Hang On

Today is National Suicide Prevention Day. I feel like that should be everyday but I guess one day is better than none. I haven’t written in a while so I figured I should probably post something.

Last year at this time I had decided that suicide wasn’t such a bad option. Things were bad, I felt alone, I was spiraling hardcore, and I had pretty much figured I had tried hard enough for long enough. I was exhausted and my brain had convinced me that it was not getting better and probably never would. That the option to not exist was all I had left to make the pain stop. But here’s the thing; depression lies. And so does your brain when you are dealing with mental illness.

So last year at this time I decided to try one more thing first and I made an appointment with my doctor and got on some meds. They saved my life.  Now don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t immediate and there was still a lot of work to do but today I feel like a normal human. I am experiencing that feeling called happiness more and more. And I am very glad that I didn’t listen to my asshole, liar brain and make a decision that could not be taken back.

I am thankful that I am here for my friends and my family. I am thankful I was able to make decisions that made my life better and worth living. I am thankful that my children do not have to grow up without a mom and do not have to deal with the trauma that would have resulted from me listening to my liar brain. I am thankful that I still get to see sunsets and feel the sand beneath my bare feet on the beach.

Hindsight is 20/20 and I know it is not easy to think of these things when you are in the throes of a major depressive episode but I ask you to wait. You can do almost anything for 1 minute. Even survive. So if you are in a spot where you can only think of that one minute then do that. Make it through that 1 minute and then deal with the next. Eventually move on to hours, and then maybe days, It will get easier.

If you have no idea what to do or how to make it through please talk to someone. It can be a friend or a stranger. Use the Suicide hotline by calling call 1-800-273-8255. Or  text 741741 to chat via text if you do not like talking. Someone is always there to help.

Things that help me:

Take a walk

Take a bath or shower

Eat a healthy snack (ice cream sometimes helps, too, though)

Do some yoga or exercise

Get coffee with a friend

Take a nap

Have my kids or friends or random people on social media tell me something good that happened to them that day (seriously, social media can be used for good and this is one of my favorite ways)

Get a hug from someone

Snuggle in bed with my kids

Do something nice for someone else

Talk to my therapist

If you do not know how to find a therapist please talk to your family doctor. They will have suggestions. If they tell you that you have to wait some ungodly amount of time, that is a lie. There are other options. Reach out to me and I am glad to talk to you about my experience or go back and read some of previous posts where I talk about my therapy experience. Try this one: I’m Officially Less Crazy? or this one: You Are Worth It. I Promise.

Meds are a lifesaver and if anyone tries to tell you differently they are stupid. Your family doc can help with those too. Here is more about my experience with them: The Magic of Meds 

Finally, just talk about it. You will be surprised how many people have been where you are. People who can give you sound advice and people who can tell you from experience that it gets better.

Because it does… Get better. So hang on. It will be worth it eventually and you will be glad you stuck around. I will be glad you stuck around. And so will others. You are valuable and unique and wonderful and the world needs you.

As always, reach out if you need something, to me or somebody else. Anytime. There is always someone here.

Love to all of you.. the unconditional kind

 

 

 

 

 

I Choose Life… Finally

Just a short post to check in with you all and to share a story of hope.

A couple of weeks ago I had a really strange headache. I get headaches all the time but this one was different and my brain being what it is was like “Welp, that’s definitely brain caner, you are probably dying.” Now a couple months ago I would have welcomed this. For the last 3 years I was actually so exhausted with the idea of living and so weighed down by the depression I was dealing with that I hoped I would get a brain tumor and die. Because I actually believed that I deserved a long, drawn out, painful death since I was clearly such a horrible person. Messed up. Remember… broken brain. But here’s the thing. This time as soon as that brain tumor thought crossed my mind I thought “I don’t want to die”.

What?!?

You guys it has been 3 years since I thought that. 3 years since I actually thought I want to live.

And it felt really good to feel that way again.

I know the dark thoughts, exhaustion, and depression will come back eventually. They always do. But for right now I feel actual happiness. Which is something I have not felt in a long time. And I am going to revel in it a little. I am going to enjoy this brief, or maybe and hopefully not-so-brief, respite from the darkness. I am going to enjoy wanting to see tomorrow. And I will hope for that for you too.

I hope you can find some sunshine, a little peak of light through the clouds if you are having a hard time. And if you can’t see it right this moment just remember that you will eventually. And you should hold on. Because we need you here. You are important. Keep trying. It gets better. I am living (thankfully) proof of that. It will be worth it.

Love to you… the unconditional kind.

p.s. The headache was just a headache, no worries 😉

My Favorite Love Story

Wednesday was my 20th wedding anniversary. If I had one wish for every single person on this planet it is that they could have a person in their life like my partner. Whether it is a friend, a spouse, a family member, at least one person like my Dana.

Dana and I got married very young and our relationship started when I was deep in the trenches of the trauma that would shape the rest of my life and mental health problems. When we were dating he would often be on the phone with me as I cried myself almost to sleep each night. That should have been a sign for him to run the fuck away as fast as he could but he was young and kinda dorky (in the most charming possible way) and maybe just didn’t think he could do better (he definitely could have).

I moved out of my house when I was 17 to live with him (and escape) and we were married the month after I graduated high school. I was not pregnant, just in case you were wondering (there is no judgement in that statement it is just that is usually the look I get from people when I tell them I got married at 18 years old). We were mostly happy and we were in love.

Our marriage has not been easy. Marriage never is. My sister got sick during our first year of marriage and died just before our first anniversary. So on top of the trauma I was working on pushing way down deep as a way to cope and move on and start my new happily ever after there was the new fun of some pretty extreme grief. This was all new territory for Dana.

Now don’t get me wrong, his life was by no means a fairy tale but he had it pretty good. He had pretty great parents, no trauma or abuse, he had never really lost anyone super close to him. He had a pretty normal life. Now he was thrown into this marriage with the complete opposite. And on top of that I had no idea how bad it really was. I had mostly lived a life where I went minute to minute and never really dealt with anything. In order to make it to the next thing and make it through I just had to leave all of the bad stuff accumulating behind me. There was no time to deal, I was just in survival mode. If I slowed down enough to actually think about what was happening and the emotional fallout of all that bullshit I would have killed myself a long time ago.

So we went on with our lives. I buried my feelings, I buried my grief. I occasionally brought it up but Dana just didn’t seem to get it and how could he? In fact I was sort of happy that he didn’t. But I felt a little alone. I mostly kept stuff to myself unless it got really bad but when we talked about things he just couldn’t get it and didn’t seem to want to try and it made me sad. I think he used to be one of those people who thinks depression is just sadness. You just have to be happy. Count your blessings. Be thankful. Pull yourself up by the bootstraps. Hell I used to be like that too. I thought “Well I survived all the shit I survived and turned out okay (spoiler alert, WRONG!) why can’t everybody else?” So little by little I talked to him about it less and less. And buried it a little deeper.

Fast forward to the last 3 years or as I like to call it my own personal hell. Things got worse. And worse. And worse for me. I started having mini breakdowns. They became more and more often and less and less mini. He still didn’t get it. I made some new friends. Ones that understood it more. I turned to them more and to Dana less. I thought that was okay, as long as I had someone who understood I didn’t have to burden him with the shit he didn’t understand. But then things got so bad. Like I pretty much checked out of life bad. You would have to be blind not to see that things were clearly not okay.

Things are a little blurry at this time in my life but eventually the word depression came up. I sent him a couple links to blogs, to articles and he read them. And one night as I was crying on the couch wanting to die his language changed. It was a simple statement. “I don’t know how you feel but I can imagine that must be so hard”. Fuck. He had never said anything like that ever in our marriage. It had always been I can’t understand. He couldn’t get past the fact that it made no sense to him. A totally normal reaction by the way. When it comes to emotions Dana is pretty simple. He feels one at a time and handles them pretty well. I am at any given time feeling 43 different emotions simultaneously and I have emotions that there are not even words to describe. We are polar opposites in this way. But with that one statement it showed me he was TRYING to understand. I have never felt so seen and heard. So loved.

From here I eventually started therapy. He showed genuine interest after each of my sessions. He still didn’t understand and didn’t always deal with the emotional fallout of each session well, but he tried. He communicated with me and asked what he could do to make me feel loved. When my therapist assigned books he read them too. He talked to the kids about what I was going through. He talked to me more often. He read so much literature about depression and mental illness. He educated himself and he changed the way he thought about it. The way he talked about. His language became more compassionate, more understanding, more loving. When things got so dark that meds seemed like the only other option before I ended my life he fully supported me. No judgement. He offered to go to my appointment with me. He encouraged me to start this blog. To share my experiences. And even though I often share things that are very personal and I worry about how that will reflect on him he fully supports me in my honest bravery.

His love turned from feeling to action. Don’t get me wrong, Dana has always showed love. He has always made love a verb. That is how our family lives. But he brought that kind of love to a thing that he previously didn’t understand. He channeled his energy into educating himself and making damn sure I knew I was loved and needed and had value. It is still hard for him but he makes the effort. He spends time always trying to understand it more. To show me how important I am to him. He has become my person.

A few months ago. Dana decided to look into the crisis text line. He wanted to help more people. He went through training and once a week he volunteers time to helping people in crisis. You guys I am so fucking proud of him I don’t have the words for it. In the last couple of years he has gone from a person who didn’t really believe depression was real to a person on the front likes of stopping the stigma and helping those in crisis. He is my hero. He gives me so much hope.

I often used to say that Dana saved my life. He got me out of the trauma I was experiencing as a teen. He rescued me then. White knight style. But that was not the only time. He saves me every day with his love. With his compassion. With his willingness to be uncomfortable and to constantly learn more. He doesn’t always do it right, I mean who does? But he is always trying to be better. He is always trying to understand more. And he is getting better at learning that when there are no words and no way to understand he can just hold me and let me cry and just physically be here for me. He is still my hero. Every damn day.

Dana has truly become my best friend. The person I can talk to about everything. He loves me without condition. When I do not deserve it. And even though it has been so hard to get here, here we are. I am so fucking lucky. And it only took 20 years (I joke, I joke).

Marriage is the hardest thing I have ever done and I have done some hard shit. It is a balancing act and it is about persevering through the really hard times so you can enjoy the really great times. It is not always easy but it is always worth it. I am thankful for where this journey has brought us. That we have made through so much and that we can  truly enjoy each other. I am so happy that Dana saved me back then and that he keeps on saving me every day. Here’s to 20 more years. And beyond.

 

 

 

 

 

You Are Worth It. I Promise.

Today is the one year anniversary of my first therapy appointment. The day I decided I wasn’t going to give up on this insanely hard thing called life.

Before I started going to therapy I had gotten to a very dark place. A place where I didn’t want to keep going. Where everything just felt too hard and I was just too tired and I didn’t think I could do it anymore. I had many people ask me to try therapy because they were worried, and rightfully so. But I didn’t want to go. I was scared. And I also didn’t see the point. At this point in my downward spiral I didn’t really plan to be around much longer. But 3 of my closest friends and my husband all practically begged me to try it so I decided that even though I didn’t care about myself I did care about them so I would try it. For them.

I called the mental health clinic associated with my local hospital to set up an appointment and they set up an “intake” appointment where they would basically ask me a ton of questions and try to place me with someone. The problem was it was for 5 weeks from that day. 5 weeks. Just to get a placement. Who knows how long after that to talk to someone. That felt a little like an eternity. I panicked. I went to my best friend in tears.

I told her I didn’t know if I could make it that long. I literally didn’t know if I would survive it. Calling had been such a huge and difficult step and I had finally gotten up the nerve to do it and then this? I started to spiral again. I felt like everything was falling apart, like maybe life wasn’t really meant to be for me anymore. I had no idea what to do. She found me a site that I could go to and enter my city and it would list all the therapists in my area with bios and info galore. It was incredible.

I found a woman who specialized in relationships and childhood trauma. She wasn’t fully licensed yet but was working on it. The plus side was that it was incredibly cheap. I called her for a consultation and she was able to fit me in much quicker. I was relieved.

I went to my first appointment terrified. I had no idea what to expect. It was the hardest hour of my life. She wanted me to fill her in on my background and why I was there. It was an hour of glossing over a life of trauma and issues and negative shit and when I left I was utterly exhausted. I ugly cried in my car. It felt horrible. But it also felt good. I had found a person that I could tell anything and know there would be no judgement. And that the info I shared would not be a burden to her no matter how negative and horrible it was. This was her job.

One of the things that had kept me from therapy was that I didn’t want to burden another human with all of my baggage and bullshit. I always felt bad sharing with people because they got that look in their eyes and didn’t know how to react. Also I am so deeply empathic that I take on other people’s feelings and I always assume other people do the same thing and there is no way I want anyone else taking on this kind of pain. But one of the first things my therapist explained is that I didn’t have to worry about any of that. I couldn’t believe it and I felt hope. Like maybe this was the thing I needed to heal.

So I kept going every week.

Therapy may have saved my life but it was 100% the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. And that is saying something. I went to that office every single week and re-lived some of the most horrible things that could happen to a child. Things I hadn’t thought about in years. Some things I had completely forgotten about. Things nobody should have to go through. I went home and I read books that would eventually help me to sort through all of the feelings. Books that nearly ripped my heart out with every page. It almost killed me. I left that office every single week and I ugly cried in the car. I got back to work and I ugly cried in my best friend’s office. I got home and I ugly cried to my husband. So. Much. Crying. This went on for a couple of months.

But then the crying got less. It would only be right after. And then eventually not at all. I was learning to process my feelings in a healthy way. I was learning coping mechanisms and healthy habits. I was learning to care for and love myself.

Things got bad again in the late fall and we decided that therapy wasn’t enough and I started meds which in combination with therapy and all of the tools I had gained ended up leading me to happiness again. Not just existence. And it feels so damned good to feel happy again.

If I hadn’t gone to therapy a year ago I know I wouldn’t still be here. I am glad I listened to my friends. To my partner. I am glad I realized that my kiddos needed me. Not just alive but healthy. I am glad that even though I didn’t think I was worth it I had a chorus of people around me reminding me (and guilting me) and encouraging me to find help.

If you are in a dark place right now I encourage you to get help. Find a therapist. There are so many out there and even if the first one is not right I know you will find someone who will click with you. The site I went to was https://www.psychologytoday.com/us and it is a great resource.

So try it. You are worth it. I promise. You bring something to this world that nobody else brings. And we need you here. Don’t listen to the darkness. The voices. The lies. The bullshit. Your broken brain. Listen to people. Listen to me.

You. Are. Worth. It.

Make an appointment today with your doctor or a therapist and start the journey to happiness again. It will not be easy. But it will be worth it. When you realize you are smiling again and that first time you feel real genuine happiness again it will be worth it. When you laugh and actually mean it. It will happen. And you will be glad you stuck around.

If you need to talk to someone right now text 741741 or call 1-800-273-8255. Someone is always there to help.

Love to all of you. The unconditional kind.

 

 

We Are Not Selfish.

I have a favor to ask you. If you have never been diagnosed with clinical depression or anxiety or suicidal thoughts or ideations or any other mental health problem please remove the word “selfish” from your commentary. In fact I would take this advice one step further and ask you to stop commenting period. I would ask you to stop talking and please take this opportunity to listen. Pick up a book on clinical depression, talk to a friend who struggles or do a quick search of blogs to get a first hand description of what it is like to deal with this monster. There is no shortage of resources out there but I beg you to stop judging us and try to educate yourself. Your judgement and harsh words do nothing to help us or build us up but it does more damage than you can possibly know.

***Trigger Warning*** I will talk in detail about my depression and suicidal thoughts so if you are in a sensitive place right now maybe skip this post.

Most people who have never experienced depression firsthand have absolutely no idea what is like. At times when there are high profile suicides in the news the internet becomes a dark and scary place for those of us who struggle with this chronic illness. Even those of us who appear to be doing well can quickly backslide. Because times like this remind us that even though we feel good right now, that monster, the deep, scary, terrifying darkness is ALWAYS there. It is lurking in the back of our brain just waiting for its chance to take hold again. Waiting for its chance to start whispering its lies to us. Waiting for us to lose our grip just enough where we will start to believe it again.

Depression is not sadness. It is so much more than that. It can feel like so many things. A complete and utter absence of hope. Despair. Like all of the colors have been drained out of life around you and everything is just washed in shades of gray. A complete lack of any kind of feeling whatsoever. But mostly it is exhaustion in your very soul. It slowly drains your energy until you can barely do basic things like make a meal, go to work, have fun, spend time with others, or even get out of bed. It slowly knocks out each and every one of your defenses against it until you are lying at the bottom of the deepest well in the world and you can no longer see that pinprick of light and it looks so utterly impossible to climb out that you just hunker down in there and get more and more exhausted and you get stuck. Trapped in your own mind with the monster.

And when you are stuck down there with no way out all you can hear are the lies from that dark voice in the back of your brain. The voice that you can usually tune out or ignore. But you are just so damn tired and it is just so damn hard to ignore and actually it makes some pretty good points. I mean who the hell can possibly feel like this when their life is so amazing? I have three great kids, a husband who is basically the perfect human, who takes care of me and them without ever expecting anything back. I have a great job, a house, enough money to not worry about what comes next, friends. Life doesn’t get much better. That voice is probably right. Who wouldn’t be happy with all of this? What kind of person can’t get off the couch to participate in family fun? What kind of person can’t contribute? Look at what is happening. My kids and husband are doing EVERYTHING. I’m not helping at all. It must be so frustrating to live with me. To take care of me ALL the time. I can see it draining them. Physically and emotionally.

“Useless,” the voice whispers. And you believe it. “Burden,” it shouts, and who are you to argue? Every new thing it says gets louder and louder and more convincing and it hurts more and more and it becomes impossible to ignore and will it ever stop? You start to spiral. Out of control. The voice becomes a constant stream of commentary on your shortcomings. Pointing out how you are ruining the lives of everyone around you. And no matter what you do, eventually you can’t drown it out and it is not really even in the background anymore. It hurts. Everything hurts so much and it is never going to get better because it has been so bad for so long and it just keeps getting worse. Hope is gone. Color is gone. You can’t even remember what happiness felt like.

Imagine feeling so much pain that the only way you can possibly imagine it ending is to just not exist anymore. To be so devoid of hope that things can get better that you can’t imagine living another day. To feel like such a burden that you actually believe that everyone around you would be better off without you. I mean clearly they would be sad at first but it would be such a relief for them to not have to take care of you anymore that it really is better in the long run for everyone. Because this is never getting better and they must be so fucking exhausted. You are always bringing them down.

Imagine lying awake in your bed at night being consumed by these thoughts, this voice. Imagine not being able to sleep and praying harder than you have ever prayed in your life that God would just let you die. It doesn’t even need to be quick. Just something terminal. Even cancer would be okay because honestly you probably deserve it for being so awful and ungrateful and useless. You just need it all to stop.

This is depression. Sort of. I mean it is so much worse than this because there is no way to put it into words. This is tip of the iceberg of despair. And I have been here twice in the last year.

I hope you never have to experience this. I hope you cannot imagine what this would feel like. I hope you never have to deal with these feelings coupled with the judgement of those who have never experienced the monster that is depression. But I would like you to consider this the next time you call someone who commits suicide selfish. Because I guarantee that the last thing they were is selfish. They were in indescribable, insurmountable amounts of pain. They were experiencing a deep chasm of seemingly unending pain and they just needed it to stop. They were trapped in their own sick brain hearing that voice louder and louder, thinking it would never stop and there was literally no other way out that they could see. And more likely than not they were thinking about how much better everyone else would be without them. Their brain was broken. They were sick.

I will say for the millionth time depression it not being sad. You can not just talk yourself out of it. You cannot just “suck it up”. It does not matter what you have in your life and how fucking blessed you are and how great everything appears because none of that matters. It is an illness. Like cancer or lupus or arthritis or heart disease. And should be treated by people as the same. You don’t just “suck it up” for any of those things. You get treatment. Mental illness is the same. We do not shame people for have any of these other illnesses. Mental illness should be the same. When someone has cancer we support them. We offer to make them meals, we drive them to treatment, we fundraise for them, we check on them. But when someone is depressed they are quite often looked at as weak or selfish. We tell them to get over it and remind them that if they just “count their blessings” they will feel better. Or we tell them they have no right to feel that way. All of the things that we do feed into that darkness and make it worse. Make them feel judged and “less than”.

I suggest compassion. I suggest you think of your depressed friend or co-worker or that celebrity in the news as a person with a chronic illness. And try to think for just one second just how hard it must be to be in their shoes and to feel that amount of pain. Please.

I also suggest that you reach out to any of your friends that you even suspect might be struggling with this monster. DO NOT wait for them to reach out and ask for help. That is too much to ask and quite honestly by the time we need help sometimes it is too late to ask. Do not be afraid of making it worse by talking about it. Just check in. Because they probably won’t. And they need to feel loved. I wrote another blog post about things that have helped me through my worst bouts of depression and it comes down to 3 basics. Tell them they are important to you, you love them, and you are here for them in whatever way they need you. Even if it is just sitting with them through the pain and silence and being present. Those things can help so much. (Though everyone is different this has been my personal experience.)

If you are struggling I will say what I always say. It gets better. I know it doesn’t feel like it will and your brain is telling you otherwise but it does. And you are worth it. You offer this world something that nobody else can and you are so fucking important. I promise. So take care of yourself. Take a walk or a hike or a run. Eat a healthy meal. Go out with a friend or have them come to you. Make a therapy appointment. Take your meds. Get some sleep. Take a shower. Drink more water. Lie in your bed and get somebody to rub your back. Ask someone for a hug. Anything at all no matter how small to make you feel even a tiny bit better.

And if you need help right now text the number 741741. Somebody will be there to help you. To listen without judgement. Or call 1-800-273-8255 if you prefer to actually talk. Just get some help. Because we need you here.

Thanks for reading this.

Love to all of you. The unconditional kind.