I've struggled with my mental health for as long as I can remember. Being a child of the early nineties, no one knew or talked about depression or panic attacks. So, I was never able to name how I was feeling. I didn't know how to ask for help; I just thought, "This is how I am." 

It wasn't until my twenties that I recognized something was off and that there was another way to move through the world and a different way to feel about myself. My wife, Ariana, showed me that I wasn't broken.

I was sitting on our living room floor, newly married and with our first baby sleeping upstairs. The Christmas tree lit behind me. The light shone on Ariana's face as she looked down at me. We were talking about my depression. My voice shook as I told her, "I'm broken, unrepairable." Ariana's face constricted. She dropped to the floor and grabbed my face. She looked at me and stared into my eyes.

"CJ, you are not broken. You are not broken. Do you hear me?"

Tears broke free. 

Ariana was my champion. She never left my side, even in the darkest moments of my journey. Then, three children later and twelve years together, we got the news - Ariana had incurable metastatic breast cancer.

For the next five and a half years, she fought and lived. We traveled the world. We lived thirty years in five. And on September 30, 2020, during a worldwide pandemic, she died with her three children and me by her side. 

We did life together for seventeen years - since high school. During that time, she stood with me in the battle for my mind. And in the end, I was able to stand with her in the fight for her life.

I believe we all have "Our Stories." This is only a snippet of mine. But I know I am not alone. I sincerely believe that everyone has a story, a struggle, a battle. It is what makes us all human. It is what connects us. We live in a world of pain and suffering. 

Yet, through it all, there have been two constants in my grief - creativity, and laughter. 

From my writing to my designs, I have used many creative outlets to help me process, acknowledge, and work through my pain. It has always been in me to do, coded in my DNA. Expression, for me, is healing. I believe we can turn our pain into beauty when we uniquely express the truth of our pain. I believe our struggles are the connective tissue of humanity. 

But laughter, that was something I had to learn from Ariana. She taught the kids and me how to laugh and live despite the immense physical and emotional pain she endured. Ariana taught me to laugh at the absurdity of my mind, and that life was possible while we battled our demons. 

Hopeless Mope is my attempt to share my pain with the world and create a community of Mopers who, like me, have their battles. To show people that they are not alone. We get to choose to own our pain, struggles, and battles. We can choose to laugh at the absurdity and to, as Ariana did, live life despite the suffering. 

So friends, mope with me and wear your feelings proudly.

- CJ (The Hopeless Mope)