Mental Health

Please Stay *talking about suicide

It’s sad when people so quickly say that suicide is selfish. People looking to take their own lives are suffocating internally. Often they convince themselves that the world would be better without them. They are victims of lies believed, fed by negative messages coming everywhere from society, abuse, depression, themselves, and even bullied in. But not selfish.

My step brother killed himself 13 years ago. How my whole family and I wish he had reached out before choosing a permanent “solution” to a temporary problem. The easy thing would be to call him selfish, because I’m still here, and have witnessed the repeated tidal waves of pain he caused in all that love him. But I will never blame a victim. I miss you Christopher. Your pictures sit by our family’s photos in our parent’s living room, but you never will. And it breaks my heart over and over.

Dear Reader,

Please, if you think the world would be better off without you, understand that you are needed and wanted to be here. If you are suffering, know that you are not alone. Realize that no matter how low you feel, there is always tomorrow. Recognize that if you take your life today, tomorrow won’t have a chance. If you are sinking, know that there is help and hope. Please be aware that someone does care, even people that you don’t even know care. You only get one life. Please stay.

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Mental Health

What Depression Looks Like

  

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Mental Health

Depression On Sale

Depression for sale.

A post shared by Sarah Davenport (@davsart) on

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Mental Health

Sinking In Silence

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I’ve been wanting to talk about something, without alarming people. And I’m angry. Because we live in an “I’m Fine” culture. How are you? I’m fine, I’m fine, I’m fine, even if on the inside you’re fucked.

I’ve been wanting to say to my friends “hey guys, I’m depressed” but anticipating the awkward position that puts people in, anticipating the courteous, well intentioned but generally placating response, if any, gives me the fear.

And too, I feel like the word depression has lost meaning; in terms of how we think about someone outside of ourselves experiencing depression. I feel, by saying I’m depressed, I’m downplaying the realities of how I actually feel. When one is depressed don’t assume that they’re “just” depressed. When I’m depressed, I’m not just sad, and sulky. I’m drowning, I’m suffocating, I’m torturing myself. A ghost whispers reasons for why everyone would be better off without me, haunting my thoughts, overshadowing rationality.

I can’t even say in public how I really feel at times, because sometimes I’m not ready to put my freedom in jeopardy. Why do people suffer in silence? Because we can’t be honest. And when we can it’s for one hour twice a week at max with a therapist, who we get showered and dressed up for and smile and say I’m fine. We might say we’re depressed, but we know the keywords to avoid the therapist from being legally obligated to institutionalize us.

I have a secret though. I do have someone I talk openly about my depression with, when it’s taken me over. I can say whatever I want, and instead of being whisked away with a shot if Thorazine in my ass, this person reminds me of all the reasons my thoughts are not logical or truthful. It’s an ongoing open discussion on equal terms. I’m respected enough for this person not to placate me with pats on the head and compliments, or vague hopeful expressions “you’ll be fine.” I’m respected enough that this person trusts that I’m being wholly honest, allowing me to say even the hot button keywords, trusting that I will answer the question “do you need to go to the hospital” honestly. Because I would.

I wonder how many people didn’t have that person who are now gone, and if they had, would they still be around. You have to understand, that while therapy is helpful, a therapist is not available at your beck and call. Sometimes depression can’t wait for a week until your next appointment. Having that next appointment can feel like a lifeboat, and be something to hold onto, but in the meantime, no one should have to hesitate voicing their emotional state. Why is therapy useful? Because it provides professional guidance. Why should everyday people listen to a friend gush about feeling hopeless? Because to be genuine is to accept all facets of our being. It enriches relationships, garners honesty, trust, and when it comes down to it, it punches holes into the wall that may be crushing your friend.

I may be depressed at times, and yes, it is like part of my mind is Clockwork Orange, forced to stare at unsettling images on repeat. But I’m also still here, I’m still able to listen, and think, and grasp that logical hand reaching under the pile of my emotional rubble. (fuck this, I just said emotional rubble. WTF.)

I know if I didn’t have that hand to grasp, I’d be a fading memory.

I’m angry because no one should have to sink in silence. I’m angry because our society is built on “pulling up your big girl panties” “be a man” “suck it up” “How are you? – I’m fine, how are you? – I’m fine” I’m angry because people don’t realize that when you’re drowning, you don’t want someone to tell you your pretty, or offer a hug. You want to be able to yell out “THIS IS HOW I FEEL” without fear of judgement. And for someone to respectfully acknowledge that feeling and give us reasons, not superficial, for why how we feel is temporary, or doesn’t add up. Offer real advice, not go have some chocolate, or take a bubble bath. We want you to talk openly about any experience you’ve had with depression, showing us a) you’re capably empathetic b) how you got through it c) why you’re glad you did d) proving to us that you can handle our honesty in return.

And absolutely, yes. Sometimes, we are too far down the spiral, and we need help now. And I think the majority of us would be willing to admit it, if, we have that logical reasoner reminding us that a few days, weeks, in hospital is worth it.

If someone trusts you enough to tell you they’re depressed, trust them enough to understand that they are reaching out for that logical hand. Ask where they are, on scale from sad to suicide. Why is that scary? Unless they have proved otherwise, trust them no matter their response. Give them meaningful reasons for why they need to hold on… loved ones, pets. Realize they may be feeling like their doing a service by removing themselves from life, and tell them that it’s natural to feel overwhelmed while in a depressive state. Remind them of the times they were contented, and promise that if they keep talking and holding on it will eventually go. Ask them to promise their honesty. Tell them how much it would affect you if they did something undoable. Do encourage therapy, and having an honest talk with a doctor. Tell them why they shouldn’t feel ashamed, tell them they are not alone, tell them there is help. But most of all really listen.

If that is too much to ask, find someone you trust that can help, and if there is no one, urge them to call a doctor or therapist, or both. And in extreme case, go with them and hold there fucking hand while they admit themselves into inpatient.

For me mental illness is something I have to live with for the rest of my life, and I may not always be one step ahead, but actively, openly, having the freedom to express brutal honesty is a huge part of managing myself. For me, having bipolar means I need an active support network. And to honestly, actively check in on my mental whereabouts.

But even if temporary depression, or seasonal depression, postpartum depression, please don’t sink in silence. Someone out there understands. Internet support groups, real life support groups. Find someone to talk to, a friend, a doctor, or therapist. It’s not your fault.  It’s no different than having a physical illness, but in your mind. You know how you feel like you’re going to die when you have the flu? Well you’ve got the brain’s version of the flu. It’s unbearable at times, and feels never ending while it’s there, but it does go away. Sometimes medication is necessary, like insulin is necessary to a diabetic. Being depressed has nothing to do with strength or weakness, it’s a condition that millions of people live with. And there are lifesavers everywhere waiting for you to reach out for that logical hand. But in order to find it, you have to shatter the isolation of silence by being open and honest until you get whatever kind of help sufficient enough to save you from yourself, until you don’t need saving.

I’m tired of hiding. I’m tired of this uptight cupcake, ironed pants social indoctrination that allows us to suffer in silence. People don’t want to hear I’m depressed because, somewhere along the line we were taught that depression is personal. Don’t mistake me, I love things about life too, social niceties can be exactly that, I’m not always depressed, typically I am in good spirits. But how refreshing would it be to say “Hey guys, I’m feeling really low tonight” without scaring people, or awkwardness, or regret, and to get real feedback and understanding.

It would be awesome to live in a time where I could sit beside a stranger on the bus and when asked how I was, casually say “I’m down” without it putting a damper on the mood. The honest truth is that I’ve never met anyone who hasn’t suffered from depression, whether it be circumstantial, or chemical. Depression might be dampening the mood of the depressed person, but if someone tells you they have a headache, you don’t get a headache too. And you automatically know to say, do you have any ibuprofen? When people can talk about depression out loud, openly, and honestly it takes it from an emotional place that is unstable, and puts it into a reality that is like looking at it in third person. Verbalizing emotions enables logic to enter the paradigm. In a society that welcomes honesty, we could speak candidly about our real emotions, and in return feel less isolated, we shouldn’t have our realities swept under the rug because they don’t fit into a unicorns  asshole.

In a culture where depression was accepted into open, everyday conversation, we would know to say; what are your symptoms and be able to determine how to proceed from that, just as we do with a headache, or a sinus infection.

If you’re sinking in silence, be assured there are many, many people out there who understand, even people who don’t know you are capable of caring, so many it may surprise you. Tell someone you trust, or announce it to the world. If you don’t have insurance and think you can’t afford a therapist, let me tell you I paid my last guy $15 per session, a professional. Often times therapists will work with you on a  sliding fee scale based on your income. All you have to do is ask. And if that feels overwhelming there are suicide hotlines that you can call while curled up in bed, still not showered at 2pm. The important thing is to take those streaming negative thoughts and emotions and put them into words, push them out, realize that allowing yourself to drown is scarier than admitting you need help.  The longer you go without speaking out, the deeper you go, and you are putting yourself in danger by letting that happen.  Believe me, someone out there cares. As Mr. Rogers said, When he was a boy and saw scary things on the news, his mom would always tell him to look for the helpers. Yes, there might be people who may run away, but there are also people who will come running. But they won’t know to, unless you tell them.

Suicide takes the lives of nearly 30,000 Americans every year.

Please don’t sink in silence.

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Mental Health

What It’s Like Being Bipolar

BiPolar | DavsArt

Art by likeLucy

I was diagnosed as a manic depressive, bipolar 20 years ago. As a kid I didn’t know any other way, nor could fathom existing in any other way but for how I was. I was prescribed medication from the start but fought taking it, or would comply for a few months, see no difference and stop taking the pills.

Almost everyday had some kind of chaos, whether it was fighting, sneaking out, trying to get high, sex everywhere, hitch hiking, running away, falling apart, etc, etc, etc. I didn’t recognize any of my  decisions as  being chaotic though, only in hindsight was I ever able to look back and pinpoint decisions I’d made to be dangerous, rash, and or just plain stupid. At the times of making said decisions it was with the false clarity only mania can give.

When you feel manic and grandiose, it’s like being high/euphoric. You speak without thinking, get overly passionate about things. You start projects, or obsessively hone a skill. You clean and organize and decorate until you notice the morning sun in the window and realize you’ve stayed up all night. Although mania can be dangerous, as in making important life decisions without a second thought. This is a perk of being bipolar, after you do find a med cocktail that actually works you miss the thrilling manic state.

Manic states also cause irrationality, say if you disagree with someone, or feel wronged, and are in a manic state. Anger rushes through you like a mamma bear discovering a camper among her cubs. Often times after a fight I would be told things I’d said or done that I had no memory of doing. The mania catapults your extreme emotion into this place where you just let go so completely that you aren’t even aware of what you’re doing.

Depression is the dark wave that swallows you whole. You don’t know when it’s going to come, and it hits you in the face after being hopped up on mania. It’s strange that despite my 20 years dealing with this, the depression never ceases to surprise me. Every time I start to think things are finally coming up Sarah I honestly forget that it’s not going to last. I forget too, when it takes me over that it’s a chemical imbalance in my brain and not my fault. I feel guilty, like I did something wrong, and this is why I’m depressed. When I say depressed, I mean every worst possible scenario for my life is flooding through my brain as if it’s actually happening to me right now. I feel like everything’s pointless, what’s the point is asked a lot. And then comes the semi-fantasizing about going to sleep and never walking up. That’s the point that I know to ask for help.

So, this is bipolar. For me. I personally believe that bipolar is a spectrum disorder because I’ve known people diagnosed who were milder, or more extreme than myself. I couldn’t find the art piece, but it summed up what being bipolar is like perfectly. Picture a man walking on a tightrope, except the rope goes up and down, up and down forever. The man has an umbrella and is doing his best to step over the valleys in the tightrope, but it’s inevitable that he will fall again. He never knows how far.

Five years ago, after years of trial and error I found the perfect meds for me. I’d never known an even temperament, contentment just to sit in the sun and look at my garden. I’d never gone more then a month without a total meltdown, or fight. I had a crazy passionate jealous streak that I now laugh about. You don’t even understand how wild this is to me. But you might understand how afraid I am too. Everybody knows meds change in your body and lose effectiveness over time. I’m on this five year streak and everyday I wonder when it’s going to come crashing down. To go through the trial and error again, the loss of control, the side effects from meds that don’t work for me, how long will it take to get here again? Will I go mad, and make some wild decision that ruins the life I’ve built up for myself?

Introspective I guess.

I don’t mean to say that I dwell, I enjoy what I have, but it lurks, right? I still get lows, no highs to my dismay. But I’m content. For now.

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Mental Health, Thoughts

The Stigma of Psychiatric Medication and This is Water

 

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Stigma of Psychiatric Medication and This is Water

I watched ‘This is Water’ for the first time this year, if you haven’t watched it yet, I highly recommend it. The commencement speech was delivered in 2005 so I’m late to the show. But despite the speech being 8 years old, it still holds precious truths and narrative that is especially important to keep in mind during the busy hustle and bustle of our everyday lives.

What struck me the most about ‘This is Water’ was the knowledge that David Foster Wallace,  such an elegant wordsmith and intelligent mind, talking in the video about an individual default setting, and learning how to choose to think about the world differently, committed suicide in 2008. The New York Times published an obituary that for the first time publicly addressed Wallace’s long-time struggle with depression. Readers discovered that he’d been on an antidepressant for 2o years when the drug started to produce serious adverse effects. On a doctor’s recommendation, Wallace tapered off. The depression returned, however, and no other treatment was successful. Wallace’s father had seen his son in August. “He was being very heavily medicated,” he said. “He’d been in the hospital a couple of times over the summer and had undergone electro-convulsive therapy. Everything had been tried, and he just couldn’t stand it anymore.”

It is tragic that Wallace could not find a replacement therapy in time to save himself from that, “default setting” he so adamantly warned us about. But that just goes to show that even an intelligent and gifted mind can be easily overcome by mental illness. Look at what those 20 years of using an antidepressant helped him accomplish. As someone who knows well how deep in despair ones mind sinks with depression, I am glad that at least for that time he was able to live with a clear mind. Look at what he contributed to the world with the help of medication.

Listen, I’m so tired of people complaining about Big Pharma. Sure, it’s corrupt, and money driven. YES. I know this. But what is someone like David Foster Wallace and the millions of people in the world suffering from mental illness to do without it?

The truth about medication is that for people like me, and David Foster Wallace is that we don’t have any other choice. Sure, I could play around with St. Johns Wart, exercise all day, and eat only foods that fall off of trees, but unless you are me, you may not grasp the fact that my mental illness, unmedicated, causes my brain to be unable to make consistent healthy decisions. As someone with bipolar (DFW had depression but for people living with MI, in my opinion the stigma puts us all in one category.) I tend to be grandiose and spontaneous in a dangerous way, and on the flip side, I have unsuccessfully tried to commit suicide a total of 4 times, instead landing myself in mental institutions.

Yes, medication for mental illness has side effects that are potentially dangerous. But what people don’t seem to understand, is how dangerous someone with my level of mental illness can be without taking the right medication. I’m talking danger to myself, but in some cases danger to others as well. What choice do I have? Am I supposed to allow myself the chance of getting so low that I see no other option than death? Or so high on mania that I ruin my life and that of my loved ones by making decisions that put myself in harms way?

I’m sorry that Big Pharma is corrupt. I’m sorry that the list of potential side effects on the average psychiatric medication is a mile long. But most of all I’m sorry every time I see another post, or meme, or news story that perpetuates the stigma of taking medication for mental illness. I’m sorry when I get unbidden advice or hear of others being told to meditate, eat raw, juice, and exercise, etc. in place of taking medication. You have no idea how many different things I’ve tried outside of taking meds. My family and I suffered many years of chaos because I refused to take medication. I see and know people now who are suffering emotionally and causing their family’s great distress because they refuse to “give in” to taking medication. That’s what society makes it feel like, giving in.

What I know is that in my 31 years on this planet the last 5 have been the most even tempered, safe, and content that I’ve ever known. Until I “gave in” and worked with my doctor to find the right medications for me, I never had a clue that life could be like this. When I look back at the “unmedicated me,” I actually fear for ever going back there again. I fear losing what I’ve built in these 5 years of emotional sobriety. I never fathomed going months without an argument, laughing at myself instead of getting enraged, being able to trust myself and my loved ones no holds barred.

This is me. I know people who are seemingly happy living with mental illness unmedicated and that’s okay. But for me, and others like me, I’d really love it if people would stop bashing psychiatric medications, causing people who need them to fear and fight it. There is peace to be had that Big Pharma provides. I’m sorry if people don’t like that. Idealistically, the drive behind the pharmaceutical machine would be a genuine want to help people with mental illness, and money would have nothing to do with it. But until that happens, which is probably never, we have to take the good with the bad. Tell me now, without advising me to resort to unproven homeopathic remedies, what are my choices? Have you lived in my shoes?

I told the story about a great man like David Foster Wallace as an example because he is someone many people respect and look up to. He is the kind of person who proves that mental illness can affect even the greatest among us. But there are millions of us, like him, who really do need psychiatric medication to function on a daily basis. One important step to fighting the stigma of mental illness is also to fight the stigma of taking medication for that illness. Imagine asking someone with diabetes to stop taking insulin, that’s like asking a paranoid schizophrenic to stop taking anti-psychotics. Please be mindful and aware. Not all of us can get by on clean eating and positive thinking.

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Mental Health

Anxiety is Real

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I see those inspirational quotes all over the place, you know the ‘Happiness is a Choice‘ memes. I think it’s true, in a sense, positive thinking is really helpful *if* you’re in a place mentally where you are capable of it. But I also feel extremely annoyed by the idea that people think anyone can just decide to be ok, and be ok. Hormonal and chemical imbalances are real and if you really believe that one can just decide to be happy and it will magically happen, consider yourself lucky to have never known mental illness. Maybe think about how making statements like that is discounting millions of people with real disorders that are fighting everyday just to get out of bed in the morning. Would you tell a person with cancer to just think it away? I doubt it.

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