's challenges. Relentless is a word that brings so much meaning to my 2015. I feel like its the theme word of my year. It's a reminder to keep pushing no matter what and to always demand more out of myself so that I can grow and to continue to inspire those around me especially my daughters.

The Cuff me with Love has the words you are enough as a constant reminder to myself that I AM ENOUGH! I AM WORTH IT! There have been times in my life where I believed I wasn't enough. There were even times in my marriage where I thought I wasn't enough for my husband, that I didn't love him enough, that I wasn't worth being his wife because I held on to a past that didn't allow me to be fully intimate with him. I remember saying the words "I'm not good enough to be your wife" over and over to him. And each time he would always reassure me that I was his his everything. 

Learn more about Link of Heart by visiting their site. The owner, Elizabeth has an incredible story. It was when I stumbled upon Links of Heart during this recent episode of depression did I find the courage to share my own.  Use the promo code gofitjo  before the end of the month and get 15% off your order.

The photos below were taken by my 11 year old daughter during a night I needed my family the most during my most recent onset of a depressive episode. She saw me cry and she saw her father comfort me, a sight then when looking at these images I hope that she can look up to the both us and find a love that will hold her world together when times get tough.

I share my story because I know I'm not alone in my struggles. I'm not perfect and I don't ever want to be perceived as the woman who has it all figured out because the truth is I am working on it, every single day. I hope that by sharing my life that it inspires you to find the courage to connect with others because your story is important. 

If you think dealing with issues like worthiness and authenticity and vulnerability are not worthwhile because there are more pressing issues, like the bottom line or attendance or standardized test scores, you are sadly, sadly mistaken. It underpins everything.
— Brene Brown

LIFE // Strength and courage

First, I wanted to give a special thanks to my friends who have gone out of their way to extend their love during this phase in my life which has felt so incredibly dark. There are no words of gratitude for what your presence has meant to me. 

Often times when people say they are going through some form a depression, the easiest thing for those around them to do is give them space. Although some people may find that distance from others helps them process their emotions, I, on the other hand want people around me to help me feel like I'm not alone and that I can seek comfort in them just being a present force in my life. The last few posts on Instagram I’ve spoken very openly about my depression. People who suffer from depression, suffer in silence. They don’t talk about it because we have placed a public stigma on depression. People bury these emotions deeply because keeping it locked inside feels the safest. People think depression is sadness, crying, feeling dark, moody, laziness, or apathy. Depression is the constant feeling of being numb. Being numb to emotions. You wake up in the morning just to go back to bed again. Often times those who are suffering from depression can sort out the feelings and become overwhelmed with trying. It truly is a hard battle.

It’s not always about feeling sad about what you don’t have and I can’t explain what triggered this particular episode. Depression can be short-lived, pass within a couple of days others suffer from more sever cases of depression and live without treatment.

My first onset of depression happened when I was 14. I remember at that time feeling very alone, confused, and the best way I can describe my feelings was that I was different. I felt very misunderstood by my parents when I would tell them what my mind was trying to process. I grew up in a Filipino household and my parents were raised in the Philippines where mental illnesses were something you simply did not discuss. I used to cut myself to relieve the pain and hurt inside until I was 15 and attempted to commit suicide by overdosing on pain killers. My dad found me in the bathroom passed out on my own vomit and quickly rushed me to the emergency room. I remember waking up handcuffed to the bed with a tube down my throat and the taste of charcoal in my mouth used to absorb the painkillers from my stomach. This was just the beginning of a years of family therapy, anti-depressants, and coping with the the mental illness. Over the years my parents and I would attend therapy sessions twice a week, once with them and the other session was my time with my therapist. Often times during these sessions I still felt misunderstood by my parents. They had the hardest time accepting that I was depressed, overwhelmed, and sad. I remember the phrases, "Why is she sad, she has a roof over her head, family who loves her, friends. It doesn't make sense." Hearing this multiple times on multiple occasions made me feel even worse, but I understood why my parents had that point of view. They were raised in the Philippines and weren't taught that self expression or talking about emotions was okay to do. If you understand the Filipino culture you will know that a lot of their faith is based on religion, the things that often guide their day to day beliefs are driven by religion and faith. My parents love me now and loved me then I knew that growing up; they just didn't have the capacity at that time to take a step back from all that they were raised on to see something different was happening to their daughter. It wasn't a stage of adolescence, it was something out of my own control. The full story runs deeper than this and one day I know I find the courage to share it.

When I look back at some of the past experiences I've had to overcome I know I could've been a different person, I know I could've not existed had I really allowed myself to drown in my pain. But I fought hard to overcome depression time and time again. I've learned to move forward and to not dwell in the past for long periods of time because that would only allow myself to be buried by disappointment, anger, and pain. These were experiences that were meant to happen, they were there to build strength, courage, and love. These experiences are my symbol of hope and reminder that I can accomplish anything. 

“Greatness lies not in being strong, but in the right using of strength.”
— Henry Ward Beecher