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 #14: A Mentor

The writer of this piece is someone I consider to be not just a friend, but in many ways, a mentor as well.

I actually couldn’t even tell you when I first met this writer. I was probably like 8? I attended the same camp every summer throughout my childhood, and as a teenager I began working there too. That is when me and this writer became closer. 

Growing up, if you had asked me to describe him, I would say he was filled with nothing but love, positivity, and happiness. This writer literally made the kids at camp light up with joy every day. He seemed to be constantly be overflowing with energy and passion.

I know I’ve said it a million times before, but you really can’t judge a book by it’s cover. So many people you are surrounded by everyday are battling their inner demons in silence. 

It means so much to me that the writer of this piece was willing to share his words. I’m so happy to know that we are able to still connect now, years after working together, to share our experiences with mental health. 

As you will see in this piece, it is HARD to open up about what you’re going through. Mental health struggles are a catch-22 in that sense. Not only do they cause you to feel unstable, but they often also make you feel less capable of opening up about what you’re going through. Then, to top it off, the stigma surrounding mental health makes it, in many ways, even more difficult to share your experiences openly. It’s no surprise than so many people grapple with these issues silently. 

Having the courage to share your experiences is extremely commendable, so, without further ado, check it out: 

When I graduated from high school in 1997, I had the vaguest notion of what bipolar disorder was. I certainly did not understand its destructive power, its ability to tear away at the life one built with terrifying swiftness. I would not know that I was bipolar until August of 2009. What I do remember knowing without any doubt when I was seventeen, and entering my first year at Penn State, was that I did not feel emotionally well-balanced. I do not mean this in the sense that I was feeling down, or going through a transition in my life that made me feel more stressed and emotionally drained. I felt shame, guilt, embarrassment, hopelessness, and uselessness to such a degree that I would hide from the world for days at a time, which progressed to weeks, and eventually months. I eventually spent the better part of seven years locked away in a studio apartment with the blinds drawn, trapped in my own mind.

No family, friends, or medical professionals knew of the way I lived until March of 2008, when I hit a breaking point, but I was not properly diagnosed with cyclothymic bipolar disorder until August of 2009. It was only then that I allowed myself to begin healing. Until recently, I rarely spoke or wrote about my mental health condition for various reasons that were grounded in the shame that fueled my protracted silence, in addition to the pernicious stigma that unfortunately continues to surround mental health issues. My voicelessness, however, did not stop me from learning about my own condition. I read as much as I could in the scientific literature, in addition to memoirs about people’s experiences associated with being bipolar. I am finally able to share my story more readily; I hope it helps anyone who reads it.

Nearly everyone I have known has felt depressed at some point in their life, which is a normal phenomenon. They understand that depression tends to shut people down and draw them inward mentally. Most people, however, are fairly resilient and find that mental balance without any help, so they are soon back on their feet and functioning normally. This resiliency is the line in the sand where my diagnosis separates me from those who are able to bounce back. It is critical that I emphasize two points. First, this separation is not my choice. I would never choose to continue to be depressed. Second, the severity of the depression that I suffer from is far more serious than what most people have ever had to deal with.

Looking back, it makes sense that I was bipolar at Penn State. I loved learning, reading, hanging out with friends, and playing competitive sports. Yet, very soon after I started college, I began to withdraw. The life that I worked very hard to build throughout high school was fading as life started feeling less important to me, for reasons that I may never know. Feeling that depressed, my natural reaction was to hide, both physically and emotionally. As professors and friends told me, when they did happen to see me, it was as if I just fell off the face of the earth. From time to time I did leave my apartment, and some classes were able to motivate me enough to participate and do well. For the majority of the time, however, I was hiding in my apartment. I cried, read, and slept. A few times a week I would eat. I was fortunate to have loving parents who worked hard to put me through school, which made me more ashamed of my lack of attendance and participation in college. Until I spoke out years later, my parents paid my tuition, I tried to recover from my depression, and I would continue to fail most of the time. When I was not failing because of never attending class, I was withdrawing from a semester of courses that I never went to. I was not a party animal who blew off everything academic. I was a lost person hiding from the world, and trying to run from my mind and my pain. This was my life for many years. When I was supposed to have graduated from Penn State, I remained in my apartment and lived off of my own savings from high school. My sporadic academic victories against bipolar disorder were marked with As on my transcript. My academic shortcomings were not indicative of blowing off college; they were the markers of my suffering. Medical research strongly suggests that people with a bipolar disorder often lose social functioning that is so easy for others and do not recover it for many years. I am living proof of that.

Throughout those difficult years in my life, there were a few genuinely bright spots. I did have windows in my house of misery that brought rays of happiness into my life. I enjoyed photography, and I especially enjoyed working with children in the summer when I had to live at home. To be sure, my years working at a summer camp saved my life, and sparked my interest in education. I am certain of this, which makes me grateful for the happiness and sense of purpose the children brought into my life. I do not speak much about working with children in this particular summer camp beyond the superficial comments of how fun it was. The truth is, that summer camp holds such a special place in my heart that I find it hard to articulate how much it really means to me.

In early 2008, I finally hit bottom and broke down in front of my parents. The stress and emotional toll that the silence brought was starting to kill me. I was a shell of my former self. I told them everything. I explained how their son left his apartment once every few weeks to every two months, and learned to subsist by getting food delivered. I apologized for wasting their money, and for failing them. One of the most profound moments of my life came after I apologized. My father picked me up off the ground, wiped the tears from my eyes, and told me that the only thing lost was money and time, but that I was still here, still alive, and should be proud of that, not ashamed. From that moment on, I never allowed myself to feel like I was too weak to overcome this disorder.

It has not been an easy road, but the faith I placed in myself has helped me tremendously. I never completed my degree at Penn State, but I am proud to say that I am a recent graduate of the University of Pennsylvania who is currently pursuing a masters degree at the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education. I am studying how institutions of higher education can do more to promote mental health awareness. I have a wonderful wife, and three beautiful children who have redefined what it means to be happy and to love unconditionally. There are indeed quite a few things in this world that are far more powerful than the destructive nature of bipolar disorder. Most of all, I have learned to stop hating who I am and what I suffer from, and began to love the face I see in the mirror, as well as the mind behind that face.

Although my own struggles with bipolar disorder prevented me from actively raising awareness over the years, I truly believe that my academic and professional work regarding mental health conditions, combined with my efforts to raise my voice and share my story, are in themselves forms of activism and resistance to the stigma associated with living with bipolar disorder. I learned that my lived experience, combined with what I learned throughout the past 20 years, can effectively be used toward making the lives of others like me thrive. No one should ever make others feel like they are not worthy of love or acceptance, or loving and accepting themselves. Loving oneself is a radical act. Loving oneself is an act of resistance in a world where so many forces seek to make groups of people feel lesser. There is much work to do….

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.

Quick Little PSA!!!

This blog is not a cry for help. This blog was not created because I need to vent my feelings and I don’t have anyone to go to. I don’t write these things because I’m insecure, or lonely, or in need of attention.

Quite the opposite actually!! 

I created this blog out of confidence and out of pride. I created this blog because I felt strong and I realized that many people do not. 

I created this blog because SO MANY PEOPLE struggle with the exact same things that I struggle with, but not enough people want to openly talk about it! 

In all honesty, I don’t care if one or one million people read what I write on here, I still think sharing my thoughts and experiences is important. 

Even though I’m only one person, I can be one less person hiding my struggles from the world. 

I just think it is extremely important for more people to understand that sooooo many of us struggle with mental illnesses, but those illnesses are nothing to be ashamed of, nor do they define us.

In fact, I live a really flippin’ gr8 life even with my bad days! Just because I write about these dark feelings doesn’t mean I’m not happy a lot of the time too! I have a life that I’m honestly really proud of, filled with a lot of really amazing friends. I work a job with people I really like, in a city I love, and I fill my days with experiences am really thankful for! 

I want people to understand that, if anything, being more open about my anxiety and depression has brought me more happiness. Not to mention the fact that I feel like my openness has allowed other people to feel comfortable being more open with their own struggles too. 

There is still a MASSIVE stigma surrounding mental health and I know I can’t single-handedly change that, but I can at least try my best to help! 

Silence only perpetuates the problem, so I’m actively and purposefully breaking my own silence to share my own raw and honest feelings with anyone who happens to read them.

So no, I don’t want any sympathy. I am not here in search of support or compassion or a shoulder to cry on. I have plenty of that! I’m here because I want to be honest. And maybe my honesty will help break down the negative stigma a teeeeeny tiny bit! WHO KNOWS AMIRITE?? MAYBE IT WON’T HELP ANYTHING AT ALL LOL!! But regardless, at least I didn’t choose to stay silent!!!

KK GOOD TALK TY BYE! 

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Side note: I think part of my idea to start a public blog was inspired by few blogs that I have read and felt like I could really relate to. Gotta give credit where credit is due!! Check out the blogs below: 

http://jillboard.tumblr.com/ 

http://everythingoodwastaken.tumblr.com/

http://unkemptgirl.tumblr.com/

And check out this v great post written by a girl in my sorority!!!!:

https://themighty.com/2016/11/sharing-your-suicidal-thoughts-with-a-therapist/