Where is the Sunshine?
A journey through the storm into the light
I don’t recall exactly when it hit me, but it hit, and when it did I was lost. One-minute I was the epitome of the girl who had everything; successful, with a beautiful family, and a wonderful home and the next, I was in a wild vortex unable to escape. Jobless, hopeless, and wondering what, if anything, the future had in store. If you’re OCD, Bipolar 2, Anxiety-ridden or like me, all of the above, you know exactly what I’m talking about; the unrelenting perfectionism, the non-stop workaholic, the need to help everyone and everything around you. Now here I was, left with nothing but fear, worthlessness and stuck in the daunting world of my own rumination.
Losing my job was an epic, devastating turn of events simply because what was my so-called “life’s purpose” was snatched away in a cold board room by an unfamiliar lawyer who made me feel as valuable as a cardboard box. Sick, scared, and overwhelmed, I ended up in the ER in pajamas because coping with something of this magnitude was just not my forte. The random police officer who stood guard in ER listened intently as I recalled what landed me on a gurney and suggested I think of the film “Jerry Maguire.” Naturally, my brain pulled up Cuba Gooding, Jr. shouting “Show Me the Money” and the multiple references to my alma mater, Arizona State, but in a rare moment of clarity, I understood. None of this is worth it if your life has no meaning outside one thing. In my case, my work became my addiction, my remedy and the cause of my illness.
While staring up at the fluorescent lights from my bed in the hall at the city hospital, I thought about this side project that I had been toying with in my mind. Combining my love of inspirational quotes, education, humor, art, and all-around positivity, I began “Where is the Sunshine?” Why sunshine? It’s simple. As a musician and former music educator, I recalled the countless song lyrics meant to motivate; “Sunshine on my shoulder makes me happy,” “I can see clearly now the rain is gone,” “The Sun’ll come out Tomorrow,” “I got a pocket full of sunshine,” “I’m gonna soak up the sun,” “Here comes the sun” and so on and so on. Except, I realized, for people like us, it’s nearly impossible to think the sun will ever return or better yet, the storm will ever end, until it’s actually is over. I kept thinking when will MY sun return, where is this sunshine that everyone keeps talking? Metaphorically speaking, all I could see were brooding clouds and the tornado that was my life spiraling out of control. I guess you could say my song should have been “Stormy Weather.”
Well, I found my sunshine. I found the way for me to heal just by spreading positivity and hope. I have learned more about all sorts of illnesses like PTSD, eating disorders, schizophrenia, and suicide, but I also learned that spreading happiness across social media is can be cathartic. I’ve learned even more about the stigma these illnesses face as mental illness is not your broken leg, diabetes or cancer. People run from mental health disorders. It frightens them for they equate it with danger, sensitivity, fear and instability but the reality is these illnesses need to be met with love, support, encouragement, and understanding for this is the key to healing. Yes, therapy, medication, exercise, nutrition, and other forms of treatment are also necessary, but your support system is what makes them effective.
Most people face mental illness alone, afraid to tell others and for those who are open, reactions span the gamut.
The online community is probably the welcoming place for those with a mental health disorder as the support runs worldwide. Admittedly, the concept of support from strangers is unusual, but I have witnessed strength by the thousands. The irony is that people online tend to say and comment about whatever is on their mind, bad or good. Yet, when it comes to battling a mental illness whether it be depression, postpartum, social anxiety disorder, or suicidal thoughts, the resources and support are there and they really do help.
In my case, the online communities have inspired me to want to go out and share my message with others. Getting involved with the National Alliance on Mental Illness, Active Minds, and similar organizations have given me renewed purpose. Yes, I love helping others and love inspiring people but I’ve now learned to practice gratitude, to live in the moment, and to appreciate everything I have. Nothing, especially a job, is worth feeling hopeless or worthless. There are others jobs or schools or societies or organizations out there, but there is only one you. I’m glad I found the sunshine.
Jeanine H. is a visionary performing arts, fundraising and events planner and social media expert. A former music educator, singer and comedienne, she has performed throughout the country singing everything from Broadway to Pop, and has worked with some of the biggest names in popular and classical entertainment. She founded Where Is the Sunshine? in 2016 and is currently doing speaking engagements spreading sunshine to those who need it most. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org