Suicide Prevention and Awareness Month 2018

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I wasn’t sure I wanted to write this blog, but the more I stewed on it, the more I was certain I needed to. I didn’t want to cause drama, or make people worry, and I certainly didn’t want to admit it to myself. But here goes.

In the course of law school, you are told on the first day that a majority of your year will end up as alcoholics or with depression, and maybe a few of you will even die from these. A bunch of cocky 1Ls will think “I’m a smart person, I’m sure that couldn’t be about me.” Some may even laugh about already belonging to those groups and being “ahead of that curve”.

In the course of life, each person may be called to face their own traumas-maybe even secondhand. And there is no weakness in not feeling like you’ve got a grip on it. It’s human to reach your depth and feel like you’re drowning. I think of a quote that a professor once told me on Suicide Prevention Day: “I won’t tell you that it gets better. But you don’t have to face it alone.”

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I lost a friend in June, the third friend I’ve lost to depression. I say “I” because these are only my thoughts-but truthfully, more than just “I” experience this loss. She was a friend from law school, and we were so alike that it just felt more personal. I want to talk about the four things I learned since then, and why they’re important.

  1. Shallow Self-Care Won’t Heal the Painful Wounds

When I first started the summer, I spent a lot of time doing things that I wanted to do-art, writing, tai chi, “spa days” and the like. I wanted a full emotional reset from my academic year and I picked my favorites from a list of suggestions. When I lost my friend, I wondered why those things didn’t help. Everything I wrote was empty, art felt more sad than healing and even my beloved face masks did nothing to fix the way I felt lost.

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As it would turn out, the only way to deal with those big emotional issues is the hard way. The late-night-crying-for-no-reason way. The grapple-with-big-questions-that-don’t-have-answers way. The look-in-the-mirror-and-just-feel way. As it would turn out, not one of my coping mechanisms tools was helpful in processing the loss of my friend. I had to reach the end of my shallow fixes to really understand that I needed to work on myself. That’s not to say that all those self-care things aren’t worth it. When I get stressed, I still engage in those beauty-creating moments. But when the hurt is deep, your self-care needs to be that much deeper.

2. Suicide Fear for People Who Understand (The “Will I Be Next” Debate)

If you have ever been suicidal, you may very well have experienced this. I wouldn’t say that it’s Survivor’s Guilt, but more like Survivor’s Anxiety. At some point in the coping process, you start to wonder what makes you so different from the person you lost to depression (suicide). And if you can’t find those differences, the all encompassing question then becomes “Am I next?” Now, at the surface, it sounds very self-absorbed. But it’s much deeper than that.

My friend had many of the same characteristics I did. Emotional trauma, a history of assault, a heart as big as the ocean with enough emotions to cause hurricanes, law stress, being in a state that wasn’t welcoming to our identities, and more. She was brave, and she fought hard. She had battles not many people knew, and I’m sure some that even I didn’t know. But when the news came, I wasn’t mad at her, I didn’t judge her for it. I sat and cried and wondered about what had led her to that point. And seeing the similarities, I began to wonder that all important question.

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Because if I were in her shoes, as I have been from time to time, I don’t know that I would have made a different choice. And knowing that, what was it that would be my “moment”? Would it be a large, life impacting event? A bunch of small things that I couldn’t control that became too much for me? One poor choice? I became so engulfed in this paranoia that I would be next, that the spirit of death was coming for me, that I think I extended the grieving process far longer than I otherwise might have. I isolated myself, because I didn’t trust myself. I wasn’t suicidal, I was afraid that I would become so.

3. Taking Care of Yourself is Selfish-and It Has to Be

At a certain point, the tie that binds people who have suicidal history and those who we’ve lost from it becomes lost on people who have never contemplated or lost someone before. A good friend graciously agreed to go to the funeral with me, and at the end, I found out this was the first time they’d ever been to a funeral for someone who died from depression. I remembered what it was like for me that very first time and I wept for them. I wanted to make sure they were okay, but I was so entrenched in my own grief that I couldn’t step out and make that effort.

I remember I panicked for the first week after she died and sent every “strong person” I knew a message, asking if they were okay. They didn’t know why I did it, I just tried to carry on a conversation with them to make sure they knew I cared. Every person who had ever admitted they were depressed, anxious, or otherwise emotional got a text or message. I was scared. I was scared that suicide had become an infectious disease that would take away all of my friends (or me) if I didn’t actively try to stop it myself. And I grew so weary that I collapsed into myself.

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A couple friends asked if I was okay. I lied to them, because I didn’t want them to worry that I would, indeed, be next. I spent a lot of time avoiding calls, messages and social media in general because I couldn’t take any more bad news. And that was when I realized that my self-care needed to really focus in on self. I allowed that isolation. I took a chance on letting myself work through the grieving process. I stopped communicating with everyone for two months. (With the caveat that I still texted my parents to let them know I was doing okay.) And I broke down. I cried, I existed, and at times, I didn’t sleep for days at a time. I checked off the stages of grief when it was time-not when I thought it was time. And that meant that life kept on going while I was stuck.

When I finally began to reemerge, I was more honest. I told friends that I spent time grieving, about all the emotions I’d felt. And even though I knew I’d been selfish, I knew that it was because I had to be. I had to spend that time focused on only me because I wouldn’t have survived it else-wise.

4. You Can’t Do it Alone

This may seem like it flies in the face of the last point. It was at the end of the two-months recovery time that I began to seek out friends. I chose to go (the very first day) to see counseling services to prepare myself for reintegration into life as I had come to know it. I started going on friend dates. I put myself out there, because I knew that I needed to. The truth is, without my husband covering for me, I wouldn’t have been able to heal this summer. Without counseling services, I’d be a wreck right now. Without those good friends, I would be alone. And those are just small snippets of the network I have amassed.

I chose to get off of social media, and I told everyone that I was stopping this blog for a while. And all of those things are true. I need to learn how to be my own person, not someone who compares their successes and failures against the polished social media posts that make everyone seem perfect.

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But it’s September, and that means it is Suicide Prevention and Awareness Month. And although those we have lost will not read these words, this blog is for the people who are left behind. The people who are still fighting in the trenches. The people who are still wondering if they will be next.

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I know that it’s hard. And I know it’s scary. I’m not going to lie to you. Life sucks. And then it gets better and then it sucks again. But you don’t have to face it alone.

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Return of the Well, Me.

Alrighty. I’ve been hard at work determining my life and reevaluating my choices. I’ve been working on a project proposal which might blow people’s minds and I’m so close. I’m so close to living the life I couldn’t have imagine when I was in high school. I’m so close to living the life that I doubted I’d ever lead when I entered college. And I have something to say. (But when don’t I?)

Ahem.Here goes.

“So. I am enough. And you are enough. And I wanted to really stress that. Sometimes even though I, I know I can keep fighting and I know I’m trying to love myself, it’s sometimes the feeling that you feel like you’re not enough, right? And so this message is helping me kind of understand that I am enough-just the way I was made. I’m trying to be the best person I can be. And you’re enough too. So I know sometimes you feel like you can’t fight, and I know sometimes you feel like you just can’t love yourself and when that happens I want you to remember that you’re enough. You’re enough as you are. And I’ll try to remember that I’m enough as I am.”

-Jared Padalecki, 20 June 2016

I am enough

(This is the shirt for his campaign-the proceeds go to OneOrlando and Equality Florida’s Pulse Victim Fund–straight to the people who need it most right now. Buy here: I Am Enough Campaign) I listened to that man speak those words probably fifteen times as I watched the video, trying to make sure I got every word right. (And then I watch it because I love it.) Because the message is more important than I think nearly anything else is. It doesn’t matter what religion (if any!) you partake in, your status in life, your geography, anything. These words are just right. (If you wanna watch the clip, I posted it on my tumblr: I Am Enough Mantra)

I’m a huge fan of Supernatural for more reasons than just the great writing and acting. Mr. Collins, Mr. Ackles and Mr. Padalecki are such fantastic role models (as well as many of the female costars) and they each have ties to the mental health struggles (social anxiety, depression and self-harm amongst them). This speech was given as part of a live stream on Facebook  and before I get away with myself, let me just say it is one of my aspirations to work with someone like him (and them) in the future.

I am enough.

Those words don’t get passed around enough. Especially to ourselves. I told my husband last night that I think two things each and every day.

  1. How am I possibly good enough to live the life I have planned?
  2. I got this. Let’s kick some ass.

And you know what? That’s not because of self-esteem. The second thought is a lifestyle choice. I have to tell it to myself because I sometimes forget. I don’t have to be the one who changes the world each day. I just have to try. I am enough.

I made a difference to that one.

And so, even though I haven’t started it *yet*, I wanted to let you all know that I’m going to start a YouTube channel about body positivity, body safety and empowerment. It’s going to be like a companion to this blog. This is where all my personal articles of news will occur, but if you want to see my sparkly teeth and sassy attitude in “person”, then look no further!

What an Effing Nightmare

I’m fat is the stupidest sentence on the whole damn planet. I am not a blob of blubber, just as I am not strep throat or bipolar. I have those things (except for strep-I have had but do not currently). Anywho, I have spent over a decade telling myself this stupid sentence. If you notice, I have no pictures of myself on this blog, I have maybe 3 selfies on Instagram and overall, I really don’t do photographs. But why? Because I’m still trying to figure out how to define myself according to rules which are not that sentence.

  (This picture drives me crazy. At least we’re active, dammit.)

 I have fat. Mostly a lot of it. It’s kind of a big deal. And I hate it. I’ve been weaning myself off of soda (Dr. Pepper is my weakness), and I added a small but intense workout to my daily routine. It’s planks, wall sits and low cardio. And I have chosen to be open and honest about it. Not because I want you all to laugh at me, but because I have a message that others need to hear.

  (These aren’t me, but I think they’re a pretty solid representation of the parts that I keep hidden.)

 I decided I’d had enough of being fluffy. I want to look healthy, not like I do now. I feel embarrassed, and it’s a great source of sadness. I made myself this way, but I also didn’t. I was put on the birth control that allows for 3 periods a year because mine were really painful. And while I was on that birth control, I gained 80 pounds. That’s 4 times more than I gained from mood stabilizers and anti-depressants. I stress ate and that didn’t help at all. But after that, I continued to be large and in charge. Only I wasn’t in charge. I was out of control.

  But what is it that I ate? Salads mostly. And coffee, soda, pizza, spaghetti. My calorie intake was between 1300 and 1600 per day, over half of that was drinks. I ordered low fat coffee from Starbucks if I chose to get anything other than tea. Even now, I eat maybe twice a day, I drink coffee like it’s going out of stock and I drink water, between 2 and 3 bottles a day (unless it’s a hard day and then only 1-which is bad, I know). My calorie intake recently has been between 1400 and 1650, with most of it being creamer and dinner. My breakfast is usually peanut butter toast. Is it super healthy? No. But I should not be obese.

Did that word startle you? It did me too. But it isn’t a death sentence unless you make it so. Which is where we find me this past week. I decided I was far too stressed and I was going to try to get into a regular workout routine. And so far, I’m doing great. But it’s because I know the shitty parts have to end sometime.

  (This is a plank. It’s also called pain.)

 It started out just feeling tired. I felt like my body was at the point of sheer exhaustion. Then came the nausea, the light headedness and the muscle pain. The latter I had expected but the first two I hadn’t. This came on slow and then got worse the more days that passed. Fast forward to today (Okay fine. Today is day 3, but I’m trying darn it!) and I feel like I can only keep water down. Food turns my stomach, I feel really icky on the inside and my muscles are aware that I mean business. And it was in that line of thought that I recalled watching several seasons of The Biggest Loser a few years back. A lot of the people were really sick while they were beginning their workout routines. I remember watching an episode where the woman had to keep stopping to puke because her body was detoxing.

  I brought this up to my husband and he reminded me that I hate eating fast food and that I always get salads and I should be fine. But the thoughts persisted. He asked if I wanted him to work out with me and I said:

No. It’s embarrassing.

He then asked why it was embarrassing that I was making myself into a better me. I shook my head and got down to business. 

  But really. Why is it that I felt like it was embarrassing that I struggle? I’m doing something. I’m trying, which is more than I can say for the old me. It’s really hard. I feel sick, my tummy hurts (because I’ve been doing abs) and I feel all around like a big ball of crap. But I’m already more dedicated than I was in the past, because I’m pushing through the pain and working out anyway. And yes, I still feel a little embarrassed that I can only hold a wall sit for a minute and a half before it feels like someone is sawing off my thighs or that I can only hold a plank for 30 seconds before my flabby arms buckle from stress. But you know what? I’m doing something about it. And maybe today I will go for 2 minutes straight, or learn how to use an elliptical. And the fact that I’m still trying is worth more than the pain.

  

Or at least, that’s what I keep telling myself.

What I want people to take away from this, more than anything is that it’s hard. Change always is. And we can sit around waiting for life to correct the travesties it has enacted upon us or we can get up and kick it in the face. I really hate working out. I hate running, I hate lifting, I hate all of it. But I’m not doing all this because I really want to look at the number on the scale and smile. I am, we are so much more than a number. I want to look myself in the eyes in the mirror and be attracted to myself. I want to learn how to take myself out on dates, and have the confidence to walk into the mall and get my hair done or my nails (am I even that person?!) without feeling like everyone is staring at me because my stomach is round. I want you to take away that this sucks worse than anything I’ve ever purposefully done to myself, but I turn my music up that much louder and scream over how much it hurts. Because if I want to be around to see all my reams come true, or to survive the zombie apocalypse, I’m going to need to practice my roar.

  

(I would like to thank Google for always having the pictures I need to make my point.)

Thankfulness, Day 21

It’s taken me all day to think up a post for today. I feel like I’ve done a lot of great topics already. Did I cover everything? Certainly not. Am I done being thankful? No. And as seems to be my style, a story would benefit.

I can name a dozen ways to explain why I am the way I am. Sagittarian. First born. Cat person. Daughter of the eclipsing moon. INFP. Born-again pagan. College student. Vegetarian. Wife. 

All of those things affect a certain portion of who I am, but it isn’t an entire picture.

Who I am is a legion of people, all crammed inside one body. I am the one who fulfills duties, fulfills roles set out because of the choices that I have made (daughter, wife, sister). I am the one who devoted my life to learning. I am the one who chooses not to eat meat. I am the one who desires the company of a select few in place of being part of the popular crowd (maybe I am a cat). I am the one who looks within, observes more than judges and is left with more questions than answers. One who is born under an eclipse is more likely to be one who is driven by passion and consumed by it (A binary). I am the one who is many.
  Part of the reason I’m having so much trouble finding things to write about is because it is the end of the semester and I just can’t. I know that there is much stress, but it’s more than that. I’m not saying this because I want a bunch of people to reach out and say “You’ve got this.” I’m writing it because I promised to always tell the truth. And to tell only part of the truth is telling a lie. 

I can never tell the full story of my life, because it is not over. I wake up each day a new person, someone I was not the day before. Because I keep fighting to make myself better. And therefore, I am different each day. Not necessarily better or worse. Just different. But the thing is, it’s exceptionally easy to just get caught in the moment, in the same rut that consumes me each time and have to stop. It’s like making your way through the desert because you need to get out, but coming back to the same oasis because you can’t seem to find your way.

I feel like a burden. Like I ask for help more than I am able to give it. I make up for that in my mannerisms or at least I try to. But at the end of the day, my attempts take quite a bit out of me and I am reduced to being the same girl I was in high school: insecure, broken. Last night, I kept my very accepting husband up for a while because I had conviced myself that I wasn’t pulling my weight in our marriage. I was reduced to tears, wondering why it fell to me to be the one who had so many opportunities and advantages, but to be unable to use them.

I am smart. I am confident. I am succeeding in life (as much as I can, anyway). But not one single ounce of that mattered. My life became defined by a series of counter-facts: I am worthless. I am stupid. I am never going to succeed. And it’s a trend that I always feel coming, like a black cloud hanging low. Sometimes I forget words, or replace them with the wrong ones (yesterday I replaced “crutches” with “stilts” and couldn’t remember the word “sandwich”). Sometimes I just go blank-like a robot without emotions. And sometimes it’s like my entire life has been a lie and if I was happy-it surely must have been all pretend. I couldn’t understand why someone with dreams, goals and aspirations could be broken into someone without hope, happiness or inspiration. In the grand scheme of things, surely it wasn’t fair.

And that is what I focused on today. I’m not thankful for the hard times. To be that way would be ridiculous. No one wakes up and says “Oh thank goodness today is a really shitty day. I’ve had far too many good ones.” Instead, I am thankful for small things. A warm cup of coffee with chocolate chip cookie dough creamer. Rain hitting the window. It’s hard for someone like me, with so many binaries (like being introverted, but wanting to make friends/wanting to feel everything deeply, but not wanting to be consumed by feelings) to not get overwhelmed by days like yesterday. But in the end, I have to remember that there is only one truth that doesn’t ever change.

                                  The sun will rise again.

  That quote may be my tattoo quote, with an entire portion of skin dedicated to the most serene sunrise a tattoo artist can make, but we’ll see. The point is, I’m not thankful for bad days, hard days, or even the days which never end and suck you into a thick black depression. I hate those days. But what I am thankful for is the dawn. I am thankful that all things come to an end. And I am thankful that I am there to see the sun rise once more.