leaping because the need for support is just that big

SleepinBeauties1 copy

“if you can’t easily tell the difference between right and wrong,” i told my children repeatedly, “choose the hardest thing cause let’s face it: if the right thing was the easiest thing, everybody would do The Right Thing.” i sit here torn, split, spun. i come from a cultural legacy of not airing dirty laundry in public, of stiff upper lip, of silence is golden. my mother has friendships that span almost nine decades, and it has not escaped my notice that their conversations are about the weather, happenings in the community, about recipes and fashion. they seldom if ever talk about health issues, except to add a name to the prayer list . . . without any details, of course. they don’t talk about children gone awry or any other unpleasantness, angst, sadness or hurt. they don’t talk of anything that might be construed as embarrassing or negative, and i often wonder if that’s not the secret to the longevity of the friendships.

that’s where i come from, and today i live in a world of social media where people are warned against posting too much personal information for fear of retribution in the workplace or at home. again with the stay-light-and-positive-or-stay-mum routine. i’m of an age (tenured, i like to say) when i can say “pfffft” to such things, but my daughter is young . . .

i’m trying to decide whether or not to tell you that my daughter is struggling with thyroid issues, low vitamin d, and depression. she hit that dark spot again recently – emotional black ice, i call it – and this time she held nothing back on facebook. “do you ever wonder if people would miss you if you weren’t here any more?” she posted. my initial instinct was to cringe and wish i had access to her login information so i could delete it. as a mother, i often fall into the mindset of to stay small is to stay safe. but this time, i wondered aloud if posting snapshots of her pain on facebook didn’t make her one of the bravest among us. and when she asked about being missed, well, she was telling us exactly what she needed, so doesn’t that make her one of the most honest among us? it resonated deeply with my bones as they nodded and smiled in agreement.

she was certainly willing to risk being alone, that’s for sure.

to her question about being missed, one woman posted something about how my daughter should not be concerned with what other people thought, how she should think enough of herself, blah blah blah blah blah. i became instantly furious. livid, in full and glorious mama bear mode. hell, my daughter had just told us precisely what she needed (to be told she’s loved and has had a meaningful impact on lives and would be terribly missed). the last thing she needed was to be preached to, to be told what she should be feeling and how she should be viewing things and what she should and should not be saying. livid, i tell you. livid. but we’ll talk more about uncaring (which often looks a lot like stupidity, if you ask me) another day. i have stories, oh my goodness, do i have stories.

for today, though, i’m taking a risk, opening myself and my daughter up to avoidance (important note: these particular things we’re dealing with are not contagious), preaching (please, please, please don’t tell us about how “the lord never gives us more than we can handle” or to “keep calm and carry on” or to “look on the bright side and be positive”), scoffing (it’s maddening to us and unbecoming to you), and pity (it’s a really heavy thing to have cast over our shoulders. empathy is okay, but pity, that’s more like an anchor, so no thank you). but i’m also opening us up to caring and concern and love and support, and i’m telling you that’s what we both need.

it is not easy, though, opening up like this. my daughter is brave, but me? not so much. i am a private person and for many good reasons that we can talk about later. i can tell you this much now: more times than i can count, i’ve been told that i make too much out of things, that the problem with me is that i feel more than i think – and the worst thing? they were said with the voice of authority, and i took them to heart. plus when people cluck and fuss, i launch into pleasing hostess mode and do whatever i can to reassure them and restore them to a place of comfort – which takes a lot of energy that is better spent elsewhere. so yes, energy conservation keeps me quiet, too.

one thing my daughter has consistently done in her adult life, though, is nudge (okay, shove) me out of my comfort zone. she’s shown me how to take risks and how to live with the consequences. she’s repeatedly shown me that vulnerability is its own brand of strength, and today i dip my toe in that stream and hope for the best because, well, the need for support is just that huge.


  1. sorrow

    I love you.
    No matter what.
    I am blessed to know you, shiney bits of moonbeams and containers full of tears.
    Would I miss you?
    I miss you every day and I send you a hug in my mind every time you hop on a plane and boogie about. Every night before I go to bed, your name is in the list of things I am grateful for.
    I love you..

    • whollyjeanne

      Thank you, Moonbeam. I feel the same way about you, you know. And all those good-night tuck-ins you send me? I have finally finished embroidering them on that quilt. Will send photos soon. xo

  2. suz

    sending lots of love and a hug your way.

    • whollyjeanne

      now that, Suz, is exactly what we both need. thank you.

  3. jane

    i love you Jeanne. Your bravery and your seeing your daughter, your loyalty to her and now asking for help when what you are asking for help with is not tidy and easy to package. .. that is gusty and worthy of you and your oceanic heart. I am at your side. Loving you and sending your Alison more courage and more tenderness… i am so bloody grateful for you and for Alison (because although i don’t know her i know you love her and i see how courageous she is and that is enough for me) i want you to know you mean something to some woman who hasn’t brushed her hair in another time zone and hemisphere <3

    • whollyjeanne

      oh sugar, you know me so well. it’s so hard to ask for help or support of any kind. i don’t like being needy. i’m not supposed to be needy – i’m supposed to be the one who takes care of everybody. you know? thank you for understanding and for seeing clean through and loving me . . . loving us. i love you right back.

  4. Christina Mary

    Thank you for your wisdom .. your opening statement….“if you can’t easily tell the difference between right and wrong,” i
    told my children repeatedly, “choose the hardest thing cause let’s face
    it: if the right thing was the easiest thing, everybody would do The
    Right Thing.”……..has made a difference in my life… now… the answer to a prayer in a confussing conflict … to speak or not to speak as i watch my child struggle…. You have made a difference in telling your story. Your daughter has made a difference…. Thank you so much … May you all make it through.. Hugs

    • whollyjeanne

      thank you. your comment has made a difference in my life, too. and your closing – may you all make it through – well i send the same wish back to you and your child. it’s hard, isn’t it? xo

  5. Merry ME

    So sorry to hear about the dark place Allison has found herself in. Remember the story of Stone Soup? Where the guy gets all the starving village people to make soup with the bits and pieces they have in their mostly bare cupboards. I have a vision right now of all the people who love you and Allison sharing something for the soup that will give her strength to carry on. I’ll start with the stone. Maybe others will send courage, or a blue sky, or cherry coke, or some peaceful music ….. You get the picture.

    • whollyjeanne

      i do, indeed, get the picture, sugar. and it is tasty beautiful. thank you.

  6. ***C***

    I love you big and bright and bold. This laundry isn’t dirty, it’s just out on the line and drying in the sun. I sure know this dark place well, maybe Allison will find the magazines I left behind. I don’t think I finished all the crossword puzzles in them. I know for sure I forgot a bathrobe — she can borrow it if she needs it. And don’t you forget, motherhood is brave in its own way. All my love, my sweet friend.

    • whollyjeanne

      oh my darling, thank you. for so many reasons, thank you. xo

  7. Kelly Gill

    Jeanne – “Dipping your toe in that stream” of being vulnerable and asking for support … I’m just gonna say it: Being Southern and being vulnerable are two things that just don’t go together, or so we’re taught. And what I’m learning is that that implicit teaching just plain sucks, and has cost me quite a lot. I can’t tell you how many times in my life I’ve said these words, “Oh, I can’t tell people THAT! What would they think of me (or my family) if they knew THAT?” But here’s my new thought: What if – when something troubling is happening in my life – I just opened my mouth and spoke? What if I broke “the silence code” that’s seemingly been born and bred into me from generations of fine Southern ladies and gents? Yes, some people may gasp at the horror of my [insert criticism here] life. But…Oh. My. God. Some people might give me a little comfort, caring, or support which I need. It helps me out, lifts me up, and strengthens me, giving me the energy to work through the [whatever]. So this Southern lady is offering her hand for you to hold, balancing yourself, as you dip your toe in the stream of being vulnerable and asking for support. Thank you so much for sharing this. You and Allison are in my thoughts.

    • whollyjeanne

      Oh Sugar. Having you hold my hand to steady me as I stand on one foot to dip the other into this stream, having you understand so clearly why what must seem to some as a silly puffy concern about telling something like this is such A Big Deal – well, that means everything. Thank you.

  8. Tracey Selingo

    Isn’t it curious and beautiful and breathtaking how we learn from one another? How your daughter’s vulnerability opens you to yours. And how you both are then able to see how much you’re loved and adored by friends who’ve known you all your lives and those you just so happened to energetically connect with through time? I’m sending blessings that you’ll both be carried through this trying time and that in the end you’ll remember the one thing that always lifts you from point A to point Z when you think you’ve got nothing left to give: love.

    • whollyjeanne

      I just can’t think of a response to your beautiful words, though I’ve read, read, and reread them many times. So I’ll just say Thank you. And Yes. xo

  9. wordsmithtom

    Jeanne, don’t know enough of the pharmacology to discuss it, but suffice to say, two of the women in my life had thyroid illnesses followed by bouts of bipolar depression. My niece and my former editor. Both started having problems in mid 30’s. Both started treatments for major depression and the meds made them sicker, until they understood they were dealing with the wrong mental illness. The science is ahead of many of the doctors, I’m afraid. Be that as it may, know that depression will hit 50% of the US population sometime in their lives and of those who have 1 event, the odds of getting a second is over 50% as well. It’s a lot more common than most of us realize. Bone up on the links between thyroid and bipolar….somethings there.

    • whollyjeanne

      Thanks, Tom. I’m gobsmacked at the prevalence of depression.

  10. Susan F.

    I think that getting it out there is the best possible thing when she’s feeling that low and may need even more love and help than she’s getting. My family refused to admit that my sister needed help and almost certainly died an undiagnosed/untreated bipolar. Her daughter wasn’t diagnosed as a bipolar until she was nearly 30 and had already self-medicated to the point of multiple addictions. I only *wish* that my family was willing to talk and open their eyes to the truth!

    I wish you and your daughter the very best and heaps of calm and joy coupled with absolute love and acceptance.

    • whollyjeanne

      Thank you for telling me about your family, Sugar. Knowing that we’re not alone, knowing that somebody understands, knowing that we’re not being judged is a good kind of support. xo

  11. Julie

    I’m so glad you posted this. I love you.

    • whollyjeanne

      Thank you. Love you, too. We’ll talk soon.

  12. Tamara Farner-Swerline

    As one who has been “afflicted” with thyroid disorders since the age of 19 (and I’m in my 60’s now…) ensure she gets to a GOOD endocrinologist. The thyroid is the thermostat of our bodies and regulates everything. Depression is part & parcel of the thyroid disease. It needs to be managed for her sake as well as for your piece of mind.

  13. judy martin

    I can only imagine the lump in your throat when you read those words on facebook, Jeanne. I think that mothers and daughters are so connected, and when the daughter is brave enough to tell the world that she is hurting, we feel that we have somehow failed her.
    You are being brave too – telling us this about your daughter’s unhappiness.

    This post has moved me very much. My heart is ripped by it. I am very glad that you have friends online that are able to write so well. I have read the comments here, and you are supported.

    All any of us can do is our best.
    This is the first I have heard of thyroid being related to depresion or bipolar.

    Be well Jeanne. Best wishes for you and your daughter.xx

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