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A Look Back Jill Khoury & Sue Martin

Let’s Get Serious For a Moment

Foggy, misty day with weeping willow tree and solitary bench with a person sitting on it representative of depression found on Google
Image found on Google Website no longer online

Today’s post was originally intended to be published last Friday however as oftentimes is the case the day got away from me and I’m bound and determined to get this out today. My grandson will be here in a few hours and I’ve got to get crackin’ so here goes:

Lately I’ve been having a number of conversations with different people about numerous life issues from failed aspirations, rocky relationships, extreme traumatic episodes, death, and disabilities to depression. One of the common threads in many of these discussions is when we are going through a crisis we sometimes have a tendency to hide the pain especially if the difficulty is depression or some other mental illness.

I understand some of the hesitancy in sharing our anguish has to do with time and place although even when the timing may be good we can still hesitate to unburden ourselves. Perhaps we’re afraid of judgement and being seen as what we may perceive as weak. Speaking from personal experience, I’ve felt that bringing others into my pain was unfair and that I alone MUST be strong but I had to ask myself to what end?

A few months ago I hit a very rough patch and thankfully realized that I could no longer go it alone. It was the one time in recent memory when I put aside foolish pride and reached out for help.

Looking back over my life and those times when I stubbornly refused to admit I was hurting seems so silly now. I mean I sincerely doubt that on my deathbed I’ll regret not being a stronger person, on the contrary, I believe I’ll think about those missed opportunities of sharing with others.

Back in March and June of 2014 respectively, I wrote about two amazing women: Sue Wiygul Martin and Jill Khoury. To my knowledge these women do not know one another yet they share common bonds – one is they are extremely hard-working and good at what they do, and two is the topic of depression.

Sue Wiygul Martin

Sue with her Guide Dog
Sue with her guide dog

Sue wrote a book last year, Out of the Whirlpool, a memoir of remorse and reconciliation, on her experience with suicidal depression.  I found her honesty and frankness in talking about a very personal issue that many find difficult to discuss to be refreshing and extremely helpful.

In a recent communication with Sue, she said something that has stuck with me: “I think it’s important for people to know that even the most confident people are fallible. Having once been depressed doesn’t inoculate us to future trouble. Nor is having once been depressed a life sentence.” This was so powerful to me because 1) I sometimes forget I’m only human and therefore not perfect, 2) it’s highly probable that my depression will be ongoing unless I become the recipient of a welcomed miracle, and 3) more importantly it is not a life sentence.

To view a recent blog post that Sue shared with me click HERE. To read the article I wrote back in March click HERE. When I read Sue’s blog post it reminded me that real strength is facing the crisis, riding the wave to shallow water, thus coming through it. The reminder that this process can, and many times is repetitive, helped to put things in perspective for me.

Jill Khoury

Jill Khoury Reading at the Indiana Writers Consortium
Jill Khoury at the Indiana Writers Consortium

A very busy lady, Jill teaches writing and literature in high school, university, and enrichment environments. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in numerous journals, including Bone Bouquet, RHINO, Inter|rupture, and Stone Highway Review. She has been nominated for two Pushcart Prizes and a Best of the Net award. Her chapbook Borrowed Bodies was released from Pudding House Press.

I wrote about Jill Khoury twice last year: once in June and a follow-up article in September. In my June post (HERE) I introduced Jill as a talented poet, artist, and activist. The follow-up post was about her decision to once again use the white cane, to read click HERE.

Since my last post, Jill did a reading in the Creative Writing Conference Women Write Resistance: Poets Resist Gender Violence at the Indiana Writers Consortium in October 2014. For those of you in the Pittsburgh area, starting at 7:00 p.m. on Feb 13, she will be doing a reading  in the MADFRIDAYS series with Bernadette Ulsamer at Delanie’s Coffee located on the South Side at 1737 E. Carson St.

With everything Jill has going on in her life I found a recent post she did on her blog (Visceral Poetics) very interesting. The post was the outcome from her experience at the Indiana Writers Consortium. I could feel Jill finding her voice after having come from an abusive background, struggling with her disability, dealing with childhood bullying, depression and other issues. Showing empathy with other women who aren’t as fortunate in finding an outlet for their similar circumstances and yet using her voice in an art form she is passionate about, can help these very women find the strength they need to make a move.

The issue of mental illness and depression are serious topics in our culture and just like stigmas associated with many disabilities, the only way we can get beyond the negativity is education and awareness. There is no shame in having a physical illness (no one chooses to be sick) so why can’t we show the same amount of compassion for those with mental illness?

“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.” ~Leo Buscaglia

4 thoughts on “A Look Back Jill Khoury & Sue Martin

  1. Appreciate your sharing what a difficult season it was, S. That’s why we have friends. =) And yes, that is a liberating truth that our deepest struggles are not a life sentence (my paraphrase).


  2. Steph, another great job. This topic needs to be discussed. People with visual impairments and other disabilities are more likely to experience situations (such as social isolation, job and education discrimination, humiliation and rejection of both our natural gifts and common humanity) which can lead to chronic depression. Those of us who are ploughing through to create something of our lives despite the challenges these realities place on an already challenging situation, have a lot to teach the not-yet-disabled world. If you haven’t already read it, I recommend “Everyday Cruelty

    : How to Deal with Its Effects

    without Denial, Bitterness, or Despair” by National Braille Press blogger, award-winning author, teacher, urban homesteader, and former psychotherapist Helen Kobek. Bookshare has it, and it is on Amazon at: 237


    1. Thank you for your comments and book recommendation Donna. The link appears to be broken on my end but a quick search in Amazon led me to the book where I was able to read the introduction. I was hoping to find it on Audible but will find it on Bookshare. What a fascinating topic of conversation. And it’s so true that certain segments of the population are all too frequently the targets of extreme cruelty.

      I agree with you that we have got to keep this conversation going because people are hurting. I think the social media explosion has lent itself to people forgetting compassion, empathy and respect. We’ve forgotten that an opinion is an opinion and when voicing it we can do so with kindness and if we can’t I think we should at least shelve it until we can get our emotions under control.

      I can’t wait to read the book. Thanks again.

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