Saving Myself Through Discomfort

“Discomfort is the price of admission to a meaningful life.” – Susan David – TED Talk “The Gift and Power of Emotional Courage”

This pandemic caught me at a really odd time in my life, an odd time that has been going on for at least two years and which was exacerbated by the death of my semi-estranged mother. The scenario: 50 years of work (amateur, semi-professional, professional) in a field which always put me in front of people as their entertainment; 17 overlapping years of teaching which always put me in front of people as their instructor and entertainment. These fields were not the only work I’ve done but they were the most consistent, to the point where over the last three-or-so years I’ve been fantasizing about getting out. But my skills and talents fall where they fall and so it has been easy to just continue down these paths, despite a growing desire (desperation) to get out.

The pandemic snatched my work – all of it – right out from under me. Consequently, I have been fortunate to actually be relieved by this situation, almost as though I’d been saved. Yes, my money left but my financial and home situations don’t really require that I make much money anymore (thank you, anal retentive tendency to throw money at my debt until it is all gone). At the same time, about a sixth of my work has been salvaged through the magic of video so I do get to make a little money and still feel released from bondage to my career.

I have every reason to be happy.

So why have I been in this combination of panic/frustration/despair right along with my relief?

I said before that this pandemic caught me at a really odd time in life. Yes, I’ve been at a crossroads but I’ve just been standing there, paralyzed, looking at all the street signs pointing in different directions and listing to myself all the reasons why none of those roads is a good choice, the problems with each one, and why I just can’t. Here are all my great reasons for staying paralyzed:

  1. In two years I’ve gone from a little inclined not to hang with others to downright unsocial. I prefer my family and I’m uncomfortable spending time with anyone else.
  2. After over 50 years of depression and anxiety, it is exhausting putting myself under the judgmental eyes of people who can probably see all that and I’m uncomfortable with what they’re probably thinking. (Performers know that the artist is one entity, the person is another.)
  3. I hate talking on the phone. I’m uncomfortable giving my very important time away to some voice that I probably don’t want to listen to and don’t want to tell anything.
  4. I already spent way enough time using my office and administrative skills. I’m uncomfortable being tied to a desk all day (although I’ve had a standing desk for years, so there is that).
  5. I’ve been completely self-employed for 17 years, partially self-employed for way longer than that. I’m uncomfortable with the idea of being an employee and having a boss again.
  6. I’m 60 years old. I’m uncomfortable with the idea of starting something entirely new, learning something entirely new.
  7. I’m uncomfortable doing the same old things I’ve been doing and using the same old skills I’ve always used.

You get the point by now, I’m sure. I’m uncomfortable with so many things that I have made myself unable to make any choice whatsoever as to what to do with this next chapter of my life. Go ahead, try to think of any field in which I might work without running into one of my discomfort zones.

You can’t do it. I haven’t been able to either.

So why haven’t I been happy? Why have I been in this combination of panic/frustration/despair right along with my relief?

Because I feel useless. Useless. Of no use. No use to me and, even worse, no use to the world. I have avoided discomfort in favor of being useless.

Today – actually before taking a much-needed long walk and listening to the Ted Talk quoted above – I signed up for COVID-19 contact tracer training. I said to myself, “I bet this is all on the phone. I hate the phone.” I said to myself, “I don’t even know if I’ll be able to get a job, so what’s the point?” I said to myself, “People are so angry and uncooperative right now. I’m afraid of dealing with them.” But I started the training (all online) because I had told my husband some time ago that I wanted to learn to do something I know not even a little bit about, from the ground up. (Direct contradiction to #6 above.) This meets that criteria. And I started the training because it most definitely is needed. I said to myself, “I’ll deal later with the fact that I probably won’t do anything with it because it’ll make me uncomfortable.

And then I went for the long walk and listened to the Ted Talk and that brilliant statement: “Discomfort is the price of admission to a meaningful life.” The speaker also said, in response to someone whom had told her all the things they didn’t want to feel, “So, you have dead people’s goals.” Wow. Dead people’s goals. She went on to explain that only the dead get to exist without feeling discomfort. Mind … blown.

I’m going to continue on with this contact tracer training. I love learning and even taking tests (yes, I’m a nerd). When I’m done, I will be very uncomfortable with how to proceed. But I will proceed. Because I’m tired of feeling useless. I’m tired of being paralyzed by discomfort; by feelings; by waiting, wishing, hoping for some magical scenario to materialize which will bring me some income and make me valuable to the world again all while making me feel like I’m wrapped in a warm blanket. It ain’t gonna happen that way.

I want to be of use to the world once more. I want to have a meaningful life. So I choose discomfort.

Unplug

Photo by Lucas Pezeta on Pexels.com

Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you. Sometimes the most important thing in a whole day is the rest we take between two deep breaths.

Thank you for being with me. Let us rebuild a healthy state of mind.

Angel love and rainbows.

Love, Francesca.

The Japanese Word for Panic Attacks

There are many foreign words that do not have an English translation. One example is the Japanese word mushaburui. It translates to shaking or trembling with excitement. Musha is the Japanese word for samurai or warrior. Burui comes from the verb furu which means to shake or tremble. One website referred to the word as “shaking like a samurai.” The English translation doesn’t convey exactly what the word means. One person described with a scenario. Imagine a samurai waking in the morning before a battle. They are shaking with anticipation. It’s both fear and excitement. Will they live? Will they die?

The description of this word makes me think of a panic attack. Sometimes there isn’t any real danger when one has a panic attack, but the emotion is the same. The 2010 film “13 Assassins (Jûsan-nin no shikaku)” has a character who mentions this emotion. He says at one point in the film, “As a samurai in this era of peace, I have wished for a noble death. Now fate has called to me. See, my hands are trembling. It’s a warrior’s battle shakes.” Is the anticipation of one’s death not the same as a panic attack? It’s about one’s perspective of what they’re feeling.

This also reminds me of the 1998 film “Saving Private Ryan.” I have mentioned before how I related to Tom Hanks’ character in the film. At the beginning of the film, as the boats approach Normandy Beach on June 6, 1944, his hand is trembling. This is the same feeling the samurai felt in “13 Assassins.” This is the same feeling I have during a panic attack. When someone asks how I’m feeling, I can finally provide a word to describe it. Not everyone will know the meaning, but there is a kind of power in giving something a name.

The next time you’re feeling excited, be it negative or positive excitement, call it was it is. Mushaburui. Having this new outlook on what this emotion is, I can overcome some of my fear and accept the panic attack. I accept it as something natural. It prepares my body and reminds me of my own mortality. Courage doesn’t mean you’re not afraid. It means you go anyway. I’ve felt like I’ve lived in fear the last couple of years because my body would tremble at the thought of something. I will force myself to keep going. Whether I tremble or not.

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I Can Only Hope

I hope you finally get released from all the things that hold you bondage when it comes to receiving, and reciprocating, love – and the acts thereof. I hope your ears come to admire your favorite songs again – without the painful memories that the passing of time has attached to them. I hope you get to be comfortable with the parts of your body that were once held by the wrong hands. I pray that you finally get cleansed in the processing of washing yourself off other people’s stains. I hope you realize that you’re deserving of all the things you receive, even the ones you don’t ask for. I hope you finally get to release people you have held in your heart for longer than was necessary. I hope the weight of waiting doesn’t discourage you from trying. I hope you don’t fail at this healing thing, but if it happens that you do (which is probably most likely), I hope you find the will to try again. I hope all of this happens to you while you still have the advantage of age. If not, I hope you find solace in the reality that things work out for the better of us all when we breathe and try. I hope all of this for you, and for me.

Thank you for being with me. Let us rebuild a healthy state of mind.

Love, Francesca

One Step At A Time

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Sometimes just be. Do not think or worry, do not get angry under stress. Keep patience and see how well things will work out for you. – Sancta Pandey

Some of the content discussed in this blog post or article may be uncomfortable for certain readers and might possibly trigger people living with complex PTSD and PTSD.

When I first got diagnosed with Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (CPTSD), Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) and Panic Disorder, I was well in my second year of college studying Aeronautical Engineering. Truth be told I wasn’t copying with my studies (I was on the edge of being placed on academic probation).I was extremely overwhelmed and unable to focus. Let alone, I was sexually assaulted that year and failed to report this at the college I was studying at. They later found out when I registered my CPTSD and other disorders at their disability unit (disability services and accommodations at the university). I was later called in and advised to take a leave of absence from my university because i wasn’t doing well as I mentioned.

A lot of students struggle to share how mental health impacts their studies.Lack of concentration is a symptom for so many mental health illnesses and chronic illnesses. Today, I wanted to share my struggles of living with complex PTSD in college. Whenever I studied I could barely read a page and recall all the information I had studied. My short term memory wasn’t capturing new information because of my overwhelmed brain due to my trauma. I couldn’t study in groups and attend lectures because crowds and sounds overwhelmed me.img_0752 I was extremely hypervigilant and hyper-aware of everything in my surroundings, sounds and any movement(s) overwhelmed me. My body was trying to protect me from what had happened of course, because it’s what our brain does if we are in danger.But the problem is our bodies do not know how to get rid of all the chemicals in our bodies after trauma; so we continue to react even when we are in safe zones or in places where we should feel safe. This set my whole academic career on hold for 6 months. I stayed home and tried to get help for my complex PTSD. My voice was gone and I couldn’t communicate in class, do orals or have casual conversation with strangers and friends. Everyone was a danger to me. No one was to be trusted at all, even my family members. I lived in fear of being violated again. The truth is, this stopped me from living and enjoying life, I was surviving everyday. I was constantly crying everyday because I was physically and emotionally in pain.

When I went back to college after 6 months I expected everything to be smooth sailing. But things didn’t go as well as I expected. I went from being a straight A student to being average and that didn’t sit well with me. I was still very paranoid and living in fear of what could happen next. I honestly never attended classes because lectures consisted of chatter and crowds and that would set me on edge – with the possibility of me having a panic attack. Just more reasons for me not to attend. Therapy is not as smooth sailing as everyone ought to think it is. Sometimes it works, other times its takes more time to work and it can be frustrating. jacqueline-day-619822-unsplashI am currently on my way to doing my Master’s degree in Mechano-biology or a Master’s in Artificial Intelligence. All because I chose not to give up. It wasn’t easy, I fought with my psychologist and sometimes with my psychiatrist because I didn’t believe in being medicated. Meds did help me with sleep and with my studies. Having my Professors as my mentors, made the academic pressure more manageable. What made things worse was that I was constantly triggered when I had to take finals, because all my traumas happened before my finals or after my finals. It took me years to speak up. PTSD and CPTSD takes away one’s voice and one’s ability to project or portray their opinions through any medium of expression. That hindered my healing process a whole lot!

I chose not to give up. My marks did eventually improve and I managed not only to finish one associates degree but two. One in mechanical and mechatronics engineering and another in computer science and computer engineering. I was 19 when I got diagnosed. I am only 23 years old. It was a whole lot of work but it was worth is. I never missed my psychiatrist appointments and therapy appointments because I wanted to heal. I took my meds everyday, changed my diet because of bowel issues I ended up having because of CPTSD and I did yoga and meditated often. Be proud of yourself for all the progress you make during your healing journey, you deserve it!

Please learn to say no whenever your intuition tells you to. Learn to trust your own gut, its never wrong. Self care is very important especially when one has a mental health condition or chronic illness. Learn to forgive yourself and don’t be too hard on yourself you’re human at the end of the day.

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You are allowed to cry and to crawl when you can’t run. You are allowed to breakdown. You are allowed to doubt yourself. But you aren’t allowed to give up. – Francesca Seopa

Thank you for being with me. I look forward to seeing you here again. Let us rebuild a healthy state of mind.

Love,

Francesca

When I Finally Knew My Worth

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This has been the hardest road I ever travelled on. This Journey of finding myself and who I was destined to be after trauma has not been easy. I hope that this gives people hope that one can come out victorious even when they had gone through circumstances that were unbearable. I really travelled through this madness to find myself. I became comfortable with myself in this space (on this planet) because I no longer have nothing to prove to anyone. I just have to be authentically me. I had to changed how I saw (my perspective) of my circumstances and the world. I chose me first. I chose to follow my intuition, my inner-compass.

I will never be anything less than me and if that bothers you, step out of my light. – Anonymous

After so many years of soul searching and seeking external validation, I have outgrown so many things. I outgrew people who gladly offered criticism instead of support. I stopped trying to meet unrealistic expectations that were set by my family. I have outgrown my own unrealistic expectations of myself and my need to people please. accomplishment-achievement-adorable-1119981I no longer associate myself with human beings, who wear masks and secretly rejoice at my misfortunes and my mistakes. I ceased shrinking myself for people who were intimidated by my presence and by my intelligence. People who wouldn’t allow me to express myself because they were intimidated by my outspoken nature. Even when I was shrinking myself, I had the courage to break the silence and hear myself sing again.

I have outgrown friendships, love-ships and family-ships that did not celebrate accomplishments. I stopped supporting people who disappeared whenever life got a little tough. I learnt to respect myself. battle-black-blur-260024I no longer associated with people who took pleasure in gossiping and spreading negativity. Dull, shallow and meaningless conversations are a thing of the past. I value my time and energy more than ever before. I have outgrown society telling me that I am not beautiful and not worthy. I ceased filling my mind with negative thoughts, self doubt and insecurities. I stopped finding reasons not to love myself but more reasons to love others before myself because of my emptiness. I have outgrown people and things that don’t enrich my soul, inner-tuition and my life purpose. After so many years of soul searching and seeking external validation, I have outgrown so many things. My soul is finally free. I finally know my worth more than ever now.

I stopped waiting for the world to give me what I wanted; I started giving it to myself. – Anonymous

Thank you for being with me. I look forward to seeing you here again. Let us rebuild a healthy state of mind.

Love

Francesca

Breathe…Through It

For one to live, we must fill our lungs with air and release the carbon dioxide from within. This is a simple and usually automatic action for every living creature. So why, when we are stressed, overwhust-realhe-just-breathe-powerofpositivity-18995027elmed or panicked do we forget to breathe.

Personally, this lapse of thought happens all too often when I run. It’s my biggest hurdle. I start off at a steady pace and if I’m feeling good, as I gain distance, I lose my mind and move faster than my body is ready for. When this happens, I start to suck air, quickly, as if I was holding it in for hours and now I’m playing catch up. My chest gets heavy and there are moments I even feel light headed. I tend to believe it’s because I suck at running, and the more strained I become, the more frustrated I get and the more strained I become, it’s the cycle of hell. At least that’s how it feels.

At the moment when I’m about to stop, give up, just sit down on the trail and call for a ride, I hear an all too familiar voice, “breathe through it.” Just when I need it most, it’s my running partner, friend and coach, “breathe through it Lisa”. It’s funny, that when we are physically strained or uncomfortable, we have a tendency to remind ourselves, or each other that the air filling our lungs will reduce the sensation of pain. However, when it’s an emotional period in our lives, we can’t seem to remember to breathe.

While I’m sure many parents out there will tell me I’m wrong, because they reminded themselves to breathe 142 times today before their head exploded due to summer vacation only being half over, I totally get it. But, what about the time when you forgot your kindergartener’s sack lunch for the field trip at the zoo, or the night you scrambled to write your final paper for school because you spent the day consoling a friend, or the time when your boss stood over your shoulder while you finished a deadline, or facing a room full at a big interview, or the day your husband came home defeated because he just got laid off, or the call that there was an accident. While each of these scenarios are on different parts of the spectrum of stress and panic, each of them, requires a “breathe” factor to break that cycle of hell we are caught in.

Sometimes that emotional moment, self-inflicted or from another source, takes us to a place where we forget that we need to fill our lungs with air so we can keep moving forward. We forget that in order to live we must breathe.

We are faced with obstacles every day, minor ones, major ones and some catastrophic, and while there are times we want to give up and sit down on the trail, a lot of times we just need to close our eyes, slowly suck in air to fill our chest, hold it just a second and remind ourselves that we are capable of much more than we realize, and at that very moment our first step is to breathe.

When we allow ourselves this breath, amazing things occur; physically our heart rate slows, and our head stops spinning, and mentally we may get just a little more clear in our reaction, solution, or perspective. It can take a few seconds or a few hours, but you’d be surprised the strength, courage and self-awareness you can find if you just Breathe Through It…

Much Love,

Lisa

Photo Credit: Valeriia Bugaiova

Judged

Desolate

Undermined

Lost

Confused

Misused

Berated

Segregated

Stigmatized

In Society’s Eye

Chastized

Minimized

Categorized

Broken Ties

Ostracized

Penalized

Compromised

Systematically

Demoralized

Better off Dead

Thoughts in this Head

Regretfully

Ever Said

Made to lie

In this Painful Bed

Night, I dread

Light, I seek

Judged

Instead

A Favorite Poem, and Today’s Thoughts

Today, I’d like to share a favorite poem that I heard many years ago when I was in the struggle of figuring out and accepting my diagnosis.  It resonated with something deep within me and gave me courage and hope to keep working to overcome my challenges.  I hope it gives you a boost as well.  This is one of those great sources of hope I talk about in a previous post, that can help us when we are struggling with despair, and can give us courage to keep going.

Good Timber

By Douglas Malloch

The tree that never had to fight
For sun and sky and air and light,
But stood out in the open plain
And always got its share of rain,
Never became a forest king
But lived and died a scrubby thing.

The man who never had to toil
To gain and farm his patch of soil,
Who never had to win his share
Of sun and sky and light and air,
Never became a manly man
But lived and died as he began.

Good timber does not grow with ease,
The stronger wind, the stronger trees,
The further sky, the greater length,
The more the storm, the more the strength.
By sun and cold, by rain and snow,
In trees and men good timbers grow.

Where thickest lies the forest growth
We find the patriarchs of both.
And they hold counsel with the stars
Whose broken branches show the scars
Of many winds and much of strife.
This is the common law of life.

I have definitely had many moments of being “done”–done with my negative thoughts that I couldn’t seem to control, done with constant emotional pain, and done with having to carry the heavy weight of depression.  I’ve been “done” with not being able to sleep at night, done with not being able to do things that I used to love, because they now cause me too much pain.  The list goes on and on.  Like many of you, I have been sick and tired of having to live with bipolar depression day after day after day.  I am grateful, that I had reminders, like this poem to teach me what I already know, but can forget: Everybody has hard things and many–very many, have overcome and emerged stronger and better than they were when they started.

It’s so hard to see this when you are right in the middle of the proverbial biting winds and beating hail, or when relentless heat beats mercilessly, constantly upon you.  Those are the moments, I found, that I really needed to hear that there was a purpose to all the pain.  This poem is one of those reminders.

I can already look back to 17 years or so ago, when I started having symptoms of depression and see how much I have grown since then.  It makes me realize how much having mental illness has taught me.  I know I would not be who I am today without having lived through it.

Those are just my thoughts today.

What are you thinking about today?  How do you find courage and hope to keep going when things are hard?

Source: https://www.familyfriendpoems.com/poem/good-timber-by-douglas-malloch

Courage, (Insert your name here)

When I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, I was 23 years old.  That was 12 years ago.  Although it was an intense situation and I had a lot of fear, it was my first time facing an episode like this.  My main struggle was just figuring out what it was and getting the appropriate treatment.  I was young and optimistic and ready to figure things out.

I eventually did get things figured out and, with the help of good doctors and a wonderful support system, I got through it.  It took about 2 years to get to a place where I felt like me again, but what is two years to an optimistic person in the prime of her life?  It was a steady improvement that led me to a good place emotionally.  In fact, for the first time of my adult life, I truly felt good.  I didn’t experience any depression during this time, and because of my medications, I was able to stay feeling well for many years.  I still did struggle with anxiety and stress a lot, because I had not learned the value of taking care of myself, but overall, I would say this was a really great period of time for me emotionally.

This lasted for about 4 years, during which time we had another baby, a girl.  She was born in 2009.  I continued with my medication during this pregnancy and postpartum, was carefully monitored throughout and all was well.

But I was foolish.  I was itching to get off of my medications entirely.  I only took a small dose of one medication daily at this point for maintenance purposes.  I was doing well.  I didn’t like the idea of chemicals influencing my brain.  Did I really need this medication anymore?  I tried to cold turkey myself off several times (which was extremely foolish–don’t every do that!!)  I never could get off of it without symptoms returning.

Finally, however, in 2013 my husband and I were ready to have another baby, which would be our last.  With the help and support of my psychiatrist, we weaned me off the last of my medication so that I could be medication free for the pregnancy.  This was also extremely foolish!  The process was rough, but I was determined.  I finally got completely off of my medication.  I ended up experiencing depression immediately, but didn’t recognize it for what it was.  I ended up at my PCP office several times complaining of extreme fatigue and weakness thinking there was a physical problem.  They investigated and found nothing.  I know now, looking back, that it was my depression.

Then, I got pregnant as planned and everything went haywire emotionally.  I was a mess.  Huge emotions took over my life.  I did all the self care and lifestyle changes I could think of but nothing helped.

To shorten the story, I had complications in my pregnancy that caused me to have to be on bed rest.  I remained in my recliner, on bed rest for around 9 weeks.  Although I had amazing support to help our family at this time–this was the hardest thing I had to live through up to this point.  My emotional state was constantly on the verge of breakdown, on top of the depression and emotional upheaval.  By the time I got off of bedrest and before I had my little guy via emergency C-section, I could feel that I was having some significant depression symptoms.  I knew things had gone from bad to worse.

The hormonal shift after my son was born was the hardest I remember, out of all of my children.  Even after returning home, I was a mess, constantly.  I was having difficulty because of the circumstances of my emergency C-Section that affected my physical health.  I also had extreme fatigue and weakness that hit so hard and suddenly, that I thought I might be dying.  I had lab work done and all kinds of things checked but everything came up normal.

I remember the moment, after my son was born, that I finally realized what was happening to me.  I was out for a short walk, with my son in the stroller, enjoying a beautiful day.  I could, emotionally, feel something that felt horribly familiar–I was starting to have mood swings again.  I pushed the stroller home in a state of horror and fear and shock.  How could this be happening again??  After so many years of being well, I didn’t really believe that my bipolar diagnosis was correct.  In fact, I had multiple doctors tell me just that.  Yet, here I was, going down this same road again.  I had been headed down this road ever since I got off of my medication, but I had been in denial.

I knew what would happen if I didn’t get into a doctor and get some meds right away–I would be back in an inpatient facility.  I called several psychiatrists and got an appointment to the one who could see me the soonest.

This episode was a lot harder for me to face.  I wasn’t young and fresh and optimistic anymore.  I had gotten a little older, and I was no longer young and naive about my circumstances.  I had been here before and I had a good idea of what was coming.  I was scared for just that reason.

And I didn’t feel like I could face it.  I felt I didn’t have it in me.   Already in a state of depression and emotional illness to significant degree–I could not face things getting worse than they currently were, nor could I face going on in my current state.

I had two friends stop my to visit me and my new baby, as I was just figuring all of this out.  They were from church and offered to say a prayer with me.  My friend prayed that I would have the courage to face this trial.  In that moment, I knew that was what I needed: courage.

Courage!  I did need it.  That day and everyday, because this was the deepest and darkest depression I have ever experienced and it has been the most difficult to come out of.  I needed to muster courage when I felt drowned in hopelessness.  I needed courage to get back on medications.  (This seems silly to me now, but at the time, my mind was so mixed up I wasn’t sure what to do).  I needed courage to live each day when I felt like I was stuck in a dark nightmare, or some kind of living hell.  I needed courage to keep trying, as I came out of the deepest black and into an endless state of gray–with life stretching on before me– constant depression as my companion and no end in sight.

Eventually, incrementally, I started to come out of it, a tiny bit week by week.

I’ve never done anything so difficult as live through this last episode of depression.  But live through it, I did.

In fact, I am at the tail end of year 4 and just finally feeling like me again.

Have you seen the movie, Willow?  It’s a cult classic from 1988.  There is a scene near the end where Willow (played by Warwick Davis) is making his final stand against the evil Queen Bavmorda’s army.  He is very small in stature and standing with only one companion, out in the open, waiting for this evil army on horseback to come and attack.  If you’ve seen it, you know what I’m talking about.  Willow says to himself in that moment, as the horsemen approach his position, “Courage, Willow.”I thought of this as I got ready to write this post.

I know it is excruciatingly hard, but in those moments where you feel ready to give up, or feel like you can’t do it alone– Find your courage.  And don’t try to do it alone.  Get help now.  Call a friend, tell them what you are feeling, now.  If you don’t have a friend, and you are considering ending your life, call the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-8255, now.  Get help from a medical professional, a counsellor, anyone, now.

Life is hell now, but it won’t always be that way.  Find hope, like I talk about in this post.

I am living proof that things get better.

Courage, (insert your name here).