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Q&A with Author Rebecca Hilliard of ‘A World Locked Away’

“You do not have to struggle alone.”

This is a statement from Rebecca Hilliard’s safe space Instagram account that many people cling to every single day.

The Author’s Instagram page (inthistogethernow_), provides a place for support and a connection to being understood.

Hilliard unselfishly and unapologetically shares her feelings and experiences, inspiring many.

The accomplished writer opens the doors to her life in her new bookA World Locked Away‘.

There are those things that happen in life that we never talk about. Dark things. Painful things. Things that we hide away so no one can see. Things that we pretend donít exist. We cover them up with smiles and laughter. We cover up our pain and our heartache. Somehow these things have come to be seen as weaknesses. We have correlated authenticity with rejection. The things that we avoid talking about the most seem to be the most important to talk about. Things like anxiety, depression, addiction, and suicide. These things carry fear, secrecy, and shame and as a result they are not often talked about. In “A World Locked Away” a young woman opens up about her experiences with these things and her journey in working through them.


In a society where we are constantly trying to break down barriers of stigma towards mental health, pages like Hilliard’s open doors to a world unseen by many. We were so inspired by her page and always feel so supported, we wanted to get to know the talented writer better.

Q: Tell me about yourself.

A: I grew up in South Florida where it’s very HOT but also very beautiful.  I love to be outside whether it’s longboarding, biking, swimming, or just walking my dog.  My passion is to be an advocate for mental health awareness and to help those who are struggling with mental illness.  My dream is to be able to write more books about mental illness and to travel and speak.  The mental illnesses I’ve struggled with are an eating disorder, suicidal thoughts and self-harm, anxiety, depression, and Dissociative Identity Disorder.  I’m currently in therapy, working through my childhood trauma! 

Q: What inspired you to start writing?


A: I have always LOVED writing.  I’ve been writing for as long as I can remember.  Ever since I was a little kid.  I would sit in my room and write stories for hours and I loved it.  I’ve had the love for it my whole life.  It became an outlet for me when I started struggling with mental illness.  Before then it was just stories but when I started struggling the words came out in poetry.  I used to really struggle with self harm and instead of taking my anger and emotions out on myself I learned to write about what I was feeling.  I put it into words instead of marks on my body and it helped me so much.  Struggling with mental illness is so hard and incredibly painful and writing has really helped me through the recovery process.

Q: Your social media is beautiful. It’s raw, it’s real and it’s informative.
Where do you gather your thoughts for your posts each day?


A:
My posts come from whatever is going on in my heart.  I usually write what I, myself, need to hear and when I post them it turns out a lot of other people needed to hear it as well!  I try to be as authentic as possible in my posts.

Q: What inspired you to create this safe haven for individuals struggling?


A: Struggling with a mental illness can be so lonely and scary.  Ever since I started struggling I wanted to help others too.  I want others to know that they aren’t alone and that we can get through this together.  Mental illness can be so isolating and I wanted to create a safe space where we could all come together to support each other.

Q: Your amazing book ‘A World Locked Away’ gives us insights to your experiences and how you work through them. When did you decide to write a book?


A: I wrote ‘A World Locked Away’ when I was in treatment for my eating disorder.  I wasn’t planning on it becoming a book but rather I was writing the poetry to get my thoughts, emotions, and feelings out.  It was my saving grace during treatment.  Once I got out of treatment I thought that maybe others could find encouragement and hope through what I wrote or at least feel less alone in their struggle.  I am working on my next book now. 

Q: What would be some advice you could give to those struggling?

A: The main advice I would give is to find support.  Find people who understand what you are going through.  Get help.  Even if you can only do it through social media. There is a ton of support on social media for those struggling with mental illness and a really awesome community.  I would also recommend seeing a therapist!  My therapist literally saved my life and helped me get out of a really dark place.  And finally, to never ever give up.  There is always hope, even if you can’t feel it.

We encourage you to follow Rebecca Hilliard on Instagram @inthistogethernow_ and order her book online here!

Detoxing Digitally.

Currently, I am writing on my IPad. My iPhone is next to me, and I have my Louis Armstrong music playing on it. Meanwhile, the video gaming system illuminates the living room and in between games my husband checks his iPhone for how to go about working through the various levels of the game.

All while we both indulge in our electronics, there is an absolutely gorgeous view of a sunset outside our bay view window; something real, tangible. However, in the current moment we are not so focused on the tangible.

I go to scorn myself for not just stepping outside and taking this moment in. However, I quickly realize this is our normal.

Have you ever been to an airport and waited to board your plane? In that moment, (PSA- you must look up from your phone first) probably 99% of people are dabbling in some type of electronic media.

We constantly are feeding our brains endless streaming media, music, social media interaction; constantly stimulating ourselves with experiences outside of the physical present.

What is crazy, is the fact that I am ONLY 28 and I feel as if I “missed” that social media window. In high school and college, we only had Facebook and Twitter.

Studies suggest that those born in or after 1995 have reported experiencing negative psychological symptoms.

However, this is our society and we embrace it. The new realm of social media has brought us new ways to connect on certain issues and even cope with others. Online therapy like TalkSpace has influenced many lives by way of the internet.

Like anything in life, it’s all about moderation and how you utilize it. That’s where we struggle.

Social media tends to present “the best in life”. Most don’t take to their accounts and post pictures of what we may perceive as negative. We see “perfect lives” being lived each day.

Most call it “The Comparison Trap”; the greatest relationship, the perfect hair, the perfect job, the glowing skin, the amazing body, the endless wealth. Individuals scroll through and immediately feel inadequacy, leading to depression and feelings of hopelessness.

First off, it’s okay to feel like that. It’s okay to feel like you don’t have it all together. No one actually does, and we all experience turmoil.

The craziest thing about this comparison trap is the fact that if you are comparing yourself to others- someone is comparing themselves to you, as well. It’s an endless chain of uneasy anxiety that ignites an inferno of self-doubt and questioning of self-worth.

Fun Fact: You rarely see someone boasting about how grand their mental health is. “I love to eat this rare berry and fancy veggie blend because it makes my mental health just glow!” -NO!

Why is this? As a society, we have pushed mental health into this box that has been less of an important stature because we are a people of the pleasure. If we love what we see, we want it. Whether that’s a cooler wardrobe or long locks of gorgeous hair, we see health as thriving in materialistic beauty.

We can’t show what goes on behind these close doors because it may not be that perfect picture we paint. We worry about discussing mental health for fear of judgement or possibly we feel that no one can relate. We worry that using our platform to paint any other picture than what we “think” we should be will lead to harsh feedback from peers. So we comb through every post ever so slightly, keeping in mind what “our perfect” looks like.

If you find yourself in this comparison trap, please know your life is beautiful. Your journey is beautiful because it is yours and no one else’s.

Your life is meaningful.

You may feel like you’re stuck, but I promise you it’s going to be OK. With so many things available to us in life, I know sometimes it’s tough to figure out “who we are”, “who we want to be” or “what we want to do”.

I put these in “quotes” because we base our self worth in life a lot of the time by how we define ourselves. Whether that’s a job, our style or whatever it may be, sometimes we measure ourselves up to a “certain standard”.

(However- It’s great to have goals and to pursue your destiny. You Do You!)

But- At the end of the day, if all of that was taken away-whatever you define yourself/measure your self worth to- how would you feel?

Personally, I think “we” as a society have it all twisted. The most important thing we can invest in above all else is our mental health. How you feel directly correlates to your day, your relationships; our minds can trap our very being or our minds can free us.

Your degree doesn’t give you the ability to sleep at night. Your job doesn’t provide consistent internal happiness. That new diet fad is not going to help you discover the incredible person you really need to believe that you are.

Right now- where you are, who you are and what you are doing is enough. Regardless of what you may see, you give so much meaning and make such an impact just being you.

Hoping this helps someone in some way.

Amber Lynn Carroll

(A.K.A Jake’s sister)

(Disclosure: I do not own rights to this article or media in this blog post. We share blog posts, media, articles, etc. to point people in a gentle direction towards learning more about mental health.)

Suicide Prevention Lifeline

I believe.

I believe there are no mistakes in life.

I believe everyone we come in contact with has a story.

I believe just a simple word can turn someone’s day around.

I believe we don’t just meet people by chance.

This story takes place at a Macy’s the week of our brother’s memorial.

The most gut wrenching moment of my life was getting the call that Jake was no longer with us, the second…having to share that with my sister and parents.

After memorial arrangements, picking out a store to take your parents to purchase clothes for their son, your brother’s, memorial is seemingly unthinkable.

You don’t even care what you are wearing, and you don’t want to pick out anything because you don’t want it to be real.

Macy’s is a rather large department store. I thought it would be quiet and have a large selection to pick from so that we could sweep through and not have to endure this task for long.

——-

Take note, my parents arrived to Nashville without anything after driving our brothers car from Denver.

They had been on an airplane to Denver to find my brother and had only pack a few days worth of clothing. Meanwhile in Tennessee, I posted about our brother missing on social media, hoping Jake just needed some time to get away and clear his mind.

The post landed just about everywhere,and people were now on the lookout.

——-

When we were checking out at Macy’s, the woman at the counter recognized my Mother and Father from the post about Jake missing. We then had to share our shattered world with her. Her son, who lived in another state, had shared the post with her. It was astounding to us that that many people were looking for our Jake.

Meanwhile, behind us in the line at the counter was an elderly woman who was seemingly frustrated about waiting in line, while my parents were sharing the news of losing their son.

With a huff, she quickly darted over to another counter and was checked out.

Soon after leaving the store, that same woman came up to my parents with tears in her eyes. The same woman that stormed off and seemed to have little heart actually understood what they were going through.

She, too, had lost her son.

Her angry actions had actually been built up sadness because she knew what they were experiencing. She handed them money with an embrace, and that was the last time we saw her.

Everyone has a story. Her actions impacted my parents beyond words because it was the first time in those few days someone could relate.

We don’t just meet people by accident; where you are is where you are suppose to be.

If you ever feel that little tug in your heart to do or say something, however small it may be-listen. You could be that gentle hand for someone whose world is falling apart.

You have purpose, and you make a difference.

Parents Q and A: Mental Health and Your Family

One of the most beautiful things Jake left us here with were his journals.

We were able to see a little inside his mind and understand where he was in his mental health.

We wish we would have known and understood more. He was meditating, going through mental health therapy, doing things to benefit his mental health but we only saw what was on the surface.

One of the common questions that we get is: “My loved one’s mental health is suffering. What can I do?”

Our parents recently participated in the AFSP Out of The Darkness Overnight Walk in Boston and were touched by so many stories.

We’ve compiled a list of questions frequently asked, and we are certainly no experts and don’t claim to be. We simply want to lend a helping hand or want to help others that may be experiencing this or parents/loved ones that may be afraid to ask for help.

Q: As a parent, what are some of the signs/actions other parents or family can look for in their loved ones?

A: Some of the signs/actions to look for are personality change, manic behavior(extreme euphoria/extreme depression), withdrawn, social anxiety and talk of hopelessness.

Q: To parents that are dealing with children that have depression and anxiety- what advice do you have?

A: Get immediate medical/psychological support, be open to holistic alternatives, don’t be afraid to ask about their thoughts. Be objective and supportive, realizing mental health is no different than physical illness(we wouldn’t judge or condemn and physical illness.

Q: We were not educated on mental health and when to recognize mental health issues. As families, what can we do to enhance our lives when we realize we are suffering or our loved one is suffering from depression, anxiety, OCD, etc.?

A: First, acknowledgment in your or your loved one’s mental struggles. Educate yourself on mental health illnesses, treatments, therapies, and life style modifications. Talk to others to gain insight on this disease.

Q: How can we, as a community, enhance the lives of others by spreading awareness of suicide prevention and mental health, in your opinion?

A: We must openly talk and be open to discuss the mental health crisis in our own communities. Spreading the word and encouraging thought processes to change our perception regarding mental health, as in cancer has stages; the worst being a stage four. Bringing awareness and education can help people recognize the stages and many forms of mental health. We must be open to discuss the risks of suicide, not only with the public but also our loved ones. This could lead to the opportunity for more resources for people who are at that point so that they may be more inclined to seek help.

***For more information on how to help yourself and your loved ones, please visit The Suicide Prevention Lifeline Website here.

Laugh Until It Hurts

Have you ever had one of those deep belly laughs? The ones where you just hold on to it for a sparkle of a moment because in that moment the world feels right.

The need to get away, the need to escape- a lot of us gravitate toward funny movies, sports, even trying a new restaurant to alter our every day norm.

Dealing with depression and anxiety, a lot of the time- laughter and an escape seems so far away.

If you do get the invitation to a party or dinner, a lot of the time if feels like a chore to accept the invite. You may get anxious, worry or even have trouble getting motivated to get up and get ready to get out the door.

Sometimes, taking the chance-disrupting “the norm” -can bring happy into your life. Being around friends who love you, family who love to spend time with you- or maybe it’s just planning a date with yourself!

I came across an article about ‘laughter’ and how it can build relationships, guard your heart and even act as an anti-depressant. Take a read below. Very interesting.

https://www.forbes.com/sites/daviddisalvo/2017/06/05/six-science-based-reasons-why-laughter-is-the-best-medicine/#7118cd157f04

To become who we want to be, we must climb out of our pit, little by little. Your effort no matter how big or small is taking you somewhere.

It comes in baby steps. As our brother would say, “you do you”. You do what you need to do to be happy.

For me- it’s something simple I know will get me to laugh every time. I love to look at a particular dog’s Instagram (yes, I said dog’s Instagram). This dog has two different color eyes with the cutest snaggle-tooth expression. His parents have a sense of humor and always post hilarious instances where the dog looks as if he has this hysterical look on his face. I can’t help but literally cry because I am laughing so hard.

Baby steps, little things.

Next time you get that invitation or have a night you may not be doing anything, in the name of laughter-seize the opportunity, you won’t regret it.

Love you all,

Amber Lynn Carroll

(A.K.A one of Jake’s sisters)

Your Own Bridge

In the warm sunshine of Florida, I find myself running outside often. I started training for a half-marathon, and well- never put it down.

I love the freeing feeling of being able to use my own body to go to the extra mile and push myself to the limits.

We are fortunate enough to be renting a place right next to a mile-long bridge.

Sometimes I love this bridge because of the challenge it hands me running over it, and some days I dread the challenge. However once you get over it, you are on a nice flat pace of sidewalk all the way to the beach.

This particular day, I was aiming for an 8-mile run. I took off the opposite way of the bridge and decided I would use my last two miles to climb over it.

I could see the finish line, I started toward the bridge and noticed a walk way I had often seen but never taken the path. I decided I needed a change of scenery so, I decided to journey the road less traveled.

I started on this sidewalk that turned into a beautiful park right under the bridge.

Suddenly, I realized that I really needed to turn around because I wasn’t going to get that good burn that the giant bridge gave me. I decided I would find the end of the trail , then turn around. However, it came to my surprise- a beautiful elongated pier that actually had a little steepness to it. My own personal bridge.

Going around the small park under the bridge actually gave me the mileage I needed to finish my 8-miles, and I had this view that was unlike any other.

Looking at the giant bridge on my tiny pier, a lesson came to my mind.

Personally, I’m always looking at “the big bridge” of life. The “big bridge” gives me the run I think I need,the “big bridge” gives me the view I think I need, the “big bridge” is the best option for me, so I think.

However, the “big bridge” is the main path, the average path everyone uses to get to their destination.

Sometimes, God gives us a “road less traveled”, a tiny pier if you will.

Sometimes He needs us to enjoy the scenery, journey a path to build mileage on our run of life, maybe to build character, learn- He takes us through small parks, pathways perhaps that we may not have known existed.

The only thing we can be certain of is that it is a part of His grand plan.

The road may be tough, you may be ready to stop your race, you may be just ready to walk home- but we cannot give up.

Your bridge is unlike any other, and you were called to a purpose. A purpose, journey, pathway that was only designed for you.

Rest a minute, and take a good look at your view- because it was created just for you.

Life can get hard, and there are times we all feel like giving up. It’s okay to wonder why things happen, its okay to ask for direction, it’s okay to voice how you feel about where you are in life, it’s okay to be sad, it’s okay to be angry, it’s okay to not be okay.

But- We must never give up, friend. Your value is too precious. Your light is too bright, even when you may not see. If you feel like giving up, if you feel hopeless, please reach out and reach for help.

National Suicide Prevention Hotline:

1-800-273-8255

Love you all- keep taking the road less traveled and it’ll take you to a destination you couldn’t even imagine- your own personal bridge. Never give up, the world needs you.

Amber Lynn Carroll

(A.k.a Jake’s sister)