Depression, healing, Hope, Uncategorized

I Always Knew

Even as a child, I knew that I could not give up. There was always something pushing me forward, and making me believe that tomorrow offered something better. In the darkest of times, I knew that there would be light. I didn’t know when, or how, but I knew.

When I felt like giving up and taking my life, I knew that I couldn’t. I knew there was a life I needed to live. When my mom was unable to love me the way I needed, I knew I would be loved. I knew there was good in people. I could see past their fear, and anger. I could see a scared child, much like myself, hiding deep below the surface.

Even when others hurt me, I felt sorry for them. I wanted to understand why they behaved the way they did. I didn’t hate the ones causing me pain, but I continued to offer love. Hoping, that maybe one day they could see what I saw. I didn’t want to give up on them, just like I was unable to give up on myself.

I never looked at myself as strong or brave, I just did what I knew I had to. I struggled almost everyday, until recently. With so many struggles pushing me down, it was hard for me to see, or listen to anything else. It was this knowing that helped me survive. The knowing pushed me to safety, even when I sometimes led myself astray.

What took me a long time to realize is, everything I ever needed was inside of myself. I didn’t trust my knowing, but it was strong enough to finally get my attention. Through the darkness, through the pain and depression it never left me. It patiently waited for me to see. I believe, with everything that I have, that this is why I am alive today.

This knowing is what fueled me. Fuel for my soul. The spark of light never completely  extinguished, and now it encases me in a golden glow.

I believe we all have this. We all know. I believe this is what gets us through the rough patches. The hard part is trusting that we have what we need.

My challenge to you is to trust that you know. Live life knowing you have what you need within yourself. Don’t give up, even when you want to. Stop, and listen. It is there. You are strong. You are brave. You




healing, Hope, Love, Uncategorized

We Only Have Time For Love

cemetery-2787610__340April 20, 1999 the Columbine High School was under attack by two students. They killed 12 students and a teacher, and then themselves. This day sticks in my head because I was a senior in high school, and it was the first time that I felt unsafe at school.

I remember going home and watching the news with my gram, and not understanding why they would do something so awful. As the names and pictures were shown on the news of the victims, I wanted to know why. I wanted to know why two boys, my age wanted to kill so many people. I wanted to know how the parents of the victims were going to live without their children, and how the parents of the two boys behind the murders were going to be able to live knowing their boys were capable of such hate. I just wanted to know why.

A month after the shooting, we were released from school early because of threats of a copycat type incident occurring. No threats had been made at our high school, but the school wanted to make sure we felt safe and allowed us to go home…just in case. I was relived to know that I only had a few more weeks of school left and the worry of dying at school would be behind me.

Fast forward to 2018 and I am a mother of three children who attend school. One in elementary school and two in junior high. It seems like everyday there is another school shooting on the news, and yet nothing is being done. I send my kids to school everyday and I wonder if they will return home. Parents do not have the luxury of being assured their child is safe while they are at school any longer. It doesn’t matter how many times we are told, “Don’t worry, it would never happen here.” There is no way to be sure of that anymore.

You can be the best parent on the planet, teach your child right from wrong, to love and be compassionate, but you cannot be sure the children they spend their day with have had the same. You cannot be sure that if given the chance your child might not do something you do not believe they are capable of.

We need to stop blaming people and start acting. If you see a child that needs help, help them. If you see a child that needs love, love them. If you see a child struggling, don’t ignore them. It just takes one person, one moment of concern to change someone’s outlook on life.


Don’t judge.


This is our responsibility. We owe it to our children, to our friends, to our neighbors. We need the sense of community back. We need to stop categorizing people. No one deservers to be thrown away. No one deserves to be bullied or called names because they are not like you. The world has too much hate, lets take everyone by surprise and be kind. We are all too self-absorbed; take a moment to think about someone else. Look around. Things need to change, and the best place to start is with yourself. From the inside out we can make changes and it may just cause a ripple effect.

The world is so broken, and all we can do it argue over who is right and who is wrong. If we stood together, and put all of our efforts together, big things could happen. What are we afraid of? What are we waiting for?

Think about the fear our children face each day as they enter school. Maybe they don’t think about being killed each day they open the school doors, but I bet they worry about what is going to happen to them, or be said to them. Maybe they are laughed at because their parents can’t afford the newest brand craze of the month. Maybe kids make fun of them because they think they are bi or gay. Maybe they are called names because they are overweight, too short, too tall, too skinny, too pretty, too quiet, too loud…you get the idea.  No kid is safe from harassment or bullying. Today they are good, but tomorrow it might be their turn.

There is no time for blame. We need to act now, create safe havens for kids to go to, to talk to, to learn compassion and tolerance. We can fight about guns vs. mental health until the next shooting. We can debate on Facebook, send thoughts and prayers to the families and the victims, but none of that will change anything. Think about what you can do now. Don’t wait. This country is suffering and we are running out of Band-Aids.

The only thing stronger than hate is love.

 “The value of love will always be stronger than the value of hate. Any nation or group of nations that employs hatred eventually is torn to pieces by hatred.”

-Franklin D. Roosevelt




“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

-Martin Luther King, Jr.

healing, Hope, Tom Petty

Don’t Wait: Something Good is Coming

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers released “Something Good Coming” in 2010 on their Mojo album. I did not stumble upon this song until 2012 as I prepared for my first live concert. This song caught me by surprise. It was song 14 of 16, and to be honest I didn’t really listen to the last two songs after I heard this one. It immediately spoke to me, and I had to believe, something good was coming…it had to be.

In 2012,  I was in grad school and was on the path to healing, except I didn’t know it then. Life was miserable, I was stuck in every aspect. Life was the same everyday, and hope was not something that I held onto.

“This is how it’s always going to be.”

“Nothing is ever going to change.”

“Why even bother?”

These kind of thoughts plagued my head. The negativity allowed for more to follow. Day after day I dreaded the next. I hated my life. I hated who I was. And then this song entered my world.

The words.

The melody.

The music.

All touched places inside me that had not been touched in so long. There was no way to escape the hope for better things while listening to this song. The more I listened, the more I believed. The more I believed, the more things started to change. Day by day, I was changing too.

When life got too hard, I would skip to song 14 on Mojo and let the song seep into my soul. Something Good Coming…

And there was. There was a better life waiting for my children and me. I began to see ways to change the things I hated. I saw things differently. Things could change, but the change had to start with me. I stopped letting life pass me by. I put actions into motion and everything began to fall into place.

It wasn’t easy. It was downright terrifying at times. When it became overwhelming I slid Mojo into the CD player and listened to track 14. A deep breath allowed the words to enter me in all the needed places and the strength to continue on came.

While in Orlando, FL at my first Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers concert I was lucky enough to hear this song live. There is magic in hearing words live, feeling the beat of the music within your body, as your heart pounds in melody with the music. It was life changing, and the catalyst to the changes that came.


~2012 Orlando, FL

Every year after this concert, when a tour was announced, I knew I had to go. Nine shows in total. Each brought their own special memories. The 40th Anniversary tour came with an urgency to go to as many shows as I could. I didn’t know why, I just knew I had to go. The first show I attended was in Nashville, TN on April 25, 2017. This was one of those spur of the moment decisions. Not a lot of thought or planning behind it, but I had to go.

When I returned home, I wrote a much needed letter to Tom. For the past 22 years, his music had saved me, and I needed him to know. I took a break from working on The Monster That Ate My Mommy, and wrote all the things I needed to tell him. I didn’t know if he would ever read it, but I felt like I needed to try.

After I wrote the letter, I knew I had to see him from the front row. We had tickets to both Philly shows and the first Boston show. I checked ticket sites to see which show had front row tickets available still. Front row tickets to the July 1st Philadelphia show were within reach…and I jumped on them.

July 1st came, and as we made our way to our seats my heart began to beat in my chest so loud. It had been three months since I mailed the letter and I held on to hope that he had received it. From the moment he entered the stage, my face lit up, and a smile stayed on my face. We made eye contact and as I sang along the smile never left. As he sang he kept looking my way, and the smile grew. At the end of song seven, “Free Fallin'” Tom stopped in front of me and finished the song. For those few seconds I know he knew how important he had been to me. If he hadn’t read my letter, the smile on my face told my story. The story so many of his fans can tell.

It is a moment I will never forget.

During the tour, I didn’t know why I had an urgency to go. I didn’t know what made me get on the plane and head to Nashville. I didn’t know why I had to see him from the front row. On October 2, 2017, I knew. The time to make these dreams come true was on a ticking clock, and came with an important reminder to live.

Don’t postpone things for tomorrow. Our time here is limited. Don’t wait. Live while you can. This is a lesson  Tom had been teaching me since I heard the first song.

There are lessons in everything. Look for them. Learn from them.

And remember…something good is coming…always.



April 28, 2017

Dear Tom,

I want to thank you, for many things. The summer I turned fourteen I fell in love with your music. Wildflowers had just come out, and when I heard You Don’t Know How it Feels on the radio I felt like you were talking to me. I requested the song on the radio every chance I got, and for my birthday that year I received the cassette tape. I grew up with music, but for the first time, music reached me in places I didn’t know existed.

My childhood was less than ideal, as I grew up in an abusive household with both parents struggling with mental illness and addictions. We found food in the local dumpster when we didn’t have money, and I struggle with PTSD now because of the abuse. At fourteen, life continued to throw challenges my way, and in my darkest hours it was your lyrics and your voice that brought me comfort and gave me hope. Your words were all I had at times.

A few years later, I got mixed up with an abusive older man, and after five years of being trapped and scared the first song I played after I finally found the courage to leave him was Free Fallin’. At this time I was only nineteen, and did not live near any music stores and only had access to Wildflowers and The Greatest Hits. I played them both over and over again, and as before, it was what kept me grounded.

Later, my mom started buying me more of your albums and some of your photos (one was even allegedly signed!) and concert t-shirts off EBay. I was closed off to most people, but the one thing they knew about me was that I connected to your music. I treasured the music and the items, because I never imagined I would get the chance to see you live. I wanted to, but I lived in Vermont, and was with another abusive man, who I had three children with. He was jealous of the love I held for your music.

My gram, who raised me, and was my best and only true friend passed away. I sank into a deep, dark depression, and again, the only thing that brought color to my world was your music. The song that I listened to during this time was Don’t Fade on Me. That song said the words I couldn’t find: “You were the one who took me in…you were the one thing I could count on. Above all you were my friend….” Even now, after eight years, listening to this song brings me great comfort.

A couple years later my family lost everything we owned in a house fire. We had been having troubles with a neighbor, who earlier in the day had threatened to burn our house down, but the fire investigators deemed it accidental. As I stood and watched all of the things my kids and I held dear burn I felt like I had lost everything. All of my music was gone. All of the items my mom had bought me, that made me feel closer to you were gone. All of my gram’s things that reminded me of her were gone. My kids lost all of their toys. We lost pictures…we lost everything. It was devastating until I realized no one was hurt. We were all safe, and what we lost were just things. The song that helped me through this time was Square One. At the time, I did not know that this event was my square one. It allowed me the freedom to put things in motion to leave my abusive husband, and it also gave me a little money to be able to see you live. In 2012 I was able to fly (for the first time!) to see you in Orlando. It was magical. I never imagined I would get the chance to see you and hear you in person.

Living that dream made me see that I could do anything if I wanted it bad enough. The other dream I had since I was a little girl was to be an author, to write my life story. I began to write, but after 65 pages, I got stuck. It was too much to be transported back to all the traumatic events that I had not really dealt with. For two years I put my writing on hold. My mom had hurt me in many ways, I just wanted her to love me, but it was not something that she was fully able to do. I did not feel right exposing our secrets to the world, so I told myself I would write after she passed away. I never imagined I would get the opportunity so quickly, but last April I was at my mom’s bed side as she passed away. Right before she lost consciousness, the last words I spoke to her were “I forgive you Mom. I love you.” She held on for two more days and I was able to tell her all of the things I had been holding on to. Finally, at the end of her life, she was able to give me the love that I had longed for my entire life.

Two weeks after my mom’s death I sat at my computer and wrote, and wrote, and wrote. As I wrote I listened to I Forgive it All on repeat and cried. I really did forgive it all. Two hundred more pages fell out of me, and I have been working on my edited version, because I want the suffering to be worth something, I want to be able to help someone else that may be in a similar situation, much like your music and words helped me.

The songs that I have mentioned are just a few of the ones that have touched me. I wanted to keep this brief enough to let you know that I owe you. If it were not for you and your music, I would have lost my battle with depression years ago. You were a friend when I had none. I have seen you in concert four more times since Orlando, and have three more shows to go to this year. When you come on stage, a smile takes over my face and tears well up in my eyes, because I am grateful for all that you do for your fans and I wanted you to know that you matter. Your lyrics, your songs, your voice matter. I know I am not the only one who feels this way, but I wanted you to know.

If possible, I would be honored to use this as the epigram for my book, The Monster that Ate my Mommy: …there’s somethin’ good comin’ for you and me, sometin’ good comin’ there has to be… Because of you, I believe this to be true.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you!

Sincerely Grateful,

Jessica Aiken-Hall


Depression, Hope, Uncategorized

Look For Your Flicker


Out with the old, in with the new. The hope we all have when the year changes. Last year was a great year, I was a little nervous to see it go. I wondered, “How could it get any better?” Only hours into 2018, and I knew my feelings of apprehension were with cause. A life taken too soon, a family left with a hole. Days later, a second loss, almost identical circumstances.

Death, illness, injury, misunderstandings, lies and coercion are what have made up the first month in 2018. Fighting negativity is my daily job. How do I fight something that lingers? That sticks so strongly to everything that I know? A swirl of darkness chases me as I take steps forward. The past haunts my thoughts when I allow it to; but this is not how I want to live. This is not who I want to be.

Depression is more than a word, and if you have ever experienced it you know. You know the hold it can have on you, and even after you feel that you have been freed from its grip, you know that it is still there. Alcohol to an alcoholic is like depression to the depressed. An effort to replace sadness with joy. A constant battle to look for the positive in each day. How do you accept happiness when gloom was all that came before? How do you even know what joy is? The swirling thoughts just take you deeper down the spiral of no return. As you fall, so do the stairs that help you climb back up.




Until you hit the bottom. The cold, lonely, dark bottom where you only have time to dwell in the misery. Like an addiction, when this is all you know, you crave it. You strive for the lousy feelings that depression brings. The hope of better days is elusive as you watch darkness take over the sun. You give in to these feelings, and you believe with everything that you have that it will never get better.


It is cold. It is lonely. It hurts to breathe. It hurts to think. It hurts your heart. It hurts your soul. It hurts everything. The pain is all you can focus on. It becomes who you are, and all that you know. Like a blanket, the pain starts to create comfort. Comfort in the uncomfortable, and you know without a doubt this is all life has to offer you.

If you are lucky, in this darkness, the little spark of light that has never left will flicker enough to get your attention.

Over here.

Your eyes notice the hint of light and something shifts in your brain. The overwhelming hold of depression loosens its grip, just a little. Just enough to help you remember life without it. The real life you wanted. The one you worked so hard for. You can do this. You have what it takes. You are strong. Don’t ever give up.

You brush the dust off and you start to rebuild the staircase that led you astray. Piece by piece, stair by stair, you reach the top. And you start over. Again. You never give up. Giving up is not an option, although you sometimes forget. Life is too short to give into the pain, to the depression. You only have one chance to live. To love yourself. To give yourself permission to heal from the pain of the past.

Although 2018 started off rocky, I will not let negativity win. I will not allow people or events to dictate my worth or happiness. I will allow the fall, but I will not remain there. I will feel what I need to feel and I will move on. I will not dwell in the negativity. I will not give up. I will carry on.