Welcome to Picking Poppies, Episode 4 – Courage.
If you’ve never read a Picking Poppies post before, check it out here. And if you’ve been following this series, you know that each one is written as a way of honoring Ayden and everything she has taught us. Just another way to remember her, celebrate her, and continue on with living with intention.
For this episode, I want to talk about courage. I’m going to talk about this because it is something I need more of.
This time of year weighs on me. The Holiday season is quickly approaching, the weather is quickly becoming despairing, and for some reason, physical health seems to constantly deteriorate as Winter approaches. I’ve settled into my new job, and though I love it, it is time consuming and takes a lot out of me. I’ve been finding myself tired. Very, very tired. Still joyous, but tired.
Being tired more often means being more prone to grumpiness, which can quickly spiral out of control and leave me laying on the couch, not wanting to do anything but go to sleep.
Wow, when I write it out, I seem like a very miserable human who needs professional help. I’m not doing that poorly, I promise. I’m just trying to be honest, because I have a sinking suspicion that I’m not the only one in this boat.
This time of year is difficult for a lot of people, and I think it needs to be talked about more. I think we need to be more honest with each other, more courageous in our communication, because if we aren’t, we are removing the possibility for people even knowing how they can reach out to us.
Keeping quiet can be as selfish as it is detrimental.
And here’s the thing about keeping quiet. We keep our mouth shut, but we talk in our own head. And more often than not, that self-talk is not positive or constructive. This is what mine sounds like:
“No one talks about Ayden because everyone else has moved on.”
“I am alone.”
“No one get it.”
“No one really even wants to ‘get it.’”
“I just need to suck it up and get over it.”
“It’s not that big of a deal.”
“None of this matters anyway.”
The funny thing about each of those statements, is that they could not be farther from the truth. I realized the other day, that the times other people talk about Ayden the least are the times I’m not talking about her either. How can I fault others for doing exactly as I’m doing?
And how can I complain about being alone, if I am being reclusive, and not letting anyone else in? We have this tendency to tell ourselves that if other people cared, they would reach out to us. Yet we aren’t reaching out to anyone. How do we know they don’t need our support just as much as we need theirs? And that concept is what I’m referring to when I said keeping quiet can be as selfish as it is detrimental.
So, how can we have more courage?
The biggest, most powerful thing you can do, is stop hiding. This cannot be emphasized enough. Hiding does yourself and others the greatest disservice we can possibly imagine. We keep others from truly knowing us. We keep others from knowing how to reach out to us. And perhaps even more importantly, we make others feel alone as well.
I cannot even begin to convey how many times I’ve shared something I’d been holding in for too long, only to have the other person admit they felt the same way, or were experiencing the same thing. We are connected, all of us, all of humanity, on a deep, deep level. We have just found the most absurd methods of avoiding making connections with others. We convince ourselves we are alone in our brokenness. We’ve all been hurt, we’ve all been betrayed. We’ve all put up walls that prevent us from sharing, because that’s the only way we know how to protect ourselves. And our own walls create our own isolation, and we become our own enemy.
I’ve not yet had quite enough…liquid courage…to confess to you that three years ago I was diagnosed with moderate depression. I told very few people about this. It was embarrassing. Humiliating, actually. It was all self-inflicted embarrassment and humiliation, of course. Later I found out that it was more likely to be a health issue causing a chemical imbalance that resulted in depressive-like symptoms. But the point is, I had a diagnosis that I was hiding from.
How can I preach honesty to others if I’m in hiding myself?
Did you know that grief can cause an onset of anxiety? I’d never experienced anxiety before. At least, not in a way that didn’t make sense. Sure, I’d been nervous before big events, like a job interview, or a big college exam. But I’d never experienced extreme anxiety at random times. Debilitating anxiety with an unidentifiable source. I have a degree in Psychology; I know all about it. I know what the textbooks say. But experiencing it is far different than reading a list of symptoms in a textbook.
Did you know that 1 out of 4 children between the ages of 13-18 have an anxiety disorder (National Institute of Mental Health)? Do you know what that looks like in a classroom? Most of the classes I teach have 28 students. That means 7 students in each of my classes suffer from an anxiety disorder. I teach six separate classes. That math is simple enough for me to do. That means I encounter 42 students every day that have an anxiety disorder. I am guessing that a significant portion of the people reading this right now are in their minds saying something along the lines of, “there’s no way those numbers are accurate” or “kids are so dramatic these days.”
Or are we just not talking about issues that we should be talking about? Because, friends, as someone who interacts with a minimum of 120 students five days out of the week, I completely, 100%, believe that 1 in 4 students suffer from an anxiety disorder. There is zero doubt in my mind.
But I have no idea who about half of them are.
Because they’ve learned to hide it.
They’ve learned to mask it.
They’ve learned that no one else is talking about it, which means they shouldn’t talk about it, because anytime they’ve tried to talk about it they’ve gotten hurt and therefore it is easier to remain silent.
This is where you come in.
This is where courage comes in.
Clearly, I actually did have enough “liquid courage” tonight to admit I’ve been diagnosed with depression, and have been experiencing pretty rough bouts of anxiety.
That, or I just realized I can’t ask you to be courageous without first being courageous myself.
Whoop, there it is.
Also, I feel the need to admit that I procrastinated writing this post until the very last moment. It is late on the night of the 21st, and the only reason I dug up enough courage to type all of this out is because Picking Poppies is in honor of my little girl, which means I can’t in good conscience write about courage without actually being courageous, because that would not be a reflection of the things Ayden has taught me.
To sum up: courage. Be courageous. Please. Stop hiding. Put all of yourself out there, and tell your story. You are unique, your store belongs to you, it is unique to you, and it has the power to touch people in ways that only your story can do. Please share it. For your sake, for the sake of others.
Reaching out in your moments of greatest need can result in some of the most powerful moments in our existence.
Don’t believe me?
Prove me wrong.
And then we’ll go talk about it over a really strong cup of coffee.
In the meantime, here are some questions to think about:
-What area of your life needs more courage? What can you do right now to demonstrate more courage in this area?
-How do you talk yourself out of being courageous? How can you counteract this?
-When was the last time you demonstrated courage? How can you replicate this?
Please consider taking part in the Picking Poppies movement, by doing any or all of the following:
- Change your Facebook profile picture to a picture of a poppy for 1 day – to help spread the Picking Poppies message
- Go out of your way to show love and kindness
- Live with intention
- Be courageous (you get to decide what this looks like) – and tell me about it (you can comment on this post, or submit your story for my eyes only through the Contact Me page)
If you would like to follow Ayden’s legacy, please follow the Ayden Nicole Facebook page.
If you are interested in reading more of my writing, please follow All the Passion Strings on Facebook.