a one-way mirror | 2019

I look around me but nothing seems real. People are going about their lives like clockwork, some scurrying to whatever important meeting is happening today and others are lazily walking to wherever their feet takes them. Some listen to music and others are glued to their phone screens. Some are aware, others are not. I observe, all the time, wondering when I’ll get to be “one of them,” wondering when I’ll stop living life like I’m looking through a one-way mirror.

That’s the weird thing about depression, you know? As soon as you feel like you’re on top of the world, He creeps up behind you and startles you back into the corner you just barely crawled out of. You could be doing everything right and following everyone’s advice–but He doesn’t care.

Go to work. Get to class. Go to therapy. Eat healthy. Exercise. Write. Read. Stay off social media. Do yoga. Drink enough water. Do this, not that. Keep your friend group small. Find a new hobby. Smile. 

Depression doesn’t give a shit that you ate a gluten-free breakfast and drank 70 ounces of water. He is ruthless and random. He just is. It’s silly to assume that someone doing everything “right” is exempt from mental illness.

Three weeks ago I was positive, uplifting, and ready to singlehandedly take on the world. The past three days I’ve wondered if I have a purpose and questioned if my life in particular is worth living.

It seems silly– that much I realize. Of course my life is worth living. It’s worth just as much as everyone else’s life, but when He has you entangled in between His fingers, it’s hard to rationalize those thoughts. It’s hard to see things clearly.

I think when you lose a parent or someone you love to suicide, the more likely you are to question if life is worth living. My dad’s death has caused me a lot of issues that I didn’t come to grasp with until very recently. I never had the opportunity to properly grieve the loss of my childhood, so here I am ten years later trying to conquer the near-impossible. Deep down inside of me is a twelve-year-old that barely had the chance to be a kid. I remember being eleven and coming to an understanding that my father had the intention of taking his own life. I distinctly remember standing on the middle of Cemetery Street begging my dad not to kill himself. He promised me he wouldn’t and hugged me tight.

Less than a year later he was dead.

How does a child go through something so traumatic and not end up with trust issues? Anxiety? A general fear of abandonment that carries with them through adulthood? That’s just it– they’re going to come out scathed and fucked up. It’s a part of the process. You can heal and learn to love and let go, but that god-awful feeling of being alone in this world will never leave. Depression will make sure of it.

Don’t get me twisted, though– I think life is beautiful. I think my trauma, in some demented way, is beautiful. I think there’s a lot of good in this world. It’s not hard to find, not by any means. Goodness comes in many forms:

Kids that smile at you in the grocery store. The stranger behind you in the drive-thru that pays for your overpriced cup of coffee. The guy at the stop sign that lets you go first even though it was definitely his turn. There are so many pure things in this world that go unappreciated because we’ve forgotten that good things aren’t necessarily grand things. It’s hard to focus on the good when the bad is so amplified. It’s hard to be good when the world has done us so dirty.

I’m not going to lie and say I haven’t recently questioned whether or not I want to be here– I think we all do that at one point or another. Some more than others. I go through periods of deep depression around this time of year, every year. The cycle ensues, but so does my integrity and drive to do better. I said to my therapist yesterday that I don’t think I have any more fight left in me, but we both knew that was bullshit. If I truly didn’t have any fight left, I wouldn’t have been sitting in her office. I wouldn’t have gone to class. I wouldn’t have gotten out of bed. So while my morale is low, my stubbornness is not. The little girl inside of me that never had the opportunity to grieve is what keeps the adult me going.

Maybe she didn’t have a great childhood, but she deserves, in the very least, a good future.

What kind of asshole would I be if I let her down?

 

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the mess you made | 2019

actions have consequences, you ran from yours

leaving a trail of uncertainty behind

the mess you made, its still not clean

because the heart you broke

still bleeds.

 

how could someone so bright be so boldly unaware?

the shot you took tore her apart, but you didn’t think

years from now it would still sting

why didn’t you think?

 

actions have consequences, you ran from yours

leaving a trail of uncertainty behind

the mess you made, its still not clean

because the heart you broke

still bleeds.

 

Seasonal Affective Disorder | 2019

How do you, in good conscience, tell your family you don’t want to live anymore and you don’t know why?

Things have been good. You’ve been doing well and everyone knows it. You look healthier, your attitude seems lighter, and it’s like a weight has been lifted off of everyone’s shoulders. Whatever you’re doing, it’s working. Maybe you’re better now.

But like all good things, that feeling of contentedness comes to an end. Nothing happens. Nothing prompts it. You’ve got it good– so why do you feel like you can’t “handle” it anymore? Why do you feel like you’re six feet under? You get mad because you know there’s no real reason why you feel the way you do–it just is what it is. You get even more angry because you know people out there have actual problems. They should be depressed, not you. You’ve got it good.

How do you, in good conscience, tell your family you don’t want to live anymore and you don’t know why?

They say talking about it helps but you can’t find the right words to say because nothing makes sense. Like water on ink, everything blurs and deciphering it would be a waste of time. You’re afraid that if you speak about your feelings, you’ll stress them out. Your parents have heard it enough. Your friends don’t take you seriously. They all wonder when and if you’ll ever get better. They know you’re trying. Do they know you’re trying?

How do you, in good conscience, tell your family you don’t want to live anymore and you don’t know why?

You don’t know which is worse– being numb or feeling everything that has suddenly piled up. You don’t even know what you’re fucking sad about and that’s the most frustrating part. You were happy a week ago. It frustrates you and them. You don’t want to be a disappointment. You don’t want to be the let down. Why can’t you be like the rest of them?

How do you, in good conscience, tell your family you don’t want to live anymore and you don’t know why?

You thought you were ok, but you’re not ok. You know you have the ability to overcome it, but the idea of going through the cycle again exhausts you. It’s not worth it. Is it worth it?

How do you, in good conscience, tell your family you don’t want to live anymore and you don’t know why?

 

The Unknown | 2019

The bathtub is filled half way with cool water. I wanted it hot, but it must be all out. Sometimes that happens.

I try to focus on the drip drip noise that comes from the faucet but I can’t hear anything. I feel heavy and indifferent. My mind is racing, but my body is slow and forlorn. I try to focus on anything but the thoughts running rampant in my brain, but they don’t stop.

That’s the funny thing about anxiety. It doesn’t stop.

Anxiety doesn’t care that I’m a good person, or that I have goals to achieve. He doesn’t care that I have a job to go to and friends to keep up with. Anxiety doesn’t care– it just is.

I sit up in the bath and I try some deep-breathing. It helps sometimes. My body is cold and the water is slowly draining; but I don’t care. I’m slowly draining, too.

The optimist in me knows that I have the strength to conquer even the hardest days–fuck, she’s never been wrong before. What makes lately any different?

My therapist confirms that my worry stems from The Unknown, a term I’m coining for my anxiety. The Unknown is a part of me. It is my ultimate downfall and my biggest blessing.

With it; I am haphazard. Without it; I am not me.

Some days I don’t know which is worse.

I’d like to take full responsibility for how I feel because it seems like the right thing to do. For awhile I blamed my dad’s suicide, and the sexual assault, and this and that. I was hell-bent on finding someone to blame other than just letting it be what it is– a part of who I am and something I don’t have full control over. I’m not a controlling person, but Goddammit, I wish I could be in control of this.

Anxiety doesn’t have to be a negative thing, though it’s damn hard to flip the switch on something with such a depressing connotation. Manifesting something so self-debilitating and turning it into a power tool to create a better you is not something easily mastered. I won’t pretend like I have done it myself– I haven’t. But I have complete faith that it can be done; only, and only if, you allow yourself to become wholeheartedly vulnerable.

I get it. It’s hard for people to come to terms with anxiety and all it entails. It’s hard to admit when there’s a problem; and even worse, it’s hard to seek help. When you do receive help, it’s hard to accept what’s being told to you. It’s too easy to fall into the rabbit hole, constantly wondering why do I have to be like this? and why can’t I just be normal?

I guess everyone is different. I’m no expert, you know? I have no idea what the hell I’m doing most of the time. All I really know is that I go through some shit and with that comes a burning need to help others that are dealing with the same emotions I am. Not everyone is strong and level-headed. I can’t fix these people, but I can be there for them as much as they’ll allow me to be.

The water in the tub has completely drained. The air has frozen my body but I make way to grab a towel. I’m frozen, but my mind is not. She keeps going, and going, and…

I have a theory that everything happens for a reason. All the good, bad, and traumatic has a place in our lives. We aren’t always meant to know why. We aren’t always going to understand it. It’s okay to not understand. Roll with the punches, take shit at face value, allow yourself to be engulfed in whatever life hits you with.

Hm, maybe I should take my own advice?

I’m out of the tub now, sleepy and ready to rest my head.

Tomorrow is a new day, and maybe The Unknown won’t be so bad.

But even if he is, we’ll get through it.

We always do.

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.

How my Anti-Depressants Almost Killed Me— and What I Did About It

I remember being in the middle of a Target store when I started to fade out. Something deep within me knew I wasn’t right. My vision was becoming blurry, my balance off, everything around me becoming dark. I made it to the pharmacy just in time to mutter “Please call me an ambulance,” before I started to hyperventilate.

On my way to the hospital I kept begging the EMT to tell me I was going to be ok. He remained silent.

My resting heart rate was a little over 180.

Was I going to die?

After I arrived at the hospital, staff took three EKG’s, inserted an IV of Ativan, and told me to rest. It took a little over an hour for my heart rate to lower.

The problem?

An adverse reaction to two medications I was taking.

I’d been on a cocktail of pills since I was about fourteen. Prozac, Xanax, Trazodone, Viibryd, Ambien… and that’s only a select few. I’ve had depression from an early age, that much I know. But looking back; I wonder, was it necessary for a kid that barely hit the stages of puberty to be taking prescription drugs like candy?

I knew the moment I landed myself in the ambulance that something had to give. I was fighting the good fight, as so many of us do, but I couldn’t take it anymore. My body physically and mentally could not bare any more experiments. I had gained weight, my anxiety had heightened, I was suffering from extreme sleep paralysis and hallucinations. I wasn’t sleeping. I had no idea who I was or what I stood for anymore. If this was what my life was destined for, I wanted no part of it.

So I quit cold turkey.

I threw seven years of work down the drain. I knew if I didn’t stop I would end up killing myself or the medications would end up killing me. If I was going to die, I wanted control over it. I wanted a life, my life, back.

So I ran after it as fast as I could before it was too late.

Every breathing second after ceasing my regular use of medication was a walk through Satan’s garden. Withdrawal is a bitch and it was no kinder towards me. The shakes, cold sweats, confusion, sleepless nights and everything in between. I almost wanted to go back on everything I said I wouldn’t do– but I couldn’t and I didn’t. I had to pull through.

And I did.

It’s been three full months without any prescription medication in my body. It seems so minuscule, but it is a victory 14-year-old me would be mesmerized at. I never thought I would be able to say I’m free of all anti-depressants and sedatives.

The story for each prescription is the same– I take it for a few weeks and feel great. I swear I am cured and I am so happy to be alive and I can take the world by storm.

Then the crash comes and the cycle continues. Over and over and over.

But not anymore.

The only “drug” I take regularly now is CBD oil by mouth once daily and melatonin at night to help me sleep soundly.

It’s been three months since I’ve released myself from the pharmaceutical prison that held me as their bitch for so long.

I’m doing fine.

I’d like to stick around to see just how much better it gets.

The world needs me.

DISCLAIMER: I do not condone nor endorse quitting medication abruptly without a doctor’s approval. This story is purely to share how far I’ve come– every one of us deals with things differently. Everyone’s body is unique and should be treated as such. Take care of yourself. ❤️

Overcoming the Losses in Life

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The ninth anniversary of my father’s suicide is next Monday.

Its strange to me. Not because of how quickly time has gone by, but how I have healed from the loss. I won’t say I am complete– I never will be. But I am at peace with the situation, mostly.

I’ve had so many great losses in my short lifetime, whether it be deaths or broken friendships or relationships. In the heat of the moment, the emotions you feel always seem everlasting. Its hard to look hardship in the eyes and say “This is only temporary. This too shall pass.”

As humans I expect none of us to be perfect with how we manage our emotions towards any unideal situation. The lives we live are not black and white, and the tragedies we suffer through are not black and white either. Shades of gray and black and whites fill up our world, making whatever we’re going through that much more complex.

The ugly truth is, we all handle loss in our own way. There is no right or wrong. There’s no secret manual to guide us through all of life’s major and minor inconveniences. We can debate for as long as we live why things have to be the way they are, or we can be sensible and say to ourselves, “Okay, this is what it is for whatever reason. How do I become better from here?”

I’d like to say that managing any loss, big or small, is easy. But its so far from easy. Its heart-wrenching, its exhaustion, its I-haven’t-eaten-or-slept-in-weeks. Its a multitude of very high-highs and very low-lows.

And the only control we have over what happens is what we choose to do with our attitudes and reflections towards the situation.

That’s the hardest part.

The only ease we have is knowing that despite how lonely we feel during a time of loss, there’s a billion people out there that feel very similar to us. Everybody has or will lose somebody. Sometimes we lose a lot of people. Sometimes we lose people who aren’t even dead.

But we owe it to ourselves to keep moving forward. We have no time to waste.

We could be next.

 

 

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