Suicide Prevention Awareness Month – Me

I have been literally terrified to share my own post for the entire duration of this month.

I spent a long time trying to decide how to best express my relationship with suicide/suicidal thoughts. It’s an extremely complex dynamic to put words to. On the one hand, I have seen people take their own lives, and I have seen how such an action can be so final, leaving so many broken in its wake. But on the other hand, no amount of experience and understanding can stop me from feeling the ways I have felt.

Like I said, sharing these thoughts is beyond terrifying to me. Yes, I have gotten to a point where I am able to be open about a lot of myself via this blog. I share so many thoughts and intimate experiences in hopes that they will help at least one person out there to feel more understood.

Ontop of that, every time I do a month-long project like this, I ask others to help contribute. I ask them to share things about themselves that they may not have ever said to anyone else before. Time and time again, I am blown away by the amount of support and participation I receive. That is why, I knew for this month, I just wouldn’t feel right asking other people to share their relationships with suicide if I didn’t share my own too. It’s really fucking scary though.

I have spent countless hours thinking about what I hope those of you reading might get out of these words. I really still don’t have a clue. They’re not creative, or well-written in the least. In fact, they are just the blunt and candid thoughts that have come to mind over the years when I have found myself at my lowest.

These words are a part of me though. They have been a part of me for many years.

I think the point in me sharing this is two-fold. First, I want to really stress the fact that “normal” people can experience these thoughts and urges too. So many people struggle with these similar feelings in silence. Second, I want to prove to myself that I don’t have to be ashamed of thinking these thoughts. I want to remind myself that I have made it thus far, even though I struggle. These feelings can be a part of me, without overtaking me.

Also, I’d like to express that, at least from my own experiences, suicidal thoughts aren’t always present, but that doesn’t make them any less real. Just like depression, it can vary in intensity from day to day or week to week. I can have great days, and I can have days where I feel like I will never be happy again.

With that said, here are some extremely personal, private blog entries that I have written in the past:

 

Monday, June 8, 2009
I feel like I have no one

Wednesday, October 28, 2009
I cant keep doing this anymore

I’m never ever happy

Sunday, February 7, 2010
I’ve never been more unhappy

Tuesday, February 22, 2011
I got so mad when you told me you think I’m depressed

because I love being happy and I love loving life
but I think you’re right and that scares me
I can’t think of the last time I was truly happy
I feel tired and run down all the time

Monday, June 13, 2011
I’ve felt so numb the last few days

like I’m upset or alone but I don’t have enough emotion to express or explain WHY I feel that way

Wednesday, October 26, 2011
No matter how many people I physically surround myself with, I still feel so fucking alone

Saturday, June 23, 2012
I mean I always used to get sad about things, even for long periods of time sometimes, but I would still feel something

Whether it be sadness, or anger, or the occasional bursts of happiness, or excitement or passion
Even in the most painful of times I still had feelings in one way or another
I still had dreams and aspirations that ultimately made me happier
now I’m just numb
I don’t feel anything, just emptiness
like I’m here but I’m not actually here
I have no motivation to do anything at all
and no matter where I am or who I’m with I can’t shake off the numbness
Sometimes I’m just better at hiding it in front of people
but sometimes I can’t even bring myself to speak or move
if I could sleep for weeks I would

Sunday, July 1, 2012
Atypical Depression Symptoms

-sadness or depressed mood most of the day or almost every day
-loss of enjoyment in things that were once pleasurable
-a major change in weight (gain or loss of more than 5% of weight within a month) or appetite 

-insomnia or excessive sleep almost every day
-physically restless or rundown that is noticeable by others
-fatigue or loss of energy almost every day
-feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness or excessive guilt almost every day
-problems with concentration or making decisions almost every day
-recurring thoughts of death or suicide, suicide plan, or suicide attempt
-For a diagnosis of atypical depression you must have this symptom:
-Being cheered up by positive events

Why am I too scared to talk to anyone about this if I know this is how I’ve felt for so fucking long
I just want someone to tell me how to get better

Monday, October 15, 2012
I know I haven’t written in a while but I think it’s because I was just waiting until I felt like there was really something to say

For a while, like I said, I didn’t have feelings at all it seemed like
I just was numb all the time and every day felt the same and I remember thinking to myself so many times I’d rather feel absolutely miserable than nothing at all
because at least miserable FEELS like something, numbness is horrible and empty and boring

Monday, December 3, 2012
I live inside my own mind so fucking much sometimes and it’s such a self-destructive concept that I need to learn how to stop

There’s just this literally insane train of thought that I have every single day
I think about how alone I feel or how stressed I am and then the rest of the thoughts just pile on top

Thursday, January 24, 2013
Adderall really does make me 10x more depressed

Tuesday, October 1, 2013
I’ve felt really sad lately

not the kind of sad where I crave attention
not the kind of sad where I’m lonely
and not the kind of sad where I feel empty either
just sad
like uncontrollably so
I keep crying for no reason
and I feel no need to have real connections with anyone
I only feel comfortable alone

Monday, November 4, 2013
The biggest reason I hate
Adderall is because it makes me think really horrible thoughts
like often times I genuinely feel that my Adderall makes me bipolar
like actually bipolar, I’m not just exaggerating when I say that
because when I take it there is a period of time where I get really happy and excited to be productive and my brain feels like its flooding with happy thoughts
and then there’s a large period of time where I just think about all the reasons why I’m unhappy
When I don’t take my Adderall I’m really unfocused and people say I can be really annoying
but my brain feels calmer
I don’t have 9million thoughts bouncing around all the time
and I feel genuinely happy and confident in myself as a person for the most part
I never feel that way when I’m on Adderall
I’m always second-guessing myself and over thinking things and worrying
and feeling anxious and awkward and unconfident

Tuesday, November 12, 2013
Sometimes I work myself up so much that I want to just scream really loud

or drive down the highway for a really really long time until I end up somewhere different
or write something passionate that depicts my thoughts
or run for miles until I get so tired that I fall over
or SOMETHING to release all the thoughts in my head

but then I get too lazy
every time
and just do nothing at all
but sit and feel overwhelmed about everything in my brain
and feel tired and useless

I feel literally dumb and lazy and useless all the time
I have no passion or drive or strong opinions/thoughts/feelings
I just feel indifferent all the time

I wish I had a purpose in life
I wish I didn’t give up before I started EVERYTHING

like even writing this I just want to give up and delete it and stop
whats wrong with me

Wednesday, May 21, 2014
I think about killing myself almost every night while I’m laying in bed

When I was at school I had people around all the time so I had a lot of distractions and I thought about it less
now I spend way too much time alone

Wednesday, October 15, 2014
I’ve already cried 3 times today

I feel like I’m losing my mind 

Saturday, January 24, 2015
I wonder if anyone will truly love me and by
that, I mean all of me
I wonder how much longer I  will have to wait to meet someone who makes me happy to be myself

Wednesday, January 27, 2016
having a lot of anxiety

feeling depressed a lot of the time

Thursday, March 17, 2016
I think about killing myself probably on average once a week and definitely at least every other time I’m drunk. 

I don’t think about how and I don’t plan it out so I guess I know I won’t actually do it.

But I guess it’s more that I feel lethargic 100% of the time and I’ve run out of hope that that feeling will ever go away. 

I’ve had these thoughts for years now but they’ve just become more consistent I guess and now I have them in the middle of the day in public whereas a couple years ago I would only think this way alone in my room in the middle of the night.

I also sound like an idiot trying to honestly express those feelings bc it sounds like such a cry for help or something. I just have never said those words out loud and I’ve definitely never expressed them to anyone I know so it feels good to write it somewhere I guess idk.

Monday, June 20, 2016
idk what is wrong with me
I genuinely don’t think I will ever change my ways or ever feel less alone

Tuesday, October 25, 2016
my mom is the only reason I would never be able to kill myself

she’s been through too much already to lose a kid
but Jesus do I feel like I have no reason to be alive

Friday, May 19, 2017
oh, also I keep feeling like really painfully sad after drinking again.
cute cute!!

Friday, July 21, 2017
I really think I am incapable of love
I fucking hate myself

Sunday, September 10, 2017
This is one of the numbest moments I’ve had in a while.
I feel so empty and alone
And I keep laying here thinking about how I felt this exact same way 2,5,7 years ago
The difference is now I don’t even cry
I’ve done everything I can to stop these thoughts
Counseling and medication and time and work are supposed to bring about positive change right? What happens if I’m trying and I still feel the same emptiness though
Is everyone in the world meant to feel full and whole and completed?
I don’t think so
I think some of us are meant to only make it part of the wayI’m so empty
I want to die I really mean it

After re-reading these posts, I noticed so much shame and embarrassment in my words. Like I said, I was so hesitant to share any of this. The plethora of ways people can interpret these feelings is so terrifying to me. But I think it’s important to overcome that fear and speak up this month.

I hope, if you are reading this and have ever felt similarly, you know that you are so understood and so far from alone. I hope you know that, although it is so much easier said than done, sharing how you feel is cathartic in so many ways.

There is a good chance I will continue to struggle with these feelings for a long time to come – I really have no idea. But I am so happy that I was able to put them out into the world for the sake of this month.

Like I have said many times already, your feelings are so valid, whatever those feelings may be. Today I learned to take my own advice a little bit too.

Every 12 minutes, someone takes their own life…. that equates to over 38,000 Americans a year losing their lives to suicide. On top of that, 20-25% of Americans over the age of 18 struggle with depression, yet only half of these people seek help.

Whether or not you have any personal experiences with suicide/suicidal thoughts, I hope the words and videos that I have shared this month have resonated with you, and have helped, in some small way, to break the stigma surrounding mental health and suicide.

It is estimated the 80-90% of those who seek treatment for their mental health issues are treated successfully. Although, when it comes to mental illnesses, there is no “cure”, by breaking the stigma, we can persuade more people to feel comfortable enough to seek help and find progress and success. 

If you, or someone you know, is struggling with any type of emotional issue, I highly suggest looking into some of the amazing resources below. They are confidential (almost all are also anonymous) and extremely helpful:

Suicide Hotline: 1-800-273-8255
Crisis Text Line: https://www.crisistextline.org/how-it-works/
The Trevor Project (LGBT-related crisis help): 1-866-4-U-TREVOR (866-488-7386)
SoulMedic (Anonymous Online Chat help): http://remedylive.com/soulmedics
I Am Alive (Crisis Network): https://www.imalive.org/index.php

MHAM Post #11: Corinne

This piece is written by someone that I’ve known during many stages of her life. Corinne has been a friend that I can honestly say I have grown with. I have known her since high school, and together we have experienced all of the ups and downs that come with your teens and 20s.

My favorite thing about our friendship, is that I can honestly say I’ve watched her learn and grow into herself over the years. She has become such a mature, self-aware person and it shows in her writing. 

I liked that, in a sense, her story contrasts the previous story, with regards to her opinions on medication. She also touches on her experience with therapy, and other coping mechanisms shes learned over the years. 

Read her experience here: 

It was my senior year of college. I came back to school after a summer that felt like an eternity of missing “The Promised Land” and mourning the breakup of a college relationship that, for some reason, shook me more than I ever imagined a short-lived relationship could. Going back to JMU after being at home for the summer was the best feeling in the whole world (I know all my Dookz can agree). It was then, upon the return to my favorite place, that I started experiencing what I would soon learn was my anxiety, something I would carry with me for the rest of my life.

I remember exactly what I was doing the first time I felt this then unfamiliar feeling, which I now know to be a panic attack. I was walking into the library, up to the front desk to check out a laptop. As I approached the front desk, I felt my heart begin to race. I became increasingly hot. The floor felt like it was moving below me, and I experienced an out-of-body feeling that I had never experienced before, for what seemed like no reason. I felt like I was crawling out of my skin. I felt like I needed to escape as soon as humanly possible, like I was in danger or something.  I thought it was weird, but ultimately I brushed it off.

It wasn’t until these feelings started to appear, not just in the library, but also on the bus going to class, while giving presentations, and while doing seemingly “relaxing” activities, like eating with my friends in the dining hall, that I started to become worried about what was happening to my body. (Side note: all of these were place I had previously THRIVED…I mean I AM a Leo SO you know…).

Krump was actually the first person who told me that what I was experiencing sounded like anxiety. I’ll never forget laying in my bed in Forest Hills googling “symptoms of anxiety” on WebMD, a website that, once I actually learned I had anxiety, I’d never visit ever again (hello hypochondria). I remember thinking, “holy shit, this is it, this is all of what I have been feeling”. And then I felt scared. What does this mean? Why do I feel this way? How do I make it stop?

Luckily in college, you’re surrounded by friends and LOTS of booze. So much so, that admitting to my roommate that the only time I didn’t feel anxious was when I was drunk, felt so casual to me. That fact didn’t actually scare me until I was out of college, and drinking until you can’t feel anything isn’t really a normal life coping method anymore.

Fast forward almost 5 years later and here I am, still learning new things about my anxiety and what comes along with it every single day. Sometimes I think I have it totally under control. I think that the 5th antidepressant/antianxiety medication I have tried and now take religiously, the seemingly healthy food I am putting into my body, the chamomile tea I drink both at night and during the day (I almost threw a fit when someone at work wanted to get rid of the sleepy time tea because “who needs that during work”.. umm hello anxious people do!), the 9 PM grandma bedtimes, my Himalayan salt lamp, my adult coloring book, my lavender candle, and the meditation, have somehow made my anxiety disappear. But then, BAM, I’m hit with a brain zap that comes with an overwhelming sense of hopelessness, fear, worry and my least favorite, the out-of-body feeling I referenced earlier.

That’s the sneaky thing about anxiety though…just when you think you have it under control, it’s there hiding in the darkness, just waiting to come out. It appears when I am at brunch, laughing and enjoying time with my friends. It appears when I am driving down the highway. It appears when I am alone at night. It appears when I am grocery shopping. It appears when I am watching TV. It appears at times I can’t always explain.

Now let’s get to the positive side of things! I have spent a lot of time thinking about the differences between the ways that I used to cope with my anxiety versus how I cope with it now, and I feel like I can finally pat myself on the back. The people closest to me always say I never give myself enough credit, so here I am. I’m working on it! For starters, less than a year ago, I also was petrified of medication. I had some of the worst days of my life while on antidepressants that were pushed on me in the past, and I didn’t think medicine was the answer for me. Turns out, once you find a doctor who truly listens to you and genuinely cares about your well-being, this can change. I take my anxiety medication two times a day, and I can genuinely say it has changed my life for the better. Of course, I still have my moments where my anxiety creeps up on me like I described before, and it still happens way more often than the average person, but believe it or not, the number of these instances have decreased significantly. I can actually breathe again.

Less than a year ago, I was constantly looking for life situations to blame my anxiety on and so did my ex-therapist.  She taught me to search for answers or reasons as to why I felt this way. Like maybe it was just my post-grad anxiety/depression (my doctor said she saw so many people for this, so it must be true right!?). Maybe it was the toxic two-year relationship I was in. Or maybe it was the aftermath of the breakup of that toxic relationship. Or maybe it was the fact that my physical health is all sorts of fucked up and that carries so many unknowns. Or maybe it’s because I was transitioning jobs, or my work environment wasn’t good… this list could go on forever. Telling her about an experience I had with sexual assault was like a goldmine for her, because she was convinced she had found the answer to all of my anxieties. In reality, this wasn’t the case at all (hence the “ex” in ex-therapist). She made me feel like anxiety was something you could “fix” but it’s not. It’s actually quite the opposite. While, of course, the experiences I shared with her do play a part in the state of my mental health, even when I can’t recognize it, addressing those experiences doesn’t mean they, or my anxieties as a result of those experiences, suddenly go away. I now know that my anxiety has always been with me, it just chose the year 2012 to come out in full force.

And finally after all this thinking (it’s what us anxious people do best right!?), the #1 thing my journey has taught me, is that despite anxiety being a part of me, I am not “anxious all day every day for no apparent reason at all” like I used to believe I was. In the past, I was convinced that every ounce of my body felt anxious at every second of every day. I used to only noticed the times when I wasn’t anxious, in the same way people who don’t have generalized anxiety disorder only notice the times that they are anxious.

Since then, I have grown to learn how my past and present experiences have shaped me as a person, and how they have shaped my anxiety. I have learned what many of my triggers are, and how to talk myself off the ledge when I feel myself ramping up. I have switched from having the mindset of blaming my anxiety, to accepting it. My anxiety will always be part of me. There will always be time when it hits me and I can’t explain it. And it will never be “fixed”, but I know one thing is for sure, my anxiety does not define me and yours does not define you either.

**Disclaimer: I still think that therapy is one of the best things a person can do for their mental health, despite my personal experiences thus far. I know my prefect therapist is out there somewhere, just gotta find him or her!

MHAM Post #10: Alyssa

I’ve always felt really fortunate to have friends that live all over the country (and world). But over the past couple years, as I’ve struggled/coped/moved/grown/changed, I’ve been guilty of letting some longer-distance friendships slip. 

This month’s project has taught me that regardless of distance, time, or space, most people still care about you, and most friendships, thankfully, are for the long haul. 

I met Alyssa freshman year of college. I have watched her grow, change, cope, and learn so much over the period of time since then. I am so happy to see the person she has become, and I’m even happier to share her story about a portion of her journey. 

In this piece, Alyssa talks about one of her biggest triggers related to her mental health. She also shares some really important insights on medication. It’s important to remember that different things help different people. I loved Alyssa’s blunt honesty in this. If you know her at all, you can see her personality shine through her writing. 

These words are her to the T, and I’m happy to share them here:

I really don’t know how to start this out, so I am going to start with a quote that helps with my frustrations… “Telling someone with mental health issues that all they need to do is be more positive and they can make themselves happy, is like telling someone who has asthma that all they need to do is breath harder because there is plenty of air.”

I have been diagnosed with depression and anxiety, wrongly diagnosed with bi-polar, and I am currently being evaluated for PMDD. I hate being labeled. But these labels have allowed me to learn about myself on a deeper level than I think any unlabeled person has. Every day, I learn something new about myself. Whether it is a new trigger, an effective coping strategy, or that I did a great job self-managing. Even though sighing is considered rude, I’ll sigh all fucking day if it helps me not physically shake or burst into tears. And sometimes I reflect and learn I did a terrible job self-managing today and need to make some phones calls to apologize.

Every reaction has a consequence, and every person has a memory. You may feel like there is a person inside of your chest, breaking every rib, trying to get out, but reacting poorly to that sensation normally results in burnt bridges, slipping deeper into a self-loathing cycle, and becoming more recluse. Mental health issues are difficult, because self-management is pretty much an ongoing conversation with yourself. You build yourself up or you break yourself down. I’ve learned that, even with practice and self-love, the volume of that voice can either break your ears drums (cue the panic attack), or be muffed, sometimes only by an extremely annoying number of sighs and gratitude lists.

Where I am today is why I can admit that I hated myself for a very long time. I am my own worst critic, and sometimes I rip myself apart over something as stupid as an Instagram comment because, “what if they don’t realize I’m being sarcastic and I just lost a friend?” This anxious concern has always been something I’ve struggled with. When I was younger it was more along the lines of, “did I remember every single friend’s initials in my AIM profile?!” Seemingly stupid shit, but it climaxed when I was in college.

Like I said, anxiety and depression has been a part of me my whole life, but there are definitely triggers that have made it worse. For the sake of length, I am only going to touch on the biggest trigger, and how refusing to process traumatic events can be detrimental.

Before I went into my freshman year of college, I woke up to a friend physically taking advantage of me. No one believed me when I told them, and said I was being dramatic. I didn’t report anything, I didn’t stand up for myself, and I allowed that dirty, used feeling to control my decision as I kept quiet. Two more girls were hurt by him and I’m still working on not blaming myself for that. I developed so much self-hate, that sometimes I acted on that hate, and it perpetuated the vicious cycle of stress, reaction, and guilt. *If anyone out there has experienced this and does not know who to talk to, please reach out, I am here and can help you link up with a professional to meet your needs.*

From there, my mental health struggles continued to get worse because I was not loving myself. I wasn’t even attempting to. I put on dirty band-aids, like blacking out, having sex with people I didn’t care about, and staying quiet about what was going on inside of my head, instead of choosing to love myself. I had opportunities to talk, and would share sometimes with friends, but never too much because, “what if they think I’m too dramatic?”

I took what, to me, felt like the easy way out, and went to a general medicine doctor and talked about my symptoms. He diagnosed me with depression and bi-polar disorder. He put me on Lexapro and Zyprexa and HOLY FUCK did shit get even worse and worse fast. I wanted a quick fix, but that speed lane took me straight to suicide city, and those thoughts were loud and always present.

I went back two weeks later to say “I don’t think this is right, everything is worse”. All he did was increase my medication. I don’t remember much of September and October of 2015. The first week of November my friends and I had all been at a pregame at the house next door. I remember exactly what I was wearing and I remember standing there, feeling like I was just over it. I was looking at everyone’s smiling faces, listening to my friends sing, loudly shouting about which party to go to, and I didn’t feel like I was even there. I slipped out and went back to my house, smoked about 5 cigs in a row, and grabbed the two pills bottles with about 20 10mg of Lexapro and 20 5mg of Zyprexa, and just held them in my hand, eerily calm. I sat there and cried on and off until I fell asleep.

I may have suicidal thoughts, but death within itself is too final, and I am thankful I am afraid of that. When I’m in that moment though, it feels like there are two voices in my head. One saying, “fuck it, life is not really even real, I can’t even think straight with how many feelings I have right now, I just want it all to fucking stop”. And a contrasting little voice saying, “life is still here, death is so final and unknown”. These continuous reel of thoughts, paired with a waterfall of loud tears, equals an indecisive and exhausted human standing in the middle of the room stunned and unable to move until she’s exhausted herself to the point of falling asleep.

Disclaimer* I called my parents the next day, I took myself off the medication, went through withdrawal symptoms, and as a result, was kicked out of my Athletic Training major because of my lack of performance in clinic and two failed classes. Thankfully, I was able to show documentation that my doctor did not refer me to a talk therapist and had upped my medication. My major advisors informed me I would be suspended from the Athletic Training program and could come back the next Fall. Meaning, I wasn’t graduating with my friends, and had to add another year of tuition to expenses. But more importantly than that, it meant I got a second chance to manage this correctly. This was terrible news, but I could either continue hating myself, or I could choose to love myself, be fearless, and vocalize how I feel and what my thoughts are. I chose to vocalize, and graduated a year later with a double major, acceptance to graduate school, and a one-way ticket to California.  

It’s fucking annoying going to doctor after doctor, having some kook push medication down your throat like its sweet-tarts, and feel like you’re losing your personality from the medication. It hurts looking at your parents as they try to hide their fear from you, and watching your siblings be confused by your differences. It just about kills you when you make the, “it’s getting bad again” call. But at the same time, I have been lucky enough to be able to have that open conversation with my family. I had to look at my Dad within the last month and say the thoughts came back, they aren’t loud but they’re back. Seeing how that horrified and broke my Dad is why I will never let this control me completely, even if the voices are like banshees screaming in my head. I’m working on not seeing myself as selfish or sickly, but in turn, realizing that I am so fortunate to have a family that allows for open communication and has embodied a safe and loving environment full of support. Not everyone is that lucky.

If there is one thing I have learned in my journey with mental health, it is that everyone’s experience and perspective is different. Everyone’s management is going to be different. Medication didn’t work for me, but it could save someone else’s life and that’s beautiful. I struggle daily with anxiety and depression and I combat that by loving myself and setting appropriate goals for myself depending on how I feel that day. 

The biggest message I want anyone who is suffering from mental health issues to understand, is that there is nothing wrong with you and you aren’t dramatic. TALK about how you feel. What’s “wrong” with you is something that provides you with an opportunity to learn more about yourself, develop your identity, create personal coping strategies, and have an increased level of empathy. The brain is crazy my friends, it’s the only thing that has named itself in this world. Learn about your brain, your thoughts, and talk about it. I am far from having control over my labels, but I can now say I am proud of where I am and I love myself.

MHAM #9: Christine

Today’s piece is written by the queen of social media herself, Christine. In case you don’t already know her, now you do. Like, I’m pretty sure she’s friends with Kris Jenner at this point, casual I know.

It’s hard to explain Christine in words because, like she says herself, she wears her emotions on her sleeve (and I mean that in the best way). I am never not hysterically laughing when I am with her. Her smile and cackle literally fill up a whole room. She genuinely instills happiness and positivity in everyone she meets. 

I’ve known that side of Christine for years now, but this may be one of the first times I’ve ever reached out to her about her deeper struggles.

Thank god I did. Christine’s insight into the stigma surrounding mental health is so powerful. I am so happy she agreed to share, because her words had such an impact on me and I know they will have an impact on all of you too.

Check it out: 

If you know me, or if you’ve even just met me once, you know that I am a very outgoing and sociable person. I tend to not hold back my feelings when it comes to expressing myself. When I think something is funny, I cackle. When I’m happy for one of my friends, I cry tears of joy. When I watch video compilations of dogs reuniting with their owners, I sob uncontrollably. I would say that I pretty much wear my emotions on my sleeve. What is usually surprising to people is that I struggle with anxiety and depression.

I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder when I was in 6th grade. I couldn’t go to class most of the time because I was too scared that if I was away from my family, something bad would happen. I would make my parents turn off the news in the mornings because that was an instant trigger. I spent the majority of that year in the guidance counselor’s office, where classmates delivered my schoolwork and asked what was wrong with me. My parents tried to get me professional help, but I refused. I was so embarrassed to even say the word therapy out loud. I grew up with the horrible stigma that surrounds mental health so ingrained in my mind by society, that I was too ashamed to even think that I could possibly need help. I spent the next few years trying my best to hide this anxiety, while simultaneously leading a normal high school life. 

I went off to college, still refusing any sort of therapy, just thinking things would fix themselves. Of course, I was wrong. I became obsessed with the fact that there must be something wrong with me. A reason why I wasn’t like everyone else. I developed a severe lack of confidence in myself and couldn’t even look in the mirror most days. I soon learned that anxiety and depression do not just disappear. They are not “fake illnesses” or “made up by someone who wants attention” – both phrases coined by society. They are extremely visceral and that’s something I have come to terms with over the years. 

Fortunately, I was able to get help during my freshman year of college. While I was home for winter break I went to therapy and saw a psychiatrist, and was then put on medication for anxiety and depression. This is something that took me almost eight years to act upon. Something I pushed off time and time again, panic attack after panic attack, because I couldn’t bear the fact that I would have to utter the words “I need help.”

At this point in my life, it’s still difficult for me to talk about out loud. Writing this is a little difficult, actually. Most people hear the word anxiety and think “Oh, they must be afraid of everything” and the word depression is usually followed by the question, “You’ve tried killing yourself?” It needs to be understood that this is not a black and white diagnosis. Yes, sometimes I’m scared. Yes, sometimes I think that people’s lives would be better without me here. Sometimes I lie in bed for hours thinking about everything that society says is wrong with me until I finally get tired enough and fall asleep. I still spend some mornings looking in the mirror pointing out all the things that could be better. I’ve spent these years at war with myself, and I know the only way things will get better is if we open up the conversation. The conversation that no one wants to have is consequently the conversation that is necessary for our well-being.

Think about your close group of friends; at least one of them suffers from anxiety or depression. Think about your coworkers, your teammates, your classmates. Close to 40 million Americans suffer every day. Luckily, both anxiety and depression are manageable. We have the medication, we have the therapy, and we have the technology. So, you ask, why are so many people still suffering then? It’s the stigma that surrounds this matter which causes so many people to shy away from the fact that they may have a mental illness. It’s our responsibility to start the conversation and break down the barriers that cause so many people to devalue themselves. Whoever you are – you are so valued, and you are so loved.

MHAM Post #8: Jess

I met Jess (better known as Jschwa) through a friend a few years back. Knowing Jschwa has taught me that you can find comfort in people even when you’re not actively searching for it. Plus, it’s nice to know someone else who has an affinity for Tumblr the way I do (lol). 

I’m not even sure if her and I have ever actively shared our personal experiences with each other, but something in me just knew I should ask her to share her story, and I’m so glad I did. 

The way Jschwa writes is so poetic and I feel that her words and experiences have so much value. 

*I probably haven’t said it enough over the past week or so, but being this open and honest is terrifying. I have such a respect for everyone, including Jschwa, who has opened up about their darker moments simply in hopes of helping others. I couldn’t do this without you guys.*

Without further ado, here is her piece about loving and losing and finding some hope in the process: 

Growing up with a hole in your heart can pressure you to latch onto anything necessary in order for survival. All you knew was that something was missing and any way to fill the space was what had to be done. I can’t know for sure if this is why I began to let the darkness in, but I am sure that this is why I held onto it for so long.

My mother passed away from breast cancer when I was seven years old. I don’t remember much besides hiding in my room while adults tried to tell me how to feel, locking myself in the car when my dad tried to drag me to therapy before I was ready, and binge eating
whenever the pain became too much to bare.

By the time I was in high school I could still feel the emptiness I carried around but knew I wasn’t ready to make sense of it yet. I was not yet equipped to handle mourning my Mother but was drawn to a certain sadness that I could use to fill myself with for the time
being. Depression understood me at my worst and was always there for me in a way that I had refused to let anyone else be.

Back in September of this year, I found myself craving a better life for myself for the first time in probably my entire life. I was moving into a new apartment with a roommate I loved. I was starting a job at a company I admired in a field I was passionate about. After
years of failure, I had finally found the right mix of medication and therapy to armor me in my battle. I knew in my heart that I finally had the necessities to start becoming the person I had always aspired to be. It was time to let some of the darkness go and open my heart back up to someone who was pushed out many years earlier.

I could sit here and talk about the depth of pain from the depression, and the paralyzing fear of not knowing when the next anxiety attack would strike, but I’d rather write about what came next for me. I think one of the hardest parts about “getting better” is trying to
see yourself and learn about yourself as someone without depression, someone who deserves to be happy. For so long I clung to my depression and anxiety, letting it define who I was, letting it take up the empty space. It was warm and comforting in a way that I only knew because the only person who I had let in close enough to explain it to had been taken from me. I was left behind with a chemical imbalance that only she could have helped me navigate.

I was hesitant, as first, to begin the battle, and even after eight months of hard work, I still have days, even weeks, where I slip or indulge in my old habits of isolation and misery. All of these days are necessary to win the war, because that is still a part of who I am, but it is not the only person who I will let myself be. I’ve learned that instead of trying to fill the empty space that my mother had left, it makes more sense to finally mourn her death and let her reclaim that hole in my heart. It was always hers and always will be.

MHAM Post #5: Allie

Usually when I describe joking about my darkest moments with friends, I am referring to Allie (better known to me as Mcveety). She’s the person who always helps me lighten the mood with a laugh. She gets me on a wave length that not many do, and I’m so lucky for that. 

When I thought about making this month a collaborative project, Mcveety is one of the first people I asked to help. Something in me just knew she’d have a good experience to write about.

In her piece she talks about what her diagnoses mean to her. She also shares a harsh wake-up call she recently experienced, and how it has influenced her outlook moving forward.

I am happy to share her words here: 

Anxiety is, two hours ago, having to call your mom from where you were pulled over on the side of the road to talk you off the ledge because you could feel a panic attack coming on. Anxiety is your mom having to come home early from work to find you in the fetal position on the kitchen floor, unable to tell her what’s wrong. Anxiety is, at 7 years old, laying awake the entire night because every single little noise you hear you HAVE to go make sure your little brother is still alive and well in the next room, because you are deathly afraid something will happen to him. Anxiety is having a half hour conversation with a professor and not remembering what was said because you were in the middle of a panic attack and you tend to black out during your worst ones.

I do notice that I referenced my mom a lot. Other than the fact that she is my favorite person in the entire world and I literally couldn’t function on this earth without her (no literally like she fills out my FASFA for me), she has – earlier than I can even remember – always encouraged me to express my feelings. She has always made me feel that my feelings are valid, simply because that’s the way I feel. No other proof or evidence needed. That’s why, growing up, I never understood this unnecessary stigma against mental health issues. I literally came out of the womb with mental health issues. Like I wouldn’t be shocked if I was birthed and looked at my mom and said “girl u fucked”. But my mom never made me feel like it was something that made me different. It was the just the way I am.  And I truly never realized that not everyone else was like me.

Entering my spring semester of my second year of grad school, I slipped into a very deep depression. My grades were slipping, I never showed up to clinic, I was constantly crying. The catalyst was a breakup with a boy I had real feelings for. I couldn’t recognize my self worth. I didn’t understand why I felt the way I felt and he didn’t feel the same way about me (I have now subsequently realized that he MUST be gay, because I am an ethereal goddess with zero flaws). This is NOT an excuse for my depression – it is simply just what set me off. This large event had happened, and I was alone in Connecticut, a place I knew I would not thrive and didn’t belong, and I was just stuck.

However, I had been this low before, so I knew the actions I needed to take. I called my therapist and started back up with my weekly sessions, and I expressed to my primary care doctor that I wanted to start back up on my anti depressants and anti anxiety medication. I was extremely proud of myself that even at my lowest of lows, I took action. I did something to make myself stronger. 

After taking all of the above necessary steps, I also scheduled a meeting with one of my clinical supervisors to explain why I had not been at my best. When I thought I was in a safe, judgement free zone, I explained to my clinical supervisor what was happening in my personal life. I explained in detail what I was going through, how low I was feeling, and that I was finally taking steps to correct it. 

What she said to me next was when I realized that not everyone in the world is as understanding as my mother. She looked at me in the eyes, after I had spent the last 45 minutes inconsolable in her office, and stated, “everybody has mood swings”. Frankly, I was appalled at her behavior. Here I am, genuinely spilling my heart out across her desk, and she had the audacity to equate my clinical depression with MOOD SWINGS. 

Now, I have had my fair share of mood swings before. I am a girl, I have a period every month, I am also a self proclaimed drama queen. Hell, I have fucking mood swings every day when I get slightly hungry. Mood swings are not – by any means in the history of all the world – equivalent to your depression. If you are suffering, there is something that I need you to know: OTHER PEOPLE ARE NOT IN CHARGE OF TELLING YOU HOW YOU FEEL. YOUR FEELINGS ARE VALID BECAUSE THEY ARE YOUR FEELINGS. 

My professor’s words were shocking to me. They literally rocked me to my core. But after a long time and a lot of self reflection, I began to legitimately feel sorry for her. And frankly, for her children. I am sorry that your daughter will never feel like she can come to you crying and not know why she is sad. I am sorry that you feel the need to belittle the feelings of others, simply because you do not understand them. I am truly sorry.

In a way, I needed this experience. I needed the experience because it helped me be not only more in touch with my attitude toward mental health, but it honestly and truly helped me be a better friend as well. This woman did not understand what I was going through, so she squashed my feelings like a bug. I do not ever want anyone else to feel the way that I felt that day. Your feelings are valid because they are yours.

Check out Allie on social media:
Twitter: @McTweeetMe
I
nstagram: @mcveetz


MHAM Post #3: One of Many Who Inspire Me – Kelsey Darragh

After a weekend spent feeling unusually low, I wanted to get the ball rolling this week with a little inspiration from someone I have admired for quite some time now.

Kelsey Darragh, if you don’t know her, now you know. Female comedian, internet content creator, and Buzzfeed producer who, for some time now, has been generating some pretty dope and hilarious videos, and a lot of seriously relatable shit too.

The video above isn’t the only one floating around Buzzfeed’s many Youtube pages that features her discussing her mental health, but it’s definitely one of my personal favorites.

I know I say it all the time, but progress isn’t always linear, you guys!! Not with anything in life, but especially not with mental health. Don’t get discouraged if you feel like you’re running in place. Don’t give up if it seems like you’re taking three steps forward just to take four steps back. Change will come. There are people, medications, therapies, resources, out there that will help you. It make take time to find the right combination that works perfectly for you, but don’t stop now.

If you want to check out more of Kelsey Darragh’s stuff you can find her here:


Twitter: @kelseydarragh
Instagram: @kelseydarraghcomedy

And tomorrowwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww…..keep an eye out for the first of
many pieces about mental health written by a friend of mine !!!

KEWL HUH? YOU GET TO HEAR FROM SOMEONE OTHER THAN ME FOR A
CHANGE.

K HAPPY MONDAY n shit xo

It’s Mental Health Awareness Month!!

According to Wikipedia, May has been considered Mental
Health Awareness Month since 1949. This seems shocking to me, seeing as lobotomies
were still considered an effective form of treatment until the 1970s!! How could we have been so #woke if we were still mixing around people’s brains with ice picks? Okay
yes, they weren’t common practice after the 1950s, but you catch my drift (side bar: Howard
Dully wrote a crazy book about the lobotomy he underwent at age 12 in 1960…
check it ouuuuuut).

Although this is the 68th Mental Health Awareness
Month to date, I think it’s extremely important to remember how drastically
things have changed since then.

This month is a time to applaud our progress, both as a
nation, but within ourselves as well, and to plan our future growth.

Mental health in 2017 is tricky, right? On the one hand, just because
you’re diagnosed with a mental illness shouldn’t mean you’re any different… but on the
other hand, it actually should, right? In 2017, we’re always trying to remind others that what they’re struggling with may look invisible,
but it’s just as present and debilitating as any physical illness. But if that’s the case, how do you
ask people to see you as an equal while also asking them to respect what you’re
struggling with at the same time? 2017 is #woke but #confusing.

But that’s the great thing about this month. It’s the
perfect reminder of the overarching theme: the 1 in 5. 1 in 5 of us are having those same circles of
thoughts. 1 in 5 of us are going through this together. To me, Mental Health
Awareness Month means visibility. 1 in 5 of us shouldn’t feel ashamed,
or lesser, or damaged.

I have learned so much over the years while dealing with my
own struggles. I could write thousands upon thousands of words attempting to
explain the ups and the downs I’ve experienced, but the best way I could
possibly summarize it all is that this is all just a part of me. I have
absolutely nothing to be ashamed of. My diagnoses don’t define me. They don’t
make me lesser. They don’t make me worthy of pity nor do they make me worthy of
favoritism. As cliché and corny as it is, they just make me, me.

The best part of how far we have come with regards to mental health is that I can say all of that and genuinely mean it. I don’t have to be
ashamed of the medication I take, or the bad days I still have. I can work a
great job, surrounded by great people, in the city I love. I can thrive on my
good days, yet I can still be understood and respected on my bad days. I can
joke with my friends about my suicidal thoughts and my lowest of lows, yet I
can have a support system to turn to the second I need it, no questions asked.

That is what this is all about. That is what I wish everyone
understood. The bad days don’t define you and the good days don’t mean you’re cured.
You are just you, illness and all.  

Some days I wear my anxiety like a shield. Sometimes I loath
my depression more than I can put into words. Not every day is easy. I don’t always
feel proud or confident or willing to accept who I am. I am, however, so lucky
to have so many positive experiences though, because I know not everyone can
say the same.

My big take away from this is that it is all about
acceptance. Acceptance of yourself, of those around you, and of the things you
can and cannot change.

Mental Health Awareness Month also isn’t just for those who
are struggling either. It’s for everyone. It’s about the progress, the compassion, the
empathy, and things we have yet to learn.

I’m going to take this month (I know its already May 3rd
sry) to write about different experiences I’ve had with mental health. Whether
they’re my own struggles, or those of my friends and family, they’re important
to share and I’m going to share ‘em!!! I can’t guarantee how often I’ll
actually write (LOL I HAVE COMMITMENT PROBLEMS SORRY!!) but ya know keep an eye
out ok!!!!!!!!!

HAPPY MENTAL HEALTH AWARENESS MONTH U GUYZ HAVE A #BLESSED
DAY

#WorldMentalHealthDay is Cool!!!!!!!!

Although I’ll probably post this tomorrow (aka Tuesday when
you’re most likely reading it), today is World Mental Health Day. Coincidentally,
when I was falling asleep last night I was reflecting on the changes in my
mental health recently. So what better time to write about it than today!!

Let me start by saying, today I tweeted about how important
I think it is to try to erase the stigma surrounding mental illness. I said
something along the lines of “seeking treatment/medication literally changed my
life this year and it can change yours too”. First off, I’m going to elaborate on
this concept later in this post but, I want to touch on the fact that I don’t
really think therapy/medication is a cure-all. I also don’t think it is an
immediate fix, nor do I think it works for everyone. I also mildly exaggerated the
fact that it “changed my life” to emphasize the points I was making on Twitter.
I think every day is different and every person struggles/copes with mental
illness differently. For me, I have good days and I have bad days. But the major
point I wanted to make via Twitter was that if you are struggling or think you
might be struggling with anything related to your mental health, you should
speak up and seek help! I can say from experience that not saying anything is guaranteed
to make the problem worse in the long run. Two-thirds of people struggling don’t
do anything!! That is CRAZY to think about. But also, I was that person for so
long! So my tweets were more geared towards those people that are silently
trying to cope and have yet to ask for any help.

So I have been taking medication for my anxiety/depression
for a few months now. At first, like I said before, I was pretty hesitant to
try it. And in the beginning, it had little to no positive effects for me. But
last night, as I was falling asleep, I was thinking about the past couple
months since I started taking my medication. I have still cried, still felt
anxious, still felt alone, and still felt helpless, yes. But

1.      
How many times have a thought about killing
myself? Drastically less than before!

2.      
How many times have I felt so empty that I didn’t
think I needed to be here anymore? Not as many as pre-medication!

3.      
How often have I felt motived and genuinely excited
to see friends? So many more times than before!

4.      
How often have I felt more optimistic about my
life and future? Waaaay more than I had in the recent past!

I know I am still
early in the medication process, but I’m grateful to be in a better place now
than I used to be.  

I can’t really pinpoint the first few times I realized I was
struggling with anxiety or depression. In a lot of senses, it was just always
part of me. I was always a very anxious, worried, self-conscious kid. I think
my anxiety only really started to become an issue when my depression came into
the picture. I have always felt emotions very strongly, but I think my depression
started to creep in during college. In high school, yes I felt overwhelmingly
sad sometimes, but I could always draw a connection as to why I was feeling
that way. In college, it wasn’t that simple. Over the past 5 or so years, I
just began to feel progressively darker. I started feeling uncontrollably
helpless once a year, then once a month, then maybe every other week or so,
until recently, it became constant. I used to think about killing myself only
when I drank. By the time I started taking my medication, I was thinking about
it soberly all the time.

Don’t let that scare you. I wasn’t planning my suicide, I
just felt so useless and empty that I couldn’t understand how I’d ever feel any
differently again. Depression can become this black hole that just sucks you
in, making you believe that there can’t possibly be a future filled with
anything other than emptiness and loneliness. I didn’t want to speak up about
these dark feelings I was having, partially because I didn’t think people would
understand, and partially because I feared that they would overreact. How do
you tell your friend or your parent that you think about how you shouldn’t be
alive? How do you explain to them that you feel miserable but can’t even
articulate why? How do you let someone in during those low moments, without
completely terrifying them?

I don’t really think I’ve ever explained the depths of these
feelings to very many of my friends. I did however, finally open up to my mom
earlier this year. I am so thankful for gaining the strength/energy/courage to
talk to her, because with her help, I’ve found a therapist and physiatrist that
truly have my best interests at heart.

I may deal with these depressed feelings and anxious
thoughts for the rest of my life. I may feel empty and alone on and off until
the day I die. I don’t know! Even if that’s true, at least I am seeking help.
At least I am consciously trying to make things better. That’s really my point
in all this! Seeking help for a mental illness is never an immediate fix. It’s
not like a broken bone that just needs some time to heal. It is a long process,
but having people to talk to, and coping mechanisms to rely on, is always
better than trying to fight the problem alone.

A lot of brilliantly amazing and talented people struggle
with their mental health. One in four adults are struggling right now!! That’s a
quarter of us! That’s like 450 million Americans (I think? If the stat I read
is right? Aka uhhh don’t quote me on that .. ha)! But that is a crazy amount of
people! Reach out to other people like you. Share your feelings and your story.

And even if you’re not struggling, offer an ear to listen or
a shoulder to lean on. You may not be able to completely understand what
someone is going through, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still sympathize with
them. When I’m at my lowest, all I want is someone to physically be with me!
Try to figure out little ways like that to show someone who’s going through a
hard time that you’re still there.

To those people afraid to open up about how they’re feeling,
my best advice to you is that most people will surprise you. Before I could be
honest about my mental health to anyone, I assumed very few of my friends had
ever struggled with anything similar. You have no idea how many people feel
just like you until you find the guts to open up. And you may also find a lot of
friends who care enough to listen, even if they haven’t been through something
similar. Sometimes it just takes seeing someone struggling first hand to be
able to sympathize.

SOoOoOOooOoO the moral of MY World Mental Health Day issssss,
today was a good day! And recently I’ve had more good days than bad! Who’s to
say what tomorrow will be like, but for today, this is enough.

:

Being 24 with Acne

I was originally planning to write a post about a new podcast I am listening to BUT I’m going to save that for another time because I have a new pressing issue that I want to complain about. 

I LOVE COMPLAINING TO THE INTERNET!

Anyways, like I said the other week, I started a new medication for my depression and anxiety a few weeks ago. I have always been a little hesitant towards medications of any kind because of the potential looming side effects. For about 5 years in high school and college I took Adderall and at first it was a dream. I lost weight, I could focus, I was happy, I felt motivated, etc etc etc. But VERY quickly things began to take a downhill turn. I started feeling numb, I had even more trouble focusing than I did when I started, and if I went a single day without taking it, I was useless. I finally decided to stop taking Adderall when I graduated college and it took me a solid 3 months to regain any energy or motivation. And in all honesty, I still really haven’t felt the same since. 

This negative experience was the beginning of all of my fears and concerns. Then last August I started taking birth control for the first time. I was finally fed up with having horrible, never ending cramps, and I figured my experience couldn’t be THAT bad, since ya know like eeeeeveryone takes birth control, right?? But nope, this didn’t go well either! I’ve been taking birth control for a year now and I’m still not happy with it, not to mention the fact that I definitely think I’ve gained weight as a result. 

Sooooooooooo when my psychiatrist suggested I try a new medication, I was terrified. Especially because a lot of depression/anxiety medications tend to have a long list of potential side effects. I’m a little over two weeks in and, I’m indifferent and still extremely nervous. The biggest issue I am noticing now, as you can tell from the title, is my acne. 

I have always said that I was a late bloomer with regards to acne though. I didn’t really have breakouts until college, but this is waaaay worse. I’ve never has acne like this in my life and it’s terrifying. 

My point with this is, although acne is a minor side effect, it is extremely discouraging. Getting to the point where I feel comfortable taking a medication like this is hard, and to realize that it is causing side effects that make me even sadder is even harder. It took a lot of guts to admit I may need more help than just some appointments with my therapist, so to know that medication isn’t as easy as it sounds is reallllllllly difficult, especially for someone than struggles with anxiety/depression. 

Like, if someone said to you “hey, I can give you a life where you’ll probably be happier (no guarantees, tho) but as a result you’ll constantly feel ugly and possibly struggle with more side effects like no sex drive, but at least you might be happier! (even though you may at some point down the line also struggle with withdrawal symptoms)”… would you accept the offer? or would you rather consciously choose to struggle with depression?