What to Look For— 5 Signs Someone May Be Suicidal

I knew a little girl once. She was twelve-year’s-old at the time, just beginning sixth grade at a brand-new school with different faces in a fresh neighborhood. She was weeks away from beginning classes—when it happened.

Her father killed himself.

This little girl’s daddy took his life in the basement of her childhood home. It was awful. The things I could tell you are tragic, the sheer pain and guilt that followed her for years was more than anyone’s fair share of heartbreak.

That girl was me.

The mental anguish that battered me for years after his sudden death gave me a sense of empathy for those who experience depression or any mental health issue.

I decided to use my life experience for the wellness and betterment of those around me. Turning a harsh reality into a positive outlook was and is a hard thing to do; for anyone, I’m sure. The only way I’m able to emotionally deal with his suicide is by helping others. It’s unfortunate life had to be this way, but I can’t go back and I can’t change things. In the very least, I’m a better person because of his actions. I am much more aware of what to look for now, and you can be too:

5 Signs Someone May be Feeling Suicidal

1. Withdrawal (McSwain, Lester, & Gunn, 2012, pp. (186-188)—this seems like an obvious factor, but few take this seriously or even notice. If you or someone you know no longer enjoys participating in once-loved activities and refrains from social opportunities, this may be something to be concerned about. Everyone has off-days and times where they wish to be alone; however, if the problem persists, there may be a larger and more serious issue at hand. It’s easy for things like this to go unnoticed in our hectic lives, but stay aware. Check in on your friends or family, even the “strong” ones.

2. Increased use of drugs and/or alcohol (Szumilas & Kutcher, 2008, p. 286)—Sure, not everyone who smokes or drinks has a mental health issue, but increased activity may be concerning, especially for those who become interested out of the blue. People with depression often turn to unhealthy habits as a means of coping with their thoughts or problems.

3. Giving away personal items (Szumilas & Kutcher, 2008, p. 286)—If someone seems to be giving up personal and important items suddenly, you may want to check in on them and their well-being. A suicidal person may feel the need to give prized possessions away to family members or friends as a token of remembrance for when they are no longer physically here.

4. Hopelessness (McSwain, Lester, & Gunn, 2012, pp. (186-188)—An individual that is constantly hopeless and cannot see the light at the end of the tunnel should be taken seriously from the get-go. Many suicidal individuals feel like they have gotten themselves “in too deep,” and they often don’t know how to rise above whatever mistakes or problems they have encountered. They might find themselves drowning and don’t know how to “swim.” This is, quite literally, life or death. Any talk of “no way out” or “no hope” for someone should be brought to the attention of a parent, spouse, doctor—anyone really—so treatment can be sought.

5. Changes in appetite/weight (King & Vidourek, 2012, p. 15)–It is not uncommon for individuals with depression and suicidal thoughts to be showing physical symptoms. Mental health radiates on the outside, too, and that is often overlooked. Those with depression and who are feeling suicidal tend to lose or gain a lot of weight because they either; A. Use food as a coping mechanism or B. Cannot bare to eat because it makes them ill.

Obviously not everyone with these traits is or has been suicidal. Humans are just that—humans. We go through phases, bad days, off-weeks… sometimes we just aren’t our normal selves and that’s okay. There’s nothing wrong with imperfection. What’s not okay is when negative traits become habits. The need for concern comes when we find ourselves or those we love in a rut that we/they can’t dig themselves out of.

It is imperative to remember that those with depression and suicidal thoughts cannot control feeling the way they do. Please don’t question or make them feel bad about it. Mental health in our society is unfortunately not taken as seriously as it should be, but I think we become more aware every day. Warning signs are often ignored or overlooked due to the idea that “it can’t” or “it won’t” happen to those we love. I am living proof that it absolutely does happen, every year, to thousands of people. According to afsp.org, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, 44,965 people die every year from suicide. To put that tidbit of information into perspective, that’s more than half of the entire population of West Chester.

If it’s you that feels suicidal, please try to understand that you aren’t in this alone. I know it’s hard. I know you feel isolated and empty. I’m so sorry. But keep this in mind: It isn’t shameful to ask for help or reach out when in need—plenty of services are out there specifically for crises. The National Suicide Prevention Hotline is available 24/7, where you’re able to speak to a live individual when you need it the most. The same service also offers a chat, just in case a phone call isn’t your thing. (I know it’s not mine.)

I didn’t go through this tragedy on accident. I’m a firm believer that events, even tragedies, happen for a reason. My purpose is to spread awareness in every way I can, to whomever I can.

Luckily for us, much information is readily available to those who need it, and you too can become an advocate for suicide prevention.

We’re all fighting the good fight. You’ve come this far—we need you.

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Anxiety + Coming Out of the Comfort Zone

 

Simple situations garner the most anxiety.

Ordering food, walking into an unfamiliar situation, speaking to someone new– all of these brainless tasks can immediately send me into panic mode. I’ve missed out on so many positive experiences and beautiful people because of fear.

Recently my roommate asked me if I wanted to go to the gym with her. I’m fairly sure I laughed in her face.  I laughed in her face.

Gym? Don’t know him.

Despite telling her no, she basically forced me into going with her.

I’ve wasted money on memberships I’ve never used because fear would not allow me to better myself. Fear controlled me 99.9% of the time.

But I went. Once, then twice, then three times. For someone that never leaves her apartment, this was truly a step in the right direction. (I’m not sorry about this terrible pun.)

Living with anxiety is a lot like taking 3 steps forward and 2 steps back. I’m not lazy (despite contrary belief) and I’m not unmotivated. I just don’t always know how to turn the negative into a positive. I don’t always feel like I am worthy of change or happiness. The “what-if’s” consume a good portion of my thought process, and it’s something I’ve always dealt with. What if they judge me? What if I make an ass out of myself? What if I can’t do it? Most days I don’t think twice about it– I am anxiety and anxiety is me.

I do know that I’m tired of letting irrational fears control who I am and the things that I do. Anxiety has made me older than I am. With her, I am burnt out and worn.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

So, I will say this– I’m no fitness guru, I didn’t lose any weight, and I’m not remotely close to my ideal shape.

The good thing? I have time. This isn’t a race, nor a competition. This is a journey towards self-expression, health, and productivity– powered by me.

If not now, then when?

As always, we need you.

–Leah

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5 Things I Wish I Would Have Known 5 Years Ago

I spend a lot of time reflecting on the past and how the events that took place during the last ten or so years of my life have shaped me as a woman. I like to think about how I can improve as a human being, a friend, a daughter, a girlfriend– the roles in my life that make me who I am.

Is that a good or bad way to spend my time? That’s up for debate. I don’t have a definite answer, nor do I want one.

What I do know, however, is that there are a lot of things that I look back on and wish I would have known sooner. It seems silly to think about the what-if’s and the could-have’s. That’s not what this article is about. This is merely a look at the lessons I’ve learned and the knowledge I have gained from being a really stupid teenager. The fun bit of this is that not much has changed–as opposed to being a really stupid teenager, I am now a really stupid adult with a caffeine and ibuprofen addiction. (Don’t get old, kids.)

Let’s begin.

  1. Credit cards are not your friends.

Ah, yes. I remember eighteen-year-old me thinking I was so cool because I got approved for a credit card. Instead of being responsible, I just nearly maxed that bad boy out. Why? I was using it to impress other people with bullshit items and buying things for my ex-boyfriend whom literally did not deserve to even know me. What did we learn from this, my friends?

  • Don’t buy things you can’t afford, don’t need, or will not use.
  • Don’t go spending money on men that don’t have any goals/jobs/aspirations
  • If you do not listen to the first two points above, you will end up in debt and needing to take out a small loan to cover the ridiculous balance and interest rate. Don’t be me.

 

2. People are not projects.

There is not a single person in this world that you need to fix more than yourself. I can scream this from the rooftops, from the mountains, hell; I would scream it from a plane if I could. If a person isn’t willing to get help for themselves, it isn’t your problem and it’s not your responsibility to put their pieces back together. Everyone goes through shit–especially you. Yourself. At the end of the day, as depressing as it sounds, you are all you have. Not everyone that walks into your world is going to have the same heart or mindset that you have– that is exactly what makes you so unique. Run with that. Nourish yourself. Eat well. Seek help. Go to the gym. Sleep enough. Take care of you. Unless you have children, everyone else comes second. The sooner you put yourself into this mode, the better. I wish this was something I realized sooner. What happens if we do not follow this golden rule?

  • Heartbreak
  • More heartbreak
  • Disappointment and a lack of trust

3. Not everyone is out to get you.

Listen, if you’re anything like me, anxiety makes you their bitch. There are times I will walk into a coffee shop or a store and feel an overwhelming sense of dread because I feel like everyone is judging me or looking at me. You know what that is? Egotistical. It is absolutely egotistical to think that in people’s everyday busy lives that they’re thinking of me amongst all of the other bullshit they’re dealing with. People have work they need to get done, kids they need to feed, cleaning they need to do. They’re not thinking about me. They’re thinking about how the hell they’re going to clean the house whilst doing a 16-page report for their art history class. What I wish little Leah would have known/did:

  • Nobody cares what you wear
  • Nobody cares what your hair looks like
  • Breathe, you big dummy

4. If a man cares about you, he will not force you into having sex with him.

Ah yes, you all knew this was going to get uncomfortable at some point. Guess what? Life is uncomfortable, and awkward, and overall messy. Get over it. I wish I could go back and smack 18-20 year old me in the face for this. No man will make you do any sort of sexual act and call it love. You know what those guys are? Assholes. They are assholes. A man will never disrespect you or your body for their benefit. True men will wait as long as they need to if they truly respect you and your boundaries. Manipulation is not synonymous with love. Key points:

  • You don’t need to have sex with someone in order to love them
  • Sex is a two-way street
  • If you withdraw consent, it is then considered rape
  • Be safe

5.  Be honest with yourself.

Listen, the hardest part of recovering from anything is admitting there is a problem. It’s silly and cliche, but you’ll never heal unless you allow yourself to realize that things are either not good, not healthy, or not progressing. Everyone and their mothers go through rough patches, fall on hard times, and go through phases. You are absolutely allowed to feel that way. However, it is up to you to get up and brush yourself off. It might be the hardest thing you’ll ever do. Show yourself some respect and better yourself from whatever tragedy, problem, or slump you are in. Don’t wallow in self-hatred and don’t be the “woe is me” person. I have dark humor, and I joke constantly about self-loathing– but truth be told, I know my limits and I know that my happiness is entirely up to me. What I learned:

  • Nobody is going to pick you up when you fall except for you
  • Don’t rely on others to make you happy
  • It’s going to take a long time to get to where I need to be. I may as well enjoy the ride

And kids, there you have it. I could probably think of many more things I wish younger-me would have known, like remembering to change the oil in my car regularly and not to talk to strangers on the internet or whatever. However, my fingers are sore from typing and I have other adulty things I need to get done today.

Keep on keeping on and remember– we need you.

 

 

An Apology Letter to Her

I think in the midst of life’s changes I lost myself. I lost what I stood for. I lost sight of my goals, my dreams. The bigger picture once painted beautiful shades of blues and reds had crumbled along with my mental health.

I won’t pretend like I’m in a good state of mind— it would defeat the purpose of everything I stand for. Still, even on the darkest days, my message remains the same: we need you.

I wish I could take my own advice. Isn’t that funny? We have sound advice for everyone but ourselves. Humans are funny and incredibly sad creatures.

Firstly— I’m sorry. I’m sorry that I repeatedly fail you and treat you like shit. You don’t deserve that…no one does. This won’t be the last time I apologize. It’s a repeat offense, a cycle that never ceases. I long to be in love with you but most days I can’t bare to look at you. I don’t want to feel that way. You’ve come so far and there’s something to be said for that. Deep inside, buried underneath the rubble of our past, I am proud of you beyond words of expression. You need to hear that.

Secondly— please understand that success is not a race, nor a set destination. Little things can be considered successes too. There’s triumph waking up in the morning when the night before you wanted to die. There’s power in conquering an essay when you didn’t know if you’d pass or fail. There’s beauty in terrible things. Don’t let it go unnoticed. You will fail, (a lot, probably) but that is not a representation of who you are. Perfection is not the goal. There is more to life than making good money or getting a 4.0.

Existing is easy but living is hard. My mind is constantly gnawing at the “could have’s” or the “what if’s.” Pay no mind to those questions. They are not beneficial. They will destroy you.

Your existence is meaningful to people, even if some days you don’t understand why. There’s a purpose for everyone, so what makes you any different?

Try to understand that existence is not black and white. Shades of color fill in the void, even on the black days. Happiness is on its way— but don’t chase it. It is not a destination. Its just an emotion. Let it engulf you when opportunity arises, but understand that some days you won’t find it anywhere. That’s okay.

Everyone grows at different rates. Life is not a race, nor a competition. Don’t let society and social media tell you any different. Everyone is fighting a good fight. Everyone has demons that dim their light. We are all just trying to get by on what we have– including you.

Your existence is a beautiful, fiery mess. Let it be.

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