Between a Rock and a Hard Place

After many attempts to draft a suitable blogpost for this occasion, I’m giving up. I’ll say what I know best and say least, the truth underlying my experience. This blogpost sucks and it’s the best I can do under my vale of tears.

When I was invited to join My 500 words by Roslynn Pryor, I had no reason to expect I would succeed. I suffered from periodic long term clinical depression which I’ve struggled with most of my adult life. Being Irish by upbringing, I’d rather not talk about it.

When I wasn’t immobilized by anxiety and profound self-doubt, my life was characterized by periods of high production followed by drawn out events of despair. Lest you have some concern that I have not received proper medical treatment, I’ll clear that up right now. I don’t take antidepressants because they tamper with one of the fundamental things I enjoy most in life and they give me nausea and they make me not care if my house burns down as my family is outside for any conflagration.

So, I struggle with depression daily in between laughing my ass off whenever I have the chance.

When I first joined the group, my coach Melanie Stiles gave me some very good advice: engage with people. I didn’t understand what she meant, so she defined it. I pretended her request was a piece of cake for me because she’s exactly the kind of woman who doesn’t fall for tricks and yet she has the good grace not to point it out when someone is a total chancer.

This entire experience has been one giant leap of faith for me in which I have been nudged and encouraged and in between, have pushed myself relentlessly to grow. My secret strategy was to grow myself normal before any of you figured out how odd I was. I gave my faith completely to this opportunity because…because…because…I was still alive and had promised myself never to consider suicide again once my son was born. This sounds dramatic, and every word of it is true.

When I wrote long ago about using the stick, I spoke from experience: I’ve beaten myself with the stick for years on end and scorned every single attribute inherent in my character. I’d grown well adept at beating everyone to the punch.

In this group, I encountered support, trust, and friendly love and for the first time in many years, the number of positive things I heard about myself on a daily basis outpaced the negatives I heard, imagined, or recalled. By February of 2014, I felt as if I had undergone a brain transplant.

If blogs could rumble and God voices could utter stentorious roars, they would do so now…What I am saying is really that epic. I promise this is not a joke.

This group gave me a place to grow as cheesy as that sounds. Truly,

My 500 Words has changed my life!

It feels like this is the right time for a tangent…the emotional level in my head is getting too inflated and again, I’m Irish and must digress…

Years ago, when I was an undergrad at Santa Clara University, I heard my marine biology teacher tell a story about the fate of some sea urchins. It’s an odd but sad story.

Tanu-Eat-Urchin-John-Healey-1-resize-2Sea urchins are delicious to otters and Japanese sushi chefs in particular. Though their brain stem (the urchin’s) has a limited capacity, they are sufficiently capable of strategic thought  and natural selection to have found ways to protect themselves from predation. o


When an urchin is young and especially tender, it will roll along on its stiletto spines until it lodges into a nice crevice somewhere in a rocky ledge. There, safe in the protection of its “panic room” the sea urchin is free from harm and can grow to maturity. There is just one problem. All too often, the poor urchin grows well in this safety, never realizing how deeply wedged he has become. When he attempts to leave, he finds he is stuck by a hard and unyielding exoskeleton and spines as numerous as the cactus prickles. What can he do?


He will live out his days always lodged in the same place, forced to eat whatever floats his way, free from dangers and yet prevented from enjoying ant better tomorrows.


I don’t know why, but I’ve always felt sorry for the sea urchin who is the attempt to acquire a little extra safety finds himself stuck F-O-R-E-V-E-R.

I always wished the rocks would move and the sea urchin would suddenly find itself free, tumble weeding along the ocean floor to a better tomorrow, but it isn’t so. Rocks don’t move like that.

But, back to the corny stuff, I was that sea urchin who found a safe hiding place and was stuck there in perfect isolation, lonely, and unable to move.

And you, the members of My 500, you were the ones who came and moved that rock.


Hey, I’m blog hopping with these gals to celebrate the end of our 2014 writing experience. For good stuff (deeper than this drivel) check them out:

Linze Brandon at Butterfly on a Broomstick

Vanessa Wright at Humouring the dark

Stella Myers at Stella’s Starshine

Amy Bovaird‪ at Amy’s Adventures

Crystal Thieringer at Muse and Meander

‪Carryl A Robinson‪ at Echoes from the Cave

Becky Williams Waters at A Novel Creation

Laura Hile at For the Love of Storytelling

Roslynn Pryor at Pushing the Bruise

12 Replies to “Between a Rock and a Hard Place”

  1. Wow, this is a beautifully told revelation. Who is normal? I love that part of trying to grow yourself normal. That’s me, too. Your encouragement has helped me come out of my writer’s shell. My Word Press friends have helped me in the same way – this includes the many friends I’ve had along the way who also read my blog and encourage me. Even so I can identify with your struggles. I don’t see myself as a person who reaches out to help people as much as you do. You are amazing. I hope that you don’t mind that I linked people to your blog from my chapter of Girls on Fire. 🙂

      1. Tonia, you have lots to share, and you do it from the heart. You have done a great job. My 500 has been great for me too! It’s a great group of people. 🙂

  2. It isn’t by chance we came together. Your blog is your “pot of gold.” Everything you need to write novels is right in front of you, or should I say, right inside of you. This writing is raw. The energy is seething there. Get out your pen, Muse, and let it flow. Love, Bev

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