Suicide Prevention Awareness Month – Sammy

Today’s piece is written by one of my best friends, Sammy. My friendship with Sammy is the kind where I  can genuinely say we know each other to our cores and I really mean that. I can’t say that about very many other people.

With Sammy (and my other best friend from home, Gina) I feel so lucky. They are two of the only people I have ever met that can truly empathize with my feelings and emotions in their entirety. There is just some sort of unspoken connection we have – I can’t explain it, but I know it’s there. There’s just no other way to describe how well we understand and relate to each other. Without them, I would be lost. Without them, I would literally think I was broken. 

Sammy is always the first person I reach out to when it comes to my blogging ideas. For one, she inspires my creativity unlike anyone else – she’s always pushing me to try harder. For two though, I know she has amazing words that are worth sharing. I always want her thoughts and experiences to be part of my projects.

When Sammy sent me this piece, she said, and I quote, “I feel like a fraud, it’s not really about suicide.”

I want to stress that statement because I feel like it brings up such a great point. I feel like there are so many instances where we allow ourselves to belittle our own feelings, convincing ourselves that they’re not worthy of being acknowledged because they may not be the “norm” or the “extreme”.

Part of Suicide Prevention Awareness Month is acknowledging the fact that all experiences are different, but they are all equally as valid. Sammy’s experiences with suicidal thoughts are uniquely hers, as are everyone else’s. 

In my opinion, progress comes only after certain steps are taken. The first step is acknowledging that your feelings exist and are legitimate. The second step is voicing those feelings. Only after both of those steps, will you be able to accurately begin making positive change. 

It’s scary though! In most cases, it’s easier to brush off thoughts and emotions that we are struggling with. It’s easier to convince ourselves they’re not “bad enough” to be “real”. It’s easier to slide under the radar, silently grappling with our emotions, rather than acknowledging and vocalizing them. 

I can tell you from experience though, that the harder route brings so much more success and happiness. Your experiences and thoughts are so valid and they are so worth sharing. You are worth being cared for. You are worth progress and change. You deserve happiness.

Somehow, Sammy found the strength to share her words, regardless of the doubt and insecurity she initially expressed. I hope her words encourage some of you who may feel similarly to do the same. 

Check it out: 

I have this dream and it’s always the same. I’m in a mansion overlooking the ocean and the valleys of California. I walk through the french doors into the foyer, through the halls, until I’m standing where I can see the doors that lead to the back. The house is vacant and quiet but there is a woman outside in a long lace nightgown and long hair, both blowing in the wind. She’s standing on the balcony ready to leap into the unknown. I never see her face and I never try to save her, but I know who she is: she’s me. 

I need to emphasize something about this dream. It does not bring me satisfaction. It does not seem like an end to all my problems. It’s just one of many scenarios I craft up in my head when I want to end the thoughts and the sadness. 

I picture killing myself because it’s a way to picture killing the thoughts, but there is never a desire to kill me, the living human body form of me. I’ll keep the highs but I want to chuck the lows over a building, drown them in a tub, pour a bottle of pills down its throat until it is no more and I am left with only the positivity and the sanity that I know I am capable of. 

I was driving in the car the other day – the windows down, the music just right. It was one of those moments where I checked my surroundings and I felt the beauty of it all, this thing we called life. Fuck, I felt truly ALIVE. But then, the unsettling feeling came over me and my mind told me to cherish this moment for it would not be this way tomorrow. And guess what? My mind was right. The next day, I couldn’t look at myself. I felt ugly. I felt gross. I felt I couldn’t do anything right. I felt like a failure – living at home still, working the same job I told myself last year I’d get out of to find my dream job. I made all these promises to myself and where the fuck were they now? It didn’t matter yesterday that I hadn’t accomplished all my dreams yet, but my shortcomings sure as hell mattered the next morning, my mind said they did. So that is what I focused on all day. I sat in front of the TV smoking weed until I reached the kind of high where you just don’t: don’t think, don’t move, don’t talk. 

My depression is interesting. I know how loved I am, it never blocks that from me. Sometimes it will try but I am able to swat it away before it solidifies into an actual feeling. I know I am not a burden on others, and I know my passing would hurt many. I mean this, not because I think I’m the greatest human to walk this earth, but I have felt death and I have seen it break those who I love. I have watched and experienced the passing of others and that is partially the reason I battle depression in the first place. That and the fact that is has always lived in me in some way. 

I take these thoughts seriously. I’ve never taken them as my desires or my truth but I do take them very seriously. Suicide is not selfish, not when you know what is truly going on inside someone, but that does not make suicide the answer. Please seek help if you are hurting, and fight with every ounce of you to stop the thoughts from becoming actions. It is easier said than done, I know. Suicide is not the action to take. Kill the thoughts, not yourself. Every living soul is different and every case of depression is different, but I believe that suicide is always the same in the sense that it does not solve anything. It only passes the hurt along. 

Suicide Prevention Awareness Month – What It’s Like to Lose Someone to Suicide

Another crazy busy day at work means another video as today’s post (sorrrrrry!). I think this video is extremely powerful though, and I think it’s a great sequel to yesterday’s post.

Although I feel very strongly that suicide is NOT selfish act, I do believe that it definitely has a wide-spread impact. Suicide has a way of affecting so many people in so many different ways.

Sometimes, with regards to death in general, I have this theory that some people do not allow themselves to accept that they’re struggling/grieving as much as they deserve. Does that make any sense? I think that because death is scary, yet common, yet simultaneously difficult to understand, we don’t always know how it’s supposed to affect us.

In reality, loss impacts each of us differently, and no one way is right or wrong. Because of this, we should accept that we each cope differently too. I don’t think there should be any shame in this. I also don’t think that we should expect the pain to go away at any specific point. Grieving takes time. In many senses, I don’t believe grieving really ever ends.

If you have lost a loved one and you want to talk about your feelings and your grief, I highly encourage you to. It can (and will) be extremely therapeutic and cathartic. If you are not comfortable sharing that part of you yet, don’t! You need to wait until you’re ready.

My only advice regarding this is to share how you’re feeling at some point, when you feel ready, whenever that may be. Like I said yesterday, there are people that understand what you’re going through. There are people that care and there are people that want to listen. Please don’t ever convince yourself that the way you are coping is incorrect, shameful, or unworthy of vocalizing. Your feelings are so beyond valid.

Loss is confusing and heartbreaking. It brings with it a mixed bag of emotions. Loss due to suicide, in some ways, is even more complicated. Please cut yourself some slack and just allow yourself to feel what you feel.

Pride Month: Nick

Today’s post is written by my best friend’s friend, Nick. Similar to how I felt about yesterday’s writer, I knew even before I read Nick’s words that they were bound to be great. My best friend Sammy, the person who introduced me to Nick, has always had this ability to seek out some pretty exceptional and inspiring friends. Here is what she has to say about Nick and his words:

“I honestly don’t know how I am supposed to introduce this piece. It’s extremely special to me for multiple reasons. Reason one being that Nick is a close friend of mine. I inherited this friendship through my boyfriend and if you know Nick at all, you want him as a friend. He is smart, cool, incredibly funny and has great taste in music. Reason two is because when I asked Nick to do this, I knew going into it that he is an extreme procrastinator like myself. I honestly didn’t think I would receive any form of writing from him unless I harassed him (which I did). When I opened his email and had a chance to read his words, I found myself lost in them. I almost forgot my friend was the person behind the writing.

When I met Nick, he wasn’t “out” yet to his family and friends. When Nick told me, it was the most natural conversation in the world. To be honest, I already knew. What happened after, has been beyond anything I could have ever imagined. Not only did Nick introduce me to a community that is so unbelievably loving and supportive, he showed me what it means to truly be yourself. To live without fear and to love unconditionally. Nick wasn’t the happiest soul when I first met him. His transformation into the person he is today has been the most beautiful thing to watch, and I am blessed to be a part of it.

Pride to me is my friend finding happiness, growing closer to his father, and creating a life for himself that he (and everyone who loves him) is proud of.”

I truly hope Nick’s words impact all of you as much as they have impacted me and Sammy. Here are his feelings on “Pride”: 

Every LGBT person looks at the rainbow flag differently. It inspires the memory and ability to reflect on their own story and the mental battle that took place to accept who they are today. Every story is different, but our love for Pride and respect for what it represents is equal. My story is a happy one, but difficult to cope with (at the beginning) nonetheless.

I came out on my college graduation weekend to my dad (who is also gay), and his partner. I was planning on coming out to them in person, but due to a jam-packed weekend full of graduation events, I couldn’t. I ended up emailing my dad once he arrived back to Massachusetts (pathetic, I know, but I’m over it). I remember shaking before pressing the ‘Send’ button. I would hover my finger over the button and then stop and pace around the room. Eventually, I pressed the button and threw my phone onto my bed in disbelief. That was the first step toward a completely different way of life for me. There was no turning back at this point, and letting that sink in was an unforgettable sensation. Moments later my dad called me, and of course, I ignored it. He left me a long voicemail that I have saved to this day, and plan on never deleting. He ended up jumping on a plane to Denver two days later, and we talked and reflected on our own stories and what it meant to be a gay man in today’s world. You think you know your parents, but this experience gave me a whole different outlook on my dad as a person, and not just as my father. That summer I slowly started coming out to my friends. I experienced a number of different reactions, ranging from long, emotional hugs, to friends saying things like “What?! I thought we were going to make out!”. Eventually, towards the end of the summer, I would just get “Yeah, I already knew.” Regardless, every reaction has been a positive one, and I’m so fortunate to be surrounded by wonderful people who think nothing of a sexual orientation different than their own.

My dad’s partner (let’s call him Jon), who has been in my life since middle school, had more of an effect on my coming out than anyone else. My dad could have stayed in the closet for the rest of his life and no one would have known, but since meeting and falling in love with Jon, he learned that being closeted is no way to live. Since they met, both my dad and Jon have lived life to the absolute fullest. They’ve traveled the world, quit corporate jobs that give them no pleasure, and have been proudly gay and madly in love. Seeing my dad reinvent his life this way gave me the confidence to tell people the truth about myself. Knowing that, if my dad could come out at age 50 without judgment, I could do it at age 22. Witnessing that it’s possible to live a ‘traditional’ life with another man, and knowing that it is not only accepted but encouraged to get married, have kids, go on vacations, adopt a dog… Jon is the reason both my dad and I are happily gay because, without his leadership, we would look at the gay community as a group we falsely identified with. Now, years later, I’ve learned how amazing this community really is. A community I deeply resonate with and am extremely proud to be a part of.

So, what do I think of Pride? I think of my dad who came out later in life, and the struggle he dealt with for over 50 years. I think of my dad’s long-term partner, and what an amazing influence he’s had, not only on my dad’s life, but mine as well. I think of my own life, and how fortunate I am to have such accepting and loving people around me, and how not every gay person is born into this blessing. And lastly, when I look at that flag, I think of the heartless, horrible people that view it with disgust. Those who think this celebration isn’t deserved, or see it as harmful to society. Those are the ones who delayed this LGBT progression we’ve seen in the past two years, and those are the ones who will never know how to celebrate life like we do.

MHAM Post #4: Samantha

Although many friendships throughout life come and go, I’ve been fortunate enough to have known the writer of this piece since 3rd grade.

There is such a comfort in a friendship like the one Sammy and I have. We’ve known each other since we were eight years old. We remember each other’s best times, and we were there for each other’s worst times, too. 

Although, right now, we basically live on the opposite sides of the country, Sammy has been someone who continuously supports me, and even more-so than that, inspires me. She creates some pretty dope shit and somehow still has time to help me with my projects, too. I am so happy to share her piece about her mental health experiences. 

Without further ado… Here it is: 

When I finally realized what it was, I was too scared to define myself as it. I’d substituted words like “not feeling myself” or “I’m off today” or “I’m just exhausted”. I guess I was scared of telling people I was something that I couldn’t take back. How can I say I suffer from depression and be seen a week later, out with friends at a bar, smiling and laughing? When people think depression, they think isolation, and darkened rooms behind closed blinds. They think a deep pain, and their mind eventually brings them to the topic of suicide. Not everyone suffering from depression is aware they are suffering from depression. And not everyone suffering from depression thinks about ending their life to escape their mind.

When I told someone recently about my reoccurring struggle with depression, the first thing they asked was about the suicidal thoughts. “Wait you think about killing yourself?”. Haven’t we all? When you stand too close to the edge of a cliff, and you think how easy it would be to jump. I’ve thought about it, but I’ve never thought about acting on it. The biggest issue I have with my depression is that it is mine, it belongs to me. No two people share the same depression. When we talk about depression and the warning signs, we try to treat it and understand it in the same way. Depression comes with its friends, like anxiety and other disorders that occur in the brain and again, no two cases are alike. No two cases should be treated similarly.

My depression comes on softly. It starts with some negative thoughts about myself, and new thoughts start to add themselves to my head daily. Once the thoughts are regular, I start to mistrust the people around me because attacking myself is not good enough. After that, I cut myself off from real connection. I don’t answer texts. I procrastinate beyond comprehension. It’s this hopelessness that things aren’t going to get better. Sometimes I convince myself a witch put a curse on me or that I’m living in a vortex. Life begins to feel less real, almost like an endless dream. My mind becomes hazy. Sometimes I cry for no reason in my car or in the stream of water from my shower. Sleep becomes something I so desperately need, even if I’m getting 8+ hours, like I’m not truly sleeping even when I am. I stay in bed for hours if I can. I loose interest in my passions: singing, cooking, reading, cinema and most importantly, my photography. I don’t want to take pictures. I see failure and mistakes in each photo I take. I become a lesser version of myself. I feel I’ve let down everyone around me, including the ones I’ve lost to death. I feel their disappointment in my sleep.  

And then, I see sun. It’s like I awake from a slumber and I can feel again. And I cry out of happiness instead of sadness. I get excited for my future. Someone once told me depression is not being able to see a future. It’s hard to see pass the thoughts when it’s all that consumes you. It takes away any glimmer of hope for a future when you can’t dream up one. When I emerge from the depression, I feel strong.

But I know it’s not over. I think the biggest lesson I have learned with my depression is to seek help often. Tell your family and friends. You are loved even when your brain tells you you are not. My fears had always been being misunderstood, being judged, or not being taken seriously. Those fears subsided tremendously when I shared my burden with others. I sought therapy, and began building a relationship with my mom again, and with myself. I know my depression does not define me as a person. We are never just one thing and we are never ever alone. 

Check out Sammy’s work on her website: jvmpthegun.com
H
er Tumblr: jvmpthegun.tumblr.com
H
er Instagram: @sammykeller
& Her Twitter: @sammmyyyyk