The Love Remains

I’ve only really personally known one person that killed themselves.

(That’s a harsh way to start a post, huh?)

I’m not going to share his name, because we were only friends for a short time and because of that I somehow feel that his death is not really mine to mourn.  Still, when I logged onto Facebook one day and saw all our mutuals posting tributes on his wall, I cried.  I thought, as I’m sure everyone did, that if he had just reached out…maybe I could have done something.  But we weren’t close.  We worked together for a while, and I was his Secret Santa one year.  Hung out a couple times.  What could I have possibly done, except point him to a suicide hotline?  But maybe that would have been enough.  Who knows? 

(That was, completely coincidentally, the year I started doing the AFSP Out of Darkness Walk.  They read a list of names, and his was on it…I felt my heart drop to my shoe.) 

Last summer, I saw a guy in a crowd that looked like him.  For a second, I thought it was a ghost, that’s how close the resemblance was.  I remembered how I felt when he died…that I lost someone I once called “friend,” and felt powerless.  I don’t feel as powerless now.  I do the walk every year and raise funds to save lives, lives like his.  Lives like mine. 

That helps.

Anyway, after I saw this ghost it got me thinking of people in my life that I have lost contact with.  It’s a lot.  Like…a hell of a lot.  And it is all depression’s fault.  It went and convinced me these people didn’t really care about me in the way I cared about them and kept me from reaching out to maintain friendships that were important to me.  I thought to myself, that if one of these people committed suicide, I would be heartbroken.  I wanted people to know that despite my mental health keeping me from being present, the people I love will always be with me, and can always call on me when they need to.  So, I started sending messages.  About one a month, to people I loved and missed.  When I would see a meme or something that reminded me of someone, instead of just thinking “Gee, I miss so-and-so,” I would send it to them with a message. 

And so, I talked to my college buddies.  I had coffee with a friend I hadn’t seen for three years.  I reconnected with one of my besties from high school.  At Christmas, I sent messages to people I did Xmas shows with when I was in my teens.  I just so happened to message my middle school best friend the night before she got engaged.  Yesterday, I messaged a friend I haven’t seen in at least a decade AND my former therapist.  My point is that I tried to reach out, and good things came of it.

And…

I hope these people know.  I hope all the people I have ever met in my life know…that I am here.  If I loved you before, I have not stopped.  I wrote a play once, and the premise was that love, in all its forms, does not dissipate.  Take a relationship…you may break up, it may be awful, but you loved them once, and that love lives on in your subconscious whether you acknowledge it or not.  Or, someone you’ve had a falling out with…for instance, there is a woman that I’m pretty sure doesn’t like me.  And that’s fine.  She doesn’t have to.  We had a falling out many years ago, and I personally don’t think she’s ever forgiven me.  Again, that’s fine, it’s her prerogative.  Still, if she called me in a panic, I’d summon the part of me that used to be friends with her and run to her aid.  It’s just the kind of person I am, and why I believe that the love remains.

I do not give up on people.  It may seem that way at times, because I fall into depressive episodes that can last anywhere from an hour to five years.  I hate losing my people, be it to distance, time, or circumstance.  I will always, always be here.  Do not hesitate.  I don’t want to hear them read your name at the suicide walk, guys.

And also…maybe I just miss you.

My point is to reconnect.  To try to do something to maintain the relationships that mattered to you, even though the world seems to have gotten in the way.  And if you’re in a really dark place, all the more reason to reach out.  And if you need me, I’m here.

World Suicide Prevention Day

I know I just updated yesterday, but today is World Suicide Prevention Day, so here we are.

In case you’re new and don’t know me, I am almost constantly trying to raise funds for suicide prevention through the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.  Right now, I am on a 4-month hiatus, but be sure that come January sign-up I will be back, begging for your pocket change.  In the meantime, let’s talk about suicide, shall we?

Some people are scared of that word, due to the stigma that surrounds mental illness in pretty much all forms.  Suicide is scary, especially when you consider the fact that literally everyone has a chance of dying from it.  It has no requirements and can affect anyone at any time.  There are many reasons people commit suicide, but I’m not going to delve into speculation about the lives of other people.  I can only speak to myself. 

For me, suicide is the final and most tragic symptom of depression.  People who aren’t depressed simply do not kill themselves.  You may argue “what if said person has a terminal illness and decides to go out on their own terms?”  That person is depressed, fool.  You don’t get a terminal illness without a healthy dose of depression.  “What if said person was a drug addict and overdosed and didn’t MEAN to kill themselves?”  Drug addiction is a sign of depression.  Happy people don’t do drugs. 

Moral of the story?  Depression kills.

Close to 800,000 people die due to suicide every year.  That’s a body every 40 seconds.  Every 40 seconds, someone on the planet decided they have had enough, and ends it.  It’s a sad statistic, but one I remember.

Recently, I spoke to a friend who has had some suicidal moments in her life.  We both have Major Depressive Disorder and often talk frankly and openly about such things.  I asked her about fears, for my previous blog, and she couldn’t come up with anything that fit the scope of the article, but she did mention large bodies of water.  She fears them because she doesn’t trust herself.  I can understand that-I fear the bottle of Xanax I keep on the top shelf in the bathroom.  It’s the reason I don’t have guns in the house, for chrissake-fear that we will snap, and end it, is real and with us every day.

Many years ago, I went to the beach.  There was a pier that everyone was jumping off, maybe a 25-foot drop.  I’m a fairly strong swimmer and I don’t fear heights so I literally leapt at the chance to jump off this pier.  The problem is, as soon as I hit the water, the tide went out.  I started swimming back to shore, but felt my arms and legs get heavier.  I noticed that I wasn’t making much headway, and was drifting further out.  I tried to grab hold of the pier but only bashed my side against it as the waves picked up.  Finally, I was underwater, sinking, thinking “Gee, this is peaceful.  This would be a good way to go.  If I die right now, this isn’t so bad.”

But I didn’t die.  Someone grabbed my arm and pulled me up, and I saw my friend Mike, red-faced and huffing, dragging me up and out of the water. Eventually he got me back to shore, where I threw up a bunch of lake water and sputtered for air.  I remember thinking “Thank God he was here!” and, also, “So close.  So close to quiet.”  I wasn’t necessarily suicidal, but I was looking for a relief that seemed illuminated by possible death.  That’s not to say suicidal thoughts haven’t entered my mind.  In high school I was pretty much at my worst, and considering the easy way out, but a friend stopped me, showing me how much I had to live for.  In college, I spent twenty minutes standing on a bridge trying to decide if jumping was a good plan, until my mother showed up and the idea floated away.  So yes, these thoughts come to me, but they also leave, and I am happy to see them go.  The sad part is when they come for others. 

Not that there isn’t help, because there is.  There are suicide hotlines, counseling, medication, and all sorts of emotional tools to keep you from getting to that point.  Most people find the situation hopeless, and don’t look for help.  Well, it’s here, guys.  It exists.  And it’s worth it.

Do I know you?  Are you feeling depressed or suicidal?  Do you need to talk?  Get in touch.  Are you a stranger who needs help, but doesn’t know where to turn?  I don’t care.  Get in touch.  There are no judgments on my end, I assure you.  I can raise all the money in the world and write a million blog posts about it, but the only thing that really is going to stop suicide is people coming together and standing up to it, and being a support for those facing such unfathomable decisions.  It is my hope that all the depressed people in the world choose one more day, every day, because things do change.  Things do get better. Maybe not easier, but better.  I promise.

Walk to Fight Suicide

On the 7th I will be participating in the Out of the Darkness Walk sponsored by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. So naturally I’m hyping it all over social media. Please read my story below, and click here if you would like to donate!

I’m walking in the Out of the Darkness Buffalo Walk to fight suicide and support AFSP’s bold goal to reduce the suicide rate 20% by 2025.

Several years ago, my friend Beth asked me to walk with her in the AFSP’s Out of the Darkness walk.  I obliged, unaware of what this walk would come to mean to me.  I have struggled with mental illness since childhood, and have had moments in my life where suicide seemed like a viable option.  I found that I could never take my own life, mainly because of my sister, who is my bright spot in all things dark. However, I wanted to help others who haven’t found their bright spot yet, and help them move away from the destructive path of depression that often leads to suicide. 
 I started raising money and participating in the walk yearly.  I recruited friends and family to participate. I even suggested to my mother that her employer, a mental health organization, set up an information booth.  Next year, health providing, I hope to volunteer on the planning committee. It has become my pet charity, and has a mission statement I believe in.
 I want anyone reading this to know that they are not alone.   I want my friends and family to know that they can reach out to me at any time.  I want those suffering from depression, abuse, trauma, illness, and addiction to choose one more day. 
 I did.
 Keep choosing more. Keep hanging on. It may not get easier, but that doesn’t mean it can’t get better.  I can tell, from my experience, that it does indeed get better.

Please help me reach my goal by clicking the “Donate” button on this page. All donations are 100% tax deductible and benefit the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), funding research, education, advocacy, and support for those affected by suicide.

Thank you for your support!

Hell’s Waiting Room

I’m a little all over the place today.

I started my day at the Erie County Medical Center, a horrible place full of sick people and chaos. I have been here once before and it was a harrowing experience. Fortunately, they have since moved their Behavioral Health clinic to the building next door, and it was a much more pleasant experience, despite the fact that I’ve been waiting two hours for a five-minute appointment.
I recently left Horizons Health Services, my mental health provider for the past ten years. It was a long time coming, our breakup. For about a year or so I was being ignored when I tried to give input on my treatment plan. I was used to Horizons and I loved my counselors, but I could not stay there as they refused to listen to my concerns. I went from being an individual to being a statistic, and they made that very clear. So screw ‘em
This resulted in me making an appointment at ECMC’s MAPP clinic, a facet of their behavioral health program. They bridge the gap when you run out of meds, which I did a few days back. I have been surprisingly good, though, not even suffering from the usual off-your-pills side effects. Typically, these include fatigue, angry outbursts, and brain zaps, a truly weird feeling in the head, as though your brain is shaking. Not fun. Alas, I have had none of these.
I was anxious about going to the MAPP clinic after the last time I was there.  I remember watching folks crying and shaking in the waiting room, and being shoved in the hallways by the throngs of people. This time was a lot easier, even though one needs to arrive an hour before their appointment. I sat and sipped my coffee and waited in peace, not like last time when I was two weeks without meds. I remember clutching my bag in fear in the corner of a crowded waiting room. I remember watching people that even I, a mental health survivor who knows better than to use such language, would still classify as “batshit crazy.” I remember being scared, nervous, and out of place. Fortunately, things have changed, and now the MAPP clinic resembles any other waiting room full of unmedicated people who have been waiting for 2 hours.
Ok, so it’s still a little chaotic.
I wonder how many of these people are in-between therapists, like me. I wonder how many come here monthly to get their pills. I wonder how many are clutching their bags in fear right now, a nervousness you can’t notice until you look closely. I wonder how many of us are really struggling today.
I have seen folks demand to be seen. I have seen people throw fits because they didn’t make the list (only 8 appointments a day, after that it’s walk-ins.)  I saw a man ask five times when he would be seen. I saw one lady flip out because she thought this was Spectrum Health Services and was mad that she was in the wrong place. No one in this waiting room is completely chill. Everyone is waiting on something they need to function.

I hate sitting here, working on hour number three of waiting, typing my blog via phone and worrying that I’ll be here all afternoon. Still, here I sit, not throwing a hissy-fit like some people in this room, because my illness is not an excuse for me to behave badly. If I behaved how some of these people do, I would fully expect to get kicked out on my butt. Instead, I see folks demanding that which they are privileged to receive. We are the lucky ones! We have meds! We have services! How many people out there need what we have, and still people act like it’s not a gift that you have health insurance, that you can afford your copays, that you’ve found the meds that work for you?

I guess in the end sitting in this waiting room had just given me a perspective that I can’t ignore. Mental illness is a serious problem in our society, one that is never discussed enough, or even properly when it is. Example: I was expressly told not to say that I was looking to harm myself or others. I’m not, but if I were, I would be immediately committed. We are constantly told to talk about suicidal thoughts, but the reality is that when you talk about it with a professional, they commit you. I can’t even speak abstractly about suicide without this fear. I would never tell a medical professional if I was suicidal even if I was, because of this result.  I have had to choose my words carefully when speaking to a professional about suicide, and one should not have to choose words carefully with one’s therapist. In the end, they are silencing those that need help the most by not letting them talk about it. Mental health, all mental health, not just suicidal ideation, needs to be discussed.

Like I said, I’m a little all over the place.  There are many thoughts and opinions that I have about mental health, and most of them are complaints, if I’m honest. Sometimes the day-to-day of living with mental illness is exhausting. Sometimes it’s annoying, like right now. Some beautiful blessed days it’s even bearable. But overall, I would say that it is a challenge, but not an insurmountable one. Everyday can get a little better. Every moment could be a little easier.

In every waiting room, someone eventually calls your name.

The Darkest Hours

Before posting some poems yesterday, I was toying with another topic.  I scrapped it, because my thoughts were unfocused. Then I woke up and checked twitter, and now I feel like I have to get my words together and write about what I meant to yesterday.

There is one topic that I did not touch on during my Breaking the Stigma series, and that is suicide.

I would never call myself suicidal, but in my youth I did have feelings of such despair that death seemed like a viable option.  However, I had an image in my head that kept me from making such stupid mistakes, and that is my grandmother, Lois. When she died, I found her, and while the cause of death was natural enough, none of it seemed natural to me.  The thought that, were I to kill myself, someone would have to find me-that was enough. So much of my pain came from that point in my life, because of that one little moment, so how could I inflict that pain on others? Furthermore, there’s the pain of losing a loved one, which I learned at an early age, and I could never impose that on my family. Ergo, I reasoned that suicide was stupid.

Don’t get me wrong.  There have been times I was so depressed that I begged God to just end it, but I would never do it myself.

Some people think suicide is selfish, and I’m not going to argue that, exactly.  You can have that opinion. I just think that there must be some deep well of pain that causes people to kill themselves that most of us will never experience.  

This week we lost two icons.  Kate Spade, whose bags brought joy and whimsy to my wardrobe, not to mention my favorite wallet that I intend to use until it falls apart.  And today, Anthony Bourdain, a personal hero of Mark’s and host of one of our favorite travel shows. I can’t imagine what issues they faced, but I am so sad that they have left us, and it reminds me that suicide is something that can affect anyone.

In September, I will be walking in the Out of Darkness walk for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.  I participate in this event every year, in an effort to raise money to help those considering suicide. If you would like to donate,  there’s a link over to the right of the page. If you’re feeling like you need to talk to someone, there is the number below. If you want to talk to me, I’m right here.  There is no reason to leave this life…there is always a better moment coming. Stay strong.

suicide-prevention

Out of the Darkness

Six years ago, my friend Beth told me about the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s annual Out of the Darkness Walk, which raised money and awareness for mental health counseling and suicide hotlines.  We decided it would be a good thing for us to do, having both had a difficult year struggling with our own mental health issues.  The premise was simple; we would ask people to sponsor us, and then walk around Delaware Park on a nice day in early fall.  What it was, for me, was something more.  I had recently lost someone to suicide, and having suffered from depression since childhood, I was heartened to see so many people come together for a cause.  For a moment, I didn’t feel crazy.  I didn’t feel alone.  I felt like every person around me understood the pain depression could cause a person and those they loved.  It did my soul good.

I have participated every year since, with my family, my friends, and my husband by my side.  The one glitch was two years ago when I was stuck in a hospital bed, but I still raised some money.  It’s an important tradition for me that I look forward to every September.  Last year I dropped the ball a bit, registering late and coming nowhere near my goal, so this year I registered as soon as I got the email for the walk.  (So if you’re following me on social media, get ready to see the link for the next 7 months.)  I ask that you please consider donating, or if you’re local, joining us at Delaware Park on September 8th.  Every year the event gets bigger and better, and every year I still find that sense of hope I found the first time I walked, with my friend by my side.   

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