Who Else Has Been a Mess?

For the sake of being real, I will admit the past six months have been some of the hardest of my life.

We’ve really been going through it.  So many things hit one after another, it was hard to focus on any one thing.

To name a few…

  • In the beginning of this past November, my sons Dad, my ex-husband died suddenly of a heart attack.

It was a shock that rocked our world and changed everything about our family.

  • Exactly two weeks later, my beautiful 29-year-old niece died of a fentanyl overdose.

Another shock.

The news came like a sledgehammer to the heart.

She was doing well. She was loved. She mattered.

I don’t have adequate language for the thundering ripples of pain these losses have caused.

Death is baffling.

  • Still reeling from those losses, I was in a car accident a month later.  Hit on a dark freeway by a young woman traveling over 70 mph, while texting on her phone.

My car was launched up a 30-foot embankment, through a chain-link fence, landing on a bed of thorns. We had to be cut out of the debris.

As a result, I have an injured knee that has affected my physical activities, namely running.  Running, which has been a therapy and a joy in my life, is now a painful labor.

I can also no longer stand driving on highways.

Although my son’s dog and I survived it without catastrophic injuries, it was horrifying and left us all feeling shaken.

  • Nine days after the accident, my son still hemorrhaging with the death of his Father, got sick, and had a health crisis that led to two seizures, almost costing him his life.

It was beginning to feel like all hell was breaking loose on our lives.

  • Add to all that…we were then globally launched into a time of COVID19 virus, and quarantine.

Which in some ways, paled in comparison to what we were already trying to process.

Can anyone relate to one tornado after another crashing into your life?

And does anyone have a lifetime supply of Calgon I can bury myself in?! (Yes, that is an old reference.)

* * *

In the weeks that followed, I began to feel my mind sinking.

Typically the type to intentionally apply concepts of optimism, faith, recovery, therapy and stoicism to difficult times, after all that…most days I’ve instead found myself face down grieving.

Sometimes on the couch, sometimes on the bathroom floor.

It hasn’t been a pretty time.

I won’t lie, at times it‘s been a daily fight through sorrow, despair and hopelessness to function and get things done.

(Some things don’t get done.)

Both of us feeling lost and bewildered, my son and I called one another often to compare feelings, memories, struggles.  And we discussed how to navigate this new normal.

* * *

“I believe depression in legitimate.  But I also believe that if you don’t exercise, eat nutritious food, get sunlight, get enough sleep, consume positive material, surround yourself with support, then you aren’t giving yourself a fighting chance.”  ~Jim Carrey

Grief, anxiety, fear, worry, PTSD, depression…

No matter what it might be identified as, we were going through it, swimming in it and desperately grasping for stability.

I too felt the way through was to face it, do self-care, practice principles of faith and therapy, rely on my support system…and go easy on ourselves.

* * *

In a recent podcast conversation with my beautiful friend Cara, Creator of My Girlfriend Voice, she spoke of a formula she learned from a class on depression for working through times of depression and despair in her own life.

I quickly adopted her method…creating an acronym:


What to do when I’m a mess…


“Move a muscle, change a thought.”

Movement helps!

Exercise—get your heart rate up, your blood moving and endorphins flowing.  Be sure exercise is part of your routine if possible.

Go for a walk, change rooms, scenery, etc.


Feelings need oxygen to dissipate.

In some way emote. Get your thoughts and feelings OUT.

Whether you shout it out in the car, write it in a journal, call a friend or counselor, or sing it in the shower.

That’s how the healing happens.


Do something for someone else (be sure it’s a realistic goal and done with sincerity).

Volunteer, serve, or give a sincere compliment to a family member, friend, or stranger.

Lend a hand, send a handwritten letter or card, shoot an email, text or a call to say:

“I’m thinking of you.”

“You matter to me.”

“I wanted to tell you how much I love ________ about you.”

“Do you need anything?”

“You’ve got a friend in me.”

* * *

I applied these concepts in some way, to whatever degree I felt capable…every day.

It wasn’t overnight, but gradually the darkness and clouds of despair began to break, and I felt a shift in energy.


* * *

It’s now been a few weeks.  On this side, with some footing regained, I’m finding more strength and optimism.

The reality is, my heart still drops into my stomach when I think of my ex-husband and niece, who were taken so suddenly.

I’m still nervous to get on the highway.

I check in with my son more than usual.

Tears still sting my eyes at some point everyday.

Those things didn’t go away.

But, I’m finding peace again.

Facing life day by day with a grateful, open heart as I work my way onward.

And I have hope.

It’s been a hard season, that’s for sure.  But seasons change and our hearts often grow stronger within the difficult ones.

Good things start to happen again.

Loss remains painful, but becomes less overwhelming.

Hope returns.

No matter what you might facing, things will change.

Until that happens, take care of yourself.

Do the next right thing over and over again.

Remember, it’s okay to be a mess sometimes.  Life is a strange journey.

Keep going, you’ll get stronger.

Still learning,


Author of books: Unhooked, and Unbroken, Navigating the Madness of Family Dysfunction, Addiction, Alcoholism and Heartache

Host of:  The Unhooked Podcast

(If you or someone you know is struggling with depression, please reach out.  No one should go through it alone)

* * *

For information, comfort, encouragement and support:

Codependents Anonymous

Parent Support – TAPU

Family Recovery Support


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