Perfectly Imperfect

This is, and always will be, my favorite performance. It was seven years ago. My moves weren’t as crisp, and I didn’t know half the tricks that I know now. I even drop the hoop during my show. It’s not about perfection. It’s about the message, and the way I felt when I danced with intention to this song. To me, it’s perfectly imperfect.

This is the performance that I dedicated to Brad: my same-age cousin who died by suicide after we graduated from high school. The song is “Breathe Me” by Sia. According to the artist, it’s “about being overwhelmed by your inner dialogue and potentially doing yourself harm, and then asking for help.” The first time I heard this song, I knew I would dance to it and dedicate my dance to Brad.

I, too, suffered from suicidal tendencies once – but I’m still here to tell my story. And I am. Movement meditation through hoop dance helped to transform my life and heal my mind.

Flow is the transcendent state of being where we lose sense of time and space, becoming one with the moment. Musicians talk about it, as do writers, athletes, musicians and artists. Flow is the experience where we become truly present in the NOW.

When I found flow through hoop dance, I began to understand that healing was possible for me and that I wasn’t damaged. It helped me realize that my spirit wasn’t broken. Hooping healed my heart, changed my life, and ultimately led me to a place of joy.

I now believe, with every fiber of my being, that we have the power to change our ways of thinking and our ways of being, for the greater good. This is the reason I’m writing my book.

It’s time to look in the mirror and love the person looking back.
It’s time to confront the stories we tell ourselves that do not serve us.
It’s time for us to flow into the joyful lives we were meant to lead.
2019… It’s time.

logo

About the Author: Abby Joan Lee Abby is the founder of both Hoola-Fit and Hoola Monsters – Florida’s first full service hoop dance company, which specializes in handmade fitness hoops, hoop dance classes and performances. A play professional and hoop dance educator since 2007, Abby has taught hoop dance to thousands of people of all ages, in an effort to motivate, inspire and spread joy through fun fitness. She’s currently working on her first book.

An Evening with TWLOHA

twloha

Last night, I had the opportunity to attend An Evening With To Write Love on Her Arms. I’ve been following the organization for quite some time and even served as a guest blogger for TWLOHA a few years ago. I’m hoping to re-kindle that relationship and contribute more in the near future, too.

If you’re unfamiliar, TWLOHA is a non-profit movement dedicated to presenting hope and finding help for people struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury, and suicide. TWLOHA exists to encourage, inform, inspire, and also to invest directly into treatment and recovery. Needless to say, they’re a badass mental health organization and one that I’m incredibly inspired by.

The event last night consisted of spoken word poetry by Sierra DeMulder which was
freaking incredible! She paints pictures with words, and her poetry is pure art.  I’d never heard of JP Saxe prior to the event, but he was amazing too. I actually had a chance to chat with him a bit after the sho

twloha event

w. In addition to being super talented with the voice of an angel, he was so fun to talk to. I told him a little about Hoola Monsters, along with the book I’m writing. I agreed to send him a copy of my book when it’s finally out in the world, too. I just love the way that events like this bring like-minded people together.

Hearing TWLOHA Founder Jamie Tworkowski speak was a definite highlight for me, and it was my primary reason for attending. The poetry and music were bonus. I’m so inspired by the work that Jamie is doing in the world. Not only is he the creator of TWLOHA, he’s also a NY Times best-selling author and speaker. I picked up his book If You Feel Too Much, and I can’t wait to read it.

At the risk of sounding like a total fan girl, I want to follow in his footsteps as I move into the next phase of my career. I’ll take the NY Times best seller, too. Speaking of, I’ve been busting my butt on the book. I logged more than 4,000 words yesterday and pitched two literary agents who’ve been on my radar for quite some time. I only have a couple more chapters to go until the first draft of my manuscript is complete, and that feels freaking awesome. I’m not going to do the happy dance just  yet, though. I realize that it could be another year before I can actually hold the book in my hands and share it with others. I still need to edit the heck out of it, secure an agent, land a publishing deal, edit some more, finalize the project, and market it like crazy. Then, I get to have the book launch party and do that happy dance. Until then, I’ll keep plugging away and laying the foundation for good things to come.

As always, thank you for taking the time to read my blog.
be joyful

crystals

Hiding Doesn’t Heal

I literally used to keep my writing under lock and key.

When I was in my deepest, darkest throws of depression, I wrote. This powerful outlet is one of the things that actually saved me from taking my own life.

In those days, one of my biggest fears was for someone to find and read my journal. I couldn’t bear the thought of my big secret being exposed. I knew that my thoughts weren’t healthy and that something was most definitely wrong, but I didn’t want anyone to know. I didn’t want to be told that I was damaged or broken in some way. I didn’t want to hurt my family even more after Brad’s death. They’d be worried sick if they knew I had suicidal tendencies too. A ‘depression’ or a ‘bi-polar’ diagnosis scared the hell out of me because then, it would be official. I thought, by hiding, I could trick myself into thinking that I was ok and that I could just deal with the pain on my own.

I hid for more than a decade. Only my journals knew… that is, until the fateful day when I made a teary-eyed, drunken confession to my sister. I told her that “I think the same way he did.” My sister and my mother dragged me into a psychiatrist’s office against my will shortly thereafter. I was so angry with them because of it. I was furious, in fact, because my worst fear happened: my secret was out, and I received the dreaded, ‘clinical depression’ diagnosis. But guess what? I didn’t die. And as mad as I may have been in that moment, what I didn’t realize at the time of my diagnosis was this: That was Day 1 of my healing journey. 

Now, here I am: paying a professional editor, a total stranger, to read the very same words that I so desperately wanted to hide. Last week, I dropped some cash to have a pro review my agent query packet. I’m determined to complete this book in excellence by Oct 1, secure an agent, land a publishing deal and have it out in the world by the time I turn 40 (a year from now).

I find it so ironic that, today, the desperation I once hid has completely transformed into a burning desire to be seen. I suffered in silence for a decade due to fear. I’m now speaking out because I know that there are kids hiding right now, in this very moment. I’m investing in my story because I need these kids to know that if I can heal, they can too. Teenage suicide is on the rise, and my mission is clear: I want to be a voice for the kids who can’t speak for themselves.

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog today. If you believe in what I’m up to, I invite you to click the ‘share’ button below. The more people I can reach, the more kids I may be able to help.

P.S. – I’m currently reading “How I Stayed Alive When My Brain Was Trying To Kill Me” by Susan Rose Blauner. I highly recommend it.

A Letter to Brad, Twenty Years Later

Dear Brad,

I’ll never forget sitting at an outdoor bar in Cancun, Mexico with you, sipping on Long Island Iced Teas in super-sized styrofoam cups.  I was 17 and you were 18. We’d just graduated from high school, and the whole world was out there, waiting for us. I was heading to college at the University of West Florida, and you’d be off for basic training in the Navy soon.

Chatting excitedly about our futures, we imagined where we’d be in 5, 10, and even 20 years down the road. After finishing our drinks, we roamed the outdoor markets, checking out handmade goods from the local artisans. Just the two of us, drunk on tea and excited about the next chapters of our lives. You purchased two sterling silver dolphin rings that day, for your sisters… one for Shelly, and one for Chrissy.  I remember being impressed with your negotiation skills.  How did you even know how to talk those guys down on the price? I wondered. You always seemed to amaze me.

Now, here I am: Typing away on my keyboard as the summer rain pitter patters on the rooftop. I woke up thinking of you this morning, naturally. It’s been 20 years to the day, since you left us. Twenty years since you decided that your life was no longer worth living.

I’m not mad at you for the things you didn’t know. You didn’t know that LIFE DOES GET BETTER. You didn’t know the value of your own self-worth. You didn’t know that your decision was a permanent solution to a temporary problem. You must not have known how much we all loved you. And you couldn’t have possibly known the way your death would affect us.

Or maybe you did know some of these things, but the ‘knowing’ wasn’t enough to keep you here. I get it. I’ve felt this way too, and I know how painful life can be.

On that fateful day in Cancun, when we dreamed about the possibilities, I never imagined that your future would be so short-lived.  Now, 20 years later, I’ve finally accepted what is. I’m no longer resisting what happened, because clearly, we can’t change the past. But we can pave the way for a brighter future.

I’m writing a book to share our stories, Brad. I’m writing a book, and it will be dedicated to you… my guardian angel. In our memories and in our hearts is where you’ll always live now.

I love you,
Abby

 

 

 

Finding Light in the Darkest of Days

You are loved. You are valued. You are worthy.  Count your blessings.  Be grateful.  Life is precious, and so are you.

I remember a time in my life when I would have been angered by statements like these.  I thought that no one understood me and that no one could relate.  During those dark days, I suffered from a deep depression, and I didn’t know how to let love in.  I didn’t believe people when they told me nice things, and I hated myself.  My mind was like a looping record… repeating self deprecating thoughts over and over again.  I think back to those days and all that’s happened in between.  What changed?  Why was I one of the “lucky ones” who successfully disengaged the looping track?

Yesterday, a friend’s daughter took her own life.  She was just a kid…  This friend is a beautiful human being.  I’ve always known her to have a smile on her face and to be surrounded by family and friends.  She’s a loving mother, and my heart hurts for her in this moment.  How does one recover from the loss of a child to suicide?  I am sending love and praying for her healing.

How do we show up in the world and communicate so people get that they matter?  How do we reach people where they are and make a difference in their lives?  I don’t have the answers, but I keep coming back to compassion, gratitude and love.  We must stop placing blame on ourselves and others.  We must BE the change that we wish to see in the world.  We must also forgive… forgiving one’s self is sometimes the hardest thing to do, and it’s necessary.

When I think back to my own struggle with depression and feelings of suicide, what stopped me was the fact that I didn’t want to hurt my family and friends.  The reminder of my cousin’s suicide and how it affected our family is what I kept going back to.  I thought that I had to live with the sadness and deal with it on my own because I was too ashamed to tell anyone about it.  I was angry with myself for being depressed.  I thought that I was a bad person because I couldn’t control my feelings, and I should know better… especially after what happened with Brad.  I even thought that there was some universal mistake… that it was supposed to have been me, not him.

I spent years like this, and I eventually hit rock bottom… I was dragged to a psychiatrist by my mom and sister and put on medication, after a drunk driving incident that could have taken lives (including my own), and I was responsible for it.  This was my wake up call.

In the years that followed, I changed my diet and embarked on a spiritual, holistic healing path.  I went off of the prescription medication, and during that time, hoop dancing entered my life.  I escaped from negative internal chatter with flow.  It was a mental release and the most powerful healing tool for me.    I began to practice meditation, and I incorporated positive daily affirmations into my life.  I surrounded myself with uplifting people, and my entire world changed.  It didn’t happen overnight.  It was a process that took time, discipline and effort.

I don’t worry about having a breakdown with depression anymore.  I haven’t had one in six years.  This is what healing looks like for me.  There are many different paths to healing, and I believe that people must access their own internal wisdom to discover what’s best for them.

We can search for reasons and answers.  Or we can be present and show love.  We can’t see into the minds of others, but we can be responsible for our own behaviors, actions and words.

Make eye contact and smile at a stranger.  Pay it forward.  Show random acts of kindness.  Help your neighbor.  Let someone know how much they mean to you.  Appreciate each day.  FORGIVE.  Know that every breath is a gift.  Be vulnerable.  Find a passion and pursue it.  Start a gratitude journal and write down 5 things you are grateful for every day.  GIVE.  LOVE. LIVE.

I love you, and I’m grateful that you are here.  You are a blessing and a gift.

 

Guest Blog for TWLOHA

To Write Love on Her Arms (TWLOHA) is a non-profit movement dedicated to presenting hope and finding help for people struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury and suicide.  I’ve been following TWLOHA for almost five years, and I knew that I wanted to work with the organization somehow, someday.

When I was asked to be a guest blogger, I jumped at the opportunity.  I’m honored to share the published blog with you today…

The World Seems A Little Brighter