My Brand of Crazy

“I want to be a mouthpiece for hope not a megaphone for fear.”
– Joy Cannis Original

Now more than ever, we need someone to lift our face from the ground, back to what’s in front of us and up to the heavens, reminding us who we are and that there is greater purpose just beyond our edges of self-preservation. Recognizing and utilizing that which has been inside us all along. (Yet what we’ve been looking for everywhere but where it is.)

Stop waiting for hope to find you and be the hope right where you are. I am learning that the only way to become unstuck is to put one foot in front of the other until I’ve repositioned myself to excel and grow.

The last 18 months have been some of the most difficult in my journey.
My children have struggled beyond my ability to step in and rescue.
I weened off of a two-year opioid prescription.
I ran back into the arms of my eating disorder.
I cried on my doctor’s exam table.
I shared my testimony with thousands of women.
I entered into a season of intensive outpatient therapy.
I broke apart…shattered…into tiny pieces that I wasn’t sure could ever be repaired
until the Master Creator picked them up, one by one, sanctified each jagged edge and put me back together in a new way than I’ve ever been before.
And the Holy Spirit is present with me in a way I never thought possible.

Have you heard the saying, “Feelings are constantly changing so don’t rush to act on a certain/current feeling”? I have experienced a multitude of feelings in this season. I would go from sheer elation to utter hopelessness within the course of 24 hours. Sometimes more than once. Most days I felt like I was on the brink of insanity. I’m so grateful I didn’t act on any one particular feeling.

I think back to a time, 22 years ago, when the head of psychiatry at the treatment center where I had taken up temporary residency wrote, “This girl is narcissistic and beyond human aid!” on my treatment plan. I cut out of rehab 1 day shy of the required 30 and was therefore considered to have left “against doctor’s orders” and didn’t receive any of the personal items I had come in with. Nope. Just the clothes on my back. That was my m.o. You say I’m ________________ and I’ll prove it.

I stayed mad at that shrink for a long time. I replayed his words while picturing the scribbled notes in blue ink. I used it as an excuse to stay drunk.

Now, today, in this moment, I can tell you that doctor was right. His definition of me was spot on. I wasbeyond human aid.” Which allows no room for doubt…

Only God.
Only God could heal what was fractured.
Only God could restore me to sanity.
Only God could allow me to be broken, once again in such a way that He alone could pick up each piece, breathe life back into it, and put me back together.

Although I have had a tribe of badass physicians, friends, prayer warriors and family surround me with their incredible courage, love, and support, God changed this girl’s heart. From the inside out. He gets all the credit.

I don’t know what “feeling” you’re sitting in today?
For what it’s worth, I’m living proof that yesterday’s feeling turns into today’s relief.
Whatever it is,
However hopeless or wonderful it “feels”,
It’s going to change.
So if it’s incredible, enjoy every moment
and if it’s seemingly unbearable,
Hold on.
Hold on.
Relief is coming.
Maybe not the way you are expecting or what you’re used to, but it’s there and it will be yours.

Stepping Back Into The Ring

IMG_1408_ppQuite some time has passed since we met here, in this space.
Enough time to have my hair bleached blonde, travel thousands of miles and remove any doubt that writing is part of who I am. I need it for my sanity as my lungs need air to breathe.

I have been writing.
Sporadically.
Going longer periods between has caused inner turmoil for which there is no other cure than meeting you here, more frequently, and being my fully authentic self.

Something happened last Spring. Something that would change the trajectory of my future.
I decided it was time to wean off some prescribed medication that I had been taking every day for 2 years for degenerative disc disease & chronic pain in L4, L5 & S1 of my spine.

Each one of our children was going through battles of their own which many times presented as a seemingly insurmountable obstacle.

I fell back into my eating disorder. Hard.
I was all in.

We were being pressed from every side… and I wasn’t handling it well.

We will dive into the most difficult year in the life of our family, through stories from the depths of my memory. Which means there is mentionable room for error. I thought I was being authentic before, but Darlins’ as the song says, “You Ain’t Seen Nothin’ Yet”

I should probably let you know that some subjects call for a 4-letter word (or two). I don’t mean to offend. I love Jesus, and I cuss a little. “Progress not perfection“, is my mantra.

This is a safe space to be vulnerable. I want to lead by example and to pretend I don’t say the “s” word, even when writing is lying, and we don’t want to build our relationship on a lie.

So here’s the deal…I won’t preach religion. I don’t think that’s what Jesus did, so I won’t.
I’m not going to pretend to be an expert on everything, although I do consider myself a master of my personal adventures. I believe I am a spiritual being having an earthly experience, not the other way around. (I’m 99.99% sure Oprah said that on Super Soul Sunday. I’m borrowing it now.)

What I will do is keep it real.

I will speak truth…my truth to the best of my ability and I will pray for each of you, every day, on this journey.

If you aren’t sure about God…believe that there is no God…are a bible beater…a seeker…a Jesus freak…a veteran Christian or anything in between, my hope is that something here will resonate in your gut and move you to positive action.

Thank you for taking the time out of this incredibly busy life to listen to my compilation of thoughts. I hope that you will visit often, leave encouraged and know that no matter what, you are not alone.

Remember this truth, God does not change and He is never surprised by anything. He created you with great purpose and there’s nothing you or anyone else can ever do to ruin that.

Love & Gratitude,
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#ProdigalDaughter #Ransomed #Redeemed #Restored #Renewed #Refined #POTSC

I Have An Eating Disorder…What Should I Do?

I have the privilege of sharing my story with women from all walks of life. To watch someone’s eyes change as they hear and embrace hope… well… there’s nothing else like it.
So when Emily invited me to be a part of her series, “Questions Everyone Is Asking But No One Wants To Answer” I gladly accepted. Em is the Founder of BecomingMe.tv and is making it her life’s mission to help women find their voice through the power of sharing their story. And friends, this is only the beginning.
My prayer is that something in this video will resonate with you and move you to positive action. May ours eyes be opened to the truth of what we are… a masterpiece in the making. 

 

If you or someone you love is struggling with an eating disorder, please get help. It is serious and in many cases, a matter of life and death. You can start by visiting the National Eating Disorders Association.

If you are, like I was, broken & without hope, I beg you to reach out to someone at one of the resources listed below. As long as you are breathing, there is still hope.
People of the Second Chance
Central Christian Church: Las Vegas
To Write Love on Her Arms

Related Posts;
3 things the Girl in your life needs to know
What Matters Now?
I’m a hypocrite
It’s time to step off the Scale
Ransomed
Wrestling demons
One Word: Enough
Anyone…anyone 
Pardon me while I compare my insides to your outsides
Just like that, a Mother is born

The Heart of the Prodigal

Tomorrow is a big, milestone birthday for me. 40 years. I have spent the last several weeks reflecting on the journey. Where I’ve been, where I am, where I’m going.

A huge part of my story is the journey through alcoholism and a decade long battle with an eating disorder. In this conversation with my dad, I ask him what it was like being on the other side of me when I was living my life as his prodigal daughter. Was he afraid? What made him keep pursuing me? How did he release control of me? What would he tell others going through this now.

 

13 Reasons Why I Don’t Look Like An Alcoholic

JoyOn October 19th, 2015, by the grace of God, I welcomed in 13 years of freedom from the dependence on that which once enslaved me, alcohol.

When given the opportunity to share my story I always hear the same statement from at least one listener with a confused look on their face, “…But…you don’t look like an alcoholic.”
My response remains the same, “What does an alcoholic look like?”

Knowing full well that I have my own mental image of what an alcoholic looks like and it’s motivation for me to never go back to the life I once knew.

Her hair is matted and her clothes unkempt.
There are deep creases in her face from years of neglect.
She wears her wounds, making no attempt to hide them.
All forms of dignity have been stripped away.
She appears to be around 60 years old when in reality she’s 42.
She looks…well…tired. And she is.

Her children, if any, have long since given up on her and moved on with their lives.
The family she once knew has disowned her.
The church has overlooked her.
Society has pitied her.
Friends have deserted her. (They had no choice really. She stopped trying years ago.)
She’s an inconvenience, with bad teeth, no concern for personal hygiene, flammable breath, and a reputation that precedes her.

People say things without regard for her humanity, like, “Why haven’t her foolish ways killed her yet? She’d be better off dead and so would everyone else.”
Or, “She probably drinks mouthwash or rubbing alcohol. What a waste of space.”

Is my description harsh?
Have you ever seen an alcoholic in the grips of their disease?
To say it’s ugly is an understatement.

Throughout these years of recovery, I have visited treatment centers, held the shaking hands of the one in detox, claimed my seat in the rooms of A.A., accompanied a scared mother to a court hearing, listened to teary family members nightmares of living with an active alcoholic, and attended too many funerals for the seemingly hopeless one who never saw their 30th birthday.
I have seen what my future could look like if I allow my disease to dictate the direction of my life. Quite frankly, it scares the hell out of me. I hope it continues to scare me enough that I never pick up that first drink. That’s where the stronghold begins. The very first drink.

It’s a bummer. I don’t want to be an alcoholic. I didn’t grow from a little girl to a young adult dreaming of one day being a blackout drinker. I never aspired to be dependent on alcohol.

Not once did my parents say to me, “Now Joy, strive to be the best alcoholic you can be.” But I definitely gave it my all for several years. 

The reason I don’t look like your stereotypical alcoholic is because;
1.) I’m not homeless
2.) I’m a wife, mother, and productive member of society, and most days I’m pretty dang good at it.
3.) I have all my teeth (some natural ones and some designed by a dental artist).
4.) I’m obsessive about hygiene.
5.) My family is still speaking to me. Some of them actually like me.
6.) I have incredible friends who know me and aren’t embarrassed to be seen with me in public.
7.) I love and care for my children.
8.) My children love me, except when I’m driving them crazy.
9.) I don’t willingly participate in self-destructive behavior.
10.) I pay my bills…on time.
11.) I am of service to others and I love it! It’s one of my favorite things to do.
12.) I’m not a liar.
13.) I have a relationship with my Creator that everything else in my life centers around.

Most of the things listed above were not true of me 13 years ago. It has been a journey of faith with unpredictable twists and turns. Trust, especially in close personal relationships, has been earned and restored over time. I know and embrace the meaning of “Amazing Grace.”

We all have something in our lives that wants to destroy us. Mine happens to be alcohol. Maybe yours is food or sex, compulsive shopping or depression? No matter what it is, you know that the moment you become complacent in this particular area, you’re in trouble. There is a solution.

Do you know what the best defense against complacency is?
Gratitude.
I call it my complacency repellant?

I am more aware (than ever), going into this 13th year that I better be thanking God in the first few moments my eyes open and my lungs draw a sober breath. Before my feet hit the floor, praise must already be on my lips. It will be the first thing on my tongue in the morning and the last thing I taste at night.

Here’s the big takeaway… Beginning the first few moments of your day with a grateful heart has the potential to change everything. Guaranteed. If it works for me, it can work for anyone, anywhere, no matter what.

Do you believe that?

Need a place of refuge? Visit my friends over at People of the Second Chance. Get connected. Whether you struggle with addiction or you love someone who does, you don’t ever have to be alone again.

Think you have a problem with alcohol? AA is a group of individuals from all walks of life, who share the same ism. It’s a program to which I owe my life. Learn more in the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous 

My Nonviable Pregnancy

Last night I had a dream that I was pregnant.
My baby was born with complications and did not live long after birth.
In the dream the mourning process was so intense, I was sure it was actually happening to me. You know those dreams where something in your mind keeps saying, “This is just a dream. It’s not really happening. Wake up.” I had that somewhere in the background, but it didn’t matter. The pain felt real.

I was so sad and no matter what anyone said or did, it wasn’t helpful or comforting.

In 2005 I experienced a traumatic miscarriage. One that could have taken my life.
I remember the look on the tech’s face while staring at the monitor. It went from relaxed to furrowed. I said, “What’s wrong?
There was silence followed by her reply, “Let me get the doctor. I’ll be right back.”
Why? What do you see?” I begged.
“I’ll be right back.” she responded.

It’s amazing how quickly, pure unadulterated joy can turn into confusion and emotional chaos.

You can guess what happened next…the doctor came in to say that there was no heartbeat and it was no longer a viable pregnancy.
I watched her mouth move, not really hearing a word she said.
I don’t understand?” I said.
“These things happen all the time.” she answered.
Not to me, they don’t! This has never happened to me!” I screamed almost in a whisper.
“You’ll get pregnant again. Don’t worry.” she said as she patted my knee.

She then explained the procedure they would need to do to remove all the tissue that made up my “nonviable” pregnancy.
We walked to the checkout counter and scheduled the appointment for the next week.
That was a Friday and the appointment was the next Tuesday.

What happens between now and then?” I asked.
“Maybe nothing…or your body may decide to start the process on it’s own.” she responded. “Either way, we will need to perform the procedure to ensure safety for you and future pregnancies.”

We walked through the door marked exit.

For the next little while her words played over and over in my mind.
“These things happen all the time…You’ll get pregnant again, don’t worry.”
It was surprising and upsetting to me how quickly this life was dismissed. Though present only for a short time in my womb, surely it deserved a little more acknowledgement?
Is it okay for me to be sad?
Is it silly of me to cry and feel like I’m losing my baby?
Is it ridiculous that I cannot even think about getting pregnant again while I’m still sorting out the details of restoring my body to normalcy after this miscarriage?

The next few days played out like a movie.
I began cramping at work, knew something was wrong, left work and drove home. By then I was hemorrhaging. I had never seen so much blood.

Chris was on his way home to take me to the ER.
I remember the nurse on the phone saying, “Stay with me until he gets there.”
She said an ambulance would take just as long, maybe longer by the time they found the house so it was better to wait on Chris. I remember asking her if I was going to die. She said, “Not if you get to the ER in time.”

I did get to the ER in time.
I didn’t die.
I went on to have beautiful, healthy, children.

When you ask me why I take pictures of families experiencing the loss of a child, I think this is part of the reason. My loss is nothing compared to the way some families experience losing their baby, but it was still my loss.

It hurt.
It was lonely.
It was scary.
I needed someone (preferably a girlfriend) to walk alongside me and just be.

Do you know a woman like that?
The kind who will just be with you and doesn’t require small talk or entertainment? They are content with the beauty of silence.

I think I had that dream last night because it prompted this post and someone needed to read these words today.

So for that someone…no matter what stage of pregnancy or postpartum you experienced your loss, all of the feelings you feel are valid. Feel them deeply and for as long as you need to. I am convinced, now more than ever, that is the only true pathway to healing and peace.